Friday, June 30, 2006

Something new

Short and sweet.

I've started an offshoot blog. If you go over there, it will explain why. I'm still going to spend the majority of my time here, as this place feels like home. But I really wanted to move the book stuff of other people to a new and different place. That way, if you don't want the book reviews, you don't have to see them.

Check it out if you feel like it.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

"There are gods in Alabama..." says Joshilyn Jackson

I can't believe I'm doing this again. I really can't. But alas, it can not be helped. You see, I am now smack dab in the middle of novelist-worship, and this is my altar. I am doing another book review. Right after the last one. And it's the same darn author. I've never done this before, this back-to-back review thing, and I don't think I've ever plugged an author more than once. You can check if you must, but I'm pretty sure I'm right on this one. There's a reason for that. It's because I don't do many reviews. Because I read so very much, I think I've become almost too stingy with my praise. If I don't get a feel for a story within the first 10 pages, I will stick with it to the very end, but I won't remember a thing about it an hour after it is finished. There aren't a whole lot of books that rate a review here, and there are very few authors that I ever mention more than once. You know my favorites, of course. I mean, The Cherry is at the top of the list, followed closely by any other Cherry authors I find. Well, my very Cherry friends, I have a secret for you... I totally adore the writing of Joshilyn Jackson!

For as much as I liked Between, Georgia, I was a little afraid that I wouldn't like gods in Alabama quite as much. I mean, it was Joshilyn's first book, right? How on earth could it be as good as her second book? We all know that writers take time to find themselves, to develop, to really deliver, right? Wrong, my friends. So very very wrong. Not all writers need that time. Some of them run the ball back for a touchdown from their own 1 yard line on the very first play of the game! Joshilyn Jackson is one of those.

If you haven't read this book yet, don't read any further, because I'm bound to give away some SPOLIERS, ok? (After reading this through, I realize that I really haven't put any true spoilers in here. So if you want to, go ahead and read this one through. It's safe.) I want you to know that this is unintentional, but inevitable. I simply must discuss this book. There is no alternative.

To anyone that has ever lived in the South, especially in the Deep South, or in any small town, really, the first paragraph of the book swallows you up whole. You know, or remember, those gods that are mentioned, or you have your own slightly different list of gods from your own town. Maybe it's a high school hockey goalie instead of a quarterback. Maybe it's fast cars instead of pickup trucks. But really, you know the gods of which she speaks. You revered them. You worshipped at their shrines, just like I did. They still have a hold on you, even though Jesus may or may not have a bigger hold now. In your heart of hearts, you know there are gods.

Arlene/Lena knows this as well. "There are gods in Alabama..." This is her mantra. She has a secret, she's made a deal with the big "g" GOD, yet she still practices this refrain in her head for the better part of ten years. When a person from her past shows up in her very Yankee new life asking questions about something Arlene has tried unsuccessfully to forget, the power of those gods is unleashed all over her poor, guilty, Southern soul. She hightails it back home to Alabama, thinking her journey will be anything but sweet. Those gods have some surprises up their sleeves though. See, Arlene did a Bad Thing when she was younger. That Bad Thing prompted her to make that deal with God. She kept up her end of the deal, but I think she was always scared that He might not keep up His end. When her past shows up on her doorstep, she's pretty sure that He has called off the Deal, and she must now face up to that Bad Thing.

When Arlene gets to Alabama with her boyfriend/pretend husband Burr by her side, she has to start facing her past. That past is rolled up in a family that includes a crazy momma, a perfect cousin, a sweet uncle, and the steeliest aunt anyone familiar with steely Southern aunts has ever seen. I've known my share of steely Southern aunts. I have two of my own. But really, Arlene's Aunt Florence has them beat hands down. Her past also includes her unapologetically racist family, though they are really just mentioned, not heard from. And it includes the kudzu. We can't forget the kudzu, ok?

I fell in love with Arlene. I liked Lena, her Yankee all-grown-up self, too, but really, I loved Arlene. I could feel her shift from Lena, self-assured Deal-keeper, to Arlene, guilty little Bad Thing doer, as soon as she waved goodbye to Tennessee and hello to Alabama. Arlene has a quiet strength, a vulnerability, and a crazy streak, that would seem fake in any other character. It works for her. I felt her pain, her rage, her joy, her guilt, her passion, her jealousy, her indignation, her love. I became her for the day. It wasn't hard to do, Joshilyn made it virtually painless to slip into her skin.

I loved the alternating timelines of the chapters in this book. It starts in present day, then it eases you back in time 17 years. During those flashback chapters that aren't really written like flashbacks, you get to know Arlene as she was at 15. You get to live, every other chapter, inside her head, seeing everything that led up to the Bad Thing. You already know what the Bad Thing is. You find out at the very beginning of the second chapter, even though its pretty well spelled out in the first. It's not a secret anymore, because Joshilyn puts it right out there at the beginning. It's almost as if Joshilyn is saying,"This is my story, and she is my girl. She did this Bad Thing, I'm telling you that right now. But you may not judge her just yet. She's lived with the guilt for a good many years, and you will hear her out, every last word of her story, before I allow you to sit in your stifling glass house and pass judgement on her."

And that's exactly what I did. I sat there, transfixed, as the drama played out around me. I breathed in that fertile Alabama soil, I slurped that sweet tea (really, is there any other kind?), and I listened to all of the things that Aunt Flo didn't say, until I'd heard every last word.

When it was over, when it was just me staring at that very last page, I sat very still and could think of only one thing: There are gods in Alabama. And they bestowed a gift on Joshilyn Jackson. And I will praise them forevermore.

If you really need me to say it, I will say it for you now. GET. OUT. OF. YOUR. CHAIR. AND. GET. YOUR. BUTT. TO. YOUR NEAREST. BOOKSTORE. AND. GET. THIS. BOOK.

