Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Emotional StraitJacket

Do you remember, 15 or 20 years ago, there was a big hullabaloo about EQ, emotional quotient, as opposed to IQ?
I have to say that if I took an EQ test, I would probably score very low. I have the hardest time understanding my own emotions.
Last week, I wrote about my "denial" of all the trials going on in my life and on Saturday morning, I posted and said I was in a very low place. I'm so out of touch with my emotions, that I couldn't figure out how I got to that low spot.
Okay, learning that my job is cutting back, then Grace crashing the car in the garage and my dad having a triple bypass all were valid reasons for me to feel down. But on Thursday, even as I knew everything would turn out okay, my mood plummeted and I couldn't figure out why.
Finally, mid-morning Saturday, it dawned on me.
Thursday morning, my husband and oldest son had a conversation about a concert he was attending that night. My husband asked where it was and Spencer replied, "At the Newport."
"That place is a tinder box," my husband replied.
"Yeah, it's pretty gross. But fun," Spencer agreed.
That afternoon, my mom posted a photo of my sister-in-law visiting my dad at the hospital. I wanted to visit my dad, but, with two kids in college, we didn't have enough money for me to fly down and visit. I love my sister-in-law (actually ex-sister-in-law) and I'm glad she was there, but I was so sad that at my age, I didn't have the extra money to fly down and be with my parents.
So I slogged through Thursday and Friday then Saturday morning feeling very depressed. --
I was sitting in the sun in the backyard, listening to the band playing as they marched in the Memorial Day parade when it hit me -- Memorial Day.
Memorial Day Weekend. The weekend my sister died 36 years ago. In a fire at a nightclub.
The innocuous conversation about the concert Spencer was going to suddenly made sense.
And understanding why my mood had plummeted helped me climb out of that sad place.
I think I probably feel like this every Memorial Day weekend, but I'm so out of touch with my emotions that I don't even realize it. I always need a light bulb moment.
So next year around this time, will one of you fabulous readers please remind me. It's okay. I'll get through it if I can just remember that it will pass.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser -- The View From Penthouse B

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
This week I'm starting The View From Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman.

Since Edwin died, I have lived with my sister Margot in the Batavia, an Art Deco apartment building on beautiful West Tenth Street in Greenwich Village. This arrangement has made a great deal of sense for us both: I lost my husband without warning, and Margot lost her entire life's savings to the Ponzi schemer whose name we dare not speak.
Also this week is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read h and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers. Here's my teaser from page 35:
Margot said, "We only need a minute." As soon as he was gone, she said, "Do you love him? What if we put a bed in the storeroom? He can put his stuff in the pantry drawer."
This is described as a sister story. Hope it's good. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dreaming of France -- Memorial Day Commemoration


Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.
Since we're celebrating Memorial Day here in the United States, I'm posting a couple of pictures from Normandy Beaches that Tucker took during his trip in April. The first one is a panoramic view so if you click on it you should get the full impact.
 They visited a cemetery and memorials to the servicemen who died there.
 This cemetery full of crosses is so sad. I just imagine all of the youth and vigor of the men who poured out onto those beaches, so many of them never saw their sacrifice pay off.
 
But our life today, our Memorial Day Sales, and picnics and bicycle rides are all thanks to what they and their families gave up.
My novel The Summer of France includes one of those American World War II soldiers who never returned because he fell in love with a French woman. Summer is a perfect time to pick it up if you haven't yet. It's in paperback for $14 or on Kindle for $3.99.


Blue Jay Adventures

Earl and I were sitting on the front porch when we saw a fledgling blue jay flop into the street. The parents screeched down urgently. Some other blue jay relatives flew down also screeching. A cardinal landed nearby and a robin added its trill too. All urging the baby blue jay to fly, to get out of the middle of the street.
As the birds flew back to the tree, the baby blue jay flopped around some more.
Earl pulled on his shoes.
"Don't go down there," I warned. "They'll dive bomb you."Nevertheless, he went down the 24 steps and tried to shoo the bird toward the curb. One of the blue jay parents attacked Earl's head.
This photo is from the FCPS website. 

