Saturday, December 30, 2006

When Authors Pontificate

I can't help it. I can't separate the person from the talent. Which is why I wish several authors (and actors, and musicians) would just keep their rantings and ravings to themselves-- or at least pick up a pseudonym for these activities.

I'm not talking about the Mel Gibson alcoholic stupidity or the Michael Richards stand-up disaster, either. Those were both pretty awful, but they were spur-of-the moment tirades, unlike the actually planned out and purposefully written blogs and posts and reviews and whatnot from people who alienate half their fans with seeming disregard.

It was an author's blog that tripped me up this time. There I was, dropping by just to show some love to an author whose work I really like, when I ran headlong into pages and pages of political rants that not only run counter to my own beliefs, but do so in a terribly disrespectful manner. I don't know what authors are thinking when they launch into insult mode, saying things like, "How could Democrats be so stupid?" or "Anyone who voted for so-and-so is an idiot."

And it's not limited to politics. Authors also feel the need to sit in judgment about things like Christmas celebrations, the South versus the North, how people spend their money, other people's eating habits, whatever. Let's pretend that I'm mother whose child has ADHD and takes medication for it, and I run into my favorite author's blog, where she's annihilating people for medicating kids because she thinks ADHD is a bunch of baloney and that really, it's all just bad parenting. Why would I want to buy more of that author's books?

Some people can just separate that out, I know, but I have always believed in supporting people who I feel are good people. Once someone crosses a line and does something that I feel is mean-spirited, I no longer want to put money in that person's pocket, and I can't help but think of that thing when the person's work comes up. Of course, there are varying degrees. I'm probably not going to stop buying an author's books just because he makes one dumb comment about how he doesn't like people who drive SUVs, but even comments like that can be taken too far.

When I read an author whose work I really admire, I have this illusion that we'd get along beautifully. I feel like I would want this author as a friend, which is part of the reason I enjoy the "voice" of the book. I think it's a betrayal of the readers to shatter that after they've invested something in you.

This leaves me a bit conflicted, of course... shouldn't authors be allowed to have opinions? Yes, but.

Yes, but they're expected to show some decorum in expressing them.

Yes, but it's inappropriate to use their platform to sit in judgment of others.

I think that's what I think.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Travesty: Horse Attacks Go Unpunished

A friend from Absolute Write shared this story with us. He and his wife have horses, and two of them were attacked. One was slashed until her flesh hung off her body and the other suffered a puncture wound that nearly severed a major artery. Here's the full story.

Since then, the Ortons have learned of other attacks in the Dallas area. Their neighbor's horse died after an attack, and a horse in Bryan, Texas had its throat slashed. When they spoke to an editor at a horse publication, they found out similar attacks have been reported across the state.

Here's the outrageous part of the linked article:

Deputies say they think there were attacks, but there's not much they can do. State animal cruelty laws exempt horses, and cows, pigs and goats. An attack like this one might earn the attacker a ticket for damaging property.

I probably don't even need to comment on the craziness of that. But there must be something we can do to pressure lawmakers in Texas to change this legislation. Someone who's more familiar with this want to give us some instructions for where and what to write?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November 1st Collection of Assorted Thoughts

We had more trick or treaters this year than we've ever had at our house, which I loved! I'm sure it was because of the warm weather. All the kids came over between 3:15 and 7:30. I panicked and ran out to get more candy at 7:30 because we had only five bars of 100 Grand left... and then not a single kid showed up after I put the whole bag of Crunch bars in the bowl.

So, in other news...

We all knew it, too! I don't know why, but starting at the 12-week scan, I had such a strong hunch that this was a girl growing inside me, and Anthony and my parents and brother and sister all agreed. I think I would have demanded a second opinion if the technician had said otherwise.

Now the challenges are: coming up with a name, and picking out nursery stuff!

The names I like are getting vetoed, it appears. My first choices were Sienna Marene and Sariyah. Anthony was already iffy on Sienna because it's a color, but when he found out Toyota came out with a Sienna model, well... that was it. Can't have a daughter named after a brownish color AND a car, I guess. And my aunt and cousin both said that Sariyah (sa-RYE-yah) sounds too much like psoriasis.

The current leading contender is also an "S" name. Anthony and my mom both suggested it individually, so I'm trying to like it. No, scratch that-- I do like it. I just don't love it yet.

Today, I'm going to see Les Miserables for either the sixth or seventh time, not sure. It's been many years, though. I saw it repeatedly in high school, each time with different people. I went with my theatre friends, my French class, my family, my best friend... now we're going back for my mom's birthday.

That's the Broadway show I've seen the most, followed by Miss Saigon, which I saw four times. What can I say? I hung out with a theatre crowd, and my family's a theatre family. It's just too bad tickets have gotten so expensive. Even the half-price tickets are tough to afford these days.

Oof! Little baby S is kicking in weird spots. Do you think if I hang upside down, she'll move somewhere less weird?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Pregnancy Things

We jumped over a large hurdle today. I had a nuchal fold test done a week ago, which is a test for Down syndrome and other Trisomies. There is DS on both sides of my family, and my mom and sister have translocations-- pieces of extra chromosomes. That's the amazing thing: my brother has an extra chromosome, my sister and mother have an extra piece of a chromosome... he has DS, my mom was an English teacher, and my sister's in law school. What a tiny difference makes such a big difference.

