TwitterbirdTitles don’t come easy to me, thus the unforgettable one today. They have to be catchy and still match the story…or blog. I should be better at it because we tend to make up names for lots of things in our family.

One I’ll share today is the dreaded Chirp-athon. My husband aptly named it because starting in the spring, right through summer; the birds begin a chorus of chirps kicking off around 5 a.m.

Now if you’re sleeping, you’re golden and never know it’s happening. But if you’re awake for any reason, you will not be serenaded back to sleep, you’ll just lie there and pray it ends…soon. I can tell you first-hand it lasts over an hour, is very loud and then suddenly everything falls silent. I guess the birds are done singing their anthem, “The early bird gets the worm”, by then and fly off to begin their day. I’m left staring at the bedroom ceiling.


Our favorite Chirp-athon is when one bird decides to sit right outside our bedroom window. It sets up a mic stand and surround-sound speakers. We don’t know if it’s a special guest star or one-time appearance because it doesn’t happen too often, thank goodness. It’s like having our alarm clock set for 5 a.m. No sleeping through that.

I guess if we didn’t see the humor in it, it could drive us crazy, and families need that…both humor and a little crazy sometimes.

They also need buzz words, or fun sayings, in their lives…a phrase or word that can bring smiles to their faces or make them recall a certain memory. Something only the family knows the meaning of and the outside world has no clue.

So after coming up with these catchy words and sayings for years, I have the dreaded title block as I have come to call it. It’s like writer’s block only different. I keep telling myself it will come to me, keep writing, but it doesn’t. When I finally do get a brainstorm, I go to Amazon to check if there are any similar titles. If I see ten books with the same heading, I don’t want to use it anymore.

So what am I to do? Wrack my brain, read a thesaurus, Google words or pray for divine intervention? I don’t know what the answer is. Frustrating as it is, I know I’ll keep trying but there’s just a little piece of me that wants to throw up my hands and say, “Oh, this is for the birds.”

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!
— Dr. Seuss

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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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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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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