Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, February 28, 2011

Believe Half of What You See And Blog About None Of It

I was reluctant to participate in a blog because of all the hot mess blogs I have read. I could not grasp why someone would want to write mean gossipy things and publish them on the World Wide Web, when an explosion of the seventh grade variety was sure to follow.

But now I understand.

Not long ago, I laid witness to something that I really, really want to blog about but I cannot. Why? Because I've got some sense and my blog sisters would kill me and feed me to the pigs. The place I live is called a city, but it just barely makes the cut. The circles I move in and out of are tiny. I've never really counted but I'd say about a dozen people comment on this blog, some regularly, some off and on. Lots more read it. I know this on account of "Stat Counter" but what I don't know is who they are. What's more, I don't care. After all, it's on the World Wide Web for, well, the world to see. But people stop me in the grocery store and tell me they read it. Sometimes I quiz them to make sure they aren't lying. They're not.

So I can't blog about every spectacle I run across—and believe me there are plenty. If the people providing the spectacle did not read it, someone they know would and then the phone calls would start. Before you could say, "Was that me she was talking about?", I'd have me a big old mess, junior high style.

Yet, I can taste that blog. The phrases run through my head like rain in a rusty downspout. My brain feels like razor blades and my metaphorical tongue is bloody from the biting. Even now, my fingers are twitching. But aside from not wanting any personal High Drama, I really don't want to make fun of people in a public forum and hurt their feelings. I learned a while back that pointing out the shortcomings of others is not so much a public service as it is just mean, not to mention that it leaves the door open for people to sling criticism my way that I may or may not be emotionally equipped to handle, depending on the day.

And as a writer, there's another reason to refrain from blogging about everything. Book fodder. If I give away all of my best ideas for free, what will I have to sell?

So I think I'll go write that blog and put in the "ideas" file.

I am supposed to end with a question, to encourage you to chime in. I can't think of one. That's okay. It's taken all of my energy to control myself and not to scream to the top of my lungs (virtually, of course) about the stupidity of mankind. So, if you have anything to say on this matter, please do. If not, tell me your favorite cookie. I might bake them for you.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Stephanie is reading Back in Black by Lori Foster

Jean is reading Georgia Bottoms by Mark Childress

Cheryl is reading Sole Survivor by Dean Koontz

Kathy is reading Golden Heart entries

What are you reading?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Healthly Habits

At the first of the year many of us thought about our habits and the changes  we might want to make in  to improve our lives.  Like many, I wanted to lose some weight but more than anything, I wanted to learn to live a healthier lifestyle.  To me, this didn't mean dieting, which implies that after the weight is lost, the diet ends.  I have done that dozens of times of over the years.  What I am hoping for this time is manageable life style changes that help me to feel better that I can continue for years.

In the past two months, I have been working with a friend  who is a personal trainer.  She has helped me to see that life is about balancing healthy habits and good choices.  Sure, everyone wants to go to the Mexican restaurant on Margarita Night to eat chips and have tasty treats. But does doing this every week fit into the goals that you have set for your life? Or would once a month give you the fun without losing sight of the goal of being healthier? The same goes with piling up on the couch after a hard day at work.  I LOVE to come home,  put my pajamas on, and settle in to read a hot romance.  Turns out, that is one of the ways that I gained 20 pounds in three months.  It is easy to do, but I am hoping for something different this year.  Oh, I still get into those jammies a few nights a month but the other nights will find me at the gym for at least an hour.  Do I succeed every day in making the healthiest choices? Of course not, but I think the key to success is that I keep trying.

What are some of the habits that you have that help keep you healthy mentally and/or psychically?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bonds of the South

Lately, I’ve been made more aware of the intrinsic bonds of friendship and how women relate to one another in the south. Surrounded by architectural beauty and the charm of an ageless rhythm still presiding in local mannerisms and speech, women in the south are limbs on an ancient tree sheltering each other from the ups and downs of this world, just like the old Oaks at Auburn.

For a southern woman, no heartache is too deep. A southern woman’s arms are far-reaching, able to douse the fiercest flame threatening the frailest branch. Time does not disrupt southern friendship. Death cannot deal the ultimate blow. Southern women love forever, unless scorned. Movies such as: Steel Magnolias, Practical Magic, Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood, Hope Floats, Sweet Home Alabama, and even Terms of Endearment, exemplify a true southern woman’s spirit.

As a former Army brat and wife, I’ve lived a nomadic lifestyle, staying in one place long enough to make close friendships only to have to say goodbye. What I’ve learned in all my travels and experiences is that the world is a very small place. People you think to never see again are the friends you’ll meet somewhere down the road, in places you cannot fathom.

Life is a banquet and friends are there with you to share the feast. Some friendships are meaty, some sweet as a sugary dessert. Others can be bitter, tart, tasteless, even abhorrent, leaving you with an iron grip on the toilet.

True friends are like a recipe you can’t live without. One example is the tried and true southerner’s macaroni and cheese dish that Jean shared this week. Cheryl discussed the ‘fan’tastical ways Tiger and Tide supporters are joining together for a single cause, saving 130 year old Oaks, landmarks at Auburn University. True friendships hold a combination of these traits. Friends never tire of each other and will do whatever it takes to see the other one happy.

