Have a Marlis Day!

daddyThe lawn needed mowing but the golf clubs called. It was a hot, summer day when a neighbor snapped this picture and sent it to the local paper. We mused over the article and life’s decisions. Little did anyone know it it was probably his last chance to play golf or his last time to mow the yard.  Only days later his obituary appeared in the same paper. He taught school on Friday, got up to play in a golf tournament on Saturday but passed away instead of an aneurysm. He was 54.

I think of him of Father’s Day. I think of all he missed by not being able to retire and take those long-awaited trips with Mom. It was 1967 and he didn’t know about computers, microwaves, or cell phones. He missed the moon landing and walking my little sister down the aisle. Mostly, I regret that he didn’t get to meet his grandchildren. How proud he would have been when first grandchild was crowned Miss Knox County and later received a degree in optometry. I bet he would have carried her picture in his billfold. I can imagine him bragging to his friends about his grandson in pharmacy school. Being a former athlete, he would have delighted in my sister’s kids excelling in sports. His last grandchild inherited his artistic ability. I see him in the grandkids and they ask about him. It makes me sad on Father’s Day that he missed so many of life’s joys. I’m always glad when it’s over.


book boxAttention, Booklovers! While visiting my niece in Colorado Springs, my sister and I took the baby on daily walks. We often passed these British-style boxes, which I thought at first glance were for mail. Actually, they are for book exchanges. What a splendid idea! When you finish a book, just slip in into one of these boxes near your home and hopefully find one you’d like to read. The top shelf held children’s books, the lower half for adults. According to my sister, these boxes are also common in her son’s neighborhood in Boise. What a great idea! Avid readers often read the same books and share favorite authors. My book club reads mostly best-sellers with a sprinkling of classics and biographies. Some readers save every book for their own shelves, while others, like me, keep only favorites and pass on the rest. However, I don’t see these working in our small community, since we can borrow books at our community library, on the honor system, keep as long as we wish and return with no worry of overdue fines. Actually, kids who roam the streets would probably have fun desecrating these tiny shrines to literature by stuffing a dead cat or other disgusting item into them. Not to mention the fun of spray painting the f word onto the little roof or twisting off the swinging door. I’m not being a pessimist, my friends; these are the acts I witness at the local community center. How fortunate are the book lovers who live in these lovely neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and cul-de-sacs. They are the ones who would benefit from these clever book boxes. I’m still glad I live in the country, where I can make a five-minute run to the library, or simply whip out my Kindle. But it is a splendid idea.


When I was a child, medicine hurt. Scrapes and cuts were first rinsed with alcohol, then dabbed with merthiolate. In case you’re not familiar with this dark red antiseptic containing mercury and sodium, which has since been banned by the FDA, it burned like Hades! If that didn’t do the trick parents and teachers dabbed the wound with iodine, also pain intensive. Even oral medicine was so putrid, I wept each time it was poured into the tablespoon for my strep throat. In a brave effort to comfort me, my grandpa said “Oh, it can’t be that awful” and took a swig from the bottle. His eyebrows hit his hairline and I swear I saw smoke blast from his ears. Once my small cousin was the unfortunate victim of a “finger in the car door” incident. I still shudder as her grandmother and mine insisted that she dip it into a jug of turpentine. “The best thing for smashed fingers,” they said in unison. It took a thousand pounds of grandmas and aunts to hold little Cheryl down for the finger treatment. But it did no good to fight the system; they were big – we were little. Today, a child’s cut or scrape is sprayed with first aid mist, which they find cool and soothing. Then a happy band-aid is applied. Of course it doesn’t hurt when taken off, in contrast to ours which took skin with it. And splinters in bare feet. What kid doesn’t remember thrashing about the bed while her dad, with a firm grasp on her ankle, dug into the bottom of her foot with a needle? Today when kids get splinters, adults agree: just leave it alone; it’ll work itself out. It was scary to be a kid in my day.

A loose tooth? Just tie it to a string and fasten it to a door knob. Slam the door and she won’t feel a thing. Yeah, right. My dentist wouldn’t even use Novocain when he drilled our teeth. “It’s not so bad,” the adults said. “Just for extractions” said the masochistic dentist,  who looked a lot like depictions of Satan. When a child choked on a fish bone at our family’s annual fish fry, the adults forced the child to eat several slices of white bread to “push it down.” Once that didn’t work and little Larry was flopped screaming onto the tabletop, his mouth held open while someone probed his throat with tweezers for the offending bone. I didn’t eat fish for twenty years. There was even a time when burns were thought to be best treated with hot water – as hot as you can stand. Oh, the pain. Now a splashy cold bath for a child’s burn. I’m glad times have changed. No wonder all kids thought of running off and joining a circus in my day. I won’t even get into corporal punishment and how every adult had the right to whack us, no questions asked. In fact, if your parents found out, you got it again. We came through childhood and I suppose it  made us tougher. I developed a slight stutter, while a lot of my friends chewed their fingernails or wet their beds. But we made it and have mountains of happy memories. But I’ll always ask: What was with the pain??



I read some fascinating books last year, and being a teacher I feel a need to assign each a grade. Hope you will pick some for your 2016 list.

