Sunday, February 2, 2020

Groundhog’s Day: One Hundred Percent Chance of Metaphor



HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I am thinking should begin this blog with a little snippet of Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe." If you haven't seen the movie Groundhog Day, that's A. Not gonna be funny and B. Why haven't you seen that movie?

If you are a Groundhog Day movie newbie--go, watch, and come back. And then read this post by the only person on the planet we could rely on to manage this critical moment in time.

Okay, or not. You don't really need to watch it first. But it's pretty funny. Still: how can you resist the fabulous Lori Rader-Day? Go ahead, Read this first.

Groundhog’s Day: One Hundred Percent Chance of Metaphor

When I was invited to write today’s post for the Jungle Reds, Hank asked me if I could take on Groundhog’s Day. The unspoken question there, I suppose, was… Can we trust you with the sacred duty, the nationally—nay, internationally—critical topic, of Groundhog’s Day?

But any writer could handle Groundhog’s Day as metaphor, couldn’t they? Writing is nothing BUT Groundhog’s Day.

I mean, of course, Groundhog’s Day the movie.

Groundhog’s Day the holiday is too much optimism for me. I live in Chicago; we are always going to have six more weeks of winter. Until June. Perhaps for that reason, I like my February 2nd with a whole lot more Bill Murray than I’ve come to expect from the holiday itself.

Groundhog’s Day the movie is about the long, cold, never-ending days of a man whose life restarts from scratch with the prospect of the same occurrences, the same interactions, over and over and over—every morning when his alarm clock goes off.

How is that not about writing?

Writing is about chipping away at the work, day after day, week after week, with progress incremental if not non-existent. The finish line is far away, and then our focus stretches and, wait, is it even farther away than we thought? 

In the film, Bill Murray’s character attempts to fight his fate, then wallows and allows it to ruin him, then finally decides to use the structure he’s been forced to accept to learn and grow. It gets pretty optimistic, as a matter of fact, but only after he decides to accept the time he has as a gift, working on himself instead of reaching for some far-off goal that may never be achieved.

I don’t need to stomp on this point, do I? You see it.

In the writing world we often talk about discipline. You should get some, we say to people who’ve assembled to hear us drop pearls of wisdom. Yeah, you should get some, we think to ourselves, when we’ve been away from the desk too long. As though discipline was a thing we could go get at the gettin’ store.

But of course discipline isn’t a thing you get; it’s a thing you build. All it is, when you strip it down, is doing the same thing as often as you can, creating some kind of consistency. 

It’s putting all the same markers and tools in place to guide you toward another day of the Exact Same: the same first-thing walk with the dog, the same great cup of hot beverage, the same cozy chair or business-like desk, the same notebook and pen or laptop. Different place or time works, too, but then you might be guided by another kind of structure: one hour, 1,000 words, whatever guidelines you need to get the work done.

Why have you given yourself guidelines? Because guidelines suggest that you can get it done and get back to the other things you have to do today. So many things! Without guidelines, are you supposed to write until you fall over and lose hope that you’ll ever finish? No, you’re building something, and construction is a steady-as-you-go kind of job. Steady as you go, clock in/clock out, but then, boom, something huge.
 
When I turned in the manuscript for my new novel, The Lucky One, to my editor, she wrote me back and called me out about a certain passage, where an online sleuth who tries to solve cold-case missing persons talks to another volunteer, Alice Fine, who works construction in her day-job. They’re discussing another volunteer’s successful track record of two cases closed:

      “Two matches in fifteen years.” Juby shook her head. “I don’t think I have it in me. But that’s how Lil does it. That’s how Don and Jenn do it. The people who caught the Golden State Killer, the guy who matched that body in Kentucky thirty years after she was found. Tent Girl. Do you think Todd Matthews woke up one day thirty years in and just matched Tent Girl out of the blue? This is a marathon.”
      “This reminds me of a story my dad tells about construction,” Alice said. “You know, how the little daily projects that don’t seem like much still add up to the cathedral. You’re putting down the stones or you’re building a cathedral, it’s all in your perspective. The skyscraper—or the six-story parking structure, I suppose. Either way, you have to put down the foundation.”
      Juby looked at Alice over the rim of her glass, then crunched on an ice cube. “And if the foundation is rotten?”
      “Oh, you’re totally f*@!ed.”

