May 13, 2014

Attempted Gardening, Part 1

I've never been an outside kind of person. Don't get me wrong; I like to hike, swim, and do things like that, but as far yard work and gardening and the like go, I've always avoided it.

Ironically, I grew up in a world where my parents and grandfather spent entire summers working their combined acreage, growing tomatoes, corn, beans, and squash, and my grandmother on the other side was a florist and had a yard full of lowers like nothing you've ever seen, but I just don't have the patience for such things.

Until now. 

I've had a hankering to dig in the dirt lately, and since I won't have a permanent home until later in the year, I didn't want to put a ton of effort into anything. But my parents were kind of enough to give me a little bit of space in their garden (the shady spot with bad drainage, of course), and I am determined to turn it into some kind of English cottage meets organic vegetable garden kind of thing.
 
So far, it's been pretty fun. I've learned a few lessons:

1. Buying flowers is as addictive as buying Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or MAC eye shadows.  Seriously, I've spent more time (and money) in local nurseries than I ever imagined. 

My new favorite hangout.
2. You can never have enough supplies. This is my work area. See the blood and bone meal bags? Who knew gardening was so macabre?

Finally found a way to put the AJC to good use

3. Onions and Spinach are not for summer planting. The first thing I did was order red onion and spinach seeds. See the bed with the marigolds? If you look closely, you can see spinach and onions  growing on either side, but these 90-degree days are making them wilt, so I'm not holding out much hope.

Flowers > wilted vegetables

 4. You're not supposed to plant flowers this close together. I didn't know that, so I'm hoping they don't die on me. I also learned that I can't plant in a straight line. If you could see these from another angle, you'd see they are actually going diagonally across the bed. Sigh. (Carrots are supposed to grow on either side of these, but whether it'll happen remains to be seen.)

This bed might need a redo.


 5. This is not cauliflower. I also planted cauliflower which is also not suppose to do well in 90-degree temps, but I figured I'd give it a try anyway. So, what do you know, I come back two or three days later, and this little thing is shooting out of the ground. I took pictures. I made people come look at it. I even posted about it on Facebook. I just knew I was THE person who conquered growing cauliflower in warm weather.

Then I noticed these things were also growing in the nearby woods. They're just weeds. Not cauliflower.  Oh, well. 

Nothing to see here. Just a weed.


So, between working on book number two, writing for freelance clients, getting book number one published, and traveling, this is what I'll be doing this summer, and you can bet your sweet ass I'm going to drone on and on about it here!  I'll post better pictures when I've accomplished more. I'll also probably be ordering warmer weather seeds.

P.S. I've only seen one frog so far, and that was shortly after seeing a huge snake, so it didn't phase me quite as badly as it normally would. If this becomes a habit, the whole "gardening all summer" plan is subject to change

Oh, and be glad I didn't post pictures of my compost and earthworm collection.

May 06, 2014

13 Reasons to See "Now: In the Wings On a World Stage"

After months of anticipation, I finally got to see NOW: In the Wings On a World Stage last night. While sleep beckons, I feel as if I need to get my thoughts about this important film down while they are fresh. I just wish I had a bigger platform for this than my many years-old, out-dated blog that is in the midst of a major makeover.    

Let me start by saying I planned to see this in a theater in Atlanta last week, but as with any plans I make lately, my professional life got in the way, so I had to settle for the $12.99 download from KevinSpacey.com ($13.99 for 20 minutes of bonus material and a $1 donation to the Kevin Spacey Foundation). I'm so glad I ended up watching it from my bed, because it was such an intimate experience that I didn't really want to share it with dozens of people I don't know. (That said, don't let it stop you from seeing a public showing, because I'm also a bit of loner at heart. I just feel like the experiences might be different. Not bad, just different. Or maybe that's just me. But I digress.)

I'm terrible at reviewing movies, but I kick ass at lists, so, I thought I'd list some reasons why I think someone who might be on the fence or who thinks they probably wouldn't be interested should watch it. 

1. If you love the theater, you'll love this movie. 

This one is pretty self-explanatory. After all, it is a documentary about a theater company who travels to multiples cities around the world to perform Richard III to packed houses. 

2. If you like to go behind the scenes, you'll love this movie. 

Even if theater isn't your thing, if you like to see what goes on behind the scenes of whatever - making a movie, a concert, your favorite restaurant...the United States Postal Service? - it's got that kind of appeal to it that some reality shows offer these days. However, I promise there are no Kardashians or people who live in or around swamps.

3. If you like to be inspired, you'll love this movie. 

One thing I really took from the film was just how passionate the actors were about their craft. There was a common theme of going for your dreams and doing what you love, no matter your age, health, wealth, experience, background, appearance, where you live, etc. Whether you want to be an actor or a tennis pro, a chef, or a dog trainer, I think that you'll find it inspiring to watch other people fulfill their own goals, and in some cases, overcoming the odds to do so. I did. 

4. If you like Shakespeare, you'll love this movie. 

Another obvious one. While this ain't exactly your father's Shakespeare, it really takes you on a unique journey through the ins and outs of the play, while providing a little insight into how a modern audience and actors react and relate to Sweet William's work.

5. If you wish you knew more about Shakespeare, you'll love this movie.  

On the other hand, if you slept through high school and college English and think "Romeo and Juliet" is just some 1990s-era film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this is a great opportunity to learn a little something something without having to open a book or turn on your Kindle or whatever it is you people do these days. In all seriousness, I did a huge project on Shakespeare when I was in college, and I knew very little about Richard III going into this.

6. If you enjoy talented people, you'll like this movie. 

If you can stay with me and my college years for just a moment, I took a theater class back in the day, and while my professor was kind of a jerk, something she said has always stuck in my mind: "When you tell someone you're an actor, they want to know if you've ever been on the cover of People magazine, but when you tell people you're a doctor, they don't start asking about whether you've been in any medical journals. Success and fame are not equal." Sure, this movie has Kevin Spacey, and we all know he's ridiculously talented, but I was blown away by the talent of these other actors, most of whom I was not familiar with. Again, they all come from a wide array of backgrounds, but the way they came together to make this whole thing happen was incredible, or at least, the movie portrays it that way. It's a good life lesson for anyone who does automatically associate fame with talent and certain professions: There's a world out there beyond what's on Entertainment Tonight.

