Wired’s Gear of the Year tells you what’s techno-cool, and Booklist Online’s Top Ten Romance Novels of 2011 tells you what really hot. And summarizes all those flicks you planned to see and didn’t so your eyes don’t glaze over when someone mentions “We Bought a Zoo.”
Friday, December 30, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Could we craft a better recipe for disappointment?
Unless we set attainable goals, we doom ourselves to failure, and by "attainable" I mean doable despite our responsibilities, real or perceived talents, and a mere twenty-four hours in a day.
Sadly, we'll have to scratch "Win an Emmy" and "Serve on City Council" from our to-do lists since we don't control anyone's vote but our own. We're free, however, to write a script we think is Emmy-worthy. We can run for City Council.
Rather than swear to lose twenty pounds in 2012, we'll promise ourselves to eat mindfully and swap fruit for cake and cookies. Instead of vowing to complete a marathon in less than four hours, we'll vow to train consistently so we stand a chance of crossing the finish line.
We can't control our popularity, but we can strive to be a good friend. We can't guarantee our kids will turn into responsible adults, but we can model grown-up behavior.
These tips are so obvious, it probably sounds as if I'm talking down to you. In fact, I'm talking to myself. Year after year, I make New Year's promises that qualify as wishes on stars rather than attainable-by-me resolutions. When will I learn?
Every year arrives ripe with promise. In 2012, I'm going to work harder at the things I can do: finish one manuscript and start another; walk in the park almost every day; be a better friend. (Anne Roberts, if you're reading this, I'm sorry I went underground between Thanksgiving and Christmas.)
What will you do in 2012?
Monday, December 26, 2011
It’s Boxing Day. Okay, that’s not a holiday we celebrate in the US, but so what? I’m adopting it nevertheless. If the day after Christmas has a name, why not use it?
Friday, December 23, 2011
Let August McLaughlin sing to you. This original holiday tune will lift your spirits.
Still missing your merry? Fabio Bueno dares you to watch these babbling babies without cracking a smile.
Take a breath, close your eyes, and let Kecia Adams spirit you back to that special, shining Christmas when the gift you'd longed for waited under the tree.
Linus and Myndi Shafer know Christmas isn't about gifts, and toys and menus.
If your celebration turns cloying, Lark Howard has the antidote: action movies. She's made a list and checked it twice.
The best stress reducers are useless against heartbreak and grief. Debra Kristi has practical suggestions for those who have lost a loved one.
When friends and family get together, all may not be calm and bright. Prudence MacLeod offers tips on dealing with the drama lovers among us.
Holiday time triggers Kay Hudson's memories of a long, happy marriage, and she reveals the attitude that helped her survive and eventually thrive as a widow.
Whether you love or dread Christmas, most of us are glad it comes but once a year. But what if Santa were real? Marcy Kennedy believes we'd be better for it.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
DIE HARD 2 – A year later, Bruce has to battle terrorists at Dulles Airport on Christmas Eve. Can you say Bah, Humbug?
LETHAL WEAPON – Let’s ignore that Mel gets more like Briggs all the time and just enjoy him as the young, good-looking, crazy cop shooting up a Christmas tree lot.
KISS KISS BANG BANG – Robert Downey, Jr. as a thief-accidentally-turned-movie-detective is coached by Val Kilmer as private eye Gay Perry. This one may be an acquired taste. Just saying.
LONG KISS GOODNIGHT – Geena Davis plays a housewife with amnesia who starts to remember she’s an assassin. Who knew? Isn’t that a holiday surprise?
BATMAN RETURNS – Not my favorite Batman—that would be Christian Bale—but this one is amusing in a camp sort of way.
THE LAST BOY SCOUT – Bruce Willis again, (yeah, he's one of my favorites!!), this time with Damon Wayans and some of the best one-liners of all time.
Do you have any favorites to add? I’d love to hear your suggestions.
Monday, December 19, 2011
At first, I couldn't figure out what I disliked about the app's concept. After all, I shop online and regularly compare prices at a handful of sites before clicking "purchase now." I check grocery-store circulars before I head to my neighborhood HEB or Kroger's and frequently visit both in the same week. (Neither is far, so I'm not racking up miles in the car to save a dime.) I believe in comparison shopping.