He picked up a stick and waved it over his head to keep the birds away.
"Come help me," he called.
"No," I refused.
"Come on."
So I reluctantly joined him.
"You want to scoop up the bird or swing the stick?"
"I'm swinging the stick," I decided.
So without further incident, Earl cupped his hands and lifted the fuzzy gray and blue bird into the grass just past the curb.
We retreated to the porch and watched the bird hop around. The parents landed beside it, occasionally flying back up to overhead tree branches.
I examined Earl's head where the blue jay had attacked him. "Looks like he got you with his feet," I said. Two bloody scratches pierced his scalp. I dabbed at them with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol.
I didn't think about the fallen blue jay again until about an hour later after Earl had gone to work. Suddenly, I heard the blue jays screeching and screeching in the backyard. I rushed back there and found our outdoor cat Tupi nudging the fledgling with his nose.
"Tupi!" I yelled, clapping my hands and running into the yard to grab the cat. I deposited him inside the door and called over to the neighbor for advice.
Tupi taking refuge in the house.
Sarah had been gardening all day. She had on a canvas hat and gloves. She didn't hesitate to come to the backyard and scoop the baby bird into a grocery bag then carry him to the neighbor's garden inside a high fence.
The blue jay parents, for some reason, did not notice their baby in the backyard or being transferred to the neighbor's garden.
After we deposited the baby in the garden, I let the cat out the front door, hoping he'd forget about the baby bird. He may have forgotten, but the blue jay parents did not. They were waiting by the front porch and immediately started to scream at the cat. He crouched in the dirt by the porch and they dive bombed him. He slunk around, trying to escape their notice, but within a few minutes he was back at the door wanting inside. His ears were flattened out on either side of his head in fear.
A few minutes later, he wanted out the back door. Again the blue jays found him and tortured him. He settled in the house, standing by the screen door and a blue jay alighted on the porch railing, scolding Tupi.I was starting to feel bad for him.
A few hours later, he was in the backyard and  he came running up to greet me and Grace. The other cat, also black, doesn't usually go out, but I let him loose to see if the blue jays could tell the difference. They couldn't. They flew over the yard, zooming down to intimidate the innocent cat who couldn't figure out why these sky predators were attacking him.
I don't know if the parents ever found the baby blue jay, but I do know that Tupi's summer is now ruined. Every time he goes outside, the birds follow him screeching.
I just hope they don't remember what Earl looks like next time he goes in the backyard.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday Snapshot -- Poppy

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on West Metro Mommy. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
This week has been a tough one for me, so the morning sunshine on this pink poppy is about the most hopeful thing I can find. 
I'm trying to jump start my mood. I ran this morning and stopped at Starbucks for a mocha with caffeine (I usually drink decaf.) On my walk home, I saw a number of yellow finches flitting along and landing on the side of a brick building. They made me smile, so I know all hope is not lost. 
Hope you are all having a good weekend. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The State of Denial

Isn't it funny how we block out things we don't want to think about?
I have some friends who are masters at it, and I call them on it all the time. But I didn't realize how much I deny when I'd just rather not deal with difficulties.
This realization came on Monday afternoon when my friend Ruth in Michigan called.
"What's going on? How was your weekend?" she asked.
I knew that Ruth had a big birthday party over the weekend, so I paused for just a minute trying to remember my weekend.
"Nothing much," I said. "I babysat for the girls on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. So that was fun. Fought with Spencer about whether college students have curfews, the usual. How bout you?"
Then I paused so she could tell me the details of her party.
After the party overview, I said, "Oh, did I tell you about my job?"
I'd found out Friday that the college where I teach is cutting back on hours for adjuncts, which basically means I need to start looking for a new job. The excuse is the new IRS rules which only allows us 18 hours per week rather than 30 -- and that's 18 contact hours, so only 9 hours that we are getting paid for. It's complicated, but means about half of the paychecks I was earning before so the college can avoid having to contribute to health insurance for adjuncts.
"And," I continued, "did I tell you that Grace drove the car through the back of the garage on Sunday?"
"What? No."
I explained that Grace thought she had clipped a bike tire as she was pulling into the garage and in trying to slam on the brakes, she hit the gas instead.
Crash! Thunk!.
I was in the kitchen when I looked into the backyard to see this.
I went running out and had to go around to the big garage door to reach Grace.
She was okay. Just shaken up, as anyone would be.
"So maybe my weekend wasn't as fine as I said earlier," I admitted.
"I guess not," Ruth laughed. And that's when I remembered the latest thing, the biggest, scariest thing.
"Oh, and my mom just called from Dad's heart test. They're doing triple bypass surgery tomorrow."
"Oh, no," Ruth said. "I'm sorry."
I was too.
But I can write about it now because the surgery is complete and he came through "a textbook" patient, which I hope is good.
I can't fly to be with my mom in Florida, but my brother is on his way and should be there soon to help her with the hospital visits.
So, other than needing to find a new job, get the car repaired, get the garage repaired, and my dad undergoing major surgery, the weekend was fine.
I wasn't in denial at all.

