Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Month of November, When I Reach 100

This post is a momentous one. In it, I mark book number 100. Now, to me, that is pretty darned impressive anyway, but moreso because this is the first time I can ever remember making a New Year's Resolution and sticking to it. That's right, fair reader. I am 32 years old, I made a resolution in January, and for once I completed it.

On Saturday, November 10th, in Atlanta, Georgia, book number one hundred went from dream to reality. It was fitting. I got the idea to read 100 books from Lesley's blog when I think she posted a comment in passing about it. I thought, "Well, that can't be too difficult, I probably read 100 books per year anyway. I'll give it a shot." Ha ha. It was A LOT harder than it seemed. I read books in Las Vegas on our anniversary trip, in Rhode Island and New York for our July 4th trip to visit family, in Georgia visiting Mike and Lesley, and in Florida visiting my mom. I read books while I was stuck in traffic (actual books, not audio books). I read in bed, in the bathroom, while cooking dinner, in front of the television, on my lunch breaks, during dinner, you name it, I read there. Reading affected my travels: I saw Almanzo Wilder's house after reading Farmer Boy, and I saw Margaret Mitchell sites in Atlanta. I'm going to be in the newspaper soon and had my first ever photo shoot, 'modeling' with books all around me. Random people started recommending books to me (book #100 was recommended by a woman I sat at a health fair with), and I now have 3 shelves, each packed 2 books deep, with books I haven't read yet. My wishlist of books I just HAVE to lay my hands on is at nearly 60 on I found a new favorite book, one of my top five ever. And of course, I just finished writing my second book.

Literarily speaking, it's been an awesome year.

And so, without further ado, the rundown of what I have read this month. As always, spoilers abound, so if you find a book that you think you might read, don't read the review. I might wreck the ending for you. Also, due to NaNo this month, I didn't read half as much as usual. Then I'll post a rundown of the good, the bad, and the ugly separate from this post. And if I understand correctly, the article about me will run in the paper on Friday, December 7th. I'll keep you updated.

1. Why Do Men Have Nipples? (Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini) by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg, MD.

Very much along the lines of Father Knows Less, which I read earlier this year, Mark Leyner who is a writer and Billy Goldberg, a doctor, set forth to answer everyone's weirdest medical questions, things that it would seem doctors get asked by really drunk party guests. The book is a lot more humor than it is too factual, but you do learn a lot about the human body and why men have nipples :^) The photographer was quizzing me last night while we were taking the pictures, and I felt pretty darned smartish. The book addresses things like folk remedies, food and the body, sex, aging, bathroom humor, and medical media (ER and the like). It was a quick read and a short little book, but definitely FUNNY and informative, skewed a little more heavily towards funny.

2. The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington. In bold, because this is officially book number 100 (sound the trumpets!). I recently did a health fair for work, and had to share a table with the Fairfax County Public Library's NLS for the Disabled representative. We got to talking books since she had a couple of my old favorites on display and then it turned out we were both in book clubs. So she asked what kind of books we were reading and I asked her what book her club was currently reading, and she said they like to read women's fiction that's not chick lit, and they were reading this book, The Monk Downstairs, which was a non-romance romance. Although we had known each other all of 10 minutes, she announced that I would like it and I should read it. Guess what? She was right.

The book tells the story of Rebecca Martin, a thirty-something single mom who's sharing custody of her young daughter Mary Martha with her surfer-dude ex-husband. She has an in-law apartment downstairs and she rents it out to Michael Christopher, a 30-something who has just left the monastery after losing faith in God, having been a monk the better part of two decades. Together, Rebecca and Mike navigate new relationships--Rebecca dumping Bob, a good guy who's all wrong for her, and Mike learning to live in the secular world after having been largely insulated from it for the past 20 years. And however unlikely (although since it's sort of a romance, it's pretty likely), they manage to form a common bond after not speaking for half the book and fall in love.

There is a sequel out, The Monk Upstairs, which chronicles their marriage. I am looking forward to reading it. Truly, this was not the typical sappy love story. The characters were real, their faults were all too obvious and unforgiving, and they were hard on each other. The book was not some hot but heartbroken dude stumbling on a gorgeous farmgirl who wants to raise his darling but precocious five year old. Two real people, who've been a bit banged around by life, find solace in each other. Good stuff.

3. Scarlett Rules (When Life Hands You Green Velvet Curtains, Make a Green Velvet Dress) by Lisa Bertagnoli. Can you guess where I picked this little number up? Yup, at the Margaret Mitchell House gift shop.

I will confess, here and now, that I have never read Gone With the Wind. But the movie was and has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I love that fiery Katie Scarlett O'Hara, and in fact when we were heading to Atlanta, I was telling Michael about the scene in which Scarlett is depressed while having to wear black in mourning and her mother offers to send her away. Scarlett poo-poohs Savannah as too boring, so Ellen offers Atlanta and Scarlett agrees, uttering a breathy "Atlanta!", which I thus uttered along the trip to Atlanta. So it was with great delight that when Lesley suggested some of the Mitchell sights to see that I enthusiastically agreed to be taken to see them.

Well, at the gift shop, they had a number of books and items there, and this little gem, Scarlett Rules..., jumped out at me. Its sassy, hot pink cover caught my eye immediately, and I had to have it. It's a formulaic "All I need to know, I learned from..." type book, of which there are certainly dozens (I also have What Would Jackie Do? in which I can take guidance from Jackie O in all pressing social matters), but I really enjoyed this one a great deal.

