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BY WHOSE HAND

October 13, 2020

I’ve had so much fun writing the Jennie Connors mysteries. I’ve come to think of Jennie and the crew at Riverview Manor, not as characters, but as friends, real friends, people I could sit down with and pour my heart out to over a cup of tea. As for Jennie, she’s the sister I never had. She’s much braver than I ever was, someone I look up to while recognizing her shortcomings. Yes, she has her shortcomings, but she never gives up. She believes in a world where justice prevails and does her best to make it happen.

Here’s a bit about BY WHOSE HAND, the fourth Jennie Connors book:

Have you ever wished someone would hand you the key to the bank? Be careful what you wish for.

When Preston Barrons hands Jennie Connors the key to Barrons Bank and Trust Company and asks her to pay a 2 a.m. visit, her instinct screams “give them back?” But how can she, when her paycheck depends on finding out who made an unauthorized transfer? Money from a recent fundraiser has ended up in the account Webster Barrons and the family is hoping Jennie can clear their son’s name.

Instead of answers, Jennie stumbles over the body of Preston’s right-hand man. She goes looking for the security guard, but he finds her first and assumes she’s trying to sneak out. It seems the only way to extricate herself from bank politics is to find the killer.

 

Here’s a link: http://amzn.to/q4F71G

CONSIDER THE LILLY

September 25, 2020

CONSIDER THE LILLY is the book that introduced the Tea Ladies, six elderly women made up of more spice than sugar. I’d like to say I created this intrepid group, but actually they created themselves. They stood beside me as I wrote, telling me what they would or would not do. 

So … what’s the story?

Jennie Connor’s friend, Lilly, is in big trouble. Two patrons are poisoned while dining at her restaurant. The police are busy with crowd control and don’t notice a shadowy figure climb down the arbor and slip away. Jennie watches and wonders if Lilly’s daughter, Jasmine, is up to her usual teenage mischief. Or is it something more sinister?

While the press focuses on one of the victims, Phillip Jeffries, a junior high principal who’s made a lot of enemies during his career, Jennie learns that the other victim, teacher Leonard Atkinson, has his own dirty little secret.

I hope someone has half as much fun reading CONSIDER THE LILLY as I had writing it. 

Here’s a link – http://amzn.to/phrUoW

 

PUTOUT THE LIGHT

September 7, 2020


The second Jennie Connors/ Riverview Manor mystery:

Jennifer Connors, the activities director of Riverview Manor, is working late one night when she hears resident Nathaniel Pynchon pleading, “Put out the light.” Following Nate down a darkened corridor, Jennie discovers the body of Rosalie Cardamon.

Everyone at Riverview assumes the former actor has finally slipped over the line separating fantasy from reality and committed murder. Only Jennie believes him innocent. But if it wasn’t Nate, who was it? When Jennie learns that wounds left by a thirty-year-old accident are still festering, she wonders if Rosalie’s death could be related. Unfortunately, the police are too busy investigating Nate to care.

http://amzn.to/pd9yqS

LEFT AT OZ

September 2, 2020

cody_leftatoz

I think of LEFT AT OZ as my Little Book That Could. It’s the beginning of Jennie Connors‘ crime-solving adventures – the first book written, but  not the first published. Early in my writing journey, having had a couple of short stories published, I wanted to move on to a full-length novel – a real book – but wasn’t sure I had the discipline to see it through. I told myself You’ll never know if you didn’t try. So I summoned my courage – and was unbelievably proud when I accomplished that goal!

Little did I know that was the easy part. I started submitting the manuscript and received half a dozen rejections. I was disappointed, but not discouraged. I told myself: It’s your first book, a learning experience. Consider it that and move on. Write another. (Yes, I talk to myself a lot, especially when I’m writing.) So I wrote the next book and, miracle of miracles, Avalon Books agreed to publish it. Oh happy day! (By the way, I got the call on my birthday.)

Fast forward a couple of years. Two more Jennie Connors mysteries were published. I was pleased, but never forgot LEFT AT OZ. Had I given up on my first-born too easily? I reread the manuscript and liked it. More than that, I was proud of it. I contacted Avalon and asked if they were interested in publishing it as a prequel. They said “yes”. Another happy day. 

So … what’s the story?

