Thursday, December 28, 2006

ABC Meme, from Joss's blog...

A- Available or single? Yeah, sure.

B- Best Friend? Shane. Duh. Then Kelly, she's known me longer than anyone else. Kim and Charity fit right in there as well.

C- Cake or Pie? Mom's yucky old chocolate cinammon cake.

D- Drink of Choice? Cafe Momma, aka coffee fixed just for me by my daughter Jordan.

E- Essential Item? books

F- Favorite Color? red, and I've really taken a liking to PINK the past few months as well. That might have something to do with my fabulous Pink Warrior friends, Michelle and Renee though.

G- Gummi Bears or Worms? bears. it's just fun to bite off their little heads.

H- Hometown? Well, I was born in Winfield, Ks. But I grew up all over the place. I graduated in Vegas, so we'll go with that. It just sounds so much cooler than Kansas, huh?

I- Indulgence? I really don't have that many of these. I guess my lambrusco.

J- January or February? February. It's the month that reminds me most of Europe, as that's when I was in both Italy and Paris.

K- Kids and names? Gretchen, Michael, Jordan, Mathew, Maggie, Emile.

L- Life is incomplete without? My husband. No, really. I can barely make it through a whole day without him. You guys have been witness to that.

M- Marriage Date? Our legal marriage date is in December. But we celebrate our anniversary in August, the day of our first kiss and dance.

N- Number of Siblings? 1 Brother, Ron, who is younger and a big pain in the butt. He's also one of my very favorite people in the whole world.

O- Oranges or apples? Oranges, especially if they have cloves in them and are simmering in a huge pot of dark wine, about to be made into sangria.

P- Phobias/Fears? Failure. Most notably as a mommy. Also as a wife, friend, writer. You name it, I'm afraid I'll screw it up.

Q- Favorite Quote? Duh. Just take a look at my "favorite sayings" over there on the right

R- Reason to Smile? see "K"

S- Season? Any of the ones that aren't winter.

T- Tag three people! Tag? Oh, I suck at that game. I can't run fast enough to catch the big kids, and I feel too bad to catch the little kids, so I'm usually "it" for at least three rounds!

U- Unknown Fact About Me? I ran away from home when I was 18. I just hopped on a bus from Vegas and headed off to California. I had $39 in my wallet and $5 in my pocket. Every last penny was stolen from my wallet, so I showed up in San Diego with enough for bus fare to the beach. I took that bus, met a really cool couple, slept on their floor for a few days, headed north to LA, found a job, stayed in a shelter-type place for a fw months, then went out to Texas to see my grandparents before going into the Navy. I'd already joined before heading off to California. The bus trip and 4 following months was just me seeing if I could make it without anyone else. I did, of course. I think I've never been more scared, or more proud, of anything in my life. And if my daughter (any of them) ever tries anything like that, I'll probably kill her.

V- Vegetable you hate? I can say in all honesty that the only veggie that earns HATE from me is PEAS. Can't stand 'em. Won't fix 'em. Gag if I even smell 'em. Spinach? Bring it on. Brussels sprouts? Love the things. But peas? Oh Gawd, I hate those!

W- Worst habit? Not finishing what I start.

X- X-Rays you've had? head. wrist. knees. ankles. stomach. chest. geez, sounds like i've been messed up a lot. But really, except for a broken wrist during my first marriage, i've never had a broken bone.

Y- Your favorite food? i LOVE Mexican food.

Z- Zodiac? crab. well, Moon child sounds so much better, doesn't it? still though - i'm a crab!

Just wanted to share...

This is the view from my office window.
Words don't even begin to describe it, so I thought a picture might work.
Thanks to all of you that reminded me that I do, in fact, have a voice.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Joy!!

Spreading it is more fun than I remembered...

I am overwhelmed this Christmas morning. I don't know how else to explain it. First, there was THIS beautiful gift, from two of my favorite authors (Jenny and Bob, her and him, The Cherry and The GAM). Then, there was the rest...