There is never jealousy in true friendship. Envy, perhaps, but never jealousy. After all, a friend should always wish a true friend the success he/she has so diligently worked toward. For example: in 2010, when Alabama won the BCS Championship, Cheryl and I were happy for our friends, Jean and Stephanie. Likewise, the same thing happened between us this year as Auburn won the 2011 BCS Championship. Though perhaps a small comparison in the large scheme of things, southerners understand the importance of sportsmanship and friendship, and perhaps that bond has made our relationship stronger.

The word 'south' comes from Old English suth, Middle Low German sut, Old High German sund, and Old Icelandic sudhr, probably before 1300, according to the Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, The Origins of American English Words.

In The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, south is the direction of the earth's rotation, the direction to the right of sunrise, the cardinal point on a mariner's compass, 180 degrees clockwise from north. In the United States, south implies the states lying south of the Pennsylvania and the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi, including those that fought for the Confederacy against the Union in the Civil War.

Southern Living Magazine, Southern Comfort, Southern Hospitality, are just a few things most people recognize about the south. Here’s something more, a personal take on the word south. Are you ready to play?

S ─ Sunshine, seaside resorts, sipping tea or mint juleps, sharing, and simple ways.

O ─ Outside parties, open bars, okra, oranges, and Orange Beach.

U ─ Under the Tulip Tree, umbrellas, undercover heroes, and Upside-down Cake.

T ─ Tulip Trees, tree-lined drives, cool glasses of tea, antique treasures, and trust.

H ─Healing, helpers, Antebellum Homes, history, Heart of Dixie, and humble.

I'm ever grateful for the friends that have been my mariner's compass, especially those who share their time with me beneathe the Tulip Tree.

What does the word s-o-u-t-h and the friendships you enjoy mean to you?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Toomer's Trees

Our Grand Oaks sitting on Toomer's Corner.

The events of last week have left me sad and depressed. As all of you know, a man allegedly put 600 times the lethal dose of Tiburon, a defoliant, on the two Auburn oaks at Toomer’s Corner. Of course the news jumped on the fact that the man professed to be an Alabama fan and that he allegedly admitted on a national radio show to doing this heinous act a week after the Iron Bowl. I have seen accusations flying on the internet – Auburn and Alabama fans quick to point fingers at each other for all kinds of bad things. I say ENOUGH!

Toomer's Drugstore, an Auburn tradition (best lemonade in the world) which sits opposite to the oaks.

I cannot look at my dear friends, Jean and Stephanie, and accuse them of this reprehensible act just because they are Alabama fans. They are wonderful, loving people who do not have one ounce of malice in them, certainly not to harm something! The same goes for all Alabama fans, except for this one troubled man. I have repeatedly said that this act is NOT representative of the Alabama fans that I know. We cannot blame everyone who wears crimson and houndstooth. No acts of retribution will save our trees.

My sadness comes from my memories of these tall oaks. Sitting under them, studying, talking to friends and then watching my son do all the same things. Our trees are a tradition to the Auburn family and this act is like killing two of our family members. They are over 130 years old and have done no harm to anyone. I keep asking how someone could do this. They still stand proud and strong but for how long? Maybe they will be saved but there is little hope. We, as a family, cling to that hope.

My son in his cap and gown under the Toomer's oaks.

Alabama and Auburn have come together to try and provide some way to save our trees. In the spirit of the good people of this state, we must all join together against such despicable acts – we are all the same except for the colors we wear. We must not let one bad person taint our grand rivalry and reduce it to a war. We will not allow this! Auburn has set up a fund at www.ocm.auburn.edu/news/oaks_fund.html. Alabama has also set up a fund at www.facebook.com/TideforToomer’s. If you wish to speak out against such a crime and help us save our oaks, please donate something. We may not be able to save them but we will certainly give it an Auburn try.

I say from the bottom of my heart ROLL TIDE AND WAR EAGLE!!!!!

"Tiger" flying before an Auburn game. One of our traditions.

By Cheryl Crisona, AU Graduate 1980

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Should Not Have Said That

Careful what you say to kids. It will come back to haunt you. Much as I want to, I am seldom allowed to start with back story but this, after all, is a blog and my blog at that, so here I go.

My godson, Precious Angel has decided that after his senior year next year, that he wants to do his higher education matriculating at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. This is not a done deal but he was selected to attend a program there this summer and we are told that this is a good indication that unless he steals an airplane, they are likely to say to him, "Come on down." I am glad that his SATS, ACT, volunteer work, extra curricular activities, and perfect 4.0 GPA since kindergarten are affording him some opportunities but COLORADO? That's far. I've never even been to Colorado unless you count the time Stephanie, The Guy, and I had a layover there on the way to Washington and The Guy left his credit card in a restaurant called the Santa Fe Grill, which, by the way, should have been in New Mexico. And I don't. Count it that is. Anyway, about the higher education. I had not expected Alabama or Auburn, but I thought maybe Vandy or his daddy's alma mater, Georgia Tech. Who is going to boss him around? (Oh, wait. Military academy. Never mind.) But no sushi for his birthday. No calling me for lunch money, tennis racquet, or trigonometry book. No running in my door after football practice wanting a shower and some food.

