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Friday, December 30, 2011

Chapter One : Silent Night

Spoiler alert :  All three of my books are a series.  The best way to read them is in order.
Book #1 Night Walks Softly   Book #2 Should Night Come   Book #3 Silent Night

My books are 2.99 and are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

Silent Night will be available soon.  I am so excited to share Deb's story with all of you.

Please consider joining this blog (bottom right) for more updates!   Leave me some comments!  Thank you!  Happy 2012!  MHG

If you've read the other two books, go ahead and take a peek at chapter one of Silent Night.


    The day Deb found out that she had cancer was the same day she feared that Gary was back.
     It was early December.  Heavy round white clumps of snow bent young tree branches almost to the ground.  They sprawled at the edge of the sidewalk.  Though Yellow River looked like a fairyland with cottony panicles of white covering the trees, Deb noticed the jagged branches, leftover like a snowball that had exploded at its target.  Deb was jogging, as she always did in the early afternoon.
    The sweat beaded on her back and neck under the heavy down jacket.  She took off her mittens.  She could feel cold air rush into her lungs as she breathed in.  The crisp air invigorated her; she went faster.  The workouts were a routine for Deb, a necessity since she spent so much time in the kitchen surrounded by that which was delicious.
     Deb was a cook.  She was the kind of cook to cook for cooks, a perfectionist, an artist with food.  Food was her passion and also her bête noire.  If she had the ingredients, the timing, the precision just the way she wanted them, all was well with the world.  If not, she felt she had failed.
     It was this attention to detail and sheer skill with a pan, a rolling pin, or a spatula that had made Deb an instant success in the small town of Yellow River.  Her shop was her home.  She planned parties, catered events for the hospital, for local companies, for civic groups.  Her vision had improved Yellow River’s collective palate in the seven months she had been in business.  Mesclun had replaced iceberg, Gorgonzola had won out over Swiss.
     She jogged up to the house.  Her headband was sweaty; her face glistened.  It was time for a shower and then off to her office for organizing.  She had cookie trays to do for the Women’s Society and hors d’oeuvres for a local attorney’s holiday party.  And a wedding on Saturday.
     Her cell phone rang.
     Deb thought about not answering.  The phone ruled so much of her life as an independent businesswoman --- quick frantic calls for a dessert when the flàn had failed or measured organized voices demanding Deb’s capable perfection for an evening soirée at one of the grand homes on the river.  Deb did it all with finesse.  But something inside her did not want to break the still peace of that afternoon.  The light hit the snowy trees and made them sparkle as her feet jogged on.  She sighed and slowed to a walk.  This was their livelihood.  She picked up the phone and opened it.  “Hello?”
     “Mrs. Schloss?”  The voice was professional, disinterested.
     “Yes?”  She knew then that it was not an order.  Orders to the shop always came for Deb.  Only Deb.  She no longer considered herself Mrs. Schloss.
     “Your mammogram showed some areas of concern.  Could you come over today to have another look?  The doctor wants to see you.” 
     Deb’s breathing came in bursts, lungs fighting to get air as her mind fought to take in this news.  The world was suddenly grey.  She shivered.  “How soon?”  She whispered, eyes floating up to the sky and fixating there on the scattering of clouds that blanketed the sun.
      Just then Christina rounded the corner, face rosy with life, skipping.  The sight of the high blond ponytail bobbing with each stride, made Deb smile.  She waved and pointed to the front door. Deb walked in with Christina, patted her daughter’s head and scooped up the mail with her free hand.  
     The receptionist had found a free appointment.   “I see.  Tomorrow is fine.  Eight o’clock is good.”  She sighed and snapped the phone shut.  She just would not think about it now.  This happened all the time, she told herself.  She was healthy.  She ate right.  She followed the rules.  She was good.  This would just not happen to her.  It could not happen to her.  Not now.
     They had entered the house, warm air wafting around them in a cocoon of comfort.  She flipped the mail over in her hands and smiled at Christina.  “How was your day?”
     Christina had hung up her coat and put her boots and mittens in the cubby in the mudroom.  The back hallway connected the kitchen door to the back door with the stairs to the basement off to the side.  There was just enough room for a set of hooks for jackets and a small bench with boots tucked underneath.  A cubby for mittens was on the seat.  Deb pulled off her headband and gloves and stowed them there.  She put her coat on the shiny brass hook right next to Christina’s.  Their two coats.  That was just as it should be.
     Christina reached for the cookie jar.  She had thought of the molasses cookies all day.  “School?  It was fine. We had a substitute.”   She bit into the cookie, finding it soft and sweet with a little bite of spice. 
     Deb paged through the mail.  So much junk mail, she thought.  And bills.  And nothing in the paper.  Then she stopped.  There, out of the corner of her eye, she saw the headline.  She looked up.  Christina was balancing on the balls of her feet and looking out the window, humming.
      “Do you have homework, honey?”   Deb’s question was sharp.  Christina’s ponytail stopped bobbing.
        Deb’s heart pounded in her chest, drowning out everything.  She felt faint.   She breathed and steadied herself.  First the doctor’s office and then this?   She attempted a smile.  It was a small upward movement of the corners of her mouth that fought not to be a grimace.
     Christina put her heels back down.  “Homework?  Yes.   I have a whole story to write!  And illustrate.”  She cocked her head to one side, ponytail flopping to follow suit.
     Deb’s smile was genuine now.   Christina loved that kind of thing.  “Why don’t you get started?  I’ll call you for dinner.”
      Christina grabbed her backpack.  “Kay.   Is Peter coming tonight?”
       Deb’s hand went to her forehead where she could feel the ridges on the skin.  Her worry lines.   “No.  No.”  Thank heaven, she thought.  “Not tonight.  Tomorrow.” Christina was already up the stairs.
       Deb sat at her round oak table and stared a moment at the paper.  “Local doctor” was all she could see.   She unfolded it and spread it out.

