Friday, 12 December 2014

My Ears are Burning

One thing I've tried to do throughout life is make my own decisions. I find that when people with vested interests weigh in on an issue, they want you to do what they want you to do. If you truly make a decision, you only have yourself to blame if things go south; you can also give yourself credit for a good decision.

If the Internet weren't such a tattletale, I wouldn't even know anyone back in Winterville cared the slightest bit about how I'm doing. I figure if I'm out of sight, I'm out of mind, but reports otherwise. Someone I haven't talked to since 2009 has viewed my profile. In truth, she was a nice person with some miserable and unhappy friends who took some of their anger out on me. Still, I stopped talking to her, knowing that I needed to break with ALL negative influences to create a better future.

That was 5 years ago. In just the past three years, I've changed jobs 2 times, found my handsome prince and married him. One year ago, I took that flying leap and moved across the country. The two years prior to my action-packed three years were preparation: getting permission to sell the money trap house, saving what money I could, and looking for a better-paying job. Of course, other stuff happened too, both good and bad.

The people I knew back in the day who were judgmental and gave me "advice" about how I could follow the scripts they'd written form me were escorted offstage, or left of their own accord. One loony person "confronted" me about how I needed to have a baby (with an ex-boyfriend who was incapable of dialing my number) because she wished she'd done it. I remember her saying, "I've talked it over with my therapist," as part of her explanation.

Long story short, if people from Winterville saw my "I got married" update on LinkedIn, I can only imagine that they are talking with their therapists about it. It's strange that I may have produced fodder for other people to mull over with therapists, though.

I hope that tongues aren't wagging about this; I really do. I hope those formerly unhappy people are now engaged in their own lives and enjoying every moment.


Even the Wall Street Journal backs me up here...

When I started having my so-called adventures and dealing with the many problems of everyday life in and around Winterville, Florida, I didn't know (because it was so hard to make friends!) how tough it was for everyone else. But it was. Boy, was it ever. It still is, although I escaped to an oasis in blue briefly before moving to be with Hubbs. Sure, we're back in the desert-colored part of the map, but at least there's two of us and we both work.

See this link:

It shows, in increments of 10% by county, the places where worker pay has risen in the past decade or fallen. Ay carumba, no wonder I've barely saved any money in the last 10 years!

See, I wasn't hallucinating. My money bought less and less as time went on! I piled miles onto my car, and had it repaired (at the dealership- although they charged so much more to do things, at least they weren't trying to sell me major repairs that I didn't need all the time! So I appreciated that karma, even though I paid dearly for it!), going back and forth to work for the privilege of being paid so that I could continue the cycle indefinitely and have nothing to show for it (aside from a work history and a few files full of car repair records!) All while my un-working peers in Winterville looked down on me while drinking beer from their front porches all day long. Sigh.

Today it's raining and although I have the day off, there's a lot to do: presents to ship, cards to write, and so on. I might read through the free articles on, which I enjoy sometimes, but they are funny; they always report on Millenials and Baby Boomers, never on my generation in between. I guess it's because my generation can't be tracked as easily as others.

I'll leave you with 2 quotes:
"As Generation Xers, we know how to blend. And by blend, I mean disappear." Hubbs
"A man who has experienced great sorrow, and then has known its end, wakes each morning feeling the pleasure of sunrise" Natasha Solomons

Even though there is no sun out and I overshot dawn by a few hours, I'm happy to be writing to you from my post-Winterville life.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Being committed to an institution

Billy Idol once said that marriage was an institution, and he didn't want to be committed to an institution: a typical Saggittarius punk rocker sentiment, to be sure. Although I was about 14 years old and wanted to marry Billy Idol himself at the time, I appreciated his wit- and still do.

Years later, I'm getting married for real soon, and I'm looking forward to our brief celebration followed by a long weekend away. The decision to marry was an easy one. The terms "obvious" and "no-brainer" have been used to describe it. I don't have any questions about it in theory. It seems like the logical next step.

Creative projects, though, are different. Today was a day I'd waited for all year long- the day when my book-in-progress would be critiqued- and I've come away with a lot of comments- some good, some bad, some ugly. It makes me wonder: do I keep plugging away at this project, or switch to something else? If I don't stick with it, does that show a lack of commitment on my part? Or would it be better for me to go in another direction, let this project marinate for a while, and regroup later?

Commitment is a complex issue with me. How do I figure out what needs my attention now? What stays and what goes? (And now I have that Clash song in my head!) When I wondered earlier what I should do, I didn't get a clear response from my Magic 8 Ball. Well, it did say, "Concentrate and ask again." So that is what I'll do.

But first, I'm giving myself the rest of the day off.