7. If you have ever wanted to be an actor, this movie will save you about $500. 

I'm not sure what the going rate for a decent acting class is these days, but let me assure you that you can take one less if you watch this film. Fun fact: I dropped out of college to study acting about a decade a few years ago, and I learned just as much from watching this film as I did from some of the classes I took. (I promise that's the last reference to my life circa my early twenties.) 

8. If you love culture and history, you'll love this movie.  

So, if you're all theater, Shakespeare, acting, blah blah blah, let me just tell you that there's a bit more to it than that. First of all, the theater company combines British and American actors. While this might not seem like a big deal at first, it's really interesting to see how the two cultures mix and mingle while they work. But what's even more exciting is seeing some of the most interesting places in the world through the eyes of the actors. From the Great Wall of China to the Old Vic in London, you'll get an enlightening little lesson in world history and cultures.

9. If you want to see the world, you'll love this movie. 

This one sort of ties in with number 8, but you get to witness some beautiful scenery from throughout the world while you watch the film. If you're the type of person who likes to read travel books or watch documentaries, television shows, or entire television networks dedicated to world travel, you won't be disappointed.

10. If you enjoy emotional human interest stories, you'll love this movie. 

I often joke with friends that I only get emotionally involved with movies when a dog dies or is mistreated, but if I'm being 100 percent honest, I guess I do occasionally find myself emotionally invested in the lives of humans, as well, and watching this film proved that. As I've said, it's not just about the play; it's about the lives of the actors. By the end, I found myself crying with them and rooting for them. I got nervous with them before they went on stage. I even found myself thinking about them while I was out shopping today. As a writer, that's something I love to hear about my characters, and I think that translates into something filmmakers would want to hear about their work, as well, even if the characters are real people.

11.  If you want to support innovation, you'll love this movie. 

Still on the fence? Do it for technology. Do it to stick it to the man. Do it for change and creativity and innovation. Perhaps I'm being dramatic, but one thing I find really cool about this whole thing is that Kevin Spacey distributed this documentary on his own. Well, I'm sure he had some help, but what I mean is that he didn't take the traditional route. If he had, I may never have seen it, and you wouldn't be able to rush right over to the website to watch it after you read this, all five of you.

At some point, someone took all of the art and creativity out of entertainment and replaced it with rules and regulations and turned it into something of a dictatorship. They tell you what to watch and when to watch it. They limit your options. The result is a gazillion Transformers movies and endless episodes of The Bachelor.

I've never actually seen an episode of The Bachelor or a Transformers movie, so let's all get our panties out of a wad and try to understand my convoluted point. Actually, if I keep going, you'll have to hear my theories on why I'm bittersweet on Stephen Colbert moving to CBS and other things that have nothing to do with this movie, so let me invite you to take a look at this interview with Spacey himself at RogerEbert.com where he explains his own version of this idea. He's much more eloquent than I can ever be.

I will say that I do feel like supporting modern ventures like this help put the control of the entertainment industry back in the hands of the people who spend their hard-earned dollars to see a movie, a play, a stand-up routine, a concert, etc., as well as talented people who don't have a father who is a movie producer or who don't have Jennifer Aniston's figure or who don't have a million dollars to invest. It's kind of like the digital version of buying plants at a small garden shop instead of Home Depot...not that there's anything wrong with shopping at Home Depot, but as a consumer of anything, I want as many choices as possible, and you should, too. If you're even slightly inclined to check it out, do it for that reason. Vote with your dollars. (And stop rolling your eyes. I swear I'm wrapping this point up now.) 

12. If you like Kevin Spacey and Sam Mendes, you'll love this movie. 

I kind of saved this for last. I know people will watch this movie because it's Kevin Spacey or it's Sam Mendes or it's the iconic combination of Kevin Spacey and Sam Mendes that brought you American Beauty. And it is worth watching just for these reasons, but you don't need me to explain why this is a good thing.  

That said, watching the two men work together to get the role right was really interesting, as was watching how Spacey becomes Richard on his own. It was like witnessing a world-renowned surgeon perform some amazing procedure with unheard of precision, except far more fascinating. And maybe with more blood. (This marks the last actor/doctor comparison I'll make here.)


13. If you like to be entertained, you'll love this movie. 

If you take nothing else from my garrulous writing, know that you will not get through the hour and a half-long movie, give or take a few minutes, and wish you'd spent it doing something else. Seriously, when I had to pause it for a few minutes for a Diet Coke break, I saw that I only had 20 minutes left. Major bummer. Some documentaries drag on with parts that don't keep you engaged. This one doesn't do that at all. I even rewound a few parts to watch them again. So, if you hate theater, Shakespeare, actors, people, travel, history, culture, Kevin Spacey, etc., well, you're probably a terrible person, but I still think you'll find something redeeming here.

###

So, stop what you're doing. Watch the trailer. Then go pay the $12.99 to watch the whole thing (you'd pay that much or more in gas to get to your local mall to see some crap movie with terrible jokes, a predictable plot, and gratuitous fake boobs anyway).



April 25, 2014

Flashing the groomsman

Let's give this whole blog thing a try again, shall we?

Over the weekend, one of my cousins got married up in the mountains, and I have to say it's probably my favorite wedding I've ever been to. The outdoor setting was gorgeous, the atmosphere was laid-back, everything had a very personal touch to it, and everyone actually seemed to be having a good time. 

Everyone except for the one guy who I'm pretty sure saw way more of me than he'd like.  

