Receiving and Answering the Call

Dear Kids and All Readers,

I set a goal for January 2023: On New Year’s Day, I would begin writing Book 5 in my Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series.

The day came and went. For various reasons–still in a holiday mood; more research needed; hot chocolate is ready?–I had not written one word of Chapter 1.

As the week wore on, I began losing sleep, a sure sign something big was about to happen. How did I know? Deja vu from the first four books! And like each book before, something big did happen.

On January 7, I heard my four detectives loudly calling to me. They shouted, “We need you to join us on the Hill immediately! We’re in a hardware store, and the owner, Mr. Kirby, thinks he has a mystery for us to solve. We’ve stumbled onto our next case! Please come listen to us now and write down what’s happening before the details disappear forever.”

That did it. I’m powerless against my detective children! So, before I knew it, my laptop and I were on Botanic Hill, surrounded by my precious characters. As my fingers clicked on the keys, I was thinking, aren’t I lucky? These amazing sleuths make it easy for me to be a writer. I just have to open my ears and compose. It’s almost cheating! 

As of today, January 12, I’m on Chapter 4. And the story is flowing. Yay! Thank you, Botanic Hill detectives, for pulling me into your world once again and always making me an honorary detective with each new mystery. I promise to return daily until together, we’ve recorded all your adventures, clues, red herrings, sorrows, and joys to bring the world your fifth case, Jacaranda Street: Gravestone Image, by next fall. (Update: As of January 26, I’m writing Chapter 7. Whoohoo!)

So, get a clue, Kids and Readers. What sparks your creativity? Do you answer “the call”? I hope you do. Here’s to maximizing your creative potential in 2023. Comments?



Wrapping Up 2022

Dear Kids and All Readers,

This is the time of year when many of us pause and reflect on the end of another year.

The joys and sorrows of 2022 have been washing over me the last two weeks as I holiday shop, send cards, and wrap gifts. Mainly, I am filled with abundant gratitude for my good fortune! Here is why . . .

I especially appreciate those of you who take the time to open and read my monthly newsletter. I hope you find one or more items of interest each visit–some news or events, perhaps a recipe or book recommendation; I do enjoy assembling it for you! And I’m always open to your suggestions to improve it.

2022 saw my Book 4, Saffron Street: Island Danger, join the stable of Botanic Hill Detectives mysteries. Hurray! One of my goals for 2023 is to get Book 5, Jacaranda Street: Gravestone Image, out to you next fall. In fact, my long-term goal is to produce one new mystery every year, which I must do if I am to get my four sleuths through all twenty-six cases–one for each street on the Hill! And I hope you’ll hang in there with us.

I am grateful that I finally got to visit my daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren, and granddog on the East coast after a fifteen-month drought (due to the pandemic). We celebrated Thanksgiving, my milestone birthday, and an early Christmas in grand style. Holding my grandchildren in my arms was the highlight of my year.

Like many of you–I hope–I have been blessed with another year Covid free (knock on wood!). That has been no small undertaking, but being a solitary writer helps.

Some of you know that I proudly live in a 1928 Spanish Mission Revival house in a historic neighborhood. So, this year, I undertook to restore the bathroom to its original Art Deco grandeur. The project should be finished by the end of January, and I am so pleased with the results to date. During the redo, I have been blessed to live rent-free at my cousin’s studio apartment over her garage not far from home. From my elegant perch, I can see the ocean, San Diego Bay, the airport with planes landing and taking off, cruise ships coming and going, the Coronado Islands off the coast of Mexico, Downtown San Diego, and gorgeous sunsets. Thank you so much, Cousin Mary! Couldn’t have done it without your help. (I’ll move back home one of these days.)

My 2022 continuing heartbreak has been the loss of my sweet poodle-bichon, Jimmy Lambchop. He crossed over the Rainbow Bridge last March, too early at the age of ten, following emergency gallbladder surgery that led to pancreatitis, which, ultimately, took him from me. To say I miss him daily is an understatement; it’s an ache that I suspect will never leave me. R.I.P., my sweet little boy. My love for you only increases with each passing day. But memories and photos comfort me.

So, get a clue, Readers. How has 2022 shaped up for you? I hope you have had a fabulous year. Happy Holidays and a Prosperous, Healthy, Joyous 2023 to all! Comments Welcome!




Conversation Starters with Mighty Girls

Dear Readers,

You know the scene: You attend a holiday gathering and find children you see only this time of year or who are new to you. What do you say to break the ice with the younger set?

In Katherine’s article “Beyond ‘You’re So Cute’: Thirty Questions to Ask Little Girls This Holiday Season” (or anytime!), posted December 4, 2022, in A Mighty Girl newsletter, we are cautioned not to fall into stereotypical, appearance-based comments or questions about a little girl’s looks, nails, hair, or clothing.

The author mentions that body-image concerns for little girls have been documented as early as first grade! It’s definitely time to move to broader areas of interest that can spark great conversations, empower girls, and clue them in that we really care to get to know these mighty kiddos.

Here are some questions I randomly chose from the article to get you started:

  1. Does your family have a holiday tradition you love?
  2. What’s your favorite thing to learn about?
  3. What’s your favorite book or author?
  4. What’s your favorite movie/tv show/hobby/animal/sport/song to dance to?
  5. Who’s your best friend? Why?
  6. Do you have any pets? Please tell me about them.
  7. If you could ask your hero one question, what would it be?
  8. What’s your superpower or one you wish you had and why?
  9. If someone gave you $100/$1,000,000, what would you do with it?
  10. What do you think is the most interesting job in the world and why?

