The Grandkids Visit

Due to some lifting of travel restrictions, plus the fact that some of us have had COVID-19 already and the others have been pretty thoroughly exposed, we deemed it safe to have my daughter, son-in-law, and their four boys visit us recently. It allowed everyone a break from the routine. We were limited in what we could do, of course, with playgrounds, museums, libraries, and other attractions closed. It also proved to be a very wet two weeks, with many rainy days, but we had fun exploring some local parks when the weather permitted. On other days we did some baking projects and explored construction possibilities of craft paper and stickers.

Because my oldest daughter married young and my younger two children married later, I actually have two generations of grandchildren. The older daughter’s two children are grown and making their own way in the world (mostly). But they still live nearby and I’m always thrilled when they stop by for a visit. My son, who lives in England with his wife, has two children, a daughter aged 6 and a son, 3 (soon to be 4). Due to the distance and the expense we don’t see them nearly as often as I wish we could.

My youngest daughter and her husband are parents to four rambunctious boys, ages 3, 5, 7, and 8 (soon to be 9). They currently live in Indiana, so visiting us in North Carolina involves a long drive in a minivan stuffed with kids and luggage.

I’m glad that they think the long trip is worth doing a couple of times a year. It’s always wonderfully loud, raucous, and chaotic while they’re here, and the place seems too quiet once they’re gone.

My oldest grandson and youngest

My oldest grandchild and youngest

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COVID 19 anthology

I’m part of a group of local writers who have gotten together as Piedmont Authors Network. We had several projects in process right before the pandemic hit and lockdown became the norm. Some of those projects have had to be shelved or delayed. But one that we decided to go ahead with right away was an anthology of stories and essays surrounding the epidemic. A large group of distinguished authors have contributed. We collected, edited, and are working right now on formatting the anthology for release as an ebook on July 1 and the paperback to follow shortly. The book is now available for pre-order:

All Amazon channels: https://smarturl.it/C19Anthology

All remaining ebook retailers. https://books2read.com/u/4j2nNZ

 

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Central Park

Central Park was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and architect/landscape designer Calvert Vaux in the late 19th century. In many ways it’s one of the most surprising and delightful features of Manhattan. More than just stretches of grass and stands of trees, it was designed to be a recreation center for the city and includes an amazing variety of things to do, including walking and biking trails, a zoo, amusement park, and an assortment of monuments, fountains, bridges, ponds, fantastical buildings, and even a theater.

Central Park Tree & Bridge
Jet Lowe / Public domain

I’ve visited Central Park a couple of times but never spent very much time there. A few years ago while on a convention further downtown I went with a small group of other people to the park and we walked around the southern end of it. We glanced in at the zoo, followed a couple of paths for a bit and saw one or two of the monuments. Someday I hope to go back and take advantage of a lot more of what the park has to offer.

Central Park Lake & Stone Arch
Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “New York City (New York, USA), Central Park — 2012 — 6731” / CC BY-SA 4.0

Bethesda Fountain
Sidvics / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

No Time for Regrets is available on Amazon

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue

To experience the heart and the essence of New York City, you want to walk Fifth Avenue from its origin at Washington Square Park northward through Harlem all the way to the Harlem River that marks the northern border of Manhattan. The Avenue basically bisects the city lengthwise, with postal addresses going west and east from it.

The Flatiron Building PortableNYCTours / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

It’s a long walk but well worth the effort. I’ve never done the entire thing, but I have done parts of it on several occasions. I’ve started as far south as 22nd street, site of the iconic Flatiron building, which is where my characters in No Time for Regrets start their trek.

On the trip, they pass the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, Rockefeller Center, and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, among many well-known brand-name stores and other classic buildings.

They stop around 59th street, in sight of the Plaza hotel that sits near the Southeast corner of Central Park. I’ve gone farther than that, enjoying gawking at the glorious buildings facing the park, most of which are either apartments or homes of the rich and famous, since it’s some of the most expensive real estate in the world. My last walk ended at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a grand and wonderful place that figured in my previous No Brides Club book, No Time for Surprises.

You can get a good overview of the entire avenue here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_Avenue

There are nice views of some of the most iconic places, brands, and buildings in this video that gives a pretty decent sense of what it feels like to walk along the avenue. Although I have to say that it’s always been more crowded than it appears here every time I’ve been there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCdwFgeO2o4

   

St. Patricks Cathedral
Exterior and Interior Photo Credit: PortableNYCTours / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Looking Upward at the Empire State Building
Photo Credit: PortableNYCTours / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

 

Views of Rockefeller Center

Photo Credits: User: Stilfehler at wikivoyage shared / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0); UpstateNYer / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

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The American Museum of Natural History

Doing research for my book No Time for Regrets, I made virtual visits to several places I remember well from actual visits in my childhood and later as a young adult. One of the first places my characters visit is The American Museum of Natural History, located on the western side of Central Park. A school outing there is one of my earliest memories of a trip into “the city.” The trip itself I barely remember other than that it involved several school busses full of children, but of the museum itself I have some very vivid images.

