Saturday, December 16, 2006

So Long Til Next Year

Thanks everyone for your prayers and commiserations. The old house has become a much bigger sucker-upper of my time than I would have imagined. They haven't finished gutting all of the downstairs yet. We're still trying to get the upstairs floors dry with dehumidifiers and these huge fans that are like giant hair dryers on steriods. There's like ten in each room. You can barely get around them. And yet the floor's still wet.

Considering my plate was already fuller than I like it, the Great Flood of '06 just sent it crashing to the floor. So when I read that one blogger agent was taking the rest of the year off--from agenting and blogging--I liked that idea a lot. While I love blogging as a way of keeping in touch will all my cyberspace friend, I just don't have the brain cells to think of anything to blog about, other than whining about the sorry state of both my houses. I don't even enjoy that so I'm sure you all wouldn't either.

So I'm taking a Christmas break from blogging: my gift to myself. I'll see you all back here in the new year. And it's kind of a gift to you too: one less blog to check each day. :)

Merry Christmas everyone. Hope yours is wonderful.

Monday, December 11, 2006

If your smoke detector catches on fire . . .

. . . it’s a good thing the water leaking through the ceiling puts it out.

Sunday we drove up to our old house, the one that’s for sale, to find water running out the garage door. I thought, “Oh, crap. The water heater broke.” But nothing was in the garage that could be too damaged by water. It would be a pain to clean up and replace, but doable.

Until we lifted the garage door.

And water was pouring off it.

And off the garage ceiling.

A burst pipe?

We run inside to find this.

It’s raining inside our house. But not outside.

What I want to know is, if it’s raining, where’s the rainbow?

A river runs through it.

Can’t wait to see our water bill this month.

Apparently (and I’m going to use passive voice here since the perpetrator is unknown) the master bathtub was stopped up and the faucet turned on full blast sometime twelve or eighteen hours previously.

Okay, I’ve said before my life is fodder for my blog. And then the other day I was saying I had nothing to blog about. But really, God, I could have done with something far less dramatic. Or something that was good news . . . like a book contract.

Can’t wait to see what our water bill is this month.

Oh, and I guess the house is off the market.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Someone Else's Adventure

Go check out my dear friend and crit partner, Jenny Cary's blog. I think hanging out with me is rubbing off on her. And maybe not for the better. Her adventure sounds eerily like something that would happen to me.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Sound of Silence

What’s that? Can you hear it? Nope? That’s because there’s nothing to hear. Unless it’s the slight crackle as the fizzle goes out of my Nano efforts. Sigh. Didn’t come close to finishing 50,000 words. I got just over halfway there.

It’s a hard time of year to do Nano with the holidays. Plus, we’re coming off a big move. I still don’t have a desk or an office or a routine, which makes it very hard for me to write. And then the kids got sick. As usual, life interrupts writing.

However, I’m not too bummed. I’m 25,000 words farther in my story than I was a month ago. I didn’t expect to hit 50,000 words, I just wanted to get myself back into the groove of writing. And it did help to some extent. I can now see the end of my book, though I’m not sure I’ll type those magic words, The End, before this year does. But I’m thinking about my characters and where they’re going. I have some ideas of things I want to layer in on the next round of revisions. So over all it was a great experience. I still might even get some chocolate out of it . . .

Monday, November 27, 2006

It's Carnival Time Again

I'm over at the Carnival of Christian Writers today, swinging on the merry-go-round. Well, not too much because I'll get sick. Anyhow, there are a lot of good articles over there today so go check it out.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Not Sure What This Says About Us . . .

While we were making the five-plus-hour trek to Palm Springs (that's five hours each way, in one day) to spend Thanksgiving with Peter’s family, I happened to notice something interesting. Three of the four people in the car had headphones/ear buds on. Peter was listening to his real estate classes on an MP3 player in preparation for taking his licensing test. I was pounding away on my Mac (sans earphones, but I had a pair in my bag). My daughter was listening to her CD player and singing along. And Calvin was watching Cars on the portable DVD player (courtesy of Grandma) while looking at the Black Friday toy ads.

Not sure what this says about us, but we have gadgets and we’re not afraid to use them to keep ourselves occupied on a long car ride. Beats singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” or the Christian version that we sang on youth group outings “99 Bottles of Coke.”

But their is cool side of technology too. We took my laptop inside and Peter was able to share with his father a video from YouTube. It was a documentary on famous Hungarian soccer player, Ferenc Puskas. His dad was really impressed.

. . .

Two things I hate about using my computer in the car. One, the glare. I end up squinting because I can’t wear my sunglasses and see the screen. Also the screen is just plain hard to see anytime you use it outside (I have this same problem when I take it outside to work while the kids play). Sometimes, though, that’s a good thing. It keeps you typing away on your WIP without really looking at the words and editing.

The other annoying thing is the trackpad. When the car bounces, even slightly just from normal road stuff, my hand hits the trackpad and all of the sudden I’m typing in another document or a different part of the same documents. And because of the screen glare, I don’t always notice it right away. I can’t always figure out where the cursor is either.

When I had my PC laptop, I would get frustrated at night. The glare was gone, but I couldn’t see the black keyboard. So, when I got my Mac, I specifically got one with a lighted keyboard. That is very cool. Of course I have this odd bluish glow on my face that occasionally gets me strange looks from passing cars.

I still tend to be pretty productive in the car. I’ll never forget finishing my first novel just as we were approaching Phoenix on the way back from California. The scenery between Phoenix and Palm Springs is nothing special. I’m bored, so I might as well write, and I have no Internet connection to distract me. However, if I even get a broadband connection, that might change.

Monday, November 20, 2006

He Wrote, She Wrote . . . You Could Learn Something

Bob Mayer and Jenny Crusie co-wrote a romantic adventure Don't Look Down that released last April. Last January they started a blog, He Wrote, She Wrote, detailing the adventures of writing with a partner, the writing business, and Living the Dream. They're pretty hysterical to read, plus they share great advice on the craft of writing.

Starting in January 2007, their blog is going to be dedicated to the craft of writing. Basically, it'll be a free on-line class where you can ask questions in the comment section. I've listened to both of them teach on CDs from RWA conferences and they are both very good at it. It's going to be a great resource, one I plan to take advantage of. Plus, it's free. You can't beat that.

Nano update: As you can see, I finally cracked 20K. Not even half way to the goal. I'm not going to make it. At this point, I'm hoping to make 35K, which is a good pace for me normally if I make my daily writing word count.

And, I'm still beating all my buddies . . . someone owes me chocolate.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Is Your Book Addiction Ruining Your Financial Future?

This tongue-in-check article from The New Yorker playfully considers how our addiction to books could be robbing us of a secure financial future. Those of us who would seriously consider blowing the grocery budget on a shopping spree at a bookstore will find it particularly amusing.

(credit to Lisa Samson, though I'm so far behind on blogs, y'all probably have read it by now)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lessons from Nano

I think I lost a week while Nano has been kicking my butt. About 8000 words short of where I’d like to be, and I don’t think I’ll hit 50,000 words, but still I’m making progress. I’ve been doing some brainstorming . . . and I’m quite happy with some ideas I want to go back and layer in after I’ve finished this crappy rough draft. So that is inspiring me to push on.

It’s been interesting doing this project while I’m in the middle of the book. The middles are the hardest for me, where I want to most give up, where I think none of this is ever going to come together, where I threaten to kill off my main characters because they’ve grown independent of me, gotten an attitude and aren’t doing what I tell them to do. So forcing myself to push on without giving much thought to character arcs, plot threads, etc. has been freeing. I’ve come up with some good stuff, probably a lot of crappy stuff, but overall it’s been a good experience. It also doesn’t hurt that I’m still ahead of everyone on my buddy list . . .

On two other nonwriting related notes. . . the back yard is done, all but for some stucco painting. So when that’s done, I’ll post the final pictures. Sorry, Chris, the ferris wheels didn’t make the final cut.

And my son did this one day. That was the salt shaker. I thought it was an interesting statement. Feel free to analyze in the comments.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Yes, it's that time of year. November is National Novel Writing Month. I've never participated in NaNoWriMo before. Usually I'm furiously trying to finish a book, not start one. But this year, due to things like painting and selling a house, major rewrites on last year's book, and general procrastinating, I only have half a book done. And since I'd hate to go a whole year without finishing a book, I decided NaNo would be a perfect way to shove my perfectionism in a closet and help me write a, um, crappy rough draft.

