Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Traditions, huh?

I never really thought I had any, just the usual stuff everyone else does.  Decorating a tree, wrapping presents, you know “the usual”.  But this year, as I’m merging my holiday traditions with The Scientist’s holiday traditions…  Well, there are definitely some differences.
ONE – The Stone household has always had a “fake” tree. (This is my Scottish roots coming out…Why buy a tree each year? Buy a good one once, and you’re set.) The Scientist’s household always does a “real” tree. I was told that Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the smell of a real tree. When I said candles had the same scent, I was met with a death stare.
FINE – “REAL” TREE it is.
TWO – The Stone household always goes out for Chinese food for Christmas Eve dinner. (Actually, I’d go out every night of the week if I could avoid cooking.  And who wants to cook at Christmas?  There are too many other things to do.) The Scientist’s household has always had a traditional Christmas Eve dinner – roasted goose and the whole nine yards.  Of course, my teen is quite upset at the prospect of not having Chinese for Christmas Eve this year, even though he doesn’t like Chinese food. “But, Mom, it’s my tradition.”
FINE  – ROASTED GOOSE for 3 and TAKE-OUT CHINESE for 1 (who doesn’t like Chinese.)
THREE – The Stone household loves happy, cherry Christmas songs. (I’m very partial to Bing Crosby’s crooner voice.  He should have sung every Christmas song.) The Scientist’s household has always listened to religious carols (Apparently, it’s a German thing.)
FINALLY I WON ONE – CROSBY’s WHITE CHRISTMAS it is!  And Peggy Lee’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, and Gene Autry’s Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
Growing up, we always opened one gift on Christmas Eve (which was usually some sort of Christmas pajamas, until I caught on and pitched a fit and refused to play along) and the rest of the presents on Christmas Day.  But in the world of split families, children must be shared. So, this year we will open all of our presents Christmas Eve, and the next day my son and his daughter will go see their other parent to open those sets of gifts.
And what will we do on Christmas Day without children?  I guess we’ll have to come up with some new holiday traditions!  Left over goose?  A little more Crosby, anyone?  Have you ever merged your holiday traditions with someone else’s?  How did you do it?  Do you miss the old traditions or have you embraced the new ones?
*Originally posted at Jerrica's Regency England December 17, 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012

When Harry Met Ava...

…not that Harry is my sort. I much prefer tall, blond scientists who are soft-spoken and kind-hearted. But aside from all that... For 23 years now I’ve thought that Nora Ephron must have been channeling me when she created the character of Sally Albright. I share so many similarities with Sally. I mean, she’s even a writer, for heaven's sakes! (But can I stop for a minute and ask if anyone else can believe When Harry Met Sally is 23 years old?!?!? Seriously - 23!! Two more years and it’ll be a quarter of a century old! Great! Now I feel old.)

Anyway, when I first watched this movie...All the way through, I thought Sally was just like me. Here is the best example:

Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.
Sally Albright: Which one am I?
Harry Burns: You're the worst kind; you're high maintenance but you think you're low maintenance.
Sally Albright: I don't see that.
Harry Burns: You don't see that? Waiter, I'll begin with a house salad, but I don't want the regular dressing. I'll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side. "On the side" is a very big thing for you.
Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it.
Harry Burns: I know; high maintenance.

Yep! I’m, apparently, the worst kind too. And that whole “on the side” thing is totally me (though I'd never eat mustard sauce "on the side" or otherwise. Yuck!). Just ask any of the Lady Scribes who’ve ever gone to dinner with me. The first thing I do in any restaurant is try to figure out if there’s anything on the menu I don’t have to “special order”. See… I try to be the low maintenance sort. I’m just not.

But I’m with Sally on this. I just want it the way I want it too. And if I’m paying money for it, I should be able to get it the way I want it, right?

Sally Albright: But I'd like the pie heated and I don't want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I'd like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it, if not then no ice cream just whipped cream but only if it's real; if it's out of the can then nothing.
Waitress: Not even the pie?
Sally Albright: No, I want the pie, but then not heated.

I am, in my defense, a generous tipper. And I always say “please” and “thank you.” I’m not really a pain, or at least I don’t think so. But, I suppose, this could maybe all be categorized as me thinking I’m low maintenance when really I’m high maintenance.

I'm not the only one I've recognized on the big or small screen. Years ago, when I watched the first episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, I turned to my then husband and said, "OMG! Larry David is just like you!" And it was uncanny. Truly.

