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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Lee's Adventures with her Golden Heart Entry

My Golden Heart entry is on its way! I handed it to the FedEx man this afternoon and he said that since it's supposed to snow tonight or tomorrow (I live in Canada and it does that sometimes), he just might take it to Texas himself. What a sweetie.

I'm not sure what it is about Golden Heart entry time, but things always get crazy for me. I was working for a government ministry yesterday (it’s Canada, remember? our government has ministries) and left to go to my American Sign Language study group. I’m hearing, but I’m learning ASL. I was waiting at the bus stop when a woman on a bicycle collided with a car--a moving one. So I called 911 from my cell phone and sat with the woman till the ambulance got there. The only other bystanders were men and for some reason, they all seemed to be more concerned about the male driver of the car than about the cyclist. Now I have to say, I'm pretty sure the accident was the cyclist's fault but come on, boys. Let's have a little compassion. Long story short, I missed my bus and my study group, and ended up going home to study alone for last night's exam.

Then my parents called last night, just before I left for class, to say they were coming into the city this morning for my father's eye treatment. He has macular degeneration. I told them sorry but I have to work all day on my GH entry and my ministry contract, so no time to visit. They stopped by at 7:40 this morning anyway and I felt as guilty as can be, but I had to send them on their way.

My daughter had the day off today and, bless her, she got up and decided the house was a pigsty and she was going to clean it. Too bad she hadn't cleaned before her grandparents got here, but oh well. And the whole thing about it being a pigsty is a gross understatement, but that's not the point. I've been working like crazy, she has two jobs, and after teaching all week, my husband spends half his weekends marking papers. Who has time to clean?

Okay, so she's busy cleaning. I have both computers running, lights are on, she's simultaneously running the washer, dryer, vacuum cleaner and probably a half dozen appliances I don't know about. I finish burning the CD. Print a letter to go with my entries, which are already printed, copied, and binder clipped, thank goodness. And the power goes out. My UPSs are beeping like crazy so I shut down my computers and then discover that the power didn't go out. Something tripped the breaker and only part of the house--my part!--is without power. Oh well. I no longer need power. I need a courier. I haven't called FedEx for a pickup because I didn't know what time the package would be ready, but everything is now ready so,--if I only slow down for stop signs--I have time to get my Golden Heart entry to the FedEx depot.

And I do. With ten minutes to spare. After coming to a full stop at all stop signs. All is well, except for the snarky woman at the depot who tells me I might too late because the driver will be there any minute. And I have ten, so what's your point? I didn't say that. I just told her that as long as she let me talk to the driver, he'd wait. I got no snark that time, just an evil wait-and-see glare.

Sure enough the driver shows up a minute later. While he's scanning the other packages, I casually mention that I have one more for him. Then I say, "So this will be in Houston tomorrow?" And he replies, "By 10:30 am." And I say, "Wow. I LOVE you guys." Which leads to the conversation about the weather and the possible snow and how he thinks he just might take it there himself. Then he has his arms full of packages and I hold the door open for him and away we go. But I can't resist a glance back at the snarky woman. Listen and learn, lady. You've just seen a professional at work.

So thats how the last day and a bit have unfolded, except I left out the part about me panicking because I thought I dropped my wallet at the drive-through teller this afternoon and drove away, and the part about me spending half an hour yesterday morning in one of the women's washrooms in the government minstry building, moistening paper towel and using it to seal 369 envelopes because the snarky secretary refused to let me use her little spongy envelope-sealer thingy, after somebody took ours out of our supply box. Still, contractors are supposed to provide their own materials, dontchaknow. Now half the women who work on the 7th floor think I'm a total raving lunatic, but what's new? Besides, I'm a writer. What better way to get revenge than to write about it?

Okay. This is me signing off, about to pour myself a glass of wine and marvel at how, despite the craziness, my GH entry manages to make its way out the door every year. And, thanks to my FedEx guy, it's going to be there tomorrow morning by 10:30, more than a whole day before the deadline.

Lee

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Desperately Seeking Discipline - by Trish Morey

And no, I'm not talking fishnets and whips here (please, we’re not *that* kind of blog:-), I'm talking sheer gutsy, stick to your guns self-discipline. The sort you need to overcome the odds, to fight for something you really want. Why is it so hard to come by? Why isn’t there enough of it to go around? Because I sure as heck could do with some.

The thing is, I shouldn’t have to ask these questions. I’m a writer. I write books. And like any writer I have to be self disciplined enough to plant myself on this chair and punch out the words, day after day after day until I have enough words in a particular order that will make a story, hopefully a story my publisher will buy. Nobody can write my story but me. It’s kind of like giving birth – you might have a cast of thousands in attendance, an obstetrician, a paediatrician, a midwife or two and a partner to squeeze your hand and mop your brow, but *nobody* is going to volunteer to trade places with you – nobody can. This is your baby. Writing’s like that – hard work, challenging, painful (ultimately rewarding gets a mention too, but right now let’s concentrate on the pain:-). And your editor and your agent if you have one are waiting for this baby, this story to hatch, as are your husband and family because they’d really like to eat again, but nobody is offering to trade places with you – nuh uh - you have to do it. It’s your job. And it takes discipline to make yourself sit there, to have the discipline and the self belief that you can do this despite all those cruddy words that keep appearing and getting in the way of your vision. It takes discipline to push the damned thing out.

So I’m disciplined enough to sit down and write stories – so where’s my problem? The problem is that, in the two and a bit years since I first sold my first novel and began writing full time and while I’ve been pushing out stories through this keyboard, my weight has blown out by almost 15kgs. (And for all you imperial people, there’s 2.2 lbs to the kilo, 6.4 kg to the stone – I’ll let you do the maths) In that time I’ve written six more books. That’s 2 ½ kgs per book. Ugh. At this rate I soon won’t be able to get out of my chair, even if I want to!

How could I let this happen? It’s not as if I don’t exercise - I take the dog for a walk most days for anything from half to one hour - but I know I eat too much. When I’m writing, the pantry is my very best friend. Write a sentence – need inspiration? – check pantry – delete half sentence and rearrange – nnnh, not sure about that – make coffee – check pantry while kettle boiling – undo changes – check pantry. Aaaaaargh!

And what I really don’t understand how I can be so disciplined in one part of my life – I meet my deadlines (who knows how with all that pantry inventory taking?), and yet lack discipline in others. Is there a finite amount of discipline allocated per person? Am I using it all up on my writing and leaving nothing for anything else? Or am I just using writing as my excuse – I have to establish my career - the story comes first!! I suspect the latter.

Well, reality check time. If I don’t look after my health now my career will be over before it’s had a chance to get off the ground. So yesterday I did it. There’s a new Curves opened up down the hill – yep, Curves has reached even this downunder neck of the woods. And yesterday I joined. Today I had my first circuit and hey, I can still move! And I am going to put a lock on the pantry and give this a shot. I know it won’t be easy – when I’m right into a book I hate to go out and do stuff when the story’s occupying all available brainspace, but I’m going to have to make myself, and make this a part of my routine. Let you know how I get on! Meanwhile, if you do have any spare self-discipline, please send it my way. I sure could do with it!

Norah's Excellent Adventure, by Norah Wilson


"Another Travelin' Song"
Well I’m changing all my strings
I’m gonna write another traveling song
About all the billion highways and the cities at the break of dawn
Well I guess the best that I can do now is pretend I’ve done nothing wrong
And dream of a train that’s going to take me back where I belong
Bright Eyes

I recently survived a 12-hour road trip to cart my 16-year-old daughter and five of her closest male pals (who could afford a seat in the rented Grand Caravan), across an international border to see a 20-something indie artist in concert. Every time I mention this, I get incredulous responses. Everyone thinks I’m a saint of a mother to go to those lengths for my child.

Confession time. I liked it. A lot.

I’m a huge fan of music, and I’d like to think I’ve introduced my kids to some artists who’ll stay with them for the rest of their lives (Warren Zevon, John Hiatt), but they’ve introduced me to their fair share of wonderful artists. Just this week, my son opened my eyes to a guy by the name of Ray LaMontagne. But my daughter Lindsay, whose bedroom abuts my office, probably bears the most responsibility for refining my ear.

Elliott Smith was my first solid conversion. I lost my heart to this man’s gorgeous lyrics and arrangements on the first listen. He brings home the sheer precariousness of life like no one else, and he does it with the voice of an angel. When I raved about Elliott, Lindsay broke the news that he was dead. He’d committed suicide the previous year, and the CD I was listening to (from a basement on the hill) had been released post-humously. My first instinct was to forbid her from listening to those devastatingly beautiful tracks ever again. Ever! I wanted to protect her, as though the impulse to suicide might be communicated through her speakers. Of course, I quickly realized I couldn’t protect her from her own emotions, or any of the things Elliott was singing about. She’d already suffered the loss of a close friend to a house fire, not to mention encountering personal heartbreak and all those other ups and downs we grapple with as teens. When I mentioned this concern to a dear friend of mine (thank you, Kate!), she reminded me that when we were kids, we were listening to the dirges of Leonard Cohen, and we never slit our wrists. That brought it all back, the way listening to those songs helped relieve the constant pressure that seemed to build inside every day. The upshot is, Elliott’s angelic voice still occasionally haunts me from Lindsay’s bedroom next door.

My next conversion is nothing like Elliott Smith. Modest Mouse. Go listen to “Float On” right now. It’ll make you happy. I can practically feel my cerebral cortex lighting up just thinking about it. Of course, their lyrics are not all happiness and light, but even the down stuff is oddly upbeat. Gotta love that!

