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Showing posts from 2010

Looking Back on 2010

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A large portion of 2010 was clouded by my hubby’s seven-month bout of unemployment. And I started out the year by parting company with my agent. Nevertheless, there were some moments worthy of acknowledgment before we send the year packing.

First would be February’s snowmageddon.

It was one of those things that’s better to look back on than it was to live through. Once the roads were cleared and the power restored, we had to travel to Confluence to shovel six-plus feet of snow from our camper’s roof. This involved snowshoeing into the campground, which was an adventure by itself.

Continuing 2010’s fun with foul weather, in March, our local Sisters in Crime chapter ventured to Confluence (otherwise known as weather central) during a major flood (not part of the plan) for our weekend writing retreat. I can’t believe none of us have written a murder mystery story about that weekend yet. While the rising river vied for our attention, we did manage to have a lot of fun, eat a lot of food, and…

An End to an Era

I’ve lived my entire life on property that at one time belonged to my grandfather. My folks built a house on one corner of Grandpap’s farm. When I married, we built our house on another ten-acre chunk of it. These two lots are the only ones that remain in the family. Over the years, I’ve mourned as the rest of acreage was sold off to others.

But some things didn’t change. The neighboring farm remained in the same family it had since long before I was born. Mr. C kept a large herd of beef cattle on several hundred acres. As I sit in my office at my computer, I look out my window to a view of his hillside. Pasture, some woods, and those beef cattle. Amazing how you take something for granted when it’s been there for decades.

Mr. C is one of those guys you just assume will go on forever. He never changes.

Except he is.

He’s getting older, like the rest of us. His hips are bad, so his jaunts around his property are done on tractor instead of on foot. Still, he loves his herd of cattle.

Or did.

Getting My Fix

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Anyone who knows me will tell you I am not a fan of winter. I don’t ski or ice skate. I used to love to sled ride, but suspect I’d break something vital if I tried it now. At least if I tried some of the stunts I did when I was a kid. But that’s a blog for another day.

No, I don’t much care for cold weather, snow, and ice. Hibernation has always seemed like a good idea to me. And when people ask me if I miss owning horses, I can honestly say, yes. I miss Jenny and Brandy and Gypsy. And most of the others who passed through my barn. However I do not miss breaking ice out of water buckets and chopping up frozen manure and sawdust to clean the stalls.

This morning, though, I bundled up in multiple layers and headed to Mountaineer to visit my friend Jessi. The excuse was that we had Christmas gifts to exchange and I had Avon stuff to deliver to her. But I really needed to get my hands on a horse. Yes, I’m an addict and there are times when nothing else will quench the craving…twenty degree …

Working Stiffs Wednesday

Today at Working Stiffs, I'm blogging about week 7 of Citizens' Police Academy. It feels odd because last night I actually attended week 10 of it. Since I'm only blogging at Working Stiffs every other Wednesday now, I'm behind. So while last night I heard all about the relationship between the police and the media, I'm blogging about drug investigations. Come check it out.

Photo Friday: Sisterly Tolerance

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I figured I'm overdue for both a Photo Friday post AND an update on the cats, so here goes.

While it's still not sisterly love, at lease we've reached a truce of sorts. Kind of a sisterly tolerance.

And here's Skye taking a bath.
Kensi doesn't look much like a kitten any more. Still acts like it, though. And she loves having her picture taken.




Mutiny

My “stuff” is ganging up on my wallet. I was going to say appliances or electronics, but it’s more than just that.

First my trusty black-and-white laserjet printer’s drum went bad. I use the thing just about every day and have run a small forest’s worth of paper through it, so it was no surprise. But when I learned what a drum costs? Yeouch! For an additional $10 I could buy a whole new printer…same thing as I had, only newer and slightly upgraded. No brainer. I came home with a new printer.

A week later, my more-than-five-year-old color all-in-one inkjet died. I tried printer CPR. Nothing. She flat-lined on me. I had used and abused that poor old thing. I bought it when my dad was going into long-term nursing care and we were dealing with legal and financial issues that required lots and lots of copies. I’m shocked it survived that first year.

