Category: Life

About Life

The Birthday Girl



Today, June 7th 2017, is my oldest daughter’s 17th birthday.

The next year is not going to be an easy one for her father, Jack. You see, my dear husband still sees Amanda as being a little girl.

Just a few days ago, Jack commented to me that Amanda is tall, slender, and (his words) “…very pretty…” And Jack is totally right…she’s all of those things, and more.

Amanda is smart, talented, and is growing into a fine, strong young woman. I couldn’t be more proud of her, nor could I love her more than I already do. She’s nothing short of wonderful.

I think it’s Amanda’s pretty part that Jack has the biggest issue with. When we go out, no matter if it’s the whole family, just me and Amanda, or when Jack and Amanda go someplace, the guys all stare at her. I have seen boys walk into other people because they are watching Amanda instead of where they are going. At the beach she quickly develops an entourage of males all vying for her attention. In many ways, it’s comical to watch.

Well, not for Jack. He would prefer the boys not even see her. I guess that’s normal for most dads.

The fact that Amanda has been playing Sexy and Seventeen by The Stray Cats on her guitar a lot hasn’t helped one little bit, either. I personally think she’s yanking her dad’s chain.

I don’t worry too much about Amanda. She’s been involved in a number of martial arts for more than a decade now. And she’s caught my way of telling people, particularly men, to take a hike in a socially acceptable manner. Or not so socially acceptable if needed. And, if push comes to shove, her dad is about 6’ 10” and masses about 250 pounds. Jack doesn’t need to do much more than look at someone to intimidate them.

But the fact remains that Jack would prefer Amanda not to notice the boys and the boys not know she even exists.

The only thing I could tell Jack was that while Amanda isn’t a little girl (and hasn’t been for a while now), she will always be his little girl.

He needs to let her go her own way.

I’ll let you know how that turns out. 🙂

Keep Loving!



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THWT Question for 14 FEB 2017



Here’s a special Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for Valentine’s Day!


Tell us how you popped the question, or how it was popped to you.


Keep Loving!



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On Bugs, Cats, Cartoons, and Kids…Of All Ages



My two youngest kids (Debby, 15 and JJ, 9) have fallen in love with a cartoon. Especially JJ. The show is Miraculous: The Takes of Ladybug and Cat Noir.

(We get the show on Nickelodeon, but most episodes are also on YouTube in various stages of quality.)

To make a long story short, the cartoon deals with a pair of teens who are schoolmates and just happen to be super heroes as well. The twist is that neither one knows the other’s secret identity. Stay with me here…

Marinette (AKA Ladybug) is secretly in love with Adrian, but she becomes awkward and shy around him.

Adrien (AKA Cat Noir) is not-so-secretly in love with Ladybug and makes repeated passes at her in every episode.

Ladybug (AKA Marinette) is more or less indifferent towards Cat Noir.

Cat Noir (AKA Adrien) seems only to just notice Marinette.

Hawk Moth is the arch villain and in each episode he creates an evil-doer that Ladybug and Cat Noir must defeat. (I think I know who Hawk Moth is, but Debby and JJ say I’m wrong.)

In addition to the saving of Paris by the duo of super heroes, Marinette and Adrien have all the other problems found by any other teenager…conflicts with friends, class deadlines, family issues, and the rest of nearly endless list.

Overall, the show is well done and pretty entertaining. I’ve even developed a certain affinity for the cartoon. Then again, I’ll watch hours of Bugs Bunny and the Roadrunner.

While JJ and Debby both like the show, my eldest (Amanda, 17) isn’t into it. I think she sees cartoons as childish. That said, she will often sit with her bother and sister as they watch a few episodes.

I think Debby identifies with the characters…they are about her age.

As for JJ, I think he likes the skin-tight outfit Ladybug wears. Yeah…he too has the hots for Ladybug.

And then there’s hubby Jack…he thinks we’re all nuts for watching TV at all, let alone a cartoon rated Y7. He uses various terms to express his disdain, like “…a waste of time…”, “…not worth the electrons needed to push it through the wires…”, and my personal favorite “…it’s mindless shit…”. Despite the fact that, in many cases, he’s 100% right, don’t get between him an the TV when football is on. American or European.

So, what is it about Ladybug and Cat Noir that is so attractive? That’s actually pretty simple…

The only two messages the show pitches to you are that good wins over evil every time, and love conquers all.

What better messages could there be?

Keep Loving!



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The Christmas Present



When I was a kid, my family didn’t have a lot. We were kind of like the poverty-stricken snake: We didn’t have a pit to hiss in.

One thing we did have was family, such as it was.

I never knew my dad’s mother or my mom’s father; they both died before I was born. I never really knew my dad’s father, either. He was what folks back then called a “wino” and what we would, in today’s politically correct world, call a homeless person.

