COFFEE CHAT: TIDBITS, CHORES, AN EXCERPT…

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded of holidays of the past.  The collage above features some of those moments.

I am sipping my third cup of coffee this morning and thinking about the food, the fun, and even the Christmas holiday right behind this one.

Today is a day of errands, house cleaning, etc.  I had been pondering giving my kitchen a Deep Clean…and I ended up dreaming about the process!  Now that’s annoying…I only want to do it once, not during my sleep, too.

But if there is one thing I know about how much I hate this kind of housework, I also know how I tend to think through every process, breaking it down to little manageable tidbits.  As if the activity will become as automatic as rote.  As if I can slide right into it mechanically and it will be so smooth that I can think about other things while I’m doing it.

When I was a kid doing chores, I used to spin stories in my head.  Fully developed plots, characters, etc.  Afterwards I might even write some of these things down.

Who knew that I would grow up to write a few books (Six, so far), an activity that constantly reminds me that stories can take us out of our daily grind and even help us leap over life’s hurdles.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Chapter One of An Accidental Life, picking up where I left off with the last snippet:

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On the city bus, Bridget sat with her backpack at her feet. Seeing the unfamiliar faces, that ever-present anxiety hovered in the form of a lump in her throat. A quiet girl, Bridget had a small group of acquaintances, and only one really close friend. That friend, Fawn Holleran, also fifteen, was now spending the whole summer with her father who lived in LA. When Fawn had announced her summer plans, Bridget had felt the beginnings of the now-familiar anxiety. Even though she was attending summer school everyday, that only used up the mornings; every afternoon, she would be all on her own for the first summer for as far back as she could remember.

She and Fawn, who lived in an adjacent apartment within the same complex, had always hung out at the mall, trying on clothes and sipping slurpees or sodas. Their days had been crammed with lazy activities and they had usually ended up in one or the other’s apartment, watching TV or listening to the latest tunes. So now what was Bridget to do? She couldn’t think of any of her acquaintances to share such moments with, and couldn’t imagine that same closeness with any of them. Of course, she could go to the mall alone and see what happened. Maybe she could pretend she was waiting for someone and then none of the other kids would realize that she had nobody. She tried to take some kind of inspiration from her mother, who was used to being alone. Karin often went off to the movies or the mall, completely solo, and seemed so blasé about it. Maybe she was only pretending too!

As she tentatively planned out her afternoon, Bridget closed her eyes. She felt her body thrown slightly forward as the bus lurched over the potholes in the road, and when she breathed, she smelled the noxious fumes mixed with the body sweat of the passengers. The temperature was already at 90 degrees, very hot for so early in the morning.

Trying to imagine she was at the beach, Bridget could almost feel the ocean’s breezes and smiled to herself. It would be so great to have a beach house. She sometimes watched those entertainment channels on cable, the ones portraying the lifestyles of the rich and famous. She pictured herself walking down the beach in front of her own elegant home, calling out to neighbors whose lives were equally glamorous. Maybe someday. She was jolted back to reality by the grinding brakes of the bus. When she opened her eyes, she realized that they had reached the campus. Struggling to a standing position, she collected her backpack and moved to the front of the bus.
* * *

To read the whole chapter, click HERE.

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What do you do to while away the boring hours of chores, errands, etc.?  Come on by and let’s chat.

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COFFEE CHAT: PAST JOURNEYS…AND LOOKING AHEAD

Good morning!  Let’s grab our coffee and chat.  Join others for this Bookish/Not So Bookish event at Bookishly Boisterous.

The days are cooler, but not enough to turn on the heater.  I’m glad.  I’m also appreciating that we haven’t yet had storms, although they are predicted for the near future.

October and November are busy “birthday” months, between mine, my second son’s, my eldest son’s…and other extended family members.  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, so I am looking forward to it.  I’ll be joining my daughter with her husband’s family.  Here is last year’s table all ready for the food to be presented.

