Monday, June 27, 2011

Surviving Pre-travel Jitters

I'm heading to NYC on Tuesday and I'm starting to get my usual pre-travel jitters. I love to visit new places and friends, but I always get nervous before I go on a trip. I'm especially bad when I have to rely on transportation other than my own vehicle. It's not that I hate to fly or go by bus or hit the rails but I do hate to be out-of-control of the wheel. I just worry about  more things going wrong than right. I'm also terrified I'll forget something important like my brain or a boarding pass. And I'm sure something terrible will happen between here and my future destination.

I've come by this ultra-tense state genetically. My father was the same way. Despite years of traveling to foreign countries, he became increasingly nervous right before each trip. As he got older, he'd arrive at the airport earlier and earlier until it was almost better to drop him off at the terminal the night before his flight.

Here is my current list of pre-travel jitters:

1) What if my ride bails on me? I need to have an alternate plan just in case and I do.

2) What if I miss my bus? How will I get to NYC?

3) Will there be ample time to get refreshed after I arrive at the Marriott Marquis?

4) Will I forget my strapless bra? If I do, I can buy one on Times Square.

5) What if they lose my luggage (less likely by bus, but it could happen!)?

6) What if I get sick? This is a big concern for me as I am not 100% right now.

7) What if my klutzy gene kicks in and I trip and break a limb or get a concussion?

8) What if I'm stuck next to the bathroom on the bus (gross!)?

9) What if I forget my chargers for all my electronic equipment? (OK replaceable, but a pain!)

10) Where will I find a store to buy wine and will people frown upon my search?

So that's my list of concerns regarding Tuesday's trip. I'm sure there will be other ones. I tend to roll that way. The only good part about this particular travel plan is I don't have to worry about getting lost because I'm on a bus with a driver that knows the way.

Wait! What if the bus driver falls asleep at the wheel and we suffer a horrific crash and I don't get to go to Nationals?

I should write dark, suspenseful stories, right? Do you suffer from pre-travel jitters? How do you cope? Share your concerns with me. I will understand!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Shoes, Glorious Shoes!!

The lone Travel Pro
I've been packing my stuff for the Romance Writers of America's big Annual Conference in NYC. I am also packing for a trip to see friends in Virginia before and after the conference.

I thought I could manage it all in one big suitcase and one cosmetic bag from the TRAVELPRO company. The big suitcase is a bit battered, but it can hold a lot of stuff.
My shoe dilemma

I always begin packing by making a comprehensive list. This time I had a mini-travel-to-VA list as well. That meant casual clothes along with fancy clothes and professional clothes. And all the shoes to go with the various outfits for both parts of my trip.

Purses and bling.
I felt confident I could do it. I taped my lists to the wall in the bedroom and began gathering my various articles of clothing and shoes and stuff for the trip. Oh, did I mention I need more than one purse, too? Yah, each dress I'm wearing to the fancy parties requires a different style of clutch and I have to have a big girl purse because I don't think my little Kavu purse will suffice (but I LOVE that purse--it's so easy to find stuff in it!!).

My new shoes in center!
I started out by putting my shoes at the bottom of the big suitcase. I have a drop cover that I can use to cover them.
Didn't work. I just couldn't fit all the clothes for both parts of the trip as well as the shoes into one big suitcase. So up the stairs I went to get a small suitcase to use for the VA part of the trip. Sigh. I had to unpack everything, then repack it all and that worked.

My shoes all fit!
So I have 1 big suitcase, 1 small suitcase, 1 cosmetic bag, my briefcase, my Kavu, my daughter's huge duffel bag, my daughter's computer stuff, my daughter's companion stuff to fit in on the way back from VA, as well as a pool bag, a wine bag (yes, I have my priorities straight), a cooler for normal drinks, a hostess bag, and a food bag to drag up north as well.

I guess I'll be shipping books back to Alabama because the shoes took up all my extra space!