What's more, I've cooed about my Amazon Prime membership in this space and love my Kindle.
So, what the heck irks me about Amazon's price-comparison app?
I suspect consumers who go into brick-and-mortar stores, pick up items, and scan them into the app have no intention of buying from the stores they entered. Their visits are made simply to trigger lower prices from Amazon. Yet, those same consumers eyeball, try out, even fondle the items in question. Employee of the stores may answer questions and demonstrate features.
Granted it's the employees' job to answer questions and demonstrate features. When Hubs and I went shopping for a new refrigerator, we visited at least three brick-and-mortar stores before we bought at a fourth. At each, we questioned salespeople, opened and closed fridge doors, checked butter compartments, and examined finishes. In retrospect, did we waste salespeople's time at three out of four stores? Yes, but our intention at each was to buy there if we found the right fridge at the right price. Intention matters.
Amazon's price-comparison app caters to consumers who do little or no prior research and price-checking, and it sends them into brick-and-mortar stores they have little or no intention of patronizing,
Give me Prime membership and the Kindle, Amazon. Keep your app. I'm a bargain-hunter, not a jerk.
Friday, December 16, 2011
|St. Croix Boat Parade|
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
To a recent college grad:
"Your parents spent a fortune on your education and you're temping at Macy's?"
To an middle-aged engineer:
"I hear you finished a job in Arizona and are due to start another in Illinois. When are you going to demand an assignment in town? Kids need both parents."
To a career-changer:
"You'll be competing with kids in their twenties. They'll chew you up and spit you out."
To a dieter:
"I thought you loved my sopapilla cheesecake? I made it for you."
To a teacher:
"You've got some racket: winter break, spring break, summers off. And you wonder why kids can't pass standardized tests?"
To a stay-at-home-mom:
"Now that Noah's two, I guess you're looking for a real job."
To a doctor:
"I've got a throbbing pain in my upper arm. Take a look at my elbow and tell me what you think."
To a lawyer:
"Let's say, hypothetically, I were to incorporate a business."
To a banker:
"Look at you, hobnobbing with the 99 percent. What, Mustique Island's booked this weekend?"
To your boss:
"A honey-baked ham? I'd rather have a gift card."
To a writer:
"Amanda Hocking self-pubbed and made two million dollars. What are you waiting for?"
Monday, December 12, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
Earlier this week, I suggested you check out seven bloggers who are doing interesting, funny, and/or inspiring work. Today, I'm giving a shout-out to more who possess distinct and memorable voices.
Janelle Madigan http://janellemadigan.com/ Janelle's fiction skews paranormal, but her blog is about everything that catches her interest: music that transports the listener, women's reproductive rights, creativity, and authors + contracts.
Jennifer Groepl http://jennifer-groepl.blogspot.com/ Most of Jennifer's blog topics are writing related, and her passion for the craft is clear, even when she wonders whether she should stop aiming for publication and write to please herself.
August McLaughlin http://augustmclaughlin.wordpress.com/ August is wise beyond her years but isn't a know-it-all. She has the heart of a seeker and takes her blog readers along on a quest for meaning.
Drunk Writer Talk http://www.drunkwritertalk.blogspot.com/ This is a group blog, yet individual voices ring out. What's more, despite the blog's name, the five women who write it don't let alcohol cloud their thinking. Come here for clear-eyed movie and book reviews and for insight into storytelling, book promotion, and shoes.
Sheila Seabrook http://womenunplugged.wordpress.com/ Women Unplugged is another group blog, and Sheila posts every other Wednesday. She's in good company with five others, all of whom are members of the Women's Fiction chapter of RWA. Sheila's recent posts have been as diverse as the recipe for Poppycock, her late father's favorite holiday snack, to taking her mom shopping for a burial plot.
Joan Reeves http://slingwords.blogspot.com/ Joan offers tips for newbie and old-hand writers, author interviews, and advice for indie authors. Each post ends with an insightful and punchy "Takeaway Truth."
