Madonna and Child

When I first heard about how Madonna (no last name necessary) had arranged to adopt an African boy, I didn’t like it. Why? Not because he’s black and she’s white. A needy child is a needy child. My disapproval came from the fact that the boy is not an orphan. His father, indigent as well as overwhelmed at the loss of most of his family from illness, placed him in an orphanage out of desperation. When I heard this, my first thought was, ‘Why can’t she bring the father home with her as well? Give him a job or something so that he still has contact with his son.’

I can’t imagine how devastating it must be to allow your child to be taken from you because you are too poor to provide even the basics. I remember a TV movie with Mare Winningham that depicted this very situation about 15 years ago; and the final scene of that film, showing the mother sobbing her heart out as she abandoned her little girl in a park and watched from behind a tree as the DCF staffers she called picked the child up, remains vivid to me even today.

Then came the explosion. The father, perhaps having second thoughts about being so far away from his son, claimed he didn’t understand the details of the arrangement, that he believed his son would come home after X amount of years, having regained his health. Madonna, of course, was maligned in the press as trying to buy the child’s way out of the country quickly, three steps ahead of the law.

I don’t know how this situation will end. I just feel that if Madonna hadn’t attempted to break up this family, or if she’d arranged to adopt an actual orphan instead, she probably would be back home in London with the new addition to her family.
My Favorite Time of Year

I've always loved autumn, when the air is crisp and cool and smells fresher than at any other time of year, and when the leaves change from green to glorious. I missed it all those years I lived in Florida.

Something else indicative of fall: The increasing ads for candidates running for election. Personally, I can't wait for the elections to be over. Not because I'm anxious to know the outcome, but because I'm sick of it. I'd like to be able to drive past an open field without it being lined with ads, or pass a telephone pole that's not plastered with some candidate's face. I'd like to be able to watch a TV show without hearing all those attack ads. I've lived in Illinois just over six months, yet I recognize the voice of a candidate in one of the major races (I can't even say which one it is, but it's a big one, since those damn ads have been running as long as I've been up here) without even seeing her, from her opponent saturating the airwaves with coverage of her committing one faux pas after another, always ending with the tagline: "What's she thinking?"

Unfortunately, Election Day comes late this year, since November 1st falls on a Wednesday, pushing the first Tuesday in November back as far as it can go.

It's going to be a long fourteen days . . . .
Preparing to write my butt off

During November I'll be joining thousands of writers participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. The objective is to write 50,000 words in 30 days (that breaks down to 1,667 words for each of 30 days.)

Of course, 50,000 words doesn't make a novel - even short novels are longer than that - but it makes a hell of a good first draft that can be fleshed out at a later time. I've been outlining an idea for a sequel to one of my earlier romances that readers have been asking for since 2002 (the future heroine was still in high school at that time, and I didn't want to write the story a year later and make her twenty-five, like dog years.) I still haven't completed the synopsis, but the story has legs and a theme.

Will I succeed in completing 50,000 words, even without cooking Thanksgiving dinner? Probably not. Will I do better than I did last year? Absolutely. Hell, even 25,000 words is a good start.

Any writers out there having trouble getting started or on a routine? Check out NaNoWriMo. Their website is .
In the nick of time plus it's too late, baby

I'm running a week behind, and today it all caught up with me.

My plan for last weekend was to go to the post office and ship all the prizes (CDs, T-shirts, autographed books) I've been giving away through my website, through Internet chats, and drawings at book signings, plus autographed bookplates to readers and to bookstores where my titles sell particularly well. Seems perfectly reasonable, right?

I'm currently on a temp assignment, which a) gets me out of this tiny apartment we're renting up here; b) gets me around live people with interesting careers I can ask them about and use for my characters, c) allows me to do some marketing of my books to employees; and, finally d) puts a few bucks in the household coffers while I wait for that next royalty to show up in November. Why am I telling you this, you ask? Because post offices in this quiet suburban area (which makes Jacksonville, Florida, look like New York City) are only open during business hours. Getting to one during the week when I'm on an assignment is next to impossible.

The trouble started a week-and-a-half ago, when I developed a sharp, stabbing pain in my side. It got worse as the day went on. I called my husband, who brought me to the ER (of course, being new to the area, we had to get directions to the nearest hospital.) I was diagnosed with a ruptured ovarian cyst and stayed there until eleven o'clock that night, when they sent me home with orders to rest.

At three the next afternoon I was dozing off (doctor's orders, right?) when my husband called from his office. He just learned his mother had been admitted to the hospital with numerous symptoms, which meant we (that means me) had to pack up and drive (that means him) 80 miles to Northwest Indiana (by the way, rush hour traffic in Chicago is to be avoided at all costs.) We spent the next six days there, and my mother-in-law is recovering nicely, thank God.

Because of all the illnesses, the prizes I was supposed to send out last weekend got pushed to this weekend. So was my intention when I rolled out of bed this morning at a later-than-usual 8AM. I burned CDs, printed out CD and jewel case labels, signed bookplates, and made up mailing labels. Then I realized I had to refer to my e-mail for a friend who had wanted bookplates for some of her friends, since I didn't know their names. That's when I saw the e-mail in my Inbox with this subject line:

"Interview, October 14th."

Oh, my God! Today is October 14th. In all the excitement of the last week and my anxiousness to get these prizes shipped I'd completely forgotten about the radio interview I was supposed to do. My mind raced as I scanned through the e-mail. There were the directions to the studio, which I highlighted and printed. So far, so good. Then I looked for a mention of what time they wanted me. Nothing. Shit. That meant this had been provided in an earlier e-mail. But surely it was sometime in the morning; who does interviews in the evening? Wait a minute; it's coming back to me. Hadn't my contact said something about 10:30, 11?

