Vicks is great stuff, but please read the directions!

See that sweet little girl rubbing Vicks on her dolly? Perhaps she’s a young serial killer, practicing for the future.

You know how you go about your life doing things you always thought were good for you and then you found out you were, um, poisoning yourself?

Well, that happened to me recently when I was struggling with a nasty head cold, the first I’ve had since I quit teaching high school three years ago. Before my retirement, I often faced children who had no qualms about coming to school sick, coughing and sneezing on me with wild abandon. Like most teachers, I suffered at least two or three colds every year.

I’d been blissfully free of that particular scourge, until some big bad bug recently tracked me down. And I’ll admit, I’d forgotten how horrid a simple head cold can be. I’m sure you’re aware of the coughing, sneezing, runny nose, headache, leave-me-the-hell-alone-I’m-dying-here symptoms that come with a cold.

As I’d been down that tissue-littered road before, I jumped into action. I drank hot peppermint and honey tea and copious quantities of water. I stayed in my jammies wrapped in blankets for five days. (Another great thing about being retired is that you can recline in your pajamas 24-hours-a-day without excuses and no one cares.)

And I knew something else that would make me feel better: Vick’s VapoRub. I bet every single one of you has that dark blue jar with the green top in your medicine cabinet right now. Come on, we were raised on the stuff. Moms would rub that slimy goo on us as if it was a magic cure-all. Some people even put it on their feet, though I’ve never tried that.

Somewhere along the line, maybe 20 years ago, I decided I liked the smell of Vicks. So, I got in the habit of putting a dab beneath my nose at bedtime. So soothing, yes?

Except that I just read you should never, ever, put Vicks under your nose. What?

I have often been a bit smug about my efforts to stay healthy. I never smoked and drink in moderation. (Okay, not always. But I do now.) While I’ll admit to dabbling lightly in illicit drugs in my youth—Come on! I grew up in the 70s and 80s!—that was a long time ago. I exercise regularly and get my rest. I eschew sugary drinks and eat healthy food. I take my medicine when the doctor looks at me, frowns, and tells me I must. I try to see the positive side of things. And yet, it seems, I’ve been poisoning myself all along.

With Vicks!

Vicks looks so harmless in that cute little blue jar.

In case you’re wondering, Vicks first appeared on the market back in 1905 and is owned by Procter & Gamble. It’s intended for “use on the chest, back and throat for cough suppression or on muscles and joints for minor aches and pains.” However, one of the main ingredients in Vicks is camphor, which is defined as “a neurotoxin with a chemical structure that allows easy penetration of the blood-brain barrier. Camphor also has irritant properties to skin and mucosa.”

Yikes!

Now, all this has me wondering about my mother, who, as I recall, always told us to put a bit of Vicks beneath our little red noses whenever we were sick. Not the maternal type, I’m now wondering if Mary Anne couldn’t wait for us to leave home for college and was trying to knock us off early, using Vicks as her weapon of choice.

I also read that Vicks should only be used up to three times daily when one has a cold. I began counting how often I’d recently placed some beneath my nose so I could breathe. When I ran out of fingers, I realized I might be doomed. I’m trying not to think about that blood-brain-barrier thing.

The irony is scientists don’t believe Vicks actually works. It just tricks your brain into thinking it works, so you feel better. But doesn’t that mean it works?

I’m so confused.

Now, I’m not saying Vicks is a bad product. It’s just that one should use it as recommended. Still, I did try to throw my Vicks away, but I just couldn’t. I promise I’ll try to break my addiction eventually. Perhaps there’s a 12-step Vicks program somewhere.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Find Anne Montgomery’s novels wherever you buy books.

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Is money alone enough to make us happy?

When the Powerball Jackpot edged up over a billion dollars recently, it was difficult not to get carried away with the possibilities, even with the astronomical odds against winning the big prize which were 1 to 292 million.

We almost never play the lottery, but when my sweetie pie came home holding a single ticket it was hard not to sit and dream.

“I’d buy a big house on St. Croix,” Ryan said.

“We already have a lovely condo there with a magnificent view of Christiansted Harbor,” I pointed out. “Do we really need something bigger?”

He stared at me for a moment. “Okay. What would you want?” he asked.

