Breakfast with Uncle Bob

My family’s political views range all over the spectrum, from libertarian to liberal, with lots of issue-by-issue gradations in between. I was nonetheless surprised to get into a political discussion over breakfast (while out in Utah) with a brother-in-law with whom I expected to disagree.

I’m pretty good at disagreeing, and I was even before I spent decades making my living in courtrooms. I have a reflexive yeah-but capability, and general skepticism toward self-appointed authority figures, which probably comes from being the youngest girl-child in a large, opinionated, family. In sixth grade I took great pride in debating whether marijuana should be legalized from different viewpoints at different times of the school year.

I won the debate both times, which I considered all in good fun–on that issue, at that time, when nobody had any real intention of legalizing pot.

Now, political discussions seem so much more fraught, and we see so little respectful debate, or skillful, informed rhetoric modeled for us. We seen even less good faith problem-solving collaboration. Growing up, I read George Will and watched Bill Buckley, who could both be contentious and even pompous, but never snide or demeaning to somebody with opposing views.

So imagine my surprise, when Uncle Bob and I–who “should” have disagreed on nearly everything, right down the line–instead agreed on a lot sources of present societal difficulties. On topics as diverse as campaign finance reform, the Fairness Doctrine, age limits rather than term limits, off-shoring jobs, the federal budget, and what to do about wealth inequality, Bob and I were of largely the same mind.

We found differences in terms of, “So what do we do about these issues?” but we agreed generally on causal factors. Any skilled negotiator will tell you, that agreeing on a mutually acceptable definition of a problem is step one in getting parties to work together to resolve that problem.

So I was encouraged by the conversation, but also daunted. Why wouldn’t I expect that a guy who’s been part of my family for decades, a thoughtful man, one cares for our planet and the denizens thereof, would have some common ground with me? Maybe even a lot of common ground? I know better, and going forward, I hope to do better.

Where do you see people doing a good job of disagreeing without being disagreeable? I am interested in this issue not just as voter and former attorney, but also as a novelist. If my protagonists can’t learn to have honest, respectful differences with each other, then their happily ever after might not be ever after, after all.


Happy Trials

Last week I wrote about how a trip to southern Utah gave Lord Julian’s work in progress a boost, but since I’ve come home, I’ve seen a few other boosts as well. First, and maybe most significantly, I’m sleeping better.

Why? Because to get to the site of my family reunion (Capitol Reef environs), I had to go very short of sleep one night, and then less than a week later, I took a red-eye home, so no sleep that night, which I did not enjoy (see restless leg syndrome at 38,000 feet). I napped upon landing, but not for long, and now, a week later, my sleep cycle still seems to be enjoying a benefit. I’m sleeping well, not just thrashing around in bed while it’s dark outside.

And when I sleep well, everything goes better.

Another boost came from being at high altitudes (7000+ feet above sea level, which is high for me). I got good doses of Vitamin D without sunburning, and I probably made some extra red blood cells frolicking around up there in the thin air.

I got to trail ride with my daughter, something she set up for us that we haven’t done together for… twenty years? That did my heart more good than even abundant red blood cells. At one point, I got pretty rattled in the saddle. Because the horse ahead of us stopped, my mount had to halt at an awkward angle on a steep, narrow trail into a ravine. But I do know how to ride, the horse knew how to navigate the trail if I’d just leave him in peace, and we managed. Phew! and also, in a modest way, “We did it!”

Because I needed a pet sitter to look after the beasts while I traveled, I simplified my cat-care routine. Stripped it right down to bare necessities (well, the cats’ idea of bare necessities). Now, my pensioners do not expect private gourmet dining on separate plates in the kitchen, while the rank and file scarf the usual rations outdoors. I also cleaned out my fridge, because the pet sitter would be rummaging around in there, and … really, it needed doing.

I weathered the pandemic pretty easily, from what I gather, and that makes sense. I thrive on large amounts of solitude, I’m pretty self-entertaining, and I have a voracious reading habit. Then too, I was working from home before it was popular–I was one of the lucky ones. Nonetheless, all that hermiting caused my courage for adventures to Worth More Than Rubies by Grace Burrowesatrophy, and what courage I do have went to dealing with long haul COVID, economic uncertainty, and the stresses we all put up with for some very challenging years.

