Saturday, December 20, 2008

Barely a Teen

Today is the 19th birthday of my first child.

It's an odd feeling to know that your baby boy -- not so much a bouncing baby any more, but now a freshman engineering major at a major university -- will only be a teenager for one more short year.

We went to dinner tonight, the barely-teen, his father, and I. Son the Younger had other things to do. We have a tradition on the birthday of Son the Older. We go to the Black-Eyed Pea, for there my son can eat his favorite food on earth: broccoli rice casserole. And it's been his favorite food since just after his first birthday. If you'll indulge me, I'll repeat an old family story.

It was a tradition in my family that we went to my grandmother's house on Christmas Eve and my great-grandmother's house on Christmas Day. Since my mother was the oldest of 13 children and my grandmother is the oldest of seven, both of these occasions were pretty much a mob scene. Each adult family member had a dish they usually brought to each function. My mom always brought broccoli rice casserole on Christmas Eve.

When my boy had just turned one, we were in Lubbock for Christmas, and I decided to see if he liked the casserole. He ate it faster than I could spoon it into his little open mouth! He ate the bowlful I had spooned out for him and begged for more. I got him another bowlful, with the same results: he emptied it and wanted moremoreMORE. If memory serves, he ate either three or four bowls full of broccoli rice casserole that night.

When he decided he had had his fill of the casserole, I got a piece of my grandmother's made-from-scratch chocolate cream pie (for myself, naturally) and decided to see if my hungry tyke would like to try some. I gave him a bite, and -- GASP! -- he spit it back out at me. And I asked him, "Whose child are you?" Or so the family legend goes.

Ever since a very young age, he has asked for broccoli rice casserole for his birthday dinner. For several years, that was all he ate -- just two or three sides of the casserole, no entree, no dessert. For tonight's dinner, he had a cup of broccoli cheese soup, grilled chicken breast, mashed potatoes, and the infamous casserole. Good eatin'.

When we went back out to our car, we discovered that there was a very large flock of grackles in the tree we'd parked under. If you're familiar with the bird, you know what that means: our car was covered in large splotches of grackle poo. Yuck.

Then, as we walked up to the car, I felt a telltale splat on the top of my head.

Yep. That's right.

I used to merely dislike grackles. Now I really, really hate them.

And I'm really, really glad that my hubby carries tissues in the car.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Larry's New Web Site!

My niece Courtney is really the coolest ever. Anyone who has ever met her knows this.

She has recently proven it again by creating and committing to update (daily, no less! She may be a little nuts too) a web site for Larry so that everyone can know what's going on with him. My own paltry updates are here and here.

So if you want to read more about Larry, you may do so here. You can also see a couple of pictures of him and his beautiful family. It's always nice to have a face for who you're sending prayers and good thoughts toward, I think. Feel free to sign their guestbook to let them know you were there. I'll be sending them a link to my blog.

You know what? I have the technology. I'll just post my favorite of the pictures here for you. This is a shot of them after one of Andrew's football games. Susan is on the left; Larry is on the right.

Thanks again for praying, y'all.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Update on Larry, December 1

As my hubby left Corpus to come home, he called and gave me his last in-person update.

Larry's 24-hour cultures came back last night, and he's negative for everything. They had thought he had pneumonia, but he didn't, just stuff in his lungs, I guess, plus a fever after surgery. He also was negative for strep, staph, all the nasty bugs you worry about.

He is still on a ventilator (he was breathing on his own after the surgery), but hopefully they will be able to wean him off it within 2-3 days.

Yesterday, when he was asked to wiggle his toes, he picked his foot up off the bed. He didn't have sensation in his feet at that point, but this morning when Dianne (Robert's other sister) grabbed his big toe, she said she saw him react (obviously he can't talk, with the ventilator tube). Apparently motor control comes back before sensation.

Hubby said when Larry is ready to leave the ICU, he will be transferred directly to a rehabilitation facility in Houston, which will be much better for everyone.

He's doing as well as can be expected, but he still has a long road ahead of him, and Susan is understandably still very concerned about him and probably not sleeping well. Continued prayers for them and for their son (who visited over the weekend and headed back home this morning to go to school) would be much appreciated.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Please Pray for My Brother-in-Law

I know I owe you a book post, and there are at least three other posts I'd like to do, but today, I hope you'll forgive me. We've had a family emergency.

Last night, we got the late-night phone call everyone dreads. Our brother-in-law Larry (married to hubby's sister Susan) had been coming home from a hunting trip when he got in a bad car accident, fracturing his C5 vertebra (one of the ones in his neck).

He had surgery this morning, during which the neurosurgeon put plates in front and back of that bone, as well as relieving pressure on the other vertebrae. Apparently his discs were bulging on the C3, C4, C6, and C7 vertebrae (I hope I have that right). The doc relieved the pressure and found that as the surgery went on, Larry was getting a lot more nerve signal to his extremities. He had no brain damage and no other serious injuries other than his neck, but given the spinal cord injury, he's lucky to have survived.

After the surgery, as the family had been warned might happen, Larry was put on a ventilator (he had previously been breathing on his own). That was a tough setback for Susan, as I imagine it would be for any wife. I can't imagine visiting my husband in the ICU on a ventilator. Additionally, Larry has now developed pneumonia, so the next 24-48 hours are critical. They always tell you that, but it's so true. Larry really needs both his body and the medication to fight the pneumonia well, and quickly.

Larry and Susan have a son who is a senior in high school this year. Andrew is there as well, visiting his dad. Larry is responding to Andrew, even with the ventilator and the sedation.

I'll try to keep this post updated (or make new posts) as things change. I'd really appreciate the prayers and good thoughts of anyone who happens to be reading this.

Thanks, y'all.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Are We There Yet?

The answer, unfortunately, is no. Not if I want to win NaNoWriMo, which, of course, being the competitive geek that I am, I do.

While my co-workers were in town from Taiwan, I got behind in my writing, as I knew I would. To the tune of about 7,000 words.

Some people would give up. Those people do not have the mile-wide stubborn streak that I do. I will hit 50k by the 30th or die trying. Don't ask which I think is more likely.

Anyway, since I haven't posted in three days, I went back through my recent crap writing to see what was post-able. I have one scene that I wrote over two days -- the scene in which my main character gives birth. It WORE ME OUT, y'all. And it was 3600 words long. So I won't be posting it. And at this point I pretty much feel like everything is crap. On the bright side, today has been my highest output ever -- 3200 words -- putting me "only" 4000 words behind. My goal is to catch up this weekend so I can be on target to hit 50k over the holiday weekend.

The following is a scene in which my main character and her hubby have a rare argument. Hope you enjoy it. And hey, if you're sick to death of novel excerpts, let me know and I'll find something else to post. OK? OK.


When she got home that night, Anh was unusually tired. She took off her work shoes, threw her work clothes in the hamper, and put on her favorite, completely comfortable maternity sweats. “Aaaah. So much better,” she breathed.

She thought she’d take a few minutes to read a book on the couch before starting dinner. The next thing she knew, Greg was stroking her arm softly. “Anh… dinner’s ready, honey.”

“Whaaa?” she mumbled sleepily. “I was about to make dinner. I must have fallen asleep. She yawned and stretched.

"I guess you’ll have to settle for the dinner I made, little mama.” Greg smiled at her tenderly. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for this woman, carrying his child, he thought.

“You’re so good to me,” Anh smiled, still sleepy. “What’s for dinner?”

“Nothing fancy, just some chicken and vegetables. Good for you and our baby, though.”

“Sounds wonderful. Speaking of the little guy, we really should settle on a name. I’ve been looking through the baby name books, and there are a few I like. I think I sent you a list in email a couple of days ago when I was looking through it.”

“Yeah, I seem to recall something like that.” Greg served Anh’s portion onto a plate and handed it to her.

“Well, do you have any opinions? It’s not like we have forever to decide. We’re seven weeks out, if he’s on time.” They sat down at the table with their plates.

“I just don’t want to name him anything too trendy.”

“Trendy? Did I have trendy names on the list? I mean, I didn’t pick John or Matthew or Charles or whatever, but there’s nothing wrong with, say, Brandon, is there?”

Greg looked uncomfortable. “I was kind of considering naming him after me. You know, a junior.”

Anh sighed, trying not to sound too impatient. “Really? That just causes so many problems. You’re Greg. Is he Little Greg? Junior? Do we call him by his middle name? If he were going to be a third, we could call him Trey or something, but Junior just sounds so…”

“Yeah, I know. Not a classy name. I hadn’t really thought of what to call him. But I’m a dad, having a boy. I’m proud of him. I want him to carry my name.”