Two suitcases packed! 
How do you prepare for packing? Am I crazy for bringing so many shoes?

And here's a confession: I left out a pair that I really wanted to bring, too.

P.S. I did pack my tiara. If you can guess where I put it based on this picture, I'll send you a Starbucks gift card!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When Little Girls Grow Up

I've spent the past month getting ready for the RWA National Conference.... wait.... stop... Nope. Wish I could say I have been diligently planning for this very important trip. After all, I've got an editor and an agent to pitch, workshops to attend, people to meet, and celebrating to anticipate.

However, I've been distracted by a very important thing: my teenager! She's graduating in a year. This means touring colleges, narrowing down pros and cons of attending the colleges she's most interested in, and discussing various majors/minors of study whilst realizing that old dreams must be set aside to make room for new dreams and a new journey.

My daughter is at the cusp of her adult life. She's getting ready to explore her future, her world, her life as a citizen of the world. We've had her with us for almost 17 years (18 if you count the 9 month pregnancy) and now a very important part of my world is changing, morphing into a new direction. And right now, as we go through this transition, I want to be available to my daughter. I also want to be with my daughter. I know this next year will fly all too fast. After all, the past 16 have been a mere blink in my eye.

Here's a brief overview:

*from infertile to carrying a precious child
*her sweet, bubbly personality shining through from day one
*her first steps in a onesie after tearing through a pile of newspapers
*my best friend from Holland and I folding clothes in the kitchen while dreaming about who our daughters will be in 15 years. Those years have flown.
*singing Disney tunes, playing with dolls, stuffed animals, puppet shows, dancing, singing, laughing
*bumps, scary hospital visits, bones needing mending, emotions bursting
*school, Kindergarten, friends, world expanding, traveling, seeing much, doing more
*tall, gorgeous, self-driven, long legged and somewhat klutzy despite her years of dance teenager
*smart, funny, giving, empathetic, gifted, goofy, lovable human being

Why? Why do we have to raise our children to let them leave us? I just want to enjoy her. So yes, I haven't been a 100% focused on my "desperately seeking publication" goals. I admit it freely. I've written. I've written a lot. For it is in writing that I find solace, an escape from the reality I must accept as a mom.

And I've been shopping. Bought lots of clothes. With my teen at my side helping me squeeze into dresses for the gala events. I've been building more memories, making more time for laughter with my girl amidst preparing for my travels. Sure, I've stolen moments to work out my schedule for the conference, my pitches are "done" enough, and I'm excited about meeting all my friends in NYC. The conference will be great.

But underlying all my little plans for my world, there is a band pulling around my heart and squeezing ever so tight as I anticipate the very real and necessary goodbye I will face in a year. Sending my daughter into the world will be the greatest, most difficult thing I have ever done.

However, the pain of letting her go is lessened by the joy of seeing her soar. And in learning how to send my very real baby into the world, I have gained the added lesson of having the strength to send my fictional babies out into the world, too.

And I hope that my example of perseverance and diligence will be the flame that my daughter carries into her adult life.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Versatile Bloggers

I’ve been given a Versatile Blogger Award by a great writing friend. I’d like to thank author Susan May for thinking of me.  

Award Rules:
1. Thank the person who bestowed the honor on you. Check. 

2.Share seven random facts about yourself. Okay here I go.
   1. I was West Vancouver's Sunshine Girl of the Month.
   2. I can eat a cherry off the pit without removing the stem.
   3. I want to be a Food Network cooking star.
   4. I was weighed in the Netherlands on the only "accurate" Witch Scale and was deemed not a witch.
   5. I camped alongside the Dordogne River in France with my family.

