All Write, TV

Of cats and conference calls

This week’s Front Porch segment is bittersweet. It features Milo, my tuxedo cat and the embarrassment he caused me during a business call.

The episode was taped last month. Sadly, Milo passed away this week, so he missed his network debut on Spokane Talks on Fox 28.

But I doubt he would have been interested. Milo was very difficult to impress.

Click here to watch this week’s segment.

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War Bonds

RIP Pat McManus

Letter from Pat McManus

So sad to learn of the death of Patrick McManus.

When I had the crazy idea that maybe I could write a book, Pat McManus read an early draft of my proposal. Then he took me out to lunch and told me it was “the best book proposal” he’d ever read and he was absolutely positive “War Bonds” would be published.
A week later, he sent me the above letter of recommendation and introduction that I could send with my proposal to agents and publishers.
He believed in me and in my book when it was still just a maybe, someday…..

Having someone believe in you and your project when it’s just a glimmer, a wisp of a hope, is incredibly powerful.

I wish every author could have someone like Patrick McManus in their corner. I am humbled beyond words that he considered himself my fan, because like millions of others I was certainly his.

Rest in peace my friend. Thank you for the joy that you brought to the world and for the life-changing encouragement you gave to me.

War Bonds

Visiting my three year-old at the bookstore

Every author will tell you it’s a nail-biting moment.

Your book has been out for some time and you pop in a bookstore for a visit. Just to see how its doing– maybe sign a few copies.

There’s always the fear that you’ll find the book you labored over with blood, sweat and tears languishing in the clearance bin. Or worse. You won’t find it at all.

That’s what happened to me last week. Kind of.

I’m getting ready to pitch my second book, so stopped by my local Barnes and Noble to scan the shelves for similar titles. Of course, I checked on my firstborn.

But War Bonds was nowhere to be found!

The book launched February 22, 2015 and is still generating sales, but still it’s three years-old.

Gathering my courage I approached a bookseller and offered to sign any copies– if they had any.

“What’s the title?” he asked.

I told him.

“Oh, War Bonds! We always have copies on hand. Let me check.”

Nervously, I watched him click the keys of his computer.

“Wow! We sold out again. That’s a happy problem to have.”

I took a breath.

“Are you going to…?”

“Yep,” he interrupted. “We’ve already ordered more.”

I said thank you and left with my purchases. Amazed, thrilled and blessed that readers are still finding the love stories of the Greatest Generation worth reading. And worth purchasing.

Thank you dear readers. And Happy 3rd birthday War Bonds!”

10929058_10203559455213962_6120318413619356176_n[1]War Bonds at Barnes and Noble Northtown

 

War Bonds

Birthday letter from my son

My heart is full and I am so thankful.
Cindy

Dear Mom,

I don’t think I’ve ever posted on your Facebook for your birthday before. But that’s just one of the many mistakes I have made, and continue to make. I’m not a perfect son. Sometimes I don’t fold the laundry when I’m told. Sometimes I leave dirty dishes in the sink. Sometimes I say things I shouldn’t. Sometimes I lie. Sometimes I make you cry. Sometimes I make you furious.
But despite all of my faults, you have never once stopped loving me with all of your being every second I’m alive. You spent sleepless nights wondering if you would ever be able to see your son healthy and living before I could even speak or understand what that meant. You’ve had to listen to me rant, rave, and ramble. You’ve given me harsh, but much needed advice. You don’t mince words, or hold back the truth. You’re the first one to ask me what’s wrong when I’m gloomy. You’re the first one to make me laugh when I’ve had a bad day.
Sometimes I’ll attempt to walk past you, eyes on the ground, grumpy and angry, and you’ll quickly grab me and wrap your arms around me. You’re the strongest person I know, and also the funniest. Your words have touched the hearts of me and people all over the country. You inspire me, challenge me, and keep me alive with love and hope.
I want you to know that every hug in the morning was real, that every compliment was the truth, and that a Facebook post, a card, or a present will never be able to describe how important you are to not just me, but to thousands of other people.

Happy Birthday, and thank you for giving me life and all that it entails. Your existence has been one of the best gifts in the world.

Sam

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Columns

All alone, but not lonely at all

I heard them before I saw them. A small group of kids on the playground, laughing, shouting, jostling as they let off steam in the afternoon chill.

As I walked past the schoolyard, a solitary figure on the swings caught my eye. The boy scuffed at the gravel with his shoes and the swing barely moved.

