Thursday, December 29, 2011

A New Year's Non-Resolution

I usually make one or two.  And a few have even been kept and accomplished.  So it's not that I have anything against New Year's Resolutions.  On the contrary, I think they can be extremely helpful in getting people to stop and assess where they are, where they would like to be, and what needs to be done to get there.  Goal-setting is an essential element to successful living.

But I am not making any resolutions that are specifically tied to the new year.  I currently have a different approach.  My idea is that I need to constantly be in a state of self-assessment.  Goal-setting, steps toward accomplishment, and celebration of milestones should be daily (as appropriate) without regard for the calendar.  Of course a new year is a great time to make fresh starts, mentally.  But every day can be a fresh start, no matter the date.  This can apply to relationships, work, self improvement, or anything else.  For me, it specifically relates to writing and business goals.  Days of rest are essential, too, but that doesn't mean you can't take your day of rest to reflect on where you are going.

Happy New Year, and may you find that every day is a new day for dreaming, contemplating, planning, working, celebrating.  "May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.  We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.  May the Lord grant all your requests."  Psalm 20:4-5 NIV

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Duckbilled Platypus and Other Problems

I am happy to report that I got over my sprained foot with little trouble.  All is well, and I am wearing all my shoes now.  But not all at one time.  You know what I mean.

The temporary immobility did cause me some stress, and I started to wage my annual Christmas Sinusitis battle.  I won last year, and I am bound and determined to win again this year.  Two years ago, it took me out flat.  We were moving into a new house, all my inlaws were scheduled to arrive about 10 days after we moved in, and I had a sinus infection so bad that my nose looked and felt broken.  Oh, and my grandfather died in the middle of all that, too.  When I spoke, I sounded like I had a clothespin on my nose.  That was a good day, when I actually had a voice.  A few months later, after two rounds of antibitotics and steroids, I emerged from the fog.  But it wasn't until the following summer that I could actually sing with the radio.  My voice was the last thing to return fully.

So when I coughed a few days ago and thought I heard a hint of congestion, I rolled my eyes and lined up all my meds and vitamins on the counter.  This evening, my husband asked me if I actually knew what all I took today.  Yes, I did, and I listed them for him.  He said my kidneys and liver are working overtime right now, which is fine with me if I can beat this thing.  And by the way, I am winning so far.  Benadryl, Flonase, ibuprofen, Airborne, Vitamin C and others are all in the fight now.  I think the Sinusitis knows it's going down.

And so it flank attacked me and gave me a cold sore.  One good lick before it went down for the year.  Just one good punch to remind me who's boss and say, "I'll be back next year.  Here's something to remember me by.  Merry Christmas."

Definitely the worst one I have ever had, this cold sore has managed to swell the lower part of my face over the last couple of days.  My husband and I have amused ourselves with the fact that I have the appearance of a Duckbilled Platypus.  Oh well, we have to find the humor in it somewhere, right?

I was not to be deterred from winning the battle, one way or another.  Sunday morning found me at the urgent care facility run by my doctors' office.  Now you can add an anti-viral I can't pronounce to that list of medications on the counter.  Thank goodness, this pesky thing has had a short life and is on the way out.  I'm just thankful that all the Christmas parties were last week, when I could hobble in with a simple sprained foot and enjoy them.  If they had been scheduled for this week, I most certainly would have missed them.  "I'm sorry we can't come to your party.  I have the appearance of a Duckbilled Platypus."  They would have thought I was making it up.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Men vs. Women: This is Funny

Below you will read an exchange between my husband and me.  It took place this morning.  I was sitting in front of my computer and reflecting on how our little boy gets so angry when one of his toys breaks.  He and I have discussed how he is actually sad, but it feels safer to be angry than to be sad, so he prefers anger.  Just like most men.  I started giggling.

Chip:  What's funny?
Me:  Men and their anger.
Chip:  Why?
Me:  I dunno, even from toddlerhood, it seems men are capable of one emotion: anger.
Chip:  Yeah?  And?
Me:  When you're sad, you react with ANGER!  Frustration?  ANGER!  Disappointment?  ANGER!  Stress?  ANGER!  Vulnerability?  ANGER!  Depression?  ANGER!
Chip:  Yep.  And you wanna know why?
Me:  Hm.  Women?
Chip:  You got it.

I thought so.  I was just checking.

Technological Upgrade for this Author

I am NOT, I repeat, NOT a computer nerd.  I have great respect for computer nerds, and despite the use of the sometimes-pejorative word "nerd," I am in complete awe of them.  I can turn a computer on, figure out how to post to my blog (obviously), update facebook, just barely manage to update my website, and stuff like that.  But when it comes to promoting myself as an author online, I am way out of the loop.

So when I see these other blogs with the RSS feed symbol (I don't even really know what that is), I feel very intimidated.  I know that being an author is 10% writing a book and 90% marketing.  Nowadays, that means internet marketing.  Sure, having a blog is important and helpful.  But the hundreds and hundreds of hits I have on my blog every month are not indicated in the fewer followers I actually have.  And I do wish I could set up one of those little buttons where people could share my blog posts on Facebook or Twitter, but that is so confusing to me.  I know I need help.  I am not afraid to ask for it.

So that's why I have enlisted the help of my publisher.  In the coming weeks, you will see some exciting new things for the technology portion of my writing career . . . and I will announce them right here.  Stay tuned!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Aw, Foot!! Getting Older is a Pain.

I am accustomed to various aches, pains, twinges, and the like.  First of all, I just turned 39.  Secondly, I have given birth.  Third, said birth means that I now chase a four-year-old boy around for the better part of my day.  "Put that down!"  "Stop that!"  "We do NOT put (fill in the blank) in our mouths!"  "Do you need to go potty?"  "Uuuugggghhhh, if you wanted to do a craft, why didn't you just tell me?  Now there's glue in your hair."  "How did you get on top of the refrigerator?"  "Are you sure you don't have to go potty?"  "How did THAT get in THERE?!" 
Now what that means is that when I do even notice the aches and pains, I usually ignore them and go on.  Women who stay home with their small children don't have time for pain or illness.  I can't say how long it's been, but for quite a while, I have noticed a feeling in the bottom of my left foot like a pulled muscle.  Oh, and I have had a small red bump on my leg for over a year.  And a weird flaky spot on my face.  Maybe more headaches than I used to get.  The list goes on, but I won't bore you with all my old lady maladies.  The trouble, though, is that women tend to overlook things anyway.  That's because we are tough.  Last year, I reluctantly dragged myself into the urgent care clinic to find out that I had just passed a kidney stone.  "Is that what that was?!"  I asked the doctor incredulously.  Waving my hand, I reported, "Oh, I've had those before!  Didn't even go to the doctor."
So on Saturday, after having given my son's birthday party a few days before and having attended another two birthday parties for four-year-olds earlier in the day, I almost thought nothing of it when it became excruciating to walk on my left foot.  After all, children's birthday parties are stressful and hellish at best a great chance for the kiddos to burn off some energy.  Refer to the quotes above.
When I couldn't get a shoe on my foot for the pain and swelling on Sunday, I sent my husband and son off to church without me.  Ahhhh, I thought.  Nice quiet house to myself for an hour.  But by Tuesday morning, I cried "Uncle!!" and went to the P.A.
I had somehow sprained the top of my left foot.  And now I have to stay "off" of it.  Bwahahahaha!  The P.A. is great, and a sweet girl, but she doesn't have children.  I'll try, but I won't be off of it completely.  The anti-imflammatory drug made for some nice, deep sleep last night, though.
Oh, and the pulled muscle feeling in the bottom of my foot?  That was Plantar Fasciitis.  No extra charge for that.  And the bump on my leg?  An old abcess that was never attended, so now it's scar tissue.  I try not to overwhelm her with too many extra unrelated things when I go in.  She might try to refer me to a gerontologist.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What's Your Favorite Holiday Tune?