  • Speaking of interesting or delicious dinners, my daughter and son-in-law drove to the southwest part of the county to dine at The Harris Ranch Restaurant.  It sounds wonderful, right?  But on the way there, you might find yourself choking and coughing from the stench of the ranches/cows/ etc.  My daughter wore this ironic protective gear.

  • Just a few miles farther west of the ranch lies the small town of Coalinga, where I (sadly) lived with my husband and three oldest children from 1971 to 1972.  Fourteen long months that felt like a prison sentence.  LOL.
  • In 1983, there was a devastating earthquake in that town, and as a social worker, I and some colleagues were brought in to help the residents as they struggled through the aftermath.
  • After the earthquake, the rebuilt town was an improved version of where I had lived.  But I will never consider living there again!  Constantly fogged in and surrounded by tumbleweeds and dust, it reminded me of that movie The Last Picture Show.

  • The Harris Ranch Restaurant was built AFTER we left that town; it might have been an incentive to remain (or not).  But before that restaurant rose like a promise on the horizon, there were only two decent places to eat in town.  And two liquor stores.  LOL.
  • Here is my “sad face” while living there:

  • But…without that particular experience, I would not have found the job I had for more than thirty years…and who knows what alternate roads I would have followed?
  • As we head toward Year’s End, I tend to think about the journeys along the way.
  • As for bookish thoughts:  I loved Seven Days of Us and enjoyed The One and Only. (Click titles for reviews).
  • I am currently just finished reading Cold As Ice, Book 6…click for my review.
  • After clearing off my review book shelves a bit, I now have increased my numbers to SEVEN NetGalley books waiting.  But…there are only two for November, and the rest fall into January, April, and May release dates.
  • I do need to cut back on requests!
  • As for purchased books, I have read 101 of those I bought between July 2016 and the present.  Sadly, I keep buying!

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What lies ahead for you?  Where did this week take you?

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COFFEE CHAT: THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING!

Welcome to my Coffee Chat, in which I talk about both bookish and not so bookish things.  Check on over at Bookishly Boisterous to see other participants.

My birthday was last Wednesday, but I have been in a celebratory mood that started before my birthday and continued through today, when I had lunch with a friend and former colleague.  We’ve been friends/colleagues since 1972.  Today we had lunch at The Olive Garden, and I thoroughly enjoyed the salad, the pasta, and the pumpkin cheesecake.  Not to mention the Mango Martini.

  • My granddaughter Aubrey, who is studying in Prague for the semester, is also seeing lots of surrounding countries; she shared this photo snapped in Copenhagen…

  • How did November get here already?  I still can’t believe so many months have gone by…and I am hoping for a good holiday season, but the disasters of the past few months have left a dark aura.  I am trying to cheer myself up with some trinkets:

 

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What is your week looking like so far?  Plans for the holidays?

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REVIEW: Y IS FOR YESTERDAY, BY SUE GRAFTON

 

The darkest and most disturbing case report from the files of Kinsey Millhone, Y is for Yesterday begins in 1979, when four teenage boys from an elite private school sexually assault a fourteen-year-old classmate—and film the attack.  Not long after, the tape goes missing and the suspected thief, a fellow classmate, is murdered. In the investigation that follows, one boy turns state’s evidence and two of his peers are convicted. But the ringleader escapes without a trace.
       
Now, it’s 1989 and one of the perpetrators, Fritz McCabe, has been released from prison. Moody, unrepentant, and angry, he is a virtual prisoner of his ever-watchful parents—until a copy of the missing tape arrives with a ransom demand. That’s when the McCabes call Kinsey Millhone for help. As she is drawn into their family drama, she keeps a watchful eye on Fritz. But he’s not the only one being haunted by the past. A vicious sociopath with a grudge against Millhone may be leaving traces of himself for her to find…

My Thoughts: From the opening pages of Y is for Yesterday, I was pulled into the lives of the teens from 1979…and then into Kinsey Millhone’s efforts a decade later to solve the mystery from the past.

