Sunday, December 31, 2006

Reflections of the Year Past

With 2006 coming to a close and me not having been as productive as I’d like, blog-wise, I decided to sit myself down and reflect on how life has been for Yours Truly this past year.

This time 365 days ago (more or less) I sat here, full of self-righteous anger at being laid off from a job I adored. Little did I know at that moment that I would play a frustrating game of donkey and carrot for six months with me being the poor hungry animal and a job being that elusive golden vegetable.

Finally, salvation came in the form of a position with the American Red Cross and while they’ve worked me to death the past five months, I’ve been very grateful to have this job. It’s allowed me to put food on the table, pay my bills and to buy a new car that was desperately needed.

At the close of 2005, I finished my sixth novel and this year, while I haven’t finished a seventh, I’ve started it, and been busy doing requested rewrites on last year’s effort.

My family is healthy and for that, I’m extremely grateful, though my beloved Uncle J gave us quite a scare with his heart back in the spring.

My younger daughter finished her first year of nursing school at the top of her class and will graduate around the middle of next December.

My older daughter transitioned from the building industry to more of a corporate job with a nice increase in perks as well as pay.

Needless to say, I’m very proud of both my girls.

For myself, all those hours behind the wheel, driving back and forth to blood drives, have given me plenty of “plotting” time. The creative well seems to be overflowing these days with ideas and I’m sure I could spend the next five years writing books based on the ideas generated during those commutes.

I’ve committed to doing a bit more volunteer work with Georgia Romance Writers, having written two articles for The Galley and I’m now the tape librarian.

In just two weeks, hubby and I will be departing for a cruise to the eastern coast of Mexico, Belize and Honduras to celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary.

Look for pictures, as I’ll be taking not only my regular camera but a waterproof one for some underwater shots when we go snorkeling.

Last, but not least, I want to give a great big cyber hug to a couple friends.

Miss Mary, critique partner, surrogate mommy when needed and bestest buddy, I love you and am so glad to have you in my life.

Michelle, Web Mistress Extraordinaire, thanks a bazillion times over for all you’ve done for me this past year! I couldn’t have done any of this without you. You Rock!!!

With Best Wishes to All that 2007 brings you all the love, beauty and prosperity that life can bring,


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Gift of Life

I saved a life today…maybe more than one.

How did I perform this miraculous feat? Simple. I donated blood.

The past few years, every time I’ve gone to donate, I’ve been a quart low in the hemoglobin department (that’s red blood cells and not having enough means you’re anemic).

On July 4th, my hematocrit, the percentage of red blood cells in my blood, was 34%, not enough to allow me to share. So for the past two months, I’ve been pushing the dark leafy greens, popping iron pills and vitamin C and eating a fair amount of lean red meat. Today, my efforts were rewarded. My count was at 40%! So, I got to share the wealth.

It was really a simple thing to do. I walked into the donor center—actually, I was already there to get signed off for making up collection sets since I work for the Red Cross—and they gave me some literature to read.

Soon, a technician came over and introduced herself. We went into a room where she asked me a bunch of questions about my health and then she took my vital signs. (Temperature, blood pressure and pulse). Then she did a quick fingerstick to check that hematocrit. Once we were done and I’d been given the go ahead, we went out to the donor room and I reclined in a comfy lounge chair, kind of like the ones you see by your average swimming pool.

She swabbed the inside of my elbow with an iodine solution (there’s an iodine-free swab for those who are allergic)and before I knew it, she had the needle in and was instructing me to squeeze the handgrip every five to ten seconds.

Six minutes later, I was done! That simple. She even used pink coflex (that’s the stretchy bandage stuff that keeps the gauze over the venipuncture site) so it would match my clothes.

At the canteen table, I chatted with other blood donors while I drank grape juice and ate some Nutter Butter cookies, then I was on my way home.

In two weeks, if my platelet count (that’s the part of your blood that helps it clot if you get cut) is high enough, I can donate again just for those. And in 56 days, November 1, to be precise, I can donate whole blood again.

It gives me a really good feeling to know that a baby, or a cancer patient, or an accident victim, or some other person in need is going to live because of me…someone they don’t even know.

So, be someone’s hero--donate blood. And if you can’t, encourage someone else to donate in your place. After all, you never know who might receive that blood. It could be your best friend, your spouse, your own child perhaps... or even YOU.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

New Adventures

I know it’s been ages since I updated my blog. Sorry for the absence.

A LOT has happened since July 4th. It turns out that was a very fateful day for Yours Truly.

The Mall of Georgia, where we spent the day, had a lot of activities, one of which was a blood drive by the American Red Cross. I decided to donate a unit.

While I was getting my paperwork processed, I mentioned that I was an out-of-work phlebo to my technician, a great guy (and a cutie, too, I might add) named Travis. He suggested that I take my resume, along with a cover letter to the RC office in Athens.

Being desperate for a job, I did what he suggested the very next day and wound up being interviewed by the technician supervisor and the district manager.

A few days later, I got a temp job with a medical billing company. The work wasn’t exactly thrilling, but the people who work there are incredible and better yet, I got PERMISSION TO WRITE when I wasn’t busy—that was a LOT of the time!

I also attended the RWA National Conference which was held this year here in Atlanta.

I did a lot of networking. Met some great new friends! (Hi Squawkers!! Hi Divas!! Waves wildly) And attended the Literacy Autographing Party. That picture at the top is Yours Truly schmoozing with La Nora.

This picture above is my new friend, Vicki Elabd. Vicki is American, married to An Egyptian. She lives part time in Egypt and part time in New York State.
Above is Moi, with Best Selling author, and all around Sweetie, Christina Dodd.
Eloisa James, Christina Dodd and Teresa Medieros--exactly one half of the Squawk Radio crew. What a great bunch of gals.
Margaret Hite, one of my roomates, me, my CP, Mary, and our classmate Debbi Michalak after the Rita Awards ceremonies. Too bad you can't see the ginormous chocolate fountain in back of us!!
Someof the gang at the Squawk Radio luncheon. That's Connie Brockway in the center. Just to the left her, in the striped dress is the famous J. Perry Stone, my new buddy. We have LOT in common!!

One very important thing that happened at National was that I had an editor appointment and an agent appointment. Both of them were very interested in the projects I pitched and have requested partials. (Happy dancing)

Sadly, I also learned that the dear lady who introduced me to RWA, passed away about two years ago. Her name was Gwen Cleary. I hope she knew how grateful I am to her for telling me about this wonderful organization that has kept me moving forward in my quest for publication.

Back home from National, I discovered that my temp job would probably be offered to me as permanent position. Thinking about it, I decided things could be worse. I could hate the job, hate the people and be unable to write in my spare time, or too stressed out to write at all. So, I concluded, if they DID offer me the job, I’d accept.

Monday evening, I was at the doctor’s office and to my mortification, I’d forgotten to turn off my cell phone. I scuttled to the foyer to answer it.

It was the District Manager from the Red Cross wondering why I hadn’t returned Human Resources call.

Long story short—she was offering me a job!!!!!

So, tomorrow morning I start school—again. But this time it’s only for 3 weeks, then I begin work as a blood collection technician for the American Red Cross.

As a footnote, I’d like to stress how vitally important blood donations are.

I lost my dad just before Father’s Day and ironically my birthday in 1998. He died from a rare condition called Myleodysplastic Syndrome. It’s now classified as a type of blood cancer.

If it hadn’t been for blood transfusions and platelet transfusions, he wouldn’t have lived long enough for me to get on a plane and fly out to California and be with him for the last weeks of his life.

My sister, along with our aunt, (his baby sister) and I took him around to all the places he loved when he was a boy. We reminisced about his childhood, he told us things about when we were growing up and we said all those things you want to say but never do.

So, the next time you see a sign advertising a blood drive, stop and donate. You never know whose life you’re saving.

Well, that's all the news that's fit to print for now. I'll pop back on this weekend for a quick update from school.

Please leave some comments so I know you're all still alive out there. Some times I feel like having a blog is like having goldfish....if you forget to feed them, they die.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th of July!

Today we celebrate 230 years of American Independence. I hope you all have something wonderful planned.

