Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Mothers of Invention

I read a guest post at Terry Odell's blog the other day about the Jersey Devil. I's a very interesting read. But I already knew about that particular nasty creature.

Growing up outside of Philadelphia, heading to the Jersey shore was a summer institution. My best friend in elementary school would invite me to her family's shore house for weekends all the time. (Back in this day, a family shore house was a conservative two to three bedroom home, not the gargantuan beach houses you think of today.) We would drive down Friday night, after her mom got home from work. It would be about an hour and a half to two hour drive, depending on how many others beach lovers had the same idea.

We'd jump on the highway and head through the Pine Barrens of New Jersey - the alleged birth place and frightening haunt of the Jersey Devil. Now we were excited eight and nine year old girls in the back seat of a sedan, giggling and squealing and making an all around ruckus. Every time.

Well, Mrs. Buckwalter finally got wise and started telling us the legend of the Jersey Devil. As soon as we hit those Pine Barrens, our eyes would be peeled and our noses pressed to the glass of opposite windows, keeping silent vigil for the Devil so we could alert the driver to enact evasive maneuvers should he decide to jump on our car.

The woman was a genius.

My sister-in-law tells the story of The Turtle Game. This is another car trick. Whenever her mother would drive her sister and her to Pittsburgh to visit their grandmother, there would be blankets in the back seat of the car. If her mother spied someplace she didn't want her daughters to see, like an amusement park, she would enact the turtle game. "Okay girls! Let's play The Turtle Game!" The daughters would then grab the blankets, drop to the foot wells and cover themselves with the blankets to pretend that they were turtles. Once the distraction was out of sight, she would let them come out of their shells.

My own mother is a wonderful, frugal woman. We wouldn't go to the car wash very often, but when we did, my brother and I thought we were getting a real treat. She called it the fun house. When we'd hear the call, "Who wants to go to the fun house?", my brother and I would scramble to the door. We'd go through the automatic washer oohing and ahhhing over the spinning bristle brushes of doom and the long waving hair going over the windshield. What might pop up from the depths of that sea of flopping canvas? The thrills and chills were almost endless.

She also ended our squabbling over the mail by decreeing that I would be Occupant and my brother would be Resident for the rest of our days. (Click here for the full explanation.)

I even got into the act. The family went to Hershey Park this summer and stayed far too long. As we headed to the gates before they closed and locked us in, there was much pleading by the eldest urchin for one more ride. As we approached the exit, I saw the bathroom and got inspired. Turning to my oldest I announced there was one more ride. The Restroom Ride!! There's water, there's swirling, there's bubbles! All the excitement of the water park miniaturized into one room! She didn't buy it, but she did get behind it and laughed, making it sound like a commercial as she "rode the ride". I'm not as wily as the other seasoned veterans, but I'm on my way.

So what about you? Any stories of the devious and ingenious workings of a mother's (or father's) mind? Or is it just me surrounded by shady oddballs?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Voices in the Dead of Night should be Illegal No Matter How Polite They Sound

During the first night of the NJRW conference, I was awakened by a loud strange sound and a calm but insistent voice. At first I thought it was the alarm clock, but as I began to wake more fully, I realized it was coming from the wrong part of the room.
At that point of semi-conciousness, the word "emergency" cut through my sleep filled haze. The fire alarm was going off.

I squinted at the unreliable alarm clock to see that it was a little after four am. I jumped out of bed. Checked to see that my roommate was doing the same. Shoved on dress shoes and socks. Grabbed my computer bag, room key and coat and hoofed it down the hall and one flight of stairs where many women were lingering in the lobby -in several stages of dress and very interesting outfits and hairdos- looking probably a lot like I did.

My roommate and I were more with it than the lobby lingerers, and we proceeded to exit the building in an orderly fashion to the overhang. Because much safer than inside the building is ten feet from the door.

I noticed that for a conference of about 300 people, there didn't seem to be that many guests out of the building, but I assumed they went out other emergency exits. All of the sleepy-eyed half dressed people milled around, asking the question and postulating hypotheses.

There were several Asian guests with their phones out, videoing all the romance authors in their different states of undress, so who knows, the whole incident may end up on Youtube somewhere.

The police showed up and entered the lobby. They were very cute, by the way. Since they didn't force the lobbyists to vacate the building, we decide it was safe to go back in.

The very polite security guard made the appropriate apologies and we waited for the fire department to give us the all clear to go back to the room. Which they did after about forty minutes.

Tired, but understanding we all trudged back up to our rooms to reset unreliable alarm clocks to squeeze in an extra few minutes of sleep.

At about 5:15, that polite voice and strobe light were back. Roommate and I trudged back down the steps, this time I was not as hard core and didn't save my wips by lugging along my computer. We lingered in the lobby and grumbled with our neighbors about the crappiness of being inconvenienced.