The gods will smile down upon you when you do.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Between, Georgia

Ok, you have the image of this gorgeous book, now get off your computer and go buy it. (See, Char, I'm GREAT at book reviews! lol)

My friend Charity got me hooked on Joshilyn Jackson. She didn't do it on purpose, but it happened all the same. Charity has Joss's site, Faster than Kudzu, linked on her blog. Charity also enters Joss's monthly contest, Blogging For Books (B4B). I had to check out the site after reading Char's entry last month, and I just can't seem to stay away from that place. I read it at night, when Shane and I are sitting in our office. Our desks are facing each other across the room, both in corners. I read it and start laughing and look over at him apologetically. He takes a break from code writing and raises his eyebrows. I ask "Do you have a second? I have to read you just one line from this..." He always replies with "Sure, go ahead." I start at the beginning of the blog and read it all the way through. By the time I'm done, we're both laughing hysterically. Sometimes, I've got tears rolling down my face from laughing so hard. I hadn't read either of her books, but I loved the way she wrote... Until today.

I bought "Between, Georgia" yesterday. I also bought her first book, "gods In Alabama". No, that isn't a typo, it really is a little "g" in gods. I had already started Between at the bookstore last week, and was pretty interested in the story. Last night I started reading it. I finally put it down around 2am. I woke up around 7am and reached for it right away. I just finished it.


What a roller coaster ride that book turned out to be. I want to gush about it and tell you all of the parts that I loved, but then you may learn too much and decide not to buy it, and that would just be a true crime. Because it is beautiful. And you need to read it.

The characters were as deep as the ocean, and the conflicts were as real as the screen you see before you. These were people that you could believe in, and even come to care about. Some of them have been in your very own world. You will recognize them. You will want to call them on the phone and tell them that you love them.

The basic premise is that two families in little Between, Georgia, really don't like each other much. They are from different sides of town, in every sense of the words. The Fretts are everything, and have everything, that the Crabtrees will never be or have. Frett's are respectable and kind, proper and well off, go to church, never drink, never curse, never do anything wrong. The Crabtrees are the polar opposite, drinking, carousing, cursing, going in and out of jail. A young Crabtree girl gets pregnant and ends up on the doorstep of the Frett house. She gives birth and walks out of the house sans baby. She just leaves her daughter. One of the Frett women takes the child and makes her a Frett, setting in motion a chain of events that takes 30 years to play out.

The baby, Nonny, knows her history. She tries to reconcile her Frett upbringing with her Crabtree blood all throughout the book. She's in a marriage that is about to end, though she's not sure if that's what she wants. She's in a job that she's comfortable with, though she wanted to do more. She's basically been rolling along on the wave of her life, not daring to stick her neck out for anything. Then the Crabtrees and the Fretts come head to head in the middle of Between, and Nonny's life spirals. If you think that means 'out of control' you really need to read this book.

Just go get it so we can gab about it. And pick up gods while you're at it. I've read the blog for a while. Now I've read one of the books. I can't imagine gods not being just as awesome.

Do it and tell me about it when you're done. I can't wait to hear what you think!

Oh, and please go on over to Charity's blog and tell her thanks for turning me onto Joss. While you're over there, check out her music meme. And NO CHEATING!

Monday, June 26, 2006

No more hiding!

Shane told me last night that he feels like I have two different lives. There is the "Denise" that he's married to, the mom of all those kids, the person that cooks breakfast at church, and does errands when I'm not up at the restaurant. Then there is "Dee", the writer that reads all the time, studies writing, blogs...

I've only read ONE blog entry to him. He's never asked about it, so I never volunteered. I think I sort of liked that feeling of separateness to the two different parts of my life. I never put anything on this blog that I wouldn't mind my husband reading, but still...

So he googled me the other night. And found my blog. And read it. And then gave me suggestions about future posts.

It was a little weird, and a lot unsettling. I don't even know why. I just felt like my two worlds were no longer self-contained. That probably sounds stupid, but I'm hoping that a few of you understand what I mean, and can give me some pointers on how to deal with this. I guess that I just feel like my writing is such a private thing, but then again, I'm considering trying to get it published. So I guess I need to get over that one, huh?

And Shane, if you are reading this, PLEASE don't think I want you to stop reading my blog. It was just weird for me to think about you reading it, that's all. I don't mind, not one little bit. As long as you don't tell me what to blog about, we're all good. Otherwise, it feels too much like a writing assignment. And I hate writing assignments. I never did get those chips from Kel, because I never described what they taste like. How dumb is that?

*****Oh, and one last thing. This is an add-on, but I had to put it in here. SHANE, if you come check out my blog, I'd really appreciate it if you make some comments, ok? If you're going to be here, then really be here, y'know?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Awwwww, puke!

Yeah, that's right! P-U-K-E. That's what I did today. And if you read the Crusie-Mayer blog comments, you know why. If you don't read that blog and the comments, you should. They are totally awesome, and I spend many hours each day over there. I've developed some friendships over there. I care about those people. And I learned today that they care about me also!

As with many Saturdays lately, I spent the day at my computer. Normally, I try to get in a few hours of writing or research on Saturdays, while Shane is home. Let's face it, the kids are just quieter when Daddy is around. They don't get as loud on the weekends, they don't storm the office as often, they don't call my name. Frankly, it is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because I can actually spend time at my desk writing, which I LOVE. It's a curse because Shane can't understand why I get so frustrated during the week, when he's not at his desk across the room from mine. The wee ones are just so angelic when he's home, that he hardly believes I don't have hours upon hours of quiet time while he's working. I swear, if he didn't hear them while on the phone with me, he'd probably think I was making up how disruptive they can be!

I joined RWA on a Saturday, because of the CBs. After reading their comments for months, I finally decided that it was time to do it or shut up about it. So a few weeks ago, I made myself actually fill out the application that had been sitting on my desk for literally months. I also faxed it on to RWA that same day. No excuses, I just did it. That was tough, as the dues were $100, and we were really tight then, but I made myself do it anyhow. After all, I can spend a hundred bucks at Wally World and not blink an eye. I should be happy to spend it for an RWA membership. Right?

Today, I signed up for the NJ Conference. And I made my hotel reservations. I got e-mail confirmation for both, and both are already paid for, so I really HAVE to go. This is also really because of the CBs, and I can't say enough about that. Their gentle encouragement was what got me to do it. Plus, I really want to meet ScopeDope and Jen, and see Christina again. After I signed up, I called Kim and told her that she had to go with me, so now I'm totally committed to going to this conference.

That's where the PUKE comes in. That's what I did right after I did my conference registration. I went right to the bathroom and lost my breakfast. I feel like such a huge chicken sometimes! But really, it's a good thing, because I am totally facing my fears. I mean, YES, I got sick to my stomach when I realized I would be in the same hotel with a bunch of REAL writers, but still- I signed up! That's something, right?