Anyway, we don't know yet if I have that same translocation, but I probably do. I've always been aware, and so has Anthony, that we'd have a bigger risk than most people of having a baby with DS.

So there was a lot riding on this test for us. It's not definitive, but it expresses your odds compared to other women who've given birth with the same measurements and blood test results, and based on that, our odds are:


Which is really good. Better than average for my age, which is 1:561. And the odds of Trisomy 18 and 13 were 1 in more than 10,000, so that's excellent.

My doctor still wants us to go for genetic counseling and for a triple screen in a few weeks. I'll do it, but I feel confident now.

Pregnancy so far has been okay. A lot of queasiness, still. My oversensitive nose drives me bonkers. I'm just about done with the 14th week, so it really should be easing off by now, but many women have it far worse than I do, so I'm trying not to complain. The other symptoms come and go-- sleepiness and headaches, mostly. I'm not really in either camp ("I love pregnancy"/"I hate pregnancy"). I love what it means, but it all feels like a mild and long illness so far.

I'm definitely a cautious pregster. If someone tells me that something might not be safe in pregnancy, I won't do it. Some people say you shouldn't worry about everything, and just relax and let common sense be your guide... but the truth is that it relaxes me a lot more to know that I'm doing everything I can to ensure my baby's safety. I'd be a lot more tense if I was always wondering if I'd just done something that would harm him or her.

Stress is the only thing I lose my handle on sometimes, and that doesn't feel like something I can control. I'm controlling it in terms of work flow-- not taking on any extra work for now-- but you can't really prepare for the stuff people are going to throw at you on a personal level on any given day. I want to go off to a little pregnancy cave and sing "Kumbaya" and make sure no angry weirdoes are allowed near the entrance.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Absolute Write Logo Contest

We're having a contest to design a new logo for Absolute Write. And I forgot to mention it in the newsletter today, because I'm an idiot. So here it is! Deadline is July 25th, and there are some great prizes.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Folksy Women

I swore up and down I'd never sign up for MySpace. And I would have stuck to that promise, if not for Siobhan McCrudden. What happened was that I was searching around on iTunes again for that mysterious male vocal piano song that I will probably never find. Decided to just look up the word "acoustic" to see what popped up.

Up came a podcast called Acoustic Long Island, which is recorded at a little coffee shop. I listened to a couple of shows, but stopped after I heard Siobhan. Had to track down this singer. Found her on MySpace. Wanted to contact her to ask if she has an album, and had no other choice but to sign up for MySpace. Grrr.

So I did. And then I decided if I was signed up for it, I might as well take a look around. So I followed Siobhan's "friends" link and found Madeleine White. And then Antje Duvekot.

Well, wow. Where have these gorgeous voices been hiding? (Note: if you click any of the women's links, you can listen to a few of their full-length songs right from the website, no downloading needed.) They're crazy good, if what you like is beautiful, relaxing, thoughtful music. So I guess MySpace isn't completely evil.

But it still is mostly.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Mystery song

I can't smoke, am too worn out to scream, and I'm fresh out of heroin (a joke, just a joke). So I've decided to go for some music therapy on iTunes. I'm looking for a particular song, though, and can't figure it out.

I heard it on the radio for the first time the other day, on a pop/soft rock station. I thought I'd remember the title, but of course I didn't. It has a gorgeous piano intro, beautiful male vocal, ballad. He goes into falsetto for just a note here and there. It's mostly just a guy and a piano. I know that's not much to go on, but do you know any new-ish songs on the radio that fit that description? I've been searching all over the web and can't figure it out.

Barring that, similar suggestions would be appreciated. I'm in the mood for a male vocalist and a piano. Tell me about the beautiful songs you love...

Yep, it's gone wonky again

Absolute Write has been down since about midnight. The hosting company tried to reboot our server, but that didn't work, and they said, "We have an issue that is being looked into. I apologize for the delay." So, yeah, I know it's down. I really don't know how quickly it'll be back up, but I hope soon!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Monday, June 26, 2006

Pregnancy tests and online friendships

It's been about a month since this happened and I'm cool, so I'll tell you about it.

During the Great AW Blackout, I was on the phone with supermod Lori (Birol) talking about life and stress and timing. I told her that it was just about time for me to take a pregnancy test, but that I didn't even know what to wish for this month because I felt like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and that this would be "a miscarriage waiting to happen." It was while I was still trying to get back our databases and freaking out over how I was going to pay salaries and the new server costs and all that.

And then I took the test... and it was positive. But with a qualifier: I was supposed to read it within ten minutes, and instead, I was in the shower and didn't get to it quite on time. I read it at about the 15-minute mark. Anthony was there with me, and I excitedly flung it at him, saying, "Do you see the line?" It was very, very light-- but he saw it, too. He warned me not to get too excited, so I quite rationally ran to get the digital camera to take pictures of this marvelous line from every potential angle.

So who would I tell next? My mom? My sister? My old college roommates?