Technically with NaNo, you're supposed to be writing a new book. So I'm not doing it the official way. What else is new? But I do hope to get 50,000 words written this month. It's not too bad, actually. It works out to 2000 words a day, six days a week. I don't write on Sundays. Not legalistic, it's just that I could so easily be a workaholic when it comes to writing that taking a day off is my gift to God . . . and my family. But I generally write about 1500 words a day when I'm in my writing groove. And, if I get to the 50,000 word goal, my book will be mostly done by the end of the month, well on the way to my goal of having it done by the end of the year.

But it's Day Three of NaNo and I'm already behind. I spent the first two days rereading what I'd written up to this point. However, today I hit my daily goal, as evidenced by the neat little tracking widget under the NaNo icon on the sidebar to the right. Since I'm putting my goal out there, feel free to encourage, harass, mock . . . whatever. And if you're doing NaNo, leave your user name in the comments and we can add each other to the buddy lists.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Making Progress . . .

The back yard when we bought the house. Well, two-thirds of the yard anyway.

The back yard three days ago. The center thing is the built-in barbeque. The other two are raised planters.

The back yard yesterday. I have plants! I was amazed at how quickly these guys worked. It took about six guys and a cool machine one day to do what took me about a month by myself in a yard half this size. I'm so glad they were doing all the work. According to the foreman, I should have my yard done by the end of the week. I'll be glad not to have dirt and mud tracked into the house constantly by the dog and kids.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Carnival of Christian Writers

You can catch me over there today, along with a lot of other cool writer types. So . . . what are you waiting for?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Calvin as a Photog?

I went to download pictures off my digital camera the other day in preparation for the trip to see the Blue Angels. I wanted to make sure I had as much space as possible. I really need to get a memory card for that thing. Anyhow, I was surprised to find 17 pictures on it since I only remembered taking a few. It was still sitting in the dock, recharging.

I pressed the button to transfer the pictures. And was quite surprised to find these.

Somehow “Calvin” figured out how to 1) take the camera off the dock, 2) turn it on, and 3) take pictures with it. Pretty good for a five year old. A lot of adults can’t get that far.

Given the unique composition and his approach to the subject matter, I’m thinking he might have a future as a photojournalist. Certainly this looks like an abstract painting, the colors bold and slightly out of focus, yet not hiding the power of the dinosaur. And the material is unique, showing his out-of-the box creativity: it's one of his shirts.

Here I think he's saying something about scale. Buzz is a space ranger, so clearly his powers exceed that of a mere helicopter.

And this one. Certainly he's making a statement about his desire to learn to read so the "light" will go on. Or maybe we've sung "This Little Light of Mine" one too many times. Or maybe he just likes anything that looks like fire.

Again with the perspective. Maybe he wants to feel bigger than a car?

Of course all of this presupposes he lives to see six. He and his sister were trying to lower each other over the wall from the loft to the stairwell using a jump rope. Luckily, they were trying to pull UP and neither was strong enough. However, there are now rope burns on the wall. So, maybe a rappelling photo journalist?

One other thing. If you’re curious about what kind of purses different writers would carry, check out Jenny’s blog. Can you guess the genre by the purse?

Back yard update: The work has begun, so more on that later.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Leslie and Russell at Scenes and Beans

If you’re a Russell Fink fan (and, really, who isn’t?) hop over to Scenes and Beans, and see how he and Leslie meet up. Leave a comment if you’re so inclined.

The fun thing about this post was that Mike and I actually got to write it together in Dallas instead of e-mailing copies back and forth. It’s always interesting writing with a partner. Everyone has his or her own way of coming up with ideas and putting them down on paper, so even though we’ve been crit partners for a year, I wasn’t sure how that would translate into actually writing together.

I should have known. We only disagreed on one point (which I let him win) and had way too much fun writing together . . . and honestly, I had no idea what to expect when he e-mailed me the final file after I got home. We were getting pretty silly at the end. But it turned out so much better than anything we would have written separately.

And guess what? Apparently you can say dog poop in the CBA.

. . .

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Blue Angels and Balloons

We went to see the Blue Angels Friday. They haven’t been in the Valley since 2001. We’ve seen the Thunderbirds twice out at Luke AFB since we’ve been here, but the Blue Angels always feel a little bit like home. In Orange County we lived near the now-shuttered El Toro MCAS and the Blue Angels would come to the air show there every year. For three days we could stand on our back patio and watch the whole show.

I haven’t seen the Blue Angels in nearly ten years, but earlier this year on the Military Channel, they did a documentary on them, following them through their training and show circuit. What always amazes me is the small or nonexistent margin for error. You space out for a second or have an off day and you can take yourself and your fellow pilots into eternity in an instant. Not exactly like writing where you get multiple chances to get it right.

The great thing about this air show was that it was a smaller, private airfield. We went on Friday, the practice day, so it wasn’t crowded at all, and we were close to the centerline on the airfield. Which meant that, at points, they were only 50 feet above our heads.

When I watch them, for just a minute, I forget there’s such a thing as gravity.

The other cool thing was the after-dark show. A plane danced across the sky with pyrotechnics coming off the wings and shooting flares. I’ve never seen anything like it. Then the hot air balloons lined up on the flight line, and began inflating. It was cool to see that happen, these giant balloons swaying in the evening breeze like giant Japanese lanterns.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Not Really News

I'm sure this isn't news to any of you, and I am woefully late getting it posted, but I still wanted to take the opportunity to brag on my awesome friend and crit partner, Mike Snyder. In case a few of you hadn't heard the news yet. Mike was selected as the editor's choice in fiction for the new literary journal, Relief for his short story "All Healed Up". I've read the story, and it's my personal favorite . . .

Subscribe to Relief to get Mike's story and all the other selections of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Also, Relief is looking for submissions, so if you have something to submit, send it in. And go check out Relief's website. Mike's bio is the most entertaining.

Also, Robin Cynclair has good news. Her romantic suspense, Bayou Burning was contracted by Steeple Hill. Yay Robin!

Anyone else have any writing news to share?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Blog Tour with Alison Strobel

Between here and the past, there lies a place……a place of longing for what has been rather than hoping for what could be.

A true artist, Violette is passionate and emotional. Climbing back into life after suffering a loss, she teeters on the precipice of a new relationship with Christian, a psychologist who not only understands her struggles but offers safety and his heart. As Violette and Christian begin to feel something they both thought impossible, tragedy strikes again. Violette becomes trapped in a place of past memories–and she finds that she may not want to come back.

What would it be like to choose a place between the past and the present?

This is the dilemma facing Violette in Violette Between, Alison Strobel's latest book that is on blog tour this week.

I really enjoyed this book. If you like Lisa Samson and Susan Meissner, there's a good chance you'll like Alison Strobel. Her use of language and her ability to look at honest emotions in nontypical ways make this book refreshing. And if I weren't so tired, I could probably say something even more descriptive about it.

And here's an interesting fact: Alison and I also lived in the same condo complex in Orange County at the same time for about a year. Although we didn't know it at the time. So, if that's not reason enough to go out and buy the book, I don't know what is.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Our House

We're officially in our new house now. It's been an interesting experience. First of all, my poor cat, Duchess, has been through more moves than she has lives. Poor thing. One time when Peter and I moved into married student housing at UCI we couldn't find her for the longest time. Until I opened up the kitchen drawer. It stuck. I pulled harder. It opened to reveal black striped fur. I screamed and jumped back before I realized it was her. She had climbed up inside it from a cupboard and was hiding. At least is wasn't a giant mouse. We had plenty of the little ones there, which kept Duchess busy.

I'd like to think that after all the moves she's adapted. But this time around, we moved with a dog, something she hadn't experienced before. She got to ride in the middle seat between the kids in her carrier while Charlie was in the back drooling on her. She stayed very quiet the whole trip instead of meowing pitieously as usual.

Here, almost everyone is in one of the building trades, plus there's a sheriff's deputy and a Navy guy. And about 15 kids on our cul-de-sac. Should be great for the kids.

But one of the best things for me was driving out here among the sheep and the cows and seeing the stars. We can see stars. Now we could see stars at our old house. Never could in California. But here, there's zero light pollution. Very, very cool.

And I've included a few pictures of our new neighbors.

And last, but not least, Arizona snow, AKA cotton.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I'll Be Back Soon . . . Promise

I know I need to blog about something, and I have some ideas, but I'm a little distracted right now with moving and other things . . .

But later this week I'll have an interview with Alison Strobel, author of Violette Between and Worlds Collide. She and I have an interesting connection, but you'll have to read the interview to find out.

