Sleeping Beautifully

When first I did peep open my eyes today (Thursday), I asked myself, “Do I FEEL like getting up just yet?” I love being able to pose that question, and I grasp that it contemplates significant privilege. So many of us, due to jobs, family obligations, and other constraints must arise when the alarm bugle (or marimba) sounds. That was me for decades, come migraines, cramps, illness, or exhaustion.

Up I did get, out I did go (and fat, tired, and auto-immune sick I did become.)

My question wasn’t entirely self-indulgent, though. I am prone to what I call doughnut sleep. I toddle up to bed on time (between 10 pm and 11 pm), I read a little, and then I commend myself to the arms of Morpheus. In the middle of the night, I wake up, and for the next few hours, I’m resting rather than sleeping. This is a fine time to contemplate book plots, the state of the planet, strategies for the most effective use of my time, or reasons to be grateful. I might do some yoga poses in the dark, or get in quality time with the king of the upstairs, Augustus the Cat.

Toward dawn, I drift off for another good sleep cycle. I’d rather sleep through the night, but doughnut sleep is simply an intermittent fact of my life, despite regular exercise, blackout curtains, a bedtime routine, blue light filters, and all the other strategies we’re supposed to try.

Today, though, I’m also coming off several days of bustling about. I’ve made two trips to the barn this week, where my darling Santa was not feeling necessarily 100% (nothing serious, thank heavens). I completed the third dentist appointment in a series that has not been fun at all (but is happily done). I got after extra house work necessitated by excessively muddy winter weather and pets who do not wipe their paws. I’ve been dogged by looming book deadlines (c’mon, Miss Devoted!) and tax season aggravations..

So today I felt like proceeding in a lower gear. I am so fantastically wealthy in freedom that I don’t have to wait until the weekend to ratchet down my pace. I will get plenty done–write a scene (fingers crossed), tidy up this or that, format Miss Devoted. I have plenty to do, but I also have my own permission to cut back on the full quota of steps, to eat a few more carbs (I’m on a garlic naan and cheddar kick), and to  mess around a little more diving into rabbit holes like why hasn’t the hydroelectric potential on both slopes of the Hindu Kush (of K2 fame) been more fully harnessed?

If I had to choose between doubling my income or keeping the flexibility I have in my schedule, I’d keep the flexibility. I’m pretty clear that the income I do have depends on me being able to say when to accelerate and when to throttle back, when to write a blog post and when to dive into the next scene for Miss Determined (pre-order links starting to populate). The quality of my output, my environment, my financial management, and my health depends on me being the boss of my time.

Miss Devoted by Grace BurrowesI suspect, pre-industrial revolution, and certainly pre-agricultural revolution, this is how the species was meant to function–with a lot of autonomy and a lot of responsibility, though in the context of a tight tribal social network. Seems to me, though, we still have the responsibility, but with a lot less daily autonomy and relatively puny social networks (the leading reason Americans seek counseling is loneliness). I am soooooo glad that I’ve hit a stretch of life where I have that autonomy. It’s helping me stay healthy, happy, creative, and productive. (And to ensure Gus-Gus gets all the scratchies he needs.)

What’s good about your life right now? What is getting better, even if it’s not quite where you want it yet? Three more commenters go on the Miss Devoted ARC list!


Be Haven

My sister’s visit over the holidays went well, for those who’ve been wondering. I picked Gail up at the airport (on time!), we spent a night at my house, and then we tooled down to DC to take in some museums. The highlight of the excursion was the Vermeer exhibit, which was small but interesting. (And he’s one of my faves, for the domesticity, elegance, and warm-heartedness of his images.)

The whole exercise of sprucing up the house in anticipation of company got me thinking about safe spaces, and what they’ve meant in my life. There haven’t been  many, which is odd, because I have rarely been at risk of physical harm. The courtroom, for all its procedure and pomp, is not a safe place. People lose their kids in courtrooms. They get wrongfully convicted, they get away with murder.

Churches have not been safe places for me. Let’s start with I’m female and I was raised Catholic, and leave it at that.

But I have known places that felt safe to me. One was the newsroom of my college newspaper. The ensemble cast was full of quirky characters, but the job of getting out a morning daily made for camaraderie and a focus on getting the job done rather than backbiting or grumbling. By contrast, the Fortune 100 offices I have worked in (several) were full of politics, senior managers breaking rules, and a culture that demanded employees lean in to a company that was leaning with avaricious glee into profit uber alles.