Back when I was a kid, living in San Diego, the "big thing" for any given summertime get-together, was to go down to Mission Bay Park or to Mission Beach.

The day would start out early by packing up a picnic feast and the hibachi grills. The first to arrive would save as many parking spaces as we needed.

Then the kids would all strip down to swimsuits and play in the water while the poor adults schlepped back and forth getting coolers, beach chairs, umbrellas and all the other acoutrements of a day at the beach set up.

Soon, the salt tang of the air would be enhanced by chicken, steak kebabs, burgers and hotdogs doing their thing on the little hibachi grills.

By 11:30, we kids would be starving and would begin pestering our parents for a snack. Doritos and beandip was a favorite, along with all the Shasta black cherry soda and rootbeer we could drink.

Come lunchtime, our hunger sated for the most part, we kids would nibble at a chicken leg, eat a few bites of potato salad and usually drop at least one hotdog in the sand before we were ready to hit the water once more.

Mom knew, of course, that going swimming right after eating would cause stomach cramps that would likely paralyze us to the point of drowning, so we were relegated to spending an hour on the beach looking for sand crabs, attempting (usually in vain) to pry limpets off the rocks and chasing seagulls.

By evening, exhausted from all that hard playing, someone would build a bonfire in the fire ring so thoughtfully provided by the city, and we'd roast marshmallows while we relaxed.

Sometimes, we were lucky enough to spend July 4th there and we'd be treated to the spectacle of fireworks bursting in the air over San Diego Bay, with the Navy ships silhouetted by the bright light from each exploding rocket.

After the Grand Finale, we'd begin packing up and we kids would chatter excitedly about which particular part of the fireworks we liked best.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Roughing It

The title of this blog comes from a thread on a writer's board I frequent. I read it and thought I'd expound on my idea of "roughing it."

For me, roughing it isn't something as mundane as only having 4 television channels to watch, or using an inferior product...

My idea of "roughing it" is having my technological toys taken away. Since my first daughter was an infant, I've relied on microwave ovens to decrease the time I spend in the kitchen. The same with my dishwasher...though I could get away without one now, since hubby and I are more or less "empty-nesters".

But more than anything, I probably could not function and would be reduced to a quivering blob of protoplasm, curled up in a fetal position under the bedcovers, sucking my thumb and whimpering if my computer were taken away.

This little wonder has introduced me to new friends, given me a better way to express my creativity, and given me tools to do research, find recipes, catch up with old friends and learn new things.

This morning, I went downstairs and flipped on the lightswitch. Nothing happened. Then I remembered that last night the lights had flickered then gone out. Hubby had looked at the circuit breaker and declared it "DRT"--dead right there. That circuit not only controls the lights, but also the microwave.

Thankfully, the stove still worked and I was able to boil water in a pan to make tea. But it made me conscious of how much I rely on "things". What would I have done if the stove had been electric and on the same blown out circuit? (Probably jumped in my car and gone to Quik Trip for a caramel cappucino steamer, but that's another story).

I had a friend who shunned technology (except for her computer). She and her family live in a rustic house out in the boondocks of Northern California. She did not own a microwave. While she did own a television set, she only used it to play DVD's to entertain her kids. She had a treadle sewing machine which she used to make beautiful quilts. Eventually, I believe she even gave up the computer. This saddened me because I lost touch with her.

So, what is your idea of "roughing it"? What can't you live without?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Why Write...Why Do Anything?

Last night was my last "Beyond Well Begun" writing class. I have to say, the last eight weeks have probably been some of the most productive of my writing life. I didn't get a tremendous amount written, but I learned so much from our instructor, Nancy Knight.

After reviewing all the subjects covered in class, Nancy asked us The Question: "Why do you write?"

Without exception we all answered pretty much the same way. We write because that's who we are...we are writers.

Even if (God forbid!) I never get published, or if I publish once and never again (one book wonder???) I would still write.

I write because I have so many stories to tell. And if my computer and Alphasmart were taken away from me, I'd use whatever pen or pencil was handy and write on notebook paper, napkins, paper towels...I'd even scratch my words into a piece of wood with a sharp knife if necessary--because I have to get the words out of my brain and make them solid.

Come to think of it....if I were REALLY desperate, I could learn intarsia knitting and knit my would be time consuming, but doable. :)

I know I'm drifting into silliness here, but my point is, when an artist of any kind has a statement to make, they find a way and nothing short of complete incapacitation or death will stop them.

And it always surprises me when someone admits that once upon a time they wrote a novel, shoved it under the bed and never wrote another word.

How can someone do that? And when they do, do they suffer in agony over the suppression of their creativity? Or do they not think of it ever again?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Birthday Blog

I woke up this morning another year older...golly, how on earth did THAT happen? I certainly don't "feel" older...hope to goodness I don't LOOK older!

Birthdays are such odd things...some people--kids mostly--love them and can't wait for the next one. Most of the adults I've encountered seem to disdain them and try to ignore them.

I don't think I fit into that last category--or the first.

I'm not anxious for the days, months and years to race past any faster than they are, because that means one more year spent on this planet and one less to come.

But on the other hand, I'm thankful each year that I'm getting to celebrate another birthday, another milestone in my life, an opportunity that some won't get this year.

My sister, who is almost 10 years older than me is the most youthful woman of a "certain age" I know. If you met her on the street, you'd swear she was at least 20 years younger than she really is...and this is after battling cancer...not once but TWICE.

She's my ultimate heroine. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

For a long time now, I've suspected that age is mostly about attitude. If you think "Good Lord, I'm getting old!"--You're gonna be old! I know women that are in their 60's who have the youthful outlook of a woman in her twenties.

Conversely, I know women who aren't even fifty who think, act and dress like they're ready for the rocking chair. I feel sorry for those women. An attitude like that is only going to speed you toward that hole in the ground that we all dread.

Having said thing I'm really looking forward to in the coming decade and a half is retirement. Sounds odd, I know...most people think that when you retire from work, you retire from life.

Well, that ain't necessarily so. The main reason I'm looking forward to retirement is because I want to get out there and play--all the time! :) :) :) I want to make a lunch date for noon on Wednesday and have it carry over til dinner time and not worry that the boss is going to fire my heinie for tardiness.

I want to book a month long vacation. A month in Positano, anyone??? I want to be able to hop on a plane or into my car and go visit friends and family on a moment's notice and not have to leave just when the fun is starting.

The possibilities are endless.

So, what do YOU think about birthdays? Love them? Hate them? Indifferent?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Ren Fest

Every year since I joined Peachtree Handspinners Guild, I've volunteered to help at our booth at the Georgia Renaissance Festival.

I always have a vague "Brigadoon" feeling about me. The village only come to life once a year. This time the year was 1531 and King Henry VIII and his new bride Queen Anne Boleyn are visiting Newcastle.

Above, you can see a picture of me with my wheel, spinning "teal wool". Sadly, only a few of the villagers and the visitors actually got the pun!
This next picture is, from left, my daughter, Summer, myself, and Summer's friend, Jen, who came to visit me while they were in the village. Look in the background and you'll see the antique loom, still in fine working order that graces our booth. This year, the weaving was dishcloths. They'll be raffled off later this year to raise money for the guild.

This is Jen modeling the dress that she had made for her. I think she looks quite the fetching maiden in it! But I teased her about either being a fever victim or a witch with her short-cropped hair! :)

What would a village be without a dragon? And someone to master him?
This little fellow obviously escaped from his television commercials long enough to visit the village and rather than floating around on a lawn chair, he has his trusty steed to take him where he wants to go.
Here you can see King Henry and Queen Anne as they parade through the village, waving and greeting their subjects.
On hand to protect their majesties are the Three Musketeers, who don't need a reason, only a place to knock swords with the Cardinal and his henchmen. (Below)
In the picture above, behind the Cardinal's henchmen, you can see Mother and Father Goose's cottage. Little children from all over come to pet the geese and ducks, which is very entertaining for us spinsters.

All in all, it was a very fine day, though I sweltered in my heavy skirts. Next year, I hope to visit more than just one day. I love going around to all the stalls to see what wondrous things the village craftsmen and women have made to sell.

