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More Hamlette

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Arriving late to the story? Full index of “chapters” here.

“Oh my God, tell us everything!”

Rosalind had wasted no time settling onto my bed. They hadn’t even knocked before barging into my room, though Gwendolyn at least had the decency to hover in the doorway as if awaiting an invitation.

“What happened?” Rosalind’s big, blue eyes were that peculiar mixture of false sympathy and avid hunger for gossip.

Let me see if I can describe these two. They are equally blonde and blue-eyed. Rosalind is taller and more willing to press for details; she has the makings of a great celebrity interviewer at best and a cheap tabloid writer at worst. Assuming she can write, which is questionable. Despite our expensive education, I can’t say Rosalind is a dedicated student. She watches the movies instead of reading the books, and only remembers things if they’re gruesome or salacious. Yeah, definitely a tabloid writer then.

Gwendolyn . . . I feel kind of sorry for her, really, stuck in Rosalind’s orbit and all. Not sure why she hangs around with Rosalind, can’t imagine what they talk about. Well, probably Rosalind talks and Gwendolyn sit there pretending to listen. Gwendolyn is a good student, though, one of those quiet types that does her work and does it well. The instructors all like her, and our classmates go to her for help with their assignments. Gwendolyn reads not only the required books but other books as well, and she thinks it’s fun. So maybe she has a future as a librarian, or she’ll just become an instructor herself one day.

I took pity on Gwendolyn and waved her into the room. She took, like, two steps and resumed hovering, this time next to my vanity.

On my bed, Rosalind bounced with impatience. “You can’t hold it in, Nissa. It’s not healthy.”

“I’m not holding anything in,” I told her.

“I mean, it’s so crazy,” she went on. “Your dad dying, and your mom marrying your uncle . . . No one blames you for being all worked up.”

“I’m not worked up,” I said. “Why did my mom even call you?”

Gwendolyn finally found her voice. “She thought you needed cheering up.”

“Look,” I said, “it’s nice of you to visit.” (It really wasn’t.) “But I’m fine. Anyway, I’m supposed to be coming up with something to say at the memorial they’re holding at The Globe on Saturday.”

Rosalind’s eyes widened; I’d swear she started salivating. “Oh, we can help you with that!”

Groan. Rosalind was the type to go on and on for as long as the spotlight would stay on her. She’d come up with flowery phrases and strings of nonsense, and throw in a heaping of poetic quotes for good measure. The end result would be a kind of cake of words that was both excessively sweet and yet somehow tasted sour.

But Gwendolyn . . . Her expression was troubled in the sincere way of someone unsure how to work a problem or if she should even try. “Gwen, you’re good with words and stuff,” I said.

She looked at me, startled out of whatever reverie had consumed her. “Well, I . . .”

And something new began to dawn on me, an actual idea. Maybe I could use this memorial to expose Eoin? If I could come up with the right words—or, better yet, if they let me stage something—then I could watch Eoin, see his reaction, figure out if he was guilty. I mean, I had no reason to doubt my dad’s ghost except, well, he was a ghost. And I wasn’t sure if ghosts could be trusted.

“What are you thinking?” Rosalind asked, a sly smile on her face.

“Nothing, yet,” I admitted. I needed to talk to Bea. “I’m going to work on this alone for now and then try it out on you when I’ve got something. In the meantime, why don’t you head out to the pool? Or the stables? I’ll catch up in a bit.”

Rosalind was all for that, of course. And Gwendolyn, ever obedient, followed her. Meanwhile, I called Bea and got started on Operation Eoin.

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Work in the Time of Bronchopneumonia

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At least I have a name for it now.

And at least I’m now on antibiotics and beginning to feel much better.

My voice is coming back a little, too. Enough that I was able to participate on a conference call with the production company this morning (but I’m glad the call wasn’t too long, either).

On my other project, we got the film treatment done and off with the producer who is going to talk to the talent. Fingers crossed! (Update: We need to clarify the villains’ motives a bit, so we’re off to tidy that up—we know why, but it’s not clear enough in the treatment, and actors are all about motives.)

