Apple_pie I know I've said this before, but there are very few people in the world I love more than my grandfather. He's 88, and he's old. I ought to know: he never stops reminding me, and everyone else, of it. Born in Blaine, Arkansas in 1922, he's the oldest of eight children and they were a poor family. Like barefoot-in-and-living-in-a-one-room-cabin poor. He recently told me they ate a lot of meat growing up, then proceeded to regale me with tales (again) about hunting possums and squirrels, even a hedgehog once (he admitted they might not have eaten that).

Above all, though, my grandpa is a man of simple tastes. I only point these things out because they provide important context for the story I'm about to tell.

On Sunday, we went to the local casino to play bingo. It's one of my grandpa's favorite pastimes, and I try to take him whenever I'm able to. It was a fun group: me, my uncle, my aunt, my grandma, and my grandpa. With daubers in hand, we sat down with a mind to make that bingo parlor our bitch.

(And indeed, we did. I bingoed twice, back-to-back, winning a total of $600, and my grandma bingoed a couple of games later and won $500).


As family tradition dictates, the winner must buy the losers dinner. Since I had pocketed the most, I said I'd pay. We sat down and my grandpa, who is not a great eater on his best days, looked at the menu and said "I think I'll have Belgian waffle." Breakfast for dinner? Awesome.

It came time to order and my grandpa said what he wanted. The waiter said "I'm sorry sir, we don't have waffles." Apparently, the casino restaurant stops serving breakfast at 11am. Disappointed, my grandpa quickly looked at the menu again while the rest of us ordered. When it came his turn, he ordered the salmon. My grandma raised an eyebrow.

"Soup or salad, sir?" the waiter asked.

"Salad," said my grandpa.

"What kind of dressing?"

"What kind do you have?"

The waiter listed the options and my grandpa chose bleu cheese. My grandma raised another eyebrow.

While we waited for our dinner to come, I played keno and mention was made of how surprising grandpa's choice of entree was. I figured he just had a hankering for some fish. What did I know? My grandma, now with both eyebrows pointing toward the heavens, just sat and shook her head (they've been married 65 years; she might know a thing or two about him).

The salad came and my grandpa began eating it. At some point he asked "Why'd they call it blue?" and my uncle replied "It has little blue specks in it sometimes." This seemed to satisfy my grandpa and he finished the salad without incident.

When our entrees came, the waiter placed my grandpa's salmon in front of him. My grandpa said "Why'd he bring this?"

That's when the trouble began.

Grandma: "That's what you ordered, honey."

Grandpa: Silent

Grandma (to me): "Ew. I can smell that fish from over here." (she's notorious for her dislike of seafood).

Grandpa: Silently cuts up his salmon

As more conversation about the salmon followed, my grandpa reached for the salt shaker and began sprinkling it all over his fish.

"Dad!" my uncle said. "You're not allowed to have any salt."

"Salt is good for you," grandpa replied.

"That's one thing the doctor said, you can't have any salt."

My grandpa returned to silence as the rest of us began eating our own meals. A few moments later, he placed his fork over his fish and pushed the plate away from him.

"Father," grandma said. "Aren't you going to eat that?"

"I'm not hungry."

"Well you ordered it, you have to eat it."

"It's okay," I said. "He doesn't have to eat it if he doesn't want to."

Meanwhile, my grandpa began tearing the lids off of the thimble-sized containers of half & half and drinking them.

"Grandpa," I said, "Do you want me to buy you a glass of milk?"

"No, these are good," he said.

Now I have to stop here and mention that normally, this sort of wanton display would have mortified me. And yet, as the waiter approached us, watching with horror as my grandpa sucked down the mini-containers of cream, I felt totally okay with the situation. This, I think, is what parents must feel when their children act out or do otherwise embarrassing things. You love them, and you just deal with it.

I addressed the table. "I kind of feel like somehow, this train has run off the tracks."

The waiter looked at me, then at the salmon, apologetically. "You want me to take this?" he motioned. I nodded. Before he left the table, my aunt spoke to my grandpa.

"Daddy, do you want some apple pie with ice cream?"

"Sure," grandpa said.

"Will you eat it?"