All my best to you.

Yours truly,

Jane and author

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Mid-Life Crisis, Anyone?

I am learning through my writing group, where the tale of my mid-life crisis is currently being critiqued (at least the first 150 pages), that one's mid-life crisis is ripe for the picking as far as mining your life for something to write about. At a table of mostly men yesterday, they were all puzzled by one entry from a woman about my age. Why should we root for her? They wondered. Why is she moving to another country with hardly any money? They asked. Why does she have two different last names? Why isn't she working/responsible at 38 years of age?

On my page full of notes for her, I'd scribbled, "Escaping from bad experience with marriage? Mid-life crisis?"

Well, the answer was "Ding, ding, ding."

EVERYONE I know who's over the age of 40 has known this kind of problem. Either following or against what you consider your better judgment, you choose a course of action that totally derails your life, like: getting married when you think it's expected an/or a sensible amount of time has gone by while you've dated someone, whether or not the two of you have the proper ingredients for a marriage that lasts; taking a job that robs you of your personal life, sanity, and health; putting all of your hopes and dreams into that ONE THING that will fix everything in your life, as in: once I get that surgery/ find someone to date/ get a divorce/ buy a house/ get a promotion, then everything in life will make sense and be awesome forever. In my case, it was buying a house on my own in 2007 that dropped to half its value and was riddled with sinkholes in sight of the backyard. (Shoot, it probably had Chinese drywall throughout too but I never found out. I got really sick there, though. Even stranger still, the rental house in New Town has been condemned for mold. When I said a few years ago that I needed to go somewhere to "dry out" I thought I just meant from all the crying. Turns out I knew more than I consciously knew...)

The only exceptions to this rule are the people I knew with small children in their thirties. It seemed to me, at least from the outside, that they were or are able to weather midlife better because they were completely distracted by their children's needs. I can only venture to guess that their karma bill was already paid up or that something wacky will find them down the line. But like I said, these people were few and far between.

I think the urge to escape is connected with the flight or fight response. When we can't fight a foe like the overall American housing market, we have to take to the streets, on wheels or running shoes. In the worst part of my time in Winterville, I had this constant urge to run, but I knew I'd have to run back "home" eventually. Still, the urge to run haunted me. Run away, run quickly away.

It's times like these when I am grateful for all the changes that have manifested in the past two years. My man and I are having our two-year anniversary this month and I couldn't be more thankful for all that we've brought into each others' lives in such a short time. Sometimes I think back on the bad behavior and difficult things I had to endure, and then I realize it's over. Thank goodness.

From a book I recently read (by Natasha Solomons): A man who has experienced great sorrow, and then has known its end, wakes each morning feeling the pleasure of sunrise. 

Here's wishing you all the pleasure of sunrise (or whatever it is right now, wherever you are in the world).

Much love,
Jane and author

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Day After Day...

This weekend is affording many of us an extra day to be social or take care of business or do whatever needs to be done, and I am immensely grateful for it- especially since it's novel feedback season with my group and I have a lot of reading to do.

Right now my Jane story is being circulated among some reviewers. I had to submit a minimum of 150 pages but submitted the whole thing- a whopping 300+ pages- to reviewers. (We're not obligated to offer comments beyond 150 pages but I read the whole submissions because, well, I want to know what happens next!)

On a different note, something really strange happened this week. I got word that someone I knew in college passed away at the age of 41 from a fast-growing liver and/or kidney cancer. Given, a friend of his told me that he ignored the symptoms too long, but even so, that's really something to think about. About 20 years ago, I lost one of my uncles to liver cancer (and ensuing complications) a few weeks shy of his 40th birthday, and I thought that was a very rare, isolated incident. Now that it's happened twice in my life, and to people around age 40, I wonder how rare and isolated it really is.

Generally speaking, we could all stand to eat better-quality food. We can visit juice bars and get appliances that help us make really nutritious food at home. We can buy those DETOX teas and bear with the taste, knowing that our liver enzyme numbers will be all the better for having ingested it. Sometimes we need to be reminded to take care of ourselves.

I had a liver enzyme scare about a year ago and had to make some adjustments to my habits and diet:

I even started juicing after I moved to be with Hubbs, and it's a great habit that I will continue.

My liver problem wasn't a life-or-death issue at that point, but we need to be aware of these things. Some problems are hard to fix. Sometimes making a change is like turning a barge around in the ocean: it takes time and a lot of work and of course it isn't easy, either.

My friend from college is someone I haven't seen since the late 90s, whom I associate with that stage of life. Earlier today I thought of the reason/season/lifetime poem: namely, that some people you know for a reason, others just for a season, and some for a lifetime. While we can't stay in touch with everyone we know forever, it's good to have known them. I know he touched a lot of lives in his time on earth and I am sure he's resting in peace now.