Entrance to the American Museum of Natural History
Photo Credit: Ajay Suresh from New York, NY, USA / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Like most kids, I spent a lot of time gawking at the dinosaur skeletons. They were awesome and terrifying, with those huge frames, and scary teeth and claws. I also remember seeing an enormous meteorite and a diorama showing a primitive family around a campfire.

I could barely take in the size and extent of the place, just like my hero and heroine when they visit. One day can only just scratch the surface of what the place offers. On my school visit, we also saw a show at the Hayden Planetarium and that is among my clearest memories. Watching the way the projected stars moved around on the dark ceiling of the huge dome sparked an interest in astronomy that has persisted to this day.

Now it’s possible to visit the museum online and take various virtual tours. There’s so much available to see that way, I almost got lost in it again as I was researching for the book, and nearly forgot why I’d embarked on the journey.

The museum has a number of video tours and highlights available at its website: https://www.amnh.org/explore

Here’s a highlight tour: https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/american-museum-of-natural-history

 

Dinosaur picture: Giorgio Galeotti / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

Crystal: DerHexer, Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-sa 4.0 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Hayden Planetarium
Photo Credit: Alfred Gracombe / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

No Time for Regrets is available on Amazon

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The New York setting for my No Brides Club books

No Time for Regrets has released in ebook.  A print version will be coming soon.

The book is set entirely in New York City and its suburbs, which makes it another trip down into the memory banks for me.

I was born in the suburbs of New York City and grew up there.  We made occasional forays into the city for various functions while I was growing up. (Note: even though you may live in suburbs that are technically part of New York City like Queens, going “into the city” means going to Manhattan.)

Later we moved to the Boston area for a couple of years, then back to upstate New York. To New Yorkers, “upstate” is anything north of the city itself and immediate suburbs. Poughkeepsie is a small city on the shores of the Hudson River, a 50-60 minute drive (depending on traffic) to Manhattan, or a 90-minute train ride to Grand Central Station.

After my first year of university, I went home to Poughkeepsie for the summer, but I needed to do some research to complete a paper for a History class, so I made that train ride several times to use the resources of the New York Public Library. And since I had to make the trip into the city, I took some time to explore the city a bit more.

Over the years since, I’ve made several business trips to New York City for meetings or conventions. I’ve always tried to find a bit of time during those to revisit old favorite places and discover new ones.

Over the next series of posts, I plan to talk about places that are important in the book, discuss my own experiences of them, and share pictures and ways you can visit them online right now.

 

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Upcoming Release – No Time for Regrets

No Time for Regrets, my latest entry in the multi-author The No Brides Club Series, releases on May 1!  The book is a sweet romance novel set in New York City.

When Samantha “Sam” Dennis’s life implodes, she flees her hometown for a fresh start in New York City. Her cousin Julie helps her get settled and introduces her to her friends in the No Brides Club—other women who’ve sworn off love to concentrate on their careers. She gladly joins the club as she spends her days waitressing at a cafe and nights attending an online business school.

But then Matt Sentori walks into the cafe.

Matt has his own tragic history, and Sam is reluctantly drawn to him, even if he is a lawyer just like her ex. He makes it clear he’s interested in her, but when his law firm gets involved in the sale of the apartment building she lives in, which will displace all the tenants, Sam is more convinced than ever to commit herself to the No Brides Club.

Matt wants to win back her trust by showing he’s not the same uncaring creep as her ex, despite their shared profession. Finding ways to help the most desperate and needy tenants who share her building seems a good way to do it, but dealing with her neighbors and their problems will test Matt’s and Sam’s ability to trust each other as well as their growing love.

When Sam finally puts her life back together, will there be room for Matt in her heart?

Read an excerpt here.

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Having Covid19 (Probably)

There are so many ironies and quirks to the story. Irony one: if my trip to visit family had been scheduled for just a week later, I wouldn’t have gone. And I wouldn’t have gotten the disease that has dominated my life for the past few weeks. Irony two: Until they develop a test for antibodies, I won’t get a formal diagnosis. My one goal and hope throughout has been to stay out of the hospital. I succeeded, and because of that I haven’t been tested, so it may never be official. But I know that I’ve had Covid19.