I thought for a while. What do I want? The question had me reflecting on a time in my life when money wasn’t an issue. I’d been engaged to a wealthy man back in the 80s. He didn’t want me to work and pretty much told me to buy whatever I wanted.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But it turns out being able to purchase whatever you want doesn’t always make you happy. I remember one year when I took twelve vacations, some that were ridiculously expensive, like the time we chartered a magnificent sailboat and cruised the Caribbean with a captain, boatboy, and private chef, along with cases of our favorite libations.

I was in my mid-twenties at the time, and up until that point I’d wanted to be a sportscaster. I’d worked for years following that dream. But then my partner said there was no reason for me to work and that he preferred I not go into a career where I needed to access athletic locker rooms. I tried to convince myself that I’d be happy being Mrs. Him. And I’m embarrassed to admit that those no-limit credit cards made me forget my career goals, at least for a while.

But was I happy?

Years later, when I became a teacher, I tried to explain to my students that while money certainly makes life easier in some ways it doesn’t fix everything. “Here’s the problem,” I said. “If you can buy anything you want, whenever you want, eventually you run out of things to want.”

Mostly, they laughed and shook their heads like I was crazy.

“What’s really important is doing things you love. Making positive connections with people. Having work or hobbies that, most of the time, you look forward to doing.”

And still they weren’t convinced.

“I’d play video games all day!” one student said.

“I’d buy lots of pretty clothes and jewelry,” another said grinning.

If I won the lottery, I’d spend it on two things: a big beautiful chunk of aquamarine and First Class travel. Then I’d give most of it away.

“My friends and I will just hang out and do nothing!” came a voice from the back of the room.

“Ah, that might be a problem,” I said. “Your friends will probably have jobs and responsibilities and won’t have time to just hang out with you.”

I knew this from experience. What I recall from having all that money was that I was terribly lonely.

And I struggled with letting go of my dream of being a sportscaster. I remember a moment, late one evening, when I stared at a catalogue filled with pricy designer dresses. I ordered a black-lace, formal gown made by Norma Kamali. It was absurdly expensive. Afterward, I remember feeling nothing, because what I truly wanted was to be a sportscaster and no amount of money could buy that for me.

I still have that dress, and all these years later it reminds me of what I learned: Things don’t make us happy. Things lose their shine after a while. Making memories is the key. When I’m on my deathbed, the only thing I’ll have is stories. None of those purchases will be coming with me.

I stared at my sweetie pie.

“What do I want? World peace would be nice, but that’s not possible.”  I smiled.

Eventually, I decided I would buy one thing: a big, beautiful piece of natural aquamarine. (I’m a rock collector.) Then, I would give a lot of that money away. After that, I’d travel the world.

And…I’d always spring for First Class.

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Available where you buy books.

Dusty Baker got his ring and I got a memory

Former Giants skipper Dusty Baker finally got that World Series ring as the manger of the Houston Astros.

I’ll admit I didn’t especially care whether the Astros or the Phillies won the World Series. However, I was rooting for someone. I really hoped Houston skipper Dusty Baker finally got to go home with a ring as a manager. Though Baker earned the title as a player with the Dodgers in 1981, the prize had eluded him as a skipper for 24 years. But not anymore. With a game six, 4-2 victory over Philadelphia, Baker’s Astros became the 2022 World Series Champions.

Which brought to mind the time Dusty and I were involved in a little conspiracy.

Here’s what happened.

Back when I was still umpiring amateur baseball, I got a call asking if I’d like to work an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Triple A Phoenix Firebirds. I was shocked and delighted. Though, if I’m being honest, the fact that I was assigned to work the plate was a little intimidating, as was the fact that the game would be broadcast live on TV.

It was May 12, 1994, and, much like today, women umpires were almost as rare as unicorns. Back then, I was often not accepted by my baseball brethren, and I sensed some animosity from the rest of the guys on the crew. No doubt, some of them would have relished working the plate. In fact, there was a last minute tussle when the powers that be tried to have me removed from my assignment. But, in the end, there I was at home plate taking a lineup card from Dusty.

Other umpires often criticized me saying my strike zone was too big.

Before I go on, I have to address one of the most confusing issues in baseball: the strike zone. It probably comes as no surprised that the definition of the strike zone has been awfully hard to pin down over the years. Major League Baseball explains it this way: “The official strike zone is the area over home plate from the midpoint between a batter’s shoulders and the top of the uniform pants–when the batter is in his stance and prepared to swing at a pitched ball—and a point just below the kneecap. In order to get a strike call, part of the ball must cross over part of home plate while in the aforementioned area.”

