Wednesday, June 28, 2023


Government can feel predominantly male, but my small town is mostly run by energetic older women. I imagine it's like that in a lot of places. There are one or two token guys, but the ones who get things done - and the institutional memory - are usually a core group of women from 50 to 75.

In less than a month, my town has lost three of these women, and it's sad and disorienting at the same time.

The first was in early June. I met her shortly after we moved here in 2018, and even at that time she'd been undergoing cancer treatment for a long stretch. Everyone knew she was sick; everyone was surprised when she died because she just been on Facebook the day before, posting political snark, and she'd only retired as the head of the library committee the week before. Her visitation, at the local Catholic church, had a line around the block.

The second, just over a week ago, was the past president of our local animal rescue. She'd been involved in one community organization after another her entire life, and only retired when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Her death happened swiftly too; she had a birthday party only days before.

Monday morning, I learned that another woman, also associated with the animal rescue - and the one who gave us Rufus - passed away completely unexpectedly yesterday. She was their busiest foster, and in charge of a lot of the admin tasks for the group, so she leaves a big hole. She also had cats of her own, and a half dozen foster kitties, all of which now have to be rehomed.

The town isn't going to be the same without these three women, and a lot of us are going to have to step up in small ways to start taking their places. You can't sit back and admire that group without realizing someday you're going to have to be one of them.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Father's Day

Slightly early, but I'm up to my ears in edits and procrastinating, so you get this story now. 

I've talked about my dad before on the blog, but this year, I thought I'd share a story about him (and my mom) before I came along.

My dad was my mom's second husband. She married young, and for the wrong reasons: she was 17 and bored and thought marriage meant regular sex and not worrying about money. Then her husband joined the army and was sent to Korea for 3 years and she lost the sex and got a waitress job to make ends meet so she didn't have to move back in witth her grandmother. 

My dad was a regular at the diner where she worked. He was 40. He had a steady job as a firefighter and, as the youngest of 12, was taking care of his aging parents while his siblings married and made lots of babies. The whole family was devoutly Irish Catholic. Dad had dated in the past, but never came close to marriage. 

He was not prepared for the force of nature that was my mom. He didn't know what hit him. 

Six months after they met, her husband came home and she filed for divorce. She picked up her divorce decree and applied for a marriage license at City Hall on the same day, with the same clerk.

Their marriage was happy. She was the center of his universe, and she liked it that way. Then the church got involved. The parish priest showed up one night at their apartment and told my dad he was living in sin with a divorced woman, called my mom a few choice names, and said that any child of such a sinful union would be damned.

Now Dad was the kindest man I knew. And yet - perhaps because he was 40 and had a 20-year-old in his bed and regular sex for the possibly first time - he picked up the judgey father and chucked him down the front steps, never to return.

Dad remained Catholic for the rest of his life - his religion was a comfort during rough periods with his job - but I don't think it was ever the same after that. And he never regretted his choice. Mom made sure of it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

A Tudor Discovery!

History lovers around the world have been geeking out for the past week over a new discovery - a book of hours not only owned by Thomas Cromwell, but memorialized in Hans Holbein's portrait of him.

This comes on the heels of the discovery of letters penned by Mary Queen of Scots last year, and the discovery - by some of the same historians - that Henry's first two queens, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, each had a copy of the same prayer book, printed and bound in France in the late 1520s.

The three books are similar but still very individual, showing just how much hand finishing went into a book in the 16th century. Cromwell's is the only one to retain its original jeweled binding and clasps.

Cromwell's book was located a library at Cambridge University, donated in the 1660s by a relative of Ralph Sadler. Sadler was a member of Cromwell's household since his childhood, and survived his master's fall to serve the king. (What must that have been like?)

I spent a lot of time researching Thomas Cromwell for my novel, a wider world, even though he only made brief appearances. He was, however, the architect of the dissolution of the monasteries, and that event change the course of my main character's life, as Robin Lewis had been raised in a monastery and then returned as one of Cromwell's men. His self-appointed task was to rescue books, so I think he would be happy to know that this book of hours is still in existence.

A man like Cromwell, constantly treading dangerous ground with Henry and the factions aligned against him, must have had a plan for an event such as his arrest. I can only imagine when the news raced back to his house, knowing there was nothing they could do to sway the king's actions, how his household gathered his books and papers and got them safely away where they could not be used to incriminate their employer. How many of them were destroyed on Cromwell's death? How many of them ended up in the libraries of great houses, or great universities, yet to be discovered? 

This is why I love history. It's still happening.

Links to posts by Owen Emmerson Cromwell book) and Kate McCaffrey (queens' books) because they were the ones who made the discoveries, and can speak much more clearly about it than I can. Also a link to the entire digitized book, via the library.

Annunciation page from all 3 books.
L - Catherine of Aragon, M - Anne Boleyn, R - Thomas Cromwell

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Get out of the chair

I love what I do. 

I love that the stories and people who have been banging around in my head since childhood finally have an outlet, and that outlet is beginning to make an income. 

The issue is that writing, combined with my other source of income - sewing - means I spend a lot of time in one chair or another. And it's really hard, when the work is flowing, to remember that my body needs to get up and move around. 

I try to be disciplined about it, and set an alarm so that for 15 minutes out of every hour, I walk around the house or do the dishes or throw in a load of laundry. It gets me moving and gets a little housework done, which otherwise would only get done when I was procrastinating writing or sewing. 

But sometimes you need to get out of the house, not just the chair. And thankfully there are quite a few good walks in and near my town that I can talk myself into on a regular basis I'll stick in an earbud, put on a podcast, and just go. Sometimes if I'm working out a thorny plot point, a few miles on foot is just what I need. 

One of my favorite walks is up along the Darby Creek, to the Swedish Cabin, which has been there since the 17th century. Recently, a bridge was put in across the creek which leads up a walking trail on the other side. Last week, instead of going to the cabin and turning around, I crossed the bridge, kept going up Sycamore Road to Garrett Road, and then walked all the way down Garrett to where it intersects with Shadeland, which is the street at the top of my block. According to my phone, that was a solid 5 miles, and except for the half-mile stretch when I emerged from the trail on to Garrett where there was no sidewalk, it's a pleasant walk either through woods, a long trails, or through suburban neighborhoods. 

And at this time of year, it is green. Overwhelmingly, almost painfully green. Which I think is good for the soul.