We went for a bike ride today. I know that those of you who know me well, won’t believe me, but I have a series of photographic proof. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
To be honest, I have no idea how I came to be riding a bike (???) at all, much less on a day so cold it snowed the night before. You’ve probably surmised by all my posts over the years, outside is not my favorite place. And no one is more shocked than me when I found myself having fun. I’d forgotten how much fun bike riding could be. When I was Sassy’s age, I was only off my bike when I was sleeping. I learned to ride when I was five or six - without the benefit of
training wheels. My father didn’t believe in them.
As I said, it was very cold last night. Ava says there was at least an inch of snow up the hill where she lives. There was none down in the city where my house is, but the mountains were gorgeous.
We finally got the kids dressed and ready to go around 1:00. This is the outfit The Bandit chose for bike riding on a day when it snowed.
Please note the soccer shorts, his shirt is on backwards though you can’t see in the picture, jean’s jacket with Buzz Lightyear on the back and, the piece de resistance, cowboy boots with spurs. I have some concerns that the boy is going to end up as a contestant on Project Runway someday, not that I won’t be proud of him no matter who he ends up, but lets just say, his ability to chose appropriate clothing gives me pause.
We got to the park and unloaded the bikes and The Bandit was off and
running or pedaling as the case may be. Sassy on the other hand immediately launched into hysterical crying – tears, hiccuping, gasping breaths of agony over her fear of riding her bike. A bike, I might add, has training wheels so she can’t fall over.
Her father dealt with her for about a half an hour, coaking and talking and prodding her along. I rode around with Bandit while he giggled wildly, enjoying the freedom that riding down hills and skidding to stops brings.
Finally, I’d had enough. I relieved her father and sent him after the boy who was easily pedaling madly more than 100 yards away. I don’t know why or how I became Drill Sargent Mom, but somehow I did.
“Put your butt on the seat and your feet on the pedals,” I told her.
“I’m scaaaaaaaared.” She could hardly speak, the blubbering was so out of control.
I told her to calm down, “No one can ride a bike when they are hysterical.” I showed her how to push off with one foot and advised her to keep pedaling to avoid tipping. I told her to ride the bike or we’d go sit in the car and wait for everyone else to have fun. Eventually, she surprised only herself when she actually rode the stupid bike. I hate to be so demanding, but I refuse to allow her to be afraid of everything.
There are no pictures of Sassy riding her bike because she spent the entire time crying. The. Entire. Time. I didn’t
bother to take a picture of it. I’m quite certain I won’t need a photograph to remember what she looks like glaring at me. After all, she does it all the time.
I do, however have a pic of me. This is my hand after the dye in my riding gloves
colored the palms of my hands. I can’t get it off with any soap known to man. It looks like a giant bruise. Do you suppose it would work as a viable reason to call in sick?
Also, and I can’t believe I forgot to mention this, but it snowed on us off and on while we rode (or cried). I couldn’t believe it, big fluffy flakes that covered my black jacket. It was surreal. Sassy cried about it. Sigh.
The Sisters are tired. Or more aptly, as Bill Cosby pointed out the distinction, we are sick and tired. The day job is soul suckingly horrible. I’m usually pretty good with descriptions, I am a writer after all, but I can’t even put it more simply than that. The entire profession is sucking me dry and Ava is coming right along with me.
In fact, I told my mom today, when she asked if there was something specific I’d rather be doing than work, I’d rather be in jail than at my office. Ava said she looked decent in orange. When we met for lunch, Kelli said the idea sounded wonderful.
Later tonight, when I was telling Kelli about how awful my kids were this evening, how I had to put The Bandit to bed, screaming, kicking, biting, and professing his undying hatred of me, in a bed with no sheets, I was reminded about the idea of jail. I wondered, not idly, if I could arrange for solitary confinement.
Seriously, lets talk about jail for a few minutes. Except for the prison rape part, the whole idea has some appeal. They let you read all you want in prison. They would let me finish my book. They would let me sleep, uninterrupted, for hours and hours and hours.
That’s when Kelli and I decided, if we win the lottery, we’re building a prison hotel. Now follow along: Small comfortable rooms. Only a TV if you want one. You may have as much or as little social interaction with other humans as you want. There would be a discreet knock on the door and, when you opened it, there would be a tray of food. If you chose to go to a public area and mingle with humans you may do so, however, you are forbidden from asking people what they’re reading or chat with them in any way unless it is obvious they wish to engage in conversation with you.