When I was a baby umpire, I took that definition seriously, which had other umpires laughing at me. According to them, my strike zone was too big. I started watching the way other umps called pitches, and realized that, despite the way the rule is written, the strike zone had been whittled down to a space the size of a postage stamp. As I’m rather literal in regard to rules, I struggled to comply.

After accepting the lineup cards that afternoon at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Dusty lingered by the plate. When the other manager retreated into the dugout, he leaned in. “Did I mention we have a plane to catch?” He graced me with that big Dusty grin. I paused. Then I smiled too. I knew exactly what he wanted me to do.

When Dusty Baker handed me the lineup card that day, he made it clear what he wanted me to do.

After he left, I watched the pitcher warm up. I realized I’d take a lot of grief if I complied with Dusty’s wishes. I looked at the other umpires in the field, then considered all the fans in the seats and the players in the dugouts. Would they all think I was a terrible umpire for doing nothing but following the rules?

I can’t say I wasn’t concerned. But when that first pitch rocketed in and though it might have been considered a little high by some, I called, “Strike!” The batter turned and stared at me, but said nothing. A short time later, I called him out looking. I’d made my point. For the rest of the game, I felt as if I’d been freed, released to finally call the strike zone the way it’s written.

The game ended in just under two hours. Did I take some crap? Sure I did. But that’s generally part of the game.

When it was over and the players had all headed into the dugout, I noticed Dusty standing down the third base line. A beautiful Sonoran Desert sunset lit the sky behind him: peach, purple, pink. Then, Dusty looked at me, grinned, and nodded his thanks, before he too disappeared into the tunnel.

Today, I say congratulations to Dusty Baker on his World Series victory! And I say thank you for one of my favorite baseball memories.

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Available where you buy books.

What ever happened to manners?

Recently, it’s come to my attention that something is missing in society. Perhaps you’ve noticed too. It seems that manners have disappeared. As a devotee of British mystery shows, I’m wondering if it would be prudent to put some detective inspectors on the trail, because if we’ve lost manners—which are basically human kindness—I’m deeply worried.

Just the other day, I sat in the whirlpool at the health club waiting for a swim lane. As is generally the case, I was relaxed and happy in all that hot, swirling water. Then a large man wearing a Speedo walked over with goggles in hand. When one of the swimmers signaled to me that he was done and I could have the lane, I smiled and walked out of the whirlpool.  I nodded at the man who had just arrived, and, in jest, teased that I’d wrestle him for the lane.  To my surprise he frowned. “What are the rules here?” he barked. “You weren’t standing by the pool waiting!”

“Um…I was trying to stay warm.” I gestured toward the spa.

He frowned again and continued to complain, which prompted me to bend at the waist and wave my hand toward the pool. “You take it then.” To my surprise, he did.

Anyone who’s driven a car lately, certainly knows there’s no civility on the road. A red light has become a mere suggestion to some. Other drivers cut you off, then flip you off for the smallest things. And when’s the last time someone held the door open for you? Be honest. That used to happen with regularity, but no more. And please don’t tell me holding a door is sexist. I hold doors for men and women, young and old. How is that offensive?

I don’t even want to mention basic table manners or the folks that think it’s just fine to play loud music until three in the morning. And let’s not forget those very important souls who talk incessantly on their phones in public, sharing their personal information loudly in restaurants and even public restrooms.

Understand, I’m not talking about using the right fork at dinner here, or a man chivalrously hurling his overcoat upon a puddle, so a woman won’t damage her dainty shoes. It’s just basic everyday human kindness I’m concerned about.

I suppose we could blame parents for the current lack of civility. Wasn’t it their job to make little Johnny learn “Please!” and “Thank you!”, and “Don’t you look nice today, Aunt Lou!” In fact, I read that home is the best place to acquire manners, since, as all teachers know, it takes a lot of practice to get something right.

Apparently, the decline of a more courteous world is not new. Fred Astaire, the charming dance-master of 20th-century American film, is quoted as saying, “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.”

