Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Bird-Kicking Boy and My Run-in with the Law


On Sunday, as my son was leaving, I lectured him about speeding. It was the big travel day after Thanksgiving and I wanted him to be aware of the fact that State Troopers would be everywhere. I got the usual eye-roll and was reminded that he set his cruise control at the speed limit. Duh! Okay, he is a good and safe driver but I know policemen and I know my son. Any contact with a uniformed officer would scare my law-abiding son to death.

That brought to my mind an incident which forever scarred him regarding police officers. Oh, he hadn't been in trouble – his Mom was. A few years ago, he and I had gone to a local hamburger place for lunch. As I got out of my car I saw a young boy, about twelve and much taller than me (who isn’t?), kicking an injured bird. All of you know what an animal-lover I am. I told the boy and his little gang to stop and leave the bird alone. He told me in explicit terms where I could go and it wasn’t a cool place. Shocked at his language, I responded in kind (okay real mature). Thinking the incident was over, my son and I went inside and ordered lunch.

As I was carrying my tray to a table a woman came running up to me and started screaming in my face. She kept asking me who the “H…” I thought I was. Not knowing who she was, I ignored her (as I would any crazy woman) and sat down at a table. My son kept looking at me as if I was going to do something, which I didn’t. About the time I started eating, screaming sirens and flashing blue lights came roaring into the parking lot. Good, I thought, someone had called the police about her. Maybe they could handle the foul-mouthed woman.

Now, before I continue, let me preface the rest of this story with – I respect the police. After years of being a prosecutor, I know the job is dangerous, hard and low paying with little thanks. Officers put their lives on the line to protect us and I sincerely appreciate it. That said, there are always a few, and I stress a few, who over-step their bounds, whether through ignorance of the law or just plain over-zealous self-importance.

To continue – Foul-mouth met the policewoman at the door and began gesturing wildly at me. I continued eating, not really concerned. The officer then approached my table, asking for my driver’s license. Nonplussed, I asked her why (this officer knew me – I had grown up here). She told me I didn’t need to know, just hand it over. Bristling, I informed her that I didn’t have to but for the sake of avoiding a legal battle I would. She jerked it out of my hand then went over to foul-mouth, got that woman’s license and went out to the patrol car. I assume she was running the licenses for priors – I didn’t have any but ol’ foul mouth looked like she might have a couple. My son, who had finished eating by this time, was looking a little pale. He’d never had a run-in with the police and I could tell he wasn’t taking this one too well. I decided then and there I was taking this outside. At least then my son could get to my car and leave if need be.

The minute my hand hit the door to open it, the female officer came up and told me I couldn’t leave. I walked outside anyway, turned, and then asked her why. She did not respond so I kept walking to my car. I knew I didn’t have my license but I wasn’t standing there on the sidewalk waiting on the locals to decide what to do with me. She hurried after me to tell me that I couldn’t leave. I smiled and told her I knew that already. Then, “Barney” pulled up, lights flashing and sirens blaring. He got out of his cruiser, put on his hat, adjusted his gun belt and swaggered over to where I was standing by my car. He looked me up and down then asked me my name, address and place of employment. I gave him the information including the fact that I was not employed. Information, I said a bit smartly, the other officer already had.

Barney, in his best interrogator voice, asked me what I did to the boy. Okaaay, so that was what this was about. Ol’ foul-mouth was the bird-kicking-boy’s mother. Strange I hadn’t seen the resemblance before, especially around the mouth. I shook my head and told him in proper English that I was not talking to him. I went on to tell him that if he probable cause to arrest me then go ahead. Otherwise, I smiled, I wanted my license back and I was leaving.

Now Barney’s Adam’s apple was really bobbing. I had upset him mightily and his first reaction was to place his hand on the holster of his gun. Great, now Barney was considering pistol-whipping me for the information. I could see that this was spiraling out of control. I handed the car keys to my son and told him to drive the car home if something happened. I could hear my son talking on the phone but I kept my focus on Barney and the gun. The officer stepped into my personal space (which, if anyone knows me has a mad-dog effect on me). Controlling my temper I calmly listened while he began telling me that this was an investigation and that I would answer his questions. I crossed my arms, leaned casually back against my car and told him I did not have to talk to him. Barney just got more agitated, poking me in the chest with his finger and telling me I had to admit what happened. Mentally I was calculating how much I was going to sue him for when it occurred to me that he was clueless about a little thing called the Constitution. I grinned and only said I was invoking my Fifth Amendment rights. He began yelling that I didn’t have any rights and that I was going to talk to him. In response I handed him my Alabama Bar Card with my license number on it and told him I wasn’t talking, period.

Now Barney was really mad. He threw the card back at me and said I was in big trouble (Darn, I was hoping for “you’re in a heap of trouble now, girl”). It seemed that, according to him, I had lied to a police officer when I said I wasn’t employed. I calmly told him I hadn’t lied, I wasn’t employed and if he was having a problem with the word employed he needed to look it up. Whups, he unsnapped his holster, ready to draw sooo I didn’t laugh like I wanted to. With nothing else to do or say, he told me to get into the patrol car. I told him to put me in it. We went back and forth with this little exchange for a few minutes. Cha-ching – the compensable damages were mounting if he laid one finger on me. Totally frustrated, Barney called for back up on his radio. I leaned unconcernedly on my car waiting for more stuff to hit the fan. Wow, this was getting exciting.

My son, now whiter than paper, rolled down the car window and told me I was on my own. He had called my father (also a lawyer) who had responded that, being two hundred miles away, there wasn’t much he could do at the moment. My son then informed me that my husband wasn’t coming either but had promised to bail me out of jail. Comforting…

In the sudden stillness of Barney standing there glaring at me silently, the shrillness of more sirens (or as they say in Arab, “Sireeeens” - long E), erupted as three more patrol cars came flying into the parking lot. I was surrounded – a middle-aged housewife with no weapons but a smart mouth. Barney grinned evilly and told me the sergeant was there now. I could talk to the sergeant. Oh, right Barney, now I was really scared. The sergeant, appearing a bit more urbane, walked over and asked my what my problem was. Now, for an instant I almost said you and your buddies but better sense took over. I told him I didn’t have a problem. Sarge asked me what I did to the “little” boy (Little? Right. Had these guys gotten a good look at the kid?). I again responded that I wasn’t talking. He spoke to Barney and then handed me my license. Evidently it had come back on their check about who I was. He knew the futility of trying to intimidate me. Smart Sarge. Before I got into my car, Barney had to make one last parting shot. He informed me that I couldn’t leave town pending the investigation. I laughed and, being a typical smart-a** asked him if he’d watched one too many Westerns. He gasped but did nothing. I grinned, waved and backed out of the parking space.