"Yeah, I'll eat as much as I want of it."

This could have meant one bite or the entire plate. I decided to take the chance.

Me (to the waiter): "Do you have apple pie?"

Waiter: "We sure do."

Me: "Bring him some apple pie and ice cream, please."

Waiter (taking the salmon away): "I'll take this off the check for you."

Me: "Oh, and can I have another glass of wine?"

My grandpa did, in fact, eat every bite of his apple pie and ice cream. At one point he did begin eating it with his fingers and my aunt said "Daddy, use your fork." Having had enough I said "Really, who cares how he eats it?" And my grandpa piped up and said "Fingers were the first utensils!"

My grandpa with my cousin Maddie

I just realized I haven't posted once in the month of August. This is my half-assed attempt to remedy that.

Lately, I've had a lot of trouble shutting my brain up. It's always a problem, but for the last few days, it's impossible. My mind is going a mile a minute, jumping from one thing to the next, and I'm unable to concentrate on the task at hand, which of course, is the book.

Of course, Restless Mind Syndrome is not new to me. In my early twenties, I wrote a poem that included this line:

"Even in the center of the bustling crowd, the screams in my head remain ever loud."

Right now those screams are pretty much blocking out everything else.

I used to go for a run when things got this bad. The fatigue seemed to have a calming effect. But at the moment I'm unable to do any sort of exercise that demands that much physically. A glass of wine helps, but frankly, I have to drink more than a glass to get the desired effect.

So I turn to you, gentle reader, for advice on how to turn off those voices. What do you do when you're having trouble concentrating? A hot bath? A shot of whiskey? A run on the treadmill? Tell me what works for you.

The one thing I've been told over and over again since having my ACL surgery is "You can't fall." Doing so would mean the delightful new ACL they installed might fail, and as my surgeon told me, "I've never had a fail, and I don't want you to be the first." Thanks, dude. Way to put the pressure on.

I've pretty much lived my whole life trying to avoid falling, and have been largely successful (the ski accident that caused the ACL tear in the first place notwithstanding). But there's something about being told you absolutely cannot do something that makes the possibility that it will happen seem so much more likely.

So these days, most of my time is spent making sure I don't fall.

Of course, I only mention this because I wanted to post this video of Colin Farrell (my boyfriend) and Jeff Bridges (my sugar daddy) performing this great song from the movie CRAZY HEART:

But what about my writing, you ask? I've been a busy bee! Somewhere in the midst of my revision I realized I'd lost control of my plot so I took a few days to write up summaries of each chapter so I'd have a quick reference as I go forward. In retrospect I should have done that earlier in the revision process but luckily, falling down while writing a manuscript is a lot less risky than when you've just had surgery, as long as you pick yourself up and keep going.

The summaries are basic. At the top of each page I put the date, time, and location of the scene, then followed up with a brief description of what happens. I ended them by including who is introduced in each chapter and who is referenced (not actually in the scene, but mentioned by another character). I'm hoping this will make it easier to keep track of who is mentioned where since I kept finding myself putting notes in my documents that said "Check when this character is introduced" or some such thing.

So that's it. Time to get to work!

When I found out I had to have ACL reconstruction surgery, of course I googled it, looking for people who had the same surgery. I found a few blogs about it, but I quickly found that reading them raised my anxiety level. Still, it was good to have a little information in advance from people who had been where I was going, so I’m going to pay it forward by writing about what happened to me. This promises to be a long, boring post, but hopefully it will help someone like me who wants to know exactly what happens when you have ACL surgery.

The surgical center I went to was Kerlan-Jobe in Los Angeles and my doctor is Dr. Daniel Kharrazi. So far, I’ve been really pleased with the treatment I’ve received from Kerlan-Jobe, Dr. Kharrazi, and especially the staff at Kerlan-Jobe.


Yesterday I took a day off from writing and created a mood board for my living room. But before I show you that, here is how the living room currently looks:




My main complaints with the room are that it's too dark, despite all the windows. I love the chocolate brown walls, but I'm ready for a change. Several of the drapes are in tatters due to sun exposure, so they need to be replaced. The floors are scratched up terribly from the pitter-patter of tiny paws, and the fireplace needs a complete makeover. Finally, the room is a little too busy. I'm looking to be more clutter free in the future.

