Missing Dessert

I’ve mentioned before that there were seven kids in our family, and we all ate breakfast and dinner together, three kids to a side around a gray Formica and chrome table. (It was the Fifties after all, and the plastic covering the kitchen chairs featured the same pattern as the Formica tabletop.) With our parents at either end, the three boys sat on a bench on one side, with their backs facing the kitchen windows. The three girls sat on the other. The baby, our youngest sister, was in a wooden homemade high chair next to our mother and, at breakfast time, the toaster!

Evie Busk’s rules for eating were simple: Eat a little bit of everything and everything on your plate! Oh, and no dessert unless those plates were clean. The “little bit of everything” affected different people in different ways and did not apply to our dad who was excused for the “everything rule” because he refused to eat tomatoes no matter what. Our parents made it clear that our family didn’t function as a democracy. Parental units were definitely in charge!

But back to that “little bit” bit. For me the dreaded vegetable was parsnips. To my way of thinking, they’re bitter and worse than useless. In the mid-Nineties, Bill and I traveled through the Midwest. On a stop in Milbank, South Dakota, I was both surprised and disappointed when my mashed potatoes came complete with hunks of parsnips lurking inside.

For my younger brother, Jim, the bane of his existence was green peas. As the middle one of the boys, he was always seated in the middle of the boys’ bench. One night at dinner, he began to heave. “What’s the matter?” my father asked. “Have you got a pea in your mouth?” “No,” Jim managed, “two!” What followed was an eruption that is still memorable to the two boys seated on either side of him.

After cleaning our plates, then came dessert. My mother often made puddings—chocolate, butterscotch, and Tapioca– which she served in her best dishes—the blue bubble glassware that had come to the folks as wedding presents from their 1936 wedding. I personally despised the butterscotch variety, but the “everything on your plate” rule applied to dessert as well.

And now, all of my mother’s family dining rules apply in my writing career just as much as they did back in the family kitchen on Yuma Trail in Bisbee.

In writing, I have to deal with “a little bit of everything.” That means replying to interview requests and responding to emails—including the countless daily requests offering to put advertising on my website and Facebook page. Those receive a standard reply: REMOVE ME FROM YOUR LIST! If I’m working on one book, I’m not allowed to wander off thinking about the next one until I clean my plate of the current one. And only after finishing a manuscript completely am I allowed dessert. Those vary. Sometimes they’re small things like having a long-delayed mani-pedi.

This past weekend I finished work on the next Joanna book, Missing and Endangered. I put in some very long hours, missing my 10,000-step goal two days in a row. In other words, I spent several days with my nose to the grindstone and shoulder to the wheel. It’s hardly surprising then, that on Monday morning of this week, I woke up with the sniffles.

The whole time I was on the banana peel and working like crazy, I had my eye on the dessert that was coming my way when I finished the manuscript—attending the Tucson Festival of Books and, two weeks later, embarking on a Disney Wonder cruise.

When my sniffles appeared on Monday morning, it was possible that they were caused by pollen-related allergies. My understanding is that the pollen count in the area is off the charts right now, but you’d never know it by watching the local news which is one-hundred percent Coronavirus one-hundred percent of the time.

I worked my way down the list. Allergies? Possibly. A spring time cold? If I’m going to have a cold, that’s usually when I get one. The flu? Maybe. Coronavirus? Maybe, too, but since Bill and I had barely ventured out of the house for the past couple of weeks, that seemed unlikely. Still, since we live in Bellevue, next door to Kirkland, aka Coronavirus Central, I didn’t want to risk going to TFOB and playing Typhoid Mary to bunches of unsuspecting fans.

So on Monday morning, I crafted a note to the festival expressing my regrets and saying I wouldn’t be attending. I received a note by return mail from Bill Viner saying that later in the day they would be sending out a press release saying the festival had been canceled entirely. Later that same day, we received an email saying that the Centers for Disease Control were recommending that people our ages, which is to say North of seventy, should NOT embark on cruises. So Disney Wonder is currently off the list as well.

Now we’re at home with our dogs, enjoying an unexpectedly travel-free moment in our lives. Once I finish writing this blog, I’ll get up off my chair and go get the rest of my steps, and while I’m at it, I’ll be wondering what the hell I’m going to write next. Because now it’s Ali’s turn, and I need another plate to clean.

I’m pretty sure dessert will be out there somewhere.

PS WASH YOUR HANDS! The flu is still out there, and it generally kills 20,000 people a year. You don’t want to be one of them, and neither do I!

15 thoughts on “Missing Dessert

  1. I enjoy your blogs and life experiences especially since I am about the same age as you.
    I also had a bout with sniffles and a cough but no fever, even though you kinda wonder if its the flu or what. Then my husband got it a week later and still has a cough but no fever or congestion.
    Unfortunately we need to go grocery shopping, etc. and again have to go for a run for toilet paper and paper towels if we can find any at all. Walmart was totally out yesterday so we will try more stores and hope for the best.
    The reason the stores are out of staples is because they warned you to stock up in case you were confined to home for two weeks. So people went out and bought enough for a year, go figure.
    Hope you are feeling better now and I look forward to another of your books.

  2. With a very possible COVID exposure, we’ve been staying home. Never over 50 years have we had so much togetherness. By this time I’m just hoping we’re still married when this all passes.
    Thank heavens for ebooks and audiobooks.
    (My son gagged and threw up his peas, too.)