Some of the lessons are: Rule 1: Pretty Is as Pretty Does–Not a conventional beauty, the literary Scarlett knew it took more than an attractive face to get noticed. Learn to put your best features forward. Rule 8: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize–Scarlett used determination and perseverance to survive and thrive. Unlock your abilities and go for the gold. Rule 15: Find Your Niche–A woman ahead of her time, Scarlett succeeded on her strengths. Discover your gift and shine!

Some of it was like "Yeah, OK, clever, I get it" but some of it I found genuinely useful, and I think I will probably put some of the ideas into use ("Know when to say "Tomorrow is another day!"--not every crisis has to be solved today). Well written, witty, and clever, definitely a great read for any GWTW fans out there. And I think I might just take a crack at reading GWTW for real. Let me go add it to my wish list. :-)

4. Life on the Refrigerator Door: Notes Between a Mother and Daughter by Alice Kuipers. Evil book. Evil, evil, evil book, it caused me to make a spectacle of myself in public. In a public library even worse.

The book is a series of letters between Dr. Mom (who remains nameless), a single mom working as an obstetrician, and her daughter, Claire. Some letters are short, some longer, but soon they take on a renewed urgency when it turns out Mom needs to see an oncologist, and winds up having breast cancer.

I was sitting in the QUIET STUDY ROOM ONLY room at the public library, and as I reached the end of this book, I started to sniffle. And then I started to weep. And then I outright started to bawl. I stumbled out of there when the chick who was actually studying started glaring at me. I went up to the counter to pay for the books I was getting off the book sale shelf, and the librarian was looking at me kind of funny. I was chewing on my cheek and silently chanting to myself, "Keep it together! KEEP IT TOGETHER!" as I paid and made tracks for the parking lot. As I got in my car, I let it all out and started bawling my eyes out, reached for my cell phone, and called my mom, who was not home. I left an incoherent "I really love you, Mom!" message on my phone, only to keep getting cut off in a dead zone on my stupid cell phone, which only made me cry harder. Finally, I had to pull over. It was awful.

Only read this book if you are in a supremely good place mentally and are able to call your mom afterwards and tell her you love her. You have been warned.

5. The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo. Judy bought Michael and me this book four years ago on our first anniversary, since the traditional gift is paper. She bought us a copy on audio and in print. The audio is read marvelously by Jeremy Irons (yum!). But I have the print copy and decided to read it as well this time. My book club's waiting list has gotten so long that we formed a splinter group, which will now meet on Sundays. This is the first book that group is going to read together, and I'm really looking forward to discussing it, since I had forgotten how great this book is.

The tale is that of a Spanish shepherd named Santiago who is haunted by a dream of finding his treasure under the Egyptian pyramids. He is encouraged to do so by a gypsy and an old king, and so he sells his flock and makes his way across the desert, having many grand adventures as he does so. He learns many important lessons about life, such as not doing something just because that's the way you've always done it, and the importance of following your heart. The book is kind of self-helpy without being self-helpy, and I really like that about it. It's also just a great story. Without getting into overblown detail, you feel as if you know exactly what each place looks like, you can envision each character, you can nearly smell and taste each experience yourself. The writing is exquisite. I'm jealous!

6. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Joan Didion's daughter Quintana fell gravely ill and was hospitalized with a serious infection. She was placed in a medical coma and put on life support. Only weeks later, Joan's husband, John Dunne, was speaking with her from their living room after visiting their daughter in the hospital, stopped mid-sentence and keeled over dead on the floor of a massive coronary. Four weeks later, Quintana pulled through and revived, but only two months after that, she collapsed from a massive brain hematoma.

Joan Didion documented this year in this book, which I think I heard about on NPR or somewhere, I'm not entirely sure. I know you're all going to hate me for kicking the widow when she's down, but this book was a lot less than I expected. I got through it, but I really thought it would be more about her feelings. Instead, Didion did a lot of research on grief and puts many of her findings in the book. She spends a lot of time analyzing the way things are and trying to figure out if she's behaving in a way that seems "normal" for your "average widow."

I read a review on that calls Joan Didion's writing as "cool" and perhaps lacking emotion, and I felt that way about this book. The most moving passage in the whole book was one in which she states that she realized she was in denial when she cleaned out her husband's closets, but couldn't get rid of his shoes because he would need them when he got back. I thought to myself, "well, now we're getting somewhere", but perhaps she didn't want to share where those painful thoughts led, because there was no indication that she picked the shoes up and flung them at the walls while sobbing in rage. And I wanted her to. I wanted her to be angry at God and everyone for putting her in this terrible situation with her husband's death and her daughter's serious illnesses. But instead, she seemed rather detached. Maybe she didn't want to share those feelings, but if that were so, she shouldn't have written a book purporting to be about that very topic. I found this book to be tremendously disappointing.

7. The Next Big Thing by Johanna Edwards. Kat is a big girl hiding a big secret: she's in love with an Englishman who thinks she's all of a size 4. She hears about a TV show called "From Fat to Fabulous" and decides to enter. She hopes to lose all the weight she needs to before the ravishing Nick (a London fashion designer) enters her life and finds out the truth about her.

Formulaic chick lit, but so not boring. I actually vascillated back and forth. I knew Nick was going to meet her and find out the truth, but I was thinking that perhaps Nick wasn't all he was cracked up to be either and that would be the catch. Wrong! Nick is every bit the snot he promises to be when he meets Kat, a meeting dreamed up by the producers of the TV show. I will leave it at that for the plot.

I absolutely tore through this book--it was good clean fun. I loved, loved, loved reading it, I think I read it in about 2 days at my mom's house in and around painting. Get it and read it if you like chick lit, and maybe even if you don't. it was the good kind, I promise!

