Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Meth Queen

This Friday (March 30), I’m having diagnostic surgery. I’ve never had surgery or general anesthesia before, so pre-op was something of a “surprise.”

A better word might be shock. Don’t get me wrong. I have great love for modern medicine—the idea of blood letting is abhorrent to me. But when the intake administrator started “informing me about the procedure” and threw around words like resection and catheter, it sounds more like a medieval trial-by-ordeal.

As if anxiety by threat wasn’t enough, she told me that the nurse would take several vials of blood and asked to see my arm. I held it out. Her eyes went sparkly. She said, “Ooo, you have juicy veins. I’m going to do the blood draw.” I swallowed. Clearly, this woman had seen Twilight way too many times. Thankfully, the nurse in the room next door yelled, “I’m doing that blood draw.” Vampire admin chick yelled back. “But—” The nurse stuck her head into the room and said, “She’s mine.”

Having lost her venapuncture dominance, the admin started the pre-surgical questionnaire. “Have you ever had surgery before?” I said, “No.” Easy and simple. Of course, eight pages later my eyes were glazed. But we’d only just come to the interesting part. She focused on what non-foods I ingest. Medications, etc. It got a little old. One thing after another. My answers were “No, no, no...”  She scowled. Apparently, I was boring. And then she got a twinkle in her eyes. “What about herbs?”
Me: No.
Her: You don’t take chamomile?
Me: No.
Her: What about vitamins?
Me: Nope.
Her with accusation in her tone: You don’t take a multi-vitamin every morning?
Me: No.
She looked at Calvin, who shrugged and said, “No, she really doesn’t take anything.”
She sighed. “Okay.”
Then she giggled. “What about street drugs? Do you take any of those?”
I rolled my eyes. She and Calvin burst out laughing. Then they made jokes about me running a meth lab in my kitchen.

I survived the pre-op though I’m sure I’m known in the hospital as the Meth Queen. Then the other day, a post-it note showed up on my bathroom mirror reminding me “No meth before surgery.” Calvin has a bizarre sense of humor, but it makes me smile every time I see it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Queen of the Universe

I have a special role on the earth. Every Sunday I teach two and three year olds. I have 12 students (most of whom are two) and two sainted helpers, Miss Ariel who is the preventer of the crayon pounding and table kicking and Miss Leah whose extraordinary reflexes snag the little deserters before they make it out the door. And while teaching two and three year olds is a bit like herding cats, I love it. Although I must admit that I have been privileged to teach very articulate two and three year olds. (BTW, if you are the parent of a child in my class, don’t worry. Names are withheld to protect the guilty.)

One reason is that it is hilarious. Me to child: “Honey, why are you coloring Adam red and orange?” Child: “Because Adam is on fire for Eve.” Miss Ariel, Miss Leah, and I burst out laughing, and I tell the child, “Great idea.” Another time, one of my little girls asked to try on my heeled sandals, so I let her. Afterwards, I said, “I need my shoes back.” A tear streamed down her cheek. “I know and that makes me sad.”

Besides the fun, I love that my students are completely honest. Me to a child, “You need to sit in your seat.” Child, “What if I tell you no?” Me: “And what if I tell you that I’ll go get your Daddy.” Child considers the situation. “I think I’ll sit in my seat.” Me, “That would be wise.” Or, Me: “You may not color on the table, do you understand?” Child, “No, I don’t understand.” Me, “I think you do.” Child scowls and stops coloring on the table.

After a few skirmishes where we determine that I’m in charge of the class and they are not, they are exuberant with their love. Their faces smile at me, and it feels like I’m looking at the sun—and that’s not just when I’m passing out Winnie the Pooh cookies. In fact, I become the Queen of the Universe, their first teacher. Their first step into “being big.” In fact, one parent told me that when his son is unhappy with them he says, “I’m telling my Sunday school teacher on you.”

Yep, I love being Queen of the Universe.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Post-Modern Angst

My computer died. Well, hopefully not my laptop itself. I think it's my power cord. My son Jacob, who was born to be an electrical engineer, jury-rigged the cord, which gave me another hour or so. But now it's totally dead. And since laptops are fussy about powercords, I had to order one, and it won't be here until Monday. In the meantime, I'm mooching my family's computers. Right now, I'm using the desktop that Matt and Jake use. (BTW, do you know how many typing errors you make when you're using a weird keyboard?) And, of course, none of my bookmarks are saved on this computer. So I'm trying to remember passwords, links, etc. (I have a file of all my passwords, but it's on my computer. Really dumb mistake.) And who actually remembers their Facebook or Triberr passwords? And my Amazon author account--um, I guess I won't be checking my sales figures any time soon.

