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Justice for Hattie Mayfair, by Irene Onorato

Gracious Woman

Justice for Hattie Mayfair, Irene Onorato’s latest release, has a special place in my “reading heart”. Knowing the author, I had a chance to read the prologue several years ago. It was super-memorable. But Irene set the manuscript aside, meanwhile publishing a series of romantic suspense novels and a couple of stand-alone novels.

She finally got back to “Hattie” as I like to call this book. And I am so glad she did. Wow, can she ever make characters come alive! Her pacing is excellent, and her heroes and heroines are delightful and interesting.

Lexi and Corbin — what a couple!  Their romance leaps off the page, the yearning of their hearts, the trials they go through, the past that threatens to get in their way. Not to mention actual danger.

This book is available on Amazon and is currently free on Kindle Unlimited, and available for regular digital…

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Motivation VS Discipline

coffee-156144__340I’m just sitting here waiting for my second cup of coffee to magically move from the kitchen counter, where I left it, to my office, where I’m too lazy to get up and go get it. Maybe if I see hubby going that way…

mission-3568221__340Here’s a thought. Totally random. I remember when a friend and I went to a writer’s conference where we listened to two motivational speakers. One was very interesting, the other, meh. Anyway, we all left the room pumped up after the one particular guy’s presentation. Yeah, we’re gonna do this! Wow, wasn’t he good? Man, am I amped up. Woo-hoo!

image.pngBut what it all amounted to, come to think of it, was getting our psychological balloons inflated with hot air. Then, when the rah-rah-rah wore off, we were in the same boat as before. We all wanted success, and it was nice to hear about his series of lucky breaks, how pieces fell into place, and the stars lined up to create stair-steps to the pinnacle of literary fame.

So why’d I bring this up, anyway? I dunno. The coffee’s still in the kitchen. I want it. Bad. I know how good it’ll feel to have it. To wrap my hands around my favorite mug, feel the warmth penetrating the ceramic shell, making my skin feel wonderful. The anticipation and want-to is there.

I’m motivated!

But I’m not disciplined.

Where are all “Disciplinal” speakers? Do they exist? Or, maybe they’re just too busy “doing” to put down their hoes, wrenches, and battle gear to get on stage and give a talk to us lazy, undisciplined, deflated slugs?

Man, I really, really want that coffee.

Rant over. As you were.divider-36856_960_720

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Hotdogs and Beans

 

A silly tale of childhood woes…

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Shopping cart, AKA, “the wheeler.”

When I was a kid, we ate hotdogs and beans for supper every single Thursday night. It was a ritual. Mom would come home from work, we’d eat our quick meal, and then she, my two brothers and I, would go grocery shopping at the A&P on 149th Street near St. Ann’s Avenue.

We lived on the fourth floor of a South Bronx apartment building, and the A&P was two and a half blocks away. We’d drag our empty “wheeler” to the store and drag it back, full to the brim. Six brown paper bagfuls of groceries sat snuggly in the basket with the top two sticking over the brim. Often, one or two of us would have to carry additional bags.

One of the problems with our Thursday pilgrimage to A&P was that we had to pass a couple of buildings where several boys from my school lived. I dreaded it. To top it off, I had a major crush on one of them.

My junior-high self was extremely self-conscious. It stressed me out. Oh, the things that went through my mind. Was I walking funny? Should I say hi or pretend I didn’t see them? Had I put on enough Clearasil to hide my blemishes? Were they talking about me behind my back after I passed, or were they simply carrying on with their conversations?

commode-2028556_1280.pngThen, one Thursday, it happed. Yes, IT.  The thing I feared most… To be laughed at and humiliated. By my crush and his cohorts. The source of my humiliation and torment? Toilet paper. A huge package.  Smack-dab on the top of the wheeler, sticking out of a paper bag for all the world to see.

cat-1816646_1920.jpgPoint and laugh. The boys went full-bore junior-high on me, and it didn’t stop on the street that day. For them, there was something insanely funny about toilet paper. I was mortified. They knew. I was outed. The cat was out of the proverbial bag. My family and I… gulp… used toilet paper.

