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My mother blamed the return on my father. She said he was allergic. In hindsight, he probably was because it seems I’m allergic to everything now. Found that out later in life and maybe would have sooner if we had kept the little ball of fur.

Dad was a good father and even with his aversion to cats, he let his girls have their wish. Mom is the one who put her foot down and said the cat had to go. She wasn’t an animal person at all. That was the family’s first experience with a pet.

The next time I was allowed to have a pet was for one of my birthdays. I may have been in Junior High School, a preteen, at the time and so excited to finally have a dog in my life. We went to the Animal Protective League—a shelter for dogs and cats. I picked out a little pup that looked like a beagle and immediately named him Snoopy. I loved the Peanuts cartoon and Snoopy was my favorite.

Snoopy, the puppy, was a crier and our family wasn’t schooled in how to train a pet so there were lots of bathroom accidents in the house. I woke up one morning to find Snoopy in a large wastebasket. My mother put him there because she didn’t know what else to do. Snoopy’s days were numbered after that and I think he lasted about three days, too. He was taken back to the APL and I said a tearful good-bye.

Don’t worry; there is a happy ending to this story. I got my wish of having a pet. It finally happened when I graduated from high school. My boyfriend got me a French Poodle. He kept Pepper at his house until after my party. His mother said she’d keep him if I wasn’t allowed. That may have motivated my mother to try harder this time and Pepper made it past the three day test. In fact, my mom pretty much let him do anything he wanted and my dad indulged his every whim. He ended up being their dog more than mine. It was a good thing because Pepper kept Mom company until his final days after everyone moved out of the house and Dad passed away.

I have to think long and hard before I put pets in any of my books. I feel the dog or cat or bird (have to give a shout out to mine) has to have a reason for being in the story. I don’t want to place an animal in the story “just because”. I have dogs in my Waiting for Dusk series but they’re not front and center. They do have a reason for being there. Lindsey, just like me, longs for one but her mother is not a pet person. Everyone at the ranch in Arizona has a golden retriever and she’s jealous. Maybe one day, she’ll have one, too.

For now, I need to find a way to get a little lovebird in one of my stories. That’s not an easy thing to do. My bird is quite entertaining and loves people. She doesn’t talk but responds to us in other ways. She swings her swing on command and turns upside down to make us laugh. Don’t know how that would fit in a story. It probably would have to be a talking bird to make it work.

If I do put a bird in my story, I know the first thing I’d have it say…“I hates cats”. It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Thanks for the saying, Dad. You were always good at coming up with the funniest, most unique sayings that I’ll never forget. But most of all I’ll remember you wearing my furry winter white hat that tied under the chin and had white pom-poms on each end to take Pepper for a walk in the dead of winter. Now that might make a good story.

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NYC Sept 10 (157)

Don’t act like a tourist. Walk quickly and no looking around. Most of all do not look at a map in public. That’s what we were told.  I didn’t find this posted on any traveler website or printed at the bottom of a brochure about New York City. Oh no. My husband and I were informed of these rules before we even left home…by our son. This was our first trip to NYC and I was a little hesitant. It seemed like a big, scary place and a giant map in hand would soothe those fears, but we decided to comply. After all, our son is good with directions and can see a lot farther than us. He’s over six feet tall.

Since he was still in college, I had to plan the trip accordingly. Our check-in was on 9/11 and I got the “Really, Mother?” but it ended up being the best day for all of us to go. The drive through NYC was a solemn occasion that day. Police officers and military were stationed on the corners of every block. To actually see it first-hand was overwhelming and brought tears to all our eyes.

After a few wrong turns, we ended up on the correct route and drove down the street to the hotel passing the site where the Twin Towers stood. When we reached the end of the street where the Embassy Suites was located, we were greeted by a large tank.  I didn’t realize we were that close although I knew I booked a hotel in Lower Manhattan. We were across the street from the remaining towers marked 3 and 4.

When we got in the room, I threw open the curtains and gazed out the window. We were overlooking the Hudson River and Battery Park. It was a gorgeous view. The sun was shining and the sky was bright blue. At that moment I knew I loved New York.