     Phillip sat back in his chair in the stone villa.  It was frosty outside, no snow in the Paris suburbs, but a chill was in the air, none-the-less.  A faint fire crackled in the ancient stone fireplace, large enough for him to walk into.  He put one leg over his knee and stared into the coals.  It would be Christmas soon.  He would be seeing Anne.
     He had tried to forget Anne.  She was married.  She was a mother.  Yet, despite all of that, he was still in love with her.  This sentiment was made only stronger by the fact that his mother was gone.  He would be spending his first Christmas without her.   If grief were a process, he thought, his journey of this past year must have been a part of all that.
     He stared at his bag, a simple leather carry-on, sitting in the corner by the door.  There was a slow rap at the door.  Phillip sighed and pulled himself out of his chair.  He was in admirable shape for a man of his age.  Long strong legs, thin hips and broad shoulders, not too broad, just broad enough to give him a lean yet refined look.  He wore his signature jeans and pressed white shirt, arm creases adding a sharp vertical line.  His work clothes. 
     His hair, completely grey, was trimmed short and showed off intense brown eyes and the kind of mouth that was always fooling, always laughing at something, another, a situation, or himself.  There was a furrow to his brow now, a furrow that before losing his mother, had not existed.  It had been a hard year.
     He walked to the door and opened it, long strong fingers grasping the timeworn wrought iron handle.  A gust of wind blew in with the visitor, a hugely Gallic man.
     “Ah, Bruno!”  Phillip smiled.  “Please!   Come in.”
     Bruno, answering in a French that was much more filled with patois than Phillip’s standard version, shook his head.  “Monsieur.  You air crah-zy, fou!  Zair eez nozing for uu thair, een Amérique!   Geet a good French wife.  You air steel young!  My wife, she say you vairy good-looking…”   He winked.
     Phillip looked down, still smiling.  “So you want me to take her off your hands?”
     The burly man slapped him on the shoulder.  “Zat ees a promesse?” 
     Phillip nodded toward the bags.  “Bruno, I’ve left every instruction in the kitchen.  Just watch the place for me, will you?   And thanks for the lift to the airport.”  He walked back to the fire and put out what remained, lost again in his own thoughts.  The last embers flickered and went out.  Time to go home, he thought.