My house is a safe place. I can be myself here. I (mostly) control who’s allowed in (Blossom the Possum and I are in negotiations). I can do pretty much as I need to do in this space, but for me a truly safe place has an element of emotional refuge that goes beyond the pleasures of solitude. Robert Frost wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in… something you somehow haven’t to deserve.” A truly safe place for me encompasses an element of acceptance–I’m not only welcome, but I’m welcome to be myself.

American culture, in my humble, does poorly at creating these places, for all our foghorning about individualism and community values. Maybe for some of us, the knitting club does the work of a safe place, or the horse barn, or the yoga class, but we lack “safe place” institutions. I think of the British local pub as such a place. For men, the hunting cabin or fishing trip might meet the definition. Libraries certainly have the potential.

My nephew, who teaches political science at a Swedish university, has a colleague who concluded that pub closures during COVID boosted political radicalization. If your pub really is a safe place, then people you don’t agree with are allowed to share it with you, and in that place, you treat each other civilly, even kindly, because them’s the house rules.

If you had to choose one place to interact compassionately and constructively with people whose beliefs diverge significantly from yours, where would that place be? I’ll add three commenters to my Miss Devoted ARC list!


Never Agains

One of the questions authors ask their characters is, “What is your never again?” What is the wrong turn, mistake, or compromise this character made in the past that has never stopped haunting them, even if they never consciously think of it? What is the line in the sand they’ve drawn that they hope will spare them from repeating some humiliation, hurt, or other injury? (Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons.)

We pose this question because a lot of genre fiction is built around how a character grows and changes (or tragically refuses to grow). A never again can be proof of maturation–I will never again stay out all night drinking during finals week–or proof of stuckness–I will never again trust a beautiful lady. The punch line for the author is to test the never again to see if the character can adhere to worthwhile boundaries while letting go of the ones that were limiting growth and happiness.

Lady Violet Says I Do by Grace BurrowesAnd if the never again has out-lived its useful life, then letting go of it should still be a little scary, a little risky. The never agains help us define ourselves, and help us tell The Story of Me.

Lady Violet’s never again–I will never again rely on my menfolk to think for me–morphed into, “I will choose some better menfolk, and if they are truly my menfolk, they won’t presume to think for me, but instead, think of me.” Percival Windham’s never again–Now that I’ve lost two brothers and my oldest son, I will never again take the succession for granted–also evolved (for the most part), such that what he never again took for granted the respect and love of his wife and children.

I have made some never again promises. I will never again ignore my instincts when I think a health care professional is on the wrong track. We are all going to die. I’d rather die of stubborn self-determination than pointless meekness, if those are my only choices (I hope they aren’t). I will never again team up with others authors do to an anthology unless we are all very clear on expectations before the writing begins. No more going along to get along. I will never again talk myself into a romantic relationship. (You hear me, Mr. Cumberbunny?)

Never agains are closely related to never evers, but never agains have backstory weight. They lurk in our awareness, waiting to test our resolve and our values, like the memory of that seventh grade teacher who believed we had “so much potential.”

Do you have never agains? Have you blown through any? Let them go? Let them evolve? Three commenters will go on my Miss Devoted ARC list.



Uncertainly Ever After

I’ve just sent Miss Devoted to the proofreaders (Happy New Year!) and this tale concludes as so many romance do, with love conquering all. Two characters who thought they knew where their path lay in life on page one have by the end of the book instead chosen love and all the uncertainty attendant there to.

When Michael Delancey and Psyche Fremont make that choice, they have to give up all the comforts of predictability and control, and instead learn to hold the balance between hope, adaptability, risk, and trust. When Samuel Johnson characterized second marriages as the triumph of hope over experience, he was missing the point. Somebody who can love after a significant loss has learned to weather uncertainty with courage and hope.

The pandemic gave us many opportunities to improve our tolerance for uncertainty. We go to the store, and still–still–know that some items we rely on won’t be in stock, or won’t be stocked in adequate quantity. So we just change our menus and hope for better luck with the avocados next week.

We plan a trip, knowing everything from weather turbo-charged by climate change, to the ubiquitous staffing shortages, to viruses that refuse to go away, might torpedo our plans. We travel anyway, and pack extra masks. We take on a new job though the work from home option might be shortly curtailed. We try the job on anyway.