My ex-husband glared at me and said, "Everyone thinks Larry David is an (expletive)." And then he didn't talk to me for the rest of the day.

Funny thing, a lot of people think my ex-husband is an (expletive) too. If Larry David ever runs out of material, I know someone he can ping for ideas. ;)

So now you tell me, have you ever identified with a character in a movie, tv show or book so much, you think the author is spying on you for material? If so - which character do you relate to more than all others? What about friends or family? Have you ever come across a character and thought... He/She is just like _______? 

Originally posted at LadyScribes.blogspot.com 11/30/2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Truth or Dare

Remember those old sleepovers we had as kids? Staying up all night, hopped on sugar and the good company of your BFFs? Toilet papering the yard of the hot guy on the basketball team (why did we do this, again??)? Watching videos on MTV (back when they played videos)? Talking about crushes? Playing Truth or Dare until someone either chickened out or got mad?
No? Only me?
Yeah, I’m not buying it. You remember. You just might not want to admit to remembering. Or your memory is worse than mine. Either way, odds are, you did one of all of those things back in the day.

Those were the days, right? 
So I thought it would be fun to take a walk down memory lane and play a virtual game of Truth or Dare. And being the good sport I am, I’ll go first.  And I’ll pick “truth”.
TRUTH… Tell us all something “bad” you did within the last 24 months…
Ok. Here I go…
I stole an “in-play” golf ball and didn’t give it back.
That sounds bad, doesn’t it? Anyone who plays golf is now going to hate me. But in my defense, it wasn’t on purpose. It really wasn’t. At least not at first.
I suppose I should preface this story with the fact that while I was growing up, my uncle lived on a golf course and his lawn was always littered with golf balls. I mean he could have made a mint selling used golf balls (if there was a market for such a thing.) So, I was accustomed to seeing golf balls lying around near a golf course.
Idyllic, at least until a golfer with a 
bulging vein in his neck is after you!
So one day, the scientist and I went for a walk along the golf course near my brother’s house. We were walking on the paved golf cart path and enjoying ourselves, the pretty weather, and the nice view. And then there – right in the middle of the paved path – was a golf ball.
I said, “Look, a golf ball.”
The scientist said, “You should take that.”
So I did. I tucked the little treasure in my pocket, and we continued on our walk. Well… about 5 minutes later, a man starts yelling down the path toward us. He was too far away for us to hear, and we didn’t think he was talking to us, so we just kept going.
But a few minutes later, thanks to the windy path we were on, he was now a bit closer to us, a little louder and looked a lot more irate. “Hey! Did you take my ball?”
It is at this moment that I now know I’ve messed up his game, accidentally, but messed up all the same. Normally, I would have copped to my ineptitude and apologized profusely, but the vein I saw bulging out of his neck warned me that he wasn’t the sort to listen quietly or calmly. So I just to keep my mouth closed in the cowardice act of self preservation.
Luckily, the path meandered away from him and we were safe for a while. But now we both know we’re in trouble. To get back home, we’re going to have to go right past him again. There isn’t another way. So on the fly we came up with a plan…
Ok, it was hidden better than this, 
or I'd be dead right now. 
Taking a deep breath as we approached our unintended victim, we were prepared for the onslaught of yelling. And the enraged golfer did not disappoint. His face was red, the vein was still bulging. He bellowed, “Let’s try this again! Did you take my ball?!?”
My scientist said… Well, I don’t know what he said, it was all in German. And I stared blankly at the golfer, as though I didn’t speak English and couldn’t understand why he was screaming at us.
“You don’t even speak English?” he barked. “Perfect! That’s just (expletive) great!”
My scientist said something else in German as we walked away, the golfer’s ball tucked safely away in my pocket.
So that’s how I stole an “in-play” golf ball and didn’t give it back. I’m not proud of my actions, but I am still alive. And being alive is very important to me.
Now it’s your turn. Truth or Dare?
TRUTH – Same as mine… Tell us all something “bad” you did within the last 24 months. (No cheating with things I did as a kid.)
DARE – Doorbell ditch your next door neighbor (but they have to be home at the time) and then tell us all about it. Do you feel 12 years old again?

OR - If you're too chicken to either tell us a truth or do the dare, I guess you can tell us your best sleepover memory.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Do I look like a terrorist?

Public Enemy Number One?

I mean, really… Do I look like a terrorist?

I might look a little mischievous, but I hardly look like a freakin’ terrorist. And – yet – there must be something about me that screams “SEARCH ME, FRISK ME, TEST MY HANDS FOR EXPLOSIVES!” because that is what I got on every leg of my last trip.

