Author Archives: Kim Peterson

Confessions of a Really Bad Sport

Are you a good sport?

I’m not. Never have been.

As a preschooler, I pitched horrendous hissy fits when I pinned the tail on the donkey’s nose.

Worse, I adopted questionable ways of winning. I recall playing jacks at age four with Meddy, a “big kid” of five. When Meddy dropped a jack or misbounced the ball, I loudly denounced her “misses.” My similar miscues, however, were “mistakes.” People who made mistakes deserved another chance. Several, in fact.

Meddy suggested a new game: Throw Rachael Off the Top of the Swing Set. She was good at that game. I wasn’t the best sport.

I graduated to towering rages while playing Monopoly — not my fault. My brother manufactured counterfeit five-hundred-dollar bills under his bunk bed. He spent every penny building vast empires around Park Place and Boardwalk. When his cash flow disappeared, I bought his lousy railroads and utilities with carefully hoarded cash. In turn, I believed he’d ignore my landing on his hotels.

Wrong. He nailed me. I, the prudent, generous developer, always lost.

Since his counterfeiting skills didn’t figure into playing Clue, I fared better. Still, I rejected the candlestick as a weapon. What respectable murderer knocked off people with candlesticks?

After ten losses in an afternoon, I smacked both my brother and my cousin with the playing board. Hey, it made more sense than using a candlestick.

I even extended my winning obsession to church. Boy vs. girl penny contests at Bible school inspired me. I emptied my piggy bank, dug under sofa cushions, and shook down neighbor kids so we angelic girls could beat those devilish boys to send money to missionaries. Somehow, I confused the bring-a-visitor-to-church competitions with TV cowboy westerns. We kids even sang songs urging us to “bring them in.” How was I to know “dead or alive” didn’t apply?

Eventually, I grew up. Fair play, teeth-gritting congratulations to those who bested me, and missionary giving sans mugging all became the norm.

Recently, I played Scrabble with our grown children. As I was an English major, this self-designed scenario should have resulted in another victory notch in my diploma.

But all the vowels had been called to jury duty. During game two, all consonants were outsourced overseas. I proposed new rules: If other players used an X, they lost five tiles. If I drew a Z, though, I received five bonus tiles.

My narrow-minded offspring nixed my innovations. Their proposal: If I drew a Q, all U’s found among my tiles were to be held in custody until 3012 or until peace prevails in the Middle East, whichever comes first.

Maybe we both just made mistakes?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you a good sport?

Should We Bless This Food?

My mother taught me the “God-is-great-God-is-good-and-we-thank-Him-for-our-food” prayer early, so saying grace comes naturally. But as a child, I wondered about blessing food containing onions. Onions were poison. Yet, Mom persisted. Fearing death, I changed my prayer accordingly: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. …”

I picked out the onions, hid them in a napkin and sat on them, plotting secret disposal.

A prominent U.S. Senate chaplain dealt with similar issues. Reverend Peter Marshall’s wife Catherine, who later would write Christy, a best seller, tried to disguise leftover holiday turkey as hash. Reverend Marshall declared that God knew he hated turkey hash; therefore, he would not give thanks.

Lucky Reverend Marshall. He didn’t sit on a napkin full of hash.

Unblessable vegetables have cropped up in my poll. My husband offers theological treatises on why God never meant humans to ingest lima beans.

He also dislikes fried chicken, a lifelong passion of mine — and my mother’s. When I was dating age, she warned me about men like him. Mom never stopped frying chicken, but for 65 years, she cooked alternative pork chops for chicken-hating Dad.

Other poll participants have experienced similar disagreements, describing black-eyed peas, liver, mincemeat pie, marshmallows, sushi and tapioca pudding in vivid, unmentionable terms.

Some struggle to bless food in restaurants, especially at today’s prices. Others, like me, rate lukewarm soup as an abomination before the Lord.

However, I’m not always sensitive to others’ dietary abominations. When I went to college, my mom, who had German background, sent me a special treat: pickled pigs’ feet. Upon seeing the bones in our trash can, my Jewish roommate concluded I was a closet cannibal.

Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay.

Missionaries struggle with related scenarios. A prominent Ecuadorian town official offered missionary friends roasted guinea pig. My sister-in-law in Honduras informed me that armadillo does not taste like chicken. Once a guest in a South American jungle home, I forced myself to munch mooshy strips of spoiled bacon. Later, I discovered they were baked bananas.