8. Miss Julia Strikes Back by Ann Ross. Ok, this is one I forgot to add to the list earlier, and I can't believe it. I know I read it this year, since it came out in April and I have the hardcover. And the sad thing is, I remember reading it. I can't believe I didn't add it to the list, however. So I guess I'll add it here. It makes me wonder how many other books I forgot I read.

Miss Julia is back and better than ever. She comes home one day to find that her jewelry and Hazel Marie's jewelry has been burgled, and of course, she is not in the least content to wait for the police to go and find the stuff. Together with Little Lloyd and Etta Mae, she finds a private investigator (her usual go-to man, JD Pickens, is vacationing with Hazel Marie in Mexico) and goes after the jewel thieves herself.

The book is typical Miss Julia madcap hilarity, her proper Southern ladylike ways getting her into all kinds of trouble. The private investigator they manage to pick up is a drunk of the nth degree, and her interactions with him alone is worth the price of admission.

I love Miss Julia. Can't wait for the next one!

9. Merry Kitschmas: The Ultimate Holiday Handbook by Michael D. Conway.

I was shopping at Borders the other night, the night of the crocodile/wildebeest incident, and I happened upon this book, which was on sale for all of 3 dollars. The cover is a striking little number in bright red with a wreath of kitschy looking elf-heads adorning it. I thumbed through the pages, and when I saw a drunk Barbie swimming in a punch bowl, I knew I had to have it.

The author states that Christmas is the time all good taste goes straight out the window as people try to outdo each other with decorations, crappy food, and gay apparel. This book embraces the tradition of over-the-topness that is Christmas. The hell with Martha Stewart perfection! On with Kitschmas!

I am madly in love with the Valley of the Dolls Christmas tree, featuring Barbies spray painted silver. As you can imagine, Barbie takes it on the chin quite a bit in this book. There is also a tree made out of rubber gloves and one made from a tomato cage, covered in green grass skirts and leis. There are directions for wreaths made from an old tire, a straight from the cupboard Christmas feast, and clothing made from tree skirts. There's a scary-as-hell looking night light made from Santa's head, a drink called The Judy Garland, and stockings made from fetish boots.

The book is a festival of bad taste, but it's so bad it's good. Holiday hilarity just in time for the rush to hit.

So, that's it for this month. I am going to post my wrap up in December, as I want to see what number I ultimately get up to. I read nine books during NaNo, so I guess anything is possible, right?

Here's where I stand on the year:

The Great: Merry Kitschmas, Life on the Refrigerator Door, The Alchemist, The Monk Downstairs, The Next Big Thing, Miss Julia Strikes Back

The Good: Why Do Men Have Nipples?, Scarlett Rules

The OK: The Year of Magical Thinking

Totals for November:

Books Read: 9
Pages Read: 2206

Totals on the Year:

Books Read: 107
Pages Read: 33355

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What I Didn't Tell You About Florida

The trip started out a bit of a fiasco. Saturday morning, we're rushing around, trying to pack up ourselves, the rabbit, coordinate who's picking who up, dropping who off, etc. I call my mom one final time, and she says, "Well, call me on your phone when you land."

Ok, no problem.

We're ready to go, right on schedule, it's 10:15am, and I can't find my cell phone. I'm looking all over like a mad woman. After 20 minutes, with trepidation, I go downstairs and I find it. In the bottom of the washing machine. *Sigh*

Yup, I washed my phone. So I call my mom and tell her what happened, and tell her to wing it. We get in the car, haul it on up to Judy's, I drop off TomTom, Joe takes me to the metro, and I'm off.

I get to the airport and head down to see my sister. I have a 30% off at Border's Coupon and I thought it would be fun to buy something from her. I get to the store, and guess what?

I left the coupon in my jacket pocket, and my jacket is now in my suitcase, which I checked through at USAir.

Then I realize that my brand spankin' new Celine Dion CD is in the car with Joe and the General. I wanted to take it to FL, since my mom loves Celine too. I have the empty case, no CD.

Sitting around, waiting on my sister, and I decide to listen to my iPod. Ok, take it out of my backpack, "Where the heck are my headphones!?" Forgot them on the dining room table.

So I get to Florida, I'm lamenting all this, and my mom suggests we go over to Verizon to get a new phone. Michael tells me price is no object, etc. We finally get there on Wednesday.

I go to the lady, and I don't know how they know this, but she opens the back of the phone and says "it's been soaking in water. Unless it's insured, you'll have to buy a new phone."

And didn't I have a hot little Razr phone? Pink. Camera. Real sweet, loved that phone.

So we're debating our options, and I'm about ready to cry, tears are in my eyes, a new Razr is $250. Mom strolls over to the woman and says, "Is there anything you can do? Her husband is blind, he handed it to her and said it was broken, we don't know what happened to it."

So, the lady says to us, "One of my best friends is blind, boy does she have a real zest for life. Ok, ladies, here's what we're going to do. Keep your voices down. I'm going to show you some phones, you come back with $100 in cash, and I'll have a new phone for you. Put the money in a brochure and hand it to me over the desk."

So we look, we leave, I get $100 from a nearby ATM, and we go back. There she is, a brand new pink Razr in hand, puts a new cover on it, the whole nine, hands it to me and tells me to call someone and make sure it works. It works a treat. I hand her the $100, and that's the end of it.

Is that crazy?? Seriously, I felt like a drug dealer!

I got home and my sister has made off with my Celine Dion cover, so now I have the CD and no cover, but my headphones are here and working. Crazy.