But I did know my mom’s mother. In fact, she lived downstairs from us for a long time.

I had a good assortment of aunts, uncles, and cousins, all from my dad’s side, who lived fairly close. There were another set from my mom’s side, but they mostly lived in Denver, and we didn’t see them very often.

But Grandma was always around.

I always had toys for Christmas, but not many and never very expensive things. I sometimes think that my dad always wanted a son, because often he would get me toys that would seem, at least at first, as being more appropriate for a boy.

Like the year he spent who-knows-how-much on a toy plane, some big airliner or another, that had a “remote control” on a wire so I could make the lights come on, the small plastic propellers on the four engines rev up, and it would taxi around while I steered it. I loved the plane and played with it for years.

Or the year dad got me BB gun, followed a year later by a Winchester lever-action .22 rifle. No, I didn’t shoot my eye out, either. I loved them, too.

Looking back, it was more about dad giving me something rather than the gifts themselves that I loved. Like so many kids, I equated the gifts with dad loving me.

I don’t have any of those toys or gifts today. They were all lost to the passing years, and I have no clue where or how. All I have now are the memories, and that’s more than enough for me.

Then there was the year that Grandma died.

She had breast cancer, and the doctors did all they could, but they didn’t have the treatments available then that we have today. There was really little they could do other than keep her comfortable. Well, at least as much as possible.

Her last Christmas was a sad one, but at six, I really didn’t understand that she, mom, and dad all knew it would be her last. I thought it was just another visit from Santa.

The medical bills took as big a toll as anything else. There weren’t many presents under the tree that year.

But I remember one small package, only a few inches long, and far less than that in width and height. It had worked its way to the very toe of my stocking hanging above the old gas fireplace, and I had to take the red sock down and shake it to get the present to fall to the floor.

I recall thinking that it must be something good because it was heavy. I can still see the red wrapping paper, covered in white snowmen dressed in the traditional black top hats with their carrot noses and coal lump eyes. It was tied with a thin green ribbon, and a silver bow twice as big as the package itself finished it off.

I’d already opened all my other gifts, but something about this odd present fascinated me. It was so unusual, so different from all the others, that I had this feeling in my six-year-old mind that something must be very special about this last item.

A small card was taped to the package, and it read simply: “To Melodee From Grandma and Grandpa”.

That puzzled me. Grandpa? Did it mean Grandpa Bunny, the aforementioned wino? Surely not.

But at six, I didn’t worry about it too much, and tore into the ribbon and paper, tossing them to join the small, sad pile already on the floor.

Inside was a simple, unmarked cardboard box, and when I opened that, I found an old, well-worn pocket knife.

As I turned it in my hands, it was marked on one side with the word “Primble” and on the other with “Barlow”. I had no idea who these people might be, but they must have lost this knife a long time ago, because far from the bright, shiny color of a new tool, this one was brown with the color of old rust, rubbed off by wear from being carried and used on a regular basis.

I opened the larger of the two blades, and it was thin from repeated sharpening. Carefully, I ran my finger across the blade as I’d seen dad do when he sharpened his knife, and it was like a razor. I couldn’t get my tiny hands to open the smaller blade, though. The spring was too strong for my fingers to work.

Grandma, sitting in the old, big easy chair, waved her hands to get my attention so I could read her lips. “Child, close that knife and come on over here.”

I folded the knife and went to where she sat, and I crawled up in her lap.

I know now that probably hurt her. Her bones were brittle and ached from the cancer that, unknown to a six-year-old child, ravaged her body. But Grandma didn’t complain. She didn’t even wince.

Instead, she put her arm around me and tapped at the old knife with her other hand, the tremble noticeable even to me. “That was your Grandpa’s knife. He carried that everyday for a long, long time. It’s yours now.”

I saw a few tears running down her cheeks, but I really didn’t understand, because she smiled bright as daybreak. When I glanced over at mom, she too was crying softly, but she also smiled. Dad was busy poking at some invisible spot on his shirt, his eyes carefully averted from my gaze.

I remember saying thank you, but totally without understanding.

Grandma died in February, but it was many more years before I understood the meaning of her last Christmas present to me.

As I said, all the toys and other things from those times are gone, all a part of history now.

All but one…

As I write this, I look down at the desk and see the familiar knife there, the words “Primble” and “Barlow” still easily readable in the brownish metal, the colors of the artificial horn flowing across the handle. The blade is a little thinner now, but it’s still razor-sharp. Both blades now, because I can get the smaller one to fold out.

I carry that little knife with me everywhere I can. If I wear jeans, it’s in my pocket. Otherwise, it’s in my purse.