“And he will carry your name – your last name. But why carry all your names? It just makes life so confusing.”

“Can you at least consider it? Put it on your list as a possible name? Or do you hate my name that much?”

“I don’t hate your name, Greg. I just don’t want to end up calling my son Little Greg or Junior. Nicknames are fine, if we could find one that works. And I know a lot of people who raise their sons calling them ‘buddy,’ like, ‘hey buddy, it’s time for your bath.’ I don’t really want that either. I want to be his mother, not his pal.”

Greg looked affronted. “I’ve always looked at those dads calling their sons buddy and thought how sweet that was,” he admitted.

“Seriously? Who are you?”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I just mean it’s a stupid thing to call a kid. I mean, come up with something original, some nickname that fits your kid, not something that every other soccer dad is yelling at his kid on the field. ‘Go after the ball, buddy! Make a goal, buddy!’ It just sounds dumb when eight sets of parents are yelling the same thing, and I think it’s confusing to the kids. What are you supposed to think when some parent from the opposing team is yelling your nickname at you?”

“Apparently, that your parents didn’t come up with a very good nickname.” Greg crossed his arms.

“Well, exactly. Wait, why are you looking at me like that?”

“You’ve insulted my name and my nickname. Anything else you’d like to take a swing at?”

“Oh, come on, Greg. I was not. Be reasonable. So I don’t want to name the baby Greg. So what?”

“What do you mean, so what? I do! That’s so what!” Greg’s voice had risen.

“Don’t yell at me! It’s just a name, for crying out loud. Why don’t we talk about this later, when you’ve settled down.”

“When I’ve…? You want me to settle down? You’re the one ranting about ‘buddy this’ and ‘buddy that’!”

“I am not ranting. I was just saying that people should come up with original nicknames, that’s all.”

“Whatever you were saying, you were saying sarcastically and at high volume,” Greg sneered.

“Whatever,” Anh snorted. “I’m done with this conversation for now. I guess we’re going to have to pick out a name some other time.”

“Fine,” Greg snarled.

“Fine,” Anh sneered in return. They left their dishes, with half their dinner uneaten, on the table, and retreated to opposite ends of the house. Greg clicked on the TV and found a basketball game on ESPN, which he watched at high volume, and Anh picked up her latest book, as far from the cacophony of the TV as she could manage.

An hour and a half later, Anh came back to the kitchen and noisily cleaned up the diner dishes. She figured that Greg had cooked, so she should clean; it was their usual rule. She also wanted to give him a chance to say something. He never looked up from the TV though, so she finished up in the kitchen, got ready for bed, and went to bed alone.

You’re not supposed to let the sun set on your anger, she told herself. Yet here I am, going to bed with an unresolved argument. I should go and tell Greg I’m sorry for overreacting. Just as quickly, she thought, He was just as much to blame as I was. Why should I apologize? Why should I be the one to suck it up? They rarely fought, and it troubled her that they had this evening. It also troubled her that they hadn’t come to an agreement on a name for the baby. Surely once they sat down and talked reasonably, they could figure something out.

God, what’s the answer here? she prayed silently. Am I supposed to go to him? I really don’t want to. I know we shouldn’t be fighting, and I don’t want this fight to continue. What should I do? Although she didn’t “hear” a direct answer, she knew the right thing to do would be to humble herself, open the lines of communication, and talk to Greg. The trouble was that she still didn’t WANT to.

God, if that’s what you want me to do, help me to be willing. I love –You-, even if I’m not too crazy about Greg right now, she prayed. When she continued to feel as if she should talk to Greg, she sighed in resignation, pulled her bloated body out of bed, and went into the living room. Greg appeared to be still immersed in his game.

“Greg?” she started tentatively. “I’m wondering if we can talk about this.”

“Later,” he snapped.

She looked at the game. It didn’t appear to be particularly close, so she could only assume he was still angry. “Greg, I don’t want us to fight. I’m sorry for saying those things. We can find a name we agree on..”

“Can we?” He eyed her warily.

“Well… I hope we can, anyway. I’m willing to try. I don’t want to go to bed with us still angry at each other. That’s not right. And we’ve never done it. I don’t want to start now.”

At that he softened. “You’re right. I don’t want to be angry with you either. You’re my Anh. You’re the mother of my child. I love you with everything I have.”

“I love you too, honey.”

“Can you at least consider naming our baby after me?”

“Sure, honey. Can we talk about it tomorrow? I’d love it if you’d come to bed with me. I’m really tired, but you know I sleep much better when you’re with me.”

“Sure.” He turned off the game. “I’m not paying attention to the game anyway. I’m just stewing.”

“You’ve been stewing that long? How come you didn’t come and talk to me?”

“I didn’t want to fight anymore.”

“Me neither. So let’s agree: no more fighting about names. Talking ok, fighting bad.”

He laughed genuinely and hugged her. “Deal.”

“Oooh, that was nice. Do that again.”

He hugged her again, holding her longer this time, stroking her back softly, just the way she liked. She melted into him, her head on his chest, eyes closed, enjoying the contact.

“Um, Anh? I’m afraid something has come between us.”

“What? I thought we just cleared up this whole name business!”

He laughed and pointed at her basketball-shaped belly. “I was referring to our unborn son.”

She laughed and playfully socked his arm. “Such a kidder. Now come to bed so we can make up for real.”

“Now there’s a deal I can’t refuse!” He grinned.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NaNoWriMo, Day 17

I've been terrible about posting here, I know.

Truthfully, I've been pretty bad about writing recently. Today's word count goal is 28,334, and I'm at a measley 23,275. Ouch! Plus, the likelihood of getting any writing done tomorrow is slim and none; I'm on a business trip and tomorrow is insanely busy. I'd hoped to do some catching up today, but I've only managed not to fall too much further behind. Not quite the same thing.

Anyway, the excerpt I'll post today is from Anh's teenage years. I want to visit her during her teen years, when she's in college, and after she's married. So far most of my writing has taken place after her marriage, so I need to go back and fill in some of the blanks (the order of the story can come later, as can the transitions). I won a writing class that's taking place in conjunction with NaNoWriMo, and it was pointed out to me that I needed to fill in Anh's relationship with her parents more fully. This will be one of several scenes that will hopefully accomplish that.


Anh, age 15

“Linh, really. Think about it. Do you not think it’s strange that we’re the only people we know who have to check in with our mommy every day after school?” Her mocking tone told Linh just how sick Anh was of this practice. It had been a rule as long as either of them could remember, but Anh was in high school now, and really? Who in high school had to check in with their parents after school?

“I hadn’t really thought about it, to be honest. It’s just the way it’s always been.”

“OK, I know that, but we were 5 and 8 once too. We’re not little kids anymore. When do we get to grow up? When do we get to not be the freaks in our class?”

“You know, in case you hadn’t noticed, there aren’t a lot of Asians in our part of town. It’s not like I feel like a total freak, but it’s not like I feel like everyone else, either.”

Anh knew exactly what Linh meant. Her friends regularly griped about their blond hair, but Anh would have given anything to have blond hair and blue eyes – the all-American girl look. When she looked at her own long, dark straight hair, yellowish-tan complexion, and almond eyes, she didn’t see classic Asian beauty; she only saw that she didn’t look like the girls around her.

By the time she and Linh walked through the front door, Anh was a bundle of teenage discontent. “Hello, girls!” Mom greeted them with a smile, just as she did every afternoon. “How was your day? What did you learn today?”

Anh managed to keep from rolling her eyes as she went through the afternoon recitation of the day’s events and what she learned in school, but only barely. Linh delightedly launched into a long story of her teacher praising her work in front of the class. Anh tried to drift quietly away, but her mother pinned her there with a look, so she stayed.

“Do you have somewhere you would rather be, daughter?” she asked Anh in Vietnamese. “You seem quite anxious to leave the conversation. Do you not want to hear about your sister’s day?”

“Of course I want to hear about Linh’s day,” Anh replied demurely, trying to keep the sarcastic edge from her voice. Linh shot her a look anyway. Fortunately, Mom didn’t notice. She settled in like a caged rat waiting for release.

Ten minutes later, she politely asked for permission to study with friends. Again, Linh gave her a funny look; Anh had already told her she didn’t have any homework that day. No way would Linh tell on her to Mom, though.