First Chapter, Tuesday Teaser -- The Smart One


Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.

I think I saw this book on someone else's blog. I hope it's good. I'm just starting it. The Smart One is by Jennifer Close, who also wrote Girls in White Dresses. Here's the intro:
From inside her apartment, Claire could hear the neighbor kids in the hall. They were running from one end to the other, the way they sometimes did, kicking a ball or playing tag, or just running for running's sake. They had their dog with them too, a big, sad golden retriever named Ditka, who always looked confused, like he couldn't understand why or how he'd ended up living in an apartment in New York.
Also this week is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers. Here's my teaser from page 35:
"I hate my job," Martha had said, as soon as she walked into Dr. Baer's office that day. "Retail is killing me." She threw her bag on the floor and waited for Dr. Baer to say something comforting, something about how hard it was to wait on people, but that it taught you patience and taught you how to treat others. But Dr. Baer had just sighed, leaned back, and said, "Tell my why you hate it."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dreaming of France -- Cafe



Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.
Cafe table with drinks on a hot day. Menthe à l'eau.
This particular cafe was in Montmartre.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saturday Snapshot -- Prodigal Returns

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
Last night, around 10 p.m., the back door opened and my college freshman, now officially a college sophomore, returned home. 
The tiredness after a 16-hour drive didn't take away his joy at coming home. And his extra skinny frame (he's lost 13 pounds this year) and his need for a haircut didn't reduce the thrill I felt at giving him a squeeze once again. 

The cat was too busy posing for the photo to show his happiness.
So now my little house is crowded once again and it may be a very long summer, but, for now, I'm thrilled to have all three of my kids home again. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Trouble With Curly Hair

You hear it all the time, people who wish they had curly hair tell me how lucky I am to have curls.
But if they actually had to live with curly hair, I don't think they'd be so anxious.
The problem with curly hair is that it always looks a little bit celebratory. Think about it. If women are going out for a fancy evening or a special dinner or even dancing, they curl their hair. So how weird is it to wear curly hair when I'm going for a run, or working in the garden, or vacuuming, or arguing with a teenager.The hair looks totally inappropriate -- way too dressy.
I think the French got it right by calling it frisés. Most of the time, my curly hair is frizzy.
The thing is, anyone can have curly hair, all they have to do is get a perm. To have straight hair though is trickier. None of my hair dressers (is that still a word or does that make me sound 80 years old?) have recommended the Brazilian hair straightening process because it uses some sort of chemicals, like formaldehyde.
So if I want straight hair, I have to take the time each day to flat iron it. Not really a problem in the winter time. Even if I run in the morning, I don't sweat much and my hair doesn't react by frizzing or curling, but welcome to the summer and my hair grows and grows.
The first few days after I stop flat ironing, my hair is in a kind of stupor. It curls but doesn't go overboard. By the second or third day, the curls are feeling rebellious. They start to corkscrew, especially on the right side.
My hair, when curly reaches my shoulders. Straightened, it reaches well down my back. As the humidity increases, my hair will look shorter and shorter as it takes on a global quality -- and by that, I mean it looks like a globe, a big round ball.
I tell my hair cutter (could that be the right word? At least I'm not calling her a beautician) that I need the length in the summer to help weigh down the curls.
There was one time I really embraced my curls. About 10 years ago, my hair was long enough that it almost fell into dreadlocks -- long individual curls.
I'd use a clip to pull a few curls back. My hair felt beautiful. When I ran, I'd braid it, and the braid was long enough to pull in front of my shoulder to finish. The braid swished back and forth against my back during my runs, and I had to buy pony tail holders without metal on them because they'd leave abrasions against my back where the end of the braid rubbed. I probably could have put on more clothes instead.
So here we are in May, and my curls are in full swing again. It's time to embrace my wild hair. After all, I can always fall back on the  pony tail.
Have you ever wished you had curly hair? If you have curly hair, what are your secrets to keep it tame?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