What makes it worse is that when my Google and Twitter accounts got hacked, I changed all the passwords to a really obscure, random alphanumeric combination. But I didn't change all my passwords everywhere...the trick is remembering which is what. And it's even harder to recall the passwords when the minions are tapping their feet saying, "Could you hurry, please? I have a lot of stuff to do."

Monday can't get here fast enough. And if it's not the powercord causing the problem...let's not go there.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Amazon Quarterfinalist

Amazon just announced the quarterfinalists in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. And I made the cut. Screwing Up Time is now in the quarterfinals! YAY!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Extended Warranties

I’ve never been a purchaser of extended warranties. When an appliance costs $400 and the extended warranty costs $250, it seems a waste of money. Because after five years when the appliance dies, they’ll fix your stove/dryer/etc., but then you have an appliance that’s five years old (and likely to soon die) whereas if you’d saved the $250 on the e.w. and then added another $150 (plus inflation) you’d have a brand new appliance. This makes sense to me. It’s great theory. And even one that I read in Consumer Reports. The problem is that it doesn’t work.

I’m on my third stove in the five and one half years that we’ve lived in this house. And I take really good care of my stoves. I think I use it more often than most people—at least three times a day. Actually, more when I count all the snacks the boys cook themselves.

But appliances aren’t really the point of this post. Bodies are. (Yeah, I know, what’s the connection? Sorry, you’ll have to wait for it.) There are nights when Cal and I wake up, like last night, and neither of us sleeps well because of pain. Once we’ve slept off the initial exhaustion, we toss and turn. And then we start making jokes. We’re really funny at 3am. (At least, we think so.) Last night, I told Cal that when we got married we should have bought extended warranties on each other. Don’t you love the idea of taking your body in and saying, “Yeah, the circuitry is fried. I want a replacement.” And I guess they do that with joints. Cal wants a spine replacement. What about you? What would you fix with an extended warranty?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Isn't It March?

February is the coldest month of the year. Normally, March and April are spring months with temperatures beginning in the 40s and as the months progress, ending in the 70s. But this year, we’ve jumped with both feet into summer. Yesterday, it was 91 degrees F. The kids wanted the air conditioner turned on. I resisted. But if today’s as hot as yesterday, I’ll cave.

And the heat, which has been unseasonable for a couple of weeks, has my gardens completely confused. Daffodils bloomed before crocuses. I have a bearded iris blooming—the tulips haven’t even started blooming yet. None of the seedlings I ordered have even arrived yet. They’re due tomorrow. But when I put them in the ground, they’re likely to get scorched.  Best case scenario, they’ll go into shock.

And, of course, the chance of frost doesn’t pass until April 18. So most likely, all the tender plants will come up and be frozen. And the weeds are having the most amazing celebration of spring. Normally, I can get them under control before they go crazy, but not this year. But I’ve been out every morning with my trowel in the cool morning wreaking my vengeance on them. I won’t let them mock me for much longer. Unless you consider the lawn (a weed patch that I call a lawn simply because I want to pretend it’s a verdant meadow instead of a rocky, clay slope that destroys everything but clover, chickweed, and dandelions). The lawn will mock me all summer. But I’ve decided to rise above it—that and send the boys out to mow. When the weeds are freshly mown and I squint my eyes, I can pretend it’s grass.

In spite of the weeds and heat, there’s one thing I’m loving. Open windows. (I am thankful that I don’t have pollen allergies. Most people in Chattanooga are bleary eyed and congested. I’ve heard all the Germans who moved here to manage the new VW plant are flooding allergists’ offices.) Last night, I slept with the windows, and the birds woke me this morning. Birds are soooo much better than alarm clocks.  If you aren’t in the frozen tundra of New England (sorry, Kirsten et al.), let the birds wake you tomorrow. It’s bliss.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Tag Party

The lovely S.A. Larson recently began a new kind of tag. A book tag. I thought it was a wonderful idea.

Here are the rules that she set up.

 Zah Rules: Please...

  • Post rules!
  • Tag a BOOK. Yup, it can be a traditionally or Indie published book or a short story in a published book. Want to tag a writer who doesn't have a book out yet? No problem. Tag an idea/beta read you've discussed with them or a blog post you savored. The only catch is you must let the writer know you've tagged them and be fairly confident they will keep the chain going. 
This could be a fabulous way to help traditional as well as Indie authors get the word out about their books!!!! It's also a way for word to travel about awesome bloggers, their posts, and their blogs. Won't you help!!