As I was leaving, foul-mouth was screaming obscenities and then, to my surprise, jumped on the back of the female police officer. The last I saw of ol’ foul-mouth was a swarm of officers and handcuffs. Now they really had an incident.

Moral of the Story – Avoid cruel, criminally-inclined kids. Eventually they will end up in prison and you won’t have to worry about them or their mothers.

Have you ever had a run-in with the police? A ticket? Tell us your story. I know we’ve all had our brushes with the law. But, after mine, I seriously doubt my son ever will…


Monday, November 29, 2010

READY OR NOT (AND I'M NOT), HERE IT IS


I have a dirty little secret.

I don't love Christmas like I should. I don't hate it. It's just that I love the fall and the fall holidays so much that I experience my letdown between Thanksgiving and Christmas instead of after New Year's like many people.

It's just so hard to let it go—the leaves, the pumpkins on my porch, the autumnal arrangements around my house. Not to mention that college football is on its last lap.

And here it comes like a tornado: trees, thousands of ornaments, gift buying, candy making, wrapping, mailing, card writing, neighborhood tour of homes, an appetizer for this, a side dish for that, wine and cheese parties, open houses, afternoon teas, and on, and on, and on.

Do I sound like a scrooge? I'm not. I get into it. I love to buy and give gifts. And as everyone should know, I looooove me some glitter so that's a big plus.

It's just that I long for the Indian corn and gourds in my Waterford champagne bucket. Sure, I could leave them, but that would just be denial.

But I have a ritual that helps me make the transition. On Thanksgiving weekend I always buy a new Christmas romance. Usually it's a Regency. I love those holiday anthologies. This year, however, I didn't see one at my bookstore so I picked up something I saw Eloisa James (one of my favorite authors) recommend on Facebook. It's a contemporary reunion story— The First Love Cookie Club by Lori Wilde and I am really loving it.

What do you do to help you get in the spirit? And while you're at it give me some Christmas romance recommendations.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pilgrims were Committed


Perhaps when you read the title you thought that I meant that the Pilgrims had to take some time at a sanatorium to regain their grip on reality. However, in this case the point is that Pilgrims had a goal and were committed to reaching it.

I know that this week, especially today, there are many blogs and emails about thankfulness and I want to encourage everyone to be thankful for the many, many positive people and things in life. But as I was deciding on the subject of my Thanksgiving blog, I thought about the first Thanksgiving for the Pilgrims. Now let me say that I would NOT have made a good Pilgrim. Can you imagine the conversation between me and my Pilgrim husband when he told me he wanted me to get on a tiny little ship with a bunch of people and stay with them for weeks as we crossed an OCEAN together? And then at the end of this lovely trip, would I be able to get away from them??? No sirree bob!! We were all going to "build a new way of life together." No shops, no new shoes, no hair salons, no grocery markets! Definitely not my idea of fun!

The Pilgrims must have been really, really, really committed to their belief that they were doing the "right thing" to leave all that they knew behind, travel with their spouses and children, and forge a community out of wild wilderness! They wanted to create a place where their children could worship God as they saw fit and were willing to sacrifice whatever it took to achieve that goal.

I am committed to achieving a few goals myself. Obviously, I have the goal to be a published author. I have also had the goals of getting my Master's degree and being in a healthy relationship. Sometimes each of these goals seem to pull me a different way and I have to sacrifice something to move closer to another goal. I am almost finished with graduate school and am dating a funny, smart guy who lives in my town. Perhaps now I can turn more energy to achieving the third goal of getting published!

What are somethings you are or have been committed to?

Happy Thanksgiving!
Stephanie

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We're All Pilgrims

Howdy, “Pilgrim!"

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I’ve been pondering a lot lately about family and the holidays this week. (Where has the time gone?)

Here in the Deep South, southerners are gathering their harvest like little worker bees. Pumpkins, squash and collard greens cook in pots on just about every stove (not mine, thank you very much!). I’m into Bing Cherry Salad, Oyster Dressing, Cornbread stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, ROLLS and more ROLLS! All homemade! When we gather at my FIL’s, the food isn’t what you see above. No, though the meal is a treat, the company more than makes up for the loss of my favorite foods on the ‘day of all days’ itself. Instead, my family must celebrate our Hooville feast later in the week. That’s when I get my wish. In that moment I’m transported back in time to dinners provided by my grandmother. Roasted bird, a most plump bird, succulently glistening upon a beautiful platter. On the sideboard… pies! Pies all around! There will be Pecan, Cherry, Apple, and Derby Pie (Derby gets its name from the Bourbon cooked inside it, mixed with chocolate chips. Woo-Hoo! Anyone who knows this pirate can attest I have a love affair with chocolate chip ANYTHING! ~pleasurable spasms~)

But I digress… my most heartfelt apologies. Let me offer you a tempting morsel. ;)

My grandfather, Grandy, always placed little cups of mixed nuts at each place setting. Oh! No service was left untouched. Grandmother made this wonderful apple/peanut butter salad or she’d serve the Bing Cherry Salad, mentioned above, on a separate plate, each beautifully formed mold sitting upon a bed of lettuce. Heaven!

Grandmother was a northerner, born and raised in Quincy, IL. She brought northern traditions with her to Texas and passed them on to my mother and me. (Here's where it gets good. Dad's mother was a purebred Texan, born and raised.) Cut to the point direct, as they say in Regency England. Do I go to all the trouble Grandmother did? The answer is plain and simple. No! Why? I’m not sure. Could it be that in the process of moving all over the world, and taking in other traditions, that I neglect to bother? Or am I simply lazy? If you guessed ‘lazy’ you’ve probably hit the nail on the head. People just don’t go to the trouble these days of serving others. I have beautiful China passed on to me from a Great Aunt. Do I use it? Not often enough. Why? It’s too much trouble to get it out, clean it up, and then make sure I don’t become a nervous wreck thinking someone will break an heirloom piece. Oh, and there’s also the hand washing afterward. You guessed it. The word I'm looking for is lazy!

Now that my kids are grown, breakage is mostly likely a part of the past— unless you count my disaster prone habits or my grandsons (boys will be boys!) Isn't it high time to bring out the molds, China, and tablecloths? Certainly by doing so I will be honoring my grandmother's memory and making her proud. ;)

Pondering holidays, recalling childhood memories, reels like a movie trailer in our heads, reafirming to us what we should be thankful for. Time passes quickly. Today is here. Today is now. But tomorrow and the next day, and the next, will be here in a matter of unconscious breaths. Take the time this Thanksgiving to inhale the aroma of roasting bird or baking pie. We all should do a classic study on the tempting beast, roasted and stuffed (I admit my northern roots creep in here). And when, at last, the feast is served, no matter how loving or ridiculously obnoxious a relative may be, we need to make an honest attempt to serve with thanks. By doing that, we'll be honoring family tradition, and through that, ourselves.