So tell me... What makes YOU nervous? What brings the bile right up to the back of your throat? What gets the wings of those butterflies to do double-time? Share your fears, friends. There is so much power in admitting what scares you!! Tell me. Tell me Tell me Tell me.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that I want you to Tell me???

Friday, June 23, 2006

In that vein...

Kel had an interesting post the other day. She wrote an essay for school, and she was telling us about the topic. She started out with topics that she didn't choose, and I commented about one of them. That turned into a few more comments and an e-mail between us, trying to get to the root of the issue. Let me prefacet his by saying that I adore her, and besides Shane, she is my very best friend on the face of this planet. She's been through so much with me, and I literally can't imagine my life without her. She's just that important to me. Also, in case you guys are worried, there is nothing that can ever be said in any blog or e-mail that will change the fact that I love her, and she's more than a sister to me. So don't worry, ok?

Her post, and our comments, dealt with something that has been on my mind a LOT lately. She mentioned this: And of course, I love to piss people off, so don't even get me started on a 'woman's place' ~ (sorry nise, just wouldn't be able to say that I agree with aspects of the bible that state what a woman can and can't do or should or shouldn't do (maybe I'll never agree with that one ~ that was sooooo before my era) But it's okay, because you know I love to debate things, specially with you. And that ticked me off a little, because I hold the Bible very close to my heart. Now if you read my blog on a regular basis, you know that I'm a bit crazy sometimes. I don't follow every single thing the Bible preaches, and I don't expect others to either. I try very hard not to be judgemental, and I want people to treat others with love and respect, like Christ did.

Right now, Shane and I are Youth Leaders at our church. We both have such a burden for our youth that it's scary. Part of this is, I'm pretty sure, because Gret is at that age, and Michael is right on her tail. They need a place where they can open up and discuss things that are on their minds, with other teens around, in an environment that is safe.

They don't have school, and for us it's a blessing. We keep a very close eye on where they go, and who they spend time around. We monitor their movies, their internet usage, their music. They understand why, because we explain the dangers. Gret and I talked about this last night, when she actually came close to thanking me for homeschooling her. This was major, because she's wanted to go to school since we took them out 5 years ago. Last night, she talked to me about her friends that went to the middle school, how one was dating a 24 yr old, one was sneaking out of her house and lying to her parents, some were pregnant, some were on drugs. These were people that she sat next to in 4th grade, and wanted to go to school with. Now their lives are so different from hers, and not in a good way. Would she have tried drugs, snuck out, gotten pregnant, if she'd stayed in school? I don't know. I'd like to think not, but I can't be sure. For me, better to be safe and overprotective, than sorry. For her, it was eye-opening, and she finally 'got it'. It was a very cool moment as a parent.

Anyhow, we've tried to make the youth group a place where the teens can be free to talk about what is on their mind, and we try to answer their questions and concerns with Biblical examples. It's not always easy, but it is VERY challenging. And you all know how much I love a challenge. This has gotten me more into my Bible, and studying on a daily basis to be prepared for whatever they might ask. Some of their questions regard sex, drugs, or music. Sometimes they ask about things like roles and gender biases. So Kel's comments really hit a chord.

I understand why, Biblically, women should not be in a position of leadership in a church. I get it. Taking that to an extreme and saying that women can't teach, or that women should all stay home, is offensive in the extreme. In the Bible, Paul admitted that his disciple, Timothy, was taught by his mother and grandmother. There were women leaders in the early church. Lydia was a rich woman who opened her home and her wallet to the first missionaries. The Samaritan woman that Jesus spoke with at the well brought the whole town out to hear the Lord speak. The Bible has all sorts of examples of women bringing people to the Lord, of women being strong, and of women being Godly. Men don't hold the patent on Godliness or holiness.

As Kel mentioned in her comments, it's not really about what the Bible says though. It's about how people try to twist what the Bible says to fit their own ideas of what should be right or wrong. That's why I've had such a hard time finding a church that fits. I take a very strong line on the Bible. I'm a Fundamentalist at heart, I guess. However, the churches that call themselves Fundamental churches seem to preach a sort of twisted and distorted view of the Bible. From homosexuality, to women in leadership, to abortion, to drinking, I try to find my answers in the book. If it's not in there, then it's just a person's view, and that's not quite the same as God's view at ALL. I hate that people in my church try to cloak their biased views in Biblical sounding arguments, choosing to ignore other parts of the Bible in the process. Is homosexuality wrong? Is abortion? Is drinking? Possibly. But NO MORE WRONG than any other "sin" that these same condemners commit every single day. Homosexuality is no more wrong than gluttony, yet our Preacher is at least 30 pounds overweight. Abortion is no more wrong than covetousness, yet the church is rife with people who constantly want "more" things. Drinking is no more wrong than anger, yet people will get red in the face telling you how wrong a glass of wine is. It's disgusting to me, it really is. I mean, I have homosexual friends. I know people that have had abortions, I even contemplated it at one point in my life. I drink. Does that make me any more or less worthy of Heaven?

Those things have nothing to do with me getting to Heaven. That's the point that so many people fail to realize. Whether or not I drink, smoke, abort 10 times, kill 40 people, or have sex with a woman, will not keep me from Heaven. If I try my best to live a 'perfect' life, and not commit a single sin between now and when I die, that won't get me to Heaven either. See, it's not because of who I am, or what I've done. It's because of who He is, and what He did. That's from a song, btw. As long as I know that Christ came to earth and died for my sins, as long as I accept Him as my Lord and Saviour, that's it. There is no extra anyting involved. Yes, after that, I should want to be different. I should strive to be more like Him. However, He already knows that I will falter sometimes. He doesn't say that I have to believe on Him AND... He just says BELIEVE. I do. And if that's not enough for the church leaders, then they are the ones with the problems. And they will be the ones explaining that to God someday.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. That's all. Nothing else.