It’s not worth anything. It wasn’t even an expensive knife when new. To me, though, it’s priceless. It’s a tie across the miles and years to a woman I loved very much and miss terribly. It’s also a tie to man I never knew, but who I love just as much.

Some of you may be disappointed, because most of the stories from my childhood have a funny aspect, and this one is seriously lacking in the comedic department. No, this wasn’t a funny story, but it is a happy one.

Memories define who we are. To a large degree, they also define who we will become. That, in turn, defines how we live our life and how we impact others. The memory of Grandma’s last Christmas is a good one. She gave me a gift beyond all measure.

She gave me a past much longer than my years.

Yes, there is a good dose of bitter with the sweet, but like a fine wine or the most delectable chocolate available, the sweet far outweighs the bitter, reducing the painful twinge to giving us a reminder of how good things really are. The bitter only serves to enhance the sweet.

Keep Loving, and

Merry Christmas



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The Saga of the Christmas Tree



As an author, I’m asked many times about my favorite Christmas memories. The questions come from readers, publishers, reviewers, and many others. Those memories tend to wind up being edited down to a paragraph. Maybe two. You can’t really do justice to a memory in that space.

Growing up in the Missouri Ozarks, we often had a white Christmas. Yes, just like the song. The Bing Crosby version. Or The Moody Blues. A wonderfully beautiful time, but mixed now with a little of the bittersweet.

At the time, I didn’t understand that my parents scrimped and saved for a long time to make Christmas happen. Looking back, they spent a lot of money we didn’t have on Christmas, and I’m not talking about just on gifts.

My dad’s birthday was December 18th. Just a week before Christmas, his birthday present was always a Christmas tree.

We lived in a house that had high ceilings. Really high. About fourteen feet. Such a house today would have the ceiling lowered somehow, if for no other reason than to save on heating costs. And wallpaper costs. But our house had the ceilings clear to their full height. Added to this was a good deal of dark woodwork. I later learned that most of the houses of the period from when ours was built had mahogany woodwork. The carving was intricate with lots of roping and circular features.

Our home was the second floor of the building. The stairs were a straight shot from the front door, but at the top of the steps, there was a ninety-degree turn into the hallway that led to living room at the front of the house, and the kitchen toward the rear. My room was off the living room.

Between the living room and my room was a huge door. It reached nearly to the ceiling and was about eight feet wide. Made of the same dark wood, it had carved panels inset on its surface, and it slid on rollers to disappear into the wall. Oh, that’s called a pocket door. I usually kept it closed.

At least on nights other than dad’s birthday…on that night, the show was too good to miss by closing the door.

The annual floor-show we called tree shopping always started the same way. Dad would swear that we would get a small tree this year. I never figured out his definition of a small tree.

We would pile in the 1967 Dodge van and head out to the tree lots. This was one of the old vans, not like today’s minivans filled with soccer players and their moms. A big thing, based on a big truck, the van had two seats up front and the engine sat back a little, between the seats. In fact, there was room to pass from one seat to the other by walking between the dash and the engine box. The box lifted up so you could check the oil from the driver’s seat.

The back of the van had no seats. Just a huge open area, a lot like a metallic football field. Since there were no seats, we didn’t need seat belts. No one wore them back then anyway.

We went to the same lot every year. It was called simply “Ron’s”. I assume the greasy old man who drooled when he stared at mom was Ron. Anyway, dad said Ron had the best trees at the best prices. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t very old, I had never been to any other tree lot, and the prices must have been secret since the trees all had little colored tags on them. I guess Ron had the code to break the cipher someplace.

In late December in Missouri, it gets dark about four in the afternoon. Dad didn’t get home until about four-thirty or so. By the time we ate and hit the streets, it was full dark. We usually took several hours in the dark, using flashlights and the several bonfires Ron kept burning, to pick out a tree.

This was no small task, nor was it one to be taken lightly. While dad stood shivering in the cold wind, mom made him hold the tree upright. She then stared at the tree with a practiced eye, making dad turn it this way and that. Most of the time, she would shake her head and mumble something about a flat or bare spot. Dad would go back to the racks of trees for another.

Did I make it clear these are real trees I’m talking about? Many people seem to think that Christmas trees come from the garden center at the local Wal-Mart. You know…the ornaments are where the fertilizer was stacked in August. No, these trees didn’t come in a box.

Just a short time ago, these trees were living, growing things. They were snatched from the forest by force and brought by truck to Ron, and others like him, for sale to folks like us. Sort of an evergreen slave trade.

Ron had racks built from 2×4 lumber that held the trees. To a kid like me, there seemed to be a million trees there. Maybe there were a few hundred, but the smell still lingers in my head. The pine scent was almost overpowering. Ever open a new bottle of pine cleaner and take a really deep whiff? That’s not even close. At times, when standing close to one of the racks, it could actually get unpleasant.