I don’t know exactly where or how I got it. I flew to visit family on March 5, returning on March 13. Given the timing of symptoms, I likely picked up the germ on the trip out or shortly after I arrived. Did I get it from the very large man in the next seat on one flight who wheezed throughout? Or in the crowded, bustling Atlanta airport? Or maybe on the also crowded playground where we took the children a couple of days after my arrival? Someone else or somewhere else entirely? That’s one answer I’ll never have.

Almost a week into the visit I started to have symptoms that I realize in retrospect pointed to what was about to happen. For a couple of days I had mild headaches I attributed to the change in routine which meant I didn’t always have as much caffeine as I was used to.

I thought I felt fine on the trip home. That night, though, the anvil dropped—on my lungs. At least that’s what it felt like. My chest got very constricted, feeling like someone had tied a band around it and was pulling it tighter and tighter. I couldn’t draw in a deep breath. I started coughing a deep, dry cough that raked my throat raw.

The three weeks since then have been an up and down time. Like most people with the disease, fatigue has been a huge issue.  As far as I know, I haven’t had a fever, but I don’t generally run fevers no matter how sick I am. We don’t even own a thermometer.

I’ve had better and worse days and the contrast can be dramatic. Several times I actually thought I was getting better, and then the next day I’d wake up the with anvil on my chest again and the fatigue pinning me down to the recliner. On bad days my chest hurt, I coughed so hard my throat was raw, and it was all I could do to walk from one end of the house to the other. I simply felt miserable.

I’m in the vulnerable age group and have a few continuing health issues. I couldn’t help worrying that I might take a turn for the worse and end up in the hospital, possibly dying. I’ve done quite a bit of meditating on that, but it’s a different essay. I did consult with my doctor’s office and also with a good friend who is a nurse. Both believed I had Covid19, but my symptoms weren’t severe enough to require further medical intervention. At some of the worst times I teetered on the brink of calling for help. But then I’d improve just enough.

The good news is that finally, after three weeks, the tension in my chest has abated and the coughing is diminishing. I think I’m on the way to recovery. But this virus is tricky. I’ve thought that before. I hope it’s true this time.

More to come…

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The Tree Balls Are Up!

The neighborhood where I live, Sunset Hills, in Greensboro, North Carolina, has a unique and unusual Christmas tradition. A few weeks before Christmas, the balls start going up in the trees. Beautiful colored balls made from chicken wire shaped into a sphere and wrapped with a couple of strings of Christmas lights are mounted high in the hundreds of giant old oaks, huge maples, and any other trees large enough to hold them.

The result is magical. The cords disappear in the darkness, leaving hundreds of balls of light appearing to float high in the air. It’s incredibly hard to get a decent photograph but this year I did manage to get this one, looking down the street on a cloudy, rainy night. It doesn’t capture the colors or the impact of all those lights.

The tradition started about twenty years ago when a college student came up with the idea of creating the ball and hanging it in a tree. It has spread all through the area since then and even migrated to other places. My neighbors have take a further step and use the magnificent display to collect food for homeless shelters. I’m proud to live in this wonderful area.

The only downside is the traffic the display generates. The closer we get to Christmas the more balls go up and the more traffic thickens in the neighborhood. Our somewhat narrow, usually quiet streets fill up with slow-moving vehicles full of tourists coming to gawk at the display.

 

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Growing up readers

A couple of months ago, I ventured to South Bend, Indiana, where I was visiting my daughter, Sarah, her husband, Ian, and their four boys: Liam, Cassian, Henry, and Freddie. The oldest boy is 8; the youngest is 2.

And I’m proud to say that they all love reading. Only the oldest one actually reads on his own, but he basically taught himself at age three. He’d read all of Winnie-the-Pooh by the time he was four. The six-year-old and four-year-old are both learning to read now.

But they all love stories and encountering new things. Whenever I visit, I try to bring some new books for them and they’re always eager for them. And it’s clear that one of grandma’s primary roles, as far as they’re concerned, is to read to them. In fact, any time I sit down, it’s all but guaranteed one or more of them will approach with a book.

 While they have favorites, pretty much any reading material aimed at kids will do. We can go from Where the Wild Things Are to Science Concepts for Kids to Night Night Construction Site to the Sesame Street Alphabet Book. It’s all good.

The two-year-old is insatiable. He’ll beg for book after book, grabbing them off the shelf one after another. When I say “enough,” he’ll give me the big-eyes, how-can-you-say-no-to-this? look. And I melt. We’ll read yet another Sandra Boynton book, maybe Dinosaur Dance or Happy Hippo, Angry Duck. And we’re both content.

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