After about twenty minutes, since the fire department was quicker to respond, (probably because they hadn't even gotten back to the station yet) we were sent back to our rooms.

When the alarm went off two more times at six, we didn't even bother. I just got in the shower and started on my day.

We found out later that only the first three floors were affected by the alarm. They said the cause was a guest smoking in their room. At lunch the human resources person from the hotel apologized and there was candy and complimentary bottles of wine on the tables for us.

It made for an interesting day and a tough ride home since we were so exhausted.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The NJ Recap

I survived my first convention. No it wasn't a sci-fi convention, though I will admit to attending one of those in my reckless misspent youth. The things you people drag out of me. It's embarrassing! *sheesh*

Anyway, back to NJ. My roommate and I arrived a little early and got checked in to the conference though it was too early to check in to the hotel. I attended several workshops, including the first timers which was mainly commonsense advice and reminders not to be a mean girl.

I didn't get as much out of the workshops on Friday that I did on Saturday, but the presenters were nice. I do realize it's hard to teach a teacher, so I always try to cut presenters some slack.

Friday night after the awards ceremony, I hit the bar and met some very nice people.*waves to Carla, et al* Which I have to admit was my goal for this conference. They were from the Valley Forge RW, which is my old stomping ground. They may be contacting me to give my self defense workshop.

I didn't get back to the room until about 11:30, wrote for 50/50 and fell into bed after messing around with the hotel supplied alarm clock that was not very easy to set. (In my next post I will go explain how on this night approximately one hundred people and I met in the lobby of the hotel at the obscene hour of four am.)

I learned more from the workshops I attended Saturday, and was happy with all the free books we got. I attended the book signing, and bought one book which is one more than I was planning to.

Then it was time to hit the road after a sleepless night and a full day of workshops. It poured down rain during the first part of the three hour drive home. (a three hour tour. a three hour tour) All the traffic on the turnpike was slowed down to about 35 mph for a while.

But I had a really nice time. Unfortunately the urchins are sick again. So I won't have much time to put into practice some of the things I learned while it's fresh in my mind. But all in all I'm very glad I got to go.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Trying to Get Ready and Elvis

So I'm going. Tomorrow. NJRW's conference. My first. I'm hoping all goes well. The organizers only listed the titles of workshops. No descriptions. Which annoyed me a little. I'm pretty sure I'll get over it.

One of the things I need to do today before I go is write for the 50/50 challenge so if I don't have time to write over the next two days of conference, I'll still be in. 50/50 has been good for me, but I've only done edits. No new stuff so to speak. It's a little frustrating, but I know why, so I'm trying to let myself off the hook a bit. Not something I usually do.

Anywho. I was going to write about my Elvis sighting that I had recently, but, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Those of you with a weak constitution, I urge you to look away.

Let's see if I still have any readers when I get back after that!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

why? Why? WHY?! part II

Previously on Lost (her sense)

Each and every worker must come to the door and look at us with their penetrating testosterone laced stare. Another one they must practice on each other because they're practically identical. Only the amount of eyebrow wiggle accounts for any individuality.

So after I mentally score each leer, I'm usually called to pick up my slice. I attempt to dodge the tentacle fingers for the second time during the food exchange and get out of there with my virtue (mostly) intact.

Being able to then eat the best burrito ever goes a long way towards recovery even though I can't shower until much later.

So that's the sordid ordeal I endure just to be able to enjoy my Neato Burrito. No one said you never had to make sacrifices for what you want.

I blame stress induced pizza ordering for my momentary lapse in mental stability in grabbing the skinny jeans. After all that, trying on skinny jeans is the least of my worries. I think I may have a viable excuse for almost any criminal spree I can come up with.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

why? Why? WHY?!

Why am I such an idiot? I just wrote about how I've gained some weight. I know I'm pretty much rockin' the beer gut. Why would I reach over to the pile of skinny jeans that has been sitting next to my pants drawer? They haven't even made it into the damn drawer because I know it's a farce. Why would I reach for a pair of jeans that hasn't even made it into the regular line up of "you're fooling yourself" jeans. They're still "This woman is delusional if she thinks she'll be squeezing even one buttock into these pants" pants.

The day is not going well.

I'll tell you what prompted it. The aftershocks of (dant dant dant daaaaaaaaa) - The Pizzeria. It had to be some sort of post traumatic stress syndrome in association with visiting that place.

There is a pizza place next to Neato Burrito (Oh Neato Burrito How I love you so - but that's an ode for another blog on another day). My one urchin has a fatal flaw. She will not eat the wondrous manna from the gods known as the concoctions of California mission style burritos from Neato Burrito. I know. I've had to go through my twelve steps to come to terms with it, and most days I can accept her for who she is. I'm big like that.