Last night, the fam went to church for the Christmas Eve candle lit service. It was beyond beautiful. The sanctuary was decorated in candles and colors, smiles were everywhere, and music filled the air. All of our church families had the opportunity to showcase their own special talents. Some people read passages, some performed on the guitar or piano, some sang. We also had a special time of the Lord's Table (Communion, to some of you). During this time, the floor was open for anyone that felt compelled to give testimonies. I don't know how it is in other churches, but I always love it when we get to give testimonies. This year, for me, the highlight centered around a young woman named Tia. Tia is new to our church. She's a teenager that attends the local high school. She was brought to our church by her best friend, Amanda, and Amanda helped lead her to the Lord. Tia's family has been out of church for over a decade, but her newfound passion for Christ brought them to our church last night. When Tia gave her testimony, thanking our church for wlecoming her with open arms, thanking her friend for bringing her, and thanking the Lord for her Salvation, there was not a dry eye in the house. That included her mom and her dad. Tia's mom also gave a testimony, thanking everyone for being there for her daughter, and promising to start attending with her. Truly, this was the best Christmas gift I could ask for. Our family has been praying for Tia and her folks, and seeing the three of them there, sitting together and worshipping God on that Holy night, well, it was an answer to prayer. Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful way you answer our prayers!

This morning started around 5am. When you have little ones, you get an early start. Ok, that's not entirely true. When you have a mom that has been up half the night, waiting to see smiles on little faces, and the clock finally hits 5:30, and she sneaks into the room where the 3 youngest girls are sleeping and starts singing Christmas carols in their ears, that's when you really get an early start.

Stockings first, of course. No, we don't do Santa, but they still expect stockings. Then, it was trying to get the teenager to wake up. She was being stubborn. Finally, we were all assembled around the tree, after moving the couch from the tv room so mom and dad had a place to sit. Then the fun began.

Golf clubs(Jo), Bionicles(Mathew), Tinkerbell blankets(Gret), Cherry wallets(Mags), wallets filled with GameStop gift cards(Michael), handheld Princess games(Ems), socks(Shane), and BOOKS!(me, of course), were just a few of our Christmas treats. I will say that I got BOTH Dear John in hardback AND Between, Georgia in audio format, along with a new bag for the Mac I am getting soon, a thumb drive to move all my wip's around (when I get my Mac), a new very soft robe, lots of fuzzy socks, pens, silverware, a new addition to my Christmas village, a Bible engraved with my name, and many other wonderfully perfect gifts. Yeah, I am LOVED, what can I say?

The kids are totally ga-ga over their Wii, of course (thanks a ton, you know who you are!). Shane likes most everything he got, including his Fighting Irish tie and new clothes. The only oops was when he opened his new Zen-M. Instead of the 60gb, I got him the 30gb. He says it's ok, but still, it's not exactly what he wanted, so I have gift remorse. You know how that goes, right?

So what does all this mean? Well, here's the deal. You all really blew me away with your love and support when I mentioned how difficult this season is for me. Penny and Sheryl sent e-mails. McB sent an e-card, as did Robin. Other people sent e-mails or left comments. And Charity, oh dear sweet Charity, made sure that I got not only one, but TWO, calendars. I felt so loved, so very blessed this year. I kept telling Shane how wonderful my friends are, but I don't know that he really understood just how much you all mean to me. You're so much more than I ever dreamed!

Last night, watching Tia sit there next to her parents, tears streaming down her face because they were actually with her, was like a revelation. No, I didn't have my mom next to me. And that hurt, I won't even try to pretend it didn't. But she was there, in spirit, in my heart, in the smile of my shildren and the warm and reassuring pressure of my husband's grasp. She was there. And like Shane said, if she could, she'd probably kick my butt for being such a Grinch. And this morning, watching the joy on the faces of my babies, I know what she must have felt for so many years.

