Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The End and The Beginning

The End of 2009. To recap:

My baby took his first train ride to Chicago to the Children's Museum.

He rode in the Bobcat with me while we dug up our yard to make room for a patio.

My baby turned four. He got a big boy bike and fell down a lot.

He lost two teeth and got a broccoli car.

Yeah, I think McQueen's expression says it all, don't you?

We dressed up as pirates for Halloween.

He got his very own dog.

And for Christmas, he got toys and snow to sled on.

Notice how he's creating as much drag as possible? All the better to wrench his dear ol' Dad's back with. Also notice how Gater is thinking about biting him. He thought about it for a long time, too.

For me, 2009 began with getting an agent to request the full manuscript of my first western book. She didn't sign me, but in May, Laurie did. On my birthday, which means I have no problem admitting I got another year older, since representation was my present this year. (I'm 33, say it loud and proud!)

I went to the Romance Writers of America National Conference in D.C. with my mom (Hi, MOM!). We did the Museum of the American Indian.

I won second place in the Chicago-North Fire and Ice contest for Warrior, Lawyer.

We did our own paver patio, and remodeled my office (since I'm a real writer now, with an agent and everything!)

My husband and I celebrated our seven year anniversary. This fall, we got gussied up for a black-tie optional dinner.

Yes, I only own one really nice, fancy dress. So? He only owns one tux. We're even.

I got a second (third?) job teaching English as a Second Language to this fun crowd:

We had our first ever fondue dinner.

Trust me, there's a hot pot of chocolate in front of us. And then we inhaled it.

And my wonderful agent got my rodeo book in front of a whole lot of eyes.

2009 was crazy good around here. (Although, frankly, I could have done without large chunks of October. Otherwise, it was crazy good.) But now it's over. Stick a fork in it, done and done.

What does 2010 hold? I don't know for certain, but I can hazard a few guesses.

We'll do at least one more insane remodeling project. The sunroom and the kitchen sink are currently duking it out to see what goes first.

My baby will turn five, and probably grow another five inches. He'll lose more teeth, but probably won't stop sucking his thumb or loving his Pooh Bear. Not yet, anyway. He might also learn to read, and he WILL be going to kindergarten.

My husband will work long hours, but he will remain gainfully employed, with benefits. He will continue to be an awesome dad and a hell of a cook.

And me? I'll keep playing trains with my baby, walking my dogs, and doing laundry. I'll keep working two jobs and trying to figure out how to squeeze in date nights and movies in the theater.

And, above all else, I'll keep crossing all available body parts as I wait to hear back from editors.

2010 is going to be crazy good. This is just the beginning.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How to Wrap a Present in 29 Easy Steps, Redux

I'll be honest, Loyal Readers. I'm talking to you, family and friends who have dutifully checked out this site once a week for almost two years now. That's 90+ blogs if you're keeping track at home, although I wouldn't have the first foggy idea why you would do that.

Honestly? I've got nothing. Sure, I could detail awkward social gatherings (another two down!) I could take pictures of my dogs. Again.


But that's not what you really want, especially you, NEW readers. You want humor. You want giggles. You demand them. And who am I to deny you a little levity?

So, I'm re-posting. "How to Wrap a Present in 29 Easy Steps" was first posted on Dec. 4th, 2008, and I still think it's just about the funniest thing I've written. I've added a photo now and an update at the end, so it's a "second edition," if you will.

Without further ado (as if this hasn't been enough ado!), I present "How to Wrap a Present in 29 Easy Steps" for your reading enjoyment!

In my capacity as Authorial Mom, I thought I would offer these 29 steps to easier, more beautiful presents. Just follow this easy program to achieve the same kind of Christmas Satisfaction that the Authorial Mom basks in practically year-round.

1. Buy awesome gifts that your child(ren) will love, like the aircraft carrier complete with die-cast planes and helicopters, real aircraft sounds, and a control tower.

Yeah, like that one.

2. Hide it in the garage and pray your child(ren) won't notice it.

3. Assemble your wrapping supplies: Festive paper, sharp scissors, and clear tape.

4. Realize someone used your best scissors to mutilate crayons. Decide to forge ahead anyway.

5. Heft aircraft carrier out of garage. Realize that it's 2 1/2 feet long and 9 inches tall at the tower. Not exactly regularly shaped. And because you bought it for a song at a thrift store, it did not come with in-store wrapping, or even a box. Its only covering is a garbage bag.