Here is the mood board I created:


Click on the pic to see a larger version.

As you can see, it utilizes most of the stuff we already have, which is important. The main changes are the darker floors, wall color, and the drapes.

But what about those drapes? You'll notice I kept them on the mood board. That's because the drapes behind the sofa are in great shape–I'd really like to keep them if I can find a way to do that and integrate them with the new drapes.

Here's the problem: Those drapes are silk and they were really expensive. Had I known the sun was going to destroy them in less than 10 years, I would have never invested so much money in them. I won't make that mistake again. Unfortunately, due to the height of the windows, whatever I get needs to be custom.

My idea, or perhaps I should say dream, since it's ambitious, is to make the new drapes myself. I'd like to use the tops of the current drapes and then sew sheers to the bottom, kind of like this:


I'd leave the drapes behind the sofa completely intact, so there would be two types of drapes.

I'm still thinking about this, however, because like I said, it's a big project and probably outside of my sewing skills. Even if I make a mistake, however, the current drapes are so torn I won't feel like I wasted them. I just really want to keep my budget on this "makeover" down as much as possible by reusing/recycling what we've already got.

Another thing I'd love to do is cover the fireplace from floor to ceiling with stone tile. I priced it out, however, and it's a little pricey for us at the moment, so I think the first thing we'll do is paint it a light but contrasting color to the walls (which will be white or off-white) and then install the tile when it's more financially sound. I do love the look of that stone though, and it would be so dramatic.

I'll be doing a mood board of the dining area soon since we have an open floor plan and everything needs to be integrated. If only the actual decorating was as cheap (and easy) as the creating a mood board!

Hangman_sign4 Yesterday I went to one of my favorite places. It's a huge thrift store, located on Main Street. The variety of merchandise, including new and vintage clothing and accessories, home decor items, yarn, books, and more, is not to be believed. Strolling through it's rooms (did I mention it's huge?) takes hours because the hunt for great finds is part of the fun, and sometimes they're hidden. It's a truly wonderful place.

Except it doesn't actually exist, at least not that I'm aware of. Visiting this thrift store is a recurring dream I have. I'm not sure exactly where it's located, but it's reminiscent of the Main Street of the town I grew up in, Placerville, California.*

I don't know what triggers this dream. I've been fixated on updating my home's interior lately, which might be part of the reason. I love thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets, and I don't get to visit them often enough–is the dream the result of my unfulfilled need to bargain shop?

Whatever the reason, I've been dreaming about this magical thrift shop for years now, and it's so vivid that I wake up not knowing if it's actually real or not. I always feel a little sad when I realize it's a figment of my imagination.

Let's open the floor to commenters: Do you have a recurring dream(s)? Or better yet, do you have any thrift shop/garage sale finds you're particularly proud of?

*The sign above is from the Hangman's Tree, a local bar in Placerville, which unfortunately is closed down (or soon to be). Too bad. Placerville is an old Gold Rush Town and this particular bar sported an effigy hanging from it's roof. I love that sort of thing. Someday I want to write a novel set there during the Gold Rush period.

Lately I've fallen back into a bad habit. I've been reading the comments posted on news stories–and not just any news stories, the controversial ones. I read the comments on reports I know are going to bring out the crazies (and by crazy I mean anyone who doesn't agree with my point of view). I'm kind of just kidding about what I deem to be crazy but you know what I mean. It's like I'm purposely searching for things that will get my dander up.

In the early days of the Internet, I was naive and earnestly commented on issues that were important to me. I never engaged in spewing hate, but I confess to trying, now and then, to present my argument in a thoughtful way to try to sway other commenters. It wasn't long before I realized that spirited debate was mostly not the point. Comments on news and other stories were and are just an opportunity for the angry, often prejudiced, mob to spread their venom. I quickly learned that message boards and reader comments were not the place for me.

Some people get off on this sort of thing, but I take everything so personally. I recently read a news story about Los Angeles boycotting the state of Arizona in response to their new immigration law and headed straight to the comments because I knew they were going to be rough. A lot of people didn't have very nice things to say about the city I live in and love. And I actually got depressed.