Is that about writing? my editor wanted to know.

Of course it’s about writing! In my experience, when you’re trying to write a 100K-word novel every year, everything is about writing! (By the way, I don’t consider my writing foundation to be an outline, if you were wondering.)

If the story about cathedral-building versus putting down stones sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s a parable. It’s been trotted out by corporate CEOs everywhere, to “raise sights” and “line stakeholders’ wallets.” 

But it’s no less true for people like us, for whom everything is about writing. For whom 200 words, 500 words, 1,000 words is a day’s work on the cathedral, no matter how out of reach the spire seems. For whom tomorrow’s work looks much the same, for whom every day is Groundhog’s Day the movie—until the book is drafted and it’s time to come out of our burrow and sniff the air.

Did I just Inception my way back to the rodent?

Punxsutawney Phil, the Official National Groundhog, almost always calls for six more weeks of winter. Why? Because it’s February.

But aren’t we lucky that writing is an indoor sport? Bad weather, good discipline, bad discipline—none of that makes a bit of difference. Just make sure the stones get set down. Writing isn’t metaphor, in the end. It’s something concrete, a creation you made with your own hands. You made it, and it couldn’t have existed without you. Maybe it’s no cathedral, but it’s a nice warm little spot to warm your hands for tomorrow’s work, when the alarm clock turns over again.

HANK: How much do we love Lori?  And her newest book THE LUCKY ONE comes out February 18! 

What're your plans for Groundhog Day, Reds and readers? Football? :-(  French poetry?  (A little movie reference). Reading? Playing?  Or building a cathedral? 









Edgar Award-nominated and Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author of The Black Hour, Little Pretty Things, The Day I Died, and Under a Dark Sky. Forthcoming February 2020: The Lucky One (Harper Collins William Morrow).
• National President, Sisters in Crime
• Co-chair, Murder and Mayhem in Chicago

Twitter: @LoriRaderDay

THE LUCKY ONE

From the author of the Edgar Award®-nominated Under A Dark Sky comes an unforgettable, chilling novel about a young woman who recognizes the man who kidnapped her as a child, setting off a search for justice, and into danger.

Most people who go missing are never found. But Alice was the lucky one...
As a child, Alice was stolen from her backyard in a tiny Indiana community, but against the odds, her policeman father tracked her down within twenty-four hours and rescued her from harm. In the aftermath of the crime, her family decided to move to Chicago and close the door on that horrible day.
Yet Alice hasn’t forgotten. She devotes her spare time volunteering for a website called The Doe Pages scrolling through pages upon pages of unidentified people, searching for clues that could help reunite families with their missing loved ones. When a face appears on Alice’s screen that she recognizes, she’s stunned to realize it’s the same man who kidnapped her decades ago. The post is deleted as quickly as it appeared, leaving Alice with more questions than answers.
Embarking on a search for the truth, she enlists the help of friends from The Doe Pages to connect the dots and find her kidnapper before he hurts someone else. Then Alice crosses paths with Merrily Cruz, another woman who’s been hunting for answers of her own. Together, they begin to unravel a dark, painful web of lies that will change what they thought they knew—and could cost them everything.
Twisting and compulsively readable, The Lucky One explores the lies we tell ourselves to feel safe.

74 comments:

  1. What wise words, Lori . . . and your new book sounds so intriguing. I can’t wait to read it.

    ::sigh:: even if it’s February, I want winter to be over and I want Punxsutawney Phil to say spring is on the way. Plans for the day? Church, a bit of cooking, a good book . . . .

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    1. Thanks, Joan! I really want spring TOMORROW, if I'm honest. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. Hank, let me answer your first question first. How much do we love Lori? We love Lori to the moon and back! For her writing, for her humor, for her ever-present smile, for her making the world a more interesting place. Thanks, Lori, for today's great Groundhog's Day and writing comparison. I so love that movie, and I've heard it referenced more than once from someone who thinks they're stuck on something or in a situation. Movie references are wonderful. And, I will be starting something else wonderful on Monday, The Lucky One. I waited until the first of February to read it because February is, for me, a time for special reads. I can't wait to read and review it now.

