Friday, July 27, 2012

Robert Redford, Violet Beauregard, and My New BFF

"We dare not trust our wit for making our house pleasant to our friend, so we buy ice cream"
 Ralph Waldo Emerson

I nearly died the other night. Food-died. And it all started because I was meeting someone new. 

First a tip: If you want to get to know someone take them out to dinner. The barriers come down because you're both participating in a common need for sustenance. Then you have to sit there for a while so you start talking. Then if the food is amazing you can freak out about it with mutual excitement. And if things really roll you might go as far as to make a spectacle of yourself screaming and giggling over movies and actors and men who wear kilts. This is particularly effective if the eating establishment is schmancy.

Once you become familiar with the other person's attributes and realize you two totally jive, you can become pals. Furthermore, you can become so chummy and relaxed that you start sucking up food like a Bissell with no shame, and both of you end up needing to be rolled out in a wheel barrow at the end. Erm. What makes you think I speak from experience? 

'Kay, so like, night before last? I got to know a very cool woman while Robert Redford's chef totally turned me into Violet Beauregard--the little chicklet in the old Willy Wonka flick who snarfed the food-gum and blew up into a ginormous blueberry. The chef was new and had a completely astonishing menu. Like I ate more than any human being or boa constrictor were ever meant to eat. But I did so while in the course of making a new friend. So it was for a good cause. Which means the food had no calories. And I want to share that with you so you, too, can make friends and lose weight. Here's how it works:

You get your husband to take you up to Robert Redford's Tree Room in the tops of the Rocky Mountains because the huz has been meeting with a contracted researcher and they are starved and need to eat anyway so why not take you all up to the most gorgeous and not cheap restaurant in the state?

Then you decide to order the new chef's Tasting Menu, which consists of a 6-course meal, because you feel adventurous and the new friend--who is from the environs of New York--applies peer pressure and since you are trying to impress her as your husband's wife you go ahead and cave in. Also it sounds amazing and you wanted to anyway. But mostly it was her fault.

Everyone else also orders their own dishes and promises to help you eat yours (and you let them because you're meeting someone new. You don't want to be a piglet), and then the food starts coming. And it goes like this:

Meal Prologue: Everyone gets a funky deep spoon filled with heirloom tomato puree, an heirloom cherry tomato, a tiny slice of fresh mozzarella, and fresh herbs. The server calls it "Cuh-preeees." We giggle cuz EVERYONE knows it's "Cuh-pray-zae," right? The bonding has started.

First Course: Braised short ribs with a salad of mandarine oranges and steamed shoots of some sort that taste like a cross between pea and lemon grass. (O.M.Gosh! Meat is so tender that I touch it with my fork and it literally collapses onto the plate in defeat.) Everyone partakes a little and dies a little. We feel, you know, familiar with each other.

Second Course: A lovely watercress Salad with pesto cream. And a cherry tomato of death. A cherry tomato that after I pop it into my mouth turns out not to be a tomato so much as A KUMQUAT PICKLED IN SO MUCH VINEGAR THAT IT SUCKS ALL THE SALIVA FROM MY MOUTH AND MAKES MY EYES POP OUT. Should totally come with a surgeon general's warning. We laugh and I drink everyone's water.

Third Course: Deconstructed clam chowder. Coolest. Soup. Ever. Consists of a wicked -awesome broth that tastes like the ocean with a bit of white wine splashed in, 4 freshly steamed clams in the shell (like they were still making out their last wills and testaments), accompanied by tiny fingerling potatoes, dolloped with cream, and spooned with caviar. CAVIAR. Right? We all ooh and ah and start nudging each other knowingly. Knowing, you know, how cool we all are to be eating caviar. More bonding.

Fourth Course: Some kind of fish thing that starts with an H. Humari? Humberto? HumptyDumpty? Can't remember. But it is white. And seared to a delicious herbed crust, served with steamed fresh carrots and beans and turnips and fennel. With a funky little sauce. And oh yeah, the Humarooni-fish is raw inside. WAIT? RAW?! ER . . . I don't do no food that can beg for mercy. It needs to be dead. DEAD. I mean, those clams were pushing it. So my new friend has to assure me that, since she speaks Sushi and can vouch for the food safetyness of what is before me, I should man-up and eat it. I will be delighted. Look, she'll try some first. Ooooh! It's like buttah! Go on, little Janiel! You can do it! Open wiiiiide!
So I do. And then we are friends.