You all know that I have a problem with authority figures. I don’t like anyone telling me what to do. That goes for both cops and TSA agents, just to name a couple of groups. (Though I’m sure Andris’ police officer husband is perfectly nice in real life.) I have a pretty high IQ and I’m a law abiding citizen. If you just leave me alone, we’ll all be happy. Don’t tell me what to do. Don’t get me all riled up, because it’s just going to be unpleasant for all of us.


You might remember a while back, my teenage son and my scientist and I were all headed out west to see my family.  For the most part, the trip was fine (if you consider being uninvited to your brother’s wedding fine… which I do – as I saw that particular wedding as more of a funeral than a wedding, but that’s another story for another day.)

We started our journey leaving the Raleigh-Durham airport. My son in a “Question Authority” T-shirt (yes, he’s my son), the scientist with his thick German accent, and me in a happy, sparkly shirt.

NOTE TO SELF – Do NOT wear happy, sparkly shirts through the security line. TSA agents don’t like happy, sparkly shirts and they’ll get out their “wands” and wave it over the sparkles and then haul your tush a few feet away so they can swab your hands for bomb making materials. I’m not even kidding. I couldn’t leave until the machine the swabs went into said I was "safe".

But THEN we were on our way to Chicago… where we misconnected and had to spend the night. I was fine with that, actually. It was a bonus night in a fabulous city we hadn’t planned on visiting. We took the train into town and had pizza with an amazing view of the Hancock Building out our window. Lemonade from lemons. That was my motto thus far. Lemonade from lemons.

I feel that lady's pain!
We woke up before the crack of dawn the next morning as the airline had scheduled us on a 6am flight. I was fine with that too. At least we’d make our final destination before noon. What I hadn’t counted on was an insane security line at 4-freakin’-30. (Yes, that is an actual time.) We stood in the blasted line so long we were in serious danger of missing our flight, something my teen kept reminding me of every 60 seconds. “We’re gonna miss our flight.” “Why is this line so freakin’ long?” “Why is that guy goin’ on break?!? We’re gonna miss our flight!” My nerves were on edge to say the very least.

At least this time I hadn’t worn a sparkly shirt, ‘cause heaven knows how TSA agents feel about THAT. No, this morning I had on a comfy maxi-dress that went down to my toes. But guess what? Yeah, that’s right… TSA agents don’t like maxi-dresses either.  The grumpy old guy (who could have been Methuselah’s great uncle) says “We gotta check this one out.” (Meaning ME).

I’m sorry… What?

“You could be hiding anything in that dress.”

Are you freakin’ kiddin’ me? I said, “I’ll happily take it off and go through naked if that would speed up the process.” Because – remember – we’re gonna miss our flight! (And I know that guy in Portland who stripped down to his birthday suit won in court against the SS…er…I mean the TSA. So I know the law is on my side in this).

“There’s no need for that attitude ma’am.”

Oh I beg to differ. There is EVERY need for my attitude, you sparkly-shirt-long-dress-hatin’-power-hungry-blankety-blank (In my head there weren’t blanks, but this is PG rated blog). 

“I’m going to miss my flight. I really will go through naked.”And I would have if this female TSA agent hadn’t showed up when she did.

She needed to pat me down. And she needed to explain everything she needed to do in excruciatingly slow detail. “Ok. I’m gonna run my hands over your bra.”

Fine. Just do it.

“Ok. Now I’m going to pat down your sides.”

Yeah, yeah, just hurry the heck up! 

“Ok. I’m going run my hands along the inside of your thighs.”

Just freakin’ molest me all ready, but hurry the heck up! I’m going to miss my freakin’ flight!!!!

You’d think after I went through the pat down I’d be done, but NOOOOO… I had to have my hands swabbed for bomb making materials.


I wish I was kidding. Apparently people who make bombs wear sparkly shirts and maxi-dresses. Who knew, right?

We ran to our gate, just as they were getting ready to shut the door. We barely made it. And there was absolutely NO reason for all of the stress. No reason except for sparkly-shirt-long-dress-hating-power-hungry-blankety-blanks!

To reduce our stress on our return trip, we got to the airport 3 hours before our flight. I didn’t have on a sparkly shirt or a long dress this time. Just jeans and a T-shirt, but once again – the TSA agents felt that I looked like the sort who makes explosives in my basement. Not my scowling teen. Not my very German scientist. Not anyone in line around us. Nope. Just me. So once again – my hands got swabbed and I had to wait until the all-knowing machine said I was “safe” to continue on to my gate. But at least we didn't have to run to the gate this time. 