“Sure, Anh. I think that’s a wonderful idea. I want to make sure you keep your grades up this year. I’ve been really proud of you and how you’ve been doing.” Anh felt a little guilty at her ploy to leave the house, even if it was just to hang out with friends, listen to music, and read teen magazines. She wasn’t planning on this speech from Mom. It was like Mom knew. Was it true she had eyes in the back of her head?

Shaking her head slightly to clear her thoughts, Anh put on her best smile and said, “Thanks, Mom. I’ll be home by dinner time.”

Mom returned her smile and patted her on the cheek. “Have fun too, Anh. Enjoy your time with your friends.”

“I will Mom, thanks.” And with unfamiliar emotions swirling (who was that and what did she do with my mom?), Anh walked out the door.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Links to other stuff, plus NaNo, Day 11

I figure some of y'all are probably sick to death of me talking about NaNoWriMo by now. Heck, I'm sick of me talking about it. Unfortunately, it's not even half over. Hubby has pretty well forbidden me to ever do it again, which at this point is fine with me. Crazy Christmas shopping season is looking like a cakewalk right now.

Anyway, I have a couple of links for you to check out if you're sick of my attempts at writing fiction. If you're not, I'll post another sample. Best of both worlds, yadda yadda.

Apparently when the economy went crash (is that what that loud noise was last month?) it took publishing with it. This excellent post talks about what you can do about it. Namely, buy a book.

Anne Jackson
is writing a book that I really want to read when it comes out. In the meantime, her blog is often thought-provoking, like this post, which asks if men and women can really be friends (and yes, someone quoted "When Harry Met Sally" in a comment). Lots of interesting feedback in the comments.

Last and least, I have a post up at Inspired Bliss talking about The Shack and other stuff.

So, here's today's scene from my, um, novel (that just doesn't sound right). I actually wrote it a few days ago, but nothing after this will make sense unless you read this. In it, Anh and Greg announce their pregnancy to her parents. It's long, so settle in with a drink and a snack.


“As always, Mrs. Nguyen, you’ve cooked an amazing dinner,” Greg complimented Mom. Anh had always hoped that she would correct him, asking him to call her Han, or better yet, call her Mom, but it had never happened. He preferred to remain completely respectful and call her by her married name. He was also careful to compliment her cooking at every opportunity, knowing she took great pride in her cooking skills. Phanh quickly translated for his wife.

“Thank you Greg.” It was the only time she ever really smiled at him. Anh watched the two of them carefully, but she was too jaded to hope that Greg would win her mother over with his charm on this visit. She had been disappointed too many times. It hadn’t mattered that Greg treated her like a queen, that he treated her parents wonderfully and respectfully, that he worshipped God in the same way as her family. No, the only thing that mattered to her parents was his background. His family was lovely and respected in the community, but they were American, of western European descent, not of Vietnamese descent. Her parents saw it as a betrayal of their hard work in bringing their family to America that their daughter should marry an American and dilute her cultural heritage. Anh simply followed her heart to the man she loved. Neither side understood the other; both sides were saddened by the divide.

Anh snapped out of her reverie as her mother was bringing Linh’s favorite ginger cookies, warm from the oven, to the table for dessert. Linh eagerly grabbed the first one from the top of the pile, knowing it was her privilege to do so. She broke it in half, took a moment to inhale the sweet scent with her eyes closed rapturously, then opened her eyes and took a large bite.

“Mom, why is it that I can’t make these cookies to taste like yours, even with your recipe?” Anh wondered. “I’ve tried over and over, but yours are so much better.”

“It’s because I don’t follow the recipe, daughter,” her mother replied in Vietnamese. “I always do a little something different.”

“What is it, then? Tell me!” Anh noticed that Greg had tuned out, since he couldn’t understand their conversation. Not that he would care; even if they were speaking in English, he would be bored listening to them talk about recipes, she thought.

“It’s not really something I can tell you. I just know when the batter tastes right.”

Anh sighed. “Ah, so I will have to come and watch you, just like I did when I was a little girl.”

“And would that be so bad?”

“No, Mom, not at all.” Anh smiled. “I would like to spend more time here anyway.” She nudged Greg with her knee to let him know she was leading up to The Announcement.

“Oh? Why is that? You didn’t lose your job, did you?”

“No, nothing like that. I just need to learn to bake cookies properly.”

Her mother shot her a quizzical look.

“Because I’m pregnant, and the mom needs to know how to make cookies.”

There was suddenly a lot of noise in the room: Linh whooped with glee, Phanh grumbled something unintelligible, and Han shrieked loudly. It was hard to tell what her mother’s reaction meant, Anh thought. Clearly Linh was delighted; now she was hugging Anh and Greg and congratulating them in English. Phanh had turned away so his face could not be read, and Han was holding one hand over her mouth, a look of shock on her face.

“Mom? Dad? What do you think?”

Dad answered first. “I think that you married someone that your mother and I didn’t approve of, and now you’re having his child. That’s what I think.”

Mom didn’t answer, just sat with her hand over her mouth. Anh thought she looked a bit like she’d gone catatonic.

Greg couldn’t understand the conversation, but he certainly could tell it wasn’t going well. “Do we need to go?” he murmured in Anh’s ear. She shook her head slightly. As horrific as this scene was, she couldn’t leave now, not with things like this.

“Dad, this is your grandchild you’re talking about. Your first grandchild. Mom? Do you have anything to say?”

Silence greeted her question. Her father refused to speak further, and it didn’t appear that her mother was currently capable of speech.

“Maybe you’d better go,” Linh murmured. “I’ll stay, and I’ll call you later.” She squeezed Anh’s hand reassuringly.

Anh felt slightly better knowing that one member of her family was excited about the new life growing inside her, but her parents’ reaction was as bad as her worst fears. She and Greg gathered their things and closed the front door softly behind them.

“Whew. That was brutal,” sighed Greg. “Worse than I thought. Not as bad as I feared. They didn’t throw anything.”

Anh was too shell-shocked to giggle; their reaction had been too horrible to joke about just yet. “That was bad,” she agreed.

“I’m so sorry, babe,” he said, pulling her into his arms by the car. He held her for ten seconds, stroking her back protectively. “I promise to love you and our child forever, no matter what.”

“Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work? Isn’t parental love supposed to be unconditional? Anh didn’t even try to stop the flow of the tears that slid silently down her cheeks.

“Come on, love. Let’s go home.”

“You talked me into it.” He walked around to her side, opening her door for her and helping her into the car. He made sure she was seated comfortably, kissed her tear streaked cheek, and closed the door gently before climbing in the driver’s seat and starting the car.

“What would the queen of my world like to do with the rest of our evening?”

“I don’t know, Greg. I’m so lost right now. What will we do if they keep on being like this? I mean, I could deal with it if they were a little chilly to you – polite instead of really warm – but what if they just write me off?”

“I really, really hope that doesn’t happen, Anh. But if it does, we will do what we would do anyway: we will raise our child with all the love we have for him or her. And we will love each other. And we will be our family. This child will still have grandparents. Don’t get me wrong; I want to include your parents in this child’s life. But that’s up to them, not to me. And if they count themselves out, it’s their loss. They will be losing out on the love of their first grandchild. That’s their tragedy. I hope it doesn’t happen that way, truly I do. But I’m not going to let their stubbornness stand in the way of my family’s happiness. If they want to be that selfish, that’s their business. I’m going to be a daddy for the first time, and there’s no way their attitude is going to get in the way of my joy!” He stopped speaking, breathing hard.

“Wow.” Anh was impressed with the passion her husband felt on this topic. She really wasn’t sure what else to say.

“All I’m saying is that they might abandon you, but I never will,” he said quietly as he pulled out of the driveway and onto the road.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

She reached over and took his hand, placing it on her flat belly. He glanced at her, then back at the road.

“The two of you, you are my life. You are my family.”

She smiled. “I love you, too.”

They rode in silence for a while, glad that they had found each other, even if it had cost the relationship with her parents. She wondered if there was any non-Vietnamese man who could have made her family happy. Not that it mattered. This was clearly the man for her.

At home, Greg unlocked the front door and turned on a couple of lights. Anh took a moment to let her eyes skip over the home they’d made here: the comfortable couch where they still liked to snuggle with a movie and popcorn, the homey kitchen with the warm, buttery wall color she’d envisioned playing off the neutral of the floor tiles. The play of colors and patterns that made her home feel so warm and welcoming to her, in contrast to her parents’ stark Asian décor. She was sure it was yet another reason they would choose to dislike Greg, although most of the decorating choices had been hers, not his. They would think it was his American influence, when really it was her own sensibilities that had created this home where she felt comfortable, loved, and hopeful, despite what had happened this evening.