And now…a confession. I was once a reporter and an amateur sports official. It should come as no surprise that newsrooms and athletic fields are not always the most mannerly of places. So, when I became a teacher, I carried some of that behavior with me. A sweet colleague took me aside and suggested I try a little nice. “Just say good morning to everyone you see,” she suggested.

I thought the idea was silly, but still I gave it a try. And she was right. That small gesture seemed to make the day more positive. Though I’m now retired from the classroom, every day when I walk the dog, I smile and say good morning to anyone I meet. And though some people ignore me, others will beam a beatific smile my way and say good morning right back. It’s a little thing, I know. But a little nice goes a long way.

Maybe you’d like to give it a try.



The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Available where you buy books.

Making schools safe

We all want our schools to be safe, but how do we do that?

This just caught my attention: There have been 40 school shootings this year that resulted in injuries or deaths, the most in a single year since Education Week began tracking such incidents in 2018.

I was a teacher for 20 years, all of that time spent in an inner-city, Title I high school where sometimes things got tense. It’s not easy to remain calm in the face of danger, but as a teacher my job was to protect children and, when issues arose, I did what I was trained to do: lock the doors, keep the kids calm and quiet, remind them that we practiced for emergencies and all we had to do was follow protocol.

Luckily, at least in my experience, everyone headed home unharmed on those rare occasions when a situation got out of hand. Still, later I would often think of ways to make students safer at school and I settled on some relatively simple solutions. Note these ideas are not new, but together I believe they could make a big difference.

First, if I were in charge, I would insist that no students carry bags on campus, with just a couple of small exceptions. No backpacks or equipment bags or large purses allowed, period. I know what you’re thinking. Kids need their stuff to be successful students, but a quick peek inside many of those bags often revealed that children were not toting around possessions that were school-related. In my experience, text books, writing utensils, computers, and notebooks were rarely included in those bags. When you consider that many classrooms contained sets of textbooks for school use and students were often allowed to keep a copy at home, as well, why would students need those big bags? The same can be said of computers. Students could easily leave those laptops at home, because just about every classroom had desktop computers. (Note that I realize this is not the norm in every school.) In regard to taking notes, kids often typed on their phones, which slide easily into pockets, and even if students took pen-and-paper notes, a binder is easily carried.

You might be surprised to learn that most of the things students carry in their backpacks have nothing to do with school.

Those equipment bags athletes carry could be dropped off with the coaches at the beginning of the day, kept safely for practice after school. Since some students struggle with homelessness and mostly live out of their backpacks, perhaps some dedicated storage area in counseling could be used to house those bags throughout the school day. In regard to purses—yes, the girls would be horrified to be without their makeup—I’d allow the smallest of clutches, no more than eight-inches long and four-inches deep, for mascara, lipstick, eyeliner, and personal products.

Since the idea is to avoid a place to put contraband, there would also be no lockers at my school. Trying to monitor what’s in them is too time consuming, and if we just get rid of lockers, there’s no place to hide things that shouldn’t be on campus.

The next thing I’d do is make kids wear uniforms. Yes, I know children want to be individuals, but requiring a prescribed set of shirts, pants, and skirts is not such a horrible burden. One argument against uniforms is that they cost money. Well, so do regular clothes. Still, if a family is struggling, I’m sure a program could be instituted to get uniforms to those in need. Then, however, teachers and administrators must uphold the dress code. Teachers hate the idea, because they often end up being the fashion police which takes time out of the school day, but if everyone is on board, eventually the kids would fall in line. Having a set of dress-code standards would keep kids safe, because there would simply be no place to hide a weapon.

School Resource Officer Edward Toves works at Westview High School in Avondale, Arizona, but there just aren’t enough SROs to go around. (Faith Miller/Cronkite News)

Another thing I’d do is require students to participate in clubs, sports, and activities. The most dangerous time of day for kids is between the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 pm, the time span between when school ends and adults return home from work. Exceptions could be made for children who must take care of young siblings or those with after-school jobs, but keeping the vast majority of students on campus and involved can prevent a lot of problems. Also, by requiring children to explore their interests, we might provide them with the social interaction that is lacking in many young lives, especially those of boys who are more prone to turn to violence.

I realize that many people feel having a school resource officer on campus is the answer to stopping school violence. While this program works well, it’s simply not practical. Here in Phoenix, Arizona, we are currently short 500 police officers. The city has 325 public schools and more than 200 private and charter schools. Do the math. There are simply not enough police officers to go around, a problem in cities and rural areas all over the country, which leaves the issue of safety up to districts and individual schools.

