Down to Your Last Nerve

July 2, 2020, Linda Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – The weather is hot and the political atmosphere is even hotter as the national holiday celebrating “American Independence” approaches. COVID-19 cases are going UP and not DOWN in many parts of the country, as people clamor for businesses to re-open and defiantly refuse to “mask up” in public places. Jennifer Anniston used social media yesterday to state: “Just Wear The Damn Mask!”

Chafing at the Bit describes a lot of feelings after four months of quarantine; a restricted way of life is wearing thin. As my dear friend Betty used to say when she just couldn’t take it anymore: I am down to my last nerve.

Politics are even hotter than the weather, raw nerves abound. Yesterday the Mississippi state flag came down, permanently. A new design has been commissioned, and will be voted on by state residents in November. Mississippi was the last state to have a Confederate emblem on its flag. In Richmond, which was capital of the Confederacy, a statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson came down yesterday as a cheering crowd watched in the rain . In Seattle, CHOP camps (Capitol Hill Organized Protests) were cleared out yesterday after two weeks of standoffs and shootings that were part of the nation’s unrest after the police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Add to that – it’s an election year, and voters are questioning the mental and physical fitness of both our sitting president, and the expected Democratic nominee. Both guys are in their 70s, and both have been criticized for their rambling speeches, and frequent gaffes. “We’re not electing a president this year,” the chatter is, “we’re electing a vice president, that’s who will wind up running the country!”

So dear reader, if you feel that you are “down to your last nerve” about how things are going in 2020 in our “land of the free and home of the brave” let me remind you of something tumultuous that happened 139 years ago on this date.

On July 2, 1881, Charles J Guiteau shot and fatally wounded the newly inaugurated US President James A Garfield in the lobby of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Depot in Washington, DC as he yelled, “I am a stalwart and Arthur is now President of the United States!” Guiteau blamed the president for not selecting him for a job at the US Consulate in Paris.

Mr Garfield’s presidency was cut so short there isn’t enough of a legacy to rank him among the worst and best – he was only in office four months. He was the last president to be born in a log cabin, and grew up poor and fatherless. He was bullied as a child, so took up wrestling. He was our only ambidextrous president, and a great multi-tasker. He was also one of the most well-read of our presidents and his background included being a soldier (he was a major general in the Civil War), a lawyer, a politician, and a math and science expert. Maybe his childhood toughened him up against bullying; as soon as he took office he pioneered the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, making it a law that all government jobs be granted on the basis of merit and merit alone.

And then was killed by a man wanting a job. At least, that’s part of the story.

President Garfield did not die immediately, but lingered for eleven weeks, during which time surgeons repeatedly attempted to find the bullet that had lodged in his back. In spite of Joseph Lister’s discoveries regarding the use of antiseptics in surgery, the practice of sterilization had not caught on, and Garfield’s wound was probed by many unwashed fingers. The resulting infection, not the bullet, caused Garfield’s eventual death on September 19, 1881. Vice president Chester A Arthur became president of the United States on September 20.

Garfield’s incapacitation sparked a constitutional crisis, as the Cabinet was divided over whether the vice president should assume the office of the incapacitated president or merely act in his stead. It was not until 1967, with the passage of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution, that the question of the succession of power was fully addressed. Today, the vice president assumes the office of president in the event that a sitting president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

In spite of Guiteau’s manifest insanity at his trial, his attorneys were unable to gain an acquittal on that basis—it was, however, one of the first uses of the modern insanity defense in a criminal court. After a six-month trial that sparked great public interest, Guiteau was found guilty and hanged on June 30, 1882.

Reference: Library of Congress National Archives

Yes, things are definitely nerve-wracking right now. But July 2 was one heck of a bad day for Mr Garfield and Mr Guiteau, if you want to compare. My suggestions for tackling the heat if you have your own lemons to deal with:

  • Make yourself a nice tall glass of lemonade.
  • Cool down and mask up!
 

Deja Re-View

No Mask Needed This Way, July 1, 2020

Linda Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – I had a friend who had 366 notebooks lining the shelves of his office, labeled with each day of the year, yes, even including Leap. Every day he added a new page in the proper notebook . He could tell you exactly what he was doing, and thinking, and feeling, on any day as far back as twenty years.