Have you ever listened to the song “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and wondered, Who wrote that, and what were they smoking?
I may sound cynical, but it’s hard to be of good cheer sometimes when you are elbowing your way through a Black Friday sale and someone starts pepper spraying the other shoppers in order to get a hold of an Xbox.
That’s to say nothing of the strain that holidays seem to create within families. Someone’s upset because you didn’t include Aunt Bertha in your Christmas Eve dinner. Last year, she talked everyone’s ear off (a little too loudly) after drinking all your egg nog and told you your turkey was too dry and your dining room d├ęcor “needs some work, but has potential.” Your children found all their gifts in the back of your closet. Somebody lays on a guilt trip by reminding you that they always have to eat Christmas dinner at the Waffle House because you can only visit them on Christmas Eve, never on Christmas Day. The whole month of December is a frenzy of parties, cooking, shopping, wrapping, making lists, checking them twice, decorating, going to programs and events . . . it can be really hard to find the joy in it when you’re so busy.

All the while, we pump ourselves full of holiday food and drink. What we need to get through this season is energy. We should all be going on vegetarian diets. Want something to pull you through with the stamina you need? Try broccoli and bananas! Some steamed veggies and legumes will put you right. But no, we sap our own energy with sweets galore, and more. Pass the rum balls; I think I'm losing my buzz.
Now the person who wrote “The Carol of the Bells” really captured the actual tone of the holiday season. That would be terror, of course. It stresses me out just listening to it. My best friend calls it “panic set to music.” It starts like an alarm clock honking in your ear in the dark, cool quiet of morning on a Monday morning. Then it crescendoes early, as if you have remembered that you have an important presentation in front of all your bosses in your 8am meeting, rendering you too nervous to eat breakfast, too shaky to drink coffee. The drums come in with their ominous BOM-BADA BADA BOM-BADA BADA so you know something wicked this way comes. By the time the violins kick in, I’m ready to start crying and screaming. “Nooooooo! Not Christmas!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!”

It maintains a minor key throughout. It’s like theme music from a horror movie. It bears a striking resemblance to the music from the Halloween movies.  My three year old son put it best about “Carol of the Bells.” “Mommy,” he said, “that song sounds mad and scary.” Yes. Yes, it does. At its loudest, it makes me feel desperate. My heart pounds. My fists clench. I feel like I am running away from a T. Rex on a rocky plain. He’s getting closer and closer and I keep falling and bruising my knees on the rocks. Now, you can fill in the blank here; perhaps your T. Rex is your inlaws, your parents, your sister, whomever.
The repetetive pattern of the song, to me, suits the whirlwind and pace of the holiday season. The same four notes are repeated over and over. If I were an imprisoned terrorist, I would be easy to break. All they would have to do is shine a bright light on me and play “Carol of the Bells” loudly. “I’ll talk! I’ll talk!” I would scream. The song itself sounds like insanity.

Now, if y’all don’t mind, I am going to enjoy a Holiday Spice coffee and some Candy Cane Hershey Kisses while I wrap some gifts. And chase them with a Pepcid AC and a fifth of vodka.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Birthday Blog

My birthday is coming up.  I will be enjoying the last year of my thirties, starting next week.

Some folks can't stand their birthdays.  Don't want them acknowledged.  Hide under the bed until the day is over, and hope that no one sends them a card, much less black balloons.  I say this is silly!  Celebrate yourself.  No matter what your circumstances, you have survivied another year on this planet.  And that's something to pat yourself on the back for.  Laugh.  Have coffee with a friend.  Eat a piece of cake (or some other treat, if you are on a gluten-free diet).  Take a walk or see a movie.  Get a massage or that new leaf blower you've been eyeing at Home Depot.

But whatever you do, don't let the day pass without being kind to yourself.  Wait, don't click on the x and leave me now . . . listen.  All the things I mentioned are really nice, but I saved the best for last.  Do something for someone else.  Yes, someone else.  If you are able, spend the day volunteering at a local soup kitchen or the Salvation Army.  Offer to do yardwork for an elderly person, or cook something for a homeless shelter.  When you take your heart and mind off of yourself for a moment and put someone else first, it can feel really, really good.  Serve someone else from your heart.  And that's the BEST gift you can give to yourself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Staying Competitive

I resolved a while back to start submitting stories to writing contests on a regular basis.  I thought maybe it would keep me writing new stuff.  I also hoped I might actually win one. . . long shot, I know, considering how many entries they get and that lots of the folks submitting are MFA students who are daily receiving counsel from their professors.  That's one advantage I don't have.

But here's the upside:  there are writing contests everywhere out there . . . a dime a dozen.  I get an email about once a month naming just SOME of the contests out there, and the list is normally about 20-30 contests long.  The trick, of course, is to find one that is looking for the right genre (sorry, I don't write science fiction).  I usually have a few from which to choose in that regard.  Then I must choose the ones that I can afford to enter . . . entry fees on these things are frequently $20 and under, luckily.  Not usually a problem there.

But they all want fresh material that hasn't already been published.  Ha!  The nerve!  I have lots of short stories and part of a novel saved on thumb drives and such, but very little of it is, in my estimation, worth sharing yet.  So that leaves me working to produce fresh material.  Not a bad thing, considering that was one of my goals in the first place.

Ok.  So I sent a new short story to a contest yesterday.  Thus it begins.  No one had read it, other than me.  I know, I know, that's a big mistake.  I didn't even have anyone proof it.  I'm not overly optimistic about winning or anything, but at least I have entered my first contest.  Now that my feet are wet, it is no longer some mysterious process where I imagine I will need to light a candle and turn around three times while wearing a green hat and blue goggles.

I'll keep you all posted on my contest-entering progress!  Here's hoping it will keep me churning out a good crop of fiction.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Booster Seat . . . It's a Whole New World

I don't drive stick shift.  Don't want to.  Never will, probably.  When I was a college freshman, my roommate, Kim, said, "Oh, no.  This won't do.  We've got to teach you to drive stick."  I was used to my old diesel-powered Mercedes which moved about like the cars in the Flintstones cartoons, but Kim had a red Honda Prelude (Zowie!).  It was fast, fun and powerful.  The first (and last) time she tried to teach me to drive her car, I laid rubber in the faculty parking lot at Agnes Scott College on a Sunday afternoon.  No one has ever tried to teach me again.

When my husband and I got married, my husband said I would have to learn to drive stick so I could drive his truck.  I said no thanks.  I didn't and still don't want to drive his pickup truck.  My car is newer and nicer.  Guess what?  He thinks it's newer and nicer, too.  I knew, just KNEW that if I could drive his truck, I would get stuck driving that thing around town when I didn't want to someday.  Like to a Junior League meeting or something.  Don't get me wrong . . . I'm very thankful for my husband's vehicle, and it has been an enormous blessing to us in so many ways.  But I don't want to drive it.  #endofthatdiscussion

So since my son was born almost four years ago, we have operated 95% of our lives with one car.  On certain special occasions, like getting my car worked on, we have squeezed the car seat into the back seat (and I use the term "back seat" loosely) in the old pickup truck.  But other than that, we have operated largely as a one-car family on my husband's days off from work (which are plenteous, since he is a firefighter and has a weird schedule).

Certain people, and particularly one family member, have scoffed at the fact that the three of us basically load up and go everywhere together.  We love it, thanks.  I enjoy spending all the time I can with husband and child.  So when I have to go to the bank and all three of us load into the car to get it done, I think nothing of it.  But OTHERS think we are aliens from outer space because of this practice.