While no one policy can prevent school violence, I think we must consider any ideas that might help, because if we don’t do something the carnage will just continue.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wolf-catcher-cover-with-gray-frame.jpg


The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Available where you buy books.

What do I wish for? Good teeth!

I have rotten teeth. Which is nothing new. I remember being about ten-years-old when I returned home from the dentist, who worked out of his home just a few blocks away from my house.

“I have seven cavities,” I told my mom.

“What?” My mother placed both hands on her hips. “That’s from all that candy you eat!”

She was right, at least partially.

The next time I had a checkup, I needed even more fillings, which left my mother exasperated. “Well then, I’m not paying for any more Novocain! It’s seven dollars a shot! If you’re going to keep ruining your teeth, you can have those fillings drilled without it.”

Now you might think my mother was bluffing, but she wasn’t. Never again did she fork over money for anesthesia.

Today, I realize my terrible teeth aren’t all my fault.

“I just lost another tooth,” my 97-year-old mother complained recently. “I only have six left. These damned Irish teeth!”

Yep, it seems my ancestors from the Emerald Isle are noted for their bad teeth, since they are some of the least likely people in Europe to brush and floss and visit the dentist on a regular basis. Whether there’s a genetic component involved, I have no idea. But I feel I can at least partially blame my ancestry for the fact that I’ve put many dentists children through college and probably helped pay for a few vacation homes, as well.

I was a sportscaster in Rochester, New York when a dental procedure put me in an embarrassing situation.

All these years later, my teeth still suck. Just last week, I was sitting in a dentist’s chair, one half of my jaw propped open with a rubber brick while he excavated a 35-year-old root canal that had abscessed and needed to be gouged out of my jaw. Afterward, the dentist smiled and said, “This will hurt more than a regular root canal.”

I assured him that I’d be fine. But then the Novocain wore off and I started howling like a five-year-old with my hair on fire. If you’d walked up to my door and handed me some fentanyl you just bought in the street, I would have taken it instantly.

I stayed in bed, trying not to move, and kept thinking about other times my teeth were problematic. I admitted to myself that I once dated a guy because his brother was a dentist who treated me for free. (Try not to judge.) Another miserable time, I had all four of my wisdom teeth pulled in one sitting. Then there was the time in Rochester, New York where I worked as a sportscaster for WROC-TV. I had just left the dentist’s office where I’d undergone an apico. If you’ve never experienced that sade-esq procedure, let me explain. It’s called a root-end resection, because instead of drilling through the top of one’s tooth, the dentist cuts back the gums, drills a hole in the jaw, and digs out the infection. Trust me, it’s as awful as it sounds.

Afterward, I went to the local pharmacy, mouth all pumped up with Novocain. Back then, dentists doled out pain pills like they were M&Ms, so I was waiting for my prescription when I realized I’d had no breakfast. I purchased a container of yogurt and went out on the grassy hillside next door to wait for my medication.

Some people dream of nice cars or vacation homes. I dream of having good teeth, so clearly mine don’t at all resemble those above.

As I was eating, a woman walked by and did a doubletake. I smiled. She paused and nodded, but quickly departed. Then, it happened again. People would stare at me. Some smiled. Some didn’t. But, as I ate my yogurt, I was surprised that all these folks seemed to recognize me. It’s because I’m famous, I told myself. They see me on the news every night. As you can imagine, I was feeling rather jazzed. I hadn’t been in town that long and already the locals knew who I was.

But, when I approached the drugstore door, I realized I was wrong. I stood there, staring at my reflection in the glass. The lower half of my face was covered with yogurt. It dripped from my numbed-up jaw onto my shirt. I looked like a rabid animal, frothing at the mouth. Later that night, I anchored the news, even though I was on pain pills and appeared to have a golf ball lodged in my cheek.

All my life, perhaps understandably, I’ve been drawn to people who have perfect, straight white teeth, those who don’t need to have a dentist on speed dial or a trust fund to pay the subsequent bills.

Now, if you’re wondering if I still eat sweets, well, of course I do. Every day! All I can say is you pick your poison and I’ll pick mine.

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Should students control the reins in education?

