Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, May 31, 2010

That Was Supposed to be Easy or Naked in the Kitchen

Have you ever noticed how often something that's supposed to be easy, turns out to be hard?

I had a lot to do Friday. Pay bills, get new tags for our cars, buy groceries, do laundry, and get some words out of the too-long manuscript. I accomplished the first three in a reasonable amount of time. Since I'm a multi-tasker, the laundry was moving along all right too. I put in some steaks to marinade so we could have an easy dinner. Then I was going to take five minutes and whip up some pimento cheese so I could dedicate the rest of my day to THE WORDS.

The Guy loves pimento cheese. You'd think he was born southern and had been fed off bridal tea and baby shower tables since birth. Not so. He came to me thinking that the Kraft pimento cheese spread that comes in those little juice glasses is the real deal. I disabused him of that notion and he's been on the pimento cheese train ever since. Precious—of book club and beach trip fame—makes the best on the planet and she has coached me into being able to create a pretty fair facsimile.

I was all ready. I had the food processor out, plus my pepper jack and sharp cheddar (equal parts), light and full fat Hellman's mayonnaise (equal parts to desired consistency), and the sacred jar of chopped pimentos. Now let me say, I don't know what Precious does, but I buy the big jar. If I'm going to make pimento cheese, I don't fool around. If you aren't going to put enough pimento in it, you might as well buy that Kraft stuff. You won't have anything fit to eat, but you would at least end up with a tacky juice glass.

It would be appropriate at this point to tell you that I did not put on an apron. "Who," you may ask, "wears aprons in this day in age?" Well, me. I am messy and the people in my life understand that. Thanks to their generosity, I always have a decent stack of cute aprons, clean, folded, and ready to go. Usually, I have the sense to put one on, but how much trouble could I get into in the time it takes to make pimento cheese?

And, indeed, it was going okay. I grated the cheese and put it in the mixing bowl. I put the processor and blades in the dishwasher without spilling cheese or my blood. The mayo was ready.

Then…I reached for the pimento and the tea towel I would need to give me purchase to remove the sealed top. The top never came off. Apparently, the jar was cracked because it came apart in my hands. Turns out, chopped pimento is a little like glitter, in that the second you turn it loose, it's everywhere. On the counter, on the white cabinets, on the floor, and—most of all--on me. I was wearing what I consider to be one of my midlevel ensembles—orange linen pants, a nice white t-shirt, and orange flip-flops—you know the kind of thing you'd wear to the courthouse and Publix, but not out to dinner.

My friends, if there was ever in doubt, let me assure you, orange and red do not look good together. It didn't do a lot for my favorite white t-shirt either. If only there had been a pimento parade, I could have gone as a big pimento monster. Since there was no such function to attend, I clearly had to shed my clothes. When I moved, I squished. I'd never had pimento juice in my bra before. When I took a step, pimento went flying. I had just deep cleaned my kitchen a few weeks back and this was doing nothing to maintain anyone's definition of pristine.

I stripped right there by the sink. Then I balled up my clothes and tiptoed to the laundry room. In retrospect, I don't know why I thought tiptoeing would keep the house painters next door from seeing me. I don't think they did but I didn't give it too much thought. I was having enough trouble. I put on a shirt covered in spots from the pre-treat solution that was necessary because of another time I didn't wear an apron.

Eventually, I got everything cleaned up. Since I'd bought two jars of pimentos, I even ended up with pimento cheese. But, counting the phone calls I had to make to illicit sympathy from The Guy and Oldest Friend, it took me two hours. Plotter is lucky she was at school or I would have called her too.

The upside was, by the time I got to the WIP, cutting words was a cinch.

What have you incorrectly expected to be easy?


The winner from Friday's contest is Sherry. No, our hero's name is not Dane; it's Luke. But both names are one syllable and start with a consonant. We admit, it wasn't the best idea for a contest so we had to readjust. That's probably going to happen again.

Sherry, you've got a prize coming.

Friday, May 28, 2010

What Are You Reading?

We are reading our work in progress.

Tell us what you're reading and the hero's name. If it's the same as out hero's, you'll get a prize!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Following the Rules

Yestereday I had a discussion with some teachers about following the rules. As many of you know, I am rule follower. Just give me a rule and get out of my way. I will follow the rules or die trying. It turns out that in much of America today, that makes me very special. Everyone seems to think they are special and that the rules don’t apply to them. Or as the Writing Playground’s Problem Child expresses it, “Everyone thinks they are a special snowflake.”