In the Prison Hotel, if you choose to check in and not talk to another living soul for a month, that’s your call. When you feel your psyche has healed enough and you are ready to reenter the human race, you may check out. There is no need to comb your hair, wear make up or even clean clothes.
Of course, the Prison Hotel will be on Greece because we’re still looking into purchasing the island. You may want to look into booking a cell now. The minute this goes live, you won’t be able to get in.
It’s going to be huge.
Sassy is finally home. I was beginning to wonder if she was ever coming back. She had a sleepover at a friend’s house that started at 8:15 Tuesday morning and ended today around 3:30. That’s about thirty-one hours I left my baby in someone else’s hands.
As I left her that morning, I begged her not to embarass me. The other mother laughed and assured me nothing she could do would offend them. Nevertheless, I reminded my daughter to use a fork when eating and to make an effort to control her gas.
I received one call around 1:00 that afternoon. She’d fallen off the monkey bars and scrapped up her chin pretty badly. I kissed her over the phone and gave her butt a virtual pat and sent her on her way.
I did expect a good night call, but I got nothing. Sigh.
Then this morning, the plan was for her to be delivered to me at work and I’d take her to her grandmother’s where her brother had spent the last two days without her. The boy’s been lonely. Yesterday, Grandma called at about 4:45 to ask if Daddy was on his way to pick him up. Apparently, The Bandit was done at Grandma’s and he was ready to go. For two children who fight as much as they do, he was surprisingly lonely without her.
Anyway, I received a call asking if Sassy could hang out with her friend the rest of the day so The Bandit spent another day without her.
Sassy had a wonderful time. From what I understand she was a model guest. I’m certain that means she’s used up all of her allotment of good behavior for the rest of the month.
The Bandit has his sleepover on Friday night. I’m almost more excited then he is. I can’t wait to hear the stories!
This was the offering from Better Book Titles today. I don’t know if it’s because I’m so tired or what, but I found this especially funny.
I had to post this. Amylynn’s story of Sassy’s excitement moments before the surprise party she threw for her Honey brought this Saturday Night Live skit to mind. Christopher Walken is in it too, which makes it all the better!
Oh My God. This cartoon is more genius from Shoeboxblog.com
The grocery store was really busy. I’d been sent there to fetch lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and something else I couldn’t remember for dinner. Kelli had called as soon as I headed out and we were still talking while I did the shopping and got in the long line at the checkout.
I don’t even remember what Kelli and I were talking about when the woman siddled her shopping cart right up next to the old man in front of me. She appeared to be somewhere in her late forties but she looked rode hard and put away wet. Her eye makeup was a mess and her coral lipstick didn’t stay in the lines. I kept my eye on her while she and the old man chatted each other up while I continued my conversation with Kelli.
When it became apparent she was going to try to take cuts, I sharpened my glance and narrowed my eyes a smidgen. I apologize to Kelli now for admitting that I tuned her out for a second in time to hear the man say, “Go ahead and come on in line with me.”
My squint narrowed a bit more and I could feel the laser beams warming up behind my eyeballs.
“Go ahead and cut in,” the clearly clueless man told her, “she won’t mind.”
The woman raised her head and looked in my direction, clearly hoping for a smile and a nod. Apparently my phasers were not set to stun because she took an involuntary step back from me. I didn’t answer, just upped the wattage a bit more. I haven’t seen this look of mine from the outside, but from the inside it feels pretty scary. My jaw is tight, my lips firm, gaze very intense. My children aren’t afraid of it, but there have been plenty of ex-boyfriends, strangers, and loan officers that have quailed from the wrath that look promises. My mother calls it the “Pirate look.”
“Come on,” the man with the death wish beckoned with his hand. “She’s my ex-wife.” He told me this like it was a constitutional amendment or public service they qualified under.
I passed my arm in front of me in a sweeping gesture of invitation and said, my voice absolutely dripping with irony, “Oh, by all means.”
“No,” the woman said as she continued backing up, “I don’t think so. She’s looking at me like a cop.”