I’m reminded though, that adventures can bring happy surprises–good sleep is a very happy surprise–and that the courage well can be replenished in manageable doses, if I can just lure myself, even by baby steps–out of my comfy-productive ruts.

When was the last time you had to draw on a little extra courage? I’m still giving away ARCs of Worth More Than Rubies, though the ebook is also available from the web store, and the print version can be purchased from Amazon.


Scene Change

By the time you read this, I will be back home, but my recent travels took me  to Central Utah. You know… Capitol Reef, Escalante Canyons, scenery without compare. I got together with much of my family, something we haven’t done for five years. We come from all over the country, the nieces and nephews attend as they can, and it’s generally fun, meaningful, a little intense, and a little taxing.

I considered leaving the computer at home, because my work in progress–A Gentleman in Pursuit of Truth–felt stuck. I have the premise (Lord Julian has to find a valuable foxhound who’s gone missing), and I have the plot (I know whodunnit and how Julian will solve the mystery), but that’s not a whole book. That’s a tailor’s dummy upon which many characters, settings, symbols, and subplots must be arranged, and all those parts were not making nice-nice with my foundational notions.

I get stuck a lot when I write, but I find Cory Doctorow’s prescription comforting. (You don’t need to know the whole route, but you can get there safely even in the dark if you just don’t overdrive your headlights…) I tried my usual coping mechanisms–sleep on it, put it away for a couple days, read from the start of the draft, re-read the last book in the series, do some reading on creativity, eat chocolate, take unplugged walks, go to the barn.

No joy. So I was feeling a little guilty for dropping my oar and going on a frolic. I watched a stupid Sherlock Holmes movie with lousy audio on the plane, and getting here meant doing the journey on about two hours sleep. By the time I left SLC in my rented Buick (has a metabolism like mine. Takes a whole lotta momentum to overcome inertia…), I was feeling pretty glum. Tired, frustrated, uncreative, grumpy, truant.

Fortunately for me, I did the drive down from SLC with my nephew Jackson, who served two years in federal prison for protesting George Floyd’s murder. We talked. Jax sees his incarceration as something like an enforced stay at a particularly weird monastery. He learned a lot, about himself, about socializing in a fish bowl, about poker, about power.

I have never come across that perspective on imprisonment. I haven’t seen this spectacular high dessert terrain in years. It’s been almost as long since I had to locate an address that isn’t on Google Maps or Mapquest.

I forgot all about his rubbishing lordship and the missing hound, and this morning, I woke up with three good ideas for moving the book forward. I had to drop my oar to get to shore.

I know this. I know my brain needs to be presented with novelty, with things it can’t handle in predictive text mode, if I want to come up with new thoughts, but I had forgotten that when you need the break the most, when you are the most desperate to Worth More Than Rubies by Grace Burrowesstick with the problem, that’s especially when you need to let go of it–really, really let go, not just worry about it while walking, while “giving it a break,” and while reading the manuscript from the beginning.

Geez, Grace.

Is there a place you get stuck despite all effort to the contrary? How do you get unstuck? My holiday novella, Worth More Than Rubies, goes on the sale in the web store later this month, but if you’d like an ARC, please email me at [email protected]. It’s never too early for a holiday happily ever after!

Change of Climate

I grew up in the semi-agricultural zone between a major university town and a historic village on its outskirts. I lived in a neighborhood–not a development–though only one side of our property was bordered by another house. The rest was woods, fields, or park.

I knew my neighbors. Mr. Smollett always drove too fast, his wife was an art teacher. The Shulers were a nice family, but they didn’t go to our church. German immigrants lived a few houses up from us, the dad working as a research engineer on campus. And these people knew me. I walked their dogs, I babysat their kids, I rambled across their yards without a second thought for whether I was “allowed” on their land.

Since the pandemic, the place where I live now has subtly morphed to be a little more like my first neighborhood. As I was putting out the morning ration of cat food the other day, my neighbor hailed me over to let me know there’s a young bear in the area.

Another neighbor paused while walking her dogs to catch me up on some memories her 98-year-old dad has of the house where I live. The girls from half a mile down the road  have been stopping by on their bikes to gush over a litter of kittens now calling my porch home. (Yes, those kittens WILL be fixed.)