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NYC Sept 10 (68)

The following day was gray and threatening rain but we managed to get to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. My mother and I had bought places on the wall at Ellis for her parents and I wanted to see it with my own eyes. It was hard to believe I was standing in the same place my grandmother did when she first came to America so many years ago.

The next day was bright and sunny again and we had plans to venture into midtown. Our list was long—the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), 30 Rock aka Rockefeller Center and Times Square. While at 30 Rock we hoped to get to the rooftop and go on the NBC tour. Before leaving, we were given the lecture again because we were going on the subway…a place that you had to definitely act cool. The subway scared me enough as it was but now I had to act like I used it daily. We made it to our destinations in one piece and I still find it hard to believe we did all that sightseeing in one day.

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While I was writing Waiting for Dusk I decided to have Drew’s home be New York City. It has such a rich history, starting off as New Amsterdam and settled by the Dutch. A new wave of immigrants from various countries followed, making New York City what it is today. I could picture Drew living there and what his life could have been like.

After our day of sightseeing was over, we made our way down the stairs for our final subway trip back to the hotel. We were tired and I didn’t care anymore if someone thought I was a tourist or not. I couldn’t run for the train we needed or cared if I was walking fast enough. My feet were saying, “Enough”. As we walked through the concourse, my son was stopped and asked for directions. People held phones up to him and wanted to know if they had the right train information. We had to laugh because we were just as clueless but he must have seemed like a true New Yorker to them. I inwardly applauded those people for being so brave to ask for help or directions in this fast-moving town.

After we got settled in for our ride back to Lower Manhattan, I noticed an older couple a few seats down from us on the other side of the train. The gentleman removed something from his pocket and slowly opened it. When he was done, it was as large as a newspaper and he held it up so his wife could see, too. She leaned over his arm and gazed intently at it. Imagine my surprise and horror when I realized what he was holding up for the world to see…was a map! I Love New York!

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cat in hatdoctor who

Bow ties are cool. I think the Cat in the Hat and the eleventh Doctor would agree on that. The eleventh doctor, you ask? I’m talking about the character on the BBC television show  Doctor Who. Until recently, I didn’t know much about him except that a few family members watched and had long, private discussions about him.

Doctor Who, you see, time travels. He travels through space and time, seeking out new adventures. Since my book is about that very subject, time travel, I thought I should investigate. After watching a few episodes, I felt the show was not for me. It was a little bit goofy, a little bit strange and a lot of very fast talking. A funny thing happened though. After being away from it, I wanted to know what was going on in the world of Doctor Who. I told my husband we had to finish the first season to see the Doctor regenerate if nothing else. That’s what he does, transforms into a new Doctor but he’s still the same person. I wanted to watch the new Doctor (David Tennant would now play the part of the tenth Doctor) and see how he embraced the role.

Then my son cancelled Netflix and that was the end of the Doctor…until we found him on the BBC America channel. We somehow got started watching Season Four right up to the current episode and now we’re hooked.

I’m going to tell you why I love Doctor Who. He’s very much like the great writer, Dr. Seuss, who I loved as a child and still do to this very day. They both can be silly and not make sense but in the end they tell a great story. Sometimes there’s even a lesson thrown in for good measure. They have a very unusual way with prose and can state the obvious in very interesting ways.

Some of their quotes are silly and fun. Some of them make you think a ton.
So now it’s time for the great quote-off!  And you can choose the ones for you.
There may be some you’ll like or there may be some you’ll boo.
(Just thought I’d try my hand at a little Seuss prose.)
So let’s begin!

The Great Quote-Off
Dr. Seuss: You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.
VS.
Doctor Who: You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world!

Dr. Seuss: Don’t give up. I believe in you all. A person’s a person, no matter how small.
VS.
Doctor Who: You know in 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.

Dr. Seuss: Oh the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all.
VS.
Doctor Who: Time isn’t a straight line. It’s all… bumpy-wumpy. There’s loads of boring stuff. Like Sundays and Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons. But now and then there are Saturdays.

Dr. Seuss: I box in yellow Gox box socks.
VS.
Doctor Who: It’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…stuff.