Despite all of the maybes, what-ifs, and not-agains, we go forth, and have a new appreciation for how much security we took for granted a few years ago. That was then. And if we don’t build up our tolerance for uncertainty, then our alternative is to dither over all decisions, avoid any and all risks, and generally limit our lives and our relationships in the name of safety.

As a self-employed author, I have to make friends with uncertainty. People aren’t reading as voraciously as they did two years ago so sales are down (or more accurately, back to normal), but–thank the merciful powers!–I can once again nose around out in the world where most of my inspiration comes from, and that is a good trade. Artificial intelligence is threatening to destroy the whole career field of fiction writing; big tech has devalued books relentlessly; and pirates steal from authors daily with smug impunity.

Miss Devoted by Grace BurrowesAll true, but the world will also always need good stories, and I delight in trying to write them. Then too, part of what I hope good fiction does is fortify us again the buffeting of uncertainty. Romance tells us love triumphs, mysteries reassure us that the truth will out, and thrillers posit that one person can save the world if they’ll simply persist. I like hearing those messages, and that won’t change no matter in which direction the winds of fortune blow.

What risks do you take on willingly? Are you more or less tolerant of uncertainty than you were earlier in life? I’ll add three commenters to my ARC list for Miss Devoted.

The Big A-ha!

‘Tis the season to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, or maybe to see a version of A Christmas Carol (yes that’s Patrick Stewart ca 1999), and to marvel at how much change one pivotal night can make in a life.

I enjoy these tales of transformation, and I’ve enjoyed writing a few too. Nevertheless, part of me thinks the big a-ha makes for good entertainment, while real life is more often a matter of nigh imperceptible evolution (like cleaning my house).

I can though, recall some pivotal moments in therapy. When I faced unplanned motherhood, I began what was to become five straight years of weekly therapy. This was back before for-greed health care, and how I wish every new parent had support like that for even fifty minutes a week. One day after a few years of sessions, my therapist casually (hah!) observed, “So I guess nobody showed you how to do stuff when you were kid?”

I thought for a moment. “My brother Tom showed me how to tie my shoelaces.” Two bunny ears… I couldn’t think of any other situation where I’d been overtly instructed in the home. In that instant, I realized why I’d become an enthusiastic baker at age seven: A recipe tells you how to make something. Every ingredient, how much, what order, and how to mix them… detailed instructions. What a concept. Sheet music works the same way–it’s laid out in black and white, note for note.

Parents on constant, profound overwhelm don’t have the luxury of explaining much of anything to small children. Oh.

I saw a kinder perspective from which to view my parents and my own general distrust of authority. I got a clue as to another way I might be a helpful mother. I realized part of why music theory had such strong appeal for me. All from one simple question.

But that epiphany rested on a carefully built foundation of trust, courage, and truth. My therapist was brilliant at reflective listening, and she probably tossed out a hundred leading questions for every insight I eventually gained. I recall those moments, but I also recall that she showed up for me, week after week, and let me wander, mosey, barrel or backslide toward my issues, without any judgment on her part.

The insights are great to have, but the more profound gift was that slow, solid, unremarkable building of a positive relationship. That example did more to fortify me as a single mother, a woman, and a person than all the clever questions or big insights that also came out of the relationship.

Miss Devoted by Grace BurrowesDo have you had “life-changing moments,” or does change tend to come over you in gradual increments? Pretty soon, I will have ARCs of Miss Devoted, and I’ll draw some names from among this week’s commenters.

I’m giving myself a couple weeks hiatus from this blog, but will be back after the first of year, when Lady Violet Says I Do goes live on the retail sites! Happy holidays, bloggin’ buddies, and see you again in 2023!



The Forest for the Squirrels

I subscribe to Jane Friedman’s Electric Speed newsletter for writers, and in a recent post, she made the following point: In the Great British Bake Off annals, chefs often fail in one of two ways. One pitfall is a tendency to revisit failures. If a week went badly because the challenge involved souffle, and a given chef simply did not get the souffle gene, almost without exception that same chef will feel compelled to try another souffle and another later in the season, without notably unimpressive results.

