Saturday, January 19, 2013

Who I Am & Who I Will Become

This is a blog I posted last year. I'm reposting it because it is my birthday and this pretty much sums up who I am. I hope you enjoy it.

I have a saying to get through the bad days and moments which was "It is what it is." And that's all well and good because it means I accept the circumstances for what they are and quit fighting. But that's not enough for me. I realized this week that I'm better off saying "It will become what it will become--I will become who I become."

Then I realized that the past, mine in particular, has uniquely shaped me for the career I want to claim. My writing career is largely shaped by what I've overcome, learned, and will continue to learn. I used to think if only I had not been sent on wild and crazy detours due to life, the circumstances I had to escape, and the education I had to delay.

Not anymore. I may not have an advanced university degree with all sorts of letters behind it, but I have something of equal or even greater value. I have a PhD in overcoming obstacles. Big ones for me, not so big for others.

And I'm so grateful for the lessons and emotions and experiences I've had because they shape the characters of my stories. And for kicks and giggles I've included my three favorite shots from eons ago. I feel they show all my sides and I just love the dress.

Here is a quick rundown:

*born in the Netherlands to two people who survived Japanese Concentration camps in the 1940s. Neither of them were equipped to parent but they did the best they could.
*Canadian National Science Fair 3rd Place at 13 with project about Pattern Recognition
*figure skater for 8 years, alto sax player/second chair
*grew up in Northern mining town & experienced daily bouts of bullying because I "used big words"
*semi-photographic memory, advanced reader, IQ high but never revealed to me by parents due their own feelings of inadequacy
*"bad girl" in high school long before I did anything "bad"
*smoker, back of the bleachers party girl, skipped school and forged my teachers' signatures on attendance sheets
*ran a mini-crime ring in forging teacher's names for other "bad" kids--got caught
*spent 10th grade English in VPs office due to arguing a test question with teacher and winning my point
*on my own at 16 due to difficult home life
*high school dropout
*worked in daycare, arena concession stand to make ends meet
*worked in diner
*waitress, gas jockey, maid
*drove without a license
*ice fished, snowmobiled, cross country skied
*got my GED, learned how to sign for deaf/blind people in hope of going to college for free as interpreter
*lived in Northern Manitoba, Winnipeg, Vancouver
Taken at the top of the Sears Tower in Vancouver. So serious. 
*dated dangerous men, nice men, French men, Russian men, firemen, policemen, concert promoters, musicians and poets
*wrote poetry, loads and loads of it
*once wanted to be a foreign journalist
*once wanted to marry the Man from Atlantis--wrote an entire series about it long before fan fiction existed on the Internet
*read John Steinback, the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings when I was in the 4th grade, reread them all later
*read Ginsberg, Kerouac and wished I'd been born in time to be a Beatnik
*kissed a French boy along the banks of the Seine when I was 13
*kissed a Physicist along the banks of the Seine when I was 30
*married young, grew up with the Physicist, made a beautiful baby
*traveled to Europe, ridden the Fast Train, been weighed on a witch's scale and deemed not a witch
*the Teen and the Physicist believe I am strangely psychic--my dreams are often prophetic
*I fly in my dreams. I want to fly in reality.
*I'm terrified of fire, drowning, death
*I almost drowned on my first anniversary--the Physicist saved me
*I was threatened by a bully with a lighter in the 9th grade. She wanted to burn my hair off my head. She had accomplices. I kicked her and ran away. She grew up and had a terrible life. I grew up and have a great life. Bad Karma is a bitch.
*I almost died 3 times due to anaphylaxis
*I never wear a watch, but I have an uncanny awareness of time.
*the Physicist married me before I had a college degree. He didn't know I could cook, but I can and I do it well.
I love this shot. Very dreamy/
*I graduated with a 4.0 Summa Cum Laude Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education at the top of the Dean's list.
*I never taught.
*I've worked in radio and television
*I was a part-time model--I was the Sunshine Girl of West Vancouver
*I have camped in the Redwood forest and in the Dordogne
*when I make up my mind to do something, I just do it. If it becomes boring or routine I stop.
*writing is the only thing that doesn't bore me
*my paternal grandfather was a biologist for the World Health Organization as well as a practicing doctor
*I got an A in pre-med genetics. Only 2 people got As
*I have an uncanny ability to diagnose diseases and illnesses
*I'm more serious than people think I am
*I'm more playful than people think I am
*I don't trust easily, but I am very trustworthy. If you tell me to keep a secret, I will. There are secrets I will die keeping
*I believe in many truths. My main belief is do unto others as you would have done unto you. I have broken this rule as a young woman. And I've seen others break it now. I wait for karma to act.
*I know what it is like to lose someone you love
*I live here in the now, but I am not afraid to sift through the past for there is where real emotion, raw gritty emotion exists, the kind that can strengthen my stories and my characters
*I play to win. Failure is NOT an option.
I like how playful and free I look here. It's how I feel today.
*If someone tries to stop me from winning out of spite, I will draw back, coil in my den, and wait to strike
*never mistake my desire to be kind as a weakness--never
*I was once a dreamy, intellectual little girl who read big books and said big words because the mind was valued in our home
*I was almost drowned in snow banks for being that little intellectual girl. I know what it is like to feel cold snow melting on your skin while you're desperately gasping for air and there is no one, no one to help you.
*A boy in the second grade used to chase me and punch me in the stomach daily. I put my book underneath my jacket and he punched me and broke his hand.
*I learned to be a "dumb blonde"
*When I was in university, if you came up to me after a test, I could give you all the questions on the test verbatim as well as my answers.
*I worked as a night aide for a lady with Parkinsons disease. She told me her love story every time I came to sit with her. When I got engaged, she gave me her silver gravy boat which she had received for her wedding over 50 years earlier. I still have that gravy boat.
*I'm a dreamer, but I'm practical and serious. I believe in myself, but I also believe only hard work and tenacity will get me to where I want to go. But I WILL BECOME WHAT I WILL BECOME!!