6. Begin frantically tearing through your insane stash of boxes accumulated over a lifetime of hording for something big enough to fit an aircraft carrier.

7. Repeat process with festive holiday bags. Again, come up short - literally.

8. Decide to make your own box, just like your father-in-law does.

9. Mutilate six boxes trying to find enough matching parts to encase an aircraft carrier.

10. Give up trying to match box sizes after giving yourself the mother of all paper cuts. Go get a glass of wine and a band-aid. Several band-aids.

11. Newly fortified, return to the battle scene. Begin taping box parts around aircraft carrier.

12. Realize control tower isn't removable. Remove it anyway (using the tips of your ruined scissors) and tape it to the side.

13. Run out of tape.

14. Get another glass of wine while tearing the house apart for more tape. Settle on packing tape. It's still clear, after all.

15. Return to the battle scene. Experience a pang of liberal guilt for giving innocent child a war toy for Christmas. Finish wine and get over it quickly.

16. Begin wrapping festive paper around jerry-rigged box-like covering.

17. Run out of festive paper, leaving a three inch gap between edges.

18. More wine as you debate how to cover the gap.

19. Settle on using different festive paper. Reason that Santa has to improvise, too.

20. Another paper cut.

21. The secret to beautifully wrapped presents is the crisp creases on the edges. Realize that there are no edges on your aircraft carrier you can crease the paper on without poking the tower out through the side.

22. Poke the tower out through the side.

23. Begin rooting around for Christmas ribbon to wrap over the hole the tower made.

24. Find acceptable ribbon. Begin wrapping around carrier.

25. Run out of ribbon.

26. Realize that all children like bows. Dump out whole bag of bows and apply liberally.

27. Stand back and, glass of wine in hand, admire your dedicated handiwork.

28. Overcome by holiday spirits, go lay down until Christmas is over.

There! Wasn't that easy? And the true reward for all your hard work will come Christmas morning, when your child(ren) will rush down, see the highly festive package under the tree, demolish the whole thing in under three seconds, and spend the rest of the day building sheds for trains he already has out of the mutilated box parts and bows, leaving the aircraft carrier to collect dust in the corner. Finally arrive at:

29. Next year, all the presents will be in garbage bags. With a bow.

Update: The child 'drives' the air-craft carrier around the dining room, landing planes, trains, and occasionally automobiles on its deck. Despite the scars left from wrapping the damn thing, it was still the best five bucks I ever spent at a thrift store!

The Authorial Mom will be taking next week off and spending it with as many of the child's grandparents as possible. So, let me take this moment to say, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Number Three

So, as I mentioned last week, tis' party time!

The English as a Second Language party came and went with lots of leftover food. I ate Thai food for a week and am currently hording the last of the peanut sauce.

Then, last Friday, I went to the first of three different community college parties, this one held by my Nighttime Boss. True, when I informed other guests that I teach ESL--all who worked for said community college, the one where I teach said ESL class--most of them looked at me like I had personally landed that morning from another planet and was oozing irradiated slime out of multiple orifices. I'm not sure if they even knew we had an ESL program.

And then, then I made it worse. I mentioned that I have four different editors looking at No Man's Land. That I write romance. New Western romance. In a room full of community college educators. I went from 'oozing alien' to 'oozing alien selling timeshares.' Remind me not to do that again. Not without some artificial ego support, anyway.

Not everyone recoiled in horror. Renee, my Nighttime Boss--who does NOT look at me like I'm oozing--was a wonderful hostess, and the Dean of the College was also quite friendly. He is apparently aware of the ESL thing. But not the romance thing.

What a difference a night makes. The very next night, I went to Melissa's house.

(I'd like to publicly apologize to Melissa for my crummy camera skills. This is not my best work.)

Melissa is one of those wonderful people who is a friend of a friend, who then became my friend as well. True, she's got four adorable children under six, and I work 2 1/2 jobs. We don't see each other much, but one of the reasons I treasure her friendship is that that's okay. We enjoy the time we get. Melissa happens to teach at the aforementioned community college, but she reads regularly reads my blog. In other words, she's cool.

Melissa had a jewelry party--Lia Sophia. It was the sort of crowd that, when I mentioned the whole romance thing, did NOT recoil, gape in shock, or poorly contain a look of disgust. This was the kind of crowd that said, "Really? Where can I get your books? I LOVE romance novels!"

That's pretty much word-for-word what Jody said, God love the woman. Jody Beckman was the 'advisor.'