Food Break: Also called a palate cleanser. Which I really need since my tongue is still numb from the evil Kumquat of Death. This is mixed berry sorbet, which we all gasp over and fall into like we're being wrapped in purple velvet. We start pulling out the kid-photos. And the photo of her pants-eshewing-huz in a kilt. I pull out the photo of my bruthah in his kilt. We decide men in kilts need to wear combat boots. And I think kilts are kinda hot. Try to drop hints that huz should start wearing kilts but he totally does not pick up.

Fifth Course: Seared elk in square medallions. Which would make them squaredallions. And I can't remember what else came with it because by this time my new BFF and I have found a mutual--but totally respectful as we are both happily married--crush er, admiration, for RICHARD ARMITAGE *gasp* and MATTHEW MACFADYEN *sigh* AND ALL BRITISH ACTORS OF DASHING HANDSOMENESS. And we start giggling. And my huz grins in confusion. He does not understand kindred-spirit-silly-girl-speak.


Oh yeah. And there was desert. Wicked awesome desert. Deep dark molten cake and strawberry shortcake and mango sorbet and 2 other sorbets, and then these amazing hand made truffles. BUT OMIGOSH RICHARD ARMITAGE!!!!

So. That's how you do it. And I didn't gain any weight (except this is a lie). But I gained a friend (this isn't). Looking forward to hangin' wit her again. And I'm on the prowl for more BFFS. Anybody wanna do lunch?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I vomited on my ex-boyfriend's shoes

There are many ways to handle bumping into your ex boyfriend or girlfriend. Some people brag about their lives and others try to kill them with kindness. Me? I have to vomit all over one of my ex-boyfriends.

Lemme give you the details, I just got done playing a wicked game of tennis. I played for 2 hours straight in the sweltering heat. Of course, who happens to be playing three courts down from me? My seriously hott ex who looks like Vin Diesel. I try to pretend like I don't see the bloke but my efforts are useless. He drops his racket mid serve and yells my name.

I can't look away from his intense brown eyes. They pull me in just as they did 10 years ago. My brain tells me to keep walking but of course, I don't . . . I can't. All I can do is watch his lips whisper my knick name.

By now, my 2 hour tennis game has caught up to me. I feel my stomach gurgle and my head feel dizzy. My body's begging me to sit down but of course, I don't listen. I rib my ex for his always-horrid taste in movies.

He laughs heartedly and by now, my body has shutdown. I teeter on my heels and vomit all over his shoes.

My Vin Diesel look-a-like ex widens his eyes in surprise as I collect myself. There is nothing to say at this moment. I am horrified, I can't hide in hole nor can I pretend like he doesn't exist. There is nothing to do but wait for his reaction. He busts a gut so much that tears are rolling down his cheek.

I'm trying hard to play it cool but how can you play it cool at a moment like this? My Vin Diesel look-a-like ex brushes my hair out of my face and says, "And to think, I was worried about your right hook."

Yep, life is gonna toss us some majorly ridiculous moments. The trick isn't just to endure them but to make them work for you. Laugh in the face of extreme embarrassment.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest Post: Gnome, Gnome on the Range

I first met Kristin Johnson four years ago at a Welsh-language course in Iowa. We hit it off right away once we discovered we were both writers, and we've been "talking shop" ever since. Kristin has kindly agreed to share some of her wisdom while I'm away - appropriately enough - at another Welsh course. Diolch yn fawr, Kristin!

I’ve recently returned from a family trip to the South Dakota Badlands and Yellowstone National Park – what great places, full of buffalo, cowboy-hat-wearing tourists, and bear-spray-pedaling Walgreens stores. Being out West reminded me of the early settlers who came to this great country and what life must have been like for them.