Jennie Connors is crazy about her handsome husband, but she dreads his reaction when she tells him her car was stolen. When she finds a message hinting that the vehicle was left at Oz, she jumps at the chance to find the car before he returns from the West Coast. Following directions given in the message, Jennie finds the car. Problem is – there’s a body in it. It gets worse. Turns out the victim is Robin Langley, babysitter for the Connors’ two young sons. What motive could anyone have for killing Robin? Why steal the Connors’ car to hide the body, then leave a message telling Jennie how to find it? Fearing that a direct threat to her family is behind the sinister events, Jennie determines to answer these answers herself.

http://amzn.to/nDUYOR

 

An Anniversary

June 23, 2020

This month, June 2020, marks the fifteenth anniversary of the release of my first published novel, Put Out the Light. http://amzn.to/pd9yqS

I’ll never forget the thrill of getting the call from Avalon Books.  As luck would have it, that happened on my birthday. Best present anyone ever received! I don’t remember what I said, but I know that a few seconds into whatever it was, I realized I was babbling. I took a couple of deep breaths and started over. I don’t remember what I said then either. I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Avalon didn’t hold it against me and went ahead with the publication of Put Out the Light.

It was a major milestone in my life. I had reached a goal. When I started writing this book, I told myself it didn’t even matter if it was published. I just wanted to see if I could actually write a book – a whole book – so I put those first words on the page with only the vaguest idea of what came next. Finally, I finished the book. I had a story that, at least in my opinion, held together. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. I was enormously proud of myself, but only for a few minutes. It hit me that it did matter to me that the book be published, so I started down the road toward another goal – publication. A different goal. A different process and not an easy one. Nevertheless, after a long and not-always-pleasant journey, I achieved that goal and, since then, have reached a few more. One thing I’ve learned along the way is that a goal reached is not an end, but a beginning. There’s always more to the journey.

That’s where I am now – working on the sixth book in the series begun with Put Out The Light. I wish I could say that it’s become easier to reach those goals, but that wouldn’t be true. Writing a book – a whole book – requires an enormous amount of discipline. I suspect that’s true of any goal worthy of pursuing.

Favorite Characters (again)

May 28, 2020

Bored and (much as I hate to admit it) in writing-avoidance mode, I started browsing some of my past musings. I came upon this, written a couple of years ago. It prompted me to wonder about other writers. Do you have favorite characters?

Asking a writer to name her favorite character is a little like asking a parent which of their children they love most. I, and I assume most writers, love all my characters – even the bad guys. Having said that, I admit some have a special place in my heart.

Put Out the Light was the book that introduced Jennie Connors to the world beyond my imagination. It also introduced Nathaniel Pynchon, who started out small and went on to become a favorite. He’s become my go-to guy. When the plot starts to stall, I can count on Nate to do something outrageous and get things rolling again. He’s an 84-year-old Shakespearean actor, who has trouble remembering that, while trickery works out on the stage, it can have serious consequences in real life.  A big help to a stalled plot!

Another favorite is Tess Zumwalt. Tess is a former FBI agent, a graphology expert. She’s quiet and soft-spoken, someone people tend to overlook, a quality she uses to her advantage. She was in the background in the first couple of Jennie Connors mysteries and came into her own in By Whose Hand when an illegal funds transfer prompted a murder and the only clues were some notes Jennie found in a trashcan. Tess is the perfect foil to Nate’s bravado and good person to have around if you’re an amateur sleuth.

Another character I have a special affection for is Caroline Morrow, a peace activist who found a baby in a basket when she went to a folk fest. She adopted the baby, named her Peace, passed along her own Quaker values and … turn the page, 22 years go by  … Peace Morrow is all grown up, just in time for me to write Love and Not Destroy . I had fun writing this because it features an actual museum just up the street from where I live. Strange though it may seem to some, The Mercer Museum is more than a place; it’s a character in its own right.

I said I love my “bad guys” too. An Uncertain Path, the book that follows Love and Not Destroy, was a change of pace for me. It’s not a traditional mystery. The reader knows from the beginning whodunit. We watch Rachel Woodard commit the crime and see how it affects her, how it forces her to examine the impact of her actions on the people she loves. I told this story as a dual narrative, a format I’ve always enjoyed reading, but I wondered how readers would feel about my switching gears. So far, feedback has been good. (Huge sign of relief.)

