An icy traffic nightmare happened recently in Virginia following a winter storm.
Hundreds of motorists were stuck in the snow for more than 15 hours along a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 95 after a crash involving six tractor-trailers.
The terrible traffic pileup got me thinking. Can you imagine sitting in your car, in the snow, all night long? Cold, hungry, in the dark, and no bathroom. Maybe there’re kids in the back seat. Or a cranky mother-in-law. And you’re trying to conserve gas by running the engine for brief spurts to warm the car.
This could happen to anyone. Maybe not the snow part, but getting trapped in standstill traffic can happen on any freeway at any time.
I was born and raised in Redwood City, CA. Our town’s motto was “Climate Best by Government Test.” We averaged 20 inches of rain per year, 0 snowfall, 255 days of sunshine. In my mid-twenties, my husband and I moved to Reno, Nevada, where we got our first taste of seasonal weather—boiling in the summer and frigid in the winter. From there, we moved to Vancouver, WA, and then on to Seattle. Next up: Greeley, CO. And finally, Alaska, where we stayed put for five years before heading south to the California Central Coast and 0 snowfall.
We moved into our home in Anchorage in the early summer. At our first neighborhood gathering, our new friends told us how to get our cars ready for winter. Many shared horror stories of getting stuck in snow banks, sliding off the road, and whiteouts. So, of course, I got freaked out and heeded their advice long before winter arrived.
Car Emergency Supplies that everyone should have
regardless of where you live.
Tea candles (those are the ones in a metal tin) and wooden matches
Tin cans to burn the candles in and radiate the heat. Light a couple and put them on your dashboard. I found 18-hour tea candles online
Snacks that won’t go bad sitting in an emergency kit. Peanut Butter, crackers, nuts, hard candy, etc.
Emergency Mylar thermal blankets
Emergency urinals for women and men—available online. Don’t roll your eyes! You know you’ve wondered what folks do in these situations. Picture it: You’re surrounded by bumper-to-bumper traffic and you gotta pee. Bad enough for the men, but for the women? If anyone knows of a device to handle poo in the car, I’d love to hear about it. Not kidding!
Toilet paper and wet wipes
First Aid kit
Car Safety Hammer—an emergency escape tool with window breaker and seatbelt cutter
A fully charged separate power bank for cell phones
Jumper Cables and/or Car Jump Starter (make sure it is charged!)
Entertainment that does not require power
If you live where it snows, I’m sure you already keep a shovel and cat litter in your trunk
A couple of weeks ago, I drove to San Diego. It usually takes about five hours, which would have got me there in the late afternoon. This time it took over nine. I averaged four miles per hour for a couple of hours. Certainly not an emergency, but a reminder for me to be prepared. It got dark—I hate driving in the dark away from home; the traffic was bumper-to-bumper for miles and could have come to a standstill at any time for hours. My friend once sat on that same freeway for eleven hours.
I feel better for sharing this, although I’m sure many of you reading this are already prepared, so I just wasted a couple of minutes of your time. Oh! One more thing. I suggest keeping this kit inside the car and not in the trunk. And the Car Safety Hammer by the driver’s seat.
Additional suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Okay, Now I really do feel better.
FYI: My husband thinks I’m a worry-wort. When I met him I was twenty-three and carefree. I turned into a worrywort while raising kids.
Even though the current Colonial Pipeline shutdown is not a true gas shortage—it dredges up long forgotten memories of the early 70s gas shortage that affected the entire US and much of the world. That gas crisis resulted from an oil embargo imposed by members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) and led to fuel shortages and sky-high prices throughout much of the decade.
For a time, we could only get gas on even or odd days (your license plate number). The gas was rationed, and often, after sitting in your car for an hour or more—pushing your car forward so you weren’t running the motor, the pumps would empty before your turn. Gas prices went from about 50¢ a gallon to as high as $4 ($24 today) in some areas.
I didn’t have children back then, but just think what it was like for those parents with a car full of restless kids. Back then you couldn’t hand them a tablet and tell them to watch a Disney movie.
