Maggie Pill

The Most Entertaining Cozy Author You Never Heard Of!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Interviewed by NF Reads

I was interviewed by NF Reads, a site filled with interesting articles about a variety of topics. To see the interview, click on the link above.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

National Sisters' Day

If this were a typical day, I might have called my sister and talked about nothing for a half hour. She knew I love my husband, so I could gripe for a while about his foibles and she wouldn't judge. She was patient with my stories, which tend to weave a bunch of asides in as I struggle toward the main point. She shared my negative optimism about life: It isn't perfect, but it's what we've got.

Instead of calling, I might have driven the 30 miles to her house so we could go out to lunch. Or we might have sat on her porch, sipped tea, and relived our childhood.

Those things were typical, but they're impossible now, since my sister died suddenly at sixty-three.

There are positives here. She often said she didn't want to linger into old age, and we agreed that a quick death is better than a slow decline. (Hence the deer suit in the Sleuth Sisters stories.) We'd been out together the day she died, and her last words to me were how much fun it was, doing nothing much but doing it together.

The negative is the staggering sense of loss I feel. I can't call. I can't visit. There's a hole in my life.

I have other siblings, and we've leaned on each other more than usual these last few months. It doesn't make the hole go away, but it does smooth the edges a little. 

Siblings know us in ways no one else can, and memories from our formative years stick us together, no matter how far apart we go. Often a phrase, a look, or a photo triggers shared remembrance, and we laugh or cry or launch into a "family story." Though the telling will be slightly different for each sibling, the results are the same. Feelings we had as kids, good and bad, were experienced by another person, and that creates a bond that's hard to break. 

If we're lucky, we stay close to our sisters as adults. It isn't always continuous and it isn't always easy, but again, those shared pasts pull us together more than they tear us apart. I made the Sleuth Sisters as different as my sisters and I are, though they aren't really us. (We aren't brave enough to take on criminals, even together!) Like any set of sisters, Barb, Faye, and Retta's views were shaped by the lives they've led, but their characters were formed in the years when they grew up together. That means they understand each other even when they don't agree. And that's the beauty of sisterhood.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Sisters

Image result for cartoon miceMy plan was to do a series of sister posts leading up to National Sisters' Day, which is tomorrow. What happened involves two crews of men, each blaming the other for the fact that my internet line was sucked away from my house, across my lawn, and under the road, ending up somewhere in a field. I was 8 days w/o real internet, just the pitiful dribble my phone allows. Still, they're all being really nice to me: no charge for the re-install, and my bill has been reduced for the week I wandered alone in the world.

The upshot is that my last week of sisterly essays couldn't  be posted. I'm sure life will go on without them.

As to the mice, I've never had such a problem with them in the summer. Usually we get a few in the fall, when the weather turns cold and they look for a warm spot to spend the winter. This year it's been constant. If I'm quiet in the morning as I sip my coffee, they come out and skitter around the kitchen. If we catch one, two more appear. My house is clean, but it's also a century old and full of little places they can get in that we don't even know about. All the food that's available to them is the cat's kibble, and we try to remember to cover it at night. (Yes, she hates that, but we all have to sacrifice.) The weather is lovely. They could be playing outside. Why are they in here, making my toes curl?

Those are my thoughts after a week without political debates and news of dumb baseball trades. Sisters, good. Mice, bad.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Sister Story #1

I'm in Blue (r); Sis in Rose
When we were little, Mom used to dress us up (often in mom-made dresses that were alike but different colors) and have us sing in church. The best family story concerning that is when I, at perhaps four years of age, realized partway through our song that I had an issue.

Our church had a curved altar rail with a padded arc below it for kneeling during communion. Halfway through our number, I leaned over the railing and told my poor, cringing mother in a stage whisper, "I have to go to the bathroom!"

When she nodded to indicate she'd received the message (along with everyone else in church) I climbed over the rail, bounced off the knee-pad, and headed at a run up the aisle to the ladies room. My poor sister was left to finish the song on her own, though I doubt anyone heard it for the laughter.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Losing a Sister

In the past week I've lunched with two friends who lost a sister, one recently, the other a while back. Since my sister died in May, our conversations wind around the theme of sisterhood and what it feels like to be the one left behind.

Yes, Mom made our dresses!
In two of the three cases the sister was younger. Both left behind families that needed them, making it more of a tragedy than simply the loss of a sibling. We take comfort in supporting them in whatever ways we can. In all three cases death leaves a void for us, a person whose role can't be filled by anyone living. Sisters grow up together, so we can't start over and build a new sister relationship. We might have sister-like people in our lives, but nothing replaces that person who was always there in your childhood, your strongest supporter one moment and the one who tried to stab you with a knitting needle the next.

The loss of someone who understands you intuitively, a person who shares the same roots, experiences, memories, and to a large extent, world view, is a shock. Who can I talk to about this or that? Who can I call when I need to hear a familiar voice? Who already knows I'm a little weird and therefore won't judge me when I make my latest confession or launch yet another rant?

There isn't a perfect answer, but the best one is the friends I mentioned in the first sentence. They don't know me as well as my sister did, but they know what it's like to share a lifetime with someone and then lose her. We talk. They listen. I listen. We'll get through it.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Working Animals

We didn't really have pets when I was a kid. We had animals that lived with us and did work in return for bed and board. That doesn't mean we didn't love them, but they earned their kibble.
Me, my sister, Laddie, & Ching-a-Ling

The cats were there to keep the mice away (probably rats too, but that never occurred to me. Ick!)
Each of our two farmhouses had a "house cat" that lived inside and was quite pampered compared to the "barn cats" who lived in the barn and multiplied freely. Each new batch of kittens was a treat for us girls, and we hunted them down in whatever spot their mothers chose to hide them by listening for their mews.What fun to move a bale of hay and find four or five little balls of fur to play with. We didn't even mind that their tiny claws were sharp enough to leave bloody trails down our forearms.

The family dog was responsible for helping to herd the cows from and back to the barn. Looking back, I realize that our beloved Laddie wasn't the brightest of cow dogs. He was a collie, but now that I've seen the trained dogs in Scotland do their magic, our Lad was just...kind of willing. And lovable. Luckily, cows aren't that hard to herd; you just get one or two going in a direction and the rest follow.

Of course the other farm animals served a purpose too. The cows gave milk. The horses were draft animals when I was really small, but they gave way to tractors, and then we only had riding horses. The chickens provided eggs (and Sunday dinner on occasion).

I think it's great that people love their pets, but I come from a time when pets weren't just something to pamper and fuss over. They were partners in the work of the household.