Slowing my stride, I took in the scene and I wondered at the social dynamics at work. Was the boy on the lower rungs of the grade school popularity ladder? Had he been deemed to have “cooties” by the others? Or was he just grabbing a quiet spot – overwhelmed by the sheer volume a small amount of kids can make during a brief recess?

When I was his age, I could relate to both scenarios.

Because we moved frequently due to my dad’s career, I was always the new kid. The daunting task of finding a spot at the lunch table and navigating new social networks and established hierarchies meant loneliness was a constant companion until we settled in Spokane when I was a teen. I didn’t even have the built-in companionship of siblings because my brothers and sister were much older, and all out of the house by the time I was 12.

That upbringing created a resiliency that has served me well in adulthood. I learned how to adapt, how to forge new connections and how to turn strangers into friends. I also learned self-sufficiency and how to be content with my own company.

There’s a profound difference between being alone and being lonely. Alone is a state of being, while loneliness describes a pain, a sadness, a feeling that something is missing.

I learned to love being alone and have developed a profound need for solitude. That’s something that’s proven hard to come by when married to an extrovert and raising four sons.

As my writing career grew, solitude became even more imperative. I’ve become adept at creating it, whether by renting an office or borrowing a friend’s house.

The writing I do from my friends’ home while they travel south for the winter is different than the writing I do at my desk in the family room at home.

I hammer out columns and news stories at home while family members come and go, the landline rings, the doorbell peals, the cats clamor to be fed. But in my friend’s empty, silent house, books are born, short stories submitted and my craving for solitude is satiated.

My weekly walks are another way of creating quiet for my mind and soul. I was contemplating this when two days later; I again encountered the solitary child.

It was the same time, same place and same scene. A group of kids shouting, laughing and tossing a basketball back and forth. The boy alone on a swing.

And I wondered if instead of listless and lonely, he was enjoying a moment of respite from the noise and crush of elementary school. As he toed at the gravel, perhaps the slight movement of the swing soothed him and allowed him time to think – to dream. Maybe this child, like me, wasn’t lonesome, he was simply alone and relishing it.

This time I paused at the fence and lifted my hand to wave. Just in case he did feel isolated and invisible, I wanted him to know I’d seen him. I’d noticed his existence.

I waited mid-wave until he looked up and saw me. He slowly lifted his hand in acknowledgment, a small smile tilting at the corners of his mouth.

Then I continued my walk while he sat in the gently swaying swing. Two solitary souls – alone, but maybe not lonely.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at http://www.spokesman.com/staff/cindy-hval/ Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.


Columns

Moving Mom

The For Sale sign swung wildly in the blustery October wind, and though I’d known it was coming, the sign startled me.

I pulled over in front of what used to be my house and let the memories wash over me.

Growing up in a military family, I moved a lot. Nine houses in 16 years, until we finally returned to Spokane to stay.

This house represented permanence to my parents, who’d grown weary of years of moving. It welcomed my best friends and high school sweethearts. My first day of college photo was taken on its front steps.

On my wedding day, I woke in my twin bed, in my blue bedroom with the switch plate that reads “Cindy’s Room.” The switch plate is still there, though it hasn’t been my room for 31 years.

A few years later, a photo taken in the entryway shows my dad proudly holding my firstborn son – his namesake, Ethan Thomas. It was Ethan’s first visit to what was now known as Grandma’s house.

Dad is wearing a sportcoat and tie, so he must be home for lunch. After he retired from the Air Force, he went to work for the Department of Social and Health Services, and his office was within walking distance – a huge selling point when they bought the house.

By the time our sons Alex and Zach were born, Dad had retired, and my husband and I had bought a home nearby. Dad delighted in dropping in to “check on the babies.” I always thought he meant my sons, but chances are he meant me, too.

When he died 22 years ago, my mom remained in their home – happy to know I was close. And when after several years of widowhood, our last son arrived, she was especially glad she’d stayed in the neighborhood.

Grandma’s house became a rite of passage. When boys anxious for independence wanted to venture from my nest, unsupervised – it was to her house they went. Sometime after the magic age of 10, I’d let them walk the six blocks to her house. This was long before every kid had a cellphone, so the kid had to first call Grandma to let her know he was on the way, then immediately call me when he arrived, and then call me again when he left.

Freedom had a laborious cost back in the day.

As Mom aged, the split-level design of the house proved daunting, and one spring she took a tumble down the stairs, breaking her ankle.

Still she wouldn’t move. Wouldn’t hear of it. This was her home – the place she and Dad ceased their wanderings, and besides, I lived just a few blocks away.

We worried that when the time finally came for her to move, she wouldn’t be able to help us choose her new home. And that’s just what happened.