Americans continue to rely heavily on foreign oil. The United States consumes about 20 million of the roughly 80 million barrels of oil consumed daily in the world, and three-fifths of that is imported. So we are always under the threat of embargos. And now hackers, too.
I’m no longer letting my tank get below half these days.
I’m a “half-tank-full” kind of girl now.
The folks who remember the 1970s gas shortage came from parents
who dealt with a far worse gas shortage that went on for years.
Now where in the heck did I put … The cameras we haven’t used in ages? The air purifier filters? The generator manual?
Does this happen to you? It happens to me all the time. I’ll get into an organizing mood and decide to relocate items that I don’t often use to what I think is a more sensible place.
The trouble is, when I want to use that item in a few months (or years), I go to where it was, not where it is. Then I stand there thinking, “Did I give it to Goodwill?” “Did Mike (my hubby) get rid of it and not tell me?” “Did I lend it to someone?”
And finally, “Am I losing my mind? Is this dementia?”
Last year, I made a “Where Is It?” list and posted it on the laundry room wall. Now, every time I put something away that’s not used often, I write the location on my list. It has helped so much!
I know—very low tech—there’s probably umpteen apps for this, but sometimes simple works best. Here’s the link for the pdf. Where Is It List.
For some reason, this morning I was remembering how happy the Ice Cream Truck melody made me feel when I’d hear it rolling through my childhood neighborhood. George was our “ice cream man.” A nice, very patient man.
Even though I rarely had any money to buy something, I loved chasing the truck and crowding around George with the other kids. I’m glad I didn’t often have the money because it made the treat so much sweeter when I did. I was a fudgsicle girl!
Here is a compilation of 22 ice cream truck songs.
0:00 Mister Softee 0:30 The Entertainer 0:59 Turkey in the Straw 1:11 Pop Goes The Weasel 1:20 Sailing, Sailing 1:37 Little Brown Jug 1:54 Red Wing 2:13 Camptown Races 2:39 La Cucaracha 3:04 Turkey in the Straw 3:26 Brahms Lullaby 3:46 The Entertainer 4:09 Music Box Dancer 4:42 Stagecoach 5:33 The Picnic 6:15 Romance de Amour 6:41 Twinkle Twinkle Little Star 7:02 Buttons and Bows 7:19 Go Tell Aunt Rhody 7:42 Rock-a-Bye Baby 8:04 Greensleeves 8:27 The More We Get Together 8:49 The Yellow Rose of Texas 9:15 Old MacDonald Had a Farm 9:41 The Cuckoo Waltz 10:12 Oh! Susanna 10:38 Old Folks at Home (Swanee River) 11:10 It’s A Small World After All 11:43 I’m a Little Teapot 11:57 London Bridge Is Falling Down 12:11 Turkey in the Straw 12:26 Row, Row, Row Your Boat 12:37 Frere Jacques 12:51 Happy Birthday To You 13:07 Fur Elise 13:21 Korobeiniki 13:39 Yankee Doodle 13:51 Mary Had a Little Lamb 14:08 Six Landler 14:23 Brahms Lullaby 14:45 Home on the Range 15:11 Song of Joy 15:40 Moonlight on the Colorado 16:19 If You’re Happy And You Know It 16:36 The Moon Shines Bright 17:00 Oranges and Lemons 17:24 I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside 17:48 Match of the Day 18:20 Home on the Range 20:05 It’s A Small World After All 20:46 Row, Row, Row Your Boat 21:08 Mary Had a Little Lamb 21:25 Oh! Susanna 22:12 Happy Birthday To You
In 1967, I rode my horse, Glory Be*, to a quaint little hamburger joint, “The Little Store” in Woodside, CA**. I tied my horse’s reins to the hitchrack and timidly went inside to apply for my very first job. I was so nervous! Mrs. Iris James, a petite sixty-ish woman, was the owner, and for some unfathomable reason, she hired me.