           The paper sat on the table, opened.  Deb put her head in her hands.   He was out.  The paper had said that Gary had been released because police evidence was not admissible.  Tampering with evidence.  Hung jury.  Could not come to a conclusion.  Mistrial, out until the prosecution can perform another trial.   She did not understand any of it.   Her head felt like a lead weight. 
           The kitchen was still the same kitchen.  French blue paint, natural pine woodwork, and vestiges of her passion, her livelihood, everywhere.  She had cookies cooling on racks, phyllo cups baked and ready for the surprising combination flavors that would make up the fillings.  On the sturdy farm table rolls rose in the huge blue stoneware bowl, pushing the damp towel that covered them up, burgeoning, growing.  She hoped that if she did have cancer, it was not like those yeast cells, popping up bigger and bigger with happy abandon.  She put her hands to her breasts.  She shook her head.  She had no way of knowing.
        She watched the dark sky start around the corners of her kitchen window.  Outside, the landscape was the desolate flatness of northern Indiana in the winter.  Flat, plain, and in its simplicity, very comforting and beautiful, in the minds of many.  Not to Deb.  Not today, not any day.  Deb lived in the moment.  She stayed busy, and while she would notice the golden brown and flaky crust of a perfect croissant, or the gentle mix of a new set of spices, noticing the beauty of a landscape that had been her background all her life was not typical.   She watched the darkness and could only think of what night would bring.  How would she ever sleep knowing that the doctor may find something terrible and that Gary may be outside, waiting and watching?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A New Yellow River book is on the way.

Silent Night
         Third in the Yellow River Series

                     Coming soon ...   Look here for chapter one on Christmas Day!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

For My Dad

My dad lost his battle with cancer last year on October 11.  This is for him.

For you, Dad

What I miss the most is not the pomp and circumstance, not the special moments.  I loved the special moments, of course.  But I miss the routine.  The ease of the daily routine.  Breakfast with the newspaper.  Coffee.  Talking about the world, the government, taxes.  Sitting at that table, with him in his chair, and just being.   Not in a hurry.
Or, walking the dogs.  Or, going to the store.  Or the way he would always take a bag of trash with him on his way out.  Or the way he’d come in the front door on his way back from the Y, clean and scrubbed, in his sweat pants and carrying groceries.  Something he’d found for us.  Poptarts for the kids.

I miss sitting in front of the TV with him.  I don’t watch TV, but with him, it was a shared activity.  So much nonsense.  We’d laugh together.

I miss his humor, his kindness, his counsel, his pride, his strength, his devotion, his history, his intelligence, his perception, his courage, his generosity, his very presence.  I miss his laugh.  I miss his handwriting—firm, strong, confident – it was a script that spoke volumes about the man.   I miss his kiss on the cheek and the way he’d watch my car until I was out of sight.

I miss that he always did what he said he would do.  Always.

My Dad is gone one year.  He was an inspiration by virtue of his courage.  He fought for life to the end.  He fought for me to the end.  Because he was first and foremost, my dad.  He was my hero.  And so, I miss him.  Terribly.

But I know when I look into the mirror, that he is there, reflected in the light in my eyes.  He is in my kids, a surprise glimpse I get now and then that causes me to catch my breath. 

I think of those talks over morning coffee or while walking dogs and I smile.

But I still miss him.  I always will.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Love to Sew!

Here I am in my mother of the groom dress in rosy pink satin.   I made it myself from two patterns.  Comfortable, easy and fit to me.   It was a truly wonderful day!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Good Lesson / A Good Life

Here are ten important things for any good lesson.   I suppose, "lesson," could be used metaphorically.  Maybe these thoughts could work for any day in our lives, and all of those days taken together-- our lives--- show what we have learned.  Just a little philosophy for a sunny day in fall.