The next artist I latched onto from the other side of our shared wall was Bright Eyes, fronted by Nebraska’s Conor Oberst, who must be all of 25. Another indie legend, you will never hear him on commercial radio, but this guy is brilliant. This year, he released two CDs simultaneously, something a traditional label would never let him do. I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning is largely acoustic, and features some wonderful harmonies by Emmy Lou Harris. That in itself should be recommendation enough; Emmy Lou has collaborated with the best. Digital Ash in a Digital Urn was a much more synthesized, techno sound, but it’s just the other side of the coin.

What I’m working my way around to telling you is that this is the guy I traveled six hours each way to see, with six teenage passengers, in Portland, Maine’s Merrill Auditorium. I’m delighted to report that young Conor delivered in spades. It was the best show I’ve seen in years. And my beautiful daughter (pictured below) charmed her way past security to take some great pictures, like the one above.



But beyond the fabulousness of the music, there was the looooong road trip. Another confession here—I liked that, too. Or rather, I like kids in this age range (16-18). There is something energizing about spending time with them. They’re slothful one minute, then filled with rambunctious energy the next. They’re empathetic one moment, then laughing at each other’s pain. Quick and funny and articulate and unbelievably more sophisticated than we were at that age. And how cool it was to hear them observe the cultural differences between our two countries through teenage eyes.

Yes, they gave me a few near-heart attacks (that’s a lot of testosterone to be responsible for), but on the whole, it was a blast.

I wonder what I’ll do for my 45th birthday that’ll top this?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Nutcracker Musings by Maureen Hardegree

Some things in life surprise you. One surprise for me, as a former basketball player, was that I had produced a daughter who wanted to be a ballerina. I took ballet briefly, but my instructor who had a thick accent urged my mother to find me another outlet for my energy. That may be when I started with basketball. My daughter is different from me, though. She enjoys the discipline of classical ballet. She even squealed with delight at her first pointe shoe fitting. I don’t recall being similarly enamored of my Chuck Taylor high tops.

When it comes to dance, I suspect that Cynthia’s education and mine have been equal. I may not be able to do a pas-de-bourrée, but I now know what it is. I’ve also learned a whole lot of other things from being a Ballet Mom that come strictly from experience, things I never would have discovered on my own if it weren’t for my daughter’s love of ballet:

1. How to apply a thin bead of glue to false eyelashes and secure them right above the natural lashes.
2. How costumes don’t have to be perfect. Thread doesn’t have to match fabric. They’re costumes. I’m still learning this rule.
3. How to get from my house to the Civic Center where the dancers perform quickly.
4. How to scout out the cute array of gifts, like a blown glass Mouse King that I want to buy, while concurrently selling boutique items during Intermission.
5. How to love seeing The Nutcracker every year, every performance.

Why doesn’t it ever get old? Is it the story of the Nutcracker coming to life and whisking Clara off on an adventure that appeals to me so? Or is it seeing the girls I’ve watched grow up with my daughter learn new roles, new steps, new combinations?

I flip through the pictures in her scrapbook. In kindergarten, her toothless grin greets me as she poses in a red Arabian princess costume. In first grade, as a pochinelle, she leaps across the stage in front of Mother Ginger’s wide yellow skirts. In second grade, as a soldier with red felt cheeks, she marches in unison with her fellow soldiers, then battles with a mouse. In third grade, as a Dream Fairy, she glides in flowing gossamer sleeves, then stands still in Act II as a gold haloed angel holding a harp. And this year, fifth-grade, as a Party Boy, dressed in short pants and a cap, she throws imaginary snowballs and partners with a Party Girl in the party scene. In alternate performances, she’s a Candy Cane dressed in white satin striped with pink and green, and she dances, kicks, and jumps with a hoop.

I suspect the reason I love this ballet so much, year after year, is the joy lighting her dark eyes as she dances. It’s why I give up my time to help the company in whatever way I can, from sewing hooks on a fabric backdrop, to handing out programs to the audience, to driving the kids to photo shoots.

My daughter’s company, The Northeast Atlanta Ballet Ensemble, is celebrating their tenth year performing The Nutcracker. All around the country, from now until Christmas Day, other pre-professional troupes are putting on this holiday classic. Support the ballet and catch some of the spirit of the season. Can you hear the music?

Dum, da, da, dum, dum, dum, da, da
Dum, da,da, dum, dum, dum, da, da

Sunday, November 27, 2005

WRITING AS YOGA

Ila Campbell

As you might have read in my previous blog entry, I’ve started a yoga class. The other night during class my mind was wandering. (As it often does because all the patter is in Korean – which is a good thing because I’d really rather not know that the contortion I’m currently trying to perform is called the ‘squatting dog,’ thank you very much.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah. My mind was wandering. I was looking around the class trying to ignore that the instructor’s knees were behind her ears and realized that taking this class was a lot like my initiation into the RWA (Romance Writers of America), and writing in general. So bear with me as I try to twist and bend my words to fit my thoughts.

I discovered the yoga studio exactly when I needed it most. I’d been losing weight through watching my diet, but had gotten to the point where I was going to have to work to make any more progress. It was also practically across the street, which was necessary because I have a history of not wanting to leave the house to do something as time-consuming and dull as exercising. A hundred yards turned out to be the magic distance I was willing to cross each day to get to that exercise. And at the end of those 100 yards was someone who would FORCE me to keep going – give me the encouragement, the guilt, the threats to continue. They were going to notice and hold me responsible if I was absent or not giving 100%.

My induction into the RWA was very similar to this. I’d always wanted to write novels and dabbled at it, but never really got serious about it. Finally I made the decision to DO it. In seeking some advice from a published author (whom I audaciously bothered with my uneducated questions without even knowing her), I was very nicely asked, “Why don’t you join the RWA?”

The right place at the right time. Distance seemed to be a problem at first, as I live some 8,000 miles from the headquarters, but the Internet was just hitting its groove and I was able to join the on-line Outreach chapter and the mid-Michigan chapter (where I was originally from). At the other end of the magic modem were the people to encourage, guilt and threaten me into doing my writing much more than I would have on my own.

Both of these activities (yoga and writing) I entered into with much trepidation. Did I really want to expose my oversized butt (overblown prose) to everyone else and become an object of ridicule? I could just hear them thinking, “What is she doing here?” “What makes her think she’ll ever be able to do this?”

I gritted my teeth and went anyway. And sure enough, in class I was the oldest, least limber, most uncoordinated person. My left side doesn’t want to move, my ankles WON’T move, and I can’t get my head anywhere near my knees without snapping some bones in the process. I went for two days and I was in pain. My stomach muscles screamed if I coughed or sneezed, I was sure I wasn’t going to go back on Monday.

I’m sure most of us felt like this when we first showed our writing to others. Our dialogue is not snappy, we can’t understand pov, we CANNOT write a synopsis. The first time we get back a critique we want to quit and die in shame because we were not as linguistically limber as we believed ourselves to be.

Yet I kept on, just like you. I had a goal. I wanted to tighten up my frame and feel healthy again. I wanted to get published. I had to continue.

Yoga instructors are like agents and editors, or even best-selling authors. They are scary, unfriendly characters who have power over what you do and how you do it and hold professional judgment over it. They know all the secrets, the tricks, and you’ll never be admitted into their circle. That is, until you get to know them better. Despite their unnatural abilities, they’re just people who don’t do everything perfect. Just from our own, insecure, point of view do they seem that way.

But if you stick it out, you begin to see improvement. The first time you make that stretch, you can’t grab hold of your feet (nail down that characterization). Then the next time, you can make it as far as the ankle (you’ve discovered how to add endearing flaws), until at last you have a tenuous hold on your toes (you’ve finally figured out conflict)!!!

Are we going to be able to do the ‘twisted monkey’ pose on the first try? No. Can the instructor or even some of the class members do it? Maybe. But that shouldn’t matter. We need to stop looking around at what everyone else is doing in the mirror and concentrate on those muscles we’re stretching out. It’s the hours of exercise plus natural talent that make up the equation for mastering any form of sport (or whatever you’d classify yoga as). We all start out with differing amounts of these, so we’re all going to reach our goals at different times.

Meanwhile, keep your head down, focus inward, and S-T-R-E-T-C-H.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I Think I Can

This is my very first blog. So, what do I talk about? The kids are home so I could talk about them--nah. I could blog about my dog and two cats since my little dog is whining at my feet as I type and one of the cats is pawing at the door to get in—nah. Maybe I’ll write about “time” because there just plain isn’t enough of it--nah. I could write about the fact that I’ve been writing for more than a decade and not selling and how the frustration of not selling has made it harder to write. Yeah, I bet I could write a lot about NOT writing--about the doubt that has crept inside of me over the years and curled its invisible fingers around my brain, crippling my muse and causing me to have severe writers block for the first time since I started writing. When I finished my first novel years ago I really thought I would be a published author within a few years. I was 36 or 37 (can’t even recall for sure because it has been SO long). I gave myself a goal. I would make that first sale before I hit 40. And then, just like that, within the blink of an eye, I turned 40. And I hadn’t sold. I was bummed, but I was still SO focused and energized and determined to write AND sell that it didn’t bother me too much. I forged onward. Besides, I had heard enough writing war stories by then to know that it might take a little longer than I first thought. I loved my stories and I was SO sure I would sell at any moment that I had everyone around me believing it too. While raising four kids I have finished five books and at least a half dozen proposals. Not too impressive, but not bad for a slow writer like me. What worries me though is that I have not finished a book in over two years. I believe hitting the decade mark of being an unpublished author was my own personal kiss of death. Finishing a book and getting to “the end” doesn’t sound so great anymore. Why bother? Who the heck is going to want to buy it? That’s the big question. Okay, so much for writing the inspiring and positive blog I intended to write. But at least I’m writing. And I’m almost to the end! Maybe I CAN finish another book after all. “I think I can. I think I can.” Maybe if I start thinking positive again, I can conquer this demon. Maybe, just maybe, if I sit my butt in this chair and write day after day I will finish another book. I did it before, and that means I can do it again, right? And I’ll sell that damn book. Just watch me! Wow, writing this blog ended up being quite therapeutic. Thanks for listening.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving by Dr. Debra

I’m writing two blogs for today. The one about my cats was written several days ago. However, something happened after my Thanksgiving dinner that I knew I needed to write and share with our blog readers.