“You know what? We’ve made a great home here. It’s not the fanciest, but it’s ours, and I love it. I can’t wait to bring our baby into our home.”

Greg regarded her thoughtfully. “I agree. There’s a reason you and I fit together so well. We don’t always agree on everything, but the important stuff? Like a hand in a glove.”

Anh sighed, and suddenly exhaustion hit her like a brick in the face. The combination of the pregnancy and the day’s events almost brought her to her knees. “Wow. I’m pooped all of a sudden. I vote we go to bed. Like, now. Or at least, I’m going to.”

Greg swept her up in his arms like she didn’t weigh anything and held her tenderly. “Let me carry you,” he told her. “You can just relax. I’ll take care of you.”

“That’s silly, Greg.” She yawned. “I have to wash my face, and brush my teeth.” She rested her head against his shoulder.

“Plenty of time for that in the morning, m’love. You’re worn out. Why don’t you just let me take your shoes off for you and go straight to sleep? You know you want to.” His tone of voice was slightly wicked. She had to struggle to hear him; she was only half awake.

“Mmmm. Mmmkay,” she managed.

He placed her gently on her side of the king sized bed, took her shoes off, and pulled the covers around her, tucking her in. He watched her face as she fell into a serene sleep.

“I’ll love you forever, Anh. They can’t stop me. I’m not going anywhere,” he whispered, too softly for her to hear, even if she had been awake.

Then he went around the house, turned out the lights, pulled off his own shoes and clothes, and slipped under the covers next to Anh. There were days he couldn’t believe his good fortune at having found a wife like her, even if he did have to put up with her family. In some ways it wouldn’t be all bad if they wrote her off. Simpler. Not that she would see it that way. And of course, he would do everything in his power to make this woman happy.

He reached out to hold her hand under the covers, but when she felt the contact, she instinctively turned toward him in her sleep, spooning around him. He sighed, releasing all of today’s tension from his body. He’d walk through fire for Anh. Hell, he did today. He’d do it every day for her and that baby.

Tomorrow’s another day, he told himself, just before he fell into a deep sleep.

Friday, November 7, 2008

NaNoWriMo, Day 7

Another writing sample for you today.

I guess I haven't really posted anything about what my novel is actually about, so here's the Reader's Digest Condensed Version.

My MC (main character) is a Vietnamese woman who moved to the U.S. with her family around age 8. She has a sister, 4 years younger than she. Her father is an engineer. Her mother is a stay at home mom who has never learned much English. Both her parents are very culturally conservative, and they'd like their daughters to marry men who are Vietnamese, or at least Asian, to preserve their cultural identity. They're not racist at all, only proud of their culture.

Anh (the MC) ends up falling in love with and marrying an American man (the aforementioned Greg).

This is a story I've seen many times in real life, but I've never seen it in a novel, so I'm writing it. The human angle of the stories is fascinating, as I've found by talking to all of my friends who have lived through it. Some details are taken from people I know, but in general, Anh and Greg are creations of my imagination.

Today's snippet is what I've written today. Anh is unpacking boxes at their house after returning from their honeymoon.


Anh sighed wearily. One more box, she told herself, and then she’d give in and get some sleep. She found the box cutters hiding behind a stack of mail on the counter and considered which box should be her last victim for today. You’d think that a single person wouldn’t have so much stuff, she told herself, not for the first time. Greg had given up and gone to bed a half hour ago.

She chose a box marked “Kitchen Stuff” and sliced it open. Such a satisfying thing, slicing open a box, she thought. She really couldn’t imagine what was in this box; all of her usual kitchen things had already been put away. That’s why she’d chosen this box; her curiosity had gotten the best of her.

When the flaps fell open, so did Anh’s mouth. This box wasn’t from this move; it was from much longer ago than that. These were things from Mom’s kitchen that she’d sent with Anh when she moved away from home. Most of them were things that Anh no longer used, but she’d kept them for sentimental reasons. She pulled them out of the box one by one, picturing them in Mom’s hands: the wooden spoons, the garlic press (both she and Mom had upgraded from this dollar store version), the cheese grater, the old pasta pot that her parents had had since they were married. Though many of the items had seen better days, they were Mom’s, and now hers, and she would move them from kitchen to kitchen, she knew. She looked around the limited cabinet space in the kitchen of the so-called starter home and wondered where her precious keepsakes would find a place.

While her eyes were wandering, they found the plain, contractor-white walls. Hmmm, she thought. We’ll definitely have to do something about that. Nothing like a little color to make a house feel like home. She always favored a creamy, buttery yellow in the kitchen; it just felt like home to her. Other rooms could have bolder colors, or a nice, rich neutral for the other décor to play off of. Since this was her first home as a wife, she’d have to give it careful consideration, much more so than the many apartments she’d called home. She wondered what Greg would have to say about her painting ambitions. Maybe I’ll bribe him to help me, she thought, and grinned to herself.

But for now, back to business, girl! She quickly found homes for the pasta pot and the utensils. The only thing left in the box now were some cheerfully colored dish towels, again from her mother. She found a drawer for them, putting them under her nicer, newer towels. Then she sliced open the bottom of the now-empty box, flattened it, and put it in the pile of empty boxes, noting with satisfaction how the pile had grown.

She yawned; it was after midnight, and she was really tired after a long Saturday of unpacking the house. She noted with satisfaction that there was only a handful of boxes left to be unpacked. Picking up the shoes she’d shed earlier in the evening, she slipped quietly into the master bedroom so as not to wake Greg.

He’d left her bedside lamp on so she could see. So thoughtful. Just as with every time she entered the room, she breathed in deeply. The candles she burned in the master bathroom spread the most lovely scents around the master suite: lavender, jasmine, and other scents she couldn’t identify but loved just the same. Greg didn’t mind the floral scents, saying he enjoyed having a woman’s touch in the house.

Looking around her new bedroom, she was grateful to Greg’s parents for passing along their old bedroom suite. She’d want to buy her own someday of course, but for now, this furniture was sturdy and at least not ugly. And it matched. Lots of newlyweds went into debt for furniture this nice, she reminded herself.

Tiptoeing into the bathroom, she brushed her teeth and hair and put on her pajamas, which she’d laid out for herself earlier in the evening when Greg went to bed.

She tried to get into bed carefully enough not to wake Greg, but he was a light sleeper. “Hey babe, did you finally give up?” he mumbled groggily, snuggling up to her.

“Ooh, you’re warm. Yes, I did,” she replied, settling into his embrace. Wow, how did she ever fall asleep before Greg was in her bed? She had no idea.

She relaxed immediately, and for the first time in her week-old marriage, she fell asleep before Greg.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Today, History

For the most part today, I've been encouraged by the attitudes of the bloggers I follow on twitter. Many were vocal McCain supporters, and yet they twittered today of their hope for President-Elect Obama, for their prayers for unity for this country, and of their intention to move forward and mend relationships where they can.

There's a reason I admire these folks.

One well thought out post in particular I'd like you to read is from Brad Ruggles. He is a graphic designer extraordinaire, and I'm blessed to have a t-shirt designed by him and produced through Carlos Whittaker's blog that I love. Brad's post is what I would say if I were that eloquent, which I'm not.

So what are you waiting for? Go read it. That's probably the first and last time I'll talk about politics here, and that's really only because I think it has affected us spiritually. God, please heal our nation and bring us together!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

NaNoWriMo, Day 4

As of yesterday, I was 2000 words behind the target. Well, 1999, but why not round up? I had 3001 words and was supposed to have 5000.

Today I'm pretty determined to get over 5000 before I go to bed. I'm at 4775 now, making it my most productive day so far.

I've decided I'll post scenes from my novel here, but you probably won't get a real narrative flow from what I post. Ideally (hahaha), I'd like to publish this someday, so I don't want to throw the whole thing on the web as a first draft.

Anyway, here's today's scene. In this scene, Anh (the main character) and her roommate Liza are coming home after meeting Greg, who is clearly interested in Anh. I intend to open the novel at Greg and Anh's wedding, so it will be no secret that she's meeting her future husband. At this first meeting, Greg tags along to a party with the roommates, and this is their conversation when they return to their apartment that night.


Liza unlocked the door while Anh yawned and stretched exaggeratedly.

