Book buddy

Last night I got a message via Facebook that someone I once knew well had passed away. As often happens in the world life drew us apart. Her marriage and child while I was still in the early stages of the relationship that would lead to marriage and our two children put us at slightly different points in our lives. I had seen, on Facebook, that she was going through a rough patch, dealing with chemotherapy and all things associated with it. I put off doing anything more than the meaningless response online, because I was no longer super-close to her and did not want to intrude. I thought of her in odd moments and sent, in my own way, healing thoughts toward her home and her family. I thought about the book I was reading and how I should send her a copy, then realized she probably already had a copy and stopped thinking further. I didn’t reach out, for fear it would be the wrong thing or unwelcome. This, I regret.

When I moved from Ohio to sunny NC, I moved knowing one individual here. I moved with a car full of stuff to see me through eight weeks of a show and trying the city on for size. It was probably the bravest thing I had ever done. That one friend of mine was someone I knew from college, and he introduced me to the woman he later married. She, at the time, had two housemates that later married, had a child and then divorced but remained close. One of the housemates was the woman who passed, the woman who I was very different from but we shared something very intimate – reading selections.

I know that sounds strange, but she is the only person I have met that perfectly intersected book styles with me. On our Sunday dinners we would occasionally search the bookshelves at each other’s homes and see familiar titles, also worn. She is the only person who has bought a book for me not using a list and gotten it right – introducing me to a new author and with nothing other than “I thought you’d like it” – and she was right. We would, in moments between other conversations, discuss whatever our latest book we had at hand or what we may have been looking forward to reading. Over those first couple of years in NC when I was still trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted, dinner on those Sundays was a touchstone of friendship and welcome that made living here so wonderful. We six together had fondue nights and made lasagna, talked movies and got married off, changed careers and bought homes. But what I remember most is the book she first gave me and the girls’ night at the farmhouse.

So I’m going to spend a little more time being grateful for another day. I’m going to try to remember to reach out even if it isn’t perfect. I’m going to hug my kids because there’s an eight year old boy who won’t be hugged by his mom again. But first, I think I’ll go find that book.


BlogHer prompt: Tell us about your writing space.

Part of the reason I’m doing this effort of NaBloPoMo is to get into the habit of writing. I have a box in my craft closet that is full of the pieces for albums – our wedding, Gummi Bear’s first year, my college pictures and ones that go back even further in time. Part of my anxiety is that I know the finished project will sit on the shelf and be dragged out from time to time to be looked at by me and that may be the only one who sees it. But for that, I want perfection. And in waiting for perfection or just the right moment or just the perfect phrase, I might never finish. I have to remind myself that these memories in pictures will fade and if I don’t record them, though the words may be imperfect, will I remember?

I confess: I cannot remember Gummi Bear’s first word. I can tell you what we were doing when she took her first steps on her own but I don’t remember when she began to crawl. It has only been three and a half years since she was born and I’m already glossing over milestones and memories because I didn’t find the perfect word. How much longer until I lose hold of other memories? How many years in the future will we be sitting on the couch, with family & friends, and look through a photo album of smiling happy coeds and Gummi Bear asks “who is that laying on the back of the couch? and why would she do that?”

I don’t have a writing space. I don’t really have a place that is mine (and just mine). Then again, technically nobody in our house does. The aforementioned craft closet resides in the children’s room and is full of my stamps & paper, photos & patterns. The Bald One built in shelves to store things and a counter that folds up on a piano hinge or is supported by a chain when down. I can quickly do a little thing in there, but any major efforts end up being done on our kitchen table – where they have to be packed up in between to avoid children and cat destruction. Our home office is a shared space that is more his than mine and everything else in the house is a shared space. Pre-kid, I’d curl up on the couch and read or write on my laptop. Post-kid if I’m curled up on the couch, it is usually with a tiny human or in the event that they are sleeping, my cat comes to demand a few minutes grace. Both cat & kid are equally uncaring that a tablet in my lap means that I’m doing something that does not involve them. But that is the way of cats and kids.

Some days I think of the place we will have next where there is an actual office that can have a section for the office things and an area for the music to spread out and a wall for me to have a work surface and cabinets galore for my craft inclinations. And in the corner, there would be a chair and a half that I can sink into to write, long hand, in a journal or read a book. Until then, I write where I can and when I can so that the little things aren’t forgotten. Even when it is just the chaos of bedtime punctuated by the giggles of an almost three month old boy as he’s tickled.