Part of me is a little twitchy to have children just showing up in my yard (“What if they get stung by a bee when I’m not here?!”), but another part of me, about eight years old, thinks that reaction is dumb. Kids should be rambling around on personal reconnaissance, exploring the world, and learning the environment to the extent they can safely do so.

I came across a good reason to push back against my hermit tendencies in this article by climate activist Bill McKibben, who is frequently asked, “Where should I move to be climate safe?” (If you want yet another sobering though ultimately hopeful read on humanity’s future, see his book, Falter.) Apparently nearly a third of Americans are considering moving, or have moved in the past two years, at least in part due to climate considerations.

McKibben’s prescription skips over the obvious (New England looks pretty good, right?) to state flatly that there is no safe place. New England has seen historic floods, historic air quality problems, historic heat waves… though there is one criterion that McKibben says it makes sense to maximize, that being social trust. Vermont, where he lives, is a state that enjoys very high levels of social trust. When the recent floods hit, people pulled together, hard.

Neighbors in Vermont, according to McKibben, neighbor. Public institutions fulfill their mandates reliably. The benefit of the doubt is still given, and kindness is always an available default. People show up for one another. McKibben’s point is that if we let the mess we’re in continue to divide us, we’re doomed, but there’s a way out of the trap that begins with backyard chats, shared appreciation for kittens, and gratuitous bear alerts.

If we can’t exactly love our neighbors, we can at least know them, and lend a hand when trouble strikes. Which leads me to ask, do you connect with your neighbors? How would you connect with them, if that was a priority?


The Language of Lies

From time to time I come across references to Rev. Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages. His premise is simple and in the decades since the book was published, continues to resonate with many. According to Chapman, we convey liking and love primarily through five different forms of expression: Acts of services, quality time, gifts, physical touch, and verbal affirmation. A relationship is more likely to flourish if you know how you prefer to be loved, and how your partners/friends/family like to be loved.

When I consider how I fell for my life partners, or how an acquaintance can become a friend, I see myself as drawn to  heartfelt words (duh), and to acts of service. If you care about me, have the courage to say so, and pay enough to attention to give me a hand when needed. I am also prone to speaking my heart around my loved ones, saying the sincere, honest things that I hope bolster courage and connection, even if they are a bit mushy and awkward.

And I like to be of practical use to those I care about. At the therapeutic riding barn, I don’t care if my job is mucking stalls, side-walking in silence, or horse-leading a reluctant pony. I just want to be useful to a good organization. I’m happy with quality time as an expression of caring, but less comfortable with gifts. Affection isn’t casual with me, either.

That said, I realize that I’ve been snookered by the ways I perceive that somebody cares about me. I’ve fallen for the words when those words weren’t backed up by deeds. “I so appreciate you,” is balm to my soul, but the words are not always meant truthfully. When somebody presents me with a gift, by contrast, I’m not sure what to do. I might say the right things, but often what I’m thinking is, “You really should not have. I have too much stuff as it is and nice things never last long in my house…”

When somebody browses for hours shopping for the exact right way to convey, “Congratulations!” or, “I’m thinking of you,” and my internal response is, “Where am I going to put this?” I’ve missed the point. I’ve missed the caring and the love, and that’s a darned shame. When some guy says all the things but never offers to grab the check, and I’m smitten just because of the smarmy words, that’s another kind of darned shame.

The takeaway for me is, “Enjoy the words when they come my way, but look behind them too, and appreciate the affection, the tangible tokens, and everything else that conveys caring.”

I’m not sure how these concepts will show up in my books–maybe an affectionate heroine will utterly baffle an acts of service hero–but I will continue to ponder the topic.

What is the best way for somebody to show you that you’re appreciated? (And if you want to take the 5 Languages quiz, you can do that here.)

(And PS: Happy launch week to Miss Dashing!)

Popping the Questions

My dad was a great appreciator of what he called the elegant question. As a bench scientist, his work moved forward if he asked the right questions, and then tested his hypotheses in a precise and linear fashion. He was very interested in how correlation could shift to causation–how do you prove that light alters flavor compounds in milk, when it might be time making the difference, the nature of the container, exposure to air…?

I am not the scientist my father was (see: flunked calculus twice), but I have come to appreciate the right question at the right time. Early in my writing career, I realized that most editors, though well intended, had seldom actually written a novel. Madam Editor might have a wonderful idea behind her voluminous suggested revisions, but if I didn’t grasp exactly what she was getting at, I’d be playing whack-a-mole. Make the hero more engaging, and his character arc flattens. Give the heroine more agency in the manner preferred by the editor, and she becomes not-credible for the time period.

