A surprisingly adult tale

By “adult” I do not refer to sexual themes. Rather I mean that this isn’t a story that deals in happy endings or clever twists that make everything okay. It’s a story about what it is to grow up and understand that there is no going back. It’s about becoming who you are, whether you want to or not.

Lydia is a surprisingly well-adjusted young woman who is socially invisible. She copes well with her outsider nature at least in part because her family is her foundation. She cares for nothing so much as her parents and her younger brother and sister. A young man enters the picture, as young men will in stories like this, but he’s not prince charming. In fact he creeps Lydia out quite a lot, to the point where she lurks in the girl’s bathroom at school until she can sprint out and catch her bus without having to wait around and attract his attention. Stalker-y stuff, to Lydia’s mind, but not so much so that she’s actually told anyone about him.

The young man, Clive Barrow (An unfortunate name that made me think of Clyde Barrow, of Bonnie and Clyde fame, and made me picture him as Warren Beatty in a brown suit.) somehow manages to find Lydia in spite of all her best efforts, and just as she’s trying to get away from him and into her house, they’re attacked by what Clive calls “Darklings.” He drags her into a place he calls “The Between” where he says that the things that are looking for her can’t see her. It might have been a good idea for Clive to make friends with Lydia rather than stalk her, and explain a bit about why he was there. She’d still have thought he was crazy until proven wrong, but it might have made the opening of the novel a bit less frustrating. (I kind of hate when people get in trouble because they won’t communicate.) Still, it’s a small thing when you consider that the rest of the novel is darn good.

As it turns out, Clive is exactly what he says he is, a Fae. He’s been sent to fetch Lydia to the Bright Court of Oberon because she is a changeling and Oberon wants her back, he wants her power. She’s also being pursued by Titania, Oberon’s estranged wife and queen of the Shadow Court. The truth of Lydia’s life, Oberon’s and Titania’s true motivations and Clive’s shifting allegiances form the basis of the story, and it’s a story that actually makes some sense, which is refreshing when you consider how many supernatural novels are enormous muddles tarted up with rather silly magic. Lydia is forced to make hard choices with very little in the way of reliable information, and she succeeds because she believes in herself. She trusts her heart and her instincts, and they serve her well. Like another heroine who is close to my own heart — Buffy Summers — Lydia exists to change an outworn paradigm.

As I indicated, I found the opening a bit problematic, but once past that, I found the story engaging, and even inspiring because Lydia’s strength should inspire. She has moments of doubt, moments when she would prefer to hide. Her stubbornness could easily have turned into useless petulance, but her faults are part of the reason she is stronger than those who want to control her. She is quite a well-thought-out character.

The story ends a bit abruptly, and I have the sense that there is a sequel in the offing. I hope so anyway, because I have the sense that we’ve only seen the beginning of Lydia’s story. There is much more we need to know.


Hooray for Hollywood…

4050 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60641 www.p...
4050 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60641 http://www.portagetheater.org/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I live in Chicago where there is currently a resurgence of interest in restoration of old movie theaters.  In fact I live within walking distance of two absolute gems, The Portage and the Patio (Which my folks always pronounced “pay-she-oh.” I guess that was the way it was said before the fifties.)  The Portage has built its business around events like the Silent Film Society’s film festival and Can’t Stop the Serenity, a Firefly-related event that raises money for charity, as well as screenings of old movies.  Currently the building is in danger of being sold to one of those storefront churches, which is a horrible idea for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that the Portage is a landmark of the northwest side of the city. Right now there’s a lot of scrambling going on to save it, but apart from showing support for the theater as a theater, there’s not a lot that can be done to save it.

That can’t be said for the Patio.  It opened about a year ago after many years of being shuttered.  The owner, Demetri Kouvalis, and his father, spent a lot of time and money restoring it to its former glory, and they’ve done a terrific job.  The Patio shows second run films for $5 a seat, and has a well-stocked and reasonably priced concession stand.  It’s the cornerstone of the Irving-Austin business district.  But it’s in danger.  Hollywood is switching to the digital format a lot sooner than anyone imagined, and all these little theaters have to switch too, to the tune of $70,000 to $100,000 each for the new equipment.

It’s doable, if you’ve had the time to build your business, but the Patio has only been in business for a year.  There are benefit showings of great old films, and I know they’ll happily take donations.  But in hope of raising the money, Mr. Kouvalis has begun a Kickstarter campaign.  His goal is to raise $50,000 by July 20th.  If he doesn’t, if he only gets $49,999 worth of pledges, the whole campaign is a wash and he’ll get nothing.  that’s how Kickstarter operates.