This year my extended family celebrated Thanksgiving at my brother’s. Like all our family holidays, there was plenty of food, love, laughter, catching up, and retelling of old stories. Holidays with my family are always a blessing.

As the day neared the end, my youngest niece, four-year-old Kimberly, cuddled on the couch with me. Of my three nieces, Kimberly looks the most like me, and (as my aunt reminded me today) has the same high energy level and boisterous, out-going personality that I did at that age. (Somewhere along the line, I lost that high energy and boisterous personality, although I’m still outgoing.) She has the same thick blond hair, blue eyes, and (unfortunately) my nose.

Early in the day, Kimberly had changed out of her holiday clothes and into a Minnie Mouse costume. Now as we sat together, she dangled one of her slightly grubby bare feet on my lap. Seizing her toes, I began to play, “This Little Piggy” with her. Once we finished one foot, she demanded I do the other. Then I switched to “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” crawling my fingers up her arm and making her laugh.



After our second rendition, a memory hit me, piercing me with sadness, and changing my happy feelings to melancholy.

Two months ago, I’d played these very same games with some children in the shelter at Nichols State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. One child in particular, two-year-old Ja-Niya had become very dear to me. She’d singled me out as someone special. In her childish wisdom she recognized our soul bond before I did. Whenever she caught sight of me, with a big smile she’d hold out her arms, then give a delighted belly laugh. Then she’d cling to me, not as a child who takes a fancy to someone who plays with her, but with a deep sense of “it’s right we’re together.”

The night before I left, I’d spent an hour with her, cuddling her, playing games, and holding her until she fell asleep. During that time, I’d often held back tears, hating to leave her, wishing I could bring her home with me.

Playing with Kimberly’s pale toes, I remembered tickling a dark-skinned set of piggys and the deep belly laugh of a tiny girl, and I missed Ja-Niya with a fierce ache.

Where is Ja-Niya today? Is her family celebrating? Are they all right? Faces flashed in my mind, all the people I’d worked with while I was in Louisiana. What kind of Thanksgiving are they having?

Some might be having good holidays. For example, the extended family of twenty who went to live in a small town in Iowa where they’d been offered three houses and jobs. I’ll bet their neighbors or others in the community dropped off food for them. They probably have so much extra, it’s spilling out of their kitchen.

I hope that has happened for many, many of the evacuees.

Other families probably gave thanks for their blessings, and also grieved their losses. For they’ve found both in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

For those who lost everything, including family members, Thanksgiving probably was hard day. I hope they had others around them who reached out with love.

Even though I’d already been feeling thankful for all the blessings in my life, thoughts of my little Ja-Niya and the others made my gratitude so much deeper. I have so much to be thankful for--family, friends, my health, material possessions.

And, I realized, two more blessings: One, that my family members, friends, members of my karate studio, and my WNP sisters contributed financial and emotional support so I could leave my practice for two weeks and travel on my own to Louisiana. How wonderful to have those kind of people in my life!

The other is that I had a chance to work with about a thousand evacuees as well as members of the community of Houma and Thibodaux--an experience I’ll never forget. In many ways, they gave me far more than I gave them. I only wish they could know that they are in my thoughts and my prayers.

Adoption by Dr. Debra

I’m posting my first ever blog. (At least I hope I’ll be posting it. I haven’t figured out how to post yet.)

For a week now I’ve been a mommy to two cats, which is a new experience for me. I’d been catless for a while, when I acquired Nicky. I was attending my local RWA (Romance Writers of America) meeting, and our bookseller had brought in a crate of feral kittens she’d rescued when they’d been abandoned by their mother at age two weeks.

When I caught sight of the four-week-old babies, I opened the crate and started handing them out to the other women standing around me. I kept the littlest one for myself, intending to play with him for a few minutes, then give him to someone else. But I never put him down. He was a tiny gray, white, and black tabby who barely fit in the palm of my hand. His eyes still had a blue tint. During the meeting he contentedly stayed on my lap or snuggled against my shoulder. I even took him with me to the podium when I had to announce the speakers.

By the end of the meeting, all the kittens were adopted, including mine. My friends said I had to name him after one of my heroes, so I chose Nick, the hero from my first book, Wild Montana Sky. But Nick was much too big of a name for my little mite, so I named him Nicky.



At home, I was an anxious new mother. I’d never had a kitten this young before. Concerned about him suffering trauma from separating from his siblings and foster mother after having been abandoned by his birth mother, I took him everywhere with me. By day, he was constantly in my lap. If I ran an errand, he went with me in my purse--content to lie quietly and watch me. I took him to work with me, after calling all my clients and verifying that none were allergic to cats. I even took him with me to the karate studio, tucking him into a fold of my uniform when I was teaching, or handing him over to the plethora of volunteers who wanted to hold him for me.

I made a mistake, though. I kept tickling his tummy, and letting him bat my fingers away and gnaw on me. He had the cutest tummy, just perfect for tickling. I didn’t know until a friend told me that you are NOT supposed to pet kittens on their stomach. It stimulates them to do the above behavior, cute when they are kittens, but not so cute when they are big. Inadvertently, I’d created a cat who bites.

After two weeks, Nicky became more adventurous, and started exploring the house. He quickly learned to dig his claws into the couch or my bedspread and, like a mountain climber, claw his way to the top.

By two months, my sweet baby had become a BOY, and my legs had the scratches to prove it. He loved to run and jump on me. He just wasn’t big enough to jump all the way into my lap, so he thought what would work on the couch would work on me. When I had him for three months, I looked like I had been in a fight with a dozen rosebushes and lost. Luckily he outgrew this stage, but he never stopped the biting.

He loved to be stroked when HE was in the mood for it. At least once a day, he’d jump on my lap and demand attention. But if I tried to pet him when I wanted, he wouldn’t tolerate it too long before biting me. Do you know how hard it is to have a cat that you can’t pet? Fluffy cat fur is made for running your fingers over. And that purr...☺ Nicky’s was loud and rumbly. He’d be purring away, seemingly happy, then he’d bite me. I learned to watch his ears.

Nicky also loved to race around the house, improving his jumping skills on the furniture. No amount of “NO” or using the squirt bottle would stop him. He never seemed to learn the meaning of the word, NO, even though he certainly heard it enough. He loved water and thought I was playing with him. I gave up after scooping him off the bathroom counter three times, then when he curled up in the sink, and I turned the water on him, he just looked up at me and didn’t move. So my cat jumps on counters and tables, shreds paper, splashes the water in his bowl all around, crumples rugs, knocks over the bar stools.... Sigh.

You get the picture. Nicky turned into the cat who no one but his mommy loved. He was banished from my mother’s after knocking over one of her prize vases. Luckily, it didn’t break, or I might have been banished, too. One of my vases and a glass candlestick weren’t so lucky. It’s sort of like that saying that the shoemaker’s children don’t have shoes. Well the therapist’s child is poorly behaved.

My Nicky--a biting, wild, little fiend whom I loved. He followed me everywhere, wanting to be with me. Friends urged me to get a second cat, saying he needed company. But my mind boggled at the idea of two.

Then I spent most of a weekend away at a conference, and I fretted about him being home so much alone. When my friend, Elda, called to tell me about a stray who needed a home, I was ready to listen.

Elda said this kitten was white with a blue eye and a gold eye. My last two cats were white, and one was an odd-eyed cat, so it seemed that adopting this kitten might be fated. She was described as sweet and affectionate and about five months old. I made an impulsive decision to take her--sight unseen. The next day, she was dropped off.

She was filthy, and I gave her a bath right away. Once dry and clean, she proved to be short-haired, but fluffy, lean, with a narrow head, pink ears, and the sweetest expression. She had the lightest brush of black on the top of her head. I named her Lily.

At first nine-month-old Nicky wasn’t pleased by the interloper on his territory. He hissed and circled around her, keeping about a yard away. But he kept her in sight, obviously fascinated. They chased each other around the house, jumping on the furniture. But the sounds they made sounded only mildly threatening, and sometimes playful. I noticed that she had some of the same fighting mannerisms as he did, and I wondered if, instead of her sweetness rubbing off on him, his fiendishness was catching. Nicky was bigger, but Lily seemed to have street smarts, and not only could hold her own, many times she was the instigator.

That afternoon, I realized my sweet little girl, was a BOY, and I had to come up with a name change. Lily became Pippin.

I noticed that I was torn between wanting to pay attention to Nicky and let him know that mommy still loved him, and at the same time wanting to make sure my new baby knew he was loved and welcome--the second child syndrome. But luckily my two children became comfortable with each other and started playing together, and so I only struggled with this for a few days.

I’ve had fun watching them wrestle together. Pippin has filled out and is more a match for my fat Nicky. There have been times when they’ve curled up together and chewed on each other’s paws. Once I saw Nicky wash Pippin’s face. How sweet.