But lo and behold . . . my son is now old enough to fit into those little booster seats that cost like $15 and fit very nicely into the back seat of the truck.  So after four years of parenthood, we finally sprang for a *gasp* second car seat in the form of a booster.

Now, when my husband and son go on an errand and I have to stay at the house to work, I am no longer trapped here with a truck I cannot drive.  Husband pops child into the booster seat in the truck and takes off.  I am still here with my wonderful automatic SUV.  I can suddenly up and decide to go deliver books (which I did, two days ago).  This may just be the best development in time management that has happened to our family.  The convenience this has introduced will be a blessing, no doubt, and probably in ways I have not even imagined yet.

But I will still love loading all three of us into the car to go grab a tube of toothpaste at the Walgreen's.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Ballad of the Shirley T is here!!

It's finally here, y'all!  My book, The Ballad of the Shirley T and Other Stories, is available for purchase on iUniverse's online bookstore:  http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000489917/The-Ballad-of-the-Shirley-T-and-Other-Stories.aspx

It is also available on amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Perrin+Cothran+Conrad&x=12&y=18

And Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Perrin-Cothran-Conrad?keyword=Perrin+Cothran+Conrad&store=book

It's a collection of short stories, some of which I wrote under the tutelage of the late Dr. Bo Ball at Agnes Scott, who was an award-winning author himself.  Others were written more recently.  A few have a definitive Charleston/Lowcountry flavor.

It makes a great Christmas present!  And if you're local, I will be pleased as punch to sign it for you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Trail of Tears is now a trail of toys

For some reason, I still have a good many of my textbooks from law school.  I have gotten shed of many, but there remain a few that I "might want to refer to" at some point: Contracts, Admiralty, Corporations, Commercial Law, Elder Law, Wills, and about 586 others.  Seriously, though, they occupy a bookshelf in the corner of the playroom.  Do I look at them?  Not really.  I don't even dust them.

So today we are playing in the playroom, and Sam decides to take a few books down to make a sidewalk across the room.  And a few more, and a few more, and pretty soon, half the bookshelf is empty.  Now the books comprise a whole interstate system which a toy 18-wheeler is traversing.  *Sigh* At least those books are good for something now.  That toy truck's journey is a whole lot more interesting and fun than the journey I made with those books.  All $10,000 worth of them.  Yep, mine was a trail of tears across what is now the Torts and Con Law Freeway of the playroom floor.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Would you like fries and friendship with that?

There's a growing trend in America.  In this downward spiral of an economy, a few companies have gotten a clue as to how to retain their customers.  There are a few banks riding this enhanced customer service wave, as are stores like Publix and Walgreen's.  Publix employees have obviously been trained to go one step beyond "service with a smile."  They always make conversation as they slice deli meat or run the cash register.  It makes it a really pleasant place to shop.  I look forward to going in there and interacting with the warm, lovely people.

And Walgreen's?  Shoot, I KNOW the ladies in Walgreen's.  I mean, we ask about each other's family members, talk about local news, talk about our hobbies and interests.  When you feel like the person who is taking money out of your hand really cares about you as a person, it makes you ten times more likely to go back and hand them more money at a later date.

This is smart business.

So when my three-year-old and I drove up to the bank window the other day, we were greeted by name by a lady we see frequently (Lisa).  Another lady (Susan) heard her greeting us and came over to say hello as well.
Lisa:  Hi, Sam!  Are you ready for Halloween?
Sam:  Yes, I am going to be Michael! (confused look on Lisa's face follows, then short explanation from me - he means Michael the Archangel)
Lisa:  Good for you!
Susan (waving enthusiastically):  Hey, Sam!
Sam:  Oh!  Hi, other lady!

Other lady?!  I said, "Sam, that's Ms. Susan!  And Ms. Lisa!"  Of course, they thought it was hilarious.  Just like it's hilarious when Sam's little friends come up to me and say, "Um, Sam's Mom, can Sam come to my house and play?"  Sam's Mom.  That's my name, don't wear it out.

But in this day and age of impersonal computer interaction and big cities getting bigger, it's wonderful to know that the people you do business with know who you are on some level.  And the small town service that used to be commonplace so many years ago is coming back.  I like it.

I remember a friend telling me about 15 years ago that she was talking to her banker on the phone one day at approximately 4:55pm.  My friend was to take something to the bank, but it would be closed by the time she got there.  "It's okay," her banker told her.  "Just knock on the back door and I'll let ya in." 

In a day and age of struggling to keep shop doors open, all businesses can take a lesson from this.  Exceptional customer service:  it's what's for dinner.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Samtics

So my little guy has been busy over the last couple of days.  He says so many cute, funny, shockingly intelligent things, that I can hardly keep up.  I can't believe he will be four in December.

Yesterday, we went to my parents' house and started up the back stairs.  There was a HUGE lizard crawling on the back porch.  Well, y'all know how I feel about lizards.  If you don't, then scroll back a few months and find out.  I looked around the yard and said, "Where is Maggie (my parents' cat) when you need her?"  Sam turned and looked around the yard, too.  Then he yelled, "Maaaaaaggiiiiiiiiiiiie, come heeeeeeeere!  It's an EMERGENCY!"  That might seem a little dramatic, but to me, a lizard actually IS an emergency.

Last night, I heard him getting into the fridge and rooting around.  He knows he is not supposed to do that.  So when he heard my footsteps behind him, he slammed the fridge door shut.  He stood with his back to the door and arms straight out, and he said, "There's nothing to see here!"  Right.  And when I open it the next day, I will find a matchbox car in my yogurt.  That's usually how that goes.

This morning, on the way to school, he started talking about Jesse, the cowgirl seen in Toy Story 2 and 3.  Sam has seen her in the form of toys, advertisements, etc, but has only seen the first Toy Story movie, in which she does not appear.  So asks me, "How come we never see Woody's assistant?"  I didn't know whether to be amazed that he knew the word assistant and used it correctly, or to be upset that he automatically assumed that the female character was the male's assistant.

 A few weeks ago, Sam was a little rowdy during circle time.  His teacher had to take him down to the preschool director's office for a bit.  When we arrived at school this morning, we walked past the director on the sidewalk and said good morning.  Sam turned and looked back at her, waving, and said, "Oh, today I don't have to come to your office!"  Well, we hoped so . . .

I did get a call when school was almost over and I was about to go pick him up anyway.  Something minor occurred which was not really bad behavior, but did require him to be removed from the classroom . . . and he ended up in the preschool director's office again.  While waiting for me to pick him up, he leaned in toward the director with chin in hands and little elbows on her desk.  "You know," he said, "It's really boring in here."

Just wait, buddy . . . being a grown up can be SUPER boring!  That is, until you have a three-year-old to liven things up.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween-related questions to ponder

I get that dressing in a costume and going door-to-door to score candy is fun.  Costume parties are lively, as well.  But I have a few questions.  Maybe you can help me.

Why do 99% of Halloween decorations look so cheap, tacky and junky?

Which large corporation decided to convince us we needed to decorate for another holiday, and thus fund their Christmas bonuses?  Maybe the same ones who invented Grandparents' Day and Secretaries' Day?  Oh, and how many "Occupants" have supported their favorite corporations by buying said decorations? 

Why would anyone WANT their house to look like it's haunted and/or deserted?

Similarly, why would people want to "decorate" their homes with things that are ugly?  Don't we spend lots of time, money and energy trying to make our homes look GOOD?

Don't people who drape cotton all over their houses realize that, instead of looking like spiderwebs, it looks like . . . well, they draped cotton all over their houses?  And that it looks like a teenage prank that occurred while they slept (similar to toilet papering the trees)?

When did the world decide that fear (a negative emotion that people spend THOUSANDS of dollars in counselling trying to eliminate) was FUN?  Perhaps that is perpetuated by the drug companies who make tranquillizers, and secretly funded by psychiatrists?