“Oh, don’t give me that!” Liza warned her roommate. “It’s not like you’re going to go to bed without discussing Greg with me!”

Anh giggled. “It’s not like I want to!”

Liza grinned at her roommate. “That’s m’girl! Tell me what he said when you met!”

Anh put her purse in her room while she though of a suitable reply. “I don’t think it’s really what he said as much as the look on his face. It’s almost like I was a painting. Or a math problem he was trying to figure out. He’s an engineering major. I couldn’t decide if he was confused or admiring. Maybe both.”

“Could be. It was definitely an admiring look that I saw. It looked to me like he’d never seen anyone so beautiful. And you are – don’t get me wrong. You’re gorgeous! But the look on his face was like he was going to follow you home like a puppy dog.”

“Well, he did follow us to the party…”

“True. And he didn’t really look like he wanted to go home. Too bad we went together to the reception on campus. You guys could have hung out for a lot longer if you hadn’t had me along.” Liza frowned.

“I dunno. I’ve never been one of those people who thinks you should stare into each other’s eyes and talk until sunrise. I’m sure I’ll see him again.”

“I was going to ask if he got your number.”

“What do you think?” Both girls laughed.

Just then the phone rang. Two necks snapped around to look at it, then the girls stared at each other and roared with laughter. “You don’t think…” said Anh, just as Liza said, “Is it him?”

Anh jumped off the couch to check the caller I.D. Sure enough, it read Greg Stanton. “Holy crap, who doesn’t wait two days to call?” she shrieked.

“Well? Answer it!”

“Give me a second to catch my breath!”

Anh fanned her face and breathed deeply while the phone rang once more – three rings total now – and picked it up before the answering machine got to it.


“Is Anh there?” My gosh, thought Anh, I don’t remember his voice being so deep!

“This is she,” said Anh, remembering the prim phone manners her parents had drilled into her from the earliest of ages.

“Hi, Anh! This is Greg Stanton, who you met tonight. I wanted to call and let you know I had a great time tonight. Thanks for inviting me to the party.” What, a boy with manners? thought Anh.

“Of course! I had a great time too, Greg. I’m glad you came along. It’s always good to bring some new people into that group.”

“They’re a fun crowd without me, I bet.”

Anh laughed. “Well, they are. But it was fun having you there, and I am glad you came along.”

“Me too.” Anh could hear him draw in a deep breath. “Listen, I was wondering if you’d like to go to dinner sometime. Maybe next weekend?”

“Sure Greg, I’d love to! I have plans on Friday night…”

“Oh sure, of course you do. If you’re free on Saturday, that’s great with me.”

“Saturday is great.”

“Pick you up at your place at 7? 7:30?”

“Ummm, 7 is fine I guess.” She gave Greg directions to her apartment and hung up. She turned to face Liza, her eyes shining with excitement.

“So you’re going out next weekend?” Liza gasped. “And he didn’t even wait a day or two to call? What guy doesn’t wait? He must really like you!”

“Oh my gosh, I told him I was busy on Friday, and he clearly assumed I was going out with someone else. I didn’t get a chance to explain that we have a standing girls’ night on Fridays!” Anh dropped her face in her hands.

“There’s nothing wrong with that!” Liza grinned. “If he thinks there’s competition, he’ll have to bring his best game!”

“Did you meet him?” Anh gasped. “He’s gorgeous, funny, smart… he is the best game!”

“And that’s why there’s nothing wrong with letting him thing there may be someone else for him to have to compete against.” Liza smiled grimly. “Nothing like a little competition to bring out the best in a guy who likes a girl.”

“Wow, does that ever sound like the voice of experience!” Anh shook her head at her roommate’s logic.

“Trust me on this, Anh. Just let him think what he wants to think for a little bit. No harm, no foul.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

And Now, For Something Completely Different

Instead of posting a writing sample (of which there is far too little, frankly), I thought I'd post a little something else I've been writing, to avoid writing NaNoWriMo stuff.

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, I present:

You Might Be Doing NaNoWriMo If:
  • You plan to drink 87 gallons of coffee during November.
  • Every snippet of conversation you hear or take part in is potential novel fodder.
  • You know the location of every coffee shop within a 30 mile radius – and which ones have free wi-fi.
  • You’ve noticed people staring at you as you mutter and scribble in your notebook, which is your constant companion.
  • You own an AlphaSmart.
  • You know what an AlphaSmart is.
  • You know people by their NaNo screen names rather than their real names.
  • You don’t know what date it is, but you can tell anyone what your word count goal is for the day.
  • You have regular conversations with the writing critics in your head. Maybe sometimes you win.
Feel free to leave your own additions in the comments... these are just the ones I've thought of in the last couple of days.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NaNoWriMo, Day 1, etc.

So, to clear up a few things from the other day...

The dogs have survived thus far. No more beads have been spilled. Given that my dearly departed dog was mostly a lump, these guys are just a great deal more active; they take a little getting used to.

My kiln is no longer broken because my hubby is a hero and took it apart and fixed it. Yay hubby!

And the beads that had every right to break did not. Can't beat that.

Now on to NaNoWriMo... or at least a little explanation. After talking with Hubby the Hero and a couple of other people, I've been pretty well convinced not to post my entire novel efforts on my blog. There are a couple of reasons. One, to rephrase Anne Lamott, is that it will be a crappy first draft. I won't have time to revise like I'd like before posting each day. Secondly, if my entire novel is posted online, any (purely theoretical) chances of being published might be diminished if the whole thing can already be found online, even in "crappy first draft" form.

All that to say, I will post snippets, but not the whole thing. Somehow I doubt that anyone's disappointment will be life-altering.

I went to a Midnight Write last night and got a little over 1300 words down in an hour and a half. Not bad, but not a full day's output. Unfortunately, I've been lazy today, so that's going to be it for today. To hear friends tell it, I should write like I'm already "seeing" it in my brain, or like a movie is filmed: one scene at a time, with no real regard for what goes in what order until later when editing occurs.

After all those disclaimers, I'd also like to say that I really haven't named any of my characters. I'm currently calling my main character Anh Nguyen, but I know her first name will change, and I think her last name will change as well. Other characters haven't been named at all. I have a great deal of research to do that isn't done yet. I also haven't named the novel.

My premise is that Anh moves to the U.S. with her family around age 8 from Vietnam. Her parents are very traditional and want to raise their children in a very traditional manner, but Anh and her sister become westernized because they are raised here. I don't want to tell too much, but I want to visit Anh in her teens, in college, and in adulthood.

I want the novel to open on Anh's wedding day, but I'm not happy with that scene as I wrote it last night. Here is a snippet of a scene from Anh's teenage years.


“Hey Mom, I’m home!” Anh called out in Vietnamese, her usual greeting on arriving home from school. She tried not to show her irritation. Of all her friends, she was the only sophomore who had to check in every day after school before she could do anything else. Most of her friends’ moms worked, and if they didn’t, they realized that it wasn’t a big deal if their daughters went somewhere else after school without coming home first. She hoped her mom would come around to the standard way of thinking, but so far, she was still the 10th grade freak.

She plopped her books down in her room and wondered why the house was so quiet. Mom was always home to greet her after school. The TV was off, as usual, but there was no music playing, no piano tinkling softly from the front living room, no sign of her mother in the kitchen. “Mo-om! Where are you?” Anh called. Silence greeted her.

As she trotted through the house looking for her mom, Anh noticed odd little things out of place: the breakfast dishes still unwashed in the sink, her mother’s embroidery left out by her chair. Mom was the world’s most fastidious housekeeper; this clearly was not right.

She picked up the kitchen phone and dialed Dad’s office phone line, jiggling the cord impatiently while it rang one, two, three, four times. When the voice mail picked up, Anh growled into the phone and hung up. She called the number Dad had given her for reaching the secretary for his group. One ring. Two. Then, “Engineering group, Mrs. Littleton speaking, how may I help you?”

Thank God, Anh thought. She’d been starting to think she was the only human left alive anywhere.

“Hi, Mrs. Littleton. This is Anh Nguyen..”

“Oh, hi Anh! How are you? And how’s your mom doing?”

“My… mom? I was trying to reach my dad, and –“

“Well, hon, your dad left a couple of hours ago to take your mom to the hospital. It sounded pretty serious. I thought he would have called up to school. I’m sorry, sweetie. Did you just get home?”

“Um, yeah, and no one’s home.” Anh was trying to breathe carefully, trying not to cry while Mrs. Littleton was on the phone. “Do you know what was wrong with my mom?”