This summer her mental and physical health failed at an alarming rate. Suddenly, my siblings and I had to make major decisions with no input from Mom.

Thankfully, my brother David and his wife, Becky, had retired to Spokane several years ago. They were able to find Mom a nice apartment in an assisted living facility, arrange for movers and an estate sale, and last week they sold the house.

Mom is 86, and doing better than she was this summer, but she’s still confused about what happened to her home, to her things.

Her new residence is just two blocks from her old one, so the landscape of her neighborhood is familiar. Her grandsons visit more frequently, now that she doesn’t have to come down any stairs to open the door. And when they visit they talk about the happiness and love they always found at Grandma’s house. The location may have changed, but the love hasn’t.

I pull away from the house, and I don’t think I’ll drive by again for a while.

It’s someone else’s turn to make memories on Standard Street. My own are locked safely in my heart, and there isn’t a house anywhere big enough to contain them.


Columns

The Great Zucchini

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Unfortunately, the most valuable life lessons are often learned the hard way. This summer I’ve been schooled in the veracity of the adage “be careful what you wish for.”

Last year my husband experimented in the Glorious Garden. He tried growing zucchini, vertically, in pallets. The experiment failed, and I was disappointed.

“Next year, I want zucchini. LOTS of zucchini,” I told my hardworking spouse.

He heard me. Boy, did he hear me.

Two weeks into this summer’s zucchini season had me yelling for mercy – praying for drought, pestilence or plague. No such luck. Our bumper squash crops shows no sign of slowing down.

It’s come to this – last week, I went to a party. I took zucchini as a hostess gift.

I returned my sister-in-law’s baking dish – with a squash tucked inside. Our relatives are starting to avoid me.

Our teenager used to eagerly ask, “What’s for dinner?”

Now, he hesitates.

In the last few weeks I’ve made zucchini cornbread casserole, cheesy zucchini, zucchini and rice, zucchini fritters, zucchini chips, zucchini stuffing casserole – and that’s just for dinner.

I’ve also baked dozens of zucchini chocolate chip muffins and many loaves of chocolate zucchini bread.

I have bags of shredded frozen zucchini in the freezer, and Derek recently bought a spiralizer. He wants to try zucchini spaghetti, but I’m not sure I’m ready to make the vegetable-in-place-of-pasta leap. Ask me next week.

And yes, I should know better, because many years ago, I used to write for a now defunct section of this newspaper, called HOME, and one of my assignments was to cover ‘The Great Zucchini War’ between two Spokane Valley neighbors.

It was actually more of a story of the gift that kept on giving. In the 2006 article, I chronicled the tale of a super-sized squash that made its way from bench, to birdbath, to treetop, as two neighbors escalated the art of re-gifting.

The Pedens and the Fairhursts took the squash war to unheard of heights. The much maligned vegetable was camouflaged in orange, black and silver and set afloat in a koi pond. It was transformed into a replica of a Flying Tiger fighter plane. Sporting wings, tail fins and the snarling teeth of a tiger, it perched in the upper branches of a walnut tree where it remained until a ladder tall enough to reach it could be found.

When last seen, it was Halloween and the re-gifted gourd was growing soft in the middle. It had been painted white, covered in ghostly draperies and encased in concrete – on a neighbor’s porch.

That was 11 years ago, and one can only hope the extra-large zuch was given a decent burial somewhere, or at least turned into enough bread to feed the ’hood.

Which brings me back to my squash stash. I’ve been trying to make eye contact with my next-door neighbors, but surprisingly they always seem to be in a hurry to peel out of their driveways or slam shut the sliding doors on their decks.

I’ve pondered placing the surplus squash in a box in our front yard with a “free to good home,” sign, but I worry they will rot in the hot summer sun before they are adopted.

There’s always Craigslist, but I don’t relish getting caught in some kind of undercover sting operation. I can just picture a jaded cop in a deserted parking lot mocking me. “You thought you’d get cash – for squash!?”

Last week I interviewed a longtime greengrocer who told me, “If you have to buy zucchini at a store, you must not have any friends.”

Well, at the rate my freezer is filling, I won’t have any need for zucchini or friends until roughly, 2020.

Listen to me dear readers; be careful what you wish for – especially if it involves produce.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

 

 

Columns

Spa Daze

Soothing music. Delightful fragrances. The absolute absence of ringing phones or pinging emails. And best of all, the only time anyone says my name is to ask me how I’m feeling.

There’s nothing like a spa day to refresh my soul.

The Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area is blessed with ample places to bliss out, and I’ve visited most of them. For work. Seriously.

