Friday, November 30, 2007

Perfect Aim

Early this morning (very early this morning), I woke to the alarming sound of my cat puking. I say "alarming" because she sleeps on me. I have a strong stomach but even I quail at the thought of a face-full of kitty vomit.

I sat straight up and looked around (it's dark, remember, and she's a black cat so she blends well in shadows...)and she wasn't on the bed.

The sounds increased with the inevitable "hork and splat" conclusion and I fumbled around with my bedside light so I could investigate and clean it up.

I found - nothing.

The dog was sleeping beside my bed. The cat was staring at me from the middle of my bedroom floor as if to say, "What, we're getting up now?"

I decided I'd dreamt the entire incident and went back to sleep.

This morning, in the act of racing through my morning routine so I could head out the door, I found the puke.

In my shoe.

And yes, by "in" I bloody well mean in my shoe.

Yuck.

Leave it to a cat to have such perfect aim.

Up It Goes

When I was little, we had a German Shepherd/Alaskan Husky dog named Daniel who would eat, quite literally, anything.

Everything.

No exceptions.

When he was a puppy, he ate my big wheel. It was a beautiful pink big wheel with tassles streaming from the handle bars. When he was finished with his afternoon snack, all that remained was the thin metal rod used as the big wheels's foundation. His poop was full of pink chunky plastic for weeks.

We moved to a home that had a plum tree in the backyard and every year, as over-ripe plums fell to the ground, he would eat them. All of them. And over-abundance of over-ripe plums is not kind on the digestive system and he would leave piles of bright violet poop all over the yard. (But hey, at least you knew where not to step!)

Once my mother decided to grow onions along the back of our home. She planted seven onion plants and nurtured them along until one night she announced the onions would be ready for harvest the next morning. The next morning arrived, we trooped outside to pick onions and stared in awe. Not a shred of those onion plants was left. Not one shred. Daniel had eaten them root to tip. He stunk for a month.

It was our family's habit to finish a meal, clear the table, and then let Daniel in to clear the floor. No crumb escaped his detection. He would burst through the back door, scramble toward the dining room (sliding on the linoleum more often than not) and then frantically snuff and lick his way across the floor. My mom mopped often but even she was no match for Daniel.

One morning, my dad filled a bowl with Cheerios and accidentally knocked it to the floor before pouring milk on it. Cheerios as far as the eye could see. Naturally, this wasn't a problem because we had the most up-to-date version of Canine Hoover available so my mom swept the Cheerios into a nice, neat pile and called Daniel in.

At this point I should tell you that the linoleum in our dining room was a light yellow. Cheerios, as I'm sure you're aware, blend very nicely into light yellow.

Daniel raced toward the dining room, his nose already working overtime, and began to search for the source of food. He looked around but didn't see the pile. He raced under the table but still missed it. So he put his nose to the floor and began snorting in huge chunks of air searching for the Cheerios.

He found them.

Unfortunately for him, he was still snorting when he did. He stuck his face into that pile of Cheerios and snorted them right up his nose.

If a dog can look comically surprised, he did. Then he started sneezing. Violently. Every sneeze sprayed Cheerios around the room. It took a while to cleanse his sinuses of every vestige of breakfast cereal but he did it and seemed none the worse for wear.

I won't tell you how we cleaned those Cheerios up (besides, if you're at all familiar with how dogs operate, you probably already know).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How Uncouth Can You Be?

So last night was our company's Christmas party. This means several long tables of buffet style food. We had everything ready and called all the employees and their families to get in line and start filling their plates.

One of our newer employees was at the head of the line. I watched in complete amazement as she went through all three tables of food, filled her plate, and then grabbed a chair and pulled it up to ONE OF THE BUFFET TABLES, shoved her plate in between pans of food, and started eating.

Who does that?

We have an entire dining room full of available seats and you sit and eat where others need to get their food?

People were passing by her, staring, and NO ONE was taking food from the dishes right next to her plate. I decided to fix that situation so when I approached the table, I started moving the dishes away from her immediate vicinity. As I reached beside her to shove another casserole dish to the left, she belched.

I don't mean she burped.

I don't mean she quietly hiccuped.

I mean she belched.

At me.

And then looked at me and said, "Oops, that one got away from me."

Ugg.

Words fail.

Today's Birthdays

I told you November is a crazy month for me and birthdays!

Happy Birthday to my hubby, Clint! I can't imagine life without you and am so grateful God brought us together. I love you! Here's my "gift" to you (it's the thought that counts, right?)




Happy Birthday to my friend Opal! Love you, girl, and you know it.

What Have I Done Lately?

1. Went to see Enchanted with hubby and Kelly. Paul refused to see it and went to Hitman instead. It was a good movie and one the kids will love (although, unlike hubby and Kelly, I could have done without the loooooong song sequence in Central Park. The only highlight there was when the prince got flattened by the bikers.)

2. Worked last night and realized that sadly my stupid lungs are still not quite cooperating and working more than two hours becomes difficult. Thankfully, I'm surrounded by friends who are more than willing to help me when I need it.

3. Saw a preview for the following movie - I laughed so hard during the preview that people around me were questioning my sanity. This is top on my list of things to see this summer:



4. Finished (drum roll please) ALL of my ironing. Every last miserable shirt. This, I believe, may be a first.

5. Attended my company's Christmas party last night.

6. Watched Beowulf last week. I liked it but I wish I'd loved it. I think using live actors instead of computer animation would have made all the difference but a lot of the 3D effects were really cool.

7. Finished reading a book I'd hoped would be amazing. I was disappointed.

8. Figured out (at two in the morning, where the best ideas seem to happen!) what was wrong with the flow of information in the last three chapters of SHADOWING FATE and am fixing it today.

9. Cleaned my shower (and we all know how much joy that brings me.)

10. Baked a cake (the regular, non-sculpted kind) for my hubby's birthday.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Heart Failure Imminent

In October, my hubby and I added our surrogate teenage daughter (who doesn't live under our roof but might as well) to our cell phone plan because she's 15, gorgeous, starting to date, and had no cell phone. Not the safest situation. For various reasons, her father wouldn't get her one himself so we added her to our plan (with his permission), ordered the free phone that went with it, charged her $15 a month, and, in a stroke of sheer brilliance on my hubby's part, signed up for unlimited texting at the same time.

My hubby did all of this online. One stop shopping...open your account page, add a member, choose a phone, adjust your family plan's minutes and texting options, and off you go.

Easy.

In her first week, our daughter sent over 3000 texts. 3000. In one week. We warned her of the dangers of carpal tunnel and arthritis and marvelled that anyone could find 3000 things to say through texting.

And we congratulated ourselves on having the foresight to sign up for unlimited texting.

A week ago, our bill arrived.

$1300.

Excuse me???

1300 frickin' dollars? My hubby clutched his chest and rapidly scanned the bill...texts, texts, texts...thousands of texts at 15 cents each. He grabbed his phone and dialed our provider, all the while muttering things that sounded suspiciously like death threats under his breath.

Here is a transcript (as close as I can recall) of that conversation:

"Thank you for calling Idiots-Are-Us, my name is Tom, how can I help you today?"

HUBBY: Yeah, I just got a bill for $1300 from you guys and it's all these texting charges but I signed up for unlimited texting under my family plan last month. *hubby's tone is irritated but calm - this should be a simple mistake to fix*

TOM: Hm, well let me pull up your account information. *long pause because apparently one of the largest cell phone providers in America still has dial up on their customer service computers* Okay, Mr. Redwine, I see you added a phone line to your plan in October.