So, do you have a Renaissance Festival where you live? Have you visited? What do you like best?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Maggie Madness

My local RWA chapter, Georgia Romance Writers, sponsors a writing contest every year--The Maggie Awards of Excellence.

For the last few years, I've considered myself advanced enough in the skills of writing a good story to enter.

And for those same last few years, I've had a complete mental meltdown as the deadline to submit my entry looms.

It goes something like this:

January..begin new book, work feverishly and have critique partner look at the first few chapters and synopsis. Thumbs up, I continue, thumbs down and the project gets shelved so I can start again.

Eat chocolate.

February..submit synopsis and first chapter for annual GRW March workshop. This is where a published author reads the proposal and gives helpful advice to help potential Maggie entrants polish their work to increase chances of finalling and winning.

March..March workshop. Published author hates my proposal, calling my characters unrealistic, my locale too "exotic", the plot contrived and "over the top". Shelve project and begin working on the idea I'd been keeping in reserve.

Eat lots of chocolate. furiously polishing and polishing Maggie entry until it's the next GWTW.

End of May..3:00 AM panic attacks where I wake up in a cold sweat, convinced my work is rubbish and I should just scrap the whole thing and go to work as a file clerk. Many phone calls and IM's to critique partner and other supporters who soothe my frazzled nerves and convince me that my writing is stupendous and I'm a shoo in not only to final, but to WIN the prestigious Maggie Award.

Eat massive amounts of chocolate. Refuse to step on bathroom scale.

Last day of May..Frantic last second polishing and printing of three copies of first 35 pages of m/s (including the synopsis).

Panic attack when I can't find colored copy paper to place between synopsis and first chapter as required in "The Rules". Use Highlighters to color edges of white copy paper and pray that it's not an unforgivable sin that will render my entry null and void.

Get in car to drive to Post Office, back down driveway and remember I don't have the address for contest coordinator.

Get address, drive to Post Office. Grab two Tyvek envelopes and address them.

Stand in interminable line where everyone in front of me needs the postal code for an obscure village in Uzbeckistan.

Get to window and realize I've sealed Tyvek envelope without first including postage for return envelope. Rip Tyvek envelope open. Clerk gives me that "patient look" she's perfected since joining Postal Service in 1944.

Request two Priority Mail stamps. Place postage on return envelope, reseal Tyvek envelope only to immediately realize that I forgot to include the check for my entry fee.

Slap forehead. Pay clerk who tells me to step aside so she can assist next customer in line.

Rip Tyvek envelope open, place check in envelope, reseal envelope. Return to window where clerk asks to weigh package. I'm lacking $.15 on EACH envelope. Purchase additional postage. Step aside so clerk can assist next waiting customer who has been in line behind me since third grade. Receive dirty looks from waiting customers.

Rip Tyvek envelope open a THIRD time to attach additional postage to return envelope.

Return to window where clerk shoots me an exasperated look and TAPES tattered Tyvek envelope closed with Approved Postal Service package tape. She then rips it from my sweaty, shaking hands and throws it on the cart behind her.

Forget the chocolate.

Go home and drink a double Johnny Walker Gold Label on the rocks.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Dishing The Dirt

So, after an extended delay, the veggies and herbs are planted.

Hubby and the Undeserving Relative got off their backsides and built the two raised beds I’d been carping about for the last two months last weekend, then Hubby and I filled them with all sorts of goodies, including topsoil, leaf compost and cow compost (manure).

I’ve got 9 tomato plants. Seven of them heirloom varieties. The one I'm most excited about is Principe Borghese. This is an Italian variety that lends itself particularly well to drying.

There are also several pepper plants. Unfortunately it will be a total surprise to see which is which since Rockhead went through and UNplanted them and scrambled the markers while she was at it. $20.00 later, I have fencing around BOTH beds.

In the herb department, I’ve got chives, cilantro, thyme, oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, lavender and peppermint.

We’re in the process of tearing up the back deck, as well. The previous owners put it in ostensibly as a selling point, but I think it was really to cover up the fact that they SAID they’d put in a French drain, when they hadn’t. This has led to much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth every time we watch the rivers of water wash through our garage with each rainstorm.

Another new edition to the landscape are 4 banana trees. The tags say “Ensete”, which is a semi-dwarf variety native to the Himalayas, but they LOOK more like dwarf Cavendish. Either way, they’re pretty.

In other gardening news…

If you’ve gotten an email or been told by someone not to purchase mulch from home improvement stores because it’s infested with Formosan Termites, don’t worry.

This is one of those suburban legends that Snopes and other hoax-buster sites has put to rest.

Read about it here, if you’d like.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Battle Of The Bulge

For the greater part of my adult life, I’ve been at war and it all began when my mother died.

I was never what you could call “skinny”. Even as a slim-trim teenager, I was still curvaceous. But in the months following my mom’s death, the inevitable depression and stress that went with it, caused my weight to really get out of control. I was a thirty-year-old mother of two and I was just plain fat.

Apparently, there are many chemical imbalances that can occur in your brain and body when stressed. My metabolism hormones went into hibernation.

I’ve fought and fought for the last 16 years, mostly by myself. I’ve tried just about every popular diet out there—From Atkins to the Zone and nothing worked.

The most success I’ve had to date was when I lost 25 pounds this past year on South Beach. I was also going to the gym 5 days a week. That averages out to a fraction more than two pounds a month. Then the losing stopped and gradually I gained back 15 of those 25 pounds.

When my paychecks came to a screeching halt just before Christmas, I had to drop the gym membership, but I still was eating healthy (with the occasional indulgence in a bowl of ice cream or chocolate cake on special occasions).

According to the laws of physics, if a body consumes fewer calories than it requires to stay alive, that body will become smaller (lose weight).

This is fine—in theory. But I’m baffled as to how a body can consume less than 1200 calories a day, walk half a mile every day with the heart rate at about 120bpm, and still GAIN weight!?!?!?

Enter Dr. Kelley. He’s my new “ladies doctor” and for the first time, I not only have a doctor who is sympathetic to my plight, but who has done extensive research on why women of a “certain age” pack on the pounds for no good reason.

So far, we’ve discovered that my thyroid is lazy. So he put me on Armour Thyroid. Next stop---hormoneville. I’ll know more about those puppies on Friday.

I’ve also started on a program developed by Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, called Ultrametabolism.

Yeah, yeah…I know what you’re thinking…just another fad diet. But I’m not so sure.

He talks a lot about how our bodies react to not only stress, but also from the constant barrage of pollutants and other chemicals we experience on a daily basis.

He discusses food allergies and sensitivities.

Getting to the point of my rather long story here, I’ve just about cleaned out my cupboards and pantry of all “junk” foods. That includes anything with wheat, dairy, high fructose corn syrup and transfats.

For the next 3 weeks I will be the guinea pig in my own experiment and see if I can actually lose weight by treating food as medicine.

I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Just For The Record...

…Barry Bonds is a world-class JERK.

Why am I saying this, you ask? As most of you who follow pop-culture news are aware, Mr. Bonds is within one home run of breaking Babe Ruth’s all time record.

Last night, when he hit #713, the ball landed at the feet of Carlos Oliveras, an airman 1st class in the United States Air Force.

Oliveras, a long time Barry Bonds and Phillies fan, purchased tickets to the three day homestand in hopes of seeing the record broken. When Oliveras asked Bonds to sign the ball, Bonds just smirked at him and said no. He doesn’t sign balls when fans catch them.

What happened to ball players being heroes? Nowadays, most of them refuse to give autographs or pose with fans for pictures unless money is waved in their faces first. Not even for a member of the armed services who is defending the freedom and security of this country so egomanics like Bonds can continue wallowing in all the glory they enjoy. You’d think they’d be just a tad grateful for that, wouldn’t you?

But, it’s all about the money. They don’t give a horse’s heiney about the fans who pay their seven-figure salaries by purchasing tickets and going to the games, or the kids who look up to them as role-models.

Instead, they choose to prostitute themselves by selling that which should be given away out of the goodness of their hearts.

