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31 posts from January 2010

January 11, 2010

It Vill Be Okay

Another Manly Monday, brought to you by our friend William . . . and who says big boys don't cry?

 

IT VILL BE OKAY

BY Will Graham

The kindness of strangers….

It happens.  It happens all the time.  We’re just all so busy, so important, so on the go-go-go, so connected and networking, and in a rush rush rush, we don’t pay attention.

The single strongest memory I have of this is 1992, Vegas.  A frantic call from my brother; our mother had suffered a stroke, was in the hospital, and it didn’t look good.  I was on a plane five hours later, crossing my fingers and rediscovering prayer.

Got to the airport, my brother was waiting, mad dash to the hospital.  Mom was aware enough to know I was there, my brother and our father were there.  Her three boys were together again.  She couldn’t talk, I’m not certain she could see, but she squeezed my hand when I asked her to.  She knew we were there.

That very night, my mother had a massive stroke, almost flat-lining.  The doctor was an old family friend, and granted us the courtesy of no sugar coating; her brain was the equivalent of a cup of yogurt.

The biggest problem with a stroke is no one really knows what will happen next.  Patients can live a long time, or they can fade away very quickly. There’s no predicting.  None.

Nine days went by.  The three men were staying at home, and there was more testosterone in that house than should legally be allowed. (A former FBI Agent, a State Trooper, and me... you do the math.) I was in my childhood room, and it was a routine.  Wake up, get Dad up, head to hospital. Wait. Sneak outside for a cigarette.  Come back.  Bad coffee.  Cafeteria food.  Wait some more.  Talk with doctor, talk with nurses, talk amongst ourselves.

And wait.

On the tenth day, we were ragged from lack of sleep, nerves stretched from waiting.  The doctor came in, was brutally honest yet again.  Things had changed, things were going downhill, it could be minutes or it could be hours, but it was going to happen and there wasn’t anything to be done.  A discussion was held, decisions made.  None of us were doing too well.  I stepped outside her room for a moment to compose myself.As I came through the door with all the grace of a Navy SEAL in a major hurry, I almost knocked over a woman.  Tiny, maybe 4’10” tall, silver hair, nicely dressed.  I caught myself, mumbled an apology, and tried to move forward.

“Boychic,” she said, glancing into the room, then looking up into my face.  “It vill bee o-kay.”  Thick, thick Yiddish accent that I recognized from my years Miami.

I couldn’t stop myself, and blurted out, “No, ma’am, it won’t."

Without another word, this woman put her arms around me and hugged me tighter than I’d ever been hugged in my life.  “Yes, baby, it vill,” she said. “You don’t have to like it, but it vill be okay.”

I looked down at this little woman, a total stranger, and had a flash of pure rage.  Who the hell was she to tell me?  She didn’t know a goddamned thing.  She didn’t know me, she didn’t know my mother, who the fuck did she think she was?

She held on to me for another moment, then let go and stepped back.  Her eyes were bright and shining, she had a smile on her face.  “It vill, I promise you.”

I opened my mouth with every intention of blasting this nosy bitch who didn’t know fuck-all about me or my family right across the hall…. when I saw the tattoo on her arm.

Nothing fancy.  Nothing ornate.  Nothing special.

Just a series of numbers.  Six of them.  Almost faded away.

My brain locked.  The anger drained away.

I knew what those numbers meant.

I could not even imagine what this woman had been through in her life.  Yet she stood before me, bright eyed and smiling in a hospital corridor, reaching out and trying to comfort a grown man she had never met before and didn’t know who was trying very hard to hold on to what little shred of adulthood he had left.

She reached up, patted my cheek, said “You’re a good boy,” turned, and walked away.

My mother passed that very night.

I never saw the silver haired woman again.

Never got her name.

Never knew why she was there, who she was visiting, who she may have been in the process of losing from her life.  Again.

But I promise you this:

I’ll never forget her….

January 10, 2010

All is Revealed


by Hank

SO? How'd you do? I've looked at all your guesses...and some of you rocked! Others of you--well, let's just say the Tarts are good at keeping secrets. See below for the prize winners! But first, all is revealed!

Here are the questions again--with the answers!