Nicky has stopped biting me as much, but he’s also stopped coming to me for attention, although he enjoys being petted when I go to him. He also doesn’t come to greet me when I get home. Pippin does though. I find I miss my baby. Pippin is the one who’s been staying close. (He’s sleeping on my desk as I write this.)

After only one night of all of us sleeping together, the cats have chosen to spend their nights downstairs.

Will Nicky’s relationship with me change again? Will the novelty of having a brother wear off, and he will once again seek out his mommy? I hope so. Maybe one of these days, the three of us will start curling up together. But if not, I know Nicky’s happier having company, Pippin has a loving home, and that’s what’s important.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Extreme Thanksgiving

When my son Peter was three years old, I sat across from a doctor at Children's Hospital and heard a word straight out of every parent's worst nightmares: autism. No one was sure what caused it, or how to treat it. I was on my own.

I didn't have the luxury of breaking down; if I didn't find a way out of autism for Peter, no one would. So to keep myself going, I tried for a positive, thankful attitude. I had to clutch at some pretty thin straws to find things to be thankful for in that situation. I realize now it was like turning the act of thanksgiving into an extreme sport. Welcome to Extreme Thanksgiving. Instead of explaining the rules, I'll show you how to play:

I learned that many autistic children are completely nonverbal.
"Okay God, even though he can only repeat what people say, without understanding it, he can speak. I’m grateful. We can work with this."

I found out lots of autistic children won't even let their parents touch them.
"Okay, God; so Peter doesn't say 'I love you', and he avoids even looking in my eyes. But he lets me hug him and he seems to enjoy it. I'll be thankful for that."

Taking Peter anywhere was a nightmare; his screaming tantrums often took the form of kicking off his shoes and collapsing. "Well God…at least he's still small enough for me to pick him up and carry him away to the car, even if I have to leave the shoes behind. Good. Thanks. We can work with this."

Get the idea?

That was the beginning of a journey it's impossible to describe here. Let's just say, we did work with it, and slowly, with trouble and sweat and more work than most people can conceive of, Peter toiled his way out of autism. He's thirteen now, and if you met him today, you'd probably think, "He's a great kid, but there's something different about him--I can't put my finger on it." Actually, the first thing you'd think would be "Wow; handsome". He's a drummer and a kayaker and had the highest GPA in the entire middle school last year. And God knows I'm thankful.

But are you thankful enough?

Honestly, parents, I challenge you right here and now. Look around that Thanksgiving table and check out your kids. Give thanks for their eyes and ears and mouths and brains and every single working part of their miraculous bodies, whatever their other impairments may be. And if you're not a parent, try the same thing. Thank heaven for every little part of you that functions. Now it's your turn to play Extreme Thanksgiving.

I'll get you started: Give thanks for your ability to hold that crappy job and pay for the dinky little apartment you hate. It beats hell out of living in an institution, with your entire fate handed over to strangers. So what if your son got a D in college Chemistry this year? He was mentally capable of getting into college, wasn't he? Wow! Give thanks. And if your seven year old has started telling awful lies, be grateful she's got the brain power to do it. If she's smart enough to lie, she's smart enough to learn the value of truth.

This Thanksgiving, I'm asking you to go ahead and give thanks for all the inconceivably precious privileges you treat like rights. I didn't know they were privileges, either, till my son lost them.

And today, after the turkey dinner, before I head out for a game of backyard football with Peter, I'm giving thanks because I remember the long years when Extreme Thanksgiving was the only sport I had time to play.

--Bridget Stuart

A gift of Thanks (Blatant solicitation)

It's Thanksgiving. Turkey and Harry Potter, gratitude for a good year, and lots of thoughts and prayers for the world in its many crises.

This year, I'm thinking more of the things I'm not grateful for, in particular disasters. Pakistan is suffering so badly, still. Even though the nations of the world are finally getting it together to help, it's so late in the year, there could be many people die of cold and hunger because it will be so difficult to get aid to them. There are still over 2 1/2 million people who don't even have tents to protect them, and they live in a climate that is Arctic in nature in the winter time. They are all in danger of dying over the winter.

I often have a hard time visualizing such large numbers. Over three million people who could freeze to death or die of hunger? So I did a little research and some figuring. To my surprise, the population density of Kashmir is almost as great as the metropolitan area where I live, Portland, Oregon-Vancouver, Washington. If I found myself the only living person among three million in this area, I would have to travel more than fifty miles in any direction through the metropolitan area before I found another living soul. Imagine a whole city and all its suburbs wiped out. That's how many people could die in Kashmir this winter. The disaster could go from 87,000 to 3,000,000.

But we've all given, and given, and given this year, for tsunamis, and hurricanes, and poverty everywhere. We feel like we just don't have room to give any more. But wait. Can't we all spare a ten? Even ten dollars would help. Fifty would be a treasure. My kids were asking what I want for Christmas, and I realized there really is nothing they could buy me that I really need to have. So I asked for a "Mercy Kit".

My favorite relief organization, Mercy Corps, has "Mercy Kits" available to give as Christmas presents, or any kind of present, any time of year. So if you feel like you can spare a few bucks, and need an excellent, efficient charity to donate it to, consider Mercy Corps: http://www.mercycorps.org/

Delle Jacobs

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Superheroine From The Past

by Jill Monroe

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States. While thansgiving celebrations have been throughout history and all over the world, here in the US, we almost lost this wonderful tradition.

If it were not for one woman. Sarah Hale.

USAhaleS

Now she may look like a delicate young woman, but really, aren't those the ones to really watch out for? On our Wet Noodle Posse website, we like to profile one special woman, so in honor of the holiday she helped to bring about, I'd like to profile Sarah Hale.

As people left New England and spread throughout the US, the holiday was virtually fading away. Sarah thought this was very wrong, and began a long letter writing campaign and asked the women and children of the US to join her. She met with much success and state after state began to adopt Thanksgiving as an official holiday.

But Sarah wanted it a National holiday. So she began to write to presidents. She wrote to five presidents in all, but it wasn't until our country was nearly torn apart during the Civil War that things began to change. She presented Thanksgiving as a time to bring the country together once more. And President Abraham Lincoln agreed, making it official in 1863! It took her only 38 years, but she never gave up.

Sarah also campaigned for girls to go to school, to become doctors and teachers, playgrounds and many historical monuments. She also wrote poetry, a novel and became the first female magazine editor, bringing such literary talents as Edgar Allen Poe to women alongside articles on cooking and fashion. And if you've ever sung the song, Mary Had A Little Lamb - you have Sarah to thank for it.

And as a young widow she did all this while raising five children! A real superheroine!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Anybody want a limp rubber chicken?

Delle Jacobs

I vaguely remember the time about eight years ago when I wrote a newsletter article boasting that the menacing Writer's Block never troubled me. Whenever I found the words slow in coming, I had a procedure that always worked, that always opened up the window and got the breeze of creativity flowing through me once again.

It was true at the time, and for a number of years afterward. Always, no matter what happened, no matter how discouraged I got, I could always get myself going again. I had trouble understanding writers who didn't write. I suspect I even believed they probably didn't really want to write, but only wanted the dubious thrill of calling themselves writers.

I can't say exactly when the creative breeze began to blow the wrong direction. I've done a lot of pretending it wasn't so. After all, I am a writer who writes. I've got four published books out there. I'm the only author in the entire world entitled to wear three Golden Hearts. I'm a writer.

But something happened. Somewhere along the time when I wrote three of the best books the world has ever seen and nobody would buy them, I think discouragement set in, and doubt became a constant companion. Maybe I just didn't "get it", whatever "it" was. And it didn't help that the market for my stories was crumbling faster than I could put the books together.

But I'm a writer. I write. Right? So where were the words? I felt like my laptop keyboard was sucking them out through my fingertips and depositing them in some cybernetic black hole.

When I finally got up the nerve almost two years ago to quit the day job, I was so excited to finally get to do the one thing I'd wanted to do all my life, to write full time. After the newspaper. The crossword puzzle. The email. Eventually I always got down to the blank page on the computer screen. White, with cross-hatched lines delineating the margins that were supposed to hold all those words.

What words? Where were they? Maybe a Sudoku puzzle would loosen them and they'd fall out of their hidey holes. But the page stayed blank.

Discipline. That's it. That's what I needed. That's what I'd lost when I quit the day job. So I locked up my ethernet card to keep me away from email and surfing the 'net, and refused to get dressed so I couldn't go out and get the newspaper. Uhm. No words. Maybe the toilets needed cleaning.

In desperation, I hunted up that article I'd written with its proud claim, hoping I'd forgotten something I used to know.
Hot tub. Tried that.
Long walk. Yup, been there.
Chocolate, soothing tea? The chocolate shows on my hips now, but not in my writing. And the tea did nothing at all.
Take a break. Who was I kidding? That's all I'd been doing for months!

Aha! Here it was! "Whenever I can't get a mental grasp on my scene, it usually means something's wrong with it. So I lay back on the bed, close my eyes, and just let my mind free-wheel." So I lay back on the bed and closed my eyes, envisioning my hero and heroine. Giving them free rein. Giving the scene over to them.

I fell asleep. Never did figure out what they had in mind.

Well, then, incentive. I've never been one of those writers who thought I had some kind of automatic right to the words, that they ought somehow just to pour out just because I was there to put them down. I'm willing to struggle, to fight for them. Maybe it was just a bit more incentive I needed, something to just keep me at it until I got the words going again.

I did a Book in a Week challenge. Wrote for a whole nine days. My agent pleaded with me to finish the story because there was an editor who really wanted to see it. I got another week's worth done. I revised, thinking I didn't really like my heroine. That helped for another week, but then I was stuck again, and most of what I'd written before now needed to be thrown out anyway. Money, chocolate, promises of movies, trips, nothing seemed to entice me enough to get back to that steady pace that is needed to turn out a good, clean, consistent story. Even tried sex. Bad choice. It's too diverting.