    My plans for Groundhog Day are to sleep in late (since it's 2:00 a.m., that will probably be easy to do), read, eat, and read some more. I will probably tune in to the Super Bowl for the half-time show.

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    1. Yes I haven’t decided about football, grrrrr. But I am curious about halftime!

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    2. I forgot about the halftime show! That's a thing that will be different than yesterday... Thank you for the lovely comment, Kathy!

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  3. I can't wait to read the new book, Lori. I hadn't heard the cathedral-building bit, but it's so true.

    My good friend, former New Englander and crime writer Margaret Press, is one of the founders of the DNA Doe project (https://dnadoeproject.org/about-us/founders/). Did you happen to meet her or talk to her about your research? I bet she's going to want to read The Lucky One!

    My day? I usually take Sunday as a day of rest from writing, but I'm missed yesterday, so I'll do my sacred Ramona sprint starting soon, then I have a morning of Quakers ahead. My usual Sunday afternoon is reading the paper, reading a mystery, and probably a couch nap, plus phone calls with my sons. No football watching in this house.

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    1. I interviewed Todd Matthews but not your friend... I do hope the Doe community likes the book, but I had to change some things.about how they work in real life. Thanks for commenting, Edith!

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  4. I was lucky enough to read The Lucky One and unlike Groundhog Day it’s a one off! I loved it - all of Lori’s warmth humor and sneaky plotting - so happy to see you here, Lori - and boy howdy do I agree about the discipline it takes to write

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    1. Oh cannot wait to read it! Hint hint Lori....

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    2. Thank you, Hallie!! It as a bear to.write, if that helps? Xo

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    3. And Hank,yours is on its way, I swear!

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    4. HURRAY! Oh, thank you..that's fabulous!

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  5. Lori,I'm so happy that I had the chance to get a signed advance reader's edition at Bouchercon-Dallas : I loved The Lucky One.
    Here, in Quebec, we certainly will have six weeks and more of winter.
    Today, I'm going to church than taking a long walk with a friend and than reading. Have a good day everyone.

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    1. Lucky you! Have you had a reasonable winter so far?

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    2. Hi, Danielle! You WERE lucky, then. Those ARCs went FAST. Hope you have a nice walk! Thanks for commenting!

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  6. I re-watched Groundhog Day yesterday! Never thought about it terms of writing, but of course it fits.

    Can’t wait to read The Lucky One, and hoping for a chance to get it signed at some point to go along with signed copies of previous books.

    My plans for today are to grade papers (talk about Groundhog Day), go to the library, and watch the Super Bowl.

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    1. It is still funny! Watching him woo Andi MacDowell with his growing knowledge. But I forget—did he already know French or how did that happen?

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    2. I love the movie, don't you? Bill Murray at his most Bill Murrayishness. Thanks for commenting! Hank, no, he LEARNS French with the time he has!

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  7. Loved this, Lori. Loved it. Thank you. What a great way to start the day, week, month. I might have to add this to my very small collection of essential words about writing process.Today? No interest in Superbowl, and busy yesterday, so will just do a necessary errand, WRITE, cook.What I need so will be satisfying.

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    1. Agreed! This post is an instant classic!

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    2. Thank you so much, Truss. Glad it helps you get that cathedral built. Cooking is only fun on Sunday... Hope you have a nice day! Thanks for commenting!

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    3. TRISS. Sorry. I am typing with thumbs on my phone. Not a great idea.

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  8. Lori. Brilliant piece and looking forward to the new book!

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    1. Agreed! Cannot wait to read it. And Rhys, we know you will be watching football!

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    2. Thanks, Rhys! Hank, Rhys is Kansas City all the way.

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  9. I m planning to watch Groundhog Day. I saw it years ago and I don't think I cared for it but I do love Bill Murray, so there is that. Maybe I'll look at Kitten Bowl or Puppy Bowl if I can figure out where they are.
    Looking forward to reading The Lucky One; sounds like my kind of book!

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    1. I might watch it again, too. Worth it just to watch Bill Murray do what he does best! Thank, Judy!

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  10. Welcome Lori. The new book sounds just as good as the previous ones. How do you people DO this?