Now don’t get me wrong… I want our skies to be safe and I don’t want another attack on this soil. BUT come on! We take off our shoes because one jerk tried something with his shoes. We have to pour out our water because one jerk tried something with liquid in a bottle. I just wonder which terrorist got caught in sparkly shirts and maxi-dresses.

I know you’ve got travel horror stories… because...Well who doesn’t? Tell me about your experiences flying the NOT-SO friendly skies. I hate to think I'm the only one who, apparently, looks like a terrorist.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wish Me Luck, I'm Gonna Need It...

Ok. It looks like it's headed east... Use your imagination.
In a few hours, I will board a plane headed for the Rocky Mountains for a 9 day visit with my family. But I’m not going alone. Oh, no. I’m taking my teenage son and my wonderful boyfriend (better known to my Twitter followers as “the scientist”), who is either insane or the bravest man I know for agreeing to go on this sojourn out west.  Other than my son, he has never met any of my family until now.

I mean, my whole family will be there: my mother, grandmother, brothers, sister, nephews, etc. (The etc. would be my brother-in-law and my soon to be sister-in-law, my long-time BFF and her family, not that I was trying to be dismissive. And now the etc. doesn’t matter as I’ve spelled it all out.)

But in short – YES – everyone.  Warts and all. (I don’t think anyone actually has any warts, but you know what I mean.)

Of course, my hair is longer and redder.
AND I'm a girl, but you get the idea.
Not attractive. Not at all. 
Now that it’s time to leave, I’m not sure if I’m quite ready for this trip. I mean, I’m all packed. I’ve got our boarding passes, my car reservation, our hotel reservation. Technically, I’m ready. But it’s a little nerve wracking to think about the sheer number of people who will suddenly be thrust in front of the scientist in just a few hours.  I am terrified someone will do something to scare him off.  And then I’ll have to kill that particular family member.  And I’ll end up in jail. And as Andris Bear is fond of saying, “Prison orange is not my color.”

So in preparation, and to head off any stints in the joint, I have threatened both of my brothers with slow, torturous murder should they misbehave in front of the scientist. Yes, they’re both grown men, but the threats are necessary, let me just assure you. (Even if the threat *is* empty.)

There’s not much I can do with my grandmother. I don’t think threats would work with her. And though she loves me, she’s a bit of a wildcard with virtually no filter as she approaches her 90th birthday, and I’m never quite sure what will come out of her mouth. Note to self: KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON GRANDMA.

I’m fairly confident I can trust my mother, sister, and brother-in-law to all seem like reasonable people. Thank God for them. My nephews are as precocious and precious as they can be and I’m not worried about them at all, except for maybe upstaging me with their cuteness. I mean I am visiting… I should get all the attention, right? Well, my teenager, my scientist, and me.

Anyway, I have a visit scheduled to see my BFF, her husband and daughter one of the days we’re there. And I can hardly wait to see them. It feels like a lifetime since I’ve laid eyes on them, and I’m fairly certain the scientist will fit right in with this particular group.

It’s the group I’m related to that has my stomach all tied in knots. Don’t get me wrong. I adore my family. I love each and every one of them, despite their quirks or blaring flaws (they know the flaws of which I speak). But maybe I have nothing to worry about. He’s met my son after all. My teenage son. Can anyone be scarier than teenage boys?  Yeah, I’m not sure either…

So, I’ve got a rental car scheduled. (Usually I make my family chauffer me around town to wherever I want to go.) And I’ve got a hotel room reserved for just the scientist and me as my son is looking forward to staying with his cousins during this trip. So, I feel like if we need to escape the group I’m related to, we can do so with relative ease. Hopefully if we do need to make an escape, my family will be understanding. Crossing my fingers on that one.

So tell me, how did you introduce your significant other to your family? Did it go well? Or not so well?  I’m very willing to learn from others’ experiences. Any and all tips, helpful hints, or even well-wishes will be appreciated. Seriously… Wish me luck. I think I’m going to need it.

As a side note... I've had some friends who would like instant play-by-play of any and all newsworthy activities during this trip. So for them - and anyone else who is interested - I'll be live tweeting under #AvaVaca for your enjoyment over the next 9 days.