Now, as I recover from all this work and all this being sick, maybe I can get back to writing. Like, books and stuff. And “Hamlette.” Because I know you all miss her.

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Work in the Time of Plague

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I don’t have the plague. At least, it seems unlikely. But it feels pretty awful, whatever it is I have, and of course it would happen when I’m insanely busy.

For one thing, I have a film treatment due to a producer tomorrow before he flies away to talk to the talent. The idea being the treatment needs to be good enough to entice said talent to want to make the movie. No pressure there. Luckily, I have two great guys working with me on this. Though, I’ll admit, there’s also a certain amount of chaos when working as a group. At least the three of us get along and see mostly eye-to-eye on things. It has been a relatively smooth process.

And this past week, another script I co-wrote got optioned. And of course that is very exciting, too, though there’s a lot to do to go from optioned to production. For those unfamiliar with the industry, an option is when the script is basically taken off the market while whoever (in this case a production company) decides whether or not to actually make it into a movie. Many times options lapse and no movie gets made. Still, I have hopes. This production company seems serious about the script. We had a number of conversations prior to the option, and we’ve scheduled more for next week . . . Which is why it would be nice if my voice would consider coming home. (One of my plague symptoms is having lost my voice.)

Well, the show must go on, as they say. Apparently heavily medicated, but on nonetheless.

Guest Post: Of Blood and Sorrow by Christine Rains

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I’m excited to be promoting Christine’s latest novel Of Blood and Sorrow today!

Blurb:
Erin Driscol works the perfect job consoling fellow demons by feeding off their grief at Putzkammer & Sons Funeral Home.

When fledgling vampire Nicolas Reese comes to Erin for help, she learns the truth behind the legends and hides him from his sire and the vampire hunters who seek him. But when the Putzkammers begin to die one by one, Erin is caught between her act of kindness and the need to save her adopted family. Only by facing her own personal demons can she stop the slaughter and still rescue Nicolas from his dark fate.

Sounds exciting, and I can’t wait to read it! (Apologies for the fact my WordPress won’t let me add any pictures . . . I’ve been working with my site host trying to figure it out. There ARE pics on the spooklights cross posting of this article!)

Now let’s learn a bit about a couple of key characters:

CORT & PAUL PUTZKAMMER

Brothers with the honored Blood of Ammut

Cort: The eldest son of Aleo and Bolona Putzkammer.
Paul: The second son.

Cort: Confident and focused. Handles the business side of the funeral home.
Paul: Introverted and quiet. A skilled mortician.

Cort: Built like a viking warrior.
Paul: Built like a bean pole.

Cort: Single and thoroughly enjoying seeing several women.
Paul: Single and would rather work.

Cort: Overprotective of Erin.
Paul: Overprotective of Erin.

Favorite line from Cort: “Hessa is the top vampire in this region. We can only imagine how powerful she is.” He rumbled deep in his chest. “And she threatened Erin. Holy shit isn’t going to do it tonight.”

Favorite line from Paul: “But please, leave for me. For Cort. That vampire, Hessa, she’ll come for us all.”

Tidbit from the author: You might have noticed I have a very limited list of actors in my head. Though these two images don’t look exactly like Cort and Paul, I just couldn’t imagine casting anyone else in their places. [Again, the pics can be seen on the spooklights post.]

Buy the book:
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Sorrow-Christine-Rains-ebook/dp/B00U89TEGY
B&N – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/of-blood-and-sorrow-christine-rains/1121327176?ean=2940151255875
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/524192
Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/of-blood-and-sorrow-2

About the author:
Christine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom. She’s married to her best friend and fellow geek living in south-central Indiana. They have one son who is too smart for his parents’ own good and loves to pretend he’s Batman. Christine has four degrees which help nothing with motherhood, but make her a great Jeopardy! player. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s going on adventures with her son or watching cheesy movies on Syfy Channel. She’s a member of Untethered Realms and S.C.I.F.I. (South Central Indiana Fiction Interface). She has several short stories and novellas published. Of Blood and Sorrow series is her first urban fantasy novel.

Please visit her website ( http://christinerains.net ) and blog ( http://christinerains-writer.blogspot.com )

Hamlette 12

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Arriving late to the story? Full index of “chapters” here.