Dr. Seuss: All those Nupboards in the Cupboards they’re good fun to have about. But that Nooth gush on my tooth brush…..Him I could do without.
VS.
Doctor Who: I’m the clever one. You’re the potato one. Now go away.

So there you have it, some really great quotes to help you through life.
What have we learned here today? Well, these two things…
Doctor Who: One blue box, some companions and he’s on his way.
Doctor Seuss: Many great books, a multitude of characters and he’s off and writing.
What’s not to like?

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”

From Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by the great Dr. Seuss

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7118075-desktop-computerWhen I was younger it was all about the Pinball Wizard but in today’s world everyone needs a Tech Wizard. I try to solve my computer problems but I have to classify myself at the basic skills level.

When I have a true problem I have to turn to the Tech Wizard. He begrudgingly comes at my beck and call, does some quick repairs at lightning speed that are too fast for the normal brain to register and leaves. I am relieved to have the problem solved and go about my computer business, happy and clueless, until I have to call him again.

The most frustrating times are when I know what to do and the computer doesn’t cooperate. It may be just a simple command such as Delete and I hit it over and over again and nothing happens. Then I have to call out to the Tech Wizard and he calls back from another place, “Hit Delete”. I try again and inform him it doesn’t work. Then I hear the clomping of his giant shoes, a large sigh for my benefit and feel his breath on my arm as he leans over the chair. His large hand travels past my face, heads for the keyboard and hits Delete. Viola! It works. I stammer and sputter that I did that a million times and it didn’t work. And then I hear those famous words, “Really, Mother?” and he silently turns and heads back to his bat cave from which he cometh.

The Tech Wizard, as you may have now guessed, is my son and he’s great at what he does. He built his first computer in junior high and became our personal tech guy around the same time. He helped me create this beautiful website. Did I tell you he dabbles in photography, too? That’s his butterfly picture above in my header.

I hope you have someone in your family like this. Someone that you can brag about be it sports or the arts or that he/she is the nicest person in the world. We all need someone to be proud of us.

But don’t worry, it works both ways. When I found out my second book will be published this fall, I sent a text to my son and received back, “I’m proud of you, Mom”. I’ll be saving that one forever.

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Whoever thought once you reached adulthood you’re free of the scoldings you received as a child, let me convince you otherwise. You can never escape. I am a prime example of it. I get in situations that I don’t even mean to be in and somehow I end up being at fault or hearing some bizarre story from a complete stranger. I totally prefer to go along my merry way, oblivious to the strange happenings in the world.

I can’t remember the first time I received a scolding from a complete stranger but it seems to be happening more and more as I grow older. It can occur in random, completely unexpected places. First, let me explain that I am all for following rules and rarely veer from the straight and narrow so I don’t know how I get into these situations.

Lately, my scoldings have occurred on vacations, not the time you want this to happen. You’re supposed to be on a break from your everyday life, enjoying yourself.

The first vacation scolding in recent history happened at the now defunct Liberace Museum in Las Vegas. When you entered the museum there were signs saying not to touch any of the displays and you were also warned by the staff who wandered through the facility.

There were four of us on this trip and we were very careful not to come too close to any of the capes, pianos, cars or other memorabilia on display. We were very mindful of the rules. As we got to the end of the tour, I thought it was odd there was no music playing. Liberace was famous for playing the piano and you’d think his music would be softly playing as you walked through the various sections of the museum. A staff member was in the last room so I thought I’d ask. She brusquely told me that she was very busy and didn’t have time to get to the back and start the music. I was taken aback by her response because she had scolded me like I was bothering her. After that, I have to say I accidentally touched some of the things on display. Only accidentally, mind you.

On my last vacation I was scolded twice. Two times! The first was in a museum for taking pictures. Okay, I have to admit I didn’t see the signs but come on! Everyone else was doing it and I’m the one who gets the scolding.