First Chapter, Tuesday Teasers -- Seduction: A Novel of Suspense


Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
This week, I'm reading Seduction: A Novel of Suspense by M.J. Rose. Here's the intro:

October 30, 1855
Jersey, Channel Islands, Great Britain. Every story begins with a tremble of anticipation. At the start we may have an idea of our point of arrival, but what lies before us and makes us shudder is the journey, for that is all discovery. This strange and curious story begins for me at the sea. Its sound and scent are the punctuation. Its movements are my verbs. As I write this, angry waves break upon the rocks, and when the water recedes, the rocks seem to be weeping. As if nature is expressing what is in my soul. Expressing what I cannot speak of out loud but only can write, here, in secret, for  you, Fantine.
Also this week is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers:
Here's mine from page 256:
Theo knelt beside Jac. Her eyes were open but she wasn't seeing him. He said her name. Once. Twice. A third time. The panic rose in him.  

What do you think? I'll be reviewing this book on June 19 and interviewing the author on June 20 for France Book Tours. There will be a contest to win an autographed page of the manuscript and a chance to win the necklace on the cover.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dreaming of France -- The Promise of Provence



Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.
I can't promise this novel will satisfy your longing for France. In fact, I'd have to say that it made mine worse. The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands is strongest when it takes the reader throughout Provence -- the cliff villages, the coastal towns, the vineyards. It definitely made me yearn to return.
The novel begins in Toronto with Katherine's 22nd wedding anniversary. She arrives home to learn her husband has left her for another woman. Katherine's journey through pain and loss isn't over though. Some might call this novel a romance, but I prefer to think of it as a novel about a woman's independence.
Katherine decides to exchange homes with a couple in Provence. That's where the travel really begins, and the romance sparks as she puts her past life behind her.
The culture of France, the realization that every minute of life should be seized and lived to the fullest, spark hope in Katherine.
Adding three jars of lavender honey to her basket, her next stop was the herb seller, whose long table blazed with vivid color and filled the air with a bouquet of fragrantly pungent smells that was almost hallucinogenic. Here she chose three mixtures prepared by the woman whose flamboyant makeup and dresses were as colorful as her wares. One packet was for preparing fish dishes, another for Mediterranean salads, and the last for lamb.
As she lingered, she was reminded of the word "la garrique," which Joy had used to describe the combination of earthy, herbal, floral, and other scents found in the Provencal markets. It was unique and something she felt she would not forget.
Her last stop was the soap vendor. Again, the vibrant and fragrant display of the famous savon de Marseille, oils and creams, caressed her senses.
 The novel shows how Katherine heals from her marriage and other troubles as she grows more confident.
I'd recommend this book if you love travel. I also like the fact that the main character becomes a stronger woman than she anticipates.
This book also counts for the Books on France meme at Words and Peace blog.
This is my fourth book set in France this year.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saturday Snapshot -- Tire Frame

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
I tried taking an artsy photo when I was at my Mom and Dad's house in Florida. Then just last week I saw one similar to this in an art gallery. I must have been on the right track, idea-wise anyway.
This is a tire swing at Mom and Dad's house. I think I would be afraid to swing on it because it's bound to have snakes or fire ants or something Florida hiding inside it.



