Make Me Laugh, Win a Copy of My Ruby Slippers

To jolly up your holidays, how about a caption contest?  Whoever writes the funniest caption for this photo wins a copy of my My Ruby Slippers. Drop your entry into the comments. 60 words or less, funniest version wins. Contest ends at midnight December 20.

Santa with two little girls on his lap ca. 1960

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Pack Rat Troubles and A Summer Drink to Make Them All Go Away

Looks Cute, Keeps a Messy House, Eats Too Much

You may remember the time the mouse ate the wire to our cruise control?  Well, the mice seem to have enjoyed a lovely trip thus far, because they’re still aboard.  I hope they enjoyed Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and now Kansas.  I really hope they like Kansas, because this is as far as they’re going.  And they’re not mice.  They’re pack rats with a hankering for air-conditioning vacuum hoses.

Our mechanic actually thinks that instead of having the same rat along for 5,000 miles, we’re dropping off and picking up new rats whenever we park anywhere for long.  If he’s right, there’s a legion of rat hitchhikers out there just waiting to climb aboard and take up the domicile built by their predecessor rats.  Think of it as rodent time-shares.

Personally, I’d like to see all the shiny gewgaws they’ve used to decorate the place, which pack rats like to do.  It might explain all the missing paperclips.  The mechanic /one-man pack-rat eviction team is not so bemused, since he’s the one out there in the 105-degree heat doing demolition.

So  in the spirit of everyone who might need a drink, I offer the following recipe, delivered to me in person at Chapters Books in Seward, Nebraska, by the wonderful writer Joy Castro.  In honor of the season, it’s called “The Ruby Slipper.”  Thanks, Joy.


1/2 oz whiskey (or 1/2 OZ if you want to keep with the theme)

grenadine syrup


Fill a shot glass 3/4 full of whiskey and top off with grenadine.  Fill any large glass with 7-Up.  Drop the shot glass into the 7-Up and drink up.  Make another one and feed it to your pack rat.

Then think about this:

Ambiguity is a Lovely Thing

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Postcards from the Middle

Greetings from Mullen, Nebraska this fine Monday morning.  The little town park is stirring to life, the mourning doves are cooing in the trees, and the robins and meadowlarks are singing.  ‘My Ruby Slippers,’ Captain Trips, the Bookmobile and I have just passed the half way point in our journey.  In fact we’re closing in on six weeks.

The book tour stops will come thick and fast in the next two weeks, and I feel Kansas coming closer and closer.  So take a breather and enjoy a few postcards from our vacation days out west.

Two tiny kids dressed as Charlie Chaplin

Tiniest Chaplins

If there were any justice in the world, these little guys would have won the Charlie Chaplin Look-Alike contest in Bellingham, Washington.  Last held in 1931, the competition brought out more than 50 contestants.  I was not one of them.

From Inside the Caldera at Craters of the Moon

Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument: a giant field of lava flows and volcanic formations.  Fantastic, otherworldly and hopeful.  The earth is alive.  Look at those little green plants taking hold.

The Grand Tetons, with me and the Bookmobile blocking your view.

In Yellowstone National Park, my career as a horsewoman begins.  We were given two instructions before our 2-hour trail ride: don’t let your horse eat grass, and don’t let him trot.  Walking only.  Big, slow drag.  Sonny wanted to trot, I wanted to gallop, and he definitely wanted to eat grass, and sage, and shrubs, and wildflowers.  Who wouldn’t?

Bison watching in Yellowstone is a national sport, and these big animals rule the park.  On our last day there, we got in a massive bison jam.  At dusk, when a group of bison decide to cross the road to get from one green pasture to another, they get to.  Which means traffic stops and humans watch.  And the whole circus reminds us that humans aren’t on this planet alone.

