Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Post-Conference Recovery/Recap

Okay, I’ve been back from San Francisco a week now and I think I’m finally over the reverse jet-lag that accompanies any rapid roundtrip transcontinental flight.

How, you ask, was National? In a word, great!

As I walked into the hotel lobby, I literally ran into my chapter mates, Ann Tripp and Elaine Sims. They had a car and I happily accepted their offer to accompany them sightseeing in the City By The Bay.

We lunched at Fisherman’s Wharf, where, thanks to Elaine, I discovered the delights of Dungeness crab. I may have defected from The Deadliest Catch forever.

At Nash Street and Bay, we found a Maritime Museum. As we strolled along, I caught my first glimpse of Alcatraz. I never realized it was so close to shore. No wonder inmates were always thinking they could escape!

But then…then I saw it--the Golden Gate! I got sooo excited. I yelped, jumped up and down and pointed, like a Sixties teen at the sight of the Beatles.

After Fisherman’s Wharf was a rollercoaster ride down Lombard Street—the crookedest street in the world. What fun! From there, we drove to Chinatown to buy souvenirs for the folks back home.

Wednesday, my roomies (Mary and Lee) and I had just enough time to run across town to the DeYoung museum at Golden Gate Park, where we saw some great exhibits, including one of MesoAmerican art and glass artist, Chihuly.

Wednesday night, the Literacy Autgraphing party was a tremendous success. I worked as an author attendant, meaning I ran and fetched whatever the authors needed…water, more books, etc… By night’s end, we’d raised over $58,000 for adult literacy.

Thursday evening, seventy or so of my Romance Diva friends and I met at Buca Di Beppo, a wonderful Italian restaurant just a block from the hotel.

All us Divas have a special “Diva Name”. Yours Truly is known as “Oh, say it’s so! Diva”. Since J Perry Stone, one of our newest baby Divas, didn’t have a Diva name yet, I got to christen her as “I have no filter! Diva”. She completely lived up to her new name and I’m pretty sure our table laughed harder and longer than any other in the group.

Throughout the conference, I spent quite a lot of time with J Perry, Manda Coll, Santa, Elodie, Lindsey and Terrio, all from Romance Vagabonds. What a fun group!

Manda, a librarian by trade, really missed her calling. She really should be one of those people who read books aloud for Books On Tape. She read snippets of a particular book aloud, much to our delight.

Saturday afternoon, a bunch of us were treated to lunch at California Pizza Kitchen by Julia Quinn, romance author extraordinare and an absolute sweetheart. With authors Elizabeth Hoyt, Sabrina Jeffries, Sherry Thomas and Laura Lee Gurkhe in attendance, we were truly in the presence of the Romance Writers version of “The Ton”. J

Sadly, I probably won’t be in attendance at next year’s conference in Washington DC, as I am playing the part of Mother of the Bride again next fall. But, in October my chapter will have it’s own conference, the much venerated Moonlight & Magnolias. It promises to be almost as much fun as National.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Thoughts of Spring

Spring has arrived in my part of Georgia in a big way. We’re in the throes of our annual botanical orgy, where every tree is trying to outdo its neighbor in the area of pollen production.
Every surface is covered in a yellow green dust that plays havoc with human sinuses and the only respite is the occasional spring rainshower.

I suck down antihistamines religiously to ward off the dreaded sinus infections so common this time of year. Even so, I adore Spring. So full of things to see and full of hope for the future.

I love that the temperatures are warm enough to put away the space heaters that hummed all winter, and yet, it’s cool enough to avoid running up the utility bills by switching on the air conditioner.

Probably the most amazing thing about April is the flowers. March can be quite gaudy, really, all tarted up in vibrant yellow, pink and green, shouting “Look at me! Look at me!”

April is more refined, her write blossoms as elegant as any Society debutante. Looking out my front door, I can see white dogwood and azaleas, even white flowering cherry trees whose graceful limbs seem to reach for the sky.

Along the roadsides, wisteria creates a violet-hued waterfall amongst the winter-killed kudzu vines.

The lawn, which lay dormant all winter, has sent yellow green blades up through the reddish brown earth, and within days, has become a rich, verdant carpet.

