“Warm and witty observations; an eclectic mix of cats, accordions and stories of life in general makes 'Life with the Campbells' always worth the visit. This is truly life with a smile.”
Bill Breckenridge, http://rhumtetum.wordpress.com 

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I am so glad that we don’t have young children any longer. Those Halloween nights following little goblins around with a flashlight and a beer are over. Phew. I have harrowing memories.

It’s freezing. The princess costume is totally covered with a winter coat, and the gloves make it hard to carry the plastic pumpkin full of candy. Much moaning and dragging of feet.

It’s raining. But we go out anyway. Skeleton costume covered by a raincoat. Too hard to carry both an umbrella and the plastic pumpkin not quite full enough with Halloween candy. Much slogging and moaning.

It’s incredibly windy. Leaves are blowing everywhere, especially in our faces. The clown costume is totally obscured by a zip-up fleece hoodie. The wind keeps blowing off the hoods. And the hats. Much complaining and shivering.

It’s HOT out. The entire ballerina costume is on view. But the tights are boiling. The tutu is scratchy. Nobody is giving out good candy. Much sweating and fanning.

I don’t know about you, but my kids are sure glad that they no longer have to go out Trick or Treating with their mother. All her pissing and moaning got old.

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I spend a lot of time on social media and the internet. Writers these days have to go out there and find their own readers. So most of us tweet around, and garner as much support as we can on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and whichever new site crops up. It is very hard to be all places at once, but we try.

It is well known that the online world gives participants a feeling of anonymity that is very freeing. I don’t really get it, because I was raised to have manners, but apparently people think it is entertaining to trash others online. Whether it is readers who give writers not just bad but vicious reviews, teens who bully their classmates online, or blog commenters who start fights, it seems like there is enmity everywhere.

I write humor, and so I don’t dip my toes into controversy, thus I don’t get much online awfulness. I took the comments off my blog, not out of fear of mean people, but because I am not very good at replying to comments. So I removed them—I don’t like to be rude to the people who take the time to comment on my pieces.

So today, instead of trying to entertain everybody with anecdotes about my husband or revelations about my own frailties, I thought I would just send a request out to the online universe: Can we all just try to remember how much what we say online can hurt someone? Can we try to be kinder? There is so much horror in this world that is out of our control—but we all can control ourselves. Before you blast someone, try to remember how you felt when somebody hurt you. How long did it take you to get over a cruel remark? Did you ever suffer under a bully?

Let’s be kinder. Much kinder.

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We never watch live TV any more. Like many Americans, we have a DVR with a great search capacity. So we record things that we want to watch, and then we thrill to the fact that we can fast forward through all the commercials.

But the only person selecting what we watch is my husband, who has the patience to scope out what is going to be featured on the various networks in order to record them. And as a result, I am the victim of his choices.

ME:  So, what are we going to watch tonight? I am a little over exposed to the Roosevelts. I know way more about Eleanor than I care to. If only her mother had sent her to an orthodontist. I bet then her entire life would have turned out so much better…

HIM: Well, how about this show about penguins?

ME:   It will be sad. I can’t watch those shows. There is always either discussion about looming extinction, or one little baby penguin who is orphaned and the videographers document its death of starvation. I hate those people. They should all carry Penguin Chow and hand it out. Really.

HIM:  Well, ok. I recorded this show about people who make Steampunk yachts. Since you like HGTV, I thought that would be right up your alley. Or here’s this one about Quantum Linguistics. Sounds fascinating. You are a writer; I thought you would like that one.

ME:  Well, you are wrong on both counts.

You see, this is the problem. I hate science, boring documentaries about how things like the pyramids were built (using computer generated graphs and drawings), and anything on TV concerning the fate of the planet. Watching these things either scares the crap out of me or puts me to sleep. My husband, on the other hand, can’t see the charm in shows about the latest thing in countertops or documenting what houses young marrieds with scads of money want to buy (incidentally, they are all spoiled brats who won’t consider anything but stainless steel appliances and en suite bathrooms).