Those are just a few of the individuals who started out as vague ideas and became real to me as I put them in difficult situations and gave them tough problems to solve. I could go on, but I won’t. The list is too long. That’s the beauty of writing – you meet a lot of interesting people – made according to your own specifications. That last statement is only partly true. More than once, a character has informed me that what I had planned for them wasn’t possible. It wasn’t true to their character. Interesting, since I had created their character in the first place.

Perhaps a more interesting list would be characters created by other authors. (Sounds like an idea for another post.)

How about you? Do you have a favorite fictional friend (or foe), either created by you or another author?

Put Out the Light http://a.co/9A3Ad61

By Whose Hand – http://a.co/dmlVdRb

Love and Not Destroy – http://a.co/30yaaP4

An Uncertain Path http://a.co/3wlVVlm

 

 

Introducing the Tea Ladies

April 25, 2020

Consider the Lilly is the book that introduced the Tea Ladies, six elderly women who set the tone of Riverview Manor, the retirement community where they live. I would say that I enjoyed creating them but, to tell the truth, I didn’t have a lot to do with their creation. They pretty much stood on my shoulders and told me who they were, what they would and would not do. At any rate, writing about them was a hoot. I can only hope readers have half as much fun reading about them.

About the story: Jennie Connor’s friend, Lilly, is in big trouble. Two patrons are poisoned while dining at her restaurant.  The police are busy with crowd control and don’t notice a shadowy figure climb down the arbor and slip away.  Jennie watches and wonders if Lilly’s daughter, Jasmine, is up to her usual teenage mischief.  Or is it something more sinister? 

While the press focuses on one of the victims, Phillip Jeffries, a junior high principal who’s made a lot of enemies during his career, Jennie learns that the other victim, teacher Leonard Atkinson, has his own dirty little secret. Jennie tries to sort it out, aided and abetted by the Tea Ladies. 

Here’s how the story begins:

Chapter One 

“Our stuff’s gonna be cold.”
     “Lilly’ll keep it warm for us.”
     “But we’re starving.”
     “You’re not starving.  You’re bored.”
     “You can say that again.”  Tommy put in his two cents. Up to now he’d let Andy do the whining for both of them.
     Jennie fed the last page of the report into the copier before she turned to her sons: nine-year-old Tommy and seven-year-old Andy. “Just a couple more minutes.  Then we’ll–”  
     Running footsteps sounded in the corridor.  Dr. Woodrow Samson flashed by.  Jennie sent up a prayer that Riverview’s elderly residents were all okay.  She had to know.  A glance at the machine told her the report was copied, just needed collating.
     “Tell you what, guys.  Help me gather my stuff and we’re outta here. I can finish at home.” 
She stopped at the desk.  “Woody passed the conference room in a rush. Everybody okay?”
     “Everybody here’s fine.  Something’s going on at Lilly’s though.”
 