Exploring the yard, I notice the fig tree has sent out a few experimental leaves, as if unsure whether to commit to coming out of hibernation for fear of being bitten by a late frost.

The dainty tea olive at the corner of the house tempts me with the transient, yet intense aroma of it’s delicate flowers, and I note with pleasure, an abundance of ripening buds on the rhododendron that holds court near the front door.

At the same time, I notice, with some trepidation, the gardenia bush, a plant beloved by many, but not by me. I find the fragrance of the waxy white flowers too cloying, too insistent. Even so, I can’t bring myself to destroy this plant which has stubbornly thrived, despite years of benign neglect on my part.

I make my way to the herb beds and smile as I think about the fresh chives I’ll be able to sprinkle over the top of baked potatoes.

All too soon, the responsibilities of my day take me back inside the house. Before I leave the garden, though, I pause to run my hand across the rosemary bush. I bring my fingers to my nose and inhale, eyes closed. The sharp, tangy scent takes me back to my childhood and for a moment, I’m transported to another time and place where life moved at a gentler pace, where dinner was made by mama and Spring lasted longer than an instant.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

My Argument Against Water Conservation

This story actually begins a few months back when The Husband reached for the knob of our front door and the whole apparatus fell out in his hand. The lock mechanism was well and truly broken, which necessitated a trip to the home improvement store and the purchase of a new exterior door knob assembly. The old lock was a keyed deadbolt with a secondary lock that could be locked from the inside or left unlocked. The new one works a little different.

Okay, now you might be wondering how this fits in with water conservation. And I admit, the title is a bit misleading, but bear with me.

The last two days, I’ve had to get up for work much earlier than my usual schedule to suck the blood of unruly high school students. It’s left me exhausted. I also suffer from chronic back pain which was exacerbated by the long days this week.

Last night, exhausted, I fell asleep and woke, quite reluctantly at 8:00 am this morning. I toddled downstairs, scrubbing my eyes with my fists, trying to keep from tripping over the dogs as I made my way to the kitchen.

I needed a cup of tea. Immediately.

As any tea enthusiast knows, you should warm the pot prior to use. I boiled some water, then swirled it around in the pot for a few moments. My first instinct was to just pour the water down the drain after warming the pot, but being the California Water Miser that I am, I thought a better purpose would be served if I poured the water into some plants I have sitting on the front porch.

I carried my beautiful Charles Sadler Limited Edition teapot across the house, garbed in my pink fuzzy robe and pink fuzzy slippers, opened the front door and stepped out into the crisp spring morning.

Birds were singing in the trees, down the street I heard a dog bark and in the distance, I heard the rumble of traffic on the main road.

After a moment’s appreciation for the day, I stepped out on to the porch, bent to pour some tepid water on my favorite Viola odorata when I heard a muffled snick.

I straightened, the realization hitting me in the head with all the force of a two by four. I clutched my teapot close to my breast and reached for the doorknob.


The new door lock mechanism is such that if the door is opened from the outside with a key, it will remain unlocked. But if the locked door is opened by hand from inside, it will remain locked. A fact which, had I been fully awake and not operating on two days sleep deprivation, I would have remembered.

I was well and truly locked out.

Since it’s still officially winter, The Husband hasn’t done any mowing, so the grass is about ankle high. Resigned to my fate, I finished watering the plants, and hoping the neighbors wouldn’t see me, I hoisted my robe above my ankles with one hand, clutched my precious teapot with the other and made my way to the side of the house.

My toes began to get damp and cold from the dew-covered grass and the neighbors yappy little Chihuahua screamed at me as if I were a burglar. My own canine crew stood on the other side of the gate and waited patiently for mom to find her way back inside. I love how they trust me.

With one hand, I scooched aside the twin bowling ball sized rocks holding our gate closed while the forsythia bush and snowball tree clawed at me with spindly limbs. The other hand still clutched the warm teapot to my chest.

Inside the backyard, I once again had to grab my robe to keep it from brushing across the wet lawn and I navigated past emerging weeds, and other yard debris left from last fall. The dogs capered about me, happy to see that I'd returned. Roxy, the half-rottie, knocked into my legs, intent on getting me down on the ground to her level so she could show her proper affection.