A+  All the Light We Cannot See, Cutting for Stone, When I Found You, The Signature of All Things

A  The Nightingale, The Light Between Oceans, The Housemaid’s Daughter, The Girls of Atomic City, Rogue Lawyer, Leaving Time, The House We Grew Up In, The End of Your Life Book Club

A-  I Am the Messenger, Trail of Broken Wings, Orange is the New Black, The Girl on the Train, The Invention of Wings, Big Little Lies, Molly Murphy Mysteries

I didn’t list authors, but you can find them online. Please leave your favorite titles for me in the “comment” section. Cheers! Marlis

daleTis the Season…Dr.Dale Glenn and I signed lots of books at the South Knox Craft Show on Saturday. His book, Purcell Station, is set in Decker, IN, so he creates a lot of interest. The show was huge, with an estimated 1700 in attendance. My Margo Brown mysteries are only available now as e-books, but I had plenty of my Bailey’s Chase novels for middle-grade readers.  It was fun meeting and greeting all the readers. A signed book always makes a good Christmas present. : )

Happy Holidays, Everyone!


Mary Welk 1So sad to hear of the passing of a dear friend and mystery writer, Mary Welk of Chicago area. She and her friends came to our book club several years ago and sang “Going to Monroe City” to the tune of “Kansas City.” Mary played the guitar. Our group loved the singing, dancing, booktalks, and books these “Mystery Mavens” brought to our small town. Mary and Luisa Beuhler spent the night at my home and enjoyed the hot tub with me. Sandra Tooley and Alex Matthews stayed at a hotel. Mary was my first friend when I joined Mystery Writers of America and I always enjoyed visiting with her at conferences. Not only a great writer, she was the mother of six, wonderful grandmother of many little ones, and a retired nurse who really never retired for caring for others, and sometimes a stand-up comedian. Love you and miss you, Mary. Make the angels laugh!

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It all started when I spotted this allusive cat near my home. Always a sucker for calico cats, I had no idea what this would lead to. It seemed harmless to leave a little cat food on the edge of the deck. At first she came at night, accepted my offering, and returned to the safety of the woods. Weeks passed and she became more bold as I watched from my deck chair. After tossing bits of tuna in her direction, I finally had her purring and eating from my hand. It all seemed so good at the time. A feral cat no longer, she began sleeping on the cushion of my front porch swing allowing me to stroke her back as I read. I called her Marmalade, after the cat in my Bailey’s Chase novels. It was nice to have a cat after so many years of cat-hating dogs.

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Then she showed up one day with a family. Okay, I thought, I’ll just find homes for them.And I did, except for Storm, the little wild-eyed stiped one. Storm refused to conform to domestication and never allowed human touch…only food. Being responsible, I had Marmalade spayed. It wasn’t long until two grown females from Marmalade’s previous litters showed up at the edge of the woods, sneaking onto the deck at night searching for food. She showed great affection for these two daughters and longed to share her good fortune. Of course, I felt sorry for these hungry, wild cats, so I sprinkled more dry food about.

Imagine my shock when they both brought up families. Now I had three grown females and six half grown kittens…all desperately wild except Marmalade. I could only imagine how many cats I would have when the young reproduced. Someone told me the adults have two litters a year. Yikes! I could have a hundred cats in a year! They would decimate the songbirds and small wildlife population in my area. With the growing tribe, Marmalade moved entirely to the front porch, avoiding the upcoming drama.

I called the Animal Shelter in Vincennes. They told me of a free spay & neuter program for feral cats. All I had to do was catch them, bring them in early on a Tuesday for surgery, pick them up later the same day, and return them to the wilds…my backyard and woods.

Now. How to catch them? I moved my dog Gypsy’s kennel onto the back porch and began leaving cat food near it. Suspicious eyes watched, leery of the new black cage. However, hunger prevailed and one by one, they crept up, grabbed a mouthful of kibble and dashed to safety under the deck. A few days later, I moved the bowl of feed near the door of the kennel. They cautiously came, darting in and out when they saw me or heard the door open. I decided it was time to introduce tuna, so I left some sprinkled about.Then I mixed tuna with catfood and put the bowl inside the kennel. It was too much temptation for the felines. I waited until I knew they were good and hungry for my move. Imagine their shock when I slipped out and slammed the door shut trapping four inside.

It was not pretty, my friends. The captives screamed and yowled, crashing into the sides of the pen until I feared they would break it down. With foam dripping down their chins, the frenzied cats bit at the sides of the kennel. Only when I covered it with a blanket did they settle down. The next morning they hissed and bit at me as I carted them to the friendly vet, warned him, and left. When I returned I learned how the vet tranquilized them through the cage, then removed them for the procedure. Smart. Repeating the process, I caught them all, each coming home with a cropped right ear to signify they were sterile. My son said I was a responsible citizen. It felt good.Only on the last catch, did I rush the cage so quickly I lost my footing and sat down hard on the concrete porch. Nothing broke, but I walked funny for a few days. I think my feral cats enjoyed that part of the whole business.

Hi! I'm Marlis.

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