Ron had several types of trees. I remember spruce, Scotch pine, blue spruce, and a few others. Dad liked the Scotch pines, and that’s where the efforts focused.

Often, mom’s thumbs down for a tree came because it was too small. Now, dad wasn’t a big man, only about five and half feet tall. But unless the tree was at least a foot over his head, he knew better than to waste mom’s time. She wouldn’t even speak then. She just gave dad “The Look”.

You know the one. All mothers know how to use The Look. Yes, you mothers out there reading this know what I’m talking about. It’s the expression that, when aimed at the man of the house, says without words, “Are you out of your mind?” The same look, when aimed at the children, says, “That’s very sweet and cute, but if you don’t stop now, I’m going to slap your face off.”

No matter who The Look was aimed at, it worked.

Dad knew better, but he always tried to sneak a tree shorter than himself into the game. I think it’s like a pitcher in baseball trying to doctor the ball. Sometimes, you get by with it. Most times, you get caught. When you did get caught, you usually paid a little fine, maybe sat out a game or two, and then all was forgiven. I wonder how many games dad sat out over the years.

The lot was pretty slow this particular year, and Ron was helping dad pick out trees for evaluation. After looking at several dozen, all rejected because they were too small, Ron told dad he could give him a good deal on a larger tree since only a few remained and it was only a week until Christmas.

With mom’s smiling approval, we followed Ron to the high rent district.

The trees towered over my seven-year-old head like redwoods. Reaching so high in the air, the tops were lost in darkness because the light of the bonfires just couldn’t reach that far. Dad frowned and turned his flashlight to the sky, but the light faded before it found the tip of the trees.

While Ron still had several trees here in the Beverly Hills part of the lot, only one fit the bill; a Scotch pine, the only one there. The trunk near the base was too big around for Dad to grip fully with both hands. Some of the lower branches were bigger than a few trees we looked at earlier. Processed and cut into lumber, the tree could have built at least two homes.

Dad and Ron wrestled the monster from the rack and balanced it precariously on the ground. The tree swayed in the wind, causing the men to struggle to keep it upright.

Mom, taking pity on them, walked around the tree instead of making them turn it for her.

Her smile said it all. This was the one.

After a few minutes of negotiation, dad and Ron settled on the price. The tree was soon tied with bailing twine and ready for loading.

With the mighty pine tree resting on the ground, the problem became obvious. The tree was about twice the length of the old Dodge van. There was no way it would fit inside unless the windshield was broken out. Maybe not even then.

Dad decided to tie the tree to the top of the van.

Ever see the Oscar Meyer Weiner-Mobile? The van looked a lot like that when Dad and Ron finished. Well, other than the moldy green hot dog drooped down toward the street at the ends.

And away we went, driving through the dark streets with a dwarf redwood on the roof.

Those old vans were top-heavy when they left the factory. Dad nearly flipped ours over several times on turns long before this night. With who-knows how many tons of evergreen tied to the highest point of the vehicle, it became very top-heavy.

It took about thirty minutes to get to the tree lot. It took more than an hour to get home. When added to the time at the lot, we finally arrived back home at about nine at night.

And the fun had only just begun.

I’m an only child. No big brothers to help. Mom was less than five feet tall and weighed perhaps ninety pounds. Soaking wet. With her clothes on. I was not quite seven.

What I’m trying to say here is that dad was on his own.

He managed to wrestle the baby sequoia from the van and get it on the ground. He had the idea of putting the tree on a big canvas tarpaulin so he could drag it instead of carrying it. It seemed like a good idea to me.

He began pulling. The tree did well, sliding along the ground and up the five steps to the door. It fit through the door, barely, and dad backed up the main stairs, pulling and sweating and saying bad things about the tree’s parents not being married.

I remember mom and I standing at the foot of the stairs watching dad. His face looked like traffic signal stuck on stop. In the rain. He was really sweating. I recall not understanding why, because it was maybe twenty degrees outside.

He was a little past halfway up the steps when the top of the tree went through the door. Dad gave a mighty pull, and the tree lurched up the steps nearly a foot. Dad sat down hard on the steps. The jolt made him lose his grip on the tarp.

The tree came sliding down the steps, top first, like a runaway train on a mountain. The bottom of the tree bounced on the steps as it descended, and I imagined the sound to be like restless cannibal pygmies deciding whose house to meet at for dinner.

I watched all this from my position on the steps leading from the sidewalk to the door. Directly in front of the door. Right in the path of the humongous tree.