No. I told Mac, Lori, and Dawno-- three of the AW supermods. Two of three of whom have no idea why any woman in her right mind would ever want to get pregnant. But that's who I wanted to tell. Never met any of them in person, but they are among my best friends.

I took another test the next morning, and watched it carefully. At the ten-minute mark, I didn't see anything. I almost threw it away. But at the 11-minute mark... there was the line. Even fainter than the one the previous day, but definitely a line. I called my doctor and ran out to the drug store for more tests.

The nurse is someone who used to see me sitting in the waiting room after hours every week. While I was agoraphobic, I couldn't handle coming in to see the doctor when there were people around (heck, I had enough trouble just facing the doctor alone), so he would make me the last appointment of the day, about half an hour after everyone had left and it was just this nurse and him still hanging around the office filling out charts and stuff. He wanted me to check in with him weekly until we got my disorder under control. For a long time, the nurse seemed to not know what was wrong with me or why we did this. She always looked a bit puzzled, but didn't ask questions, and just led me to my doctor's office instead of an exam room.

There, he would ask me how I was doing with my medications, and show me new articles in medical journals that he thought might help me, and tell me about conferences he'd gone to or therapists he'd talked to. He asked me to write about being raped (that's always the default-- most people assume that's why I got a panic disorder, but I think it was a small piece of the puzzle), and he would pick up on things I wrote and talk about how he interpreted them.

Yes, my doctor went way above and beyond the call of duty with me. I was a friend of his daughter's way back in the 6th grade, and I think it bothered him just about as much as it bothered my family to see the way I had fallen apart-- from a happy, friendly kid and teenager to this hermit who couldn't face the world and looked like she was having seizures several times a day.

I had several panic attacks in front of him, which humiliated me. The more I tried to mask them, though, the more obvious they'd get-- I'd get facial and neck tics, in particular, and my eyes would dart uncontrollably. I wound up on about 9 or 10 medications before we found the one that made all the difference.

Anyway, it wasn't until after I got better that the nurse sort of asked me, in a roundabout way, what those visits were all about. I hadn't been to the office in about a year, and when I came back, I was an entirely new person. She told me one day, "You're the one who used to come in after hours, aren't you? You look so much better! I remember you always sat there with your head down..." So I told her the story, and she was so happy for me, and told me about her own experiences with anxiety.

So, back to the test. I was in the exam room with this nurse, and she asked what I was there for, and I practically bounced off the table: "Pregnancy test!"

She gave me a big hug and told me what a long way I'd come. My doctor came in with a big grin and I explained that I'd had taken two tests, but needed to verify the results. They drew blood and said I'd have the results the following day.

I couldn't sleep that night. Early in the morning, I took another test, but it was stark white. My heart sank a little, but I waited for that phone to ring. And when it did, I knew from my doctor's tone what he was going to say. He started out with too much small talk: "How are you? Nice day, huh?" He wouldn't do that if he were calling with exciting news.

Sure enough, he told me the blood test was negative.

"Totally negative?" I asked like an idiot. (No, Jenna, partially negative.)

I told him I had a bad feeling about that because the test I took in the morning was negative. But then why the other two positive tests? I knew that there's something called an "evaporation line" (or "evap") that can happen when you read the results too late-- but usually that doesn't happen unless you read the results REALLY late, by an hour or more. Were they really both just evaps, or false positive tests? Or... the other thing.

"It could have been a very early miscarriage," he said. And I sank to the floor. But I decided later that because we'll never know for sure, it was more comforting for me to just assume that the tests were wrong, and not... the other thing.

Testing time has rolled around again. Stark white negativeness this morning, but I still have 3 more days before I'm really "supposed" to test, so I'm not giving up yet.

Someday, I'll get my chance to have morning sickness and back pain and stretch marks and roller coaster hormones and agonizing labor pain and... wait, why am I doing this again?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Setting up tents

Hi folks,

Another quick update: Roger J. Carlson has set up a refugee camp for AWers, and there are a little more than a hundred of us there so far. Today's mission is to make sure we're all still writing. Toward that goal, Tri has revived the "Travel Edition" of the Weekend Progress Report (where AWers normally check in to report on what they've accomplished that week on their works in progress). He has Barb's taser on loan, and he isn't afraid to use it.

I got six pages down this morning, which felt great. I didn't think I'd be able to concentrate that long on anything except... y'know.

If you need an assignment, I've posted one here. Hurry up, because it's due tomorrow.

No further word on the retrieval of our hostages (er... databases).

This is the text of Barbara Bauer's fax to the ex-hosting company, for the curious:

Here is the page on which my e-mail address has been unlawfully published without my consent. I am receiving SPAM because of Absolute Write Water Cooler's illegal activities. Please call me!

The post in question is PaulaO's on this page.

No news

Sorry, folks. I hoped to have some news to report by now, but here's where it stands: What we were able to download of the forums before we were shut down is not usable. It's lacking vital components, and there's no way to fix that. Our storefront is also not functioning.

The main site is set up with our new host, and you should be able to see it by now at; it's been sort of up and down today and yesterday, but that's normal. I guess it takes a few days to fully "take" across the network. The e-mail addresses are functional again, too.