There’s apparently a part of us that thinks, “If at first you don’t succeed, keep tilting at that windmill until you, Sancho Panza, and his donkey, just can’t even even…”

For writers this might mean forcing yourself to write in first person because some writing coach said the young adult genre works best that way, though you don’t like working first person and don’t much like reading it either.

The other recipe for failure noted among the chefs was the compulsion to go, “over the top.” To do more than the challenge required, to go big and go bust. In an effort to impress the judges, the actual goal–a good chocolate cake with only six ingredients, a dish that will feed four for less than $20 total–slips out of sight.

I’m feeling some tendency to play to my weaknesses and miss the forest as my sister’s visit comes closer. I well remember our mother’s houses, which were never showcases, but always wonderful. Bright colors, big windows letting in lots of light, comfy furniture in the right configurations… Mom kept a clean house and usually had wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. She had a knack for everything domestic from traffic patterns, to throw pillows, to African violets.

I did not get that gene, or if I did get it, the window for its expression was taken up with single parenting, paying bills, and going to the horse barn. My house is functional, mostly, but no sibling has visited here for twenty years. I want my sister to at least find the place adequate. Better if she thinks I dwell in a cool little farmhouse well suited to my needs.

Lady Violet Says I Do by Grace BurrowesThe temptation to go overboard–matching towels, curtains, rugs, and place mats–when I can’t Marie or Martha–is as ridiculous as it is real. The color of a towel doesn’t matter if it’s clean, and I haven’t used place mats for… have I ever used place mats? But here I am in the home stores–for the first time in years–looking at place mats.

I am having talks with myself about reasonable expectations, and “You are not your house, thank the merciful powers,” and, “Sister is not Simon Cowell…” but the tug, the wish that I could be more and do more as a home maker and hostess… it’s still there.

Are the looming holidays tugging at you to fret over any figurative place mats? Does this time of year call for genes you didn’t get? I still have some Lady Violet Says I Do e-ARCs if anybody’s interested (email me at [email protected]) and I’ve also made a little short story–Love Disguised–available for free on the web store (previously published in the anthology A Midsummer Night’s Romance).

Weighed in the Scales

The first week of the month I spend a fair amount of time toting up the previous month’s sales, especially for new releases. I want to know how Miss Dauntless‘s first month compares with Miss Delectable‘s (not as well, but a first in series title generally will lead the pack) and Miss Desirable‘s (a little better, oddly enough), particularly from retail platform to retail platform.

As rabbit holes go, sales tracking can become a whole job, especially when you have a lot of books published. Is any particular month best for new releases? Should books in a series be released three months apart? Four? Two? All at once? How do library sales affect retail sales? What is going on with my revenue?

And all of this glorious information has to be sifted against what genre I’m publishing, who else is releasing what else in various months, and what price points are in play. And let’s not forget about the alchemy of cover art!

As Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured gets managed.”

A lot of writers take it a step further, charting their word count totals day by day and even using little apps and extension to help them do that. We like to know how many books we’ve sold in total, in all languages (I have no idea), and where we rank on various bestsellers lists from book to book, if we’re lucky enough to hit those lists (and what month is the best for trying to hit a list, anyway?).

I find this emphasis on puts and takes a little ironic for a profession that knows, intimately, the futility of defining success exclusively through linear, measurable processes. Was Miss Delectable “more creative?” than Miss Desirable? You can’t measure that. Did Miss Devoted have more satisfying prose than the Last True Gentleman? You can’t measure that either. Was that two- thousand word scene I just whipped out in an hour any better storytelling than the six hundred words that took me all of yesterday afternoon?

I can’t measure that, and what I think is brilliant in draft tends look much less impressive come revision time.

Which book did I enjoy writing more? Why? What makes some books so hard to write? Others so easy? I will never forget the sheer ebullience with which I wrote The Duke’s Disaster. I drafted that story in 40 days flat and it was one of the easiest writing tasks I’ve ever completed… and I’m not sure why. What a Lady Needs for Christmas was another “book that wrote itself” though it’s not really even a Christmas story.

As we approach the end of the year, with tax season right around the corner, I want to resist the temptation to get lost in the numbers, and instead focus more on what cannot be measured. Am I happy with the books I’m writing? What does my creativity crave in the way of challenges and inspiration? What does my perfect writing “rest and recharge” day look like? What does that tell me about how to manage my imaginative resources?