Julie Hedlund http://writeupmylife.com/ Julie's a children's book writer with an appetite for challenges. In 2012, she'll draft twelve picture books in twelve months. At the moment, she's made it through week four of Artist's Way and came up with thirty picture-book ideas in thirty days. Her blog posts are honest takes on these challenges—and on the ones life tosses to us.
Again, big thanks to Lynn Kelley who handed me The Versatile Blogger award with the stipulation I pass it on. It's been an honor to hand off this baton.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
What keeps you going when times are tough and discouraging?
Monday, December 5, 2011
Lynn Kelley, children's book author (Curse at Zala Manor. Secret of Haunted Bog) and creator of the Random Acts of Weirdness blog has conferred upon me the Versatile Blogger Award. Whoa! I'm thrilled although my so-called versatility is due to an inability to focus rather than talent.
Like most awards, this one comes with rules and responsibilities. For the Versatile Blogger Award, the rules are as follows:
Thank the blogger who nominated you!
Add the award pic to your blog post.
Nominate fifteen fellow bloggers and let them know about it!
Share seven random things about yourself.
I'll nominate seven bloggers today and eight more Friday. By dividing up my nominations, I give myself time and space to able to say a few words about each pick. But, before we get to my picks, here are seven random things you didn't know (and may not have wanted to know) about me:
1. I'm a firstborn. The eldest child's oft-noted quest for perfection doesn't extend to my appearance or housekeeping, but it affects my writing. The trait's good in that I aim high, and bad in that I always fall short.
2. The New York Times Sunday magazine has a feature called "Diagnosis" that introduces a medical patient and his ailment and shows the steps leading to a diagnosis. The feature could be the Rosetta Stone the way I pore over it and try to out-think the medical professionals even though I'm a wuss who has to close her eyes every time a TV surgeon cuts into a patient. Not surprisingly, I'm the kind of viewer who shouts out diagnosis suggestions to TV's Dr. Gregory House. No wonder the guy's cranky.
3. Amazon Prime member? C'est moi. Some people think a $79 per year Prime membership is for those with money to burn, but it's for forgetful types who don't remember the birthdays and special occasions of far-flung friends and relations until it's too late for anything but second-day shipping. My Prime membership pays for itself in saved shipping costs, and, at one point, I feared Amazon wouldn't let me renew because of the number of boxes I had it ship hither and yon. My husband set me straight. "You think Amazon won't renew your membership because you bought too much?"
4. I have ten place settings of Fiestaware in ten different colors. When I reach into the cabinet and pull out a cup for my morning coffee, I never know which color I'm going to get. Will it be turquoise, plum, chocolate?
5. When we moved into our first apartment, I told my husband we'd make all the furniture/decorating decisions together except one: I got to decide where and what pictures we put on the walls.
6. I've lived more years in Texas than in my home state of New Jersey.
7. When Older Daughter was in scouting, she insisted I accompany her troop on camping trips. I hated the first one, but then I fell for sleeping in tents, cooking over campfires, and hiking in the woods. When OD left Girl Scouts, I was the one who missed sleeping under the stars.
Enough about me! Let me introduce you to seven blogs (Introductions to the remaining eight will come soon.) by writers who have inspired me, and/or made me laugh, think, and nod in recognition.
· Tim L. O'Brien's Static in the Airwaves Tim is a writer, husband, father, and friend who chronicles events such as as the reunion of buddies since high school and reflects on subjects that range from how to raise kids who read to the news his son-in-law is deploying to Afghanistan.
· Kiss and Thrill is a new blog started by the 2011 RWA Golden Heart finalists in romantic suspense. The blog's inaugural author interview was with RS best-seller Allison Brennan, and an interview with Brenda Novak is set for tomorrow, December 6. I'm waving at two of the blog's writers: Sarah Andre and Lena Diaz.
· Wild, Wicked, and Wacky Suzan Harden is self-published and proud of it. Her blog offers information for those interested in the indie route, along with movie reviews, guest interviews, song clips, and more. She's a lawyer by training and knows her Gaga from her gag order.
· Fiorella Plum is the nom de plume of an Austin-area blogger who posts every day on subjects ranging from her pastor's reaction to a mugger to what's new in the Luann comic strip.