I prayed The Husband had left the back door unlocked. I tried the door and to my dismay, it, too, was locked. In the pocket of my robe, I felt my cellphone. Who on Earth would I call? Dear Daughter (the elder) who lives quite close and has a key, was already at her job fifteen miles away. The Husband was on the other side of Atlanta. This situation called for immediate action and nobody but me to take that action.

But fate and the Good Lord smiled upon me. As I glanced around, I found the prybar The Husband had used last fall to remove some decking he wanted to replace. He’d forgotten the tool and left it laying beneath a fountain. I hefted the length of damp, dirty and rust-covered iron. It would suit.

With all the skill of an accomplished cat burglar, I set my precious teapot aside out of harm's way, and hunkered down in front of the door. Ignoring the warm, moist kisses bestowed on me by Roxy, I snaked the prybar through the doggie door and gently used the curved end to maneuver the door handle. With in a minute, the door swayed open.

Such a relief! I swept up the teapot and hurried to the kitchen.

Now, I sit, comfy and cozy in front of my laptop, sipping Scottish Blend tea from the faithful pot that stayed warm throughout my ordeal.

I’ve decided that while water conservation is a much needed and worthwhile endeavor, I shall no longer attempt to conserve such a puny amount while alone in the house. I’ve now installed a mini rainbarrel, if you will, on the counter. All water that isn’t consumed and isn’t contaminated will go into this container and periodically used in the garden—while The Husband is home.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I've Been Tagged

By Tami Brothers

Now, I have to tell you all 6 UNimportant things about myself.

1. I had Lasik surgery on my eyes about 8 years ago. Before I had it, I was so blind I couldn't be fitted with soft contact lenses...they don't make them that strong.

2. Like Tami, at one point in my childhood, I lived in a camp trailer...but it was because my dad was building our house at the time.

3. I wrote my first "novel" when I was 11. On notebook paper. And I kept it in a 3-ring binder. It was horrible, but I wish I still had it. I'd love to see how my writing has evolved over the decades.

4. I still have my appendix.

5. I've never memorized the multiplication tables. I know, shame on me...

6. I can say "I love you" in 5 languages.

Okay, so now Michelle, Traci, Lauren, Christine , Gwen, and Ally, you've been tagged...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

First Kisses

Do you remember your first kiss?

I do, and I still get all swoony inside. I was a freshman, and Tony was a junior. Little did I know he had a reputation. Back when, he'd have been called a "rake".

Tony had some sort of built-in radar for the weak impala of the herd. High school terrified me, and I spent most of my time skulking around corners and hiding behind a book.

I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence back then, but I was a born flirt, and my inner flirty-girl had just gone into hiding for a while. Tony brought her back out into the sunlight. I soaked up his attention like a sunflower soaks up UV rays.

We’d flirt, banter, and I’d get all worked up, and then he’d disappear for days at a time--working his magic on some other girl, I later discovered.

Just when I thought it would never happen, it did. I was sitting on the bench of a stone planter in our quad area, reading. Out of nowhere, a voice whispered in my ear, I turned toward it, and there was Tony. He pressed his lips to mine and I was so astonished my jaw sagged open.

My first kiss…and it was in French!

Tony, I must say, was an excellent kisser. He set the bar so high, most of the guys I kissed after him never measured up. When he kissed me (and every other girl he kissed) he gave it 110%. No half-hearted, dry pecks—ever. But I never had to keep a Kleenex handy to wipe up the drool, either. And he left my tonsils intact. He was the Mary Poppins of kissers; Practically Perfect in Every Way.

We never dated, but Tony and I would sneak every possible opportunity to kiss. We’d lock lips in the library, behind the bleachers at Home Plate, in the gloomy hallway in front of my locker. One time, he even caught me unawares coming out of the girl’s bathroom. There we’d be, arms and legs tangled together until I couldn’t stand the tension a moment longer and I’d break away. It never went beyond kissing and some adolescent “feel ups”, but I loved it. I wasn’t allowed to date, so I didn’t have a problem with him not wanting to be my boyfriend. I was content with our secret liaisons.