Dad always called me ‘Mel’. Mom gave him The Look every time he did. She never failed to call me ‘Melodee’. I hate it when people call me ‘Mel’. Only three people can get by with it, and I like it. Dad was one. Hey? What little girl wouldn’t like her Daddy to have a special name just for her? A close business associate is another. She holds the purse strings, so she can call me anything she likes. The third is someone very special to me. But I digress.

Mom said only one word. “Mel!”

Remember the scene in the movie Vacation when Clark falls asleep at the wheel and leaves the freeway? Remember when the man walking his dog snatches the pooch back by the leash, thus saving it from being crushed by the Griswold Family Truckster? Mom did the same thing to me, only using my arm instead of a leash.

And I reacted the same way as the dog. I yelped. Loudly.

The tree shot past mom and I at a high rate of speed. I guess being tied tightly to the trunk, the branches offered less wind resistance. The canvas slide probably helped. When the bottom of the tree exited the door to the house, it was moving much faster than I could walk. Probably faster than I could run.

The inertia, a function of the mass of the tree (large) and the velocity of the tree (also large) carried the tree all the way back to the van. It stopped when the first four or so feet of the treetop was under the van.

Dad stumbled down the steps. He stood next to mom and I, his breathing a ragged pant, with his hands on his hips. I think he used up all the good words already, because he didn’t say a thing. He just glared at the tree.

Finally, dad’s breathing returned to normal, or at least as much as a fifty-five-year-old obese smoker can breathe normally, and he smiled down at me where I still stood holding mom’s hand. “You OK, Mel?”

He got The Look from mom.

I smiled. “Yeah, Daddy.”

He messed my hair and went after the tree.

The second assault on Mount Aaron went pretty good. At least dad made it to the top of the stairs with the tree in tow. It was here that a major problem was encountered.

Remember that ninety-degree turn?

How do you get a monster conifer around not one, but two such turns?

I was wrong…Dad hadn’t used up all the good words. At least not yet. Even today, I don’t understand what they mean when people say someone is ‘turning the air blue’. Mom said dad was doing that, but I didn’t see it.

Dad was a machinist. More accurately, he was a precision machinist. All machinists work with tolerances measured in thousandths of an inch. Dad dealt with dimensional clearances on the order of a few ten-thousandths of an inch or less.

The tree had far less clearance than that to get around the corner and out of the stairs.

I’m not sure if the cussing or his skills as a machinist helped more, but dad managed to get the tree from the stairway into the hall. It was a relatively simple task to get it into the living room.

It was after ten by then.

After some careful measuring and a couple of tests, dad finally cut several feet from both ends of the coniferous monster and was ready to attach the base and stand the tree up.

The trunk was far too big to fit into the stand.

Again, the air didn’t turn blue, but I came to understand that the supply of good words is all but infinite.

I had a cat. His name was Jessie, and he was just your common feline mongrel. When you have a cat, you also have a litter box. A litter box implies cat litter. But cat litter is expensive. Instead, dad would get a fifty-pound bag of something called Speedy Dry from where he worked as we needed it. It looks, feels, and smells, at least before the cat gets to it, just like clay cat litter. We had a new bag.

Being ingenious, dad got a five-gallon bucket, put the base of the tree in there, and filled the bucket with Speedy Dry. Adding water made the mixture like cement. It also weighed more than mom and I put together. That’s a good thing, because the huge dwarf redwood needed the weight to hold it upright.

When dad finally stood the tree up, it was about quarter past eleven. The treetop ornament, a hideous yellow and purple thing my grandma gave us, was less than an inch from the fourteen-foot ceiling.

Dad cut the rope holding the branches and the tree unfolded majestically, nearly filling the entire room with long green needles reaching in every direction. The already strong scent of pine intensified in the air, and sent us all the same message…

Christmas was actually coming.

Mom brought in the boxes of ornaments and lights. As mom picked out the ornaments she wanted on the tree, dad played with the strings of lights, making sure they all worked and the cords and plugs were in good shape.

I sat down on the couch and watched my parents.

The last thing I remember is the old mantle clock above the gas fireplace chiming midnight, signally the end of my dad’s fifty-fifth birthday. But his night had only just started. By the time I woke up in the morning, still on the couch, the tree was trimmed.

Dad died in 1987, but even now, I get my Christmas tree on December the 18th.

Happy birthday, Daddy.



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Charity Begins at Home



Here in the midst of the Holiday Season, many charities have learned to make their donation push. This time of year, many people are in a mood to give more, and the charities have learned to take advantage of this good spirit.

It just makes good financial sense.

On the other side of the coin, many dubious charities are also out there trying to bilk a few dollars from as many people as they can find. These less-than-worthy charities (some that have very large overheads and pass little on to the stated causes and some that are just plain con-artists) also take advantage of the holiday mood.