    I haven't watched "Groundhog Day" in years, and probably won't do that today. We are down for a Chief's win, if anyone here is taking bets. Prior to gametime, we're bingeing on 'The Durrell's in Corfu" -- with popcorn, potato salad, chili con queso, tostitos, Zweigles Hots, and adult beverages.

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    1. Just one stone at a time, Ann... Thank you for reading and commenting! I like that you are having football food along with your non-football TV...

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    2. Yes, one stone at a time. Sometimes the stones are heavier than other times-- and sometimes you spend the day looking for stones.

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  11. I love the movie "Groundhog Day," and the self-realization that carries Bill Murray's character from astonishment, to despair, to carpe diem. (Do you ever wonder if any other actor could have carried off that part?) I think that everyone feels like she or he is in a loop at some point or other.
    Describing the writing process and the discipline needed to build your cathedral or parking garage has to be similar to the discipline needed in all of the arts, music, painting, etc., where your dedication to work (and your talent) determines your outcome.
    Lori, the book sounds fascinating. Thank you for your insights.

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    1. Thank you so much, Judy! I don't think anyone could have done that role with as much JOY. His range is evident in this movie, maybe for the first time in his career. Thanks for commenting!

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  12. What an opening hook, Lori! I just pre-ordered The Lucky One.

    I never realized that the movie Groundhog Day was such a great metaphor for writing! I'm not into pro football, so I'll spend my day reading. I wish The Lucky One came out today!

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    1. You and me BOTH. The build up takes so long! Thank you so much, Cathy!!

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    2. But the joy of it never leaves, right? You just have to remember it. I always try to remember how I felt when my FIRST book came out--how amazing it was. It's still the same. Now we just know too much. :-)

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    3. A lot of it is still thrilling...I just want to get going, you know? And I want people I talk to to be able to get the book!

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  14. Love this, and the best with the book launch later this month. I usually take Sunday off from writing chores. Not sure about today though, just finished a first draft and now it's time to read from page 1 to the end --hopefully in one sitting.

    Happy Palindrome date - first in 909 years - 02/02/2020

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Kait! Good luck with the read-through!

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    2. LOVE that read -through day! Something fabulous always reveals itself. ANd love this date. It's so much fun to see these.

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  15. Lori, you said above THE LUCKY ONE was "a bear to write." Can you tell us a little bit about why?

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    1. Well, some of it was timing. I had some Life Events happening in 2019. But also it's a complex story and I had more idea of the ending I wanted than I ever had, so I was trying to "land" the outcome I wanted. Also, with this online kind of sleuthing, I
      had to figure out how readers (and characters) learned the info they needed. Challenging!

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    2. SO agree about knowing the ending--it would make it so much more difficult to write without telegraphing it. xoxo

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    3. YES. And these characters are keeping a lot to themselves. Third person was a new thing for me, too.

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  16. Lori, terrific post! I'm going to reread this whenever I feel like the cathedral will never get built (by deadline, at least!) And I thought of Groundhog Day in years--time for a re-watch.

    Although we don't usually watch football, I like the Superbowl, so am going to do some dips and maybe make chili for the game. Rooting for the Chiefs! (Sorry, Rhys...)

    It is a gorgeous day here in North Texas, with a high of 75 degrees. But don't be fooled, by Wednesday we will be down in the 20s with "wintry mix."

    Lori, counting the days to the new book! It's sounds fabulous!!

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  17. Waving at Lori! Good to see you here, and I hope to see you at Malice this year.

    Your books are always such a treat, with awesome writing and twisting plots, so I'm looking forward to reading this one soon. I've never heard of the Doe Project, which sounds like a labor of love, and possibly as much frustration as poor Bill Murray's daily alarm clock renewal. But with equally as much reward potential.

    Thank you for the metaphor of building a cathedral with words. It heartens me to think that way, especially after spending two years building a new home. It does take time, and does equal thousands of tiny steps forward, and it's good to remember that. It's so easy to get anxious and discouraged during both processes.

    We are going to a Super Bowl party this afternoon, but I will barely glance at the TV, I'm sure, except for the halftime show. I'm just there for J-Lo today. And the food. And I'm going to try like the dickens not to engage in political discussion with our host, who has diametrically opposite views to my own. Wish me luck.