My family and I hiked trails where suddenly we would come upon a buffalo only a few feet away, and we were under the constant threat of running into a bear. We plodded ahead hoping to find a grizzly or black bear, though we never ran across one there in the wild. How would a Gnomeslayer feel seeing a buffalo or a bear for the first time? How do we writers react when confronted with something strange in our path or a new, odd idea? Do we flee because it’s too unfamiliar? I recently read, “The time to do something else is when everyone is thinking the same way" - meaning we should embrace the unfamiliar because that may actually be the fresh, new idea we should write about.

When Maegan invited me to guest blog this week, first I had “writer’s block.” Then, naturally, I looked up information on gnomes. I found one definition that said, “A pithy saying that expresses a general truth or fundamental principle.” Fundamental principle . . . fundamental principle . . . My mind wandered over to Jane Austen’s famous first line from Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” I’ve edited Ms. Austen’s work to read as follows: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of writer’s block, must be in want of an idea.

A professor of mine once paraphrased this by saying, if you aren’t writing, it may be that you don’t yet know what you want to say. This concept of being idea-less or direction-less struck a chord in me. Is this why I haven’t finished writing some of my stories? Am I lacking an idea of what to write? Do I not know yet what I want to say? Is it that I don’t have a solid trail to follow?

Oddly enough, I often begin my semester-long composition classes by scrawling a quote like this on my white board: “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” -- Louis L’Amour

But this would imply that it doesn’t matter whether you have an idea or not, you just have to start writing and then the words and ideas will come. I believe, however, there is usefulness for writers who are able to employ both concepts, depending on what is needed to get the work done on any given day. Sometimes we have to start writing without knowing where the piece is going. Sometimes we need to know what we want to say before the words will flow.

And what if you come upon a buffalo or a bear along your trail? Are you going to run and risk having your writing life killed off? Or are you going to challenge the gnome?

I think a Gnomeslayer encountering a buffalo or a bear would charge ahead boldly. So wherever you are in your own writing — idea-less, direction-less, or if you are lucky and actually have a trail to follow — charge ahead!

Begin and begin boldly, for as the Gnomies might say, gnome guts, gnome glory.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Downton Abbey - Sorry Guys. It's a Girl-thing. Maybe.

Downton Abbey cast photo via Creative Commons

Downton Abbey.

What does your heart do when you read that?

Mine goes:(SPOILER ALERT! this paragraph only) "OMIGOSH! When the pert-pantaloons is Season 3 going to be on?! What is happening with Lady Sybil and her new husband/driver? Are Mary and Matthew married and happy? Will Edith find someone who thinks she has a special spirit? Or maybe just get a nose job? Will O'Brien and Thomas finally say 'what the heck' and marry each other, spawning a new dawn of evil domestics for future series'? And what about John and Anna Bates? Will he get out of jail? Will they find another murdering wife in his past? Will they sacrifice themselves for each other so no one is actually happy? But most of all, WILL SHIRLEY MACLAINE HOLD HER OWN AGAINST THE GOOD DAME MAGGIE, OR WILL MAGS CHEW HER UP AND SPIT HER OUT ALONG WITH ONE OF HER WICKED GOOD ASIDES?"

That's a brief summary, anyway.

I don't know what it is about this soap opera--because don't kid yourself, this baby is a lovely frothy soap--but I can't get enough of it. And I ain't alone. Downton is the proud owner of 16 Emmy noms this year. 16. Only beaten out by the 17 Mad Men and American Horror Story each received. Which obviously don't count. I don't know why. But it's obvious they don't.

And this brings me to . . . Guys. What do you-all think of this show? Does it perplex you that the women in your lives are flippity-gaga for it, or are you, too? A little bit. On the inside. Are you Downton widowers, ignored until the season is over (or until the whole thing is watched in 2 days on Hulu), or do you join in? Maybe with a beer and a grudging grunt, a little eye-roll like "Dude. I am totally doing this for points," but on the inside you're wondering if Countess Violet will finally just clock Isobel Crawley with her lofty walking stick, and perhaps losing sleep over the rumors that Dame Maggie might be leaving. (She's not. Breathe.)