HUBBY: *wondering what this has to do with unlimited texting on his family plan* Yes and at the same time, I signed up for unlimited texting.

TOM: *gives a rueful little chuckle* Well, sir, you did but the package you chose was for just one of your phone lines. Your number has unlimited texting. None of the others do.

HUBBY: No, I signed up for unlimited texting for the whole family. It's right there on the same page as adding a line and increasing minutes. I had three options - $9.95 for 200 texts a month, $15.95 for 500 texts a month, and $19.95 for unlimited. *hubby's tone moves from irritated to angry*

TOM: Well, that only applies to one line. *manages to sound sympathetic and condescending at the same time. not wise*

HUBBY: But it's on the same page as signing up for more minutes. Are those only for individual lines too? *tone is stubborn, challenging*

TOM: No, that covers the whole family.

HUBBY: So what you're telling me is that I can sign up for minutes under my family plan and it works for all of my lines but ON THE SAME PAGE if I sign up for texting it only applies to one line?

TOM: *not recognizing his imminent danger of bodily harm* Well yes, sir.

HUBBY: Where does it say that on the page? *grabs his laptop and opens the page* It doesn't say that anywhere on this page. There's not even an asterisk. Why wouldn't I assume that if I could change my minutes for the whole plan, I could change my texting too? What kind of unethical operation are you running over there? *abandons all pretense at a civil tone of voice*

TOM: You needed to sign up for the fourth option. It's $29.95 and it gives unlimited texting to the whole family.

HUBBY: There is no fourth option.

TOM: Yes, sir, you need the $29.95 option....

HUBBY: Tom, listen carefully, I am looking at the page - on YOUR website - that I can use to adjust minutes and texting and there is no fourth option. I signed up for the only one that says "unlimited texting".

TOM: Well, the fourth option is actually located in our terms and conditions area. Didn't you read our terms and conditions before you accepted the changes to your plan? *manages to sound shocked that someone wouldn't think to search for a fourth option under terms and conditions.*

HUBBY: Your terms and conditions are 29 pages of dense legalese. No one is going to read through all of that and your company knows it. Are you telling me that you don't offer the option you know I need unless I wade through 29 pages of this stuff and somehow find out I need to choose an option you haven't even provided me yet? *hubby's voice has reached dangerous levels*

TOM: Well, sir, you really shouldn't try to adjust your plan without first having the proper training. *said, apparently, with a straight face*

HUBBY: *loses it completely* Are you serious??! Every bill I get from you guys has an ad encouraging me to conduct all my business with you online. Change my minutes. Add a phone line. Alter my texting. Online. Nowhere in your ads or on your page does it suggest that I need TRAINING to do any of those things. That's bait and switch. That's unethical and illegal and I'll tell you what we're going to do now.

TOM: Sir, if you could just -

HUBBY: *rolls right over him as if he'd never spoken* You're going to take away every cent of these charges and make unlimited texting retroactive to when I first signed up for it. And you're going to give me something in writing that states that you are taking care of all of that and I am not responsible for this stupidity on your part. If you don't do that, I will gladly pay the $400 cancellation fee and take you to court in a class action lawsuit and make millions off of you.

TOM: Sir -

HUBBY: You're going to buy me a new house.

TOM: I really don't -

HUBBY: You're going to send my kids to college.

TOM: That's not -

HUBBY: How many other people have you done this to? Offered them only three options, hit them with a huge bill, and then told them it was their fault for not realizing they needed to read EVERY FRICKIN' PAGE on your site to make sure you were being upfront with them? I bet most people pay it because for them it's not too much extra. I have a teenage girl on my plan and this is a mortgage payment. I will own your company when I'm through with you.

TOM: Now Mr. Redwine -

HUBBY: Did I mention that I'm the morning show host on the number one rated station in Nashville? I have thousands of listeners and they'd love to hear about this. And my wife - did I mention she has a strong internet presence? We can have this story across America in less than 5 hours. Get rid of this bill and change our plan.

TOM: I'm not authorized to do any of that.

HUBBY: Well read through your 29 pages of terms and conditions and find out who is and get them on this phone.

TOM: One moment sir. *sounding properly chastened*

HUBBY: *spends twenty minutes on hold listening to a running loop of commercials all stating that he should adjust his plan online because it's safe, fast, and easy. Hubby nearly chokes on the irony.*

TOM: Sir? I've cleared it with my supervisor. We're waiving the bill and making the unlimited texting retroactive as you requested.

HUBBY: Of course you are.

TOM: Is there anything else I can do for you?

HUBBY: Change your page so no one else falls for your little trap. Someone somewhere is going to sue the crap out of you soon.


Three days later we received a letter from them (mailed, apparently, three days after they sent our bill and one day before our confrontation) warning us that they'd noticed our texting was unusually high and to be prepared for a larger bill than normal.

Gee, thanks for the heads up.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Birthday Slacker

I admit it. I'm behind on nearly every aspect of my life right now. I blame 3 weeks of bed rest due to pnuemonia. Now that I'm (tentatively) back in action, I need to make up for lost time!

I missed acknowledging two birthdays this past weekend: My mom (cat lover, close friend, and fellow shoe addict) turned, ummmm, 39(!) this past Friday and my college roomie and friend Kim (Flambo on this blog) turned 33 (I think...aren't you younger than me?) Saturday.

November is a crazy month for birthdays in my life. I sat down and figured out that I have 4 family member birthdays and 7 friends with birthdays just this month. Maybe I'm attracted to people born in November? Or maybe the romance of Valentine's Day is more effective than I thought... "Here, honey, have a box of chocolates, some flowers, and a little morning sickness on the side!"

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Inspiring Quote of the Week

The difference between the possible and the impossible is one's will. - Hironori Otsuka

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

You Write - What??

A comment a few posts down got me thinking about something I posted here shortly after I started this blog. I was working through the idea of writing what I felt passionate about writing, even though I am capable of telling any number of stories.

It was me fumbling my way to a recognition that others might throw opinions and reactions at me and that I needed to learn to sift through those, looking for any grain of truth and tossing the rest out the window because really, it is my writing.

My art.

My story to tell.

And I'm getting much, much better at telling anyone who thinks I should be doing something different to just go do it themselves.

Anyone interested in my earlier post, go here.

Happy Birthday Shelley!

Happy Birthday to my beautiful sister-in-law, Shelley! She is a sister of my heart and one fun, loving, generous Texas girl and I am grateful to have her in our family (and to be a part of hers as well!)

Shelley,

Have a wonderful day with your family and know that we love you very much and we're thinking of you. And tell your hubby that if he doesn't bring you out to Nashville BEFORE summer, I will have to hunt him down and make him pay. ;)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Quote of the Day

This morning Starshine showed me a comic book he wrote in which one character brandished a sword at another character and said,

"Keep it up and you will taste my rash!"


=D

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Competing With Myself

Cross-posted from my LiveJournal page:

I'm a competitive girl.

I don't think it's possible to overstate that fact: I am a competitive girl.

If I sit down to play a game, I play to win. I may love you but if you are sitting across the poker table from me, I play for keeps. If I play against you in volleyball, I will do my level best to leave you huddled in the fetal position, whimpering for your mama. If I take a class and the professor says he doesn't give out A's (happened twice in my college years), I will not only earn an A, I will do so in memorable style just to prove the man wrong.