I made the 1 1/2-hour drive with my mom, and we were running a bit late. We left later than we planned, and it rained off and on, so, of course, every driver on the interstate had to come to a complete standstill when a drop of water hit his or her windshield. Plus, once you get to the little town where the wedding took place, you have to make a million turns, one of which we missed (and so did everyone else, apparently), and then the road the actual venue was on is like a ride at Six Flags. Plus, I just tend to always be late to things. But we made it with about five minutes to spare.

I let my mom off at the actual wedding (it was in a little field), and I was told to drive around a curve and up this ridiculously steep hill to the building where the reception would be held and where family members were to park. I knew I had to get out of the car quickly, grab our gifts, make it back down the hill on foot (in slippery sandals), and to my seat fast or I'd be competing with the bride for attention as we both walked down the aisle, so I hopped out of the car without realizing the bottom of my dress was caught on my seat somehow.  Not knowing this, I reached down to smooth it out when I stood up and realized I was feeling more skin than dress material. And the poor guy who had driven up behind me on a golf cart was seeing more skin than material, too. 


Oops. 

For a brief moment, I felt bad for the starlets who hop out of limos in their slinky dresses and show their goods off to the entire world. But it's not like I was wearing something obscene, though I must confess I did opt out of undergarments at the last minute. Hey, they left terrible lines, and the dress was kind of clingy in spots! 

Anyway, I silently willed golf cart guy to drive away.  "I can probably just walk, " I even said to him, but we both knew that wasn't going to happen. I was only seated next to him on that stinking golf cart for approximately one minute, but that was one of the most awkward minutes of my life. Of course, there's always the small chance he saw nothing. After all, the backseat of my car is filled to the brim with boxes of stuff from my house which could have easily blocked his view, but I have a feeling... 

As I said, the wedding was amazing, even if I was sitting up front and, as it turns out, golf cart guy was a groomsman who stood right in front of me the entire time. I was so proud of my cousin - to see where he works and meet some of his friends (some met more of me than others), and I adore his new wife. They're good people, and every moment proved that on Saturday night.

October 19, 2013

Ellijay is number one...according to Southern Living

I know I post a lot about Charleston being The Greatest City in the World, but aside from Charleston and Atlanta, there's another little southern city I love: Ellijay, Georgia.


My grandparents owned a vacation home up there on top of a mountain when I was little, and I have some very fond memories of the place. My grandfather sold it when my grandmother died, but I still visit often, and I still have family there. It's one of my favorite little getaways, and I could even see myself living there one day. It's only about 1 1/2 hours away. I even used the town layout while planning the town where my novel takes place. 

Anyway, I just read today that Southern Living named Ellijay the best place in the South to see fall foliage. While I was excited to see my other other favorite place in the world get some recognition, I do worry that it'll become too big, commercial, touristy one day. It has already grown so much since the days when my grandparents had the house there, but it still seems like such a small town after spending a lifetime in the Athens and Atlanta areas.

That said, if you're ever there, check it out. Make sure you stop by the Panorama Apple House to get some goodies!

October 16, 2013

Adventures in babysitting


Growing up, babysitting was a major part of my life. I kept my little cousins and my best friend's little cousins, and eventually, I started getting real jobs through people at my church. Most of the kids are in middle school, high school, and even college now (sigh), and aside from the random request from a friend or family member, my babysitting days ended nearly a decade ago.

Well, my mom's good friend and neighbor and my old landlord from the Unabomber Cabin found out she would need to have surgery recently, and since she usually keeps her two granddaughters while their parents work, she asked if I could fill in here and there while she recovers. I wanted to be neighborly, and besides, I owe her more than a few favors, so I agreed.

So far, I haven't been too helpful because I've been crazy busy with freelance jobs and the whole trying to get a book published process, but yesterday, she managed to snag me for a whole 11 1/2 hours.

And what ensued was the kind of day my worse nightmares are made of.

Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but it honestly made me rethink my youth when I was more interested in what family I was going to babysit for on Friday night rather than what hot guys were going to ask me out.  (Also, the latter rarely happened, so whatever.)

Seriously, I think I've just reached an age where I don't want to deal with other people's children. I am still anxiously awaiting the day when I get to have my own, mind you, but I make special effort to run errands during school hours these days. I was watching Parenthood the other night, and I found myself siding with the evil family who made Crosby and Jasmine leave the restaurant because their baby was crying. And you know how I love me some yard sales, but if I pull up to one and there are a bunch of rugrats running around in the front yard, I'll hop right back into the car, no matter how cute that picture would look on my kitchen wall. Anyway, here's a brief recap of my day:

7:25 a.m.  I arrive, and their mom is making soup for them for lunch. Actually, she is making soup for us for lunch, but I didn't have the heart to tell her that I had a chicken gyro stashed away in the bag I'd just brought in and set in the floor (it also contained my laptop and a book - ha ha ha) after she'd gone to all of the trouble. I don't think they eat meat, and my plan was so sneak the gyro whenever the kids were busy with something else, hopefully a nap.

7:26 a.m. Alert to the scent of my delicious chicken gyro, their cat starts clawing and meowing loudly at my bag. I quietly kick the cat away and raise my voice quite loudly to drown out the meowing as I tell the mom just how much I love nondescript vegetarian soup.

7:31 a.m. Mom is on her way out the door. Children are asleep. I'm looking for a good place to set up my laptop so I can get some things done before they wake...oh no, is that the pitter patter of little feet? 

7:33 a.m. I try to convince the 2-year-old that life is not going to end because her mom just left to go to work, and in the meantime, could she please quiet down, because she's going to wake her big sister and also, move to another seat, because that's where I was going to set up my laptop.

8:04 a.m. The 4-year-old wakes up. I ask her if she wants oatmeal for breakfast. She carries on about how delicious it is and how it's her favorite, so I heat up the stuff her mom already made and set it on the table.  "I don't want that oatmeal; I want the kind on the counter," she says crossing her arms, poking out her lip, and pointing at a container of dried oats.  "It's the same thing," I say politely. "Your mom just made it ahead of time."

8:06 a.m.  The aforementioned cat knocks the uneaten bowl of oatmeal off the kitchen table. The are no paper towels here, so I must figure out a way to clean it up with one of the two kitchen towels I can find. 