So anyway, She must have a slice of pizza instead. So while the Man and urchin #1 get to walk directly into paradise and begin ordering up their own little slices of heaven, moi (bonjour French Canadian lurkers!) and urchin #2 go down 4 stores in the strip mall to (cue proper dread inducing music) the pizza shop.

As soon as you step inside the darkened atmosphere, the uber potent Italian testosterone fills every open orifice it can cling to and your estrogen undergoes a chemical reaction transforming your body into a piece of meat. From behind the counter, every greasy male eye is on you.

Next, the foreign language begins with lots of deep heh, heh, hehs as you approach the counter.

"What c'n I getta for you, miss?" Everywhere else nowadays I'm ma'am. Yes, I've reached that magical age where I now notice that every stranger around me refers to me as . . . *sigh* ma'am. But here, I'm miss. So I approach the register with caution, being sure not to make direct eye contact with anyone and place my order as the image of the Virgin Mary stares down on me from the wall above. The men don't seem to notice. They've all practically smooshed their faces against the glass divider to try and stare through my clothing.

So then comes the first tricky part. Passing the money over without making skin to skin contact. These are some tricky devils. No matter how I try, they're quicker and wilier than me. I am always on the receiving end of a cheesy finger caress no matter how I do it. They must teach it to them before they're allowed to work the register and practice it all day. So after I unsuccessfully dodge the tentacle fingers, I'm free to move away as they heat up the slice.

I usually occupy urchin #1 around the corner at the pinball machine, but there's an open door to the kitchen directly across from there. Each and every worker must come to the door and look at us with their penetrating testosterone laced stare. Another one they must practice on each other because they're practically identical. Only the amount of eyebrow wiggle accounts for any individuality.

To Be Continued . . .

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Fish Bowl Effect

I've been sick for the past two weeks. (Still am, thanks for asking.) Every time I move I start hacking uncontrollably. Ergo not a lot of extra moving going on in my life right now. (Pavlov would've had it so easy with me.)

Now, since I've been as sedentary as possible, I've gained about four pounds. I've also gained a bunch of bruises. I'm knocking into things around the house I never used to. And after the initial annoyance and pain, I'm actually glad I do. The fish bowl effect will be my dietary salvation. You see, I'm growing too large for my domicile, so I'll have to slim down to avoid being covered in painful annoying boo boos.

A gold fish will grow to the proper size for its environs. Apparently, so do I. All this negative reinforcement of whacking body parts on furniture and door jambs will definitely help in my pursuit to lose the weight I gained. (Again, Pavlov is salivating in his grave just to get a piece of me to work on. I'm a natural at the conditioned response.)

This is also why I haven't gotten a bigger bed. The Man and I share a full sized bed. Neither of us are the slenderest of people, but we've been making do for the past twelve years. If one of us wants to lie on our backs, the other needs to lie on their sides. Some nights it's a sleepy chess match to fit, but it works.

We've been talking recently about getting a queen sized bed. And I've gotta tell you, citizens, it's making me a little nervous. If I have all that room, I have a feeling I'll be growing in size to fill it. That fear has kept me on the fence for years. But the mattress on ours is shot. Not a new thing, but it's even more shot than it was five years ago, so we're finally getting ready to actually do something about it.

The Man is gung ho on the queen sized dealio. He's tired of the nightly roll ballet. But I'm still dragging my feet. Because when it comes to food, I've got the control of a goldfish that will eat itself into a stupor and be content to float on the currents life throws its way. And if I can easily fit on a space I spend six to eight hours a day on, I know my subconscious mind will think it's time to hit the buffet.

Here's hoping the checks and balances of the negative reinforcing small house will be enough to keep me in line. I'm sure It'll turn out alright, as long as Pavlov is rooting for me from the Great Beyond. Did someone just hear a bell?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Now Back to Our Normally Scheduled Program

Okay, so I'm back from my happy place and none too happy about it. I still have the same million things to do, but now with the added ten thousand and one that I ignored during my mental mini vacation. So, enough.

Writing. Yeah, not so much. I'm still in the 50/50 challenge, but it's a struggle to get just fifty words done. I've lost my momentum on the w.i.p.s, so I'm going back to the beginning and editing as I re-familiarize myself with the story lines. I'm finding it hard to get back into the stories and am tempted to chuck them (all 50,000 + words for each of them) and start something new that might bring back my enthusiasm.

I've thought long and hard about giving up the whole endeavor. I'm sure many have thought the same before me. We'll see where I come out.

So today is dedicated to running around and trying to catch up on chores. As well as fighting off sickness. When all I really want to do is bury myself under the covers and sleep the day away. Magic Eight Ball says: Outlook Not Good.

Curse you Magic Eight Ball. I hope your blue water turns rancid and your oh-so-wise pyramid grows algae.

I think I may need a few more days in my happy place.

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