· Kay Hudson writes about whatever strikes her fancy: books, television, and cats that fall asleep in the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey.
· Jansen Schmidt's Blogging from the Edge of Eternity is new, just two entries so far, but the posts capture Schmidt's sly humor and enjoyment of life.
· Kecia's Blog is the work of Kecia Adams, a writer, editor, and Navy veteran. The blog's new, but the first post is the POV of a thoughtful mom, and the second is that of a thoughtful citizen of the world.
Hope you like the blogs mentioned above. Lynn, thanks a million for the award.
Friday, December 2, 2011
I’ve been to Paris in every month of the year. June and July are prime tourist months--in August Parisians leave, things close and the least savvy tourists show up—but I avoid the City if Lights in summer, along with the crowds and heat (air-conditioning is still a novelty there). Spring and fall are lovely times to wander the streets and visit the famous, infamous and countless free sights. Still, there’s something about being there in the winter that makes me feel like a Parisian.
We always rent a flat in a residential section of the 6th or 7th arrondissement because the scale of the streets and buildings of this old part of the city are so much more intimate than the grand boulevards across the Seine. I love to shop in the food hall of Le Bon Marche to stock our kitchen and run out for a baguette or pain aux raisins each morning as the neighbors do. When tourists are scarce, everyone treats you like you belong there. The pace is slower and the shopkeepers friendlier.
As for the city’s famous tourist sites, without the hoards--busload after busload of foreigners descend on these places for morning to night in other months—one can wander alone through galleries in the Louvre, tour sections of Versailles the general public never sees, and walk the deserted Luxembourg Gardens in the magical winter sunshine.
Except for one cold snap many years ago, the winter temperatures are not usually harsh—more Washington D.C. than Boston. And the country-wide mid-January sales are an extravagant experience I’m glad I’ve done once. But sitting in front of a blazing fire sipping a warm cognac, being a part of French city life if only for a short time—that’s why I love Paris in the winter.
Do you have a favorite winter travel destination? What is it and why do you love it?
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
1. Performance of Maria Bello in Prime Suspect She's so tightly wound, she'll take out a city street if she snaps, but she's a dogged detective. Bello happens to resemble Older Daughter, so I like her and worry she's skipping meals. Let's hope NBC doesn't cancel the show.
2. The Soldier's Wife, Margaret LeRoy This book, set on the island of Guernsey during the German Occupation, challenged my preconceptions. At its end, I asked myself which character had lost the most. The answer surprised me.
3. Gavin & Stacy The secondary characters steal every scene in this British rom/com series. (See publicity picture at top, left.) Seasons one and two are available at Netflix, via streaming and DVD, plus episodes are up on YouTube and other sites. Tidy.
4. Cool weather Hubs and I walked together Sunday morning. He layered up. For the first time this fall, I did NOT say, "Hot! It's so hot." He checked the temp: 48 degrees. My definition of perfect.
5. Men who name stray cats When I went out of town earlier this month, Hubs reluctantly agreed to feed the stray cat I've named Lucky along with Lucky's occasional sidekick, a black and white tabby. When I returned, Hubs mentioned "Checkers." I was baffled. "What's that?" Hubs shrugged. "Lucky's friend."
6. Until There Was You, Kristan Higgins I bought this book as an airplane read, figuring it would be light-hearted and funny. It was all that and packed a sneaky emotional wallop. I wiped away tears at the end, which is embarrassing and makes flight attendants uncomfortable. It may be my favorite of Higgins' books, and she's an auto-buy for me.
7. Daughters who come to dinner and stay for six hours Hubs and I don't qualify as witty conversationalists and we're too creaky to do snark effectively, but now that the kids are launched, they don't hate hanging with us. I credit dessert, the never-fail lure.
8. Fotofest International Discoveries III Through December 22, twelve photographers from eight countries are exhibiting at Fotofest's headquarters at 1113 Vine Street, Houston, Texas 77002 (A shade north and east of the University of Houston/Downtown's main building.) The show wowed me, it's free, and the gallery space, in a renovated warehouse, is stunning. For details and a peek at some of the photos on exhibit, go here.