I have learned to eat onions — though they remember my early rejection and exact revenge.

Before leaving the subject of unblessable foods, we should address the elephant in the room. Not eat it, though some Asians and Africans consider elephant meat a delicacy.

I refer to elephant-sized appetites, including mine. Should we bless thousand-calorie-a-bite cheesecake?

God is great and God is good. He blesses us with cheesecake — also with bathroom scales, fitting room mirrors, high school reunions, and mean doctors/dieticians/trainers.

With tons of green salad, too … topped with a slice of onion.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What foods do you consider unblessable?

What Kind of Store?

Have you noticed lately that businesses are teaming up to lower costs?

Image by RobynsWorld from Pixabay.

If you’ve driven interstates, you’ve probably taken breaks at truck stops that combine gas stations, convenience stores, and fast-food restaurants. Highly visible, their diversity serves tired travelers who want to find only one exit — and parking spot.

Other restaurants also have joined forces. For a while, I could sky my cholesterol at either a building’s fried chicken half or taco section.

Recently, though, that trend has waned. Perhaps, employees were exchanging secret recipes. Or maybe, desiring job security, they started to mug customers, dragging them to their side.

Businesses offering contrasting services seem to post success rates. Scorning the logic of bookstore-coffee shop and doctor’s office-pharmacy combinations, they often appear in small towns. I’ve patronized a computer-tractor sales store, which New Yorkers might find … unusual. Also, a car repair garage that sold used furniture. I’ve drunk lattes brewed at a hardware store.

Occasionally, even we small-town types blink at business combos. Hubby, wanting his coat cleaned, found himself staring at a store window’s sandy beach scene. The tanning salon also served as a dry cleaner’s drop-off.

Image by MustangJoe from Pixabay.

When my mother visited our small town, I had to explain why I’d driven her to the laundromat to buy a Greyhound ticket.

Having pastored in an isolated Oregon town (population 37), Mom shouldn’t have found that strange. The solitary business there served as combination restaurant, bar, gas station, post office and bank. My parents probably were the only missionaries their supporters knew who cashed checks at the Dry Gulch Saloon.

Our son and his family have followed a similar unique path, attending Sunday morning services where a boxing club, GED classes, pickleball courts and a girls’ Roller Derby team are housed. I never before had praised God in sight of a boxing ring, but Jesus, with His grassroots approach, might not have found that odd.

I wonder why certain combination stores haven’t yet appeared. Take, for example, a car repair garage-nail salon. Supplied with massage chairs and earphones to soften clanky garage noises, female customers would never ask, “Is my car ready yet?”

Instead, they’d pay for an engine rebuild. (Anything to avoid fixing supper.)

A combination electronics store-spa would please both genders. With men free to stare at screens and evaluate gadgets and women free to relax without doing either, store owners would make big profits.

Some parents suggest a combination birthday palace-psychological clinic, with discount therapy coupons for moms and dads.

However, we don’t want to see some business combinations, such as a tax accountant-bond service outfit. A fast-food-bait store. An airport with its own funeral home.

Saving money on overhead is great. I’m all about cooperation and mutual support.

Sometimes, though, wouldn’t going it alone be better?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What odd business combinations have you seen?

Positive Principals

As a spanking-new first grader, I heard (on big-kid authority) the principal functioned as Lord High Executioner. Mrs. Taylor, a large, pigeon-shaped lady, laughed loud and deep, displaying a mouthful of white, predatory teeth.

Whenever she appeared, I glued my eyes to my Dick and Jane book. I never wanted to deliver Teacher’s attendance sheet to Mrs. Taylor’s office because I couldn’t bear the hopeless looks of the condemned waiting outside. Would they emerge alive?

I’d survived first grade, when I heard rumors of a new principal. A man. I feared my life expectancy would drop considerably, which my first encounter with Mr. O’Connor confirmed. Adults called him “short,” but he seemed big and powerful, a redheaded Irishman whose cat-green eyes shot sparks when we crossed him.

My children, on the other hand, brought home tales of friendship and fun with their principal. He read storybooks aloud, led students in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and told the lamest knock-knock jokes in western civilization. If you forgot your bus number, he materialized like Jesus to help you.