Can you picture the Tarts as Tartlets? As little girls, two of the Tarts wanted to be veterinarians.  Can you guess who?  NANCY and  HARLEY

Harley209

One planned to be a beautician. Who do you think that is?  KATHY

One, a geneticist. Who? HANK
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And still today, one of us thinks if she weren’t a writer—she might sell real estate. SARAH

 As a kid, one of the Tarts played cello, oboe, clarinet and piano. (Not at the same time.) Which Tart is the musical prodigy? HARLEY

Which Tarts are artists? One of us won a contest—okay, in fifth grade but it still counts—for drawing a sketch of her mother. Who?   HARLEY

And one of us is still brilliant at drawing—horses.NANCYNancy martin

We had wonderful high school and college careers.

ElaineOne of us married her English professor. ELAINE

One was voted “Most Individual” in her high school.  HANK

One was her high school mascot—costume and all. Who danced for the crowd?KATHY

One was a majorette—baton, white boots and all. Who marched to Tuxedo Junction? HANK (But I was terrible. Middle of the back row)

 Athletics? Sure, we rock.  In our own ways.
One holds her high school’s record for the SHORTEST broad jump. ELAINE

 One’s a weightlifter. At her best, she could bench 250 pounds, which was more than twice her body weight. KATHY

One—qualified for the Olympic swim team.  NANCY!

And one took beginning tennis—a one-semester course—for three years.  HANK

Hobbies?

One Tart collects decorating magazines. NANCY

One has an “absurd fascination” with Mormons. SARAH

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One is really good at counted cross stitch. HARLEY

((And that ain’t all. The Tarts have many other talents. Oh, yes indeed. (This is where Me, Margie, kept raising her hand. I ignored her. You don't wanna know. She keeps trying to have me list her talents. Puh-leeze.)

Which of us can do mirror writing? (That’s cursive writing that can be read in a mirror.) HARLEY

Which of us can sing songs using only the first letter of each word?  HANK

Which of us can throw a bullet of a forward pass? (oh, that’s too easy)  NANCY!

SOO? How'd you do?  ANd now--tell us something WE don't know about YOU!

********************************************************

Who wins the prizes?  Here are just some of the winners...KERRY wins Nancy's new book!  JodiL and Storyteller Mary win ARCS of PRIME TIME!  Peach wins a DRIVE TIME canvas tote bag!  But that's not all--watch the comments space--for the rest of the many more winners! (Winners--please contact Hank through her website and she'll arrange to get you your loot!) (I'm flying back to Boston Sunday AM--so see you when I get home!)

January 09, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different


by Hank, the new girl.

So here we are in our new red dresses. Ready for a new year. In just the next two months, one of us—Sarah—will have her book debut as a fabulous TV movie. One of us—Nancy—is about to have her new book barrel onto the charts. (say it with me: Chickaboomboom!)  

Now, I can hear you all hooting with derision. Hank, you’re saying, we KNOW this. We know about Harley’s successes and Elaine’s two series and even about Charlie McNally, who’s back on the trail of the bad guys in Drive Time. (The less said about Me, Margie, the better.) You’re saying: you’re supposed to be the investigative reporter. Tell us something we don’t know.

Okay, you’re on.  Here’s a little quiz to see just how well you know your pals here at TLC.

Pencils Pencilsready? And at the end—prizes!

First: Can you picture the Tarts as Tartlets? As little girls, two of the Tarts wanted to be veterinarians.  Can you guess who?

One planned to be a beautician. Who do you think that is?

And one—a geneticist. Who?

And still today, one of us thinks if she weren’t a writer—she might sell real estate.

Not so easy now, huh?

How about this:  As a kid, one of the Tarts played cello, oboe, clarinet and piano. (Not at the same time.) Which Tart is the musical prodigy?

Continuing in the arts--which Tarts are artists? One of us won a contest—okay, in fifth grade but it still counts—for drawing a sketch of her mother. Who? 

And one of us is still brilliant at drawing—horses.

We had wonderful high school and college careers:

One of us married her English professor

One was voted “Most Individual” in her high school.

One was her high school mascot—costume and all. Who danced for the crowd?

One was a majorette—baton, white boots and all. Who marched to Tuxedo Junction?Majorettes1965

Athletics? Sure, we rock.  In our own ways.

One holds her high school’s record for the SHORTEST broad jump.

Finish line

One’s a weightlifter. At her best, she could bench 250 pounds, which was more than twice her body weight.

One—qualified for the Olympic swim team. 

And one took beginning tennis—a one-semester course—for three years. 

Hobbies?  One Tart collects decorating magazines.

One has an “absurd fascination” with Mormons.

One is really good at counted cross stitch.

And that ain’t all. The Tarts have many other talents. Oh, yes indeed. (This is where Me, Margie, kept raising her hand. I ignored her. You don't wanna know.)

Which of us can do mirror writing? (That’s cursive writing that can be read in a mirror.)