9. Rain Houston's November rainfall edged into the above-average category. Hooray! Although we're roughly twenty inches below normal for the year, the grass is green again, and birds don't have to drink from saucers under potted plants.
10. WANA 1011 Kristen Lamb's sixty-day online course on blogging and mastering social media is nearing an end, and I've learned a lot. More importantly, I've "met" and come to appreciate the work of dozens of writers who are balancing fiction and non-fiction writing, families, day jobs, and blogs. If you're a writer reluctant to wade into social media waters, read We Are Not Alone, the Writer's Guide to Social Media. Learn more here.
Your turn: Name one of your favorite things and tell me why it's special. (I'm not asking out of pure nosiness; I want to expand my list by trying out the things you like.)
Monday, November 28, 2011
Seconds later, a voice came over a loudspeaker announcing what the train's next stop would be. Such announcements are normal, expected even, but this one astonished me. Why? I understood it. Later, I understood a voice over a loudspeaker announce final boarding for a flight to Orlando.
Thousands of passengers hear announcements like those every day, and most wish they could block them out, so why my astonishment? Back in July, I got a cochlear implant. A CI is defined by Wikipedia as "a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing." Mine was activated in August, and I wrote my first impressions of hearing with it here.
I had hoped the implant would provide sound clues that made it easier for me to read lips, and my big goal was to follow conversation as well as I had, say, five years ago. (In truth, I wanted to follow conversation as well as I had ten years ago--and thought that impossible.) I didn't expect to understand voices over loudspeakers because I hadn't for fifteen or more years.
Although those voices are louder than normal, their sound quality is distorted by the medium.
Oh me of little faith. The loudspeaker breakthrough that astonished me had followed others, so I should have anticipated it, but hearing loss is a long, drawn-out lesson in diminishing expectations. For the first time in years, I had heard the beep of the microwave, and my husband playing the guitar two rooms away. Still, I didn't get my hopes up. While I was greedy for more, I'd learned to live with disappointment.
So far, the disappointments have been few. Not all sounds are beautiful. The bleat of a grackle qualifies as Mother Nature's version of a fingernail against the blackboard. Voices that sounded Mickey- and Minnie Mouse-like three months ago are less cartoonish but still not true-to-life. Learning to re-hear via a CI is an ongoing process. Luckily, my husband gets a kick out of "testing" me by standing in another room and asking me questions. He and I are both amazed when I answer. (If anyone cares to talk about me behind my back, I'd appreciate it. Remember to quiz me afterwards.)
This past Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for the implant, for the three writing friends who convinced me to consider surgery (I'm looking at you, Janice Martin, Pat Kay, and Linda Barrett), and for my family's encouragement and support. I also gave thanks for surgeon Dr. G. Walter McReynolds, the Houston Ear Research Foundation, Sherri Taxman, my audiologist for the implant, Joan Furstenberg, my longtime audiologist, and those amazingly clear loudspeakers at that Atlanta airport.
What limits or limited you, and how do you/did you cope?
Friday, November 25, 2011
So why not blow it off? Because I commited to finish and finish I will. I don't dare to hope to win like Pat O'Dea Rosen and JoAnne Banker did, or even final like Kay Hudson and Sarah Andre. These talented women have a je ne sais quoi that I truly admire. But I can wrap up this damn thing, print it, deliver it and hope for the best. And promise myself never be so follish again!!
What crazy dealines have you set for yourself? Did you meet them, miss them, or blow them off?
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Years ago, as a clueless bride, I invited my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. How hard could it be?
The first sign the day wouldn't go as planned came when I couldn't wrestle the metal pincer-thingamabob out of the thawed bird. In a panic, I phoned my mom, who put my dad on the line. He talked me through the pinch-and-pull process. Too bad he didn't warn me about the neck and giblets stuffed inside the turkey. I baked them—and their paper wrappings--with the bird.
Are you wondering where Hubs was that first holiday? I'd probably sent him out to buy heavy cream or another can of pumpkin puree. Poor guy. Back then, most grocers were closed on Thanksgiving, so he would have wandered from one convenience store to another in search of the needed ingredient.