3. Pass Award on to 5 bloggers. I am passing this award to the following bloggers:

   1. Romance Magicians team of bloggers because they are witty, insightful, and helpful.
   2. Okay Listen Here's team of fabulous bloggers-Kathy, Cheryl, Jean, and Stephanie for their interesting insights into living in the South.
   3. Carla Swafford because she is a brand new published author and has worked so hard for this wonderful event to happen. 
   4. Sharon Wray because she is an insightful blogger who writes elegantly and is a wonderful friend.
   5. Ellen Brickley because she is my first Irish blogger friend and her blog makes me want to hop on a plane and go to Dublin.

Hope you all enjoy visiting these blogs and reading what they have to say. Just click on their names and pop over to say hello :-)

Friday, June 17, 2011

4 Hour Body Check In-Skinny for NYC Final Week PROS & CONS

Well I've been on this plan for about 3 months. I've had some successes and I feel good about the effort I made to lose some of my winter fluff. My stats haven't changed much since last week, and I'm still miffed about the extra inches around the bust line (argh), but I did manage to lose 1 inch off that area this week so I think it's because of my hormones/thyroid issues, not the plan. So now that the three months are up I am going to list the Pros and Cons of this plan.

*no counting calories
*wine allowed
*cheat day
*energy levels up

*expensive due to meat consumption
*miss my fruit
*a lot of cooking
*not easy to implement during travel or sickness

I had three hurdles to jump while on the plan: the tornadoes forcing us to leave our home and take refuge at a friend's house in Nashville, my seriously icky sinus infection, and travel. These three events did not make it easy to stick to the plan. Frankly, when one is driving 400 miles in a day, a burger IN A BUN is necessary. Also easier to eat!! And when one is sick, soup is nice, not beans. And when one is on the run from tornado fallout/debris, a friend's home cooking is a comfort and a blessing.

Despite the hurdles, I did manage to maintain my precious inch losses, but I feel that the diet didn't give me the results I wanted despite adding exercise into my lifestyle. That could be a function of the hurdles and my thyroid being pesky again.

Speaking of exercise. I did ZUMBA twice a week, worked out with Jillian Michaels Shred program, and I walked on a regular basis. I also tried some other BOOT CAMP classes, but to be honest, the instructor was a drill sergeant and when she had us do crab crawls across the Y's gym floor, I quit. I hated gym class when I was in high school. I don't have to do it as an adult.  ZUMBA is amazing. I love the workout and the people in my class. Jillian Michaels Shred workout is great, but I hurt my shoulder doing it so I quit that one. Yesterday, I went to the Y and got set up on the Link system of weight machines. I have a program set up and I am excited to incorporate it into my routine. The best part is that I can input all my workouts at the kiosk or online so I can incorporate stuff I do right when I am traveling. Woohoo!

My biggest problem right now is I'm sluggish and tired, feel frustrated about the bust line issue, and I have some other pesky thyroid symptoms which have me wondering if I am battling the bulge with a boulder on my back (the thyroid going whacko). Yesterday I went to the doctor's office and had my blood drawn so she can check my thyroid numbers, my B12 and Vitamin D numbers before I go to Nationals. I just want to be my best when I am there. I have a doctor appointment scheduled for July 21, but this thyroid thing is so sensitive to any changes that I felt it was important to troubleshoot it before I hit the road next week. I'm certain I need to adjust my medication.

I've had decent results with the 4 Hour Body and I think it is good for me in general, but I am modifying this diet in two ways:

1) Adding fruit and low fat Greek yogurt
2) I'm counting calories/being more flexible with carbs when I travel

I need fruit. I need to count calories because I think the nuts I can eat on this diet are too easy to eat and super fattening. I'm basically tweaking the diet and modifying it to be a mini-weight watcher's/high protein/calorie counting diet. Basically fresh fruits and veggies are 0 cals/points just like WW's plan. I'm emphasizing protein like meat, but I'm counting calories to hold myself accountable. I'm continuing with my workouts, whenever I am in town, and I'm double checking my hormones to make sure I'm not fighting an uphill battle. I'd like the score to be even.