The minimum wage in 1967 was $1.30 an hour. I thought I was rich!***I look back now and realize what a typical first-time teen worker I was. Pretty clueless, definitely a little lazy. My patient mentor-boss-mom always had one teenager on staff, along with two older women. Those three motherly ladies were such a positive influence. They had no idea how much they meant to me—but that’s a story for another day.
I remember one Sunday afternoon, the Hell’s Angels rolled into town. We heard a loud roar in the distance and looked out the window. There had to be fifty bikes heading our way. Mrs. James had dealt with them before and wasn’t about to do it again, so she locked the door and flipped the “Open” sign to “Closed.” We sat on the floor behind the counter and waited. Sure enough, they stopped at our place and lined up their big, shiny motorcycles along our front porch and parking area. We held our breath as they banged on the door. I was so scared! Luckily, with a helluva lot a cussing, they revved up their bikes and moved on.
I met my first boyfriend while working there. Greg had become a regular weekend customer and I realize now, that my co-workers were on pins and needles waiting for him to ask me out. He was a great guy and a wonderful first boyfriend.
When I retired from that job at the end of my senior year, I passed it on to my dear friend, Elaine, who was two years younger.
I’ve been in the restaurant business**** for over three decades now. Thousands of employees later, I wish I could tell Mrs. James what an impact she had on that young, goofy girl and that I’ve always tried to emulate her. Through the years, many of our teen employees have remained family friends after they grew up. They come to visit, we go to dinner, and some have teens of their own who have worked for us! I call that success!
* I didn’t name my horse; he came with it. I wanted to name him “Darcy” from Pride and Prejudice, but he was comfortable with his name, so we kept it. He was a beautiful chestnut with a perfect white blaze down his face. Glory Be was loveable, playful, and very skittish. I think his first owner probably swore at him a lot; hence the name “Glory Be!” He and I had so many fun adventures!
** Woodside is a charming little town in the California Bay Area. When I was a kid, I boarded my horse at a stable there. When I got my job, I took over all of my horse expenses and started saving for a car. I felt so proud!
The “Little Store” opened in 1902 and today I just found out it has closed. We are nearly eleven months into the pandemic at the time of this writing, and as a restaurant owner, I know first hand how tough it is to stay in business when you’re not allowed to have inside dining for months on end.
***So how much would that $1.30 equal these days? I checked it out on this inflation calculator, and it’s $10.07! And if Mrs. James had been paying me $10.07 way back then — that would equal $78.03 today.
**** Klondike Pizza. We had lived for several years in Anchorage, Alaska when in the late ’80s, the US basically stopped drilling or exploring for its own oil. This decision destroyed many economies–both here in the states and in Canada. Our local banks were failing. Our jobs were gone because of the domino effect. My husband worked for a restaurant franchise corporation, and I was a graphic artist and advertising director.
Our house had a mortgage, but its value had gone down the drain. People were leaving the state in droves. It was time for a new plan—one with no snow! We loved living in Alaska, so we decided to bring a little bit with us—hence our Alaskan themed pizza restaurants.
In Alaska, I was an ice-hockey mom. In California, I became a soccer and golf mom. Way easier than ice hockey mom!
There are a lot more “national days” than what I’ve listed. But I’m kinda picky. I don’t want to celebrate national serpent day, umbrella day, home warranty day, don’t cry over spilled milk day, battery day, cabbage day, public sleeping day …
History Trivia: Presidential Pardons Through History
If you’re interested in history, you may find this post about Presidential Pardons and Commutations interesting. For eons, presidents have dished out loads of pardons and commutations on their last day in the Oval Office. Some good, some pretty darn odd, and some that are jaw-dropping questionable.
Make sure to check out “Presidential Pardons That Made the News” and “Which president started the tradition of pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey?” at the end of the post.
First off—what’s a pardon, and what’s a commutation?
PARDON: The President’s power to pardon is not restricted by any temporal constraints except that the crime must have been committed.
COMMUTATION is the mitigation of the sentence of someone currently serving a sentence for a crime pursuant to a conviction, without vacating the sentence itself. So it’s a good thing for the recipient, but not a full pardon.