A Good Lesson
1. Is relevant. It links to what was done the day before, connects to what will be done in the future. It is part of a continuum of learning that makes sense to students.
2. Is presented in a systematic way. Anything is easy when broken into parts. It is up to the teacher to break it down and then put it back together for (and with) the students.
3. Gives time for kids to use the concept themselves. First, the concept is modeled and drilled, then it is available for the kids to “run” with.
4. Has ongoing assessment---question / answer, exit pass, partner work, quick write and check, speak and check, etc.
5. Has some surprises. Leaves kids excited about what awaits them the next lesson BUT has some predictability so that kids can understand what is expected of them.
6. Always instructs. Always teaches something new. 
7. Spirals. Should mix in the new and old. Each concept or vocabulary word is like a lego: not much on its own, but once understood, able to be used to build again
and again. 
8. Piques curiosity. Encourages students to further investigate on their own. 
9. Is primarily in the target language with the teacher taking care to mostly use
vocabulary the students understand and mix in new words here and there. 
10. Garners respect from the students. They know when they are learning and when the teacher is putting it all together in a professional way. When the teacher cares, the kids care.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Wedding is a Beginning ...

     How fitting it was that my son’s wedding was on a fall day enveloped in crisp air and kissed by a slanting golden light that bathed everything in softness.  It was a perfect day.  The day, the time, and the moment.
      It was perfect in how it played out.  The musicians were practiced, the soloists adept, even the mothers, I and Paula, my motherly colleague, played our roles well.  But it was the little things that made it most perfect to me.  The bride glowed, the minister knew them and connected, with them and with the congregation.  My mother had a flower and a special escort.  The chocolate favors melted on my tongue and made me smile.  The groom was gallant.
      And so now I think back.  It is hard to remember a wedding verbatim, especially if it is the wedding of someone dear.   But I remember the feelings:  pride, joy, serenity.  And those feelings will be always with me.
       In tribute to mothers, and families and brides and grooms, I’d like to open the blog for the next few weeks.  Share what you loved most about a special wedding.  I’m eager to hear your thoughts!  MH

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chapter Two

Broken Morning

     Sherry opened her eyes.  Soft blue light was beginning to filter into the bedroom.  She turned her head to check for Parker’s small tousled head of hair.  His head was almost entirely under the covers, just a lock or two poked out.  He had wandered into her bed during the night, something he often did.  Sherry eased herself out of bed, pulled on a cotton robe, and checked her watch.  Five o’clock.  Did he come in last night?
     She closed the blinds on all the windows to encourage Parker to sleep in and tiptoed out to the kitchen.
     The scene was static and unbroken.  No briefcase, no tie tossed on the sofa table or black socks balled up on the rug.  The glass-topped coffee table had one glass of wine, half drunk, just where Wills had left it.
     With a quick nervous movement Sherry tucked her hair behind her ears.  What was not there was causing something deep down in the recesses of her stomach to begin to bubble.  Craig had not made it back.  She ran to the door just to be sure.
     She opened it.  The silky wet cool lake air hit her in the face with a soft caress.  Sherry had always loved the air at the lake.  Full of life-giving oxygen, she would say.  Full of energy.  Now it made her shiver.
     Her car, a squarely clunky SUV, sat alone in the driveway.  Its black shininess reflected the intensifying light.
     She shut the door and stood with her back to it, heart racing.  Something was wrong.  Craig would be here.
     She closed her eyes for a moment and pictured him.  She had met him six years ago.  At work.  Sherry had married the boss.
     How excited she had been to land the job.  An accounting graduate, Sherry did not want to move far away.  She liked Yellow River, despite its tiny size and provincialism.  It was home.  And after her father had been diagnosed, she couldn’t leave.  Not then.
     So she met Craig Ross.  Five years her senior, smart, driven.  Craig was an Ohio boy, a suburban boy, who loved boats and bucks he told her.  He wanted a job that was fun every day.  He wanted to build boats.
     He had impressed her that day not with his dark good looks and intense brown eyes, but with his energy and his vision.  Sherry was not a dreamer; she liked getting things done.  Craig could do the dreaming for them both.
     Sherry came abruptly back to the present.  She looked at her watch.  Five-thirty.  She made a cup of coffee in the microwave, grabbed her cell phone, and opened the sliding door to the expansive deck.  She had to do something.
      The lake was smooth and still like a huge plate of silver glass.  Birds chirped with abandon.  It promised to be a beautiful day.  A thirty-foot speedboat, pontoon, and 17-foot sailboat, a fleet of Boat Company boats, bobbed on the water.  Kayaks, canoes, and skidoos were stored nearby.  The Ross cabin was a lake lover’s paradise.
     She took a sip of the too hot liquid and burned her tongue.  Tears filled her eyes.  She let one course its way down her cheek.
     She checked her watch again.  Five forty-five.  She picked up the phone and dialed.  “Mom?”  Her voice was strained, foreign sounding.
     Carol Kneifer had been stirring milk into her morning coffee when the phone rang.  “Sherry?  What is it, honey?”
     “It’s Craig.”
     “Is he sick?”
     “I don’t know.” Her voice broke.
     “What Sherry! What is it?”
     “I don’t know where he is.”  She started to talk, stringing her sentences together in a flat monotone voice, feeling strangely as though she were watching herself talk on a movie, or on the news.
     Carol listened to the sequence of events.  “Honey, call Dan.  He’s the company lawyer.  He’ll know what to do. You can trust him you know.  You haven’t been so sure about the others.”
     “Do you think it’s too early?”  The sun was the color of an egg yolk and moving higher into the sky.  It was six o’clock.
     “He’ll talk to you.  Call him.”