And the whole thing came to a head when I saw that he had recorded an hour long documentary about the history of tents. You read that right. Tents have a history. Beyond the Boy Scouts, I guess. And some filmmaker made a whole show about it. For people like my husband, who feel that they need to know about stuff like this. As far as I am concerned, first there were teepees, then Boy Scouts. That is enough to know.

HIM: This is going to be fascinating.

ME: Kind of like the history of knots program? Because I save that one to watch on the nights when I have trouble getting to sleep.

HIM: I watched that show with you about tiny houses. So you owe me one.

As he tuned into the tents show, I did my best to appear interested. For thirty seconds.  The next thing I knew, the credits were rolling, my husband was sighing with contentment, and he turned to me and said,

“Did you see the previews at the end? Next week, there is going to be a show about the building of Hoover Dam.”

Kill me now.




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Honestly, traditions are such a burden. We are coming up into the most tradition-filled time of the year, and I am already in a state of tizzy over the whole thing.

It is because I am the last person anyone should depend upon to uphold any sort of family legacy. For one, nearly every turkey I have ever cooked has been raw. They always look fine on the outside: brown and crackly. But inside is another story altogether: red and with blood. It is enough to turn me away from poultry altogether. But since our family only eats poultry—no other meats—Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners would consist of a bunch of side dishes. I am not that good at those, either. One year, I thought I had the whole thing beat. I had friends who told me that they “didn’t do holiday dinner” anymore. They just ordered the whole shebang from Kroger. So I did this. When we got there, they gave us a RAW turkey and some Stove Top Stuffing mix. Flummoxed.

And, second. Decorations? My God, have you seen the Pottery Barn catalog? Apparently, we are supposed to decorate the outsides of our houses for Halloween, for Pete’s sake! What happened to sticking a pumpkin on the steps and calling it a night? And people put up Thanksgiving tableaux and have special tableware for the big meal. But not for me. I simply refuse to buy turkey salt and pepper shakers. Honestly, that would really be a faux pas, considering the raw turkey, right?

And Christmas? I used to think that those tiny tabletop trees were pitiful. Of course, that was when my mother was still doing all the decorations at her house, where I boarded for eighteen years. All of a sudden, when I had my own place, two bumptious kids, a job, a raw turkey staring me in the face, and Santa Claus to consider, it all became a different story altogether. We immediately went to fake trees. Whew. One less tradition! Dragging everybody through the woods or to the Kiwanis tree lot? At least one child got either a sideache or forgot her mittens. Ugh.

This year, the whole clan, including one adorable grandson, will be coming over. They are all expecting greatness from me. Oh, and did I mention that I have never in my entire life made a Christmas cookie?

Prayers and encouragement are appreciated.

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I have an announcement to make to those of you who didn’t hear me shouting from my rooftop the other day. I am so happy to tell everybody who will listen that I GOT A BOOK DEAL!

Here is what happened: I published my own book of character sketches, called Characters in Search of a Novel. It was fun to do, and it made me realize that maybe I could write a novel. So I did. It was terrible.

In the meantime, a very kind publisher became aware of my work, and he began to encourage me to keep on trying t0 produce a novel, even though my first one lacked a lot of things, mainly a plot. Lou Aronica and The Story Plant (http://thestoryplant.com/) publish wonderful fiction by terrific writers, and Lou believed in me enough to mentor me through the process, which took a couple of years.

But now I can announce that my Young Adult/Crossover novel, Finding Fletch, will be published by The Story Plant! I am thrilled and proud, and I hope many of you will read the book when it comes out!

Here is a little synopsis:

All Mandy Heath wants to do is get ready to enter tenth grade and learn from her best friend how to dress right and attract boys. But when her mother pulls Mandy aside and enlists her help to find a mystery man named Frank Fletcher, the summer turns into a madcap adventure of Google searches and clandestine road trips. As Mandy tries to make sense of the chaos, the convoluted history of her parents’ lives begins to unravel. Matters escalate when a long-held secret is revealed that threatens to tear apart Mandy’s family and destroy her older brother.

Hilarious, insightful, wry and quirky, Mandy’s story is a whirlwind journey that proves adults can mess up just as much as their kids, and that nothing is more powerful or important than the bonds of family and forgiveness. 

I will keep you posted!






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