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Anyone with children may be shaking their heads like me at how Halloween as a holiday has grown since we were kids. We had a costume and a pillowcase for trick or treating and at the house there was a cut pumpkin with a candle. This pumpkin was carved with a knife. Really elaborately decorated homes had cornstalks! Now there are these over-the-top displays with spider webs, large size lawn ornaments, orange lights and store-bought bags for hauling the loot --- and complete pumpkin carving kits.

Monday I went to a luncheon where Nora Ephron was the featured speaker. As you know, I loved her latest book, I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK, finding her writing both witty and dead on. The room was packed for her talk and she was humorous, irreverent and smart in her comments. One of my favorite lines was what her mom told her when she was growing up when she would come home upset about something --- "Everything is copy," meaning that you can use everything that happens to you in life at some time or another. I realized how true this is. Some of my most "tragic-at-the-time" moments have gone on to give me some of my best story material. When I tell my kids about some of my "not fun" high school moments I can make the moments where people made me just insane sound pretty funny. Who knew? Think of this the next time you are somewhere and you are not feeling so great about life.

I am wearing socks today, which is a true signal that cold weather is upon us as I fight wearing them until the last possible second. I also raced around the deck and patio last night gathering up all the houseplants that had spent the summer outside sunning themselves. I took that "possible frost" report seriously.

It is well-known that I am direction-challenged. Spin me in a circle and I will walk the wrong way. Guaranteed. So last weekend when I was in Madison, Wisconsin for Bouchercon I discovered a new way to track my way --- follow the cows. Downtown Madison was having a CowParade, sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Council. I love these kinds of art festivals as I love clever things. Here the cows were given titles like Mothermoose (shaped like a caboose), Cow Lloyd Wright and Frank Loin Wright (Wright-inspired) and Georgia O'Cowffe (O'Keefe-inspired). On the walk from the conference hotel to my hotel there were at least 12 cows. I knew to make a left at "Half-and-Half Cow," which is pictured here. For more on Bouchercon, you can read my blog here. We also have the winners of the Anthony Awards and the Shamus Awards. Oh, for those of you with a hankering for clever-looking cow designs, there is a commemorative book, COWPARADE WISCONSIN: The Cows Come Home To America's Dairyland, here.