See, it's not just about the gifts. It's not just about the traditions that you share, new or old. It's not about who gets what for whom, or how much you spend. It's in those smiles you see on the faces of the people you love. It's in the strength of the arm that goes around your shoulders when you're feeling pain. It's in the support and friendship that shows up in your mailbox, electronic or the one by the road, when you're least expecting it. Christmas is about love.

God loves us enough to have sent his only Son to this earth, to be born and to grow and to travel and to teach, then to die for our sins on a tree. There is no greater love than that. Through His love, we were given the best Christmas gift imaginable, better than an audiobook or a Wii. And through His love, it's possible to see how many other gifts we are given every single day.

Every. Single. Day.

I miss you, Mom.

I found my Christmas Joy.

Thank you.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas which I *heart* the Grinch...

In which I *am* the Grinch!

Ahh, the holidays. That wonderful time of year where families gather together in the spirit of love and joy, to give gifts and sing songs and eat food and share happiness. Right? RIGHT?!? Yeah, right. And if you're thinking this blog will be all happy at the end, stop reading now.

I gotta admit this to you guys, and you can ho and hum and call me Scrooge all you want, but here it is... I freakin hate Christmas! There. I said it. Go ahead, tell me I'm a Grinch. Tell me that my heart is ten sizes too small and my face is green and I talk funny. Tell me that I'll be visited by 3 ghosts and all little Timmy needs is medical attention but won't get it because I'm a hateful tightwad miser. I don't care. I really, really don't. Not even one little bit.

When I was a wee lass, Christmas was a magical time of year for me. Well, frankly, if there was a day that Hallmark made a card for, it was pretty special. Did any of you ever get a gift on Groundhogs Day, Flag Day, Labor Day? I rest my case. My mom had this way of finding something for every single holiday that you could possibly imagine. She loved giving gifts. She loved shopping. She had this incredible talent of finding the exact right present for the exact right person, every single time. I never got a single thing that I had to pretend to adore. She was just THAT good at the gift thing. Even with my kids, she was amazing. It was joy and light, just watching people open packages that she had lovingly wrapped. I even liked watching my brother open his gifts, because I knew he would have the perfect thing too. And did I mention that she did it all the time, even if we didn't quite have the money for it? We might be eating good ol' mac-n-cheese until April, but by God, we were getting the perfect gifts at Christmas!

Growing up like that, I was always in the Christmas spirit. I never had to fake it. I loved seeing all the snowflakes and trees go up, no matter how early. Christmas music? Couldn't get enough of it. And yes, I inherited my mother's talent for finding the perfect gift. I nurtured that talent so well, and for so long, that it became almost a magical thing. I was a shopper and a hoarder and one of those people that was totally done buying every single gift by the time October 1st rolled around. Really. I'm so not kidding. October 1st. One year, I was done by my birthday. That's in July, in case you forgot.

And the gifts? I bought them for virtually everyone I knew. Kids teachers, bus drivers, mail delivery people, favorite checker at the Food Lion, Preacher, friends, family, and of course about 4 different Angel Tree kids. I just loved finding and buying, and giving, and watching those faces light up on Christmas morn.

Four years ago, that all changed for me. Why? Well, five years ago, my mom died. Three days after spending her last Christmas with us. She was on her way home and she just...died. We buried her in January and that was the start of my Grinch-ness. That year, 2002, the Christmas joy also just...died. I think part of it was knowing that when I opened my gifts, I wouldn't find that perfect one from my mom. I dreaded Christmas morning for months, knowing that that one special gift would be missing from under my tree. Well, that one special gift and a calendar. Every year, she got me a calendar. Every year, it was different. Every year, it was just right. One year, it was Angels (my nickname). One year, it was seascapes (I luvvver the ocean). One year, it was babies (I like those too :) ). I knew that even though I'd hinted to my various friends and family that I'd really miss that calendar, it still wouldn't be there. And it wasn't. And even though I got some really great gifts that year, none of them were "perfect".