I stopped going to baseball games years ago after seeing the level to which some players stoop to feed their over-inflated egos. The steroid use scandal being a major part of that as well as the baseball card trade shows where players come and sit at a table and only sign cards or allow photos to be taken for a fee.

Barry Bonds, in my not so humble opinion, is nothing more than one of many steroid-enhanced, big-headed hemorrhoids on the posterior of what used to be a really good game.

So, pedal your goods someplace else, Barry, this non-fan ain’t buying.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Going Clubbing

My husband likes to shop. Shop as in "retail therapy" type shopping. Yeah, it's a little weird, but how many wives can say their husbands love to shop with them?

Yesterday, I think we set a personal best record for warehouse club shopping. We started out going to this open air mall called The's in an upscale part of the county and has some unique shops that I don't have access to locally...Yet...but we're working on it.

In the meantime...we ambled through this mall, enjoying the fresh spring air, looking in shop windows. We even stopped and had lunch at a little deli where I enjoyed not only a lucsious Reuben sandwich, but a bottle of San Pelligrino sparkling spring water with a lemon twist. I mentioned to hubby that I really liked this stuff and wished I had access to it at home.

He immediately hit on the idea of going to BJ's, a warehouse club where we have membership and is just a short distance from the mall. We didn't find San Pelligrino, but we did find a 24-pack of Perrier...the next best thing. From there, we headed to Duluth to pick up Hubby's contact lenses from the Costco eye care center. Not having anything else to do, we wandered around, sampling goodies offered by the ladies and gents in the green aprons. Hubby had recently bought a very nice "Aloha" shirt there and was disappointed they didn't have any more.

I made the mistake of saying that perhaps they'd taken all the really good stuff and moved it to the new Costco that opened this week up the road in Buford. I blinked and before I knew it, we were in the car, headed to Buford.

Hubby found another one of his shirts and I found a bottle of 10 year old tawny port wine I'd been wanting for a recipe.

THREE warehouse clubs in a single day! That's got to be a record--at least for us.

Where do you like to shop? What's your favorite store and why?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Fire In The Pie Hole

I pride myself on being a good cook. Exceptionally good. I grew up in a kitchen. My mother worked nights as a nurse and as soon as I was able to work the stove without setting myself on fire, I began preparing meals for the family to take the burden off my mom a bit.

In all of my culinary life, I've had very few failures. The first year hubby and I were married, I attempted to broil some steaks. I'd never used an electric stove before---and the steaks ended up charred beyond recognition.

Last night I experienced yet another epicurean disaster. A month or so ago, I'd tasted something called "chicken tikka masala" that was being demo'd at that fancy kitchen store, Williams Sonoma. It was really yummy! Well, I can't afford to buy their $8.00 a jar sauces, so I decided I'd go to the local ethnic market and purchase some tikka masala sauce there and save myself some money.

Yesterday I cut the chicken breasts into chunks as recommended, mixed the sauce with some yogurt and slathered the chicken in it to marinate for several hours.

When it was time to cook the chicken, I threw in some carrots and potatoes and put it in a slow oven for an hour or so.

I served the CTM, as it's lovingly called in Britain, over steamed rice.

I took one bite and my nose began running like a faucet. After the second bite, I could no longer feel my tongue. After the third bite, I was afraid to talk because I feared I would be breathing fire.

I looked over at hubby and the Undeserving Relative. Neither of them were faring any better than I. I went to the kitchen and slathered everything with plain yogurt and they did the same but with sour cream. Didn't work.

I shook my head in disgust and took my plate to the kitchen. When he could speak, hubby declared that this was the first time in years and years I'd made something so horrible that it was completely inedible.

How about you? Any miserable failures in your past you'd like to share, culinary or otherwise?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Rejections and Other Annoyances

A friend of mine recently got back yet another manuscript she'd sent in to a publisher. It was returned with a rejection letter. Said letter was a full typed page long, so you know the editor took the time to read at least the first part of the book, and made helpful suggestions on what my friend could do to "fix" what she perceived as "wrong" with the book. Basically, she'd have to gut it and rewrite the whole thing.

I have to admit, editors completely baffle me. They keep telling us poor saps they want "fresh ideas, new voices"...yet they reject the very books that have these fresh ideas simply because they are different.

I really liked my friend's story. Yes, there were some plot points that needed fixing, some contrivances that were a little too convenient, but for the most part, the story was an interesting twist of a familiar plotline that's been used several times--with great sucess--in both books and movies.

If my friend were to do what the editor suggests, she'd be writing the same old story, with the same old characters. How dull and unimaginative is that?

A few other things that frustrate the life out of me, as a writer, are well-intentioned readers/critiquers who pick a character and say "that's not true to life". Well, whose life are we talking about? Yours? Mine? Or the character's?

I've actually had people tell me this with regard to a character who is based very closely on a real person. "Oh, a woman would never, never in a million years leave her three small children to run away with a wanted criminal!" Wanna bet? My grandmother did just that.

Or, "people just don't use phrases like that anymore." Oh, really??? Take the phrase "My Lands!" for example. If your character is a twenty-something waitress from Santa Monica, California, that particular phrase might not be part of her vocabulary. But what if she's a forty-something Southern girl who was raised as a strict Baptist?

Stephen King says that he had a stack of rejection letters as tall as a railroad spike before he got an offer for Carrie. THAT is determination. He never let an editor, an independent reader or other writers who thought they were being "helpful", distract him from doing what he wanted more than anything in the world--and that was to become a published author.

So for any of you hopefuls out there (like my friend--and ME) don't sweat the small stuff. And that's exactly what rejection letters are...small stuff. Just read it, thank the editor for his or her time, and move on. Keep writing. My writing teacher said last night that if she knew that she'd never be published again the rest of her life, she'd still write. She writes because she must. Because writing is as important to her physical well being as breathing.

Carpe pluma!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Instant Gratification or Slow Burn?

Are we addicted to speed? Not the crystal meth stuff or the "Mothers Little Helpers" of bygone years, but actual speed. You know... faster, faster!

For myself, I've noticed that I've become and instant gratification junkie. I want faster downloads of stuff from the internet. I want commercials to go by faster so I can get back to my regularly scheduled program.

Driving? Ugh! Fuhgedaboudit! I live in what is supposedly the fastest city in America. We have this horrible entity called "The Perimeter"--A circular freeway that encompasses most of the Atlanta metro area. Technically, the speed limit is 55 mph. If anyone actually drove that slow, they'd either get run over by a semi, or shot in a fit of road rage by another driver.

Let me say right here, I do NOT enjoy driving. I'd be very happy to be chauffeured around for the rest of my life...a forty-something Miss Daisy, if you will. Unfortunately, there are times when I have to suck it up and get behind the wheel and motor around on the interstate system.

Friday, was a good example. I had to drive in morning rush hour traffic to a destination that was 41 miles away. Here on my side of the city we have a "reversible lane system" on a major artery connecting the city of Atlanta with my little 'burb. I drove in the middle of three lanes of westbound traffic and we were all driving about 50-60 mph and were all very happy. Out of nowhere this dame in a Cadillac pulls out from a side street, cuts across two lanes of traffic--in front of ME and settles in to drive at 42 mph.

Screeching brakes, rapid, loud profanity....and then I'm stuck ambling along behind her while on both sides of me cars are whizzing past at light speed.

Once I'd managed to navigate past her, a guy with a cell phone glued to his ear, decided that weaving in and out of traffic made the drive go by faster. He managed to cut me off....TWICE within a four mile stretch.

By the time I'd arrived at my destination, I was ready for 10 mgs of Valium with a Vodka chaser.

The other area where I get antsy about speed is my computer. Now, I don't have the most up to date, fanciest machine on the market, but barring any problems out on the information superhighway, I manage to get along quite well. Downloading is a matter of seconds, not minutes or hours.

I didn't appreciate this wondrous phenomenon until yesterday when I tried to help hubby navigate to a website on his 5 year old computer. A computer that has been FUBAR'd to the point of irrevocable constipation by his determination to frequent shady gaming sites. I imagine if you ran a search and destroy on his PC, you'd find more viri, worms and other nasties than in the entire CDC.