Then, we were found out. Not by a teacher or some other adult, but by one of Tony’s other girls. She didn’t say a word. But I began finding unsigned notes in my locker warning me to leave Tony alone. Well, how in Hades can you leave someone alone when they won’t leave you alone?

I managed to ferret out that my rival was a girl named Tina. I showed Tony the notes. He just shrugged and said Tina had been smoking too much pot and was paranoid. I told him to leave me alone anyway.

Bless his heart, he did as I asked.

The following year, when I’d experienced being dumped by a boy for the first time, it was Tony who came to the rescue. He picked up the pieces of my broken, teenaged heart and glued them back together with kisses and tender touches.

By my senior year, I’d swirled through the male sex like grasshoppers through a wheat field. I learned a hard lesson; never date guys you go to school with. Living in San Diego, I had my pick of thousands of guys stationed at the Naval Training Center (aka The Zoo) Miramar Naval Air Station and Camp Pendleton. I enjoyed them, each and every one.

Tony had joined the US Army after graduating and I’d all but forgotten him. Then, one day he showed up on my doorstep, all handsome in his dress greens. He was in town visiting family and he thought of me.

We spent an entire afternoon and evening talking, going through my yearbooks and flirting. He met my family for the first time and had dinner with us.

Then he kissed me one last time and was gone from my life forever.

Do you remember your first kiss? Was it a wonderful experience that you cherish? Or do you still cringe at the memory?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Waffling About Valentine's Day

I know a lot of people who get all bent out of shape when Valentine’s Day comes around. They argue that it’s all just a big marketing ploy to get people to buy stuff they neither need nor want in an effort to impress someone. Someone who either already knows how the other person feels or someone they hope will allow a furthering of intimacies in the relationship.

Other people, like Dear Daughter (the elder), who loves all holidays without exception, goes all out for Valentine’s Day and buys everyone she knows some sort of card or little gift as a reminder of her regard. She’s a retailer’s dream, that girl.

For myself, I straddle the fence with regards to Valentine’s Day. I don’t model myself after my child, but I’m not a curmudgeon about it, either. I usually buy my long-suffering hubby a card, make him a particularly toothsome dinner, etcetera…

He’s not big into cards, but he’ll usually buy me flowers, which he knows I love, and sometimes a DVD or a book I’ve been wanting.

But as the crew of the Romance Writer’s Revenge discussed today, Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity for Show, Don’t Tell. It’s all those little things during the year leading up to the Grand Gesture on Valentine’s Day that make the holiday genuine.

Back when I was a kid, back before cable tv, (gasp) computers and Political Correctness, we would spend the week leading up to Valentine’s Day decorating our little shoebox mailboxes and our little hearts would hammer with anticipation wondering how many valentines we would get.

And every year, my little heart would be broken because being the weird little geek that I was, I didn’t get many valentines. Often there would be only two in my little mailbox, one from the teacher and one from my best friend. And this after I’d gone to the effort to give one to everyone in my class.

Now, thanks to Political Correctness, every student, if they are going to participate, must give a valentine card to every other student in their class. No exceptions. So, there are no broken hearts, but at the same time, the weird little geek kid gets valentines from the kids who shove him into walls and the kid who wipes boogers on the back of his shirt. Can you feel the love?

So, how do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Love it? Loathe it? Have you made any grand gestures for the Significant Other in your life?

Monday, January 28, 2008

I Enjoy Being A Girl

When I have a brand new hairdo
With my eyelashes all in curl,
I float as the clouds on air do,
I enjoy being a girl!

~~Rodgers& Hammerstein

I’ve always been a “girly-girl”. Even as a child, I’d wash my hands frequently while making mudpies and I insisted that my Sabbath dresses be bought at an exclusive child’s boutique and not the local department store.

But life has a funny way of changing our priorities.

I grew up, got married and had children of my own. Suddenly, the money I was spending on feminine indulgences, went to buy things like diapers, Onesies, and carseats.