JC-Hosting still has the databases, and I hope we'll be able to come to an agreement so I can restore them.

I'd very much like to respond to the inaccurate story being told, but this is now a legal matter and I'm advised not to say anything. Hope you understand.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thank yous

Just a week or so ago, my neighbor's daughter died, and I asked my Absolute Write friends what I should do-- I didn't know the girl, and have never really spoken with her parents, but felt awful and wanted to do something. They told me to bring over food, and a couple of them said something like, "They probably won't remember you were there, but they'll appreciate it anyway."

The past couple of days have been a little like that for me. No one died, of course, but Absolute Write is very much my "daughter," and I've put my world on hold to try to get it back together after our hosting company suspended us. It's been a blur, complete with stereotypical stages of grief. It's not something I feel comfortable talking about at this point, and I've struggled with what to say, or whether or not to even say anything yet. (I should note: That's why comments are turned off on this post. I'm not ready for Q&A yet.)

For two days, I was just in panic mode. I canceled my first-ever trip to see my sister in Rhode Island at the last minute, which broke me apart to have to do to her (she's been waiting for me to come to her house for a very long time). Along with my "team," I worked around the clock to try to save our stuff and get us onto a new host. I had to keep a sort of tunnel vision for one thing only: getting the site back. But I knew the mods and I weren't the only ones pulling for the site.

The e-mails I received... the offers of help, the phenomenal support on the blogosphere, the simple, "I'm here for whatever you need and it's all going to be OK" notes... I'm not composed enough to even soak it all in yet.

What I want to say is that you brought food, and I know you were here. Does that make sense? This is day 3, and I'm finally able to feel something other than the crap I've felt for the past 2: I feel extremely moved.

To all the chatters valiantly saving cached pages in the middle of the night, to Jason Tudor for setting up a temporary page for us while we were waiting for the new hosting to kick in, to Martin at vBulletin for trying his darnedest to rescue us, to Miss Snark, to John Scalzi, to all the people offering us web space, to all the people spreading the 20 Worst Agents list, to Kira Connally and Lisa Spangenberg for showing me how much support I have, to Lauri Berkenkamp at Nomad for being a stupendously caring editor and friend, to C. E. Petit, to everyone writing to offer technical help and legal help and financial help and emotional support, to THE MOST DEVOTED MODERATORS ON THE PLANET who should all be sainted for their round-the-clock efforts and concern and generally because they're amazing human beings, to Roger Carlson for setting up a temporary fort for us, to Bob Wagner for helping us move, to the people in chat who said all the right things to help release some of the pressure, to Amy Brozio-Andrews and Charlie Stuart for constantly-- in every situation-- standing right at my side and being willing to lose sleep because Absolute Write is that important to them too, to Victoria Strauss and Ann Crispin and Teresa Nielsen Hayden and Jim Macdonald for leading by example, to those who didn't e-mail me because they know I'm overloaded but nevertheless are good vibing the heck out of me, to those who remind me to take care of my health, to Lori Basiewicz and MacAllister Stone and Frank Baron and Dawno for keeping people informed and being my beautiful friends, to Janet Reid for the goats (*cough* don't ask), to those doing research and sticking their necks out and holding my hand and letting me know that my little slice of cyberspace matters like crazy to you:


I hope to give you a progress report tomorrow night.

P.S. To the people asking about donating: I really appreciate it and may need your help soon, but right now, I don't feel comfortable accepting donations until I know if I can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I don't want to let you down.

Technorati tag:

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lexapro withdrawal, day 5

Well, I've made it to day 5 this time. (Last time I gave in at day 3 and took a quarter of a pill.) I think this is progress. I'm back to having that I-can't-turn-my-head thing and some brain zaps and brownie cravings, but the rest of me isn't bad. And, okay, fine, I always have brownie cravings.

I'm going to try to stay off it altogether now. Not sure if it'll work (I heard that antidepressant withdrawal actually gets worse around day 7), but I want to try. Time for me to find out who I am underneath this med that's been keeping me sane for the past several years.

I'm praying that by now, my brain has straightened itself out and that the panic attacks aren't lurking in there, just suppressed all this time. But I really don't know what I'm going to find. I remember when the doctor first told me that I'd probably be on this medication my whole life, and I thought, "That's fine by me. Who cares, as long as it works?" I even volunteered a while back to be a patient spokesperson for Lexapro-- that's how much of a difference it made in my life.

But for a while now, I've had the urge to step away from the shore and see.

If I'm turning into a raving psycho, you'd tell me, right?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The visiting penguins

The Gay Zombie Penguins are on a blog tour, and this is stop #3. (Yippee!) Please welcome our penguin friends...

Their next stop on the tour is MacAllister's place.

Thank you, dear gay zombie penguins! Come back anytime!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The things that make me cry are making me laugh.

I'm not sure how many years I've been taking Lexapro to combat my panic attacks. Four, I think. And now I'm trying to come off it, which has been trippy. Don't ever let a doctor lie to you and say that SSRI withdrawal is no big deal.