The pilgrims were indebted to Squanto and his tribe for showing them how to harvest nature’s bounty. To celebrate their newfound independence, knowing they wouldn't have to face another winter without starvation, they set a large table, putting aside their differences in race and religion, sharing the spoils of their labors, together.

Holidays are a time when families are forced to endure each other’s presence (aka Cousin Eddie on National Lampoon’s Vacation).

They are a perfect time for Vampires and Werewolves to set aside hundreds of years of grievances on The Vampire Diaries (LOVE IT! Damon, oh! Damon!).
Though I do love the macabre, I won’t go so far as to say, Thanksgiving is a time to invite Zombies from The Walking Dead to the table. That show scares the gourds out of me! (Y'all know I like to read a twist on Jane Austen or the Brontes, but it would be insanely stupid to welcome that lot to the feast. They wouldn’t be craving the bird for a treat.) Zombies!


Yikes! Cousin Eddie sure has changed! ;)

Long and short of it… this is an ode to Thanksgivings past. (Raising a cyber mug of Sparkling Hot Cider and saluting everyone under the Tulip tree today. Y’all know I'm verklempt. :D

So, making a long blog longer, everyone is welcome at Okay, Listen Here — even Cousin Eddie. Can you lampoon Thanksgivings past? Is there a Cousin Eddie lurking in your closet or is that just John Wayne chomping at the bit to say: “Howdy, Pilgrim!”

As an addendum: As one of John Wayne's 'Pilgrims', you have the right to protect the innocent. Nothing you do or say under duress while feasting with relatives lessens your worth in our eyes. Just please promise me one thing… don’t invite the Undead to your Hooville feast.

May the peace of the roasted beast bless your table!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I SEE YOU


I recently had a very good friend who was going through a tough time in her marriage. We have talked on numerous occasions and the one thing which kept popping up in my head was hearing her say she does this or she does that and her husband never acknowledges anything. Her worth is ignored. He is the primary breadwinner but when she sells a book I am sure the roles will be reversed. She stays home with the kids, keeps house, cooks and cleans, pays the bills…manages everything while he simply works at one job. In all her free time (this is sarcasm) she tries to write.

Not to sound like a Na’vi but “I SEE YOU.” And I see me – I see all of us making the same mistake.




Society has placed a role on us to keep the home, to nurture the children and be the lover – multiple roles. Economics, however, has forced many of us out into the workplace. Even those of us (and I am one) who have the luxury of staying home still have many more jobs than just one. Women work more than their husbands – a simple truth. That’s fine; we are the smarter of the species and can handle it (no sarcasm intended). But what I see, and have been guilty of myself, is that we devalue our worth. We matter but no one seems to notice. The jobs keep piling up and we go about doing them without complaint to keep the peace. It’s easier to just do it than nag constantly for help. Eventually we become Edith Bunker nervously serving Archie in his ratty recliner (Not a very pretty picture is it?). Every one else’s needs (children, friends and husbands) must be satisfied to the exclusion of everything else. At the end of the day we have nothing left for ourselves or of ourselves.

Well ladies, it’s time we took back our lives. My friend, who is a very industrious person, started listing everything she does in a day (which was mind boggling) and I had an idea. I told her to keep a running diary for one week – writing down everything she does. Chauffeuring the kids (hired driver), cooking (chef), shopping (personal assistant), cleaning (maid), paying the bills (accountant), washing the clothes (laundress) – whatever. Then assign a dollar value to her jobs and add it up (okay if hubby unloads the dishwasher give him an hour of menial labor at minimum wage). Make two columns with a his and a hers. I would be more than willing to bet that my friend, if she were paid for all these jobs, would make more than her hubby in a week. I told her to show it to him and point out the inequity. We do so much that no one values us. Perhaps if he sees it in black and white, he will begin to see that what she does has a monetary value (my point is not really the money but to wake him up to what she does day in and day out).

I know, I hear you. If I don’t do the job, no one else will. So? Life does not end if the furniture does not get dusted or he has to eat a ham sandwich instead of a five-course, home-cooked meal. Live a little – that dustbunny will still be lurking under the bed after you’ve given yourself some time off. And, if he mentions that little bunny, hand him a vacuum… As women, we want peace in our homes and we try to make it a reality. Well, reality has a way of reaching up and biting you in the posterior. Eventually, if you do not assign a value to yourself, others will not see you.

The Holidays are approaching and with them come attendant additional chores. Do not lose sight of yourself. Your needs, your wants, your desires are important. You are entitled. You are a person with value and everyone should appreciate that. I SEE YOU!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Welcome to Staci and Sara

We are very excited to welcome another writing team to visit with us here under the Tulip tree. Please, join us in welcoming Staci and Sara as we celebrate the release of their newest book, Sinful.



Friendship is important to us here under the Tulip tree and it was clear when we met y'all that you weren't just writing partners but were also great friends so we would love to hear how you first met each other.


Staci & Sara write:
First, we want to thank you for giving us this opportunity to share a bit about our debut novel, Sinful, with you and your readers. As to how we met, we started teaching together in 2004. We taught 7th grade English together in Pasadena, TX and worked across the hall from each other. We decided to change school districts, and lucky for us, ended up getting a job offer from the same school. Again, we found ourselves teaching right next door to each other. Over the years we grew to be close friends and we shared a common interest in YA literature. In 2007, we set out to write our first YA novel together, which became SINFUL.


Stephanie:
Wow, that sounds like fate. I'm sure y'all get this question a lot but how does the writing process work for you both since you are writing as a team?


Staci & Sara: We had no idea what we were doing at first or how it would work writing together. We just started meeting once a week, and it all just kind of worked out. We would sit and drink coffee at Starbucks while passing the computer back and forth as we wrote. The majority of the revising and editing we did on our own time, but most of the writing of the book took place when we were together.


Stephanie: We would love to hear the whole process of you getting published.


Staci & Sara: This was a long journey for us. Again, we had no idea how the whole process worked. We didn't know any other writers, and we weren't part of any writing organizations at the time. So, we got on the internet and started researching what exactly we were supposed to do now that we had a finished manuscript. We researched how to write a query letter, agents and publishing companies. We queried lots of agents but unfortunately, didn't have any luck. So, we found a few publishers that were small houses, but seemed to be the real deal. We submitted SINFUL to Mundania Press, and after about six months, we heard back from them. They wanted to publish our novel, and we couldn't have been more excited. By this point, it had been almost a full year since the manuscript had been completed. We still do not have an agent, but since we just completed our second manuscript, we will be back on the agent hunt again.