Food. Now, that boy can eat, which makes me the perfect godmother for him because I can cook. Recently we got together for a potluck meal, as we often do. I took some barbecue. He was especially ravenous and had his buns ready before I got the pig butt pulled off the bone.

"You are awesome!" he said. "The most awesome person I know!" (Trust me. I am not. He knows many people more awesome than I am but he speaks in superlatives, which he picked up from me.) "This is the best barbecue I've ever had." (It was, in fact, exactly like every bite of barbecue he has ever put in his mouth.)

"You do know I bought it don't you?" I asked. "And the slaw."

"You could have made it," he said around a mouthful. "It would have been even better."

Well, maybe. IF I had a barbecue pit in my backyard, an endless supply of hickory wood, and an inclination to stand over said pit for hours on end, doing whatever it is you do to make barbecue happen. I do not. Some things are better homemade. Some things are better left to the experts, barbecue, petit fours, and puff pastry being just a few. But I didn't tell Precious Angel any of this. He's about the only one left on my list of people who have complete faith in me and the clock has got to be ticking on that.

"It would be even better if we had some of that macaroni and cheese," he said.

"You know," I said. "I've learned something new about macaroni and cheese. My friend Kathy clued me in to putting bacon in it."

He shuddered. He actually shuddered, as only a sixteen year boy will do at the thought food.

He swiped at his eyes with his Guatemala mission trip t-shirt sleeve. "I think I just tearred up a little." (He is very funny. He gets it from his daddy, mostly.)

"I'll make you some next week, baby." I said. (I call him baby but never in front of his friends. Precious Angel is only his blog name, designed to protect the child that he is. I do not call him that even to his face.)

"You are awesome! The most awesome person I know!"

Though I swore I wouldn't do it, though I know I shouldn't have, I opened my mouth and said, "Wonder how the macaroni and cheese in Colorado is going to be."

"Awesome!" He ate some more pig butt. "The most awesome ever because I think I will be getting some macaroni and cheese care packages."

Now, in spite of his love for the word awesome, the boy has a better than nodding acquaintance with the scientific and mathematical world around him. This comes from having a merit scholarship winning daddy and a mama who I have no doubt would be standing at a podium bossing other physicists around if she had not decided to teach high school physics and calculus so she would have more time to boss Precious Angel around. I'm pretty sure he understands safe food temperature and how long it takes the mail to run.

"I do not believe that macaroni and cheese, with or without bacon, is all that conducive to being sent in the U.S. mail," I told him.

And he looked at me dead on in the eye and said what I have been saying to him on a regular basis for the better part of his 16 years, 11 months and 5 days.

"People find a way to do what they want to."

Yeah, well.

Careful of your platitudes if you don't want to find yourself looking for a way to get macaroni and cheese across the country.

What have you said that came back to haunt you?

Macaroni and Cheese

1 pound macaroni. (Precious Angel likes shells.)

4 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons flour

2 cups of whole milk (If you use 2%, you'll be sorry. If you use skim, you'll wish you hadn't bothered with the whole thing.)

Cheese—I use 8 oz. of Velveeta, cubed, and about 12 oz. of grated sharp cheddar. You might like a little less cheddar. Taste it and see. Also, if I have any mozzarella, brie, Monterey Jack, parmesan, or just about anything except blue, hanging around, I throw it in. I'd put in the blue except The Guy hates it.)

Cook the macaroni. While that's going, make a white sauce. (Or a b├ęchamel, as it has become tony to say.) "How?" you say. Melt the butter but do not let it brown. Add flour and whisk for a couple minutes. Add the milk a little at a time until it's thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the cheese and stir until it melts.

Turn into a greased 9 X 13 pan and bake for about 30 minutes.

Serves 8-12 normal people or one football playing teenage boy.

(And no, I didn't forget to mention the salt. If you were making a white sauce for some other purpose, you would salt and pepper it when you add the flour but cheese is salty, so don't. Put in pepper if it suits you but I don't think pepper belongs in macaroni and cheese. Some put in dry mustard and nutmeg. I do not.)

Friday, February 18, 2011


I'm late this morning. Going to get fired for sure.

Cheryl is reading The Hound and the Falcon by Judith Tarr.

Kathy is still
working on 90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet

Stephanie is reading
Conflict of Interest, Harlequin Superromance by Anna Adams

Jean is reading Snowbound, also a Harlequin Superromance by Janice Kay Joahnson

What are you reading?

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Many of you already know that I hate a surprise. I don't just dislike them-;I actively abhor them! I believe that surprises are inherently bad--things like car wrecks, speeding tickets, death, and being dumped. Now in the last few years I have been trying to see that sometimes surprises can be good things like floral delivery, snow days, and unexpected friendships.

Yesterday I got an enormous surprise that was all positive! Just a few weeks ago I applied for a grant from a local television station to take my students on a huge field trip to the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center. Yesterday a newscaster from the television station came to visit my classroom to award me $1000 to use to pay for the trip! Of course, I hoped we would get the grant but I never dreamed that it would happen so quickly. It was an excellent surprise; even I had to admit that.

So now I will be on television tonight (Thursday) night. I suspect that I will sound very Southern and not like the way I look, but I am excited about seeing the surprised faces of all of my students when they realize what is going on.

What is the best surprise that you have ever received?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Will You Be Doing the Dirty Work or Hiring Out?