***Stepping down off the soap box now. Returning you to your regularly scheduled blogging crazy woman***

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Guys and Dogs

I just finished Guys & Dogs by Elaine Fox. I've never read any of her books before, though I have noticed them in stores. I actually went to Borders to look for this book last week, but couldn't find it, so they ordered it for me. I really wanted to read it after reading a very short review in my local newspaper. Normally, I'm not big on reviews, because everyone has different feelings about books, and I don't trust very many people out there when it comes to recommendations. I have different standards than most people, and I also hate being told what is 'good' or 'really awful'. Please know that this doesn't apply to my friends, though, and I truly love it when you guys tell me what books I should get. I mean, I TRUST you guys, and besides, you all have great taste.

Anyhoooo... I had to pick up this book because it's supposedly set in my town. The heroine, Megan Rose, has recently moved to Fredericksburg. Basically, reading it was a study in research, to see how much of a place shows up in books, if the author had actually ever been here, if the places were real. See, it just ticks me off when I read a book that is set someplace that I've been, but I can't recognize the place from the description. I mean, if you've ever been to NYC, you know that you can't see the Statue of Liberty from Tiffany, right? You also know that the Crab Cooker is NOT on the beach in Newport Beach, California. It's close to the beach. You can see the beach. They have damn good clam chowder. But on the beach? Not so much. It's a pet peeve of mine, and I wanted to see how close Ms. Fox came to capturing the spirit of my 'Burg.

She did ok. Well, better than ok, really. She made up a few places, and that's to be expected. She made the town seem much smaller than it really is, but not smaller than many of its longtime residents want it to be. But all in all, she did a decent job of letting the reader get a feel for my town, without the town losing anything. Plus, she mentioned Sammy T's, for which she deserves my undying loyalty.

Sammy T's is such a cool place. She calls it "a Fredericksburg institution". And it is. It's also happens to be the end-of-the-mommy-daddy-date-night place for me and Shane. It's our secret escape to the days before the rest of our lives seemed so busy. We discovered it our first year here, almost 6 years ago. It was my mission to go to every restaurant in "Old Town" with my husband. We found Sammy T's after wandering the streets one night. It seemed inviting, so we snuck in. The place was awesome. The waitress was welcoming, the atmosphere was relaxed, and they had beer bottles from all over lining the walls. Plus, they make the best chocolate mousse I've ever had in my life. And Shane swears by their Apple Crisp. The coffee cups are bottomless, and the booths are comfortable. It has since become the place we head to before we head home, if we're out alone. We love it there. So Ms. Fox gets bonus points for adding it to her book.

The story was pretty good too. Megan is a vet, and she's come to town and taken over her dad's animal hospital. She ends up befriending a Brittish billionaire, Sutter Foley, talking him into adopting a dog, and falling in love. Along the way, there are new friends, tabloid reporters, a wacky secretary, and dog-napping charges to keep Megan and Sutter on their toes. It was cute.

This was not a "You must rush out RIGHT NOW and buy this book" like some of the others that I've reviewed. The book did distract me for the morning, and that was bad. But I enjoyed the distraction, so that was good. If you're at the store, and you need something light to read, and you see it, pick it up. It's worth the few hours of your time. It had a good feel, and was pretty enjoyable.

And besides, she mentions Sammy T's. That alone is worth the price I paid for the book!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Reading, rest, and relaxation. That's what the mommy wanted. That's what the reader wanted. That's what the husband said to get done. Yeah, plans are so nice, aren't they?

Well, we left Thursday morning for Virginia Beach. We got down there around 11am. It was awesome to be there, away from everyday life. We checked in to the Dolphin Inn EARLY (Thank you very nice Reception Desk lady that let us in 4 hours before we were supposed to be there). We changed into beachwear and headed off to the ABC store (Alcohol Beverage Commission, for those of you that are NOT in Virginia). Hey, a girl needs her beach supplies, right?

We purchased a bottle of Jose Cuervo and two bottles of mix, with the intention of making some margaritas. Then we realized that we didn't ahve a pitcher to mix them in. Well, hey, we're resourceful, and really thirsty, so we head to one of those tourist beach stores. Guess what we bought. A BIG RED PAIL. You know, the kind that the kids use to make sand castles. IT had an attached shovel with it, perfect for stirring. Really, it was quite adorable.

So we mixed up one full bottle of the mix with one half bottle of tequila. Yeah, that didn't last so long, after we poured it into our new squirt/water bottles. But hey, we weren't planning on lushing, right? Aaaaaanywaaaay...

We headed down to the sand, spread out our towels, splashed on our oil, and pulled out our books. That lasted for about 30 minutes, until we both had sweat pouring off our bodies. In to the freezing water we ran, splashing and laughing like two kids. We wave jumped for a while, then headed back to the towels. Then I did a bad bad thing. I went back to the room and refilled my cup, using the rest of the bottle of te-kill-me and other bottle of mix. Back to the beach for me, where I finished off my new margarita and fell asleep. On my towel. In the middle of the day. On my stomach. Wearing a two piece swimsuit (WITH CHERRIES ON IT) for the first time in over a decade. There are parts of my body that have not seen sunlight in ages. Those parts saw the sun on Thursday. For HOURS. Can I just say...OUCH!

Thursday, my friend Bill took us to the Jewish Mother for dinner, where I ate awesome shrimp and drank mroe margaritas. Then we went to Bill's son's graduation. Well, part of it. After Mike's name was called, I looked over at Candace (Bill's oldest daughter) and said "I'll give you a margarita if you'll drive us back to our hotel RIGHT NOW". Candace is a smart girl, plus she was pretty thirsty. Well, she really thinks I'm cool too. So she risked the wrath of her mom and took us back. We had another margarita, then Bill showed back up. With beer. Then Candace left and Mike showed up. They hung out for a little bit, then left.

My alarm woke me at 5am. I wanted to see the sunrise and the dolphins. I saw one of them. No dolphins this trip, sorry. I was bummed about not seeing my dolphin friends, but also very glad that I felt no ill-affects of the previous night. So I decided to do it again. After breakfast, we headed back to the beach, with more margaritas. Again, I refilled. Again, I fell asleep. This time on my back. Hey, I'm not stupid, I knew not to burn the same places again. This time though, my face got really red. Now I look like a snake shedding. I'm sure the guests at the restaurant appreciate my face peeling!

Anyhow, it was sad to realize that our trip had to end. I really enjoyed my time down there. The only thing that could have been better was if I'd had a better book. No book suggestions from this trip, the one I had was not so great. Of course, it wasn't a Crusie, or a Cherry writer, so I'm not surprised. I think I've been tainted by good books. I'm getting harder to please. However, I did start "Envy" by Sandra Brown. It took me 4 days to read, because I tend to linger over her books. I just really enjoy them, and like to make them last as long as possible. I finished it late Sunday night and was not disappointed.