When I read about the firing of organic chemistry professor Maitland Jones Jr. I was saddened, though not terribly surprised. Jones spent over 40 years teaching at Princeton where, according to his retirement announcement, he garnerd outstanding reviews. He then returned to the classroom at New York University. Now, at 84, he’s been forced out because 80 of his 350 students decided his class was too hard.

Education has become a commodity and students are now in charge.

Note that I am probably completely biased, since I spent 20 years in the classroom, so you may take my comments in that context.

Once upon a time, teachers outlined what students were required to do in order to succeed and held them accountable. For the most part, students realized that teachers were doing their best to help them achieve their dreams. But then something changed. School became a commodity. It started with universities, where education was being doled out as if it were a business where “the customer is always right.” In a state like mine where students may choose where they want to study and where funds follow wherever they go, K12 education also became a service to be sold, which put students and parents in charge.

Don’t get me wrong. Families have every right to decided what institutions they want to patronize. I have no problem there. The issues arise when a student is not doing well and, instead of finding the root of the problem, the parents and administrators instantly blame the teacher. Let me say here that, yes, there are incompetent teachers. It’s a tough job—certainly the hardest I’ve ever had—and not everyone is cut out for it. Still, I have never met a teacher who didn’t have a yearning to help young people, which means with some targeted, extra training, struggling teachers might improve.

The vast majority of those who go into teaching want to help young people succeed.

Something else to consider is the fact that too many children come from disfunctional homes—certainly the case in my Title I school—and often they can’t remedy the issues that burden them. Teachers then become the next best target. Anger and disappointment in other areas of their lives switch on in the classroom, aimed especially at teachers who are considered “tough.”

Teachers like me.

Sometimes, my students called me harsh. Once, when I was a brand new teacher, an entire class simply walked out one day, leaving me in tears at the front of an empty room. (Not easy for me to mention that, but there you have it.) Why did they leave? I told them deadlines are important and that they must get their work in on time or their grades would suffer. Another time, after months of explaining that students needed to put their names on their work, I warned that if they neglected that requirement again, they’d fail the assignment. Four students ignored my request and, though I gave them extra work to make up for those zeros, they went to my administrator to complain. I was ordered to give them their credit back. What do you think that taught them?

While some students loved the rigor of my journalism classes, others despised me for holding them accountable. When I would try to calmly point out that I was only trying to help them be successful in life, I could see they didn’t believe me, which hurt. Eventually, I realized this attitude didn’t begin with the students. It came from the adults in their world.

As a former teacher, I can’t think of a more offensive statement.

In many countries, teaching is looked upon as a noble and respected profession. Here in the U.S., however, many believe the mantra, “Those who can’t do, teach.” (I will now warn you to never utter that expression in my presence, unless you’ve stepped into a classroom and taken charge at least once.) I cringe when I hear grownups, many decades out of school, say, “That teacher hated me!” Teachers don’t hate students. While it’s true some kids are more appealing and easier to work with than others—the same, of course, can be said of teachers—most of the educators I know buckle down and work overtime with kids who are more difficult. And yet this blame-the-teacher attitude trickled down to students and now these kids are out in the workforce.

Today, our businesses are struggling because they can’t hire enough competent workers. Just enter any restaurant, office, or store and you’ll see what I mean. Young people quit jobs in rapid succession, saying the work is too hard and too stressful. Or even worse, they agree to “quiet quitting,” the idea that one should do the least possible amount of work for the most pay. Can you see that the disdain once held for teachers has now shifted to business bosses?

There are way too many classrooms nationwide without teachers.

Can we fix this? I don’t know, but getting rid of the anti-teacher rhetoric that’s bouncing around would be a plus. Currently, it’s estimated that over 36,500 teaching positions remain unfilled nationwide. A little respect might go a long way toward bringing that number down.

I don’t know Professor Jones, but my heart breaks for him. He’s given his life to teaching and, I’m sure, was running his classroom the best way he knows how. And, even if you agree with his dismissal, bear in mind that organic chemistry is often a pre-requisite in most medical fields. So ask yourself, the next time you’re preparing to head into surgery, would you want a doctor who failed that course cutting into you?

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Available where you buy books

Dying of old age: What’s that mean?

Queen Elizabeth’s death certificate said she died of old age.