A laugh erupted in a giant “HA!” I was looking at her like a cop? I totally consider that a compliment – however, I’m going to pick my cop. I’d like it to be Dirty Harry Callahan as opposed to say Barney Miller. I’d like to think I’m more the bad cop than the good cop when I’m wearing that expression.
“I’m not a cop,” I explained, “although I’m flattered. I’m just practicing my Mom Look on you.”
“Jesus!” she said under her breath.
Ultimately, I did let her in if only because I wasn’t done with my conversation with Kelli. But things did not continue to go well for this woman. She wasn’t even finished with her shopping when she cut in line. She sent the bag boy running for a gallon of milk and then started to protest the price of dog bones.
“Are you shitting me?” I said, plenty loud enough for her to hear, incredulity coloring my voice.
The woman actually flinched. “Never mind, I’ll pay for them anyway.” She handed off her money and then scurried away.
The checker mentioned that the crazies were out tonight as he was ringing me up. I raised my eyebrows in question and he asked if I’d been listening to Old Man and Trashy Woman’s conversation.
“No,” I told him but I did fill him in on our earlier exchange and he laughed with glee and applauded. I actually received a bow from the people behind me.
So I’ll add that to my super powers resume:
- The ability to stay awake forever
- The subsequent ability to fall asleep at the drop of a hat
- A glare that promises death and dismemberment
I can finally tell you what’s been going on with me for the last several weeks. Besides, all the Tucson Festival of Books stuff and writing book 2, and writing all the interviews to post on the examiner.com site, I’ve been planning a surprise birthday party for My Honey. He turns 40 this week and claimed he’d not had a birthday party since he was a kid. He is a much quieter individual than me. I’ve had a zillion birthday parties since I was a kid. I have required them. I’m noisy about it. My philosophy is, if you want presents, and who doesn’t, one must demand them. I constantly put myself if a position to get presents. Don’t I sound mercenary?
My fortieth birthday was a huge to-do, and I wanted something great for him as well. I thought I might be able to pull off a surprise party so I began the undertaking. Sassy was very adamant about wanting to throw him a party of some sort, and I figured since she was seven now and seemingly able to keep a secret, I let her in on the deal and allowed her to help with the planning. She was under strict rules not to breathe even a word of it to The Bandit. That little dude can’t keep a secret from here to the end of this sentence.
All seemed to go well. Sassy was full of ideas, some good, some totally insane, but she was having fun planning. I contacted the singer from My Honey’s band to help me gather the musicians I wouldn’t know to invite and his best friend to call all the old friends I wouldn’t know how to contact. I went through his cell phone in the dark of the night to get all the phone numbers of his co-workers. It was creepy, but I vowed to apologize after the party. Family was all invited. Ava promised the cake and I was delighted for her to do it. I found her a Fender bass guitar picture on the Internet to use as a pattern. We had to look all over town to find the black licorice shoestrings to use as the guitar strings and she found silver gumballs to use as knobs. It was absolutely fantastic as you can see – and it tasted every bit as good as it looked.
Sassy struggled with the secret. And I felt for her. It was hard for me, too. There had been some talk of having a small party this next weekend, but everyone let the idea sort of fall apart. Everyone except My Honey. He kept bringing it up and I felt so bad acting like we were all too busy to have a party for him. He would just sort of sigh and walk away all defeated. It was horrible.
He’d been working on our back fence all day and, an hour before the party, he decided he was going to Home Depot. I kept myself calm as told him the kids and I would just wait for him at home and then we’d run to get something to eat. Earlier in the day, Sassy had started getting wound up when we snuck away to pick up the decorations. By the time we were changing clothes for the party her brother still didn’t know about, she was vibrating with tension. She kept coming up with these elaborate plans to distract her father and I kept urging her to try and clam down and not make everything so complicated.
In the car on the way to the party, there was a high-pitched noise coming from the back seat that sounded something like, “SKEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Her father asked her what her problem was and I told him she was crazy. She blurted out several time, “My head is going to explode!” I kept hissing for her to calm down and, because she’s such a spaz most of the time, her father honestly didn’t think anything about it was especially unusual.
In the parking lot, My Honey noticed a friend’s car right away. “Oh, hey, Deo’s here!”
I tried to sound nonplussed about it while negotiating him through the parking lot and into the bar and to the special room.
We totally got him. The Bandit was just as surprised as he was. Sassy did not explode. A fabulous time was had by all.
