Aside from the usual, not much is going on at Casa West this week. But I did want to share something that’s making me happy lately:

Bicknell Avenue

I’ve run hundreds of miles, back and forth, on this path. It’s where I trained for my marathon in 2006 and where I developed the chronic achilles tendonitis a few years later that plagues me to this day. For a few years, Mick and I ran this path together (well, separately, because he runs much faster than I do, but together because we were on the path at the same time). But when we moved to Venice we got out of the habit. The distance to the path, though not far, required a car or a bike ride, and instead I joined a gym nearby. Mick pretty much stopped exercising altogether.

But our trip to Peru and our Wayna Picchu climb were good reminders for both of us that it’s incredibly important that we do what we can to stay in shape. I want to be skiing down mountains when I’m 80, after all. Though by nature I tend toward laziness and inertia, I can’t imagine not being able to do the things I want to do because I’ve allowed myself to become too sedentary. It’s no longer solely about my weight or appearance, it’s about enjoying life as much as I can, for as long as I can.

I’m happy to say that in recent weeks, Mick and I have begun running this path again. It’s great to have regular access to a gym and its equipment, but running outdoors is something that just can’t be duplicated on a treadmill. It’s harder, but it’s so much more rewarding. I’m getting close to running 3 miles without stopping to walk, which is my first benchmark for being in some sort of shape. Mick, of course, can already do it, and is working on his speed at the moment.

Mick and Holly Run
We earned that sweat, yo

So that’s what we’re up to. Do you have any plans, big or small, for this summer?

In less than one month, I will officially be the author of a published novel. <Obligatory promo: MISTRESS OF FORTUNE out on February 3! Pre-order your copy now>

One of the first rules of writing I learned was “avoid cliches.” And so I bow my head in shame as I’m about to commit to New Year’s Cliche #1: LOSE WEIGHT.

I’d tell you my goal isn’t actually to lose weight but to get healthy, but I’d be lying. And I won’t bore you with a long lament about how I found myself at my heaviest weight of all time. The only reason that counts is that I stopped exercising regularly and started eating ALL THE THINGS. Food is really good, ya know? And while exercise is good too, it takes a lot more effort than slathering a piece of bread with Nutella and shoving it into my mouth.

So there you have it.

What I will bore enthrall you with is a quick run down of my plan:

1) Adhere to the 80/20 principle (which basically means that 20% of the time I can throw most of the following out the window)

2) Eat a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal.

3) Avoid processed foods like cliches

4) Strength-training 30 minutes 3x a week

5) Walking/Running/Elliptical 30 minutes 5x a week

6) Whole grains only (or mostly)

7) Cut down on vino (this, alas, is the hardest one for me, as I LOVE my vino way too much)

Care to share your New Year’s goals? C’mon, you know you want to.

This was originally posted on 10/3/11.

First_anniversary
Mick and I celebrate our 1st anniversary

Today marks the 15th anniversary of my marriage to my partner in crime, Mick. We met through an online personal ad I placed in December 1996, and though I can’t find the text of the ad at the moment, I know I began it with Shakespeare’s sonnet #130:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
If have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more deight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
  And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
  As any she belied with false compare.

Deep, huh? I thought so.

Within 48 hours, I received nearly 100 responses to that ad of mine. I only responded seriously to three or four. I remember one of them was an Indian fellow, and another was a single father of two children who was also a Christian minister.

What would my life have been if I had chosen one of them, I wonder?

Mick’s response to my ad stood out for its subtle humor, and I also liked that he was English (after all, I didn’t have much to go on at that point). I later found out he’d written it after a drunken night out with the boys. We talked on the phone the next day and met in person the next day.

For those of you who haven’t heard the story, my roommate and I were having a New Year’s Eve party and I invited Mick. He arrived some time after midnight and my first words to him in person were “Here, drink this quick,” as I held out a plastic glass filled with champagne. The date was January 1, 1997.