I was telling a story from my childhood yesterday about why I hate pears, when it was pointed out to me that I have always been a rule follower. It happened in kindergarten. Kim, a girl at my table, ate a pear every day for snack. I didn’t like pears but, hey, she didn’t try to make me eat it. Then one day they made us take our snack outside to eat. Now I was already unhappy about that. I am not a fan of dirt, bugs, or outside air but at five years old they don’t really let you be in charge. So there we were outside--Kim, me, AND her pear. I am not much of an athlete and I am very clumsy, so when Kim began to chase me with her pear it was just a few seconds until she had me on the ground grinding that half-eaten pear into my face. Since I am also not much of a fighter, I just had to lie there and take it until an adult pulled her off of me. I am, however, an excellent getter-evener. There was not a rule at my kindergarten that said you could not put crayons down the toilet. It also turns out that if you are only five, and during nap time you say you need to go to the bathroom, no one frisks you to make sure that you don’t have Kim’s 64 box of crayons with built in sharpener stuffed into your shorts. I NEEDED to get even with that Pear Welding Girl! After that day, there was a rule posted in my kindergarten's restroom that the staff referred to as the “Stephanie Rule.” It stated, “Do not put crayons down the toilet.” Oh, I got into some trouble for stealing her crayons. I had to apologize and replace them, but they weren’t able to make the crayons in the toilet charge stick due to the fact that there wasn’t a rule against it. It's hard to enforce a rule that doesn't yet exist. When I finished the story Barefoot Babe said, “You have always been you - having to follow the rules, even at five.”

It’s true. I always want to follow the rules. Good girls who follow the rules are supposed to be successes, who are rewarded. Bad girls who break the rules are supposed to be failures, who suffer. As an adult, I realize that isn’t always the case. Often, we see rule breakers rewarded with success, money, or fame. Sometimes one needs to break the rules in order to be true to oneself.

Have you ever broken a rule and had it turn out well?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tales From the Beach Part 2: Stuck In The Sand

We had all piled into Dr. Great Smile's SUV and were about to embark on an evening of frivolity, liquid refreshment, and seafood. We were not about to be stopped by the fact that Picky Sticky's sister's car had us blocked in. "You can get around it," Oldest friend advised Dr. Great Smile and that's just what she attempted to do.

It went bad. Turns out sand will suck you in before you know it.

Before the rest of us had even accepted what had happened, Godson's Mom leapt from the vehicle, found shingles, and shoved them under the tires. Godson's Mom's previous stuck experience had been with mud and her method would have worked under those circumstances. It's okay. What she lacked in knowledge of the finer points of the situation, she more than made up for with enthusiasm.

Then Precious's phone rang. Mr. Precious was on the other end. After hearing of our predicament, he insisted on getting on the phone with Dr. Great Smile. He'd seen a video on how to get out of such scrapes and knew just what to do. That might also have worked if we'd had a shovel.

By now we had exited the car. It was interesting to observe who went into action to solve the problem and who stood back, hands in the air, muttering, "I've got no idea." (I fell into the second group.) Dancing Queen wanted to call Triple A but some were afraid that might take too long and cut into our fun. I can see both sides.

Three of the more athletically inclined in our group decided they should push. Two were wearing pink shirts, one black. Dr. Great Smile stuck her head out the window and said, "Y'all need to move around so you're standing pink, black, pink. It's bothering me." It didn't help.

Finally, we faced that someone was going to have to go next door and ask men for help. We sent Precious and Cutest Girl Alive. (If you saw them, you'd understand why.) Cutest Girl Alive smiled and Precious said, "We're stuck in the saa-and!"

They brought a shovel. After telling us that we, "Clean up real good," they put Ms. Classy behind the wheel (since she weighs the least), dug around the tires, and we were out.

We all get stuck in our writing or in life. What do you do when you get stuck? Go into action and try to fix it by trial and error? Analyze the situation? Throw up your hands? Call in reinforcements?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lessons from the Dunking Booth

As many of you know, this past Saturday, I was in a dunking booth for my school's Spring Fling. As I sat in the dunking booth, I learned a couple of lessons about life.

The first lesson was that often it takes someone with some experience to help you get started. I had never been in a dunking booth before but my wonderful principal, being an old hand, was able to give me some advice and a helping hand. I couldn’t even get into the booth until someone got chairs for outside and inside the booth. Without that, I might have eventually made it into the booth, but it much faster and more effective with some assistance. This reminded me of the assistance and advice more experienced writers have given to Pantster and me. Without our more experienced friends, we might be moving forward but our journey would be slower and less effective.

