Saturday, December 19, 2009

100 Things I'm Grateful For

This is one of those good viruses that's been going around the Blogosphere. I'm happy to read about so many people who've taken a few minutes to list the things in their lives for which they are grateful. It's so important to remember what you're grateful for, especially when you're getting all grumbly about holiday shopping and stubbing your toe on the stairs. Here's my shot at it. I double-dog-dare you to make your own list. Or, just jot down a few things in the comments below. Remember, every time you voice a gratitude, an angel gets his wings (or that's how I think it goes...)

1. Chocolate.

2. I get to look out my back window and see horses. They’re not mine.

3. One of my novels is going to be published. Woo hoo!

4. Working from home, I no longer need to wear pantyhose.

5. Ditto heels.

6. Honey, in small quantities, is good for me.

7. Ditto red wine.

8. For the time being, I have a roof over my head.

9. All my limbs and organs are original issue and in good working order.

10. My wonderful husband, despite his fondness for Fox News, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.

11. Earplugs.

12. Karma Road, a totally vegan take-out place, is only 15 minutes away.

13. Double-strength ginger tea.

14. The wonderful, inspirational, wise, beautiful, bountiful and blissful ladies in my life.

15. The guys, too.

16. I don’t live in Afghanistan (no disrespect meant to people who live in Afghanistan.)

17. The kindness of strangers.

18. My loving, crazy, amazing blended extended family. That includes you, Angelina.

19. I can get in my car and drive pretty much anywhere I want without asking permission or showing the proper credentials.

20. I no longer have to buy feminine sanitary products.

21. I live in a world where “friend” is a verb.

22. David Sedaris.

23. People who pop back into my life at just the right time.

24. Not getting everything on the “to do” list done and not caring.

25. Tomorrow.

26. Plushy bathrobes.

27. Roasted delicata squash with olive oil and sea salt.

28. Indoor plumbing.

29. The sum total of all of my failures, because they’ve made me who I am today.

30. That my brothers have grown into good men and good parents.

31. Gravity.

32. Larabars.

33. The wisdom and humor of my parents and grandparents.

34. Snowplows.

35. People who make me laugh.

36. Hugs.

37. Lavender oil.

38. Other people’s kitties.

39. Hot tea on a cold afternoon and a neighbor to share it with.

40. My body care team: physical therapist and massage therapist

41. Books by favorite authors that I save to read at just the right moment.

42. That publishers are still printing books at all.

43. The gift of writing the perfect sentence.

44. The lovely young lady who cleans my house.

45. Some brilliant, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that inventions: MP3 players, answering machines, electronic readers.

46. A writing room with a window and a door that closes.

47. That point when you know it’s going to be OK.

48. The grace and power of women in numbers united behind a common cause.

49. Living in a beautiful piece of the world.

50. The sparkle of icicles as they melt.

51. Shopping on the web.

52. More hugs.

53. Opportunities to catch up with old friends.

54. The drama of intense weather rolling in.

55. The crackling paper sound when I open a new book.

56. Soft, soft fabrics.

57. Watching the fawns play in the back yard.

58. The smell of pumpkin ginger spice bread baking in the oven.

59. A good education and a love of reading.

60. Just being.

61. A soak in the steamy hot tub after aquajogging class.

62. Getting and sending real letters. Like with stamps and everything.

63. Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

64. “This American Life” on NPR.

65. Two stamps on my passport.

66. Sipping a nice glass of wine while making dinner.

67. That I can buy myself a bottle of wine without feeling guilty.

68. Women whom I want to be when I grow up.

69. Beaches (the geographical items, not the movie.)

70. Men without testosterone poisoning.


72. Homemade apple crisp warm from the oven.

73. Vegetables fresh from the farm.

74. A drawer full of clean socks and underwear.

75. Hot showers.

76. Well-written movies and TV shows. (Yes, there are some.)

77. Neighbors helping neighbors.

78. Making a food gift for someone special and thinking about him or her all the while.

79. Garrison Keillor

80. Movies that make me sniffy.

81. People who know how to change tires and stuff.

82. A new Janet Evanovich book.

83. Knowing that I’m not the only person who watches the Superbowl for the commercials.

84. Full moons on clear nights.

85. The way the air smells after a thunderstorm.

86. Being able to pass along family history.

87. My compounding pharmacist.

88. Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. In moderation.

89. Knowing that my family is in good health.

90. Microwave heat packs.

91. Microwaves.

92. A good night’s sleep.

93. Finding the perfect gift for someone special.

94. Paying it forward.

95. Sitting down with a hot mug of tea to read your favorite blogs.

96. The right words at the right time.

97. Lunch with a friend.

98. Knowing there’s a new box in the pantry.

99. Unscheduled time.

100. Starting new traditions.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ABC’s Brilliant Cross-Marketing Idea

Since one of my 2010 “life goals” is to become better at marketing myself and my work, I’ve been paying attention to how others get their message out there.