Take care of the planet wherever you are, and if you’re anywhere in the vicinity of the ‘My Ruby Slippers’ tour, come on down.  Dates and places for Nebraska and Kansas:

July 13: Book Worm, Omaha, 6 pm.  /  July 14: Chapters Books, Seward, NE 5:30 pm  / July 16: Barnes & Noble, Overland Park, 2 pm. / July 19: Raven Books, Lawrence, KS, 7 pm / July 20: Lindsborg Public Library, noon / July 20: Watermark Books, Wichita, 7 pm  /  July 21: Rockwell Library, Wichita, 7 pm  /  July 23: Hays Public Library, Hays, KS, 2 pm

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Book Tours: Sometimes They Come With Robins, and Sometimes You Just Log On

Not the nest on the back porch, but I don't have my camera

Today, I’m sitting at my sister’s kitchen table in Indianapolis watching the robins’ nest propped on top of the porch light.   The parent robins fly out for food and fly back to the nest, all. day. long.  I can hardly look away.  And today, the hatchlings are just big enough to poke their open beaks above the rim of the nest and yell out, “Me! No, me!” when the worm-winners fly in with lunch.

A good reminder of the world’s real, physical wonders.

It also reminds me to tell you that while I sit here staring, I’m also traveling the blogosphere for the next month.  I’ll be appearing in interviews and guest posts, as well as being featured in reviews of My Ruby Slippers.  Brave new world.

You’re invited along, and your comments will often enter you to win a free copy of My Ruby Slippers.

Stay tuned for my next adventures.  I’m going horseback riding in Yellowstone in a few days.  And since I’ve never been on a horse, there could be tales to tell.

Meanwhile, here’s how to follow along on the blog tour while sitting at your own kitchen table:

June 27 and June 29, Monday at Writing Come Hell or High Water

Review of My Ruby Slippers on Monday.  Guest Post on “Discovering Yourself Through Writing” on Wednesday. 

June 28, Tuesday at Beyond Breast Cancer

Book Giveaway.  Guest post on why I don’t like talking about breast cancer but decided to write about it in My Ruby Slippers.

July 1, Friday at Readaholic

Guest post on why we need  indie bookstores. Come share your favorite bookstore experience and win a copy of My Ruby Slippers.

July 13, Wednesday at Donna’s Book Pub

Guest post on how My Ruby Slippers went from idea to book. Chance to win a free copy!

July 15, Friday at Lit Endeavors

Review, giveaway, and guest post on The Pleasures and Dangers of Writing About Family. Continue reading

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Where to Park–Or Not–Your RV for the Night

Captain Trips Wipes Bugs Off His Rig

Captain Trips and I have come a long way since our novice RV days.  Having mastered the water system, hydraulic jacks, and rodent control, we move on to sharing tips about where to park, and not, for the night.

1) A Friend’s Driveway. 

The cushiest option by far, because inevitably, your friend will offer you the use of their guest room.  And we’ve been in some fine ones so far: Ashland, Oregon; Brush Prairie, Washington; and Whitefish, Montana with a view of a lake, wild turkeys, and horses.  This parking option means great beds, indoor plumbing, friends who take you on hikes, cook you dinner and mail you your stuff when you leave it behind.

2) A Friend’s Street.

This can be fun.  You go inside to cook dinner with your friends,

Sleep Here

then you go out for beers together, after which they go to their bed and you go to yours, which is a little bit sad, since your bed is out in the street.   Still, you’re also beginning to feel just a little smidge of affection for the RV, and your friends give you keys and lay out towels so you can come in anytime you want and take a shower. This can also be tricky, as it was in Eugene, where the woman whose house we parked in front of collared me one morning when I emerged for the day.

“Excuse me,” she hollered from her front porch.  “Can you tell me what the situation is?” I wanted to bite her. When I haven’t eaten breakfast yet, I bite.  It’s a blood sugar thing.  My daughter calls it ‘hangry.’  So when the woman asked me about the situation, she caught the worst of me.  I’m not proud.

NO CAMPING signTruth is, people can be testy about RVs in their ‘hood, what with the prospect you might be homeless and planning a permanent encampment, which would depress their property values.  So just be careful not to step on their grass, which I really, really wanted to do in this case. Because let’s face it.  Nothing is more ambiguous than the question, “Can you tell me what the situation is?”

Did she mean the Palestine/Israel situation, the situation of climate change, or the fact that I’d driven all this way and she hadn’t even shown up for my reading? And if it’s one thing RVers without breakfast don’t tolerate, it’s ambiguity.  Or people who fear the homeless.

3) A Rest Stop.