Lady Violet Says I Do by Grace BurrowesThe numbers are important–up to a point–but things I cannot measure are important too. If I’m to keep writing joyously and consistently, the un-measurables–what piques my curiosity, what frosts my cookie, what makes me want to write scene after scene– are the critical aspects of what I do.

What do you measure? What non-measurable qualities are as important to you as the numbers? I will send out my Lady Violet Says I Do ARCs this week (if you want one, just email me and let me know what device you read on), and the print version is already on sale. Wheeee!


Dear Me

One of the tasks in the Great Preparation for my sister’s post-Christmas visit is to procure a guest bed that doesn’t date from before the flood. To the mattress emporium I did go, and a serviceable new bed I did get, but an aspect of the transaction has bothered me ever since.

I picked out the only suitable bed in the store, and sat down to write the exorbitant check, and the floor rep says to me, “I don’t accept checks. That ten or twelve day float creates too much opportunity for fraud, and that’s a risk I can’t take. I have two little kids and a wife who doesn’t work.”

He put it like that, as if maybe even the children are slacking. I did not explain to him that staying home to raise two kids is work, and I did not foghorn that check truncation means a ten or twelve day float is an artifact from the last century… You can take the lawyer out of the courtroom, but.

I paid up with my debit card, and left, and here’s hoping the bed I bought isn’t so horrible that I’m going to wish I’d written a check I could stop… What bothered me most about the whole encounter (besides paying that much for a cheesy bed), is that this man called me “dear,” repeatedly, despite having my complete, legal name staring him in the face.

“You know what I’m sayin’ dear?”

“Thanksgiving will be with family for me, and trust me, hon,  I’m not much of a family man…”

“You have a nice day, dear.”

His use of endearments in the course of a business transaction annoyed the living peedywaddles out of me, and I didn’t ask him to stop, which annoys me even more. Part of me thinks I should have splainy-splained to him that some women find the casual use of endearments from strangers uncomfortable or even offensive.

I don’t like it from anybody, but especially not from men, and this guy was not the Ancient of Days such that the fig leaves of yester-century can be plausibly handed to him.

Yes, I felt sorry for him. I don’t believe too many of us aspire to support a family of four on a mattress floor rep’s salary. I apparently didn’t feel sorry enough for him that I’d  tell him his presumptive use of endearments means I will sleep in the hay mow before I go back to that store. And so what if he doesn’t like hearing about my uppity-female-sensitivities, because I’m also peeved at him.

The argument that, “He didn’t mean anything by it….” is no argument at all, in the sense that his intentions are not more important than my perceptions (neither are they less important). He was on the job, taking money from me for goods, and I regard his behavior as unprofessional and backward. So why didn’t I raise the topic with him?

Lady Violet Says I Do by Grace BurrowesI have lost sleep over this (not a lot, and not in the hay mow… yet). Why not speak up? Not to educate him, not to improve the likelihood that he’ll make more sales going forward, but simply because he was addressing me in a manner I dislike. What seat-of-pants assessment did I make that mitigated in favor of silence?

What would you have done? Because if this happens again, I want to be prepared with a proactive strategy other than second-guessing myself and muttering about it for a week.

This week I’ll be taking names for the e-ARC of Lady Violet Says I Do, which will be released in print and on the web store on Dec. 13, and on the retail sites Jan. 3. Where has this year gone!




Being a Reader

I love the the long dark evenings that arrive with the colder months. Between holidays that I pretty much ignore, bad weather, and chilly temperatures, I have a lot of time to stay home and read.

I often keep several books going at once. I am reading one Regency romance now with an eye toward doing a blurb for the author. I’m also reading The Dip, by Seth Godin, subtitled, “A little book that teaches you when to quit and when to stick.” That one’s kinda off topic for me to be honest–a bathroom book. For nighty-night reading, I’m working my way through Ellis Peters’ Felse Investigations series. Scrumptious writing, meticulous research, and good plotting. Yum!

But if I had to pick one title to do a book report on, that would be Being a Human by Charles A. Foster.

The fundamental question of the book–Who are we and how did we get to be this way?–inspired Foster to live as a Cro-Magnon hunter/gatherer and then as a Neolithic farmer. The better to describe the impact of the Enlightenment on human development, he relied on his experience as an academic with fingers in so many smarty-pants pies I’d need another blog post to list them.