8:30 a.m.  "Peanut butter!" cries the little one out of the blue.  "Yes, peanut butter," the 4-year-old says.  I promptly fix them each a spoonful of peanut butter to make up for the lack of oatmeal that was consumed earlier.  They seem content. The older one turns on the TV to play a video game, and the youngest one is happy to watch. I set up my laptop and explain to them that this is My Seat for the rest of the day, and they are not to come near it or touch the computer. Or talk to me or look at me. (Just kidding...)

8:40 a.m.  I look up from my Facebook page, laughing at a witty political post, and the 2-year-old is spreading peanut butter on a window. Dammit. There goes the other kitchen towel.

8:45 a.m. As I'm scraping peanut butter off the window, I look up to see 2-year-old rapidly pressing buttons on my laptop with her little peanut butter-coated fingers. "Don't touch that," I say for the 30th time.  I give up. I will work later.

8:46 a.m.  In an effort to wear them out, I concoct a very active game of "Simon Says." Once I realize 4-year-old doesn't quite get the whole "I didn't say Simon Says" part of it, I just start rattling off things to do like "run to your bedroom door and back" and "crawl like a baby around the kitchen table."  This lasts for about 10 minutes, but the results (two little girls who are so tired they fall asleep and stay that way for hours) are not what I'd hope for, and I spend the next few hours trying to find ways to entertain them, despite the fact that 4-year-old is insistent upon playing some awful video game called "Fat Princess" the entire time.

9:48 a.m. 4-year-old has been sitting in a chair in the living room for quite a while, but suddenly, she gets up and moves to the floor. She glances over at me the way someone who just put a bottle of nail polish in her purse at Walgreens glances at the cashier, but I think nothing of it. 

10:03 a.m. "Wet," the little one cries.  "You're wet I ask?" and check her pull-up.  "No, wet!" she screams urgently and points to the chair where the older one had been sitting before she got up and sat on the floor. I put my hand down and feel that the chair is indeed wet.  Apparently, she was so comfy playing video games that she failed to get up to go the potty not once, but twice. At this point, I'm contemplating loading them in the car and heading to the store to buy some paper towels. I mean, are car-seats really that necessary?

11:10 a.m.  "Do you need to go potty?" I ask the 4-year-old for the hundredth time since the Great Wet Chair Incident of 2013. She has now rolled her father's desk chair to the television, where she is still playing this horrid video game that looks like it was made in 1993 and is an insult to women everywhere. "Can we please stop talking about the potty?" she asks through gritted teeth.

11:12 a.m. 4-year-old runs to the bathroom, 2-year-old trailing behind her. I didn't go after them as quickly as I should have, but the next thing I hear is "Sarah, [insert 2-year-old's name] is putting her hands up her butt."  Indeed she was.  Not only that, but 4-year-old apparently had an upset stomach. Thank God that didn't happen in the desk chair.  

12:01 p.m. Lunchtime! I fill two little bowls with the aforementioned soup, and place banana halves on two small plates. The goal is to get them fed, go through another quick round of Super-Active Simon Says, and get them down for some quiet time so I can eat my delicious gyro and get some work done.  But for some reason the soup won't cool off. So, I let them color in the meantime.  "Don't give your sister any markers," I say to the 4-year-old, "she's only allowed to have crayons." I scoot the box of markers far away from the 2-year-old's reach. 

12:05 p.m. I turn around to put the soup and bananas on the table, and there are uncapped markers everywhere.  "She drew on me," 4-year-old is saying as she shows me that her entire forearm is now dark purple. Even worse, 2-year-old's teeth and lips are blue, and her fingernails are black. "How did she get markers?" I ask calmly, knowing that the child never got up out of her seat so someone had to hand them to her. 4-year-old shrugs and asks for more paper.

12:20 p.m. "Why aren't you girls eating?" I ask after I've cleaned up the leftover soup and put away a few toys. "I'm not hungry," the 4-year-old says, and given her recent bathroom activities, I don't push it. I spoon out some soup for the 2-year-old and feed it to her, and she promptly chews it and spits it out all over my shirt. "This yuck," she says. Knowing a break in the day is coming, I don't flinch. "Let's try a bite without onion chunks in it," I say, just giving her broth. After all, I didn't start eating onions myself until I was 29, so how am I supposed to expect this 2-year-old to do it? As soon as the spoon was out of her mouth, I was splattered again. "Fine, this yuck," I agree and take the bowl away.

12:22 p.m. "I need more paper," the 4-year-old reminds me. "This one has banana on it, " she says.  "Why do you have banana on your paper," I ask, knowing she never actually tried to eat the banana.  "Because I colored the paper with it," she says.  Sure enough, there is mashed up banana all over the paper, table, and child. "Lunchtime is over," I declare, as I start slamming rogue lids onto markers.

12:30 p.m. By this point, 2-year-old is whiny and rubbing her eyes and throwing fits in the floor. I know she's exhausted, so I clean her up, change her pull-up, and put her in her bed. The minute I lay her down, her body goes rigid.  "Noooooooooooooooooooooooo," she wails. "No bed!"  Suddenly, she's kicking the mattress so hard it sounds like I'm in a war zone.  I don't have the energy to argue or comfort. I leave the room as she starts calling out for her sister to "help her."

12:35 p.m.  The 2-year-old is still crying. "Does she cry like this when your mom makes her lay down?" I ask the 4-year-old.  "No," she replies, "she actually likes my mom."  Touche. 

12:40 p.m.  "Sarah, I saved the princess!"  "That's great," I tell the 4-year-old, "but I'm going to need you to keep your voice down, because your sister is trying to go to sleep, and I need to get some work done. If you want to sit up and play video games, that's fine, but it's gotta be quiet time," I call from behind the counter where I have ducked down to finally eat my delicious chicken gyro and down my Diet Coke. 