I've been tapering down for more than a month now, but I can't seem to take the final step-- down from a quarter of a pill to nothing. I made it three days, then couldn't take it anymore. I was in a bit of a manic state, feeling pretty good emotionally, but odd physically. Every time I turned my head, I felt like I was going to fall down (even from a sitting position). I couldn't move my head, or the dizziness and brain zaps would hit. I walked into Anthony's wall, at which point he said, "You're not doing so hot, huh?" The one time I tried to drive, I ran over a curb.

And then came the nonsensical weeping. I started to cry while listening to Anwar Robinson's version of "What a Wonderful World," which is okay, because it's strikingly beautiful and it's made me tear up on normal days, too. But once it started, I couldn't stop getting teary over really stupid things.

There's a moth in the room. Sniffle.

I should bring these empty mugs into the kitchen. Cry.

My phone is ringing. Weep.

It's kind of chilly in here. Bawl.

So I took a quarter of a pill and that took the edge off until the next night. My current goal is to take a quarter of a pill every other night for another week or two, then try to stop altogether.

But in the meantime, Anthony called to tell me he was going squid fishing tonight, and I told him I was making stuffed shells, and he told me I should probably add a little water to the sauce because it's very thick, and...


This is like PMS gone supersized, with motion sickness and memory loss thrown in for fun.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My Sophomore Attempt at Meme-ing

Dawno, the lovely lady who runs the Blogging board at Absolute Write, posts an AW Monday Meme every week, and because I've never figured out what this blog is supposed to be about, I haven't jumped in and done them. Well, how am I ever going to find out what my blog is supposed to be if I don't play with it a bit more? So here we have...

The AW Hair Meme

1. What length do you currently keep your hair?

Long-ish. See pic of me with iPod. But this is actually fairly short for me.

2. Is that different from 5 years ago? 10? How about when you were a teen?

I've always had long hair, save for one embarrassing poodle perm chin-length bob when I was 12-14. At its longest, it's hit my butt. At its usual length, it's not quite halfway down my back.

Here's a pic of my brother dancing with me at my engagement party almost 4 years ago...

3. What color is it naturally?

<---- See there. Very dark brown.

4. If you color your hair do you like to go for natural or colorful (like pink or blue, etc.)

I really like outrageous colors, but it's been a long time since I did that. High school, college, and right after college were much more Crayola-colored for me, thanks to Manic Panic.

5. Ever done something really dumb with your hair?( I’m thinking back to the poodle perm I had once…)

Ah! See what I just said? Poodle perm. Dawno and I are bad hair mistake twins.

That, and Sun In, when I was in my early teens. I sprayed that stuff in my hair every day and sat out in the sun, and my hair turned to frizzy, orangey, brittle straw within a month. Took forever to grow out.

Just a couple of months ago, I accidentally dyed my hair orange, but that's washed out pretty quickly.

6. What about the hair of a mate or date do you/would you find attractive?

I've tended to go for long-haired men. Anthony had a ponytail until just a few months ago. It's still long for a guy, but it used to be longer than mine sometimes.

I really, really like the just-over-the-eyes length on guys. And I like guys with blue hair.

7. Do you have a long standing relationship with a hairstylist or barber? If so, why? If not, why not?

Totally not. I went so many years without a haircut when I was agoraphobic, and that's one of the few things I can still get panic attacky about. Sitting in the haircutter's chair freaks me out because once you sit down, you can't leave for a good long while. And there are all these strong smells. And if you feel like you're going to puke, you have to tell the haircutter that you need to go to the bathroom, which sparks all these old feelings of humiliation when I was afraid to tell a teacher I had to go to the bathroom in elementary school, so I would wait as long as possible, until I was going to die, and one time I threw up in the hallway, and...

What were we talking about?

Damn, I still have issues, don't I?

8. What celebrity hair do you like best? Least?

I'll go with Melina Kanakaredes for girl-hair, and Brad Pitt in "A River Runs Through It" for guy-hair, with Hayden Christensen in "Life as a House" coming in second.

See? Blue.

Celeb unfavorites? Um. I'll try not to be a poop, and just say that I normally dislike short hair on women, and poofy hair on men.

9. What hair fad of the past do you think was the silliest?

Tails! Or bi-level cuts for men.

10. If a hair genie gave you one hair wish, what would you wish for?

Less frizzy, more smoothy.

Friday, April 21, 2006

What ham-handed symbolism!

I had a dream last night that I couldn't sleep because of a loud ticking noise. Eventually, I unzipped a zipper on my abdomen and pulled out a rather large clock and smashed it. Then I was able to sleep.

Does my brain think I can't handle more subtle symbolism? I think I'm insulted.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

My first meme

I've never participated in a "meme" before, but my pals Lisa and MacAllister came up with one I can't refuse, so I'm doing it. Here are the rules...

Gift-A-Song Meme

1. Pick one or more of your friends who listens to digital music; preferably someone who already has iTunes and an iTunes account, and who has a blog or Live Journal or something similar.

Songs are .99 cents on iTunes; if people want to send MP3s directly, that's up to them, but post the song title, artist, and album anyway. You can use a credit card or PayPal to purchase songs. You must have installed a copy of iTunes to play or download the songs. I suspect it's possible give music with other music services, but I don't know. There are also lots of good sources for free music on the net; feel free to use those, or to publicize indie artists you like a lot. There are free songs at Amazon too.