So you'd think pursuing my personal dreams with the same single-minded passion would be a given.

It nearly wasn't.

I've wanted to write books since the second-grade when I took a one page writing assignment and turned it into a four page story told from the point of view of a poor, over-worked school bus. (Having a second grader of my own now, I can fully appreciate the magnitude of producing 4 pages of single-spaced writing at that age.)

I spent my high school and college years being known as the "girl who writes" by everyone. I produced poetry, short stories, and essays that won A's, were published, and lined my door with poor hopefuls clutching impossible assignments and twenty dollar bills hoping I would provide the magic cure for their academic woes.

But life happens fast and dreams have a funny way of sliding toward the back burner, especially dreams that in reality won't pay a decent dime for years. I got married, started teaching, used all my time away from school to write my own curriculum as I wasn't satisfied with what the school provided, and didn't write a creative word for my own pleasure for three years.

Then I had babies, one right after the other (and THAT is a post unto itself, I assure you) and every creative brain cell fizzled and died in the wake of sleepless nights, potty training, gummed up graham crackers, and laundry that, despite my repeated efforts, refused to just go away and leave me in peace.

Most nights I could barely stand to even read a book because it took more thought than I was capable of giving.

My kids grew and my brain began functioning again and with the resurgence of something approaching a normal thought process, creative ideas began flowing. I had ideas for novels, something I'd always dreamed of writing but had never attempted.

Honestly, I didn't know how to write a novel. The leap between a twelve page short story and a three hundred page novel was daunting but the ideas I had needed the scope and breadth of those three hundred pages.

I started one novel. Quit after three chapters because I just didn't know what happened next.

Started another idea and did the same thing.

Life kept moving forward in a blur and before I knew it, another year was gone.

Then I got the wake-up call of a lifetime when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the ripe old age of 30. My battle with cancer changed me in many ways, not the least of which was my sudden appreciation for seizing whatever time I had left.

Growing up, I dreamed of being three things: a wife, a mother, and a writer. I'd accomplished two of the three. That wasn't good enough for me.

I sat down, four months after my second surgery to fight the cancer, and started writing. I got to the point where I didn't know what should happen next and I kept going. I got to the middle of the novel, realized what I was really trying to say, and started over.

My first novel took a year to write. Along the way, I met an already published author who took the time to give me sage advice, to critique my WIP, and to offer me my first compliment from someone who didn't care about my feelings.

That first novel is now in Amazon's contest and is on a publisher's desk, at her request. My second novel is nearly finished and I have ten more ideas clamoring for a voice.

I'm a competitive girl, alright. I just forgot, for a while, that competing with myself, pushing myself to be better, not accepting anything less than the passionate pursuit of my own dream, is the most satisfying game of all to win.

Dinner On Murphy

Some nights at work, everything seems to go horribly wrong.

There are the nights when a guest causes it by being incredibly rude or childish (like calling me "Sweetcakes" when my apron clearly says "C.J." or letting their spawn toss forks at other tables.).

There are nights when I cause it. (like when I jiggled a tea pitcher to get some ice into a woman's glass - as requested - and ALL the ice flew out and covered the table)

And then there are the nights only Murphy can deliver.

One night in particular comes to mind.

A party of five came in and chose to sit at a four-top with a chair in the aisle. This is a common practice and really isn't a problem except that this guy's chair happened to be right beside the doorway from one part of the dining room to the next. Very high traffic area. Waiters carrying beverages and plates of food and a chair sticking out in their path are a bad combination.

This man was a nice guy. He smiled at me when I greeted the table, placed his order politely, and generally seemed like someone I'd like to wait on.

I delivered their drinks and checked on them a few minutes later, puzzled to see a look of distress on the man's face. He quietly informed me that there was a gnat in his water.

Ewww.

It's rare to find a bug anywhere in my restaurant. We pass all our health inspections with flying colors. We have a "bug guy" who regularly services the entire store to ensure things like this don't happen.

But there it was. One little gnat carcass floating in his water. As his table was next to a window (and bugs that get trapped in a restaurant inevitably head toward a window), I figured that was the culprit. I apologized and replaced his drink. He was nice about the whole thing.

No big deal.

Or it wouldn't have been a big deal if one of my fellow waiters hadn't tripped over his chair on his way through the dining room to refill tea. Tea sloshed out of the pitcher and landed right in my guy's lap.

Since the Mt. Dew incident in Taco Bell with Paul, I have firsthand knowledge of how uncomfortable it is to get a lapful of icy beverage while wearing jeans. There are more uncomfortable things, of course, but most of them involve sand, salt water, or someone with a medical degree.

I apologized again to him and brought him a towel. He continued to be nice about everything. I really, really liked this guy.

I delivered the table's food minutes later and wouldn't you know it? This guy's steak was raw in the middle. As he'd ordered it well done, this was a problem. I apologized again, got his steak re-cooked, and we began to joke about his poor luck (we wondered aloud if perhaps he'd broken a mirror lately or offended a black cat).

Unfortunately for him, the worst was still to come.

And the worst came from me.

We deliver our food on large rectangular trays. These suckers are heavy when full of dishes and unwieldy even when they're empty.

I picked up a tray of food, headed through the dining room, past my guy's chair, delivered the food, turned to go, and heard the fateful words, "Oh, Miss?!" from the table whose food I'd just set down.

I was already walking away, entering the doorway between the two dining rooms. I whipped around to see what this table still wanted and the tray that I'd carefully tucked under one arm smacked my guy upside the head and knocked him to the floor.

There is no apology in the world that can make up for that. I offered him free chocolate instead. He accepted and, unbelievably, was still totally nice about the whole thing.

He even tipped me well.

Oddly enough, I haven't seen him enter our restaurant again.

Thinking of Thanksgiving

Some things I'm thankful for:

1. My Savior and the lover of my soul, Jesus Christ.

2. My incredible husband who loves me completely and who is still my favorite person.

3. My children who challenge me and amaze me and light up my life.

4. Pancakes.

5. The fact that I now know to pull everything out of the middle of the turkey before I cook it.

6. A strong sense of humor.

7. Friends who have become family (Paul, Kelly, Leigh)

8. Friends who offer love and faithful friendship (Dusty, Kailani, Opal, Drew, Tricia, Sandy, Luke, Shelley, Dawn, Sharon, John, Derreck...can you see how blessed I am?)

9. A critique partner who has also become a friend (Katy)

10. An extended family that spreads from Louisiana, through Texas and New Mexico, winds through Arizona, and ends up in California.

11. Music.

12. Writing (my own and the incredible work of other authors as well)

13. Our armed forces and the sacrifices they make for us every day.

14. Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman - two actors whose body of work I thoroughly enjoy.

15. The fact that I am content with who I am and where God has led me.

16. A marriage of nearly 13 years that is unbreakable.

17. My new couches.

18. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin anything, really.

19. Tennessee: there is no place more beautiful in autumn.

20. Blog readers who suffer through an entire list of "thankfuls"! =)

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Perfect Gift?

Those of you who've been regular blog readers for a while will appreciate this one: Wandereringray sent me a link to the perfect Christmas present for our friend Mal (Paul, aka bluedragoon25).

Those of you who are new to the scene can get caught up here.


Click here to see how you can make Paul's Christmas the best Christmas ever.