And this tactic I came across is one of those smack-your-forehead, wish-I’d-thought-of-that ideas.

I don’t watch a ton of TV (have to be selective so I’ll have more writing time), but a few shows catch my eye. One of them is Castle, a crime “dramedy” (drama meets comedy, get it?) about a NYC detective, Kate Beckett, who gets saddled with well-connected mystery writer Richard Castle, who wants inspiration for his latest novel. It’s totally unrealistic (like the NYPD would allow a writer to tag along to murder scenes and help solve crimes), but I got hooked on the writer angle and like the chemistry between the two leads.

Last week I was hunting Amazon for holiday gifts, and in the thrillers section (best-selling thrillers, no less) found “Heat Wave,” a Nikki Heat mystery by Richard Castle, the same one that was featured at TV’s Castle’s book release party episode that appeared at the beginning of this season. The book on Amazon is a joke, of course, since burrowing further down in the reviews section reveals that the book is written by one of the show’s writers, using the pseudonym “Richard Castle.” The author’s “official” bio reads that Castle received the Nom DePlume Society's prestigious Tom Straw Award for Mystery Literature, an award that doesn’t exist. Tom Straw is the real name of a television writer, and duh, “Nom DePlume,” so you do the math.

But the idea is pretty damned brilliant—not only cross-marketing to the TV show, but repurposing the content of the TV scripts into a mystery novel (or the other way around.)


Monday, December 14, 2009

Road Test

If you and your significant other are even thinking about getting married, and you’re wondering if he or she is the right person for you, there is a way you can find out. It’s fairly simple, and requires only an automobile, at least one licensed driver, some gas, and an event to which you are both invited. If you can survive this test, then mazel tov, you have my blessing to be wed.

Here’s how it goes:

1. Your event. This works best if it’s an event with a firm starting time, for example, a wedding, a funeral, or a recital/concert/play in which one of your adorable nieces, nephews or young cousins has a starring role. The event should be located within a two hour radius of your home, preferably in an area neither of you have ever visited.

2. The directions. The directions to the event must be sufficiently vague in order to provide a challenge. I’d recommend getting them from MapQuest. No cell phones or GPS systems allowed.

3. The starting position. Select one participant to be driver and the other to be navigator. Navigator gets to hold the vague but challenging directions. Navigator also gets control over the radio, the interior climate, and any toll money that might be required. You will get extra points if the road conditions are less than ideal.

4. Start driving and begin to keep score:

-- If you make it to the destination early, with only minor disagreements about choice of radio station or CD, and take only one or two wrong turns without blaming one party or the other, then you are marriage material. Go straight to the town hall to apply for your license, unless you are both of the same sex and live in a state that does not cotton to such things, the backward-thinking prigs.

-- If you take several wrong turns, blame the lousy directions, complain to your traveling partner about his or her taste in music and penchant for raising the thermostat so high you’re sweating like Tiger Woods checking his BlackBerry, and still arrive within a 15 minute window, then you will probably be OK.

-- If you have to stop several times for directions, blame the idiot at the Getty Mart for sending you miles out of your way, blame your traveling partner for not seeing the proper exit sign fast enough or for getting chocolate or coffee on the upholstery, AGAIN, and arrive within a 20 minute window, you should probably seek couples counseling before deciding to spend your lives together.

-- If your navigator can’t figure out the directions, throws up his or her hands in defeat, complains about you for not getting better directions in a voice that rises so high that only dogs and lobbyists can hear it, while the driver circles around the same three-block area several times, in the rain, crying, and you decide to bag the whole thing and go home, if you can ever find your way there (refusing to speak to each other the entire trip), then I’d recommend that when you finally get home, that you both seek individual counseling, and start seeing other people. Especially if one or both of you has a bout of road rage while driving past that same Applebee’s for the fourth time.

(Note: I am not a professional marriage counselor. This post is for entertainment purposes only. No individuals were physically harmed or emotionally wounded in the making of this post.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My New Friend, Nicholas

I love my physical therapist. (And his wife and their staff, I must add quickly, lest I be accused of non-professional intentions.) Thanks to various back injuries, I've been contributing to his children's college funds for the past five years and he has yet to kick me out. Which is great, because his PT clinic includes not only workout equipment tailor-made for those who can't handle the macho stuff in the gym, but exercise tables (with pillows!) and filtered water on tap. As long as I behave myself, don't ask him too many pesky questions, and bring a bunch of homemade chocolate-dipped macaroons around the holidays, I imagine he'll allow me twice-weekly workouts from now until I'm strong enough to bid them adieu. Or forever, whichever comes first.

