The Romance Writers of America’s annual conference is right around the corner. I leave Monday for a week in New York with most of the Jaunty Quills and my other writer friends. I’m really looking forward to it. However, I’m still working on deadlines and packing. I’m a bit anxious about a workshop I’m presenting with my buddy and sister JQ, Kathy Garbera (it’s all together, but I always get pre-presentation jitters). And, of course, I’m wanting to spend time with my hubby, who will be on his own for the week.
Trying to get it all done and not short anyone or anything always leaves me feeling woefully inadequate, like I’ve left someone or something hanging. So, in the midst of the craziness, I thought it might be a good time for us to talk about the things we do right.
I admit, I had to stop and think hard to come up with this inventory of “good.” So, please put your thinking caps on, because I want to hear your “Right List,” too.
Here’s my list :
I gave up tanning – I grew up in Florida. The beach is forty-five minutes away. I used to bake myself in the sun. We’re talking baby oil on a tanning blanket. But I’ve since seen the light and I stopped doing that about 22 years ago. My legs may be mushroom white, but they’re healthy.
I’ve learned to let go of things that used to drive me crazy – I wish I could say I’ve arrived at a state of Zen, but I’m a work in progress. Along this path, I’ve learned to breathe deeply and the phrase “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys” has become my mantra.
I’ve learned that I always benefit by planning ahead.
I make it a priority to get a minimum of 7 – preferably 8 or 9 – hours sleep every night. Of course, there are those times when I don’t get in all my ZZZZs, but I try not to let it happen often because when I’m sleep deprived, the whole world feels like it’s falling apart.
I’ve stopped waiting for special occasions to wear my favorite perfume, use the good china, and buy flowers. Little touches make a big difference.
I know the things that make me feel better when life feels out of control: a hot bath or shower; plenty of sleep (that one’s worth repeating); I clean house when I’m stressed because messiness makes me more stressed and I find cleaning up very gratifying ; I take a hiatus from social media.
I’ve stopped comparing myself to others. Because that just stinks. We all walk different paths. Accepting that has made the biggest difference in my life.
Last, but not least, I’m a good mom. Even though College Girl is away at school, she will always be my baby.
How about you? Please share so we can celebrate the things you do right.
Nancy’s latest book HOW TO MARRY A DOCTOR is abailable in mass-market paperback and e-book.
I just got back from a couple of heavenly days in Charleston, which is one of my favorite cities in the South.
This time, I made the trip because a local community theater was staging one of my daughter’s plays. That alone is enough to make me love a town, of course. (Want me to adore you? Appreciate my kids!)
But I have so many special ties to this quaint, historic town. My parents lived there while my dad was in the Navy in World War II. Growing up, I heard so many stories about Charleston and their love of the architecture and the ambiance. When they moved back to Tampa, their hometown, they commissioned their architect to renovate their little bungalow to a modified Charleston style, with porches, and a wing that was built perpendicular to the street. I grew up in that house.
Still, I’d never known exactly where my mom and dad lived back then. It was in the earliest days of their marriage, and obviously long before I entered the world. But recently, when I was cleaning out some old family files, I ran across a notecard someone had sent them when they moved in…complete with addressed envelope!
So naturally when we went up this weekend we had to carve out time to visit that address. It’s a charming old apartment building between Calhoun and Broad.
We couldn’t enter to hunt for the apartment, as we didn’t have anyone to buzz us through the locked doors. But that’s when I really got lucky. Outside, as I took pictures, we ran into a woman pulling weeds. Turns out she takes care of the property, and when we explained our pilgrimage she was able to show us (from the outside only, of course) exactly which unit my parents had lived in. It’s the second floor balcony just to the right of the main entrance–and apparently it was super tiny! They never mentioned that. Maybe to newlyweds tiny was a happy thing. <3
Finding Berkeley Court wasn’t our only emotional landmark on this trip, though. We stopped by to share a moment of silence at the Emanuel AME church, where nine worshippers were recently shot as they gathered for Bible study. The scene was even more moving than I’d expected it to be. People milled around, probably, like us, trying to both honor and understand. Flowers and mementos hugged the façade. And visitors had written their names all over the trunks and branches of the small trees on the sidewalk–an oddly beautiful and powerful sight. It felt as if everyone who came wanted to leave a little of their own hearts behind.