Plagarism: it’s what’s for breakfast

Courtesy of the fabulous ladies at Smart Bitches Trashy Books, we’ve got another fun case of editors who don’t quite think before speaking. Specifically, we’re talking about Judith Griggs of Cook’s Source who sent back this fabulous email:

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

in response to an author (the above mentioned Monica) asking for a small payment for the post she had done being lifted wholesale for use in an ad-heavy magazine without her permission or even a polite notification.

The ladies from SBTB linked to here, which had more of the full story. And the request, for a fun little google-bomb. To which, I’m spreading the love. Continue reading Plagarism: it’s what’s for breakfast

Summer reading!

Okay, yeah, I have a kid. A “newborn” even. But I’m still reading. (I’ll stop when you pry the book from my cold, dead hands.) And since the melodious sound of my voice is more important than content, it doesn’t matter if I’m reading the latest Nora Roberts (cannot wait for book four of the Brides in November) or The Pokey Little Puppy.

I’ve slowed down a bit since I started having a kid in my arms most of the day (or sleeping other parts), and part of the problem exists with the whole hard to hold kid and book issue. Lucky for me, I have an iPhone…which has a few digital readers on it. Downside: I’ve read all the free eBooks I have. Must…acquire…more…

Lucky for me, a summer reading program was born:

The first book has already been announced, even…One Dance with a Duke. Off to acquire some club soda & lemonade concentrate and party down. After I get the book loaded on my phone…

Fluffy reading is educational?

One of my fave romance blogs posted this op-ed piece one of their contributors wrote on Tango. She raises a good point though – romance isn’t the stuff of movies. It isn’t running down the streets of Paris to find that one person on the bridge and tell them you can’t live without them. It isn’t running off to the islands and being wined and dined. It’s the small gestures on a daily basis…often seen in the build up to the big romantic gesture at the end that wins the damsels heart. Wait – my escapism is actually teaching me something?

I might joke about my mom having been mad enough at my dad to throw a vacuum at him. (1 – she didn’t throw it, she pounded it on their floor. 2 – she was pissed.) But, I know that they actually love each other – from the little things like how he takes her elbow over icy patches or watching them prepare breakfast for each other with hardly a word said. The Bald One and I have similar little things that say daily how we love – he turns the electric blanket on for me in winter and I’ll leave little notes for him to find or indulge his goofy side even when it involves tickling me to death.

It’s February, and with it comes reminders from the AHA that it is heart month and the biggest Hallmark & florist holiday comes right in the middle of the month. The stores are scattered with tokens big (diamonds! a new car!) and small (a single rose, the perfect chocolate). Charities ask that you adopt an animal or make a donation in someone’s name to show you care about them and the things they’re interested in. As par for the course, I’ll be working on a play when the big VDay happens. I jokingly told the director I’ve spent more Valentine’s Days with him than with my husband. (In the 9 VDays we’ve been together, I worked five shows with this director, two elsewhere — if you go by hours in the day, I’m right.) Luckily, it’s a matinee (second time that’s happened) and not a archival photo night. This means I’ll get home at a decent hour to have whatever wonderful concoction the Bald One creates this year.

Ever since our first Valentines Day, the Bald One has done something wonderful for the holiday. While it is often a grand gesture in the terms of our relationship, it means just as much as knowing that he kills the random bugs before our cats turn them into toys. And I guess that’s how I know we’ll be fine when we go from being just us two to being parents.

Reading /is/ fundamental

I don’t remember story time, but my mother tells me she took me every week when I was growing up and it was a highlight of the week for me. I do remember being in elementary school and breaking away from my classmates hovering around the grade-level appropriate books and looking at the books for kids anywhere from one to three years older than myself. I remember the grandmother-ly librarian who reached down to the Henry novels and introduced me to Misty of Chincoteague. I ran quickly through the entire series of books, even reading one of her novels not taking place off the coast of Virginia but in the depths of the Grand Canyon.