It made perfect sense – back then, when personal things were, well…personal.  Back then, things like “lady” products were wrapped with brown paper, anything that had to do with “the bedroom” was kept behind the pharmacy counter or at least hidden on a remote aisle, and TV commercials didn’t flaunt remedies for people’s personal problems.

Can I be perfectly honest? For many years – yes, into my adulthood – I wouldn’t throw a package of toilet paper into my shopping cart unless I already had enough items to bury it under. And, I wouldn’t grab a package off the shelf if anyone else was in the same aisle.

There is no moral to this story.

I still buy toilet paper, and it doesn’t embarrass me any more.

As for eating hotdogs and beans? Yeah. Okay. Once in a while.

But never on a Thursday.

 

 

 

Lessons from Babysitting an Old, Blind Dog

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Killer, the geriatric miniature dachsund.

My eldest son was going on vacation for ten days.

“Can you watch our dogs?” he texted, knowing full well I’d say yes. Hubby and I had watched his three dogs the last few times he and his family had gone away. It saved him a chunk of change, gave him peace of mind, and gave us a way to bless him and his family. What kind of dogs, you ask? A dachshund, pug, and a chihuahua.

Back and forth, twice a day. That’s how we usually cared for the dogs. I usually took the morning shift, going over to my son’s house to feed, water, and let the dogs out, and hubby took the evening shift and did the same.

This time was different. Killer – the geriatric miniature dachsund – required a little more TLC than last time we’d kept him. Blind – or nearly so – he gets stuck in corners, confused at intersections where walls meet, and has trouble getting his feet under him when he first wakes up. We decided that he’d stay with us for the ten days.

Geriatric care is no laughing matter, even with pets. It grieves my heart to see Killer, a once-proud, Napoleonic figure who thought he ruled the roost, reduced to this frail state where his back legs don’t always obey his command to stand erect and walk.

So, what lessons have I learned by taking care of this old, feeble, incontinent dachshund?

Patience, for one.IMG_0176

Killer can’t fight the hand he was dealt. Age has caught up with him as it will with ALL of us.

Forbearance.

Accepting the facts without negative emotional responses. He can’t help it when he has accidents. Probably doesn’t even know it’s happening.

Love.

Cuddling him during these waning days, giving him pets and kisses, and being thankful for the fifteen or sixteen years he’s been part of the family.

The need to be loved doesn’t expire at a certain age. It carries over into the years when we’re no longer cute, vivacious, witty, and strong. The need to be loved begs for fulfillment. “Somebody, please love me.”

I’ll try to remember these lessons when I grow impatient with the elderly who take longer to pay the cashier, drive twenty-miles-per hour no matter the speed limit, or when I have to repeat myself several times before they hear what I’m saying.

The Rolling Stones once had a hit song that began with, “What a drag it is getting old.” Yes, Mick Jagger…

I agree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Refuge for Rosanna

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Twenty-two-year-old Rosanna Cabot is not your typical London socialite. Strictly opposed to the customary “marriage mart” where young women are pushed into arranged marriages by their parents or other adult caregivers, Rosanna uses her inheritance to purchace Honor’s Point, a luxurious home  set upon acres of glorious property and uses it as her personal refuge. Not only that, she also hopes to open her home to other ladies who are also put off by the expectation of marrying for anything other than love.

Self-sufficient, Rosanna doesn’t see the need to pursue marriage. But strong opinions on the subject get thrown into a tizzy when she meets a handsome and mysterious neighbor, Lord Peter Winstead.

Both Rosanna and Peter have pasts to deal with and obstacles to overcome before they can clearly map out their futures.  The road ahead is bumpy. And dangerous.

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Book One of the Honor’s Point series

 

Susan Karsten

About Susan Karsten

Susan Karsten lives in a small Wisconsin town, is the wife of a real estate broker and mother of three, mother-in-law to two, and grandma to three. Her hobbies include fitness (mostly jogging with her friend, Sandy and her friend’s dog, Millie), quilting (definitely taking a back seat to writing), and reading.
Her love for writing developed while in college where she earned a BS degree in Home Economics, with a minor in Speech.
Having home-schooled her children, and with child-rearing days at an end, Susan now invests time in writing fiction. Under contract for her three-book Regency historical romance series, and a Regency novella, she expects book #2 to be released in July, 2019. Her agent is currently marketing Susan’s first cozy mystery to publishers. Her personal blog can be found at Graciouswoman.wordpress.com, and find her on facebook at Susan Karsten – Author.