But like I said, this has sort of become a habit with me lately. For the last year or so I've been visiting the website of the Catholic League simply because I know there's going to be something on it that's going to piss me off. That's a little sick, no?

I mostly find that when I'm writing (or editing/revising, as I am now), I tend to get on a roll where the words flow freely and then I suddenly hit a brick wall and I'm stuck (for instance, I'm stuck now and I decided to take a break to write up this post). The first thing I want is distraction, and we all know their ain't nothing more distracting than the Internet. And when I'm finished checking email, CNN, Facebook, etc. and those words still aren't flowing, the next thing I do is feed my compulsion for negativity via blogs, websites, and reader comments that I know will ruffle my feathers.

I am declaring a moratorium, here and now, on this behavior because it serves no purpose other than to upset me. I have enough going on in this head of mine–I definitely don't need to look for negativity elsewhere.

What about you? Are you sometimes drawn to negativity or do you try only to engage in positivity?

We need a new dining room chandelier. The one we currently have is a somewhat ugly, generic, Home Depot model. Three of the bulb holders are permanently broken.

Trouble is, Mick and I have a no-buy agreement for May. That means we aren’t buying anything this month except for food and extreme need items. Since the three of the bulb holders still work, the chandelier purchase can be put on hold (and has been for many months).

I could make the argument that I need to get the new chandelier next month when the no-buy agreement ends, but that would be too easy. First, I need to find the perfect one. Second, I have to decide how I want to re-do our entire decor, because…

I have a confession to make. I’m feeling the itch not only for a new chandelier but for a COMPLETE HOME MAKE OVER. It can’t be denied that we have a beautiful home, especially at first glance. But the floors need refinishing, the windows need replacing, the carpets need tearing out, and the walls need painting. Oh, and we need new floor to ceiling drapes in the living room (7 at over 142″ each. That’s a lot of fabric).

That’s not all. I want a new master bathroom and a new kitchen.

I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Of course, none of these things, even the chandelier, will be happening any time soon. I have an ACL surgery to prepare for on June 7 and several weeks of recovery to look forward to after that (actually, it takes 6-9 months to fully recovery, but I’m talking about the immediate recovery after surgery). Plus, there is no money for all this–why do you think we have a no-buy agreement? Oh, there’s money maybe for the new windows but hello, where’s the fun in that? That’s like getting new clothes for Christmas when you were a kid.

Here’s what I’d do if I had a fully-functioning knee and wasn’t pretending to write a novel: I’d really like to do a dramatic but budget-friendly makeover of several rooms in our house. Do the research, do the work, everything (and blog it, of course). Reuse and recycle everything I can, and use the stuff we already have in new ways. Because that sort of thing really floats my boat.

Since that will have to be put on hold, at least for awhile, I contented myself today with searching on Etsy for unusual lighting I liked:

That will have to do.

For all you writers/aspiring authors/readers out there, I wanted to bring your attention to this link from Online College:

50 Famous Author Interviews That Shouldn't Be Missed

I find there's always something to be learned from reading interviews of authors. And some of my favorites, like Sue Grafton, John Grisham, and Judy Blume are included in this list.

Credit where credit is due: I found this link through @thewritermama on Twitter, via Ask Wendy, the Query Queen.

This weekend, I hosted a bridal shower for a dear friend. I chose a cherry blossom theme, and it turned out to be the perfect choice, for a lot of reasons. Here are some pictures from the shower and a few tips and tricks to make your next celebration a little more special.

Pick a Theme
The cherry blossom theme was kind of an accident, but a happy one. When I was looking for invites, I found one with white cherry blossoms and I liked the colors on it. After I ordered them I thought "Hey, this has to be my theme!" I already owned a lot of Asian home accessories, and I immediately knew I could create a beautiful party with this theme.

So that's tip #1: When picking a theme/color scheme, think about the decorative accessories you already own and the colors already present in your home:


In this case, I already owned the vase, Buddha, and fan. I just had to get some faux cherry blossoms to make the display complete. And see all that greenery out the window? It's bamboo. Perfect.