I personally love the warning not to use this to try to stop real bullets. Gee, thanks for the tip.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'll Give You A Hint

Something that will show up in the Alexa Tate series:




Thank you to my friend Paul (aka bluedragoon25) for photoshopping my idea into reality. =)

Friday, November 16, 2007

On The First Day of Christmas...

*Again, borrowed the idea from LiveJournal, even though we aren't quite on amicable terms yet.*

The concept is to list some of your Christmas wishes, whatever they might be, and to browse other's blogs/journals and see if there are any wishes there you might fulfill. =)

1. This is my true heart's longing and no one but God can fulfill it but all I really want for Christmas is my daughter.

2. I would love a fancy title/heading on my LJ like all my friends have but since I am barely on speaking terms with icons (and even then, I can't change them out on individual comments/posts without changing ALL of them...*sigh*), I can't figure it out and instead, I have a bar of annoying ads on mine.

3. A new battery for my laptop. This one lasts approximately 35 seconds once the plug comes loose (which, unfortunately, happens easily) and that isn't all that helpful in the grand scheme of things.

4. A bag of groceries and some coats to a family in your area who needs it. Don't know who needs it? The principal of your local elementary school surely does.

5. My carpet steam cleaned.

6. An offer from my dream agent to represent Shadowing Fate. (Especially since I just learned today that I already have a publisher interested in it!!)

7. That we would all take some of the money we would have spent on ourselves or our family and use it on someone else instead...Sudanese refugees, orphans, your local homeless shelter, a neighbor you know needs some help.

Those are my 7 Christmas wishes. Make your own list, let us all know, and we'll see what we can accomplish together!

Get Creative

I am often asked how I come up with my ideas. The short answer is - they just come to me. Something will catch my eye or an idea/question/phrase will grab my attention and my brain uses that as a springboard to launch into the fantastic world of "what if".

I long ago discarded any restraints to the "what if" world so that if the moon looks like the half-lidded yellow eye of a Dragon, I can quickly construct the outline of the Dragon circling Earth and imagine what will happend when he opens his gaping maw, jagged teeth dripping fiery venom as he lunges toward Earth...

But I digress.

The long answer is it's all about what sparks your imagination. I have a friend who loves pictures - she snaps pictures, she cuts out pictures and does collages, she uses photo shop like it's going out of style...that speaks to her. Another friend can see entire battle scenes when he listens to instrumental music. My hubby can envision a three-dimensional sculpture and create it out of cake. (and aren't I the lucky girl?!)

For me, it's a combination of visual and audio. Music inspires me. I use it when I write - at the moment I'm using mostly the soundtrack to Batman Begins but I've been known to write to Evanescence, Harry Potter, Seether, Enya, and Mozart. I can slide right into the mood of the music and let it take me where it will. I recently wrote a song while at a concert - I just kept texting phrases to my home email and I cleaned it up a few days later. I don't let location or event get in the way of a rush of creativity.

Words inspire me. I can hear a phrase and be so captivated that I will spend three pages exploring the emotional curves of those words until I wring out every last impression and satisfy myself that I've accurately transfered the weight and depth of what was in my head onto paper.

Pictures inspire me. I have a collection of images snatched from Google that catch my eye and fire my imagination. Here are a few:












Sometimes taking one idea and talking it through with my hubby or my critique partner pushes me to stretch the borders of my creativity until I reach that magical place where I know I've got something.

I think being creative comes down to knowing what speaks to you and to carving out time and space to let it run free.

Currently listening: Fuel - Something Like Human

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Soundtrack of My Life?

An idea I picked up from LiveJournal.


So here's how it works:
1. Open your music library.
2. Put it on shuffle.
3. Press play.
4. For every topic, type the song that's playing.
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button.
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool. =)



Opening Credits: Batman Begins - Vespertilio


Waking Up: Handel - Water Music Suite #1 in F


First Day at School: Daughtry - Breakdown


Falling in Love: Harry Potter - The Werewolf Scene


First Date: Disturbed - Prayer


Fight Song: Three Days Grace - Burn


Breaking Up: Switchfoot - Redemption


Prom: Star Wars - Padme's Ruminations (are we seeing a movie soundtrack theme here?)


Life: Fuel - It's Come To This


Mental Breakdown: Celtic Visions - Spencil Hill


Driving: Snow Patrol - Hands Open


Flashback: Flyleaf - All Around Me


Getting Back Together: Atreyu - Falling Down


Wedding: Yanni - Swept Away


Birth of Child: Sarah McLachlan - Possession


Final Battle: Lord of the Rings - Many Meetings (yet another movie soundtrack)


Death Scene: Harry Potter - The Face of Voldemort (I know, I know...soundtrack again)


Funeral Song: Reliant K - I So Hate Consequences (kind of an ironic song title given the topic...)


End Credits: Todd Agnew - Grace Like Rain

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It All Comes Together

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'm close to finishing SHADOWING FATE (Alexa's first book) and that the plot took a very unexpected twist on me.

Twists can be good.

Twists can be incredibly good.

This one opened doors to a vast sea of possibilities and suddenly, I could see the conflict arc for the entire series, the conflict and romantic entanglements for each individual book, and what kind of stakes are needed to drive my characters to make the kind of desperate choices it will take to defeat the evil they face (and which characters will choose to join, rather than defeat!).

As I'm pouring the words out on this one, I heard back from the publisher who has DYING TO REMEMBER. She wants to re-pitch the manuscript to her new editor. Great, I say. Go for it. Then she asks "what's new?".

And I decided to take the opportunity for a two sentence pitch for DYING TO PUNISH, the sequel to DTR, and send my revised hook for SHADOWING FATE. I'll be pitching to agents next week and if this publisher is interested, I'll let my agent know.

I had to revise the hook (some of you remember my hook from the contest on fangs, fur, and fey) because some of the conflict in that hook never made it into the book and the end game is now much more serious.

So, for all interested parties, here is the hook for SHADOWING FATE that I'll be sending out to agents (sandwiched, of course, between the proper greetings and salutations it takes to make an excellent query letter).

SHADOWING FATE Hook:

Recipe for Disaster, New York City style:

Take one seriously toned single girl. Add a pinch of “please-God-just-kill-me-now” blind dates and some kick-butt vigilante justice under the cover of darkness. Mix in a handsome cop who should be off-limits and blend violently with a killer skilled in mind-control and focused on destroying New York City. Put on a pair of Manolo Blahniks, your best little red dress, and slam it down.

Alexa Tate is more than human. She can swim underwater without holding her breath, scale a brick building in five seconds flat, and hear the emotions of those about to commit a crime. A secretary by day, she uses her skills to hunt down evil at night. She is stronger, faster, and more lethal than anyone she’s ever met.

Until now.

A non-human hunter has come to town. Using mind-control to inhabit his victims and through them commit unspeakable crimes, the hunter leaves a trail of bodies leading right to Alexa’s door.

Suddenly, Alexa is the prey in an ancient war whose rules she is just beginning to understand.

To stop the hunter and save those she loves, she must uncover the truth about her origins, keep a certain handsome cop from suspecting her of crimes she may have committed, and unleash the tremendous power locked inside of her without becoming what she fears most: a killer.

Living in New York City can be murder.

Feeling Slightly Homicidal?

So Monday, my hubby made me go back to the Dr. since I wasn't really getting much better. The Dr. decided I should take steroids for five days to really give me a boost and get the infection out of my lungs.