It just makes good financial sense.

The lesson here is to be careful. Check out the charities that approach you. Make sure the lion’s share of the money they collect makes it to those who need it. In today’s world, that’s pretty easy to do with a Google search. You want your donation to have the biggest bang for the buck possible.

It just makes good financial sense.

But the above isn’t the message of this blog. The actual message is a personal pet peeve, a rant if you will.

It makes me crazy to see so-called news reports about how ________ (fill in the name of some celebrity/politician/other public person/corporation) has donated $________ (fill in some figure, usually too large for the average person to truly comprehend) to __________ (fill in the name of some charity or another).

This is not charity. This is advertising.

I want to make sure you understand that, in at least some cases, the donation does help some cause or another. Sadly, there are just as many that don’t. For example, about a year ago, a semi-famous Hollywood star (who hadn’t had much work for the prior couple of years) “donated” $1,000,000 USD to “…create the _______ _______ (name withheld to protect the guilty) Foundation for Domestic Violence Studies…” The organization existed for less than six months and then vanished without a trace. The money in the bank for the foundation “…reverted to the investors upon closure of the operation…”

Oh, and the fading star? The person got a role in a movie that was so bad the studio canned it after seeing the first scene.

But the fact is, this foundation was set up as a shill for a promotional scheme.

Such schemes are easy to spot…there is a person’s name attached to them.

Let me ask you something…

When you drop some money in, let’s say, the Salvation Army kettle or in the collection plate at church, do you attach a note saying who you are? Do you post on FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, or put signs up on the power poles all over town that you gave the SA bell ringer $10?

I’ll bet you don’t.

You simply take personal pride in the fact that you did something, no matter how small, to help others. That’s all the reward you need.

And in my opinion, the amount donated changes nothing other than the needed documents for the accountants to deal with.

I have a few favorite charities. Since I’m the CEO and majority shareholder, my favorite charities are also the ones my company likes. Two of my biggest favorites are the San Diego Zoo (and related operations) and the Salvation Army. There are about a dozen others, but those are the biggies. I make both personal and corporate donations to my A-List charities.

Now, I’m going to pick on the SD Zoo, but I won’t tell you how much I donate to them…

There are signs all over the Zoo and Safari Park with the names of donors. Most of these donor lists have a low-end cut off, but it varies depending on the project. For the Tiger Trail at the Safari Park, the cut off was $10,000 for the “regular” donors and “$100,000” for the “major” donors. I was a couple of orders of magnitude into the “major” range. But you won’t find my name, any of my pen names, or my company name anywhere on the signs.

I’m not advertising. I’m helping the animals and the people who want to learn more about them.

Did I get a receipt for tax purposes? You bet.

That means me, my accountants, the Zoo, and the IRS know how much—and even that—I donated.

No one else needs to know.

It’s only my opinion—and not everyone will agree—but I think charity should be as anonymous as possible. Keep a low profile.

And I won’t even get into the popular activity of a few years ago of adopting random children from (mostly) west African countries. They’re kids, not freaking fashion accessories!


I encourage you to give to your favorite charities, not just now around the holidays but all through the year.  As Scrooge said…

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

Keep Loving!



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Melodee’s Back Again!



Hello, All!


Sorry I’ve been away for the last week or so and missed posting a few Two Hundred Word Tuesday and Melodee’s Rules for Authors.


To make a long story short, I had to make a (more or less) emergency trip up to the US (Washington, DC) for a seemingly endless string of business meetings. To make the even longer story shorter, the meetings went very well, and I’m now back home in Rio.


I’ll be getting back on track with the blogs and other things over the next few days, so be sure to look for my Rules for Authors this coming Friday (25 NOV 2016).


Thanks for your patience and understanding!


And have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


BTW…ever try to find a turkey in Rio de Janeiro? It ain’t all that easy!


Keep Loving!



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On Teenage Daughters and Their Fathers — A Musical Note



Our oldest child, Amanda, will be seventeen in June. Amanda, and her sister Debbie (just turned fourteen in August) are my adopted daughters and I love them to death.

Over the years, Amanda and I have become very close. Her dad (my darling Jack, the love of my life) often expresses amazement that Amanda and I share no genetic information. We two share a special bond and how much we think alike shocks me sometimes, too.

Amanda’s love is music and she’s an accomplished musician playing guitar, banjo, dulcimer (both hammer and fretted), keyboards (including piano, harpsichord, and synthesizer), drums, she plays around a little with the saxophone and a few other wind instruments, and has in the last year or so been experimenting with the theremin. Guitar is by far her favorite instrument, though.

She does a good deal of original compositions as well as covers of a wide range of songs from all over the page in terms of genres. She’s in four different bands here in Rio de Janeiro that play classic rock, hard rock (and into a little metal), country, and pop.