Stephanie: What a great success story! Thanks so much for sharing that with us.
Would you, please, tell us about your book as well as how we can get a copy of it?


Staci & Sara: SINFUL is a YA paranormal romance, set in League City, Texas about seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Carrington, who is coping with the death of her mother and falling in love at the same time. It's not long before she realizes that her new love-interest, Michael, is the angel who took her mother to heaven. Seeing Michael so happy doesn't sit well with his arch-enemy Daniel. And when the fallen angel comes to town, Elizabeth suddenly finds herself in the middle of a battle between good and evil. When Elizabeth and Michael's one chance for happy ever after is threathened, Elizabeth has to face her fears and defeat and evil angel with a grudge.


At this time, it can only be purchased at mundania.com, our publisher's website but within a week or so, you should be able to find it on Amazon, and other online book retailers, like Barnes & Noble and Borders. And if we are really lucky, maybe it will be on the book stores' shelves one day.


Check out our website saraandstaci.com to find out more about SINFUL and there you can also find a link to order it.


Stephanie: Thank you both so much for taking time to visit with us here under the tulip tree. I am sure our readers will have other questions for you. We look forward to reading SINFUL and many other books in the future.



Friday, November 19, 2010

SOMETHING EXCITING AND WHAT ARE YOU READING?

Cheryl is reading One Night of Scandal by Teresa Medeiros

Kathy is reading The Viscount and The Virgin by Annie Burrows

Jean is reading Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran.

Stephanie is reading Surrender by Amanda Quick


What are you reading?

Now for the something exciting!

Please be sure to stop by Monday for a special treat. Our friends, Sara Dailey and Staci Weber, will be here to talk about their new YA release, Sinful.

We can't wait!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

They Said It was Supposed to Be Good For Me

There are many things in life that we do because someone tells us it is supposed to be good for us. My school nurse recently came around to talk with us about getting immunized for some diseases that are on the upswing in America, especially in school aged children. A local clinic was going to come to our school and give immunizations to any of the adults who wanted them. This entire process would be simple and free. Nurse W would even come by and watch my class so that I could go to get the shots. Wow! What a great opportunity!

That actually happened yestereday. Nurse watched my class and I got to go to get the immunizations. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Then last night it seemed like a mistake. I didn't feel good and I fell asleep on the couch even though I had a lot that I needed to get done. I did wake up and move to the bed around ten and slept like a rock. I just thought that I was more tired because I had done a couple of mornings of bus duties and not gotten much sleep for a few nights. Little did I realize that I was suffering because of the immunizations that I had recieved. Today, however, I know that I am miserable because of it. I have a slight fever and I feel cranky and out of sorts. Well, that is really an understatement because I feel like crap, crap, crap. I know that it is for my own good because now I won't have diphtheira, hepatitis A-Z, tetanus or the whooping cough but I don't have to like it right now.

When was the last time you did something that you knew was good for you in the long run but that was painful for you in the short term?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's Wednesday! Mid-Week Hump Day!

I’ve been thinking a lot about friends this week, how I need them, rely on them, and wish more than anything to be available to them. Returning what’s been given to me, counting my blessings in more ways than one… these are the things that matter in life, especially with the holidays rounding the bend.

Have you been doing any holiday shopping for your loved ones? I’ve been grabbing stuff here and there for a few months now. Of course, some members of my family are easier to buy for than others. But in the course of setting about making this holiday one for the record books, I’ve realized one thing. Love is the finest present of all. It can’t be bought or sold. It isn’t always packaged in a pretty red bow. Love travels great distances and can be shared in various ways. Love is masterfully crafted by an unseen hand.

Besides my family and friends, my favorite example of love exists in romantic fiction. A romance novel brings two people, who couldn’t be more different, or alike, together. A reader always knows the boy will get the girl, and vice versa. One thing that is tantamount to creating an unforgettable story is the highly anticipated Happily Ever After, the HEA, an ingredient no romance writer leaves out of their arsenal. Without the HEA, romance is caput.

As I get older, I wonder where love has gone. I’ve watched drivers drive with enraged testosterone, while the lone wolf on the track is practically run down. This week alone, I’ve been honked at for putting on my turn signal and trying to switch lanes with plenty of room to spare. I’ve been stuck behind a woman who stopped in a median to turn into a gas station, skillfully playing with her cell phone, not realizing the back of her car stuck out into traffic, preventing me from moving forward toward a green light. Where’s good sense? Where’s consideration? As a society, are we so bent on curing our own sickness that we fail to see the plaque building in our neighbor?

The Christian bible tells us to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves’, but I suggest society has twisted this philosophy askew. More often than not, we are loving ourselves more than our neighbor. At this time of year when many charities are open to helping those in need, how are we spreading that love? Are we?

Where I work, we accept donations for St. Jude’s http://www.stjude.org/waystohelp during the holidays, which helps children and their families deal with cancer and resulting treatments. Reasons why a customer won’t donate a dollar: “when is someone going to give me money for my needs?” Another reason, “I gave my one donation for the year.” Or here’s a classic, “I haven’t got a dollar to spare.” Judging by this economy, I’m sure the latter is true. However, nothing can be gained by refusing to give. Love cannot blossom without cultivation.

I love the commercials where people pay it forward. What a simple, lovely concept. A no brainer!

One of the ways I try to make a difference. I write romantic fiction to escape the present, to enter into adventure, to experience love for the first time again and again, and to share that love with others. In my stories, there are villains to be sure. But they do not win the day. In the end, good overcomes evil. Two lovers are united and the much awaited HEA brings a satisfied smile, and a sense that love withstands all things, rises above all things.

Doctors and nurses prove that every day at St. Jude’s. Marines do that every year with project: Toys For Tots http://www.toysfortots.org/. You do it when you buy a present for your loved one and share it with that person on Christmas morning. We teach our kids that Santa does it. We hope our bosses do it by giving out a bonus. Black Friday is a treat for customers by businesses eager to jump start the economy but also to provide a need, a discount to haggard accounts and weary shoppers all over the world.

Next week’s Mid-Week Hump comes the day before Thanksgiving. Be a blessing in the lives of others, sharing your light, letting it shine in someone else’s heart.

It’s Wednesday. Mid-Week Hump Day! There’s still time to show someone you love them. There’s still time to care for those who have not. Open your heart to those around you. At home is the best place to start.

Have you paid something forward recently? As an average citizen, what other ways can we make a difference in people’s lives?