If you're reading this today, do me a big favor and go to the doctor for an annual checkup sometime before the end of this year. Get your bloodwork done and make sure that your numbers are OK. If there's anything amiss, do something about it. Make your positive changes, and get your blood checked again after a few months pass. I promise you, you won't regret it.

Much love,
Jane and her author

Friday, 22 August 2014

'Tis Better to Give Than to Receive... Or is it?

Right now, I'm waiting on my peer review. It took five years to write the book and all year so far to fine-tune it and make up an ending (including a dude that looks like Daniel Craig because I'm the author and I can make that happen!).

However, I'm not just waiting. I'm providing others with feedback, too. Essentially, I'm reading one book every week or so and providing feedback in the hopes that it will make the writer's work that much better and accessible to a broader audience.

It's amazing what you can learn about someone from reading what he or she writes. For instance, the story I'm reading right now is a political thriller and the author has a lot of opinions that get threaded throughout, such as "everyone knows that such-and-such federal policy would lead to problems," or other things phrased like that. It shows a bias and shifts from telling a story to telling the reader your opinion about something (as the writer).

I'm advising this person to make the author's viewpoint the viewpoint of the story's main character. This way, we as readers learn more about the character's makeup and ideas and feel less like we're being told something.

That is one of the biggest challenges of writing: showing instead of telling.

Being able to assess someone's work objectively is easy enough when it's not familiar to you, but it's a whole different ballgame when it's your own writing. Having sent away the draft, now I have to wonder: what have I revealed about myself in my writing? What biases of mine am I blind to? What obvious things will be pointed out to me in this process?

I hope all the obvious things that have flown right by me will be pointed out to me in this process. I'm sure there are at least a few. I hope that light bulb goes on and stays on!

In any case, thanks for tuning in and I hope I have lots to do once the reviews are in... but in the meantime, I have a lot of writing to do.

-Jane's Author

Friday, 15 August 2014

Breaking up with Microsoft Word


My relationship with Microsoft Word is no longer personal, although I will continue to work with it on a professional level assuming there's a team of experts at the ready to fix whatever goes wrong with it.

Two months ago, I "tried" the new Office Suite for "free" for a month. I did this to get more familiar with the new PowerPoint, as a firm I know of was considering hiring freelancers and I needed to know more about that program. After poking around in it for a while, I realized how little experience I had with it, the company decided not to hire a freelancer, and all was forgotten. My "free" month was up, and it was time for me to take it off my computer.

I removed PowerPoint- no problem. Excel- check. When it came to Word, however, it didn't want to default to the old bought-and-paid-for Word 2010. The new 2013 Word hung on. Finally, my in-house IT department (Husband) figured out a way to get it off my computer. Whew! I thought. Prematurely.

My first clue that there was a problem came when I'd open my book to work on it, add a few new scenes, smooth out some other areas, save and close it- then open it to find that the changes hadn't been saved. OK, I told myself, that was my fault. I did something wrong. But seriously, after working with MS Word every day for the last 14 years full of workdays, was I really capable of "forgetting" to save my work all of a sudden?

Nope. It was not saving my work.

The work of a writer isn't easy when the systems work well. We're still trying harder and harder to get our words to say what we want them to say. Being stymied by the system isn't cool.

This problem also affected my freelance work, which completely horrified me. By now, I've righted everything that was wrong, but I am so disappointed that mistakes were made on my watch.

So I'm upset with MS Office and ready to un-install it from my computer. Diva and I have shared MS Office 2010, and if she mails it to me, perhaps I'll reinstall. For now, though, I'm taking a much-needed break.


Friday, 8 August 2014

Flexible Author Deadlines and Mining My Friend's Memory Banks for Gold

People in my writing group cried and stomped their feet and got their way this time- our deadline has been extended beyond today! However, I've already made plans to be busy this weekend, so I might just keep the original deadline and turn it in tonight. It kind of makes my eye twitch when I think about working on it some more. I really hope everyone likes it!

I interviewed a friend of mine this week to find out her typical middle-class upbringing as a member of Generation X and a daughter of two Baby Boomers. Some things were parallel to my upbringing, others the sort of thing I'd see on TV and wonder if people really acted that way.

I did this to get some backstory for Jane, since she's got an English name and looks and the writer of this story is slightly more ethnic.

The first question I asked to her and a car full of kids (her own, plus a niece and two nephews) was: what did/do your parents call you?

I got these answers: Sugar britches, pumpkin, honey, girly-girl, princess, and stretch.