So until then, feel free to make up random comments. Probably will be more interesting than anything I could come up with right now anyway.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Our New Backyard

We got the drawings from the landscape designer this week for the backyard on our new house. I was pretty amazed. Considering Peter and I designed and put in the whole landscaping at our current house, it was such a relief to have someone else do all the heavy lifting of the design work and physical labor. The fact that the builder was throwing this package in was a major factor in selling us on the house. The backyard is a quarter of an acre, about twice the size of what we have right now, and I can't imagine doing all that work myself.

Unlike the first landscaper we worked with (and subsequently got fired), this guy was amazing. It was so much fun to sit down with him with the prelimary sketch I'd made and have him refine it and make suggestions that made the backyard exactly what I wanted. Reminded me a lot of the critique/editing process in writing. Two large grass areas and a play area surround the central patio with a built-in barbeque and bar. The trees are situated to block the neighbors' houses but not our view of the mountains. And the plants were specificially chosen to be rolling palette of color.

It may seem like I'm putting a lot of importance on the backyard. One of the reasons we moved to Arizona was to have a yard. In California, we never would have been able to afford a house with an actual yard. But with two kids who have a LOT of energy and gorgeous weather nine months out of the year here, the backyard is an extension of our house. It's where we'll spend most of our time. And if the kids are happy out there running around, I can sit on my porch swing and get some writing done. Of course as Malia will probably tell you, Charlie, the dumb dog, thinks he belongs on the porch swing. I really don't like dog hair in my laptop.

Come Thanksgiving, the whole yard should be done. I can't wait.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I Thought I Left That in California

This was the interesting sight outside my back window today.

When we moved out here from California, I thought we’d gotten away from brushfires. But last night, someone set the field behind us on fire. Now it’s an alfalfa field, so there’s not a lot to burn. But it’d been recently harvested and plowed over, and with our near-zero humidity, the plants were drying out. So it caught fire and burned pretty good for about an hour and then smoldered for another ten. It closed one of only two exits for us out of our subdivision and the lack of a breeze last night caused the smoke to hang over us like dirty fog. This morning our garage smelled like someone had a campfire in it.

So today I’m out front putting new plants in the planter when I hear the fire trucks. They get closer. I hear them come up the street behind us where the field is. I figure last night’s fire has flared back up, so I go upstairs to the playroom to look out.

There are flames directly behind our house. I’m not overly worried. We have a landscaped yard and a tile roof. These flames are only a couple of feet high, nothing like the twenty-foot monsters in Southern California that create their own deadly weather by sucking oxygen out of the air.

The fire department got this one put out quickly. Unlike in Southern California, there are a lot of people on our street that stay home during the day. Our neighbor had seen the flames and called 911. He talked to the police and firemen. Apparently, they’re investigating it as arson. And there’s still more stuff out there to burn. So you can bet I’ll be checking back there every so often to see if someone’s going to go for a third time.

Funny thing. The book I’m supposed to be working on right now, the second in the series, is about, you guessed it, a fireman. You know, I’m all for research, but this might be a little too close to home.

And, Michelle, see, there are trees in Arizona. :)

. . .

Friday, September 29, 2006

My One Year Anniversary . . .

. . . was September 20. If I’d been slightly more coherent, I would have realized that the one-year anniversary of my blogging passed the first day I was in Dallas. I guess because I started blogging after last year’s conference in Nashville that I was thinking the anniversary would be after the conference.

I never intended to become a blogger. What could I possibly say that anyone would want to hear? I still feel like that’s true. But like many things in life, this was Mike’s fault. I wanted to leave a comment on his blog and to do that, I had to have a Blogger account. (Funny thing. As I was trying to find my first comment on Mike’s blog, I realized I hadn’t learned yet people respond to your comments so you have to go back and check. So a year later: no, yes, and I hope so.) And after that I realized that I wanted to share with a bunch of people my thoughts on the conference and a blog would be a good way to do that without sending out a lot of e-mails.

And I never planned to blog after that until I had some Amazing Writing News. Still waiting for that. But I posted a picture of Arizona on my blog a little later because I thought it was cool, and Mike and Jenny responded. So then I thought I’d blog when the mood struck me and now it’s become a pretty regular thing. I’m humbled and amazed by the people who stop by and leave comments. But the best thing about blogging was completely unexpected. It’s been a great way to keep in contact with all you wonderful people I call friends. The immense loneliness I felt after getting back home from Dallas has been lightened somewhat by hanging out on your blogs. I can’t imagine how much worse I would have felt if I didn’t have that to look forward to.

So, now I’m thinking we need a cyberparty. Maybe a giant chat room? Any thoughts?

. . .

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I’m amazingly tired after coming back from the ACFW conference in Dallas late Sunday night. I should be doing all sorts of things around the house (I haven’t even unpacked), but I’ve spent the morning reading everyone else’s blogs on the conference. For someone like me who pretty much just sees her family daily, being around other people nearly 24/7 for five days is a radical change.

I loved it. To me, the best part of the conference was hanging out with people I had met at other conferences and had become good friends with, meeting people I knew only online and finding we connect even better in person, and meeting new people. But to have all of that suddenly cut off feels strangely odd, like we need some sort of transition or post-conference decompression chamber.

Heather left the comment on my blog, “So what are we doing this weekend?” And I think I wrote back on her blog, “I feel like half my family has left me.” As an introvert, this is a new feeling for me. Generally, as much as I like other people, I need space away and time to recharge. Maybe because I’m in desolate Arizona among the cotton and the cattle steeped in solitude that I didn’t need it as much.

This conference was so much about heart and so little about craft for me. Mary DeMuth’s morning track was just perfect for this. If you didn’t attend, get the CDs. I did teach a late night chat on mentors and mentees which went well, considering I almost forgot I was teaching it, I was completely brain dead, and it was the night everyone went out to dinner so I expected nobody to show up.

I also was surprised to receive an interesting array of gifts: blush, a contact case, Diet Coke, and a hotel coffee cup. Just goes to show what quirky friends I have.

But most of all (not really, but . . .) I was so thrilled to find that it was 90 degrees when we landed in Phoenix Sunday night. Somehow I lost three pounds during the conference, and I think it’s because I shivered them off. Dave Long called me a cream puff at the FiF dinner Friday night for not wanting to live anywhere it snows routinely. I challenged him to visit Phoenix in July. Yeah, we’ll see who’s the cream puff.

I didn't take any, so I only have what Jenny took with my camera Thursday night and other people have sent me.

I stole this picture from Heather. It's Mike Snyder, Heather, me, Michelle Pendergrass and her husband, Phil.

This is me, Pam Dowd, and Jeanne Damoff. The three of us were roommates at Mount Hermon last spring. Jeanne's my sister if only we had the same parents.

And, would you believe, that's it? I told you I didn't take pictures. Maybe I'll remember next year.

. . .

Monday, September 18, 2006

Maybe More Than You Want to Know

Malia's staying here with us before we all take off to Dallas early Wednesday morning (she, Jenny, and I are all on the same flight--scary). And she's blogged about her experiences in the Tiszai household, particularly in respect to my husband. Go check it out but remember, we're not all that exciting. That's probably a good thing. :)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Home Sweet Home

We picked up the keys to our new house this afternoon. Still feels a little surreal. Bet it will hit me when I get back from Dallas with all those boxes to unpack.

Now we just need this house to sell. Um, and we have to get it ready.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Just for Fun

Tricia Goyer has a fun list of trivia posted at her blog today. I love stuff like that. Guess I'm just a trivial kind of gal.

On a more important note, today Calvin turns five. Some days, I never thought he'd live this long.

Actually, he was never supposed to survive the pregnancy. Turns out there's a protein in Peter's blood that I make antibodies to. Of course both of our kids got this protein so I made antibodies against them while I was pregnant with them. It gets worse with each pregnancy, and we didn't know about it when I was pregnant with my daughter.

At about twenty weeks, the specialists told us there was a good chance our son wouldn't survive the pregnancy and that, if he did, he might need an intrauterine blood transfusion and be extremely ill when he was born. I went into labor at twenty-two weeks and spent the next fifteen weeks on bedrest. He also turned breech three weeks before he was born. See? He was being contrary even in the womb.

Two days after the towers came down, my little boy was born. Perfectly healthy.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Progress . . .

Slowly we're getting through the house. The downstairs is nearly done. All of the flooring should be in tonight.