Which of us can sign songs using only the first letter of each word?

Which of can whistle loud enough to silence a crowd?Whistling

Which of us can throw a bullet of a forward pass? (oh, that’s too easy!)

So now—you know all of us a little better.  But who does what…and are you sure?  Give us your best guesses!  Tomorrow…I’ll reveal all the answers.  And certainly there are prizes to be won!

I’ll also announce the winners of PRIME TIME and QUARRY from last week’s contest. 

(And hey: Me, Margie cannot guess. And--listen. Whatever she tells you is probably not true.)

January 08, 2010

2010 Calendars

2010 Calendars

By Kathy Sweeney

Blog moller-flying-cars  Can you believe it's 2010?  I'm calling it Twenty-Ten.  It seems like it's the real future, doesn't it?  Not all is well, as we know.  To echo the great Lewis Black: "Where the hell is my flying car?!".  We were promised cool stuff in the future, like flying cars, and kitchens that serve exactly what you want via voice command.  Hey, I saw "The Jetsons" - I know it can be done. Sure, you can compromise with take-out, or better yet, delivery from good restaurants - and if your town doesn't have something like "Wheel Deliver" and you have an extra couple of thousand bucks to start one, do it.

One of the cool futuristic things I do have is my iCalendar.  I can input from my phone or from my computer, and if it's a regular thing (like a birthday) I can tell the calendar to repeat it every year.  I can create calendars for all different things on one master one - categories like Work (blue); Home (Green); Medical and Other Appointments (dark pink); Fun Stuff (purple); Book and Blog stuff (bright yellow).  Each family member has his or her own color too.  All very cool and I can print any combination by the day, week, month or year.

I can access the calendar on my computer, my phone or online.  Gives me constant immediate access to all the information.  Amazing.  Also a mitzvah because my memory has turned to a combination of a crap shoot and mush.  I barely remember phone numbers (perhaps because I don't actually dial them any more - they're all programmed in to my phone).  Have I mentioned how much I adore my iPhone?

One might think this fabulous technology means I no longer have wall calendars.  Bazinga!  Wrong!  I even have more than one.  Not sure why - maybe old habits really are that hard to break, but I need to see that grid on the wall.

Here are the ones in the house so far this year:

 blog 30rock-wall_calendar_2010  

  • The Family Calendar (located in the kitchen area): 30 Rock.  We love that show, and there is no Modern Family Calendar - yet - so it was an easy choice.  Last year it was an Obama Calendar.  I figure we need the laughs more this year.
  • My main work calendar (on the wall right by my desk): Signs of Peace Calendar - "There is No Way To Peace; Peace is the Way"  love that.
  • Hall Calendar (outside my office): Lost.  This is usually a TV calendar, and in past years it has been Seinfeld, Grey's Anatomy and NCIS.
  • Kid's Calendar, Teenage Male: Chuck Norris (example from 12/09: "Chuck Norris sleeps with a pillow under his gun.")
  • Kid's Calendar, Teenage Female:  World of Warcraft
  • Mom's Calendar - on the stairs where I see it every time I come and go from my office: Psalms.
  • Blog 2010 calendar DespairMisc. Calendar - may change locations depending on the message: Despair.Com. (example from 1/10: Accomplishments:  You Can Fool All of the People All of the Time if your Effects Budget is Large Enough.)  
  • We used to have a calendar in the family room, but we replaced it with a lovely plaque that reads:  "Sarcasm Society.  Like We Need Your Opinion."  Good stuff.  

That's a lot of calendars for someone who doesn't really need any.  Some were gifts, but I have to admit that I did buy three of them.  Calendars that did not make the cut (in addition to the Obama one) include the Superbowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, Gone With the Wind (this year's had too many goofy sketches and not enough Rhett and Scarlett), Ellora's Cave (I missed RT and there is not enough Purell in this world to get me to enter a store that sells that kind of thing - besides, I only used it when we had parties to see who used the master bathroom when they weren't supposed to - believe me, I could tell.)

So let's take a break from the cold weather - hey - I signed up for winter - I love this town, but people in Florida and Texas with freezing temps?  Hell to the No.  

And let's take a break from all the news that hurts the brain.  I'm not even going to mention it.  Just tell me about your calendars for the first year of this new decade.

Unless you have a flying car - then I want all the details.