(I'd like to publicly apologize to Jody for my crummy camera work.)

I liked Jody not just because she loves romance, but because she had a nice laugh and her eyes sparkled when she talked about her husband and kids. My kind of woman.

However, I felt bad for her--and Melissa--because I do not buy things at home parties. I just don't. You can't undo 33+ years of frugal German training with some nice earrings. Although that one pair was very nice . . . I go to home parties for the chance to talk to other adult women and eat snacks. But to make it up to Jody, feel free to use her name as your 'advisor' if you decide to buy some jewelry. Christmas is right around the corner, after all.

Mission: Accomplished. I ate snacks, and I talked with other adult women. Success!

Melissa's sister Cindy was there, with her daughter Hayley.

(I'd like to publicly apologize to Cindy and Hayley for my crummy camera work.)

I think they did most of their Christmas shopping for each other.

April arrived seconds after I did.

(I'd like to publicly apologize to April for my crummy camera work.)

I'm afraid I actually shut the door in her face, but she was lovely.

Susan goes to church with Melissa.
(I would apologize for the camera work here, but, as you can see by my presence, I didn't take this. Melissa was exacting a little revenge, I'm afraid. Still, Susan got the better end of this picture, I think.)

I got the feeling Susan goes to a lot of Lia Sophia parties. She knew all the answers. Even the one about the 'Husband Unawareness Program.'

Did you know about the Husband Unawareness Program? I got the distinct feeling that I was the only one in the room who hadn't heard about it, and I'm not sure if I'm breaking some Wife Code rule by even acknowledging its existence.

We all took turns trying on necklaces and passing around Melissa's adorable twins.

(I would even apologize to the jewelry, if I thought it cared.) (Next time, I'm bringing Lucy Lucia with me to take all the photos for me.)

(Cindy, this one is better!)

Yes, much jewelry was purchased. I had a wonderful time. And no one looked at me like I oozed.

That's what friends are for! Thanks, Melissa!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Commence Partying!

How was your Thanksgiving? Crazy? Join the club!

Thanksgiving morning, I got up, helped foil a turkey, and joined these crazy people:

That's my sisters Leah and Hannah, Hannah's husband Steve, and Steve's cousin Adam. These 'humorous' people decided that--new family tradition!--they were going to do the Gobble Wobble Thanksgiving morn. 5K walk/run.

And sit. I sat in the church, drank tea, and then stood outside for ten minutes to start snapping pictures of beloved relatives crossing the finish line. (For the full story, see Fighting Brimley.)

The dogs had a great time, especially Gater, who can fit through the fence and enjoyed escape several times. Not so much post-turkey, however. But still.

Then we went to my in-laws. Who had recently bought themselves a ping pong table for Christmas.


The kid insisted the Pooh Bear play ping pong with me. Pooh Bear is no Forrest Gump. Heck, neither am I. We spent more time searching for the ball under boxes and behind tables than we did actually playing. Still, when the kid actually managed to connect paddle to ball, he hit a few hum-dingers.

Am I old enough to say Hum-Dingers? Don't I have to be about 78?

The kid loves Grandma and Grandpa's house. Maybe it's because of the family farmland, the wide-open woods, the unconditional Grandparent love. But really, it's because my mother-in-law has every Little People toy and accessory known to humankind.

It's hard core. She even has the ill-fated 'square' Little People McDonald's set. The kid and I moved all the furniture into Sesame Street this time. I even found the Bert and Ernie beds. Sure, the foam 'mattresses' have long since returned to dust, and Bert doesn't have his pointy little head of hair anymore, but we did unearth Big Bird's nest this time. God is good.

Thanksgiving is over. Now is the time to sit back, unbutton the pants, and just relax.


Do you remember 'Not'? Do you remember Wayne and Garth? How old are you, anyway?

No, there is no relaxing around here. It's time to PAR-TAY!

Do you remember Par-tay? Said with a 'hey, girl, hey' kind of accent?

Sad that these are my pop-culture references.

Anyway, so we came home Sunday night from a whirlwind four-day, four-grandparent Thanksgiving smorgasbord. We got in after seven. And we immediately began to clean.

Monday, I was throwing a party. The Holiday/Farewell/Drink Wine During Class party. Tiya, you see, winters in Thailand, and Monday was her last day, so it was a Farewell Party. Which was, technically after Thanksgiving, so it's a Christmas party, but not everyone in my class is Christian, so it's a Holiday Party. And I had it at my house, which meant I didn't have to drive, which meant I could drink wine during what was technically class.