As far as injuries go, this project has been relatively harmless. No stitches, broken bones, or trips to the ER . . . yet. So far, I cut myself on the arm when I put the chisel in my tool belt edge up. Then I slammed my right foot into a stack of flooring, giving myself a nice cut and a really good bruise. Can't wear anything but tennis shoes. I'll have a nice scar. And today I hit my left index finger with the hammer. Yesterday I was thinking the nail would fall off in time for the conference, but it's not looking too bad today, so I guess the nail will hang around. Home improvement is hard on the manicure.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I’m not very good a multitasking but I keep trying, sometimes with disastrous results. However, I did discover something this weekend that will kill two birds with one stone. Want to make over your house and your body? Well you can do both at the same time simply by laying laminate flooring. Seriously, the box needs a warning label like you see on workout videos: before beginning this or any other exercise/home improvement program consult your doctor.

The process goes something like this. Grab a plank of flooring, squat down and lay it on the floor in the precise position. Stand up. Grab another plank and squat down. Hammer the two together. Put them back in the precise position. Stand up. Grab another plank. Squat down. Measure and mark. Stand up. Cut plank to precise size. Squat down. Insert choice exclamation when you realize you’ve cut it wrong. Stand up. Grab another plank. Squat down. Repeat a million times.

Forget Buns of Steel. After eight hours of this, I could barely walk. But my entryway looks great. Only have the hall, living room, dining room, and kitchen to finish.

By the way, a good complement to your lower body workout is painting. Rolling color on an endless number of walls is great for the biceps, triceps, shoulders, and upper back. Your house will look great and you, well, you probably won’t be able to move, but the house will look great.

Next time, garden your way to good health. How shoveling two tons of gravel can be good for you.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Interesting Article

This article from UK News Headlines claims books can reveal your personality. It's interesting. I can't think of a time where I saw someone reading a book and it changed my opinion of them. Mostly I'm just thrilled to see anybody reading any more. Nonetheless, I always feel a particular kinship with people who like the same books I do.

Anybody ever been surprised by a book they found someone reading? Did it alter your opinion of them?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Lot Going On

Obviously I haven’t been posting as often as I normally do. There’s a couple of good reasons for that. One, I’ve been gone about every three weeks this summer and I’m leaving again in three weeks for the ACFW Conference in Dallas.

Two, we’re moving. We bought a spec house (a house a builder builds without a buyer) last month and should be closing on it just around the time of the conference. It’s about 30 minutes east of where we currently are, out in the boonies a bit (so far out it’s not on Mapquest and Google Earth still shows it as cotton fields), but it’s a good move for us. But it also requires us to get our current house ready to go on the market. And since “Calvin” has gone through a black Sharpie period in his art, I have to do A LOT of painting. Like nearly every wall in the house. Not to mention cleaning baseboards, light fixtures (how do all those bugs get in there?), and switch plates. So, obviously, I’m having a ton of fun. Feel free to come on over and join me.

This last weekend I was back in California for my cousin’s wedding. It was a fun wedding. They got married on the beach at the Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego by a Navy chaplain who had a family friend for years. The reception was in the officers’ club.

The fun thing about being around my family is that I no longer feel like an Amazon. I’m actually one of the shorter people. I’m the oldest grandchild of nine, and one of only two girls. All my cousins and brothers are over six feet tall.

We drove down from Orange County with my parents and grandparents. I joked with my dad that he’d better not wreck because with four generations of Crosswhites (my maiden name) in the car, he’d take out a big chunk of the family tree.

We arrived at Coronado three hours before the wedding and since we couldn’t just wander around the naval base that long, we headed to some of the tourist spots and walked along the beachfront. Which was interesting considering I was dressed up for the wedding, in heels, walking around while most people were in shorts or bathing suits. And, I still managed to get sunburned. Not hard to do. I can burn under a light bulb.

I rarely go any place that I need to dress up enough to wear nylons, but I did wear them to the wedding. While we were standing outside an ice cream shop, my little Calvin squatted down in front of me. Then he starts poking my leg and rubbing it, and then looked up at me and poked my leg again. Then he pulled up his pant legs and looked at his legs. Ah! I finally figured it out. The sun was shining on my nylons, giving my legs a weird iridescent look which he’d never seen before, and he couldn’t figure out what was happening. Since it’s summer and I’m in shorts most of the time, he sees my legs a lot. Just not looking all shiny like that.

Considering my kids spent several hours in a car then had to sit through the ceremony and the dinner after, they were pretty well behaved. But Calvin had had his limit by about nine. He went over to my grandpa and told him, “GGpa (short for great-grandpa), it’s time to go. C’mon.” Then he goes over and grabs my mom’s big tote bag and carries it to her, spilling out half the stuff on the way and shoving it back in. “Grandma, let’s go.”

And we did.

In case you’re interested, the entry Mike and I wrote channeling Kanner Lake reporter Leslie Brymes will be up at Scenes and Beans Friday. And maybe I’ll have something more interesting to talk about later. Or you all could suggest ideas (except for Peter and Mike).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

An Interview of Me

Sabrina Fox has posted an interview with me up on her blog, so if you want to know my deepest, darkest sin . . . wait, she didn't ask me that (Dang, and I had a good answer too). If you want to know how many bones I've broken . . . no, she didn't ask me that either. But if you want to know how many different majors I had in college, that's there. Along with various and sundry items that might be of passing interest. Or not.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Reunion and a Meme

Finally, I'm going to talk about the reunion like I promised. I know you were all of the edge of your seats just waiting to hear what happened. Right.

Dineen and Ronie both tagged me with the same meme, so we'll get to that too. It's a good excuse to take a break from painting nearly the whole stinkin' house.

We spent the early part of the day at the beach. At this time of year, the water off the coast of Southern California actually gets warm enough to go into without a wetsuit. For the first time in all my beach going, I experienced a rip current. We were in the water with the kids and the undertow was really strong so life jackets were mandatory for them to be in the water. Then the life guard called over the bullhorn for all of us to get out of the water because there was a rip current just behind us. It's hard to see when you're in the water, but as soon as we got on shore and gained some elevation, you could see the roiling surface that indicated the competing currents.

While we were sitting on the beach and the kids were making a giant sandcastle, we saw three dolphins swim just outside the break zone. My daughter was particularly pleased to see that.

After the beach we left the kids with my mom and Peter and I headed up the coast to Long Beach to check into our hotel and get ready for his high school reunion, West High, Class of 1986, Torrance. I noticed while I was getting ready that my legs felt shaky. I attributed this to fighting the undertow at the beach all day. But then I got dizzy. Surely I just needed to eat. Peter ran to a corner market and brought me back some munchies. Didn't help. By the time we got to the reunion, I was sick. Nothing like trying to act interested in someone's conversation when you're trying not to throw up on them. Still, there were many people I knew through Peter (PK--pre-kids) and we enjoyed getting caught up.

And yes, my broken arm story came back to haunt me again. One of Peter's friends, John, was production assistant in Hollywood when we knew him. He videotaped our wedding. He came up to us at the reunion and the first thing he said to us was about my broken arms at the wedding. Then he had to tell everyone in hearing range about it. I'm definitely getting a lot of mileage out of that story.

One thing they do at these reunions is put together "bio books" on everyone. You submit a photo and a little blurb about what's going on in your life. In Peter's he put the link to my blog. So if any of you reading this are West High alumni, "Hi!" I thought that was sweet.

So the next day we drove back to Arizona, a miserable seven hour drive. Believe me, I'd rather have had the broken arms than the flu on that trip. Ugh.

On to the meme. I'm supposed to answer one these three questions and then tag five people. So, without further ado, here goes.

1. If you could write a novel about any subject, what would it be?
2. If just the thought of having to write anything gives you hives, what would you like to read about in a novel that you’ve never seen done before?
3. If you hate reading fiction (you can get counseling for that, you know), what subject might make you change your mind or try it anyway?

We can't possibly have any people of the no. 3 persuation reading this blog. Obviously, I'm going to answer no. 1. I think I'd like to write something about SpecOps. I don't have any plot or characters to go with that subject, but I think it'd be fascinating. I'm also playing around with a Walter Mitty-esque kind of character. And I think she'll need to constantly injure herself. I won't have to do any research for that part.

Hmm, who to tag? Jeanne and Mike, of course, because looking into their brains is always fun. And Malia, Sabrina, and Jenny, though I don't know if any of you have the time.

Back to painting the house. I'll post pictures when I'm done . . . If I'm not dead.

Monday, August 14, 2006

ACFW Conference

So this is the week to talk up the conference. Well, last week, too, but I’m a little behind.

This year’s conference will be in Dallas September 21-24. It will be my third ACFW conference and my sixth writing conference over all.