Unfortunately, these aren't the steroids that build muscle. I might have been on board with that.

These are steroids that apparently don't really affect 98% of the population, other than giving them energy and helping them recover.

We all know when it comes to putting substances in my body, I am not like 98% of the population.

I took these steroids once before. I had a solid headache for three of the five days and when I finished the drug, I was slightly homicidal for the next two days.





By "slightly", I mean I avoided killing anyone because everyone around me had the good sense to take one look at my face and run in the opposite direction. I was Attitude with a healthy side of Edginess.

Not a great combination for a wife, mom, and waitress (some man out there is still breathing today simply because another waitress convinced me I couldn't shove a ribeye down someone's throat without losing my job).

So, I took most of what I was supposed to take yesterday and guess what?? Headache the entire day. I've decided it's not worth it. I'm starting to feel better anyway. And I don't really want to test my resolve to stay out of prison by finishing off the course and then crashing again.

Besides, the day I would finish is Sunday and I have to teach 3 year olds in Sunday School and then have 20 people over for dinner that night. No way everyone would come out of that in one piece.

=D

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mysteries

Various mysteries from the land of RESTAURANT WORK:


1. People who ask for "diet water".


2. People who insist on snapping their fingers at me as if that will somehow motivate me to move faster on their behalf.


3. People who order Coke for their toddlers and then wonder why the little angel is a hyper, screaming nightmare.


4. People who order French Toast and then ask me to cut it into quarters for them - clearly they are not yet proficient in the use of the knife we so kindly provided.

5. My manager who has a nickname for me. As if "C.J." (which is already a nickname) is too much to say, she calls me "Cieje". It's marginally shorter. It's C.J. without the "ay" and I guess that makes her feel like she's managing her time better. =)

Count This

We have a running joke that I cannot count large amounts of cash. By "we", I mean my husband and every teller in my bank. No one bats an eye anymore when I hand over a pile of cash (and as a waitress by night, I do mean a PILE) and am several dollars off one way or the other.

It's not that I am unable to count. Math was never my favorite subject but I did very well until I hit the black hole that is Algebra 3.

It's that I have a hectic, crazy life and my brain constantly runs at warp speed.

Here is what it looks like when I try to count 176 singles:


Me: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Starshine: "Look at me! I'm Darth Mal!"

Me: *looks up* "Well, that explains the use of black and red markers on your face. Very nice. Now go wash."

Me: "Where was I? Did I already say 10?" *starts over*

My Brain: "You don't think it's possible he colored that marker on more than just his face, do you? Like, oh I don't know, perhaps the wall? The bedspread? The cat?"

Me: "Starshine! Where were you using the markers?" *counts to 20 and puts it aside so I will know I've hit 20.*

Starshine: "On my face!"

Me: 21, 22, 23, 24, 24 "Yes, but what room of the house were you in when you colored your face?"

Starshine: "The water's too hot!"

Cell phone starts to ring.

Dog spots a jogger and begins frantically howling to go outside.

Me: "Turn the faucet to the right. Towards the shower." 26, 27, 28, 29, 30. *answers phone while opening the back door for the dog. Has hectic conversation with hubby that lasts 4.7 seconds.*

Daredevil: "Can I have a snack?"

Me: "Yes, get some fruit or a granola bar. Starshine, you should be finished by now, why is the water still on?" *stares at stack of money and scrolls back. 30?*

Daredevil: "I don't want fruit or granola. I want cheese."

Me: 31, 32, 33 "I can't cut cheese for you right now. Get something else. Starshine! Turn off that water!" 36, 37, 38, 39

Daredevil: "Can I cut it?"

Me: 40, 41, 42, 43 "Sure." *catches a glimpse of Starshine heading through the dining room, completely covered in soap suds.*

Daredevil: "Cool! I get a knife!"

Me: 47, 48, 49 "Starshine! Why are you covered in soap?"

Starshine: "You told me to turn off the water."

Me: "Well, not until you've rinsed off the soap. Go rinse." *stares at pile of money and tries to remember how much is there. 50? Sounds right.*

My Brain: "Is today the day the bug guy shows up? Or is that tomorrow? Maybe I should pull some chicken out of the freezer for tonight."

Me: 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, *notices Daredevil is standing beside me with a hunk of cheese and a butcher knife.*

Me: "What do you think you're doing??? Put down that knife."

Daredevil: "But you said I could."

Me: "No I didn't. Or if I did, it was a mistake." *stares at cash. Where was I? Oh yes, 50.*

Daredevil: "Can you cut it for me then? Please?"

Me: 51, 52, 53, 54 "Give me a second to finish this and I'll do it for you." 55, 56, 57

Starshine: *screaming* "I have soap in my eyes! I'm blind! I'll never see again!"

Dog barks to come back in.

Cat begins the preliminary horking sound that leads inevitably to the act of vomiting up a furball.

Cat is on my couch.

Me: "Hang on Starshine! Daredevil, drop the knife and wait for me!" *yanks cat off couch and onto hardwood floor in the nick of time. Nearly lets dog in before good sense and the memory of what dogs WILL eat kicks in. Runs to Starshine's rescue in the bathroom.*

Scientist: "Mom, some guy is on the phone for you."

Me: *wipes out Starshine's eyes and sends him on his way, grabs papertowels to clean up after the cat and gives the Beady Eye to Daredevil who is hovering over the knife.* "Who is it?"

Scientist: *waits until I shove the papertowels into the trash before handing me the phone.* "Some guy who wants your opinion on something."

Me: *gives my opinion on stangers calling my house to ask me anything at all* "Scientist, let the dog in please." *faces cash. Where was I? Oh yes, 70.*

My Brain: "You still didn't pull out the chicken. Better do it before you forget."

Me: *grabs chicken out of the freezer and slices cheese for Daredevil just to get some peace and quiet* "Hm, 71, 72...no that can't be right. 61, 62?"

Cell phone rings again.

Starshine and Scientist get into an argument on the stairs.

Doorbell rings as some neighborhood kid wants to play inside this madhouse.

Me: *stares at cash and gives up knowing if I start over, another long line of distractions will just interrupt me again*

And that is why I can't count piles of money. Thank goodness for bank tellers with handy money counting machines.

We Have A Winner!

Thank you to K.B. for brainstorming with me on the whole "Fate" angle and for the, ummm, creative suggestions on this blog for possible title ideas for the Alexa series.

Shout out to BubbleVicious for the idea of "shadows".


The Official Titles for Alexa's trilogy are:

SHADOWING FATE

TWISTING FATE

BREAKING FATE


At least until my future publisher decides to change them. =)

Keep 'Em Guessing

Monday, November 12, 2007

Contest News

Good news! DYING TO REMEMBER made it into the Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Contest first round.

I wasn't worried about this one...entered early and my novel avoided their list of "don'ts" (is that a word? is now).

The official word came in tonight, though, and that's nice to have because the grand prize is a whopper: a $25,000 advance (non-refundable), a contract with a top publisher, and tons of publicity from Amazon.

My critique partner, K.B. Wagers, entered a novel and it was accepted into the first round as well so Congratulatons K.B.!!

The semi-finalists will be determined after read-throughs by publishers and other book reviewers and semi-finalists will be notified by (which means smack on the date of) January 15th, 2008.

Nothing to do now but wait to hear from them, finish Alexa and send it out, and work on the sequel to DYING TO REMEMBER.