As an aside, I know the southern writers at Okay, Listen Here have made a great impact on my life. I cherish their friendship more than they can possibly know.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A True Renaissance Man



In this day of computers, cell phones and every gadget made to enhance our lives I wonder all the time what would happen if suddenly they all just quit. How would we communicate? How would I listen to music? Simply put, how would I make it through the day? We have all become so dependent upon these machines. I find myself reaching for that cell phone as a comfort (kind of like a baby clutches his blanket) or running to the computer to check e-mails or look up something. I recently ran across a set of books, The Foxfire Books, a compilation of magazine articles written in the 1960's. This series of books explains how to do a myriad of daily chores like dress a deer, make bread or even build a cabin. Just those pesky day-to-day things which are necessary to exist if you don’t have modern conveniences. We, as a modern society, have forgotten how to milk a cow or take the milk and make butter or can our own food or even how to sew a dress (okay, some of you probably can do these things but we don’t as a rule because it’s easier to run to the store and buy them ready-made). Are there actually people out there who still survive on their wits and know-how?

Yes, and I have the rare privilege of knowing one. A true Renaissance man. A modern day De Vinci who lives his life building things without a calculator (he carries a flat pencil stuffed behind his ear to “figurate” if he needs to), who kills his own food or grows it and can fix just about anything given the time. For the sake of anonymity, I will call him “Billy.” Billy usually works alone – he cannot be bothered by slower, lazy people. I met him when we hired him to build our first barn. A huge undertaking with eight stalls, a loft and a feed room. Billy showed up in his ancient truck, pulling a trailer of materials and set to work. He did not bring twenty guys with him to help. He did it himself, by himself, and he did it well. Billy finished the barn in under a week and charged me a lot less than any other bid I had taken from modern contractors with crews. Thus began a relationship with Billy which has continued for years. If I have a problem I can usually call him and he will know how to fix it or build it. No blueprints, no written instructions, just his brain. I have always maintained that Billy, if he had finished high school, would have been an architect or an engineer. But then, I wouldn’t have him to call if there was a problem.

One day, a few years ago, I was going to the barn to feed the horses. I made it out the back door and almost to the barn when I heard a snuffling noise. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black blur headed directly for me, then another one. Survival instinct kicked in and I began running, leaping over the paddock fence (I really climbed it but leaped sounds so much more exciting). I turned to face my attackers – two rather large Vietnamese pot belly pigs! And they weren’t friendly. Snorting and pawing, they seemed intent on getting to me through that wooden fence. Memories of my grandmother’s warnings that a pig will eat your face off flickered through my brain. Thankfully I had my cell phone. My husband insists I carry it around the farm in case of emergency – this was definitely an emergency. The only person I could think of who would know what to do was Billy. He had pigs and maybe he would help me. I called his house and his wife said she would send him right away. In Billy parlance “right away” could mean a few minutes to hours. I settled in behind my fence and watched these creatures who kept watching me.

“Right away” this time meant only about thirty minutes. Billy pulled up near my barn and got out. The pigs were not distracted by him. I guess they sensed I was more vulnerable prey. He waved at me and started taking ropes out of the back of his truck. Without hesitation, Billy began chasing the pigs, throwing lassoes at their back legs until he snagged one. The pig hit the ground and Billy, excuse me for this, “hog-tied” its legs together. On to the next one which proved a bit more difficult. He had to use the Gator to chase it, sort of like they chased animals in a jeep on Daktari (remember that show set in Africa?). Eventually, I had two “hog-tied” pigs lying in my pasture. I emerged from my fortress and went to inspect them. Billy, dripping sweat, threw them (I would guess they each weighed around three hundred pounds – Billy doesn’t lift weights but maybe he should compete) in the back of his pick-up and turned to me grinning. He had enjoyed himself! Without much wordy conversation, he left, headed for home. I just assumed those pigs would become his daughter’s pets. Vietnamese pot belly pigs were expensive and were always sold as pets - unless they happened to end up on the wrong end of a rope held by Billy.

A couple of weeks later I ran into Billy at a local convenience store. I asked him about the pigs and how they were doing. Was his daughter making them into pets? Now Billy is a hard man to read. He doesn’t talk much and his face rarely gives him away. This time, however, he smiled and said they were just fine. With a brevity of words which only he is capable of, he told me that was the best bacon he had eaten in a long time. He went back to his pick-up and left me standing there.



Do you know someone like Billy? A true Edison or Frank Lloyd Wright? Who would you call if there were marauding pigs?

Monday, November 15, 2010

WORKSPACE--DOES IT AFFECT YOUR WRITING?


I am a visual leaner. This is not news to me but I was reminded of it yesterday at my Heart of Dixie meeting when Harlequin Presents author Kimberly Lang gave an excellent program on the writing process.



Plug: Her new book,

Boardroom Rivals, Bedroom Fireworks is out now. Get it! But I digress.


Where was I? Yes, I am a visual learner. Kimberly had a list, much like those "at risk for this disease" lists that you see in magazines and I am an almost textbook case visual learner.

  • I do not and never will story board, but I have pictures of my heroes and heroines on a bulletin board.
  • I have maps of our fictional town, Merritt.
  • I have floor plans of houses, shops, and restaurants, all drawn by Stephanie in an effort, I'm sure, to shut me up.
  • I have the spreadsheet that Stephanie did of what's supposed to happen.
  • I have bookmarked pictures of engagement rings, china, clothes, and virtual tours of my characters' cars.
  • I color code with highlighters and post it notes.
  • I can listen to music with words while I write and it doesn't impede my progress; if fact, it helps me.

But there was this one thing that kept me from being the quintessential poster child for a visual learner.

Usually, visual learners need to keep their desks tidy, to avoid becoming distracted. Though the rest of my house is pretty much always orderly, my writing space in a mess. It doesn't bother me a bit. When I go to my desk, I am in the bubble.

I've seen more than one person's jaw drop upon entering my office area/guest room. Knowing me, they just can't believe I work in chaos. I have book cases, bins, filing cabinets, and good intentions. Really. Right now, piled beside me is my church and Junior League directories (which I use to choose surnames), a Lands' End coupon (that I may or may not use), the books Kathy and I used to name her new characters (which I tossed on the bed when I could have put them on the shelf), CDs, birthday cards (my birthday was in June), piles of change, a broken clock, and many, many other things that I am too embarrassed to tell you about.

I'm going to clean it up. Tomorrow. Just as soon as I write the scene that is cooking in my head. Really.

What is your work space like? Is it important to your process?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Friday

Hello to everyone under the tulip tree.

Jean is having some internet troubles so she asked me to do the "What We Are Reading Blog" for today.

I am reading The Corp by W.E.B. Griffin. It has a great romantic hero named Kenneth McCoy in it.
He sweeps the woman he loves off her feet. It is great!