If you haven't downloaded my novel, The Summer of France, it's free today on Amazon for Kindle. If you don't have a Kindle, you can download the free Kindle reader for your computer or smart phone or tablet. Here's the link for Amazon in the U.S., or Amazon in the UK. Thanks for spreading the word too.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Pain of Renting a Tux with a Teenager

I have to accept that I'm an embarrassment to my 17-year-old, no matter where I go or what I do.
A few weeks ago, we went to Men's Wearhouse to pick out a tuxedo. We had a $40 off card for the tux rental.
Spencer and Tucker in their tuxes 2012
Tucker's date is wearing a navy and silver dress. We felt like that ruled out a black tux. He decided he wanted a white tux with a silver vest and a navy tie. The helpful woman pointed out two tuxes to choose from, both of them costing $124.99 for the overnight rental.
I couldn't really tell the difference. I let Tucker choose. After some measuring, we sat down to pay while they filled out the forms. When we got to the end, the woman said, "The total will be $156."
I was perplexed. $124.99 minus the $40 coupon should not be $156.
"Can you show me the breakdown to explain why it costs that much?" I asked.
Tucker, sitting in the chair beside me, just slunk down lower in his seat.
"Hmmm. Wait a minute," the woman said. She clicked a few things on her computer screen then excused herself, disappearing into a back room.
Tucker and Jordan in 2012
"Why do you even argue with them about the price?" Tucker asked. His fury quickly going from 0 to 100. "It never gets you anywhere. Just pay the price."
Much easier to say when you aren't the one paying.
I didn't bother explaining to Tucker that questioning the price was not the same thing as arguing.
When the woman came back, she said that the two white tuxes she'd shown us were not the same price. One was $149.99 and, of course, that was the one Tucker had chosen.
Since we couldn't tell a difference between the tuxes, I suggested we switch to the less expensive one and Tucker agreed, still squirming.
"Just pay the deposit and I'll fix all this in the computer later," the woman assured me.
Hmmm. Call me skeptical, but I doubted that it would get "fixed."
"Could you let me know the price once you get it taken care of?" I asked.
"Sure, I'll email you a copy," she said.
So I paid my $20 deposit and left.
The next day, I found the email with my receipt. The total was $156.
What? The exact same amount she told me the day before with the more expensive tux? Yep.
After I finished work that day, I stopped by the Men's Wearhouse to discuss tux prices.
Spencer and Claudia in 2011
The manager who looked up my account and explained that the woman who helped me the previous day was new. The manager promised she would change to the less expensive tux.
"Okay," she said, as she finished entering the information. The total then is $129.99."
"That's better," I said, "but I still don't understand how a $124.99 tux, with $40 off ends up being $129."
"Well," she explained, "the price we show you is really $30 off so with the $40 off coupon you only get another $10 off."
Hmmm.
"I'm pretty sure that's illegal," I told the woman. "I don't think the Ohio Attorney General would agree that is fair advertising."
Suddenly, the price reduced, plus she gave me an extra $20 off for the trouble of having to come in again to straighten out the problem. She said I would owe $81 plus tax when we picked up the tux.
And today, we went to get the tux.
If fit; it looked very white with the white shirt, white jacket, white pants, white shiny shoes. Tucker was practically ready to start work on an ice cream truck.
The efficient sales associate got the tux hung up in the black bag and we walked to the register.
"That'll be $111.81," the man said.
"Is that after my $20 deposit?" I asked the guy. Tucker's eyes rolled back into his head.
"The woman I talked to said I would owe $81 plus tax," I explained.
"What woman?" the sales associate asked.
Ty and Grace in 2009. The dress was much
less expensive than a tux, but I did have to
pay for the hair.
"This woman," I said pulling her card from my purse and setting it on the counter.
"Oh, she's with another customer. Wait just a minute and I'll get her."
We stepped aside to let the next customer pay.
"You can wait in the car," I told Tucker. He bolted from the store.
Several other families from Tucker's school came by paying for their tuxes while I waited. Finally the helpful woman walked to the register.
"The discount I put in the other day didn't save," she explained. As she corrected the price to $88, she apologized for the mix up again.
"No big deal, except I embarrassed my son again," I told her.
I paid and exited with the long black bag full of tux. As we pulled out of the parking lot, Tucker said, "Next year, I'll pay for my tux."
"I don't mind paying," I told him, "but I'm not just going to pay any price they say at the end if it doesn't match the price they showed us earlier."
"Whatever," he said.
I hope he saves a lot of money for next year's prom. I noticed that the boy behind him was paying $174, after his deposit.