And only one extra person had to sleep on my couch.
I found this on line today and I love it. This is the sort of stuff I gravitate to. I love lists.
This list praises the best voices in Hollywood. What I really like is they didn’t pick the most obvious people. I mean really, if you can’t recognize James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman then you’ve been living in a vacuum. Instead, this list chooses less likely, but no less known, voices. See if you don’t agree.
“This is the old sage, the gentle authoritarian, the kung fu master, the wise grandfather or God. He can boom omnisciently when he needs to but generally he gives off solid comfort and warmth.” The list makers chose Liam Neeson as the forerunner saying, “His vocal performances offers the perfect combination of warm, Jesus-like assurance and moral certainty with the power to roar if the forces of evil rise.” They also included James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman, Patrick Stewart and Anthony Hopkins in this list.
The Man’s Man
“He’s confident, traditionally masculine and his voice is there to remind you that he’s got it all under control. It scratches but doesn’t growl. He doesn’t have to yell, but he can menace you easily just by getting a little stern and maybe dropping a register.” This one they give to George Clooney. As far as I’m concerned, they can give anything they want to Clooney . I’m available after Saturday night. They also include Edward James Olmos, Sean Connery, Alex Baldwin and Patrick Warburton (!!). Any list that includes Warburton is good by me.
The Ruler of the Manor
This voice is precise. It is correct. It is to be respected. It’s the reason you want chocolate-covered biscuits with your afternoon tea. This one is Judi Dench. And man, do I love Dench. (Maybe we can get Kelli to tell us of the flight she took sitting next to Dame Judi.) I love their description of her: Dench is masterful in this regard. If something is “just not done,” she will tell you about it first with a glance, then by clearing her throat and, finally, because you are too dense to have noticed the first and second warning, she will speak. And you will change your ways. Also listed, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, all British actors of a certain age.
The Chicken Fried Steak with Biscuits
This voice is like the Man’s Man but Southern. It’s a touch voice to pull off when the actor isn’t genuinely from the southern half of the country. This one goes, without a doubt, to Sam Elliott. And how! Only he’s from Sacramento and raised in the Pacific Northwest. But his register is so low and smooth. “You laugh in that man’s face and he’s likely to pull out a shotgun he’s managed to hid somewhere on his body.”
The Funny Wierdo
It’s a gruff growl that no one is scared of, a comically grumpy woodland creature with a thorn in its paw. Seth Rogan matches this exactly. As does Paul Reubens, Christopher Walken & Wanda Sykes.
She’s sheer sex, and she sounds like bourbon-soaked cashmere. She might have a husky smoker’s throat, or a “Maxim” cover babydoll pout, she might be a wealthy socialite having an affair with the gardener or she might be a straight-up scary maneater. But she’s getting what she wants and you know it just by the way she asks you to pass the salt. This was rests with Scarlett Johansson. Also included, Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox, Tilda Swinton and Helen Mirren – just to prove you don’t have to be twenty years old to have that voice.
Tonight I’m totally going to cheat. I can’t say I found this essay, Kelli did, but I couldn’t say it any better. Kelli found it on Anna Campbell’s site who I’m guessing got it from the source.
I’m a fan of Teresa Medeiros. I’ve read a lot of her work.
So in case you ever wondered, here’s why:
SAY IT LOUD AND SAY IT PROUD: I READ AND WRITE ROMANCE!
I could spend hours sharing all of my passionate arguments on the benefits of both reading and writing romance. I could quote more market statistics. I could quote psychologists. I could quote Jayne Ann Krentz and remind you of the positive, life-affirming values inherent in all romances: the celebration of female power, courage, intelligence, and gentleness; the inversion of the power structure of a patriarchal society; the psychological benefits of spending time with authors who have a positive world view.
But to be honest I’m a little sick of defending “romance” as a genre to people too obsessed with its sexual content to attempt to understand its emotional content. So if any of you are ever leered at, sneered at, or otherwise degraded for writing or reading romance, simply blink and gently say (really quickly), “What the romance novel is really all about is the archetypal human struggle of integrating the masculine and feminine aspects of our psyches.” I can promise you that nothing will shut them up faster.