The second lesson from the dunking booth was that you never know when the bottom is going to fall out. One of the first kids to pitch at me was a fifth grader who is quite the athlete. I just KNEW he was going to drop me into the water. I held my nose and braced myself for the dunking I was sure I'd get. He missed all three pitches. Then a couple of kids later, this cute little second grader stepped up. I was chatting with someone (yeah, I know that is a surprise!), not really paying attention. This was a BIG mistake. I wasn’t holding my nose and my mouth was open; down I went into the yucky water. Turns out the second grade, Cutie-Pie, is an All Star softball pitcher. Who knew? I can also relate this to our writing experience. Sometimes Pantster and I are sure we are on the right track. Maybe we have had a successful pitch and the editor has requested a full submission, or maybe we're just excited about sending a query to an agent who seems like a really good match. Then the rejection hits the bottom falls out. I feel as if I am floundering around, sucking the nasty water of judgment into my nose and mouth—just drowning in the misery of it all for a bit, before surfacing to shake the water off and start all over again.

How about you? Do your friends help you with the journey of life? Are there times when you feel as if the bottom has dropped out of your world, but you learn something valuable from the experience?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tales From the Beach Part 1: Women With a Theme

Top: Sam's Mom, Dr. Great Smile, Oldest Friend, Pantster, Godson's Mom
Bottom: Picky Sticky, Ms. Classy, Precious, Cutest Girl Alive, and Dancing Queen

I just returned from the beach, where I spent a long weekend with nine other women. There was no drama, no backstabbing, and no man bashing. I love The Guy and I hate it when women get together and start man bashing. I avoid that situation and the women who do it. Understand that man bashing is very different from a woman expressing frustration with her man. That's allowed. It even saves relationships. What I hate is the "All Men Are Atrocious" rants.

Anyway, we had a wonderful four bedroom on a private beach. I've known these women for a long time and every one of them enriches my life. Everyone lamented that Plotter, Heartbreaker-Soul-Shaker, and Art Girl couldn't go but we had a good time anyway.

At one point I went into the bedroom I was sharing with Oldest Friend, Precious, and Godson's Mom. I caught sight of some items on my bed: A feather boa from Precious and an insulted "Oil Slick Chicks" mug that Sam's Mom and Picky Sticky had custom made. Do I even have to tell you everyone got these items? In addition, Precious had gifted me with a glow in the dark magic wand. I scooped up these items and went into the living room where Dr. Great Smile, Precious, Cutest Girl Alive, and Dancing Queen were drinking and contemplating the universe.

I tossed the treasures on the canoe and glass coffee table and said, "We've become those women we said we'd never be."

"What women?" Dr. Great Smile asked. (She always needs the whole story.)

"Women with a theme." I didn't have to explain myself further since these women speak Pantster, but you know the ones I mean—they have matching t-shirts, visors, and—God help me—feather boas.

"We are not women with a theme," Precious said. She swung her foot and flipped the page of her InStyle magazine in that precious way of hers. "We are women with random sh*t. However, random sh*t is the path to a theme."

If I must become a woman with a theme, I want it to be with these women—plus Plotter, Heartbreaker-Soul-Shaker, and Art Girl, of course.

Do you have women you'd be willing to be themed with? Tell me about them.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Reading List

We hope you have had a good week and that it has included some romance.

This week we are reading:

Pantster is reading The Best Man in Texas by Tanya Michaels.

Plotter is reading Dark Legend by Christine Feehan and
Learning to Talk Sheep by Christopher Perry and C. Wayne Perry.

We would love to hear about what you are reading this week.
So what are you reading?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dunking Booth

This Saturday my school is having a Spring Fling.

Now, our school has not flung Spring in this millennium so there are many details to work out. You know how when an organization does the same event over and over, people find their niches. This usually means that responsibilities are spread out based on what jobs people are best suited for. Well, that is not what is happening for this event. Because it has been sooooo long since we had Spring Fling, we have had to recreate everything. Everyone is trying to work together to make sure nothing is left undone. This means that there are lots and lots of emails and telephone calls flying around.

I got an email asking me to take a turn in the Dunking Booth. Not manning the booth and taking up tickets, but actually in the booth being dunked into the water. At first, this seemed like a horrible idea. My hair would get messed up and my makeup would run. But then my wonderful principal pointed out that when I finished with my dunking booth shift, I would be excused to go home since I would be all wet. AH HA!!! Now that was incentive. I wouldn’t have to help clean up and I could even leave early! I signed right up. In fact, I think it is a great idea!

Have you ever, when asked to do something, thought, “Oh, no! I could never do that!” Only to have it turn out to be the best choice, after all?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Irrational Fear or Have You Seen the Size of that Dragonfly?