On February 29 of this Leap Year, I got news of the first case of the COVID-19 virus in the United States. I was standing in the arena at the fairgrounds here in Little Rock, attending the state Flower & Garden Show with a friend. She was checking her phone for messages, and the news popped up. “Where?” I asked. I’d spent the last month booking reservations for my Round The World trip in July that would take me to the last two continents on my list of seven – Australia and Asia. I had scrupulously avoided China in the plan, due to rumblings of a highly contagious disease and contaminated cruise ships there.

When she told me the case was in Seattle, I was not only startled, but genuinely alarmed, as it was precisely in the area where two of my sons live, with their families. Six grandchildren there! And, Seattle was to be the first stop on the Journey Round The World. My flight was booked for July 7.

“Oh, it will all be done by May,” was the line on everybody’s lips. “Don’t worry.”

I have been tracking the numbers since March 1. As of today 2,624,873 cases have been reported in the United States and its territories by the Centers for Disease Control; with 127,299 deaths from the disease. The only “US soil” that has remained virus-free is American Samoa, which was to be a major stop on my RTW.

There were several kinds of things the RTW would tick off my list of “things to do before I die” (aka Bucket List). I could claim all seven continents as mine; and all five oceans. I would visit the southernmost and northernmost capital cities in the world – Wellington, New Zealand and Reykjavik, Iceland. I would cruise the longest rivers on the continents of Australia and Africa – the Murray and the Nile. I would visit two wonders of the world – Ayers Rock or Uluru, the giant red monolith in the heart of Australia; and the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. I would visit three far-flung US National Parks – Haleakala and Hawaii Volcanoes in Hawaii; American Samoa in – well, American Samoa. And best of all, I would add nine world capital cities to my Capital City list! With the added bonus of having my two youngest grandchildren join me in Reykjavik as a “high school graduation gift,” with my RTW ending in Washington, DC with grandkids, in an election year!

This trip would be a crown in my crowns. The grandkids, Kayla and Sam, had been a part of the Journey Across America in 2012; Kayla to Honolulu with me; Sam to Juneau. Now those 4th graders are done with high school! And what a (excuse the language please) SUCKY senior year they were served; schools were closed in March so no senior prom, no bonding with friends, just a Virtual Do and, that’s it. Also, sadly, no trip to Reykjavik, and Washington, DC.

I am now 81 years old, and although the airlines have offered “rebooking” opportunities in years to come, I don’t plan to travel worldwide until the word “pandemic” is erased from our daily conversation and the (currently non-existent) vaccine is keeping everyone, all over the world, SAFE from COVID-19.

So, here’s the deal. I’ll do my traveling VIRTUALLY, and tell you all about it. Plus, I’ll review and update the 51 wonderful capitals I visited on the Journey Across America. I’ve always believed the best thing about travel is the memories; they never RUST or wear out. They nurture you when you are “too old to rock the rocking chair.” (And I am getting close to that.)

On July 1, 2012, I had just returned from Honolulu with Kayla, and was settling in for a two-week stint in Olympia, the capital city of Washington. It was a cool, gray day, as my cats Alex and Jack settled in with me in a peaceful spot.

On July 1, 2013, I was in Des Moines, the capital city of Iowa, where one expected the corn to be “knee high by the 4th of July.” I learned a lot about pigs there too, and genuine Midwestern friendliness.

Today, July 1, 2020, I live in Little Rock, the capital city of Arkansas, with my Katy cat, where Social Distancing is now the required norm, and face masks the recommended attire.

Still in love with capital cities. Still enjoying the world we live in.

Go with me? You won’t even need a face mask!