During our children’s school careers, we encountered several principals who went the extra mile. Lately, though, many go the extra galaxy. Mrs. Taylor and Mr. O’Connor, whom I eventually recognized as caring professionals, wanted students to achieve. Never, however, did they kiss a potbellied pig. Running a school these days poses enough challenges without eating fried worms (even with mustard and ketchup), as a Texas principal did to motivate her students.

Brave? Ye-e-es. Even more heroic (and less yucky): working behind the scenes to make a difference in kids’ lives.

Years ago, I encountered our principal in an alley doing exactly that. Unintentionally, I almost wiped him out. Still dressed in robe and nightgown, I was moving trash cans in pouring rain when subhuman screams rent the air. I grabbed my garden hoe, positive a child had been attacked. Thankfully, I recognized our principal before I dismembered him.

I ducked inside our garage and watched the drenched educator haul a screeching, kicking blur toward school a block away. Later, I asked him about the incident.

“Billy had locked himself in his mom’s car. I went and brought him to school.”

“Coat hanger?” I asked.

“Yeah, learned it in college. Great methods course.”

“Has Billy learned his lesson?”

“He tries stuff to see if I mean it.” A Mr. O’Connor look stole over his features. “I mean it.”

Did Billy thank him? Probably not. The principal had to use more Fear Factor than he liked. Hopefully, three decades later, Billy realizes the value of his Friend Factor, who literally walked the extra mile — in the rain — to help him succeed.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What special educator do you recall?

Vive la Différence!

Throughout human history, we have observed one inevitable truth: men and women are different.

Even our newborn who mistook Daddy’s shirt-pocketed beeper for breakfast recognized that fact.

So why does our culture try to convince us otherwise?

Take, for example, the five senses: sight, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching.

Everyone possesses a pair of eyes. Yet women can spot cute shoes on sale from the interstate. Men see such shoes only if their spouses add this 207th pair to their closets.

Women mostly see dirt and germs in a negative light. Perhaps because God made Adam from mud pies, guys see dirt in a positive light, whether in a slide into home plate or a monster truck’s foray into mud bogs. They acknowledge germs only if their work requires they eradicate them in patients or grow them in petri dishes.

Gender differences also pervade our hearing. A husband may wonder, “Why bother with baby monitors?”

When Mommy and Daddy are on a second honeymoon, two hundred miles away, she still hears their infant. Monitor or no monitor, he only hears their baby at night when accompanied by his wife’s elbow, kick, and/or water pistol.

This female hyper-hearing also applies to nighttime burglars and moments when children are too quiet. In either case, men experience a strictly limited audible range. How can she have expected him to do something, when he never heard it?

However, males hear “funny noises” in vehicles. My husband can detect an imperfect cup holder — even if it rattles in the third car behind him.

Women and men even smell smoke in contrasting ways. Women call 911 or, if company’s coming, clean ovens. Men smell bonfires, barbecues and fireworks. The smell of smoke equals a party!

The sense of taste also highlights gender differences. For men, taste generally involves sufficient quantity — unless you’re talking broccoli. Women are all about haute cuisine, artistic presentation and half servings — unless you’re talking chocolate. Then, bring it on by the semi load.

Finally, the sexes experience touch in unique ways. Women hug to celebrate engagements, new babies, expanded closet space. We hug to console each other when evil extra pounds refuse to be evicted.

Men, on the other hand, hug at key life events: weddings, funerals, or ball games. If their team wins.

Why did the Creator design us so differently? We may not understand that mystery until Heaven. Still, acknowledging He knew what He was doing seems reasonable.

Actually, it’s the only scenario that makes sense.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you sense your world differently from men/women?

Cleaning Confrontation

Who wants to clean out a refrigerator and chest freezer?

Blown light bulbs conveniently have kept me in the dark about their sad state. I grabbed diet Pepsi or pizza, slamming doors before tentacles could yank me inside.

But now, with the garden producing, I can’t feed my veggies to whatever life forms lurk there.

Confrontation time.

I need hot water and disinfectant. Rubber gloves. Body armor. Samurai sword. Hey, past-expiration-by-a-decade cottage cheese gets testy when evicted.

I cover the body armor with an apron, à la June Cleaver. This secret weapon of all women in 1950s TV sitcoms empowered June to do housework while wearing high heels and pearls. It will grant me added protection.