So I decided to play along. And I'm tagging the talented Kiwi writer, Melissa Pearl. I fell in love with her writing with the first book in her Time Spirit trilogy, Golden Blood. And after reading the next two books in the trilogy, Black Blood and Pure Blood, which were even better, I knew she was the author I wanted to tag. So without further ado. Melissa Pearl, you're tagged!

Here are links to her blog. Her Facebook fan page. She tweets at @MelissaPearlG

Monday, March 12, 2012


It’s now mid March. And I knew this day was coming. Today is the day that the March Madness brackets came out. The males in our house are penciling in their choices. Oops. Correction. We don’t use pencil; we use pen so erasing can’t be done.  When you ink in your choices, you are committed.

I’d tell you that the men are researching, but apparently they already have the requisite knowledge. And at meals, they discuss end of season surges, etc. I think men should come with tags, so you know what you’re getting. I had no idea that when we were dating and Cal told me that he played soccer and baseball on a college team, it actually meant something significant. He should have come with a tag that read, “I really like sports. I think it’s great fun to watch men throw balls around.” In response to Cal’s sports comment, I said, “Oh, I was asked to join the NCAA, division one champion women’s sailing team.” He was impressed at the time. Now I know that he probably thought, “Sports chick. Great.” The reality was different. The sailing team asked me to join because they were very desperate and I knew how to sail. In all fairness, I would’ve joined—they had the sleekest yacht around—but my work schedule didn’t allow for sailing practice. Let alone regattas.

Later on, Cal discovered that I was present in a sailboat that hit a yacht. But I was NOT sailing at the time. I was yelling, “Come about, come about!” We still hit. But it was a glancing smack. A little spit and rubbing took the scrape mark off the yacht.

So that’s my encounter with organized sports (except that women’s softball team where I got run over at home plate). And now I'm faced with bracketology. My method is glancing at my bracket printout and filling it in, randomly choosing teams whose names seem nice. But don’t put my method down. Most years I get at least three of the Final Four. Right now, I’m trying to pick out a Cinderella team. I briefly considered Harvard, but as Cal says, “They calculated their chances, and they’re not betting on themselves.” In the meantime, I’m leaning toward Long Beach State. Not because I think they have a chance, but Cal’s mom got her BA there. So that’s a good enough reason for me. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Number One

This morning I had an email from a friend, Melissa Pearl (writer of the Time Spirit trilogy) entitled “Just Noticed!!” I opened it, thinking she had some great news to share. She’s had a lot of novel excitement lately—book readings, library interest, etc. But what she notice wasn’t anything about her book, it was about mine.

I’m not one of those authors who knows all the ins and outs of Amazon and their tags, lists, discussions, etc. I always feel overwhelmed by the wealth of information. Plus, it just gives me more to get stressed about. But today it was good news. My book was listed number one in young adult time travel. Melissa was giddy for me. And, of course, I couldn’t find it. So I figured I must have gotten tossed off the list—list rankings on Amazon change faster than the weather. And then, Matt sat at my computer. Click. Type. Click. “Here it is.” And here it is. (You can click on it if you want to see it enlarged.)

I’m beginning to feel like one of those pathetic relatives that everyone snickers about behind their back and says, “Bless her heart, she’s so ignorant.” And what will I do when all the kids move away from home? I don’t want to be the annoying relative who calls and says, “How do I...” I keep telling myself that once I have more time, I’ll experiment and figure out how it all works. But then I remember how I emailed everyone I’ve ever known/contacted including numerous NY literary agents and asked them to be my GoodReads friend. I’m guessing I’d rather be the whining relative than the “scary” author who wants to be “friends” with strangers.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I'm Back

I’m back. Sort of. I have the energy level of a wet dishcloth, but I’ve begun to care about the disrepair that the house has fallen into. That’s the first sign of health.

From my spot on the couch next to a box of tissues, a massive mug of hot tea, and a blanket, I’ve begun to survey and assess. The minions have made attempts to keep up with things. They’ve done dishes and folded laundry. Albeit with mixed results. Cal has complained that whoever folds laundry ought to know that bras don’t belong to him.