So, get a clue, readers. Children deserve opportunities to shine forth beyond their appearance. I hope you will take these questions well into 2023 and use them whenever you have the privilege of conversing with a mighty girl or mighty boy. Happy Holidays to you and your family! Comments?


Hello, Readers,

As we get ready for Thanksgiving in the USA, our thoughts increasingly turn to FOOD as we plan the feast: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and . . . Spam?

This week, I have found myself thinking about Hawaiian food, including Spam, no doubt in light of Saffron Street: Island Danger, recently released and set on O’ahu. And as it turns out, there is a link between Spam and the Japanese Americans’ incarcerations post Pearl Harbor, central to my book’s mystery. Keep reading!

I found an interesting article by Kiki Aranita about the history of Spam, a food abundantly served throughout the Hawaiian islands. According to Aranita, who grew up on O’ahu, many people on the Mainland denigrate this popular food as over-processed, unhealthy, salt-laden, canned junk food. Not so in Hawai’i! For Aranita and Hawaiians, Spam, especially served with eggs and rice, is wrapped in the history and nostalgia of the islands there.

Also from O’ahu, Chef Chung Chow of New York City’s Noreetah restaurant associates Spam with home. He serves Spam in a fine-dining context in an attempt to change Spam’s image on the Mainland. On his menu is an array of Spam musubi. He finds it interesting that Spam costs more on the Mainland ($5.00) than in Hawai’i ($1.99) despite it being produced in Minnesota and Nebraska!

Spam’s Hawaiian history was born of suspicion and food insecurity. In the late 19th century, “work contracts of the Japanese laborers who had come to work on Hawai’i’s sugarcane plantations expired. Many of them, skilled fisherman, turned to commercial fishing. They could earn more than working on the plantations. The Japanese displaced the Hawaiians in commercial fisheries . . . and eventually monopolized the deep sea fishing industry.

By the 1930s, the US military came to view this as a threat to national security. . . . There were concerns that the fishermen were being interrogated by Japanese Navy officials on hydrographic conditions in Hawai’i, ending the careers of many fishermen. But even after the attack on Pearl Harbor, none of these claims were substantiated. As Japanese Americans were incarcerated in camps on the mainland, this effective ban in Hawai’i on deep sea fishing by “aliens” obliterated the industry and left Hawai’i’s Japanese population stranded.

The iconic Spam musubi was borne from this sudden lack of fish to eat as people came to subsist on canned foods — an adaptation that is, painfully, not unique.”
So, get a clue, Readers. I hope you will read Aranita’s article to learn more about Spam’s history and why it’s so special to the Hawaiians. Happy Thanksgiving for all our blessings, no matter what foods complement your feast!


Dear Readers,

Did you see the news today about the “2022 Word of the Year”?

It’s been chosen by the U.K.-based Collins Dictionary. In fact, its top ten words of the year have a definite theme: “the ongoing crisis the world is facing.”

Some don’t pay much attention to these yearly “contests,” but this year’s word might be something many of us can relate to, unfortunately.

Here it it: The number one word of 2022 is PERMACRISIS. As you might guess, it means “an extended period of instability and insecurity–the emotional equivalent of your feet dangling off a ledge as you try to find a safe landing.” Yikes!

Sounds scary, right? The people at Collins Dictionary in charge of selecting the words of the year considered our global “political instability, the war in Ukraine, climate change, and the cost-of-living crisis.” They also looked at a database of over 18 billion words and “took ‘snapshots’ at intervals throughout the year to analyze newspapers and social media among other sources.”

So, get a clue, Readers. If you’d like to see some of the other nine words of the year and read more about this topic, please click HERE. And may your life NOT resemble 2022’s Word of the Year. But if it does, I hope you have positive ways to counteract the feeling. Remember! This, too, shall pass.


Five Reasons to Celebrate Halloween

Dear Kids and All Other Halloween Revelers,

Some people do or do not celebrate Halloween for religious reasons. Regardless, many people love Halloween, and I am no exception.

Did you know that there are important scientific reasons to celebrate Halloween?

Embracing and celebrating scary things in life could compel us to make some beneficial changes on how we deal with them. For example, holidays like Halloween and Dia de los Muertos “ritualize our fears, mainly of death . . . turning horror into play, death into levity, and gore into laughter,” says Dacher Keltner, founder of Great Good Science-Based Insights for a Meaningful Life, at UC Berkeley.

According to Jeremy Adam Smith, a psychologist, also at Greater Good, there are five scientifically validated reasons why human beings need Halloween:

  1. Halloween is a ritual. Rituals keep us together. They do this by getting us out to socialize, perhaps with the neighbors during trick-or-treat. This “social-capital enhancement” can make us happier, kinder, and healthier.
  2. We need candy. It’s proven that one ounce of dark chocolate can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and boost the mood.

If you would like to read on to find out important reasons number 3, 4, and 5, please click HERE.

So, get a clue, all you Halloween revelers! I hope you enjoyed the article, which might help you prepare for an even Happier Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and beyond . . . into your everyday lives!