The next place I got a scolding was in the Arizona desert. How can anyone get scolded in the desert, you ask? Well, it’s possible. When we started our hike, there was a sign that said to stay on the path. My husband wanted his picture taken and took one step off the path and my son immediately reminded him of the rule so we were very aware. We came to a bend in the road and right in the corner before the turn was a great-looking cactus. I told my son to stay put and went around the bend so it looked like I was right behind it when in reality I was on the path. He took the picture and we moved on. A few minutes later we came upon a park ranger. It seemed like she came out of nowhere! And guess what? She scolded me for not staying on the path! At first, I had no idea what she was talking about. Then she pointed to the cactus farther down the path from where we just had come. I explained how we took the picture and she said from her angle it looked different. She eventually apologized but I don’t think she meant it. I still think she thinks I’m guilty of stepping off the path and hugging that cactus.

There’s a character in my book, Tyson, who deserves a good scolding. I bet he’s never had one in his life. He’s been a little overindulged by his parents and he thinks things should always go his way. Tyson’s not very good at playing nicely with others. Now if there ever was a person who deserved a scolding it’s him, but I don’t see it happening. I think I have the market on that…or do I?

A few weeks ago, my nephew posted a picture of himself in front of a tapestry at the art museum. He noted below the picture that he accidentally touched it and, of course, with our family luck, someone saw him. You probably already guessed, he was scolded. I had to laugh as I read his comment because I was hoping no more family members would ever be admitted to this exclusive club. Well, no such luck. Welcome to the club, dear nephew, welcome to the club.

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taylor_swift14sTaylor Swift is my best friend. It didn’t start out that way. We mostly hung out in my car once in awhile. No one would ever believe we were friends. Kids would make fun of me if I told them and that would just be ‘Mean’.

She talked about boys mostly. There was this one boy she liked who was a prince and wore a dark gray t-shirt. Back then, she told me she used to be a damsel in distress. I think she wore a dress when she went out with him. There was this other guy named Romeo, but her dad didn’t like him. Don’t know how that turned out.

Then there’s all that competition with other girls. Taylor had a problem with some cheer captain even though she had more in common with some guy than this girl did. I hope it worked out for her. She already had a best friend, Abigail, the girl with red hair. I knew she never considered me her best friend even though she was on my BFF list but I didn’t care.

Okay, I have to admit this friendship is purely one-sided. Taylor would say she doesn’t even know me and has no idea what the inside of my car looks like. Those kids who’d make fun of me are the young adults in my family. I’m aunt to some and mom to one.

I may not be the target audience Taylor’s shooting for so I secretly put some of her songs on my MP3 player and of course have the complete Fearless album. It was released the year before I started my book and those songs were front and center on the radio back then. I give credit to them for helping me along as I wrote my first novel. I can’t listen to music as I write but I do listen when I’m thinking. I like to hear the same music/artist over and over for some reason. Everyone’s different, I guess.

Taylor Swift was my girl for Waiting for Dusk. Something about her words and the simple messages she puts out there remind me of any girl, any decade.
Could I see her as Katie, my main character? Absolutely. Strong in values, loyal to friends and loves her family. So thank you, Taylor Swift, wherever you are. You’ve got a fan in me.

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1926 2nd trip to Ostlings _0003Everything I learned about outhouses I learned from my mother. She hated them. We’d sit around the dining room table and listen to her stories from when she was a little girl. One of her favorites was about summer vacations at a family friends’ farm. She didn’t tell us about the idyllic settings or animals she enjoyed; she’d only focus on the outhouse. That was the reason she hated going on this trip…the dreaded outhouse. I will spare you the details of what it was like but you catch the drift.

The only other thing she mentioned about the farm was the dog. She hated it, too. She was never a fan of pets and we have to laugh now as we find more pictures of her posing with some dog that we know wasn’t hers. It was a shame we didn’t ask more questions when we were young because she is gone now and we have so many. We would like more details about the dog and this farm she visited, who these family friends were and what she really did there.

Our mother had a stack of pictures we’d pour over again and again throughout the years and she would share their stories. So imagine my surprise when just a few years back I came across a box in the basement marked “Garage Sale”. Inside were all my father’s yearbooks from Western Reserve University and a scrapbook my grandmother made. It contained pictures I’d never seen before and people I did not know. I took them out of their holders and flipped them over. My grandmother had scribbled the places and sometimes a date, but no names.

