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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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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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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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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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