It’s that time of year again, a time when nature attempts to redirect my attention.

The color red blazes. Red symbolizes romance. Candy, flowers, cards, follow undying declarations of love. Hearts of lovers swell with affection. Love has its day. Valentine’s Day hang-over begins…

Welcome to no man’s land. Spring is still far away but pollen filters through the air. The mind, tricked into thinking spring is near, yearns for adventures out of doors. Sinuses ‘spring’ a leak, causing a myriad of problems for weeks on end, and evenings bring rise to the glorious song of the whippoorwill.

Hark, what silhouette on yonder horizon brings? Look up in the sky! It’s a plane! It’s Captain Jack! No. It’s Birds!

Black birds have been descending upon my lawn, searching for seeds, worms, anything nutritious. Like a cluster of pepper in white gravy, the fluctuating spectacle bubbles and streams, reminding bird watchers of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Will I get pecked to death, if I go check the mail? It’s so hard living in the country.

Birds like my porch, you see. Early in the morning, birds sing outside my bathroom window. The melodic chant holds promise, like the movie Mary Poppins or Enchanted. I catch myself singing, "Just a spoonful of sugar..." Warmer weather is but weeks away, however, proving my jovality senseless. How do birds understand time? Are they privy to the predictions of the Almanac? Are birds related to Punxsutawney Phil?

Intrigued, I study these marvels as they perch in numbers upon my climbing Honeysuckle, feathers plumped, scalp locks fanning in the breeze. Alerted, too, are my cats who sit like sentinels at the bottom of my windows, scrutinizing the sense of their prey. Even a cat seems to know an Indian winter when he sees one. And yet, against my will, these birds make my heart race at the thought of the colorful display my garden might provide if I gird my loins and go outside and do the work.

“Do not coerce me, heathen! I am not ready to venture out of doors!”

No, I’d much rather stretch out on the couch with a good romance, a research or writing book, under a soft, cozy blanket with a mug of hot tea or hot chocolate. But birds, however, are not to be appeased. They do not know or care how hard I must toil in the soil in order to save my flower beds. Still these birds cry for seed, which we willingly provide, in honor of the next generation of annuals and perennials.

Ode to neglected flower beds. “Medic!”

Just when you think nothing can fix your garden, mixed within last year’s branching skeletons are green sprigs of tulips, daffodils and creeping thrift. In a month’s time, clematis will begin to creep and leap, producing large blooms which will draw splendorous attention. Yes, not long from now, my out-of-doors will resemble a Shang-ri-la after Medics or Gnomes have ‘cleared’ the way. I remind myself at this time of year, without bees, there would be no honey, no pollen. Without birds, there would be no rich music to be heard, no volunteers to enhance the fertile scene around my home.

It’s that time of year again. Time to reflect on what makes love great, what sets a garden apart, and what makes a great book. Everything unto its season, right?
Right now, though I tremble at the thought of the work needed to prepare my garden, my muse is dropping seeds (story ideas) and creating a beautiful hybrid (plot). As my new book idea blackens out all else like pepper in white gravy, the ideas layer in my mind, like the bones of a garden. Medic! I call upon a writing friend who soothes the savage beast and assures the bones are ready to be fleshed out. With a little love, the seeds of my plot germinate and the new book takes form, historical romance. Will it be an annual or a perennial? That remains to be seen. But in the end, I’ll be able to stand back and enjoy the glorious spectacle, the colorful spectrum created by the written word.

Which garden are you interested in planting? Will it involve a Medic or a shovel? And will you be doing the dirty work or hiring out?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Patenting the Kiss

As writers we all love our romantic scenes. The hero leans in, the heroine is breathless, anticipation fills the air, their lips almost meet and….wait! Does this violate some patent law? Can you patent a kiss, especially a romantic kiss?

In one of the smartest marketing moves I have seen since the Chick-Fil-A cows, Harlequin has filed a seven-page patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. How brilliant is that? I was floored when I read it on AOL Weird News. According to the article, Harlequin’s application sets forth a three-step process to the romantic kiss. Step one – the kissers “deploy the muscles around the mouth…to shape their lips in a manner conducive to kissing.” Step two – “The Approach” is where the kissers bring their faces into “close proximity.” Step three – “The Seal” involves the lips touching in “varying degrees of pressure and intensity.” The application went on to note that the lips may “remain attached for an indeterminate period of time.” The article quoted Michelle Renaud, senior manager of Public Relations at Harlequin, as saying the intent of this application is to remind lovers of the lost art of romance. According to experts interviewed in the article, the application won’t get past the “novelty” stage because it doesn’t contain a new or interesting take on an existing invention. Harlequin states unequivocally that the “romantic kiss”, if they are granted the patent, will remain in the public domain, free to users everywhere!

This is a diagram of the romantic kiss taken from Harlequin's patent application. Aren't they a cute couple!

I applaud them on this. In these times when sex and love are equated everywhere, the public should be reminded about ROMANCE. Harlequin simply wanted to bring that to the attention of people – we could all use a little romance in our lives. Besides, it was so very savvy to do this. Just imagine what will happen if they are granted the patent! Kisses everywhere will have to have the Harlequin logo on them. Only kidding. If the kiss remains in the public domain, there is no need for that. But they could if they wanted to…

What do you think about patenting the romantic kiss? What other marketing ploys have you noticed lately, like my all-time favorite black and white cows?