Originally posted at LadyScribes.blogspot.com August 10, 2012

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fortunes! Get Your Fortunes Here...

A while back I noticed that fortune cookies had changed. More often they should be called “suggestion” cookies or even “lecture” cookies (who knew my father had started moonlighting), because there weren’t any fortunes to be found. Some of you may have heard me moan about this in the past. It’s a real problem that no one seems to be paying much attention to. No one, but me, anyway.

It’s gotten to the point where I get an attitude before I even crack open my fortune cookie. (I’m sure this surprises no one.) Usually I say something pithy like, “Let’s see what advice they’re dolling out today, ‘cause you know there won’t be a fortune in there.” And 95% of the time, I’m right. But that 5%... that wonderful 5% when I get an actual FORTUNE in a fortune cookie– I get so excited. You’d think it was Christmas or my birthday. That I’d caught a leprechaun or an actual snipe on a snipe hunt.

The other night I had Chinese take out with my good friend Susan as we watched Game of Thrones on my couch. And I got a real, honest to goodness fortune. I got a little giddy because not only was it an honest to goodness fortune – it was the best fortune you could ever hope to get!

“Your fondest wish will come true.” 

Now THAT is a fortune to write a blog about, and it’s had me thinking for days about what my fondest wish is. If I could have one wish granted, what would it be…? I mean there are so many things I’ve wished for, but what is my fondest wish? I’m still not sure.

On a lark, I made Susan go back with me to the same Chinese bistro and beg (read: grab handfuls without asking) for more fortune cookies for this blog. We absconded with 25 cookies, and of our very non-scientific sampling, we ended up with 7 “fortune” cookies and18 “suggestion or lecture” cookies (3 of which were duplicates.)

Here are the fortunes:

“A secret admirer will soon send you a sign of affection” 

“Be on the alert for a new opportunity” 

“You will soon be surrounded by good friends and laughter” 

“Your kindness is surely to be repaid” 

“Soon you will be sitting on top of the world” 

“A passionate new romance will appear in your life when you least expect it” 

“Your skills will accomplish what the force of many cannot”

Now not all of those are awesome fortunes, but they’re better than these:

“Some like it hot. Eat more Kung Pao.” 
Really?!? This is a sales pitch – it’s not even a lecture cookie.

“Luck happens when hard work meets opportunity.” 
Um – thanks, Dad. 

“Face any problem with dignity.” 
How is that a fortune? A fortune would be “You will face a problem with dignity.” See the difference? I mean it’s not that hard. 

“Set the right example. It will inspire others.” 
My dad must be really busy with this side job of his. 

“The simplest answer is to act.” 
What does that even mean? 

“Success is a journey not a destination.” 
A total lecture cookie that must have been penned from my high school guidance counselor. (Not that I needed a guidance counselor, mind you.) 

Come on, fortune cookie fortune writers! You can do better than that! Right? I mean, I'm sure you can if you try.

Since I think it doesn’t take much to write these, I’m going to try my hand at one now...

“One lucky commenter on this blog will win a free e-copy of THE BETTING SEASON.”

See, that's really not that hard. I don't know why fortune cookie fortune writers have such a difficult time with this. 

Now it’s your turn. Write a real, honest to goodness fortune to be entered into the drawing. (Suggestion and lectures will be tossed aside.) 

Or you can tell me what your fondest wish is, because maybe it'll help me decide what mine is. 

* Originally posted at LadyScribes May 15, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Summons From the Courthouse...

Last month I received my very first jury summons ever. Yes, that loud groan you heard at the beginning of March, coming from the direction of North Carolina was me. It’s not that I don’t want to do my civic duty. In fact, when I was younger I always thought I would make the best juror. I’m honest. I’m fair. I’m open-minded. I'd be Henry Fonda from 12 Angry Men if the situation called for it, back during my idealistic youth. (Who am I kidding...? I'd still be Henry Fonda if the situation called for it. I'm just too moral to behave differently.)

But April was a bad month for me. I had the RT Convention in Chicago 10-15 April, and I had the Spring Fling Conference in Chicago 26-28 April. And my jury duty date was scheduled for April 19th. Right between the two conferences dates. What if I got selected for some big criminal trial and had to miss Spring Fling? I would be pretty far from happy, I can tell you that! But I would do my duty, just like Henry Fonda in that classic film.

After I groaned, I re-read the letter from my county, which stated that I needed to keep up with my summons and bring it to jury duty on the 19th. Great! Now I have to keep up with one measly piece of paper for more than 6 weeks? Really?!?! Me? That is a definite problem for someone who forgets their iPhone in post offices.