And so on, for four rounds of revision that put the book right back where it was, while making roadkill of the author’s joie de plume.

So I learned to ask, particularly about revisions I didn’t agree with, “What is the problem we are trying to solve by making this change?” The answer was usually a few seconds of dead silence, and then either something constructive, or proof that my editor was off on some “heard it in a conference” tangent having nothing to do with the story I’d written.

I came across an even more powerful question in discussions with a younger friend whose spouse of ten years had developed a serious mental illness, and persisted in refusing treatment. Though the spouse was never violent, her affliction parted her from reality and in ways that made living with her unsafe. Spousal loyalty, honor, tenacity… many factors weighed against a divorce for my friend. He eventually stumbled onto this question: What would the woman I married, the wonderful lady of whom I thought the world, tell me to do?

That wonderful lady, who had once upon a time loved truly and with her whole heart, would have counseled divorce. She would have wanted her husband to be safe and happy and away from the relentless despair and drama.

The bumper sticker questions might work for a lot of people: What would Jesus/Buddha/the Prophet do? Are you living your best life? James Clear’s newsletter always includes a question along the lines of: What’s one thing you can do today to make future you happier? A riding friend once told me that with financial matters, he always tried to wait 24 hours before making a decision, and if the situation did not allow him 24 hours, that in itself gave him reason to pause.

A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times by Grace BurrowesSleuths in mystery novels (waves to Lord Julian) are always supposed to ask: Who benefits from the commission of this crime? And when they answer that question correctly, they can often ditch some red herrings and false clues.

In a world of 24-7 click bait news cycles, endless intrusive tech, and non-stop natural disasters, the breathing room to ask a good, timely question and wait for an authentic answer is hard to come by, but–I believe–of greater benefit than ever.

What’s a question that has stood you in good stead? One you might turn to without even realizing you go there instinctively?

Speaking of Lord Julian… his debut whodunit launched on Tuesday. One reader told me that her day was complete when she got an email: A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times is ready to be picked up! (Don’t tell Hyperia.)

Why Do That?

I attend a lot of writing workshops and webinars, and one perennial focus of the big presenters is, “Why should anybody read your book? Why read any book?” The answers to that question generally fall into two categories–we read for education (The Seven Secrets… The Insider’s Guide…. The Successful Person’s…), and we read for entertainment. (The Midnight Library; The Boys From Biloxi; Red, White, and Royal Blue…)

Those are valid answers, and one reason I love a well written biography is that it can do both–educate and entertain. But is that really all there is to reading? All there is to us as readers? We’re either improving our minds and lives with new information, or we’re indulging in a little recreation to fortify us/reward us for all the improvements and efforts lying ahead?

For me, it’s not that simple. How do you describe the feeling of coming out on top, after terrible disappointments and set backs, against all odds, when it really, really mattered, and you were terrified and despairing, because you had to change who you thought you were in order to honorably prevail? That plot has inspired countless tales, from The Mighty Ducks, to To Kill a Mockingbird, to It’s a Wonderful Life, to Sara Crewe.

We read those stories for entertainment, but entertainment doesn’t stay with you for decades, providing encouragement, inspiration, and fresh perspectives. The great spiritual teachers didn’t turn to parables, fables, jatakas, and myths because they hoped for a lot of positive reviews on Amazon. They wanted to impart concepts and viewpoints that couldn’t be accurately conveyed or given adequate impact without the mysterious power of story.

A young adult novel that captures the wonder and pain of coming of age, a romance that makes falling in love credible and lovely, a thriller that puts us in the shoes of reluctant super-spies taking on long odds… I believe we read these stories because they affirm that human experience is not, cannot be, and should not be reduced to a set of rational syllogisms or theories soon to be proven.

A sunset isn’t merely some colors that happen in the sky along certain wavelengths at certain hours in specific weather conditions. It’s a farewell, a surrender, a sigh, a symbol of mortality, a harbinger of respite, and much, much more.

The Enlightenment moved us forward in a lot of ways–technologically and socially– but it also cost us in the sense that miracles, mysteries, and numinous experiences all lost ground to the rational and measurable. I think it’s for precisely this reason that popular fiction (along with Protestant evangelical movements) blossomed just as Enlightenment thinking gained control of government, education, and commerce.