Monday, February 14, 2011

And They Flew Through the Air with Greatest of Ease

I'm not blogging about Valentine's Day. What is there to say? The Guy will give me something small but great. (He's great that way.) I will give him something small and lame that he thinks is great. (He's great that way.) We'll eat something good, probably at home. Move on. I'm going to blog about something exciting.

I love, love, love snowboarding. Not actually doing it. Those who know me are, even now, laughing their bottoms off the ridiculous, not to mention suicidal, thought of that. I love watching it, Shaun White in particular. He is a cocky free spirited winner. If he's got a mean bone in is body, he doesn't show it and I don't want to know about it. So two weeks ago, The Guy and I sat watching the Winter X-Games. We'd DVR'd it, so as not to waste our time with the events we care not for, like, say, that skiing thing where they go down ramps but don't do any tricks.

The Guy had control of the remote (doesn't he just always) and I saw going past me on the screen in fast forward mode, a snowmobile going up a ramp and flipping in the air. The rider came off, seemingly on purpose, spun around some, and reseated himself.

"Hold up," I said. "What is that?" The Guy knew all about it. (Doesn't he just always?) It was the Snowmobile Best Trick event. It was born from motorcycle trick riding, much like snowboarding is the descendant of skateboarding.

These snowmobiles were painted up like giant radioactive insects and their riders wore matching helmets. I somehow got the idea that the helmets are required or these maniacs would have never considered owning such an uncalled for safety item,

I was entranced. Then I met the riders. Caleb and Colton Moore are from Texas. I do not know how they got their start in snowmobiling in a usually snow-free state, but there they were. After his second run, Caleb was not delighted with his score. He raised his hands in the air and seemed to asking the judges, "What do you want? I sailed over the moon, unseated myself, had tea with an angel, and landed back on that killing machine." He had a point. Or maybe he didn't. What do I know? I'd had only had five minutes of history with this sport at that point.

Then it was baby brother Colton's turn. Caleb jumped on Colton's snowmobile, Colton got on behind him, and here they went. Flipping, turning, kissing the stars, all at the same time.

The commentators were shocked into silence, so I had to ask The Guy, "Is that allowed?"

"I don't think so," he said. Then the commentators recovered from their shock and had plenty to say, none of it good. The judges concurred. It seems this is a solo event, and there is to be no tandem snowmobiling.

The Moore brothers did not care. That did not surprise me. Give a maniac a rule and stand back; it's going to get interesting. They took off their helmets, revealing their very pretty faces, and ran into the crowd, high fiving, howling at the moon, and kissing women.

I should not have liked that. I am all about following a rule and behaving in public. But there was just something about those boys. While searching for pictures of them for this blog, I ran up on their mama's blog. She wants people to pray for her boys.

And isn't that the way it always is with a hero in a romance?

Friday, February 11, 2011


Cheryl is reading Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig.

Stephanie is reading Hard to Handle by Lori Foster.

Kathy is reading We Are Not Alone by Kristen Lamb.

Jean is reading The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton.

What are you reading?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Almanac Told Me There Would Be Days Like These

Here we are with more snow it Alabama. It has been a crazy winter.

It is the most odd winter so far. There has been snow after snow after snow. It has also been colder here in Alabama at times than it was in in GREENLAND. Greenland for the love of Pete!!

A few months ago in the early fall, one of the members of our great RWA chapter. Heart of Dixie, told some of us that the almanac said we were in for a cold, bad winter. She is the type of person who seems to know this kind of thing so I believed her, but even then I didn't think there would be this much snow. I mean it's Alabama. How much snow could there be.? It turns out there can be inch after beautiful inch!

I mostly embrace the snow; after all, it gets me a Snow Day, at best, and a delayed start at worst. Not a bad choice. I noticed the other day that I am not enjoying this winter as much as I have in the past and turned my thoughts to trying to figure out why. After just a few days it occurred to me what the problem was. I miss my cool shoes. This crazy cold wet winter has meant that I have had to wear boots and "sensible" shoes more often. I am suffering from a strange type of seasonal disorder. I need to be able to wear my pretty shoes. I felt much better right away when I thought about the gorgeous shoes of summer! Now I know that I can give myself the little pick up I need anytime I want by just cranking up the heat and wearing some of my favorite pretty shoes around the house. In fact, I may just do that tomorrow when we have a delayed start.

What do you like to do to give yourself a little pick me up when you get the Winter Blues?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Doe, A Deer, A Female Deer

Sometimes you’re driving along, mind on a myriad of things you’ve got to do during the day, and something wicked this way comes. I’m not talking about the strange driving habits of drivers, women applying make-up, early risers grabbing breakfast, businessmen doing e-mail on iphones or blackberries, speed demons on crack or the slowest turtles on asphalt. I’m talking about images that stir your heart-strings, parents and siblings dropping their children off for school, elderly making an early day of it and driving into the city to shop, and gifts from God. You know them, the ones that jump out at you when you least expect it, like those who welcome stagnate drivers into the pack of traffic. And, I’m talking road kill. (Now if you’re a member of the Clampits, this would be a very pleasant gift indeed.)