Hubby’s grandma sewed this apron that gives me courage to clean out our refrigerator and freezer.

Besides, Hubby’s grandma sewed this apron. Though gentle, she fought a fierce, lifelong war against dirt and germs. Her spirit pokes me with a scrub brush and urges me to be strong.

Grabbing my sword, I crack the fridge’s door.

Nothing.

I throw it open.

Ack! Half-filled bottles of lavender salad dressing. Pudding that resembles petri dishes. Mashed potatoes that give a whole new meaning to “green vegetable.”

Did something move?

I slam it shut and venture into the garage, where the freezer resides. I open it. No tentacles.

I summon Golden Oldies to inspire me. A rhythmic tune dances me across the garage—

“Mission Impossible.”

So much for inspiration.

My Cold War almost morphs into peaceful coexistence, especially when the song changes to “One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying, Purple People Eater.” Will Hubby find nothing left but my eyeglasses and piles of defrosted food? Will he weep more for losing me or pot roasts?

Thankfully, the music changes to the Star Wars theme. Retying my mighty apron, I plunge into the freezer’s alternative universe. I see furry-looking, amorphous packages, their age detectable only by carbon dating. Each evokes a question:

  • Why did I shred four dozen bags of zucchini? Hubby hates zucchini bread, and I probably shouldn’t eat 50 pounds.
  • Did this tuna casserole pre-exist with God in the beginning?
  • Do holiday turkeys grow exponential sets of giblets?

I toss out piles of mystery food, moving to “You’re No Good” and “Hit the Road, Jack.” I use endless elbow “Grease,” but eventually graduate to “Splish Splash,” reveling in unfamiliar spotlessness.

I saved the giblets for a game of H-O-R-S-E, shooting them into trash cans in the driveway.

Oops. I hit a garbage guy.

My apology had better be good. Given summer heat, I really, really want him to haul my melting mess away.

Fortunately, he doesn’t take my poor aim personally. He only wants to flee. So, cans are dumped in haste. The truck roars off to “Hey hey hey, goodbye. …”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you make housework fun?

T.C. Steele, Mother Haines and Not-So-Partly Cloudy

Not long ago, while we were camping in southern Indiana, it rained. And rained.

So much for “partly cloudy.”

We had loitered in every restaurant within 50 miles. Where to now?

Artistic inspiration struck me. “Let’s visit the T.C. Steele historic site!”

Forty years before, Clara Haines, known at our church as “Mother Haines,” had recommended it. We college students had heard she dabbled in painting, but she obviously spent most of her time starching doilies.

One brief visit to her home opened our eyes and minds. Doilies adorned tables, but paintings covered the walls. Glowing colors pulled us into sun-dappled landscapes and stark snow scenes.

Our young jaws dropped. “You painted these?”

She nodded and said she’d learned to paint from T.C. Steele. She encouraged us to see his home and works.

Steve hiking in the Hoosier National Forest.

Four decades later, we did.

We’d never viewed Steele’s Rembrandt-like portraits. Wealthy Indianapolis patrons had been immortalized by his brush, some of whom now regarded us with lifelike interest.

But Steele’s Impressionist late-nineteenth/early-twentieth-century Hoosier landscapes nailed us to the floor. I stared until I needed extra eye drops. How Steele had loved his native state!

As do we.

While hardly luxurious, the Steeles’ “House of the Singing Winds,” with its Victorian rugs, player piano and stuffed peacock kept their bewildered neighbors’ tongues wagging.

Living in log cabins, the Brown County natives must have considered their new neighbors aliens. This man didn’t work — just painted pretty pictures. Whoever heard of a woman who couldn’t cook? Instead of raising food, she planted hundreds of flowers.

Though only 50 miles from their native Indianapolis, the Steeles must have felt likewise.

Yet, walking through her gardens between downpours, we saw that Selma loved her adopted home, remaining years after her husband died. Selma also moved an 1875 log cabin to her property. Knowing its history — the cabin’s owner had raised seven children there with one wife and 11 with another — perhaps Selma considered it a reminder that regardless of hard adjustments, they could have been worse!