12:42 p.m.  "Sarah, I saved the princess!"  "That's great," I tell the 4-year-old, "but I'm going to need you to keep your voice down, because your sister is trying to go to sleep, and I need to get some work done. If you want to sit up and play video games, that's fine, but it's gotta be quiet time," I call from behind the counter where I have ducked down to finally eat my delicious chicken gyro and down my Diet Coke. 

12:43 p.m. "Sarah, I saved the princess!"  "That's great," I tell the 4-year-old, "but I'm going to need you to keep your voice down, because your sister is trying to go to sleep, and I need to get some work done. If you want to sit up and play video games, that's fine, but it's gotta be quiet time," I call from behind the counter where I have ducked down to finally eat my delicious chicken gyro and down my Diet Coke. 

12:45 p.m. "Sarah, I saved the princess!"  "That's great," I tell the 4-year-old, though this time I'm hiding behind the kitchen counter with a mouth full of chicken gyro, "but I'm going to need you to keep your voice down, because your sister is trying to go to sleep, and I need to get some work done. If you want to sit up and play video games, that's fine, but it's gotta be quiet time," I call from behind the counter where I have ducked down to finally eat my delicious chicken gyro and down my Diet Coke. This keeps up for about an hour.

1:43 p.m.  The 2-year-old, who finally fell asleep around 1:10, comes waddling into the living room with a big beaming smile on her face, as if we're supposed to be thrilled to see her.  That was no nap! Naps are supposed to last at least an hour, usually two, I think to myself, but she's in a good mood finally, so I don't want to ruin it. By now, the sun is out, and I can't bear the thoughts of hearing the theme song to that stupid princess game loop one more time.  "Put on some shoes, girls. We're going outside." I ignore the cries of "No, I have to save the princess again," and put shoes on them anyway.  

2:00 p.m. The 4-year-old wants to play tag, and I'm all for it. Generally, I try to avoid things that involve, ya know, running, but if this is going to wear them out, then who am I to be lazy? I am actually having an okay time, getting some exercise, and wondering why we didn't do this before lunch when suddenly something comes flying around the house at me. It's squawking and moving fast, its beak aimed at my knees, and I realize it's a rooster. I may have mentioned before that chickens freak me out unless they're chopped into nuggets or fried up and placed between two buns. I insist we head to the swing. Yes, I said swing, singular. I spent the next hour or two ( at least, that's what it felt like) giving each girl 5-minute intervals on the swing, singular.

2:37 p.m. We head in, hot and sweaty, despite the cool weather, and eaten up by mosquitoes. I just know we've been out there for nearly 2 hours, but it's only been 37 minutes?  Their dad is not supposed to be home until around 7. I have 4 1/2 more hours of this crap.

2:39 p.m.  "I want some oatmeal," the 4-year-old says, so I go back to the already-made oatmeal that their mom left and start to spoon it into her bowl. She can have this for lunch. I don't care. "Not that kind, that kind," she says and points to the dry oats on the counter again. "I'm not making new oatmeal. Your mom made this for you this morning, and it's the same thing!"  "I don't want it," she insists.

3:02 p.m. 4-year-old is back to her princess game (I know, I'm terrible, but it kept her out of my hair), and I realize the 2-year-old has been quiet in the kitchen for an unusual amount of time. I mean, I've nearly finished proofreading an entire article and catching up on a handful of emails without interruption. I saunter over and discover that she has discovered the markers again. But that's not what bothers me. It's the smell coming from her pull-up that nearly sends me running, screaming from the house. No wonder she wanted some privacy.  I tell her to sit still and search high and low for wipes. Apparently, all of the baby wipes have gone the way of the paper towels.

3:07 p.m. I've called 4-year-old back into the bedroom to ask her to help me find wipes. "Here they are, silly," she says and hands me a stack of baby washcloths. Just as I'm wondering if there are any paper towels left from my gyro that I can wet down and use, 2-year-old comes walking into the room, her legs spread wide like she's John Wayne or something, and a look of horror on her face. "I'm going to change you, hang on," I say.  "Messy," she says and shakes her head. I look at her legs. Indeed she was. Don't believe the myth that pull-ups are every bit as strong as diapers. 

3:08 p.m. I put 2-year-old in the shower, clothing and all. I turn on the water, not realizing the shower part is already on, and water flies everywhere. The bathroom is soaked and 2-year-old is screaming, "Wet clothes, wet clothes," and dancing around as if she's on fire.

3:15 p.m. It takes a while, but she's starting to get clean. I start looking looking around for where I might find a towel, but there is no special place for them.  I scream for the 4-year-old several times, but she does not respond. In the past, she's had a tendency to sneak out of the house, and I wonder if I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon combing the woods. After the tenth time, she walks to the bathroom nonchalantly, her hand over her mouth and points at the towel hanging over the shower curtain as if I am the biggest idiot on the Earth. 

3:17 p.m. 2-year-old is wrapped in a towel, standing in the hallway awaiting her next instruction, and free of any poop (or marker - added bonus!). I'm walking down the hall towards the girls' bedroom to look for some clean clothing, but I am captivated by the trail of small white things that seem to lead back into the living room, around the princess game-playing chair, and towards the kitchen counter.  "Why are there oats all over the floor?" I scream. "I don't know," the 4-year-old says, despite the dried oats that are stuck to her face.  I guess she really did want that oatmeal off the counter.

3:18 p.m.  "Clean it up!" I scream. "Clean it up or there will be no more princess game!" The 2-year-old starts cleaning.  "No, no, your sister is going to clean this up all by herself."  I think they both cleaned it up, but by this point my blood pressure was so high that I couldn't see straight, so who knows what happened? I just know that I walked that house with a fine tooth comb looking for dry oats until every single one of them had been picked up off the floor.

3:30 p.m. The rest of the afternoon was kind of a blur. I insisted on a few more games of Super-Active Simon Says and spent the rest of the time hiding in a corner with my laptop, sending everyone I know cryptic emails about wanting to go home. I'm pretty sure most of my friends think I was being held hostage in Afghanistan or something.    