But the other day, she did something that confirmed her father’s frequent accusations…

Jack will often accuse me and Amanda, as well as Debbie sometimes, of trying to kill him with some of the more, ummm, outlandish behaviors we are partial to. For example, Amanda has picked up on my flirtatious behaviors. This, and other things, make Jack just a little crazy.

Now, let me put this into perspective a little for you…

Amanda is less than an inch shorter than my 5’ 9”. OK…Jack claims I’m more like 5’ 10”, but what does he know? She’s slender and has great legs and, at least from a man’s point of view, a wonderful shape. She’s been wearing my bras for more than two years now. She has blonde hair (a shade or two darker than mine) to her waist and bright blue eyes. Add to this the fact that, also like me, Amanda is not the least bit hesitant or ashamed to show off her looks.

Another of Jack’s favorite sayings is that guns don’t kill people. Fathers with good looking daughters kill people. But I digress…

Jack is very supportive of Amanda’s music. He loves to hear her play and we’ve gone to many of the clubs where she plays with the bands she’s in even though we tend to be about twenty years older than the rest of the crowd in most cases. Jack even had Amanda teach him to play a song for me on our anniversary a few years back.

But last night she came up to the house (she has her own small house on the property) with a video she and her classic rock band made.

Ever heard the song Sexy and Seventeen by The Stray Cats? Ever seen the official video for the song? You can do so on YouTube.

Now…imagine this song being done by Amanda while dressed like “Little Marie” in the video. Even down to the Stray Cat logo body painted on her shoulder.

The whole thing, especially the Sexy and Seventeen part, was more than Jack could take. Her sat there and watched the video, his affect flat, staring at the big screen like her couldn’t take his eyes off of it.

Me, I was fighting the urge to get up and dance while I “listened” through my Bone Phones. It was good old rock and roll with a great beat. And I’ll admit I was proud with how great Amanda looked and sounded.

Jack, not so much.

He sat staring at the black screen for nearly a minute before he asked Amanda, “You’re not going to do that in a show are you?”

Amanda said the band planned to do an entire show of covers of Stray Cats and similar band’s music as well as few original songs she plans to write.

Jack nodded. “And you’ll be dressed…” He gestured at the TV. “Like that?”

Amanda just smiled and nodded. “Yeah, isn’t it hot?”

Jack seemed to shiver. “Sweetie, dad’s don’t like anyone thinking their daughter is hot.”

Amanda turned to me. “Mom, did you like it?”

I decided that discretion is better part of valor. At least for a moment before I changed my mind. “I think it’s great, but I have to make that show.”

Jack frowned. “You’re not really helping.” He shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. “You two really are trying to kill me, aren’t you?”

Amanda laughed. “No daddy.” It then seemed that Amanda got the discretion I found so elusive. “If you tell me no, I won’t do it.”

She knows her dad inside out and backward. After about an hour of talking, Jack said it was OK for her to do the show.

And he promised to dance with me while we’re there.

Keep Loving!



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TV Shows Melodee Wants to See



I rarely watch TV. Part of that is being deaf…captioning never really works right. But I recently spent a few days with a cold, so I piled up on the sofa in front of the television with a few bottles of NyQuil and enough tissue to dam the Nile.

I saw just how bad the vast wasteland has become.

Here are a few suggestions for shows I think would improve TV…

The People’s Criminal Court – Let Judge Milian hear actual criminal cases. A jury would be optional, but in all cases Milian would get to yell at someone…the prosecution, the defense, the defendant, the victim, someone. After opening arguments, it would be obvious that the judge is biased to one side or the other.

Hangin’ Judge Judy – Similar to the above except that all cases carry the death penalty.

Dancing with the Pit Bulls – First, you fence off a large area, say Wyoming. Then you fill the area with wild untrained pit bulls. Hungry pit bulls. Then you turn loose a bunch of people who think they can dance into the area.

Survivor – Too good of a title to mess with, but we need some truth in advertising. Get rid of the voted off the island crap. Each episode, someone dies.

America’s Got Fear Factor – Remember the scene in A Clockwork Orange when they propped Alex’s eyes open and made him watch violent videos? This is similar…the contestants are forced to watch talentless performers.

Hotel No-Tell – Send in a pompous hotel manager to rework and run a motel in the red light districts of major cities.

Cannibal Kitchen – Contestants must make three dishes (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) using odd leftovers and human flesh harvested from last week’s losers.

Dirty Jobs – Don’t change anything. Well, Mike Rowe nude in every episode would be good.

Celebrity Ninja – Line up current pop stars and shoot arrows at them. If they catch or deflect the arrow, they win and get to come back for the Show of Champions when flaming arrows are fired from a crossbow.