My neighborhood is infested with giant dragonflies—three feet across and just as tall.

Before you think this is the beginning of a horror story or, worse, that I'm lying, let me hasten to add that they are painted metal sculptures created by commissioned local artists. This event, called "Dance of the Dragonflies", is meant to showcase the artists and financially benefit the visual arts center. These little boogers are going to grace the downtown and historical residential districts for the next year. I know this because, last year, we were infested with butterflies of like size. Some of these giant insects were painted by friends of mine who would probably take exception to my use of the word infested. They would probably like better something like Public Art Display or Gallery Alfresco.

But those giant bugs are just so creepy.

This event is not unique to the art world or my town. In my travels, I've run across pigs in Cincinnati, horses in Louisville, and fish in New Orleans. Really, I'm all for it. I like art. I can't make it happen, but I like it. You'll find no pictures of card playing dogs at my house. I do have a monkey wedding, but I just can't apologize for it. My problem is with the size of these abominations. The pigs and the horses were actual size and I once saw a catfish at the Chattanooga Aquarium every bit as big as those Big Easy fish, so it can happen.

But you just can't have a dragonfly or a butterfly that big. (The thought of the caterpillar from which a butterfly that size would come, is enough to make me want to go into a fetal position and roll myself into a closet.) I understand that if they were actual size, no one could see them and they wouldn't promote anything, but that doesn't stop them from giving me the willies. What if they come alive at night and get after me? It would be like Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, only worse because it would be me they'd be after and not Tippi Hedren!

This, my friends, is known as irrational fear. I say you can't have irrational fear of storms; people die because of storms. Same with sharks, bridges, and air travel. Even a clown can go bad and go on a killing spree.

But there are no Godzilla sized insects so my fear of them is, indeed, irrational.

Do you have irrational fears? No? What about pictures of monkey weddings? Talk to me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This weekend I took a short road trip. I picked up Pantster and we went to Huntsville to attend the Heart of Dixie Readers' Luncheon. Although the drive wasn’t all that long, on the way home I got to thinking about the road trips we had taken together in the past, as well as the road trips we have coming up this summer. Thinking about all of this time on the road, it occurred to me that people can have different traveling styles, especially when taking a road trip.

The first road tripper style that came to mind is what I call a “Musher”. I came up with this name because "Mushers" are all about going as far as they can, as fast as they can. Much like a dogsled driver urges his team to “mush;” a traveler who is a "Musher" will push everyone in the vehicle to do without stops and to hurry, hurry, hurry when there is a stop. This style of road tripper is usually a man. My daddy is a "Musher". I grew up thinking everyone traveled this way. As an adult, it was a wonderful surprise to discover that there are other styles of road tripping.

There is also the “Dawdler”. This style is basically the opposite of the "Musher". They want to stop every 30 miles or so to look around the truck stop, do a little shopping, and “stretch their legs.” This type of traveler is often a woman, though I do know some male “Dawdlers”; usually they want to stop for snacks every few miles, including EVERY single Krispy Kreme doughnut shop they see. My mother is a "Dawdler" and it was a special childhood adventure when she and the “Musher”, daddy, took us on a trip. Wow, the memories these thoughts bring back!

I came up with just a couple of other different road tripping styles, "Tacky Clothes" and "Over Dressed". I am sure you have seen these people in your travels and you can picture them as you read this. You probably ran into them at rest areas or gas stations. "Tacky Clothes" and "Over Dressed" are pretty self-explanatory. I have seen people traveling in nice vehicles who had dressed worse that I would to mow the lawn (if I did mow the lawn). You know they were thinking, “I am just going to be comfortable. After all, I won’t see anyone I know because I will be on the road.” This is probably true but, hey, what about those of us who see them at the gas station? Don’t we deserve a little consideration? "Over Dressed" is total opposite of "Tacky Clothes". They dress as if they have an interview with Hugh Hefner scheduled, while in route to the beach, and the paparazzi is following them to snap photos. No lie; I swear it is true. Recently at a rest stop, I saw a girl dressed as if she was on her way to a club to dance around a pole. It was quite the show!! Both of these road trip types are usually girls.

So what is your road trip style?
Do you have any great road trip stories to share?

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Little Housekeeping

We've been here a little over a month now and we've learned some things about how blogging fits into our schedules. Thanks to the hit counter that The Guy installed, we've learned (and were pleasantly surprised!) how many of you are stopping in and when you are most likely to do that. With these things in mind, we wanted to let you all know that we are making a few changes in the blogging schedule. You probably don’t care; you probably wouldn't even notice but we feel the need to announce our intent.