Any suggestions on a great title using the word "fate" in it somewhere? ;)

Work For Free?

Want to understand what the whole WGA strike is about? Go here. It's a dangerous place to be culturally when we degrade and devalue art.

Monday's Update

I'd like to say that this post is the start of a new habit - posting an update every Monday on where I'm at with, well with whatever...my blog, remember? - but because that indicates I would actually remember to post this every Monday, I'm not going to commit to it.

I have enough on my plate as it is. =)

But here it is:

Health:

I'm still sick with pnemonia, a fact that frustrates me enormously. I don't make a very patient sick person. How can I? There's so much to do and I have to just sit in bed all day and rest. Fortunately, my hubby did absolutely everything around here all weekend (left me a nice clean house today!) and I got to rest so hopefully I'll be up and around again in a couple days.

What a boring topic. On to something better.

Books I'm Currently Reading:

CREATION IN DEATH by J.D. Robb. Can't wait to gobble those up as soon as they hit the market. It's one of the only series I buy in hardback because I can't stand to wait for paperback.

HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE by my friend Jeaniene Frost - the book (her first) came out last week and hit #23 on the NYT's bestseller's list. That is a HUGE accomplishment!

Writing:

I'll be finished with Alexa Tate Book One (yes, yes, that's the current title...I told you I stink at titles but my critique partner is helping me) by Friday. I'm thrilled because the plot twisted into an entirely unexpected direction last night and I realized I'd set myself up for it nicely all along. I love it when my brain is working without my knowledge. :)

I'm also working on DYING TO PUNISH, the sequel to DYING TO REMEMBER (see? once I have one title in the series, the rest are easy) which is the novel that is a) under final consideration with a publisher and b) entered into Amazon.com's Breakthrough Novel Contest. I like where this is going too...very creepy villain. My favorite kind.

Current Musical Obsessions:

RED - End of Silence: by far one of the best albums I've ever heard. Ever.

BATMAN BEGINS - Soundtrack: haunting and interesting and what I listen to now while I write.

EVANESCENCE - Origin: I listen to something from Evanescence every day. Now I'm exploring the older stuff.


On My Calendar:

Thursday: Girl's Night In at my house with four of my close girlfriends.
Sometime Soon: Thanksgiving shopping and planning for my hubby's upcoming birthday.
Sometime Sooner: Figure out what everyone is wearing for our family portrait this coming Monday.

And that concludes this Monday's update.

Eat Godzilla!

In the category of "Better Late Than Never", here are pictures of Daredevil's birthday cake (yes, yes, from July...I'm a busy woman). He's 8 and he adores the old 60's Godzilla flicks so he wanted Godzilla rising from the ocean and destroying a city. =) My hubby does amazing work.





Umm, Hello?

Okay, today is the day Amazon.com gave as their "we'll send you an official email letting you know that your entry qualifies for our Breakthrough Novel Contest" and the chat forums on Amazon are absolutely buzzing.

This is the first day I've actually headed over there. I dislike reading chat forums as a general rule.

As I was browsing, I remembered why I dislike chat forums so much.

One contest entrant went on a rant about the sorry state of the publishing world today and how all the literary agents out there weren't giving the time of day to someone with a, and yes, I'm quoting, "fairly decently written novel".

Umm, hello??

You think you're going to get published with what you yourself admit is a "fairly decently written novel"?

Get real. Grow up. Learn your craft. And for Pete's sake, stop whining that you just want an agent to read your work, see past the amateur blunders (again, I'm not making this up, folks) and say, "Hey, you've got talent. Let me help you."

Go to some writing conferences. Meet some actual agents. Get some sort of feel for the massive scope of your competition and then go back to work.

There are thousands of would-be writers out there, all of whom think their "fairly decently written novel" should be good enough to get on the shelves. A literary agent I spoke with once averaged over 100 new queries/submissions on her desk every week. Do you honestly think that a novel with amateur blunders is worth her time?

Seriously, folks. You don't get to publish a book simply because you want to. You don't get personal time with a literary agent who isn't going to make a dime from you. This is where art meets business. To be successful, you have to master both.

At the moment, if you're proudly clinging to your "fairly decently written novel" and crying about the lack of response from the publishing world, I would say that you have mastered neither.

Learn how to write a tightly-paced page turner, learn how to query, learn which agents handle your genre, find a critique partner who is unafraid to rip your precious baby to shreds where it needs it, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, and then maybe you'll have something that will make the publishing world sit up and take notice.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Counting Blessings

I've been lying in bed for the past few days trying to recover from pnemonia. My kids keep wandering in and out of my room, wanting to do things to help me feel better. Here are a few of their helpful ideas:

1. Starshine cut out a balloon-shaped piece of paper and wrote "Fell Well Zoon" on it so I could have a get well balloon.

2. Daredevil (my middle child) fetched me a bottle of Crystal Clear (the flavored, carbonated water I like to drink) and shook it all the way up the stairs before handing it to me.

3. Starshine fetched me a towel.

4. A good friend of our family brought over a card and, knowing my weaknesses well, a fresh peach pie. This is the same friend who introduced us to the Devil's Bread a few Thanksgivings ago. He is, from this moment forward, banned from bringing any food items into our home.

5. The Scientist (my oldest) brought up a piece of peach pie with most of the top crust mysteriously missing and traces of crumbs around his lips.

6. Starshine decided to help me find a title for Alexa (which I've nearly finished now...by the end of the week, it will be done!). His suggestion: Alexa Tate Saves The World. = )

7. And my hubby deserves tons of credit for taking care of absolutely everything, including grocery shopping, for the entire weekend so I could stay in bed and rest.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Another of My Many Muses

What Works?

I've been thinking about the vastly different approaches to writing I and various author friends of mine use.

One writes 10,000 words a day, five days a week, no matter what. She believes in treating her writing like her day job and putting in the hours accordingly.

One has an office away from her home specifically for her writing (clearly this is an author who already sells nicely so she can afford it!). She thinks it's best to separate her home life from her writing life so she can be "all business" without any distractions.

One keeps the entire book running around in her head until three or four weeks before deadline and then pulls as many all-nighters as it takes to get it written in one shot. She thinks an author can't write every single day because you have to be living life and experiencing things to write about.

All three of these women are successful bestselling authors.

I find these different philosophies encouraging because I'm still trying to find my stride. I think I'd like to write every day, at least a chapter or, for a really crazy day, a scene, but some days the distractions of my life pull me inevitably away from my desk.

I think maybe I need a laptop. I think I should head down to the local coffee shop and park myself in the corner for a couple hours every day, plug in my ipod, and pour out the words. I find it hard to sit and write for concentrated periods of time here because something else is always demanding my attention (the laundry, the kitchen, the ridiculously large pile of ironing) and I can't seem to ignore it. Going to a coffee shop would be a way to have an "office" away from home where I could quickly get into a "writing only" mindset.

We'll see what my hubby has to say about getting me a laptop. = )

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Golden Poop

I saw an article today (click here to read) that introduced the world to America's latest accomplishment: the $25,000 dessert.

This chocolate sundae earns it's exorbitant price tag because it is laced with edible gold on a bed of edible gold and topped with - you guessed it - edible gold. A diamond crusted spoon is the eating implement of choice and the sundae goblet boasts a 1 car. diamond bracelet at its base.

