Guest Chick: Liz Milliron

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

43 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Liz Milliron

  1. I love reading Chicks on the Case because the blog introduces me to new series. Liz, rest assured that I will be clicking the ol’ Amazon button right after I finish this. Can’t believe I don’t already know Jim & Sally…and you!

    A recent change I’m enjoying? Less traffic. I live in the sleeper suburbs for both Baltimore & Washington. But with everyone working from home, it isn’t such a hassle to get to the big cities.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Congrats on empty nest life, Liz! My house sure is more quiet since kiddo #2 went back to college last month. I’ve been working from home since March and have enjoyed listening to music from my CD collection, which I hadn’t done much of in a long time. It’s fun, brings back good memories, and keeps the house from getting too quiet.

      Liked by 6 people

  2. My eldest son, Seamus, 23, is leaving the nest today for the second time. We brought him back home in March after he lost his job due to the pandemic and could no longer make rent. He’s managed to build up a nest egg while here–now he’s moving to another city with some friends to try again. We wish him luck and Godspeed! We still have our youngest, Taidhgin, who’s 15 and a virtual sophomore. So we’ll be doing fam dinner for a while yet.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Good luck to your eldest. That’s been the other weird thing about this fall. For the first time in 15 years, I’m not invested in the “back to school” game and have paid very little attention to reopening policies at the area schools.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Aww, Liz, such a relatable post—and big congrats on Broken Trust! I had all 3 of my kids in my 20s and the last one just got married last month. I miss their kiddo selves, and all the frenzied activity, but I also love the adult relationships I enjoy with them now. I was flipping through pix the other day and was horrified to see what a mess everything always was in the background. A happy mess, and granted we had a 750-sq-ft Brooklyn apartment, but still…*shudder.* Do NOT miss obnoxious, over-competitive parents.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Lisa. Same here, I was not quite 29 when I had my second. After spending the last two weeks with my sister and her 22-month-old son, I’m very, very glad.

      I’m starting to get that more “adult” relationship with my daughter. I figure it will take some time before my son gets there. And yes to not missing over-competitive parents at activities!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. That’s so true, Lisa! We had all of our old videotapes transferred to digital a few years ago and watching them, I couldn’t believe how messy and LOUD everything was! Constant. Noise. It’s amazing what you get used to.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. The dinner thing. When I think about my mom cooking dinner for a family of six EVERY SINGLE NIGHT for all those years. Just wow. (Thank you, Mom!)

    I’m the cook in our family, but it’s just me and Robin, and I’m free to say “Oh, hon, can we just do our own thing tonight” in a way a mother really shouldn’t do–but it’s still a lot. So I can relate to that one.

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, Liz–we always love to have you visit!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thanks, Leslie. Yes, I came from a family of six and you are absolutely right. All those dinners. Wow.

      And just last night, The Hubby and I were standing in the kitchen going over “things you can do with chicken,” and he finally said, “You know, let’s just order Chinese and figure this out tomorrow.”

      Liked by 2 people

    2. LOL, Leslie! THIS mother said that to her kids! I’d actually write on the weekly menu, “Whatever.” As for my mom, cooking for 10 much of the time, I used to love when she’d announce on Sunday night that it was popcorn and apples for dinner and we could eat it in front of the TV while the Wonderful World of Disney, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and Ed Sullivan was on! Of course, it never occurred to me that it was a break for her. I just thought she loved us very, very much.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Another thing I did with the kids was have them organize dinner one night every few weeks. They’d tell me what they wanted to make, write everything on the grocery list, and that was that. If they forgot, they’d wander into the kitchen when they got hungry and see it was their turn to cook … always funny to see their faces. Luckily, that didn’t happen very often.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Many changes bring good and bad things, don’t they. Way to focus on the positive.

    And, as a middle aged man, I can say you never really out grow the need to call your parents when life goes sideways. Even though they can’t do anything, the comfort of their love is a huge help.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. My dad made me laugh one time when he told me that whenever he got those hang-up calls in the middle of the night he worried it was one of us. The funny part was that we were very much all full-grown adults, and he lived in Phoenix, not anywhere near any of us. Why in the world would we call him??

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Liz, congrats on the new release, and thanks for hanging out with the Chicks today! An 18-year-old doing his laundry and a 2o-year-old forgoing the pricey designer frames? Wow — congrats!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Love this, Liz! Thanks so much for visiting us here today. You brought back lots of memories, but I’ve been an empty nester for 10 years now. We did those family dinners every night, too, and my kids still talk about how great that was. Relaxing, fun, memory-creating times. I still write the weekly menus, but every Mon and Thurs we work out in the evening, so just yogurt or something. And there are lots more leftovers (planned and otherwise), so I only really cook maybe 2 or 3 times a week. And the watching your kids become adults? So fantastic. They’re all capable, responsible people who never call me in an emergency … only when they want to chat, which is beyond gratifying. And we did that! Remarkable!

    Congrats on the new book … can’t wait to read it!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Aww! My oldest called from college within a few weeks of being there and said, “Thank you for turning me into a real person. Some of these people don’t know how to do anything for themselves!” Those are the best phone calls.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Always so wonderful to have you here, Liz! And huge congrats on the book! I love this series.

    Such a great post. So fun to read as kids-in-college looms large in my windshield. The morning routine made me laugh out loud. Oh, those last-minute morning requests!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Congratulations on the new book, Liz! And thank you for visiting–so happy that you’re back with us. Appreciate the perspective…the kids-going-away moment makes me teary if I consider it too long, so this is some good balance.

    And congrats to the college students–that’s such a huge milestone!

    Recent changes around here have mostly been brought about by the craziness of 2020. Lots of negatives, but it’s given us more time at home together, so that’s been a silver lining. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Thanks for visiting us, Liz! Congrats on your latest release!

    I’m in the midst of the flurry of activity with kids.

    On the bright side, a change I’ve enjoyed with all of us being at home is the chance to eat *lunches* together. Daily walks are also a bonus!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. OMG, Liz, you NAILED it! This was GREAT. The first week after Eliza started college, Jer and I were bereft. Then it was like, wait… FREEDOM! Although we were terrible about family dinners. The great irony is despite the fact I write books with recipes, I’m not much of a cook. But now – I don’t have to do it at ALL. Although I do occasionally for Jer. When I FEEL like it. Because… FREEDOM!

    Liked by 2 people

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