Interesting fact: Barack Obama holds the record for the biggest single-day use of the clemency power on his last day in office.
President George Washington pardoned, commuted, or rescinded the convictions of 16 people. Among them were: Philip Vigol (or Wigle) and John Mitchel, convicted of treason for their roles in the Whiskey Rebellion*.
Abraham Lincoln pardoned, commuted or rescinded the convictions of 343 people during his term, including 264 Dakota Indians who attacked white settlers in the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862**.
Andrew Johnson fully pardoned every soldier who fought for the Confederate Army on Christmas day, 1868. Though many thought he was being far too lenient to people who were considered traitors to the Union, Johnson believed it was time for the country to reconcile with the past.
Franklin D. Roosevelt granted 3,687 pardons in his four terms in office.
John F. Kennedy pardoned, commuted, or rescinded the convictions of 575 people.
Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon–this decision won him a lot of enemies. He also offered conditional amnesty to over 50,000 draft resisters. I had a boyfriend back then who fled to Canada to avoid the draft. He was able to return and eventually became a professor.
Ronald Reagan pardoned, commuted, or rescinded the convictions of 406 people.
Bill Clinton pardoned, commuted, or rescinded the convictions of 459 people, including his younger half-brother, Roger. In the mid-1980s, Roger was caught on videotape trying to sell cocaine to an undercover cop. He was arrested, pleaded guilty, and served a year in prison.
Another notorious Clinton pardon was Marc Rich who was indicted in 1983 for evading over $48 million in taxes. He was also charged with 51 counts of tax fraud. And he was also accused of making illegal oil deals with Iran while it was holding U.S. citizens hostage. He was living in Switzerland at the time of his pardon.
Clinton also pardoned Patty Hearst—read more below.
Barack Obama granted 330 commutations on January 19, 2017, his last full day in office. During his presidency, he issued more commutations than the past 13 presidents combined.
In a letter to 46 people whose sentences he commuted in 2015, he wrote: “The power to grant pardons and clemency is one of the most profound authorities granted to the President of the United States. It embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws.”
The Teamsters leader had been serving a prison sentence for jury tampering and fraud when President Nixon pardoned him in December 1971. There was a condition: Hoffa should not engage in any management of any labor organization until at least March 1980. Hoffa may have been trying to reassert his power over the Teamsters when he disappeared in 1975. We may never know.
The granddaughter of publisher William Randolph Hearst made headlines in 1974 when an urban guerilla group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) kidnapped her from her Berkeley, Calif., apartment. Two months later, the 19-year-old was photographed robbing a San Francisco bank while brandishing an assault rifle. Apparently, she had taken up her captors’ cause. At her trial, her lawyer asserted that she’d been brainwashed. She was convicted and imprisoned for almost two years before President Jimmy Carter commuted her seven-year sentence and freed her from jail. President Bill Clinton granted her a full pardon on the last day of his presidency, January 20, 2001.
In 2000, recording artist, Forté was arrested at Newark International Airport after accepting a briefcase containing $1.4 million worth of liquid cocaine. He was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to distribute. He was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 14 years after being found guilty. Carly Simon and her son, Ben Taylor (son of James Taylor) were advocates on Forté’s behalf, believing he didn’t receive a fair trial. They fought to appeal the mandatory minimum drug laws that remove a judge’s discretion in a case.
With Senator Orrin Hatch’s help, Forté’s prison sentence was commuted by President George W. Bush on November 24, 2008. —Wikipedia
She was convicted in 1996 for her involvement in drug trafficking. Johnson received a life sentence even though it was her first offence. Years later, her cause was taken up by celebrity Kim Kardashian West***. In June 2018, after serving 21 years in prison, she was released after President Trump commuted her sentence. In August 2020, he granted her a full pardon.
Which president started the tradition of pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey?
