I am not happy today.  I haven’t been cheerful for over a month, but now I’m out-and-out unhappy and it isn’t something that comedies, pharmaceutical chemistry, or reading an entire Facebook newsfeed of funny slogans will do anything to fix.

I’m channeling Grumpy Cat today because last night I had to cancel my registration for this year’s Malice Domestic  cozy crime convention. This is the Malice with Peter Robinson, author of the Alan Banks novels and one of the few authors to send me a handwritten response to a fan letter.  I’ll fiddle with the html here and <insert a sob>.

In addition to not being happy about cancelling, I’m not happy about the reason for it: I sprained my knee.  Not only does it ache, but it is taking an age to heal (that’s the “over a month” part of why I’m unhappy), and I am so. very. tired. of sitting in this chair.  The cure for sprains is to not use the affected area, which, concerning knees, is easier in theory than in practice.  I want to go for walks.  I want to walk down steps and not sit-down-bump to get downstairs. I appreciate the knee brace, but am tired of it.

It all started when the Midwest finally had a decent amount of the white stuff and my husband and I were enjoying the winter wonderland while out for a Sunday drive. On our way home, I spotted a group of people on a nearby hill having a jolly time sliding down it. An idea as brilliant as the snow popped into my head.

“Sledding!” I announced.  “Tomorrow, we can go sledding.”

My husband just looked at me.

Given the cool reception to my proposal by my better half, I switched audiences and floated the idea of an outing to two of our kids, one of the significant others, and the youngest grandkid.  Although the father of my children still refused to accompany us to the hill, he did mount an expedition into our garden shed and unearthed our sleds, German sleds that have been unused for at least twenty years.  Our game was afoot.

On Monday, the snow party trekked up the hill and attempted to slide back down on the wooden sleds. We went nowhere. Neither of the sleds would go more than two feet at a time despite having metal runners over the wood.  The sleds sat in place, whether loaded with big people or with our little person. They wouldn’t budge with pushing, with running starts, or with perching on the steepest edge we could find. All they were good for was keeping the seats of our jeans out of the snow.

007 trying again

Mutually-irritated, we had a discussion about how the sleds had always been more picturesque than slide-worthy, and how plastic trash bags had worked better at quickly transporting people from the tops of hills to the bottoms.  I wondered aloud whether the sleds were meant more for pulling things than schussing down hills with abandon. Bad-mouthing the sleds was marginally satisfying but none of it got us any closer to sliding down the hill.

We didn’t have any trash bags handy, but luck was with us and the sledders from the day before had been rough and tumble litterbugs who’d cracked a saucer-sled and left it on the hill.  When all you have are sleds that don’t slide, even a cracked saucer-sled is an improvement.


The cracked saucer slid just fine and we took turns.

018 run, RUN

After the sledding, there was the mandatory snowball fight.

Throughout the afternoon we sledded down, we  trudged up, the kids and grandkid pelted each other with snowballs, I took pictures.  We had fun.

Once our jeans were soaked through (we haven’t had enough snow in recent years to justify the cost of water-resistant nylon snow pants), and we were cold enough for hot chocolate, we set off for the cars to go home.   We shook off the snow, gathered the sleds, recovered all loose hats and mittens, and trudged down the hill (since the German sleds wouldn’t slide down).

As we neared the road I relaxed.  I’d made it through the day, fine and dandy. Time for a relaxing evening at home.

The lesson here is to never let down your guard.

Trust me to find the one part of the roadside with a dip hidden under the snow.  Like a horse in a field with gophers, I stepped in a hole.  Down I went with the snow now reaching above my knees.  And I fell sideways.  And I twisted my knee.

I was ticked.

I had managed to ascend a hill, sled down it, reascend, chase a child down it, go back up, follow the kid down again, reascend, and chase around in the snow, all without injury.  Then, within fifteen feet of the car, I sprained my knee. It reminded me of the time at the end of PE class where, for one “Please, Mrs. M, just one more” time, I jumped up on the parallel bars, raised myself up to do a few more swings, and fell through the bars as my wrists collapsed, spraining both of them. Because of that little life lesson, I’m usually cautious about being tired and overdoing things.

The follow-up is that the tricksy fates weren’t done with me.

I thought I was on the road to recovery but here I am, sitting again, because, after spending that month in this chair — and not getting any thinner — I went out again.  My knee felt better; I would be indoors; a little exercise would strengthen the muscles and such.  Right?  This time the outing was to Planet Comicon (where I spoke with Wil Wheaton and glimpsed George Takei!).

01 tardis and dalek

I’m the middle-height person — the one who puts you in mind of that lovable fairy Merriweather, from Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty — with my daughter and one of my grandsons.

I had another great time but my knee did not.  That is why I had to cancel Malice.  If over a month of parking myself in a chair hasn’t mended the knee enough to tolerate three hours at Planet Comicon, there’s no way I’ll weather three days of Malice.

The knee is recovering by inches.  I’m pretty sure that by next year, it will be back in shape for miles of convention trekking.  I’m looking forward to Malice 2014, but I’m still not happy about missing Malice 2013.