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    1. Also, Groundhog Day kind of cracks me up, too. Because six weeks from today is ALWAYS the end of winter. No matter what some critter sees or doesn't see.

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    2. Good luck, Karen..."here for J Lo and the food" is me, as well. I didn't even realize with was Super bowl weekend until late last night!! (I like football but...football is a troubling sport, so I don't watch anymore.) Thank you so much for your kind words. You will definitely see me at Malice!!

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    3. well, I'm in Boston, so far as I'm concerned, there's no SuperBowl. ::ducking::

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  18. Thank you so much, Deborah! We have had enough wintry mix in Chicago to last us. Thanks for taking a turn! :)

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  19. By the way, Bill Murray did a Super Bowl commercial for Jeep around his iconic role in Groundhog Day. He apparently was unscripted, and did most of it spontaneously. It's great. You don't have to wade through the game to watch it, but can see it here.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnhzGUcENWo&feature=youtu.be

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  20. Lori, congratulations on a superb build-up! Can't wait to add this book to my TBR edifice. Love the metaphor and will definitely be adding Groundhog Day to my movie schedule. No football for me today--some sewing, a little work and visiting with friends, food and a trip to Spain and Portugal (via DVD) to end my day.

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  21. Congratulations on what I know is another fabulous book! And thoroughly enjoyed the post. As a matter of fact, last week I did a little search to make sure I could find a copy of Groundhog Day for us to watch today. And everybody remember, if you go out for more snacks for today's football game - Don't drive angry!! :-)

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  22. Lori, welcome to Jungle Reds! I remember you from the Debutante Ball blog several years ago. And Congratulations on your new novel!

    Hank, I remember the Groundhog Day movie with Bill Murray. Unfortunately, that movie never had captions so I never had access to the dialogue of the movie. After waiting to see if there will be text on the screen, I gave up after ten minutes.

    Plans for Sunday - watching Puppy Bowl :-)

    Diana

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    1. Oh, that's so frustrating, Diana! It still doesn't have them? Grr.
      Puppy bowl! I have never seen that--I guess I should give it a try?

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    2. Hi, Diana! The puppy bowl sounds like a good use of my time, to...

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  23. "How much do we love Lori?" Tons, and I'm happy to say it over and over and over. :) Hmm. Maybe we'll stream Groundhog Day while the rest of you are watching football. Although I do like the ads, and I'm curious what the heck happened to Mr. Peanut!

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    1. Wasn’t that the most bizarre thing? I really think it’s crazy and even… Questionable.

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    2. Leave Mr Peanut alone! Get rid of that lizard instead.

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  24. Shalom Reds and fans. Am I wrong? Was it Snoopy who labored under the misapprehension that the holiday was called GroundDog Day? I also seem to remember that he also dreamed of writing the Great American Novel and he couldn’t seem to get passed “It was a dark and stormy night…”

    I’ve never watched GroundHog Day, the movie. I do like Bill Murray very much but sometime in the last 30 years, I started only watching television shows and movies that were further on the edge of the radar. When we walked into church this morning it was bright and sunny and mild. Then by the time we left, winter had promptly reasserted itself with a sky of clouds and precipitation which was almost snow.

    I’ve visited one or two cathedrals. I always wonder, “How did they do that?”; meaning – how was that done without electricity, for starters. I have a friend who is building a house in the woods of Vermont. He’s done well for himself and he wanted to be able to have his entire family there when they had time to be there. We reconnected on Facebook about 10 years ago. He has 8 children. I think six girls and two boys. Well, in ten years, he now has 9 grandchildren and one in the oven.

    We don’t have either a television or cable, so we probably will listen to the game on the radio. Google Play Movies just recently acquired Vera (Season 9) to its lineup. I’ve watched the first two episodes and will probably watch one of the remaining two that I bought. I watch it on my Samsung tablet.

    I have an appointment Tuesday for a procedure which requires a virtual fast tomorrow, so I am going to enjoy my last real food until Tuesday afternoon.

    I don't think I knew that the statistics are so grim for missing children.


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  25. No plans here! Reading. Enjoy the sunshine. Sent the boys grocery shopping so I don’t have to. Yay!

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    1. Brilliant! That is where we are off to this very minute!

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