The book is sad in a lot of places–we’re befouling our own nest and have the dubious distinction of being the only animal that goes to war against its own kind. Nonetheless, the fundamental message is optimistic: If we’ll remember who we are, we can step back from much of our wrongheadedness, and live happier lives without imperiling our very planet.

As hunter-gatherers, our challenge was to get by with the fewest possessions necessary to eat, sleep out of the cold and wet (mostly), and get along with our neighbors. When you have to haul your worldly goods from place to place as the caribou move or the seasons change, your life can depend on traveling light. For nearly all of our behaviorally modern history, dying with the most toys was the definition of insanity.

When you reply on the natural world directly for everything, your quality of life depends on the breadth of your skill set. To thrive, you will need to know how to find dry tinder under a foot of snow, how to tell a great story, how to make a bunny into a boot, and what every cloud formation presages in terms of tomorrow’s weather. Honed senses and lifelong learning were our hallmarks of success, and any chance to acquire a new skill was worth investigating. Heaven help the hunter gatherer who decided to go for him MBA and then coast…

When you don’t own real estate, real estate doesn’t own you. The whole concept of private real property, upon which mono-crop agriculture, colonization, social hierarchy, kingdoms,  and a zillion other evils are built, was foreign to our nature for the huge majority of our history.

When the small band you’re born into is all that stands between you and death on a bad day, you take the well being of your kith and kin nearly as seriously as you do your own.

Foster is not suggesting that eight billion people can inhabit the planet in the same manner eight hundred thousand of our distant ancestors did, but he does make a case for a legacy of values that are highly relevant today. Eschew consumerism, stay passionately curious, treasure your people, treasure and respect nature for the miracle it is.

Those values resonate with me–admittedly often in the breach–and Foster makes an eloquent case for why they should.

So what about you? Read any good books lately?



The Friendlier Skies

I recently traveled from Maryland to Portland, OR, to see my daughter. This was my first big trip (though not a long trip) since 2019. I was prepared for traveling skills to have atrophied–traveling skills too— but to my pleasant surprise, I did OK.

Packed enough but not too much, and brought the right stuff for Portland’s weather. I remembered all the necessary medications, power cords, and toiletries. Got through airport everything without setting off alarms or being paged to return to my vehicle. Had the right stuff–parking chit, rental car contract, driver’s license, hotel room key–at the right time, even though my computer died the morning of departure (and has subsequently self-revived… go fig).

So I’m pretty pleased with that aspect of the adventure. Even better, I got to see Beloved Offspring, meet her Sig O, meet her pony (she called him my grand-pony. I maintained a diplomatic silence), and had some Good Talks ‘Bout Family Stuff. Nobody knows me the way my daughter does. Nobody extant has lived with me as long as she has. I delight in her company.

And–be still my thumpin’ tail–as an unlooked for joy, my younger brother just happened to be driving clear across Oregon to see the state-wide high school cross country meet, and we managed to connect for lunch. That was so special I could just about do nip-ups.

What wasn’t so special was the actual air travel. My reading light did not work (in business class, because all those old unused miles…). The guy next to me could not get his seat back to remain upright. The wi-fi on the plane coming home was “intermittent,” meaning worthless. The food was ridiculous. The plane had no seat-back screens. Everything was “download the app,” and I consider most apps to be commercial spyware, so nopity-nope. The PA system for the pilots broadcast mostly static.

Three years ago, I would probably have been annoyed, or filled out some survey with a lot of cranky comments (writers gonna write), or said something to the flight crew. Now? I am just so happy the planes are flying, so happy I could see my kid, so happy the hotel was open and the sheets were clean… My standards have come down and my joy has gone up. I tipped like a boss, thanked everybody at the airports, hotel, and restaurants, and still just want to hug the world because I got to see my daughter, and I’m home safe and sound.

My joy has gone up , and so has my hope. Maybe I can pop out to Portland again next spring and stay for more than a couple days. Then too, it takes me no longer to fly to Scotland than it does to fly to Oregon…

I don’t like traveling in a plane that’s getting rickety in the details, but I’m no longer concerned with amenities when the main priority–safe travel–is attended to. I took for granted that I could always just hop in a plane and go see family, and I will never take that for granted again.

What aren’t you taking for granted these days? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Yuletide Gems!