Selma Steele’s formal gardens are designated a “Historic Iris Preservation Society Display Garden.” Visitors to the T.C. Steele State Historic Site can walk the gardens, tour the home and visit Steele’s studio. https://tcsteele.org/visit/

We bought a print of one of Steele’s winter scenes because it reminded us of Mother Haines’ similar landscapes and her comment: “Painting snow sounds easy. But I used 23 colors in that snowbank.”

As Hubby and I sat in the Steeles’ porch swing, we envisioned the Steeles entertaining other painters and students like Clara Haines, then a young mother who braved muddy, treacherous roads in a Model T to learn from the master artist.

Time and effort so well spent. Thank you, T.C. Steele and Mother Haines, for gracing our lives with beauty 40 years later on this not-so-partly-cloudy day.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What artist resonates with your state or area?

Our Normal Vacation

Summer trips with stops at Stuckey’s and Storybook Land. Sleeping in genuine teepees at the Woocheekoochee Warpath Motel — with a swimming pool!

A normal vacation for many kids during the 1960s.

But nobody ever accused my family of normalcy.

Any July morning, Dad might casually inform my mother he planned a family departure to visit his parents in Louisiana. At 8:00 p.m. that day.

Mom would have scorned comparison to that Wonder Woman hussy in bustier and tights, but she herself represented a true marvel. By 8:00 p.m. she had washed and packed clothes. She had canned every ripe tomato and pickle within 20 miles. Pets were exported and schedules rearranged with the decisiveness of a Fortune 500 CEO. Why Mom also cleaned our car remains a mystery. One root beer stand stop, and the station wagon again was infested with French fries, seats freshly graffitied with ketchup.

Her most amazing feat: Mom never hired a hit man to bump off Dad.

Arriving home, he flattened station wagon seats, loaded suitcases and cooler, then stacked us on top.

Dad loved all-night driving because he endured few dollar-eating, time-consuming restaurant stops. No tinkle breaks every two miles. Nothing to interrupt his love song of the open road — after children nodded off.

I often awakened with a sibling’s foot in my ear or an arm strangling me in a half nelson.

Sometimes, I awoke to discover Dad catching a few winks along an unknown highway. Waking siblings — especially the baby — was a capital crime. So, I watched in mingled hope and terror as headlights approached: hope because they lit the darkness; terror because the Hatchet Murderers of America were traveling tonight, too.

Mornings, we played tag under cedars at a Tennessee rest stop while Mom cooked bacon and eggs over a campfire. The smells alone made the all-night drive worth it.

After crossing the Mississippi River, we soon stopped outside Monroe, Louisiana. Mom extracted The Washcloth from its plastic bag to scrub us, making us smell as if we’d spent the night in a dumpster. Still, it ranked above spit and shine with The Kleenex, Mom’s substitute if she forgot The Washcloth.

Dad called Grandma from a phone booth. We all knew this dialogue by heart.

“Mama, we’re in Louisiana.”

“No, you’re not.” She’d fallen too many times for his fibs. “You ain’t left Indiana.”

“Mama! We’re just outside Monroe.”

Grandma Oglesbee, wearing the wary expression she usually did when my dad fibbed to tease her.

She didn’t buy it.

Finally, Dad admitted what Grandma had suspected all along: “The car broke down. We haven’t left home.”

“I knew it! Ya’ll think I’m soft in the head.”

His favorite part of “normal” vacation: 30 minutes later, when we pulled into Grandma’s driveway.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What vacation memory can’t you forget?

I’m Not a Scientist

Sometimes I wish I were a scientist, a brainiac whose findings are held sacred.

Writers are not so privileged. If I believed aliens control all printers — especially mine — my family would hide the tinfoil.

Contrariwise, if researchers declared aliens manipulate our printers, the government would offer them millions to also investigate intergalactic control of garage door openers.

Image by Brett Hondow from Pixabay.

Being a scientist would be nice.

But I’ve never displayed much aptitude. As a child, I wrote poetry about tigers instead of studying their messy hunting habits. Glittering rocks weren’t geological specimens. In my mind, they morphed into jewels from Ali Baba’s cave. The TV weatherman, with mysterious, loopy drawings, was a wizard wearing a suit. Unlike Jesus, he couldn’t stop storms. But he sure knew how to stir them up.

My world intrigued me — my mother’s roses, summer evenings lit by firefly lanterns, the moon glimmering like the Pearl of Great Price.