Kinsey is one of my favorite sleuths, especially since, in her first person narrative, she shares the tidbits and the routines of her working and her personal life. We visit the crowd at Rosie’s Diner, where Kinsey often has meals, except when she finds the menu somewhat disgusting. At her cute little garage apartment, we observe how she enjoys her peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, and we follow her efforts to keep her space safe. Intruders have been a problem in the past, and currently she is looking for someone who tried to kill her the year before.

Her love life is sporadic, but she has friendships with people on whom she can depend.

Something happens in the case from the past that Kinsey finds troubling…and before she can finish, she is fired. What are the McCabes and the former teens hiding? What will she do to find the answers? When she is hired again, she begins to follow the threads that lead to an appalling conclusion. Unexpected connections and relationships help fill in the blanks and two more murders bring a sense of poetic justice. I could not stop turning the pages, holding my breath at each new turn. 4.5 stars.

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FACING REALITY: AN EXCERPT FROM “AN ACCIDENTAL LIFE”

Good morning!  Today I am continuing an excerpt from Chapter One of An Accidental Life.

Previously, we watched our MC Karin Larson awakening and fantasizing about a dream vacation.  Now she has come back to reality.

***

Completely back in reality, Karin reluctantly sat up. As she looked around to gather her bearings, her gaze swept over the room, with its four-poster mahogany bed and matching dresser, crammed into the small space along with an armoire at the foot of the bed and a wicker chair next to it. Sighing, she acknowledged that her room had not metamorphosed into a luxurious bedroom/sitting room while she slept. And as she pushed open the swinging doors separating the bedroom from her bath, she noticed that the tiny cramped space with the shower/tub combination had not mysteriously turned into a luxurious spa while her eyes were closed. Laughing at her own fantasies, she turned on the hot water. Under the showerhead, the steady stream forced her body awake.

 

Toweling off afterwards, she moved quickly and within minutes had dressed in lilac colored lightweight pants and a matching sleeveless camisole, over which she planned to throw a purple and green floral printed tunic top. She glanced in the mirror before leaving the bedroom, pulling her ash blond hair back into a knot at the nape of her neck. She applied some eye shadow above her hazel eyes and blush to her high cheekbones. She lightly dusted powder on her pert, slightly upturned nose and with her finger, smoothed some lip-gloss on her full lips. Satisfied that she would pass inspection, she hurried from the room.

 

In the kitchen, Bridget had made coffee and now set a mug in front of her at the breakfast bar. Thankful for small favors, Karin smiled gratefully at her daughter as she slowly sipped. Carefully scrutinizing her mother, Bridget poured juice for the two of them and sat down on the opposite side of the bar. Her green eyes set in that fragile, porcelain-like face conveyed her apology. At fifteen, Bridget’s moods were all over the place, but just now she had proved that underneath all the whining and irritating behavior, a sweet girl still lurked.

 

“Thanks, Bridget,” Karin reached out and lightly clasped her daughter’s hand. “Did you find the book?”

 

Nodding, Bridget grinned. “It was right where you said it would be. I don’t know what gets into me, sometimes. But, anyway, I have to go pretty soon. What time will you be home tonight?”

 

“Oh,” Karin reflected, frowning as she mentally pictured her day. “I think I should be here by six tonight. Would you like me to pick up take-out on the way home?”

 

“Sure, Mom,” Bridget replied, while stashing her books and papers into her backpack. “That sounds great. Surprise me,” she added, anticipating her mother’s next query as to whether or not she preferred Chinese food or pizza. Then kissing her mother lightly on the cheek, she headed out the door.

 

Left alone in the now yawning quiet of the apartment, Karin carried her mug into the living room, where she sat on the edge of the green and white checked slip covered sofa and placed it on the glass-topped coffee table. From this vantage point, she could see the kitchen and adjacent dining room and down the hall to the two bedrooms.