Our visit wasn’t all history and memories, of course. It was also…FOOD! Oh, my goodness, do Charlestonians know how to eat! After a fabulous Italian dinner, dessert was a carrot cake “deconstructed,” which turned out to signify that cake cubes lay alongside pecans, dried berries, real carrot spirals, and the icing, so that I could assemble every forkful with the perfect proportions!
And then there was lunch at the Saffron Bakery (which Boychild and his wife discovered when they were visiting for the play’s opening a couple of days before). It was almost too good to describe. Simple—just a grilled cheese and tomato soup, with a side of grits, because Boychild promised me adding grits was worth it. But delicious beyond description! And oh, the bakery!
So, all in all, a wonderful trip, even if I’ll be treadmilling off those eclairs for the rest of my life. What about you? Have you ever been to Charleston? What’s your favorite city—and why? Is it the food? The history? Or something else? I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen poster today!
His Highness knows what to get me for any holiday. A bookstore gift card. I always have several in my wallet, always, because I’m really weird about spending them. (And by “weird” I mean stingy.)
Now that sounds kind of like “he’s got the little woman on a short leash” stuff, doesn’t it? But that’s not it. Sure, we’re not Rockefellers, and I’d definitely have to justify budget-busting at the jewelry store. But His Highness learned long ago that if I can’t get all the books I want, when I want them, without any grief…in fact without any comment at all…I’m not much fun to live with.
Even so, I hang onto those little rectangles with a gurgling, whispering intensity. My precious gift cards…
Sometimes, though, that leads me into trouble. Like this time…
One day, I was homesteading at Barnes and Noble, wandering for ages, reading the first few pages of about a zillion books. One of them looked great. I said to myself, “When I have enough gift certificates stockpiled, I’ll come back and buy this.”
Classic rookie mistake, right?
Of course, when I finally went back to that table, everything had been rearranged. I checked my notes app on my phone, but nothing. I’d been dumb enough to assume I’d remember the title.
Nope. Not the title, not the author, not even the color of the cover. Not even whether it was a YA novel, or one for adults. All I remembered was that the story started with two sister ghosts betting about some guy dying. I couldn’t bring myself to ask the B&N guy to track it down with such pitiful info, so I went up and down the stacks, looking at everything.
Hours later, I’d found some interesting books, but not that book. I was so irritated with myself. I went onto Amazon and looked at about a thousand books with ghosts, sister ghosts, paranormal, betting. Again, lots of good ones. But not that one.
Many trips and searches later, I almost gave up, which I never do. But luckily Girlchild came up with an idea. Reddit. You know Reddit…a website about everything for everyone? I “know” it, but not well. It wouldn’t ever have occurred to me. She told her husband, who agreed it was worth a shot.
While she and I doggedly scanned the bookshelves, he got on his phone and found a subReddit called “Whatsthatbook?” He entered my pitiful information and asked for help.
I appreciated it…but I didn’t hold out much hope. Then, about two hours later, I got an email from him. Someone had answered his SOS. Could it be, they suggested, Lauren Oliver’s ROOMS?
I looked it up. It was!
How’s that for fabulous? And here’s the nuttiest part: B&N was out of all copies, so I could’ve emptied every stack in the place and never found it. I ordered it online, got it the next day, and read it that night.
And yeah. It was a really good book.
But, for me, the hero of this story is that anonymous person who popped onto that subReddit and offered her idea, just in case. I think that’s absolutely magical, don’t you? Hurray for Girlchild and her great guy! Hurray for books, book-lovers, and people who will take time to help out a total, goofy stranger.
How about you? Do you use Reddit? Do you ever forget a book’s title and have to hunt it down the hard way? I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen commenter today.
His Highness and I just finished binge-watching “Bloodline” on Netflix. Literally, just now…and it’s four a.m. as I write this. I can’t say I loved the series, a 13-part drama about a dysfunctional family in the Florida Keys, so I’m not sure exactly why we did that.
Maybe simply because we could. Many things about the plot and characters were off-putting, but we were curious to see how Season One ended. So when the machine told us the next episode would begin in ten seconds, nine, eight, seven…we just didn’t ever hit “stop.”
Weird, and not altogether smart, given how tired I am. But I’m not alone. Though regular “wait for it” TV is still the norm, I know lots of people who wouldn’t dream of starting a show until the whole thing is available on Netflix for binging. Not even Game of Thrones.
But I’m not one of them. Sometimes, I enjoy the lovely, mildly masochistic frustration of waiting those seven days. When I wait, I have time to anticipate, to talk over predictions and hopes and fears with friends who are also fans. I have time to savor the coming thrill.