I sat on Bea’s bed, my face in my hands, and tried not to cry. I wasn’t sure why I didn’t want to cry; I just didn’t. But it was pretty bloody difficult not to. I rocked back and forth, pressing my palms hard into my eyes, as if that could somehow dam the flood.

Bea was paralyzed with fear, I guess, though as ghosts go my dad was pretty easygoing. When I was finally able to lower my hands, Bea was still lying on the floor, all wrapped up like a burrito and staring up at me, her eyes about popping out. “Did that really just happen?” she asked.

“Yeah, I guess it did.” I frowned. “You heard him, too, right? About my uncle and all that?”

Bea struggled into a sitting position; it was like watching a slug rear up. Do slugs do that? “Yeah, but I don’t see what he expects us to do about it.”

She was right. What a crap thing to do to your daughter after you die, making her avenge your murder. I supposed when he named me “Hamlette,” Dad had been setting me up for this all along. “Well, we can’t just tell people,” I said. “God, that’s the last thing the tabloids need.”

“But a juicy murder story?” Bea suggested. “I mean, it would definitely get press.”

“He’d be convicted in the media, but we want real justice,” I told her. “And he already threw out the toothpaste,” I added glumly.

“We’ll have to get him to confess somehow, then,” said Bea.

I considered. Eoin was more a grunter than a talker, but maybe his interest in smoothing over the family relations—and presenting a happy, united front to the public—meant he’d be willing to open up. If so, there was a chance he’d give something away. “It’s worth a shot,” I ventured.

But when I got home later that morning, I first had to face Hurricane Ophelia. I’d taken all of two steps into the house, when she appeared, brandishing the morning’s Mirror and shrieking, “What! Is! This?!?”

I had to take a step back to see the picture. “Oh. Yeah. Bea and I went into town for some retail therapy.”

It’s important when talking with my mom to use words she understands. “Retail therapy” is definitely in her vocabulary.

She sighed, and let down her shoulders, and I knew I’d won my point. “I just wish you’d at least worn black. Or looked sadder or something.”

I looked at my mom, in her neatly pressed chino shorts and sleeveless white blouse. Not a stitch of black on her. In fact, she looked ready to go out on safari.

She noticed me looking and took it the wrong way, of course. Smiling, she did a little spin. “Do you like it?”

“. . . Yeah.” I tried to sound enthusiastic.

“Retail therapy,” she said with a nod, as if this were a deep, philosophical conversation.

“Yeah,” I said again. “Well, I’m going to . . .” I made a vague motion toward the staircase.

“Oh!” Mom yelped, and at first I thought she’d hurt herself; sometimes it’s hard to tell with her. But then she went on, evidently unhurt, “Speaking of therapy, Eoin and I thought it might help you to have some friends around.”

“Bea’s right up the road,” I said.

Mom waved a manicured hand (Hollywood red, natch). “I mean real friends. So Rosalind and Gwendolyn will be coming to stay a few days.” And she beamed at me, actually beamed, as if this was the best present I could ever hope to be given.

Rosalind and Gwendolyn go to my boarding school, and they are exactly the kinds of girls my mother would love for me to be. Which is to say, they’re a lot like her.

“Okay, well, have fun with that,” I said, heading for the stairs.

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Blacksmithing

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I seem to have a lot of irons in the fire at the moment. I’ve got agents reading Peter—some have the original manuscript, and some have the revised version. It’s tough having to wait to hear anything back . . . All communication seems to have dried up in the last week or so. (Maybe they’re all basketball fans?)

In the meantime, to keep myself busy, I’ve started poking at Changers again. It’s about 40% done. I do still like the story and hope to finish the draft relatively soon.

But I have a more pressing deadline: a film treatment due this Friday. I’ve started on it and submitted it to my writing partners for feedback. We’ll see what they have to say, but they’d better say it soon if it’s going to get done on time!

And we’re still in negotiations for the rom-com, waiting to hear from the attorney on that. Lots of waiting going on, really, which isn’t something I’m good at. I feel like this is all a cosmic lesson in patience.