The jewelry, I'm fine with. The spoon is, quite frankly, impractical to the point of being ridiculous. What are you going to do with one, diamond crusted spoon? Frame it? Buy another three sundaes so you can have a matched set?

But what gets me the most about this is the edible gold. Edible gold. Not gold you can wear. Not gold you can look at. Not gold you can save as a worthwhile investment. Gold you eat.

And what happens to everything you eat?

It turns, eventually, into poop.

I think this is a perfect example of greed swallowing us whole.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not against treating ourselves on special occasions, paying a little extra for something we love, or (and here I do my mother proud) owning some beautiful jewelry. But when we accept that it isn't enough to just own gold or wear gold - now we must eat it too just to prove that we can afford it or to assuage our own boredom or to say that we are somehow on the top tier of society above all the poor, non-gold-eating people who eat their sundaes with plain old nuts - we are sick.

Really sick.

There are children in our own backyard who don't have coats or decent shoes or a parent who cares if they ever eat breakfast.

There are elderly people in our own backyard who can't pay for medicine or heat or food.

There are shelters that offer hope to homeless, abused people and are desperately scraping together meager donations to keep themselves going.

There are millions of children across the world with no family and no hope.

There are women, here in America, and across the world who've been abandoned by their husbands and lack the necessary job skills to provide for the children they love.

$25,000 brings home 6 orphans from Guatemala, 4 from Korea, 3 from India, or 1 from China.

$25,000 feeds, clothes, and pays the utilities for a struggling single mother family for an entire year.

$25,000 feeds an entire village in starving Sudan for an entire year.

$25,000 keeps the lights on and food on the table for a rescue shelter for at least 6 months.

$25,000 can bring hope, relief, and love. Or it can give us golden poop.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

And Now For A Little Inspiration

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Honestly, People...

Another entry in the continuing Saga of Stupidity at work:

A man asked if he could just buy half a piece of pie.

Well, no, you can't.

He was angry. He wanted half a piece of pie, doggonit, and who were we to tell him no? What kind of restaurant doesn't serve half-sized portions of their desserts?

Ummm, pretty much every restaurant.

But, he insisted, he really wanted just half a piece of pie. $2.99 was too much to pay for a single dessert.

My response?

"Sure thing, sir. You can have half a piece of pie. That will be $2.99."

"But the whole piece of pie is $2.99!!" He said.

"Yes, well, as I may have mentioned one or three times already in this conversation, we only sell pie by the entire slice."

"But you said I could have half a piece!"

"You can. I'll bring out the pie. You eat whichever half you choose. Everyone's happy."

Oddly enough, he chose not to order any dessert. Maybe he'll have better luck at McDonald's ordering half a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone. I'm sure they'd be much more accommodating.

May The Force Be With You




Starshine uses Darth Vader to finish off Obe Wan.

The State Of Things

This afternoon, in a routine inspection of the upstairs, I had the grave misfortune of wandering into my boys' bathroom.

One look around and it was clear I was viewing the aftermath of what happens when you combine a dreamer, a scientist, and a daredevil with unlimited access to water, toothpaste, and, umm, the product of various bodily functions.

Here is what I saw:

1 tub FULL of murky, sudsy water.

1 toilet FULL of...well, full. Let's leave it at that.

1 empty toilet paper roll tossed in the general direction of the trashcan.

1 counter streaked with toothpaste, calamine lotion, and wet strips of kleenx.

2 sinks creatively decorated in toothpaste, pencil shavings, and toys.

3 instances of clear evidence that the toilet paper ran out before the need for toilet paper was filled.

4 instances of clear evidence that while the perpetrator might have been aiming to spit his mouthful of toothpaste into the sink, he missed. By a mile.

7 handprints of the filthy variety located on the lightswitch, the door, and the mirror.

19 pieces of paper located in the general area of the trashcan without actually being in the trashcan.



256 tiny legos inexplicably dumped over the ENTIRE bathroom floor.



And people wonder why I hear voices in my head and talk to myself. It's that or Prozac, people. Take your pick.

Adventures in Traveling: Part Four



In N Out Burger is a fast food franchise unique to the West Coast. In the 11 years we lived in southern California, my hubby developed a strange fixation with In N Out. If there was an In N Out in the vicinity, he and his friends would go.

He defined "vicinity" as being anywhere in a forty mile radius.

When we moved to Nashville, my hubby grieved for two things: the ocean and In N Out.


In N Out is a peculiar fast food restaurant. They have an extremely limited menu - no salads, no kid's meals, and no chicken of any kind. They are burgers, fries, shakes, and soda. And that's it.



I never developed the same fascination as my hubby. I like their hamburgers well enough (I can hear my hubby and the entire West Coast In N Out cult screaming "Sacrilige" as I type this) but their shakes do nothing for me and I absolutely loathe their fries.

The day after we arrived in California, my hubby took the kids over to Grandma's house and let me sleep a couple more hours - tucked in beside a now worn-out MAX. When he returned for me, I noticed something.

He was fidgety. Pacing the kitchen. Glancing at the various offerings of fruit and cereal and then looking away. Checking the time. Checking the phone book, his eyes glazed over with the hunger only a true junky knows.

"What are you looking for?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

He flipped through the phone book again. "In N Out. There must be one somewhere. I saw a sign last night."

Of course, I understood "somewhere" to mean "somewhere between here and Bakersfield, a scenic three hour drive away".

"How could you see a sign when you were asleep in the car?"

"Please." He looked at my with pity. I sigh. He's right. The spiritual connection he has with In N Out cannot be stopped by something as mundane as sleep.

"Are we stopping there for lunch?" I asked because I am not afraid to ask stupid questions.

"As soon as possible." He answered me and tossed the phone book onto the table in frustration. No In N Out was listed. In fact, on closer inspection, we realized many of the restaurants and shops seen on our way into town weren't listed. We checked the phone book cover.

1999.

Not helpful.

I spent a brief moment wondering why anyone would save a phone book from 1999. Perhaps MAX had eaten everything more recent.

Not to be deterred, my hubby called a local friend of ours and explained his need. The friend (another man) was instantly onboard, giving directions, short cuts, and commiserating with the four years of forced In N Out abstinence my hubby had endured.

We hopped in the car and headed to In N Out.

As I mentioned before, their hamburgers are good - the grilled bun makes the difference, I think, but I'm sure I'd be voted down by all the true believers. Their shakes are decent but can't compare to, say, Johnny Rockets or Jack In The Box.

But their fries - their fries are just nasty.



When I unwisely voiced this reaction to my meal, my hubby earnestly explained that In N Out fries are special. They are not like other fries.

"Yes," I agreed, "they aren't. Other fries are edible."

"Sacrilige," He thundered at me...well, okay, my hubby doesn't "thunder" but he did speak sternly.

He then explained to me that In N Out makes their fries from actual potatoes.

"And other restaurants are using what? Faux potatoes?" I ask.

He glares at me.

I am informed that In N Out has actual, whole potatoes on the premises and that they use a fancy machine to turn that potato into strips which are then dropped into the fryer.

Hmmm.

I tasted another one.

Nope, still tastes like I'm eating a chewy strip of nothing.

My hubby is disappointed that knowledge of the process doesn't improve my opinion of the taste.

On the night before he left, my hubby went out at 10:30 for one more In N Out run and came home with three paper hats decorated with the In N Out logo, ostensibly for the kids.