I’ve noticed that Matthew is out of bread. I know that sounds like a grocery store issue, but Matthew eats gluten-free bread. The only commercially available GF bread tastes like shoe leather and could be used as a projectile in a catapult. So I make it from scratch. It involves xathan gum (i.e., bacteria poop) and four types of flour (brown rice, tapioca, corn starch, and soy), which are so fine that merely disturbing them engulfs the entire kitchen in a white haze that takes days to settle. So that’s really high on my to-do list of priorities. What Matt doesn’t know is that he’s going to mix the dough today. And maybe Luke will wipe down the kitchen—it’s good to have one meticulous child.

The other thing I’ve noticed from the couch is the lawn. The couch is next to a massive plate glass window that stretches to the floor. While I’ve enjoyed looking at the spring flowers, I’ve noticed that the lawn is a patchwork of clover, dandelions, and vaguely dormant grass. I hatched an idea. (This is the problem with being sick, too much time to think.) Since the grass was dormant, I ought to be able to spray the weeds with Round-up. Dead weeds, live grass. I Googled my nefarious scheme. It was theoretically possible. The caveat was making sure the grass was really dormant, not just almost dormant. The article suggested trying to burn a patch of dormant grass. If it burns, it’s dormant. I pondered this suggestion for two minutes. Then I decided that if I actually tried this, my family would deem me too sick for rational thought and I’d be banished to bed for the remainder of my illness. So, I didn’t start a grass fire. However, I did spray Round-up with wild abandon. (Yes, I was sick while I did it—it was an opportunity for fresh air.)

Luke saw me while I was spraying. He said, “What are you doing?” Me: “Killing the weeds in the grass.” Luke: “Then all we’ll have left is a mud patch.” Of course, I’ll get the last laugh because he is the child who will be mowing said weeds all summer long.

So now I have laundry, bread making, tidying, and spraying weeds (Yes, the weeds are dying. It remains to be seen if the dormant grass is still alive. Otherwise, we will have a mud patch) on my to-do list. I think it’s time to drink a hot toddy and take a nap.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Still Sick

To those of you visiting and hoping to find a new post today, sorry! I'm still sick. And I don't think I could do justice to a post today. (I was feeling better-ish yesterday, and I guess I overdid it.) Hopefully, I'll be better by Wednesday.

Friday, March 2, 2012

This Chapter Will Kill

If you follow my book blog, you’ve seen my happy announcements about the current edit of the Screwing Up Time sequel. Everything was moving along at a nice clip. I told my primary betas (my alpha betas) that I’d be ready to give them the book sometime next week....I was na├»ve.

I’d yet to meet the chapter from Gehenna. The bog of writerly progress. The editing equivalent of writer’s block. Granted, it is an overlong chapter. So I could see it taking longer than the other chapters. But I had steeled my resolve. I’d locked and loaded my writerly skills: Red pen? Check. Outline to verify earlier plot twists? Check. Kick-the-chapter’s-butt attitude? Check.

Then the chapter kicked back. I read the opening paragraphs. I swallowed. The most boring tripe ever written. But that’s okay. That’s why there’s editing. So I fixed the opening. Then I read it again the next day. YAWN. So I fixed it again. And refused to re-read it the next day. I moved on. The next scene read clunky. The plot was there, but it read like a plot outline. In response, I played a game of Free Cell. (For non-writers, the point of playing Free Cell is to win the game and take that confidence into the edit. Pathetic, I know. But you do what works. I don’t call it “procrastination.” I call it “preparation”.) Afterwards, I went back to the clunky scene and made it less clunky-ish. I decided not to go back and reread.

The next scene was also sleep inducing—of course, climbing a staircase is never a hot plot point, but a writer must do what she can. Normally, you include some character’s emotional reveal. But these are teenage boys (not girls), and they don’t share their emotions as they tread the steps. I did what I could and promised myself that I’d rework it later.

After two games of Free Cell (I lost the first one and you can only edit with a sense of well-being), I read the next scene, which was one of the emotional high points of the novel. The scene was two paragraphs long. What was I thinking? I can understand this mistake in a first draft because I’m an underwriter. But I’d already edited this chapter once before. What was wrong with me then?! I needed multiple games of Free Cell and squares of chocolate to get my writing mojo back.

So now I’m just over halfway through this chapter—I’m beginning to think that it reproduces during the night. Every day I work on it, there seem to be more pages to work on. Then, this morning I woke up with a nasty cold. (Which I’ve already had this season.) And I think it’s the chapter. It’s trying to kill me. And I’m being to feel like I want to succumb.