“I’m sorry Anh, I don’t. I know they were headed to Memorial, though. Do you have the number? I can look it up for you.”

“Yeah, that’d be great.” This came out in a squeak. The “not crying” thing wasn’t working so well, Anh noticed. How was she going to get hold of her dad in that huge hospital?

Mrs. Littleton put her on hold while she found the right number. Anh found a box of tissues and tried to clean up the mess she’d made of her face.

When Mrs. Littleton came back, she offered to call the hospital and find Mr. Nguyen for Anh. “No thanks, Mrs. Littleton,” Anh managed. “I think if I had to sit here and wait for the phone to ring, I’d go crazy.”

“OK, Anh. I can understand that. Please let me know if I can do anything, OK?”

“OK. Thanks, Mrs. Littleton. Bye-bye.”


That's all for today, folks... hope you enjoyed it!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

OK, Can I Be Done Now? Please?

I honestly don't remember the last time I was this frustrated.

I'll try to start at the beginning and type through the tears. I'm not a crier, so seriously, I have HAD IT right about now.

We are dog sitting for a friend while he and his girlfriend are out of state for a week and a half. He has two dogs, a small older dog and a large puppy (about 16 months old). The smaller one is a mini pinscher. The large one is a mutt but is brindle colored and has to be part boxer and maybe part greyhound.

In general they're great dogs, but I've had it with them today.

First of all, I'm not a believer in having animals on the furniture. This may stem from having been the owner of a 100+ lb dog, but whatever. It's one thing having a 7lb dog on your couch, but it's quite another having the 75lb dog join you, or just lounge there all day.

At any rate, Dog the Smaller found our sectional today. The sectional is where I keep my beads. He knocked over a sorted box of beads. Now, understand, in my three or so years of beading, I have never knocked over a box of beads. Dreaded it, but never done it. I shooed the dogs into the backyard and cleaned up the considerable mess. There are 12-15 compartments in a bead box, each with its own type of bead, and most of these were on the floor.

Less than an hour later, with Dog the Smaller upstairs with me, I heard another telltale crash. I jumped up, yelling, "NO YOU DIDN'T!" but of course I was too late; Dog the Larger had jumped up on the sectional and found the ONE bead box I'd left uncovered. He didn't dump it off the couch like the earlier box -- he apparently just stepped on the edge -- but most of the beads jumped up out of their compartments and into other compartments, and lots of them were scattered all over outside the box. I was furious. Again I shooed the dogs outside (this time in a much louder voice) and cleaned up the mess.

While outside, Dog the Larger managed to pull off his own collar and chew on the tags, almost chewing one completely off. Ah, puppies.

When Son the Younger, who is grounded, came home shortly after these altercations, I told him the dogs needed to be walked. He doesn't like walking the dogs, he informed me. It's the most frustrating thing he's ever done, he said. However, it's part of the job and the reason he's getting paid to watch the little darlings, so I told him it needed to be done. This didn't go over well, and we're not on the best of terms due to the grounding anyway, so there's been a lot of "not speaking to each other" going on this evening.

With all the stress, I decided the antidote would be to go out and melt some glass, enjoying my new kiln in the process. I haven't gotten a chance to try it out yet, and I'm just so excited by the fact that I don't have to traipse down to central Austin to have beads annealed anymore. So I went out to the garage, spent some time putting in the program for the annealing, and set about making some beads for a friend's mom for Christmas.

I noticed when I put the beads in the kiln that it wasn't as searingly hot as I remembered the kilns at the glass shop being, but I didn't think much of it because mine is built really differently. I just figured all the heat was centered way back in there.

Once I was done with four beads, I looked at the flashing display on my beloved new kiln: "tcr." What the heck? I pulled out my handy dandy book and looked it up. Turns out it's an error message: thermocouple reversed.

That's right: my kiln is broken.

So I put all my beads back in the fiber blanket, where they'll probably crack because they cooled down too quickly, and I came in to tell my hubby that the new, very expensive purchase is no good.

And now I have to do some work. I'd really just as soon secede from the household, and from life, for a bit, but I guess that's not an option, huh?

Mama said there'd be days like this.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Yes, I Am Completely Not Qualified for NaNoWriMo

And I will offer you proof!

This is the oldest writing sample I have. My mom left it for me in a photo book she made me a few years before she died. It's one of the very few non-photo items in the book.

At the top, in inimitable mom style, she notes the date I wrote the piece and that I was 8 years old and in third grade. Awww.

It is titled, "The Little Girl That Became a Princess"

Once upon a time a long, long time ago, there lived a girl who lived in a wood. Her mother made her do all the work of the house. Now this certain forest belonged to a great king whom the maiden had never heard of.

Now one day just as the maiden was getting water from the well, the king rode past the well and asked, "Lovely creature, what are you doing here?" and she answered, "I was born and raised here, and made to do all the dirty work of the house and I am quite used to it now." But has he had no children he said, "Come with me and be my princess. I will raise you well, and never hate you." She answered, "What will my mother do when she finds out?" He answered, "Let us flee and your mother will not be able to find us." (Her mother was a witch by trade in case you didn't know but had no way of finding anything she had lost.)

"Alright I'll go," said the maiden. "As long as I don't have to do any work." So they went off to his palace. There she grew up, married, and spent the rest of her life in that country. And from what I hear, she is ruling yet.

Now, perhaps a little history is in order. I asked my mom about this when she found it, and she laughed and said maybe she made me take out the trash that day. In truth, I was a whiny spoiled brat of a child who did nothing around the house, so I could very well have written something like this in retaliation to a simple request like being asked to take out the trash.

I was also madly in love with fairy tales of all kinds: princesses, kings, forests, all that jazz. The witch who could find things was from a Baba Yaga story in a fairy tale book.

It should be noted that nothing is misspelled in the original story, and I only fixed a couple of minor punctuation errors. Not too bad for an eight year old. I'm going to have to work a little longer to hit 50,000 words though!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Beauty is Just Outside Your Front Door

About four feet out my front door, to be exact. It took us years to find perennials to survive in that little space, but these have been great: a colorful, cheery shot of joy to start your day. They bloom all summer and well into the fall in full Texas sun.

Alas, the flowers last only a day. They are tissue paper. It's a reminder of the fragility and beauty of life, cleaning out my little flower bed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Just in Case There Was Any Doubt

Yes, I am in fact insane.

Just to prove it, I signed up for NaNoWriMo today.

Maybe you know or maybe you don't, but I've always wanted to write the Great American Novel. Now is my chance to do it, all in thirty short days. Which is about the scariest thing EVER.

I used to think I could write a book, if only I had a story. Well, I came up with a story -- a pretty good one, I think -- about five or six years ago, and it's stayed safely in my head. I've shared the idea with a couple of people, but I've never written it down. I've never seen a book (fiction or non) on the topic either, but I haven't done extensive research or anything. Maybe I'd better start.

So here's the question, dear reader: since I've been ignoring my blog so dreadfully, would you like to read my (quite possibly pathetic and/or insane) attempt at novel writing here on the blog? Odds are I won't be paying a lot of attention to the blog otherwise.

Let your vote be known!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In Which Lisa Talks About Everything, or Nothing

I really have a whole lotta nothing going on in my life, so here is today's ramble. Thanks for joining me in my crazy little world!

I got a free sample of soapnuts in my mailbox today from the fine folks at LaundryTree. I can't wait to try them! I will of course let y'all know how that works out. I've read about them and have been anxious to try them for myself, and the LaundryTree fairies (or Lisa at LaundryTree, who I love because she has an awesome first name and loves Austin) sent them to me. Yay!

Son the Older is coming home this weekend. This also makes me happy.

Son the Younger has found his niche in school: writing for the school newspaper. He loves it, and his teacher loves him and his writing. I'm so proud. *wipes away a tear*

My online game (World of Warcraft), which I haven't mentioned in forever, had a major overhaul on Tuesday, which made the sky come crashing down. Things are sort of working again now. They made players more powerful and the environment less powerful. It's like suddenly waking up as Hera (wife of Zeus, for those unfamiliar with Greek mythology). It's been fun to run through things that have been stopping us for months. Look: shiny!

See how twitter has ruined me for blogging? I can't even do a whole post on one topic anymore! Groooooooooooooan.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

An Open Letter: The Beginning of Forgiveness

In reading Mark Batterson's Wild Goose Chase, part of one chapter talks about the power of forgiveness.