I'm glad I'm back home now. I missed my wee ones. I missed my man. I even missed my blog. But I gotta tell ya, I've been dreaming of margaritas on the beach all day long today. I may just have to head back down there again soon. Anyone wanna join me?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

And she's OFFFFFFFFF!!!

That's right, I'm outta here, guys and dolls.

I am heading off to the beach now, with my friend Kim. Today has already started out on a bad note. If you know me, you know how much I HATE leaving my home, but how much I really NEED to get away sometimes. That about sums it up for this trip.

I've had a really wacky few months since Vegas. Vegas was mentally and emotionally necessary for me, as I felt so burned out that I couldn't even see straight. Coming home was good, because I'd missed the fam, but it was also hard for me. Then all the wackiness, and work, and now I'm balancing on the edge of totally fried again, hoping against hope that I make it to the ocean in time to calm the panic in my chest.

Here's a secret that a few of you already know. I'm really part mermaid. No, I'm not joking. There is part of my very soul that belongs in the ocean. That part of me rebels when I am forced to spend too long away from salt water. That's how I've been feeling lately. I lovelovelove our farm. It's perfect for the kids. But it's really hell on my mermaid parts.

I can't explain all of this well right now. Kim just showed up, and I need to load my bags. But I will get to it in my next post, from Virginia Beach.

Bye now, friends!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Girlish or boyish

You Are 60% Boyish and 40% Girlish

You are pretty evenly split down the middle - a total eunuch.
Okay, kidding about the eunuch part. But you do get along with both sexes.
You reject traditional gender roles. However, you don't actively fight them.
You're just you. You don't try to be what people expect you to be.
How Boyish or Girlish Are You?

Got this from Kel's blog. Thought it was cute. Took the quiz. Not quite sure what it really says about me, but that last line is very true. I don't try to be what people expect me to be. I just try to be true to myself. Of course, that's a lot easier said than done sometimes. But hey, at least I try!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I love a good romantic movie, don't you?

In honor of my love for romance, especially romance on the big screen, I want to tell you about one of my favorite movies, why it's my favorite, and invite you to share (in the comments or on your own blog) about your favorite as well.

First off though, I have to tell you that I don't just like the typical romances. I mean, HEAs are great, and they have their place. Who can resist seeing the two lovers walk off into the sunset together? I mean, there they go, hand in hand, fade to black, The End. That's perfect, right? Yeah, I think so too.

But I also like those other love stories. The ones that don't always have that typical HEA, but still get you right in your gut. The ones that make you really cry, and think "What if...?" The ones like Casablanca, where Ilsa gets on that plane at the end, instead of sticking it out with Rick. The ones like "The Way We Were", where Katie crosses the street, away from Hubbel at the end, to her own life.

I'm married because of a movie like that.

If you read my last post, my B4B entry, you know all about our First Dance. If you read the comments, you even know the song. Now I get to pull a Paul Harvey and tell you... The Rest Of The Story.

Why would I only dance to "Angel"? If you've ever heard the song, you know how beautiful it is. Sarah's voice is haunting. You can feel her pain wrap around you, hear the cry in her words. You experience her emotions. But it's more than that. The song was in my very favorite non-HEA love story ever - "City of Angels".

What's so great about this movie? *SPOILER ALET* It's about an angel that falls in love with a woman doctor in Los Angeles. He struggles with giving up eternity. She struggles with letting him. He falls. They make love. She dies. In his arms. BEFORE the HEA.

Or does she?

I watched it with two friends the first time I saw it. Kel was there, of course. So was her cousin, Wendy. Wendy hated it. She thought it was stupid. What the heck kind of movie has Meg Ryan getting run over by a logging truck?!? Kel wasn't too thrilled about Meg's death, but she at least understood it. Then there was me. I totally loved it. I honestly feel that it couldn't have ended any other way. It just would have been wrong to end that movie with them both alive and happy. There would have been no point to anything if they had gotten the typical HEA. But that doesn't mean the HEA wasn't there. I think it was.

See, it's in the last talking scene of the movie. That scene, between Seth and his angel friend, exemplifies why movies do NOT need a walk-off-into-the-sunset scene to be the perfect love story. It's all in the words that Seth uses when he's asked if, knowing how things would turn out, he would change anything.

"I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss from her mouth, one touch from her hand, than an eternity without it. One."

Now really, tell me there is someone out there that wouldn't like to BE this for someone else. He's saying that it's all worth it. Falling from grace? He did it. Give up eternity? No problem. Endure hunger, pain, heartache? Yep, he went there. And at the end of the day, even knowing that he'd given up everything he knew and she wasn't going to be around to share his life, it was totally worth it. SHE was worth it.

I never thought I'd ever feel that way. I certainly never thought someone would feel that way about me. And I really never dreamed that anyone else would get that movie like I did.

Yeah, Shane got it. He totally understood it. He loved it too.

"Angel" is in that movie, of course.

And after that, after he blew me away by saying that he totally understood how Seth felt, and he agreed, how could I not fall in love with the man?

You're right. I couldn't. So I did. And it was so worth it. Because, after all this time...

He's still the One.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

When you know it's right...

OR: The Magic of that first moment

Have you ever looked over at your special someone and wondered just exactly what it is that makes you want to stay with that person day after day after day after day? It's Magic. With a capital "M".


Think about that very first time you realized that you wanted to be with that person for the rest of your days. Was there not something in the air, something that tingled, some new kind of electricity that sparked your feelings? Of course there was. That was the secret and mystical magic of the universe, conspiring to ensure that the two of you, two souls destined to spend eternity side by side, would make their way to each other.

Don't believe me? Let me give you an illustration. This comes from my very own life, and it perfectly demonstrates that the universe does, indeed, possess a magic that is reserved only for lovers. Allow me to set the scene.

I was a mid-twenties single person in the Navy. I'd spent my first 8 years at various shore commands, trying really hard to get stationed on a ship. Finally, I was sent TAD (temporary assigned duty) to the USS Enterprise. At this point in my life, I already had children, and an ex-husband. I was in no way looking for another marriage. Honestly, I wasn't even sure that I ever wanted another serious boyfriend. I was pretty much through with relationships, and had decided to concentrate on my career. Fate had other plans for me.