I sat there watching the little MSWindows icon wave slowly back and forth, back and forth, for what seemed like a lifetime before I got the dreaded "operation timed out" window. I gave up in frustration....he'll just have to work things out on his own.

Just for the record, though, I have to say that aside from those little areas, I enjoy taking my time with just about everything else in my life. I write slow, I mosey through stores like I'm in a trance, and hubby has said I'm the slowest eater on the planet.

So what about you? Are you a speed freak? Or are you content to amble along like the Cadillac Lady? What are your "hot buttons" in this world of instant gratification?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Day in the Life Of....

Once again Roxy is forcing me to acknowledge her presence in my life by more than the usual pats on the head and morning cuddles.

She's been suffering from, I'll be polite here and say...digestive upsets. Tuesday morning found me manning the steam cleaner for about half an hour scrubbing away at my bedroom carpet. Yesterday was a repeat of Tuesday. Poor thing, I'm not faulting her, but I can't figure out what the problem is. She only gets dry kibble, the same thing she's eaten for months. She hasn't been acting sick. Her nose is cool and wet. I notice that when she shoves it in the crook of my knee when I'm least expecting it.

Last night, I dosed her with yogurt and activated charcoal. It seemed to help. I didn't have to clean the carpet this morning. Let's hope the trend continues.

Last night was Stitching for Sanity at the local library. We had the meeting room so we didn't get "shushed" by the librarian. There were plenty of sweets to go around Doug brought macaroons, Marilyn brought mini muffins and I think she was the one who brought the donut holes as well. It was a veritible minefield of empty calories. :-)

I hadn't been for three weeks and everyone has moved on to new and exciting projects...everyone but me. I'm still working on the half-clap. I may have to set that aside for a while and get working on the real one for my VIP, if I'm going to have it completed by the end of July.

I've also been busy with a writing class. This is an eight week long series for advanced writers and it's being taught by a gal I've known since I moved to Georgia. She's had 5 plays produced and has written something like 48 novels.

The recovery is going....not smooth, not 100% on target, but it's going. I've had a couple of minor blips but for the most part, my eating habits have reverted back to the normal healthy ones I had before. Not craving sugar and sweets like a junkie craves a fix and that's a blessing in itself. Hubby has even said he's feeling better not eating a heavy meal at night. I about jumped for joy when he said that. I've been set free from the kitchen!!! No longer must I weep and wail and gnash my teeth about what to fix for supper every night. A sandwich, a bowl of soup or a salad will suffice nicely.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Mondays are always a good day to start something new. Since I've been on a junk food binge, lo, these many weeks, I thought I'd do something positive to start the week and do a "detox".

My "breakfast" this morning consisted of a lemon and an orange, a good sized sprig of parsley, 1 oz of olive oil, ginger, cayenne, black pepper and cinnamon all whizzed up in the blender. I followed that with a glass of lemon/cinnamon water.

My meals will consist of large salads with 4 oz. of protein and a dressing made of garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.

I get to snack on carrot and celery sticks.


I figure if I can stick to this for a week, I'll be doing good. You're supposed to do it for 10 days.

If I survive the first week, I'll do a second week before my birthday in June.

And for some reason, I woke up yesterday feeling "whiplashed". Don't know where that came from. No recent car accidents (other than Dear Cousin whacking a deer while I was a passenger in the vehicle). Anyway, since I already possess the pills the doc would shove at me for the problem, I'm just taking care of it on my own.

So, right now, I'm in recovery mode.

The weather has been so gorgeous the past week or so, that I'm almost afraid of what our summer will be like....

The word sweltering comes to mind.

Speaking of the weather, it's been great for plants. My hostas are up with leaves unfurled and the babies I adopted from Cousin Jon are all growing nicely. One little veronica plant even has flowers.

Now, I just need to get my raised beds built for the tomatoes and peppers.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Birthday, Holiday, Chocolate, Oh My!

Yesterday was Daughter #1's birthday. She's now officially closer to 30 than 20. Yikes! Where did the time go??

Twenty-five years ago, yesterday, she took her first steps, but it seems like just last week. We've gone through braces, glasses, middle-school drama, the whole learning-to-drive thing, first boyfriend, first broken heart, and first job.

Hubby and I took her out to dinner last night. Greek food, one of her favorites. As usual, she ate half and took the rest home. I think that's the secret of her staying so pencil-thin.

At home, we had carrot cake, her favorite, before we called it a night.

Now, she's talking about having Easter Baskets. We used to do that when the girls were kids, but now? Double-Yikes! The thought of that much candy in the house, available at one time, gives me the heebie-jeebies. I just have no control when it comes to chocolate. I have to strictly ration myself or before I know it, I'm as drunk as Templeton, the Rat, at the end of the State Fair.

What I am going to do, though, is make a nice dinner. I have this recipe called Silence of the Greek Lambs. Basically, roast lamb shanks, with potatoes, and I'll saute some spinach and crumble some feta cheese to go along with it.

So, what are your plans for the holiday weekend?

Monday, April 10, 2006

She's Baa-aack!

Dear Reader,

Please accept my apologies for my extended absence. I was all ready to write an update last week, when I got a call from one of my cousins that mybeloved 91 year-old uncle was in the ER over in Huntsville.

I didn't think, I just packed some clothes, a book and my knitting and jumped in the car and sped over there. Thankfully, after a week in the hospital, he's much better and was sent home last Wednesday.

While I wasn't running back and forth to the hospital, I spent my time out at "The Ranch" with my cousins. Cousin Jon is the owner of Coneflower Farms, a wholesale plant nursery. Unfortunately, he's too busy to bother with a website, or I'd have an URL for you to go visit. Anyway, I arrived just in time for the Spring Crunch. This is when they really start moving in the greenhouses, getting plants ready to sell, taking orders, etc...

I spent several days working from early in the morning until afternoon popping "plugs" (newly sprouted plants in sectioned trays) and putting them into 4" pots. I did this for a couple of reasons, 1, to help out Jon and Cassie because one of their laborers is currently away at college and the other is in his senior year in high school and was slaving away on a term paper. 2, I wanted to “earn” plants. They’ve always been super-wonderful about loading me up with plants to bring home, but at this time of year, there are no “extras”…only mother plants and plants to be sold. I figured if I worked hard, asking for no pay, only plants, it would be easier to for them to part with some of their stock. :-)

One night, Junebug, the official Ranch Dog, began barking and wouldn’t stop. Turns out we had a visitor. This little guy/girl (I didn’t get close enough to check the gender) was snuffling around under the kitchen window for bugs, their favorite food. For those of you who don't know what this critter is, it's an opossum, North America's only native marsupial.

Cousins Jim and Bill have been building an A-frame cabin half-way up the ridge from the bottom of the property. I tease Jim it’s his “doghouse”, but I think it’ll mostly be used for camping out and as a place for Bill to crash when he comes out to visit from California.

Speaking of Bill, let me say for the record that he's a maniac behind the wheel. Nobody, repeat NO-BODY in their right mind drives 55 mph down a country dirt road in the springtime.

Brother Jim made the grave mistake of allowing Mr. I-Need-More-Caffeine to be the one to drive the us home. The four being Jim, his wife, Genie, Bill and myself. It was late, we were tired and I was staring at the road ahead and there in the headlights---a deer. A cute little Bambi. Dumber-than-dirt Bambi. Instead of fleeing across the open field, like any sensible animal, when confronted with a ton of minivan traveling in excess of 50 mph, this doofus deer takes a flying leap straight at us. The end score: Minivan 1-- Deer 0.

But I still love you, Cuz, even though you killed Bambi. ;-) I know it wasn't totally your fault.

So, I am home now, and have been writing feverishly. This past weekend was our monthly GRW meeting and we had a very special guest, USA Today Bestselling author, Leanne Banks. She spoke about maintaining emotional and sexual tension in your writing.

Afterwards, we had a booksigning at Barnes & Noble. In the picture, you can see from left to right, my critique partner, the famous Miss Mary, Leanne and myself.

If you click the link to my website, you’ll see that it’s undergone a facelift. Please go to the comment page and let me know what you think! I love the sunflowers!