It just so happens I'm not a Clampit. I passed skunks and raccoons today on the way to work, but had no such urge to stop and make Road Kill Stew. But what tugged my heartstrings was when I passed a deer lying dead in the median of the road, spread eagle on its stomach. Obviously, the doe had tried to cross the highway during the night or in the wee morning. Sadly, she only made it half-way across. So the obvious question I asked myself was why does a deer cross the road? This question may open up a truck load of jokes, but this poor deer got me to thinking. What was the deer after, better grass, water, bedding? Was the doe returning to her home from the wrong side of the road? Did she leave orphaned bambi’s in her wake? Better yet… what would life have been like had she not tried to cross?

Christine Glover blogged wonderfully about facing fear February 8th at: Digging Out of Distraction

Does the scenery change if we don’t look? Can our lives improve if we don’t make an effort? There are always things we can do to improve our lives. Self-help books cover bookstore shelves. How-to books and Idiot’s Guides supply the information society needs to tackle anything new/different. Do we dare ask ourselves whether we are we better off not learning?

Fear of growing, of stepping out and trying new things chains many of us to the basement. How do you break away from old habits? How do you summon the strength to move past something in your life that is holding you hostage? By simply confronting your fears head on. You might have the 'deer in the headlight look' at first, but given practice, you will become more nimble and better equiped to face every challenge.

I recently opened a fortune cookie that said, “Only the brave have fear.” This simple saying set me on a path of stepping out in faith. But even faith has its limits. What ifs have a tendency to carry the day. What if I don’t final in that contest? What if I get a rejection for this book I’ve poured my heart into? What if I never sell a book? And in keeping with Valentine’s month, what if I never find love again?

The answer is so simple it’s hard to see the truth. What if you never put yourself out there? How close will you be? What if you don’t try to get that luscious tall grass growing thickly on the meadow? You know the one you haven’t found a way to reach?

Will you sit down and salivate, dreaming of the rich texture of the grass within your teeth? Will you throw down paper and quill without taking a chance that someone, somewhere may ‘get it’ and enjoy the stories you write? You will never know unless you leap across the road or allow your stories to leap across the page. The only danger you have to fear is fear itself.

Channel the doe. Be nimble like a deer. Jump the road that blocks your path. Put fear in your rearview window. Fear has no control over you, over what you do or desire to do. Fear, in essence, is the car blocking your path, preventing you from reaching that 'thing' you want most in life.

What road have you been desperate to cross? Is there a ‘crick’ or a ‘creek’ in your way? Remember you can’t lead a horse to drink, but you can teach a horse to jump.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Language of Flowers

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I began thinking about floriography, the language of flowers. I thought you might like to know what your special person is actually saying with that huge flower arrangement he brings in or has delivered. I am quite sure he has no idea, consciously or subconsciously, about the meanings of those flowers. The lady at the florist just stuck them in a vase. Ah for the times when a man actually put some thought into it. Like Leopold did in “Kate and Leopold.” Sigh…

Although the meanings of flowers have been around for centuries, the Victorians took it to new heights. They sent secret messages to each other through the use of flowers. Tussie-Mussies (Nosegays as we call them today) were especially popular. The men actually put thought into having the flowers arranged to convey a very important message to their beloved. Imagine the woman receiving a bouquet and pulling out her little treatise on meanings to discover what the man was telling her. Romance was done a lot better in those days.

Any way, red roses seem to be the standard for modern men. Red roses imply passionate romantic love. I have always loved yellow roses, don’t know why, I just do. Darn it, they stand for friendship and devotion. An orange lily denotes passion while a yellow chrysanthemum means slighted love. Daisies stand for innocence. These are flowers I usually see in arrangements.

The old standbys, carnations, have many different meanings. A red carnation is like a red rose, it signifies deep romantic love. White stands for pure love and yellow means rejection or disdain. Geez, considering the arrangements you see today, a Victorian lady would alternate between manic highs and extreme lows trying to figure them out.

Lilacs mean first love. And my favorite, gardenia means a secret love. Sunflowers mean haughtiness or respect. I could go on and on about the meanings of each flower but the list is too long. The conclusion I have come to is, that in this day and age, just sending flowers means you love someone or you care, regardless of the meanings behind the genus of the bloom. I love flowers and getting them is always a treat.

There is one I quite forgot to mention and they did it in Victorian days - wilted or dead flowers. We think this is a new phenomena but it isn’t. Back in the nineteenth century men would send them to the women who rejected them, conveying that truly the relationship was over. So we didn’t come up with that idea, it’s been around a while. There are a few people I would like to send some too but…

What are your favorite flowers to receive? What do you like to do for Valentine’s Day? Is it an important day to you or do you pass it by without a thought?

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Can't Stand You, But Come On In And Stay Awhile

Being the football fan that I am, I bet you think I am going to talk about the Super Bowl today. You are wrong. I care not for pro football, though that could change. There was a time when I didn't like sushi. That changed. I used to be Baptist. So, I could take up with pro football, much like I took up with raw fish and the Methodists. But it's not today. Today, I'm going to talk about characters.

Every writer knows that characters have to be likable. It's a given but I've had an epiphany about it, courtesy of my good and lifelong friend, television.