Later, having run through everything “girl appropriate” in my small elementary school’s library, I turned to my dad for direction. My dad was the reader of my parents while we were growing up, and I figured if someone could get me my next series of books that person would likely be him. He took me from the female child appropriate fiction of ponies and into a land of dragons and music. The first book he placed in my hand then was Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong. I read quickly through this, finishing its sequel in less time than the book’s seven days covered. Being the parents that mine are, I got to finish reading all the books McCaffrey had published at the time – meeting strong women like Lessa and learning about sex in very abstract terms.

I learned about the science in the paranormal as I continued reading McCaffrey’s novels, giggling over the date having been passed but no evidence showing of these people existing yet. I tried to get to read the leaders of science fiction (RAH, JRRT) but could not finish the Hobbit and wasn’t allowed to touch Friday. Eventually, I started choosing my own books and found Mercedes Lackey, Robert Jordan (who I still despise), Tad Williams, David (& Leigh) Eddings  and George RR Martin. Sometimes I go more towards the fluff of the romance entwined in fantasy, other times the gritty realism of war in a world not quite like ours can capture me for days.

What prompted all this is an interview on GeekDad of Nathan Fillion on Why Kids Need to Read.

I haven’t been in a school library since I left middle school. Any time I needed to do research, I went to the local public branch for a better selection and was usually too involved to actually have time at school to go research. The idea that libraries in schools are being decimated scares me. I had involved parents, I plan to be involved in getting the Gummi Bear into reading…but not every child is so lucky. One of my girlfriends recently told me that she’s not worried for us putting our daughter in public schools because we read and are likely to get our children to do so as well. Granted, reading won’t solve everything, but it does open many a door.

FTC – poking in where now?

You may have noticed something strange in my last post – a disclaimer at the FTC. As you may have seen elsewhere, the FTC has decided to watch out for you, the consumer, by making us Wild West critics fess up that we may not be completely honest with you because we are swayed by the big bad corporations.

I know, I’m exaggerating. But for a reason…do you really think 90% of us sit here and go “yes, free stuff! I promise to say I love it and have my throngs of followers worship you even if it’s crap!” In a word, no. But the FTC is worried about that 10% who might not be so scrupulous.

I know I’m a tiny little flea in the world of swaying the almighty consumerist dollar. I don’t have a large following, if I even have any following. I more often tell strange tales of my life working on shows and having a day job or the strange things that pass as “normal” in our family life than I do tell you about the books I read, products I buy or other things that qualify as a product review. Heck, I’ve even started to get a little snarky on book reviews because it’s fun to crack my girlfriends up while being honest about a book plot.

I can honestly tell you the only ARC I have ever reviewed here is one I blatantly said was an ARC. The books I’ve received as a give-away, either as a prize for a contest well-won or the one time I’ve gotten something from an author, have been noted. Unless stated otherwise, my books come from one of three sources: my local library, a PaperBackSwap trade or my own hard-earned cash. My husband works in retail – formerly for Linens ‘n’ Things, Best Buy, a wine distributor and various movie theaters. As such, we did receive discounts on some purchases but never have I received something for free because of this connection from the retailer. He now works for a retail servicer, and as such we get pretty much nothing. Any product reviews (like how I love my wash machine due to it’s delayed start), are based on experience and not because somebody gave me something to make it sound awesome. In the event this ever changes, despite my tiny influence, I’ll make sure to warn you.

And while I love the government…I’m siding with a folksong here (and if you’re really curious, I’ll go figure out which…but my recording is at home): Judge, the good folks don’t need your laws and the rest won’t listen.

Happy LOL cat – it shares my views

On Sunday, I drove myself (in a car without cruise control!) out to the almost-farm country on the other side of the Triangle. Part of the point of this adventure was to learn something I never quite got with my mother – how to cook vegetables. In all fairness to my mom, we’re mainly of Eastern European descent…which means most of our cooking is meat, potatoes and boil the heck out of everything until losing their flavor. Maybe not literally, but it often feels that way.

While hanging out with StubbornDev and Lil Bit, I got to have a glimpse into my future – Lil Bit is potty training. I’d say something crazy like it reminds me of the cats, but at least with children you can reason and maybe teach…but that’s unfair to both cats and kids. You can sometimes teach cats and often you cannot reason with children.

Getting back to the veggies…one thing I’ve realized is that I need more of them in my life. I live near the state farmer’s market, which I just need to go to more often and ask more questions. But there are other ways to cook veggies than boil the flavor out of them…blanching, roasting, grilling, sautee and even the occasional fun with a wok. Heck, we even have a veggie size wok. Just because the Bald One isn’t a veggie fan doesn’t mean I can’t cook up a single serving.