If I, a person who started with so little could come so far and find such joy and a wealth of opportunities, then I'm proof that anyone with a little luck, some tenacity and brains, can succeed.

Follow your hearts, mine your pasts, become who you will become.

Monday, January 14, 2013

50 New Things in 2013: #1 Picasso's Grill in Athens, AL

This year I have promised myself to try 50 new things. This includes visiting new places, going to new restaurants, trying new things in general. I won't do anything crazy like jump out of an airplane or bungee jump because I want to live to see 2014. And maybe what I'm doing won't excite anyone at all, but this is more for me than it is to excite someone else. I'm trying to find ways to stimulate my brain, my heart, my soul. And I'm desperate to find a fabulous dining experience in this area. I have been to Albany Bistro in Historic Albany many times for lunch because it is a good restaurant, locally owned, and the atmosphere is eclectic and different. If you want a nice lunch/dinner, check them out.

Bearing my experience at Albany Bistro in mind, the Physicist and I decided to visit a place we'd heard about from a friend: Picasso's Grill in Athens, AL. I checked out the website and despite a few spelling errors and typos, I thought the place looked interesting and the lunch menu appealed to me.

The Physicist and I drove out to Pulaski, TN to buy his favorite scotch (it's $20 cheaper per bottle there and it's like a buy 2, get 1 free deal). It's about 45 minutes from here and a lovely drive; especially on a bright, sunny day with crystal blue skies. After we got his much coveted scotch, we returned via Athens and went to Picasso's Grill.

I loved the interior design--the owner's wife painted the mural and decorated the small restaurant and bar in red, black & white. The seating was comfortable and they'd refurbished church pews and different ladder back chairs, painting them a shiny black. The service was phenomenal. I could tell that the personnel took pride in this new establishment and they want it to succeed. The restaurant was full--just past lunch hour it still had lingering guests who were taking home leftover halves of sandwiches, so I had high hopes.

After analyzing the menu, I decided to order the Steak & Blue sandwich and the Physicist ordered the Cuban Sandwich. Both came with steak fries or homemade cole slaw. We also ordered a glass of wine (yes, we are decadent that way) and it was a nice Zinfandel. So far, so good. I was excited. However, my excitement was short-lived. Unfortunately, our sandwiches didn't meet our expectations. They were "good," but not great. There wasn't enough meat on my Steak & Blue sandwich to warrant the price, the horseradish cream sauce was non-existent, and the blue in the blue cheese had evaporated. The meat tasted fine, but it was a meager portion. Not that I needed a half a pound of meat, but still... Then the Cuban sandwich failed to satisfy for similar reasons. Not enough meat or pickles and very little Dijon spread. The steak fries were okay, but the cole slaw was divine.

The problem for me is usually the fact that I am a good cook. And the challenge is to find something that wows me for the price. Sorry, but I wasn't wowed. That being said, the owner did come out and we told him about our experience. What we liked and what didn't work for us. He listened and he took note of our suggestions. Then he encouraged us to return for dinner and try that menu. Given that this is a new restaurant and the owner is willing to listen to his customers, the Physicist and I will give it one more try for dinner.