Flashes of red, then blue, assaulted Jennie’s senses when she opened the door. She squinted against the dizzying succession of color and tried to get an unobstructed view of the restaurant across the alley. She looked at the kids. “You guys wait inside.”
     Maybe they didn’t hear. She knew that’s what they’d say.  At any rate, both boys darted past her, down the ramp leading to the parking lot. 
     Jennie caught up and grabbed them before they could cross the alley. “Hey, I said, ‘Wait.'”
     Andy, mesmerized by the swirling lights, didn’t comment.
Tommy tried to wiggle free, arguing, “You need us to help carry the stuff.”
      Jennie fought the impulse to rush over and check on Lilly. She glanced at the kids.  Maybe she could leave them at the desk with Karen.  Would they stay put?  Can’t risk it.
     She kept a firm hand on each boy’s shoulder and studied the commotion.
     Emergency personnel were shoving a gurney into an ambulance. A uniformed cop stood between the ambulance and a row of cars snugged against the back of the restaurant.  Across the lot, a Memphis police car blocked the exit. Another officer stood by the vehicle. Dozens of people milled about, alternately watching the activity around the ambulance and darting furtive glances toward the police.
     Jennie scanned faces, searching for Lilly Wainwright, co-owner and manager of the restaurant, and, more important, a close friend.  She spotted Ward Norris, Lilly’s self-appointed protector, but there was no sign of Lilly.  She looked toward the ambulance.  Was Lilly on that gurney?  One of her kids?  I have to find out.
     She kept a tight grip on her boys and approached the entrance to the parking lot.
     The policeman stepped forward, but didn’t speak.  He stood, arms akimbo, shaking his head.
     Jennie tried to explain. “That’s my friend’s restaurant.  I need to know if she’s okay.”
     “Sorry.” He was a squat, burly man, shorter than Jennie’s five foot, seven inches, but somehow managed to convey the feeling he was looking down on her small family.
     Tommy piped up, “What happened?”
     “Nothing that concerns you.”  The cop’s manner alarmed Jennie more than the emergency vehicles.
     A van with a TV station’s familiar blue and yellow logo rolled up.  A petite woman and a large man with an elaborate camcorder hopped out. Jennie recognized reporter Jill Newton.
     Apparently the cop did, too. The would-be Napoleon set his hat straight and tucked in his shirt before he sauntered toward the new arrivals.
     Jennie took advantage of the distraction to edge closer.
     The crowd parted and another gurney rolled out. A substantial female figure kept pace with the emergency workers who were maneuvering the gurney.
      There’s Lilly. Jennie expelled a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. At least it’s not her in the ambulance.  She tried to read the situation by watching Lilly.  She couldn’t make out words, but her friend’s posture and the movement of her hands said plenty.  This is serious.  One of the girls?  Jennie sent up a silent prayer, Please no, and gripped her sons’ hands tighter.
      The thought of Lilly’s daughters prompted Jennie to look toward the living quarters above the restaurant. A wide porch ran along the building’s second story.  Flood lights, directed into the parking lot, left the porch in shadow.  Something in the dim space behind the illuminated area caught her eye. A slender outline passed in front of one of the windows.
      Jasmine?  Probably.  What’s she up to? 
      Jennie used her hand to block the glare of the overheard lights and watched the silhouette glide forward, peer over the railing, move back, hesitate, then inch along, keeping flat against the wall.  At the porch’s edge, the apparition climbed over the railing and disappeared.
      Jennie looked toward the sturdy wooden arbor covering the brick sidewalk that led from the parking lot to the main entrance in front. Her view was blocked, but she could guess what was happening. Jasmine’s sneaking out. Should I tell Lilly?  Jennie hated to do anything to fuel the already fiery relationship between mother and daughter.  On the other hand– If it were my sixteen-year-old—
 
If you’d like to read the rest of the story, you’ll find it here:
Amazon:  http://amzn.to/phrUoW

Why I Read (as if I need a Reason!)

April 14, 2020

Now, during this time of social distancing, I’m grateful that I have a houseful of books and can’t help but reflect on the pleasures (yes, it does have to be plural–there are so many) I derive from reading. The most obvious is the joy of immersing myself in another world via the pages of a book, an experience as sensual as it is intellectual. Ideally, the house is quiet and I’m burrowed deep in my favorite chair with my feet up and a cozy quilt tucked around me. If there’s rain accompanied by a howling wind outside, so much the better. A hostile world outside my window generates a sense of isolation and pushes me deeper into another world–actually two other worlds.

My outer self luxuriates in the tactile sensation of the book in my hands as my eyes skim over a page covered by a series of funny little squiggles that, through the ages and the ingenuity of man, have been organized into something called writing. Each squiggle is a symbol that represents a sound. Grouped together, they form words. Combined with other words, they convey ideas, thoughts, emotions, knowledge and, in the best of times, wisdom. Surely, this is man’s most important invention. Compared to the written word, the wheel is trivial.

But my inner self takes this amazing accomplishment for granted. It is somewhere else entirely–maybe in the north of France with Emma Bovary, maybe in St. Mary Mead with Miss Marple or it may be in a graphic universe with a comic strip character. Even there, on the pages my brother and I used to call the funny papers, I find people who help me understand what it means to be human. They reassure me that I’m not alone in my frailty. I might be deep within the psyche of someone of a different gender, or with a different skin color. I can inhabit another continent–or another planet. I can live in another century–long past or far in the future. The possibilities are limitless.

In addition to the actual reading, there is the pleasure of shared ideas. There are literally thousands of groups who meet regularly to talk about books. I belong to two such groups, each completely different, both in personality and in our reading selections. Within each group, we read the same book, but when we come together to talk about it, our insights are different–sometimes subtly, sometimes radically. Each member brings a unique perspective to each book and in our discussions we talk about subjects that would never come up in an ordinary conversation. I come away from these discussions enriched. My horizons have expanded. I’ve been exposed to ideas that, were I denied the pleasure of reading and the companionship of my bookish friends, might never have occurred to me.