Many thanks to Michelle Moore and Liz Ramsey for creating this wonderful site and to Liz and her buddies Dave and Coop for hosting.

Until next time...

Friday, March 24, 2006


Do you spoil yourself? By that, I mean do you do things and buy little things that make you feel good? Or are you one who is completely self-sacrificing and never spends a dime on yourself or allows yourself a moment to be completely at rest?

I do some of both.

The Man Who Lives With Me does not drink coffee. Hates it, in fact. I, on the other hand, love quality coffees and teas…even consider myself something of a coffee snob. I will plunk down a hefty $9.00 for a pound of perfectly roasted Kenya AA and savor each cup as though it were ambrosia.

I don’t wear cheap shoes, either. Given that we are only issued one pair of feet and medical technology hasn’t perfected the foot transplant yet, I take very good care of the two I have. While I adore looking at those gorgeous, frivolous dainty shoes with impossibly high heels, I’d never buy a pair or wear them even if they were offered. The pain just isn’t worth it. So, I shell out the money for decent looking, though plain, supremely comfortable shoes.

One thing hubby and I agree on are bedsheets. I’m the Princess and the Pea, personified when it comes to threadcount. Nothing less than 400TPI touches this skin.

I think a lot of my self-indulgence comes from growing up with a dad who was a product of the Great Depression. He bought the cheapest of everything. When the “generic” craze hit the nation, he was the happiest man on the face of the earth. Suddenly, our home was filled with “basic” this, and “yellow label” that. It didn’t matter if the can of green beans was mostly stems…it was cheap!

Lest you think me a spendthrift, let me assure you, I’m not. I have a very small amount of discretionary income and most weeks, I have money left over. My greatest indulgence is time. Now that my children are grown and, for the most part out of the house and on their own, the demands of motherhood are no longer as great as they once were.

Each week I have time that is mine and mine alone to do with as I please. I cherish that time and it takes something major for me to give it up. That’s when I recharge my creative batteries. It might be something as simple as a long soak in the tub with some music playing or it could be a drive to the botanical garden to wander through the plants to see what’s blooming.

Even something as simple as taking fifteen minutes to sit and enjoy that cup of coffee while looking out the window is an indulgence of sorts.

So, how do you indulge yourself? Do you pamper yourself to the extreme? Or do you sneak in little bits and pieces? Does a secret treat make it all the sweeter?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ode to Joe's...Trader Joe's that is...

I am SO excited!!! Last night at Stitching for Sanity, it was revealed by Jane and confirmed by Steve, that Atlanta is finally going to be getting a Trader Joe’s store.

For those of you who don’t know about this little bit of gastronomic heaven, I shall enlighten you.

Trader Joes began life as a chain of convenience stores in the Los Angeles area in 1958. They were known as Pronto Markets. In 1967, the founder, Joe Coulombe, got the idea to expand the number and types of items offered. It was decided that the new stores would be called “Trader Joes”. The stores were decorated in a nautical theme with cedar plank walls and the ‘crew members’ all wore Hawaiian print shirts.

Gimmicks are fine, but what really sold the public was the incredible number of exceptionally fine foods sold at the lowest possible prices.

Today, Trader Joes has something for everyone. If you’re a confirmed vegan who only eats organic foods, you’ll find your crunchy granola and soy milk. If wine is your thing, you can bet that you’ll find a bottle of something wonderful at a great price, to go with that special dinner you’re planning.

When I lived in the San Diego area, I did almost all my shopping at Trader Joes. There was always produce available from local farmers at the peak of freshness. Seafood was either fresh off the boat or flash frozen and wonderfully tasty. And how many grocery stores carry giant sized Ghirardelli chocolate slabs?

Another thing I like about Trader Joes is their ethics. I’m no “tree-hugger” but I do believe that we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the Earth. Trader Joes has shown that you can be a successful commercial venture without compromising your values. They refuse to purchase seafood from Canada from fishermen who also hunt baby seals. My hat is off to them for that. They’ve also committed to carrying only eggs from cage-free chickens in their stores.

Something else that impresses me about TJ’s is the fact that they not only buy direct from manufacturers whenever possible to keep prices low, but they pledge to pay their vendors in cash and on time for the products that they buy.

In all the years that I’ve shopped at Trader Joes, I’ve never once had a bad experience in any of their stores. The crews are helpful, knowledgeable and show a level of courtesy that in other stores, disappeared two decades ago.

So, if you live near a Trader Joes, but haven’t shopped there yet, go on, give them a try. It’ll be the most fun food shopping experience you’ve ever had.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Confessions from the Organizationally Challenged

Hello, my name is Cinthia, and I’m a Messy. But inside of me is a Neatnik dying to get out (she’s squeezed in there along side the Skinny Girl).

Life is not easy for a packrat with messy tendencies and given that my chosen hobbies encourage pack-ratting, this makes life even more difficult.

Add to that that I live in a house (with three other people who are also packrats) with virtually NO closet space and it’s a recipe for domestic disaster.

At work, I have no problems being a Neatnik. In fact, I’m organized to the point of borderline OCD. Everything must be in its proper place and done a certain way or I completely wig out. As much as I crave vacation time, I cringe at the thought of someone else taking over because I know I’ll have to come back and spend weeks reorganizing and “fixing” their foul-ups.

At home, however, I’m a totally different person. I wade through a sea of clutter on a daily basis and hardly give it a thought, simply because there’s nowhere else to put it.

Where does one store an inflatable mattress when one doesn’t have a utility closet? Where does one put small kitchen appliances when all available cupboard space is taken up with dishes, pots and pans? What about all those little things that come into the house that are necessary but don’t always have a place (as in a place for everything and everything in its place) These are questions that kept me awake at night for years until I simply gave up.

Put them in the garage, you say? I’d love to….but Undeserving Relative has taken over the garage with large power tools, mysterious boxes of UR’s own “stuff”, as well as the accumulated “stuff” belonging to The Daughter With a Serious Case of Failure To Launch.

To be fair, I can’t lay all the blame at the feet of UR and DD. If I was truly determined to fix the problem, I would find a way, but whenever I try going through the house with the intent to “organize”, I find myself overwhelmed by the task. How do other people do it? I visit people like my sister who is the dictionary definition of “neatness”, and wonder how she does it. Even her washing machine is clean. Not a speck of dust or hardened gunk to be seen.

I’ve read all those “helpful household hints” books by people claiming to be reformed messies, but who I strongly suspect are just control freaks on a mission to alphabetize the world. Their methods just don’t work In Real Life. How many people can go around with a stack of 3X5 cards in their pockets? Seriously…how many of us are conscious enough at 6:30 in the morning to shine the kitchen sink for crying out loud???

I start out with the best of intentions but eventually there comes a point where I wind up sitting in the corner, clutching my blankie.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Spring is here...why doesn't my heart go dancing?

“I’m as restless as a willow in a windstorm…I’m as jumpy as a puppet on a string…”

Old Rodgers & Hammerstein certainly had a way with words, didn’t they? The next line is “why should I have spring fever when it isn’t even spring?”

Well, today is the first day of spring…the Vernal Equinox. Today there will be as much light as darkness on our planet. Long ago, this solar event marked the time when farmers began planting their crops and it was looked upon as a time of renewal.

Animals awaken from hibernation or give birth to their young and we humans experience a spurt of energy from the increased daylight and warmth.

In the past, most housewives would observe a ritual known as “spring cleaning”. They’d haul the carpets out of the house, hang them on the clothes line and beat the accumulated dirt and dust from them with a batlet, a device that looked similar to a heavy-duty fly swatter.

Floors would be swept, then scrubbed. Linens would be taken out, inspected for damage or wear, then repaired or discarded.

I caught a little bit of the spring cleaning bug myself yesterday. No, don’t call the EMT’s-- it wasn’t a big deal. It’s just that whenever I walk downstairs, the first thing I see is our living room. It also happens to be the first room any visitor to our front door sees and they can see it quite handily though the window next to the door. The thought of someone catching me at home and seeing the FEMA site that was my living room, was enough to give me a bad case of hives.