One thing that I have learned is that my mindset is important. Yes, my body is changing and I don't have total control over the changes, but I can dress nicely and use healthy self-talk to encourage myself to continue doing my best to be my best. No. I'm not perfect and I don't have the body I lived in when I was in my twenties. But I feel good about myself at this age. There is a lot to be said for a healthy attitude. The goal here is to be strong and fit at any size. I can't change the effects of gravity and aging (unless I go under the knife which is NOT an option) completely, but I can be my best at this age and any age if I incorporate healthy habits.

So this is the end of the 4 Hour Body journey. Now I embark on a new way of living, eating, and being healthy. Next week I'll be traveling north to the DC/VA area with my Darling Teen. We're visiting with friends before I take the VAMOOSE bus line to NYC for the RWA National Conference. I can't wait to see everyone and to celebrate the wonderful successes of my friends. 

I'll blog sporadically, and I'll try to keep you all posted on my adventures. Meanwhile, I'd love to learn about your diet journey, what has worked and what hasn't and how you have adjusted your diets. Here's to a job well-done to all of us who have tried to make positive, healthy changes in our lifestyles!!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer College Tour: War Eagle or Seminole?

I'm posting early this week because we are on the road and touring colleges with our darling daughter.

As we head into our Darling Teen's senior high school year, we're putting in the final push for her college search. I can't believe she's almost a grad and heading out the door. I'd like to be excited about the extra writing time, but to be honest, I just can't imagine our house without her in it. She's a fun, smart, sassy girl and we truly enjoy her as a person.

But we have to let her go. And part of letting her go is checking out where she'll fly to when she leaves. Last year we toured Princeton, University of VA, Duke, and Auburn. We also did sniff tests and drive through passes at University of Florida, Florida State (my husband's alumni for grad school), Virginia Tech, Vanderbelt, Emory, and University of South Carolina.

This week we are invited to a War Eagle Day at Auburn University. I'm excited to go and see my teen's reaction to this more personal tour of one of the top schools in Alabama. It's a beautiful campus and our initial tour really sold us on the university's programs and student life. So today the family is loading up the car and heading to Auburn to spend the night and then do our War Eagle Day on Monday.

Monday afternoon we drive to Tallahassee, Florida to officially tour my husband's alumni grad school. He got his PhD in Physics from Florida State and the Dean of the Physics college was his advisor ( a LONG time ago). We hope to hook up with his former advisor and wow our darling teen with Florida State's many fine attributes. It's a trip down memory lane for Darling Hubby so he's very excited about the tour.

I'l be blogging all about our adventures this week on Wednesday. Meanwhile, which of these two schools do you think she'll fall in love with this week? My husband's alumni FLORIDA STATE or Alabama's finest, AUBURN?

Cast your vote and I'll keep you posted!

Friday, June 10, 2011

4 Hour Body Check In-Skinny for NYC

Well I am finally back to normal health again which means I can work out! Woohoo. I made it to Zumba two times this week, and I spent a long day cleaning house on Wednesday so that counts in my book. I need to start up with Jillian Michaels SHRED again, and will do so later this morning.

I measured myself and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I hadn't gained anywhere. I have lost another .5 inch off one of my thighs, but I wish it was off my bust or my belly. And that brings me to something I am NOT happy about which is my bust size. I haven't been measuring it, but it seems to be growing. And it's not my back, because I measured under my ever growing bust and it is a nice normal size. Perfect and exactly where I was as a teen (Ripleys!). So what gives? Now two dresses I'd hoped to wear to Nationals fit everywhere but, you guessed it, my bust!! I am busted up about it.

Oh well. What can a girl do? I'm going through the first stages of the lovely "change" and I guess I get to have weird bust size growth as a result. I'm not sticking my head in the sand about it. I will keep measuring the area and see if what I am doing will help decrease the size a bit, but I'll be honest. I'm MIFFED. I have been eating healthy, working out, and trying to be GOOD even when I've been sick and this is my reward?


