Elaine Carlson will provide weekly columns to the Beat.

More Extracts from the Diary of a Not Particularly Mad Woman

By Elaine Carlson

I remember talking with my mother about people who make crossword puzzles. But does anyone make Sudoku Puzzles? I mean except for the professionals who make them for the companies that sell them to the newspapers?
My mother had a good friend who wrote a column for a newspaper. In one she related her experiences of having a husband who was a soldier in the Second World War. Near the end of the war she did not know where he was or what he was doing because the War Department was able to completely block information on the war from getting out.

She tells how she had a baby while her husband was gone. It was only later when she learned her son was born on D Day. And that her husband had been at the action then. She was lucky because her husband was not killed or injured in the fighting. And she had a son.

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The Strange Request I Got

By Elaine Carlson

 "Hello. I just want to touch bases with you," the first message said. "Can I ask you for a small favor?"

My mother died almost twenty years ago. This week someone with the same name as a co-owner of the Assisted Living Center (ALC) where she lived for the last several years of her life sent me that message. Right away I replied and said I would do whatever she wanted me to do.

She was also quick to respond.

"Actually, I need to get an Amazon E-gift card for my niece. It's her birthday today," she said. "I tried purchasing one but my card got declined."

She asked, "Could you get it on Amazon and have it sent to her email address? Let me know so I can provide you with her address."

Read more ...

The Novel Project

By Elaine Carlson

 First Day

It was three or four days ago when I set my mind on writing a novel. I admit it isn't a new idea but now I have to get going.

The first thing I did was set up a Writing Journal. Word Usage will be a big part – mainly the words (or word usage) I want to keep out of my writing.

I set up a list of Forbidden Words: propitious; plethora; splendiferous; eventuate; and transpire. I want to avoid such clunky words. But then I guess the obvious exception is for words used in conversations. A reader will learn a lot about a character who uses the word "splendiferous" especially as a guest commenting on the food served in a meal.

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Wrong Decision, Period

By Elaine Carlson

My cousin just sent me pictures of the 2 teachers and 17 of the 19 children who were killed in that mass shooting in Texas. I cried when I looked at their class photos in those small rectangular spaces on that page. Gawd dang how come the news can get to be so sad?

“From the benefit of hindsight where I'm sitting now, of course it was the wrong decision --- period,” Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Steven McCraw told reporters at a press conference on Friday.

“When it comes to an active shooter, you don't have to wait on tactical gear, plain and simple.”

“There's no excuse for that,” McCraw said but quickly added, “But again, I wasn't there.”

In his remarks, McCraw was referring to the call by the on-scene commander at the time of Tuesday's attack to not enter the classroom where an 18-year-old gunman had been located for more than an hour.

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Yeah Gads --- 775 Is A Lot of Rooms

by Elaine Carlson

I was happy after I woke up and stumbled into the kitchen to learn that right away I could fix my coffee. For about the last three weeks I have been grinding my own coffee beans. I am sure those freshly ground beans make much better coffee than the coffee in the cans I used to buy. 

I can barely think of a more horrible way to start a day than to realize that the night before I forgot to grind any coffee. I know it doesn't really take me long to do that small chore but any wait to get coffee into my system causes a strain. 

Besides using my grinder yesterday, I cleaned my kitchen. While I am sitting and drinking my coffee I look at and admire my clean place - such a pleasure.

I went around and put stuff into those sturdy trash bags with ties. As I went through the kitchen (and to a lesser extent the rest of the house) I kept saying, “This has to go.” But seven bags? That just means I buy too much.

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Are Records An American Phenomenon?

By Elaine Carlson

When I think of superlatives I think about questions of geographic extremes. Like on earth what is the tallest mountain? The highest mountain? The longest river? The answers are Mount Kea in Hawaii (32,696 feet from base to top); Mount Everest (29,029 feet above mean sea level); and the Nile (4,132 miles). Just think if that fellow who in 1994 set up an online bookstore had decided to name it after the longest river in the world a lot of us would now be buying books and a lot of other things from Nile. 

The worlds of sports, publishing, buildings (the Empire State Building was only the tallest building in the world for 67 years but the Great Pyramid in Egypt was for 3,800 years), art and music all have records.

Recently America has had many mass shootings. And always a large part of the reporting concentrates on how the current mass shooting stands out from earlier such crimes – for example how it has more victims, the suspect is younger or traveled farther to commit the crime. 

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Unintended Consequences

by Elaine Carlson

Sunday I survived another Mother's Day after my mother has been gone. At first I thought I would concentrate on other matters. I guess I should have known I would not be able to forget what day it was

On Mother's Day when I was seven, I fixed and served breakfast in bed to my mother. I carefully fried two eggs over easy, fixed the toast and poured a glass of orange juice. I don't remember if I fried bacon for that meal but I probably did. That day she didn't have a cup of coffee with her breakfast because I didn't know how to fix it. I was happy when she thanked me and said the breakfast was very lovely.

All these years later I don't remember what mother did after she ate her breakfast. But I am sure the most likely thing she did was get out of bed and do what she thought she, as a mother, was supposed to do -- fix breakfast for her four children. And she most likely fixed coffee.

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Something to Look Forward To

A Short Story by Elaine Carlson

 "You're talking about my cousin," I say. "She is the strenuous one."

"What we are talking about is a little bit of walking," Diane says. "You don't need to be all that strenuous to walk." .

"You want me to do too much," I say. "That's crazy to say that to be fit I have to walk ten miles a day."

"Start out by doing two miles," she said. "Just take it by steps – from two miles you can increase to ten miles. You will feel better."

Diane was my fitness coach.

Read more ...

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