I never complained. In fact, it wasn’t long before the girly-girl turned inward and I became quite content wearing mom jeans, stained t-shirts and tennies from K-Mart. I got my haircuts at “chop shops” and my cosmetics came from the dollar store.

It’s only been recently that attention has been called to my lack of fashion sense. Both of my now adult daughters felt it necessary to stage an intervention.

How sad is that???

Once I was forced to face the awful truth, I embraced change-and dollars…lots of them. (Insert horrified husband’s expression here.)

I’ve become obsessed it seems, with all the girly-girl accoutrements that I’d forgone for so long-as if I’m making up for lost time.

I get my hair cut at a rather Ritzy salon—and get highlights, too. My hair has never looked better.

I have “nails”, which require bi-weekly maintenance.

I can’t pass the Sephora store at the mall without going in…and coming out with a bag of goodies-and a credit card snapping with static.

I wear perfume-with a name that can be recognized.

My morning regimen, which used to take thirty minutes, now takes an hour and fifteen minutes. (I’ve timed it.)

I wear these really nifty jeans that fit well below my waistline and are a full two sizes smaller than my old mom-jeans.

I’ve developed a passion for jackets…you know, those little accessory things worn over tops and trousers?

I have a wardrobe of handbags.

I own more than one pair of shoes.

I wear pretty bras that fit properly. (You have no idea how much this one thrills me!)

My underwear is more flirty than practical.

I know all this sounds ridiculous to a lot of you reading this, but I’m really enjoying this stage of my life. I’m still relatively young.

Notice I said relatively. I’m no young chick, by any means, but I’ve still got a lot of life to live and this transformation from dud to diva has put a new spring in my step and a smile on my face.

I face the mirror each morning and I smile at myself as I smooth on the moisturizer.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little surface work to improve what’s underneath.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Best and Worst of 2007

I’m sitting here, listening to my hubby “iTune-surfing” and since the first full day of the New Year is drawing to a close, I feel I should come up with some words of wisdom for everyone.

I’ve resolved to be a better blogger this year since in 2007, I was inarguably, one of the least dependable bloggers of the year. I could blame it on the j-o-b, but I can only take that so far... even *I* get days off.

Okay, so words of wisdom: Don’t be afraid to try new things.

In 2007 I tried several new things, some of which I even liked.

I tried snorkeling, and I liked it. I’m sure I’ll like it even better when I can find some clear water with colorful fish in it that aren’t hell-bent on sending me to the nearest emergency room for the latest in antivenin therapy.

I also tried sea kayaking. This is something I could really get into, provided I lived within a reasonable driving distance to a body of water larger than a reservoir. As it stands, my only contact with seawater occurs on a roughly annual basis.

I tried driving with a GPS navigation system and I love it. Every night in my prayers I ask God to protect my TomTom. No more getting lost when it’s pitch dark, raining, foggy, etc…

Stila illuminating foundation…love it!

Fat Hair shampoo and conditioner…love it!

Felina bras…the girls and I love them!

New author, Raven Hart…awesome!

And the very BEST THING I tried in 2007: being the proud mama of a newly pinned Registered Nurse! :)

One thing I tried that I didn’t like so much was a nasty thing called shingles. Great googly-moogly! How in the name of Hippocrates did they survive this hideously cruel and painful revisit of the chickenpox virus before IV drugs???

Can’t say I was crazy about that Miami Vice movie, but the boats were cool.

Marlin tacos…nope, didn’t like them, either.

Books written in first person, present tense, nope, still don’t like ‘em. (If you write these, sorry, just bein’ honest!)

Lying, weasly timeshare salesmen (yeah, I got suckered) but I suppose there are worse things in life. I did NOT buy a timeshare, and I walked out $150 and 4 bottles of tequila richer, but still didn’t like it much.

Windows Vista…unless they come up with some major fixes for all the flaws pronto, the next time I see Bill Gates, I'm going to give him a fat lip and tell him to pass it along to his design team.

Okay, so, my brave little readers, get out there and this year, and try something new, something different! Who knows, you might just love it…you might wind up with a “fractional ownership” in a condo in Cabo, but hey, you might like that, too!

Best Wishes for a Fantastic 2008!