All three hats are safely tucked away in my hubby's dresser instead. =)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Adventures In Traveling - Part Three

We arrived in my parents' mid-sized California town at 11 pm, pacific time. That meant 1 am, our time. My boys (hubby included) snored through the entire 1 1/2 hour car ride home.

My Dad, you'll recall, is the Mechanical One, the Enthusiastic Gardener, and the Master Packer. He is also the Fidgety Driver. He is patently unable to drive without messing around with something.

He adjusts his seat, turning to explain with enthusiasm the lumbar support in his van's captain's chair. Unlike me, he drives a minivan by choice.

He flips radio stations, searching for one that plays his favorite: classical. When I point out that this might not be the best musical choice, given the fact that my Dad likes to be in bed asleep by 9 pm and it is now past 11, he turns the volume up to something right above mute.

I smile.

My Dad is classical music. He lights up when a particularly intricate flute passage plays in Handel. He taps out the beat to Beethoven, sways to Chopin, and enthusiastically points out the minor harmony in Bach. My Dad used to be classical music at a volume most people could hear. His tolerated volume level, however, has decreased with every passing year.

When I get home to Tennessee, I vow to blast my Evanescence, my Red, even my Celtic Woman because I don't know how many years I have left before genetics take over and I begin the slow slide into listening to what I love at a whisper.

We are not staying at my parents' house. My grandmother lives with them now, in the master bedroom suite on the first floor. My parents have a room upstairs and the other room is dedicated to the cats.

They have 4 cats. One, Pepper, is a beautiful ball of gray and white fluff who is afraid of my children, with their noise and constant motion. She has an annoying habit of climbing into your arms and then continuing on to your face. She likes to hang over your shoulder with her tail reaching toward the ceiling and her little rump shoved out right beside your nose.

Not the end of the cat I would prefer to cuddle with but Pepper knows how to insist.



Here she is with my Mom. Good times.

Another cat, Buster, a Russian blue, is not just afraid of my kids. He is bone-deep terrified. Of course, Buster is terrified of his own shadow so that's not saying much.

Pepper and Buster get locked into the cat room at night because my parents take exception to cats who get angry with them for sleeping and decide that urinating on their bed is a just consequence.

Their third cat, Pitts, is old now, in cat years. We brought her home when I was a junior in high school. She's sixteen now and she used to be a seriously fat cat (one of the funniest memories I have is seeing her tear down my parents' stairs, her belly swinging wide until gravity, momentum, and fifteen pounds of cat conspired against her and her back end started going faster than her front. Talk about a loss of dignity.). She is skin and bones now and so frail I'm afraid to touch her for fear she'll break. She doesn't really fear our children. She's too old to care.

Their fourth and final cat, Nosy, is the bane of my children's existence. She is tiny too, maybe four pounds of black and white wisp, but Nosy isn't about size. She's all about attitude.

My children will walk clear around the house to avoid the hall she sits in. She hisses if they make eye contact. They are certain if they get within striking distance, she'll bite their toes off.

They're probably right. Nosy's social skills leave a lot to be desired.

So, with a house full of cats and no extra room, we are house-sitting for my mom's friend - taking care of her Finch and her three dogs.

The Finch I don't much care about. I'm not a bird person. But dogs, I love. An empty house with plenty of room for all of us and three beautiful dogs sounds like a great way to spend my vacation.

When we arrive at the house, the three dogs immediately surround us with barking, licking, squirming, and shoving. I'm a big dog person, really, and not used to terriers and little rat-like things that look like something my cat would consider a light snack. But I'm tolerant of this behavior because they've been alone all day and it's always exciting for a dog to make new friends.

The dining room table has a sweet note from the owner of the house and $40 as payment for our trouble. I feel guilty taking it because we're really doing each other a favor.

I feel guilty, but not for long. Turns out I would EARN that $40 the hard way.

The MAX way.




MAX is the little rat-dog of the three. The other are white short-haired dogs approximately the size of a footstool. They are Scruffy and Mishie and they settle down within minutes of our arrival.

MAX does not.

Also, MAX does not walk. He runs. He scrambles. He bounces. I've never seen a dog bounce before. It's disturbing.

MAX has no control over his vocal chords. Or his tongue. Or, it turns out, his bladder.

He pees on the entry way tile when he sees us. I chalk it up to excitement.

He pees on the dining room floor when my kids get excited over the house. I indulgently grab some paper towels thinking, "surely that little bladder has nothing left".

He pees on my son's sleeping bag while he's hopping around the bed, resisting my attempts to drive him out of the room. I don't chalk this up to anything and the tone of my voice pierces MAX's ADD-afflicted brain long enough to send him scrambling from the room.

He goes to the living room and pees on the couch instead. Drips, this time, so I have hope he's close to empty.

I clean it all up, tuck in my kids, send my hubby to our room and praise MAX for the thin veneer of calm he's managed to muster up. I pat his head and he rewards me by peeing on my foot.

I can't decide if I'm grateful to be barefoot or not. On the one hand, I don't have to wash my shoes. On the other hand, it's 1 am my time, I'm exhausted, I've just cleaned up more pee than any little rat-dog should legitimately hold in his bladder and now I have urine between my toes.

This does not make me happy.

I, an avowed dog person, am considering locking the little bugger in the garage for the night.

I don't. It's cold, he's got thin fur, and besides, what if he destroys their garage?

This is a decision I come to regret.

I crawl in bed. Lights go out. The other dogs lay in their doggie beds. MAX does not.

MAX bounces onto our bed. He bounces onto us. He bounces between us, his tongue frantically licking our faces as if he can't decide which of us to attack first so he'll do his best to give us equal time.

We tell him "No".

He does not listen.

We toss him off the bed.

He springs back instantly.

We cover our faces. He claws at our blankets, our faces, our heads.

This does not feel good.

Finally, in desperation, I grab him and make him lie next to me so my hubby, at least, can get some sleep. MAX wiggles and squirms and does his best to reach any exposed skin with his tongue.

I suggest to him that, since his human daddy is a Dr., perhaps they should consider letting him mainline some Ritalin.

MAX begins to calm, as long as I keep my hand on him. I think I am finally going to get some sleep.

I am wrong.

The owners of the house have a clock. One of those miniature grandfather clocks that hangs on the wall and insists on chiming the time every FIFTEEN minutes. Who needs that, I ask you?

If you can't keep track of the time one fifteen minute increment to the next, you have more problems than a chiming clock can solve.

I try to ignore it.

I can't.

I try to sleep between the chimes.

Not happening. For one, it takes me longer than 5 minutes to hit deep sleep. For another, I know that chime (which plays longer and longer as it gets closer to the next hour) is coming.

MAX is still squirming, still wiggling, still trying to get to my face.

I get up, check the clock for an off switch. There isn't one. There isn't one on MAX either.

Two hours later, with dawn just around the corner, I reach my limit. I get out of bed, an enthusiastic MAX bounding along in front of me, and wrench the clock from the wall. Prying open the back is easy but then, at this point, I could have punched a hole through a cement wall without breaking a sweat. I'm that angry.

The clock is mid-chime when I yank out its battery and silence it for good. I mutter a few unsavory comments about the clock and its mother as I make my way back to bed.

MAX thinks it's play time again. MAX and I quickly reach an understanding. He doesn't try to tunnel through my skull with his little rat-dog claws and I don't make a MAX-sized hole in the wall beside my bed.

Like I said, I earned that $40.

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