We are more than students in need of education, or economic drones who must be humored with escapist entertainment. To me, good stories affirm the wondrous potential of our nature, give it voice and inspiration, and resonate with that magnificence inside each one of us.

I read for entertainment and edification, but I also read for hope, for inspiration, for affirmation, and for reasons too big and too personal to ever find adequate expression in a few words. All I know is, when science, religion, and sheer determination have failed me, good books–a few of them now subject to bans in some jurisdictions–have kept me from giving up.

Why do you read?

NB: This post was inspired by an essay from the pen of newlywed Adam Mastroianni.


Losing Weight

I’ve been trying to drop some weight lately, and it’s not going well. It never goes well. I am not a glutton and I have plenty of self-discipline, but as my dad once said, I also have a metabolism suited to weathering an ice age. “Just wait 12,000 years, Grace. Everybody’s going wish they had your metabolism.”

Thanks, Daa.

And we all know I don’t deal with summer’s heat and bugs. I probably  have the semi-annual version of seasonal affective disorder, but when the winter doldrums hit, I can just turn on my happy lights. There is no turning the summer sun down, no telling the dawn birdies to please save it for another couple hours.

So there I am, taking my grumpacious self out for a walk to get the old step count up, when I see my neighbor sitting on his porch. We’ve shared a property boundary for maybe twenty years, but we’re both quiet, keep-to-ourselves people, so I don’t really know this guy well. I know he has kidney disease, though, despite leading a very temperate and responsible life.

My neighbor was happy to report that his veins pass muster in terms of suitability for dialysis, but he was frustrated that Johns Hopkins can’t evaluate him for the transplant lists for another six months. He’s getting on as many intake schedules as he can, and hoping somebody can “work him in soon.”


Then I go to the therapeutic riding barn, where one of the lessons I assist with is for a young man who has cerebral palsy and scoliosis, both of which are likely to progress. I don’t know how he has the courage to get on a horse, much less how he stays in the saddle. But he does–every week.

My poet friend can’t walk without a cane because she has rheumatoid arthritis. When the weather, sunspots, medicine shortages, or stress cause her condition to flare, she can barely walk at all.

So yes, I’m frustrated with my inability to move the number on the scale, but… I can walk, for pity’s sake. I can stand up straight. I’m not hoping for good luck in the in-take appointment scheduling lottery,  just so I can win a place on the lists of people hoping a miracle might come along and save their lives.

I believe that preaching, “Count your blessings” to somebody who is gloomy and frustrated is unkind an unproductive, but I also know that genuine gratitude can help me re-set my outlook. So this is me, going out for another walk, minus the weight of (most of) my grumpiness.

Have you ever been handed a much needed re-set? Ever encountered a situation that changed your frame of reference when you felt stuck?

I’ve sent out my first batch of Miss Dashing advanced reader copies, but if you’d like one, just email me at graceburrowe[email protected] and let me know what device you’re reading on.

(And PS, Miss Dashing is already available in print!)



Glimmers in the Gloaming

My mood lately is irritable.

Amazon has done something whackadoodle with its search capability, such that if I type “Miss Dramatic” into the box, more often than not, I get glamour beauty products instead of the only book in the whole store with that exact title. They say it’s a known glitch, they’re working on it. I say bad words.

I’m about done with summer, and I can only imagine how the many folks who have weather much worse than mine have been coping. In Maryland, we’ve reached the part of our program where every creature with the ability to sting is determined to do so, from hornets and wasps, to mosquitoes and biting flies. I hates them, I do. I hates them as only somebody spending a fair amount of time at a horse barn can (though I  know the bugs are necessary for life on the planet).

The adult me knows I’m very, very lucky, and my life is awash in blessings. The less philosophical part of me is looking (grumpily) for reasons to smile, and here is a little bit of what I’ve found this week:

In my neighborhood, the roads are all old logging trails dating back to about 1920, when a post-war building boom in Washington, DC, saw a lot of virgin forest harvested from western Maryland. The upshot is, the roads near me are narrow–fourteen-foot right of ways, no shoulder, no berm, no painted lines. (We do have potholes, though.) If you have to pass somebody, you both slow down, you both edge over as far as you dare. You pass, and as you pass, you nod, wave, lift a hand, or otherwise acknowledge your neighbor for putting safety ahead of speed.