Knee High By The 4th of July, July 1, 2013

01 cornfieldLinda Burton posting from Des Moines, Iowa – “Oh What A Beautiful Morning!” Remember that Rodgers & Hammerstein tune from Oklahoma? Driving through the Iowa countryside a few days ago, with early summer cornfields rolling across the hills to my right and to my left, I thought of a line from that song “….the corn is as high as an elephants eye….” Then I laughed, because the corn I saw was just beginning to get a grip on growing; it’s pretty darned early in the season here. “That corn is only knee high,” I thought. Later I learned that’s the catch-phrase of corn farmers: “We look for the corn to be knee high by the 4th of July,” I was told. That’s the 01 harvest barnassurance that everything is on track; “elephant’s eye” corn isn’t expected until late September; most harvesting happens in October and sometimes into November. Then there’s a lot of harvesting going on; in 2012 Iowa corn farmers grew almost 1.88 billion bushels of corn, on 13.7 million acres of land; 2013 projections indicate 2.45 billion bushels on 13.97 million acres. Iowa has produced the largest corn crop of any state for more than two decades; in an average year, Iowa produces more corn than most countries! And it’s been the dominant 01 pork logocrop in Iowa for more than 150 years. The reasons are simple – a growing season that is long enough and warm enough, ample rain, and deep, rich soil. Iowa also produces livestock whose waste includes nutrients that are key to fertilizing the fields for better corn production. According to Iowa Agriculture farm statistics, in 2012 there were 195,000 sheep and lambs on hand, 3.9 million cattle and calves, and 20 million hogs. And, by the way, Iowa is the number one pork producing state in the country too.

I went to the Iowa Agriculture website for some basic farm facts; I wanted to know how many farms there are in Iowa, overall. The answer (as of 2011) is 92,300 farms, covering 30.7 01 corn and red barnmillion acres of the state. The size of an average farm is 333 acres, valued at about $6,708 per acre. That long growing season I mentioned has temperatures ranging from an average of 13.2F in January to 75.3F in July, with an average annual rainfall of 45.10 inches. Soybeans, milk, and eggs are other biggies in the state; 466 million bushels of soybeans grown on 9.23 million acres in 2011; 4.33 billion pounds of milk produced; 14.5 billion eggs. Equate that to how many glasses of milk you drink in a week, or how many sunny-side-up breakfasts you enjoy. As to the bacon that accompanies those breakfast eggs – I pulled some numbers from the National Pork Board and the US Census of Agriculture. Iowa has about 8,300 hog operations; more than 39,000 jobs are directly related to raising and caring for hogs in Iowa; the industry generates nearly $950 million in household income for pork producers.

Enough with the numbers; I wanted to know what kind of hogs are raised, and what is different about each breed. But first a little Pig Latin Lesson: “boars” are males of breeding 01 pigletsage; “sows” are breeding females; and “piglets” need no explanation; they are the unweaned little ones.

From the Des Moines National Pork Board website, which also has delicious recipes for the use of pork, I learned that most hogs bred for consumption are the offspring of a combination of breeds – usually dark-breed boars bred to white-breed sows. Dark breed boars enhance meat quality; white-breed sows produce many piglets, plus their maternal instincts allow more piglets to survive. A producer will choose a particular breed, or combination of genetic lines, based on what they are looking for with regard to meat quality, farming method, and the hog market. Here are eight of the most widely popular.

  • 01 berkshireBerkshire. A black pig that originated in Britain in the mid-1500s, prized for juiciness, flavor, and tenderness, yielding a pink-hued, heavily marbled meat suitable for long cooking times.
  • 01 chester whiteChester White. Used in commercial crossbreeding; originated in Pennsylvania in the early 1800s when white pigs common to the northeast US were bred with a white boar imported from Bedfordshire, England.
  • 01 durocDuroc. Known for quick growth; red or black coloring; the second most recorded breed in the US; a main sire choice of American farmers. Sweet meat, amazing shoulders and spareribs.
  • 01 hampshireHampshire. Fourth most recorded breed in America and oldest American breed in existence; stock imported from Wessex, England in 1832. Black with a white belt across the shoulders, a lean-meat breed.
  • 01 landraceLandrace. Fifth most recorded breed in the US; known for large litters of piglets. A white pig, descended from the Danish Landrace; produces a large and flavorful ham and loin.
  • 01 poland chinaPoland China. Black with white face and feet, derives from many breeds, including the Berkshire and the Hampshire. Known for large size; one of the most common breeds in the US.
  • 01 spottedSpotted Pig. Black and white spots, no red or brown; popular in the US because of high meat quality and ability to gain weight quickly.
  • 01 yorkshireYorkshire. #1 recorded breed in the US; white, very durable and muscular, high proportion of lean meat. Developed in the county of York, England, and brought to the US around 1830.

