The Chicks are delighted to welcome Liz Milliron, author of the Laurel Highlands Mysteries and The Home Front Mysteries, today. Broken Trust, the latest book in the the Laurel Highland series, is available now!
Thanks to the Chicks for having me back. It’s always a fun place to visit.
2020, what a year. Amirite? I mean time brings changes all the, uh, time but this year seems to have more than its fair share. Everything is different, right down to going out for a simple haircut, is topsy-turvy.
I’ve experienced all those changes and yet one more: At the end of August, I shipped The Boy, my youngest, off to college. That means for the first time since July 2000 only my husband and I (and Koda of course) are home. Yes, we’ve joined the ranks of the empty nesters. True, The Girl, who left for college two years ago and now has her own apartment, is in Pittsburgh and comes to visit sometimes, but on a regular basis it’s back to him and I, like it was in the beginning.
Here, in no particular order, are my five favorite changes since joining the ranks of the newly child-free:
- The Dinner-time Shuffle
One of the things that was important to my husband and me during the child-raising years was family dinner. You know, sitting down together, all four of us, to a home-cooked meal. Even before the kids ate solid food, we put their swing or bouncy seat at the table so they’d be part of the evening meal.
Oh sure, during the activity-filled years, there were nights when Subway was our best friend. But I’d say for the last twenty years, for an average of five nights a week (you do that math), we had the traditional dinner. Make food, set the table, sit down, clear the table, do the dishes.
That is already out the window. Set the table for two? Why bother? Grab a plate, serve yourself from the stove, and sit. Still at the table (we haven’t devolved to a TV tray yet), but no more carrying pots, pans, plates back and forth.
- What do you want to eat?
This goes along with number five. When you cook that many dinners a week, the question of what to cook is ever-present. “What’s for dinner?” was a daily question we loathed hearing (even from ourselves). For a while, I enlisted The Girl’s help in meal planning. We’d scour Pinterest for recipes, make our shopping lists, and create a schedule of meals for the week: Monday salmon, Tuesday ham steaks, Wednesday roast beef, etc. I lost count of the nights my husband and I stood in front of the fridge saying, “What are we going to make tonight?”
Now it’s just the two of us, sayonara baby. Last spring we bought an Instant Pot, which greatly expanded our options – it’s easy and even fun trying new things. With The Boy and his shellfish allergy gone, we can make shrimp again and meals like these luscious scallops.
But maybe best of all, free from the necessity of making a “family dinner,” we can look at the fridge contents, say “I don’t feel like eating any of this” and grab a takeout menu. Or even (gasp!) go out – properly masked up, of course.
- Ultimate TV control
If you have small children (or had them) you remember the early years when it was kiddie shows all-day, every day. Those jingly songs that threatened to drain your brain from your ear if you heard them One. More. Time. And if you wanted to watch something more adult? Well, that had to wait until after bedtime and you better keep that remote handy, just in case little ears wandered downstairs.
It’s been many years since I’ve had to deal with that, but we moved directly from kiddie shows to sporting events. The Boy needed to watch his basketball games and he adored his sports talk shows. We got a second TV and put it in the den for him, but it was still there as background noise.
No more. We can watch whatever we want, whenever we want. And if The Hubby and I want to watch different things, we still have that second TV.
- The morning routine
Once my kids reached school age, my mornings sounded like some combination of this:
“Hey, it’s time to get up.”
“Really, you need to get out of bed.”
“Get out of bed, NOW!”
“What do you mean you don’t have clean underwear?”
“I don’t know where your shirt is. Why don’t you lay out your clothes before you go to bed?”
“Why didn’t you give me these forms to sign last night?”
“No, I don’t have five dollars for your dress-down day.”
“The canned food drive? Take something from the basement.”
“Where is your homework?”
“Why isn’t your backpack packed?”
“Forget it, we need to go. No, seriously, we need to leave. C’mon, we’re going to be late. MOVE YOUR BUTT NOW BECAUSE IF YOU MISS THAT BUS I’M GOING TO BE ANGRY!”
Even during The Boy’s senior year of high school, when he drove himself, there was a fair amount of chivvying him out the door.
No more. I worked from home even before the pandemic and now The Hubby alternates days in the office with working from home. I can luxuriate in bed until seven a.m., wander down for a leisurely breakfast, feed the dog, and start my day without the stress of rushing out the door and being afraid of what might have been left behind.
- Watching my kids become adults.
I’ve been teaching them and preparing them for this moment for a lot of years, and now it’s here. For all their lives, Mom and Dad have been there when everything went pear-shaped. And while I guess we’re still here as a safety net (The Boy got his first speeding ticket and guess who he called for help dealing with it?), it’s on them. The lessons have been taught, now to see if they’ve been learned. And I get little thrills of joy, like when my brother reported he called The Boy, who was doing his laundry. Or watching The Girl decide that while the $525 Coco Chanel eyeglass frames were tres chic, she might be better off buying the Ray-Bans frames that were $80 after insurance. Yes, folks, they can be taught!
I’m sure there will be times when all that silence will be heavy and I’ll miss listening having my kids around. But for the time being, I’m just going to kick back and enjoy my morning tea in peace.
Readers, what’s a recent change you find yourself enjoying, maybe more than you expected to?
Liz Milliron is the author of The Laurel Highlands Mysteries series, set in the scenic Laurel Highlands of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and The Home Front Mysteries, set in Buffalo, NY during the early years of World War II. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Pennwriters, and International Thriller Writers. Soon to be an empty-nester, Liz lives outside Pittsburgh with her husband, two children, and a retired-racer greyhound.
About Broken Trust: When Pennsylvania State Trooper Jim Duncan responds to a murder scene at a local mining company, the call hits close to home. The victim, Lonnie Butler, is a friend and neighbor who was just beginning to get back on his feet after a year of financial difficulties. Despite entertaining out-of-town family, Jim vows to stay involved in the case.
Meanwhile, Fayette County assistant public defender Sally Castle faces an ethical dilemma. Her newest client, Ethan Haverton, may be deeply involved in Lonnie’s homicide. Technically, Sally could break privilege, but she chooses not to, a decision that put her at odds with Jim.
As the investigation continues, the rift in Jim and Sally’s friendship deepens. Can the battling couple patch the break and bring the killer to justice – or will their discord allow a friend’s killer to go free?