After much pomp and circumstance, Queen Elizabeth was laid to rest as the world watched. That she’d been up and dressed and looking fine two days prior to succumbing had some folks confused, but there she was, 48-hours earlier, in her cute little kilt, patten-leather pumps, and cardigan, welcoming new British Prime Minister Elizabeth Truss with a smile and a handshake.

That the Queen shuffled off this mortal coil so soon after welcoming the new PM seemed a bit odd. What did she die of, people wondered. It would be a few weeks later that the British coroner confirmed what carried her off. Right there on the death certificate it said “old age.”

But what’s that mean? According to the article “Natural Causes: What does it mean to die of old age” by Jeff Anderson,  “‘Old age’ is not truly a cause of death in and of itself. To ‘die of old age’ means that someone has died naturally from an ailment associated with aging. The same usually goes for ‘dying of natural causes.’”

No one can argue that Queen Elizabeth wasn’t old. Gosh, she was 96 when she died “peacefully.” (One wonders how doctors know someone died without a struggle. Perhaps she raged against the dying of the light. But that’s for another time.)

If you’re wondering, generally speaking one dies of old age following a long life, say anything over 80 years. But that doesn’t mean said elderly person didn’t have medical issues. Often, when someone is old, they suffer from multiple ailments, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and pneumonia which leaves the exact cause of death hard to pinpoint, so saying someone died of old age or natural causes clears up the problem of trying to identify which illness caused the fatal blow.

Also, perhaps, there’s the idea of protecting one’s privacy.

“The practice of ascribing a death to ‘natural causes’ lives on in the media and popular parlance,” Anderson wrote. “Because we are not doctors, we don’t necessarily need to know the details of a stranger’s last days. “Natural causes” suffices because clinical accuracy about an older person’s death is usually neither necessary nor desirable. In fact, detail beyond “natural causes” would be considered an undignified invasion of the privacy of the deceased and his or her loved ones.”

If I had my druthers, I’d chose death by falling meteor.

Certainly no one could ever accuse the Queen of being undignified. And she was such a private person, I wouldn’t be surprise if, prior to passing on, she issued a royal decree stating that she would die of natural causes.

Whether it’s better to be vague on cause of death or not is up for debate. But maybe, if one has lived a long life, they should be allowed to skip all the medical labels. I for one would love to be able to choose my cause of death. I’m thinking, when I am suitably old and have had enough adventures, that I’d like to meet my end when a big meteor plunges from the sky and hits me directly on the head. I would, hopefully, be vaporized, if only to avoid the subsequent mess.

Yep, death by a falling rock from space would be kind of cool, don’t you think? And, if I were queen, I would decree that my death certificate would say so: Cause of death: crushed by a meteorite.

I wonder if that would be considered natural causes?

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Available where you buy books

A short history of male haircare

Maintaining their hair has been a preoccupation with men for millennia.

Manscaping. It’s been a thing for quite a while, but as is often the case with trends, the idea of smooth, hairless male bodies may be going the way of the wholly mammoth.

Now, for clarification, note that the definition of manscaping has morphed a bit. While the term originally applied to, um…pruning one’s nether regions, today it’s a catchall word for caring for hair wherever it happens to appear on one’s body.

And this idea is far from new. It seems our ancient ancestors, hirsute men who lived around 30,000 BC, scraped themselves with clamshells and flint blades, maybe in an effort to appeal to those comely ladies on the other side of the cave. In ancient Greek and Roman times, both men and women felt the need to remove their hair, so much so they sometimes utilized fire to singe it away.

This obsession in olden times may have had something to do with lice and other crawly creatures, though I have no scientific proof here. It just seems rational, because removing one’s hair would give the little buggers fewer places to hide, which would make our ancient ancestors less likely to be itchy and cranky.

Ancient Egyptian men scrapped themselves bald, maybe so they could resemble those kitties they so admired.

But probably starting around ancient Egyptian times, scalping oneself became all about class and beauty. The upper crust men would scrape or pluck themselves bald, to show they were of high station. Maybe they gleaned the look from those hairless cats they so fancied. In any case, it was all about fashion. Note here that the Egyptians sometimes donned wigs and grew long, thin beards, so clearly their notions about hair are rather perplexing.