Look. There's no shame in admitting DowntAddiction. Corsets, Gibson-girl hair, and demurely bared shoulders are alluring in an era of throwing everything the good lord gave a girl right out there. I mean, believe me, we women would take a man in a smart waistcoat, winged collar, and gaiters over a dude who has to duct-tape his skinny jeans to his thighs in order to keep them fashionably low (and from sliding down around his ankles.)

There's no shame in it. Throw in some mystery, great cars, a world war, and a bit of money, and there's something worthy of sinking your dude-ness into. Julian Fellowes knows what he's doing. He's a guy. ("Julian" notwithstanding.) 

All right, fine. Do it for the women. For us. We need our Downton. And we need you to watch it with us--or at least be cool when we do. Mostly though, we  need you to not sprain your eyeballs rolling them. It'll all come out even in the end. Trust me.

*cough* Hunting, Fishing, BBQ, Football, NASCAR, HAM, Football, Two-and-a-Half-Men, Golf, Football *cough*

And now some of Downton's best moments. First with Dame Maggie Smith, then Sir Jimmy Fallon (Downton Sixbey) (Which, by the way, is from late night television. Sooo, watch accordingly):

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Take a moment and relax

*Before I forget, we are pleased to announce that we will be having a special guest post on Monday. I can't wait for Monday to get here!

Anyways, this week I have been stuck in the time warp that is college algebra. I don't know what month we are in or what day it is, all I know is I am at a 78 percent. I have been fighting and clawing to earn that grade.

The one thing I have learned from this math class is you must take time for yourself- rejuvenate your brain power. Athletes are known for pursuing other passions while they chase their dreams. So go and do whatever it is you love to do for a break. Take a yoga class, paint or just turn on the TV and veg for an hour.

Do whatever it is that rejuvenates you and do it pronto.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Twitter. What's It To Ya?

Art by Pictofigo
So Twitter. I'm on it. Here: Janiel's Twitter Account. And now I want to know: are you a Tweep? What do you think of the Twitter phenom?

When I started writing and blogging, experts told me that I must, MUST, obtain a Twitter account and become a Tweetie-bird. So I did. And I posted my blog url every time I wrote something new. Because They said I MUST. It would drive people to my blog and I would become rich and famous.

What I became was the proud owner of a swirling vortex of who cares? I garnered 56 followers over the course of a year and a half of url posts. My impact on the Tweet-o-sphere was limpity limp. 

So I asked more experts and They said I must tweet cleverly and often. Fast and furious. I must find a spin. I must spin it. I must put myself in peoples' face several times a day. And above all, if I wanted followers, I must become Queen of the Hashtag. You know, that little # symbol. You put it in front of key words in or after your tweet so your brilliance will come up in searches for that word and you'll get more tweepy-exposure, which will translate into riches and fame.

And it works. Using the revered Hashtag I have now popped, with relative speed, up to about 180 followers. I am waiting for Amazon to deliver the riches and fame.


In the process, I discovered that I had to follow a lot of people to get followers. And I am beginning to suspect that many of them have followed me solely so I will follow them back. *gasp* And now I'm not really convinced people are actually reading what I'm Chirping.  Although I think if I were already famous, or semi-famous, they would. In hopes that I'd notice them and follow them and we'd be BFF's for everANDever.


What do you think of Twitter? Does it do anything? Is the publishing industry right in relying on it as a means of determining what kind of market there is for your not-yet-published book? Does it mean anything other than that you are the reciprocal rung on the ladder to beoming America's Next Top Tweeter? And Maybe Tom Hanks Will Notice You And Hire You For His Next Film Because You're So Stinkin' Clever? Maybe? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

(I will say this. There is a kiddo with the Tweet handle TweenHobo who is killing it on Twitter right now. She's 12 years old and is hilarious. She has a hobo-rides-the-rails persona and spoof-tweets popular media. She'll get discovered from her tweets alone, I'd wager. What about the rest of us mortals? Worth it?)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What you can learn from Maria Sharapova

This past weekend I watched an interview with Maria Sharapova, the tennis champion. The gal is incredible. She was at the top of her game and then had a major setback with a shoulder surgery. She had to fight like mad to reclaim her status as number one.
What can you learn from Maria Sharapova? Accept your losses. Sometimes you are going to be on top and the next moment you could have a major setback. Maria said that on her road to recovery she took the losses to become the best.