6:00 p.m.  I knew dad would be home between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m., so I decided I'd sit outside and wait for him. Of course, after some contemplation, I decided to let the kids come too. Evil pecking rooster be damned, we played tag and did more 5-minute internals on the swing, singular.

6:55 p.m.  Dad drives up, and I had no idea my little car could go that fast.

September 24, 2013

The Americana Post

Two posts in 24 hours...what has gotten into me? I'm actually still in the process of making some huge changes here, including getting my own domain name and all of that fun stuff, but I'm also in the middle of 5,000 other projects so bear with me.

First of all, my novel is complete. 100% (though I have to struggle with not rewriting a chapter every other week). Trying to do something with it is a new, yet grueling process.

I may or may not have mentioned that the book is about a girl and her friends who decide to put on a huge bluegrass festival. I wanted it to be a modern day twist on some good music from the past. You wouldn't believe how much bluegrass has influenced our current pop culture and how many fans there are out there who are under 60 and do not live in a cabin deep in the woods in the mountains somewhere (though that's totally cool, too). There's a lot of other stuff going on there in the story, but that's the premise. Ever since I started writing it, I pretty much eat, sleep, and breath bluegrass. That's not a bad thing at all. But I've been itching to write about it elsewhere, so I though I'd share a few of my recent findings.  

Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby 

If you're looking for some good music that does not involve "twerking" or anything else of that nature, you need to check out Ricky Skaggs's and Bruce Hornsby's new album, Cluck Ol' Hen, immediately. Mr. Skaggs himself actually suggested I download it, so who am I to let him down?  Actually, as soon as I checked out the samples, I knew it was something I had to own. From "Little Maggie" to "That's Just the Way It Is," it's got some fresh, live versions of classic tunes. I love live albums that are better than studio albums, and this one falls heavily into that category.

The Back Porch of America and the Bluegrass Situation 

I know I've mentioned the Bluegrass Situation here before (I think so, anyway), but until I saw something on Twitter a few weeks ago, I never really took the time to look at the website. I honestly had no idea that it was a wealth of awesomeness. I think I joked on Twitter the other day that it was my heart wrapped into a website, and it is. It's everything bluegrass and Americana that one could ask for - videos, album reviews, concert news, etc. My favorite thing, by far, has been this Back Porch of America series. From the website:

In the new series Back Porch of America, host Matt Kinman takes us down uncharted roads to forgotten corners of the country, where slivers of authentic American life still happen every day but are quickly disappearing.

I won't say anything else, other than I have a strange urge to go buy some chairs now. I'll just let the videos speak for themselves.

View Part1 here: Back Porch of America: Mark Newberry, Part 1
View Part 2 here:  Back Porch of America: Mark Newberry, Part 2


Rumpke Mountain Boys

In addition to bluegrass, I've been on Bob Dylan/Tom Petty/Paul Simon kick lately, all for different reasons. My favorite Dylan song is "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts." A few days ago, someone told me they'd never heard it, so I took to YouTube. I never found what I was looking for, but I did find this cover by the Rumpke Mountain Boys. They do it justice, let me tell ya, and that is how I ended up listening to more of their stuff. I'm not too deep into it yet, but I like what I've heard so far. Check out the Dylan cover below, and check out the Rumpke Mountain Boys website here.

September 23, 2013

What do Jen Lancaster and this bottle of Nair have in common?

You are probably wondering what New York Times best-selling author Jen Lancaster and this ordinary bottle of Nair do have in common. The answer is that I was exposed to both of them for the first time in over a year last Thursday evening.

(Okay, that's not exactly true. I did use the Nair in June before my trip to Tom Petty's (ex-wife's) beach house. But given the state of my hairy legs last week, I probably wouldn't have had to do much to convince you otherwise. Hey, it's been a weird summer. Don't judge me.)

Anyway, my gay cousin and I found out at the last minute that our favorite author was coming back to town, and we knew we had to go. You may or may not remember that last year, when all of my birthday plans got tossed down the toilet, we made an attempt to go meet her, but we were running late, missed half of the event, and neither of us was in a place financially to buy a shiny new hardcover book to get autographed. We had fun, but we knew we had to try again.

So, this year, when she announced her  tour for her new book, The Tao of Martha, we were disappointed to find out she would not be coming to a bookstore near us. I think the closest stop was Charlotte, NC, and we were tucked away in Tom Petty's (ex-wife's) beach house that week. We did, however, go to the local Barnes & Noble on the day the book was released, but that little trip only resulted in us telling off the nerdy info guy because he didn't know who Jen Lancaster was, me killing my car battery because I left the lights on, and some little old lady thinking we were trying to rob her. I mean, they didn't even have the book in stock!

Well, last Thursday, we set out, determined to finally meet our literary hero. If I'm being honest, I was not in a good mood that day, and I looked like shit. Seriously, the humidity was doing a number on my hair, and my eyeliner seemed determined to cover every part of my face but my eyes. My all-black clothing was covered in Gabby hair (who is walking now, btw, but more on that later), because I couldn't find the outfit I planned to wear. I did Nair my legs, though, so 2 points for that (don't think I haven't been riding that accomplishment ever since). Anyway, as I'm heading out the door to pick up Gay Cousin, my dad calls with a grave warning.

"You're going into the city tonight? Be aware; traffic is a mess."

He was right. I turned on the news, and some jackass decided to rob a local mall and lead the police on a wild goose chase that ended in an accident that was blocking the path between us and finally meeting Jen Lancaster. The event started at 7 p.m. which is exactly 10 minutes before we finally got out of suburbia and onto the expressway.

I managed to make it to Buckhead by a little before 7:30 p.m. while Gay Cousin put voodoo hexes on Mall Thief, but the parking lot at Barnes & Noble was so packed that we couldn't find a spot. We literally circled the place half a dozen times before we found this little nook that was probably not really a parking space, but I didn't care if I got a ticket or someone took out the back end of my car, because we were going to see Jen Lancaster, dammit. 