 

A small round pine table painted green, with mismatched chairs, stood in the little nook. Karin had laid out woven place mats on the bare tabletop; reddish orange napkins secured with pewter napkin rings offset the neutrals of the mats…compliments of the local Pier I store. Her gaze swept down the hall toward Bridget’s room, and she mentally conjured up the black wrought iron daybed her daughter had had since she was ten years old, now covered with bright pillows in red, green, purple, and yellow. Her red dresser and chest, along with a wicker side chair, had been picked up in thrift stores years before and painted anew to fit Bridget’s current fads. Bridget’s walls were covered with posters and her shelves were crammed with books, teddy bears and dolls, reminiscent of her younger years. Karin could also visualize the floor with its mass of clothing, both clean and dirty; Bridget had a tendency to throw things down after wearing them or even after just trying them on.

 

She and Bridget had lived in this tiny apartment since Bridget’s father had left in 1985, when Bridget was only nine. She shuddered and forced herself back into the present. Small though this apartment was, it had certain homey touches she had brought to it over the years with the addition of interesting pieces purchased at flea markets. Against the inner wall, just before the room veered off into the hallway, she had placed her latest purchase, a reproduction rolltop desk. Its pigeonholes were crammed with every imaginable item, but its top held photos placed in lovingly selected frames. A picture of Bridget as a baby, with her reddish gold hair secured by a ribbon, sat beside a photo of herself and Bridget, taken when the little girl was four years old; and next to them stood a framed version of her daughter, taken just last year, her dimpled smile beaming at the camera, while her strawberry blond hair fell around her face in waves and her green eyes crinkled under the sweep of dark eyelashes.

 

On the wall above the desk, more framed photos were arranged asymmetrically, and included several of Karin as a child; one photo showed her grandmother, Olga Peterson, with her twinkling dark eyes and that gray hair on top of her head in its neat little bun. Her eyeglasses hung from a chain around her neck. Karin felt a slight pang as she thought about Olga, who, at seventy-seven, was becoming more fragile and seemed to shrink visibly between their infrequent visits.

 

Finishing her coffee, Karin forced herself to face the day.

***

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COFFEE CHAT: ANOTHER YEAR & MORE ADVENTURES…

Welcome to my Coffee Morning and a journey into my random thoughts.  In the photo above, I caught the sunlight streaming into my office and liked the effect.  Behind the coffee mug is my short stack of “up next” print books TBR. 

Join the others at Bookishly Boisterous to link up.

I didn’t leap out of bed this morning, but lay there a while, pondering the day ahead…and reflecting on yesterday, my birthday.  Birthdays add another year, but we also get to chat with and spend time with family and friends.

  • I joined my daughter….

                                                  for margaritas and Mexican food…

  • But before I left to meet my daughter, I had a nice chat with my LA son, and enjoyed the celebratory texts and FB messages from others.
  • A friend/former colleague and I will have lunch next Wednesday.  That friendship had interesting beginnings.  It was 1972, and I was living in a desolate town in the Southwest part of the county called Coalinga, with my husband and three children under five.  I got a job for the county, and she was my first supervisor.  We worked together, socialized after hours with family, had disagreements at times, and after all these years, post-retirement, we continue as friends, agreeing on the important things and laughing about how we can still predict what the other will feel about certain issues.
  • Yesterday also brought a welcome e-mail from the time share company from which I am trying to extricate myself…I don’t use it any more, and my LA son, who has been enjoying it for the most part, is tired of it.  We reached an agreement!  I can relinquish it back to them, a big relief!
  • When I did use the time share, I had some great vacations.  One of my favorites was the week I spent in Napa, CA, a bittersweet memory in light of recent wildfire destruction.  I loved the Wine Train lunch:

  • I also spiritually connected with Nature in Sedona, AZ’s  Red Rock Country:

  • But now I love reading, movies, and short trips to the beach.  I’ve read and reviewed two books so far this week:  Odd Child Out, by Gilly Macmillan, and Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell.  (Click for my reviews).  Both were totally engaging.
  • Today I start reading White Bodies, by Jane Robins:  “This chilling psychological suspense novel—think Strangers on a Train for the modern age—explores the dark side of love and the unbreakable ties that bind twin sisters together.”
  • Later today…another mani-pedi.  I have come to luxuriate in the pampered feeling of the experience.  For years I had only occasional manicures, and seldom had pedicures.  Now I consider it part of my regular routine…every few weeks.