Cheryl is reading "An Offer We Can't Refuse-Mafia in the Mind of America"
by George de Stefano

Ohh, that sounds really good. Cherly, please let us know how that book is!

Kathy is reading Diane Gaston's Chivalrous Captain's Rebel Mistress

Hopefully, Jean will be able to add what she is reading sometime today.

Please, tell us what you are reading.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Men in Uniform

Today is Veteran's Day. Some of my favorite heroes are men in uniform or men who have served their country. As many of you know, I read from a broad variety one of my favorite genres, other than romance, is military fiction. My favorite military fiction author is W.E. B. Griffin. His heroes are much like a romantic hero. They are always brave, loyal, smart, and larger than life. Oh, and they are usually really hot! My favorite solider of all fiction is Kenneth McCoy. He is everything a hero should be!


Who is your favorite fictional solider?


I look forward to hearing from you all!

Here's a little something
to admire as you think!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dare to Dream

Dreams inspire, create, and showcase passion. Dreams question loyalty, challenge logic and balance the dreamer upon a precipice of change.

Utilizing dreams makes a difference in an individual’s life and the lives of others. That’s something we try to encourage here under the Tulip tree. While sitting on our favorite bench under a canopy of pink blossoms and sharing an ice cold drink, we at Okay, Listen Here like to dream BIG. (We especially love it when visitors share their dreams with us.) Southern ladies are well-known for hospitality, you see. Showcasing proper etiquette, a southern woman proves she can maintain a happy home while dreaming anytime, anywhere, and oh! what dreams a southern woman can conjure, especially a southern writer animatedly discussing her next book.

Everyone dreams. No dream is too big or small. Limits are set by the dreamer or not at all.


"Let me tell you a story ‘bout a man named Jedd, a poor mountaineer who barely kept his family fed…"


Or we could focus on one man in particular who dreamed of bringing joy to people all over the world, no matter the price. He called together his investors and formulated plans for the most costly, over the top park ever envisioned. He was warned that his ‘dream’ would never net a profit. The plans he drew up were drafted and built to scale to bring a long-standing film tradition to life. Even when his bank account sucked dry and all hope seemed lost, Walt Disney proved the naysayers wrong when he created Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Dedicated on July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its doors to an expectant crowd on July 18, 1955. Disney World followed. Built in Orlando, Florida, its gates opened on Oct. 1, 1971. Tokyo Disney Resort was christened on April 15, 1983, expanding to Tokyo DisneySea on Sep. 4, 2001. In Marne-la-Valleè, Disneyland Paris opened April 12, 1992, under the name Euro Disney Resort. Located in Penny’s Bay, Lantau Island, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Disneyland erupted onto the scene on Sept. 12, 2005. And the dream lives on as the Pudong District of Shanghai in China begins to build the next Disney theme park.



"A dream is a wish your heart makes, when you're fast asleep.”




Did Walt Disney give up on his dreams when the odds were against him? No. Disney proved that nothing is impossible. He took a little mouse, scorned and feared and made it into an icon. A mouse! We’re not talking about a cuddly rabbit, but a vulnerable rodent scurrying through the gutter, a creature known for causing thousands of deaths in the Middle Ages (when, mind you, townsfolk eradicated cats creating an over-population of mice amid unsanitary conditions. But I digress… I love historical research. Pirate!).

Can you see the genius? Disney took a creature cast off by society and created a loveable and recognizable symbol of hope to promote his film work and his dream of bringing joy to millions of overstressed, downtrodden people. A mouse is typically forced to hide, to scavenge for whatever he can get. Disney’s mouse became a true symbol of the war torn economy Disney endured. Through Mickey Mouse’s adventures, the world was given a glimpse into the man, Disney, himself, and shown that overcoming the odds has a payoff only a true visionary can see. A lowly mouse is lifted up to become a symbol of prosperity.




“In dreams you will lose your heartaches, whatever you wish for, you keep.”





As we take another sip of raspberry tea, let’s look inward. What of a writer’s dreams?

A writer hears voices that clamor for clarity. A hero comes supplied with broad shoulders and sculpted abs to drive women crazy.



A heroine, on the other hand, demands a head full of gorgeous hair and a body that makes her irresistible to those around her, co-workers, villains and especially the hero, without sacrificing her brain.


The villain, somewhat jaded, longs to be as endowed as our hero so he can pluck our lovely heroine from the hero’s arms and if not, threatens to take her by whatever means, if necessary.

Add in an unforgettable plot, humor, suspense, and/or sizzle and you’ve got the makings of a bestseller— a.k.a. what every writer dreams of creating.

“Have faith in your dreams and someday, your rainbow will come smiling through.”

How did Walt Disney defeat his naysayers? He discovered what society needed most and supplied that ingredient in fresh inventive ways.

How does a writer become indispensible? By writing every day, perfecting the craft, finding what readers enjoy most, and blending a reader’s desire with the stories that are born from a writer’s heart.

• D— Dream, the act of seeing something that isn’t there.
• R— Relating the vision and processing a plan for its creation.
• E— Evolution, the act during which the dream becomes real.
• A— Acting consistently to labor and create a finished product.
• M— Manifestation, you made your dreams come true!

Dare to dream for success, no matter how long it takes! Walt Disney died on Dec. 15, 1966, 11 years after Disneyland opened its gates and nearly 5 years before Disney World was completed. Like most artists who found fame after death, Disney’s dream lives on in the hearts of people all over the world. Some may complain the ‘Disney’ Walt envisioned has become a capitalist mega-corp. organization striving to milk pocketbooks for everything they are worth. But that is not the ‘dream’ Walt Disney originated. He created a world the average man could escape to, complete with castles and safaris. A place anyone could visit at least once in a lifetime.

Isn’t that what a writer does? A writer’s true purpose is to transport a reader from daily hardship, if but for a little while. The world needs dreamers like Disney, like you and me. Though writing is a competitive business, there will never be enough writers with dreams to share. Walt Disney took his films and manifested them into an amusement park that takes a rapturous breath away from each and every visitor who walks through the park gates. Under the Tulip tree, we know romance books are popular because they showcase what readers all over the world desire in their lives, proving love is the ultimate gift, and a dream, no matter how large or small is worthy to be shared.

Are you dreaming of something BIG? Stephanie is busy as a bee, Jean has whipped up some delicious southern comfort and Cheryl is serving more raspberry tea. Sit a spell and share your dream with us.

“No matter how your heart is grieving...if you keep on believing....the dream that you wish will come true."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Coming out of the Closet - Again...