Part of my education was reading Nourishing Traditions. This book reminds you that eating is fuel, and fuel should be high grade and not over processed. I’ve been reminded that oatmeal, when done right, doesn’t have the consistency of runny snot. Milk is actually better when it’s full of milk fat. Butter is actually made from milk fat, and not chemically cooked up margarine that tastes about the same. While my darling husband does much of the cooking, small changes can be made around him – cous cous in bulk that we flavor ourselves, whole grain pasta cooked correctly tastes just as good, brown rice…and his favorite change is beef to die for from the guy who raised the cows. Sure we’ll probably still break out the occasional Hamburger Helper, but we’ll now add beef from the guy at the market and eggs from local chickens. Small changes will be easier (on us and the pocketbook), but they’ll make all the difference. Even if tomatoes are evil.

Book Review: Art of Racing in the Rain

Let me just begin with: don’t read this one if you’re hormonal, prone to cry at animals potentially suffering or tear up at Hallmark commercials. If you fit in one of these categories, please do read, but with a box of tissues handy. I cleared out my sinuses.

For those that grew up with a dog, you know how the bond of family that really ties you with your “family pet.” This is often a relationship that teaches you things you never quite fully understand until you’re an adult. My husband’s cat taught his goddaughter how to crawl. My family dog taught me that snoring was okay, to occasionally be tenacious, and just how to always be there when someone needed you. These are the deep-set feelings that you immediately tap into on the opening pages.

This book is written from the dogs point of view, on the eve of his death. He stages it carefully, so to choose best his time as he knows that his family no longer needs him. He reflects through his life from being chosen from the cruel man who cared for his mother to meeting the woman who’d share his owner’s heart with him. Where this book excels is the thing that sells romance novels – emotion. Every single page makes you feel like you are really, emotionally living with these people. You never quite see the house in your mind so you are free to fill in what says “home” to you. You don’t know exactly where in foggy Seattle they’re living, but you have a sense of these people’s lives day-to-day. You can forget that they may be a continent away from you because this could happen in your neighborhood.

I will say, for the tears you shed throughout and in the last pages, it is a happy book. The pay off is worth the pain. I’d put this in the great stocking stuffer list for anyone you know that has a dog.

T&A Let Me In

Let Me In by Donna Kauffman was part of a stack of books I won courtesy of SBTB. I can honestly say I haven’t read a Donna Kauffman book before this, but I’m a little sad to say I’m not sure I’ll pick one up again.

Sidebar: my darling Bald One and I are seeing each other three nights a week based on his work schedule. Based on our sleep schedules, we’re seeing each other alive even less. And I’m losing a lot of sleep. So when I decided to read this, it was Sunday, in between naps and laundry. I hit the jump. That’ll be the rule for the lovely T&A reviews. My gals have no plans on reading these, so I know I won’t ruin it for them…but I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you.

I read romance for plot, suspense and well developed characters all laced with titillation and a bit of sex. Most of what I get to read has two of the first three characteristics and often heavy on one of the last two. This book gave me a lot of suspense, two decently developed characters and a lot of longing glances. What I wasn’t looking for but got through the ying-yang? Conversation.

We spent probably the first third to half of the book with two characters. Talking. To themselves. Each other on occasion. Or to themselves in their heads and arguing. It takes that long for the two of them to finally introduce the third character, who I think got a passing mention while they were talking them to themselves. We learn about violence and for some reason the idea of spies being romantic heroes has been set back with this one. Yes, he’s hot – but he spends most of the book nursing his ribs. (Although – mad props for realistic recovery time on injuries.) She’s also the requisite compact, adorable master spy who’s been massively injured and hiding away – so we don’t expect her to be fabulously fit. And in many ways, she’s damaged. But we’re to believe she’s managed to write two romance novels while having limited experience? Oh and she’s able to pull off some mad moves in a pinch. Like helping a man almost twice her weight into a cab top sleeping bed.

Oh yeah, she’s a writer now. A well hidden writer, as she’s in the mountains of nowhere (well, I’ve been there). Unless you read the Amazon synopsis, then you knew this going in. This writing she never actually does while we’re seeing her in this adventure with her ex-boss. Just saying. Continue reading T&A Let Me In