That room has been a wreck since mid-January, when the undeserving relative came back to roost in our house and deposited about thirty square feet of boxes, containers and a TV set smack in the middle of the room. It took eight weeks to remove and only then when one of the furbabies mistook a moving box for a litterbox.

This event coincided with the purchase of a new vacuum, the old one having died a painful death by asphyxiation. Frequent ingestion of hairballs made up of the combined fibers from cats, dogs, bunnies and the odd sheep matted with pinestraw will do that.

Happily, the room is now clean, and with the exception of the top of the piano and the Big Chair, tidy. We even decorated a bit. My treasured Talavera plate from Mexico is holding court above the fireplace and at her feet are several of the tiny, fantastically painted animals wrought from the hands of the Huichol people that dh collects. Standing guard off to one side is a Talavera pitcher and on the other is a balsawood frog using a leaf as an umbrella.

Now, with that giant slain, Dona Quixote’s next windmill to tilt at will be the downstairs bathroom. But that’s a story for another day.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

So Much For Good Intentions

This is an addendum to this morning's post. I was feeling so good about how much I'd gotten accomplished, I decided to take a break, go outside and enjoy the sunshine and read for a bit.

I'd no sooner gotten comfortable and was happily reading when the wind kicked up a little. A bit of blinding white paper caught my eye out on the lawn. I say lawn, with a roll of the eyes because it's really just a long stretch of GA red clay with patches of crabgrass and weeds...anyway...I put my book down (A Belated Bride, by Karen Hawkins. Bought it at a booksigning years ago and it's been on my TBR stack)...where was I? Oh yeah, the white paper. I walked over and it turns out the white paper is a play slip for the GA Lottery Win For Life Game.

Several days ago hubby had bought some(10) tickets and brought them home and forgot where he put them. He enlisted my aid in searching for them and could only tell me "It was a metallic surface". Gee, that's helpful.

We both looked and never found the tickets, until I stumbled upon them this morning. Turns out he'd gone directly from the car to the back yard and placed the tickets on our barbeque and promptly forgotten all about them.

So, there I was on a bizzare sort of Easter Egg Hunt searching the yard for these little white pieces of paper. I only found 5 of them and for my efforts I wound up with an asthma attack from breathing in oaktree pollen.

All desire to continue writing today has left me. I want a shot of Jamesons--make that a double-- and a bubble bath.

Never Do Today What You Can Put Off 'Til Tomorrow

The last several days, I've put myself under the gun to finish up the edits/rewrites/add-ins for chapters 4 & 5 of Opus#5, the book I wrote last year and want to get in the mail to agents/editors(sometime before I pass on to the next world). Since I'm not gainfully employed at the moment, I figure no time like the present.

But I am the worst procrastinator on the planet--at least to my knowledge. I can get sidetracked by a bird flying past my window. I'll wonder what kind of bird it is and get up from my chair to go have a look. Then I'll go get the bird book. Nope, my bird looks nothing like any of those pictured. So I go online and look up birds. Inevitably, some tidbit of information, some stray fact will intrigue me and before I know it, half the day is gone.

I'm also guilty of abusing AIM. I can truly see why so many employers have banned it from workplace computers. It's addicting. I find people who are probably just like myself (who most likely should/could be doing something more constructive than yakking with me) and I have a grand time chit-chatting about anything and everything under the sun. The next thing I know, hubby is pulling into the driveway and not only am I still trying to figure out how to fix the same chapter from yesterday, but dinner isn't even out of the freezer yet.

The last few days, though, I've made a concerted effort at reform. I've been up early, eaten my breakfast and instead of reading which Hollywood celebrities are boffing/divorcing/cheating on each other, I've gone directly to "My Documents", pulled up my chapters and sat here and actually worked!

At the end of the workday (which pretty much ends when hubby crosses the threshold) I had accomplished what I'd set out to do. Chapter 4 is done. Chapter 5 is one page away from being done. Hallelujah and pass the Haggen Daz!! Last night, dinner was actually cooked by me, it was on time. I washed, dried, folded and hung some laundry. And even watched Law & Order SVU and a movie before I crashed for the night.

Now, you'd think that this sense of accomplishment and exhilaration would make me want to do this every day, wouldn't you? Hah! I have no doubts that I'll slide right back to my slothful ways and soon, I'll be flaggelating myself for wasting all that valuable time before it gets to the point of do or die.

Some of us do our best work under threat of torture.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Trash or Treasure?

I’ve recently found myself in the position of having to “defend”, if you will, the romance genre. Granted, I brought it upon myself by asking why so many people feel the need to denigrate this particular genre when many have never even read one. Or if they have, they’ve read maybe one or two of the older historical romances or category romances from our mother’s era.

I’ve never seen the disdain that’s directed at romance directed at other genres such as mystery, sci-fi/fantasy or westerns. Why romance?

Only a few people were willing to give me a straight answer. One said she thought it was because the perception of romance is that it’s nothing but the old “heaving bosoms and throbbing members” that were prevalent in the dialog of the historicals of years gone by. Another said her husband regards romances as “trash” simply because they give women the false perception that real life should be like a romance novel.

Thankfully, for the most part those euphemisms that used to be de rigeur,(and made me cringe) are now a thing of the past.

As far as giving women a false impression of real life, well, then perhaps one could argue that you shouldn’t read fairy tales to children because they would start believing there really are monsters hiding under the bed.  

Maybe people shouldn’t read sci-fi. We wouldn’t want these poor misguided souls to think that an alien might really come bursting out of someone’s chest.

At the very least, I believe it’s horribly insulting to romance readers, who for the most part, are female. It gives the impression that, as women, we don’t have much going on upstairs.

At one point in this conversation all readers of genre fiction were roundly criticized by someone who felt that anyone who reads popular fiction is doing so because they are in need of a security blanket and are afraid to read anything else.

This person went on to confess they never read anything that is considered “popular”. That’s rather sad to me because they are severely limiting themselves. They’re missing out on many excellent books and some outstanding writing.

I can’t imagine going my whole life never having read “Shauna” by Kathleen Woodiwiss, “The Moonspinners”, by Mary Stuart or “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White.

So, with that said, what books have you read that stand out in your mind to this day as being some of the best you’ve ever read? Why?


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Demons and Addictions

Have you ever had a chore that was so daunting, so overwhelming, even though you KNOW it needs to be done, you just don't want to face it?

That's what I'm looking at. And the demon is my bedroom closet. Let's just get it out right now...I AM NOT MARTHA. My closet looks like a windstorm came through it..and that's on a good day.

But at BJ's the other day we found a closet organizer system for a mere $39.00. That is about half of what I have found for the absolute bottom of the line cheapest closet racks at Lowe's or HD.

Dh told me on Sunday as we were looking at them; "If you can get your closet cleaned out by Friday, we'll come and get this system and I'll install it for you." What's that corny old joke? The one about "free ham"???

I know there are others out there who've confessed to this predeliction...a love affair with stationary supplies. How many others are willing to raise their hands and admit that when they set foot inside Office Depot or Staples, their heartrate speeds up, their palms get a little clammy, their face flushes? It's just like a clandestine meeting with a lover, isn't it? And those slick paper catalog with all the color photos the companies send out...oh my! Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?

I confess that the sight of Post It's makes my breath catch in my throat. Fondling pens and mechanical pencils causes a sigh of rapture. Desktop organizers, reams of copy paper, highlighers, correction fluid--or better yet, correction tape! All of them have me enthralled.

Okay, so what's your secret addiction? I know a few of you are going to say the LYS....okay, but is there anything else you're secretly smitten with?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Music to my Brain

I'm sitting here listening to Andrea Bocelli's Viaggo Italiano. and it occured to me that it's amazing how music can affect our moods and more importantly, our creativity.

My one and only visit to Italy was when I was all of fourteen years old but I fell in love with the history, the architecture, the people and sheer beauty of the land. It's been many, many years since I tossed my coin into the Trevi Fountain but the memories are as sweet as though it were yesterday. I've yet to return. But I truly believe that my wish to return to Italy will one day come true.

Right now I'm on rewrites of Opus #5, which is set entirely in Italy. I discovered that I needed to make some radical changes in the book. This necessitated inserting a whole new chapter between two previously written ones. This is about as easy as putting on a bra without removing your pullover shirt. It's doable, but tricky.