See, we don't really like change that much, but what we really hate is running up on a change that no one has apprised us of. You know how it is. You go to the Clinique counter, whip out your empty tube of lipstick and say, "I want another one just like this, only not empty." Then you get the bad news. They're not making it anymore, but not to worry; she can give you something that is the same. Well, that's a lie. If it was the same, it would be the same. So we aren't going insult you by pretending the schedule hasn't changed.

From henceforth, meaning until there is a reason to do otherwise:

will blog on Mondays and Wednesdays instead of Tuesdays and Fridays.
Plotter will blog on Tuesday and Thursdays instead of Mondays and Thursdays.
Fridays will be "What Are You Reading?" day. There will also be some surprises on some Fridays. We don't know what yet, but isn't Friday a good day for a surprise?

We're a little late to the table with this but in our very first blog entry we promised that someone would win a box of Godiva chocolates. It goes to our very first commenter, Shawn. Shawn, we promise we won't be as long getting it to you as we were in announcing it. We know where you are.

We don't have a question today, but talk to us anyway. Be sure to check in with Plotter tomorrow. She always has a question!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hissy Fit or How I Ruined Myself in Food World

I am a fit thrower from way back. I used to be worse than I am now. After I reached the point where no one could spank me or send me to my room, I embraced the freedom of fit throwing on a regular basis. Oldest Friend throws fits too. We have, in the past, referred to this as "ruining ourselves", as in "Pantster, I don't care if they did put sour cream on your plate after you told them not to, don't you ruin us in this place. We are running out of places to have lunch."

But I decided a few years ago that fit throwing didn't really make me feel that good (except sometimes) and it didn't do anything to improve the world so I cut way back. I became the kinder and gentler Pantster—at least outwardly.

But today I—as the Baptists say—backslid. The scene of the crime was Food World. I'm not proud of it but I'm not that ashamed of it either. It's been coming for years. First off, let me go ahead and own up to the fact that Food World is not my first choice for grocery shopping. Publix is my first choice, but it's across town. Lucky's, which is five blocks from my house, is my second choice but it's small and doesn't always have everything I want. Food World is the bad step sister for many reasons, but it will do if I need more than Lucky's has to offer and I don't have time to drive across town.

I don't know why it happened today. They've never been friendly so I wasn't expecting them to be. I wasn't having a bad day and I'm not an unhappy person. (You know that's what people who work with the public claim about those who find fault with inferior service.) I was just sick and tired of having a cashier who would not speak to me, would not look and me, and continued to visit with a fellow employee while he scanned my groceries. The first words he mumbled under his breath to me were, "Debit or Credit?" Then, "What kind of card?" When I did not press the right button, he reached over and did it, still without a word or a look. When my groceries were in my cart, he mumbled by rote and, again, under his breath, "Haveaniceday."

I began to roll my cart away; I did not get far. I turned to this young man and said, "I don't think you really mean that or you would have greeted me when I approached you."

"Huh?" he said.

"You never said hello. You never looked at me. Your life will go better if you will learn to be nice."

"I am nice," he said.

"No you are not," I told him. "All you do is visit with each other."

And I left Food World for the last time. When I got home I pulled up Food World's website and found the section where I could "tell them about my experience". I was unable to really do that, since they only allowed me 1000 characters but I did the best I could. True, I could write them a letter and mail it but I refuse to expend the energy. I'm not going there anymore so I don't want anything from them and it isn't my job to improve their customer service.

I realize there are people in the world who are starving to death. I realize that in days- gone-by-Russia, those people would have been euphoric to have a Food World, with or without a surly clerk. But I'm not in Ethiopia and I'm not in days-gone-by-Russia , so from hence forth, if I cannot make the time to go to Publix, where all is light and happy, or those sweet, sweet people at Lucky's don't have the brie, or the capers, or whatever other ridiculous thing I have a hankering for, I'll do without it.

Have you thrown any fits in public? Do you care

Addendum--After I wrote this I got a very nice call from the manager at Food World. He said he was new and to please come back, to give him a chance to straighten things out.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Heart of Dixie Fun

This Saturday, the Heart of Dixie Chapter of Romance Writers of America is hosting its annual Reader’s Luncheon. The luncheon, held in Huntsville at the Von Braun Civic Center, is a great deal of fun. This year we have the fabulous Julia London as our keynote speaker and I was lucky enough to be selected to introduce her. For years I have read her books and loved them so I am really looking forward to meeting her and having her as our guest.