I checked the time. 10:55AM. Great. Here I was, still in my sleep shirt, holding an e-mail with directions and having no telephone number to let them know I was running late.

After a few moments of what-do-I-do-now, I decided to make a run for it. After all, it wasn't a live interview. I had some wiggle room. So what if I was fifteen minutes late? At least the studio wasn't far away, in downtown Waukegan. I'd been over that way once when the agency sent me to a law firm, so I pretty much knew where it was. I threw on some jeans, a t-shirt, decided I could spare a few seconds to put on some socks, grabbed a jacket and my purse and hit the door. I ran a comb through my hair while I drove, after checking the directions to see where I was supposed to turn. I looked like Who Did It And Ran, but after all, it wasn't a TV interview. Nobody would see me other than the staff.

Traffic was surprisingly heavy, considering I was heading east on a road that dead ended at the shores of Lake Michigan. Where were all these people going? Still, I managed to get there at 11:12. The interviewer and the control man were very gracious.

The interview went well, but unfortunately, by the time I got back home and packed up everything (God forbid I send a book autographed to Martha to Ginger) it was 12:54PM, six minutes before the post office closed. The post office is close to where I live, but it's not that close.

You've probably guessed this by now, but I will have to try for next week. Our local post office is equipped with an automated postal clerk, but I've got some international pieces to send, and I don't think a machine is going to allow me to post parcels for South Africa and Vietnam.

Next weekend, come the proverbial hell or high water, I will get to the post office. All you folks who are awaiting for your prizes, rest assured I haven't forgotten you. You've just gotten caught up in the crazy world of Bettye Griffin, Novelist.
Friday the 13th

As I get older my superstition about Friday the 13th being unlucky has lessened until completely gone. Today was an ordinary day, nothing special.

Now, if only I can do something about my fear of the full moon . . . .
Baby, It’s Cold Outside

I am about to live through my first full winter in 17 years, courtesy of relocating from Northern Florida to Northern Illinois.

I was back and forth between these locations the first three months of this year. During that time I got to experience the chill of those winds off of Lake Michigan (we live some 40 miles north of Chicago, but it’s just as windy,) and even got snowed in the day I was to fly back to Florida to continue the packing process, but this will be the first full winter.

It’s a joy to witness fall foliage, something I haven’t seen in a very long time. But it’s way too early for snow, and the forecast calls for flurries this evening, with accumulations points north of here. Thank God my husband didn’t accept a position in Minneapolis. Right now it feels like snow. The winds blow through me, the skies are gray, and something wet hits me every couple of seconds.

I’m no stranger to winter. Before those 17 years I spent in Florida I lived in New York for over 30 years (and no, I’m not ancient!) But it seems like the temperatures here plummeted even before Labor Day. We returned that Monday from a trip out of town to find the pool where we live standing empty and forgotten, like a tabletop TV after the plasma model has been installed, and not a single child playing outside. Within days the pool had been drained for the winter, the lounge chairs around it brought into the storage room. We’ve had some beautiful spring-like days since, but I don’t recall it getting this cold this fast in New York. I’m not even sure which city is farther north, The Big Apple or Chi-Town. I’ll have to check my travel atlas.

Quickly, before my fingers freeze.
Take two aspirin and call me in the morning

I suppose that all of us at one time have been a patient or known a patient in a hospital. I’m amazed at how many people remain unaware of proper hospital etiquette.

People are hospitalized for one reason - because they are ill. They’re there to receive treatment and to begin the recovery process. Everyone likes to know that their friends and family care about them, but no one wants to feel like they have to sit up and talk to entertain a constant stream of visitors, either live or on the telephone, when all they really want to do is rest.

In the New York suburbs, where I’m originally from, hospital patients are guarded almost to the level of a valuable art exhibit. All visitors must be checked in, and visitors are limited to two at a time, even if they are all members of the same family. Other geographical areas I’ve been to tend to be less regimented. Anyone who knows the patient’s room number can go right up, even if it’s a party of six. The hospital feels that visitors other than members of the patient’s immediate family have enough common sense to limit their visits to five or ten minutes if the patient clearly isn’t feeling well; and perhaps twenty or thirty even under the best of circumstances.

Unfortunately, there’s always going to be people who forget the patient is a patient. They’ll bring little Junior and the twins along to visit Great Aunt Edna, forgetting that the sight of her own grandchildren isn’t likely to be a welcome one for Auntie, at least not while she’s feeling under the weather. Or other people will visit in the aforementioned group of six to have a little party in Uncle Charlie’s room, each trying to outtalk the other in voices that can be heard clear down to the nurses’ station, often peppered with profanity. Maybe old Unc just isn’t well enough to appreciate the funny story about the farmer’s twin daughters. Or maybe the usually dapper old gent doesn’t like being seen without his teeth in or his hairpiece in place.

Then there are the ones whose reasons for visiting are less than well meaning. Nosy Aunt Harriet might want to know just how sick the patient is; so she can alert the family - with a dramatic flourish, of course - and make an uncomplicated case of tonsillitis sound like a visit from the Grim Reaper is imminent. Maybe Cousin Homer wants to know if he’ll be getting that coin collection the patient promised to leave him in his will earlier than he thought.

There’s nothing to be said about people with such underhanded motives. But for the well-meaning folks, please remember how you felt last time you were sick at home. That person in the hospital bed is sicker than you were, plus they’re at an added disadvantage - it’s hard to rest when someone sticks a thermometer in your mouth every four hours. Drop in, sure. Bring a card or a bunch of flowers from the supermarket, sure. But please remember that sitting there all day, chatting about this and that, only serves to drain the patient’s strength.