I watch television and plenty of it, though, apart from a little ESPN, I don't turn it on during day. But come prime time, I am there. It's a good thing that I can do two things at once. In this house, there are 47 remotes and much machinery that I do not know the function of. The Guy runs that. I'm smart enough, but why bother? He's got a list of what I like and he makes it happen for me, much like I make pumpkin pie and macaroni and cheese happen for him.

The world at large used to apologize for watching television. Remember those lies?

"I only watch educational programs and the news."

"I only watch a couple of hours a week."

And the biggest lie of all: "I never watch."

Yeah, well. I don't watch game shows, soap operas, daytime talk shows, or reality shows but it's not because I think I'm above it. It's because of the suck in factor. I get sucked in. I get committed. I'm loyal. If I decided I was going to watch, say, "Dr. Oz", I would, by golly, watch "Dr. Oz". Every day. I would record it if I had to be out. I am the sort who watched "Happy Days" even after the shark jump. Okay, I'm not the sort. I am THE person, possibly the only one. Why? Because "Happy Days" was my show and I was loyal. I learned my lesson about reality shows after "Joe Millionaire" and "Amish in the City". Nobody should anticipate an upcoming "Joe Millionaire" episode like it's written on stone tablets.

Consequently, I have found myself continuing to watch some shows (three to be exact, though I'm not going to name them) that I should divorce because I hate the characters. I don't know why I keep watching unless it's because I hope they will all die fiery deaths and I want to see it. Either that or because in the Television Church of Jean, divorce is not allowed.

One of the shows is a sitcom and two are family dramas. Last week, after the sit com, I said to The Guy, "Do you like any of these people?" He thought a bit and named one. He had a point. I kind of liked that guy too, though I think he is the one we are not supposed to like. I brought up the characters on the other two shows. We admitted we hated all of them. They whine, gossip, lie, create high drama, and are generally just mean people with bad morals, worse politics, and pretty faces.

I might stop watching these shows and I might not. I haven't decided but this I do know: It is important that we write likable characters. Television can get away with what a book cannot. It's easy to sit an hour with nattering whiners on the screen, especially if you are working a crossword puzzle or proofreading at the same time. It is impossible to make it through page after page of distaste.

Let's talk about favorite character—the ones you've written and read.

I'll tell you mine at the end of the day.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Cheryl is reading The Harlequin by Laurall K. Hamilton

Kathy is reading We Are not Alone by Kristen Lamb

Stephanie is reading Strange Attractions by Emma Holly

Jean is reading Fancy Pants by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

What are you reading?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Twitter, Blogs and Facebook, oh my!

We have all been sucked into social networking. Some of us Twitter, most of us Facebook and if you are reading this you are participating in a blog. We live in a time where we can be connected to the world 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We can pull up our email on our phones while sitting in line at bank, check our news feed while waiting at the doctor's office and find a recipe while grocery shopping (Beware this probably violates Jean's grocery rules).

This all sounds great! It seems that we would be more productive since we can work whereever life takes us. We can search for agents, check out the market and even read the latest releases. We are limited only by our time, imaginations and service providers.

It would seem that with everything so accessible that I would get more accomplished but that doesn't really seem to be the case. I am not one to get sucked into hours on Facebook or surfing on the Inter-net. In fact, I have computer geek friend who often teases me about using the internet like a huge encyclopedia set. I get online, look up a fact or two and log off.

So my questions is where does my time go? If I have so many tools to make my life easier why am I still always running right up to deadlines?

How do you handle social network?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Post-its Are The Mostest

Forget to buy milk? Put it on a post it, stick it to your wallet and go.

Need to remember to pick up the dog from the kennel? Got a friend you want to send flowers to? Need a number to dial? Remind yourself with a post-it!

I love the opening scene in ROMANCING THE STONE, when Joan Wilder has just finished her novel. She steps into the kitchen to get a tissue, finds a post-it. Goes to the refrigerator, find another post-it. Very soon the audience sees that there are post-its everywhere. This scene convinces us that Joan has been so embroiled with her book that she’s obviously neglected to care for her immediate needs.

Why does this scene appeal to me? Well, it does come immediately after the heroic ending and happily ever after of her book, when Jesse swoops down and grabs the heroine, easily planting her upon the back of his horse as he gallops away into the sunset. Ah! Who doesn’t love a cowboy! But I digress…

The director of ROMANCING THE STONE knew that one scene could speak to the audience more than Joan finding a tissue for her nose. Simply and superbly done with a post-it.

I love post-its! I use them at work, at home, for important reminders and simple ones too. They come in a range of colors and in various sizes. I’ve got post-its that look like hearts, flowers, dialogue tags from Comic books, stars and the list goes on. I enjoy going to office stores just to see if they have post-its I’ve never seen or used before. Ah, it’s just occurred to me I might have a problem. Is there such a thing as PIA? (Post-its Anonymous?)

I’m a writer and therefore post-its mean a lot to me. My favorite thing to do with post-it notes is to fill my storyboard with them, each one complete with a plot directive to keep me on track. Yes, there’s something wonderful about seeing 20 chapters gridded in front of me with colored/shaped post-its filling the square gaps. And there’s something cataclysmic in staring at an empty storyboard when a book isn’t quite coming together… yet.