So, as per usual, the General and I spent Thanksgiving apart. Everyone who learns this looks at me like I have two heads. So I ask them, "Well, what would you do when you're married, you have in-law's, and your parents are divorced and there are two of you and three of them, and you all live in different states hundreds of miles apart and on top of it all, your cat you had to give up due to your husband's allergies lives with your mom?" That usually shuts them up pretty good. So yes, it sucks that we spend a holiday apart, but I guess as far as it goes, it's not like it's Christmas, which is my favorite holiday, and someday when we have kids and this kind of togetherness matters, then I'll worry about it more.

It stinks not creating our own little traditions, but as I say, our time will come, if and when we ever have little ones. So if you were wondering, that's why the General is in Rhode Island and I'm in Florida at the telling of this story. (My dad and sister are in Virginia, if that makes things any easier for you!)

Be that as it may...

I flew to Florida last Saturday. It was the crappiest plane I have ever been on. It was so dirty, dirty, dirty, I think they herded the other passengers off and put us on and that was that.

We got to Orlando a tad early and I got right off the plane (unlike Atlanta when Michael and I were seated in LITERALLY the 43rd row, I was in row 10 this time), hopped on the shuttle, went to the main terminal, found my mom, we got my bag and got in the car, and it was all good. We were going to go to Steak N Shake on the way home--something I really and truly love about the south--but sadly we were both too tired, so we went to Wendy's and went home. I got filled up on my cuddles and snuggles with Buster, rough housed with Sidney, and we called it a night.

The next day, we got up and we were kind of debating what to do, and sitting and talking and thinking about things and Mom mentioned she hated her ceiling fan in her breakfast nook. Well, as these things are wont to do, it took on a life of its own. I offered to buy her a new ceiling fan for Christmas. Then we decided if we were going to replace the light figure, well, neither one of us really liked the wallpaper. And if we were going to paint, we might as well get some new shelves for the wall. So, we went to Home Depot (I'm on strike against Lowe's), and got primer, painting supplies, a ceiling fan, etc. We spent the rest of Sunday washing down the walls (adios nicotine from the cigarettes Dickhead didn't smoke in the house), taping, and priming. My mom is not good on a ladder. This was proven numerous times when she was up priming trim and all of a sudden I'd hear THUD! and then "YOWCH!" and then maniacal giggling. She kept leaning back and sticking her head in the ceiling fan! And every time she did, it got funnier and funnier. THUD! Tee hee! THUD! Tee hee!

We sat around debating color choices. This was hard on my mom, who loves white and whiter. Or as she calls them, beige and cream. I demanded she pick a color she would never ordinarily choose and we'd leave the beadboard white so it wasn't a shock to the system. Finally, she settled on a color called Athenian Green, which I loved. It was a really nice color, dark, but not too dark, moody in a good way.

So we go to Home Depot the next morning, and order up the paint, and I kid you not, the guy who did the paint had the insides of his ears tattooed. Right around the little curve, heading down onto his earlobe, he had some tattoos. I was stunned.

So, we head home, touch up the priming, get cranking on painting the white over the primer down below and around the trim, and meanwhile, Mom's neighbor John is getting very anxious to install the ceiling fan. He's real handy and loves to go all over the park helping people do odd jobs, so we finished up the first coat of green and then asked him over to do the light.

Well, honestly, we probably could have swapped out the lights and been done with it. That alone was an amazing change. But, in for a penny, in for a pound. We went ahead and finished up all the painting.

By the time we were done, my mom had a terrible headache from her little incidents with the ceiling fans (yeah, she stuck her head in the new one too!), but the room was transformed. It was amazing what a coat of paint will do. She also bought her neighbor's dining room set, and we installed that, plus moved in her bookshelf from another room. Neither of us could move. It was a LOT of physical labor. The room was pretty small, but a lot of ups and downs and peaked ceilings and so forth. We were tired. The results speak for themselves. You can see them at:

So, as my just reward, we tried to go to Steak N Shake for dinner. Those twelve year old bastards wouldn't wait on us! We sat there ten minutes without a peep from anyone. Finally, we got up to leave and no one even said anything. Unbelievable. So we went to Cracker Barrel. Not quite the same, but it was good anyway.

The next day, despite being incapacitated, it was time for the big trip to the Princess Diana Dresses for a Cure display in Ocala. (When we got there, we literally almost just rolled and fell out of the car--kneeling on linoleum is a real kick in the pants.) They had on display a bunch of memoribilia and some of her Christie's Auction dresses. Incredible. I wish we hadn't had to travel 3 hours each way to get there, but the dresses were amazing. There were thirty in all and there was a nice little audio tour. I got a little souvenir program, and then I drove back to Vero Beach from Ocala. Mom's neighbors rolled in, and Estell and I had a nice chat regarding the idea that Diana was murdered by the Queen and Prince Phillip.

We were so tired, we ordered a pizza, watched episode one of Kids in the Hall, which I had brought down on DVD, and passed out.

Wednesday dawned bright and clear, and we didn't have all that much to do, really, so we decided to do some shopping. Mom had farmed out a lot of the cooking to neighbors and we couldn't make the turkey till Thursday, so we hit a few little shops in Vero Beach, and I returned a book I had bought earlier in the week that I a) didn't understand and b) wasn't going to force myself to slog through (the guy must have gotten paid by the number of times he used the words "ethos", "infantilization", "capitalist", and "peurility").

We did some baking, decorated the breakfast area, and spent time walking the dogs and visiting neighbors. At one point, people just started walking in to my mom's, including one guy she'd only met who was looking for another guy who was already visiting.