2. Select the song you want to give.

3. Post this meme on your blog or Live Journal, and list your friends, the song you've chosen for them, (keep the song a secret until after you friend receives it, if you'd like), a link to their blog, and these instructions. Feel free to add a comment about why you chose the song.

4. Purchase the single song for each friend, one at a time, (that is, don't buy three songs for three friends.) If you use the iTunes store, find the song, then click on the link for the album; you will see a link near the top of the screen that says "Gift This Music; click it, then click the Gift button that's included in the link for the song. When you check out, you'll see a form with spaces for your name, your friend's name and email address, and a short message. This will be emailed to your friend, with instructions about how to download their gift song. Use the message to send them a link to the permalink for your blog post about the meme so they'll know to blog about the song. If you use Tags, tag the post as "Gift Music."

5. If you decide to "gift back" to someone who tags you, please also tag someone else, so we can have a variety of musical tastes, journals, blogs, and people.

Troubleshooting: Get iTunes for Mac or Windows here. It's free. If you can't get the URL/Web link from the email the iTunes store sends to tell you you have a song to download, try copying the URL to a new document, making sure that there are no spaces or returns where the very long URL has broken. You can covert the songs in iTunes from Apples DRM/protecte AAC format to an mp3 if you'd like.

I've tagged Aston, Frank, and Dawno (oops... before I noticed Mac already tagged her)-- but have also decided to seek out a couple of bloggers I've never met before and send them songs just to see how they react. (Would it be really weird if a stranger sent you a song? Would you think it's spam and delete it?) I did the same thing once with Amazon wish lists... I was looking for a baby shower gift for a friend who had put her wish list on Amazon, and I decided to look up other wish lists and send a gift to a stranger for no good reason. It was a couple of years ago, so I don't remember what I sent (something inexpensive) or what the occasion was (wedding, I think). I'm attracted to the whole idea of sending little presents to strangers... sort of like a secret Valentine, only with no romantic overtones.

My "theme" for the meme is relaxing songs that make me grin. I know Dawno already got hers, so I can tell you that it's Puff the Magic Dragon (Peter, Paul, & Mary). Don't think Aston or Frank have opened theirs yet, so don't tell them that I sent them The Wind (Cat Stevens) and (Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay (Otis Redding), respectively.

I'll edit this post later to tell you which bloggers-I-don't-know I chose and what I sent them.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Adventures in iPodding

I finished a book yesterday. God, I love those days! So now I'm not working on three books at once... just two.

I try to find a way to reward myself when I finish a book-- usually, Anthony and I go out to dinner or something, but I finished this one at about 5:30 in the morning, and he went fishing, so I tried to think of how to 'reward' myself alone. Decided to get reaquainted with my own property.

We have a pond in front that we dug and stocked with about 8 fish a few years ago. For the past two years, when the pond unfreezes in the early spring, we've found lots and lots of baby fish. So I got a breakfast sandwich from the deli, then sat on my front steps with my iPod and ate and watched the baby fish swim around. And, surprise! We have three frogs in there, too. We've never had frogs before.

Then I went inside and got some bread to feed the ducks in the lake. Normally, I bring two slices, but yesterday I got generous and brought three. Took me a long time to get any fowl creature's attention-- I think it's mating season. I stood there nearly falling into the water because I was flailing my arms and trying to hurl the bread as far as possible so they'd notice it. Finally, two swans and a ton of geese came by and I sang Erasure's album "The Innocents" to them. They were a very captive audience, which certainly couldn't have been because I was holding food.

I cry for your heart of sto-o-one...
Oh baby, refrain... from breakin' my hea-a-a-art

Also, my dreams this week have featured:
The entire cast of Seinfeld
Brad Pitt
and Katherine McPhee, who turned evil. It was the Idol finals, down to her and a guy-- I think it was Chris-- and she was backstabbing him in the media.

Damn this celebrity-obsessed society! It's making my dreams really shallow!

Friday, April 07, 2006

They bought me an iPod.

I'm not even kidding.

You ever have someone you want to thank at work or school or something, so you get a bunch of people to pitch in and buy the person some flowers or a t-shirt or a restaurant gift certificate or something? Right, me too. But when that "bunch of people" are Absolute Writers, apparently they think bigger.

They bought me an iPod. And not just any iPod, but the world's greatest iPod. With the extended warranty. And a big gift certificate to iTunes.

I mean... seriously!

I got the e-card today, which says: "Your friends and fans at the Absolute Write Water Cooler want to thank you for all your efforts on the behalf of other writers everywhere. With love and appreciation from..." and a list of 52 writers who are part of the forum, plus a few "anonymous"es. I've been staring at that list all day, trying to figure out how to say "thank you." I mean... they bought me an iPod! I've never even seen an iPod in person before. It took me until two years ago to get call waiting, for crying out loud.

I feel so spoiled and so touched and so excited! This is me, "practicing" using my iPod before it was charged. ;)

I've loaded The Police's Every Breath You Take: Singles onto it, and an Amazon podcast. Granted, the album is from the early 80s, but still-- I feel so with it!