But now I'm back to pounding the laptop keys like a true writing fiend, frenetically turning out page after page, and the story is getting more exciting by the day. So what happened?

Well, a little over a week ago, I went to my local chapter meeting where I admitted my desperate circumstance to a few chapter members. The next thing I knew, I'd signed up for a challenge to finish the book by the end of the year. That's 49 days to do over 200 pages.

And why does this suddenly matter so much to me? Because if I don't, I have to stand up in front of about forty women and a couple of guys, wagging my elbows as I jump about in a bobbing, jerky dance, yelling "Squawk! Awk- awk-awk-awk-awk!"

My heart couldn't take it.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I Miss Reading.

I miss reading.

I remember when these two very driven ladies in my chapter mentioned that they didn't read anymore. I was flabbergasted. How could you be a writer and not read? That would NEVER happen to me.

Another friend sold last year and she stopped reading, too. No time.

Now it's happened to me. I had three novels requested in two weeks. Every one needed work. (I know, cry for me.) So for the past three months, I've read two books. Two. One, two.

Okay, they were long books. And detailed. But TWO. Most of my time is on the computer, and my reward for being on the computer is DVDs. (I have a Blockbuster one on the counter, Tilt, with my new boyfriend Eddie Cibrian.)

Here's the bad thing - in the time it took me to read two books, I've gotten about 20 new books. And all of them are calling to be read, a ton of Bombshells, a bunch of Noodler books, some books by my autobuys, Catherine Mann, Karen Templeton, Virginia Kantra, Karen Robards. So many that I don't know which I will choose first when I get the chance.

I swear – I SWEAR when these Golden Heart entries are out of here, I’m taking off till January and just reading. Okay, some movies, too, but no writing. Maybe Christmas cards. And blog entries. But mostly reading.

That’s the thing that’s been hardest to give up.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Happiest Day of My Life by Diane Perkins

Today is the anniversary of the happiest day of my life. Today is my daughter’s birthday. Oh, I have had other glorious days in my life. My wedding day--but I was young and terrified that day. The day my son was born--but I already knew from having his sister that I would love him to distraction. That new discovery belonged to her day alone. When my daughter was born I was in a hospital room with a new mother who was more delicate than I. I was so happy I couldn’t stay down, so I was constantly rolling her bed up or rolling it down or some other favor she needed. When the babies were not in our room, I’d wander to the window of the nursery and gaze at my daughter, all pink with huge blue eyes. Strangers called her beautiful. I remember months later taking her to the pediatrician’s office and having another mother say I should have her be a baby model. She’s grown now, but when I see her unexpectedly, like recently when I visited NYC and she met me at the hotel, she takes my breath away.

Other memories endure. Late night feedings, just her and me, as if no one else existed in the world. Lullabies needed well into her third year, solidifying both our reputations as night owls. Her first birthday when she got one of those push-popping toys, which she pushed with great intensity all the day and never picked up again. Her pulling clothes off her dolls and dressing her stuffed animals. In the grocery store at age three or so, pretending I was Grandma, until a woman stopped me to say I was the youngest looking grandma she ever saw. Sleeping in her grandmother’s arms at her brother’s baptism. The two of us wandering the cathedral in Savannah, a rare moment alone on a rather stressful girl scout trip. Hearing her sing a solo from The Little Mermaid in elementary school. Or, similarly, on tour with Princessed, her high school rock band. Or exploring Seattle together--visiting the Sound Garden. Taking her and her girlfriends to the mall or the movies. Sitting in the same room when she had an MRI. Sitting at a table at my in-laws and watching her eyes light up when she asked me if I believed in telepathy or something, and I said, “Oh, I believe in everything.” Shopping. Having lunch. Staying up late. And now Instant Messaging. I treasure all the moments.

And, like that very first day, I still wish I could ease all her hurts, prevent any pain. But I can't. She is living her own life, experiencing her own joys and struggles and heartaches.

I have few regrets in my life. I certainly don’t regret my career or my education. I believe everything I’ve done has led me to my life today, living my dream of writing Romance Novels, seeing my books in print. But I often wish I’d given it all up and stayed home with my children, instead of moving into the bigger house, getting the newer car, working full-time. Think how many more memories I would have now.

If you ever have a choice, choose family. Choose your children. Nothing matters as much.

Diane Perkins

Here’s a picture of my daughter--an old one...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hi. My name is Kiki Clark, and I’m a perfectionist.

Perfectionism is one of those two-edged traits. On the one hand, it can motivate you to try harder, learn from your mistakes, and revise that manuscript one more time. On the other, it can stop you from even trying, because you won’t be happy if you can’t be the best. According to the University of Illinois’s counseling website, “Perfectionism is often mistakenly seen in our society as desirable or even necessary for success. However, recent studies have shown that perfectionistic attitudes actually interfere with success. The desire to be perfect can both rob you of a sense of personal satisfaction and cause you to fail to achieve as much as people who have more realistic strivings.”

I’m not that far gone, but my personal satisfaction is definitely being compromised. Take the tap class Joe and I attend every Saturday morning. I dread going to it, because I don’t usually practice in between and I know I won’t be as good as I could be. But when we get there, I’m not a rank failure. I do better than some people on some steps, and worse on others. And it’s great exercise, which is why we started going in the first place. So once I’m there, I have fun. If I could get rid of the dread beforehand, it would be a completely positive experience.

Even the phrase, “a completely positive experience,” seems somewhat nonsensical to me. My inner perfectionist insists that there’s always room for improvement, and that if I’m not dissatisfied on some level, I’m not trying hard enough. That attitude may be responsible for my binge cycle of doing things. I’m the kind of person who sometimes involves herself completely in a project, hobby, or chore, and other times lets it fall completely by the wayside. It’s not depression, because I don’t give up everything. It’s just that I only have the energy to do so many things perfectly, and I rotate those things. So if some deadline is keeping me from cleaning the house to my specified level, I don’t do any cleaning at all. What’s the point, if I can only do so much? Hello! The point is that at least something is getting done, and it won’t sink into the mire.

Then there’s the way perfectionism affects my relations with people. I know my chorale director appreciates me, because I work like a dog on the music. On the other hand, whenever he asks me how I think a rehearsal went, the first thing I do is start reeling off the ways in which we failed. This can’t be pleasant for him. It’s a little weird, too, because I’m an optimist when it comes to the potential for success. Want to know if I think you can do something? My response is likely to be, “Absolutely! What a great idea!” or “That’s perfect for you!” Ask my opinion on the completed task and I’m likely to say, “Everything was great except for…” and “Maybe that one section could have been a little more…” My assumption is that everyone wants to know where they didn’t achieve perfection, so they can fix it. But that’s not true. Many people (lucky people) are happy that they tried something; happy they were able to achieve some level of competency and enjoyed the process of learning. What a concept.

Recently I was reading a book that talked about fear of success and the way it interferes with finding what we like to do. This book suggested asking yourself, “What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail?” Well, I’m lucky, because the answer to that question was that I’d write books. But today I had an epiphany. Not to be negative, but a more useful question for me might be, “What would I still do, even if I knew I wouldn’t succeed?” If there were no chance of me being a world-famous tap dancer, or a singer with perfect pitch, or a Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist, would I still dance, even though I occasionally stumbled? Would I still sing, even though my voice sometimes cracked and I ran out of breath? Would I still write, even if no one read the results but me? The answer, thankfully, is yes, because while perfection is a destination I may never reach, there are lots of things to enjoy during the trip.


Note to self: Enjoy the scenery and stop asking, “Are we there yet?”

Friday, November 18, 2005

Channeling Valentino

Channeling Valentino

I'm hard at work revising a parnormal romantic comedy. Rudolph Valentino is a latecomer to my plot and plays a bit part as a mentor to one of the ghosts in the story. Since vintage Hollywood is a backdrop to the contemporary story, I ordered copies of The Sheik and The Son of the Sheik from Amazon. If you've ever watched silent films, you'll notice that eyes and facial expressions are a big part of conveying emotion. And Rudy has the eyes to slay even independent-minded maidens. I particularly like his troubled scowl in his Sheik headdress. Very effective. The guy had it going on, ya know!

After watching the films, I wanted details on Valentino. All the nitty gritty. Ah, the power of Google, a hurried writer's best friend. Since I was dealing with ghosts and wanted the dirt that would give my story a paranormal edge and vintage flavor I looked up Haunted Hollywood. Sure enough Rudy was there. He still gets around to several locations from his past life, including Paramount Studios, which was already in my book! I love it when ideas and facts collide even if it is a little spooky. It's nice to know I won't have to dance too far from the truth. Always easier that way.

Then I started reading about Rudy's life. Turns out he owned a cursed ring. There is some speculation, by those who believe in such things, that it was instrumental in his unfortunate demise. He chose to unpack and wear his famed ring while on the promo tour for his last film. There is a ring in my story which belonged to the Romanoff family and was fabricated from a piece of the Hope Diamond, another supposed cursed stone. Whether Rudy invited himself into my story through my subconcious or not, I'm glad he's there, except now he's demanding a staring role in his own story. So, I'm off to channel Rudy and see where he leads me next.

Lorelle

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Taking the Plunge

In September, I turned in the proposal for MUST LOVE DRAGONS, my romantic comedy paranormal that's scheduled for November 2006. When I wrote those first three chapters, I loved the story, thought I was brilliant and sobbed that I couldn't write the whole book right then.