Now that you’re up on pigs, let’s get back to corn. Because, you see, most Iowa corn goes into animal feed. One bushel of corn converts to about 13 pounds of retail pork. Iowa’s corn is 01 food from cornalso processed into starches, oil, sweeteners, and ethanol. Most of the corn you see growing in fields across Iowa is field corn, not the sweet corn-on-the-cob you think about for summer cookouts, dripping with butter. The sweet corn that is grown in Iowa is usually sold at farmers’ markets and roadside stands, not shipped out of state, so if you live in Arizona or Vermont, you’ll likely never see Iowa corn in your supermarket. But it will be in products you use – the Corn Refiners Association has conducted surveys tallying all supermarket products that contain corn ingredients and come up with the staggering number of at least 4,000. Read your labels! Corn is nearly everywhere – even used in paper products.

And corn grows nearly everywhere; you’ll find it on every continent except Antarctica. It is descended from a plant called teosinte, which still grows in Mexico; the first corn plants seem to have appeared in Mexico. Millenniums of breeding, first by Native Americans, then by 01 corn and kernelsearly pilgrims and modern scientists, have resulted in larger, fuller ears, and made corn one of the world’s three leading grain crops (rice and wheat are the others). Much of Iowa’s field corn is bred to develop just one large ear rather than several incomplete ears; the number of kernels per ear vary from 500 to 1,200, but a typical ear has about 800 kernels. A bushel of shelled corn (after husks and cobs are removed) weighs about 56 pounds and last year Iowa corn growers harvested an average of 172 bushels per acre of land (the national average was 147). To further visualize, an acre is about the size of a standard football field.

01 corn harvestingAbout those husks and cobs – when corn is harvested the combine strips the husks off each ear and removes the kernels; the kernels are stored in a holding tank until they can be unloaded into a truck. But the husks and cobs are spread back into the field as the combine moves along; it’s just like mulch in your home garden. Good soil fertility is there for the next crop; corn plants that will grow up to 12 feet tall, just about as high, I’m thinking, as an elephant’s eye.

 

Sunday Morning Coming Down, July 1, 2012

Linda Burton posting from Olympia, Washington – The joke is “summer doesn’t arrive in the Pacific Northwest until after the 4th of July” but it’s no joke. In 1987 I dried out in front of a blazing fire after giving up on the soggy Seattle fireworks display and coming home sopping wet and shivering. It looks as though this year will follow that pattern; it was raining when I woke up; a Sunday morning gray. A cat snuggled tight against either side of me; I guess I’m forgiven for taking off for Hawaii and leaving them behind. I opened up the Fancy Feast and then slept two hours more. Under the blanket and the pile of cats it was cozy and warm, but checkout time loomed close; time to load the car, drive to Olympia, unload everything, settle in for the next two-week stint. I was misty-soaked and feeling blue in all the gray, my body temp still set on Hawaiian warm. Just drive, I told myself.

It’s a mess, I-5 I mean; and the speed limit is 60 all the way; what’s that about? The Girl Scout motto learned so many years ago forgot, I put no water for the kitties in the back; didn’t fill the litter box; it was a short drive to Olympia. And so you see, I was not prepared for the rooms reserved weeks ago to be refused to me. A chain I often used, this one did not accept cats; my “Pet Friendly” filter somehow slipped. (Big expose some day, about the inconsistencies of chains, and the unkindnesses to pets!) They refused me gently though, and called to find a room for me. A downtown highrise, not my favorite choice, but decision-making time was running short (no water, and no litter box).

My reaction was muted by the gray; okay, I’ll take the room. It wasn’t ready yet, please sort it out, I begged. Housekeeper beeped another floor, got somebody on it, quick. “Start your unload,” she soothed, “and bring those kitties in.” She described her long-haired cat, her love of 15 years, “I want to meet your Jack,” she smiled, “and Alex too.” I warmed from blue to pink. Four loads with the rattley cart; four floors on the elevator; and then, we’re home and all is well. Let’s watch the evening news, and catch up with the rest of the world.

It’s pleasant here. No doubt that things would turn out fine; I’ve got the Bubble over me. Dig through the suitcase for warmer clothes, zip the black sweater clear up to my neck, pull on some socks. It was 109 in Nashville today, the Brian Williams Sunday-substitute is telling on the news, and power’s out all in the stormy east. But I am safe, here at the end of Puget Sound, looking forward to the peace, and quiet, and gentle soothing gray; an easy place to be.