I like that little ritual. It’s not taught, except by example, and it has persisted on the back roads since my childhood. It’s the smallest, subtlest example of “Love thy neighbor,” and anybody sharing these twisty little lanes is my neighbor for at least a moment.

I like that my most recent COVID booster–and all my COVID boosters–have been free. Yes, I know, our tax dollars paid for them, but a) the drug was available, and b) all I had to do was ask the nice pharmacist if I could be vaccinated, and within 24 hours, I had another little shot of safety. I’ve scheduled air travel in upcoming months, and this was a box I needed check.

The dahlias are starting. They lurk for much of the growing season, but their turn is coming, and they are spectacular. They give me a lift every year.

A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times by Grace BurrowesI found a guy willing to deliver a cord of firewood, and it’s sitting in a nice, fragrant heap in my side yard. I got caught with my pants down in terms of firewood last year, and by Christmas (as the single digits were bearing down), there was none to be had for love nor homemade cookies. I managed with what I scavenged from my own property, but I promised myself I would not let that happen again. Promise to myself (and my washing machine plumbing) kept.

These little glimmers of goodness are fortifications against setbacks, summer blues, and a chronic case of the creeping curmudgeons. Have you spotted any glimmers lately? Lord Julian’s first tale–A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times–starts downloading on the web store this week, so I guess it’s time I started my ARC list for Miss Dashing!

Honor Society

A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times by Grace BurrowesI am finishing up my third manuscript in the Lord Julian mystery series, and one thing I enjoy about a recurring protagonist is that I can get to know him–really get to know him. I don’t have to say good-bye to his lordship as a protagonist just because one book’s worth of problems have been solved.

Julian is better acquainted than I could ever be with what’s called an honor culture, as opposed to a dignity culture. In a dignity culture (the present day US somewhat qualifies), small insults are ignored or peacefully resolved between the parties, the rule of law applies to everybody (“all men are created equal…” -ish), and public institutions–the courts, the free press, regulatory bodies, the educational systems, churches and so forth–enforce norms of good behavior. That’s the theory, in any case.

The historical Scottish borders and the American Old West are often described as honor cultures. No overarching rule of law or social institution provides a bulwark against chaos or peril in such settings. No individual rights or liberties are considered universal. Every slight to a person’s good name has to be personally addressed, and personal integrity is highly valued. Personal status and personal accomplishments affect influence and standing–none of this created equal baloney. Whereas a dignity culture might become excessively litigious, an honor culture can descend into bloody feuds and vigilantism.

Regency society (and certainly American society of the day) was in transition between honor culture, which understood dueling, oligarchy, and bloody conquest, and dignity culture, which supported a free press, expanded suffrage, an impartial judiciary, and Thomas Jefferson’s lofty (patriarchal, and deeply hypocritical) rhetoric of equality.

That being the case, Julian is surrounded by people who still value symbols of honor. Signet rings, family titles, dueling scars, regalia of office, and military forms of address carried into civilian life all made sense to Julian before he became a prisoner of war, then an injured veteran. By the time we meet him, he’s a man in transition.

He has mustered out in disgrace, and doesn’t use his military rank if he can avoid it. He knows firsthand what it is to be stripped of all respect, and the idea that women, the poor, or children have no dignity worth defending strikes him as absurd, though it’s still entrenched in English law. His opinions on dueling wax profane, and he’s a far humbler fellow than the guy who bought his flashy regimentals and sailed off to teach Old Boney a lesson.

Julian still has a badge or two of honor, though. Because his eyes were damaged by a battlefield explosion, he needs tinted spectacles to deal with strong sunlight. He wears them with pride, always has a spare pair on hand, and soon becomes closely identified with them in larger society. They announce to the world (that feels entitled to judge him unfairly) that he’s suffered for his country. His specs also afford him some privacy, to the extent that the eyes are windows to the soul.

My yard flowers might be badges of honor. I developed the habit of flower gardening only as foster care advocacy rubbed my nose in some fetid truths about a society that professes to value families and children. I will put some beauty into this world, and I will put the pretty where anybody driving past can see it. Every year, for as many seasons as I can manage. I will.

Do you have any badges of honor? Mementos of accomplishment on display for all to see? On display for YOU to see?