January 06, 2010

I Love a Parade

I Love a Parade

 

by Nancy Martin    Go to fullsize image

Watching the Rose Parade from Pasadena last week got me thinking about parades in general. And remembering the time I was nearly part of a parade disaster.  But I wonder who thought up the idea to begin with?  I mean, the Romans paraded their humiliated enemies along the Appian Way, but surely they weren’t the first. Humiliation, though, is what flashes through my mind when I think of parades.

In my small hometown, we had an annual parade celebrating the Laurel Festival.  (Laurel is a rhododendron-like bush that flowers in the forest in June.  It’s all over the place where I grew up. Long ago, somebody decided laurel was a great excuse for a festival. And a parade. Why not? Our neighboring town has made serious business out of a groundhog.)  We even had a Laurel Festival queen. (My grandfather was a judge one year, and we thought his excitement was going to cause him to have a stroke.) Our annual parade always featured a dozen high school bands led by pretty girls wearing go-go boots and twirling batons.  We also had floats—mostly made of crepe paper crafted into flowers by members of the Eastern Star.  We had tractors pulling farm wagons loaded down with Boy Scouts. The firemen always threw candy to the kiddies from their trucks. Typical small town parade.

The Shriners with their little motorcycles were always a big hit.  Their clowns, too. Personally, I’m not crazy about clowns.  You?

Anyway, the horses always came last in my hometown, for obvious reasons.  (My husband, who was in his high school band—saxophone—reports not all parade organizers were so thoughtful. He also says the worst parades were those 4th of Julys marched in 90-degree heat while wearing wool uniforms. Kids fainted all over the pavement before the fireworks.)  I think the Rose Parade has the best horses, though. Appaloosas come in two colors, did you know? Spotted all over or just spotted on their rumps. Palominos, Arabians, Haflingers, Saddlebreds.  The Buffalo Soldiers unit looked great this year.  Those spectacular Mexican saddles with the silver? Wow.

 

Go to fullsize image

Being a horse-crazy teenaged girl, I would have loved to ride a horse in a parade.

But when I was about twelve, the Laurel Festival parade organizer knocked on our door (wearing a really terrible toupee) and asked my dad not about our Tennesee Walker, but if they could use our family convertible in the parade.

 

My dad was an aficionado of beautiful cars, and that year had a cherry red Mercury with a white leather interior—very snazzy.  The organizer said the Laurel queen needed to ride sitting up on the back seat of a really great car as she waved to the crowd that thronged Main Street.  He made a good case for why our red convertible was perfect for the queen. My father said yes, on the condition that the queen took off her shoes to save his white upholstery.

Trouble was, my dad refused to actually drive the car for the queen.  Too dignified (or too Prebysterian) to be seen in a parade, he promptly volunteered my mother for the job, and my mother promptly insisted I ride shotgun. 

Remember, I was twelve.  The ideal age for making a spectacle of myself---NOT A gangly girl with braces on my teeth, thick glasses, freckles, bitten fingernails, scabs on my knees. Got the picture?

When the day of the parade arrived, a sunny June Saturday, my mother slipped behind the wheel. She is a spritely, petite lady, and she wore a spiffy white shirt with a devil-may-care scarf tied jauntily around her throat. Her tiny white Ked rested just a little nervously on the accelerator. Soon the Laurel queen scrambled up onto the back seat, looking very glamorous with a huge corsage pinned on her shoulder and her hair teased up in a stylish bouffant. She was probably a former majorette, not the scabby knee type.

Me, I scrunched myself down into the front seat, prepared to be humiliated in front of the whole town. The Boy Scouts on the float ahead of us blew furtive raspberries while we waited for our turn to go. They were mad because we weren't the majorettes in their short skirts and go-go boots, I guess.

Unfortunately, the toupee-wearing guy who started the parade—the one who signaled the cop to drive his cruiser down Main Street first, and thereafter sent the bands and the floats in careful 30-second increments---had a call of nature just as my mother braked the red convertible at the starting line.  He ordered my mother to wait and dashed into a strategically placed Port-o-John.  My mother and I looked at each other, wide-eyed.  The rest of the parade marched farther and farther away as we sat, waiting.  Eventually, the Boy Scouts were disappearing into the distance.  The crowd leaned out into the street to see what the hold-up was.

“Should I go?” Mother asked me.

I was paralyzed.  Disobey the parade official? 

At last, Mr. Toupee bolted out of the Port-o-John, fastening his belt with one hand and flapping his clipboard at us with the other.  “Go!  Go! Go!”