 

Patchwork Love: The Buzz

Good news, readers and planning-to-be readers — Patchwork Love is now being read in 47 states (that we know of) and in Japan and the UK! If you’ve already got your copy, and have already read it — please go to Amazon.com and post a glowing review. Yes, it’s okay to tell everyone how much you enjoyed it, and how intriguing the characters are. (Just don’t give away the surprise ending.) And after THAT, tell at least three people about the book, and where they can get it. Or order one sent directly to someone else. They’ll thank you.

If you’ve got your copy but haven’t read it yet, my goodness, what are you waiting for? It’s a mystery wrapped around a love story with plenty of “I can’t believe they really did that” thrown in. What it isn’t is one of those one-two slam-bam quickies that slide to an end even before you’ve finished your first nibblies. No, as one reader said, you need to “snuggle in and get absorbed.” Connect. Make friends with the wonderful characters who live in Wake Robin. Get to know Merit, and Lovely. And  those kids. Reading this book will enrich your life and boost you up for spring.

And if you haven’t got your copy YET, don’t let the buzz pass you by. Order Patchwork Love. Do it today.

 

Making the List

Getting High

It’s a thrill to “make the list,” and to be able to proudly proclaim across the top of your book cover “New York Times Best Seller.” It is wonderful when your book pops up as a “top seller” with Amazon’s powerful marketing clout.

Sales rankings can change on a dime – just like the ups and downs of the stock market, not entirely predictable, though the tried and true reliables always seem to do well. A check of today’s best sellers has some newbies at the top – Andy Weir and Celeste Ng have a second book on the lists, helped no doubt by the resounding success of their first book not so very long ago.

Andy Weir is a hero to all “first novelists” – The Martian (2011) was a hit as a book, and then a movie, with Matt Damon, no less. Congrats, Andy, good job! The list is well populated with the tried and true as well – Dan Brown, John Grisham, James Patterson, E L James, Nora Roberts. Seven men, six women, ages 60 to 25, writing about murder and mayhem, love and romance, and who knows what all. How does an author get to the top? And a better question – and stay there?

“Develop a following,” is good advice; create a series, perfect a style. That’s the way to sell books. And keep writing.

That’s the plan.

Top Authors on the New York Times Best Selling List and/or  Amazon’s Most Sold List December 29, 2017

TOP TEN NEW YORK TIMES FICTION BOOKS REPORTING TODAY

https://www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers/

  1. ORIGIN by Dan Brown. A symbology professor goes on a perilous quest with a beautiful museum director.
  2. THE ROOSTER BAR by John Grisham. Three students at a sleazy for-profit law school hope to expose the student-loan banker who runs it.
  3. THE SUN AND HER FLOWERS by Rupi Kaur.  A new collection of poetry from the author of “Milk and Honey.”
  4. THE PEOPLE VS. ALEX CROSS by James Patterson. Detective Cross takes on a case even though he has been suspended from the department and taken to federal court to stand trial on murder charges.
  5. MILK AND HONEY by Rupi Kaur. Poetic approaches to surviving adversity and loss.
  6. DARKER by E.L. James. Christian Grey’s tormented and difficult pursuit of Anastasia Steele is told from his perspective.
  7. THE MIDNIGHT LINE by Lee Child. Jack Reacher tracks down the owner of a pawned West Point class ring and stumbles upon a large criminal enterprise.
  8. ARTEMIS by Andy Weir. A small-time smuggler living in a lunar colony schemes to pay off an old debt by pulling off a challenging heist.
  9. YEAR ONE by Nora Roberts. When a pandemic strikes and the world spins into chaos, several travelers head west to find a new life.
  10. READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline. It’s 2044, life on a resource-depleted Earth has grown increasingly grim, and the key to a vast fortune is hidden in a virtual-reality world.

TOP TEN MOST SOLD AMAZON FICTION BOOKS REPORTING TODAY

https://www.amazon.com/charts/mostsold/fiction?

  1. Origin by Dan Brown.
  2. Artemis by Andy Weir.
  3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
  4. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham.
  5. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.
  6. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.
  7. The Midnight Line by Lee Child.
  8. Wonder by R J Palacio.
  9. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.
  10. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan.

 

 

Lemon Ice Box Pie

Author Linda Lou Burton Recalls Christmas Past

What is your favorite Christmas Day Dessert? Something that fondly reminds you of other times, and other people? In Chapter 46 of Patchwork Love, Clayton begins reminiscing about the lemon pie his mother made at Christmas time. He recalled the “egg white goo” on the top, which he pushed to the side to get at the creamy lemon filling. Just what was in that lemon pie that Clayton enjoyed so much in his childhood?