My first ACFW conference was the 2003 conference in Houston. I had just joined ACFW and knew no one. I got there, went to my room, and called Peter. I told him I didn’t think I should have come. I felt so out of place. But I met Diana Brandmeyer and Julie Lessman who would end up being in my critique group.

It was also the conference where God really confirmed to me that He had called me to write. I remember so specifically praying before I went for God to show me if I should commit myself fully to this writing thing that I had just been playing at for years. God whispered something to my heart during that prayer, and it played out exactly as He said it would during the conference. I didn’t realize at the time how much I would need to cling to that promise of His faithfulness to keep me on this path. Most days it would just be easier to hang it up.

I missed the 2004 conference in Denver because we were going through a major upheaval in our lives. Good old Crit 19 had evolved into a wonderful support group not only for our writing but for each other spiritually. Whenever I think back on that time, I remember how much comfort I got knowing they were holding my family up in prayer.

Last year’s conference in Nashville was terrific all the way around. Once I got there. Jenny called me a couple of days before the conference during my son’s birthday party to tell me I wasn’t booked on a Thursday flight. Her daughter worked for Southwest and was trying to get her on the same flight as mine. What? When I got home I e-mailed Jenny my confirmation. I was booked on a flight. She called me back. I was booked on a flight for Wednesday. Except I didn’t have a room for Wednesday. Luckily the hotel wasn’t booked up (unlike this year), and I got a room a day early. Got to hang out with another member of Crit 19, Greg Williamson, and Malia Spencer from my mentor group for a day. I liked it so much I decided to come a day early this year.

I also met my agent at the conference. I got to meet my mentees Sabrina Fox and Malia in person. I took Gayle Roper’s fiction clinic and met Jeanne Damoff and Mike Snyder there. We hit it off, and they have added much laughter to my life this past year. In fact, I can blame Mike and the conference last year for the fact that I even have a blog. I wanted to leave a comment on Mike’s blog, and I couldn’t without a Blogger account. I got one since I had wanted to talk about my conference experiences to my friends who couldn’t go and decided that a blog might not be a bad way to do that.

As you might have noticed, what I’ve taken from the conferences have been my experiences with people. Yes, I’ve learned a lot in the classes, but you can always order the CDs. What you can’t do is replicate the experience of hanging out with other warped people who call themselves writers. In real life (not to be confused with cyberspace) the only writer I ever see is Jenny, and that not very often. So coming to a conference is like coming home. I get to see friends that I only know through blog comments, forum postings, and e-mail.

But there’s also a practical side to this. It’s one of the only ways to make business connections. Because the ACFW conference focuses on fiction, this is the place to be if you want to meet editors and agents that are acquiring fiction. Making those personal connections either though an appointment or at meals can make a big difference between being an actual person on the other end of that proposal or just a name on a piece of paper. In my experience the two editors I’ve had extended dealings with are ones that I met in person. If I hadn’t met them, I doubt I would have gotten as far with them as I did. Now, that’s no guarantee of success. I met an editor who didn’t like my writing and flat out rejected me (lots of sympathy, please). Still, I’m farther than I would be if I hadn’t been to these conferences.

This year I’m looking forward to hanging out with all my old friends and meeting new ones. And because I have an agent and my project is out to pretty much everyone it could be out at, I don’t have the pressure of pitching anything. I’m also teaching a late night chat on mentoring, so be sure to come and heckle me. I’ll even have chocolate to hand out.

Feel free to post your favorite conference memories or what you hope to get out of this year’s conference in the comments. If you talked about the conference on your blog, let us know that too.

See you in Dallas.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Count Your Blessings

Ronie Kendig tagged me with a new kind of meme, counting your blessings. I think this is a great idea. So often we get caught up with what's going on in our lives that we forget to see how truly blessed we are.

1. A friend who has blessed me: (there are so many...) Jenny for her unfailing support of me as my personal cheerleader.
2. An unexpected gift: our new house (yes, we're moving, more on that later.)
3. A kind word shared with me recently: Someone told me I had a beautiful voice.
4. Something that makes me stop and praise God: the Arizona sky at sunset during monsoon season
5. Something I'm looking forward to: Hanging out with you all at the ACFW conference
6. A particular part of me I'm pleased with: my sense of humor.
7. Something in my life that I wanted but never expected: the life I have now
8. A place that moved/moves me: I started to put the ocean, but I think a lightning storm off my back porch is right up there.
9. One thing/person that always makes me smile: my kids (of course, they make me pull my hair out too)
10. Most recent "love note" from God: In a post on one of the e-mail loops I'm on, someone mentioned a verse that God has used in the past to speak to me. It was like a little tap on the shoulder from God to remind me that He still knows what's going on and that all is not as it seems.

Wow, that was harder than I thought, mostly because a lot of things are hard to explain in a short sentence, or hard to narrow down to one.

Now it's your turn. I could pick some specific people like Jenny (because her blog is titled Abundant Blessings) or Mike (because he needs to update his blog) or Jeanne (because she talks about this stuff all the time on her blog) or Malia and Sabrina (because they've been blessings to me). But I'm thinking instead that anyone who wants to do this should. Leave a comment here when your top ten blessings are on your blog, and we'll all come visit and celebrate with you.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Quick Update

Hey all,

I'll be back in a day or two with something of marginal interest to post. I do want to tell you about Peter's reunion. I ended up catching the flu and had a pretty miserable drive home.

In the meantime, here's a link to an article on Romancing the Blog on using details in writing. It's one of the best articles on the subject I've ever seen. So go take a gander.

Also, thanks to Brenda Coulter, I found this little gem: a video on YouTube of some math guys using math lingo in a love song. Now, I'm always fascinated when I find someone else that is equally left-right brained, combining logic with creativity, so this appealled to me particularly.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Monsoon Madness

The monsoon is finally in full swing this week. We got entertained last night with a four hour thunder-lightning-wind-rain show. It's one of the things I love best about Arizona. We ended up with 2.5 inches, which may not seem like a lot to you folks, but it's more than we've had total here in over a year.

Thanks to my digital camera and iMovie, I managed to pull of some stills of the lightning from my upstairs window.

On a final note, Sabrina has an interview with Rachel Hauck up on her blog. Go visit them for a chance to win one of Rachel's books.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tonto Natural Bridge

One of my favorite things to do is hike. Especially if it involves a little low-grade rock climbing. So this past June we decided to get away for the weekend. I hadn’t been away from my computer for more than 24 hours in over three years. The Mac and I needed a break from each other. We went up to a town in the local mountains called Payson. And just outside Payson is Tonto Natural Bridge.

The official brochure says:

It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point.

The discovery of the small and beautiful valley between Pine and Payson was documented in 1877 by David Gowan, a prospector who stumbled across the bridge as he was chased by Apaches.

Gowan hid for two nights and three days in one of several caves that dot the inside of the bridge [I read this before I went down there. There are many, many caves dotting the sides of the tunnel. He could have easily hidden down there and never have been discovered. It was interesting thinking about what all could be hiding in those caves while we were hiking around there. We did see a few squirrels.]. On the third day, he left the cave to explore the tunnel and green valley surrounding it. Gowan then claimed squatter's rights.

In 1898 he persuaded his nephew, David Gowan Goodfellow, to bring his family over from Scotland [Me again. Can you imagine the culture shock of coming from Scotland to Arizona?] and settle the land permanently. After a week of difficult travel from Flagstaff, the Goodfellows arrived at the edge of the mountain and lowered their possessions down the 500 foot slopes into the valley by ropes and burros.

Today, visitors can stand on top of the bridge or hike down below to capture the true size and beauty of this geologic wonder [We did both].

End of official brochure.

It was a lot of fun. I want to go back up there again sometime when it’s not so hot. And when I actually have a camera instead of trying to grab stills off my video camera. Ugh. So I apologize for the quality of the pictures.

We started out on top of the bridge, looking down into the gorge and watching water cascade off the top of the bridge. Seeing water running that freely in the desert in June is an amazing thing.

But that wasn’t enough for me, and I convinced Peter that since we were all wearing sensible shoes (i.e. tennis shoes, not flip flops like we saw on some people) that we could make it down there. Next time I’ll wear hiking boots for the stability but it was still quite do-able in tennies.

We’re smart hikers. We had a daypack with six bottles of water. We had slathered up with sunscreen. We wore hats and appropriate footgear. And we had a map.

So off we set down a fairly steep 200 foot descent into the gorge, not really certain what we’d find when we got down there or what we’d do, but we were up for the adventure.

We started noticing that Calvin wasn’t as energetic as usual. In fact his cheeks looked rather pink. I touched his forehead, his neck, his belly. He was burning up. He started crying. That night we discovered he was running a fever of 102. He was a trouper, though.