Stay tuned for the results of that experience. So off I go on another adventure. Where will I go next? Any suggestions for good, amazing, non-steak and/or seafood (I'm allergic to shellfish so I can't hit the Japanese/Thai/etc. restaurants in the area) dining experiences in Northern Alabama?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Breaking Out of the Recipe Rut: New Orleans Red Beans

As promised I am trying at least one new recipe a month this year. Some of them will be practical and some will be elaborate. Today's recipe is practical and easy on the budget and diet plan. 

Hey, I'm an unpublished writer with a College Kid and I'm on a diet. This recipe is from the Fix It and Forget It Lightly slow cooker cookbook and was originally submitted by Cheri Janzen in Houston,TX.

2 cups dried red kidney beans
5 cups water
1/4 pound lean hot sausage cut into small pieces (couldn't find this so used turkey smoked sausage and added a dash of cayenne to the mix
2 onions chopped (I used Vidalia)
2 cloves garlic minced (I used 3 and wish I used 4 cause I love garlic)
1 tsp. salt (I omitted it)

1. Wash beans. Remove any stones or floaters. In saucepan, combine beans and water. Boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Soak 1 hour. 

2. Brown sausage slowly in nonstick skillet (I added a bit of olive oil). Add onions, garlic, and salt (but I omitted) and sauté until tender.

3. Combine all ingredients, including the bean water, in slow cooker. 

4. Cover. Cook on low 8-10 hours. During last twenty minutes stir frequently and mash with a spoon (didn't do this). 

5. Serve over hot cooked white rice. (I used brown). 

Yields 6 cups. 1 cup per serving. Serve with 1/2 cup rice. 200 cal per serving. 3 weight watcher points for bean dish. 3 points for brown rice. 

Verdict? Yummy! Filling! And do again. 

Great recipe. I will make it again and tweak the heat with a bit more garlic and spice/cayenne. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Time Capsule: Opening Up 2000 in 2012

Me and the College Kid with the Time Capsule
 Twelve years ago we made a Time Capsule and we have carried our makeshift tube of information from Virginia to Alabama with the express purpose of wanting to open it on New Year's Eve in 2012. To be honest, I was a bit nervous about opening it. We each had put in a goal and resolution which I thought I'd probably not achieved. The thoughts of facing that unmet goal freaked me out. Still, I had to face this capsule even if it meant facing my failure. Because only through trying and risking failure will we find success.

Where's the Polly Pocket?(College Kid retrieved it a few years ago).
The College Kid was in first grade when we made the capsule. She loved Polly Pocket and Disney and exploring. The Physicist was growing his career with the government. I was a Stay-at-Home Mom with dreams I'd yet to fulfill. But being a mother and handling all the Commander-in-Chief House duties kept me busy and happy.

Throughout the years many things changed. Three of our parents have passed away. Friends have passed away as well. We moved to Alabama and I'm still adjusting to the changes. My daughter grew up and flew away to college. My husband's career rose which means he's traveling more and more. And I have been actively pursuing my elusive dream of publication.

 The College Kid and I opened the capsule. Inside there was a newspaper with a headline about the Baltimore Ravens's push for the Super Bowl. Political news about Clinton also screamed in the headlines. The Polly Pocket my College Kid stuffed in there had been retrieved--she confessed--shortly after she had stuck it in the capsule. And there were three single sheets of paper with our hand written notes.

The more things change, the more they remain the same:
The Physicist's resolutions match in 2000 and 2012.  
 Here is the Physicist's page. His favorite character was, and still is, Bugs Bunny. His favorite singer was Garth Brooks. His favorite TV Show was Who's Line is It and Golf. Who's Line is canceled. Golf, unfortunately--or fortunately--depending upon who you are in this house, is not. He still works for the same company. And he makes a bit more money now. His new year's resolution is the same this year as it was in 2000: Lose weight and get into shape. Maybe this will be the year he conquers that beast!

And so the more things change, the more they remain the same for him.

As usual, I'm introspective,
but when I read this I was happy with how far I'd come.
She still wants to be a Disney Imagineer.
Dreams evolve, but they never have to stop being dreams.
Next up? My sheet. Favorite books? I still love Nora Roberts and just about any Harlequin Presents book I can get my paws on. My ambitions were simple: become a travel writer and/or write one book (maybe). Becoming a travel writer was laughable. I am so not a detail oriented person and setting is to this day my last layer of writing in my manuscripts. But did I write that book? Not that year. But I did write one in 2005 and I haven't looked back. I started small and I've grown. My new year's resolution: to become focused on my personal and academic growth as a writer. To have a better sense of who I am and where I am going and how I am getting there. Pretty introspective. But I do know who I am now. I am a writer. And I know where I am going. And my goals have gotten much more refined throughout the years.