Thanksgiving was really nice. I typed up 1500 words during the morning and we made up the turkey and spent the day getting things in order for dinner and then playing cards till people started to arrive.

Dinner was just great, I said my traditional "please bless our turkey for laying down his life for us" grace, and we all had a good laugh and ate till we were stuffed. And then it was early to bed, since I had a 7am flight out of Orlando the next morning!!!

I really enjoyed my trip. Got to the beach twice, which was awesome, and got to spend some quality time with my mom, plus she'll never forget me when she sees that green paint! My flight home arrived early, but another plane was stuck and blocking our gate so we had to sit out on the tarmac for 20 minutes, which SUCKED. My sister was waiting for me when I got off the plane and we went down to where my dad and husband were waiting (Michael got in an hour before I did) and got my suitcase. We loaded up the car and got Joe, and we went shopping in Old Towne Alexandria for Christmas ornaments and Advent calendars, and then had lunch at Bugsy's pizza buffet. Afterwards, we went to the Lighthouse at Alexandria, a memorial from the Freemasons to George Washington, and my dad, sister, and Joe took the tour while Michael and I waited in the car (we were tired). We dropped them off at home finally and were back in Fredericksburg by 2:30. By 3:00pm, I was in bed asleep and didn't wake up till 7pm. Felt good to get some sleep, and it was good to be home with 2 days to get things done that I needed to do before facing the dreaded Monday and going back to work!

I've posted pictures, mainly of the beach, the cats, and the dog at I took a Pulitzer worthy picture of a jellyfish dead on the beach you'll want to see :-) Thanks, Mom, for a fun and busy time!


Well, now that I have some time to do something other than stress out if the railroads ran where I wanted them to go and if certain towns had been incorporated yet, I can finally catch up on writing about my life in the past month!

So, I figure I'll start with our trip to Atlanta.

I had been really, really, really looking forward to seeing Mike and Lesley and going to Atlanta for a long time. As it got closer, it seemed like everyone I knew had been to Atlanta and we started getting tips! "Go to where they make the Cabbage Patch Kids" or "Go see the 7 story escalator at CNN" or "Go to Atlanta Underground". My main thing I wanted to do was go see Turner Field, where the Braves play, since I used to be a rabid Atlanta Braves fan.

So we arrived a little early, and I was real nervous about finding our way around that airport, because it is so stinkin' big and I had to find the baggage and find Mike too. True to what I expected, we were parked at the far end of one of the terminals, and I swear, it took us 20 minutes to get down to where the train was to go to the main terminal to find the luggage. Our bag was sadly swirling around on the carousel, waiting for us, but that was actually good, since we didn't have to wait around for it.

We went outside and Mike was waiting right there for us, so it was all very convenient. We went home and had a grand tour of the house and a really good dinner of beef stew and then hung around a while and went to bed.

The next day, we hit Atlanta proper. Mike showed us where the Olympics and Olympic bombing happened and we went to CNN. Jacalyn wasn't lying about that 7 story escalator. I felt a little woozy just looking at it. So we bought our tour tickets, but our tour wasn't till later, and so we decided to go to the Olympic Park and walk around. It was really nice there and all the bricks were inscribed by people who bought them for their loved ones, so Mike tried to find the one his family bought for his parents, but they weren't able to locate it, sadly. The park is beautiful, I really loved the tall towers that had the Olympic flames burning on top of them. It was pretty cool.

On the way back, we stopped at the Chamber of Commerce and I went in to get some brochures and all the woman at the desk said was, "There are some magazines in the back." Sheesh! Nice job with the tourists, lady! We got a couple magazines and then went to get on line for the tour of CNN.

The tour before us was packed with school kids, so we thought we'd be safe, but our tour was packed with kids too, and in particular this one obnoxious kid who kept jumping in front of Michael and elbowing people out of his way so he could be first in line. We went up the escalator, and I was pretty pleased when I went up that they had TV screens so I wasn't forced to think about the fact that we were going straight up in the air with nothing on the sides of us really. I get vertigo a lot on the DC Metro stations that have the steep, deep escalators. Sadly, when we got to the top, Lesley had suffered as I usually do! She said she nearly fainted going up there.

The tour itself was not that great. We were ignored for the school group--for instance, there was one of those guys who takes the scam photography that they try to sell you, and he asked the kids if they wanted their picture and the hell with us and one other couple of guys who were there.

The guide himself was a kind of smarmy, "I'm too cool for you idiots" type. Lesley learned that he was hoping to break into the reporting business in California. I wanted to give him a shave and a haircut so bad--does this mean I'm getting old?

The tour takes you past 3 large windows overlooking 3 different news rooms, plus you get to watch 2 videos--one live showing how it looks in the control room as they're scrambling all the stuff to make a cohesive show, and the other at the end with all the CNN reporters talking about how it is to be a journalist. The big excitement of the tour was that we got to see Jenny McCarthy from a distance of several hundred feet as she wrapped up an interview. They were doing CNN International while we were there, so there was no news being taped in the newsroom.

Afterwards, we were all pretty hungry, so Mike and Lesley took us to an Atlanta landmark, The Varsity! It's the world's largest drive in restaurant, but we ate inside. It was YUMMY! Chili dogs and the best onion rings I've ever had. I have been dreaming of those onion rings ever since. Seriously.