The years have slowly slunk by, and every time it hits October, I start getting this roiling in the pit of my stomach. As soon as I see that first green tree, or hear that first carol, I get a pounding behind my left eye and a tic at my jaw, and I just want to run and hide until January. I can't stand to shop anymore. I don't buy gifts for anyone unless I have to. And lately, I don't even like buying gifts for people that really deserve them. It makes me sad and mad and sick, but it's true. I have lost my Christmas joy.

I will buy for my children. I will buy for my husband. Anyone that does not live in my house is pretty lucky to even get a phone call from me at this time of year. I feel bad about it, but not bad enough to make myself pretend to like this season and go out and try to find gifts for other people. I've resorted to gift cards for Shane's family, because I can get those at the WaWa and I don't have to actually go into a store. They're the only people on this planet besides the ones living under my roof that I'm getting anything at all for, so I guess that's a bonus, right?

Much of it is because my mom is gone. I know this. I know she's gone. I know she isn't coming back. I know that I didn't do anything to make her leave, and that she knew I loved her when she left, and I even know she loved me. But she was my Christmas joy and inspiration for 29 years. Now that she's gone, I just don't have that anymore. Still though, that's not all.

I hate the whole "I want this, so this is what you must buy me" mentality that prevails during this whole damn season. What? My kids don't have enough crap already? We need a special day just to spend a metric butt-ton of money on stuff that will be broken or forgotten by the first of the year? Yeah, right. And grown-ups? Gimme a break. You have a job. You make your own damn money. Buy yourself whatever the heck you want and save me the hassle. WHY should I buy something for you? WHY should I feel guilty knowing that you're going to go out and spend $15 on a generic basket of bath stuff for me that I probably won't even use (unless, of course, you actually go to Bath & Body Works. They have really nice baskets full of stuff)?

I like giving stuff the whole year long, but I hate doing it at Christmas. It's just so forced. It's so calculated. It's so damn fake. Christmas is not about how many new toys or things you get. It's about the celebration of the birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Yeah, I know he wasn't really born on December 25th. I know it was actually a pagan holiday. But is it called "Paganmas"? No. It is NOT. It is called CHRISTmas. It's supposed to be about Christ.

So to everyone out there that is secretly thinking that you're going to get a card or gift from me, because you know deep in your heart of hearts that I love you and that you are special to me and that you are my ray of sunshine and I will surely want to express all of that this month... EXHALE. It's not going to happen. Yes, I do love you. Yes, you are special. Yes, you are the ray of sunlight that brightens my every waking moment, and I want to shout it from the rafters for all of the world to hear. But...get with me on this one, ok?

I hate Christmas.

I'll be sending you a gift for Groundhog's Day.

Thank me later.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Do I have an accent?

Finding my own voice

I was talking to my oldest child the other day about my writing. In tyring to explain about why it is a bit frightening to me to finish my story, I started talking to her about why it was that I write in the first place. I mentioned to her that I was on my yearbook staff in high school. I was also on the school newspaper staff. At each of my duty stations while in the Navy I wrote stories or articles for my command newsletter. Growing up, I wanted to be a war journalist. Yes, I'm serious. I wanted to have an old camera, in a battered bag, and travel to hell's armpit and take pictures and write stories that made people think and feel and cry. That was my dream. I could see it in my head.

I have no idea why I wanted to be a war journalist, except maybe because I love photography and I love writing. Seriously, I don't love war. I think war is crazy scary, and I'm not all that hot on jungles or guerillas, or gorillas either, or Kalashnikovs, or seeing death up close and personal. I watched a butterfly die one day and cried for weeks, so I'm really not sure what made me think I'd be able to watch real people die without having to spend the rest of my days in one of those beautiful wrap-around white coats. Silly, really, thinking I'd be able to do that.