So, here's the deal: Jen, if I may call her that, was not the only author there. Laurie Notaro (love her) and Quinn Cummings (was not familiar with her until that night) were also in attendance. We hoped and prayed and crossed every body part hoping they'd save Lancaster (I can't call her "Jen." I mean, do the British call the Queen "Liz?") for last. We rushed around the store and looked for the crowd, and when we finally heard women cackling in the children's department, we trotted over. (At first, we thought no one had showed since it was kind of a last-minute thing, and we had concocted this whole plan to invite the authors to have Mexican food with us nearby, but then we realized that it was more likely that we had misread the announcement and were there on the wrong night, because Jen Lancaster is coming to town. People are going to show.)

The first thing we hear is Quinn Cummings saying something like, "In show business, they tell you not to follow kids and animals. On book tours, you don't follow Jen and Laurie." 

Seriously? We missed the fun reading and talking part? Again? For what it's worth, Quinn Cummings was hilarious, though, and all 3 of them talked for a bit afterwards (Laurie Notaro is even funnier than her books if that's possible). 

And then the massive crowds of women started lining up, and we took off around the store to find a copy of JL's new book (can I call her "JL," at least?). I felt bad not buying a copy of each author's book, but honestly, before we went inside, Gay Cousin and I were counting out how much spending money we had between us to see if we'd have enough left for dinner. We had decided that if indeed no one had showed, and these lovely ladies took us up on our offer for Mexican food, we'd have to politely tell them they were going to have to pay for their own food. (FWIW, I'm in the midst of a major career move that has taken away from me freelancing a little and am hoping to buy a house soon, and he just started a new job and was in the midst of making a major purchase. We're not last year-broke anymore.) 

We waited. And we waited. And we watched crazy women run away from the table of authors crying and squealing like they'd met the 40-year-old equivalent of Justice Beaver, and I almost headed out to the car, because I did not want to be one of those ladies. But we finally made it, the next to the last people in line, and it was glorious.

A few hundred paragraphs ago, I mentioned that I was in a bad mood for a number of reasons I won't bore you with. And I was. I had already told Gay Cousin that he was to do all of the talking, because I just couldn't force myself to be personable that day.

That was something I didn't have to worry about at all. Ms. Lancaster told him that she liked his outfit, and that was all it took for them to take to each other like butter to bread. (Mmmm, bread.) (I'm trying not to eat many carbs.) (If you ever want to get on Gay Cousin's good side, tell him you like his outfit, though you get bonus points if you are Jen Lancaster.)

They chatted for a bit, and to her credit, she tried to chat with me. She asked me if we'd met before to which I muttered something about writing about her on my blog. (Yes, I actually said that out loud. I told one of the most interesting writers in the world that I had written about her on my blog that reads like a tenth grader's diary and is read by, like, my aunt and my two best friends. I didn't know what else to say! I wasn't prepared! I had told the GC he was going to do all the talking, and I was just going to stand there in the background. I wasn't prepared for her to actually open her mouth and say words at me, too. It was such a lame, cliche thing that I can't even properly make a joke about it. I'm pretty sure I moaned about what a moron I am for the entire trip home. I don't want to be that girl. I may as well have said, "I also sent a query letter to your agent a few days ago, but could you ask her to delete it, because I had no idea what I was doing at the time and have since written a better one." This was worse than my fear that I'd turn into one of the teary, babbling broads who squealed and skipped their way out of the store.) 

Anyway, our trip to fancy Atlanta Mexican restaurant turned into a stop by Taco Bell on the way home for a number of reasons. I'm pretty sure the entire car ride home was just a loop of Gay Cousin saying, "Jen Lancaster liked my outfit" and me saying, "Did I really say 'I write about you on my blog?'"

But, after a year of trying, we finally met Jen Lancaster. And I lost about 5 pounds of leg hair. So, there's that.  




P.S. If you're looking for some excellent reading material, Jen Lancaster's book, The Tao of Martha is wonderful. I've only read a few chapters, so far, but I love it already.  You can buy it on Amazon at that link above.

Laurie Notaro's book, The Potty Mouth at the Table, and Quinn Cummings's book, The Year of Learning Dangerously, are on my Amazon Wishlist for now, but given how hilarious those ladies are, I can promise you the books are must-purchase.

 

September 13, 2013

This Week in Garage Sale Finds

I'm going to try to start doing this regularly, so bear with me. I get excited when I find new old things, and I must share it with the world.

First up, this picture. I call it "farmhouse chic."  It doesn't really match any of my other stuff, so I'm not sure what I'll do with it. Oh hell, nothing I buy matches any of my decor. Who am I kidding?  Anyway, it's much bigger than it looks, so I think $7 was a good deal, don't you?


Speaking of farmhouse chic, I've been into chickens lately for some reason. Chickens in real life scare the bejeezus out of me (unless they are fried and placed neatly on a bun with a few pickles). Pictures of chickens on things delight me. I think my new-found love of pictures of chickens on things is based on this lamp from Tom Petty's (ex-wife's) beach house, but I digress. Anyway, I bought this cute sign last week that I didn't get a picture of, but I bought this little thingy this week. Maybe my new kitchen will have a farmhouse chic/chicken thing going on.


From my future kitchen to my future library (because there will be one in my next home, dammit), if I see a book that looks even remotely interesting and it's .25, you can bet I'm gonna get it. One of these is on my Amazon Wishlist; the others were just random choices.


My mother told me this looked like something her grandparents would have owned, but I don't care. Sure, it needs cleaning up, but that is my heart on a tray. No idea what I'll do with it. I'm thinking it'll go on the eccentric back porch I'm planning.



Speaking of my heart, this picture of the capitol in Atlanta is a bit old, dirty, and needs a little TLC, but I fell in love with it when I saw it.



I know I've mentioned my affinity for Christmas decor. The UGA snowman was a must, obviously, and the little hula girl will be a great addition to my beach-themed tree. I just liked the little slate sign beneath them, and it was a quarter, so why not?