The picture above was one of those pictures. On the back it says “Ostling Farm 1926”. This was the famous farm my mother always talked about.
I love this picture, especially the old-fashioned car in the background. Grandpa is sitting in a chair, wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Grandma is about to take a sip of her Swedish coffee. My mother sits between her brother and sister. The boy holding the cat and the woman behind him and the one next to my grandmother…I have no idea.
As I wrote my book, I was reminded of this photo and I think it helped me create Katie’s first scenes at the boardinghouse. Her reaction to the outhouse was one of shock. I believe I had her say, “Yuk!” I thought of my mother when I wrote that.
This family portrait is one of my favorites. It is a tranquil scene of a time long ago. It’s hard to believe it’s my family. They all look so peaceful and happy in the photo but I know in my mother’s mind all she was thinking of was that darn outhouse and hoping she didn’t have to make another trip there any time soon.

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When I heard about Pinterest I had no interest. I heard all about its virtues and that it was like Twitter with pictures. Since I’ve never done well with Twitter it did not sound appealing to me. Others around me began to use it and talked about Boards and Pinners and Likes and Repins. All of it made my head spin.
Then one day I thought I’d take a peek, just one little peek. Pages and pages of pictures filled the screen with titles like ‘Warm and Cozy in a Mug’ and ‘I Would Like This’. These are called Boards and if you click on the picture, you see…more pictures!
After some encouragement from my niece, I tried again. She said to create just one board and then search for that topic. I set up my account and instantly I was following 96 people. So the score was my followers…0, following 96. That was confusing but I was told I could unfollow and to do it later.
I created my first Board, ‘All Things Swedish’, and away I went searching for pictures. I discovered I didn’t have to use the pictures on Pinterest, I could “pin” from anywhere. I just needed a pin button on my toolbar. The niece installed it and it was easy to use. Actually, it was quite fun.
My next big idea was to create a Board for my book, Waiting for Dusk. If I was the only one who ever saw it, I didn’t care. It brought my book to life. I already saved some pictures and scoured the internet for more. I found a beautiful staircase on one of my followers’ boards (yes, I have a few now) and repinned it to my new Board titled ‘Waiting for Dusk’.
My sister discovered Polyvore, where people can create outfits and wardrobes. She began to design outfits for Katie and Lindsey and Jordyn and the rest of my book family. Little did I know that one can “pin” these to Pinterest! I have not gone to Polyvore to see what all the fuss is about. I’m leaving the designing to my sister. But you never know, one day I may get the urge to take a peek…just a little one.

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WFDbook            My debut novel, Waiting for Dusk, was recently released and I now have time to reflect on how it came to be. As I wrote, my Swedish roots seemed to take hold and scream out to be written into this book. I grew up hearing about my grandmother and grandfather coming to America, separately, and meeting here. My grandmother found a job working as a maid in a mansion where the lady of the house helped her learn English. My grandfather eventually opened a grocery store.

The kids in the family had a running joke that our mothers swore they didn’t know the language until it was Christmas or they wanted to talk about us without us knowing what they were saying. We learned a few words along the way but like all children, we didn’t want a language lesson. Now we wished we paid attention!

My grandmother was famous for baking and my two favorites were something our family called Mimi bread and Mimi biscuits–which was really cinnamon bread and buns. There was nothing like them. She’d always let us eat the dough, have sugar off a spoon and do all those things you mothers wouldn’t let you do.

My sister reminded me of a story our mother loved to tell about our grandmother. She was a shy, conservative person so she could get totally dressed underneath her nightgown, pull it off and be ready for church.

Between kyssa (kisses) and God Jul (Merry Christmas) we were always good flickas (girls) to our grandmother. The smorgasbord was a tradition passed along by the family to this day, minus some of the old staples of lutfisk and herring!

The grandkids never had the privilege of knowing our grandfather but I hope my tribute to him in my book bodes well.

In honor of both of them, I hold my cup of Swedish coffee high in the air, as a toast. Waiting for Dusk is for you both, John and Alfrida Allison.

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Nancy Pennick wrote the young adult series, Waiting for Dusk, and is now working on her exciting new series, 29.

Learn more about Nancy

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