By my second year on turkey duty, I knew to fish out the neck, giblet package, and chunks of ice from the cavities and rinse and pat dry the bird. I'd also learned to slather the bird with butter, olive oil, or a mix of both. Slathered turkeys are slippery. Am I the only person who's dropped one? I'm grateful the guests watching N.F. L. football in the next room have missed my fumbles.
Because salmonella's a guest I don't want at the feast, I swipe countertops and cutting boards with diluted bleach. The blessed wall between my kitchen and family room keeps guests from passing out from the fumes.
Open-plan living requires extreme tidiness and strict organization—traits I lack. One hour into food prep, I have vegetable peelings on the counter, a trail of sugar on the floor, and cranberry-bright stains on the stovetop. Worse, chaos is catnip to pets.
The cooking smells tempt them, but my attempts to shoo them away are more alluring. Ooh! A game! Once, I lifted a cobbler from the oven and turned in time to catch a cat on the countertop, licking my last stick of butter.
I cut away the top part of the stick and rinsed the rest of it. Before you judge, let me repeat: my last stick of butter.
Tomorrow, my kitchen will be a disaster zone, but the food coming out of it should be tasty. (I've learned from my mistakes over the years. What's more, I rarely drop a turkey now that I've perfected the football hold.) Best of all, friends and family will gather in the dining room in celebration and fellowship—and the dirty pots and pans will be out of sight.
Are you a clean-as-you-go cook or a mess-maker? What's your home-design preference: open-plan or kitchen as bunker?
Monday, November 21, 2011
Last night I finished THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER by Jojo Moyes and knew I needed to recommend it to anyone looking for a lovely read over the upcoming holiday weekend.
The story follows two “heroines” forty years apart. Jennifer is the wife of a wealthy London businessman in 1960 who falls in love with a journalist while summering on the French Riviera. Ellie is a high-powered journalist in 2003’s London who is having an affair with a famous and very married author. Their paths intersect when Ellie finds a heart-breaking love letter and sets out to discover the story behind it.
The contrast between Jennifer’s world and its oppressive restrictions on women and Ellie’s world where her social freedom creates its own emotional barriers is one of the themes that lifts this story beyond the typical love story and makes it memorable. And the writing is good! Go to your nearest independent bookstore today (plug for the indies who support us!) and get a copy!
Friday, November 18, 2011
This set is targeted toward writers, and the links point to essays or sites that mostly interest or entertain, but one of them nudge us into dropping a bad habit or two. (All right, already! I'll drink more water.)
First up, romantic comedy/mystery writer Anne R. Allen points out the flaws in nine frequently repeated pieces of writing advice. Here's how she counters the chestnut that all protagonists must be admirable: "Saints are boring in fiction, unless they liberate France and get burned at the stake, and that’s been done." Read her full post here.
Chuck Wendig, whose debut novel, DOUBLE DEAD, comes out this month, shares the twenty-five qualities a book must have to keep him (and the rest of us) reading. The following is from trait #16: "A story that becomes something other than it seems — that pivots hard and shows you a whole new face — is a powerful thing, and compelling enough to drag me into its turbulent waters." Wendig's full post is here.
Jenny Hansen, the writer behind the More Cowbell blog, offers three rules for success in writing and in life.
Social-media expert Kristen Lamb reminds writers that health comes before wealth and is essential to maintaining page counts. Here, she offers tips for getting and staying in tip-top shape.
Blogger Coleen Patrick takes a look at some novels' memorable first lines. What's your favorite?
Having trouble maintaining your NaNo word count? This site is all kibble, no stick.
Finally, Kristan Hoffman offers writers two quizzes to test our understanding of what really matters to readers. Hint: it's not the number of our Twitter followers. Test yourself here.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
My kids are word wonks and come by it honestly. Apparently, fascination with language is as genetic as eye color and ear-lobe shape. That's not to say me and mine are word perfect. Far from it. We inadvertently misuse, mispronounce, and garble phrases in our struggle to do right by our mother tongue.