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These are my random and eclectic thoughts for the day.  Come on by and share yours!

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REVIEW: SLEEP LIKE A BABY, BY CHARLAINE HARRIS

 

In Sleep Like a Baby, the latest installment of the #1 New York Times Bestselling Charlaine Harris’s Aurora Teagarden series, Robin and Aurora have finally begun their adventure in parenting. With newborn Sophie proving to be quite a handful, Roe’s mother pays for a partially trained nurse, Virginia Mitchell, to come help the new parents for a few weeks. Virginia proves to be especially helpful when Robin has to leave town for work and Roe is struck with a bad case of the flu.

One particularly stormy night, Roe wakes to hear her daughter crying and Virginia nowhere to be found. Roe’s brother Philip helps her search the house and they happen upon a body outside… but it isn’t Virginia’s. Now, not only does she have a newborn to care for and a vulnerable new marriage to nurture, Roe also has to contend with a new puzzle — who is this mystery woman dead in their backyard, and what happened to Virginia? This heart-pounding and exciting next installment of the Aurora Teagarden series will leave fans happy and hungry for more.


My Thoughts: I was eager to read Sleep Like a Baby, because I’ve grown fond of the Aurora Teagarden character from the Hallmark series.

This story picks up sometime after the last TV mystery, as Aurora is married to Robin (instead of Martin) and has a new baby, Sophie.

On the stormy night when Virginia disappears and when a dead body (of their stalker) is found in the yard, events spin out from there into a series of dangerous moments involving shootings, break-ins, and puzzling encounters with the dog next door. Just after Aurora learns more about Virginia and her relationship with a man who has recently been jailed, we start to see the connections that led to the murder. I liked how “Ro” put the clues together into a believable scenario.

The moments between Aurora and her baby were delightful. It was easy to see how her life had changed, once she clicked into that protective mode of mothering. These moments bring the “cozy” into the mystery, which earned 4 stars for me.

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COFFEE CHAT: FROM BOOKS TO BERLIN…AND IN-BETWEEN….

Good morning!  I got off to a hectic start this morning, and I’m just now settling down with my coffee.  Where has the week gone?  I’m going to try to sort it out, as we chat.  Head over to Bookishly Boisterous to see what others are talking about.

  • I have enjoyed the two books I’ve read and reviewed so far:  Her Last Goodbye, by Melinda Leigh; and Lie to Me, by J. T. Ellison.  I’m currently reading Keep Her Safe (Did You See Melody?), by Sophie Hannah, which, so far, is following an odd series of events taking place in an Arizona spa.  I woke up in the middle of the night to start reading it again.  I wasn’t ready to finish for the night.  Just one more chapter, I kept thinking.
  • I started watching that Dynasty reboot last week; haven’t yet watched last night’s episode.  So far, I’m underwhelmed.  There is nothing that can measure up to the original…not unless they start wearing big hair and shoulder pads…LOL.
  • My granddaughter Aubrey spent some time in Berlin this week (she’s doing a Prague semester as part of her university studies), and she snapped a shot of the painted Berlin Wall that my eldest son captured in a series of photos in 2009!

  • And here she is in front of another section of the “Wall.”

 

  • The best part of this week:  I don’t want to jinx it, but there has been less drama in the news, and the wildfires are getting under control…this good news does not diminish the losses or the horrific aftermath for those who are still struggling.
  • Well, as for drama, there is the constant sniping of someone who thinks everything is about him…need I say more?
  • When I catch news on the web, I can keep on clicking, since most of it is less credible than I would like ..I can’t remember the last time I sat in front of the TV watching news, however.  Which improves my mood considerably.
  • I did some more blog changes this week.  I tend to do these things when I am restless or need a distraction.  Here are some of the new looks:
  • Serendipity Blog:

  • And then I changed up the theme and header at Potpourri:

  • Yes, I posted a lot this week, too.  This is my eighth post.  Now I know what happened to my week!  LOL
  • Of course all the reading, reviewing, blogging, and playing around with blogs means I didn’t get any housework done, except, of course, for picking things up at the end of the day.
  • See where my priorities are not?
  • Oh, and in case you didn’t know, I tend to be addicted to soaps.  Sami Brady is back on Days of Our Lives for a while!