For me, writing is something I love but it drains me. Not unlike being at the beck and call of a demanding infant you've given birth to. Mental rejuventation is vital to the creative process.

If I'm feeling stressed or blocked, all I have to do is put on a CD of Italian songs and close my eyes for a few minutes. Slowly the muscles unknot, the endorphins begin to seep though my body and into my brain and a sense of well-being and happiness floods through me.

In cases of severe stress or extreme writers block I strongly recommend filling the bathtub, add a generous portion of bubble bath (lavender scent preferably for it's relaxing qualities), light a few candles, sip a glass of port, eat Godiva chocolates, and listen to a CD of your favorite love songs. An hour later you'll be a new you.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Goodbye Febru-Ugly --Hello March!

--Who came in like a lamb. :)

Anyone else breathing a sigh of relief that the first day of spring is just twenty days away?

The first income tax refund check arrived yesterday so we celebrated and bought a new vacuum. woo-hoo.

After a test run on the clapotis last Wednesday night, I'm ready to start for real tonight. Just have to remember where I put the frassing stitch markers I bought.

I've also bought the necessary items for engineering a new scotch tension band on my spinning wheel. Don't think I mentioned it before but I got to my meeting on Sunday and discovered it was missing. Had to borrow the guild's little Kiwi for the day in order to spin at all.

I could have just ordered a new tension kit, but I'm not a patient person and the thrifty Scot in me comes out when I see something for $15.00 (including shipping) that I could make for under $5.00.

A big congrats to the Knitting Olympics Team Georgia members who got their projects done. St. Janice must have set a world's record for sweater knitting.

On the writing front, I've finished rewrites on chapter three of Opus #5 and have started on chapter four (9 pages!). I meet with Miss Mary on Friday to see the results of her critique and proofreading. One more chapter and I think I'll have enough to send off to the editor and agent I met last fall.

Okay, off to figure out what to feed the other people in the house before I set out for Stitching for Sanity.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Tale of a Very Bad Dog

I had to take a picture of this. It's just too painful to not share. Once upon a time, that mess was a beautiful ball of creamy white bluefaced leiscester lambswool roving. The two cocoon-looking balls on the left of the picture are two bobbins-full that I had already spun up.
Five minutes. That's all it took. Five little minutes of unsupervised time alone in the living room and Rockhead Roxy managed to jump into a chair, sniff out the wool that was inside a closed bag that was inside another closed bag. She tore the bags open, pulled the wool out, ran out the dog door and shook the wool like a rat.
Thank goodness I found the wool quick or she'd have had it strewn across the yard like streamers at a boat launch. The funny thing was, she knew she'd been bad. The minute I went outside and saw, she made a run for it. It took me a good fifteen minutes to grab her, then I scruffed her on the floor, made her smell the wool while I screamed at her. She spent a good hour in "time out" before I was calm enough to let her back out with the rest of us.

Yesterday was the monthly Peachtree Handspinners Guild meeting. The lovely blue cloud you see above is some BFL lambswool I bought from Tina Evans. She raises sheep and angora goats up in the northwestern part of Georgia. She's also an absolute genius with the dyepot.

As for the Mess O Wool....I've decided that will be my project to work on when I'm dead bored and have nothing else to do on a warm day when I can work on it outside.

And I've learned a valuable lesson...Dogs and wool are not mutally compatible--as much as the dog would like to think otherwise.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Clapotis(Clap o TEE) N: Modern French Torture Device Made of Yarn

It's still ugly here in Atlanta. I can't remember the last time I saw the sun. In fact, there's this suspicious green patch that's appeared on my shoulder that I think may be moss...

Last night I was the first to arrive at the Library for Stitching for Sanity. Does that tell you anything? Usually I come skidding in sometime after 7:00 and everyone has to do the "clean cup, clean cup, move down, move down" routine for me.

We were supposed to have a meeting room last night. Apparently the word didn't get out to the Five Forks HOA because when I arrived there was a man in there setting up chairs in neat tidy rows. I wandered into the main part of the library and there was nary a table to be had. I finally plunked my bag on a chair in the "Teen Scene" area and shot anyone who gave me the hairy eyeball a defiant glare.

There is strengh in numbers...eventually there were enough of us to squeeze out any interlopers by sheer force of will and we had the area to ourselves.

It was a Red Letter night for me, too. I've decided to make the Clapotis (loud applause please). This will be my very first attempt at following a pattern. I know, I on earth can you possibly knit without a pattern??? Very easily...there are just some things that are just DO THEM and they come out. Like scarves... and hats.... Socks are a little more difficult, but if you know the stitches for your basic sock, you can get on fairly well without having to follow a printed pattern.

It's those danged abbreviations that kill me. PBF. WTF??? I had to go online and look through THREE different knitting abbreviation sites before I found one that had that little nugget and I still couldn't figure out what the heck it meant. So, I took the yarn and needles with me last night and had the experts (Stephanie, St. Janice) show me exactly what Purl Back and Front of same stitch meant. Geez.

So, now that I've got that figured out, I'm making a test clap before committing to the expense, time and energy to make one out of silk for that VIP I mentioned a few posts back.

Heck, I have until July!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Signs of Life

Febru-Ugly can't end fast enough to suit me. Once the fun of the holidays are over, I'd just as soon dispense with winter, thank you.

To my grateful relief, there are early signs of spring popping up all around Atlanta. The redbuds are blooming. If you've never seen one, you've missed out.

Just yesterday morning, I looked outside my bedroom window, and sure enough, the forsythia bush is budding out, as well. Even the branches of the silver maple outside the front door are starting to swell with leafbuds.

In my other life, back when I lived in what my late Aunt Bertha called “God’s Country”, I didn’t really appreciate spring because I lived in the best climate on the planet.

Sure, in the fall, the deciduous trees drop their leaves, but that isn’t a big deal because there are also palm trees and Norfolk Island pine trees and eucalyptus trees which are green year round.

The ugly brown-gray of winter is one thing San Diego need not ever worry about.

Here in Atlanta, however, I suppose the stark, muted colors of winter serve to give us appreciation for the colors of the rest of the year.

Soon, the azaleas will begin blooming and the entire southeast will be awash in color ranging from white to the most shocking of pinks. Then come the wisteria, both domestic and feral, a climbing purple fantasy amongst the dormant kudzu vines.

This is the time of year when I start fantasizing over plant catalogs. I have visions of creating a woodland glen in my yard where I can quietly repose with my spinning wheel (or laptop, depending on my mood) and do what I do best…spin yarns. Pun most definitely intended.

And every year I forget that my back yard is one hundred percent Georgia clay and when it’s not a mudpit, it’s about as easy to cultivate as your average concrete.

In my fantasy I also forget that beneath that clay lurks the larvae that strikes fear and loathing in the heart of every gardener east of the Mississippi:

Popillia japonica Newman or Japanese Beetles.

Until I moved into this house, I’d never had a problem with the little iridescent marauders. I could grow a tomato that could induce drooling at twenty paces.

Not anymore. Now, before my poor tomatoes even have a chance to turn that ambivalent yellow-pink that indicates it’s thinking about ripening, the blasted beetles invade much like Attila the Hun and before I can even get outside with my bottle of insecticidal soap, nothing is left but a hollowed out husk.

Another problem I discovered was this scary Morticia Aadams-inspired plant called bindweed, or wild morning glory. This stuff is un-freakin’-believable.

You can’t pull it out, because much like gray hair, doing so will cause twenty new plants to sprout. If you spray it with an herbicide, it reacts as if you’d given it a shot of Miracle Grow mixed with B-12 and Fish Emulsion. Even two years under black plastic didn’t do a damned bit of good—ask me how I know!

So, as a gardener, on this property, I am thwarted. And frustrated. At best I can only be a voyeuristic gardener. I must be content to look at other gardener’s handiwork and sigh with discontent and look forward to the day when I can get the heck out of here and find a place where I can sink a shovel into the earth and not break my foot. A place where I can actually see plants growing that don’t have bitemarks in them and that aren’t sporting flowery boas made of morning glories.