This is Sami and Julie.

Julie brought cheesecake, for which I am eternally grateful. Sami brought root beer, for which the kid is eternally grateful.

This is Ting Ron (standing) and Goi. This is the only picture of Goi I can put up here, because it's the nice one. That's what she said.

That's Ting Ron and Sylvia, his wife.

They brought their son, who's seven. My kid tried mightily to entertain their son, but seven year olds don't really want to hang out with four year olds. Really.

This is G. She has a name that only sounds pretty when you say it in Portuguese, which I can't, so we just call her G.

She brought me a necklace made from seeds. It's lovely. Very 'cowgirl,' if I do say so myself.

That's my class. I spend two nights a week with them, teaching them all sorts of great English words. No, I won't tell you which ones. You aren't in my class!

That was only the beginning. This Friday, my nighttime boss is having an intimate gathering at her house. Then Saturday is a home party at a dear friend's house (Yes, Melissa, I'm coming!) Next Friday is the college-wide party; the week after that is the Community Education party. There will be neighborhood parties, work parties, family parties, and, just when I will be totally partied out, New Year's will be here.

Let's Par-tay!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


This is Jake, the Three-Legged Wonder Wiener.

Jake is a very thankful dog. As detailed in his story, he's survived abandonment, a car accident, the mean streets, amputation, a kill shelter, and major back surgery. He never really forgets any of this, as evidenced by his behavior when he thinks we're going to leave him.

Jake is thankful for things like this:

'His' chair, which he graciously deigns to share with me and Gater, as long as Jake has dibs on the lap. Also, his blankie, which, despite his best efforts, still somewhat exists after six years.

His food bowl, and its regular employment.

This is Gater, the four-legged whatever he is.

Gater has had an easier life, compared to Jake. He spent his first year chained outdoors, but he got regular food. He was surrendered to the Humane Society, so he was never faced with making the long walk. As a result of this, he's not quite as thankful.

He does appreciate the chair, though.

He recently graduated to spending the night snuggled in the chair with Jake, instead of having to sleep in the crate. He still has to stay in the crate during the day, though.

He's also thankful for food bowls, and the food in them.

And the toys. He's a big fan.

However, that's all about to change. You see, today is Thursday. Thanksgiving. Jake is more thankful for this day than any other day of the year. That's because he knows what's coming.

Oh, yeah. Thanksgiving is the Most Wonderful Wiener Dog Day of the Year. Jake waits 364 days for this one day and all of its turkey goodness. It doesn't hurt that Thanksgiving is at my folks' house, where it's rumored that my mother is a soft touch when it comes to dogs and table scraps.

Gater has no idea. He's never seen one of those huge roasted birds before. He's never nibbled at dark meat so delectable, it fell off the bone. He's never known the joy of the full-bore capacity of my dad's cooking skills.

Oh, yeah. That's the good stuff.

But he will.

And I'd bet all the tea in China that he will be thankful.

As am I.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Quiet Week

Boy, oh boy, last week was quiet. Nothing funny happened to me at all. In fact, ever since The Tailgate, things around this house were dull to the point of deadly. It was so quiet that I was driven to drink.

True. In some twisted hope of livening things up around here, I broke into the wine at 2:23 on a Thursday. And then I sat down and watched Batman Begins. In the middle of a work day, no less. And then, slightly more than half-drunk, I took my dogs for a walk.

And that was it. That was the excitement for the whole of the week. I don't even have a funny picture to put up. It was just that lifeless around here.

What's that? Why was it lifeless around here?

Excellent question. It was lifeless because of this.

What's that?

That's China. As in, Shanghai. As in, the city where my husband spent a week on a business trip. See?

Okay, so you can't see. Trust me on this. The man was in China, where exciting things like Shanghai traffic and, most especially, a dish they told him was called "The Drunken Fish" happened to him. "The Drunken Fish" may have been a mistranslation, because according to my husband(the vegetarian), it was a big glass bowl, filled with an alcoholic salt brine--and live shrimp. As in, still living. As in, one actually jumped out of the bowl and made a break for it across the table. Don't worry, he didn't get far. He was drunk.

No doubt about it, he was in China. How do I know? Normally, I'd trot out the wonderful gift he brought me as proof he was there. However, that man--the love of my life, the father of my child--decided his gift to me was so nice that he's going to 'save' it for Christmas.

To which I responded, Nice? Better be fantastic!