Finally, my tacky find of the week: a tie between these wooden sailors (or are they pirates?) and this ceramic dolphin piggy bank from Florida.  I paid a dime for each one. No idea what I'm going to do with these either, but if you like them, wait a year or two, and you will probably find them in a garage sale at my house for a quarter, because that's how I roll.


I also bought a little glass juicer, a little turquoise bowl, and these old maps. I have some crafty plans for these old maps, but I'm not due to do any inspirational crafty projects that I'll quit about halfway through for about six more months, so they'll just stay packed up for now.


August 30, 2013

Garage Sale Finds

My mom and I hit a few local garage sales today. We've been doing it all summer, and I've scored a ton of great stuff (that went straight into storage, because I am still homeless *sigh*), but today's finds were some of my favorites. The person who was having this particular sale and I obviously had similar tastes. I didn't get nearly as much as I wanted, but I did only spend $7 on what I did get.  

For example, I got this clock for only $2. It needs a new motor, but the cheapest I could find it online is $350, so I'd say that was a good deal. It will look great leaning against my storage building wall hanging over my fireplace. It's bigger than it appears in the picture - well over 3 feet tall.  (Ignore the background. I had to move some things around to get a good picture.) 


The first thing I saw when I walked up was this Milkbone tin. I had to have it. I love tins, I love dogs, and I love that it looks old-fashioned. I figured it'd cost more than it did, but it was only 50 cents. It's also bigger than it appears, and in case you are wondering, it has something on top of it which I will reveal in a sec. 

Did I say I loved tins?  This place had lots of them, and I had to be careful to limit myself even though they were cheap.  I bought these 4 for 75 cents, plus the basket they are in for $2. As you can see, I had to crop Gabby out of the picture.    


I got a few other things that I didn't take pictures of - a shelf, a few little Christmas things - but this little guy in all of his ugly glory is probably the best thing I got.  I've yet to figure out what he's supposed to be, why there are trees on the bottom above the painted waves of water, or what I will do with him, but he will earn a spot in my house somewhere. 



I think I did pretty good for $7. If they weren't all packed up, I'd post some of my other goodies. I've bought tons of glass bottles and candles this summer (my other weaknesses), some Christmas stuff (I love to go all out at Christmas and have themes for each room), and some dishes and things like that.  I also bought a ton of old Southern books at an estate sale. Lots of cookbooks, gardening books, etc. from Southern Living, the Atlanta Junior League, and well, you get the idea. 


August 04, 2013

One year later...



Relaxing at Tom Petty's.
I was talking to my mom this morning, and she said, "Do you know what today is?"

"August 3rd?" I responded.

"The one-year anniversary," she said.

I knew immediately what she was talking about. I glanced at the clock and noted that it was exactly one year to the hour that I was listening to my vet give me a somewhat grim prognosis regarding Gabby's future.

For those of you just joining me, my best friend of 10 years was hit by a train last year, and the fact that she is alive is a miracle within itself. I still remember it all like it was yesterday, yet it also seems like it's been a decade. The months following the accident wore on me, as she had to have 24/7 care, but I honestly believe it made me a much stronger person. I'm not as impatient or combative as I used to be. I also appreciate that dog - and life - more than I ever have.  
Relaxing on the beach.

If I had to sum the the rest of the 9 months of the last year up in one word, I'd probably choose the word "water." As I've noted, Gabby loves to swim. Every time we go to the park, she heads for the creek or the lake. When no one was looking she was quick to run to my family's pool whenever we were visiting my parents'. I'd always wanted to take her to the ocean, but the opportunity never really presented itself. One year go today, I promised myself that if she lived, I'd do just that.

Of course, I took her to Charleston in November, but that trip was not a good one for many reasons, one of which being the waves were too much for her, thanks to a tropical storm.

Swimming in Tom Petty's pool.
I wouldn't have the opportunity to take her to the ocean again until this past June. I was getting ready to head out for my family vacation, and while my dogs normally stay with my parents, I decided that I didn't want to leave Gabby. For starters, my mom can't pick her up, and she has to be lifted up stairs most of the time, and this put a major damper on the whole going outside thing. She also has some other issues that it's really best if I tend to them, so we all decided that I would take her.

My aunt and my mom kept telling me I would not have a good time, but to be honest, I couldn't tell you when I've had a better time on a family vacation. My cousin kept assuring them that I'd have a better time because I always miss her, and I guess he knows me best.

Relaxing by the pool.
We drove down to Florida in my car, stopping a few times along the way so she could roll in the grass at rest stops and get burgers at fast food joints, and when we arrived, we went straight for the pool. My cousin and I compared luggage for my dog and her two-year-old. I had so much fun that week. I kept Gabby in my bedroom, and she behaved most of the time, but we made daily trips to the beach where she loved the sand and had a better time in the ocean than she did in Charleston. We spent hours laying around the pool, swimming and sunbathing.  I felt content to have her with me, and I have a feeling she's going to be traveling with me a lot more in the future.


By the way, my grandfather saw how much she enjoyed the water and offered to let her swim in our pool, so now she's allowed after all these years of sneaking in. 

What she does best on the beach.
So, in the last year, Gabby has been to the ocean in two states, swam in Tom Petty's pool, and she's now allowed to swim at home. She still doesn't quite walk right, but she has taken a few normal steps, and I see tiny signs of improvement weekly. I have to carry her up steps and lift her onto furniture. Even if she never walks again, I'm okay with that. I see people cringe when they watch her move, and I imagine it looks painful to an outsider, but all I can think is that I am just happy she's alive.

My former self would have balked at the idea of having to invest so much time and energy into another living being. That's one reason I don't have kids yet. But now it's second nature, and I wouldn't have it any other way. She doesn't like to be away from me, and if I'm being honest, I don't like being away from her for too long either.

One of my favorite authors once said that she writes so she can stay home with her dog. I kind of get that.

(I think this post fulfilled my hokey, sentimental post quota for the year. You're welcome.)