When we had filled ourselves up, Lesley and I decided to go to the Atlanta Aquarium and I really, really enjoyed it. I find that scaly things kind of give me the creep-out, but the Atlanta Aquarium was beautiful, one of the nicest I've ever been to. They had a lot of touch tanks, so I got to touch some sharks, some sting rays, live shrimp (they feel exactly the same as the dead ones do), a sea anemone, starfish, and sea cucumbers. I saw some sea creatures I had never seen before, including the amazing sea dragon, which looked kind of like what I envision the Loch Ness Monster to look like, and then Lesley took me to this tunnel where all the fish swim all around you. They had giant sharks swimming over your head, and a lot of butt ugly fish besides. After you go through, there is a big wall that showcases the tank and you can just sit there and watch the fish as long as you want, which is what we did. I also videotaped the fish, and I might post that to YouTube. It was so relaxing. I loved it.

Afterwards, it was time to meet the boys again, and we went over to Mike's sister's house for dinner. She was a real live wire, her name was Susan, and she collects Coke memorabilia. I had never seen so many Coke bottles in my life.

On Saturday, Lesley and I had plans to go to tea at the Ritz Carlton, so after lunch, we got all dolled up and headed over there. I'm not going to lie, it was nice to be in the lap of luxury. There was an aura of hushed elegance on the place, and we had a wonderful time catching up over tea. We agreed that the sandwiches weren't so great, but the pastries were to die for and the tea was really good. We had a tea called Blue Sapphire that was blended especially for the Ritz and it was great. We had our own tea girl who made recommendations and she packed up extra pastries for us, and scarcely blinked when I asked her for a souvenir menu to take home (I know, what a tourist I am!). Lesley and I wandered upstairs to find the restrooms, and believe it or not, the Ritz had little gold stickers on their TP!!!!!!! I peeled one off and put it in my wallet. Priceless.

We got home and it was supper time and then we took a little driving tour of downtown Atlanta at night. I got to see Turner Field, and the Georgia State Capitol Dome and then Mike roared into a Krispy Kreme and got a dozen hots, and we all ate hot donuts and drove around Atlanta. It was AWESOME. Those donuts were amazing. Atlanta is a really nice city and it was nice to be able to drive around it and not be worried about the traffic. The streets were really basically empty compared to even Fredericksburg standards. In that way, it reminded me a lot of Little Rock. My friend Tim and I used to cruise Little Rock at night because it was so easy to do.

When we got back, we all hung out in front of their fireplace, playing board games and watching TV. It was so relaxing. It was like a commercial on TV for the good life. Friends, a roaring fire, fun around the coffee table. A cat curled up nearby. Yeah.

Sunday, we did a little literary tourism. Lesley told me that Margaret Mitchell's gravesite was there and so we hauled it on over to the cemetary and took some pictures. Then we went to the Margaret Mitchell House and did a little retail therapy at the gift shop. When we come back, Lesley and I are definitely doing the tour--we didn't really have time that day.

Then we went to a fun little part of Atlanta and had Indian food for lunch. Michael actually ate it, we found a meal he would eat there, and he loved it. Lesley and I went shopping at a kitschy little junk shop where I got some stuff for my sister and for me, and then we headed back to their house, since Mike's family was coming for dinner.

It was so much fun--we met his dad and his sister and nieces also came over. Michael and I played poker and blackjack with his dad and sister and Mike and we had a big dinner of chicken and the most wonderful macaroni and cheese (Lesley, if you're reading this, please email me that recipe!) and cake and ice cream for dessert. Mike's dad is a real kick in the pants too, and we all decided afterwards that the best show on television would be a reality show starring my dad, Michael's dad, and Mike's dad. That would be a smash hit.

And then it was over all too soon. :-( Mike dropped us at the airport and we headed back to Richmond, and then drove home to the 'burg. I had my newspaper interview that afternoon, and then pretty much crashed. It was so nice to get away and to spend time with Mike and Lesley! Thanks for everything, guys! Hopefully we can do it again soon!!

Monday, November 26, 2007


And I did it before midnight. As my dad always says, "Gloryoski, boys!"

Craptastic though it may be, The Flight of Frankie Stanton has been written. My real life can resume now.

And Now For Something Completely Different...

...another procrastination blog... (I've got less than 1000 words to go. I'm going to finish tonight.)

I was re-reading an email my mom sent me after I got home from Florida. The last line was:

I am so proud of you and who you have become!

I'm blubbering. Even though I'm 32 years old, that still feels pretty freakin' fantastic that I've made my mom proud of me.

So, I'm Standing In Line At Border's Last Night...

(Procrastination post #1)

...and I am second in line. The guy in front of me is staring at the tv screen they have playing for their customers. And so I sneak a peek, since I kind of enjoyed when the Fredericksburg Borders would play the DVD of the planet and you could see the little plants and the beautiful shots of earth from space.

Not the Springfield Borders, however. Oh no. I, who hate to see animals get hurt, have to look as a goddamned crocodile takes down a goddamned wildebeest.

I swear, I cannot get the image of this out of my mind. It is haunting me, all day, I have seen those jaws of death wrapped around the poor wildebeest's leg, as it struggles to gain a foothold in the sand and keeps getting dragged to the water.

My sister comes over to find out what I'm doing, and I (more loudly than intended) declare, "Don't I have to be standing here while this goddamned thing is showing the death of a wildebeest by a crocodile? I think I'm going to start bawling."

And to my utter embarrassment, all the men in line start chuckling, and the women turn their faces to stare at the back walls.

What is it with guys and this kind of thing? The guy in front of me was glued to the set. When the Borders guy FINALLY got the lead out and took this guy's order, I moved right up behind him, away from the set. I couldn't stand it.