Now and then, I do also hope to continue posting Hamlette, since it gets a lot of hits here on the site. Maybe that will turn into another YA novel?

Well then, time to start hammering away. Here’s hoping at least one of these irons can be pounded into a work of art.

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Losing Our [Organized] Religion

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Not long ago, I was reading one of those CNN articles about how organized religion is bleeding out as successive generations decline to attend church (or synagogue, or what-have-you). Now, where I’m from in the deep South, churches are still quite alive and well, but I have to say: we’re one of those families who are drifting away from the pier.

A little background (and I’ve mentioned this before, but if you’re new to the site, it’ll be new to you): I was born to a Catholic family, and there’s a lot of confusion around that, too, because where I’m from the Catholics are the upper class. Meanwhile, my understanding from a lot of other places is that Catholicism is generally perceived as the low-class religion. Not that it mattered for long. I was deeply ensconced in CCD and just ready for confirmation when my mother got “born again” and began dragging me to a much louder church. For a long time, Dad didn’t go at all, and then I think Mom gave him some kind of ultimatum and he began to attend semi-regularly. I had to go Sundays (morning and evening) and Wednesdays (evening) for a long time before my dad took up my side and told Mom that once or twice a week was plenty.

I have personal reasons for not enjoying church that much, but I can’t say it didn’t leave an impression on me. My mother went in whole hog, as they say, and became the high school teacher and sometimes taught the adult “class” too. I remember Gospel Bill, and going to tent revivals (yes, really), and even a trip to Oklahoma for some kind of convention where I met Gospel Bill in person. Ostensibly I also “received the holy spirit” during that trip.

I attended a private Christian school for a while. I was a regular youth group member. My two high school boyfriends were church boys—one was actually in college, studying to become a pastor. Mom’s biggest wish for me was to be a pastor’s wife. I went away to uni and fell in with yet another church group, and I drank their Kool-Aid for a while (was again in love with a boy who was the pastor’s “understudy” or something, but then he went off and married someone else) . . . I looked back at some old journals a while back and cringed at my sincerity in terms of all this God and church stuff.

But then. Then this church I had joined required me to take a class on proselytizing. And the homework was to stand on corners and accost people. And they convinced me to move into an apartment with three other girls from the church, so we could “hold one another accountable.” These girls gave me a hard time about wanting to go out with my friends—my secular friends, the ones who watched Highlander with me. I went out on a Wednesday night to see the new Men In Black movie and was reprimanded for having missed dinner, which the girls felt was mandatory.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I immediately balk at being told what to do. And on top of all this, I was taking history classes. Medieval history, to be exact, and I began to find the historical record very interesting when held up against the beliefs that had been inculcated in me.

In short, I began to think for myself.

I’m not sure what took me so long, except that up to that point the church had not gotten in the way of anything I’d wanted to do, so I never had any reason to question anything they told me.

By the time I went away to Boston for grad school, I was no longer a member of that church or any church, though I did still believe in my own personal way. Then I met and got engaged to a nice Jewish boy. He had told me he’d be fine raising our kids in the Christian church, and at first I was insistent, but then I began to really consider. I began meeting with the college’s rabbi, having weekly meetings with him, and when I declared that I didn’t think it was fair of me to deny my kids their Jewish heritage, he was visibly surprised. “I’ve never met anyone like you,” he told me. But in my mind it would be like my parents having denied me my French Creole heritage, which I’m very proud of. And so I agreed to raise our children in the Jewish faith.

We had a rabbi officiate the wedding, too, and stood under a chuppah. But this was a reform rabbi, and the chuppah was only required if I didn’t want to instead stand within a circle of cornmeal (the rabbi had spent time with the Navajo)—we simply needed a “sacred space.” Since I didn’t see dragging my train through cornmeal, the chuppah won.

The ceremony was a lovely blend of Judaism and Christianity. But we weren’t really into religion, and it wasn’t until we did start having children that we concluded we’d better find a synagogue. We found one in Massachusetts, and then we moved to California and found one here. But really . . . We’re not into it.

And here’s where our defection takes place.