So I ordered a new all-in-one online, and the guy in the big brown truck delivered it to my door. It’s faster and easier to use than the old one.…

Fish Tales!

Just about two years ago, the Guppies (Great UnPublished chapter of Sisters in Crime) announced our intention to put together an anthology of members’ short stories. I decided to give it a shot and wrote a tale about a romantic riverside picnic ruined when a dead body floats by. I was thrilled when, months later, my story was chosen to be a part of the anthology. I worked with our editor, Ramona DeFelice Long, who has since become a cherished friend (and a fellow survivor of the 2010 Sisters in Crime Great Flood and Writers’ Retreat).

After the usual long, drawn-out query and submission process (which I had nothing to do with…thank heavens!) The Guppies Anthology: Fish Tales has found a publisher in Wildside Press!

Here is a listing of the stories and authors:

“Thicker Than Blood” by Leslie Budewitz
“Secret of the Red Mullet” by Nancy Adams
“Accidents Happen” by Jim Jackson
“Identity Crisis” by Diane Vallere
“Sleeping with the Fish” by KB Inglee
“Feeding Frenzy” by Patricia Winton
“SASE” by Ka…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

This was the week at Citizens' Police Academy I was really looking forward to: using the firearms simulator. No pressure because it's all pretend. Yeah, right. Come on over to Working Stiffs and find out how that went for me.

Keeping My Head Down

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Today is the first day of deer hunting season here in Pennsylvania. For many, it’s a national holiday. Maybe even a religious holiday.

Not for me. I don’t hunt. I cry when a dog or a cat or a horse (or Bambi) dies in a movie. The only way I’ll go to a movie where an animal dies if I’m tricked into it.

We own a DVD of Dances With Wolves. I only watch it to a certain point, and then I have to leave the room.

I own The Horse Whisperer on DVD, too. But I start it halfway through. Which is fine because Robert Redford doesn’t show up until then anyway.

I can’t watch fictional animals die, so there is no way on earth I could go out and shoot a real one.

But around here, I’m the odd-man-out. I grew up in a family of hunters. And I married into a family of mega-hunters. Hubby celebrates this day with his uncle and cousins at the family hunting camp.

I’m happy for him. I stay home with the cats. Two small felines and I take up the entire queen-sized bed all night and love it.

During the day, it sounds…

There's snow denying it--It's winter

I just saw my first snowflakes of the year. That’s not to say it’s the first snow we’ve had. I’ve been told by my mother and by my hubby that it has snowed a couple of times before. But I only this morning put my eyeglasses on during one of these flurries to see it for myself.

I’m basically blind without my glasses. I used to wear contacts, but about ten years ago, something interesting happened. While my contacts still allowed me to see things in the distance, words on the printed page became blurred. Eventually, I couldn’t read at all. Unless I put on glasses. After five years of this, I concluded, since I do quite a lot of reading, I was wearing glasses most of the time anyway. So I gave up and switched to trifocals.

However, if I’m bopping around the house, I frequently go with naked eyes. I can see fine up close. I can read. If I lean toward the monitor a little, I can work on the computer. But my whole world exists in about a four foot radius of my face. Beyond that, without corre…

Happy Thanksgiving

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Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving filled with family, good friends, too much food, and lots of love.

A Morning on the Backside

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With all the excitement over Zenyatta and the Breeder’s Cup going on at the same time I was spending three weeks revising my racetrack veterinarian mysteries, I’ve once again been infected with horse race fever. It’s a chronic illness that first attacked my system back in the 1970s. It then morphed into several different forms including 4H horse shows, Quarter Horse shows, and trail riding. But the Thoroughbred Racing bug never goes away completely. It just lies dormant for brief periods of time.

Yesterday, I indulged the disease and spent some time on the backside at Mountaineer where my friend Jessi Pizzurro trains. I was short on time, so I didn’t make it over to the track to watch the horses train. Instead, I just hung around the barn, listening in on conversations with owners, the equine dentist, and Liz, the exercise rider.