My mother floored the accelerator. The Laurel Queen shrieked and nearly somersaulted off the back of the car.  Mother’s scarf blew in the wind. The faces of our friends and neighbors were a blur as we sped down the street, zooming past the Presbyterian church and the funeral home and the sporting goods store.  At last, we caught up with the rest of the parade, at which time my mother said to me.  “Smile.  Wave.  You’re in a parade!”

At school on Monday, a boy who’d been ignoring me for years snapped my bra and said,  “Saw you in the parade on Saturday.”

Which was when I saw the light about being in parades and seriously considered becoming a majorette.  My mother refused her permission, however.  We were Presbyterians, after all. Better to drive the queen’s car, apparently, than flash your baton.  I'm still not sure that's the life lesson I was supposed to learn, but there it is.

 

By the way, fans of the Blackbirds might like to visit my website where "Mick's Story"--a short story prequel to the Blackbird series--is now available for free.  Just go here, click on "The Blackbirds" and you can click on the story from there.

First Foot

By Elaine Viets

As I write this, we are five days into the New Year, and our situation is critical.  Newyears clock

We have not had our First Foot.

First Foot means that the first person who sets foot in your house determines the rest of the New Year. Get off on a bad foot, and your year slides downhill.

My husband Don does not see the seriousness of our situation. "I can open the door and let Mystery out," he said. "She’ll come right back. Especially if it’s dinner time."

"Won’t work," I said. "She’s a family member."Cat celebrating

"She’s a cat," Don said.

"We have rats, wolves and jackasses in our family," I said. "What’s wrong with cats?"

The First Foot rules are very clear: The first foot cannot be an immediate family member who lives in the house. The First Foot cannot be a red head. Red heads are bad luck. Men bring better luck than women. Black-haired men bring the best luck of all.

My Grandmother Vierling gave me these rules. I used to wonder about the ban against red heads, since Grandma was part Irish, and the family is sprinkled with carrot tops. New Year’s Day began a tense watch for the First Foot, in case one of those unlucky red heads approached.

Grandma Vierling started every New Year with this midnight ritual:

Precisely at midnight, when the ball dropped in Times Square, my jolly German-Irish Grandma would eat pickled herring while holding a silver dollar. She swore this brought wealth and good luck.

She died sick and broke.

Grandmother Viets, a stern German-American, said this was an irrational superstition. She wouldn’t do anything that ridiculous.

She died sick and broke.

As December 31 approaches, I look at the jar of pickled herring with the urine-colored brine at the supermarket, and skip that New Year ritual. Right now, I’m not rich and not feeling real good, but at least I didn’t have to swallow pickled herring.

But I still believe in the First Foot. 18913-person-with-hairy-legs-and-toes-wearing-red-high-heels-clipart-by-djart

Previous First Feet have included a plumber who was called in when the third-floor stack pipe broke on New Year’s Day and filled the basement with raw sewage. He was dark-haired, but still heralded a bad year. Another year, a dark-haired camera man who came to our house to interview me for a TV show. The interview, like the year, was only so-so.

Grandma used to jiggle the rules a little by inviting people over for New Year’s Day. She’d make sure the troublemakers (including some red-headed drunks) arrived later than the blondes and brunettes. But by Jan. 5, the issue should be decided, I should know how this year is going to go.

Don asked the condo handyman, Robbie, if he’d take a look at our heating and cooling system, because the heat part wasn’t working. Robbie, a benign brown-haired man, would have been a perfect First Footer.

"Sorry," Robbie said. "You need to call in a furnace expert."

Our television is ailing, and we could call in Pete the repairman. He’s a good guy, but bald. And it would cost $75 to get his foot over our threshold, which I consider extremely bad luck.

Today I’m at home, still wondering if our New Year will get off on the right foot. 30376-clip-art-graphic-of-a-hairy-male-crossdresser-in-a-dress-carrying-a-purse-by-djart

January 05, 2010

Naked with a Stranger

NAKED WITH A STRANGER

by Harley

Match.com strikes again. Last fall it was my sister Joanie. Now my best friend Mindy is on the cusp of falling in love, with a guy we’ll call Roy. My friendship with Mindy dates back to the Dark Ages, so naturally, I’m in on the vetting process.

“Grammar could be an issue,” Mindy says.

“Grammar?” I ask.

“The other day Roy said, ‘I drug the horses into the barn.’ Shouldn’t it be, ‘I dragged the horses into the barn?’”

“Maybe he drugs his horses,” I say. “As in, ‘I sedate the children to get them through Thanksgiving with Aunt Maybelle.’”

We consider this. My feeling is, a guy our age who’s dragging horses anywhere or getting them to smoke grass is impressive, which compensates for the faulty use of a past tense. In other words, Roy’s a keeper.

