The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Monday, February 1, 2016

Winners... and Survivors

          Yesterday I put all the names of the people into a bowl (I'm old-school)-- all the people who left a comment--and drew a name.

           The winner of the Carly Simon memoir is...

                     Mama Zen.

           MZ, if you email me your address, I'll send you the book.

           And as far as survivors,  I've spent most of the last two weeks at the hospital. For some of those days I'd work, hurry home to let the dog out and then head to the hospital.

          My husband has felt bad for several months. But like the typical stupid stoic male, he tried to power through it. Two weeks ago, he went in for a pre-planned 3-4 day hospital stay so they could try a new heart med.

          We thought it was working. He was released on a Friday. 

          On Sunday night, because of an electronic monitor he was wearing, they could tell he had a heart attack. Sunday night, we were ordered to go to the emergency room immediately. He was admitted, after wonderful care from the ER nurses at St. Mary's, and stayed until Thursday.

           Because of the diagnosis he has (congestive heart failure), we are now label-lookers. Looking at every label is going to become second nature to us. Low or no sodium things are the only foods allowed in the house, which will be good for me, too. (However, if I am out and about with friends at  a restaurant, and you see me order the "Deer's Special--a salt lick--you'll understand how much I miss salty things.) Thankfully, there are sodium-free versions of salt, and we're experimenting with different salt-free versions of spice blends.

           So, how about you? Do you have certain dietary constraints? Are there certain foods you avoid? (And do you have a plate of bacon you can send me--to my work?) Salty minds want to know...

Monday, January 25, 2016

In the Inner Sanctum of Sioux

         My teenage years were turbulent ones. In love with James Taylor, Cat Stevens and John Sebastian--along with two English teachers--I had trouble choosing which one was going to be the lucky one... the lucky one who would get my unfocused affection.

        Of course, Carly Simon and Cat Stevens got together (the song "Anticipation" was written about him) and then later married James Taylor, so I crossed them both off my list. (Their loss!) Carly Simon's childhood (her dad was the "Simon" in Simon and Shuster), her infamous battles with stage fright, her marriage and divorce--I loved her music and was fascinated by her life.

       This past Christmas, from my daughter, I got a copy of Simon's memoir. While my husband sat next to me, I opened the gift, squealed in delight, held the book up, and my daughter and I talked about the book for a couple of minutes.

        I've only just begun--to read it.

      This past week, my husband said he'd heard a book being talked about on chloroform delivered by radio waves NPR, and he ordered it for me. Guess what it was? 

      Yep. You got it. The Carly Simon book.

      Since I have an extra copy, my husband suggested I give it away on my blog... which is exactly what I'm going to do.

      So, leave a comment. If you include John Sebastian's address, or Mr. Miya's (my 7th grade English teacher), I'll put your name in the hat an extra 1,872 times. I'll draw a name at the end of the month.


Cat Stevens singing "My Lady D'Arbanville," a song
about the actress Patti D'Arbanville... I guess if 
I had not crossed him off my list, he might have
written a song about me... ;)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Grandma's Wisdom

        I used to think my grandmother--the one I knew the best--was soooo not with it. I was a pre-teen and then a teenager, and knew everything.
        Or so I thought.

       My grandmother quilted and crocheted and knit and baked, and she did it all at lightning speed. There were occasional moments of levity over her projects (never in front of her). She got to the point where pins would accidentally get sewn into the layers of quilts. It was like a more pointed version of the "King Cake" (the one where you're lucky if you find the tiny plastic baby in the cake around Mardi Gras). Before you fell asleep, you quickly found the pin, and would work to weave it out of the batting and stitches and cotton fabric.

       I couldn't learn the handwork my grandmother did from her. She wasn't a patient teacher and was unable to slow down or explain. Years after she died, I learned to quilt from my mother (who had learned from someone else other than her mother) and learned to knit--the left-handed or German way (even though I'm right-handed) from her sister.

      This past week, something that my grandmother said over and over--something that I thought was totally silly--came back to bite me in the butt. I was knitting a scarf with variegated yarn. I'd bought three skeins, found I needed a couple more, and when I went back to get some more from a different store, as I continued to knit, I found that the yarn didn't quite match. It was close, but off enough that it bugged me.

       Make sure it's all from the same dye lot. My grandmother would meticulously check the dye lot numbers when buying yarn. Inside I'd laugh, figuring machines made it, it was all the same.

       I guess Grandma had the last laugh this week, when I had to unravel a bunch of the scarf and go with a different plan.