TIME

Years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds… As human beings, we’re always marking things on the calendar or glancing at the clock. Time is limited, and it is precious.

IMG_0013.JPGWhile flipping through a newspaper, have you ever found yourself stopping to peruse the obituary page? I have.

It’s strange, but after a peek at the grainy picture of the departed and a quick look at his or her name, the first bit of information my eyes search for is the person’s age at the time of death. My brain processes the information in a flash. I feel something—or nothing—based on the lifespan of the deceased. The closer they are to my age, the greater the twinge I feel in the area surrounding my heart.

What is it that draws us to the records of the recently deceased? The morbid attraction brings us no joy, and the knowledge that some stranger is survived by a wife, six grown children and their spouses, seventeen grandchildren, three brothers, a sister, etcetera, doesn’t enrich our lives in any way, shape or form.

My theory? Reading the obits is a bit like attending a funeral. It puts us in touch with our own mortality and raises the question: What am I going to do with the rest of MY life. How can I make it count for something good? Something great.

Years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds…

TIME.

It is limited, and it is precious.

I, for one, want to strive to make the most of it.

(This month marks twenty-three years since my mother passed away. Each anniversary gives me pause. A time to reflect, measure my existance, and set goals to honor her by making my life count.)

 

The Bronx Farmers

For your enjoyment, here’s a short story I’d written a couple of years ago that was printed in Green Prints magazine. Jim and I were very, very green as far as gardening was concerned when we first started out. Maybe some of you can relate.

Get closer to the earth. That became our mantra when our first son was born.

vegetables-790022_1920.jpgWe made rules—healthy, smart, earth-friendly rules. No more pesticide-laden food for us. Away with vegetables produced with slurries of artificial fertilizers. Bah to store-bought bread made from amber waves of grain, grown in fields of depleted soil. It was time to make changes—to live off the proverbial fat of the land.

With the baby settled in for an afternoon nap, Jim and I slipped out into the sunny backyard of our rented house in Ocala, Florida. Shovels in hand, we scoped out the best location for our vegetable garden and began the backbreaking task of clearing the sod and breaking up the virgin soil.

“June is kind of late for planting a garden, don’t y’all think?”

We uncoiled our spines, wiped the sweat from our brows, and turned toward the voice.

“I’m Lela Mitchell,” a small, elderly woman said. She jerked a thumb in the direction of the house behind us. “My husband Jack and I are your neighbors.”

Jim offered a dirt-crusted handshake and introduced himself. I stepped forward and did the same.

Hands clasped behind her back, Lela started a slow walk around the freshly dug perimeter of our hopes for a nutritious future. She stopped on the far side and cast a glance at us. “Where’re y’all from?”

I speared my shovel into the ground, laced my fingers, and hung my hands on the wooden handle in front of my chest. “Bronx, New York, originally.”

“Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. I see.” She gave a slight nod and sauntered onward until she came full-circle and stood before us.

“The ground ’round here is mostly sand. You’ll need to add some compost to the soil before y’all plant anything.”

Jim and I glanced at each other, then swiveled our heads to look once again at the old woman. “Compost?” We asked in unison.

Lela’s lips curled into a small smile. “Yes, compost. You know, a mixture of leaves, grass, vegetable and fruit peelings. It’s like magic fertilizer.”

Magic fertilizer of the organic kind—a dream come true. Excitement coursed through my urban, Yankee veins.

Our new neighbor stepped back and said, “Nice meetin’ y’all.”

The agricultural goddess turned and ambled across the yard toward her house. She climbed the wooden steps onto her back porch and vanished as the screen door creaked and closed behind her.

Jim wasted no time searching the shed for a suitable bucket. We put the washed and rinsed galvanized pail under the kitchen sink to use as a catchall for onionskins, eggshells, and potato peels—anything we could use in the garden. Every day for a week, we turned the soil and waited for the bucket to fill.

Late one Friday afternoon, I decided it was time to tackle the task of making bread for the first time in my life. I chose a recipe and assembled the ingredients: stoneground whole-wheat flour, sea salt, yeast, honey, water and a little oil. Simple enough.