Is such scrutiny necessary? Yes. We’re not just picking Mindy’s soulmate, we’re picking the Stranger With Whom She May Get Naked, her first since 1997. If it were me, I’d be joining a religious sect about now, one that requires clothing even during showers and conjugal relations.

See, in the olden days, Mindy and I had a maintenance regime of waxing, manicures, pedicures, haircolor, cut, highlights, Pilates . . . now, it’s an annual mammogram and Pap smear, a measles, mumps, rubella booster for the kids, rabies and bordetella for the dogs, and if we have time to shave our legs, that’s gravy.

So a love scene can’t be with just anyone. It requires a man with a certain warmth, a look in his eye that says either “lust” or “this is the woman who will drive me to my knee replacement surgery.” As long as it’s not revulsion, we’re good.

The pool rules have changed, along with the pool of candidates. Mindy and I once shunned men who didn’t want to procreate. Now those same guys are back in the dating pool, replacing the men seeking trophy wives (since Mindy, like me, has passed the Trophy Wife expiration date). Of course, they must be willing to take on our children, and in return, we’re happy to take on their children. (If you’re already cooking, what’s another 3 or 4 picky eaters?) No hair? No problem. Even comb-over guys can be rehabilitated. Paunch? Perfect.Images 

This is cut-to-the-chase time. Not because of the ticking biological clock but because of the babysitter meter. Plus, we all have earlier bedtimes. So Mindy is taking fast notes: does he make her laugh? Can they yak, yak, yak for the next 30-50 years? Is he honest? Kind? Some qualities show up only over time, so while she’s waiting, she looks for the red flags, the knockout punches, the dealbreakers. For instance:

 OCigar smoking.

xTobacco chewing.

DUndertipping. Or worse, he stiffs the waitress. (Mindy and I both waited tables.)

xBad hygiene. (This is L.A., not Deadwood.)

L Meanness to “the little people” -- bank tellers, cab drivers, educationally-challenged cashiers at Rite Aid. Yes, humanity can be annoying. Yes, we all have bad days. But chronic grouchiness? No. Especially applies to the regulars: kids, dogs, relatives.

L Misguided politics. Very tricky! Some issues you’ll debate till death do you part. Others are dealbreakers. Mindy’s include reproductive freedom, separation of church and state, and civil rights.

xLittering.

L Religious Zealotry--if the religion includes human sacrifice, door-to-door conversion pamphlets, or the belief that gay people are going straight to hell.

O Cultural Miscellany. If he admits The Celestine Prophecy is his favorite book, or “anything with Kevin Costner” is his favorite movie, things could get ugly.

 Mindy’s out there blazing the trail for me, so I’m calling on you, my posse, for her. Is there anything we’ve forgotten?

Harley

January 04, 2010

Love, Friendship, & Backstabbing.


Love, Friendship, & Backstabbing.

By Lisa Daily

Love & Friendship:

Have you ever had your life get so crazy that it feels like you're struggling to breathe?

It's been a little crazy around my house lately.  Really crazy, in fact.

My fellow tarts, being the wonderful women they are, have graciously allowed me to give up my spot on the blog, so that I can focus more of my brain cells on the round-the-clock chaos at my house.

For this, I am grateful.

I am also grateful for the opportunity to blog here at the Lipstick Chronicles --I've had a fabulous time with all of you, and I will miss you very much.  I've never seen such a fantastic group of backbloggers anywhere.

I am also truly honored that you, the Tarts, asked me to blog with you in the first place.  You are wonderful, prolific, gifted writers -- and I am so thankful to know you all.

And in that spirit of friendship, love and kindness, I am going to use my very last post as a Regular Tart to introduce my very good friend Eileen Cook, who has a smart, funny book coming out this week. 

Eileen Cook and I met Sarah on the very same day.  Eileen & I were camped out on a hotel lobby couch after wandering around the RWA conference in San Francisco.  I was disappointed, because the one author I was dying to meet wasn't at her signing table.

I took a book anyway.  (As you all know, Tart books make lovely gifts.)

Ten minutes later, Sarah Strohmeyer plops down on the couch next to me, ticked off about being late to her signing.  (She'd been blogging.)  Eileen and I sympathized, and the three of us begin to joke around.

Sarah looks at the coffee table, points to The Sleeping Beauty Proposal and says, "Hey, that's my book."

I say something witty like, "Ohmigod.  You're the one author I was dying to meet."

