Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Nancy Drew

Intrepid girl detective Nancy Drew is 80 today, a fact I learned from the Facebook status update of one of my former journalism students when she linked to this USA Today article. (Thanks, Melissa Hostutler!)

Immediately I followed suit, linking to the article and wishing ‘Nancy’ a happy birthday too. Soon other friends of mine were sharing their reminisces of the books that gave all of us countless hours of joy when we were young.

Several prominent women, including Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former First Lady Laura Bush have listed Nancy Drew as an influence.

Nancy Drew was a huge influence on my decision to become a journalist (I’m too cowardly to snoop around scary attics!) and a writer in general. Ironically, as big a mystery fan as I am…I don’t have a mystery writer’s ‘voice.’ And my mother/writing partner (my other big influence!) and I don’t have a collective mystery voice together.

But we share a love for stories with mystery and mayhem.

Nancy and her pals Bess and George were always on the trail of bad guys (or gals…?), zipping around in her speedy roadster. Good-natured Ned was secondary, and we readers know poor Mrs. Gruen could never rein Nancy in.

Years later, as a mother, I think Nancy would never have been allowed to get into all the ‘scrapes’ she did if her mother was alive. No figuring out “The Clue of the Velvet Mask” or “The Secret in the Old Attic” or “The Mystery at Lilac Inn.”

As a child, nothing made me happier than to get to stay home sick from school, tucked into my top bunk in the room I shared with my sister, a pile of Nancy Drew mysteries by my side.

When I was a child organized sports didn’t exist for girls (I woulda been a halfway decent soccer player…at ten), and it wasn’t until mid-year of sixth grade that the fairer sex was allowed to wear pants to school in the small Michigan town I lived in.

Happy Birthday, Nancy Drew. You’ve come a long way, and so have we.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April and me

As I sit writing this on a lovely Sunday afternoon on the prairie (which two springs in a row has tried to suffocate me with allergies that trigger asthma), my husband is winging his way home from a conference in Reno, Nevada via Denver.

He’s been attending this particular conference of social scientists, mass communicators, et al for nigh onto 20 years.

It wasn’t until we moved east, however, that the conference ‘curse’ hit.

This year the curse has lain fairly dormant, though the hot water heater is acting funky and my husband nearly got bumped from his flight with a possibility of not flying in until tomorrow morning.

Nine years ago my husband came home from the April conference, also in Reno that year, sicker than a dog. Soon after he was diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes.

Subsequent springs brought a bout of raw sewage on the back patio of our old house, the death of my dear friend Mary Rodd Furbee (sister of my darling friend Susan Case), and more health scares for my spouse.

I called my husband in tears that horrible April of 2004 when 49-year-old Mary, our work colleague and friend, died. He’d rented a motorcycle and was out riding in the snow in Utah, where the meetings were held that year. He flew home early, sick again. Very sick.

He had hepatitis, and the doctor ordered tests for Hepatitis A because of concerns about his traveling. All of us in the family were tested: my mom, my sons, and me.

All negative.

Eventually, hepatitis A to Z (if such a thing exists) were ruled out. We made numerous trips to the amazing infectious disease specialist. I exaggerate, but he was tested for hepatitis you only get from crocodiles in the Nile.

Meanwhile, he kept getting sicker and sicker, dropping weight, his diabetes getting worse. Throughout it all he never let up from his demanding job.

I thought he was going to die.

He wasn’t. It turns out he had pharmacological-induced hepatitis, caused by the change in cholesterol medicine that our insurance dictated.

His pancreas did fail around the same time… and he ‘morphed’ from a Type 2 diabetic to a hybrid Type 1. The hepatitis may or may not have contributed to this.

I know there’s no curse… just the everyday realities of living. The good, the bad, and the annoying.

But I’m gonna be awfully happy to see him walk through that door… like he has so many times before.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Write Stuff

This morning my husband, mom and I went to 8:15 church, heard a wonderful sermon on prayer by Pastor Rebecca, and came home. Pretty typical Sunday morning, though sometimes dh and I hit Walmart after church because it’s less crowded then.

We deviated from the norm a bit and took a walk before our usual waffle brunch (husband cooks). When we got back, my mom was paging through the annual ‘What People Earn’ issue of Parade Magazine.

“Stephenie Meyer earned $50 million last year,” my mom informed me, adding didn’t I have any bestseller young adult ideas in my arsenal….

According to past interviews with Meyer, she dreamed the idea for her uber successful “Twilight” novel.

After re-watching the movie “Speed” last night, I dreamed I was locked in a room with a group of people. The room was slowly filling with poisonous gas, and we all had to breathe through nose plugs.

I think it’s been done. And if not, I don’t wanna write it.

At about age ten, I realized a career as a musical comedy star on Broadway required talents I lacked. So I decided to follow in the footsteps of Jean Kerr, Shirley Jackson and my mother.

Though my freelance income is closer to that of the switchboard operator from Erie, Pennsylvania (whose salary is also listed in the magazine) than to Meyer’s, it was a good decision.

My mom has had more than 50 books published, and our 29th together comes out this summer.

I sing in the shower, stumble my way through zumba class, and sit down every day at the computer…grateful, grateful, grateful.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Almost Heaven

Even though we lived in West Virginia for fifteen years, we aren’t from West Virginia. And, even though we moved to that mountain state from Arizona, we weren’t from the southwest either. My husband and I are Midwesterners, born and bred. Geographically, I’m not sure how the upper Great Lakes state of Michigan qualifies as the middle west, but it’s an attitude not a latitude.

After all those hilly years, the flatlands of the prairie still seem strange. Nebraska and her people feel, if not like home, at least familiar.

Our older son, who at age two-and-a-half was climbing 200 steps up to see Anasazi ruins just outside Flagstaff, couldn’t wait to see the world when he set off as a foreign exchange student to Germany at age sixteen.

Later, though the conversation details are fuzzy, I’m sure he told me he’d learned the lesson that you don’t really appreciate what home is until you leave it.

To me much of life can be summed up by lessons Dorothy learned in The Wizard of Oz. My sons never shared my devotion to that movie, watching it year after year as I did. I think it’s a girl thing, but I wouldn’t trade my boys for all the pink in the world.

These sons of mine grew up ‘back east.’ Someday I will ask them where they consider themselves ‘from.’

This week a tragic mine explosion rocked the state of West Virginia. The death toll is horrifying. In the last year, the company was fined a huge amount for safety violations.

Please pray for the miners and their families. We all have a little piece of West Virginia in our hearts this week, whether we’re ‘from’ there or not.