Why would people think that decorations scary enough to give small children nightmares or make them cry are "fun for the kids?"  I don't remember crying too often or having many nightmares as a child, but I do remember that those events were not synonymous with any type of "fun."

Oh!  And when did Halloween become "sexy?!"  Why is it that all girls' costumes larger than size 4T are trampy and suggestive?  And where are the womens' rights people on THAT one?!  Why are they not all over that?!

In my younger, less mature days, I spent many a slumber party watching the Halloween movies, the Friday the 13th movies, the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, etc, because we thought it was fun to be somewhat scared.  But as I got past, say, age 19, it stopped being fun.  I realized that the real world was scary enough (taxes, bills, interest rates on credit cards, crime, war in Iraq or anywhere else, corruption among government officials, people losing jobs, the list goes on).  Why scare myself on PURPOSE?  I just don't have time for that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Don't write a book unless you are very, very brave. (This one is serious, so don't read it if you need a laugh.)

It's an emotional process, getting a book published.  From start to finish, you are on a roller coaster.  Oh, the excitement when you begin to write!  But then you're like a raw nerve.  As you write, there are times when you feel like your heart is spilling out onto the paper (or the computer screen, as the case may be).  You become emotionally attached to the characters.  You're surprised when inspiration hits and the story takes a slightly different route from the one you planned.  You wait and wait while people proofread, and brace yourself for the ugly truth (which is never quite as ugly as you imagine).  An editor chops it up and tells you what you need to change (also never quite as bad as you imagine).  Then you wait expectantly for the release of your finished work.  You're elated!  But also nervous.  Will people like it?  Will people buy it?  Ultimately, you are surprised at some who buy it.  And you are surprised at some who don't.

It's a consuming process.  You have a story sitting on your brain.  You have to write and write and write until you get it out.  You wrestle with it.  You sweat and pray over it.  Then the editing and proofing takes longer than the actual writing.  Just when you think you are "finished," you realize that the publisher is going to take however long they take to get the book printed.  People ask you daily, "When is your book coming out?"

It's like having a child.  Simply carrying a child for 9 months isn't enough.  You eat well, get enough rest, try to do all the right things.  But even after the child is born, your job is not over.  It has just begun!  Now you must raise the child.  Same with a book.  Now you must raise your book, too, in the form of marketing.  This, like childrearing, is the hardest part.  Tom Petty had it wrong . . . the waiting is NOT the hardest part!  It's the marketing.

To be a writer, you have to be one of two things:  incredibly strong or somewhat sick in the head.  Maybe both.  You are going to experience rejection and pain.  And you have to know how to keep on keeping on.  Being a writer is not for the faint of heart.

So . . . in a few weeks, my new book will be ready to purchase, and I look forward to announcing it here!  Stay tuned.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dusting off the Cobwebs

Excuse me while I blow the dust off my blog here . . . I have not blogged much lately.  That is mostly because I am on the brink of releasing my next book:  The Ballad of the Shirley T and Other Stories.  It is a book of six short stories, mostly Southern, and several with distinct Lowcountry flavor.  Paperback will be $.8.95 and e-book less than that (yet to be determined).  Check perrincothranconrad.com or http://www.iuniverse.com/ in the next few weeks!

Getting a book out is hard work and leaves little time for . . . well, writing.  There are proofs and polishing, followed by proofs and more proofs.  And with every round, you never trust yourself completely, so you wait around while someone else's eyes scan and tell you that you forgot to dot an i . . . or that your cover needs an overhaul.

The second reason that I have not blogged much lately is that I have a 3 year old son at home.  Sure, he goes to preschool 3 mornings per week, but when he's home, he requires lots of attention.  If I am not actively engaged with him, I must watch him like a hawk.  Anyone who has ever had a 3 year old boy will understand this.  Just try to go to the bathroom, take a shower, run the vacuum in the next room.  Go ahead.  And when you come back, you will find your son on top of the refrigerator.  Or perhaps he is very proud of himself for having outsmarted the childproof drawer latches and wants to show you the cool icepick he found.

Constant heartattacks.  That's motherhood.  Oh, and the 3 year old tantrums . . . they will leave you questioning everything you ever knew to be true in life and thinking you have gone terribly wrong as a mother.  If you stay at home, you will become convinced that you have ruined him with your bad mothering skills and he would have been better off in daycare.  If you work outside the home, you will wail and beat your chest, thinking your work schedule has caused him emotional problems, and if only you had stayed home . . . but none of these things are true.  All of it is a phase.  Or so I am told.  "The good news is that they all turn four!"  That's what I keep hearing.  Of course, my son is wonderful . . . and so much fun.  But every day is an adventure.  Forget Halloween.  NOTHING scares ME anymore.

So, just try having a 3 year old boy at home with you and trying to get your latest book out at the same time . . . you, too, will be wearing your spouse's sweats because you haven't done your own laundry in so long.  You, too, will be coughing from the dust on your nightstand.

But I wouldn't trade my life for the world.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Things We Take For Granted

I am not accustomed to having car trouble, praise the Lord.  Now, my car is not new.  It's nine years old.  But it's Japanese, and extremely reliable.  I love my car.  I take for granted, every day, that I can go out to the garage, get in my car, and go wherever I need to go.  I take for granted that everything in the car will work.

So I have had a tough time over the last few days swallowing the fact that the blower motor in my air system went kaput on Tuesday.  Tougher to swallow is the fact that the mechanic has been telling me since Wednesday morning that the "part is on the way."  Now that it's Friday morning, I imagine that part taking one of those swirly, loopy routes marked by a dotted line in the old Family Circus cartoons.

But you know what?  It's after Labor Day, and the weather has mercifully grown cooler this week.  It could be much worse.  What if we were still in the searing 100 degree days of July and August?  I am thankful.  And further, as I have to drive on the interstate today, I might have to do it in the loud, whipping wind.  But my parents have offered me the use of one of their (newer, more luxurious) cars.  Yes, please!

At the end of the first day sans A/C in my car, I had another thought.  As I was taking a hot shower, I said, "Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to live in a place with hot and cold running water!"  What a delight that hot shower was, just as it always is after I have been to walk, been gardening, etc.

Some other things we take for granted every day?  The internet.  Police and Fire Department protection.  Access to medical care.  Our children's teachers.  Grocery stores close to where we live.

Despite the economic troubles we have seen in this country over last few years, we still live in a rich country, full of blessings and conveniences.  Take a minute today and thank God for the conveniences in your life, even if they are fewer than they were a couple of years ago.  Compared to lots of other places in the world, we still live in a spot where God's blessings are evident.  Now, go take some of your blessings and share them with others!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sometimes, I wish I were a cop.

I witnessed someone shoplifting yesterday.  And I was powerless to do anything about it.  *Sigh*  I can't fix the evils of the world.  There is only One who can.

My three-year old and I were sitting in the car, waiting for my husband to come out of the grocery store.  Two men pulled up in a nice car (much nicer than mine - probably because they steal all their snacks, so they can afford a big car payment) in the space diagonally in front of me, to the left.  The passenger had on a football jersey.  He got out and walked briskly into the Dollar Tree, which was also diagonally in front of me, to the right.

Less than 60 seconds later, he walked VERY briskly out of the Dollar Tree.  Wow, I said to myself, that was fast.  The cashier must have been high on Jolt cola . . . then I noticed his hand under his shirt, along with a rawther large bulge.  Ahhhhhhh . . . all became clear now.  He was quick, because he didn't bother to check out!  He hopped back into the car and immediately brought several small bags/boxes of snack-looking items out of his lap and into view.