Pawn Scars – Every week we get to see a live armed robbery at a large urban pawn shop.

Naked and Nervous – A couple who have never met are turned loose in the jungle with nothing at all, not even clothes. But we get to hear what they REALLY think of each other. Like, “…he’s hung like a squirrel.” Oh, I almost forgot…one contestant is a radical homophobe and the other is a raving queen.

American Pickers – A show that features candid video of Wal-Mart customers picking their noses while in the produce section to a sound track played by Nashville bluegrass musicians.

Antique Sideshow – All about old posters and memorabilia from the golden age of circus freak shows.

Keep Loving!



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Melodee Has Dreams — Some Pretty Damned Strange Dreams



Dreams are funny things.

I once took a class in dream analysis—not one the silly new-age sort of things…this was a real class at a real university taught by a man who had enough doctorate degrees that his name on his office door looked like a can of alphabet soup. He reminded me a little of what I think Sigmund Freud would have been like. Anyway…

In the first ten minutes of the very first class session, he told us that, “Ninety-nine point nine-nine-nine percent of all dreams don’t mean a thing. Think of dreaming as being a rather inept motion picture director with an unlimited special effects budget and you’ll have the idea. We’re here to talk about the other one one-thousandth of one percent of dreams.”

Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s because dreams are funny things, but I have always had some funny dreams. Some have been hilariously funny. Some have been funny only because it’s easier to laugh than to cry. Some have been funny in the rubber room and white coat that ties in the back sort of way. And a few have been funny in that nervous laugh that scares the hell out you manner.

A number of years ago, I had a recurring dream that was pretty bizarre…I would ride around the country on a Honda Trail 70 motorcycle (minibike, actually) pulling a forty-foot semi trailer behind me full of WWI vintage British Lee-Enfield rifles. I stopped in the parking lots of Wal-Mart stores around the country and sold the rifles from the trailer.

I told you it was bizarre. And I defy anyone to assign any special meaning to any of that.

When I was little, I had another recurring dream that I was on a train. It was an old style steam engine type of train with big wheels and pistons driving them. The cars of the train were like the ones you see in movies with windows that slid up and down, and big bench seats covered in red velvet. I was the only kid on the train, and all of the adults were big bullfrogs that walked upright. None of the frogs spoke, but instead they used sign language, just as I did. The frogs never tried to hurt me, and they were all polite in the traditional Victorian sort of way. At first I was afraid of the frogs, but then I started to like them. Eventually, a group of frogs and I had tea and cakes as we rode across country.

Go figure.

I have a good number of erotic dreams, too. Some are clearly connected to reality and involve people I know—in the Biblical sense. Others are more common…

When I’m working on a book, I often have erotic dreams involving the characters. When I was working on The Polyamorous Princess, Harry, Allie, Damon, and I had more than a few pretty intense episodes. Sometimes it was just me and one of the characters. Other times it was me with two or more of them. And a few times I was just an observer as the others carried on.

I have precious few inhibitions when it comes to sex, probably a lot less than most people, but like everyone, in a dream state, I have none what-so-ever. Pretty much anything you can imagine goes. Actually, some things you can’t imagine go—like the dream when I was with seven men at the same time. I’ll let you figure out the details on how that worked.

One thing I have found in my erotic dreams is that they tend not to involve ménage sex. I’m not saying that the dreams don’t involve multiple partners, because they often do. I’m saying there is always a love component to the dreams. The number and gender of my partners in the dreams don’t matter too much.

Don’t get me wrong…I love the feel of a man, his hands and skin against my body and the taste of his body as we make love are delightfully wonderful. Sorry, guys, but most men don’t know how to really please me, but I have yet to find a man who couldn’t be taught. You are capable of learning! Once a man knows how to touch and kiss and lick just the right ways in just the right places, it’s amazing.

But I also love the sensations of making love with a woman. A woman knows how to please a woman. We already know just how to touch and caress the special places, how to trigger the shivers and shakes that drive a woman wild.

And when you combine a man and a woman into a polyamorous affair, a dream gets very intense. Or men. Or women.

Just remember that these dreams are not orgies. These are loving, polyamorous encounters.

Does the fact that I have dreams like that mean that I want to live a polyamorous life? I don’t know, but I don’t think that’s the case. I believe these dreams simply mean I like things a little wild once in a while. At least “wild” as defined by most people’s standards.

And maybe that’s what dreams are really all about…the ability to let go of the inhibitions and stresses of reality and live in a fantasy world. Sometimes, it’s good for us to just do what we want without the interferences of “right” and “wrong” and not to worry about the consequences of “proper” society.

As the father of dream analysis might have said, just let your id run free.

Keep Loving!



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