I met him on the first day of a 6 week training deployment. He was beautiful, truly. I mean, I looked at him, and my heart started beating double time, my lungs quit working, my knees went weak. It was awful! I was smitten. Pathetic, right? Not quite. The magic was just getting started. The universe was working to make sure that we two would be together. Really. We spent a few weeks getting to know each other and became friends, but neither of us was ready to take it any further than that. We just weren't counting on that magic.

The ship pulled in to St. Thomas for a long weekend. The Navy brought a band in, and there was a huge party. He and I were in different duty sections, and spent the days away from each other. On our last night there, he was working on the ship, and I was out on the town. Partying. And missing him. So I left the parties and headed back to the ship. That's when the magic really started.

The night was perfect. It wasn't raining. It wasn't too hot. The sky was clear and the moon was shining bright. You know the kind of night I mean. I know you've had them as well. It was a magical night.
This night was made just for us.

I called him on the phone and he asked me to come over to his office. I walked in and we were all alone. It was nice to be there, just the two of us. We sat and talked for hours, and there was the feeling that the night was not going to let us take the time for granted. We both felt it. There was a current in the air. You can call it attraction, or lust, or any other thing you want, but I know that it was magic.

He asked me to dance. I was trying to keep things level. I knew that if he touched me, if I even put my hands in his hands, I would fall into him and never be able to walk away. That scared me, and fascinated me at the same time. I wasn't sure I was ready for that, or even wanted it. Some things you just can't control though.

Trying to be smooth, I agreed to dance with him on one condition. I told him that I would only dance with him if he played a certain song. He agreed to this and asked me the song. Well, that was the catch. If he really wanted to dance, if we were supposed to dance, if it was meant to happen, he'd play the right song. There was no way I was going to tell him the name of the song.

However, instead of thinking I was a loon, instead of giving up on the idea of a dance, instead of throwing his hands up in disgust, he trusted in the magic of the moment. He just smiled at me, pushed "play" on his cd player, and held out his hand.

My eyes must have been the size of melons when the song playing in my head started coming out of those speakers.


Magic. That's what it was. I know it. He knows it. We danced because of it that night. We cherish it today.
Everyone has magic like that touch them sometimes. Not everyone calls it magic, but that's what it is. It's the universe, or God, or Fate, or whatever, conspiring to ensure that things happen the way they should happen, that the people who are destined for each other get the right signal at the right time to know that they are at the right place in their lives to take that chance.

If you think about it, I bet you've had magical moments, like I've had. You may not have recognized them when they were happening, just like I didn't. But looking back, I'm sure of what it was.

And that dance? We're still dancing. Every time we close our eyes, we still hear that song. That's just an extension of our own special magic. It never ends.

This post brought to you by B4B. If you don't know about B4B, check out Joshilyn Jackson's website, Faster Than Kudzu (it's also in my links!). She runs a contest every month called Blogging For Books. She gives you a topic. You blog it. It gets judged. The winner gets a book. Really, how can I lose? I mean, even though it's doubtful I'll win the contest, I get a writing exercise, and someone else gets to read what I wrote. Win/Win, right?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Where to go from here

I have the beginnng of a really fun story.

I've always heard that you should write what you know. The other story, the one starring the lady that lives at full volume in my head, is pretty hard to write. It's got some things in it that are very close to my heart, but a lot that is a bit removed. Anyhow, part of it deals with my chick's mom's death, and how that really affects the rest of her life. I know this, because I lived it a few years back. It was hard. Really, really hard. It still is. So there are times when, even though I know I should be writing, I just can't. May was sort of hard, as Mother's Day was looming, and I just get very BLAH around that time. Her mom was pretty crazy, like mine. However, there are a lot of things that are very different. But still, it hits pretty close to home.

This new story, the one that hit me Thursday, is even closer, but not so hard to write. BTW, it seems I'm writing WF, not romance. I had fully intended to do romance at first, because I read so much romance that it just seemed natural to start there. But then the first story started going in a very different direction (thanks, Lorraine!), and I drifted far from romance. This new one is not romance at all. It has romance at the heart of it, I guess. But really, it's about how to deal with love after romance, or how to keep romance, or what to do when you lose romance, or something. Not quite sure yet, but I do know that it's not a romance, if that makes sense. For one, there isn't a romantic man in it. At least not yet. Not quite sure about that one either. There is the possibility that a few very romantic men will show up, but right now, they are nowhere to be seen.

Anyhow, I really like this story. I'm not sure if it's fresh, or original, or new, or anything. All I know is that it popped into my head, and I can see these people like they were real. Of course, they are real, at least to me. And they are based on some real people that I know. And that is both scary and very fun. So I was sitting out on my front porch, jotting down notes, and I just wanted to be back here at my keyboard, typing. I want to be back in the story. I was trying to be good, plotting a little, finding the right direction for my tale, but my gut tells me not to try to figure it out, just go where it takes me. Then I glanced down at the pen I was using, and decided I really needed to be inside, at my keyboard. See, it's my Jenny Crusie pen. I don't know where I got it. I think it may have come in the e-bay purse. It's red, and it feels really good in my hand. And it says, "The girls are always right". And that was just so perfect for my story. Because well, it's about girls. And how wrong they feel in their lives. And how they want to change things. And be right. And they're going to realize that they are right, have almost always been right, but just didn't realize it. But it's going to take some time. And some booze. And a few days on a beach. Just like real life.

So, in honor of my new story that seems to just want to flow right out of my fingertips (swear to God I've never typed so fast in my life!!), I'm taking a road trip next week. Without the kids. To the place that my girls will be heading. With one of my friends. Did I mention without the kids? Oh, I did? Well, just in case you missed it, I'll be without the kids. I'm sure I will miss them, but I also know that I will enjoy myself. And I will be able to write more.

Shane thinks I'm kidding when I say that I'm going for research. If you recall, I used that line when Kel and I went to Vegas as well. But guess what I found when I was searching my purse for Black Honey lipstick yesterday? EIGHT pages of character, plot, and scene notes that I did out there for my other story. I was flabbergasted. I really can't remember taking so many pages of notes. I remember the drinking, the late nights, the blogging, finding the perfect Cherry shoes, but I don't remember writing so much. And they were GOOD notes, too. So I plan on using my time away next week as another research trip.