I know it's the laws of nature and all, but honestly? I find it devastating and gratuitous.

Back to NaNo.

Desperate Times...

My NaNo book SUCKS and I've finished the story at just under 46,000 words... AUGH! what to write? what to write? "This book sucks" over and over again maybe... The end is near. I can't believe it. It's a great way to get the hell through November's major suckage, but now the month and the challenge are nearly done. My life will seem so empty when it's done. *Sniffle*

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Annoying Me

Top things I do that annoy even myself:

1. I never put the new roll of toilet paper on the roller. I just let it sit there and unroll it by hand until about half the roll is gone and then I put it on. WHY DO I DO THIS?

2. I put my car keys in my left pocket. I fill my right hand with things. I'm a rightie. Then I go to my car and I have to get my keys out with my left hand, transfer everything to my left hand while fumbling to get the keys in my right and then I can get in the car. WHY DO I DO THIS?

3. I take my clothes off and throw them on the floor right next to the hamper. WHY DO I DO THIS?

4. Speaking of clothes, I never put my clean clothes away. Michaels stacks them neatly on my bureau, and then eventually the tower collapses and there are clothes everywhere and I have no choice BUT to put them away. Only to discover that my drawers are full of clothes I can't remember wearing. WHY DO I DO THIS?

5. I never, ever delete the pictures off my digital camera card, so when I want to go and show someone something, I have to scan through hundreds of pictures before I find the right ones. WHY DO I DO THIS?

I'm sure there are many more pet peeves I have about myself, but now I've gotten these out, hopefully I'll start to do something about it. Yeah right.

Friday, November 23, 2007


I have arrived home from Thanksgiving. Good times were had by all. I will be getting that and the Atlanta trip posted ASAP, but I have got to break 40K by tomorrow for NaNo, so as per everything else, it's on hold till I get it done.

I was so freakin' tired when I got back to the 'burg that I actually took a 4 hour nap. If possible, my mom has more energy than I do. By the time we got around to going to see Princess Diana's dresses, we were about rolling out of the car and crawling on the ground to get where we were going. It was hilarious and awful all at once.

Thanks, Mom, for an AWESOME time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


My mom and I went to the beach twice today. We ate breakfast at a restaurant there, and I just sat and stared at the water, and my mom commented that it was the first time in a while she'd seen me really relax. I could feel my body changing, my heart rate slowing, my breathing slowing, everything. We went back tonight. I wanted to get some pictures of the water when the sun was going down and everything was turning pink and peaceful. I swear to you, if my mom hadn't been there, I would have sat in the sand and had myself a good cry. I could feel all the sorrow and disappointments in life welling up from my chest into my throat, and begging for escape. I took a deep breath, exhaled, and kept walking.

November is a difficult time in my family, and has been for ten years. I lost both of my mom's parents in November 1997, only ten days apart. I feel like I should have asked them so much, gotten to know them as people, but my life was only really just starting as an adult when they died and I didn't have that frame of mind. It was "Me, Me, Me!" when I was 21. I am tremendously sorry to have missed the opportunity to share their history.

So, I suppose Thanksgiving will always have a little sadness attached, falling as it does on or around the anniversaries of their deaths. But this year, I've done so much work on me, and I feel like I'm really making some progress putting the answers together in a way that makes sense, in a way I can live with. I'm not sure, truly that I like all the answers that I've come away with, but I'm starting to understand that those things can change--I'm not the person I was ten years ago, and in ten years I won't be the person I am today.

So I was reading some Thanksgiving blog entries and a new friend posted one on hers about her gratitude towards people for helping her up during some recent hard times. And then she wrote:

Mostly, I'm thankful for my life. It has its ups. It has its downs. But, this life is mine.

You betcha. This year, I'm thankful for my life. I'm glad I'm taking some time to be selfish and to get to know the person I am and feel comfortable with the person I've become. I'm thankful for all the people who have contributed to making me the person I am, family and friends and colleagues and sworn enemies and the ones who got away and the ones who never left my side. I really don't believe I'd be here without each person's influence and I feel incredibly lucky to have the life I lead, to be surrounded by the truly quality people I'm surrounded by, to have taken advantage of opportunities that have come towards me, to have lived and worked and played how I wanted, to have fallen and picked myself up and dusted myself off and gotten back on the horse.

I truly believe 2008 has big things in store for me, but tonight I'm grateful for 2007, for the life I've led this year. It has been up and down, but I wouldn't have traded it, and I've come to value it a bit more each passing minute. My wish for you is a safe, happy holiday filled with love and joy and everything you need to feel a little peace.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Atlanta Pictures Up!

Edited and captioned even, for your pleasure!

Please visit:


Friday, November 16, 2007

Movin' On... Again

Yeah, I've decided it's time to be done with the blogosphere. I'm shutting this blog down immediately and I'm done with it. It's been real, it's been, but...well, you know the rest.

Yeah, right.

Ha ha.

Get your heart out of your throat, dear reader.

It's just time for the Thanksgiving trip.

Seems like we just got home from Atlanta and here I am leaving again.


I hate November for a variety of reasons, and I hate traveling for the most part, but at least my mom will be waiting on the other end, with a big smile and open arms (or she'd better be!)

So I promise to get back with you all for the Atlanta trip, the Florida trip, etc. but right now NaNo is taking all my writing time.

I'll drop a line here from FLA USA. I'm going to see Princess Diana's dresses this week. How awesome is that?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'm behind

thanks, Melissa, for reminding me!