I measured everything into a large bowl and mixed with a wooden spoon. Little by little, I added more flour, just as the recipe instructed. The dough started to come together and form a sticky lump. I consulted the book for the next step.

dough-3082589_1920Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and satiny.

Knead? I flipped to the back of the book and looked for a glossary of terms. There wasn’t one. I was going to have to wing it and hope for the best.

I floured the counter and dumped the dough onto it. Fingers coiled, monster style, I pounced at the warm blob and clawed at it like a cat tearing the stuffing from the arm of a tweed sofa.

Jim came into the kitchen. “Whatcha doing, babe?”

“Kneading the dough, I think.”

His eyes lit up. “Can I try?” He washed his hands, and I moved out of the way.

“Hi-ya!” Jim started with a karate chop to the center of the dough. He pulled, stretched, and wadded the dough back into a ball before picking it up and body slamming it to the counter. Thwump. A poof of flour spread across the Formica surface like a dust storm in the desert. Nothing was safe. I figured I’d find flour in cracks and crevices for months to come.

I took over and folded the dough over itself a few times. Lo and behold, the surface took on a smooth, satiny sheen. With a satisfied grin, I greased a bowl, put the dough in it and draped a damp towel over the top.

“What’s next?” Jim asked.

I scissor-clapped the flour off my palms. “We let it rise until it doubles in bulk, punch it down and knead it one more time. After that, we put it in a bread pan, let it rise again, and then we bake it.”

An hour later, I took a peek under the towel. “Hey Jim,” I shouted across the house. “The dough’s doubled in bulk. Come take a look.”

Things were working out just as the recipe said it would.

I balled up my fist and punched the dough. We hung our heads over the bowl and took a deep whiff as the dough deflated. Noxious gas hissed into our faces. We jerked back and fanned our noses. Jim gagged and I thought he’d barf on the spot.

“Whew. That smells terrible,” he said. “I think it went bad.”

I agreed.

Jim picked up the bowl, held it at arm’s length and headed for the back door.

“Where are you going with that?” I asked.

He looked back. “It stinks. I’m going to bury it in the garden.”

I opened the cabinet and grabbed the bucket from under the sink. “Wait for me.”

In the soft glow of the evening sky, I held the smelly bowl while Jim dug a hole in the center of the garden area.

“Bombs away,” I said, and then dumped the doughy torpedo into the hole.

Jim covered it with dirt and stomped it down with his foot. For the next few moments we stood in the twilight with Jim’s arm around my shoulder, and mine around his waist. Before we turned to go, I handed him the bucket and he hauled back and broadcasted the contents into the garden.compost-709020_1920

Jim and I went inside and later went to bed, feeling much better with the putrid monster dead and buried.

The next morning we awoke to Lela’s voice, yelling outside in our yard. “Jaaaaack! Come out here. You gotta see this.”

We jumped out of bed and threw on some shorts and T-shirts. By the time we got outside, Jack Mitchell was standing in the middle of the garden, and with the toe of his shoe, was poking a mound of dirt that jiggled every time he touched it. “What do you reckon that is?” he asked, looking over his shoulder at Lela.

“I got no idea,” she answered. “You’re gonna have to ask the Bronx Farmers.”

Jim and I stood next to Lela.

“It’s bread dough,” I said. “We punched it down after it rose, and it stunk like crazy.”

Lela bent forward, slapped her thighs and burst into laughter. “It’s supposed to smell that way, silly.”

Banana peels hung over the white strings Jim had strung to mark the rows. Onion skins, eggshells, slimy tomatoes, and potato peels lay scattered about, making our little plot of earth look more like the city dump than the garden we’d envisioned.

Jack and Lela could barely stop laughing. But, when they did, they took us under their wings, overlooked our big city ways, and taught us the basics of gardening, including how to make a compost heap that would decompose into rich, fluffy material to add to the soil.

The only thing that grew in the garden that summer was friendship. But, it was nourishing, organic, and grown in the fertile soil of our hearts. And that, my friend, is the best fat of the land ever grown.

Copyright © 2016 Irene Onorato, all rights reserved.

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