Actually, it started with Christmas dinner in 1863. President Abraham Lincoln’s clemency to a turkey was recorded in a dispatch by White House reporter Noah Brooks, who noted, “a live turkey had been brought home for the Christmas dinner, but Lincoln’s son, Tad, interceded in behalf of its life and the turkey’s life spared.”
The formalities of pardoning a turkey gelled by 1989, when President George H.W. Bush remarked, “Reprieve,” “keep him going,” or “pardon”: it’s all the same for the turkey, as long as he doesn’t end up on the president’s holiday table.—Whitehousehistory.org
President Harry S. Truman pardoning a 35-pound tom turkey
in the White House Rose Garden on Nov. 18, 1952
***Kim Kardashian West has said she’s studying to become a criminal justicelawyer and is planning to take her exams in 2022. The reality star began a four-year apprenticeship with a law firm in San Francisco around the time she played a role in the release from prison of Alice Marie Johnson
Number 4 in the Murder Blog Mysteries is now on sale! Yay!
What took me so darn long?
I’d love to say the dog ate my work, but what really happened is I had a heart attack. And to make it even more dramatic –I had the attack seven days after my husband had undergone a quadruple bypass. Talk about an awful time!
Mike jokes that I did it because he was getting all the attention. Yeah, right.
Trust me—I can think of better ways to get attention.
What I have learned is when your body is telling you something isn’t right, do not ignore it like I did. I kept telling myself that as soon as Mike was well, I’d get a check-up. That kind of thinking nearly killed me. A lot of women have said to me that they would have done the same thing. We are often so busy taking care of everyone else that we tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the list.
Please listen to your body and if something feels odd, don’t wait until it’s too late. I am counting my blessings every day …and working on the fifth book in the series.
In the latest Murder Blog Mysteries novel, Katy finds herself at loose ends. She’s jobless, but not penny-less thanks to a recently discovered box of rare coins in her attic. But she’s clueless as to what her next career will be. Plus, her sizzling romance with Josh, is doing a fast fizzle since he left town to continue nursing his ex-wife through her cancer battle.
Just as Katy is settling in for an extended pity-party of weepy old movies and tubs of mint-chip ice cream, her mother calls with tragic news. A dear family member has met an untimely end. Now Katy and her grandma must travel to the scenic Cotswolds of England to sort out legal matters. When they arrive, they’re overwhelmed by the friendly villagers who offer help and moral support.
However, when Katy and Ruby become the target of vandals, they realize that not everyone in town is pleased about their presence.
Is murder next on the list?
Was It Murder? is available in ebook, the Kindleunlimited program, and paperback. This particular book’s paperback edition is (for some reason) priced much lower than the first three, even though its page count is similar. I’m glad about that, but annoyed that I can’t lower the price on Dead Girls Don’t Blog, Better Dead Than Wed, and Coins and Cadavers. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do that!
Several years ago, my husband, Mike, and I rented a quaint four-hundred-year old stone cottage in Bibury for a few weeks—so I could pretend I’m English. Yes, I realize how silly that sounds. I guess I’ve watched too many Midsomer Murders, Rosemary and Thyme, Sherlock…. And read too many Agatha Christie novels, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Dickens…. So even though my heritage is mainly Norwegian, my heart belongs to England.
The villagers were charming, and by the second day, it was as if we’d lived there for years. We made a lasting friendship with the couple living in the cottage behind ours. Phil and Denise are dear people, and they took us places that most tourists would not know about—including a coal mine tour that I probably could’ve done without.
When we were deep down in the pitch-black bowels of that old nineteenth-century mine, my imagination wandered to things that could happen if our English friends were not quite so nice. Hunched over in the narrow, claustrophobic shaft, I realized that not a soul on earth knew where we were. No one that is, except Denise, Phil, and our tour guide. After the tour, we all went for tea and I told them about my fearful thoughts, and we all had a good laugh.
Those dark thoughts eventually evolved into the Murder Blog Mysteries, although it wasn’t the right time to tell that story until I had a few books already in print. I’m excited that I’ve finally have reached the point where it’s time.
And my dear British friends may not be quite so nice in the book….