The worst possible option for RVers who actually want to sleep in their parked vehicle is a rest stop which doubles as truck weighing station just 15 yards from the Interstate outside Spokane. You can see where this is going. Continue reading

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On Mice, Eggheadedness, and Being Grateful: Lessons from the Road


Mr. Bojangles' Stand-In

Greetings from Able Orchard in Hood River, Oregon!  My Ruby Slippers spent a summer here while still a pile of scrambled bits, so it’s a sweet return, especially with a new flock of chickens on the grounds.  As you may know, I fantasize about having chickens of my own, so for a coupla days, I’m pretending they’re mine.  Mr. Bojangles the rooster crowed right on cue at dawn.  Which in the Pacific Northwest in summer, is really damn early.

So this morning, the mister and I, in our cozy RV, are hammering away at our dueling laptops, sipping tea, realizing we have no particular plans for the day.  Which seems a delicious time for an update, in the form of lessons from the road.

1.  Mice like wiring.

Our intrepid wanderers left Oakland in the rain on June 1 around 10 am.  Shortly after lunch, still raining, they found themselves camped out in the waiting room at the Ford dealership in Corning, CA, leafing through past issues of Ducks Unlimited and eavesdropping on talk about torque.

The verdict?  Mice.  Rodents had chewed through the cruise control wiring. The fix: two hours and $187.

Lesson: Appreciate the power and humor of mice.Mouse holding wire

2.  Sometimes, you are the mouse. 

When two eggheads climb into an RV, high comedy will surely follow.  Knowing nothing about how the water, sewer, electrical or hydraulic jack systems work on their new vehicle, our adventurers spent the first three days in the RV without water.  And without functioning hydraulic jacks.  For RV novices out there, jacks stabilize and level the thing when you’re parked so all the blood doesn’t rush to your head while you sleep.

Fix #1: After much swearing, despair and self-flagellation, call the former owner, who will walk you through how to turn the water valve from “closed” to “open.”

Fix #2: After even more swearing, despair and self-flagellation, make an appointment at an RV mechanic to get your hydraulic jacks fixed, only to find out that one needs only push in the parking brake first and the things work just fine.

Lesson: Be grateful when mechanics don’t laugh at you, charge you almost nothing, and track down a copy of the operator’s manual.

Note to self: Find the manual about how to empty the sewer tanks.

3.  Public radio and public libraries rock. 

Here’s the place to give a hearty shout-out to KLCC public radio in Eugene, where I was a guest on Tripp Sommer’s award-winning “Northwest Passage” on June 3.  Tripp’s got a Continue reading

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The All-Summer Book Tour-apalooza Gets on the Road

Readers, I would love to regale you with chipper accounts of packing up the jolly RV with smiles on our adventure-happy faces, stowing all our books and the Mister’s films, cookpots and my extra guitar strings (along with the Complete Bob Dylan Songbook).  But truth be told, getting on the road is nothing but chores, chores, chores and more chores.  And for someone who’s just a little traumatized by moving house, this all bears a pale resemblance to doom.  Readers, I am on edge.

STILL, there is adventure to be had, and a cost to having it.  And so we forge ahead.  The wagon train pulls out by 10 am on Wednesday for the first miles of about, oh, 5,000 more to come.  Since Wednesday is also my sister Shannon’s birthday, I take it as an auspicious day for a drive.  So once the house-sitters arrive and the driving begins, I’ll be reveling in the whole shebang, ridin’ shotgun while the Mister navigates the trickiness of driving a recreational vehicle—which since we’re in a truth-telling mode, I will admit scares the bejeezus out of me.

First stop?  Redding, CA, in the shadow of the still snow-covered Mt. Shasta.  It’s one of the prettiest mountains in the Cascades so this, too, seems a good sign of good fortune ahead.  And since Shasta hasn’t blown its volcanic top in quite awhile, I’m going to take that as a model of good behavior, take a deep breath, finish packing, scrub the shower, then lay me down to sleep.   It’ll be my last snooze at home until August 12.

Mount Shasta with snow

Mt. Shasta not blowing its top

Meanwhile, fare thee well, and fare me well, and I hope you’ll ride along on this blog.  Consider this your very first postcard.

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