His mother was born in 1934, we learn from her grave marker, and likely used recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother. The Lemon Ice Box Pie made by my own grandmother at Christmas time was a simple mix, with trusty Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk as a key ingredient. Here is my grandmother’s handwritten recipe, which I find verified in an old Borden ad:

  • 15 oz can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 2 egg yolks

Combine ingredients. Stir until mixture thickens. Pour into 8-inch crumb crust. Top with 2-egg-white meringue. Bake at 325 15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool.

My grandmother called it Lemon Ice Box Pie. I never heard her refer to any type of “refrigeration” as anything other than “the ice box.” A little research shows that “ice boxes” served households well into the 1930s. Freon and Frigidaire gradually came into homes, as electric lines were strung from town to countryside.

My research further revealed that Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk goes back to the 1850s! It was introduced to fight food poisoning and other illnesses brought on by lack of refrigeration, and became a household name during the Civil War. Later it was credited with lowering the infant mortality rate – a milk that was safe and nourishing.

In 1931, Borden Kitchens sent out a call for recipes “in which Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk makes cooking quicker, easier, and surer.” They got 80,000 responses! Elsie the smiling Borden Cow was there to help cooks everywhere – she even starred at the New York World’s Fair in 1939.

So now I understand why I grew up on lemon ice box pie. Of course, that means my children, and grandchildren, and the characters I wrote about in Patchwork Love, get the same privilege.

Read more of the history of Eagle Brand at https://www.eaglebrand.com/history and check out new recipes at https://www.eaglebrand.com/recipes/pies. Keep in mind that the can today is 14 oz, not 15, as of old, and the Lemon Ice Box Pie they feature today has none of that pesky meringue Clayton pushed aside. But now there is also Lemon Cloud, Lemon Cream, Lemon Raspberry, Lemon Sponge, Strawberry Lemon, and if you don’t want lemon for your Christmas treat – Sweet Potato Pecan and Deep Dish Pumpkin. It’s so much more than pie, it’s memories!

 

The Cat’s Meow

A Post From Author Linda Lou Burton

Can you believe this waif was a terrorist? She looks all innocence, don’t you think? Don’t you want to cuddle her up, listen to her contented purr?

But this baby didn’t know how to cuddle, instead she struck out with teeth and claws. She growled at inanimate toys, biting them and slinging them away. She refused to wear her pretty pink collar with the jingly silver bell. She was a terrorist!

When I brought this abandoned kitten home, I expected her to snuggle against me like the other cats who have been a part of my life. Instead my arms and legs were in various stages of bleeding and scarring from scratches and bites. I was perplexed, and to be honest, disappointed.

And then I remembered Harry Harlow and the monkeys. Harlow, a developmental psychologist, deprived infant rhesus monkeys access to a mother in his experiments, and determined that when given a choice, the monkeys chose “touch” over food. Other researchers using rats found that when infants were licked and groomed by their mothers, they grew up fairly well adjusted, but those who were deprived became anxious and fearful.

When Katy was left alone under that bush she was fed – the people in the office nearby saw to that. But she was not touched; no mother to groom her, no siblings to toss and tumble with. No socialization of any kind.

As I tended my wounds and observed Katy’s reaction to the world around her, I began thinking about how abandonment and abuse affect PEOPLE too. Characters came into my mind – I’d awake in the morning and there would be Susie wounded and hurt, and Merit tenderly caring for her, a bonding. And all the others – Lovely, so lonely that she succumbed to attention from a stranger; the two motherless children who wound up on the cover of the book. How would they deal with their world? And Patchwork Love began to come together. I stopped my non-fiction work about capital cities and wrote my first novel.

Katy may have been an abandoned kitten, but she was destined for great things. She inspired a book!

The Dedication

Patchwork Love is dedicated to Katy, the blue-eyed part-Siamese all-white kitten I found under a bush. Her mother took her siblings and left her there when she was only four weeks old, observers told.

Katy struggled with the aftermath of abandonment, acted out in growling, biting, scratching, clinging, sucking her tail, eating holes in everything – I never had a cat behave that way before and frankly I resented the fact that she didn’t appreciate my good intentions as I thought she should.