Then, two months later, I get the approval on the story. It wasn't until last week that I finally received my revisions back from my editor. Now that I knew it was approved and knew what direction to head it, it was time to write. After all, it's due February 1st, and that's just over two months away. Throw in the holidays, and it's less than two months. Time to get cracking.

But as I stared at those 50 pages that were already written, my brain totally froze up. I couldn't remember any of the little nuances of the story that I'd set up two months ago. I didn't know where I'd planned to take the story. I had no idea what was supposed to happen next. All of a sudden, those 350 blank pages looked completely daunting. I had no idea where to start. So I didn't.

And then, last Friday, while I was still mucking about in panic and denial about MUST LOVE DRAGONS, I sold two books to HarperCollins for a new teen line. It was an amazing gift to have this opportunity, but also a little nervewracking. Book #1 needed to be turned in by January 15, and I didn't even know the story yet!

So, by then, it was Saturday morning, and the pressure was on. Not only did I have to write 350 pages about dragons, but I also had to write a teen book. Suddenly the pressure loomed even larger. How could I possibly get all this finished? I didn't even know where to start, and the clock was ticking with each moment that I stewed about it. Panic was definitely setting in.

But panic accomplished nothing and provided no inspiration whatsoever, and on Sunday, I sat down and got to work. I revised the original proposal for DRAGONS to get myself thinking, and then I simply plunged in and started writing. I didn't know if it was going to be any good. I didn't know if I was going to keep it or hit the delete key as soon as I finished. But I knew I simply had to get in the game.

And you know what? As soon as I start writing, all the panic and pressure eased. I remembered that I know how to write books. I created a schedule, and I have time to get both books finished, with time off for Christmas. I realized that in dreading the task before me, I'd blown it up into something huge and insurmountable. But you know what? It was totally within my capabilities, and all it took was actually breaking off one small corner and getting to work for me to realize it.

So, what huge project is scaring you right now? The one you've been putting off dealing with becuase it seems like more than you can handle? Yeah, that one. Grab it, plunge in, and don't worry about succeeding. Don't worry if you'll get through it. Don't worry that you're going to do a terrible job. Just simply start tackling it, one small bit at a time. Before you know it, you'll be immersed it and you'll realize it's not so scary after all.

Just do it. I dare you.

Stephanie Rowe

XXL

XXL
Hello, my name is Ila Campbell and I am obese. I weigh 150 pounds.
If you’re going, “Wha~?” you’re not the only one. I’ve had this label hanging over me for the last 10 years and still haven’t gotten used to it. And no, it’s not a label I’ve given myself – it’s not a “Look at me, I’m so FAT!” self-delusion. Not negative self-image.

What I am, is living in a country where the average dress size is a 2. I wear a 10-12 and I cannot buy clothes in Korea. I’m not exaggerating. I am an XXL here and 99% of dress stores do not carry these sizes.

I’m going to try to be completely objective here. I’ll admit I’m overweight. When I was in my twenties, the absolute lowest I could weigh without it affecting my health was 125 lbs. I’m only 5’3”, but I have “child-bearing hips,” a large rib cage and an honest-to-God bosom. I’m 38 now, and have two kids, so there’s no way in the world I will ever be 125 again since I have no wish to train for a decathlon. So let’s add 10 lbs to that figure. 135 would be my ideal weight, so 15 lbs. would do it. I’d be happy with 10.

Understanding this, I’ve improved my diet, and lost about 3 inches around my waist. Not a single pound however.

So drastic measures are called for. I must start (gasp!) exercising again. I need to tighten, tone, and get to a place where I feel healthier and thus WANT to exercise more. So when I see a pilates studio open practically across the street last week, I join up.

Last night I had my first class. When you join, you have to be weighed and have your body mass index (BMI) put down in your file. So I weigh in and get shocked looks from the instructor (who, incidentally would tip the scales at 95 soaking wet, if that). “You must diet and exercise,” she tells me in Korean like I’m going to develop diabetes on the spot. “Don’t eat anything after class. No colas.”

I guess I’m getting used to this. I just nodded without telling her that I rarely eat snack foods, avoid fried foods, I never eat anything after 9 pm and the only cola I’ve had for months was Diet Coke. Then she starts in on my BMI. I cracked a little and explained to her that BMI is calculated differently for Asians than Westerners. (It’s true, ask a doctor who deals with both types of patient. According to the Asian chart, my ideal weight is 100 lbs, which – barring some horrible illness or death – I will never be.)

Well, toothpick instructor obviously didn’t buy this. But still, humiliation over, we lined up in our spots and went through the exercises. Being right behind the instructor and having my first class she logically kept an eye on me. I saw grudging acceptance that I actually had the muscles to perform the exercises.

At one point, she came around to correct my posture and jabbed me in the ribs. Not on purpose – she had thought her fingers were going to sink into all the fat covering my ribs, but hit bone instead. Yeah, that’s right baby, that’s bone, there.

Now this is not really a rant, though it might look like it. It got me to thinking about how people perceive things like weight in different cultures and their different reactions to it. When I lived in Malaysia, for example, the Malays and Chinese had the same reaction to my weight (though I weighed 125 then), though they would never, ever say so to my face. Indian men, however, were all over me. Rounded hips and breasts were the ideal type in their culture.

In America, I’m normal. Petite, even. I can buy clothes off the rack with a good success rate. The newest statistics show that the average dress size in America is now a 14.

Koreans have never had any problem pointing out my weight. Total strangers will tell me I should exercise more. My husband’s family will pull food away from me and tell me I’m dieting. Clothing store clerks will see me come in the door and greet me with, “We don’t have large sizes.” Little children will point and say, “Look at the fat lady.”

I’ve vented about this to friends, and they invariably answer, “I could never live there!” And when it hits me smack in the face I sometimes think that, too. But then I remember the intention behind the remarks. Korean culture has a group mentality. When someone is making suggestions about your weight it is generally out of a genuine concern for a person’s health. Overweight equals unhealthy in their society. Rather than coming from the perspective “You’re fat, lazy and unattractive, go fix it,” they mean, “You need to take better care of yourself or you’ll get sick and we wouldn’t want that.” (Okay, maybe that’s not what the little kids are thinking, but kids are kids, right?) They feel they are doing you a service to make you aware of your problem, and it is their duty to point it out.

We’ll see if this attitude holds. The diet is Korea is changing to more meat, dairy and wheat products – exactly those products that have shaped the muscle and bone structure of their Western counterparts. Junior high and elementary girls are developing bigger hips, larger busts and more muscle on their frames than their predecessors. Clothing designs will have to be cut differently for the next generation. Attitudes toward shape may change.

So I’ll try to keep in mind that my self-image is both more realistic and more important than what my Asian neighbors might think and remember that their comments come from concern. I’ll do my pilates and eat sensibly in order to be as healthy as I can be, without allowing others’ opinions to deflate my ego.

I’ll even forgive toothpick instructor, since she also looked at my birth date and said there was no way I could be thirty-eight!

A girl may need to be impervious to slights, but never to flattery!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Goals or dreams?

I've always heard that dreams are things you sit back and wish for, but goals are the dreams you actually strive to achieve. You know, come up with a game plan, then diligently work hard until you reach your goal.

I've had numerous goals: to lose weight, to be a multi-published author, to be a good wife and mother, to stop eating so many sweets, to pray more often and be more active in my church, to get better at tennis... the list goes on and on. I like to think I'm not the only one with a list of goals a mile long. A list that too often, morphs into a list of dreams, mainly because I let my life become so hectic that I lose focus of what's really important.

Case in point. I have been looking forward to my blog date since the day I picked it. I told my family, wrote it on the calendar, and had my topic ready to go (evaluating my monthly goals). Then, I promptly missed my blog date (the 13th). I can blame it on the fact I was up all night with a housefull of adolescent girls (16 plus my own 3) having a slumber party. I know, what the heck was I thinking? Brain lapse. That's all I can say. Of course, they didn't "slumber" very much. In fact, four stayed up to watch sunrise. Meaning, I stayed up to watch sunrise, too. Then I spent Sunday cleaning up, driving one child to cheerleading and one to dance, and trying to catnap in the car while I waited. None of this was anywhere near the computer.

In my mind, being tired and frazzled from the party is just an excuse for missing the blog. Everyone has a hectic life. But we still have to keep track of our responsibilites. And our goals. If we don't, we won't achieve them.

So, instead of evaluating how I'm doing with my goals this month, I'm evaluating how I'm doing with life, this month. Instead of letting life get the best of me, I'm determined to get the best out of life. I WILL be published. I WILL be a good wife and mother. I WILL get in better shape. Okay, I may not give up sweets-- hey, the holidays are upon us and I enjoy baking as much as eating :-D -- but I can cut back. Maybe.

I can do all this if I set a plan of action. It'll take some organization (ugh, something else I need to work on), some commitment, some determination and some will power. And I won't succeed right off the bat. That would be too easy. I'm prepared to have some setbacks. It'd be unrealistic to think otherwise. But I have to keep striving. Keep working. Keep having fun.

Like Pam said on Monday, I've got to have on my Big Girl panties. It's all a frame of mind. And I want my mind set on "Success"! I hope you do, to0.

Stay tuned for next month, on the 13th, when I post again. I plan to have Life by the horns. I'm sure I'll be a little dusty and beat up for trying, but I'll have a big grin on my face.

Cheers everyone!

Pris

Monday, November 14, 2005

I've been struggling lately with finding time to write.Working 14 hour days, driving an hour each way, coming home to fix dinner, do laundry--all the mundane tasks that are a part of life. I was so looking forward to this past weekend when my husband would be gone on a three day trip to Branson with our two oldest children. I made a list in my mind of things to do...shopping, cleaning, tackling the monster mess I call an office. And most important of all--writing.