Does anyone know if you can deduct gas and hotel bills for your taxes, if you were writing during a road trip?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

*Ping*! Inspiration strikes, just like that!

Here's the deal. I'm just warning you guys, ok? If I'm lucky, you may not see me around here for a few days.

Now, don't get all out of sorts on me. It's a good thing.

I had lunch with a friend today. I see her every month or so. We bought her house, our farm, back in November. She moved to southern Virginia with her family. We try to meet every time she comes up to Richmond for a doctor's appointment. Our last "lunch" turned into me renting a hotel room, because there was just no way I was letting her get back on the road after all of the liquids she'd consumed. We kind of drank that last lunch, if you know what I mean.

Today was not quite that bad. It was only a two margarita lunch. Now I'm on my second glass of wine at home, and feeling rather warm. Here's why.

On the way home, I started thinking about our talks. Basically, I'm her only friend. I have other friends, obviously. There's Kelly, of course. And Kim. And Dana. But for her, there's really just me. So we meet in Richmond once a month or so, at the same restaurant, and spend a few hours trying to solve the problems of the world. Do you have friends like that? Ones that you can say anything to, without being afraid of what they will think about you? If not, I seriously suggest that you get one of those fast. Maybe try e-bay. You can get almost anything there.

Anyhow, on the drive home... a new story formed in my head. I know, I know, I'm not even finished with the other one, and that crazy lady is still screaming at me all the damn time. But this new one... it just popped in there. It had a plot already. And characters. And conflict. And direction. And now I've got more voices, and they're all trying to scream over each other to be heard.

So I came straight home and started in at my keyboard. I opened up a fresh page, totally blank, and just started getting the stuff out of my head. And before I realized it, I had almost 10 pages. Ten. Full. Pages. And it's still coming. I just had to stop to blog. Well, really, it was to re-fill my wineglass. Is there some rule about drinking Lambrusco and writing? I sure hope not.

I figure I need to get this stuff out while it's still making sense to me. I'm just planning on writing till the Girls stop talking. Then I'll go back and make it make sense. Does that sound crazy? I just can't stop to make sure it's all good right now. I feel like I really need to get this out, while it's all fresh up there.

Just wanted to let you guys know, just in case I disappear for a bit. It's nothing bad. It's actually very good. I haven't felt this way in a very long time. So now, I'm getting back to my brand-new story.

Char, let me know when you're ready for this very rough first chapter, ok? Because I really want to know what you think.

Everyone else... just send me happy vibes. And another few bottles of Lambrusco. This could take a while.

Pictures, a Day at the Park, and Insights

I took the kids to Paramount's King's Dominion yesterday. We have season's passes, so we spend a huge chunk of every summer there. I've discovered that those passes are not only a great bargaining chip (Get your rooms cleaned, or we don't go!!), but also a great sanity saver (Sorry, I can't babysit your 5 kids for you, I promised to take my kids to the Park that day!).

It's not that I mind watching other kids, not at all. I just do it too often, then end up feeling resentful. It seems that when you have a full house, people end up thinking that you won't even notice another 3, or 5, kids hanging out. Granted, now that we live on the farm, having 10 acres helps out. I can send them all outside and write in peace. But often, I like to just load up my kids and go off on an adventure. I can't do that when I've got extra kids. We don't have enough seats in our van. Some of you remember the days when we had a 15 passenger van. We bought that one in 2002, because it seemed that I always ended up with extra kids, I mean EVERY DAY. And I hated being stuck at home. So Shane bought a BIG van, and that was ok for a while. But then, people really felt like it was no big deal to drop off their kids, so they could do things like spend a day alone with their spouse, or go grocery shopping, or get their hair done. Now, I like to go grocery shopping as much as the next girl, but it's considerably harder when you have 11 little tag-alongs. Days alone with my husband? Never happened. It's not easy finding someone willing to watch 6 kids, even though you watch their 3 at least 4 days out of the week, without pay. So when that big ol' van broke, we bought a Chevy Astro, It has 8 seats. It was MADE for us, really. Guess what the neighbor said. If you guessed "How are my kids going to fit in your new van?" you'd be correct. And Shane, with the sweetest smile possible, replied, "They aren't." Can I tell you how much I totally adored that man at that exact moment.

Anyhow, sorry for that little off-track story. Really, I wanted to post that picture up there. Those are the fabulous glasses I found at King's Dominion yesterday. It was just too funny to see them, since we were discussing the beautiful Flamingo over on HW/SW the past few days. The glasses were in one of those theme park stores that charge $3.25 for a bottle of Coke. No, I'm not exaggerating. That's more than it costs for a six-pack at the grocery store. It just infuriates me. But then again, we only live 15 minutes away now, so when the natives start getting restless for food, I just pack them up ans take them home. It's easy to feed them and let them rest, then head back to the park for a few hours. I'm totally loving being so close!

Yesterday was a very hard day at the Park for us though. My kids are growing up so fast. Gret and Michael don't even bother measuring themselves anymore, as they know they are tall enough for any ride. Jo has finally reached ORANGE band, which means she can also ride any ride. This is major for her, since we spent all last summer finding the perfect platform sandals to make her tall enough. Now she's there on her own. Shed a tear for me, ok? Mathew is PURPLE, one step below orange. It doesn't really matter. He's not a roller coaster kid, much like Michael. Neither of the boys really enjoy the coasters at all. Put them on the White Water Rapids and they're in heaven, but coasters? Not so much. Then there was my shock of the day. Maggie has reached GREEN band, a step below purple. I almost cried right there at the measuring station. She had a perma-grin all day. She's finally past the 'baby' rides, and can get on some of the coasters. And this kid LOVES the coasters. The bad thing is, Em is still a BLUE band, which means she's stuck on the kiddie rides. So while the "big" kids (which yesterday included Mags for the very first time) rode some of the "big" rides, she got to hang with mom. Kinda cool for me, but pretty boring for her.