I got up to 30K tonight on NaNo, and that seems to be my writing priority. So I will definitely blog about Atlanta as soon as I get re-sick of my book. :-)

I'll get the pictures up too, ASAP. I want to do it before I forget what we did--as if that'd be possible.

Suffice it to say, we all came away with an awesome idea for a new sitcom, one starring my dad and both of the Mikes' dads. :-)

Monday, November 12, 2007

We're Home

You know it's a good vacation when you arrive home and all you want to do is take a shower and a nap.

When you've been too busy to sleep or clean yourself up, you've gotten your money's worth.

Details to follow.

Thanks, Mike and Lesley. It was A-W-E-S-O-M-E awesome.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


So, last night a group of us from NaNoWriMo met up at a Camille's in Central Park here in Fredericksburg. I picked it since last year we went to Panera, and Panera was packed, and I've never seen that many people in Camille's. I knew it would be quiet.

So we are sitting around and a woman from the paper is there snapping pictures of men in suits. A man comes around and hands us pamphlets detailing the Principles of Freedom.

Go figure, didn't we stumble into the Republican post-election returns watching party?!

Me, of all people.

And we were just sitting there, discussing writing, but since Camille's was "CLOSED FOR PRIVATE EVENT", they all assumed we belonged there.

Our congresswoman recently passed away from cancer, so the Republican candidates were swarming around us, asking us to become delegates to the convention to decide which Republican will run for her seat. Now, I almost considered it, seriously it would be interesting to get in on somethng like that, but a) I am not a Republican [nor am I a Democrat either, for those of you wondering, I'm a registered independent] and b) I would feel as if I sold my soul to Satan.

So, apparently last night was a very bad night for Republicans in the state of Virginia. I don't know much about state politics--shame on me, I work for the government!--but they were all hugging and "this is just a temporary setback" and "sorry man, we did the best we could" and "we lost the Senate", which one guy optimistically took to mean that they had only lost the seat locally, but in fact apparently meant that the majority on the State Senate is now democratic.

Then I had to sit there and deal with these slick types coming up to the table, asking for our vote and one guy actually wanted us to know that he'd been working with both Presidents Bush. I was thinking, "Boy, Johnny, you are really barking up the wrong tree with that one" until I leaned over to my fellow NaNo and made a comment about Bush being the AntiChrist and she informed me that Bush was OK, it was Cheney who was so bad. Ummmm, OK. I don't disagree about Cheney being the grand puppetmaster, but Bush is probably the worst pres...well, let's not get started down that road.

What was particularly rich was when one candidate came to inform us that his party was the party that liked Americans to keep their own money in their own pockets. I didn't have a chance to get a word in edgewise, but had I been, I would have said, "Mister, I don't know a politician yet who's going to give me anything without raising my taxes or increasing the deficit. How do you propose to give me something for nothing? Because I want to get on board that gravy train."

Anyway, courtesy of the Republican Party we were offered free food and I stuck it out as long as I could--10pm, which I thought was damned good. Hopefully next week when we meet up, we won't have the Right to Life Party knocking down the doors over there. On the plus side, Camille's stayed open nice and late, so we got to stay later to discuss writing.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

My Next Cake

Purportedly courtesy of a WalMart fakery.

Ok, Enough is Enough

I finally came to the conclusion today that the time had come to rid my porch of the jack-o-lanterns we carved during the first annual Kosior Fall Fun Festival. Granted, I was not the only person on the street who still had pumpkins and Halloween decorations out, but I suppose it was time to do what had to be done.

So why the heck am I so sad about it? I refused to put them in the trash. I carried them out behind the shed and wished them happy composting.

That was one killer weekend. Damn I throw a good time.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Vignettes from a Misspent Saturday

I had some errands to run today. I went after a successful morning of writing.

Virginia seems to be the vanity plate capital of the US. Two particularly well thought out/clever plates caught my eye today:

PRAA GOD (I'm not even a Bible beatin' Christian and I liked that one)

Nicely done, Virginia Drivers.

Went to Bed, Bath, And Beyond to get a shower gift. The lady offered free gift wrapping, and I was all over that. She wrapped it beautifully--tissue paper everywhere, stickers, ribbons, a card, the works. She handed it to me and asked if it was Ok. I said, "OK? I wish I was opening it myself!" She doubled over laughing.

I guess shop girls don't get many customers with a pathetic sense of humor.

And finally, why are Hershey's Take 5 bars so good? Damn it, Hershey! And now 50% off post Halloween.

Back to writing. This bitch won't write itself. Counting the hours till Thursday night. :-)

Friday, November 02, 2007

I've Done This Twice and Got the Same Answer

You Are a Red Crayon

Your world is colored with bright, vivid, wild colors.
You have a deep, complex personality - and you are always expressing something about yourself.
Bold and dominant, you are a natural leader. You have an energy that is intense... and sometimes overwhelming.
Your reaction to everything tends to be strong. You are the master of love-hate relationships.

Your color wheel opposite is green. Green people are way too mellow to understand what drives your energy.

I don't think it's necessarily true, but what the hell. Sorry, Tal, looks like you and I are opposites

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Oh yeah, and my mom should be ashamed of herself...

This is her dog, Sidney, in his Halloween costume. HILARIOUS. So stinkin' cute. I can't even look at this picture without crackin' up.

Hope you all had a Great Pumpkin last night...

Posting Will Be Light...

...this next month as I dedicate my considerable talents to writing the follow up to my smash 2006 debut novel, The Courage of Maggie Stanton, the first in The Chronicles of Mulberry Creek series. New book's working title is The Flight of Frankie Stanton.

I know, I know, you're all waiting with baited breath.

So am I.