And yet, for all the practical advantages of reading, that’s not why I read. First and foremost, I read for pleasure–and cannot imagine my life without the joy it gives me.

Finding Peace

April 10, 2020


Caroline Morrow stood for a moment, watching the ebb and flow of the crowd. She couldn’t help being a tad skeptical of such universal good nature. Everyone was smiling and chattering, obviously pleased to be celebrating their heritage. And why not? Pennsylvania has a proud history and Bucks County is perhaps its proudest sector. The cosmos itself seemed to approve, having created a perfect day for the celebration. The concrete walls of the towering castle-like museum glowed in the sun. Bubbles in the old glass of mullioned windows captured light and became iridescent jewels. A cheerful melody in harmony with the bucolic scene floated through the air. A dog barking in the background was the only dissonant note. Except for the dog, everything was going according to plan. But what is it they say about plans? Especially best-laid plans? That dog changed everything.

Caroline tried to ignore the animal. She was usually quick to go to the aid of any creature in distress, but today she was taking a break from the things she usually did. She was tired. Bone tired. Worn out from what she’d begun to fear was a futile quest. She had marched in demonstrations, rung doorbells, made phone calls, signed petitions, camped on her congressperson’s office steps – in short, had devoted her life to the basic tenets of her Quaker faith. Did any of it make a difference? Most of the time she could convince herself that it did. But, last night, watching the news, something inside of her had snapped. From around the globe came story after story of horrors too brutal to comprehend. Life on the streets of her own city–the City of Brotherly Love, no less–was no better: children wielding deadly weapons, grown men shooting each other over a parking place, a wheelchair stolen off a front porch, a teenager delivering a pizza knifed for less than twenty dollars. The list went on. Unable to bear it, she switched off the TV and went to bed, telling herself the world would look brighter in the light of day.

It didn’t.

She ate her usual hearty breakfast, but it did nothing to satisfy the hunger in her soul. She looked ahead to her day and dreaded the bickering she knew would be a part of the Peace Initiative meeting – yes, even there, dissent prevailed. Sometime between washing the breakfast dishes and brushing her teeth, she made a decision. Today there would be no dealing with bureaucrats, no fighting for lost causes, no tiptoeing around oversized egos. Today, the only peace she planned to worry about was her own. She made a phone call, gave no reason, just said, “I’m sorry. I can’t make it today.” That’s how she came to be in a picture-perfect small town, listening to a sweet-faced young woman play country airs on a dulcimer while trying to ignore a barking dog. Not an easy thing, especially when the girl’s finger slipped and the melody went off key.

The dog paused, as though to get his breath, then resumed.

Murmurs rose from the crowd, merging with the bleating of sheep in the shearing area, the laughter of children at the puppet theater, the steady hum of the glassblower’s oven. The juggler dropped a club. The stilt-walker stumbled. But no one moved to help the animal.

An annoyed voice separated itself from the general restiveness. “Someone should do something.”

“Yes, they should,” Caroline said to no one in particular. “That poor animal needs help.” Unable to leave a task to a vague someone, she headed for the source of the distraction, the shed behind the museum.

The lean-to structure was filled with wagons and carriages from an earlier time. Caroline peered inside. After the brilliance of the summer day, objects in the shaded interior were a blur of indistinct shapes. She squinted and pressed against the rope that protected the antiques from too-curious visitors.

The dog stopped barking and looked at her.

The quiet that ensued seemed to Caroline almost palpable. The dog remained silent, staring at her, and, after a moment, comments from passersby reached her: “Thank goodness.” “It’s about time.” She ignored the voices and focused on the dog, almost lost in the shadows of the shed’s darkest corner.

The dog tilted its head, studying the strange woman.

She leaned over the rope.

The animal yipped a couple of times and put his nose in a basket that sat nearby.

There was a gurgling sound, soft as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings.

Dear God!

Caroline ducked under the rope and scrambled over the bed of a hay wagon to reach the corner where the dog stood guard. She scraped her elbow against the rough timber of the shed wall in her haste to reach the basket.

The dog stood, legs braced, ears at attention, watching.

She inched forward and held her hands near the animal’s muzzle.

He sniffed and moved aside.

Caroline took another step, bent over, and looked down into a small perfect face, wide trusting eyes, as blue as a summer day. A fuzz of rust-colored hair peeked from beneath a lace-trimmed cap. She held her breath and lifted the baby. The cap fell away, exposing tiny flat ringlets. Caroline placed the baby on her shoulder and felt the beating of its heart. She moved her head and savored the tickle of downy hair on the soft flesh under her chin.