I managed to snap some photos of normal morning life on the backside.



I look forward to going back soon to help feed my fever even more.

Active Shooting Drill

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During this week’s Citizens’ Police Academy class, Trooper Mungo put out a call for volunteers to participate in a training drill for the Pennsylvania State Police. It sounded interesting, so I signed up.

The Active Shooting Drill took place this morning. Four of my classmates and I arrived at the assigned room and were given our roles and a sheet of paper telling the scenario we were to act out. It revolved around an employee with 20+ years of service being terminated (“downsized”). He left the building without incident, but returned after retrieving his handgun from his glovebox. He headed for the administrative office looking for the supervisor who fired him. One coworker was leaving the office to go to the restroom, saw him with the gun and ran to the front door. Another coworker in the hall yelled at him and was shot, but managed to crawl into the hallway. Yet another coworker was shot in the head and killed.

That left me. I was supposed to be a coworker at my desk who hears the gu…

Working Stiffs Wednesday

Once again I'm over at Working Stiffs today continuing my reports on Pennsylvania State Police Citizens' Police Academy. I'm a couple of weeks behind since I'm not blogging there every week, so while I completed week #7 last night, I'm blogging about week #5.

Honestly, I can't do the classes justice. The officers doing the presenting bring such enthusiasm for their work into the classroom, and I just can't fit all that into a blog post. I'm hoping I can show it in my next novel, though.

And to further delve into that world, I've signed up for something that sounds fascinating. This Saturday I'll be a participant in a school shooting training drill for the PSP. The guns will be of the training variety, but I suspect the tension will be very real. I'm not sure what my role will be, but it doesn't matter. I'm sure I'll get a whole new perspective on these horrible events.

Ah, the things we do in the name of research!

Coming Up for Air

I announced three weeks ago that I was retreating into my cave—for TWO weeks—to work on revisions to two manuscripts. Since things always take longer than I expect, I finally finished those revisions today. It’s an awesome feeling to click “send” with two requested manuscripts attached to the email. Awesome…and terrifying. Now I wait.

I don’t expect to be twiddling my thumbs, though. During those three weeks, my house has deteriorated into a sanctuary for dust bunnies. Newspapers have piled up at the front door. I’ve had to clear off the kitchen table just to make room to eat. It’s time to declutter and do a little cleaning. Plus I have a couple of magazine articles that are due. Okay, OVER due.

I also had almost 300 emails to catch up on. But I’ve already thinned those down a bit. If I owe you a reply, you’d better email me again. I’m afraid I had an itchy delete-button finger today.

Kensi Update

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The Morning After

Kensi came through surgery quite well. I brought her home around 4PM and left her in her travel crate for about an hour per doctor’s orders. She was a bit agitated. I’m not sure if it was from the drugs or from being stuck in that crate. Or both. But once I let her out, she started wandering around the house, exploring and making sure nothing had changed in her 9-hour absence.

This morning I’ve given her the prescribed pain medication and she wolfed down her breakfast. Her post-op orders call for “no running” which makes me laugh. Yeah, right. Although so far her sore tummy is relegating her to a reasonable pace. And while she managed to jump into bed with us last night and climb to her favorite perch on the knickknack stand this morning, she’s not scaling grand heights as per her norm.

So I guess all I can say is so-far-so-good.

Kensi Update

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Spay Day

My little girl is growing up. Kensi, who came to us when we could hold her in one hand, is now a lean, mean mini-panther. And today she will be spayed.


By the time you read this, I’ll have taken her to the vet’s office. She has to be there between 8 and 8:30AM. No food or water after midnight, which means she’s going to be very unhappy.

I’m concerned about how to keep her from popping her stitches. She loves to rip and race around the house. She climbs the knickknack shelves and leaps from them like a flying squirrel. Will a little thing like surgery slow her down? I doubt it.

More to come.