The three of us gab for an hour or two, discover a mutual obsession with the movie Idiocracy, and Sarah tells us a story about the time Bill Clinton attempted to make a move.

It's always great when authors turn out to be as cool and interesting as their books.

Anyway, it felt like a full-circle kind of moment that this was my last official blog, and that Eileen has a YA book coming out this week called Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood.

Getting Revenge cover
Popularity is the best revenge.
In the final weeks of eighth grade, Lauren Wood made a choice. She betrayed her best friend, Helen, in a manner so publicly humiliating that Helen had to move to a new town just to save face. Ditching Helen was worth it, though, because Lauren started high school as one of the It Girls--and now, at the start of her senior year, she's the cheerleading captain, the quarterback's girlfriend, and the undisputed queen bee. Lauren has everything she's ever wanted, and she has forgotten all about her ex-best friend.

But Helen could never forget Lauren. After three years of obsessing, she's moving back to her old town. She has a new name and a new look, but she hasn't dropped her old grudges. She has a detailed plan to bring down her former BFF by taking away everything that's ever been important to Lauren—starting with her boyfriend.



Lisa:  Have you ever sought revenge like a character in the book?

Eileen:

Obviously, due to legal implications there is no way I’m going to admit to anything.  If you crossed me earlier in life and now that you’ve read the book you’re wondering if what happened with your favorite pair of jeans maybe wasn’t an accident… well, I can neither confirm nor deny anything.

What should be clear is that people shouldn’t mess with us writer types. We’re a lethal combination of overly sensitive and creative. Our imaginations are capable of creating entire new worlds, people, and futures. Coming up with a way to mess someone up is practically easy. Luckily, we’re typically satisfied to have those that cross us have their brains sucked out of their nostrils by hungry zombies on the page and don’t need to take our revenge into the real world.

I actually prefer fictional revenge. You’re highly unlikely to get jail time for fiction. Plus, it can be really hard to find a hungry zombie when you need one. They’re highly unreliable. For me, writing has always been a cathartic way to deal with strong emotions: anger, passion, despair. There’s a release that comes with letting those thoughts that we normally keep locked down, tucked away from public viewing, out for some free time. On the page, unlike life you want to constantly increase conflict. You push your characters to the breaking point to show that even what seemed imaginable can be survived. Head shot distance

Writing allows us to put old demons to bed. (I like to picture them in footie jammies) We’re able to play things out on the page and let them go. Writers don’t need to live in the past, because we can live in any world we can imagine.  And we can imagine better than just about anyone.

Lisa:  Did you get to keep that custom made "not a Barbie doll" on the cover of your book?

Eileen:

Tragically, no.  The doll currently resides on a shelf in my editor's office.  Interesting trivia: the doll came with lace thong panties.  This makes me suspect publishing companies are not the typical buyers of custom dolls.

Lisa:  Do you think Sarah would be perfectly justified in exacting some sort of revenge on a certain ex-President?

Eileen:

Well, she should definitely write him into her next book.  And maybe make him bald. Fictional revenge really is the best.  You can go so much larger, or imply smaller, as the case may be.

Lisa:  Thanks for being here today, and best of luck with your terrific book.

Eileen:

Thanks for having me!

Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood is in bookstores Tuesday, Jan 5.

January 03, 2010

Life as a Yo-Yo Dieter

By Sarah

When we first designed The Lipstick Chronicles nearly four years ago, one of the caveats was that we would not discuss diets. That was fine until I wrote a book about three overweight women, one of whom was CP  posing as a thin columnist, who decide to lose weight once and for all. Now, with The Cinderella Pact being made into a movie premiering on Lifetime on January 31st called Lying to Be Perfect, I'm extending a toe beyond the proverbial line to talk about weight loss. 

After all, it is the new year.

As a lifelong dieter, it pains me to see the New Year's resolutions, the ads for Weight Watchers (though I love the organization) and all the other "tips" on AOL and Yahoo that promise to drop poundage. If I had to do it all over again, I would not have dieted back in high school because my body is so cynical that even a day of water and Sudafed could not get it to drop an ounce.

When it comes to diets, I've done them all: Atkins, high carb, low fat, bananas and hot dogs, watermelon, citrus and pure starvation.  I did lose weight dramatically, eventually. I was in my early 30s and working as a day editor at a local newspaper. My daughter was three and I was 31 and superScale   stressed. Somewhere along the way I decided to follow Jane Brody's high carb, low fat, diet, cut out all meat and cheese and bread and got down to 127 lbs by accident. I swear, I didn't even notice. I'm 5'7"", so I looked pretty good - even my brother in law said so and he's one of those men who keeps track of such things.