Because my girls had updated themselves on the Kardashians, Duchess Catherine, Jen, Suri, and Sandra on the first leg of the trip and couldn't bear to look at another magazine, I emailed them "Ten Phrases to Purge from your Writing," a guest post written by Nancy Ragno for Jane Friedman's blog, Being Human at Electric Speed. Read the post here. (Go on. I'll wait.)
After reading the post, Older Daughter mopped up barbecue sauce with French fries and moaned that she'd misused hone in on for the correct home in on.
I've misused heart-wrenching for heartrending hundreds of time. What's more, rending doesn't have the visceral flavor of wrenching, so I foresee gut-wrenching in my future.
Younger daughter revealed she has a co-worker who promises to nip scheduling problems "in the butt." Her sister and I advised her not to turn her back on the guy.
Card shark or card sharp? asks Older Daughter.
She's not happy with our mealy-mouthed responses so pulls out her phone and Googles the term—only to find compelling etymological support for both expressions.
"If I'm a good sport and hard worker, am I trouper or trooper?'" asks Younger Daughter.
"You're a trouper and the show must go on," I say.
"You're a soldier-like trooper," says Older Daughter.
Again, there's etymological support for both expressions.
Harebrained gets the nod from dictionaries today, but hair brained loped onto the scene because the animal that acts scattered during mating season was written as hair early on.
Oxymorons might have kept us entertained for another half hour, but our flight was called.
How do you cope with airport delays, long waits in doctors' offices, and lines that stretch out the door and around the block?
Monday, November 14, 2011
It’s mid-November and Christmas decorations went up in at least two upscale Houston shopping areas over a month ago. My reaction was something between disappointment and disgust. Really, people? You had to push the season forward two months? Why? Is it greed or did they just want to get on the lighting contractor’s schedule? Having little respect for the motives of shopping centers, I assume the former.
Last week I saw a notice from Nordstrom that said they weren’t decorating until after Thanksgiving. I’ve never shopped much in the store, but their restraint has earned my respect. They’re treating the holidays as a special time, a limited season to be celebrated as a lead-up to a the main events—Christmas or Chanukah—not a three month promotional opportunity followed by the January sales. Result—I’m applauding their decision and have decided to shop there in the future, when possible.
Friday, November 11, 2011
"I still have the nightmares, never got over the nightmares. And with God as my witness, I read my paper this morning — and right now, I can't tell you what I read. I can't remember.Today on Veterans Day we honor all the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces. May we never forget the price they paid to defend our freedom.
But what happened on that day is tattooed on your soul. There's no way I can forget that. I wish to God I could."
Read the entire Story Corps transcript or listen to the broadcast. It's well worth it:
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
If you've watched House Hunters or My First Place on HGTV, you've seen two types of prospective buyers: the first sees something good in every dwelling visited, but the second expects Veuve Cliquot on a Budweiser budget and heaps scorn on houses that lack granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, and double sinks in the master bath.
Conflict makes for good television, and the shows' producers may handpick persnickety shoppers and encourage them to insult shag carpet, flocked wallpaper, and shell pink bathroom tile.
But my sympathy's with the sellers.
"The eighties called, and they want their kitchen back," mocks one shopper. "I'm stuck in the nineties and can't get out," says another.
Those remarks sting. My bathrooms are of this decade, but the kitchen gives off a nineties vibe, and the family room boasts seventies paneling painted white.
Then again, a lot of these home shoppers claim they're looking for fixer-uppers. "I need a project I can sink my teeth into," says one lookie-loo. "I want to put my mark on a house," declares another. Yet, when faced with a kitchen painted yellow, these buyers act disbelieving and helpless. "Who can live with this color?"
"You wanted a project," says the Realtor.
"But the whole room has to be repainted."
A recent jab at a wall oven made me freeze in recognition. "Oh my God!," shrieked a house shopper. "This thing's from the Soviet era."
The oven in question was located in a U.S. suburb and appeared younger than my twenty-year-old black-glass Maytag. Mine (pictured above) was born in 1991, the year the Soviet Union dissolved. Most importantly, it works.
Given that house shopper's shock, Hubs and I are reconciled to replacing the oven before we put our house on the market. In the meantime, I've got my fingers crossed that the National Association of Realtors, HGTV, or NATO will declare a period of rapprochement (That's сближение in Russian ) between buyers and sellers. The house hunt should be a mockery-free zone.