If you're reading this and you were part of this ridiculously cool effort to spoil the heck out of me, thank you so much. I'm going to be floating on air for a long time.

Oh, and PS! The mammogram? It was disappointingly mundane. I was expecting to come out of there with some kind of comic fodder, at the very least. But truth is that it took about 5 minutes, didn't really hurt, and my squished boobs didn't look all that strange. They took four X-ray pictures and told me I was fine. (Then there was a brief period where they told my doctor they changed their minds, but they changed them back. Or something. Doctors are weird. I'm fine.) Thanks for all the we-know-you're-really-going-to-be-fine, but-best-wishes-anyway-just-in-case type of notes. Sorry no machines went on fire. Maybe next time.

Monday, March 27, 2006

That doesn't sound fun. I think I'll pass, thanks.

So I'm sitting in a new OB/GYN's office, because I've recently gotten health insurance back, and my old OB/GYN doesn't take my new insurance. Anthony and I are TTC, so I want to make sure all my parts are in the right places. Picked this doctor out of the phone book.

I'm skeeved right quick because of the women waiting in the waiting room with me. One 60ish woman with a romance novel sucks and slurps and clicks on her dentures about every three seconds. There's no Musak or anything, so every slurp sets off my inner gag reflex. Then there's the woman with moles all over her neck who is wearing a floral skirt... and pilled black socks and black sneakers. I wonder if she's been recently homeless. Then the woman with the knit cap that appears to have lasted at least two decades without a washing. I am in the wrong part of town.

I begin thinking about the fact that these women are going to have their hoo-has all out in the same room I'm about to be in, and I nearly leave. I don't even want to touch the pen they give me to fill out my paperwork. I inspect it for lice. I think if the doc had waited about five minutes longer, I'd have been in the parking lot. But I made it, and thank God for...

(Men, you probably should stop reading here, if you haven't already.)

...plastic, disposable speculums. They look like salad tongs. I've never seen them before, but I am endlessly pleased to see them now. All the instruments are wrapped like condiment packs at a fast food joint.

So I go through with it without much more in the way of digust. And the damn woman finds the lump in my boob that I thought for sure was gone by now. I was supposed to take care of this more than two years ago... the last time I had insurance. Anyway, she looks really concerned and has her assistant call and make an appointment for a mammogram and a biopsy while I'm standing there. This really must be bad, because she gets me an appointment for three days from now. Nothing works that fast unless you're a goner.

So 'm getting my first mammogram ever on Thursday. It feels like a rite of passage of some sort. I've never had pancake boobs before. Then they analyze the results, then they schedule the biopsy. Now, that's the part I'm really not looking forward to. A needle? In my ladypart?

Why can't they just trust me that it's nothing? 'Cause I'm telling you, it's nothing. I made this deal with God a couple of years ago. It went like this:

Me: Okay, God, cut the crap.
God: Fine. Party pooper.

So we're good. But the mortal is making me go check it out anyway. And I'm not allowed to get preggers in the meantime. Yarg.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Why do I dream of the vapid?

No, really, this is disturbing me now. Last month, I had a series of dreams involving Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie. I've no idea why. I think we were friends in the dreams.

Since then, whenever I do remember my dreams, chances are good that they involve a celebrity-- and not a celebrity I particularly admire, but the ones who are more known for partying, being ditzy, etc. Last night's dream involved Leonardo DiCaprio, whose house I was considering buying. He had lived there with his mother and brothers, and it was kind of a small, crappy house. When I went to look around in the backyard, I took a jacket from Leo's wardrobe to keep me warm, which I explained to him later, when he showed up in the kitchen. I was being flirty with him, then his face morphed into a horrible human being I dated in high school.

I don't ever remember having celebrity dreams before. Is there a dream interpreter in the house?

(Me, being vapid)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

How do women buy makeup?

Here's the thing. I have been on a mission for the past two years to become more girly. It all started when I was engaged and reading about women's beauty regimens in preparation for their weddings. I read these 12-month beauty planners and my eyes fell out... women actually started planning their beauty routines a year in advance?! There were lots of things on there I'd never even heard of, much less tried. So I drove over to my nearest spa and asked them to give me a facial. Which they did. And it was expensive and I didn't like all the steam up my nose. But that's beside the point.

The big revelation for me was eyebrow waxing. I had never waxed or tweezed anything before. But after I had my brows waxed for the first time, I was in awe-- I looked so much better! Soon I hated looking at old pictures because I was horrified by my unkempt eyebrows.

I experimented with spray-on tanners, I used Crest Whitestrips, I bought pore strips... but the thing that I still have trouble with today is makeup.

You can't try on makeup like you try on clothing. I'm not sure how anyone ever takes the plunge and decides to buy $15 lipstick and $10 eyeliner if they have no idea if it's going to look any good on them. So I've always bought cheap-ish stuff... I know I'm going to wind up not using most of it anyway, because the color's going to be wrong, or it's going to wear off too fast, or something.