But what other choice did I have? I had to keep up with the summons, right? So I thought and thought about the best place to put it so I wouldn’t lose it and…. Yeah, that’s right, I completely forgot where I put the summons. I tore my house apart. Looked in every drawer. Lifted every couch and chair cushion in the house. And crawled under every bed, 'til I was covered in dust bunnies.

The blasted thing was nowhere!

So I called the county courthouse, fell on my sword, and apologized profusely for my ineptitude. Long story short - they sent me a new summons. When it arrived in the mail, I sat my teenage son down and said, “All right, I need you to help me. Where is the best place we can put this, and then when I can’t find it again, you’ll remember where it is?” He said, “Mom, I’d put it on the refrigerator, if I were you.”

The refrigerator!!

My mouth dropped open in surprise…

Yep, I’m pretty sure that’s where I put the first summons. I went straight to the kitchen, and sure enough… right there hanging on the door to the freezer was my original jury summons. I definitely had a Homer Simpson "D'oh!" moment. But at least I ended up with two summonses, which is always better than one - at least if you're me.

Anyway, I still had a couple of weeks to prepare for my date with the jury box. I made arrangements with my office to be gone for the day. I made arrangements with my ex-husband to drop my son off late. I put the courthouse address in my GPS so I wouldn't get lost. And then the night before I was to report for my civic duty, I called the phone number on the summons (yes, both of them) to double check that they actually needed me. And you know what...? After all that - they didn’t. I was free to go about my day on the 19th as though I'd never received that little piece of paper in the mail.

Despite all the preparing and organizing, despite all my thoughts of big criminal cases, and despite all of the insanity surrounding my lost summons, my job, my son - I didn’t get to play Henry Fonda after all. It was kind of a let down, honestly (after all the hoopla.) But at least my trip to Spring Fling will be unaffected. Thank heavens!

So tell me all your jury duty stories. Have you ever served on a jury? If so, were there any Henry Fonda moments in the jury room? Have you ever gotten out of jury duty? If so, do you have any advice for being dismissed? Just for fun... what is the craziest thing you could do, or thing you could say, to get dismissed without a backwards glance? (My co-worker suggested I tell them my opinion about local law enforcement... I - um - have issues with authority figures. But that's a blog post for another day.)

* Originally posted at LadyScribes April 20, 2012

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Night at the Salon...

September 29, 2011, Deb Marlowe, Claudia Dain, and both halves of Lydia Dare opened the preverbal doors to Lady Jane’s Salon Raleigh-Durham (a satellite of the original in NYC) in the quaint patio room of a local Irish Pub. From that debut salon until now, Lady Jane’s Salon RDU has advertised itself with the slogan - “Good Company, Great Books, and a Worthy Cause.” (The worthy cause in our case is Heather McCollum’s Shout Against the Whisper campaign, which supports Ovarian Cancer research.)

Sometimes there is truth in advertising. *I* have not missed a salon, nor do I ever plan to do so. I have heard amazing authors read from their work, and I have enjoyed the camaraderie of the other attendees month after month. (And I’m really very partial to the pub’s Chicken Cordon Bleu. Yes, it’s an Irish pub with French chicken. But it tastes so good, I’m not complaining.)

I’ve heard talented authors such as Sabrina Jeffries, Virginia Kantra, Jenna Black, Claudia Dain, and our own Lady Scribes lady – Catherine Gayle (all the way from Texas) just to name a few read at our satellite salon.

But last month…

Last month it was my turn. Well… mine, Mari Freeman’s and Kianna Alexander’s turn. And I was a little nervous.

Ok, more than a little nervous.

Despite my reputation, I’m fairly introverted and never did all that well in public speaking back in school all those many, many (ok, more many’s than I’d like to admit) years ago. PLUS everyone who’s ever heard me read always says, “Ava, you need to slow down a little.”

Slow down?

But I’ve got a rhythm going. If I slow down, I’ll stumble over my own words. And the last thing I want to do is fumble something I wrote and come off looking like an idiot in front of a group of people. Yikes! Besides, my characters talk and think fast. That’s the cadence they have. It just is.

Slow down!

Back in January, Catherine Gayle, Erin Knightley and Olivia Kelly came back to my house after that month’s salon and let me practice my selection for February on them. You know what they said…? Each one of them…? That’s right. You guessed it… “Ava, you need to slow down a little.”