Fall – I love fall. The season to reflect and wake to crisp, colorful mornings… And time to change wardrobes. I made a big mistake when we built our house – one of only a handful in my life (I will stick by this statement). My husband rarely gets to say “I told you so” (he is a wise man – never rub it in on me when I am wrong because you never know what is going to happen). He told me to make my closet larger. But no, I did not, citing extra costs, we had already spent too much, I didn’t need all that room… Stupid, stupid stupid…

So, as you have already guessed, my closet is not big enough. It is a walk-in closet with shelves and double clothes racks but it simply cannot hold more than one season of clothes. Albeit, some of those clothes should be in the trash, probably older than most of you dear readers. I have to change out my summer clothes and winter clothes every spring and every fall, utilizing one of the guest room closets. And shoes, let us not discuss the shoe issue. Okay, I have to put the out-of-season shoes in plastic containers and stack them in the guest closet (God forbid I should have a guest who actually wants to use the closet!). It is a horrible undertaking that I dread and will consistently put off until I can no longer stand it.

Well, the time has come. The weather is cold and I can’t keep traipsing back and forth digging out clothes from the guest closet. I have to make myself do this. I have wheedled for help from hubby and he just grins, walking off muttering something about “I told you…” He never puts the “so” at the end because, well, you know why. The dogs won’t help; they simply don’t see what all the fuss is about. Clothes? Who needs clothes? And the cats – cats do nothing that doesn’t involve them and their wants. So I have no one to turn to but myself. I have to ask myself though – why do I need all these clothes?

I recently read an organization article about clothing. The lady, who was impeccably dressed in her photo (I bet she bought the outfit for the photo shoot), said you only need five casual outfits that are interchangeable. She also said you only need two dressy outfits. Yada, Yada –has she never been to a sale where you simply cannot pass up a hundred dollar blouse that is only a dollar? And what if I don’t feel like wearing what I have? If my choices are limited to seven outfits I am not going out. There must be a middle ground somewhere between too much and too little.

So, aside from Jean who has an entire room for a closet (jealousy is a terrible thing), how do you handle the wardrobe dilemma? I need a direction instead of wandering aimlessly between closets. Give me some suggestions on how to pare down or whatever will make my life easier. Suggestions anyone?


My dream closet - Sigh...

Monday, November 8, 2010

COMFORT


We have a rule here under the tulip tree. No negative blogs. We figure if we are in a bad mood, it doesn’t do a thing to improve our disposition to put it on paper, and you certainly don't want to hear us whine. Oh, we might go on what we hope is a funny rant about something that annoys us, but no whining, complaining, or "woe is me" because somebody else always has it worse.

That said, I haven't had a stellar weekend. Nothing terrible. No one's sick, hurt, or dead. Everybody who loved me Thursday still does, as far as I know. The writing is even going well. But while I was getting ready to go to Precious Angel's state playoff game Friday night, the dishwasher overflowed. Then Precious Angel's team lost. Then Saturday, my team lost. And there are a couple of trivial things that are annoying me that I won't go into here.

This morning in church, when I should have been thinking about the sermon, I decided I needed some comfort and I was going to get it for myself. These are the things that comfort me:

  • Homemade chicken and dumplings (they have to be mine; mine are best)
  • Flannel pajamas
  • A cup of plain old black Folgers coffee
  • Rereading a favorite book—maybe something by Julia Quinn or Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Then I made myself think about the good parts of my annoyances.

  • Dishwasher—at least the floor got clean.

  • Precious Angel's loss—he and his team comported themselves like gentleman. They lost like winners. The winning team comported themselves like gentlemen. They were gracious winners. The officials comported themselves like gentlemen and the calls were fair.

  • My team—well, it was hard but they also lost like winners. And really, how great is it when your team has such a winning tradition, that you have almost forgotten how to lose?

When it came time for communion, I turned to see a sweet neighborhood boy who I used to have in story time when I was a librarian, being helped into his wheelchair by his father to be rolled to the communion rail. It wasn't supposed to be that way. At nineteen, he was on his way home from work and went to sleep at the wheel. Yet his parents say how lucky they are that he can communicate and sit up in a regular chair. And I am lucky that he smiled and spoke to me this morning and that he made a joke to me a few weeks ago.

Puts it in prospective. But, I'm still going to take a little comfort.There's nothing wrong with that.

What comforts you when you are down?

Friday, November 5, 2010

WHAT ARE YOU READING?

Kathy is reading Bespelling Jane Austen, a book by four authors with Almost Persuaded, Northanger Castle, Blood and Prejudice, and Little to Hex Her.

Cheryl is reading
The Man Must Marry by Janet Chapman

Stephanie is reading Lady of the West by Linda Howard

Jean is reading nothing. Just finished working on Golden Heart Entry.

What are you reading?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Inner Critic


This past week Kathy and I were swapping compliments and agreeing that we both feel as if we view our writing very differently than others see it. Perhaps this is true of many or even most artists. An artist I know won't sell any of her work because she feels that she can't put a value on it. Though she doesn't think it is very good, she feel like it would be like giving her children away. She has a shed full of art because she is torn between the feeling that they are worthless and no one would want them and that they are so valuable that she can't part with them.

I believe that we all have internal voices that lift us up, criticize us, or settle us down. In fact, my inner voice is often Jean's voice telling me to, "Settle my a** down!" Over the years it is something that she has told me many, many, many times. I often hear my mom's voice telling me to lower my voice or not to laugh so loud. My mom liked peace and quiet; unfortunately, I am neither peaceful or quiet very often. I sometimes feel as if my daddy's voice is telling me that I can do it. Whatever it is, I just think my way through it. Daddy is a great believer in logic.

The inner critic for my writing talent doesn't really have a person's voice attached to it but it usually makes me feel as if I am a hard working poser. Sort of like the fact that I belong to the Jasper Track Club so that I can go to their cool parties but I don't really run. I go to the races and help at the registration table so that I can free up a real runner to run. I often feel like a worker bee who helps out so that the rest of you talented writers can have more time or fewer responsibilities so that you all have more time to write. Jean tells me all the time that I am a full fledged partner and some days I believe her.

What does your inner critic tell you?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I'm Tired...

"Willkommen. Bienvenue. Welcome. C'mon in," says Lili von Shtupp, the Teutonic Titwillow.

Have you seen, BLAZING SADDLES? Remember the scene where Madeline Kahn is on stage singing to all the men folk gathered in the saloon?




"Here I stand, the goddess of desire / Set men on fire / I have this power. / Morning, noon, and night, it's dwink and dancing / Some quick womancing / And then a shower. / Stage door Johnnies constantly suwwound me / They always hound me, with one wequest. / Who can satisfy their lustful habits? / I'm not a wabbit. / I need some west... I’m tired. So tired!”