But the best part was when they'd say your full name when you were in trouble. However, you have to have a short name in order for this to roll off the tongue. They'd call you Jennifer Anne, or Anne Marie, or Melinda Sue, or whatever your name was.

They never went on regular vacations, but did travel to visit family. They couldn't afford hotels or airfare so dad would drive straight through and they'd stop at roadside rests. I wonder how typical this is to children of Boomers because I can count our family vacations on two fingers and my parents are also power-drivers. How many times have I heard, "I want to get home to my own bed"? Clearly, they've never stayed at the Hampton Inn!

Mom sewed and made matching outfits for the kids. BOTH of us were subjected to this. That, in addition to catholic school uniforms, has resulted in PERMANENT SCARS. Just kidding. It's really cool to have a mother who sews, don't get me wrong. It's the matching outfits that are the killer.

Some of her stories were not so funny:
-a broken elbow (ouch!)
-a cactus needle in her eye (double-ouch!)
-a move to another state when one cat disappeared and the goldfish died before they got to their new house (so sad)

My favorite answer was when I asked her about her mom's fascination with Dolly Parton. Seriously, who doesn't love Dolly? Between the great songs and the sparkly clothes and the huge hair and the crazy heels, she's every woman. I found out that my friend listened to a lot of Dolly Parton and John Denver as a kid because, when I told her that her birthday was the same day as George Harrison's, she asked me who George Harrison was. Needless to say, I was kerfuffled, so I asked her that if she didn't know much about the Beatles (and how had she managed that?), whose music she heard most growing up? The answer was Dolly and Denver.

It turns out that she and her sister had a dance routine to Dolly's famous duet with Kenny Rogers, "Islands in the Stream." Naturally, I told her that we need to come up with a dance routine on our next girls getaway. We might need a few daiquiris first, but it sounds fun!

Jane/author lady

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Author notes: August 6, 2014

So much to do before the deadline! I added this nifty visual aid so you could see part of my creative process.

I originally wrote about one of my dating attempts that's frankly a snore, so last night I decided to challenge myself to re-do it. In essence, change Tim from boring to crazy. I had to write myself a note to make sure I'd remember. Diva had lots of suggestions for me and reminded me of sweatpants-on-the-first-date guy who chain smoked, guys who ate dinner before our dates so they wouldn't have to buy our dinners (this happened to both of us, believe it or not), and the guys who were tip-averse, when we'd circle back to the restaurant and add to their small tips for our servers!

Seriously, if you know of anyone who avoids dating, just respect that person's choice!

Also, a special note to a special friend: I chose the name Tim because it's popular for our generation, not because it reminds me of anyone named Tim. Your husband Tim is stellar!

Also, in the story, my drinking friend Patti manages to leave Winterville with an engagement looming on the horizon, and yet I forgot to mention that in the pages that followed. It's understood that she'll invite me to her wedding but I probably won't want go because weddings aren't really much fun if you go stag after you reach your mid-30s. At least, that was my observation as a woman of a certain age.

My days are full of fun stuff, and prep for my new job stuff, and I'm grateful for every day I have to devote to writing, whether it's in an office, for a freelance client, or on my own.

Your friend,

Monday, 4 August 2014

Oh My God, You Guys

Hi friends:

There's a song in the Legally Blonde musical (yes, they made it into a musical and it's fabulous!) called "Omigod You Guys" that Elle and the sorority girls sing. It kind of explains why this blog post is late. 

There has been SO much excitement on this end lately!

First, I got a job offer out of the blue from a place that had initially chosen not to hire me. I am over the moon excited and plan to go new clothes shopping pronto. 

Second, I got my engagement ring back from the jeweler. It's now white gold and the proper size for my finger. The design was copied from the original, but version 2.0 is sturdier (6 prongs instead of 4!) and shiny and new.
Omigod, you guys
This one's perfect and its just my size
See, dreams really do come true, you never have to compromise

Third, Hubbs and I are both under major deadlines. He's taking a licensing test for computer wizards on Thursday and I'm handing in the "final, just for now" draft to my reviewers for their opinions on Friday! I know I've been writing since I was a kid, but it's intimidating nevertheless. 

So here is my progress report for you:
1) A new character, the itchy crotch guy, has been added to the story. He's the grandson of the tycoon who bankrolls the company in Winterville, and everyone has to pretend that he's an actual contributor instead of a drunk who can't keep his hands off his pants.
2) Jane's family and their backstory has been invented. Jane's mother, a cheerleader, married her dad, a high school/college football player. They had Jane, the Tuesday Addams of the group, and her perky blonde sister Jennifer, who from the outside has a perfect life. 