     Anne was in bed when the phone rang.  She was in her second trimester and was feeling good, but tired.
     She pulled the covers up over her head when the ring pierced the silence of her bedroom.  Air-conditioned air made the room comfortably cool in the huge Victorian house.  She tried to snuggle back down under the covers but curiosity overcame her.  Who calls at six on a Saturday?   Anne doubted that even her in-laws, Renata and Carl Stillman, were awake this early.
     She pulled on a zip-front duster and ran her fingers through her shoulder-length red hair.  Then, suppressing a yawn, she made her way down the back stairway to the kitchen.
     “O.K.  Back up Sherry.  Exactly what did VanHorn say?”
     Sherry?  Anne fingered the handle of the coffee mug she had picked up. She would drink her morning orange juice in the mug.  It was the next best thing to drinking coffee.  Well, she told herself that anyway.
     Dan stood, back to her, at the kitchen phone.  He was writing on a notepad.  “O.K.  I’ll call Howard and get back to you.  Try not to worry Sher.”  Dan hung up.
     “What was that about?”  Anne held her orange juice mug between her palms.  She was carefully curious.
     “That was Sherry.  Sherry Ross.  Have you met her?”  Dan almost looked embarrassed.
      “Noooo.  You know I haven’t met her.  Why is she calling you at dawn?”
      “I don’t know.  Well I mean I know, but I don’t know what the real explanation is.”  Dan grinned.  “Sorry, but that confidentiality thing gets in the way again.  Gotta go see Lou Howard at the police station.  Hang tight, I’ll be back.”  He grabbed his keys and made his way out the door.
     Anne patted her tummy.  “I do a bit too much hanging these days.”  She sighed and sat at the oak table in the large airy kitchen.  The sun was already filling the rooms from the east, getting ready to make its circuitous trip around the south and west facing windows in the course of the day.  Anne sipped her juice and traced the pattern of the wood grain on the table.  Sherry Ross.  Dan’s high school flame.  Calling him at dawn on a Saturday.  What did she make of that?

     When Sherry got Dan’s call she was ready.  She grabbed her keys, Parker still in his pajamas, and Katie, changed, fed, and strangely quiet, and walked out the door.  She left a note on the kitchen counter.
     “Wills, I’m running to the local police station to fill out a report.  We need answers.  You know where everything is.  If you hear from Craig, call me ASAP.  Here’s my cell number.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Should Night Come. Due out soon! Chapter One

Sherry thinks she has the perfect life, handsome husband, beautiful children, financial security, until one day she gets the call that changes everything. Sherry learns to manage change and to live with danger until danger finally catches up with her too. Should Night Come, a mystery/suspense novel, tells of Sherry’s struggle to save her business, her company and her sense of self. This is the sequel to Night Walks Softly.

Should Night Come,  the second Yellow River novel, available  on Kindle, Barnes and Noble, google books and smashwords.  Here is chapter one.   2.99 at all websites listed.