Mmm.  A reprobate, and not even good at it.  This was not a young guy, either.  It's not like you could argue inexperience.  He was old enough to have been at it for a while.  The driver, who looked to be in his 50's or 60's calmly backed out of the space and drove away like nothing was amiss.  He either didn't realize he was driving the Dollar-Tree-Snack-Heist-Getaway-Car, or it was all in a day's work for him.

I didn't get the license plate, and I couldn't get out of the car to alert the Dollar Tree employees . . . such is the life of a mother.  You have to think of the safety/comfort of the little person in your care first.  But my question is this:  If you're going to go to the trouble of stealing, why not go into Best Buy and go for a tablet computer?  Still fits under the jersey nicely.  And you'd be much less angry with yourself if you ended up sitting in jail over a $500 item than $3-4 worth of stale, off-brand snacks.

Just a suggestion to any of the scofflaws and reprobates out there. 

But oh yeah, keep this one in mind:  Hebrews 10:30-31 For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.  And again, "The Lord will judge His people."  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of living God.

Yup.  I'd be more worried about that than jail.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lip Gloss and Bullets

Lately, I have been super-focused on getting my second book out this fall.  I just realized the other day that I had not blogged in a few weeks.  Almost a month.  But I am now waiting for the results of the editorial review by my publisher, and I have a little more time on my hands.

So yesterday, two of the highlights in my day were 1) getting my new lip gloss from my Avon lady and 2) attending Ladies' Night at the ATP Gun Shop and Range, where they teach you how to "shoot like a girl."  I had not shot a gun in nearly 5 years, so the results shocked me a little (see photo below).  Granted, I grew up around guns, because my father hunted, and I was taught from a young age how to shoot a gun and handle one safely.

Rewind:  It's 1980, and I'm turning 8 years old.  My Dad comes home a little after dark and tells me to come out to the back of his car.  I follow him out there with some anticipation, figuring there is a surprise for me in the trunk.  Maybe a Barbie townhouse.  Maybe a new bike with pink and purple streamers.  The trunk pops open.  The light flickers on to reveal a 4-10 shotgun.  "Happy Birthday!" Dad grins.

"Oh."  I say.  After a short pause, I follow it up with, "Thanks" and walk back into the house.  I think I shot the thing at the skeet range like 3 times.

Fast Forward:  Tuesday, August 16, 2011.  Inside the ATP Gun Shop is a picture of Obama with the title "Gun Salesman of the Year."  (Slapping my knee.)  It's so true!  I'm wearing pink glasses, pink headphones, and just received my hot pink "I Shot Like a Girl" t-shirt.  And I'm tearing out the heart of the paper dude in front of me.

So, I suppose the message is clear.  If you were thinking about breaking into my house, prepare to meet your Maker.  Because we live in South Carolina, folks, and the Castle Doctrine applies here.  Oh yeah.  I'm proud to be a South Carolinian, y'all. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Son, the Interior Decorator

This has been a really busy summer, so far.  Between keeping Sam occupied and trying to get my second book ready for release, I have not had much time to breathe.  And when it rains, it pours, so it figures that Chip and I have decided to have a bunch of people over to the house lately.  Five sets of people within a two week period, if I am remembering everyone.  That's a good bit of cooking and cleaning, but we enjoy entertaining.  And once we have one set of friends over, it's usually, "Well, while we have the house good and clean, might as well have more . . . "

So a couple of Fridays ago, it was 10 people for dinner and games.  There was last-minute vacuuming and mopping, cooking 24 hamburger patties, and general stuffing of things into closets to put on that false air of tidiness.  I made extra coffee that morning and kicked into high gear at about 6:30 a.m.

So it made perfect sense that Sam choose THAT DAY to add a little interior design flair to the living room.  Why not?  I mean, he saw me sprucing up, right?

Sam was on the floor working on the grocery store for his shoebox village (we have been building a village out of old shoeboxes this summer).  Sam's Save-A-Lot was looking good and getting some last minute crayon touches while I was on the phone.  Suddenly, Sam caught my attention by moving to the corner and sitting down in the "Time Out Chair."  With a little Mona Lisa smile, he said quietly, "I'm in time out."

Then I saw why.

In the center of my living room carpet (which is a shade of ecru called "Biscuit") was a giant spiral design in purple crayon.  "I'm sorry," Sam giggled, "It was an accident."  We're working on what "accident" means.  I wish I had taken a picture, because it was really impressive.  He started with a dot in the middle, and then with the precision of an engineer with a protractor, made an outward spiral that was about one yard in diameter.  I almost left it, because it really looked like it could have been a deliberate part of the rug.  Almost.

Oh, did you know that "Washable" crayons are only washable some of the time?  It's true.  So, half a spray bottle of Woolite carpet cleaner later, we were ready for our guests.  As everyone sat on that area of the carpet that night for our game of Pictionary, I expected someone to whisper, "What's that wierd floral smell on the floor?  It's rubbing off on my jeans."  But no one did.

Lesson learned:  Crayons go under lock and key when I am cleaning up for company. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pink Hearts for Nona

Have you ever noticed that the leaf of a Calladium resembles a heart?  I never did, until recently.  I planted some bulbs in my yard back in February, knowing I would not see the results of my work until late spring.  Since we have only lived in our house for a year and a half, decorating and landscaping are still "a work in progress" around here.

The last time I saw my grandmother before she passed away, she and I had a long discussion about the landscaping at my house.  It was April.  Long since restricted to a wheelchair or hospital bed, she never had the opportunity to visit my new house, but I described it to her in detail and showed her pictures.  When it came to flowering plants, her advice was this: soft pink flowers would look best with my existing plants and color of my house.

One morning in May, I got the call that my grandmother had passed away during the night.  Later in the day, I walked down my driveway to retrieve the newspaper (of which, incidentally, my grandfather was the Managing Editor in the 1960's) and water my hostas.  I stopped.  I stepped closer to the side of my house.  The very first Calladium was just peeking through the pine straw.  I remembered that Nona and I had talked about my plants when I saw her last.  I knew this was God's gift to me, to remind me that Nona's life on Earth may be over, but her eternal life in Heaven is just beginning.

Over the last two months, all the Calladiums have sprouted and are thriving.  They are all green and white, except for the one that sprouted when Nona died . . . it is the only one sporting soft pink edges.  Just for Nona.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Have You Ever Done This?

I have.  I cannot take credit for this photo, though.  A very good friend of mine arrived at work one morning last week only to look down and see what you see above.  Oh yes, she had.  And oh no, she did not go home to change them.

Okay, my friend is not blonde, which shoots my whole Yes-I'm-A-Natural-Blue theme.  I guess anyone can be a Dory, no matter their hair color.  Flightiness is non-discriminatory.

Back to the matter at hand, I will tell you what I did when this great shoe emergency happened to me.  I was a law student at the time (excuse in the bag:  mental overload), and I went out of town for the weekend.  For my Sunday morning outfit, I had selected a brown and olive green ensemble.  I had two identical pairs of Dansko clogs (one olive green and one brown).  I do remember debating with myself which pair to take while I was packing.  As I stepped out of my hotel room into brighter light, I realized I had on one of each.  What did I do?  I went back into my room and changed into the only other pair of shoes I had with me. They were black, and a totally wrong style for the outfit.  Better randomly mismatched to my outfit, than randomly mismatched to each other, I reasoned.  But I was painfully aware of the mismatch the entire day, and did everything I could hide my feet.  I stood behind potted plants.  I sat down and tucked my feet under the chair.  I'm sure no one but me noticed that I had on black shoes with a brown and green outfit.