By the time the luncheon actually starts, there will already have been almost twenty-four hours of fun. Some of my favorite parts of the luncheon weekend are the pre-luncheon events. Many members of our chapter get together on Friday afternoon to create the goodie bags for our guests. This is always so much fun since everyone is full of energy and excitement in anticipation of the event. This member has a new hair style, that one has a great dress to show off her newly fabulously thinner figure, while another member has gorgeous new shoes-always a huge hit in our group! Another reason that I enjoy this time so much is that I get to hear lots of news about what is going on in everyone’s lives. Graduations, weddings,new babies, oh my!

After all of the goody bags are ready, many of us will have dinner together and hang out. At this point, those who were not available earlier, join the fun, including many of our author guests. The socializing often gets exponentially more hilarious as the evening flows on. [Yes, those are liquid sounding words on purpose.]

Many authors and readers have been attending the luncheon for so many years that it is almost like a family reunion where someone else does all the cooking and cleaning up, leaving them to concentrate on having a good time. It is a fantastic atmosphere! Like the pre-luncheon events, the luncheon itself is also a lot of fun, which may seem like an odd thing to say, since it is the purpose of the weekend. But hosting the luncheon itself is just a small part of a weekend filled with enjoyment and camaraderie with fellow writers.

Have there been times your life that the preparation for something was as much fun as the actual event?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Are You Reading?

We are both still reading Blood Born by Linda Howard and Linda Winstead Jones. It is FABULOUS, but we are slow because we're in first draft?

What are you reading?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Write What You Know or What I Learned About The Prom

Write what you know
. We've all heard it. Some believe it. I do not. If people only wrote what they knew, there would be no books about vampires, space aliens, and zombies. There would be no Lord of the Rings, Charlotte's Web, or Winnie the Pooh. No Peter Pan. I could go on but I should probably stop. I'm trying to work on stopping after I've made my point. It's not working too well.

Anyway. I believe: Write what you know, what you can research, or what you can make up and make believable. I'm not scared of any of that. But this weekend I had myself a little epiphany: What's scary is what I just think I know.

Though she hasn't plotted anything and I haven't pantsed anything (much) about our next story, Plotter and I know the characters, the setting, and the basic premise. Do not tell her I've been running some scenes in my head. She wouldn't like it. One of those scenes involves a football coach who is forced to chaperon a high school prom.

I thought I knew about proms—until this past weekend. I shudder to think what I would have written. Before you jump to conclusions, let me assure you I did not actually attend a prom. I did, however, go to a fairly new (at least where I come from) prom ritual known as Lead Out. This is where the young lady and her escort are announced and they walk arm-in-arm across a stage in front of an audience. They, then, have their picture taken and move on.

I would like to claim that I had the good sense to attend this event because I realized that the two proms I attended many years ago would not have much bearing on what goes on today. But, alas, no. It was all about my godson, Precious Angel. Though sophomore boys do not usually attend the prom, Precious Angel was invited by a beautiful young lady who is a junior. Precious Angel enjoyed this rare honor because he is sweet, kind-hearted, well-mannered, and gets excellent grades. Okay. That's a lie. Those things are true of him but, let's face it, he was invited because he plays football, is built like a brick outhouse, and—thanks to years of Junior Cotillion—dances like he could be on Dancing with the Stars if he didn't drip so much testosterone.

Prom has changed. No corsages. Nosegays. A few of the young ladies had obviously consulted Bjork for fashion advice, but, for the most part, they were lovely, fresh, and dressed age appropriately. There was a girl wearing a cammo gown and couple in matching Converse tennis shoes. I don't know what they were thinking, but I'm sure they thought it through because they looked pretty happy about it.

It was the male attire that really surprised me. Even Precious Angel who, thanks again to years of Junior Cotillion, understands that correct male formal attire is black and white, (do not pass go, do not collect any colors) got with the prom program and wore a tie and vest that matched his date. And who knew there were no many white tuxedos in the whole of the world? I could almost hear the ice cream truck bell and taste an Eskimo Pie. And did you know you can rent white top hats and canes? I might have been at Almack's. I was a little jealous on Precious Angel's behalf that he had no props. Maybe next year. Maybe I'll see about getting him a chariot.

All in all, it was wonderful. Two young ladies were escorted by their fathers and one brave beautiful girl walked proudly on that stage alone with her head held high. I suspect my eyes were not the only ones that filled when a gallant young gentleman wheeled his date onto the stage in a wheelchair. It was easy to see the chair was not temporary.