That's all I have for now! I need to get back to work, enjoy a nutritious lunch and then go out into the world to buy some new work clothes. I'll try TJMaxx first. Cue Elle:
I'm not about to buy last years dress at this years price.

Jane and her author

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie? Diva and Jane and whoever else?

Hi friends.

Well, if you know me well, you know that I don't go out looking for trouble that often (unless the brand of trouble is a good-looking man with soccer player legs; in that case, when I was single, I constantly looked for trouble!). But seriously, folks, it's been a defense mechanism all through life to downplay the drama... and then I decided to write a book.

My fellow critiquers and I laugh about it by now. I've worked with them for almost 8 months and they all know I'm not the conflict writer. Other people write fight scenes with stuff blowing up and all kinds of crazy actions that people take, and I'd rather write about people partying at the beach because that's fun.

THIS is my conflict as a writer: I don't easily write about conflict.

Soooo, with my deadline less than 2 weeks away, this is my challenge. I have to add in situations and sometimes people to scenes that I thought were done- at least for now. I wonder if it'll add interest and keep the readers engaged or if it'll seem like I'm trying to add Poochie to an Itchy and Scratchy episode. Anyway, here are a few gems I plan to sprinkle throughout the story:

  • Gritty male coworker who won't stop scratching his crotch. Since he is tall, it's right in Jane's view when she's sitting at her desk. Based on an actual person who rode his bike to work and then itched all day, presumably from the sweat. When he left (or rather was escorted away from) work, I was attacked by sand gnats a few days later in my nearby cubicle. Apparently they missed their original host. 
  • Mechanics who want to sell Jane a new transmission when her car only has 70k miles on it. Based on real mechanics who tried to sell the writer of this story a new clutch when her car had only 70k miles on it.
  • The master planned community where Jane's townhouse is located has a sinkhole that swallows part of the road. The builder and the city of Winterville fight over who's going to fix it for 8 months. All the while, a gaping hole remains. Jane wants to do a short sale but she has to wait until those 2 entities fight it out in court because what kind of homebuyer would want to live there with a giant hole in the ground? Inspired by true events.
What do you think? Is this enough conflict for you? I have a lot of work to do. 

Jane and her author

Friday, 25 July 2014

Bad Behavior after the Trip to the Bar...

Hi friends! Happy Friday!
Here is a scene I've worked on from early on in the book, when I'm attempting to socialize with my train-wrecky neighbor J.T. at the Steak and Shake after happy hour. I hope you find it as amusing as I do! Omigosh, some people are soooo stupid!
“I have so much more potential than this,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“It’s a recession, J.T. You’re stuck. Just like everyone else.”
“Speak for yourself,” he muttered.
Our food arrived and we ate in silence. I ate my bowl of chili and smiled to myself about how that might break the bank.
J.T. persisted in his dark mood. He continued to stare at the yokel as we left the booth, and just as I found myself regretting my choice to be the designated driver (and too nice to ditch him earlier), I saw something interesting after we paid the bill and started walking toward the car. He had taken off his belt and was winding it around his hand. The yokel with the snake tattoo appeared in the parking lot to stare him down some more, and they started doing some sort of pre-fight ritual that involved watching each other and walking slowly in a big circle.
Of all the times in my life I’ve been too nice and put up with bad behavior, I thought, it really should end now. What was going to happen? Some bloody parking lot fight, or police activity? I’d managed to stay out of trouble in Winterville by flying under the radar, but being associated with J.T. would definitely put me in the spotlight with local law enforcement and who knew what else.
Plus, I thought, This guy is an idiot.
I crept quietly to my car and pressed the button on my keychain to unlock it. The parking lights flashed, but the two men took little notice. I sat down in the driver’s seat, turned on the ignition, and quickly put it into reverse. 
            J.T. looked at me in a panic as if to say, Wait. I hit the power lock button and started driving.  

Saturday, 19 July 2014

It's the Birthday Friend Purge Spectacular!


In addition to my usual excerpt, I'm also adding a post to let you know what's going on in my life as Jane's esteemed author.

It's my birthday! Not to be mixed up with Jane's birthday, which is the anniversary of the dream and coincidentally also Shakespeare's birthday. No, Jane's esteemed author was born today, some years ago.

I had the dubious honor of deleting someone off of Facebook today. This person made a snarky and rotten remark to me in the tone of someone who was contemptuously talking down to me, and I just wasn't having it. So- good riddance to bad rubbish. It's not the first Facebook pruning and I'm sure it won't be the last. Sometimes I tolerate people I probably shouldn't, but in the long run, I have to be true to myself and keep around me the kind of people I truly like, whether it's in real life or online.