     “What do you mean you still don’t know where he is?”  Sherry Ross tapped her fingers on the steering wheel with her free hand as she sped down the highway.  She had been driving for an hour and was almost there.
     “I told you Sherry, I can’t get a hold of him.  He did not board the plane.  The rental car is still out.  And as far as I’ve been able to determine, Jason took a later flight and should be landing shortly.”  Gordon VanHorn rubbed his balding head and adjusted his glasses.  How did she expect him to keep track of her husband, or his boss for that matter?  Jason, the Vice President of Sales, always made his flights.  Not Craig Ross.  Who knew where he could be?
     Sherry’s eyes went to the review mirror.  Katie, the baby, was already asleep. Long eyelashes floated over her rosy cheeks like feathers.  On her head a halo of golden fuzz shimmered in the light.  Parker, four years old with sandy hair and dark shiny eyes, was paging through a book with intense interest.
     She relaxed her shoulders and smiled.  Of course Craig hadn’t checked in with Gordon.  Why would he?  “OK Gordon.  Sorry to bother you. If you talk to him, you’ll tell him I left without him?  That I’m planning to meet him there?”
     “Yes, Mrs. Ross.”  He grimaced and glanced at the clock.  Month-end.  He could have been finishing reports in the time he had spent doing phone errands for the president’s wife.
     “Bye, Gordon.  Enjoy the weekend.”  Sherry clicked the cell-phone off.  So Craig was tied up.  When wasn’t he?  The Boat Company was his passion.  He had started it from scratch and made it into a thriving internationally recognized brand name.  He’d be at the lake for the reunion.  After all, it was his family.
     She looked back again at the children.  What perfect kids, she thought.
     The sun was soft now, preparing its descent into the high sturdy corn stretching as far as the eye could see on both sides of the highway.  Green corn, blue sky, flat ground.  August in Indiana.
     She checked her watch.  Seven-thirty.  Twenty more minutes of driving.  Sherry made a mental list of all she had to do.
     There was a lot.  The reunion had been her idea.  “Let’s invite your family for a weekend,” she had said to Craig.  They’ll love the lake, the boats, the atmosphere.  The kids will play with their cousins.  A family thing, she had thought.  Let’s do a family thing.
     They did not see the Ross family much.  Craig’s parents lived in Ohio.  Not far really, but far enough to make a visit seem to Sherry like a grand excursion, especially with the little ones.  Craig’s sister lived in San Francisco where she worked as an attorney, parented two strong-willed pre-adolescent boys and grabbed a moment of free time when she could.  And Craig’s younger brother Wills lived wherever the wind blew him, it seemed.  Now that was Chicago, and his passion was graphic design.
     Wills!  Of course!  Sherry nodded and gripped the steering wheel more securely.  Craig probably drove over to get Wills before heading for the airport.  Wills was entirely too artistic to rent a car.  That explains everything.
     She leaned forward and looked back again at the children.  Parker had fallen asleep too, hair lopped over on one side, book still open.  Sherry turned off on the exit, made two more turns, and pulled up the driveway at their Lake James cottage.
     Cottage was a bit of a misnomer for the Ross’s summer home.  Seven bedrooms, a forty-foot wide great room with cathedral ceiling and floor to ceiling glass, state of the art kitchen and wine cellar, and full walk out basement.  Weekends on Lake James were hardly roughing it.
     Actually, the Ross’ lake cottage was much more elaborate than their home.  Sherry had wanted a home with character, but not ostentatious.  That, she thought, would never do in Yellow River, the town where she had lived all of her life.  So their house was large, on a wide, secluded wooded lot, but it was thirty years old.  Sherry insisted on buying the house that the president of the defunct Indiana Valve company had built for good public relations.  After all, Craig believed in Yellow River.  How fitting he should live there instead of in near-by Fort Wayne.
     “We’re here guys.”  Sherry hated to wake them.  But they needed baths, and stories and a bit of wiggling and playing before bed.  At least they had eaten before leaving.
     She opened the door and put her hand on Parker’s forehead to move his hair aside.  He stirred.
     “I wondered if anyone was coming.”
     Sherry jumped and turned around.  Parker’s eyes opened wide.  “Uncle Wills!”
     “Wills?  Aren’t you with Craig?”  Sherry’s heart pounded in her chest.  She glanced around, no car.  Maybe Craig had dropped him off and gone for groceries?
     Wills’ dark hair was shoulder-length and he had the beginnings of a beard.  He reached out to give a high-five to Parker.  “No,” he frowned, “should I be with Craig?  We didn’t talk about that.”  Wills never knew for sure what his plans were so it was possible he screwed up.  He frowned.
     “How did you get here then?”  Sherry released Parker from his car seat.  She handed Wills two bags to carry in.
     “A friend dropped me by on his way to Detroit.  I have no idea how I’m getting back.  Now why did you think Craig was picking me up?”
     Sherry unstrapped Katie and put her over her shoulder.  “These little ones will sleep anywhere.”  The seven-month-old burrowed her head into her mother’s shoulder.  “I’ll need to wake her for a bit though.”  She was talking to herself, making her list, her plans.
     “Sherry?”  Wills looked down at her and furrowed his brow.
     “Sorry, Wills.  It’s just that I’m so surprised that Craig hasn’t called.  He planned to meet me at home.  We were gong to drive up together.  He was so excited about this weekend.  I can’t believe anything would have come up.”
     They walked together down the curving driveway toward the entry.  The setting sun made the prisms in the leaded glass door sparkle.
     Sherry shifted the baby onto her hip and unzipped her purse, phone still in hand.  She found her keys and handed them to Wills.  “Could you?”
     Wordlessly he opened the door.
     Sherry walked into the kitchen to check the answering machine.  A message.  She pushed the button.
     “Sherry?  Craig?  It’s mom.  We are so thrilled.  Be there tomorrow at noon.  Riley wants you to know she’ll be there around three.  Best flight she could get, I guess.  See you.”
     The tape stopped and rewound.  That was it.
     Sherry walked to the great room, grabbed a quilt off a nearby chair and spread it out on the rug.  She put down the baby.  She noticed the reflection of the setting sun on the break that trailed a lone skier on the lake.  Red, yellow, and pink hit the otherwise silver water.  A hawk glided by on the horizon and landed in a tree near the shoreline.  Otherwise, the lake was quiet, a calm belying the storm of people who would be arriving for the weekend.
     Sherry sighed and put her hands in the back pockets of her jean shorts.  She had just gotten into them, had just lost that final five pounds of baby weight.  She had worn them for Craig.
     “Want me and Parker to unload?”  Wills’ face was clouded with concern.  He hesitated.
     Sherry nodded.  “I’ll make us a glass of wine when you’re done.  I have everything ready really.”
     Wills turned to go back out.  “Come on buddy.”  He patted Parker on the head.
     “It’s just,” Sherry continued, “that I know something is wrong.  I know he would have called.”
     Wills and Parker were already out the door.  Sherry was talking to herself.  She stood still and watched as the night prepared to come down on the lake.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The County Fair