If I have an opportunity for sledding next winter, I don’t know that I’ll take it.  One late-winter of discontent is enough.

I am developing an abiding hatred for invisible toggle keys on the keyboard. The program you’re using may tell you to “press X to use the keyboard shortcut to do Y” but it doesn’t tell you the “shortcut” of the key that turns that toggle key on and off.

I was happily using “insert” to create a new text box, all according to the drop-down box’s recommendation for the keyboard shortcut. An hour after I started work, all of a sudden the insert key will only make a zero (since the insert key is also the zero key in the number pad). I don’t remember striking the num lock button, but yeah, pushing it fixed the problem. Still, it was an interruption, an irritant and and an imposition.

I am so tired of the pile of learning curves between programs, between gizmos, and between iterations of gizmos. It’s like an hourly ‘learning of toilets’ on a European road trip: “how do you flush THIS one?!?!”

Okay, rant over, blood pressure returning to normal, time to get back to work.

(I’m enjoying alone time with the last of my tea from my room-service breakfast so I can finish a highly-useful course by Kris Neri that started before I left home and ends this coming week. I’m going to buy the CDs of the Bouchercon panels I’m missing — many thanks to the Bouchercon team posting pictures on Facebook to remind me.)

Just returned from walking around the Bouchercon convention area at the Cleveland Renaissance hotel.  I’m familiarizing myself with the hotel so that when the CROWDS are flowing and I’m drifting along between two (invariably) 6’5″ fellows who know where they’re going and we’re not there yet, I don’t wind up in Toledo.

I had a good time today with Nancy Pickard from my home Sisters in Crime group (Kansas) and about forty new friends.  Nancy taught a seminar, SinC into Great Writing, and many of us later agreed that we were happily surprised at the number of hints, tips and techniques she generously shared.

The icing on my cake was having my name drawn to win Nancy’s book, The Scent of Rain and Lightning.  She autographed it, too.

I must also thank my husband for doing my convention registration while I was listening to Nancy.  So far, I’m win-win at Bouchercon, and it doesn’t even officially begin until tomorrow.

My husband and I met when we were both stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.  I did not make the military a career, but he did.  This evening, we met with old friends, my husband’s former co-workers, and friends-of-friends at the USAREUR G-2 reunion banquet.

The talk ranged from kids to grandkids, to who we knew in common, to where we’ve traveled and where we ought to travel, to our European adventures, and inevitably to terrorists.

The terrorist angle was underlined by a twenty-minute talk given by Major General (retired) James Dozier who was kidnapped in 1981 by the Italian terrorist group, the Red Brigades, and was held captive for six weeks in a tent erected inside an apartment in Padua, Italy.

The majority of American personnel apparently weren’t terrorist targets as it was high-profile people whom the terrorists seemed to prefer.  Still, while living in Munich, it was unsettling to know that just across the Alps, terrorists had kidnapped an American soldier.  At the time we couldn’t know that General Dozier would be rescued as both the Baader-Meinhof group in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy had murdered kidnapped victims (Google Jurgen Ponto and Aldo Moro).  That General Dozier is able to give talks such as this was not inevitable — the guard on duty at the time had been given a gun with which to shoot the general in the event of a rescue attempt, but did not use it because he said he couldn’t shoot a sleeping man.  Stockholm Syndrome on the part of kidnappers isn’t always a bad thing.

Finally, thanks go to the author of Secrets of the Cold War, for organizing the reunion.

For Cold War veterans who were assigned to Germany, take a trip down memory lane with Mr. McCaslin’s book.  Thanks for the autograph, Lee.

The list of nominees for the 2012 Anthony awards is up.

Now to set aside time for reading the books and stories I haven’t yet spent time with. I need to vote intelligently.

Although the mystery convention, Malice Domestic, has been around for 24 years, this is the first time I’ve attended.  Despite being a life-long mystery reader (I count my early reading of Rupert the Bear stories because Rupert always had some kind of mysterious problem to solve in each story), our family had left Maryland by the time the convention was founded and were in Europe.  After we moved back to America, kids and caring for my (late) mom took up our time.  I must say that although I’ve missed all Malices up ’til now, my experience hasn’t been ruined by waiting.

Today, for instance, I not only saw Elizabeth Peters (!!!) roasted (in the most honorable way), but she kindly signed books and I briefly spoke with her.

Watching a local friend, Linda Rodriguez, moderate the panel “Have gun, will travel:  Mysteries set out West,” with authors  Greg LillyCasey DanielsAnne Hillerman and Robert Kresge, added a cherry to the banana-split-thrill of seeing Ms. Peters.

On an everyday level, I’m tickled that Dodie R., a former coworker of my husband from our years in Germany, is a devoted Malice attendee.  She and her friend Mary A. have kept me company during more than one meal.

To say I’m happy to be here may not be on the level of “I enjoy breathing oxygen,” but it’s the most fun, barring grandkids, I’ve had in a long time — I voted for the Agatha awards!   I’m tickled.