Did I accomplish any of my goals? A few minor ones. I did laundry, cleaned up the trash the neighborhood dogs had scattered, got one of my entries ready for the Golden Heart contest. I did a bit of necessary shopping. But as of noon on Sunday, I really hadn't accomplished much of anything. I'd had nearly 48 hours to myself, so why wasn't anything getting done?

I think sometimes the more time we have on our hands, the less we do. Ever hear the old saying, "If you want something done, give it to a busy person?" It's so true. Once I sit down in front of the computer, it just about takes a crowbar to pry me loose. Not because I'm writing. No, I'm cruising the eHarlequin boards, reading email, checking out eBay. I'm playing Spider solitaire, hearts, and Freecell. I'm reading someone else's writing.

Then JoAnn Ross started posting excerpts from Eric Maisel's book Coaching the Writer Within (with permission from Eric). Two of the things he said really caught my attention: Suit up and Show up, and Don't Snivel. I'm really bad about Sniveling, as the Posse can tell you. I whine about my life, my husband (who really is a good guy), about the lack of money, about my health. I whine about not writing. What I don't do is Suit up and Show up.

I show up at my computer, but without my writing "suit" on. I don't sit down with the intention to write, and that's crucial. When I finally do open my manuscript, it's not because I'm eager to write. It's because I think I should. It's the same way I approach cooking--not because I want to, but because I have to. As I started thinking about this, I realize it's the same way I approach a lot of things in life. I work because I have to, not becauseI want to. I get up in the morning because I have to. I clean house because I have to.

So I started thinking about what I would do if I didn't have to--or couldn't--do those things. I'd sit on my already large butt and eat my way through a bag of M&M's and Hershey bars and waste 18 of my allotted 24 hours accomplishing nothing. I'd feel sorry for myself as I watched my friends win contests and sell books. And I'd blame my lack of productivity on whatever chores I thought needed my attention.

Am I living or existing, just biding my time until my number's up? The answer didn't exactly thrill me. I usemy writing as an excuse to not do other things I need to do, and I use other things I need to do as an excuse to not write. Is anyone else guilty of this, or is it just me? Do people who work long hours do it because they love what they do, or as an excuse to avoid intimacy with theirf amily? Do you find a thousand and one things to do that keeps you away from the computer, even knowing you have deadlines looming? Why?

I think the root cause is fear. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of success, or fear of failure. If you fail, you can always say it was because you were too busy, had too many responsibilities, too many distractions. But if you succeed, can you do so again? Or will you fail the next time, and this time publicly because you now have readers? And if you fail, you'll let people down. Yourself, your family, your fans. So instead, we avoid the problem altogether.

A friend has a tagline I love..."Put on your Big Girl panties and deal with it!" So today I'm putting my Big Girl panties on under my Suit, and I'm going to show up at my computer and deal with it.

Anybody want to join me?

Pam

Home Improvement

I'm going to talk about something quite frivolous. Nothing serious as some of my fellow Posse members have done. This is about the pitfalls of home improvement. The picture on the left will make sense after you read my blog.

About a year ago I mentioned to my husband that it would be nice to have a hot tub. We could put it on the our screened porch and use it to soak away some of those aches and pains we get from time to time now that we are getting a little older. We won't say how old. Instead of going with my idea, my husband decided we should have a swimming pool as well.

To begin the process we had several people come to the house to give us an estimate. One guy never even got back to us. After we finally settled on a company to put in our pool, we had one big obstacle to overcome. The area at the back of our house where we wanted to put the pool is in an easement for the golf course that backs up to our house. We had to get a variance on the easement. This involved filing a lot of papers and writing a check to the city for about $750. Not only did this involve money but also six weeks of waiting until the planning commission had their next meeting. We had started getting estimates at the beginning of March The meeting would take place at the end of July. So the idea of a pool for the summer was gone.

The day of the meeting finally arrived. We went, hoping they would allow us to put in our pool. We were the only ones on the agenda, but we were there for nearly an hour while the commissioners wrangled about the codes regarding our property. During the meeting it came to the attention of one of the commission members that our house was in violation of the set backs from the porperty lines in our neighborhood. What should we do about that? Not to worry. Sometime in the future the codes will all be changed so the houses in our neighborhood will be in compliance. Why do we have a planning commission if they don't follow their own codes? Thankfully, they didn't ask us to tear down our house, and they approved our application for the variance. We could build our pool.

Next on our agenda. Getting a permit to build the pool, which would take about three weeks. So at the end of August prepartion for our pool began. We had to clear the land of palmettos, bushes and trees. They dug the hole, put in the iron frame and shot concrete in the hole to form the walls of the pool and hot tub. WOW! Things were moving right along. I was already feeling the warm water of that hot tub.

We spent days looking at pavers for the pool deck without much success. Nothing looked good to us. Finally, we settled on something we thought we would like. Who can tell from a three-foot square sample what a whole pool deck would look like? Not us. We just hoped we had made the right decision. The pavers would be ready in about two or three weeks. So what were we looking at now? Maybe getting to swim in October.

We tore down the old screened porch to make way for the pavers and the new screen that would enclose the porch and the pool area. Now my kitties couldn't go out on the screened porch and chat with the squirrels. The cats didn't understand why they had lost their porch privileges. Over the next few weeks in a slow progression, we saw plumbers, electricians , tile guys and paver guys all doing their little part. October came and went and still no pool or hot tub. Last week they finished putting up the new screen to hopefully keep out the mosquitoes and no-see-ums. And the kitties can go back on the porch, but they aren't too sure about their new space. But still the pool is not finished. We need a handrail for the steps and have discovered that might take two or three weeks to get. They can't put the inside finish on the pool until the handrail is there. So we wait.

I had jokingly said to someone that we might be able to use our hot tub at Christmas. That's beginning to look more and more like the truth. Next month when it's my turn to blog again, I'll let you know whether I've been able to sit in that hot tub. That's all I really wanted.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

writing for women

I had my blog all prepared weeks ago, but I've been doing Nanowrimo (3855 words today!) and almost forgot to post! Not that my post is so cutting edge that the world would miss it if they blinked. It's just a bit of irony from my visit to the library a month ago.

See, the local library was hosting a discussion group last month, for Women’s History Month, and promised readings and discussion about books by women, for women, about women. Hey, I thought. I’m a woman. And this might be a nice way to meet new, like-minded people, since I’m new to the town.

Funny thing was, when I sat down and looked at the display of books they’d set out, I started to feel, well, like some of these things were not like the others. I'll admit I went prepared to be the token Romance Reader, but honestly, I didn't think it would be this obvious that romance is the illegitimate love-child of literature.

Not to say people weren't nice to me, because they were. Very. The gals running the show introduced themselves, talked about what they hoped to accomplish with the meeting. It was meant to be informal, just a chance to look at what women have and are contributing to literature. They read beautiful poetry, and excerpts from wonderful non-fiction books. And fiction of course, lots of fiction: mysteries, Oprah pics... So many wonderful ways that women contribute.

"But what about..." I wanted to say, but the conversation turned to other things. Recommended reading lists were handed around. I couldn't wait to hold those lists! I don't know what kind of validation I expected to find by seeing (or not seeing) romance on those lists, but I felt it was awfully important to *know*

When I got my turn, I skimmed past poetry, local authors, biographies, children’s books and hit detective stories--not my genre, maybe it doesn't matter I didn't recognize anyone. I glanced at chick-lit. You know what? Most of the names I know in this genre are new writers. It’s understandable why they might have been overlooked. But when someone asked for a definition of "Chick Lit," and someone else said, “It’s cutting edge, contemporary literature," I wanted to say, “Lot’s of it is written by romance writers. It’s women writing for women, either way. Does it matter what you call it?” But I was distracted because there *it* was. Love Stories.

Now, I’m not saying the titles I saw don’t have merit, but they weren’t even written by women. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. The Horse Whisperer. The Bridges of Madison Bleeding County. I was so disappointed.

A break was suggested and I knew I’d lost my chance to speak out, but then a miracle happened. Someone suggested we introduce ourselves. Being the shy, retiring type, I blurted out, “I’m Dani Collins and I read and write romance. I’m looking at this list and...where’s Jennifer Crusie. Where’s Barbara Samuel? Where’s Nora? Where are my friends?"

Okay, this might not have been the best way to win friends and influence people, but I am truly baffled by this completely 'cut direct' to romance. I give the library gals credit for being sweet and listening and suggesting I make up a list of titles and authors (which I will.) And I understand that the resolution of conflict at the end of a typical romance pretty much kills any need to discuss the story, so they aren't necessarily the best pick for book club reading. But I'm still wondering why romance wasn't even represented as Books Written By Women For Women. Can anyone help me with this?

Because, and this part's funny...once we began talking about romance, someone mentioned the Outlander series. Mainstream, right? Not ‘just’ a romance. But I'll tell you something. The gals who had read it did NOT wax poetic about the stunning historical detail. Nor did they discuss the significance of dropping an independent woman with a nursing career into a time when women didn’t have any rights at all. No. They talked about Jamie. They loooooved Jamie. And what does that tell you about stories written by women, for women?

Back to Nano,
Dani

Friday, November 11, 2005

Eggs Rolled in Sand

I wondered if I could write a Veterans’ Day entry without mentioning the war in Iraq. Then I wondered if I could do it without delving into politics. I’m going to try.