Let me put my own spin on this, minus the risqué attire. I’m tired. 

"Let's face it. Evewything below the waist... is kaput!"

What am I tired of? I’m tired of the bickering that goes on around us. I’m tired of people speeding past me in the mornings, moving recklessly back and forth across lanes of traffic. I’m tired of my favorite television shows going on hiatus, leaving me with ‘Who killed JR’ to drive me mad when I go to sleep. I’m tired of having to wait, wait, wait… for my favorite author’s new book or that long awaited movie to come out at the theatre. I’m tired of muscles that rebel and a brain that limits thought. (Cue Zombie march and Michael Jackson’s THRILLER …)



Now that I’ve got your attention— I want you to know, I'm tired!

As a writer, I’m tired of seeing bookstores fold. Publishing houses, long revered, are closing or being incorporated by other houses. Rumors abound that e-books will demolish books in print. Chains of long-founded stores have closed their doors. Workers are getting laid off. Banks have gone under. The housing market has plummeted and I’m tired of waiting for someone to put a stop to this downward slope.

Am I turning into my grandmother? Is there some sort of generational gap that infiltrates a human being’s brain like an irreversible plague the older a person gets, finally exploding and causing total breakdown of the adjustment process? I’m tired just considering the ramifications.



"I'm finished. Fertig! Verfallen! Verlumpt! Verblunget! Verkackt!"

I’ve been dealing with some issues at work the past few weeks that are making me frazzled. Honestly, I’d rather be at home dealing with my own drama than having to sort through everybody else’s. Can’t we all just get along? Hey, I could be writing… but I'm tired.

Life does have a way of dealing out a strong or weak hand on any given day, doesn’t it? But I'd rather be the one calling the shots in front of my computer, creating conflict for my characters and leading them into an HEA that will be remembered for all time. ;)

What I need is one of those energy boost drinks to help me do it. Can I upsize to ‘duration lasts a lifetime’? Wouldn’t that be grand?


Life is a forest. Whether your tree is in a meadow or in a copse, you and I must learn how to bend when storms challenge the strength of our limbs. Each and every one of us must have a firm grasp on the seeds which have the potential to blossom into rosy futures. How we plant those seeds, where we plant them, what fertilizer we invest in, depends upon our mind-set, not upon the direction the wind blows or those who might stomp our seedlings down behind us. For when it comes to success, we cannot let fatigue, or temperment, hamper the dreams that inhabit our hearts. Success is a matter of the heart. It begins within like the root sprouting from a seed.

Are you tired? What are you tired of? And what do you think could lighten your load, especially leading into the holiday season?

As an aside, I’d like to give a shout out to Katharine Ashe, our previous guest blogger. Her book, SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS, has been nominated for the Best First Historical category by the Romantic Times.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Southern Dressing and It Ain't Clothes

Being incapacitated, I decided it would be a good time to sit down and make a list for Thanksgiving. I usually cook dinner for my Southern family every year but this time is different – the Yankees are coming! My husband’s family from New York is flying in on an airplane, not a broom (just kidding – I once said my mother-in-law flew on a broom and my son who was six at the time ask her if he could see it – family joke now). I’ve had Thanksgiving dinner with them and their food is different, good, but different. Well, this time they’ll get a true Southern Thanksgiving dinner. Surprise! No stuffing!

Aside from the turkey (any fool with an oven can bake a turkey, just ask Butterball), the centerpiece of a Southern Thanksgiving is the cornbread dressing. Every family south of the Mason-Dixon line has its own recipe for this culinary delight. One friend adds so much sage the dressing is green while another boils her dressing (This I would have to see – it conjures images of dropping the dressing like doughnuts into boiling water). Flavor ingredients vary by taste but there is one constant – cornbread. Southerners do like their cornbread.

The basic element, cornbread, is a staple for every Southern diet. You eat peas and cornbread or green beans and cornbread or simply cornbread in milk (yes, we do crumble cornbread into milk and eat it – don’t laugh, it’s good). I make my Thanksgiving cornbread with a lot more eggs and milk, stirring the concoction until it is a creamy yellow (from the eggs, not the meal). High cholesterol is part of the fun. I cook it a large iron skillet which I inherited from my grandmother (these skillets are worth their weight in gold in the South – none of the new ones can be seasoned like the ones that have had so much grease in them for years). I end up with a huge round pone of cornbread, the start of the dressing.

My earliest memory of Thanksgiving morning is of my grandmother, “Bigmama,” standing in the kitchen crumbling cornbread into a large bowl. She never would let us kids help saying there was no tellin’ what would end up in there if she did. We wanted to help. It looked like fun but then kids are stupid. I spent a few years crumbling the bread until I decided my hands could get stuck permanently in the claw position from handling so much cornbread. So, I dragged out the food processor and crammed chunks of cornbread into it. Viola’ – cornbread powder. My recipe also calls for slices of white bread that goes into the processor too. The beginning of the mixture is prepared.

I have a huge metal mixing bowl (by huge, I would estimate it can hold a gallon of water) that I use to mix the dressing in. It is never brought out of the cabinet except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In goes the cornbread and white bread, nicely crumbled, and the process begins. I cook the onions and celery, also nicely chopped by the food processor, in turkey broth. This mixture goes over the bread, along with six eggs, a large can of cream of chicken soup, a can of evaporated milk (Why you can’t just use plain milk is a mystery to me – it’s my great-grandmother’s recipe – why question greatness?), and more broth until it has the right consistency, a little more watery than oatmeal. I don’t use sage or poultry seasoning because no one in my family (especially the cook) likes it. Out comes Bigmama’s Corning Ware dish (another huge item) and I pour the mixture in it to set. I never cook it right away. It needs time to breathe, kinda like wine. After about thirty minutes of breathing, the dressing goes into a 325-degree oven for fifteen minutes then temperature is upped to 350. It cooks until it becomes firm to the touch (I am constantly touching it so as not to over cook it).

Then the fretting begins. Did I do it right? Will it be dry? Will it be too moist, too watery? I feel like Mrs. Bob Cratchit worrying over the pudding. Until…everyone proclaims it perfect, not too dry and not too moist – just right.

I suppose my Yankee family will expect stuffing. To be honest, I have no clue about how to stuff enough bread up a turkey’s a…um, rear end to feed fourteen people. Besides, I don’t think there’s any cornbread in stuffing and Southerners do like their cornbread.

What is the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving dinner? Do you make stuffing (and please tell me how you get it in the turkey) or dressing? What other dishes does your family expect with the meal? Share your recipes. I’m especially interested in Yankee recipes. I want them to feel welcomed, at least for dinner… I just won’t give up my cornbread though. After all, Southerners do like their cornbread.