Free Novel -- Only Not Today

I messed up on giving away my novel this month.
I was fooled by one of those backward calendars -- the kind we don't have in the U.S. too much.
The calendar on Amazon begins the week on Mondays. Obviously, I'm used to a calendar that begins on Sunday, so I thought I was marking Friday and Saturday to give away my novel for free on Kindle, but I accidentally marked Saturday and Sunday.
Sunday is usually a bad day to give away books. Hoisted on my own petard. (Isn't that a great phrase!)
Hope if you haven't downloaded my book yet that you will. It's free on Saturday and Sunday to download on Kindle or on  your computer.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Iris

The iris are in bloom at my house. They seem to have jumped ahead all of a sudden, but that makes me happy.
What's blooming at your house?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

First Chapter, Tuesday Teaser -- The Promise of Provence


Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
This week on my Kindle, I'm reading The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands. The book is about a woman in her mid fifties who sees her marriage end, her mother die and then finds hope again in Provence.
Here's the intro:
Stepping out the front door into a wash of cool autumn air, Katherine closed her eyes and inhaled its crispness. 
Pretty brief opening, but I'm enjoying the book.
Also this week is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers:
Here's mine from chapter 3: 
Her voice trailed off and she gave Andrea an exasperated look before continuing, "So here I am -- single, fifty-five years old, more wrinkles appearing every day --not exactly sought-after dating material. Which really doesn't matter, because I'm not the least bit interested in dating. The thought of it repulses me! But still the prospect of aging alone isn't particularly joyful." 
I'd encourage everyone to give this book a try for a meandering trip through Provence. 

Monday, May 06, 2013

Cat Pee and Open Windows

(Here's another story for Phyllis -- See Sunday's explanation)
Sunday morning, Grace had to be at work at 7, so I planned to meet a friend for a run after I dropped her off.
We headed out a little late at 6:50 a.m. and when I opened the door to our freestanding garage, a black, fuzzy cat went streaking out. He'd been locked in overnight.
The front of our blue car was covered with cat footprints.
This cat is innocent of the crime and
shocked at the actions of a fellow feline.
Then, I saw to my horror, the car windows were down. I never leave the windows down once I pull into the garage, Even as I was walked toward the car, I wracked my brain to think who could have driven the car after me.
Nope, I was the last one to drive it, and as the sun and the warm air had seduced me the day before, I left the windows down when I pulled in, and closed the big garage door.
When Earl had come home from work at midnight, he'd seen the "people" door was open, so he firmly closed it, trapping that furry cat inside.
As I walked toward the car, my hands full of water bottles and library books, I looked in the car to see if the cat had been there. On the passenger seat, I saw several little balls of cat poop. Crap!
I threw my things in the back seat and ran inside for a plastic grocery bag to clean up the poop, and a bottle of Woolite to scrub the upholstery.
Ick! I scooped up each dropping then carried the plastic bag to the outdoor trash can. I sprayed the seat and
rubbed at it with the rag.
"Sit in the backseat," I warned Grace as she approached with her coffee cup in hand.
Then I ran around to the driver seat and looked down before I slid inside. The seat had a tell-tale shadow to it.
Damn. The cat pooped in one seat and peed in the other.
I ran back in the house to get a plastic bag to sit on. Grace was going to be late for work. I stopped just long enough to wake my sleeping husband and accuse him of closing the garage door on a cat.
Then I raced back to the car, Target bag in hand.
I spread it across the seat and sat on top of it, feeling like the wetness was soaking through to my running shorts.
After dropping off Grace, I hurried to the park to meet my friend. I stood up and pulled the plastic bag from the seat. The moisture of the pee had interacted with the red circles on the Target bag, leaving red circles on the car seat.
Just great.
Once I got home, I blotted up what I could of the pee, I soaked the seat with Woolite, and I'm leaving the windows down to try to get rid of the smell of cat pee. Every time I pull into the garage, I make sure both garage doors are closed and that there are no pets lurking to jump in my car and use it as a litter box.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Dreaming of France -- Panoramic View from Bateaux Mouches



Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.
When Tucker went to France with his school class, he took some great pictures. This one was from the bateaux mouches, and he took it as a panoramic. Click on it to make it bigger and you can see how fabulous it looks.
I don't think I have to tell you where he took it.