My advice for home buyers? Look for good bones. Everything else can be changed.
Monday, November 7, 2011
On Friday one point especially hit home. Bell talked about what he calls Heart Heat and quoted Robert Frost: "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." He said the writer has to "see it, feel it, trust it." Sometimes I think we work so much on craft, we forget that the purpose of craft is to employ the best tools to evoke an emotional response in the reader--love, hate, caring, disgust, indignation, empathy, fear. But first, we must make ourselves vulnerable and feel those emotions without filters or reserve. And that's a very scary thing to do.
In cinema there are great scenes that no matter how many times you see them, they never lose their emotional power. CASABLANCA has so many of these, but the ending always chokes me up.
What books or movies have evoked powerful emotions for you? What makes you connect with a character or a story?
Friday, November 4, 2011
One Saturday long ago, as I was ferrying my children from one activity to another, Older Daughter asked about the registration sticker at the top left side of my car's front window. Pleased and proud to introduce her to the responsibilities of car ownership, I answered in my teacher voice. (Picture me puffed up with self-importance. Picture my kids rolling their eyes.)
"The price of the sticker helps the state build and maintain the roads we ride on," I probably said. (Unlike memoir writers, I don't have total recall.)
"What do the numbers mean?"
(Picture me thrilled at the prospect of show and tell.) "The sticker's good through the month and year printed on it." I must have pointed to the numbers representing the year. "And this number represents the renewal month." I probably circled the renewal month with my finger.
"Three stands for March, but it's May," Older Daughter said. "May's five."
I'm sure I shrieked. I probably cursed, too, and hope the words that came out were G-rated like drat, darn, and shoot. Why oh why did I squirrel away important mail for safekeeping--and then forget about it?
"Are you going to jail?" asked Younger Daughter.
Looking back, I see the prospect interested her. At the time, I rushed to reassure her mommy wasn't going away. "Jail? No way. I made a mistake, and I'll make it right."
For the next half hour, I drove as if taking a road test with the strictest DMV examiner on the planet.
Older Daughter noticed the number of cars passing us. "Why are you going so slow? I'll be late for the party."
"I'm driving within the speed limit." I didn't point to the road sign and then make Vanna White flourishes at my speedometer, because why give my darlings a reason to scold if I ever exceeded the limit by five freaking miles?
Before the end of the day, I got the car inspected. On Monday, I went to the tax assessor's office and paid my registration fee. The clerk tried to dish out shame, but she was an amateur compared to me—and to my then-boss. Yeah, I told him where I was going on my lunch hour because I wouldn't make it back within sixty minutes unless I ran every red light and rolled through every stop sign on the way.
Were the Daughters impressed when I scraped off the old registration sticker and slapped on the new? Not that I could tell. They did, however, learn car stickers have the power to make adults scream and swear. That gives me hope they won't repeat my mistake.
Let's hear it for teaching by bad example.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
Others, however, "see" ghosts and "hear" things that go bump in the night. Halloween raises the hair at the backs of their necks and turns their skin to gooseflesh. These people don't find this time of year precious or fun—and with good reason. They understand things about it that would make the rest of us lock our doors and cower under our beds.
I cede the floor to three writers who know what's afoot tonight: Catie Rhodes, Amanda Stevens, and Debra Kristi. In addition, K. B. Owen gives us an overview of how Halloween traditions arrived in the U.S. and were celebrated in the past.
Catie Rhodes writes about real people in scary situations, and many of her stories are set in her native Texas. She dubs every Friday "Freaky Friday" and recently told tales about a headless Texas horseman and horror in a Houston suburb.
Houston author Amanda Stevens (The Dollmaker, The Restorer) tells an appropriate-for-Halloween story featuring Houston's old Jefferson Davis Hospital at Dark Fairie Tales.
Debra Kristi gets creepy with the tale of a child's encounter with the supernatural .
According to K. B. Owens, we must thank (or curse) the Irish and Scots for the Samhain traditions we celebrate tonight.
I sincerely hope you survive this evening.