Working Stiffs Wednesday

I'm sharing my Citizen's Police Academy experience again over at Working Stiffs. This time the topic is vehicle codes and crash investigation.

Photo Friday: Skye and Kensi Update

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Skye and Kensi are still not what I'd call "friends." Kensi loves to torment Skye who isn't interested in rough-housing. But when things quiet down, Skye tolerates Kensi's presence pretty well.

Into the Cave

I wanted to warn everyone that I’m going into hiding for a couple of weeks. I call it crawling into my cave. If our camp in Confluence weren’t closed for the winter, I’d head there. But instead, I’m here in my office (which is currently being invaded by those impersonator ladybugs).

I’ve had a request from an agent for both of my racetrack mystery/suspense manuscripts. More on that later, but for now, I have two weeks to polish TWO manuscripts before I’m expected to submit them.

So with a hyperkinetic Kensi kitten bouncing around and chasing the previously mentioned ladybugs, I’ll be holed up in my cave until further notice.

Working Stiffs Wednesday

Today I'm at Working Stiffs with my report from week two of PA State Police Citizen's Academy.

Another Week, Another To-Do List

And it’s Monday again. Last week I proclaimed my goal of creating the dreaded blurb for my query letter and website.

Done. Sort of. I’ve written, rewritten, and rewritten it over and over. But I’ve settled on one version. For now. Basically, I’m just too exhausted by the process to look at it any longer.

So I’ve checked that one off my to-do list.

But it’s Monday and time for a new list and a new set of priorities for the week. I have so many irons in the fire right now that I’m having a great deal of difficulty picking one to focus on.

I have another article due to Pennsylvania Magazine. There’s the current fiction work in progress (and a critique meeting on Thursday for which I have nada to offer at this point). I’m thinking of pulling out one of my old unpublished manuscripts and giving it another polish. And there’s the rest of the query package to go with the “completed” blurb. Maybe I should throw them all in a hat and just pick one.

Nah. That’s too simple.

Decision made: First priori…

Working Stiffs Wednesday on Thursday

I'm filling in over at Working Stiffs today and have started a new series there on the Citizen's Police Academy. This time it's the PA State Police version.

Monday's Priority List: The Dreaded Blurb

Mondays are a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I feel relieved that I have an entire week to work through the new to-do list. Later in the week, with the clock ticking down to the weekend, I feel mounting pressure to get the rest of the stuff on the list crossed off. Today, hey, I have lots of time.

Ha.

This week, I’m prioritizing my list. Topping it is my website. I’ve been meaning to have it updated since spring. If you check it out, you’ll see it hasn’t been touched in a couple of years. It still focuses on the veterinary racetrack mystery. I need to change that focus to my new paramedic mystery.

I need to start querying the manuscript. But before I send out my first query, I want the website to reflect the new novel.

The holdup is the website page that will be devoted to the novel. I need to write a blurb. I also need a blurb for the query letter. I hate writing blurbs.

So I will be spending my writing time this week gnashing my teeth and pulling out my hair as I struggle with two vers…

Photo Friday: Kensi and Friends

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Kensi has found some new friends that don't hiss at her like Skye does.

Working Stiffs Wednesday

I'm back at Working Stiffs today sharing a kinder gentler type of ghost story.

Changing Seasons

Autumn in Pennsylvania can be beautiful. Unfortunately, it only lasts about 27 minutes. We tend to plummet from 90 degree days to cold, wet, rainy 45 degree days within a week.

Maybe this is Mother Nature’s version of ripping off the Band-Aid. No time to contemplate the end of summer and the approach of winter. Bam. It’s here.

We spent our last few days of the season at Confluence this weekend. We had a double purpose this trip. It was the Pumpkinfest once again, and I wanted to hand deliver copies of Pennsylvania Magazine to the festival’s organizer and the fire department, since my article covering last year’s festival is in it. Plus we had to close up and winterize the camper. Delivering the magazines was fun. Formally ending the camping season? Not so much.