This isn't the first time this has happened. I knew a very mean woman in college named Rebecca who acted like she was my friend to my face and said terrible things about me behind my back. I had a feeling in my gut that this was so, but didn't act on it until I had hard evidence years later. How I wish I'd listened to my gut all those years before and faced up to the situation, but it was better late than never. I decided when I turned 30 that she and another person (see blog post from last year here) were out of my life for good...

I always seem to get a lift around my birthday. It's as if I'm taking inventory and deciding what gets to follow me into the next year of life. Anyway, cheers, my friends. Thanks for tuning in, and best wishes for you in the week ahead.

Jane's esteemed author

P.S. from Jane: OK, we have to stop hopping around now. My esteemed author is valiantly trying to get the end of the book written (properly- the bare bones are in place) for her big peer review next month and besides, we can't give out all our secrets! Some of this ending has to be a surprise, and let me tell you, some of this stuff is nutty! So, what we'll post from now on will be rewritten sections that have been peer reviewed and re-worked. I hope that works for you all too. 

Much love,

In this next scene, I am celebrating the demise of my temporary employer, a mortgage company that was closed down by the Federal Reserve!

   I logged in to my computer and turned on my phone just to make sure I’d heard that news bulletin correctly. I had six text messages already, which wasn’t bad for a woman in Winterville with one friend:
   Text 1, from office manager: DO NOT report to work. TB&J is closed until further notice. HR will mail final paychecks to employee’s addresses on record. DO NOT reply to this message.
   Texts 2-6, from Patti:
Are you up? Did you see the news?
No more work at TBJ! Call me when you get this!
Landlord is letting me out of my lease early. Starting to pack already. Want to help me pack? I’ll buy you lunch!
Call me! I need to talk about this!
   I replied to Patti’s texts with my own:
This is the best Monday morning ever! I’ll come to your apartment after I get some more sleep, but only if you promise that Jenny won’t be there too.  Lucky you, moving away and getting engaged! Take me with you!
   Patti texted back:
Why the hell would Jenny come over? And why would I invite her? She doesn’t work, she shops! See you soon.
   I showed up at Patti’s apartment around 10:30 a.m., wearing a t-shirt, a pair of overalls, and some sneakers. Patti’s hair was up as usual, but in a ponytail instead of her usual updo. It was the first time I’d seen her in casual clothes and sneakers, although she still looked like she’d walked straight out of an Old Navy summer shorts commercial.
   We collected boxes from a nearby liquor store, bought more boxes and packing material, and worked as long as the caffeine in our lunch drinks allowed. 
   “Thanks for keeping me company for all of this, and helping out,” Patti said as we sat in her living room, surrounded by boxes, after we’d run out of steam. “It’s good to have someone familiar around with all the changes coming up.”
   “You’re welcome. I am glad to do it, because I know someday it will be me who’s leaving, so it’s almost like rehearsal, you know? Getting ready for the real thing.”
   “It probably sounds cliché, but change really can sneak up on you.  Even if you’re not ready for it, you have to deal with it.”
   “Do you need a drink, Patti?” I asked, half-joking.
   “No, but I am just a tad bit nervous about all of my life changing so quickly. Well, maybe I do need a drink,” she confessed.
   “I could use one too. You don’t want to pack that mostly-empty bottle of rum, do you?”
   “Heck no, bring it over here. There’s got to be something to mix it with in the fridge.”
   Once our drinks were prepared, she began a small speech.
   “To drinking buddies near and far. May we remember each other whenever we raise a glass for the next toast, and the one after that,” Patti said.
   “To being prideful,” I added. “We should look that up.”
   We clinked glasses and sipped our rum and seltzer water drinks. Then, she fumbled around on her smartphone and eventually found a website with that information.
   “It means being arrogantly superior and disdainful of others who you think are unworthy. And also, people around here use the word whenever they’re jealous of anyone else’s success.”

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Dream Date with Darren, continued...

Hi friends! Today's blog is brief and late, although with the supermoon this weekend I was able to not only go to writing class and work on editing someone else's book but actually finish (the first draft of) THIS book! It's a good thing for my sake that we only get full moons once per month. So please excuse the delay, and enjoy your Sunday.
   “So did you ever take my advice?” he asked as we walked toward the surf.
   “What advice?” I pulled my hat down onto my head as the wind threatened to take it away.
   “To watch Mystery Science Theatre 3000. That’s some serious entertainment.”
   “Oh yes. One of my friends has Netflix on her TV and I saw it there. How I got through the 1990s without it, I don’t know.”
   He smiled. “Well, I had to bring up something after you mentioned Monty Python.”
   “That’s the first time I’ve ever mentioned Monty Python on a first date.”
   “So that’s why you’re single,” he joked. “If you’d have mentioned it sooner, someone would have snapped you up years ago.” I laughed.
   “Why are you single, Darren? I mean, you are still single, right?”
   “Yes, I told you that already. It’s just so hard to find a person you like enough to date, you know? South Florida is nice, but it’s not much of a place to date, unless you want to date a poodle.”
    “High-maintenance woman, you mean?”
    “Exactly. See, Jane, you’re more of a Jack Russell terrier. Less fancy and a lot more fun.”
    “Are you calling me a dog?” I taunted. He smirked.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Beach Rendezvous Time!