With a little over three weeks to go, there are about $30,000 worth of pledges. Word is spreading, and there are some terrific perks for your donations (Mostly of interest to Chicagoans, but still.)  But it’s by no means a sure thing.  That’s why I’m writing this.  I’m hoping both local and non-local friends will donate something to the cause.  Look, if you were planning on giving me a Christmas gift this year, and want to donate to the Patio instead, I would be THRILLED.

I’ve already donated and as the deadline gets closer I’m going to give as much more as I can afford because I think it’s that important.  Think about what it would mean to have this sort of theater in your community, and consider that the area that is home to both the Patio and the Portage has been depressed and fairly run down for a long time.  But just lately we have a museum of veterans’ art and a legitimate theater company moving in almost opposite the Portage, a wonderful coffee house a block down from the Patio, and a number of other businesses gearing up to join the Portage/Old Irving Park community.  It’s a very exciting time, and I want to do what I can to help.  I hope that you’ll feel moved to do the same.

And thanks.



A skeptic comes around

Yes, I was. I was skeptical that any kind of software could begin to help me create legal documents for end-of-life situations. I found out how difficult that kind of thing is when I tried to help my parents through the maze of decisions and documents and choices. To be fair, their estate was somewhat complex, and mine is simple, but with laws varying by state, I wasn’t sure that you could have anything like a one-size-fits-all solution.

Enodare has proved me wrong with Will Writer 2012, a surprisingly comprehensive application that helps create much more than just a will. It helps you through the writing of an estate plan, the forms needed for living wills, living trusts, powers of attorney for both healthcare and finance and of course the will itself. Possibly the most important of these is the estate planning part of the software because if you don’t have a solid estate plan, nothing can really help you put together documents that will ensure that your wishes are honored at the end of your life. So after you’ve poked around all the other forms, sit down and spend some serious time with the estate planner. Trust me when I say that everything else will be easier if you complete it to your satisfaction.

Enodare provides forms which can be filled out to cover virtually any wishes you might have. Okay well, any wishes I might have. Your mileage may vary on this since it’s one of the most personal things you’ll ever do. And alongside each worksheet there’s an explanation of what the questions mean, what the intention is behind them. If I have a quibble with this software at all it’s that I didn’t always find the explanations as clear or comprehensive as I would have liked. The program also provides notices of revocation of all of these documents, just in case you have second thoughts after you’ve created them.

Before you work with any of these forms you should give a lot of thought to how you want to dispose of your estate, and how you want your medical and financial situation handled if the time ever comes when you can’t make decisions for yourself. Be sure you understand the laws in your area (There’s a legal manual included.) and if you have any questions you can’t answer easily, then it’s time to consult a lawyer. If you have a complicated estate, you might want to put these papers together and take them to a lawyer to find out if the documents will hold up. Will Writer can be a terrific help but it won’t handle every situation. It’s still not a one-size-fits-all solution, but it’s a darn good start if you’re willing to do your homework.


SeniorHomes.com on Advanced Health Care Directives and Living Wills

I’m all thumbs

Thumbs Plus that is, still my favorite way to organize my image collection.  There are occasional problems, it’s true, but for the most part it’s a damn good program.  If you’re struggling with a large digital image collection you might want to take a look at it.


Ella OsgoodIn the process of sorting the photos I’ve already digitized, I came across some images that I’d love to share.  The first is my great-grandmother, Ella Jane Osgood, who was born in 1851 in Vermont.  She moved

Walter Wilson

to Illinois to teach and married a farmer, John Walter Wilson, whose father moved to Illinois from Glasgow as a young man.  The Osgood women all had sultry eyes.

Ella Jane’s mother, Ellen Lee Osgood was born in Vermont in 1823 and died in Chicago, in her grand-daughter’s home, in 1922.

Ellen Lee Osgood


Great-great-great grandmother Mary Lucy OsgoodElla Jane’s paternal grandmother, Lucy Kingsley Osgood was born in Vermont in 1783 and lived to be 91 years old.

It’s through the Osgoods that my family is related to: Katharine Hepburn,  John Hancock,  Robert H Goddard,  Robert Frost,  Samuel Morse,  Richard Lovelace,  Lillian Gish,  John Steinbeck,  E.E. Cummings,  Philo T. Farnsworth,  Julia Child,  Bette Davis (Who had the Osgood eyes),  Laura Ingalls Wilder,  Robert Graves,  Amelia Earhart,  Shirley Temple, and a number of Presidents and First Ladies.   My mother’s family has been in this country since at least the 1580s.  I’ve traced her family back to the late 12th century.