I’m involved in an online writing community where there happens to be a political board. The other day, my friend Bruno posted a message that sparked something for me, about the current war, and why we were there. Because this isn’t about politics, I’ll end it there. Here's where we get to the nonpolitical part of it. That I think we should have gone all the way in '91 has nothing to do with politics, practicality, ethics, or anything other than my own feelings.

When I started writing, I made one rule: I would not write about my military experiences. I didn't want to exploit them. Somehow, by doing that, I would betray those experiences and the people I served with.

But it was like trying to not write about the olive-drab elephant that had pitched a GP large tent in my living room. Besides, some images haunted me, not necessarily horrific ones, but things I couldn't shake from my mind.

I remember clutching an egg fresh from the boiling pot of water in the field mess, warming my fingers against the shell, because for a time, the Saudi Arabian desert was the coldest place on earth.

I remember trying to explain the all-volunteer U.S. Military to a native Kuwaiti linguist assigned to our unit. He didn't understand why I (as a woman) was standing with him on the murky sands between Saudi Arabia and Iraq when there were plenty of able-bodied men (in his opinion) home in America.

I remember how the war ended, not with fanfare, but with scratchy radio exchanges between men with stars on their collars. How old they sounded, and tired, and yet, hopeful.

And I remember thinking then that I was glad we stopped in Kuwait, pitched tents, and watched the oil well fires burn. It was better than the alternative, or so I thought.

With the first bombs dropped on Afghanistan, I felt something deep inside unhinge. When the war started in Iraq, the news knocked a hole in my heart. Not only was there guilt for not being there, but I felt responsible--here these young men and women were cleaning up a mess I helped make. I've taken to writing as a way to exorcise these images, the ones in my mind and the ones on the television set.

My heart hurts for those serving today, but that's not my reality. I write about the Berlin Wall crumbling, how it tastes to eat hardboiled eggs sprinkled with sand, how it feels to watch your husband of less than two weeks deploy to Somalia. Sometimes I think it's a way to assuage that guilt. I can write. I can tell my story, and if only one person understands, then perhaps I've done my job.

I can turn off CNN, but that doesn't stop the images, not mine, not those of today. I turn to my writing, but find what I've tried to banish holds onto me tighter. I can't let it go, even on those days I wish I could. And on this day, more than any other, I realize that you can take the girl out of the Army.

But you can't always take the Army out of the girl.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Full Circle

I've always been a bit fascinated by the female characters in Jane Austen stories. You know the ones I'm talking about--the ladies who sit demurely, working at their embroidery while they wait for satellite TV to be invented. The ones who sit demurely, sipping tea while they dream of careers in the space industry. The ones who sit demurely in a carriage as it travels along muddy, rutted roads, wishing they could take the wheel of a Hummer.

Okay, the sitting demurely bit makes me twitchy. But there's one more thing those ladies do--while sitting demurely, of course--that most fascinates me: they write letters. Lots and lots of letters. Letters in neat little stacks, letters sealed with wax and bound with ribbon and handed to servants and received on silver trays. Letters they dash off or agonize over, letters they wait for and pounce on and rip open and read to the other letter writers sitting demurely in the drawing room. Letters that stitch their world together, one word at a time.

I used to read those books and watch those movies, and all that letter writing would give me cases of sympathetic writer's cramp. Thank goodness for telephones, I told myself.

Then one day I got a phone call from a lady friend of mine. "I just sent you an e-mail," she said. Click. End of phone conversation. I immediately checked my e-mail for her latest note and quickly typed a reply.

Egads! Head slap! I'm one of those ladies in a Jane Austen story.

I've got satellite TV, I've got access to a wide choice of careers, I've got a mud-splattered 4-wheel drive vehicle. I can call my friends and relatives on the phone and leave voice messages for them if they don't answer. Yet how do I communicate with most of the people I know? Sitting at my desk, writing letters. I've come a long way, baby--I've come full circle.

E-mail: that time-sucking, day-warping, anxiety-ratcheting source of instant global connection and lingering personal angst. I refuse to admit I've got a problem, but I will confess to freezing at attention like an extra in an old E. F. Hutton commercial whenever someone launches a lecture on inbox management strategies or loop triage techniques. Being out of touch with my modem for a time feels like I've lost touch with virtual reality, and no-mail status seems a near death sentence. I think therefore I am; I e-mail, therefore I exist in cyberspace.

I remember reading about lab rats who could press levers for rewards. When rats were given a choice between food or addictive drugs, they chose drugs over nourishment until they dropped dead of starvation. I suggest giving lab rats a choice between a hit of an addictive drug or checking their e-mail. Cruel, I know, but I'd really like to test my hypothesis. I know which lever I'd be pushing--every few minutes.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Traditions

Don’t you love the beginning of November? Well, aside from the shorter days and the fact that here on Canada’s west coast, we’re in for the wettest, grayest month of the year, I love that stores are already geared up for Christmas!

Okay, I confess. I’ve started shopping for gifts, browsed the holiday decorations in the department stores, and ordered our Christmas turkey.

What can I say? I love Christmas, and November is all about the anticipation and planning. On December 1, I’ll move all the boxes of decorations into the dining room, which becomes the staging area. My family says I get too carried away, but they say it with affection. I’m quite sure.

First I decorate the mantel. Then the garlands strung with lights and colored ribbons go up around the windows. And then out comes the Christmas village. Every year the village expands a little and this year will not be an exception. By the time I’ve finished decorating the house, which can take several weeks, the only decorations left in the dining room are the ones that belong there.

After the house is completely decorated, I watch White Christmas. It’s my favorite Christmas movie of all time and after I’ve seen it for the umpteenth time, the holiday has officially begun.

One Saturday in December my husband and I will head out to buy a tree and go on our annual holly harvesting expedition.

Finally it’s Christmas Eve. We save the best for last and decorate our tree on December 24. Then we light a fire and set out a buffet supper for everyone who’s here for the holidays. The stockings go up and the gifts come out. It’s the best night of the year.

Followed by the best day of the year. Christmas Day at our house has a leisurely pace of gift opening and breakfast and putting the turkey in the oven. Out come the board games that haven’t been played all year. The dining room table is set with the good china and candlesticks and my grandmother’s depression glass bowls. The turkey is perfect, as always.

Ah, yes. November may be all about the anticipation, but December is about tradition. Only twenty-one days till the holiday traditions begin!

Lee

PS: I love to hear about other families’ traditions. And please check back in December for more of my holiday madness.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Do You Have Confidence? Take the ‘Posse Girl’ Quiz and Find Out!

1. You took the weekend off and didn’t wash a single dish, floor, or sink. Monday morning, your perfectly groomed sister-in-law drops by for a quick visit. Your living room is trashed and your sweatshirt is stained with last night’s hummus. You:

**a. Pretend not to be home.

**b. Storm out on the porch and angrily say, “Why didn’t you call first?” Then you blame her (and your messy family, and the hummus-drooling dog) for forcing you to be rude, when you’re really a gracious hostess!

**c. Let your sister-in-law come in, but follow her around the house making embarrassed noises about the mess.

**d. Let your sister-in-law come in, and after shoving aside a spot on the couch, you forget all about the mess. After all, she’s come to see you, not the house!

2. At your office’s holiday party, a superskinny co-worker looks down her nose at your well-filled plate and says, “Aren’t you worried about gaining weight?” In reply, you:

**a. Feel self-conscious at the size of your hips, and put down the plate. After the party, you stop by Krispy Kreme and eat the whole dozen donuts in the privacy of your own home.

**b. Snarl back, “Go back to South Beach, you Diet Nazi!” Then defiantly eat a whole pumpkin pie. And you don’t even *like* pumpkin pie.

**c. Make whining excuses about why you “deserve a few treats”. You’re so focused on making your co-worker agree with you that you hardly notice as you clean your plate.

**d. Look her straight in the eye, and say with a gleeful grin, “Nope.”

3. A new member of your writing group, a lovely twentysomething, announces that she’s just sold the first draft of her first full manuscript to Jen Enderlin at St. Martin’s Press. “And there’s even going to be a book tour!” Your reaction:

**a. You leave the meeting, drive straight home, and pull a blanket over your head. You were stupid to ever think you could make it as a writer. You’re giving up, forever. Again.

**b. You wait for the bright-eyed newbie in the alley after the meeting. A friend holds her down as you punch her in the face, screaming, “Jen Enderlin is mine, do you hear me?! MINE!”

**c. You ask the newbie’s advice and hang on her every word. You assume she must know more about life than you do, even though she’s 20 years younger than you and thinks you’re talking about an appliance brand when you mention Jane Eyre.

**d. You feel a brief stab of jealousy, but it’s gone before she can even finish the phrase “significant deal”. A flooding tide rises all boats, right? Her dreams came true and so can yours. You even avoid smugly considering the stressful nightmare her next attempt at a book will be.

Finished? Okay, you Posse girls, you know the drill.

If you picked mostly As: What are you hiding from, little mouse? Your life is passing you by while you’re quivering in your comfort zone!

If you picked mostly Bs: Can we say anger management? You think you’re a rebel, but guess what? You’re still allowing your feelings to be controlled by someone else!

If you picked mostly Cs: You’re so desperate for the approval of others, you don’t even have an opinion of your own! (So you’ll believe me when I call you a sad little suck-up, whether it’s true or not!)

If you picked As, Bs, and Cs: In all these cases, you’re giving other people, even complete strangers, the power to decide if you enjoy your life.

If you picked mostly Ds: Welcome to the heady world of being the ultimate ruler of your own country: YOU.

Author’s note: I have a point, I promise! Look for the rest of my semi-serious Posse Girl’s Guide on my next blog date, December 8th … “Confidence: How to Get It (It’s Easier than You Think, Duh)”