Hi friends!
Now, we are getting to the sparse part of the book, where I haven't written most of it yet! I do have a deadline of August 8 for review within my writing group, so it should get "finished" by then. In the meantime, enjoy this scene between Jane and Darren!
Yours truly,
The woman who's writing Jane's story
Dear friends:
Thank you for tuning in! Without your support, the lady who's writing my story might not be so motivated. Please keep tuning in!
P.S. This scene is at the beach, where I've gone to a rendezvous with a certain man....
   The next text I sent Diva and Sal read:
I had my hair done and then I came to the beach. Remember how windy it is at the beach? What was I thinking?
   I hoped my black scarf would come in handy this time as much as it did on the Key West Express.
   I took off walking to the south and watched the frothy surf race up and down the seashore. The salt water splashed onto my feet and legs while I wondered what was going to happen next. Would he look the same as before? Was he kind? Was he as sane and employed and quote-unquote normal as he seemed?
   What had prompted him to get in touch, anyway? Maybe it was the same thing that happened with Patti and Andy. Here we were, two people in Florida in our mid-to-late-thirties, looking for people to date and having all these odd encounters. Had his foray into dating after our Key West date been as lackluster as mine?
   My mind wandered for a few minutes, until I realized that my shorts were wrinkled from the long drive, my hair was tangled despite my best efforts and trusty black scarf, and I’d forgotten to apply sunscreen. Planning to return to the room, change, and primp, I turned around and walked a while until I heard the sound of my name above the pounding surf.
   He stood in front of the volleyball courts, equidistant between the hotel and the water. My stomach lurched, but I smiled and walked toward him anyway.
   “Darren! Good to see you,” I yelled over the sound of the wind and the surf.
   “Hey, Jane,” he said, holding his arms out to me and then folding me into a hug.
   “You’re looking well,” I said as he guided me back into the hotel.
   “Thanks, you too. You know,” he said, smiling sideways at me in the elevator, “I couldn’t remember what color your hair was, and honestly I still can’t. Do you always wear that thing on your head?”

Friday, 4 July 2014

Oopsie, I dropped something...

Hi friends! According to my blog stats, ALL of my current readers are American, and so, my fellow Americans, happy 4th of July! Whee! Land of the free and home of the brave...
This weekend's blog post comes courtesy of my fictional roommate Sal and me philosophizing and such. I hope you enjoy it.
Have a great weekend!
   Sal continued to work at the magazine and look for something, anything, elsewhere. She had a few phone interviews and a few meetings by Skype. Few things had gone past the first stages, and some positions that she interviewed for were actually not filled due to other organizational needs.
   I was grateful for her company in the townhouse, even though at times we degenerated into people who grunted instead of talked to one another.
   “I feel like we’re Golden Girls, only way younger,” I confided.
   “Exactly! We should be all Sex and the City, and yet we’re No Sex in the Country. What is up with that?”
   “You should write about it on your blog,” I joked.
   “That blog!” she exclaimed. “I don’t know what else to do with that blog. I’ve finally started writing tips and recipes for dinner parties. I have given up! Recipes! That’s like waving the white flag!”
   We laughed.
   “I didn’t know you’d run out of ideas. And yet, I see you every weekend, all weekend, here in your sweats. I’m sorry, I should have figured it out sooner.”
   “My life had a lot more sparkle before. I worry that I’ll never get it back.”
   “I do, too,” I told her. “I worry that I’ll forget how to have a conversation sometimes. I went so long without it. Will I be able to move on and be successful somewhere else? I’ve been here so long that I don’t know. I haven’t had the chance to try for something I wanted in so long that I wonder if I’ll be able to. Will I come across as even vaguely competent? And it seems like that would be the case, right? That I’d be paralyzed with fear once my time here had a chance of coming to an end.”
   “Wow,” said Sal. “Thanks for giving me something else to worry about, Jane.”
   “Sorry,” I said, laughing. “And you shouldn’t feel nervous. You interview for stuff all the time. You’re actually going for it. I haven’t even found the energy to get as far as you are with your search.”
    “You’ll get there. One thing at a time, right?”
    “Who wants a drink?” I asked. “We have rum and…” I searched the refrigerator, “ginger ale.”
   “Yes please.”
    I poured the two drinks and mixed them with a butter knife, which I threw into the sink full of dishes that were soaking. As I handed her a drink, my cell phone rang.
   “I bet it’s Diva,” I said as I reached for my phone, which slipped out of my hand and into the dish water. “Oooh, crap!”
    “Was that your phone?” Sal asked. “So sorry,” she said, as she stifled a laugh. “That phone was ancient, though. Is it ruined? You can get a better one now!”
   “Yeah, yeah,” I said. “I guess I’ll need to now.” The phone’s internal light sputtered and then died. Although I wiped it off several times, water continued to leak from the inside.
   “I can help you pick one out!” Sal said. She loved to shop, in any case.
   “For now, can you text Diva and tell her that I’ll call her when I can?”
    “Sure. So, did you know that you can check email and have internet on your phone even when you’re at places like work where you’re not allowed to look at that stuff on your computer? It opens up a whole new world. You can respond to people quicker and it’s easier to keep up with your job search. Trust me. I couldn’t live without mine. I wouldn’t steer you wrong.”
   “OK, OK, I hear you. I’ll get a smarter phone this time.”
   We spent the rest of the night shopping online until I put through an order for a replacement. Sal, who loved to shop, was more than glad to help.
   I also put up an announcement on Facebook: My phone just took a swim, so if you need me in the next few days, just leave a message here!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Life After Vacation... My Foray onto