Today I’m in mourning. Camping Season 2010 is history. Gone. Who knows what the future holds. Will Hubby have a job next year? Will he be working so much that he won’t be able to enjoy the camp? Will he be working so little that w…

Photo Friday: Smoke and Fire

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We visited Meadowcroft last weekend. This is one of my favorite places on earth, and I have a long history with them, from designing and helping to make the Meadowcroft Quilt that hangs in their visitor center to writing an article about them for Pennsylvania Magazine a few years back.

This time we were there for a weekend devoted to Native American history. Especially interesting was this guy who demonstrated fire starting.

First there was smoke.

And then there was more smoke.
And finally...

FIRE!




Guest Blogging

Instead of Working Stiffs, I'm guest blogging over at the Sisters in Crime blog about our local chapter.

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict in Pittsburgh

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This past Saturday, I brought Debra Dixon to Pittsburgh for a day-long Pennwriters workshop at the airport Crowne Plaza Hotel. Debra authored one of the writing books that I consider required reading. GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflictis one of the few books I will not loan out. I can’t be parted from it that long. If a scene or a chapter in my WIP isn’t going well, I know that I need a refresher course.

The workshop was a smashing success if the response I’ve been hearing is any indication. It’s always nice to hear positive feedback after spending a year organizing an event like this.


I recently composed a short article for a Chapter Guidelines booklet for Sisters in Crime about how to put on a workshop. With my experience coordinating the 2009 Pennwriters Conference as well as working on the committees for the three previous conferences and our local SinC chapter writers’ retreat (also known as the Great Flood and Writers’ Retreat), I guess I qualify to write such a piece. (I’m not e…

Photo Friday: Fort Necessity

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Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Fort Necessity, and I captured this shot of the small but famous fort, framed in autumn's goldenrod.

Working and Waiting

After five months of having Hubby underfoot (AKA unemployed), I am finally enjoying a taste of having my life back. He’s been accepted as a substitute maintenance/janitorial worker for a local school district, and they’ve put him work for this entire week.

Bless them.

On the downside (for him), it’s a week of midnight shift, which he hates. I can sympathize. I would be a zombie if I had to stay up all night. He used to work all three shifts, but it’s been years. Decades. But at least it’s not heavy, back-breaking labor.

From my point of view, it’s great. I have to be quiet all day so he can sleep. Now, what on earth could I find to do all day that’s quiet?

HA!

I spent all day yesterday writing. It was bliss. I’m doing it again today. Double bliss. I could get used to this. Unfortunately, as a substitute, he only gets called in when needed. Guess I’ll take what I can get.

The other thing that has lifted my spirits is an upcoming Citizens’ Police Academy held by the Pennsylvania State Police.…

Kensi and Skye Update

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Skye has yet to embrace the idea of having a little sister, but at least she tolerates Kensi's presence.

"Tolerates" is definitely as good as it gets.

Meanwhile, Kensi loves being the center of attention and fancies herself a fashion model. Break out the camera and she strikes a pose.

At least Bernard the Polar Bear doesn't mind snuggling with her.

Working Stiffs Wednesday

Today on Working Stiffs, I share a bit of self discovery. We're doing a little psycho-analysis, so come on over and join the discussion.

Report on my Mental Health Week

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My much anticipated Mental Health Week is over. Hubby has returned from the wilds of northern Pennsylvania and I once again seem to have “Complaint Department” stamped across my forehead.

I admit it was kind of fun ignoring the emails and phone calls demanding I fix this or help with that for a few days. The downside, of course, is that I’ve had to face them all this morning.

I didn’t succeed in all I had hoped to do—and not do. At least not to the extent I’d planned. Then again, “planning” was one of the things I was trying to avoid.

I DID practice yoga without interruption, but only once. I DID take a relaxing walk on a beautiful early autumn day. But only once. I did put in a full day of writing. But only once.

Do you catch the ongoing theme here?

I didn’t nap, but I did read an entire novel. And I played with the cats a LOT.