We’ve been more or less inseparable since that moment.

I don’t believe in soul mates and I don’t believe people are meant for each other in any cosmic sense. But I sure am glad my path crossed Mick’s and that we decided to merge our paths, because this life is damned good.

UPDATE: This is a post I wrote back in September 2007. I’ve updated it to reflect the current year, 2012.

Orlin Neville Horn. How’s that for a name?

Today is my grandpa’s 90th birthday.  I’ll be heading up to Oregon soon to celebrate this milestone birthday with him.

I am very lucky to be 44 and still have a grandpa.  He was 46 when I was born, which is kind of young to be a grandpa.  But here’s the kicker–my grandma was 39 when I was born!  I can’t imagine being a grandmother at the age I am now, considering I can’t even imagine being a mother.  But I suppose it would feel very nice to know that I’d finished the hard work of raising my children and could now enjoy my grandchildren.  Here is a photo of my grandparents holding me (left) and my brother (right):

mary_neville_horn_holly_john_oneill_babies

Here is a picture of my grandpa when he was a boy (he’s the taller one on the left.  The one on the right is his brother Hollis, who passed away a few of years ago):

grandpa_hollis

Remember the old cliche “When I was a kid I had to walk five miles, barefoot, in the snow to school?”  Well my grandpa really did!

My grandpa grew up in Arkansas during the depression.  He was the oldest of eight children–four boys and four girls.  All four girls are still living, but my grandpa is the only remaining boy.  They were very poor.  My great-grandfather worked as a field hand and so did his boys.  During the depression, they were employed through the WPA.

My grandpa was a tractor mechanic for much of his life but basically did all sorts of ranch work during his entire career.  He is missing his right index finger up to the knuckle–the result of a work accident years ago.

This is my favorite picture of my grandpa:

neville_playing_guitar
He stopped playing the guitar when he lost his finger. I have his guitar displayed in my house (it’s not the same guitar as in the picture though. Wonder what ever happened to that one?).

Here’s a bit of trivia for you:  My grandparents used to bowl with Johnny Cash’s ex-wife, Vivian.  They didn’t like the movie “Walk the Line” because they didn’t like the way it portrayed her.

Another bit of trivia: my grandpa used to haul cattle on Slauson Boulevard from a ranch very near the property now occupied by LAX.

There are very, very few people in the world who I love more than my grandpa. He is an old man now, despite the fact that I still see and think of him the way I did when I was a little girl.  He taught me all I need to know to live to be 90:

1)  Smoke at least a pack a day for 40 years
2)  Drink at least one beer a day
3)  Drink a Carnation Instant Breakfast every morning
4)  Eat pinto beans at dinner every night
5) Watch a lot of Bonanza
6)  Never give up your love of the casinos
7)  Be married to the same woman for 65+ years
8)  Love your family more than anything, especially your first born granddaughter

My grandpa probably won’t ever see this, but I’ll say it anyway:

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

P.S. Here’s another funny Grandpa story.

Picture of a puppy studying. I know. Awesome.

Picture of a puppy studying. I know. Awesome.
I was thinking about something as I completed my two-mile run to nowhere on the treadmill this morning:

I build stories.

I’m very proud of the stories I build. But one thing is absolutely certain: though they are ultimately my own, they were not built alone.

They started with my parents, who kickstarted my imagination by reading books to me and encouraging me to be creative.

They were enhanced by the wonderful teachers I had while attending public school.

They were funded by the grants, student loans, work study programs and scholarships I received so that I could go to college.

They are assisted by my husband, my first and last editor.

They are improved by the brainstorming and critique sessions with my fellow partners in crime.

They are published by my fellow writers who come together in amazing ways to promote each other’s work, fund charitable projects, and to celebrate a mutual love of reading and writing.

There is no question I’ve benefitted greatly from the larger community of which I’ve been a part, both public and private. For that, I’m thankful.

I build stories, but I do not build them alone. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.