For one thing, we’re one of those families who celebrates Easter and Christmas as well as Hanukkah and Passover, etc. We’ve more or less secularized it all. The Jewish holidays are more about culture than religion for us. We celebrate Mardi Gras, too, for the same reason—that’s part of my heritage, and so it’s also part of the kids’.

And I’ve gone back to my roots. Way back. I do Tarot. I light candles. I don’t know if I’m Pagan, exactly, but I’m probably close. This resonates more with me than all of the stuff I grew up with. I do believe in a supreme being—perhaps several. I’m still sorting it out.

Meanwhile, my husband is agnostic, bordering on atheistic.

Right now two of the kids are in Hebrew school. But we’ve concluded that after this year, we won’t re-enroll them. It sucks up time and money, and the question becomes one of priorities. Sadly (is it sad? not sure), organized religion is not a priority for us. Time together is. We’d rather have those hours and dollars back so we can do more fun things as a family. We can raise our children to be good people without the synagogue, or a church. We can teach them about their heritage, every side of it: the French Creole, the Scottish, the Jewish. We can do holidays, any and all of them, however we like. We require no special license for any of it.

So, yes, we’re one of the families on exodus from organized religion. And sometimes it scares me, but I know that’s just all the hellfire and damnation of my youth haunting me. When I think about it objectively, I’m happier now than I was then. My current spiritual path, all that I’m learning, satisfies me more than what came before. And that is how belief should be—filling, satisfying, a meal for the soul. It doesn’t matter where or how it’s served.

What Is Happening?!?

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A few nights ago, I had a dream in which I was driving and accidents were happening all around me. Somehow I managed not to be hit, but the accidents caused me to take a wrong exit, so that I ended up somewhere I hadn’t intended to be.

This week has felt just like that: accidents occurring all around me. I’ve had two friends whose sons have gone to the hospital (one was, in fact, in a car accident); I’ve heard of two young children having died; and then another person whose husband took ill and died suddenly. I look around and say, What a wreck!

I could blame that last Uranus–Pluto square we had Monday. The unexpected + death (or injury) . . . It definitely fits the bill. And today is the New Moon in Pisces, and it’s a “supermoon” and a solar eclipse and the equinox besides . . . And the equivalent of the astrological new year as the sun prepares to enter Aries.

Well, all this gives one perspective at least. I have my little problems, but I and my family are well (I’m knocking on my wood desk now), and in the big scheme I cannot complain. I do complain, but after all this, I feel foolish for it. I will count my blessings and remember to be grateful.

Hamlette 11

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Arriving late to the story? Full index of “chapters” here.

We stopped by Dad’s flat, picked up our purchases (the bags were mostly mine), and headed back out of town with nary a flashbulb in sight. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. And even as we were leaving London, it occurred to me I should have at least gone by The Globe. But I didn’t really want to see whatever signage they’d put up regarding Dad’s memorial or whatever.

“He would have been knighted, I think,” I said. “If he’d lived longer.”

Bea nodded. “Yeah, I think so, too.”

Dad’s name had come up all the time whenever people tried to guess who might make the list in any given year.

We were pretty quiet for the rest of the drive.

When we got back to the Polleys’, we were told there was leftover pot roast if we wanted, but all we were after were more cookies. We took the entire plastic container of snickerdoodles upstairs with us. My mom would have berated me for stress eating or something; she’s the type to starve herself. And no, I’m not fat, thankyouverymuch, or even overweight. I practice moderation . . . Except when snickerdoodles are involved.

Whenever I stay over at Bea’s, we both sleep on the floor. This is because her bed is too small for both of us, and it’s only fun if you can whisper to one another, which you can’t do when one of you is up on the bed and one is on the floor. So we lay out a big quilt to soften the rug, which can get a bit scratchy, and we raid the linen cabinet for a pile of blankets, and we cocoon ourselves up and laugh until we fall asleep.

At least, that’s how it usually goes.

We tried to laugh that night, too, though it felt wrong. And there was tension, you know, because we both really thought a ghost might appear . . . Not any ghost, but my Dad. And that was just too weird.

And then it happened.