I love a rule. The only thing I love better than a rule is an etiquette rule. But it was great to see rules broken in the name of fun and youth. I think they are better than my generation. I'm glad I learned that before I write my prom scene.

Which really, Plotter, won't be for a long time. Way after conference. Probably even next year, or the year after.

Have you learned anything by accident?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Genre Hopping

It occurred to me this weekend that I am a Genre Hopper. I know this phrase is usually used to describe a writer who goes from genre to genre to genre writing different books, but in this case I am applying it to myself as a reader. Anyone who has read even just one of our Wednesday blogs where Pantster and I list what we are reading can see that I am very eclectic in my reading habits. I already knew this. What I realized this weekend is that even within the genre of romance I am a Genre Hopper.

Sometimes I am in love with the paranormal. I mean when you think about having a lover who has had hundreds of years to perfect his skills, what’s not to love about that??? Other times nothing will get me through the night but a soldier book. I do so love a man in uniform story! (A man out of the uniform story is often even better!) This type of romance tends to be contemporary and is often full of suspense and danger. So there’s really another genre – suspense. Of course, sometimes-said man is in a different century. So there I am smack dab in the historical genre. I am especially fond of those British Red-Coats and the gallant men of Confederate States of America. And one of my favorite genres of all time is the Cowboy Story. I love a well written Cowboy or Western Romance whether it is a historical about “how the west was won” or a contemporary like Linda Howard’s Mackenzie’s Mountain, possibility the best Cowboy story ever written!

I guess at the end of the day the important truth is that I love to read almost all of the genres of romance. I love the idea that across all times and cultures everyone deserves a Happily Ever After.

Are you a Genre Hopper?
Do you read in multiple genres even within romance?

Friday, May 7, 2010

How Do You Spell Priss?

I knew spell check didn't know all the words but I didn't know it had no soul until earlier this week. Imagine my surprise when it did not recognize priss, as in, "Lou Anne prissed away. She was known for her prissing."

What? Priss is one of the best words in the English language. They wanted me to use pressed and pressing. Not even close. Not only that but, while my online dictionary recognizes prissy, it does not like priss or its variants so much. How can you be prissy if you can't priss? I also consulted the 1961 edition of Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, International Edition, Volume 2, Lobate-Z. (It was handy. I put my feet on it while at my desk to keep my legs from going to sleep.) Same result. It liked prissy but nothing else.

I can understand why it might not be in the thesaurus, as it knows no peer. I discussed this very matter with Oldest Friend and Plotter. Oldest Friend suggested that sashay might a synonym for priss, but I say no. Sashay is kind of a lazy sexy saunter. Prissing is all about attitude. In the end, she agreed, as did Plotter.

Everybody knows what it means. Several years ago, I happened to be complaining to one of the Grand Dames of my small town that I had been summoned for federal jury duty at the same time I had a vacation to Puerto Rico planned. The Guy had spent a fortune on scuba lessons and gear and we had some plane tickets. She regaled me with the story of how she got out of jury duty once. It had nothing to do with my situation, but I enjoyed it, nonetheless. It was something about her daddy going to prep school with the judge. (I can assure you that, of all the things my daddy did, going to prep school was not one of them.) Anyway, she ended with saying, "If I were you, I'd priss myself down to that Federal Courthouse in Birmingham and have a talk with them."

Well, I did not priss myself down there. At the time, I was too busy working full time and running the Junior League. But we both knew what she meant and we didn't need a dictionary to help us out with it.

I hate loose ends so, for those of you who might wonder, I did write a letter, photocopy my reservations, and priss myself to the post office to mail it. I did not have to go to jury duty until a year later. But that's another blog.

We've all been surprised by spell check. What's your story?
And, if you have no spell check story (or even if you do), feel free to comment anyway. Maybe you've got a prissing story.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mother's Day Rituals

Last night I went shopping for my mother a Mother’s Day present. In my family, what really matters is getting my mother a gift she wants. We don’t suffer from any of this “it’s the thought that counts” crap. This is often a problem because my mother changes her mind about everything and gift requests are no different. She told me weeks ago that flowers would be a nice treat. Then she wanted money to spend on something for her garden, and just last night she called me with instructions to go to the mall and get her some “mint green towels.” So this afternoon I followed her directive and purchased her some green towels. I hope she doesn’t change her mind again because I put the towels in the post today.

This experience caused me to think about the varied rituals Mother’s Day. Some families get together for a big meal. Others go out to eat; in fact, it is traditionally the Sunday of the year that the most people eat out on. One of my friends refused to participate in the holiday because he said that a card company invented it to sell more cards-perhaps he is right.