My two new least favorite words… Slow dow—Wait that’s not true. My two least favorite words are and always will be my ex-husband’s name. But “slow down” is now a close second. Perhaps if I could just find a way to make everyone else hear faster...

But I digress.

Over the next month, I timed myself. I recorded myself (Erin Knightley’s suggestion). And I read it over and over and over to myself, to a couple of friends who were willing guinea pigs and even to my teenage son when he was feeling particularly charitable one evening. I had it down perfectly. 14:48 minutes. I didn’t go too fast. I didn’t go too slow. My practice had all been worth it! I was going to be amazing!!

But then the night was upon us. Dinner was over. The first reader had finished and it was my turn. Yes, I gulped. Then I took my spot on a tall chair, and silently chanted in my head, “Slow down, Ava. Slow down, Ava.”

And then proceeded to read a little too fast.

I’m not auctioneer-fast or anything, but it was a little quick. Still, I think people could hear me well enough. At least they all told me they could.
I did promise a friend who couldn’t be there that night that I’d have my reading recorded, and I did. The recording is a little blurry, but if you want a glimpse of what Lady Jane’s Salon Raleigh Durham is like (with an author who should maybe slow down just a little)...

...you can click here to see me read from my latest novella By Any Other Name, which is part of THE BETTING SEASON anthology with fellow Lady Scribes ladies – Catherine Gayle, Jerrica Knight-Catania, and Jane Charles. (I tried to imbed the YouTube video but after 7 straight hours of "uploading," I wasn't confident it would ever work and thought the link was a better option.)

All in all, I had a wonderful time, even in that tall chair in front of everyone. And I did enjoy reading from my novella. BUT, I think I’ll have even more fun listening to Lady Scribes lady Deb Marlowe read from her latest release - TALL, DARK & DISREPUTABLE; Aimee Laine read from HIDE AND SEEK; and Maya Rodale (one the original Lady Jane's Salon founding members) read from her new release - THE TATTOOED DUKE next week at the March Salon. If you’re in the RDU area, you should come hear them too. I'm sure they'll all be amazing!

Have you ever had to speak or read in front of a big crowd? Do you get nervous? Or are you cool as cucumber? Tell me all of your public speaking stories (the good and the bad) and I promise I won’t tell you to slow down. But most importantly, do you have any suggestions of how I can make others hear faster...?

*Originally posted at LadyScribes March 23, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Shamelessly Biding My Time...

Everyone knows that I am a huge HUGE fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Love it! Probably my most favorite television series ever! Thankfully it is returning to HBO April 1st… And if that is an April Fool’s joke, someone will be pulling a broadsword out of their back (I’m looking at you HBO execs.)

But I’m not going to talk about GoT or mention certain co-workers who have read ahead in the series and are put out with me that I don’t want to talk about what happens next with them. I want it to be a surprise, people! NO spoilers!! Sheesh!!!

No, I’m not going to talk about any of that. I’m going to talk about what I’ve watched while I’ve waited for Winter to finally freakin’ come.

I’ve become mildly obsessed with PBS’s Downton Abbey and Showtime’s Shameless. Sooo much has been said about Downton Abbey with all of their awards and accolades. And I truly do love the series, everything about it.

But today I’m going to focus all of my attention on Shameless, I think mainly because it’s not a series I would think that I would like. Everyone from the alcoholic father (played by the supremely skilled William H. Macy) to the smallest Gallagher (OK, not the baby) is someone I’m fairly certain I would run screaming from in real life. (The exact opposite of the noble Starks I love so much in GoT, and the honorable characters I love in Downton Abbey *don't get me started on the not-so-honorable ones however.)

The Gallaghers are dishonest, promiscuous, and downright shameless in every way. Yet, there is a vulnerability and general likability in each and every main character, and I can’t help but care about them. They resonate with me for some reason, and I find myself thinking about their plights from one episode to the next.

Shameless is masterful television.

From the oldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum) who does everything she can to provide for her five siblings, be it honest or otherwise, all while sorting through her romantic woes (who knew there were soooo many frogs to kiss without a single prince in the bunch?)

To Lip (Jeremy Allen White) the brainiac oldest son who spends more time getting high and pining for the not-so-girl-next-door girl to keep his mind off the unlucky stars that and made him a Gallagher in the first place.

To Ian (Cameron Monaghan) the gay ROTC second son who struggles with his own identity nearly constantly, often in a very self-absorbed sort of way.