However, science teachers wanted me to get up close and personal with germs, gutted frogs and pickled baby pigs.

Planning a college music major, I rejoiced when I’d fulfilled my science requirement. No more icky labs!

However, advanced science and math classes at my school were given extra points. Stuck with a good but downgraded GPA, I considered chemistry and physics, both of which sounded like endless-math disasters. Physics also involved objects striking each other. I already knew too much about that, having totaled Dad’s car. So, I took advanced biology. A bonus: my boyfriend and I became lab partners!

Unlike several in this high school yearbook photo of the
Top Ten students in our graduating class, I was not a
science whiz.

However, he expected me to read the labs before class — what nerve! I discovered we were studying fruit fly (blush!) reproduction. Subconscious sympathy for the insects’ eventual euthanasia made me forget to replace lids on their jars. …

The fruit flies survived longer than our relationship.

My ex-boyfriend/lab partner rejoiced when schedule changes sent me to a different biology class. A tall, math-science type with a cute smile sat across from me. Fortunately, we didn’t become lab partners. Eventually, we dated and attended college together.

When he, a superstar chemistry major, tutored me in unavoidable College Chemistry 100, I always read the material beforehand. With his help, I passed.

A few years later, my tutor became my husband. As he went to medical school, I continued brushes with icky science. Hubby wore the smell of formaldehyde more than aftershave. I laundered lab coats and surgery shoes with mysterious smears. Though he’s now retired, a relative still may approach us while eating out, concerned about Aunt Pearlie Mae’s hemorrhoids.

I am not and never will be gifted with objectivity or a strong stomach.

Being a scientist is a privilege I can live without.

Image by Herney Gómez from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Would you like to be a scientist?

Take This Job and Love It?

“What do you do?”

You’ve been asked this quintessential icebreaker a million times, right?

Has your answer made the questioner blink? Twice?

Probably not.

We Midwesterners like others to think we’re normal. Occasionally, I regale a cornered listener with tales of my jobs during college days. One summer, my brother and I cleaned our county’s 86 phone booths. We also cleaned telephone companies, creameries and lumberyards. I learned the value of hard work, fortitude, and singing high operatic scales while cleaning men’s restrooms.

I also worked as a nurse’s aide in a county home for patients like Glen, who pantomimed shooting the staff. I combed the grounds for booze James had smuggled in for resale purposes.

After that job, even a secretarial position in academia seemed tame.

Other workers push occupational limits too. Cleaning seems safe — but washing skyscraper windows? Ulp. Few adventure films feature dusting, but consider the heroism of a cling-to-the-scaffold IMAX screen maintenance guy.

I’d rather be a paper towel sniffer, paid $19,000-$52,000 per year.

According to Reader’s Digest, airplane repossessors make big bucks. However, considering some foreign governments’ possible displeasure, a million-dollar paycheck (and funeral) hold little appeal.

Nor do I aspire to be a lion keeper, snake milker, or caregiver to other dangerous animals — though my mom experience running children’s birthday parties would qualify me.

Those who prefer underwater excitement can work as divers, inspecting oil rigs. Or they can dive for pearls, establishing meaningful relationships with passing sharks.

I’d rather become a “Keeper of the Cup,” a Stanley Cup-sitter who accompanies the coveted hockey trophy wherever it goes.

Modeling appears an equally cushy job. However, consider the stresses of smiling for hours while starving. Even at my wedding, I, well-fed as always, grew tired of posing my pearly whites.

Wouldn’t we all like a career as a bed tester?

Some consider that snoozy job equivalent to my writing profession. I do spend hours in my PJs, as defined waistbands stifle creativity. When I’m parked in a comfy chair with my laptop, the necessary daydreaming (we writers call it brainstorming) sometimes morphs into nap-dreaming (subconscious research).

Like William Faulkner, I work when inspired. He claimed he was inspired at nine every morning. I am inspired anytime from 6 a.m. on — depending on deadlines — six days a week and, occasionally, seven.

I have experienced peril in my job, climbing a fire tower so I could write authentically about my characters’ acrophobia. I’ve spooked myself riding a nighttime ferry to an Ohio River pirate cave, experiencing terror my nineteenth-century heroine felt. I’ve even faced editors who couldn’t find a Starbucks.

Still, I’ll take this job and love it.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s the best job you’ve held? The worst?