Still, he did bring these:

The travel kits supplied by China Air for business travelers. Thereby proving that he went to China.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Awesome travel kits! And it's true. But perhaps you're wondering if my son missed his father? Got a little lonely in all that quiet?

Not a chance in hell.

Here's the perfect example of what kind of mother I am. When I put two and two together--in this case, husband leaving on business trip the week after we hang out with my mother at a tailgate, I acted fast. I called my mother up and said, "How would you feel about just taking the kid home with you for the week?"

To which she replied--well, I didn't really understand what she said, but there was a lot of jumping up and down and shouting to my father excitedly in the background.

My boy didn't have the chance to miss his father, more or less me. They went fishing at the Lake. They went to a Blues hockey game with his Aunt Leah. They played toys all day. They went to the Magic House. They even went grocery shopping. Everything's better when you're being spoiled by grandparents, really.

So, husband in China. Son at grandparents. It was so quiet around here, I could almost hear myself think.


This week has been completely different. First off, everyone came home. Suddenly, the house was filled with trains whistling, people shouting from other rooms about missing socks, cars vrooming across the floor.

Yesterday, well, yesterday was the most exciting day of the week. The month, in fact, because after a crap-tacular Authorial October, November has been good to me. My Agent, Laurie, e-mailed me to say that three--THREE!--editors want to look at No Man's Land, aka the bull riding book.

So, I'm excited. The husband is excited. The kid is excited, but that's mostly because he got a brownie for dessert last night. The dogs, well, they were excited (see above picture) but now they are asleep.

The quiet was nice while it lasted. But I'll take this kind of excitement every day of the week.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Tailgate.

So, we went to the tailgate.

My wonderful sister Hannah and her fan-atic husband Steve have season tickets to the Mizzou Tigers football game. We get one game.

And we want to make the most of it. This year's tailgate was Nov. 7th, a 1 p.m. game against Baylor. 1 p.m. game. In other words, we were officially tailgating by 8:45.

How do you make the most of tailgating before most people (certainly all college students) are normally out of bed on a Saturday?

First, you make omelets:


Of course, you need someone to make the omelets. Ladies, this is up to you: Marry a man who enjoys combining the art of cooking, the love of American sporting events, and the challenges of cooking on a portable campstove while a 4-year-old-boy keeps threatening to accidentally tip the whole contraption over.

In other words, a man like this:

The results?

Happy tailgaters. That's my brother-in-law, Steve--giver of football tickets. We felt omelets were the least we could do, so that's all we did.

What else do you need to tailgate in the early hours?


We spared no expense. That's Andre champagne.

I love this:

I don't think baseball players read this label.

Anyway, Mimosas. The perfect tailgating beverage, and at the top of the list of kinds of alcohol you can drink for breakfast.

Note I'm not pointing that at anyone. I follow directions.


That's my sister, Hannah. She's so nice, I'm actually going to remember to buy her a Christmas present this year!

So now, we're really partying.

Hard Core.

Oh, did I mention my mother was there? Yeah, that's one hell of a tailgate.

This was her normal pose for most of it. She took all the pictures of my kid, and then, when the game started, took him home for us. A wonderful woman, my mother. All the more so because of all the jackasses screaming such choice words as "Horse SHIT!" at the top of their jerky little lungs, like that would help the coach make better play calls. In other words, God bless the woman for taking my son home BEFORE it got ugly.

Moving on. So, as you can see, we are a perfectly normal group of people, sipping our mimosas and dining on our custom-made omelets at 9 in the morning in a parking lot. How do I know we're normal?

At least we weren't dressed like Waldo.

Seriously. Waldo showed up next to our area and played a little catch with his buddy, Nanook of the North over there. This outfit was a joy to begin with, but the hat was made all the more special that it was about 70 degrees outside by this point. (Yes, November. We got lucky). So this hat, much like this poor sap's pants, was something he chose to put on. Willingly.

So we drank our Mimosas, ate our omelets, and basked in the late fall sun. Then we went to the game with jackasses and watched the home team lose (which only made the jackasses jackier, really). Afterward, we went home, watched Wall*E, and crashed hard.

The next morning, we were all dragging, so I let my kid dress himself. Oh, who am I kidding? I always let him dress himself.

Note that it's the accessories that make this outfit. A Pooh-Bear fleece pull-over matched with camo fleece pants is one thing. But throw in his favorite pink bag, the one he uses to carry his toy cars around? Now that's an outfit!

Somewhere, Waldo is laughing.