That Park is like my reality check every spring. I can delude myself that they are all still babies during the year. Yes, I sometimes have to buy them bigger clothes, but really, I just drift along pretending that they will always be around. Then every spring, I'm forced to see how much they are really growing. Yesterday, when Jo was orange all by herself, without any help from her three inch sandals, it was hard. What was even harder was remembering when I'd bought those tall sandals for Gret. She needed them just a few years ago. Now, she doesn't even bother getting measured. She can almost look me in the eye.

When our children are born, the thought of at least 18 years with them in our home seems to stretch out endlessly. We think there will always be enough time to do the fun things. Enough time to teach them the important things. Enough time... Then one day, something happens. We look at them, really long and hard, we have to stop and count the years until they turn 18, and we realize that our time with them is growing very very small. Yes, I still have 13 years left with Em. But I only have 4 left with Gret. Four years left to teach her so many things. Four very short years. I'm so excited for her to be a grown up, to experience this world, to become her own woman. But at the same time, I am already missing her. Yes, if you could see me right now, I have tears in my eyes, I'm getting choked up, just thinking about it. It excites me, and terrifies me, and saddens me, all at once.

For now though, I'm going to enjoy these days that I have with all of my children. I am going to treat each day as the precious gift it is, for I know that it will never come again. Once the sun sets, once they close their eyes tonight, the day is gone forever. I don't get a mulligan in parenting. There are no do-overs. If I waste this day, it's just that - wasted.

There's one more thing that those King's Dominion passes give me - the chance to create wondeful memories with my children. And I'm going to take that chance again. And again. And again. So if you don't see me around here one day, don't worry. I'm probably at the Park, riding some rides with my babies. After all, in a few years, they will be way too cool to be seen there with me. I need to get in all the time I can with them now!

Oh yeah, had to add the pic of Baby and the HUGE flamingo they had for sale. Hey, it's only $650. Maybe I can save my pennies...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Moot and Zoe?

This picture is for all my friends over on the HW/SW blog.

We're discussing names for Jenny Crusie's new pink flamingo. This flamingo is friends with Moot, the one-eyed alligator from "Don't Look Down". The discussion in the comments section is waaaaay long, but very fun (as always!).

After taking a break from the blog to cook dinner for my restless heathens, I saw my Baby running around the house. Something about her shirt caught my eye, so I grabbed her and brought her closer to me. On her shirt is an alligator sitting next to a flamingo! Also, there is a group of gators, and I imagine they are dancing, doing the cha-cha, underwater.

Anyhow, I just had to share this pic, as I thought it was too cool, and very perfectly timed, considering the CherryBomb discussion of the day.

Monday, June 05, 2006

29 Questions

The 29 questions Quiz
Q1) When showering, do you start the water and then get in, or get in then start the water? Start the water first, that's the only way it'll be hot when I get in.
Q2) Do you read the labels on your shampoo bottle? Of course. I read everything.
Q3) Do you moan in the shower like the people on the Herbal Essences commercial? Only if my husband is in there with me.
Q4) Have you ever showered with someone of the opposite sex? Of course
Q5) Have you ever been forced to shower with one of your siblings? Never
Q6) Have you ever brushed your teeth in the shower? Almost daily
Q7) Have you ever dropped your soap on your foot? No, I use liquid body wash
Q8) How old do you look? My kids say "Really old"
Q9) How old do you act? As old as I am feeling at the time.
Q10) Whats the last song you sang? "Isn't it Ironic"
Q11) Have you recently become a member of anything? Define "recently".
Q12) What are your plans for the weekend? Cleaning my old house
Q13) Do you kiss with your eyes open or closed? Both
Q14) Whats the sexiest thing about Condoleeza Rice? Her intelligence. Very smart woman.
Q15) Does anything on your body itch right now? My eyes
Q16) Who's the sexiest famous woman alive? "Phoenix" from X-III (sorry, can't remember her name)
Q17) Who's the sexiest famous man alive? Sexiest? I dunno. There are a few, I guess.
Q18) Does every family have a crazy uncle? Of course.
Q19) Have you ever smuggled something into America? Unintentionally.
Q20) Does playing the guitar make a girl/guy more attractive? Not necessarily
Q21) Do you live in a city with a good sports team? I don't live in a city.
Q22) Have you ever finished off the popcorn and ate the junk from the bottom of the bag? Yuk. No.
Q23) Have you ever had sex in a tent? Of course
Q24) What about in a boat? Uhh, yeah.
Q25) Have you ever dated a Goth? No
Q26) Would you rather receive amazing oral sex or have amazing sex? Both
Q27) Can you fix your own car? Depends on what's wrong with it.
Q28) Would you want to kill George W Bush yourself if you were Guarunteed to get away with it? Not a chance
Q29) Should guys wear pink? Why not?

Now you know more about me. So do me a favor. Copy this and answer it on your own blog!

Thanks to Kel for this one.

Queen of the Flies

I really love summertime. It's one of my three favorite seasons. I long for it in December. I ache for it in January. I look forward to it in February. By March, the weather is getting less cold, and I am content for a spell. However, by late May, I can't wait til it's really hot. I LOVE SUMMER.

But man, I HATE flies. They are everywhere right now. They drive me nuts! The little critters can get to every room in the house, and they just seem to multiply. I sit outside on my front porch and watch them buzzing around, wondering of they are trying to figure out a way inside. Of course, the way is easy. If you have children, you already know what I mean.

I've become the DOOR NAZI around my house. I can sense it when a door to the outside is open for more than 10 seconds, and I start yelling. The kids have started to anticipate my yells. Before I get halfway into "SHUT THAT DOOR NOW!!" they are already responding, "OKAY!!".

Part of this is because I hate paying to air condition the outside. Really though, it's mostly because of the flies. I sat outside yesterday and watched my baby stand at the open door for thirty seconds. During that time, 5 flies made their way inside the house. My husband thought I was going to blow a gasket as I tried to calmly explain to her why she must either go in or come out, standing there with the door ajar was just not an option.

Today, I decided to make it a financially beneficial venture for me. When I am outside, and my wonderful children need to speak with me, they must either come outside, or wait until I decide to come inside. If they stand in the door, they will have to pay me a quarter for every single fly that I see go into my house. Does that sound crazy? Maybe so. But it seems to be working. They've become oh so much more conscious of the door being open.

Now you know how much I can't stand flies. What bug really bugs you? Why? Don't tell me about the ones that you fear, like spiders. Tell me about the ones that make you want to scream in frustration.