I'm not a grudge carrier normally; I've seen the damage it does. But in reading this chapter, I happened to think of someone I haven't forgiven, or haven't forgiven fully. I'd like to write him an open letter (first name only).

Dear John,

It's been years since I thought of you, or what happened. I remember meeting you. You were so far above me on the social ladder at college. I was so excited when you asked me out! Flying a kite in the park at night? How romantic!

I remember my confusion: why would we need wine coolers to fly a kite? And why would you pick a park with no streetlights at all? I had no idea where we were, but it didn't look like a friendly part of town.

Taking your obvious physical size advantage and coupling it with alcohol and the slightly scary, very dark location was not ok. Nor was what happened after that. (It's not as bad as you're probably imagining, but it was bad enough to scar me emotionally.)

For years, I fantasized about calling your sweet little wife and letting her know what kind of man she married. I knew just what kind of girl you'd pick for your wife: petite, probably blond, certainly conservative and Christian. After all, you were a good Christian boy, just as you told me.

In the last several years, I'd like to think I've grown up a little. Now I pray that you've changed, that you never behaved that way with anyone else, that this dirty little secret belongs only to the two of us.

In any case, I'm doing my best to forgive you. I hope that you're happy and healthy now, just as I am. I hope that you're actively seeking God, just as I am.

And I pray that dirty little secrets, shown in the light, lose their power.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

My little blog is one year old today, starting to toddle around the blogosphere. Watch out honey, don't hit your head on that table! You're gonna fall down!

I went back to revisit its beginnings, and I discovered that I sailed right past the anniversary of my layoff without even noticing. That's good. I bet my former cow-orkers [sic] would be stunned to know that a year has already gone by.

Little bit of trivia, for those who don't know me in real life: I'm used to odd anniversary celebrations, since I celebrate my birthaversary every year, i.e., I was married on my birthday. We joke that that just means he can never forget, but in reality, it means that the bulk of the anniversary gifting falls on my hubby, and he often comes through in grand style. We've gone to San Francisco, New York, and Hawaii for my birthaversary. Before you tell me, I already know he's a keeper, even though he won't buy me that big ol' rock I'm always kidding him about. We agreed a long time ago we'd rather have the memories from traveling together than some hunk of carbon (my sister disagrees, or maybe she'd prefer both).

I don't have any more of a mission statement now than I did a year ago for my small corner of the blogosphere. At just under 150 posts in a year, my real goal is to write more in the coming year and not neglect my blog (and whatever readers I have) so much.

Speaking of which, I would love it if you would do me the honor of telling me you're here today. I'm aware of some of the groups who read my blog: current and former co-workers, people I play World of Warcraft with, people whose blogs I read, other Inspired Bliss writers, people who read my inane twitter ramblings (where I've been mostly absent for several days). But if you're here, I would be honored if you'd say hi and maybe even tell me how you got here. I know lurkers hate to come out of hiding, but I'll give you a virtual cookie if you do!

Hmmm, that reminds me, I haven't had breakfast. Time to root around for some non-virtual food. Thanks for dropping by, peeps!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I've Been Meme-ing to Do This

Groan. I know. Bad title! No donut!

I was tagged by the lovely and talented @journey2learn (see her blog here) to tell you fine people six things no one knows about me.

SIX? Really? Really. If no one knows them, why would I want to make them known now?

How about six things that aren't widely known? I'll go with that. It's still a challenge.

  1. I was born in Frankfurt, Germany. I used to worry that that would keep me from being President, but apparently being born on an Army base counts as U.S. soil. I don't want that job anymore, though. (My dad was drafted during the Vietnam war and sent to Germany, where he could drink plenty of fine German beer -- can you believe the luck?)
  2. I initially met my friend Matt online. The night before I met him IRL for the first time, I discovered that my dad and his dad had been best buds for years. There's a long story to tell there, but I'll save that for another post.
  3. My mother almost died of a brain aneurysm in 1991. The quick action of my stepfather (plus their being a couple of blocks from the hospital where he was chairman of the board at the time, gaining them extra-quick entry) saved her life. She was with us for another 13 years, until another aneurysm ruptured in her brain in 2004. This one was much worse and killed her. Yes, my sister and I have regular MRIs on our brains.
  4. I'm not really a girly-girl. I don't like makeup (and my hubby doesn't like it on me at all), I don't like shopping, I'm not big on fashion. I can do those things if I need to, but it's not written in my DNA like it seems to be for a lot of women. My mom was the same way, especially with shopping, but her hair and face were ALWAYS done. My sister, isn't as girly as girly gets, but she's way farther down that road than I am!
  5. My favorite ways to find God are in nature and in music. A drive with the top down in fall or spring with some great music on is fantastic for me that way.
  6. I had C-sections with both my boys. The second was planned, but the first was not. Boy was STUCK and was not coming out. Another long story involved there, but I generally don't tell it to anyone that's pregnant or might ever wish to be. The moral of my story is: Remember to pee when you're in labor. It's very important, and you may need someone to remind you. The pain all feels the same; it's all in the same area, so you won't necessarily think, "Gosh, I need to pee." You do.
OK, that was a whole lot of randomness. Here's who I'd like to tag from twitter... and if you don't have a blog, you can leave your list o'randomness in my comments. =)

(My BFF... Start up another blog, woman!)

@webchyk (Rose, my rockin' webmistress; one of the many reasons I am President of the Rose Groupies) (Her post is here.)

@PENSIVEROCKS (My Inspired Bliss editor)

@JeniDVM (One of my fellow Inspired Bliss writers)

@CandidK (Another Blissie / Bliss-tah... whatever you call us) (Karina's post is here.)

@CRREdwards (RL friend of RL friend, although I haven't met her yet) (Her post is here. And she scares me a little.)

I'll DM you all on twitter to let you know you've been suckered tagged. Then you should leave your blog link in my comments so we can all read your list! Tag 6 more people, letting them know they've been tagged. And of course, in your post, please link back to my blog. Once you've accepted the challenge and linked your entry here, I'll update your name with a link to your entry so we can all read them. Fun huh?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Whole Lotta Linky Lovin' Goin' On

Tomorrow is a big day for me professionally -- I'll be going to my out of town customer for the first time ALL ALONE.

As I prep for that today, I'll give you some great links to click.

My twitter-pal Nordink's birthday is today. His web site is all about entertaining the short people in your life. Fun stuff -- check it out!

Ever wondered how much of a given caffeinated drink it would take to kill you? Yes, of course, someone calculated it and webbified it.

These are the coolest skins for the iPod (or laptop or phone) I think I've seen. It's carry-able art. I haven't ordered one. Yet.

Have you heard of the six-word epitaph? That's what the one-sentence story site reminded me of. Or maybe a cross between that and twitter.

Seriously, if I hadn't already chosen Blogger as my platform, if I were starting now, I would so choose WordPress. I've read a ton about their plug-ins recently (from my twitter pal relocatedyank). And here's a fantastic story about how WP changed someone's life.

If you're looking for an unusual gift this Christmas season, check out this story (there's an Etsy link there -- interesting stuff).

Last but certainly not least, check out this post from Carlos Whittaker for an amazing example of transparency. Putting that out there took real guts.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Welcome to My Rut

So if you read my blog (welcome, all two of you!), you have probably noticed I haven't posted in a while.

I am officially in a rut. Nothing to say.

Everything I have to say either gets said on twitter or on my other blogging gig.

How did this happen? Would I even have a blog if twitter had come first? I just don't know.

I could tell you about how I got stopped for a speeding ticket on my way home from getting my driving record to dismiss a speeding ticket, but y'all might think I go racing around in my sports car if I tell you that. And I gotta tell you, my last ticket was in 2004, y'all. I don't know what this is. I know I drive a sports car, and I drive it carefully. These are the first tickets I've had since I bought my car three years ago. It makes me sad.

I could tell you about how my brain is so completely gone that I forgot to send the one required work email that I'm responsible for this week. (I'm setting an alarm in Outlook to prevent any recurrences of this particular stupidity.) I have an important work meeting on Tuesday, and I need my brain back by then. Please come back, brain!

I could tell you about how Son the Older is home from college this weekend for the second time, and how he doesn't bring dirty laundry home. I have no idea what's up with that. (Actually I do; he leaves before he can park close to his dorm, and he doesn't want to carry the laundry to the car.)

I could tell you about how it may be possible that I'll be happier than Son the Younger when he gets his license, because OH MY GOSH am I ever tired of "Can you pick me up?" calls. Except that the thought of him behind the wheel scares me.