In the South we have the strange ritual of “Decoration Day.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with this phenomenon it is when cemeteries are cleaned up in the days leading up to Decoration Day and subsequently on the actual Decoration Day the graves are decorated with new floral arrangements and plants. When I was a child, some families I knew even got to get new clothes and shoes for Decoration Day like it was Easter. I was always a little jealous of them because I always wanted another pair of shoes. In my family we had to go to the cemetery on Saturday to put the decorations out then go back on Sunday before church to make sure everything “still looked nice.” Finally, we went back after church to visit with everyone else who had decorated their family graves. People visited back and forth around the cemetery--oooohing and aahhing over how “nice” things looked. Needless to say as a child I HATED this ritual. Looking back on the experience now I can’t separate Decoration Day from Mother’s Day in my mind. It was always just a part of our Mother’s Day celebration. My father’s family still all meet and carry on just as they have done for their entire lives; and my sister forces her daughters to endure the process just as we did as children. Yes, it is a strange way to celebrate Mother’s Day and yet many people across the Deep South will find themselves in a cemetery Sunday.

Do you and your family have any strange Mother’s Day rituals?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Read My Truck

I have long been fascinated by people who put messages in the back windows of their trucks with press on letters that I assume they purchase at Auto Zone.

Wait. Rewind. In deference to my friend, Mr. Alpha Male, who has been known to say of me, "She speaks in superlatives. The sooner you know that about her, the more chance you'll have of understanding what she actually means," let me correct myself.

Fascinated is too strong a word; interested is too strong a word. It's fairer to say I've noticed these bits of wisdom on wheels and wondered about them.

I've been on two short road trips two weekends in a row. Last weekend on the way to visit friends in Georgia, The Guy, Oldest Friend, and I got caught up in the Talladega 500 traffic. It wasn't all that pleasant. We were all pretty disgruntled when Oldest Friend spotted a truck up ahead with "Wild Bill and Crazy Cathy" in the window. In retrospect, it wasn't all that funny but, at the time, you'd have thought Chris Rock had visited our car to do a private stand up routine for the three of us. Remember—race weekend traffic. Times were hard.

But after we calmed down, I got to wondering about Bill and Cathy. Are they a radio morning team? Did they choose these names for themselves and, if so, how much time did they put into it? Or is Bill, in fact, wild, in the sense that he was raised by wolves? If that is the case, why is he allowed to drive a truck? How did he develop marketable skills to earn money with which to buy it? And is Cathy truly sadly crazy, as in delusional? If so, why would anyone be so mean as to put that on a truck window? Or does she just get a little crazy on the dance floor? Either way, it takes both of them to equal a late seventies Saturday Night Live Steve Martin.

This past weekend, The Guy, Plotter, and I were returning from Knoxville, when The Guy started reading: "To Baby Girl. In Memory of my Precious Sister". This message was printed in gold rimmed maroon letters that matched the truck. It looked so good I'm not sure a professional sign painter didn’t do it, which would stand to reason. Surely, if someone felt led to memorialize a departed loved one on a truck window, an expert would have to be called.

But why? Did the truck originally belong to her? Or was it bought with money from a lawsuit over her accidental death? Was he driving an old unsafe vehicle before she extracted a deathbed promise from him to buy something new? I went on and on about this until I am sure The Guy and Plotter wanted to sedate me.

I finally said, "I'm blogging about this Tuesday."
"Why?" Plotter asked.
"I don't know," I told her. "I just have to."

Maybe that's the answer to messages in truck windows: Sometimes you just have to.

Ever done anything because you just had to?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spring Fever

As most of you know I am a school teacher. This time of year is very exciting in an elementary school classroom. We have about 18 days of school remaining and there are lots of things going on like standardized tests, field trips, assemblies, and final projects. I have been reminded that even good interruptions add a lot of stress and distraction.

However, I must admit that I also suffer from Spring Fever in the rest of my life. It seems like in the spring there are always LOTS of extra curricular activities. I am working on my Master's degree and that includes final projects. There are holidays like Easter and Mother’s Day that require me to shop for new shoes and clothes--and, oh yeah, visit family and/or spend extra time at church. Another sign of spring in my life, is that my wonderful, fabulous local RWA chapter, “Heart of Dixie”, has its annual Readers' Luncheon (more shoes) and I am lucky enough to be on the Luncheon Committee. I love this event. We always have such a fun time!

Most of these things are positive experiences but distractions, nonetheless. Pantster and I were talking Monday about how we feel pulled in all different directions and that these distractions, while necessary, are taking time and energy from our writing.

Are you suffering from Spring Fever?