I had never thought of that concept- accept your setbacks because they make you stronger. The losses make you fight for your dream. They also teach you how to deal with roadblocks.

Welcome the losses and setbacks, because nothing can stop you from achieving your dream.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Duct-Taped Mom Saves The Day! Not!

Have you noticed how we've all been sleeping-in late on our posts this week? Mucho sorry-o. But it's been crazy-town here lately. Maegan has been gone, then the local mountain blew up and caught on fire, then it was Independence Day, and then my kid texted from Wyoming--where he is busy throwing hay-bales and cattle on a friend's grandfather's ranch-- to tell me he's sick. And I'm not there. And he's sick. And I'm his mom. And he needs me. And I can't do anything but call the grandparents and hope they can gauge whether or not my boy needs to drive 2 hours to see a doctor. (Have you been to Wyoming? There's a whole lot of nothing there. And some rocks. And once in awhile a town with a doctor in it. But mostly rocks. Plus cows.) AND DID I MENTION I CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT BUT SIT HERE ON MY HANDS AND WORRY ABOUT MY SON WHO IS 17.5 YEARS OLD AND NOT 3, EXCEPT I KEEP PICTURING HIM AS 3 BECAUSE I'M NOT THERE TO HELP HIM?

Sheesh. Sometimes motherhood is like having someone pull your heart out of your chest and throw it ten feet in front of you where a hungry lion is rushing at it, and you're duct-taped to the wall.

It's a very straight-jacketed place to be. Especially as the kidlets get older and do more scary things, all of which are done without the mom. Two weeks ago I had two kids at a leadership camp in the Tetons where they were white-water rafting and repelling down 300-foot cliffs (one of which kids weighs about 8 ounces and is a girl. Who scares easily. But who by all accounts wants to do the camp again. Because she didn't die). At the same time my littlest dude was hanging out with a cousin who came down with hand-foot-and-mouth disease, whilst the college kid was away at school working and having boy problems (mostly on the order of deciding that boys are dorks, no offense.) Worst part? I couldn't go comfort or help anyone because my huz and I were clear across the country in New York. 

Thousands of miles separated me from my little offspringies. It was a terribly uneasy feeling. But one they absolutely benefitted from and had to have in order to become adults. And they all did splendidly: little dude did not get the disease, no one fell off a cliff, and boys are kind of okay again.

No. It was I who was falling apart, seeing that heart sitting there defenseless and me unable to do one blessed thing to defend it against the wild-cats of life. 

But then, do you know what happened? To my great shock the heart jumped up into the air, an awesome human being formed around it, and that human told the lion to talk to the hand. Without any help from the duct-taped mom. Then the human-child-o'-mine gave me the thumbs up and went back to taking risks and surviving just fine without me.


Sometimes I think my kids are more mature than I am. I'll have to get used to it. Meantime, maybe I'll just go watch The Amazing Spiderman and quit worrying.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Our two year anniversary

Our two year anniversary of this blog is almost upon us. As I reflect on the past two years I realize I am a lucky girl. My dear friends, every single one of you have touched me somehow. I am amazed at your courage and the way you inspire people. Thank you for reading our writing. Thank you for being supportive. Thank you for being you!

I have two of the dearest friends a girl could ask for- Janiel and Maegan. I don't even know where to start. Janiel, you have taught me to find my strength. You have helped me find myself. You're funny as all get up and you are smart. You work this blog like it's nobody’s business and I just am grateful for you. You  can cook, you craft jewelry and you touch people's lives.

Maegan, you are kind and compassionate. You have so many talents and you are the only person I know who has traveled this globe over. I love hearing your adventures and you inspire me everyday to be brave. You look after animals, I never understood their lil quirks until I met you. Plus, you can make me laugh until I snort.

I adore you all and am grateful for your friendship.