People often ask me why I write romance. I write romance because the ever expanding boundaries of the genre allow me to express my own heartfelt beliefs in optimism, faith, honor, chivalry and the timeless power of love to provoke a happy ending. In a society gutted by cynicism, we have found the courage to stand up and proclaim that hope isn’t corny, love isn’t an antiquated fantasy, and dreams can come true for women still willing to strive for them.
Probably the most subversive thing we dare to do is to make the woman the hero of her own story. And to realize exactly how subversive that is, I want each of you to honestly ask yourselves if the marvelous J.K. Rowling would have been such an international success if her first book had been titled, HARRIET POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE. Traditionally, in our mainstream patriarchal society, it’s been the male character who is allowed to go on all the thrilling physical and emotional quests. Oh, he might have a female sidekick like the delightful Hermione Granger in HARRY POTTER, but she is rarely allowed to overstep her role as confidante and facilitator of his self-discovery. In a romance, the heroine acts as narrator of her own story as well as driving the various plotlines that fuel that story.
Our heroines don’t just “stand by their men”, they “stand up to them.” And guess what—their men love it! We celebrate both a woman’s softness and her strength and introduce her to a man capable of recognizing the value of both. Is it any wonder that both she and our readers fall in love with him?
I write romance because a young woman in Portugal named Lourdes Goulart was praying that my next book would come out before the cancer that was ravaging her body claimed her life. Even though chemotherapy had weakened her eyesight to the point of blindness, she sent me a beautiful and painstaking cross-stitch she’d done of a windmill she could see through the window from her bed. Six months ago, I received word from her sister, Rosa, that Lourdes had died. She started my new book the day before she entered the hospital for the last time, but didn’t want to read past the first page for fear of being interrupted.
I write romance because of a call I recently received from a friend who attended nursing school with me. She’d just undergone a total hysterectomy. She described how depressed and emotionally empty she’d felt after the surgery and its numerous complications. She told me that reading my latest book pulled her out of her depression and even restored the sexual desire for her husband that she had feared she would never feel again.
I write romance because of an e-mail I recently received from a 54-year old incest survivor. Instead of blaming her father for the terrible thing he had done to her, she had always blamed her mother for letting him do it. Because my hero in A KISS TO REMEMBER found the grace in his soul to forgive his mother for a similar act, this woman decided, after nursing her bitterness for 50 years, to forgive her mother before she passed away from Alzheimer’s Disease.
I’d like to share one more brief story with you:
They met in 1957 when he was twenty-two and she was eighteen. He was a skinny, handsome G.I. with a motorcycle and a devilish twinkle in his eye. She was his sister’s best friend. She was beautiful, smart, and funny. He was in love.
They married in 1959 and three years later, while she was pregnant with what was to be their first and only child, he was transferred to Heidelburg, Germany. They lived over a bakery run by a jovial German couple named “Momma and Poppa Hartman.” On weekends, they would climb into his convertible MG without so much as a change of underwear and go racing through the countryside to explore the castles of Germany and Austria.
The child was born in 1962. His first indication that something was wrong was when he came home from work one day to discover that his wife had given away all the furniture. Luckily, a kind-hearted neighbor had taken it in and stored it in her apartment. His beautiful young wife lost weight and stopped sleeping. Her speech was rapid and slurred. At times, she even seemed to forget that she had given birth to a baby. He had no choice but to seek professional help.
The doctors informed him that his wife was suffering from a severe form of mental illness. It would be well over a decade before that illness was correctly diagnosed as Bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness.
He went driving along the river that dark, rainy night at nearly a hundred miles an hour–a 26 year old soldier in a foreign country with a brand new baby and a wife facing a lifetime of torturous illness and uncertainty. He had a choice to make. He could shuffle his baby off to be raised by relatives and abandon his wife to the care of a German mental institution. He could drive into that river and let all of his decisions be made for him. Or he could choose to live and fight for his family.
My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year. Because my dad meant it when he said, “for better or worse; in sickness and in health,” I enjoyed a relatively stable, happy childhood and my mom’s hospitalizations were kept to a minimum. My father’s love is as unwavering and unconditional today as it was fifty-one years ago. Although my mother is now suffering from a rare and terminal brain disorder that has resulted in severe dementia, when my father visits her in the nursing home every other day, he still sees that beautiful, brilliant girl who won his heart all those years ago.
So when people ask me, “Why do you write romance?”, I can only reply, “How could I not?”