Today Katy is a happy cat, still somewhat wary, but able to enjoy a nap with me on a sunny afternoon, snuggled together on the couch, listening to the birds outside. Sometimes she’ll stretch out long, reach her paw to touch my face, and purr. We may have had some knocks, she seems to say, but this is good.

Katy inspired me to write Patchwork Love. Our experience underscored what I’ve always believed – we can’t choose what happens in the world around us, but we can choose how we respond.

I could have chosen to leave her there. She could have chosen to continue biting the fire out of me.

Every moment is a choice.

 

Message From Another Trish

The nonfiction section of Patchwork Love begins (p 327) with A Message from Trish, the 10-year-old girl you first glimpse on the cover, as she explains her role in this story, and the empowering reality of choice.

Hi Reader, my name is Trish, the girl you’ve been reading about. I’m just a work of fiction, you know that. Not real, but yet I am. I’m bits and pieces of people that the author knew, or read about, or saw their story on the evening news. I’m a statistic, based on truth, fluffed up a bit with thoughts, pink shirts and pony tails, because the author hopes you will connect with the human side of my story, and Jonathan’s story. And Merit’s, and Lovely’s, and Carrie Ann’s. Every character in this book comes packaged with a set of experiences unique only to them, making choices from the frame they know. The same is true for each of you. Every next moment is a choice you make.

Patchwork Love tackles many issues overall – kidnapping, rape, adoption, illegal immigration, poverty, wealth – good grief, you’re thinking, too much! But the story is really about the aftermath. As Lovely points out – it’s not what happens, it’s what you do. How do we deal with abandonment, and loss, with abuse and sadness? Do we flail out with destructive behaviors, or mull over our misfortune in silence, letting it eat away from the inside out? Do we get our jollies in the victim role, feeding on a steady diet of pity pie? Or do we “get off the pot” and take positive steps to move forward, as Clayton finally did? Every moment is a choice.

How are readers responding to Trish’s message? Author Linda Lou Burton shares a letter she received from a reader December 14, 2017.

Thank you for writing Patchwork Love. I, too, have been one of your statistics, and over time made necessary adjustments to live with results of evil intent others had in regard to me and my wellbeing. I have always believed we become the person of our life experiences and how we respond to them. We don’t make “mistakes,” we make choices, and for every choice there are consequences. Your book brought this out loud and clear.

Good does overcome evil. This is something we would do well to remember each and every day we live.

In appreciation for your book.

 

Books and Peanut Butter

Did you know:

  • that it takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter?
  • that the favorite bread for a PBJ sandwich is white, and the favorite spread is strawberry jam? (Grape jelly second.)
  • that Bill Clinton and Elvis Presley favored sliced banana on their peanut butter sandwich?
  • that creamy peanut butter is more popular on the east coast, chunky on the west?
  • that peanuts are called “ground peas” because they grow underground?
  • that goober – a nickname for peanuts – comes from “nguba,” the Congo language name for peanut?
  • that two of our presidents – Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter – were peanut farmers?

Which brings us to President James A Garfield (1831-1881). Mr Garfield was the 20th president of the United States, unfortunately serving only 200 days due to an assassin’s bullet. But he left behind a number of interesting quotations, such as “The chief duty of government is to keep the peace and stand out of the sunshine of the people.”

It is also claimed that he said “Man cannot live by bread alone, he must have peanut butter.” Did he really say that? Did he begin with the Biblical quote found in Matthew, and again in Luke, “Man shall not live by bread alone” and amend it a bit? Was he trying to create a humorous image?

There are those who say he couldn’t have said it – that peanut butter “hadn’t been invented” by the time he died in 1881. They point to US Patent 306,727 issued to Marcellus Gilmore Edson in 1884 for the manufacture of peanut butter. And then there were the Kellogg brothers, who patented the process of preparing peanut butter with steamed nuts in 1895.

Hold on, others say. The Incas developed a paste of ground peanuts way back in 950 BC! And the Aztecs were making peanut butter as early as the 15th century. These are claims one can “dig up” with a Google Goober search. George Washington Carver, who began teaching and researching at Tuskegee Institute in 1896, is considered by some to be the “father” of the peanut butter industry – he came up with more than 300 uses for peanuts.

But it doesn’t really matter who did what first, we’re just glad for peanut butter today — Jif, Peter Pan, Skippy, all the brands. And, being a publishing house, naturally we’re glad for BOOKS, thank goodness for the printed word, for the opportunity to exchange ideas with millions of people, how great is that? Nourishment for the mind, body and spirit, and so we say:

We cannot live by bread alone, we must have books and peanut butter!