We were mostly down, and at the bottom it was much shadier and cooler where the water made a nice size stream. We decided he’d feel better down there, so Peter putting him on his shoulders and continued down the descent. Railroad ties were used to make mini-terraces where the trail was too steep to traverse without them. So Peter is trying to navigate these one-foot drops while balancing our son on his shoulders. I was impressed.

We got to the bottom and discovered this beautiful little forest with the stream running through the middle of it. We could look straight up the gorge 200 feet to where we had been standing 30 minutes previously.

But once we’d rounded the bend we could see the travertine bridge that formed a huge tunnel. It’s impossible to grasp the scope of it without actually being there.

We took our time exploring under the bridge. We decided to continue through the tunnel, which would involving scaling some slick sandstone and travertine rocks which hovered about 30 feet over the river at bottom of the tunnel. We started, got partway, saw the 30 foot cliffs we would need to navigate and decided to regroup.

Peter went to ask the park ranger if he thought we could make it with the kids. He said he thought we could. Little signs with arrows were bolted into the rock, indicating which way you could start imagining a path. In the rocks there were only shallow hand- and footholds created by water dripping and eroding the soft, slick stone. And Peter did a really cool Carl Sagen impression that I caught on video.

When I was watching the video I shot, there’s an extended period of time where I apparently left the camera running after I stuck it back in my cargo shorts. The lens cover is on so everything is back. But there’s sound. And it’s kind of revealing. You can hear me crunching over rocks and splashing in the pond. A few coughs and grunts. And Peter and I giving instructions to the kids on how to scramble the rocks.

“Go here, step there. Wait for Dad. I’ll hand him to you. Are you okay?”
“Stand on that ledge. Grab Dad. You want to go around and catch him?”
“Jump down here. There you go. Good boy.”
“Got it? You okay?”
“Don’t get too far ahead.” That was to my daughter who was taking to these cliffs like a mountain goat.
“You got him? I’m going to get up here and you can hand him to me. All right. Up over here? Perfect. How are your knees?” That last comment was because Peter and I are both getting old.
“Jen, you need to be above him.”

What I love most about this section of dialogue is what it reveals: team work. I don’t know all the reasons why I love rock climbing. It’s physical. It’s problem solving. You have to look ahead, but not too far ahead. You have to set a goal and then figure out how to get there. Sometimes you go where others have. Sometimes you don’t. But in this section I love how it revealed how we work as a family. Peter on one end, me on the other, bracketing our children. Showing them the path and being there to catch them when they fall.

We did some other fun things that weekend. Saw a fish hatchery. Fed bison (They grunt and need to be brushed.). But I hope most of all that we made some memories with our kids.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

You Must Be THIS Tall to Enter

You’re probably wondering what adventures have kept me away from posting here for a week. C’mon, I know you were.

Several things, which I may talk about later. But truly the most fascinating adventure happened tonight. At McDonald’s of all places.

The kids had been good while we were on another one of our adventures today. So after going to the library to pick up their prizes for the summer reading program, I took them to McDonald’s so they could play and I could write.

We get here early and the place is nearly deserted. It’s just us and a grandma and grandpa with two-and four-year-old boys. Shortly after we begin eating one of the boys is screaming in terror from inside the play maze. The grandma and grandpa call for him to come down. They send the four-year-old up after him. He goes up and comes down several times, seemingly unconcerned about his little brother’s emotions. Sounds about right for a four-year-old boy.

Finally, I lean over to my daughter and ask her to go up and see if she can help the little boy get down. She loves helping little kids, which is about right for an eight-year-old girl. She goes up and is gone for five minutes. Finally, we see her and the little boy out one of the portholes. His face is red and blotchy, snot running from his nose. My daughter’s using her most patient voice (one I never hear her using with her brother), trying to talk the boy down. He’s not budging. He can see Grandma and Grandpa, and he can’t understand why they can’t get him.

Grandma starts towards the tunnel and begins crawling in. No way is that going to work, I’m thinking. She figures this out, too, and backs out. But the only way this little boy is going to get out is if a grown-up comes to get him.

Which would apparently be me. Even though I'm over 5'9", I’m flexible so I figure I can worm my way up there.

Except for one thing.

I’m claustrophobic.

I hate small spaces. I especially hate small tubes. I won’t go on waterslides that have tubes, thinking somehow it’ll close in on me and drown me in three inches of water. I'm sure this all goes back to the time I was traumatized by my brothers who stuffed me in a backpacking mummy sleeping bag. They yanked the drawstring, closing the small opening over my face to a pinhole. My chest starts closing up just thinking about it.

Childhood trauma aside, that boy isn’t coming down unless I go up there. Where’s Sharon Hinck and her Secret Life of Becky Miller red cape when I need it?

I kick off my sandals and start crawling inside the tube. It can't be that bad. I'll just crawl up, get the boy, and crawl back down. I can do it. It's not that easy. How do kids do this? I’m stuck with the choice of crawling on hard plastic on my knees, which isn’t comfortable, or trying to get my feet under me. Problem is, my legs are too long and threaten to wedge me in this hot, plastic tube which is getting smaller by the minute. It’s not my imagination, I swear.

I make my way through the tube which starts winding up. I can’t see what’s around the bend. Sounds echo through out, and it’s really hot. I can feel myself starting to panic, but I push it back down. I get to one of the intersections and yell for my daughter. I hear her voice but I can’t figure out where it’s coming from. I can just imagine getting stuck in here, the fire department pulling me out. Of course, how would they get in here?

Just then, little “Calvin” comes scampering up. I had told him to stay down at the table and finish eating. I was also hoping he’d guard my purse and laptop which were at the table. Though I suppose if I’m rescuing their grandson, Grandma and Grandpa won’t boost my stuff.

“Hey, where’s your sister?” I ask my son.

“This way, Mom.”

Good. My kids frequenting McDonald’s has paid off. They can help me navigate out of this human Habitrail.

After more turns and climbs, with multiple reminders to myself to breathe, I reach my daughter and the little boy. I find it interesting that even though my daughter is clearly a “big kid” to the little boy, he still doesn’t trust her the way he trusts me, an adult.

“Hey, buddy. You want to go see Grandma and Grandpa?”

His eyes get big and he nods.

“Okay. Follow her. I’ll be right with you.”

My daughter and son lead the way, and I coax the little boy from the rear. As we’re heading down the slide, me half sliding, half scooting, I become afraid that my weight might make me pick up speed and knock all three kids out of the shoot like human pin balls. However, we all make it safely down, and the Tiszai Family Rescue Squad saves their first victim. The little boy runs to Grandma, and they are all extremely grateful. Too bad they weren’t editors; I bet I could have gotten a book contract out of them. I manage to uncurl myself from the tube and straighten my reddened knees (I'll have bruises tomorrow, I'm sure), grateful to breathe air-conditioned air again and be in a room larger than two feet in diameter.

I may have conquered the human Habitrail, but I’m still not going on a waterslide that has a tube.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Guess What? It's Hot.

We had a heat advisory here today in Arizona. Because some people might not know that in July in Arizona it gets hot. It was 110 today, and we had a record low: 91. It was the warmest low for this date.

We’re now into the monsoon season, which means between now and the middle of September our humidity jumps from about 15% to 30%, and we get amazing thunder and lightning shows each night.

Now, for your meteorology lesson of the day. The monsoon season officially begins when the dew point stays at 55 or above for three consecutive days. This happened on July 4 this year, three days before the “official” start date of July 7. This reflects the seasonal shift in wind patterns, brining up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California. We generally get 2-3 inches of rain during the monsoon season, but last year we got hardly anything.

Despite all the cool special effects in the sky at night, there are some drawbacks. We get dust storms—also known by the Arabic term “haboob”, which is way cooler sounding than dust storm—preceding thunderstorms. Check out my previous post on the topic. What happens is rain-cooled air pours down from the high country into the desert like a small cold front, pushing a wall of dust in front of it and forcing the hot and humid air up into the atmosphere creating thunderstorms above the Valley.

Sometimes, however, we get downbursts or microbursts where the air can thrust downward at a rate exceeding 100 MPH. I’ve seen it take out a whole line of telephone poles like they were matchsticks.

The coolest thing about all of this is that it’s pretty random. You never know where a dust storm, microburst or down pour will happen. TV shows get interrupted for weather updates, and we get those emergency broadcasts. I’d only ever seen one of those when I lived in California, and that was after an earthquake. Here, I couldn’t count how many I’ve heard.