Grace's Dilemma -- Hollywood or New York?

One of my friends (Phyllis) complained that I never blog anymore -- not about the interesting stuff like embarrassing situations or my kids getting into trouble, etc... All I ever write about is books and book reviews and France. Of course, I am obsessed with books and France, but my kids are still a major part of my life. So here's a blog about one of my kids...
In January, Grace stayed home rather than going back to her college in far away New York. I want her to finish college, but having her home was so nice. She took classes at the local community college -- theater, ballet, communications, nothing too strenuous. She got a job at a local French restaurant and has learned that she gets bigger tips if she speaks English with a French accent. The tight black skirt also improves tips. She performed in the chorus of a local community theater production.
As April bloomed, it was time to find another college where she could attend and finish. She applied to four colleges and was accepted at all of them. We visited Ohio State where she could continue with her French and languages major. The campus and the program just didn't win her over.
She and I together visited one of the campuses about 15 minutes from home. As we walked onto campus, I commented that it reminded me a lot of her college in New York. She agreed.
"Why didn't we look here?" she asked.
Mostly, cause they don't have a swim team and at the time, Grace was planning to swim in college.
Grace, now 21, has decided to change her major to theater. That has been a big struggle for me -- not that I have that much say in it. But I think majoring in theater is like sowing dandelions in your green lawn. It's going to be a lot of work for something you may or may not succeed at. I have no idea whether Grace is a good actress. I have no idea whether she can succeed on Broadway or in Hollywood. But who am I to say don't go for your dreams?
I always wanted to be a writer, but  I can write after the bloom of youth has faded. For actors, youth is pretty much a necessity. So I gave Grace my blessing to major in theater but asked her to pick another major too, like communications. She agreed.
 My cousin, who was a successful actor, appearing in movies like Oh Brother Where Art Thou, and  television shows like Seinfeld and Malcolm in the Middle, cautioned that having a back up means that you won't throw your heart into acting.
I didn't change my mind about the double major though.
So as we toured the campus, they said the tour didn't include the Communications building which was a little way down the road. We said we'd like to see the building and they called ahead to alert the secretary we were coming.
The secretary took one look at Grace, 5-foot, 10-inches before her platform pumps, an insouciant scarf draped around her neck, her brown hair falling in a curtain down her back, and said, "Oh, I see you're here for Broadcast."
Grace and I both looked at each other.
Grace said afterwards that she felt like saying, "Well, I am now."
The chair of the department came out into the hallway to talk to Grace and was explaining some classes then said, "But that's really for the writing side of things, not Broadcast."
"Grace is a pretty good writer too," I threw in there. After all, Earl and I are both writers and pride ourselves on the fact that we may not have passed along math skills but our kids can write.
Then as we continued on the tour, one of the broadcast professors came into the hallway to meet us.
"I'll take over from here," he told the secretary. "I can see she's here for broadcast."
After we walked out of the building, we looked at each other and said, "Why didn't we ever think about this before?"
Theater and broadcast journalism seem like a perfect match. Grace will have to learn how to operate the cameras, to edit, to direct, to read the news, to covers sports and other stories. Hopefully she can find a fabulous internship in New York City that allows her to work on news during the day and try out for shows in the evening. The auditions alone would be hugely helpful.
So now Grace is registered to attend a new college only 15 minutes away and even closer to her work. She's still debating whether she'll live on campus or get an apartment for the school year. She's taking some more classes at the community college this summer, and I'm praying she can finish by the end of next summer, but in the fall of 2014, I'll have another kid headed off to college.