Now my friend whose feet you see above is much better able to handle this sort of thing than I.  She is the type to laugh, wave her hand and surmise that no one will notice.  She's even the type to do it on purpose and see if anyone notices.  She enjoys the offbeat and madcap.  So to her, this was not the major life event it would have been for me.  Really, I would have had to log some vacation or sick time to drive home and change.  My friend says not even one person noticed her fashion mistake last week.  She was probably disappointed.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I'm a Natural Blue: Spray the Pam Before Heating the Pan

I was single until I was 33 years old. I had spent the previous 12 years as a busy professional reading a lot of instructions on Lean Cuisine boxes. I didn't pretend to be a gourmet chef. But I did love my Le Creuset cookware. It's indestructible. In a smackdown between the cookware and a steamroller, the Le Creuset would win. So when Chip and I got married, my favorite fry pan was my big periwinkle blue fry pan. It's a most wonderful conductor of heat.

One day, Chip brought home a London Broil. I had never cooked one before. After consulting a few recipes, I determined I would start by browning it in my big blue pan. I was supposed to get the pan hot before slapping the meat on there, so I turned on the eye. After a few minutes, though, Chip made a comment about putting something on there so the meat wouldn't stick. Ohhhhh, duhhhhh, I thought, I forgot to spray it. At this point, the pan was already about 1400 degrees, and I didn't want Chip to know I had forgotten to spray it. So I just waved the can over it quickly and sprayed enough to give it a thin coat. I thought I was being surreptitious. WHOOOOOSH, went the orange flames that licked out from my big blue pan, nearly reaching the hood over the stove. "Oh my gosh!" I screamed and jumped back.

"What?!" Chip yelled from around the corner.

"Nothing," I chirped cheerily from the kitchen.

"Yeah, right," he called back, but fortunately did not come to investigate. It looked like the griddle at a Japanese steakhouse. All I needed was a tall, white hat and a couple of meat cleavers to juggle. Ching-ching, chingity-smack. Applause. It died down soon enough, though. After making sure I still had my eyebrows, I tried to move the pan over, but the bottom of it had melted to the eye of the stove. Trying to be as quiet as possible, I rocked it back and forth until it came unstuck. Whew. But I had to continue to loosen it every minute for the remainder of the experience. And there was some blue paint stuck to the eye. I'll have to explain that to him later, I lamented.

Surely the pan was hot enough to sear the meat now, so I tossed the London Broil into the pan. WHOOSH again, but this time it was mostly smoke. And the loud sizzling sound could not be concealed. Chip came out of the bedroom, looked at the billowing smoke rising from the pan, shook his head, and went back into the bedroom.

You can guess what happened next . . . the smoke alarm squealed. I scurried over and fanned a newspaper under it until it stopped. But then I had to return to the stove and FLIP THE MEAT OVER. Yeah. I pried the blackened meat up with a meat fork and spatula, then flipped it over to create the same lovely hissing sound. Now, I had already turned the burner down some, but it was still about 800 degrees. So, the smoke alarm went off again. I rushed to open the sliding glass door just in time to see a fire truck turning into the complex. "They're here because of me," I half-wept. I just knew it. Someone must have reported the smell of smoke or the alarm going off repeatedly.

My husband is a firefighter, and would be humiliated by the fire department coming to his own house because his wife is spastic in the kitchen.

I sat down in a heap on the floor and prepared myself for the heavy, booted steps on the stairs and banging on the door. I started to rehearse in my head what I would say. I pictured Chip standing outside with his arms folded, talking to the firefighters, apologizing for the false alarm. But as the minutes passed, no knocking came. In fact, a short minute or two later, I saw the same truck leaving the complex. Ahhhh, I sighed. They were just out driving around. Thank you, Lord, for sparing me that embarrassment.

Fast forward about 30 minutes later, and Chip I were bravely knawing on pieces of charred leather, hoping for the best. He, who will usually eat anything, took the hunk of meat and tossed it into the garbage. Then we ate a pizza.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yes, I'm a natural blue . . .




When my husband and I were dating, he mentioned to me one day, "By the way, I know how to highlight hair, so I can do that for you." I remember looking at him quizzically and letting him know politely that I would not need for him to do that.




A few months after we married, I was brushing my hair one day. Chip was sitting in the room, studying me like a College World Series baseball game. "How come you never have to color your hair?" he asked me.




"Because I don't color my hair," I answered.




"What do you mean?"




What did he mean by asking what I meant?! I thought I had laid it out in black and white. People either color their hair or they don't. "I mean that I don't color my hair." He was still confused, so I pointed at my head. "This is the color of my hair." Still a stymied stare from my husband. "When it grows out of my head, it comes in this color." Apparently he did not realize that blonde is a color that occurs in nature. All the blondes in his life previously had, ahem, altered their locks from another color.


Other realizations branched from this . . . why I really can't get a tan, why every drug store product I buy is marked "For Sensitive Skin," why I never actually get speeding tickets even if I get pulled over . . . okay, well, bleached blondes probably get out of speeding tickets, too. But I digress. By the time we had been married for about a year, I had heard the phrase, "Boy, you really are blonde, aren't you?" at least five times, and usually following some brilliant ditzy move on my part (more to come later on that). I hear that phrase more and more with each passing year. And it's true.




We have been watching a lot of "Finding Nemo" at our house recently, thanks to my son. If you have seen it, you know that Dory, the blue Regal Tang, is the sweet, well-meaning fish with a serious problem. Her short-term memory is almost non-existent. *Sigh* She reminds me a lot of myself. And go figure, she admits while talking in her sleep, "Yes, I'm a natural blue." Stay tuned in the days to come, and I will tell some good blonde tales on myself. I'm definitely a natural blue, er-blonde.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Moderation

Moderation. I never seem to grasp it all that well when it comes to my work. There are some days where I sit at my computer, and nothing comes. I'm sad, or I'm tired, or I'm distracted. I keep flipping away from that blinking cursor to my Facebook page, to Twitter, to the Talbot's sale, and Oh wait, I was going to google search recipes for stir fry for the next supper club . . . You name it, I'll find it when the creative wave is not washing over me.





But sometimes, like today, I just can't get it all out of my head! I can't type fast enough, and I can't put the computer down. I'm revising old pieces. I'm jotting down outlines for new stories. I'm writing a couple of chapters in my novel. I'm almost afraid to turn off my laptop and go to bed, because I don't want to stop the flow. Because I know that tomorrow may be another one of those other days. I wish I could bottle up some of that creativity on the overload days and save it for those uninspired days. If any of you creative types out there know how to do that, please let me know.

Monday, June 13, 2011

RIP Barnwell the Lizard, PART 2

So my husband, Chip, was not at home yesterday afternoon when the famous lizard-slaying by my 3 year old occurred. (See post below, if you don't know the story!) Chip was not slated to be home until today. I told him the story over the phone, and of course Daddy was beaming with pride at his son's First Kill, and instinct to protect Mommy.

But there remained the matter of the dead lizard on the door stoop. "What did you do with it?" he asked me. I exclaimed that I had done nothing with it, nor did I plan to. He could take care of it upon his return home today. "No!" he fussed at me. "It will bring more bugs, which will bring more lizards, and . . . look, do you want a snake on the back porch?" Hmm. No. No, I don't. He insisted I HAD to dispose of the little carcass right away.

I stood there with the broom, a safe distance away. Ewwwwwww, I said to myself. If you didn't know that I have an irrational fear of lizards, again refer to the post below. I considered the possibility of sweeping it outside and having its little body decay under my Hosta. Ewwwww. I decided Chip's shovel would be better. Then I could scoop it up, carry it across the yard, and fling it over the back fence into the green space.

I assumed my stance, shovel in hands. What if it isn't all the way dead? What if I wake it up? It could spring to life, flopping and jerking around. It could race up the handle, charge at me and attack faster than my reflexes could drop the shovel and carry me out the porch door to safety. Barnwell might come back with revenge on his mind. Night of the Zombie Lizard and all that. See? I told you my fear of them is irrational. I just couldn't do it. Could. Not. Do it.