But in talking to Gret, I remembered something else. See, I've always been a writer. I think I may have mentioned before how I've always liked to write, but I think I wasn't really ready to admit how much a part of me that writing is. I can remember attempting my first novel. I was in 8th grade. I wrote about 100 pages of it. I let a few friends read it, and one of their moms read it also. She actually cried. She told me that when I got my first book published, she was going to buy 50 copies of it and pass them out at Christmas and tell everyone that she read my first book. Man, I wish I could remember her name! Of course, we moved so much that I barely recall the names of any of my friends, much less their moms. Well, except Jennipher Anderson. I remember her mom's name was Pam, and she had a sister named Julie. She was my friend in 4th grade, when I lived in California.

Anyhow, I've always loved to write. I've started a lot of books, but haven't finished most of them. Usually, something happens in my life that takes me away from the story. Normal things that have stopped me from finishing have been things like moving, giving birth, getting deployed, losing my mother. You know, some real life changing things have happened. As such, it has been a bit hard for me to find my "voice" as a writer.

I think that a writer's voice is what distinguishes each and every book. Some writers are so unique that you can almost recognize their writing without looking at the name on the cover. Most of you have favorites, and it's because that person has a way of weaving together words that creates a magical place for you, a place that you never want to leave. I sing the praises of my favorite voices all the time. I can actually hear the author's voice as I read their books, and it is like listening to music for me. That's why I think it's been so hard for me. See, I don't have an accent.

I grew up all over the place. I was born in Kansas, but never lived there. I lived in Oklahoma and Texas as a baby. Then we moved to Panama, as in Central America. Then to Vegas. Dallas. California, Arizona, back to Vegas, south Texas, Georgia, back to Vegas, California again, back to Vegas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Maryland, and three different places in Virginia. I am married to a man from Ohio. He sounds Canadian. My children sound like perfect little mixes of Southern twang, Texas drawl, and California surf. But me? Yeah, no accent. None. I sound a bit like a radio broadcaster, I guess. Those of you that know me may not realize that though. I'm more of a chameleon with my voice. I can do accents, but I don't really have one. So when I'm writing, I don't hear the lyrical notes of the South, or the brassiness of the South Bronx, or the dropped "r's" of the Northeast, or the long "o's" of the North. I feel like it shows in my writing. And I don't know how I can make the words more me.

I'd like to sound like a cross between Annie Savoy and Delta Burke, with a little Kathleen Turner thrown in for good measure. When I think about it, I want people to read my words and hear huskiness and sultriness and breathlessness. At heart, I think I'm really from South Carolina, or maybe Memphis. If I could pick, I know I'd be Southern. My mom was Southern. My Grams still is. My kids sound like it. My husband is convinced that in a few years he will be (he's got it in his head that when he turns 37, he'll have officially spent more time in Virginia than Ohio, so then he will be SOUTHERN. He refuses to believe me when I tell him it doesn't work like that!). I watched Bull Durham enough to memorize every inflection in Annie's repertoire. I can do the whole "despite my rejection... I am...monogamous" thing and be spot-on, really!

I'm just not sure that wanting to be Southern, wanting to sound Southern, being raised by a Southern momma with Southern rules, eating Southern food, having all of my good memories - every single one of those happy-firefly-warm-breeze-through-the-pecan-tree-at-twilight memories- take place in a Southern place... well, I just don't think that makes me Southern. And dernitalltoheck, I wanna be Southern! I wanna sound like Scarlett when she's standing out on the side of that hill, turnip in hand, making declarations to the air. I want to sound like my friend Kim, who can make even a curse sound like poetry rolling off her Tennessee lips.

But really, I just want to be able to describe things, like the sun, as it's waving a silent goodbye to me, sinking slowly into the horizon, leaving behind a trail of lava and fire and roses across the sky, bathing the meadow outside my window in beauty. I see this sight every day. I make sure that I'm sitting here in my chair at sunset every evening, just so I can see that daily last hurrah of the sun. I arranged my desk next to a window, just for this daily reminder of beauty, to be able to witness this amazing ritual, this breathtaking miracle. It stops my heart every single time. It brings tears to my eyes. I can hear the angels singing in my ear, telling of the promise of another spectacular display, same time tomorrow.