I saved the College Kid's page for last. For she wrote it when she was so young and her life was just an acorn waiting to become a tree. Her favorite singer was Britney Spears, she loved watching The Wild Thornberry's, and her favorite movie was the current Disney film The Emperor's New Groove. Now she's into indie music, Super Natural is her favorite television show (and other creepy shows, too, like American Horror), and she's into watching endless hours of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Her resolution was smart: to go see Opa and Oma. And she did see them. And finally, her dream. What did she want to be when she grew up? An animator. You know what? That has evolved into becoming an Imagineer for Disney or a Visualization expert for television and film. Her dream evolved, but the core? It's still the same.

So this was our Time Capsule: Dreams captured, careers evolving, people growing and changing. What were your dreams? Did they change? Did you change? And do you believe that dreams can transform you even if reaching them might be impossible?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Champagne Promise

The Physicist and I have been married for 27 years. We're practically a Ripley's exhibit in that we have stuck together through thick and thin. We do take the vows we made all those years ago seriously. But it's amazing we're still together when you consider how many personality factors there are against us and lead us into conflict. And when we spar it is with great intensity.

Take a look at what we brought into our marriage when we first said our "I do's."

Our Similarities

*We're each first born children with one younger sibling.
*We're both earth signs. He is a Taurus, and I am a Capricorn.
*We're both fiercely independent.
*We're both from very dysfunctional families.
*We're both very driven.
*We hate to lose.
*We're stubborn.

Our Differences

*He's analytical and I'm intuitive.
*He's a scientist and I'm a romance writer.
*He's a thinker and I'm an instinctive reactor.
*He's an immovable boulder and I'm a spontaneous combustion.

You can see where this is going... We lock horns a lot. We have major arguments a lot. And we argue loud. Heck we have had arguments about our arguments and about what actually qualifies as a argument. I remember his dad telling me that no one ever could best the Physicist in argument and I said, "That was until he met me."

The Physicist wanted a woman who would challenge him, and he got one. I wanted a man who wasn't a pushover, and I got one.

And that's okay because we genuinely love and respect each other. He's my best friend. He makes me happy, and we have fun together. We're perfect for each other. But we do argue a lot.

This brings me to our Champagne Promise. The Physicist bought an expensive bottle of champagne after a very big fight. He said that we could open it if we went without a major argument for at least seven days. That was three years ago. The running joke in our house was that we probably would have to wait until one of us dies before we could pop that champagne bottle's cork.

A little over a week ago we decided we would make the effort to open that bottle of champagne. It's expensive, but it's not that expensive. It could go bad. We wouldn't want to drink that champagne in our 90s or worse have to wait until one of us um, died. 

It's New Year's Day and I'm happy to report that today we will open the champagne!!!

I think we came close to losing the privilege a few times, but I'd look at the Physicist and say, "You do want to open that champagne, don't you?" And he would nod and bite back his argument.

Hmmmm, maybe I should buy another bottle of expensive champagne tomorrow and use it as leverage. Maybe we should try to last TWO weeks without a major argument... but then the making up is all so sweet ;-)  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What's Coming Up on the Veranda?

Happy New Year! I am so excited about all the possibilities and new challenges that will arise during 2013. First up is meeting all my goals and striving to achieve a higher level of writing efficiency along with more learning. Secondly, I am adding two new features to my blog which will incorporate trying new things and going to new places.

50 New Places Large or Small
Breaking Out of the Recipe Rut

Yup. This year I plan to explore my world even more closely and I want to share my adventures with you. New restaurants, new recreational parks, new museums, new everything. There is a lot to do in Alabama as well as in the surrounding states of Tennessee and Georgia and more.... I am eager to find jewels in the mines of life. Stay Tuned.

And Breaking Out of the Recipe Rut is a new challenge that I'm sure the Physicist will appreciate. I love to cook, but we all tend to turn to the tried and true when it comes to meal time. I'm more adventuresome than a lot of people, but even I get bored by my own cooking. So I've decided to try a minimum of 1 new recipe per month. I might even do more. I'm going through my recipe books and looking online for new dishes to make, then I'll make them and share the details (good, bad, and otherwise) with you.

As always I will continue sharing the fabulous Celebration Blog for Debut Authors. Can't wait to see who will cross over to the published world this year. Maybe I might have to interview myself LOL.

Occasionally, I'll post a random blog about the Linda Howard Contest and my work as its Overall Coordinator of Contest Chaos. And if a mood strikes you know I will share it with you.

First and foremost is my desire to write and write well. But then the fun begins. 

What's on your agenda for the year?