 

The Captivating Dogs in Patchwork Love

Author Comments on Susie & Molasses & Family

“I would purchase this book based on the title and tag line alone – dogs and kids, you can’t go wrong.”

That comment by reader Brenda took me back to the early planning stages of writing Patchwork Love. No doubt in my mind about Susie – she was a “Lassie” dog, sidekick of Timmy, always there to ease the crisis, to find the problem and then to make sure it was resolved. I loved that dog through all the 50’s, and 60’s, and even into the 70’s, as my own “Timmy’s” were born and had pets.

But as I begin to write Patchwork Love, I realized I didn’t know much about the breed. So I researched “collie” and learned that the Lassie dog of memory was a “Rough Collie” – meaning it has a long coat, as opposed to the short-haired “Smooth Collie.” The character of Susie began to take shape – a Rough Collie by breed, sweet natured and loyal, polite with strangers and peaceful with other animals. Of course she would rescue two lost children. Of course she would companion a lonely man. The photo is exactly how I imagine Susie looks, walking alongside the creek, although with a patch over her left eye.

Of course Susie would be a good mother, but I won’t get ahead of the story. I will make you privy to the playfulness of collie pups, because, yes, there are pups and I needed to imagine them jumping around under their mother’s watchful eye. I found a You Tube Video at aldredeliecollies, published Sep 28, 2014, entitled Peggy’s Rough Collies Playing Tag. Those last two are Lucy and Archie in the flesh! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUrtg8wVnZg

And then there was Molasses. I had a very clear picture in mind of Molasses, always by Buddy’s side, Lassie and Timmy by nature, but DIFFERENT. Big brown soulful eyes. Short hair. I searched dog pictures online for several days before finding JUST the dog. A Fox Red Lab. Perfect!

On The Labrador Site I read an article by Pippa Mattinson (Dec 14, 2016) describing the Fox Red Labrador Retriever as a friendly dog, with an exuberant personality and a sense of fun. They love human companionship, she writes, and stay close to their master at all times, until required to retrieve. Highly co-operative and intelligent, they are the most popular family pet in the world.

No wonder Marybeth was so delighted when Cinnamon joined her family. And when you get to the part of the story that takes place at the edge of the ravine, you will know exactly what Molasses is going to do. Here is one of Pippa’s photos, in case you’re not familiar with the Fox Red Lab. A dead ringer for Molasses in Patchwork Love, at least in his younger days.

https://www.thelabradorsite.com/fox-red-labrador/

Now who is going to ask Santa for a dog for Christmas?

 

Favorite Characters in Patchwork Love

The author asked readers to identify their favorite character in Patchwork Love. She received a mixed bag of answers!

I can’t choose a favorite character. They are all so well-developed. I do love the children: vulnerable but resilient and brave, innocent but wise, and so caring of other people and animals, too. So I guess Tag, Trish, Buddy, and Jonathan are my favorites. Next would be Merit and then Lovely.

I enjoyed the book, especially the characters. I loved the title and the picture on the cover, the children against the moon. I would purchase this book based on the title and tag line alone – dogs and kids, you can’t go wrong.

I keep raving to all in my household how good this book is. With all the wonderful characters you have created there is so much potential for so many more novels.

I most connected with Ginny. She was always trying to look after others in her own way. She was truly interested in people. She went out of her way to do something nice for her friends. Her personality reminded me a little of me.

I was particularly moved by the short life of Carrie Ann. Too many women, even today, are left in circumstances they aren’t prepared for. Then they make the wrong choices.

My favorite character was Dr Will. He reminded me of my father, always welcoming, and drawing people in. Making things. Merit and Auntie Love reminded me of myself – caring enough to help others but “hiding in plain sight” within themselves.

The book captured me from the beginning pages and kept my interest as all the characters were woven into the story line.

The character I most identified with was Marybeth. She was the one who took a matter of fact approach to the crisis and methodically went through her options and what her next steps should be.

While I did like Merit, I also would have to say Lovely was a favorite. She MADE THE CHOICE to overcome all the adversities of her youth and make a difference in other’s lives.

You created a town, slowly developing each of the characters. How awesome is that! Please write a novel on each one.