Oh well. Thank you Mother Nature. Anyway, the good news is that I have one amazing dress that I bought in February with my BF so I have one night of fun covered (either the Kiss of Death Death by Chocolate party or the Golden Heart/RITA ceremony). I also went out with Darling Teen on Tuesday and bought several pieces for Nationals, including two pencil skirts in a size smaller (yay me!). So all is not lost. However, now I have to find a second dress to wear to one of the Gala nights because I can't count on the bust getting smaller between now and July 1st.

I feel like the 4 Hour Body diet is not a perfect solution for me because I'm stuck, but I have lost 10.5 inches off of other body parts over the past 2.5 months. It's just not enough. I wish I was back to the size I was two years ago, but I'm not. I have to accept that the weight will just take longer to come off because I am *gasp* getting older.

Everything I've read about getting older says I'm fighting an uphill battle. The body and the hormones are not going to make this easy. But I keep clinging to the words my Darling Hubby said--"we're in it for the long haul." He's lost 8 pounds and is starting to look thinner in the face and belly. He's had to cheat a few times due to his travel schedule, but he is seeing results which is fabulous.

So am I. Plus the energy I get from the diet is excellent. However, I think I may change it up a bit and add fruit back into the equation. It's summer. I want strawberries and watermelon. How is fruit bad for you? The sugar? Well, the 4 Hour Body diet allows for wine which has sugars in it, so I am rebelling! To think chocolate used to be my rebellion food. Now it's strawberries. Hmmm

Okay, so here are my stats (minus the gargantuan bust stat grrr):

Waist: same
Hips: same
Upper Right Thigh: down .5
Upper Left Thigh: same
Bicep: same

Total inches lost this week: .5
Total inches lost to date: 10.5

Goals for the next two weeks include adding the SHRED back into my workout regime, Zumba on Thursday, more water with lemon, and sticking to the plan with one exception: fruit is allowed!

So that's my story for this week. How do you deal with setbacks? Do you give up? Get mad? Or get even?

I plan to GET EVEN!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Guest Blogger on The Healthy Writer

I blogged about my dieting journey and how it all started this year on The Healthy Writer. Come join me and learn about how dressing for diet success helped my motivation!

Friday, June 3, 2011

4 Hour Body Check In-Skinny for NYC

I blogged about my failure to save money at the grocery store today at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. You can read about my crazy adventures here. Part of the reason I fail miserably at coupon clipping is that I don't shop interior aisles very often. And the 4 Hour Body diet calls for a lot of meat, eggs and vegetables. Those items are rarely coupon items. I won't lie. This is an expensive diet because you have to cook a lot of meat. Meat is not cheap. Period. So that's a huge downside. The upside of the diet is that I LOVE meat so I enjoy that aspect of the diet. And beans are cheap. One eats a lot of beans on this plan! A steady supply of Beano is necessary.

I'd post my stats this week, but to be honest, I've been battling a massive sinus infection for days so I haven't been able to exercise or follow the plan 100%. Beans and steak don't really comfort a sick body, do they? Nope, what comforts a sick body is chicken soup, a cookie, and some tender loving care from the family. I haven't "cheated" that much, but carbs do help. So I've allowed myself a bun once and some potatoes. No pasta. I haven't caved and eaten pasta. I have put sugar and milk in my tea because I feel like putridness and this is a comfort for me.

I'm actually really bummed about getting this sinus infection because I was on a great roll and doing so well. I complained about it to Darling Hubby, and he said, "Be patient. You're in this for the long haul, not a the short one. This is just a temporary glitch and you'll be back to full gear soon enough." I loved that support!!

So this week has been a no-go, but I will get well. When I do I will be back to working out regularly and following the 4 Hour Body plan religiously. This is the thing about lifestyle changes: be gentle on yourself when you have not so gentle days hit you hard.