To Debbie (Emma Kenney) the good-hearted youngest sister who is still a little na├»ve about the world, but who is a fast learner and isn’t above blackmailing anyone to keep her family safe.

To Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) the juvenile-delinquent-in-the-making third son who is everyone’s go-to man for all firearms needs.

And finally to Liam (played by twins Blake Alexander Johnson and Brennan Kane Johnson) who is more of a pawn than anything else at his tender age.

The cast is rounded out with the family’s friends, neighbors, Fiona’s suitors, Lip’s love interest and her bizarre family, and many others that find their way into the Gallaghers’ world or the other way around.

I still scratch my head a bit at the show’s ability to make me care for and about each member of this shameless family (and make me hope that this time everything will turn out all right for them.) As far as the writer in me goes – Shameless is an excellent example at characterization. It makes you care about these people on many different levels. And as far as viewer in me goes – Shameless is an excellent series that transports you to a place you would otherwise avoid like the plague, yet you yearn for it until the next new episode anyway.

The cast is amazing. The scripts are phenomenal. Shameless is masterful television. I know I said that before, but it is worth repeating.

I don’t personally know anyone who is watching this show, but I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you are watching it... Yay! I can’t wait to talk with you about it. Which Gallagher is your favorite and why?

If you’re not watching it and have Showtime – start watching it immediately and report back to me later! I promise you'll be hooked!

If you don’t have Showtime, what sort of shows do you like? What else should I be watching until April 1st when I will finally get my GoT fix again? Because - as of this moment - I'm all caught up on Shameless too.

Originally posted at Lady Scribes 2/24/2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ava, this is Houston. Are you there?

Sometimes I am a space cadet, and not in a good way. I mean, I don’t work for NASA, nor have they ever asked me to travel to outer space for my country. No, no. I am a space cadet in the Where-am-I-going?…What-was-I-doing-again?…or…Who-am-I-today?…kind of way. Not the best thing to say about one’s self, but in addition to being a space cadet, I’m truthful to a fault, and I’m also a pragmatist. So there you are.

I don’t know about you, but I lose everything. I mean EVERYTHING. My keys. My bank card. My phone.

That’s right…


I did *that* this week. Monday, to be exact. And losing my iPhone really means losing all of my contacts, my email, Twitter, and Facebook accounts… Needless to say I get the shakes when I can’t put my hand on my phone. (Which you would think would make me keep up with it better. But… Well, you saw the first paragraph about me being a space cadet, right…?) Everything I have is in my phone. I don’t remember anyone’s numbers, and it’s a good thing I don’t usually have to because… see paragraph one again.

Strangely enough, I can tell you every last detail about every character I’ve ever written. Not sure what that means, but I didn’t want everyone to get the impression that I’m a complete dingbat. Just about things happening in the real world in real time.

Anyway, I retraced my steps, figured out where I’d had my cell phone last and that was… the post office. Really?! The post office?! Where a million people come and go every day? That’s where I left my phone? Uh, yeah, it was. And, of course, by the time I realized I didn’t have my phone, the post office was closed for the day.

Yeah, the shakes set in. But not as bad as I had expected. Whether or not my phone was still at the post office, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it until Tuesday morning at 9am when I found out for sure. I was rather calm, actually. I went back over conversations I’ve had with various friends recently about people being inherently good or evil. I have friends in both camps, and I’m… Well, I *am* a pragmatist. I don’t think people are either inherently good or evil. I think some people are good and some people are evil. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, until I’m proven wrong – but that’s the subject for a whole other blog.

I figured my phone would either be at the post office or it wouldn’t. It would all depend on who found it and what sort of person that person was. And no amount of worrying on my part was going to change the situation one way or the other. Whatever had happened had already happened, and I just had to wait until the next morning to find out which way it went.

I am happy to report that some honest soul turned my phone in and I had it back in my hot little hands at 9am the next morning. And so I would like to send out a big “Thank you” to the nameless person who discovered my phone. I would also like to say that I will no longer be a space cadet and I’ll keep up with my possessions better, but I *am* honest and I know myself too well to make that kind of statement, even though I would love for it to be true.

Are you like me? Do you lose things constantly? And what do you lose most? (Mine are my keys. I have to have several copies at various places so I can always get to where I need to be.) Or do you always know where everything is all the time? If so – do you have any tips for the rest of us? ... Nice tips that is. Don't tell me to get my head out of the clouds, because that's probably not going to happen.

*Originially posted January 27, 2012 at LadyScribes