A few years ago, I took on a bunch of travel writing assignments for several regional magazines. Interestingly, most of them wanted me to cover spas and resorts. It was a rough gig, but somebody had to do it.

Not all experiences delighted. At a media day at one resort, my masseur looked like Bill Gates, and sounded like him, too. I closed my eyes and tried to relax, but all I could think about were the questions I’d like to ask Mr. Gates. Like would he care to subsidize my writing career? And what the heck is up with the Blue Screen of Death?

And sometimes the choice of music in the massage rooms isn’t exactly restful. Many places use the sound of ocean waves or a tinkling stream. It may sound soothing, but isn’t if you’ve had a mimosa or a cup of coffee before your appointment.

One of my favorite spa experiences involved my husband. An airline magazine had asked me to write about fun local activities for couples including a spa day at a local resort.

Derek had never been to a spa and was a little apprehensive.

“I don’t have to get my toenails painted, do I?” he asked.

“Only if you want to,” I replied.

The couple’s package included a soothing private aromatherapy bath in a huge jetted tub, and then a candlelight massage.

Derek followed a male attendant to the men’s changing room, and I went to the women’s. Luxurious robes with our names stitched on the lapels awaited us.

The attendants then ushered us into a suite, lit by flickering candles. They poured lovely smelling things into a tub that could easily hold a half dozen of our closest friends. Then they gave us each a glass of wine and told us they’d be back in an hour.

As they closed the door behind them, we got ready to climb into the tub.

That’s when I knew Derek was out of his depth. He dropped his robe and revealed he was wearing swim trunks.

I doubled over with laughter. He says I hooted and shrieked. I say I chuckled softly.

“Hey,the guy said I could wear them if I felt more comfortable! I didn’t know we were going to be ALONE,” he said.

I may have giggled intermittently throughout the hourlong massage that followed, but it was just because I was having such a fabulous time.

While I enjoy massages, manicures and pedicures, there’s one traditional spa activity that I haven’t cared for – facials. Be they European, aromatherapy, collagen or paraffin, I just haven’t found the facial experience relaxing. For one thing, I’m pretty claustrophobic and having my face wrapped in a hot towel with only my nostrils exposed feels suffocating. And once, the aesthetician got a little exuberant with an astringent and splashed some in my eye. My skin looked pink and rosy. So did my eye.

But recently with a gift card to my favorite spa burning a hole in my pocket, I decided to give facials another try.

And you know, it wasn’t that bad. The aesthetician explained each application and treatment, was careful with the hot towel mummification and didn’t splash anything in my eye.

One thing gave me pause: Most of the products used, she said, were to help with “fine lines and wrinkles.” After hearing “fine lines and wrinkles” for an hour, I started to get paranoid. Just how fine were those lines? And by wrinkles, did she mean laugh lines or wadded up linen blouse tucked in a drawer wrinkles? I was afraid to ask.

However, the organic masks, toners and scrubs smelled delicious, delectable even. There were applications of strawberry-rhubarb stuff, pink grapefruit potions and liberal lime mistings. In short, a fruit salad was applied to my face.

While facials still aren’t my favorite spa experience, I’d probably do it again. Especially if I’m hungry.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

War Bonds

Neverending Story

 

My cousin wrote this on her blog and I couldn’t agree more. What are your thoughts on reading reviews of your books? How about writing reviews?

CHALK the SUN

As a rule, I don’t read reader reviews of my work. By the time a book hits the shelves, my work is complete and the reading experience no longer belongs to me. I do read trade reviews and those from sources I’ve actively sought out, such as book blogs. Occasionally, friends will send their thoughts to me directly, but I try not to ingest their words.

Why such caution?

I’ve been a member of Goodreads, the online reader review community—which now numbers in the millions of members—for nearly ten years. I’ve written hundreds of reviews and formed wonderful connections with book lovers around the world. Writing reviews, thinking carefully about the books I read, their construction, style, themes, and storytelling, became a vital part of my self-directed MFA. It’s what led me to seek out writing instruction and begin to craft stories of my own. There is no better…

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War Bonds

Christmas in October!

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I LOVE Christmas and I received an early gift when the UPS man dropped off this box of books!

I’m thrilled that two of my stories “Christmas Glow” and “Wishing for a Silent Night” have been included in the latest addition to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series: The Joy of Christmas.

My work has been featured in 10 volumes of this wonderful franchise and I’m happy to be part of a series that offers words of inspiration and affirmation to readers all over the globe.

Pick up a copy today and spread the “Joy of Christmas”!