How do you handle illnesses when you are on a diet plan? Do you cut yourself some slack? Do you feel defeated? How do you get back on the wagon?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Break Out the Bubbly and the Dark Chocolate: Celebrating Annie Rayburn's (aka Carol Burnside) Novel BITTERSWEET OBSESSIONS

I'm very excited to host another Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Sister blogger, Carol Burnside aka Annie Rayburn as she celebrates the release of her novel BITTERSWEET OBSESSIONS. Carol is a special friend whose story should inspire all writers. *Pop* *Pour* *Sip* Mmmm, I love champagne and interviewing my friends!

Welcome to the veranda, Carol/Annie. How did you end up becoming a writer?

Funny you should ask because it was a bit strange. Before we moved to Hawaii, I’d been an Executive Assistant for a number of years and was burned out due to 50- hour work weeks and stress. I’d mentioned trying to write a book to my husband and had begun doing research on the business and how to go about writing a romance novel. Then one day as we were moving into our condo, I overheard my husband telling the electrician that I was taking 2-3 months off to write. I was? News to me. The next day, I overheard a similar conversation, only now I was taking six months. Well, I began to write and have never gone back to the dreaded day job. Thank you, Hubby!

I love a supportive writing spouse! Mine is equally as supportive. This helps our creativity so much. When you do create your stories, are you a plotter or do you follow the muse?

Some of both. I started out as a total ‘flying into the mist’ writer, but found my way riddled with pitfalls. I’d write myself into a corner, run out of story much too fast, or I’d end up with a great idea, but no real story. It was frustrating. As a result, I have a lot of good premises that need fleshing out and some complete manuscripts that I fear will never be published, no matter how many times I’ve revised them. These days I usually get the premise, write enough to get a feel for the characters, then stop and write the synopsis. That gives me a rough guide. Then I use a method called Pinch Point Plotting that I discovered in a class taught by C.J. Lyons. It works for me because it incorporates the emotional journey. 

C.J. Lyons class sounds perfect for me. I am always looking for ways to improve my writing. After you finish pinching all the plot points and writing, how do you relax after a long writing day?

Oh, gosh, I’d just about kill for a real all-writing day. We’ve been in moving mode for about six months now, buying/selling houses, packing/unpacking, decorating and putting in a garden. Between that, edits due my Red Sage editor, getting my website up and running and promotional obligations, I’m lucky to get in a couple hours of actual writing. However the day goes, Hubby and I usually unwind with a beer or glass of wine with dinner followed by a couple hours of movie or TV time.
Oh, I know the difficulty of adjusting to a new writing schedule after a big move! I'm surprised you have time to work on the promotions. Do you have any new releases coming up as well?

Beautiful Cover!
Yes, absolutely! In addition to the Bittersweet Obsessions release at on June 1st, I’ve just Indie-published a re-release of my very first e-pubbed short story, Insight and a novella titled Phantoms & Fantasies. They’re a great way for readers to get a taste of my Crainesian characters and their world. Either can be purchased through Smashwords (in a variety of file formats) or Amazon (for Kindle) and P&F should be available on B&N as well.  

You've got a lot of new stories coming out. Fabulous. Now that you're published, what advice would you give aspiring writers?

Get used to thinking of your stories and books as a product. If the product is ‘passed’ on (the current buzzword for ‘no’), it’s a teeny bit easier to swallow than if you look at it as if you’ve been rejected. It’s important to understand that there are a gazillion reasons your work product may not have been what that editor or agent was looking for at that moment. Take a moment, an hour, but don’t wallow. If you received feedback, examine it and make changes to your product. Then, take a deep breath and send it out again.

Carol that is excellent advice to think about our manuscripts and books as products so that we don't take "no" for a personal rejection. I love that concept. Thank you so much for coming by and sharing your story with my friends and followers. And here's the best part--a lucky commentator will win a copy of Carol/Annie's book. 

To learn more about Carol/Annie’s books, blog and more, visit

Yay! I love celebrating. *Nibbling Chocolate!*