Post-its, (you know it’s coming don’t you?) are a metaphor for mankind. They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. They all have a sticky end, but can be molded to fit any design given the right environment. You can peel away the layers, use them as you wish, as if you were unveiling layers of the soul. Well-used paper corners can be bent like arthritic limbs. A stack of post-its can be thrummed like playing cards, or crumpled up and thrown away like homeless cast-a-ways. They can even be stacked in varying colors like sky-scrapers in cities across the world. People are drawn to certain colors and shapes just as people are drawn to brown or blue eyes, blond or brown hair, light or dark skin. Like neurons charging within a brain, this tiny or large piece of paper has the ability to trigger thought, inspire generations, and cause us to take heed of our surroundings.

Yes, an insignificant pad of sticky paper serves a greater purpose. And I truly believe in the hierarchy of officedom, business cannot be done without cherished little green, purple, hot pink, yellow, lime green, red, and blue friends… post-its. I know in my writing cave, I’ve got to have a colorful stack of crisp post-its ever at the ready.

What do you like to do with post-its? What are the wildest colors and shapes you’ve ever seen and what is the whackiest thing you've done with a post-it?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Get Out and About!

I have spoken many times about my hubby in my blogs. We’ve been married thirty years (a life sentence? Not really, more like a life of joy and memories). As you get older you tend to fall into routines, the same thing day-in and day-out. Our son is out of the house and we kind of fell into a rhythm of doing the same things on the weekend – go to Huntsville, shop for things we didn’t need, eat out and go home. Same stores, same restaurants…then suddenly we looked at each other and said, “Are we getting boring or what? We used to do things besides shop.” What did we do back then, before the child came along and consumed our lives?

Well, that was a quandary for us. We talked and decided that we needed to do some interesting day trips, something to get us out of the rut and learning. Now, I am a notorious list maker, Stephanie understands. I sat down and made a list of thing I wanted to do. Not to be hoggish, I told him to make a list, handing him a pad. I got one of those deer-in-the-headlight looks – “You want me to help?” Sure, this is a joint effort I told him so he immediately went to the Internet. I, however, knew of some local things I wanted to see. I bought a little pocket calendar and for each weekend I put my name or his to denote who was in charge of the trips. (He came up with the BCS game – I can’t top that!). We began…

This last weekend I discovered a local treasure that I wanted to share with all of you. Burritt on the Mountain. I’ve heard about the place, mostly from the local news, but I had never ventured up Monte Sano in Huntsville to take a look. It was my weekend so we went on Saturday. I knew next to nothing about it but it was a place on my list. There is an admission cost - $7.00 for adults and I think $5.00 a child. We paid for our stickers, grabbed a map and took off. Beginning with the mansion.

Dr. William Henry Burritt, a local Huntsville physician and inventor, died and left the mansion and 167 acres to the city of Huntsville. The mansion has fourteen rooms and is built in the shape of an X. What struck me the most about the house was it was mainly constructed of concrete (after a fire had burned the house the day he moved in, Dr. Burritt wanted it fire-proof). I also learned that he used hay bales as insulation, something people are doing today – everything old becomes new again. It was a 1930’s house, comfortable and to me, welcoming. I loved it!

Then we went out to wander the grounds and I became more excited. There are houses behind the mansion, dating from the 1840’s to about the 1890’s. They are furnished in the period and are absolutely charming! There were many artifacts in those houses which I could identify from seeing the things used when I was a child. It amazed my husband – he grew up in New York City and had no idea what a lot of the farm implements were. I was having a field day, reminiscing about my childhood and simply enjoying the exhibits. There is also an old country church which had the men’s and women’s doors (remember those? Maybe not, most of you are too young.) The pews were the exact same ones I have sat on many a day, anticipating the dinner on the grounds after a hell-fire and brimstone sermon. Ah, memories…

I also discovered that the museum sponsors events, more fun! They have demonstrations of things like basket weaving, a blacksmith, spinning, weaving and other things from daily life in the 1800’s. I want to go back and catch some of those. And, I found they are having a play this week called “Appalachian Witches” in the old church. It’s acapella singing covering the legends of the Appalachians from the viewpoints of three women. The cost is $20.00 a ticket. Sounds fun! (I hear my husband groaning now…) It’s a very well run and knowledge-oriented place which I intend to visit again. (More groaning – but it’s my weekend!)

There is also a barnyard, complete with a mule, goats, miniature horses, sheep and chickens. I noticed a lot of kids were really enjoying the animals. So if you have little ones, this might be entertaining for them.

Then, I discovered the gift shop, Josie’s (Named after Dr. Burritt’s wife). There were many interesting and novel things in there. I brought home a brick red Satsuma-type cat that is now lounging in my master bath. They also had some wonderful lotions and soap…perfect gifts for your friends. Plus, some pretty baubles… Hubby had to drag me out.

So if you are interested go to their website www.burrittonthemountain.com. Check out their events and what they offer. It’s really a wonderful place.

After dragging hubby around for most of the afternoon, we tried a Cajun restaurant that was new to us. A perfect end to a nice day (anyone who knows me, knows I love New Orleans). As I leave you, I want all of you to think of you daily lives. Have they become humdrum? Get up and out! Do different things. Shake it up.

Do you have any local places you might want to share with me? I need to fill some of my weekends. Hubby is still struggling…