     The county fair begins this week and for those of you who may not be planning to go, I'd reconsider.  I don't really know how county fairs work in states outside the Midwest.  Maybe they are better, bigger, more interesting.  If so, then run don't walk to your county fair, because here in the Midwest, they are great fun!
     First, they are as much a part of summer as fireflies, popsicles, sprinklers and sunscreen.  Just as a barbecue on the patio or a concert in the park mark summer, so does the county fair.
     I love everything about the fair.  The dairy cattle barns with gigantic black and white cows with swishing tails and low strong "moos" to complain about the heat, it being dinner time, or just because.  The horse barns where seeing how the young riders decorate their giant pets' stalls is as entertaining as seeing the horses themselves.  In one barn, a few weeks ago in Indiana, we were amused to see an enormous horse with his head right in front of the oscillating fan, moving his giant velvet muzzle to follow the cool breeze.  He was no dummy!
     I love the chickens and seeing the hens with one or two or three eggs in their pens, and the rabbits in all shapes and sizes, all quiet and cute and wiggling their noses in greeting.  I enjoy the goats, sometimes trying to eat the pen itself, and the hogs.  Although to me they are "pigs" and not "pork bellies" and are infinitely too cute to consider eating.  And smart.  Once while walking through the hog barn, I saw an enormous pig open his pen and escape! Well...
     I love the 4-H projects.  It is amazing to see what kids choose to sew, what they decide to research, and how many different ways they can cook.  Projects called "pocket pets," "laundry," "sewing for others,"  all of these pique my curiosity and leave me wanting to know more.  Could I get a superior ribbon in laundry?
     In the home arts area, I leave humbled.  Pickles, jams, relishes, all perfect.  Cake decorating and table-settings show impressive levels of skill, creativity and care.   I enjoy seeing the knitting, the quilting, the needlework, thinking that if I only had the time, I too could do all that.  And I am quite sure that I probably could not.
     Perhaps most of all, I love the food.  Is there anything that sums up summer more than fair food?   Elephant ears, onion rings--the big, greasy, delicious kind, roasted corn on the cob, funnel cakes, lemonade made with a whole lemon right in the cup?   My favorite?  The 4-H milkshake, served by a team of hard-working young people volunteering for their cause.  Seeing these kids work together and how much they care about a quality product, leaves one thinking that despite what today's newspaper headlines may indicate, there is still something quite right about the world.
     The only thing I do not like about the county fair is that it signals the final days of summer.  With the harvest and the completion of projects and of another year of 4-H, summer is about to fade into fall.
     But I'll think about that another day.  For now, I encourage all of you to attend one of the very best things about the Midwest.  It's inexpensive and will remind you of the connection we all have to the farm and to doing for ourselves.  Visit a county fair.  And eat an elephant ear for me!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Recipe for Summer