Of course, as luck (or other instruments of destruction) would have it, I got pregnant shortly after that and let's just say things haven't been the same. 

With the new year, I've been asking myself if I should try for it again. The health benefits are clear, as are the boosts to self esteem, etc. But what I remember most about that year of being thin was how different I didn't feel. It seemed odd when I saw the numbers on the scale, as if they weren't real. I was sure it was broken until I visited my doctor's office - where, as we all know, the scales are rigged - and, lo and behold, the weights added to 126. In the mirror, I saw the same old me. The same unwanted bulges, the same ripples. How was it possible that I had achieved my goal and, yet, not the perfect body?

Dress  I am a long long way from those days and clearly, if I keep it up, I'll be in trouble. The thing is, I'm afraid I don't care. Is that bad? I mean, I'd love to slip into a size 6 pair of jeans or easily find a straight skirt that would look smashing. It'd be nice not to have to worry about swimsuit season or formal wear. But, my God, the effort! All that denial when death looms closer and closer just seems downright foolish. The tiramisu that comes my way might be my last. I could say no, but do I really want to take that chance?

Also, when you've been yo-yo dieting as long as I have, motivation disappears. I lost the weight and I gained that back. (Granted, partly that was not my doing.) What's to guarantee that I won't do it again? 

So, here's my question: Should I give it the one last college try before I turn 50 in three years? And, if so, will any of you join me?

Just throwing it out there....

Sarah

January 02, 2010

Ode to a Winter's Nap

By Sarah

My mother used to say HER holiday was December 26 and she was right. With us children happily Bath  preoccupied by our new toys or crafts or books, she would run a hot bath, grab a book and, afterward, take nice long nap. In the middle of the day.

This was unheard of in our circles, my parents being the type devoted to routines and hard work, starting with the morning calisthenics and ending with laundry folding before the 9 p.m. bedtime. But, like a lot of mothers then and now, she put her all into that hellish period between Thanksgiving and Christmas and she was exhausted. New Year's, annually celebrated at a slightly bawdy party at the neighbors' (I awoke one morning to find an unopened packet of edible panties on the hall table) didn't count for much. By then the big effort was over.

Napping was not.

I am sure the Dec. 26th sleep in was one of those deep naps, the kind where you sink into the bedChaz and fred   and are swallowed up only to wake pleasantly confused and warm. There's something about the lack of daylight this time of year, the harsh weather outside our curtained windows, the silence of the snow that lends itself to sleep. Our dog Fred, normally teetering to the hyper active side even if he is a basset, spends 80% of his day conked out by the wood stove. The cats, ruthless hunters, are practically comatose. So it's not just us humans.

With a deadline fast approaching, I can't afford serious naps, though I have, occasionally, put my head down at my desk. The bed is too dangerous. (New Year's Day was the one exception. Hey, even God took a day off once a week.) That said, it's easier, actually, to stay awake while rewriting. It's the first draft that's a killer. Perhaps it is the blank space that needs to be filled, the exertion of reaching into one's imagination and crafting people and making them do and think and say things in a purposeful sequence that is so enervating I have passed out at my desk, head on table usually around 1 p.m.

Lunch makes people tired as does pregnancy. I can still remember a few choice naps I enjoyed when I was pregnant with Sam. I remember crawling, literally crawling, to my bed in the middle of the morning and, with the sensation of Alice, falling into a vortex of blackness. When I awoke an hour later I realized three-year-old Anna was in the house and I had forgotten. She was fine. Probably didn't notice. But I was panicked. What if there'd been a fire? Or if she'd run out the back door?

Lunch + Pregnancy + Writing + Work = Forget it. I had a friend who's a doctor at a prestigious hospital in Cleveland. When she was pregnant, she slept under her desk after lunch. That's why I'm writing this blog on a Saturday on the off chance most of you aren't working. Because it's just cruel to read about napping when the office air is stifling and you've consumed a turkey sandwich.

Napping  So here's my question: Do you nap in the middle of the day? And, if so, how do you get away with  work? Do you have rules? Ten minutes, yes. Sixty minutes, no. Do you nap more in the winter than in the summer? And - my favorite - have you ever been caught?

Also, check out this image to the left. It's a German invention - The Napshell - designed with an ergonomic mattress and Dolby sound to create soothing, sleep inducing noise. Perfect, I say, for the office power nap or the dreaded overnight layover in airports. Who knows? Maybe this is the future of sleep.

And on that note, off to bed.....!

Sarah