Makes life interesting. And if I can figure out how to get any pictures of lightning with my digital camera, I’ll post them. Don’t hold your breath, though.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Where's Jenny?

Dear friend, crit partner, conference roomie, and fellow Arizonan Jenny Cary is guest blogging over at God Allows U-Turns this week. Go visit her and leave a nice comment.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Good-byes and Good Stories

I am on an unexpected trip to California this week for a funeral. Then, today--while I'm gone--my cat, Chloe, died.

This isn’t Chloe, but it looks a lot like her. I’m still in California and don’t have any pictures of her on my computer. I knew Chloe longer than I’ve known Peter. In fact, she was almost the reason we didn’t get together. She was a long-haired cat, and he’s allergic to cats. Somehow we overcame that great obstacle. He’d come to the door, and I’d give him a Benadryl. It’s kind of fitting that Peter was the last one with her.

So. Death.

Hmm. Made me think a little bit. I’m getting to that age where more friends and family are dying, although I’ve had friends and family die already. I’m fortunate in that my grandparents are still alive and doing well.

One thing that struck me at the funeral is that a large part of its purpose is to tell a story about the person’s life. This funeral, like all great ones where there is more laughter than tears, had friends and family telling about this man’s life-long love affair with cars. And it made me realize that our lives are summarized in story. We tell stories about our kids. We talk about our growing up years when we’re getting to know our friends. We share memories through stories. Stories are how we relate, how we become fully—and uniquely—human.

So what kind of burden, or privilege, does that put on us writers-storytellers?

I think the answer, in part, is to relate the human experience fully, truly, and as completely as we can in all of its highs and lows, good and bad, ugly and beauty. It’s a small, cheap answer, but about all I can manage to say. I’m sure you all can come up with better stuff.

And since I can’t stay too serious for long, I’ll share with you a story about a funeral and a cat.

When I was in junior high, my friend and I owned a hamster together. Yes, this is odd but when hamsters lived at our house, they usually became a snack for our cat, Tabitha. Either the hamsters would escape or Tabitha would let them out. Either way, all I ever would find of them was their little teeth or tiny claws left on my bedroom floor as a gift.

So the hamster stayed at Gina’s house. But you know, we figured this hamster needed a really cool cage, something way better than Habitrail and a squeaky wheel. What could be better than Barbie’s Dream House? So into the cage went Barbie’s pink shower, grand staircase, cool furniture and anything else we could think of. We had to admit, it looked great. What hamster wouldn’t love it?

The hamster loved it. So much she (he? Can’t remember) ate it. And died. Who knew a hamster could OD on Barbie-pink plastic?

We buried her/him in a shoebox in the field behind our houses with appropriate pomp and ceremony. And a few giggles. Even at that age, it did strike us a little funny that the dumb thing ate itself to death.

At least Tabitha didn’t get to it.

Tomorrow we’re going to the beach. I think Chloe would appreciate the irony of me sitting in essentially a giant sandbox. And maybe I’ll tell my kids about the day I first got that little fur ball.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

New Blog on the Block

Some of you might have heard about this, but a new blog is going live today. Bailey Truitt, propriator of the Java Joint in the resort town of Kanner Lake, Idaho has started blogging about life in her great town. Stop by and check it out. And it always helps if you leave a comment. You know how it is when you first start blogging. You wonder if anyone is out there. I've also heard rumors some of the townsfolk will be posting some entries too. Should be fun reading.

Hope everyone had a safe and happy Fourth!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A Day to Remember

My daughter got baptized last Sunday. It was the day before my birthday and one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. She provided us previously with another great gift by being born nearly two weeks early (probably moving two days before had something to do with it), arriving two days before Christmas. We took her home from the hospital on Christmas Day.

In typical Arizona style, the weather interfered. We were hit by a dust storm that afternoon, so after some last-minute scrambling by our awesome church staff, she ended up getting baptized in an inflatable pool filled by a fire truck on the back lawn of the church at 8:30 at night under construction lights. Her Sunday school teachers prayed over her and baptized her.

Nothing made me prouder than when she confidently told the crowd she wanted to follow Jesus for the rest of her life.

It was memorable.


On a completely unrelated note, Brandilyn Collin's Kanner Lake blog goes live July 5 to promote her new book series. Mike Snyder and I are partnering as one of the writers for the Leslie Brymes character. Dineen Miller, Sabrina Fox, and Chris Mikesell also have roles writing for characters. Should be a lot of fun

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Any Cryptologists Out There?

I like a good puzzle but I think this one is beyond my reasoning ability. Personally, I think it's a practical joke, someone messing with the folks at NSA and Homeland Security. However, maybe it's someone who wants you to think it's a joke so you'll not take it seriously. Good fodder for a suspense novel, though. If anyone wants to write it, I'll read it. Maybe a short story? (Credit to Joe Faust for the link.)

I will post something other than links to other sites soon. I promise.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Something to Do

Dineen Miller has an interview with TL Hines up on her website. Go check it out.

And, if you like a little academic discourse with your romance reading, check this out. (Thanks to Brenda Coulter for the link.)

Friday, June 23, 2006

By Popular Request . . .

Okay, okay, fine. I'll tell the story of my broken arms. I was considering waiting until Dallas to tell it because it's just so much funnier with Mike doing his impression of me, but you'll just have to bug him to do it in Dallas. (See, Mike? Now you have to for sure go.)

By the way, this post is rated PG 13 for scenes of violence and implied language. The ER scene is not for the squeamish.

Okay, before our wedding, a friend of ours had given us a day at the local spa as a pre-wedding gift to help us relax. This place had mineral pools, hot and cold, mud baths, and was all very posh. We had spent the whole day at the spa and were getting ready to go home. The locker rooms were at the top of the terrace, and I was waiting for Peter. I don’t know why. And maybe that was the first time in history a woman was waiting for a man. Anyhow, the terrace overlooked the mud baths. This woman was getting out with her back to me, and I was trying to figure out if she had a huge tattoo over her back or if it was just a combo of drying and wet mud.

Unfortunately for me, I kept walking while I was looking at her. And since I didn’t have kids yet, I didn’t have eyes in two places on my head. So, I neglected to see the stairs that were coming up and proceeded to tumble off them.

I did manage to get my hands out in front of my face to break my fall . . . I blacked out from the pain so I knew both of my arms were broken. Even moving at all was excruciating because it knocked the broken joints together.

Of course someone ran and got the emergency personnel from the spa and the first question they ask was, was I drinking? Which I suppose is an obvious question because how many sober people manage to fall downstairs in the daylight? Um, me?

Peter says I told the ER intern (I knew he was an intern, not a doc, so I could push him around) “I’m getting married in two weeks and you are NOT putting casts on my arms.” I don’t remember that. Needless to say, I didn’t find it all amusing with the nurses were joking in the ER about whether or not my wedding dress had long sleeves or if they had some lace laying around they could inlay in my casts. I do remember the INTERN shoving a needle full of Tordol into my elbow joint (after sucking out a needleful of blood) and then jerking my arm around asking if that hurt. I don’t think what I responded was CBA approved. Uh, yeah, it hurt.

However, as luck would have it, I came out of the ER with only splints and slings. No casts. Because both joints had basically crumbled from my humerus and ulna colliding, they were afraid that the joint would freeze if they casted them. Believe me by the next day I was wishing I had casts. Every slight movement caused searing pain.

Oh, and I was wearing contacts. Can you imagine how I got them out that night? I tried to get Peter to take them out for me, but even he wasn’t that brave. I think he put up with me screaming while I lifted my arms (need both hands) to get them out. He then packed me up and deposited me on my mom’s doorstep since I couldn’t possibly live by myself. Poor guy! I’m amazed he wasn’t scared off by all that.

The other funny part (not funny at the time, but Mike’s interpretation is pretty hysterical) was that we went to Maui for our honeymoon. And went snorkeling. I kind of have this problem of not thinking ahead, so I figured how hard could snorkeling be? I’d be floating in the water so it would be no pressure on my arms. However, I neglected to think about how I would get back into the boat. You have to pull yourself up a ladder, something I couldn’t do. I think it was a combo of me sitting on a boogie board and hooking one arm around the ladder while Peter shoved me up that finally did it.

I'd like to say that was my last broken bone, but it wasn't. I probably have a few more in my future too.

Aren't you sorry you asked?