Yesterday I visited said clinic and began my routine. On nice days, I start with laps around their parking lot. If it's too cold outside, I walk on the treadmill. Since I felt chilled, and it was a slow afternoon, I opted for the 'mill.

About fifteen minutes into a kick-butt session, I was still the only one in the clinic. Then I heard someone come in, but all I could hear was her end of a cell phone conversation. Always the eavesdropper (I have this down to a science, as most writers do), I gleaned that this was one of those conversations one has with one's mate after the resolution of the argument. When the instigating party feels the need to explain why he or she flipped out. I heard phrases like "I didn't feel like you were supporting me," ad nauseum.

After ending her call, she walked out the side door, which lead to the rest room, and she was gone for a good ten minutes. She returned and hopped onto the treadmill next to mine. My PT came in at this point, and started talking to a third person, and from the tone of his voice, apparently this was a very small person.

His name was Nicholas, three years old, and not only did he belong to the woman on the treadmill, but he had been left unsupervised in a non-child-friendly exercise clinic for ten full minutes.

At times I've gotten annoyed with parents who bring very young children into potentially dangerous places and do their own thing, either expecting that the other people there will watch out for their child, or their child is exceedingly disciplined and will remain in the corner with his or her sippy cup for Mom's entire workout and not try to jump on the treadmill while she's walking or attempt to pick up loose dumbbells or use the big exercise balls as hoppety-hops.

But I was in a good mood yesterday afternoon, so I let it slide. Tried to put myself in this mother's shoes. Maybe bringing Nicholas to her physical therapy appointment wasn't her first choice, and some child-care option had fallen through.

My PT (who is excellent with kids…and dogs…and people in general) entertained Nicholas until Mom was ready for her appointment, and then, tucked away in one of the patient cubicles, he was a good boy and didn't move from the chair next to his mother's table. He found the ultrasound machine exceedingly fascinating, especially the goo the PTs used along with it. This held his attention for a while, but like any typical three year old, his mind began to wander.

His body soon followed, and instead of watching boring old Mommy learn how to do her tummy-tightening exercises, he was soon out on the main floor of the clinic, watching me do my exercises.

I had a feeling this would lead to no good, but I started talking to him. I mean, come on. Aside from a basket of kittens, what's more adorable than a three-year-old that isn't yours? And despite what people may think about me, I love children, and don't want to see them harmed by pinching fingers in the springs of a physical therapist's trampoline or pulling dumbbells down on their soft little heads. So while I did my tummy tightening exercises, I entertained him by answering all sorts of questions about the variety of balls all over the floor and on the countertops.

"I like the pink ball the best," I said. I'd just used it for my abdominal crunches, and it was resting in the tenuous crook between my table and the big dangerous metal cabinet that contained all sorts of big dangerous things. I reached over my head and plucked it free. "Here," I said. "You can take this."

Dutifully, he took it, and began arranging all the balls atop the trampoline. The big green exercise ball, which he impressed me by lifting, went on first. Then the smaller ones – the pink one, and then a squishier purple one (he liked the word "squishy") and then the little black one that I liked to use against the wall to give myself a back massage. This activity seemed safe enough.

But then he started getting bold. Twice I had to talk him off of spinning around on the therapists' stool. We got him to sit in Mommy's cubicle again for a while (when he had his box of organic cookies and sippy cup) but once again, more interesting things prevailed. Why is it that the one thing you tell a kid not to do is the only thing that captivates their attention? To Nicholas, that stool must have looked like Christmas morning, a birthday party and a trip to the ice cream parlor all rolled into one shiny package. I tried to divert his focus by playing the "what-are-your-siblings'-names" game, and I dropped his jaw by telling him the names of all of my brothers and sisters (from my wonderful blended, extended family.) This only lasted so long, and he was back on that stool again. Finally, with him atop it, I put a hand on each small shoulder and walked him toward his mother's cubicle. My PT greeted us.

"Maybe we can find something safer to play on," I said.

Soon Mommy was done learning all of her tummy-strengthening exercises, and she started the process of packing up cookies and sippy cups and Nicholas.

As one hand disappeared inside the sleeve of a coat, he gave me a special and simply adorable little smile. "See you later, alligator!" he said.

My heart melted. "In a while, crocodile," I said back.

After they were gone, my PT thanked me for my patience.

"Patience is my middle name," I said.

OK. So I get free gym time and comfy exercise tables and filtered water. Watching out for a kid or two, sometimes a dog…that's hardly a bad tradeoff. Just don't tell my PT that I had fun playing with Nicholas. It will totally blow my image. And we can't have that, can we?