Minna and her three sonsMy father’s family are relative latecomers to this country. The earliest mention of any of them settling here is 1606.  Pikers! His maternal great grandparents came from Germany in the late 19th century.  Minna and Henry had three boys, the eldest of whom, Henry Jr., was my great grandfather.  Most of Minna’s relatives remained in Germany and I have postcards and photos that they sent to her.  There’s evidence that there were any number of trips back and forth to visit each other, and her grand-daughter, Clara, may have moved back there at some point.

My father’s father came from Stroud in the UK.  He was the oldest boy in a family of eleven children, and I’ve saluted his mother’s stamina by naming one of my characters “Hopson” for her side of the family.  She looks like she could keep eleven children in line, doesn’t she?


Clissold clanI enjoy the heck out of doing this.  I love the old photos; they make me feel more connected to my family even though I never met most of the people in them.  It’s a picture-takin’ family on both sides, and I’m the richer for it, particularly when I consider what it means to have old daguerreotypes like this one:

unknown Osgood-Lee-Wilson men
unknown Osgood-Lee-Wilson men (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

I also have a treasure trove of old snapshots my maternal grandparents took not only on their travels, but around Chicago at the turn of the last century. I could do this all day. Every day.

Unexplored country

Me, Ashley and a potato, about 1990
Me, Ashley and a potato

Temperature is headed back up so I made an executive decision that tonight’s dinner is going to be new potatoes with dill (steamed in the microwave) and a raw zucchini salad.  Potatoes are washed and ready to cook, zucchini is sliced and salted.  The hardest thing I’ll have to do is go out and snip some dill from the garden.  What a trial! The Dover sole is going to have to wait until I feel like baking or sauteing it.  But it’s no big, Glinda and I can make a meal out of veggies very happily.  And there will be dessert.  And wine.

Cover of "People Will Talk"
Cover of People Will Talk

So just now I was having some lunch and I managed to forget that I’d already opened my can of V8.  As I picked it up, I shook it.  Yeah.  Now in my defense I have to say that I’m still a little groggy.  I had a nap earlier, during which I had one of the oddest dreams ever.  I’d been watching “People Will Talk” which is easily my favorite Cary Grant film, and fell asleep with it on. So I started dreaming that I was watching a favorite TV show and that they were doing a salute to this film by using the dialogue over the show’s action.  But the show itself was about a married couple both of whom needed CPAP machines, and who went out to buy them at a clothing store, where the wife was trying on cocktail dresses.  I know what you’re going to say. Don’t bother.  My friends tell me all the time that it’s a really strange country inside my head, and days like this I believe them.

Changing direction now, I have to report that I put some of the blue toilet bowl cakes out in the garden yesterday and I checked four or five times during the evening, but didn’t see any rats.  This doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it made me happy, even though the entire garden (and my back hallway which is where the rest of the tablets are right now) smells vaguely like a gas station bathroom.  For those of you just tuning in, toilet bowl tablets are offensive to rats, apparently.  I got that piece of information from one of the Streets and San people who were here to bait the alley a couple of weeks ago.

I also learned that vitamin D3 will kill rats.  It gives them heart attacks, according to the gal who talked about it on EveryBlock.  I’m not exactly sanguine about giving rats heart attacks, but I’d rather it was something relatively fast than the slow, icky death from the bait they use.  I asked her about other animals and she said it only does that to rats and bats, but I do know that D is a vitamin that builds up in the system and can cause harm even to humans.  I’ll have to give this more thought.  She also said that lime will kill them.  Again with the “who knew?”  Considering that a case of the plague just showed up in Oregon, I think caution really is called for.  Be careful out there.

And now I need to get back to Anna Magdalena which is chugging away in directions unexpected.  I’m terribly pleased.

Today’s scorecard

  • Herbed butter: Delish
  • Radishes: perfect
  • Baguette: crisp, chewy. Could have been a bit fresher
  • Curried quinoa salad: (quinoa, thinly sliced radishes, lightly steamed snap peas, dried diced apricots, canola oil, apricot balsamic, curry powder) really, really yummy.
  • Tabbouleh: (bulgur, tomatoes, Italian parsley, cilantro, green onion, garlic scapes, lemon olive oil, lemon juice, salt) perfect; just the way I like it, very tart and refreshing.  I’m going to add feta to it tomorrow for lunch.
  • Hummus: Didn’t happen
  • Deviled eggs: Didn’t happen
  • Non-homogenized milk: Tasty, but an odd experience
  • Horrible Bosses: Funny film about mostly awful/stupid people  The bastard child of “9 to 5” and “Glengarry Glen Ross” starring the Three Stooges.  Must share with Meester Jim.
  • Bunny: Long gone
  • Rat: Back

And that is the scorecard for today.

Horrible Bosses