A crowd gathered in front of the shed. Whispers became murmurs, then swelled into an excited babble. Someone yelled out: “Call the police.”

Caroline, oblivious, completely mesmerized by the child, lost all sense of time. She was surprised, almost outraged, when a thickset man in uniform appeared and put his hands out to take the baby from her. She half-turned, rotating away from him.

He sidestepped, making the circuit with her. “This your child, Ma’am?”

The dog moved, rigid as a clinched fist, between Caroline and the man.
The man glanced down at the dog, but did not retreat. “We need to check the baby, Ma’am. Make sure everything’s all right.”

The next hours went by in a blur. Caroline, usually the most precise of women, certainly not sentimental, was vague about most of the details. A few remained vivid, carved into her heart as though onto a stone tablet. She never forgot the ride to the hospital in the police car; sitting behind the officer with the baby in her arms; the basket on the seat beside her; and, most of all, the ache she’d felt when she relinquished the child to the doctor.

She recalled examining the contents of the basket while she waited. The small cap was white, made of fine linen. A band around the front was edged in lace and embroidered with daisies. She let her fingers caress the fabric and could tell that it was old. There was a pillow, embroidered with the same pattern as the cap and the words Peace be with you. A silver cup lay on its side near the pillow. It looked recently polished, its surface mirror-bright except for a small smudge. Caroline picked it up and rubbed the spot with her shirttail.

“Hey!” The policeman shouted and lurched toward her. “Don’t do that! There might be fingerprints. You’ll destroy them.”
She managed to wipe the cup clean before he grabbed it from her.

He was indignant. “Don’t you want to know who this baby belongs to?”

The doctor came back with the child before she could answer. “It’s a little girl,” he said. “I’d say she’s about a week old. And perfect.”

Perfect. Something Caroline Morrow already knew. Maybe she couldn’t save the world, but she could rescue this child. She understood all too well the red tape that would be involved: an investigation, forms to fill out, bureaucratic hoops to jump through, a waiting period, but ultimately, she vowed, the child would be hers. She looked down into the basket, at the pillow with its fine embroidery work and knew her daughter’s name: Peace Daisy Morrow. Her Peace.

NOTE: If you’re interested in learning what became of the baby in the basket, her story is continued in LOVE AND NOT DESTROY http://amzn.to/2GrB8yX  It’s on sale for .99 for a limited time.

Happy Independence Day

July 3, 2019


tags: Declaration of ndependenceFounding FathersFourth of July,George WashingtonLiberty BellThomas Jefferson

by Sandra Carey Cody

July 4After basics like food and shelter, I can’t think of anything more precious or more essential to the human spirit than independence. And there’s probably nothing more taken for granted by those who posses it. That’s too bad, a grievous sin. It’s also probably true that we here in the United States are more guilty of this sin than most. However, once a year we at least try to redeem ourselves; we set aside a day to remember our heritage and to celebrate it. Tomorrow is that day: the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the document that condenses into six paragraphs the ideals on which our nation was founded.

Many of us memorized the Declaration of Independence sometime during our school years and promptly forgot most of it. But some phrases are so powerful and so evocative of what we as a nation hope to be, that they remain locked in the recesses of our brains–phrases like: “decent respect to the opinions of mankind,” “self-evident that all men are created equal” and, of course: “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

I don’t think there’s ever been a time when it’s been more necessary to remember those words. At the moment, our country is so divided that the crack in our Liberty Bell seems ominously appropriate. I believe that differences in opinion are good and even necessary to create a society that embodies the ideals of that brilliant Declaration. If only we could remember the phrase “decent respect to the opinions of mankind” and listen to all opinions, even those with which we disagree. Not just listen, but actually consider that there might be some truth in a viewpoint different from our own. If all men are created equal, shouldn’t all men (and women and children) be allowed to express their opinion? But perhaps not quite so vociferously. A little civility goes a long way.

The times may seem bleak, but history reminds me that this is not new. There has always been conflict among men, especially during periods of change. I understand that even the men we so lovingly call our Founding Fathers lost their tempers and shouted at each other from time to time. The story goes that George Washington wondered if he was witnessing a rising or a setting sun. So, maybe things are not as bad as they seem.

Go forth and celebrate your Life and Liberty. Pursue Happiness.