If I could find a way to describe this in a way that other people would also be able to envision this sight, then I know I would have found my very own voice. But until then, I guess all I have to say is...

"Hey, look... the sunset. Ain't it purdy?"

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Go!! Write!! WIN!!

I'm channeling my inner cheerleader in an attempt to get you over to the Book Review Blog today.

We have unveiled our December contest, and it is Spectacular!!

Click here to check out the "old" book review site
Click here to check out the "new" book review site.

Both sites currently have all of the same reviews on them. However, after 1 January 2007, we will no longer be double posting. Only the "new" site will have NEW reviews. We will leave up the old site with a "Redirect" post, but no new reviews will be posted there.

Anyhow, you can comment on EITHER site, or send us an e-mail at to enter the contest. The prize, of course, is some amazingly fabulous books. I won't give you any more details. You're just going to have to head over there to find out all of the details.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get on over there now!!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

So, you all want to know what I've been doing, huh?

Yeah, I get that from your e-mails. No, I haven't fallen into a NaNo induced coma. No, I didn't follow my phone doen the toilet into the septic tank. And No, I really didn't break all ten of my digits skydiving off my back deck. I've just been...busy. Ok, not really, but that's my story, and I'm... yeah, that's lame, isn't it?

Truth be told, I've had my head buried in one book after another since November 30th. I have not even picked up my laptop to see if those people I walked away from are still standing on the beach waiting for me to come back and fill in the ending. I don't know what to do with them. Geez, that's not true either. I know exactly what to do with them, I just haven't had the energy to do it. Well, maybe I've had the energy, just not the motivation. Ok, ok, I've just been nervous.

There. I said it. Are you happy now? I'm scared witless to finish my story. I know what's going to happen, and I think it's the exact right thing. But here's the deal... when it's done, it's done, you know? I mean, yeah, I'll have to go back and do some editing (ok, a LOT of editing). And if I actually manage to pitch it and there is some interest, I'll probably have a ton of rewrites to do. But still, basically, once I head back up there and finish it, then it's finished. And I just don't know if I'm ready for it to be over just yet.

As much as I struggled during November, as much as I stressed overmaking my word count, and worried over those unexpected turns it was taking, I just really like this story. No, scratch that. I'm being honest here. I totally love this story. I mean, I really, really got into this story, these people are so real to me, I am so intimate with their lives, their motivations, their hearts, that I'm afraid to end it. Sounds dumb, doesn't it?

I told Robin and McB all about it at lunch. Well, I didn't tell them about not wanting to finish the story. I hadn't even admitted that to myself yet. But I did tell them about the story. I told them the basic outline, and even some of the twisty-turns that it had taken. I dropped a few small bombs, and then the big one. I even told them how it would end. They seemed to like the idea. Mind you, they haven't read it, and I have no idea if my writing can actually keep up with the plot, but still, just knowing that they liked the idea of it was enough to make me feel good, really really good.

Yeah, I'll finish it. I'm giving myself until the end of this month. Then I'm shelving it until I finish the Beach Story. Then I'll go back and do some edits. There are a couple of plot points that I need to strengthen, and one major thing that I want to change. I know what that is, but I'm not sure how to change it yet. It will work itself out in my head by February, I'm pretty sure.

For Life Updates, here you go: Kids are growing like weeds in June. Shane took me out for our Anniversary on Thursday night. He bought me a new coat (it is B e a utiful!). We went out to HappyEndings and he had to drink car bombs because the Browns were getting their butts kicked and the owner of the club was a Steelers fan. Charity called me and I actually got to talk to her instead of just e-mail her. It was the perfect night.

More later. The kids are, at this exact moment, yelling at me to get off the computer so we can go get a Christmas tree.

I LOVE my life.