  3. Our daughter always asked for chocolate milk when we had peas. She would leave some in the bottom to cover up the peas she put in there(while taking a drink) . She thought she was so clever! We figured if she worked that hard to avoid them, let her.
    As of yesterday pretty much all sports have been canceled, along with all of Disney’s parks. Stay safe and keep on keeping on. I just got an email from Lake Stevens library. All the Sno-Isle libraries ,23 of them, are closed. Online services will remain accessible.

  4. I just started working at a Bingo business. I had no idea, definitely not like the fair bingo I used to play. Oh well, a new life experience and I get paid too. Some people are at every session, some wear masks, some bring disinfectant wipes. Interesting to see if attendance drops as the kids are out of school for a while and other things have been cancelled too. Since October it’s been deaths or serious illnesses for my friends, no deaths recently but now it’s the virus. So ready for something positive and happy! Stay safe and enjoy your time at home.

  5. Glad you’re taking care of yourselves. Those table manners and rules are very familiar to me. So is the formica table (from Sears as I recall). Stewed tomatoes was what brought me to the point of conflict with my Dad, who enforced the rules at the table in our house. Lol. When I first got married, many moons ago, my husband and I made new rules. Singing was allowed at the dinner table and you ate what you wanted.

  6. We have battened down the hatches! Made arrangements for all food delivery, Pharmacy’s on board . Grabbed some cash and filled the car with gas..
    AZ. Is well and warmer . We have rain this week for a few days I don’t think I have ever seen rain come down so fast and so hard. I’ve lived in The Seattle area and California but never have we had such a down pour. I am looking forward to your new book ..
    The spread of this horrible virus is a world disaster, your smart to stay in. As older adults with health problems we need to self control our environment. We are FaceTiming our granddaughter . Our daughter is a health care professional so she is on the front line and we worry but pray it will all go away with help from above..
    Enjoy your time home walk walk and eat well ??..Jan

  7. What a wonderful post.
    I’m 71 and connected with your post.
    I was supposed to be flighting from Spokane,Wa. to Tucson for the Festival.
    Sorry it is cancelled, but we have to consider of health.
    May we sometime meet.
    My daughter & family live in Lake Stevens, WA.
    She interviewed you once at the TV station.
    Take Care!

  8. I really enjoy all your books and your blog. We also had the Formica table but ours was green. There was a rule in our house that you had to eat at least a teaspoonful of everything. The only exception was I would have a hamburger patty whenever we had liver. I did the same thing your brother did with the peas…twice. That rule also stood for the grandchildren. My niece was about 3 at the time and she had eaten only half her lunch. We had cake for dessert and she said she wanted some. My mom told her she had only eaten half her lunch. Without missing a beat she said “Give me half a piece then.” Yes, she got half a piece. We figured if she could come back with that so fast she deserved it plus she had a logical point.
    I am sorry to hear you are feeling puny. Hope you are better soon. Also sorry you had to cancel your cruise. Disney canceled all their upcoming cruises so hopefully you won’t lose your money.
    Maybe during this time families will go back to the dinner around the table together. Maybe they will actually have true family time again.
    Praying you and Bill stay safe and well.
    Can’t wait for the next book.

  9. Have read and enjoyed all of your books. And read your blog every week. You are an inspiration on staying in shape, but here in Arizona our “leaders”, in the community have decided to “protect” us. Most of the locals I know work to stay in shape, but the polititions are putting a damper on it.
    Sun City West just shut everything down for 2 weeks: library closed, all clubs closed, can’t swim, work out gyms closed, woodshop closed, even locked up the tennis court so you can’t even hit a ball against the wall,(go figure that one out), not sure about the dog park, but all the golf courses are still open. That would have cost them to much money, so they left them open.
    They probably would have closed the walking track, but that doesn’t have a fence around it, so they had to leave it open.
    That means I’m going back to Washington, where I can at least walk hills, and hope they haven’t shut down my local gym.

  10. I enjoy your books tremendously and now that I’ve signed up for your blog posts, I am enjoying those too.

    I remember family meals and how wonderful they were. Our family was small since my brother and I were the only children but my Daddy’s mother lived with us till I was almost out of high school. So thank for these good memories.

    I too am north of seventy and am actually enjoying staying in with my dog and two cats. I am catching up on reading and Netflix!

    Glad you mentioned flu – kind of puts things in perspective.

  11. I hope you have another JP Beaumont book coming. Those are my favorite. Thanks for all of your good reads over the years.

  12. Hello Judy, Was living in another universe somewhere and was not aware that you had a regular blog. Why would you not…?. You are a writer and one of my favorites and especially since we go way back to Marriage Encounter in Kirkland/Seattle. You came to our house in Gig Harbor for dinner the day that you had just submitted the final draft on one of your books. Don’t remember which one but think it was one of the Native American family stories that was just the one book kind. Anyway I am happy that you have another book coming in August and will just reread one that I have here until then. Sorry that you are also homebound as are we. We were moved to St. George, Utah in June of 2017 by one of our kids or we would still be in the NW with the rest of the family. Have wondered how your daughter is doing. I know that her husband(AF) died after I had run into her at the pharmacy on Ft. Lewis. She saw I was reading one of your books and introduced her self. We had a nice chat. Small world??? Now you must spend more of your time up there and I envy you are able to be there. We miss it even the rain. Anyway, glad to get the update on the next book and hope that you are able to stay well and maybe you will be able to do the cruise later. Hopefully the virus will be squashed in short order and things will return to relative normalcy. Whatever that is! Will start to check into your blog on a regular basis. Find it most interesting……Like running into an old friend unexpectedly. Take care and think about another Beaumont story one of these days. He was the one that got me hooked on your books. Blessing……

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