I went next door and found my neighbors just driving up in their car. I explained the situation - dead lizard, irrational fear, need to dispose of the body. I already felt like a village idiot. But to my further shame, the female was the one who jumped out of the car and said, "Oh, I'll take care of it!" Dear, sweet Mary Lou. I already thought she was a great neighbor, but now she's a hero, too.

As we rounded the corner to the back porch, I was explaining that his name was Barnwell and my son had slain him with a juice cup. Now she thinks I'm a wimp and crazy, too. Sometimes I just give too much information. Anyway, she spotted the shovel and asked, "Oh, were you planning to bury it?" No, I told her, I was just going to throw it over the fence into the green space. "Ah," she said, then she proceeded to pick up it with a grocery bag around her hand, the same way one might pick up dog waste. She wrapped the bag around and tied it off, balling it up in her hand. She was not bothered one bit by the fact that there was a potential Zombie Lizard in her very hand. He could have bitten her right through that thin plastic bag. She even stood there for a minute and chatted before heading home to throw it away! I know, I know, it was a dead lizard. I have a wild imagination. I probably need to address this with a therapist.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Tiny Hunter's First Kill: RIP Barnwell





(Barnwell the lizard, and a picture of my tiny hunter with his first kill)




I am a wimp. I will admit it. Sure, there are a few exceptions, but overall, I am pretty wimpy. A perfect example is my irrational fear of lizards. In my younger days at our river house, I swam where gators were frequently seen, I walked side by side with respectably-sized snakes, watched wild boars run through the back yard, I caught cast nets full of bait fish, cleaned crabs or boiled them live . . . I don't know what's happened to me now, but I am full-out prissy.



So we have had a problem with lizards living on our back porch recently, which has made going in and out of the back door a little more exciting. There have been two of the little "Geicos" living in the wicker porch furniture. I named them. That's what I do to try and make them seem less threatening. I give them names like Pierre or Steve. Well, these two have been dubbed Barnwell and Sumter. Barnwell was the fatter of the two and hung close to the back door, peering in at us. Many times, Sam and I had the chance to study Barnwell's scaly underbelly closely through the glass. Sumter tends to stay in the wicker loveseat near the garage door. He's not bothering me much over there.



More than once, my husband has captured these little green Southern gentlemen and flung them over our back fence into a green space with a tree line separating us from the next subdivision. What lizard wouldn't love a green space with a tree line?! Ours. They are homing lizards. But I had not seen either of them in a few days and had become lax. Today, I opened the back door without looking out of the blinds first. My three year old, Sam, walked out first. Then I saw Barnwell on the outside of the french door, hanging over my kitchen floor. I knew it was Barnwell because of his chopped off tail, the result of a previous scuffle with my husband.



Instinctively, I screamed and slammed the door shut. With my child on the other side. It was definitely not one of my finer moments in motherhood. At any rate, I started banging on the glass to encourage the lizard to move. He didn't. Sam turned around and yelled at the lizard to move. "Get out of ze way, yizard!" He didn't. So in an effort to protect his histrionic mother, Sam took his sippy cup and SLAM! socked it to the lizard. Barnwell fell the to threshold, barely moving.



"Oh, don't worry, Mommy!" Sam shouted through the door. I guess he could sense that I was still reticent to open the door with the tiny dinosaur struggling for life in my path. Then he took his sippy cup and AGAIN slammed it down on top of the ailing Barnwell. And there it was. My little boy, the fierce lizard hunter, had made his first kill. He was protecting his mommy, bless his little heart. He's almost all Scottish on my side, so that explains a lot. And I think he's got a little Seneca Indian blood on his father's side, so that helps, too. Killer instinct. And he's not even in 3K yet.




I was in shock at my little boy's bravery, but so proud of him for coming to my rescue. Next, we will be outfitting him with little snake boots and building him a tree stand.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Tribute to Nona



My dear grandmother, Nona, passed away a couple of weeks ago. I had the privilege of making some remarks at her funeral, which was actually very cathartic. I always look at people who speak at the funeral of a loved one and think, How is he/she getting through that without breaking down? Well, one way I got through it was keeping it light and remembering some of the funny things. But all said and done, it actually felt good to tell everyone some things that I knew about her that perhaps they didn't. It was helpful to me to be able to show them a bit of the lady I knew as grandmother and friend.






"Lady" is the key word. She was fun, a good Christian, had a good sense of humor, and so sweet. She always made others feel at ease in her presence, no matter what. She was very generous and kind, and was always interested in other people's lives and experiences. She had a degree in social work from USC, and went right to work as a social worker out of college. After marrying my grandfather, she became a full-time housewife (and eventually, mother to 3). She spent a lot of time doing charity work, though, as I remember from my childhood.






But above all, she was always a lady. I try to be more like her, and I fall flat on my face most days. During the summer I was studying for the Bar and taking the Bar review class in Columbia, I stayed with my grandparents so I could be closer to USC and cut down my drive by at least half. In late afternoons, I would take a break from studying and sit with Nona in the library. We would have sandwiches and tea, and watch re-runs of "Murder, She Wrote" and "M.A.S.H." My grandfather would usually come in as well, and join us for a light, early dinner. Having the comfort and stability of my grandparents' support was most certainly one of the reasons I managed to pass that wretched three-day exam.






I miss her so, so much. I know I always will. But I think of my young son , my cousin's young daughter (and the new baby brother she will have in a few months), and I realize that the circle of life goes on. I have no regrets. I am thankful that I took full advantage of the 38 years I had her in my life. I have thousands of wonderful memories that warm my heart. And I have the blessed assurance of knowing that Nona is Heaven, and I will see her again.






If your grandparents are still living, I urge to take full advantage of being with them. Ask their opinion on your life decisions, or on what to wear to an event, or where to plant your roses. Ask them to tell you stories from their childhood. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ready, Set, No

As tornadoes ripped across our country last week, I watched and prayed for those who were affected, and for those who seemed to be in the path of impending danger. I encourage everyone to send donations to Operation Blessing, Salvation Army, or the org of your choice to assist with aid to the victims.

We were miraculously blessed that we did not receive the wrath of those storms. As the storm rolled across the south, we braced, knowing we were directly in the path. I grew up with a nervous nellie dad, always having to call when I arrived somewhere. Many a time, I had road trips planned when one of the days would threaten a 20% chance of rain. My dad would shake his head and advise against going. A bit overly-cautious. But after experiencing Hugo in 1989 as a high school senior, I tend to consider safety a bit more. When you have spent the night listening to the high winds and passing tornadoes, then having a tree fall into your roof, you tend to take these things a little more seriously. I thought I was going to die that night, and later found out that the "BOOM CRACK" sounds the house was making are usually what you hear before a house explodes in a tornado. I adopted a similar "batten down the hatches" attitude and don't even like to leave the house in rain now, if I don't have to.

So, what did I do as an adult? I married a First Responder. Being a survivor of Hurricane Andrew, my emergency personnel husband is even worse than my dad when it comes to being safe and taking precautions. When he's at home and hail or tornadoes threaten, he acts as though Armageddon is upon us every time. In particular, I can remember one storm in the last few years where the weather was amply troublesome. Forever emblazoned on my memory is an image of my husband sitting on our porch, wearing a bicycle helmet, and wielding a baseball bat in case any errant hail were to blow up on the porch in a missile-like fashion and break our sliding glass doors.

When my husband is not at home with us during a big weather event, he will call me with detailed instructions about what to secure in the yard (because anything can become a projectile in high wind) and usually tell me to go to my parents' house to take cover. (Their house is older, larger, and infinitely sturdier than ours.) Surviving a major storm like Andrew or Hugo will change you forever, and not necessarily to make you more sane.