Besides, I was brought up believing waiting wasn’t optional. When I was a kid, you watched at the proper time and place, or you missed it. Even “taping” a show was risky. Someone was always programming something wrong.
And one of my favorite TV memories was born of the wait. Girlchild and I were soul mates in our love for The X-Files. She was just off to college, and I was bereft. But our shared watching on Sunday nights—she from her apartment with her roommates, and me from our family room with His Highness—was like a golden chain that linked us…and saved my broken mommy heart.
One week, the press releases promised us Sunday night would bring the long-awaited Fox Mulder-Dana Scully kiss. Oh, the excitement! I spent a whole day putting together an X-Files care package to send upstate. It included candy kisses, collectible X-Files cards, a gooey plastic alien, and a Beanie Baby fox. She loved getting the package as much as I loved sending it, and by the time the show started we had reached a fairly ridiculous fever pitch we’ll never forget.
So though easy access is cool, and it’s fun to know that, if you decide sleep is optional, you can gorge on episodes till you groan, I’ll probably never abandon wait-for-it television.
I may hate waiting in theory, but…as they say, all good things come to the lady who waits. And waiting a little longer makes the good things even better.
How about you? Have you watched Bloodline? The X-Files? Are you one of the people who wait until an entire season is available on Netflix before starting?
I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen poster today, so I hope you’ll take a minute to share.
When our family gets together, we almost always play games. Word games. Board games. Charades. Bingo. Hangman. In a pinch, rock-paper-scissors. There is no game we won’t try.
Once, Boychild created a personalized video game for us to play at St. Patrick’s Day–impressive! And once, when we got together for a Game of Thrones viewing party, Girlchild made a cake with a hand-drawn map of Westeros on it. Everyone had to identify a location where something important had happened and plant the correct sigil there. (Luckily, we got to eat cake win or lose, because I’m terrible at maps.)
On Oscar night, we always play family-specific Bingo cards. One year, when Boychild unexpectedly couldn’t be with us, he knew that I’d included a square that said, “Boychild says an actress is smoking hot.” About halfway through the show, he called me on my cell just to say, “Hey, Mom…did I ever tell you that Angelina Jolie is smoking hot?”
And on almost every birthday, we play some trivia game about the honoree, like the ones below:
Who was Girlchild’s first love?
4) JR Ewing
(Just for the record, though they were all her “boyfriends” by the time she was in nursery school, the correct answer is #4. Age about two and a half, she would literally kiss the TV screen when JR showed up on the Dallas reruns.)
When there’s no time to make our own, I have a closet full of great board games to fall back on.
These are my three favorites:
1) Cranium. It’s a standard, but you can’t go wrong. There’s something for every talent. For instance, I might shine at word challenges (though, annoyingly, I often don’t), but I’m going to fail miserably at the art tasks. where my daughter-in-law will clean up.
2) Dixit. This is an oddball little game we’ve learned to adore. It comes with a set of slightly surreal picture-cards, which are dealt to the players. When it’s your turn, you think of a short phrase or word clue for the card you’re going to use. Then, everyone else has to pick a card out of his own hand that could represent that phrase. All the chosen cards are shuffled and laid out anonymously, and everyone guesses which was the original card that inspired the phrase. You’re hoping you’ll fool people into choosing yours. It’s super simple but surprisingly creative and fun. (The set below all represented the word “threshold.” Can you guess which was the real card?)
3) I Think You Think I Think. Nothing is simple about this game. You answer questions like, “If you had to play a professional sport, would it be football, baseball, or soccer?” You answer privately, and everyone guesses what you said. Then you have to lay bets about who, if anyone, will have guessed right, while they’re laying bets based on how confident they are about their guess. (Confused yet?) Use this game with care, because along the way you’re likely to learn what people really think about you. Once, when playing with Girlchild and her friends, I answered “football” on that question, and the little girls were shocked. “But…,” one protested, confused. “I was sure you’d think football was vulgar!”
LOL…that’s when I learned they thought I was super-prissy. And another fun but dangerous element of this game–you’ll learn who really “gets” you, and it’s not always who you think!
Ironically, though we are compulsive about playing games, none of us really cares about winning. In fact, we often get caught throwing the game if we think we’re too far ahead. We just want to keep playing.
What’s your favorite party game? Is your group into games? Have you ever played any of my top three? I’ve got a $10 Amazon gift certificate for one randomly chosen commenter today, so I hope you’ll play.