Friday, June 16, 2006

It's Georgiana's Fault

I don't know what this meme is called (how do you pronounced that, anyway?) but Georgiana tagged me. You know, some people, just because they live in the cool part of Arizona . . . Anyhow, it keeps me from thinking in this heat, so I suppose I should be grateful. I've only seen this on one other site, so I'm assuming it's supposed to be all about me, a to z (yeah, I know, how interesting could that be?) but I could be wrong. If I am, so be it. It wouldn't be the first time.

Accent: Californian is not an accent. Although I thought I was going to come home from Mount Hermon with one after hanging around Mike, Jeanne and Chris. Who knew I could go to California and hang out with a bunch of Southerners?
Best personality trait: Do you know 90% of people think they have an above average sense of humor? So, I'm going with extreme loyalty to my friends. Which works out pretty well for you if you're one of them.
Chore I hate: I pretty much hate housework in general, but I guess doing the dishes/loading the dishwasher is up near the top of the list. Touching dirty plates is really gross.
Dad's name: David
Essential make-up/skin care products: Foundation to even out my blotchy skin tone and lipstick because my lips disappear otherwise.
Favorite perfume/cologne: Right now it's Pink by Victoria's Secret. It'll change.
Gold or silver?: My wedding rings are gold but I generally think silver looks better on my pale skin.
Hometown: Highland, California (I'm interpreting this as the hometown I grew up in, not where I now live).
Interesting fact: I broke both of my elbows two weeks before our wedding (Mike, shut up).
Job title: Mom/writer
Kids: One of each
Living arrangements: Hubby, said kids, dumb dog, two old cats all in a two-story house.
Mom's birthplace: Redlands, California
Number of apples eaten in the last week: Several partial ones the kids didn't finish.
Overnight hospital stays: At least 5. Might be more.
Phobia: Spiders and heights (not kites, like some people think).
Question you ask yourself a lot: Why did I come in here? What was I going to do? What was I saying? What was the question? Yes, children cause brain damage.
Religion: Christ follower
Siblings: 2 younger brothers
Time I wake up: 7:30ish
Unnatural hair color: I've been auburn, caramel, strawberry blonde, and now just basically back to blonde.
Vegetable I Refuse to Eat: Beans in any way, shape, or form. They taste like mushed up cardboard.
Worst habit: Diet Coke and talking before I've fully thought through what I'm going to say.
X-rays?: Too many to count.
Yummy food I make: I had to ask Peter about this. Carrot cake and bran muffins.
Zingers: What? Do I like them? Not really, I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I do like Lemon Zinger or Red Zinger tea.

All right. Mike, you're done with a book so you have got to be bored. And your blog is lonely. And you tagged me on the seven sevens. Tag you're it.

Jenny, you're on summer vacation, so you're it too.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Strange List and a Trip Through History

I got my Mac back as I mentioned in the comments of the last post. Sigh. I don't even want to think about restoring everything, though I suppose I'll have to get to it sometime this week.

Anyhow, apparently my daughter thought I was getting short on inspiration so she handed me this list of topics to write about:

Puppies (do dumb dogs count?)
Your body (um, I don't think so)
Disneyland (did that)
Field Trips
Arizona Science Center
Schnepf Farms (real working farm that does tours)
Family (I do that a lot)
Seeing the whole country
Car accident (does the flat tire/tire iron one count?)
Don't eat too much junk food (could I do a whole post on that?)
My dog (different than puppies?)
The zoo
My two loose teeth (I better not have any loose teeth)
The sink (already did that too)
Moving (not anytime soon if I can help it)

Well, that's quite a list. Anyone feel inspired by any of the topics?

On an only tangentially related topic, my mom has been transferring all the old family slides and photos to her computer and sending me some copies. Since most of the pictures we took when I was young were on slides, I haven't seen these things in nearly thirty years. What I found most striking was that my memory of how looked back then is different than how I really looked. And I always expected my kids to look something like me when I was their age.
But this is a picture of me when I was the same age my daughter is now. And we looking nothing alike. That really shocked me. Curse those dominant Asian genes.

This is me and my brothers, Jeremy and Jason. People often thought Jeremy and I were twins. We're 18 months apart but were nearly always the same height. Of course now he's 6' 6". And yes, my parents intentionally named us with all Js.

The other thing I noticed going through all these pictures? I pretty much hated my hair growing up. Farrah Fawcett feathers were in, and my hair was stick straight. I'd spend hours trying to put curls into my hair only to have them fall out a short time later. So I find it pretty funny to look through these pictures and see my hair looking similar to how I wear it now. After spending a lot of money on perms in the 80s to get big hair, I've finally embraced my straight hair. Doesn't hurt that that's the style now. Of course if feathers come back in, I'll have to resist the urge to jump on that bandwagon.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Arizona Adventure

Arizona’s hot. You all know that, right? Well, you think I would have remembered before I stepped out on our second-story deck that had been baking in the sun all morning. I was just going to lower the sunshades that I had raised yesterday afternoon before the dust storm came blowing through (more on that later). I expected the deck to be warm, but I wouldn’t be out there long. Um, I haven’t felt sand at the beach this hot. I hopped over to the parapet wall surrounding the deck to sit down and get my feet off the deck. It was hot too. So by the time I had hopped back inside, I had some nasty welts on the bottom of my feet. It hurts to walk. Sometimes I’m blonder than I pay to be.

Yesterday we had a dust storm. This unique phenomenon happens when it rains either to the north or south of here. The sudden downdraft of cool air pushes the hot air (and the accompanying dust) toward the valley. The good news is, after nearly an hour of choking and hoping you remember to lock everything up tight, the air is a good twenty degrees cooler. In the monsoon season, which officially starts July 7, the dust storms are usually followed by rain. Just enough to turn the dust to mud.

This is a picture of the wall of dust headed for us while we were at swimming lessons. It’s really neat when you see it on TV from a news chopper. It's not so fun to watch from the middle of it.

This is what we had to drive home in. You can see how little visibility there is even at 5 in the afternoon.

This is the cornfield a block from our house.

And this road leads home. There’s actually a freeway overpass up there that you can’t see because of the dust. Apparently, this storm actually shut down Sky Harbor airport for a while. And guess what? It's pouring right now as I'm typing this.

Finally, we went to the mountains north of here this past weekend. I took pictures with the video camera, so when I get my Mac back (hopefully Friday) I’ll try and pull some stills off and post them. It was a ton of fun.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Last Day of School

Last week was my daughter’s last day of second grade. We get out of school early here, before Memorial Day. Then after eight weeks off, go back the first week of August. I suspect it stems from the area’s agrarian roots.

My daughter’s teacher is moving to a new school next year, and my daughter is going to be homeschooled while attending enrichment programs in the arts two days a week. Because of this, the only chance she has of seeing her teacher again—who we loved—is running into her at the grocery store.

I was there for the final party. The teacher handed out gift bags for the kids and explained something special inside them. She had included two pins that said “I am loved.” She wanted each of them to know that she loved them and how proud she was of them and that she worried over them. The second pin was for them to give to someone who needed to know they were loved.

All of the adults were teary eyed, and I didn’t think her teacher would get through it. But the kids just watched her as if she were explaining which center they were going to next or where they needed to put their chairs.

While most of these kids knew they wouldn’t see their teacher again, it didn’t seem to bother them. My daughter did cry while she wrote her teacher a thank you note. And she said her teacher cried when she read it. But she’s more sensitive than most. And even at that, she wasn’t upset when it was time to leave school for the last time.

Which got me to thinking. I don’t remember being particularly upset the last day of school or feeling like I was going to miss my teachers. In fact, I can only remember two “last days of school” while I was in elementary school. Part of that may have been because I went to a small neighborhood school, and I knew I’d see my teachers in the store over the summer and certainly at school next year. Mostly I was glad for the break. It really wasn’t until high school ended that I knew that no matter how hard we tried and vowed to keep in touch, I would never see most of my classmates again.

So what is it about life that makes the endings more bittersweet for adults? At our age we’ve been through enough of them that we should expect them as the course of life. Some people we encounter only for a season and then move on, but our lives are richer for the experience. It has happened before, and it will happen again. If anything, I would think this repeated experience would make us more pragmatic than our children, most of whom are experiencing this situation for one of the first times in their lives.

Maybe it’s because they haven’t experienced these partings before that they don’t know what it’s like to remember someone fondly, to have regrets that we didn’t say or do more, to wish a season could be longer—or sometimes shorter. Maybe it just hasn’t hit them yet what they will be missing.

What about you? Do you remember your last days of school? Which ones stand out the most?

By the way--and completely off the subject--I did find the perfect shoes for that dress. And on a sad note, my Mac is back in the shop. Like me, it's losing its memory. Sigh.