I'm feeling a little fifties retro today.  In honor of Anne's mother's childhood, how about a recipe for a jello salad?

This one comes from my mother and has always been a favorite of mine.  Enjoy!

Apricot Salad

2 pkgs. (small) apricot jello (can find at Kroger)
2 cups boiling water
2 cups cold water
2 large bananas, cut up
1 cup #2 (size) crushed pineapple, drained  (save juice for topping)
1 cup mini-marshmallows

Put bananas, pineapple and mini-marshmallows in bottom of medium-sized glass dish.  A covered glass bowl works well because it looks pretty to serve.  Prepare jello and pour on top.  Let set in refrigerator per directions.  Prepare topping when jello is set.


1 cup pineapple juice
1 egg slightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour

Cook this all together.  When thick take from stove and add one large package cream sheese.  Let cool.

  Whip one package Dream Whip per package directions.  Fold into topping.  Spread on jello.

Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.  It helps to have a lid for your casserole so some of the topping does not come off on your saran wrap!

ENJOY.  This is COOL and delicious.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Why "Night Walks Softly?"

Hi Readers,

The title for my book comes from a French poem I especially like.  The poem is "Recueillement," by Baudelaire.  Briefly, it is a peaceful poem about taking the time to reflect and regroup.

Of course it is quite "Baudelarian" and would take several class periods to analyze effectively.  I like it for the message, the imagery, and the way it sounds.

This is the last line in French:

Entends, ma chère, entends la douce Nuit qui marche.

(Hear, my dear (female), hear the soft/sweet Night walking.)

And from there, we get Night Walks Softly.

It works perfectly with Anne's story.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Steamy Sunday in July

Hi Readers!

Hopefully some of you are busy reading Night Walks Softly.   It is steamy hot here in the Midwest.  I am just back from a five-hour drive where at least one hour involved near monsoon conditions, dozens of cars pulled off the highway and at least two accidents that I saw, fortunately for me, on the opposite side of the highway.  It was wonderful to get home.

Since Night Walks Softly has a focus on cooking, I plan to post recipes from time to time.  Look for them soon.  

Take care!  Keep reading.   I have finished the first 200 pages of my second novel Should Night Come, and am at that invigorating point in novel writing where the words seem to bounce from my fingers to the word document.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

M.H. Gerber

Welcome to my blog!

Night Walks Softly is now available on kindle at  Hope you enjoy!   I'm busy finishing my second book, also set in Yellow River.  Look for it Fall 2011.