Saturday, May 04, 2013

Saturday Snapshot -- Tulips

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
In my small town, there's a woman whose entire yard is taken up by tulips. She has no room for grass. It looks like she has a bumper crop this year. 
I make sure I walk by her house in the spring time to keep track of the tulips' progress.

This year she also added some creeping phlox and small bushes of  yellow flowers as borders. I love creeping phlox. Her flowers are also taking over her backyard.

I hope you get the time to stop and smell the flowers this weekend.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Creating Likeable Characters

I started reading a book and can't stand the main character. Lissy Ryder, the main character in the Jen Lancaster book, Here I Go Again, is insufferable. She was the mean girl in high school and she judges everyone around her, even though she is broke, expects her daddy to pay for everything, lost her job, got dumped by her husband, and gained a lot of weight. I suppose the author is setting up Lissy at the bottom of the barrel so she can redeem herself, but I don't think I'll stick around long enough to see her turn into a nice person. She reminds me of the character in the Shopaholic books. I can't read those either. 
Here's an excerpt from page 19:
I stab a piece of shrimp with my fork while my mother recounts the conversation she had with my dad earlier today. I guess all the arguing I thought I dreamed was real. Apparently not only is Daddy opposed to settling my debts, but he also wants me to do more with my day than mope. He thinks I should take a job, any job, like maybe working retail, until I find another PR gig. My mother reassures me: "I insist you hold out for an executive position. The mall! Can you imagine? My li'l girl is not working' behind a tacky makeup counter jus' to pay some pesky charge card..."
I know that characters are supposed to grow and change throughout a book, but I want that character to be someone I would fundamentally like if I ran into her, right from the beginning. She might have a few lessons to learn, but she wouldn't be a total, self-absorbed bitch.
I decided that brunette Reese Witherspoon would
be perfect to play the role of Annie in a movie. 
I'm thinking about character as I consider changes to my manuscript I See London, I See France.  The main character Annie is a stay-at-home mom and she has been engulfed in childhood minutia. She has no idea what she wants in life any more. But how can I make her more likeable from the beginning so people want to spend time with her before she sells the minivan and runs away to Europe with her kids? Sure, later in the book is the allure of the Gyspy man and the older Frenchman, but at the beginning when she doesn't know her own identity, how can I make her more appealing to the reader?
Here's a section from the beginning of the book after Annie's husband Scott walks out on her:

So where did it all go wrong? Sometimes I wished I could point to the big moment. I could say Scott had affairs, or he drank too much or he spent money we didn’t have on get-rich-quick schemes. But none of those things were true. Our marriage was slowly worn away by the daily grind.
Somewhere after the kids were born, we chose separate paths. He chose to spend 12 hours a day at work and I chose to be with the kids constantly.
I considered myself basically happy, just exhausted by motherhood. I didn’t expect to feel like that forever though. Someday the kids would grow up, move away. Scott and I would have time for each other again.
            I stayed home with them from the beginning. Loving mostly every minute. Okay, there were whole sections that I had blocked out because I was too tired to remember them, night feedings and colic and washing cloth diapers. But the parts I did remember seemed to be mostly idyllic.
I'd love to hear from readers and writers about what connects you to a character and what could make that character more sympathetic.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Talent in the Eye of the Beholder

Talent is an amorphous thing. What I see as talent others may not, and vice versa.
We started talking about art and talent at work the other day. The Writing Center where I tutor college students is located in the library. Along one wall of the library, on the walk toward the bathroom, a student artist currently displays her paintings. And frankly, most of them are bad.
I don't think the student is young, since many of the paintings have dates on them from the early 2000s.

"Maybe if she painted only landscapes," I suggested to the other teachers in the Writing Center.


"No," my friend Vivian said shaking her head. "Someone just  needs to take her brush away."
We all laughed, but it's true. Someone, somewhere encouraged this person to keep painting and try to make a career of painting.
"It's just a shame someone wasn't honest with her to begin with," Vivian said.
But talent is like that. Someone thought she was good at painting and now that's what she is.
The dogs in the one below especially bother me.

What do you think? Would you be honest with your friend, child, sibling if he/she didn't have talent in the art, music, writing, photography field?

Dreaming of France

hank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us yo...