So when the storm was approaching last week, it was certain that we would get heavy rain and high winds, at the very least. When the storm reached Columbia, about 2-3 counties over, there were still tornadoes spinning off of it. I took my son to school and opted not to stay for a reception honoring a lady who is leaving the school. I told everyone I wanted to stay, but had to go home and "get ready for the storm." They all looked at me like I was crazy. They acted like I was squawking like Chicken Little. Some didn't even know we were due to get a storm. The rest of the world was business as usual, while I was occupied all day by the Weather Channel and phone updates from family members. I, too, have become that nervous nellie. I felt foolish when I went back to pick him up later in the day, and not a drop of rain had fallen. "Well, I guess we didn't get that storm after all," one of the teachers said to me. But all my potential projectiles were secured, gosh darn it.

My husband was not at home with us, but my in laws were in town, staying in a hotel. Of course, it was suggested that my son and I go to the hotel so we could hide in the sturdy concrete stairwell. We did not do that, but did go to my parents' house to watch the Weather Channel. My mother was due at a state garden club meeting in Columbia, and was all set to get on the highway and drive. My father and my husband were all over her not to go . . . "People are out there getting pelted with hail!" "I don't care if you have to make a presentation. You can't make it anyway if you're DEAD!" High drama. My mother waved them off and got in her Range Rover, in which she believes herself to be invincible. Okay, those cars are like tanks, but I don't think they could take on a tornado. Check the pictures of Tuscaloosa if you don't believe me, Mom. But she was convinced that we weren't going to get the weather at all. And she was right.

So off she went. Periodically, she would call and give us updates on the sunshine. Absolutely NO inclement weather in her path. None. And I will be the first to admit that the radar looked fairly scary when she left, but the storms just turned north. NC and VA received the hit for which my chicken little family was braced. I headed back home in a little drizzle of rain, the only bad weather we got. Still, I guess I'd rather be Chicken Little than the mouse who doesn't know he's in the snake's cage.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Green Day, A Lasagna Garden





I spent the morning gardening, but not in my own yard. Through Junior League, I have had the pleasure of spending three Saturdays over the last eight months or so at a farm in Moncks Corner. Fields to Families is an organization that grows gardens to feed the hungry (in cooperation with Whole Foods of Mount Pleasant). It's a wonderful project, and you can find out more about it at http://www.fieldstofamilies.org/





Since the field is (like my yard) made up of red clay that will not grow jack squat (except for some stubborn weeds), a method called lasagna gardening has been utilized. Beds have been built on top of the ground like so:





-Lay newspapers flat on the ground, and wet them so they don't blow away.



-Mix up some peat moss and spread it on top of the newspaper.



-Spoiled hay or straw should be tossed on top of the peat.



-Next, grass clippings.



-Compost on top of the grass clippings.



-Vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc. (These can be saved in a baggie in the freezer until you are ready to use them.)



-Chopped leaves



-Potting soil (can be the fertilized kind)





Now, you can plant your seeds or young plants and watch them grow! It is an amazing process to watch!




Not only do I have the reward of knowing I have spent these days farming food for the needy, but I have learned an extremely valuable skill. Today I was picking collard greens from one of the 46 beds at the Moncks Corner farm, and I realized something. In September, I helped build that very bed. In February, I planted those very collards in that bed. And today, I picked them. I truly got to be there at every phase for those collards. Sometime in the next few days, someone who is needy or hungry will be eating them. That gives me incredible joy. I have also pulled weeds. I have planted and/or harvested potatoes, onions, peas, cauliflower, cucumbers, rosemary, field peas, and other produce that I can't even remember right now.




If you haven't done so lately, go out and get your hands dirty. Plant something and watch it grow. It's a miracle, really.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Battle Royale

"I just don't understand why you care," said my husband last night. This was, of course, in reference to Will and Kate's royal wedding that took place this morning. I tried my best to explain it. It's beautiful. It's romantic. It's historic. It's grand. I remember getting up in the wee hours with my mother, thirty years ago, to watch Will's parents walk down the aisle. My husband wasn't persuaded.

If you're a young girl, watching a prince and princess get married is like a fantasy come true before your very eyes. You can think about what your own wedding will be like. If you're a married lady, it might make you nostalgic about taking your own vows. It made me remember the excitement I felt on my own wedding day. I tried to explain all of this to my husband, to no avail. He just shook his head at me, unable to grasp why I would get up at 5am and turn on the tv, riveted for four hours. Yeah. There are some sports events about which I feel the same way.

Anyway, I thought it was just Chip who didn't get it. Then I logged on to Facebook and saw how many of my friends were posting that their husbands just didn't understand why their wives were setting their alarms to get up and watch a wedding on tv. They were having the same conversations with their husbands!

So yes, I got up at 5:30am and watched it. I loved every minute of it. In fact, it put me in a wonderful mood for the rest of the day. I did have to pause to get dressed, but I raced back down the stairs in time to see the royal couple kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Chip still doesn't get it. I don't expect him to, though, because men and women are just plain different. We always will be, because God made us that way. And praise the Lord for that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's almost time for hydrangeas.




















I love this time of year, in spite of the allergies that come along with it. There is always something blooming from late February until the end of summer. I have been in planting mode recently, and have been looking for some roses and hydrangeas to complete my planting projects.

I found a lovely hydrangea for only $5 yesterday, and will be getting it into the ground within the next few days. It's already revealing itself to be a soothing periwinkle blue. I don't think they usually bloom this early, though . . . I know they bloom in early summer, because that was the flower I used most in my June wedding, nearly five years ago. On the big day, the cake lady delivered the cake to my grandparents' house several hours before the wedding. It was three delicious, square tiers of mouth-watering sour cream pound cake. The fondant pearls glistened. It was planned that my mother would then arrange hydrangeas in an artistically pleasing way (as only she can do) around and on top of the cake. I knew it would be perfect and beautiful.

Shortly before getting dressed, I floated downstairs (yes, floated - it being the happiest day of my life, and all) and rounded the corner into the dining room. My mother was just finishing up with the hydrangeas on the cake. My hands flew to my face and I gasped. It was literally the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. She had not just used periwinkle, the most common color of hydrangeas, but every color in which they grow. Light blue, dark blue, pink, fuschia, purple, green, white. Every time I see a hydrangea, it transports me back to my wedding day in June of 2006. The celebration of color that decorated my wedding cake was like a trumpet blowing a melody of beauty in harmony with the song in my heart that day.


It's almost time for hydrangeas again, and it's almost time to celebrate five crazy, wonderful years with the love of my life.

Friday, April 22, 2011

New Horizons

The other day, my husband said, "I looked at your blog last night. How come you haven't written anything on it since October?" October? Oh my. I had no idea it had been that long. How easily life can distract us from the things we really want to do. In 2011, I have been hard at work selling my book, A Quiet Cup of Tea both to individuals and to gift shops and bookstores. I have learned first hand that what they say about being a writer is true . . . you only spend about 10% of the time writing, and the other 90% marketing yourself. My husband has been an incredible help to me, schlepping boxes of books to book signings for me, selling books to practically everyone he knows, taking care of our son so I could write and make phone calls, cheering me on.

And yet, there are never enough hours in the day! Isn't that exactly what I wrote about in A Quiet Cup of Tea, though? The main character sets out to do what she wants to do one morning, but her life (as she has defined it, structured it, and as she prefers it) keeps popping up all day long to prevent her from what she set out to do. Like her, though, I find myself at the end of the day blissfully happy and knowing that my life is still heading where I want it to go. "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

So the project this week has been rebuilding my website. I think it's appropriate to make some type of new beginning on this Easter weekend. So stop by my website, if you have a moment, and let me know what you think! www.perrincothranconrad.com