Another happy diversion that I hadn’t originally planned on was a trip to Oakmont to meet the legendary Sara Paretsky, author of the V.I. Warshawski series. I confe…

Photo Friday: A Day in the Life

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If you're looking for peace and quiet, do not bring a kitten into the household. However, if you're looking to up the entertainment value of your home, go for it.

Skye continues to have no appreciation for Kensi's cute quotient. But at least the two of them can now share a room without too much hissing and growling. THAT is reserved for when Kensi either A.) wants to invade Skye's personal space or B.) thinks Skye is a large interactive cat toy.

Anyhow, here are a selection of photos taken one day this week.

Kensi meets the vacuum cleaner for the first time. Or as she thinks of it--that big noisy monster that sucks dirt off the floor.


Here, Kensi is winding up to pounce...on Skye, of course.


Kensi and Skye make good use of my Avon delivery by play hide-and-seek in my office.


Skye offers a big yawn to show Kensi what she really thinks of her shenanigans.


Cute, ornery, sweet, and devilish, all rolled into one Miss Kensi.




Better Than a Vacation

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Last week over at Working Stiffs, I announced my intention to take a Mental Health Week. In honesty, it won’t be an entire week, but beginning this evening, I’m unavailable.

Seriously. I’ve learned to say NO.

Or at least I’ve learned to put things off until NEXT week. Then I will no doubt pay for my downtime.

But I’ll worry about that on Monday.


Here’s the plan. I will not solve any problems, divert any disasters, or do any favors. Don’t ask me. I may not even answer the phone. Leave a message. I’ll get back to you.

What I WILL do is write and read with intervals of walking and napping and playing with the cats.

Personally, I think this Mental Health Week thing is way better than a vacation. No packing. No traffic.

So I’m putting up the Do Not Disturb sign. See you later!

Sibling Rivalry

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I’m not sure exactly what I expected when I brought the new kitten into the house, but what I got was one very stressed out Skye kitty. Kensi the kitten was fine. Happy-go-lucky. Fearless. But Skye, the previously only child, was intimidated by the newbie. She’d growl and hiss and slink away. She spent most of one day hiding in the bedroom.

Okay, I adore Kensi, but not to the detriment of poor Skye. And the more Skye tried to avoid the kitten, the more the kitten seemed determined to make Skye love her by lurking as close to her as possible.

By Friday, Skye was doing better. At least she tolerated Kensi being in the same room with her, but she still seemed terrified of the little thing. So any idea I had of taking Kensi with us camping this weekend was scrubbed. I arranged a kittensitter (thanks, Sara!) and left Kensi home while Skye went with us for a grownups-only trip to the camp in Confluence.

Immediately, my sweet-tempered Skye kitty returned. She relaxed and enjoyed watching the ch…

Photo Friday on Saturday: Peace

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When there's a kitten in the house, this is the only time there is peace and quiet.
They're so cute when they're asleep.

Working Stiffs Wednesday

It's my day to blog at Working Stiffs. Today I'm making plans to refill the well.

A Kitten in the House

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Sunday afternoon, I brought Kensi upstairs to finally meet her big sister. I wasn’t sure how far the initial introductions would go, leaving it up to Skye and Kensi.

I started with Kensi in a pet carrier. Skye sniffed her.

And hissed. And growled. But retreated to observe from a safe distance.

Well, I decided, they weren’t going to get to know each other with Skye choosing to simply avoid the crate. So I opened the door and let Kensi step into a strange new world.


Home.

Skye retreated to the back of the couch to watch.


Kensi discovered toys. Lots of toys.

She started with a bit of hesitation, batting at a piece of bunny fur.

But before long, like a kid at Christmas, she dove in, jumping from one toy to another.

All these things I’ve bought for Skye and that Skye has ignored, Kensi finds delightful.

Skye still doesn’t think Kensi is delightful, though.

Kensi approaches. Skye hisses. Kensi shrugs and goes back to her play.

When she’s not playing, she watches TV. She hasn’t decided on a favorite sho…