Well, I splurged a little last week and bought some new stuff at CVS because I accidentally dyed my hair orange and none of my old makeup looks right anymore. I'm dismayed to report that it's all a bust, but figured I'd tell you why here so other women might not make the same costly mistakes:

-Styli-Style Line & Seal waterproof eyeliner in Tanzanite: Hard to apply-- you have to press really, really hard (I'm going to try melting it a little with a lighter next time), and the color makes me look like I might have the flu. Didn't stay on more than a few hours.

-CoverGirl Cheekers Bronzer: You can't tell until you open it, but it's really sparkly. This is OK for 14-year-old girls, I guess, but ridiculous on me.

-CoverGirl liquid pencil in black brown: Applies nicely, and not a bad color, but it disappeared quickly. I looked in the mirror a few hours later and it was totally gone. (I do rub my eyes a lot, so factor that in, but my old eyeliner-- Clinique Quick Eyes in black-- handled that just fine.)

-Maybelline Shiny*licious in Sugar plum: Stayed on for maybe 28 seconds, and tasted weird.

See, now I'm gun shy about trying other new products because I just wasted a lot of money on four products that are going to sit at the bottom of my makeup bag until I finally give up and throw them out. And those are not the expensive products... seriously, how do women ever figure out what products are right for them? Do they just accept that it's all a gamble, and that it's OK to spend $100 before finding the right lipstick? Is this another womanly lesson I should just get used to now?

I always think it's funny when writers ask celebrities about their favorite beauty products, and they name something that I can't even identify by function. My single must-have beauty product is Naturistics roll-on shiny lip gloss in watermelon flavor. If I can't find it, I buy the same product by N.Y.C., which costs about $2 and remains yummy for hours.

Now you know.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

My novelist counterpart. And so on.

So I've found my novelist counterpart, and she's Tess Gerritsen, a writer who probably could not seem any more different from me if she tried. She writes medical thrillers; I write nonfiction and children's picture books. But I've been following her blog for some time now, and looking for a good excuse to chat with her. I found it.

A few weeks ago, the psychic editors at Writer's Digest wrote to ask me if I was interested in writing an article about the dangers of the Internet for published authors-- things like checking blogs and message boards to see what people are saying about your books, obsessively checking Amazon and to see your rank and new reviews, etc.

Their timing was uncanny. I had just gone on a hiatus from my own message boards because I needed time to think about my mental health and how it relates to just those sorts of things. When you run a big site for writers, you leave yourself open to criticism and scrutiny. I had, once again, inadvertently run into a baffling scenario. For a long time, I've been a vocal opponent of scammers in the literary world-- particularly PublishAmerica. I understand that along with that territory comes the fact that there will be writers who think I'm just "being mean" and "picking on" their publisher. Therefore, they'll insult me. I get that.

I also understand that the scammers themselves will give me plenty of trouble. I'm used to the lawsuit threats, the nasty comments. I'll take it because I feel like it's important that I keep doing what I'm doing.

But then there are the randomly horrible remarks by strangers that I just can't process. Lately, they're mostly about Stories of Strength, suggesting that there must be a hidden agenda... that it's really just a way for me to get publicity, or something. I want to shake people and say, Are you daft? I took off almost three months of paying work to self-publish a little book that I knew would have no real distribution, just in the hopes of raising money for disaster relief, and (just a few, I know) strangers are trying to twist that into something selfish and bad. Why in the world would I need the kind of publicity you get from a self-published book when most of my current work is ghostwriting celebrity biographies and health books? Picture me throwing my arms in the air.

Then there are the couple of stalkers and general weirdos I've acquired along the way. Some have been downright frightening, others just discomforting.

And in a weird sort of way, I got into writing in the first place out of a desire for acceptance. I'm coming around to the idea that I need to be more behind the scenes in my life. I "fit" as a ghostwriter. I am not composed of the stuff that famous people need to stay away from sharp objects. I am not capable of being detached, or of not taking things personally, or of believing that strangers don't matter. It's a flaw. I've worked on it. I've failed. I've come around to the belief that it's better to just accept that I don't like the spotlight, and get the heck out of it.

But back to Tess. I had an inkling, based on things she's written before, that she shares my oversensitivity and my sense of "outsiderness." What I couldn't have known was that on the same day I wrote to her to ask for a quote for the article, she had just found out that one of her greatest literary dreams had come true-- her book was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel-- and she nearly immediately found a stranger online commenting, "WTF is she doing on the Edgar list?"

She says nothing could bring her down from that day's high, and I hope it's true. But-- and I'll take the liberty to use the word "us" here-- for people like us, I suspect it's never quite that simple. There's always going to be that desperate fear of not being good enough for someone. Of letting someone down.

Hell of a way to live, constantly trying to control the uncontrollable, waiting for the sky to fall again.

But my life is changing. I'm in a weird flux right now, kind of changing everything all at once, but I'm getting more secure in it. I quit smoking 28 days ago. Anthony and I are trying to have a baby. I'm making some major career changes. I'm looking for a new agent. I cut and dyed my hair and finally got health insurance. I made reservations five days in advance to actually go somewhere on Valentine's Day for the first time ever. Different. It's all different. And I'm eager to find out where it's all leading.