       Here's a few other things I learned from my maternal grandmother:

  • There's something satisfying about keeping your hands busy.
  • People-watching results in some amazing sights.
  • Dance shows are entertaining. (She loved to watch "American Bandstand." I love "So You Think You Can Dance.")
  • A slice of chocolate chiffon pie can solve most problems. (Hers was the best.)
  • Good gravy is next to godliness. (Her gravy--like silk, so rich and full of flavor.) 
Here is a photo of my grandmother when she was a teenager.

     What did your grandmother teach you? A mind with a wounded buttocks wants to know...

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Off the Page


     Later today, I'm heading to a book club meeting. A book club of just two--my granddaughter and me.

       A couple of years ago I read Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer's Between the Lines. (Samantha van Leer is Picoult's daughter.) It's a YA/tween book about a girl and her fairy tale book. The twist: the characters are tired of doing the same things over and over, many of them are unhappy with their role, and when the book is closed after the girl goes to sleep, the characters are free to move around in the book's scenery.

      The girl, of course, falls in love with the prince, and the two of them try to get him out of the book and into her life in a real life way.

       Off the Page is the sequel. My granddaughter gobbled up Between, and for Christmas, I gave both of us a copy of Off the Page.

        We're meeting for a late lunch so we can discuss the first four chapters. And I'm a chapter behind.

          I gotta leave and read...

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Left Turns

         When I drive, occasionally I have to make an unexpected turn. Screech. Bump-bump as I hit the brakes to slow down and go over the curb. (Just a bit.) Tom Tom (my GPS) is telling me to "turn now" and there are two streets close together. Do I turn now or at the next street?

        Or I'm traveling with a friend who's the navigator, and we're listening to the radio (loud) and getting lost at several spots. But eventually, we always find our way.

       It's like that with a story as well. Or at least it's that way with my stories. I putter along (unfortunately, I hardly ever manage to break the speed limit when I'm writing) and occasionally, I make an unexpected left turn.

       Yesterday I was reading Lisa's blog. She wrote about an unexpected tidbit that reared its head in her current WIP (a book in her second series of books... Am I the only one that has publishing envy when I think of her?). And without even planning on it, my WIP drifted into my head.

       No, I wasn't even able to work on it last night. Too busy with an evening meeting and doing work for my classroom. But still...

       Before last night, I had it all planned out when it came to a major plot event. A bit of revenge. A felonious bit of justice. It has been set in stone for more than a year.

        However, even though it was unintended, it was insistent: my story told me loudly and clearly--this is how that part should play out. 

         And now, that part is going to head in a different direction. It makes more sense. It solves a problem I was having. And, the story drove itself there...

        What kind of left turn have you experienced lately? Minds with banged-up hubcaps want to know...

Monday, January 11, 2016

Same Stuff, Different People

        For several years, I've been a WWWP--one of the wild women wielding pens. We're a fierce fivesome, meet twice a month at one of the WWWP's house, and are serious about our critique work.

        To be honest, we're also serious about our snorting (in laughter). When we began our group--before we even met--we created an agenda for our meetings. The first 15 minutes would be for off-task chitchat. In an hour and a half, we'd be done and hurtling our way home.

        But that was before we became friends.

        It was also before I got much fatter... because when we started out, it was only iced tea we had as refreshment. And then an occasional plate of cookies found its way onto the table we surrounded. And then once in a while, some cake or pie. Once in a blue moon, our hostess invites us over for dinner before we begin the critique work. (On those evenings I wear sweat pants that are three sizes too big. After all, our host bakes a quiche that is magnifique! She gets the cheese from a French monk who lives in a cave. Really.) Now, it's only occasionally that it's only tea... which is unfortunate for my waistline.

          This fall I started up another writing critique group. These are all teachers, and we meet at Fergie's, a tavern-restaurant. (We have our own private writing room... except on days when some old men have been playing cards for five hours straight and have displayed no sign of coming to an end. On THOSE days, we simply sit in the tavern/restaurant part, like common beer and whisky lovers, and talk loudly.) We eat pizza or fried chicken or taco salads or burgers, we drink iced tea or soda or beer, and we too are serious about our writing... Unfortunately, most of our seriousness gets sucked up in our classroom, leaving us only sporadic energy to write our own stuff.

           However, on our next meeting, we might be starting a collaborative project. One of the teachers suggested writing a joint book/story. One that revolves around one single event--and each of us will write from a different character's perspective. It's a way to focus our writing (some of us are a bit rusty) and is also a way to infuse a piece with distinct voices. 

          We'll see if the whole group takes the bait...