So, see? Nothing to say.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm So Excited, and I Just Can't Hide It

Now, I'm a fairly low-key kinda girl. My voice is low-pitched.

But today I SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEALED so loud in excitement that I hurt my poor hubby's ears. Why, you might wonder?

Because this loveliness was in my mailbox.

It may look like just a triangular box and a tube, but when you unpack it, then you find THIS!

You're still not excited, are you?

Apparently I got some 'splainin' to do.

These, my friends, are glass rods. Well, except for the shiny thing in the middle, which is dichroic glass. What you're looking at in that picture, believe it or not, is about $120 worth of glass.

Yes, I am aware I'm completely insane. And that my husband loves me too much for words. These types of glass are ones I've never indulged in before -- far more expensive than anything I've ever bought. They are so-called silver glasses, meaning that there is silver in the glass that shows up depending on how you work it. It's fancy stuff, m'friends, and I'm just about shaking to get on my torch as I type.

But first I'll show you what I made with the bead sets I posted earlier.

First is the set I made with the raku frit beads. Several of those were sold to the nurse at my doctor's office, so they aren't all represented here. Not to mention that I haven't made the earrings yet. (Picture background courtesy of my great-grandmother.)

Next is the necklace I made with green, blue and gold glass over ivory (earrings to follow). I finally talked to my friend last night; I had previously only talked to her hubby. I'm close friends with them both but had been itching to catch up with her. Her work schedule prevents a lot of socializing, but it was great to catch up with her. She has no idea this is coming, unless her hubby tells on me.

This is the necklace made from the pink and purple heart. It's strung with dyed pearls (hot pink and purple), long mother of pearl beads, round glass white and purple beads, and faceted garnets. I think it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. I hope Robin likes it.

This last one is what I made with the Michelangelo beads -- and if you go back and look at that post, you'll see that I said there was an expensive glass purchase in my future. Apparently I was right! Can't wait to play some more with this color. Actually, I made a twistie with this color and another expensive glass but was a little disappointed in the result. I'll have to play with this one a bit more to see how it works.

I was going to post about my church's 10-year anniversary celebration this weekend, but truth be told, I took so many pictures that it's hard to narrow things down. Once I sort through them all again, maybe I'll have something coherent to say.

Then again, it is me we're talking about.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

So Many Thoughts, So Little Brain

Really. How can I be thinking so much and be so tired?

This Saturday, the 20th, is my church's 10-year anniversary celebration. I haven't been involved in the preparation, but I had the pleasure of picking up one of our former musicians from the airport today.

Buzz used to play drums for us before he moved to California six years ago. In our ultra-casual church, he wore a tie to play drums, saying it was the only way to be alternative in our church. The tie went so well with his three pairs of earrings, three eyebrow rings, his long ponytail... you get the idea.

So I picked up Buzz and his bride, Kerry, and took them up to church for band practice. There Buzz met up with Dave, the dancing bass player; Brian, the slightly unbalanced but ever-endearing keyboard player; Doug, the engineer / guitar player; and JJ, who was then and still is the music director.

That was just the first band. The second band was a whole 'nother bunch of fun. A couple of other engineer / guitar players, a horn section, and singers.

Watching this group of people, who hadn't played and sung together in years and years, laugh and joke around with each other almost brought tears to my eyes.

And if that wasn't enough, watching the daughter of one of the players have her time in the spotlight was just too much for words. I wish I'd had my SLR, but the iPhone that someone had worked just fine for capturing this.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a star is born.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sometimes I Like to Melt the Glass

If you look around here a little bit, you'll find that I like to melt glass occasionally. On those days that the sun isn't melting everything else.

Today was a glorious and beautiful day to melt glass. Hello Fall. I love you.

Incidentally, I do not blow glass. I merely melt it in a very hot flame, on a stick (called a mandrel). Blowing is a skill I have not yet acquired.

Since I've been making a few beads recently, and since I haven't inflicted pics on my blog-folks in a while, and since I had a request for pics (via twitter), I was persuaded to post some.

This first bunch of beads will be a necklace, or maybe a necklace and earrings. I will probably bead it with some lapis and/or malachite. It's for an old college friend I caught up with recently. Maybe if she likes it, I'll get to go visit her and her hubby and her four children, none of whom I've ever met. Bad friend. (Last time I saw them, she was pregnant with #1; it's been a while!)

These beads are for various things. The lower right one is a bit of a boo-boo, although a few people have told me they like it (I don't, since I know what it was supposed to look like.) The clear pink one is closer to what it was supposed to look like, and two of the three smaller beads will be earrings for my mother-in-law.

I made this set for Robin, although I can't say that I'm really happy with it. She asked for red and hot pink, which poses a certain number of problems, glass-wise. Red with hot pink doesn't offer much of a contrast, and the one glass that gets close to hot pink is a little temperamental (more on that later). So this may or may not have a happy ending; I may just trash these and start over. The base beads are clear, and the stripes are made with a twisted cane made from red, white, and pale pink clear. Why there are yellow and dark patches in these beads, I have no idea.

These beads are made with what's called raku frit (frit is just small pieces of glass). I've sold three of these to the nurse at my neurologist's office, who is a beader. She's quite anxious to get them, so I've been trying to finish up everything I want to make so I can get everything annealed (cycled through a kiln to strengthen the glass). I don't yet have a kiln, so I have to take my beads to a glass shop for the service and leave them for a day or two. Maybe someday I'll have my own...

Some beads make everyone love them, and these seem to fall into that category. The silver is called plum silver -- it starts out as a dark purple color but has a chemical reaction to a high propane flame (my torch has two sources -- propane and oxygen -- so you can vary the amount of each in the flame for various effects). This is a fairly simple bead design, but it's striking and goes with everything.

This is a bunch of miscellaneous stuff. The two on the top left were an experiment with a very expensive glass that someone gave me to try -- it's called Michaelangelo, and you'll see why later. A friend wants those beads for a necklace. The blue bead with gold squiggle next to it is made with dichroic glass, another expensive glass type that reflects different colors depending on the angle -- very pretty. On the top right is a bead that I made when trying to learn stringer control (how to make straight lines with tiny rods of glass). I had people insist to me that those were wires, not glass, so I assume I succeeded. The two beads on the bottom were made with another expensive glass from the same friend that gave me the Michaelangelo; this color is called Black Pearl. It's like plum silver only more so: it starts black but turns bright silver in a high propane flame.

These beads are all ones I learned to make by taking a class from my favorite "famous" beadmaker, Corina Tettinger. They're better to see in person. The top left is an encased floral (i.e., a flower bead encased in clear glass). There are five layers in the bead, so it's fairly time-consuming. The next one to the right is called an asteroid bead and is difficult to photograph here (and I did a miserable job). It's a black base bead, wrapped in silver foil, which is then burned off. The dots of color are made with ivory glass with silver foil burned onto it (called "silvered ivory"). This makes a rainbow effect. Then the whole thing is encased in clear. This isn't a great example; I'm going to try again and see if I can do better. The pair on the right is clear purple, with a layer of clear and gold dots on the outside. On the bottom is a bead made with twisted cane (like the first three pictures). Again, you can't tell in the picture, but when I encased it in clear, the bead ended up with a row of perfectly evenly spaced bubbles between the rows of twisted cane. It was a happy accident.

Now we come to the two best beads I made last night. This one isn't part of a set (at least not yet). When I mentioned before that the hot pink glass is a little temperamental, here is a perfect example. The dark color in this bead is supposed to be that hot pink (which incidentally is in the twisted cane bead above and turned out the right color there). In the bead below, it came out more of a dark brownish purple. You just never know with that color. The other colors in the twisted cane were clear pale pink and opaque ivory, so you can still see pink in the bead. All's well that ends well. I'm really pleased with the shape of this bead.

Last is not least here; I saved the best for last. The only colors used here are white and Michaelangelo, as hard as that is to believe. I made the pendant initially to go with the other pair of beads that I'd made (the ones my friend wants made into a necklace). When it discolored the white, I was kind of upset; I almost didn't finish making the bead. This is why you always finish making the bead -- you just never know what you have until you're done. I love this bead. It didn't translate as well in the smaller beads, but I'll take it anyway. I'm seeing now why my friend says Michaelangelo is her favorite color. It's very reactive, meaning that it does cool things with other colors of glass. I see a purchase of expensive glass in my future (don't tell my hubby!).

That's what I've been up to. Now, if y'all will excuse me, I have some more glass to melt...