Like, my dead dad showed up at our sleepover.

I thought I’d fallen asleep and was dreaming. Then I looked over at Bea and thought she was asleep. And then I got confused because I thought Bea was only asleep in my dream, and what if she was actually still awake in real life?

While I tried to wrap my brain around that, I heard a whisper. “Niss! Nissa!”

I tried to open my eyes and wake up. After a moment, I realized my eyes were already open and I was awake.

I looked at Bea, and her eyes were open, too, and wide. She looked frozen, but it may just have been that her blankets were wound too tight around her for her to move much.

“Nissa, sweetheart . . .”

Okay, so that wasn’t Bea talking. Her eyes just kept getting bigger; I could see the glassy whiteness of them in the gloom. Then I let my gaze travel over her head to the bed. And there was Dad, sitting on the bed.

I yelped. I couldn’t help it.

Dad smiled, and my heart broke. I hadn’t thought it was possible for it to break any more than it already had, but seeing that familiar smile shattered me.

“Hey, sweetheart,” Dad said. I was the only person he called “sweetheart.” Not Mom, not anyone else but me.

“Sorry I woke you,” Dad went on, as if this were a normal kind of thing. “I just . . . I don’t have a lot of time.”

“How do you have any time?” I asked. “You’re—you’re—” But I couldn’t say it. Didn’t he know?

“I know,” he said. Could ghosts read minds? “But I get a little bit of a pass. The charity work and all.”

“What?” I didn’t understand.

Slowly, Bea was rolling back so she could see her bed, too. Once she caught sight of my dad, she made a whimpering noise.

“Hey, Bea, how’s school?” Dad asked.

Bea whimpered some more.

“Look, Niss,” Dad went on, “You know I loved your mom . . .”

“Why?” I asked. I’d always wondered.

But Dad apparently didn’t have the time to answer, or maybe he didn’t even know. “And I even loved my brother,” he said. “But . . .” Dad heaved a sigh, though why I wasn’t sure; it’s not like ghosts breathe, right? “He killed me.”

“The toothpaste,” I said, and Dad nodded.

“I know it’s a lot to ask,” he said, “but it would help me rest a little better if you could see him brought to justice.”

I tried to ground myself in some kind of sense of reality, but it was difficult. For one thing, I was talking to my dead father. And he was asking me to, like, avenge him. “You want me to get Uncle Eoin arrested for your murder?”

“If you don’t mind.”

“Can’t you just . . .?” But I wasn’t sure what ghosts could or couldn’t do.

Dad smiled, but it was a tad bitter. “I’m only allowed three phone calls.”

“Seriously?”

He threw his hands, palms up. “It’s more than some people get!”

I wanted to ask him about this bizarre afterlife justice system, but just then Dad turned his head as if listening to something we couldn’t hear. “The bells,” he said. “I have to go.”

“But, Dad . . .” I was struggling to get out of the blankets, suddenly desperate to reach him. He was already starting to fade.

“I love you, sweetheart. Whatever happens, remember that.”

I wrestled myself free and flung myself toward the bed. It felt like I passed through something cool and moist, a kind of cloud or mist. But he was gone.

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Wild Mountain Thyme

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Yeah, it’s a Scottish song, but then I’m part Scottish, so . . .

This morning I went on my usual walk, and I found a thistle. Just growing there, next to the path. Wasn’t there yesterday. And I’ve never seen a thistle in our park before, not anywhere. So I picked it and brought it home because it felt like a sign. Of what, though, I’m not sure.

Thistle is, of course, the national flower of Scotland. From a florist’s perspective, it symbolizes austerity. In dreams, thistles show a need or desire for protection, or perhaps a prickly nature that drives others away. Any or all of these may apply to why a thistle decided to make its presence known to me this morning.

And then the song “Wild Mountain Thyme” popped into my head. It’s not on my iPod, though Glenn Frey does a nice version of it. (My iPod, meanwhile, was playing “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” by Moody Blues. Which I’d forgotten was even on my iPod because it’s never played it before.)

So though today is an Irish holiday—and yes, I’m wearing green—for me there was a bit of Scottish magic in it.

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