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Enjoy your weekend.  What did your week look like?

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COFFEE CHAT: SAVORING THE GOOD…

Come on in and follow my journey through this past week…and have some coffee.  Join the others at Bookishly Boisterous.

Just when I started to feel good about the fall weather, the horror of Northern California fires stunned me.  They seemed to come out of nowhere, since we had a nice rainy season last winter.  But, as Christine pointed out in her post, the rain stimulated more growth with an abundance of foliage to dry out in the hot summer.  Sigh.  My youngest son and DIL are north of those fires, but there seems to be no safe place these days.

  • Everywhere there is disaster…and it is challenging to try to find something good in the week…or even a day.
  • But…I read and reviewed two wonderful books so far this week:  When We Were Worthy and Cardinal Cabin.  And I’m currently reading Say You’re Sorry, Book No. 1 in the Morgan Dane series, by Melinda Leigh.
  • Every day this week has been about errands of various kinds…including a big Target run last night.  I like going there for all kinds of things, and even groceries, which are cheaper there than in my supermarket.  I was also out of all those paper products and vitamins, etc.
  • Before I went to the store, I had to treat myself to my soup and margarita combo at CPK, where I had the same one I often have, but which is a favorite:

  • Earlier in the day, I actually spent some time on this exercise bike (after moving Minnie out of the way):

  • Then when I walked all over Target, I realized that my seldom-used muscles were crying out their protest!
  • Facebook is my go-to place when I need a distraction…but for a while today, my page did not appear.  I had just the cover photo and nothing else…I came back to it later, and it was there.  Whew!  Then I found some of my granddaughter’s lovely photos from her Prague semester…I love this one!

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So…I will savor the day and be grateful for all the good things I can find in it.  Enjoy yours!

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COFFEE CHAT: DISTRACTIONS…

Good morning!  It’s time to chat about Bookish/Not So Bookish Thoughts…check in at Bookishly Boisterous to connect with other participants.

What a week!  Horrendous events seem to be coming from all sides, and our so-called leader’s response seems muted.

  • It is long past time for peace and love to show itself.  But until that happens, I guess we have to plod along and do our best as individuals to be kind and compassionate.
  • As the events clamor for our attention, it is hard to go on with business as usual.  But we have to try, so, for me, it has been a week of running around, doing errands, getting a flu shot, and trying to shop for items on my list.
  • Today (October 5) is my second son’s birthday, so sending off his gift card earlier in the week was high on my list.
  • Last Saturday, my second oldest grandson got married…weren’t those kids just babies the other day?  Here is the wedding party:  Dominic and Julia are on the far right, in case you couldn’t guess.  LOL.

  • As for reading, this week has been a slog.  I read and reviewed only ONE book, which was a great page turner:  Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng (click title for review); the book I’m reading now, The Rules of Magic, is not holding my interest that much.  Admittedly, I have been distracted and keep setting it down to watch movies, etc.  Maybe it will pick up.
  • I’ve been recording and watching older movies, and they are definitely distracting me, which might be what I need.  Or they are an escape.  One of them was Primal Fear, with Richard Gere and Edward Norton.  I haven’t watched that movie in years!
  • Last weekend, I did enjoy the Netflix movie, Our Souls at Night.  I might have to watch it again.  I loved seeing Jane Fonda and Robert Redford together again.
  • I am in the mood to sink myself into really old shows on Netflix, like Cheers and Friends.
  • Lately, when I get up in the mornings, I seem to be going through the motions, so I try to vary the routine just a bit, to make sure that I’m really awake.  Instead of turning on the coffee first, I set up my things in my office; turn on the computer; switch on Home & Family on the TV…and then go set up my breakfast tray, with my coffee.

  • I have to think before I take each step, which guarantees that I am awake.

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So…another day, another pot of coffee, and more reading, I hope.  How is your day shaping up?

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