Now, if you’re old like me, you realize that the smooth-versus-fuzzy male styles keep changing. Think back to the hirsute Burt Reynolds posing rakishly in Cosmo Magazine in 1972. The layout was considered quite scandalous, at the time, but it had women everywhere searching for a similarly bushy mate. Sean Connery’s James Bond and Tom Selleck as the beach-combing private investigator in the TV series Magnum P.I., both displayed what was considered sexy shagginess.

But then something changed in our tonsorial tastes. By the 90s and early 2000s, male body hair vanished. Hence, we were greeted by the ultra-smooth Daniel Craig emerging from the ocean in Casino Royale and sports stars like David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, who appear to have plucked every single hair below their necks making them smooth and shiny like pre-pubescent boys.

But now, the pendulum has swung back. Beards, that were previously the purview of bikers and backwoodsmen, have in recent years sprang up everywhere. And I don’t mean that five o’clock shadow-look or those carefully sculpted goatees. I’m talking about full-on James Harden beards. Watch just about any sporting event, and you’ll see unshorn athletes rocking massive Viking whiskers. Even movie stars and the guys on the TV news are now flaunting facial hair.

Clearly, shaggy is currently all the rage. Just ask former NFL player Eric Weddle, Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden, and actor Jason Mamoa.

My question is, to whom are they trying to appeal? I’m guessing women don’t necessarily favor giant, food-catching beards. However, it is true that many ladies fancy facial hair and there seems to a valid, evolutionary reason. Studies show that bearded and mustachioed men are considered more masculine, confident, and generous than those who are clean shaven.  Scientists also say that, when given a choice, women believe a man with a beard is more marriageable and that they make better dads.

So, where do we go from here? I’m pretty sure the pendulum will keep on swinging, so if you don’t like today’s styles, hold on. They’ll probably be changing again soon.

The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Available where you buy books

Title IX: Colleges are avoiding the spirit of the law

Fifty years ago, girls weren’t allowed to play football, but today, thanks to the Title IX, they can.

Fifty years ago, Title IX was signed into law, legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving any type of federal financial aid. The idea being that girls should have all the same opportunities as boys. While Title IX is not exclusively about sports, equality in that realm is what most people think about when considering the law.

You may be wondering why Title IX was so important. Up until the law was established, only 300,000 girls participated in high school sports. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations that number jumped to about 3.5 million during the 2018-19 school year, 43% of all high school athletes.

And the reason that leap is so exciting? Young people who participate in sports learn valuable skills that shine in the business world. Ninety-four percent of women in C suite positions—that means executives—played sports, 52% participated in college athletics, so there’s a serious correlation between athletic and business success. And it’s easy to see why. Athletes learn teamwork, punctuality, leadership skills, and the ability to get back up when they’ve been knocked down. Who wouldn’t want to hire them? Until Title IX, only male athletes reaped this benefit.

But before you rejoice over the wonderful success of Title IX, it’s important to take a closer look, especially at the college level, where the law is being manipulated in a rather appalling way. If a school has an equal number of male and female students and there are 600 male athletes, by law there should also be 600 female athletes. But, according to a 2018-19 analysis by USA TODAY, some of the nation’s biggest and most well-known schools—107 institutions in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, to be exact—are rigging the count.

For example, twenty-seven schools dumped extra athletes onto women’s teams, players who sometimes had never participated in the sport before and who never competed at the varsity level, all so they wouldn’t have to field women’s teams in other sports. At the same time, ten schools decided not to count 170 male athletes by saying they didn’t “sponsor” men’s indoor track, only because the men didn’t compete in conference or NCAA championships. Hence, they were not required to provide an additional 170 slots to women. Even worse, one-quarter of all women’s basketball players reported to the federal government were…wait for it…men. Yep, it seems it’s quite legal to call some guys in to scrimmage with a women’s team and then declare that those men are actually women. Fifty-two schools reported 601 male practice players as women, so they could comply with Title IX guidelines.

Not surprisingly, when the schools were contacted by USA TODAY reporters and asked about the proper counting of male and female athletes the response was terse. “We follow the guidelines as issued.” Which is true, but completely unfair and not in the spirit of Title IX.

So, 50 years later, have things improved for women in amateur sports? Yes, they have! But have we reached the goal of full Title IX compliance? Nope. The numbers are being fudged and our schools can and should do better.

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The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

WOLF CATCHER

Anne Montgomery

Historical Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

February 2, 2022

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

REVIEW COPIES OF WOLF CATCHER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Available where you buy books.