Hi friends-

I am fresh from a writer's conference and one of the instructors astutely pointed out that when a writer posts a new blog, it should be on a Friday... So I think, instead of the Wednesday/Sunday pattern that I was doing before, I'm going to switch to Thursday/Friday and Sunday/Monday each week. That way, you'll have some entertainment during the week as well as something waiting for you for each weekend.

In this scene, I am back from the much-loved and needed vacation on the beach, complete with a hot date. It's back to normal life for me, and that means it's time to make good on my promise to my friends and start Internet dating.

  For the benefit of my wallet and my sanity, I had a dumb phone for most of the Great Recession. It didn’t receive emails, just texts and phone calls. The phone had no data plan, and I was thankful for that.
  My email inbox, however, became sprinkled with messages and invites from the southeastern United States once my profile went free range.
Buddy from Alabama, whose profile pictures included him in a fishing boat with sweaty armpits, was one of the first who sent me a message. “Hey Jane, do you like country dancing?” he wrote. Hmm, well, I don’t like Alabama, I thought. Moving right along...
  Someone who called himself Lone Wolf sent me some messages as well. 
  Hey Jane, you are a pretty senorita! Do you want to go salsa dancing with me in Winterville?
  The only place to go salsa dancing in Winterville was a dance hall located in a strip mall on the highway that ran through town, with a low-lit parking lot where knife fights took place on a regular basis. No, I didn’t want to go salsa dancing in Winterville.
  His profile picture showed a great-looking Hispanic man with well-toned arms. The back lighting on the biceps told me that it was a professional picture, one that the person behind the Lone Wolf persona probably ripped off an Internet site. Keep howling out into the wilderness, Lone Wolf. Maybe someone will answer, and then get to see what you really look like!
  Next came the parade of Papa Smurf clones. New Town’s university had more than a few older bearded professors who were looking for the companionship of someone young enough to be their daughter. A few were widowers looking to find someone to help raise their kids. I found myself in their crosshairs more than once.
  Most would send “winks” over to me, which I would ignore. However, there was one who sent messages to me, without any provocation or encouragement.
  Email 1: Jane, hi, my name is Stanley. I live and work in New Town and have many of the same interests as you. Please get in touch if you’d like to meet up.
  Email 2: Dear Jane, Since I haven’t heard from you, I don’t think I made a good enough case for myself in my earlier email. I understand I’m out of your age range but hope you will be open-minded and consider dating me. I have a long-standing career in New Town with the university and hope to retire here in the next 5 to 10 years. My living situation is stable, in fact my home is almost paid for, and I think I’d have a lot to offer a younger woman who enjoys having a career, being social, and taking in the natural beauty of this area by hiking, canoeing, etc. My children are grown and don’t live with me anymore, so I have lots of free time to spend with the right woman. Jane, please consider meeting up with me soon. I look forward to hearing from you.
Well. That was a lot to consider. Could I date an old, bearded baby boomer whose kids were already out of the house? Could I go out with a guy who was my parents’ age who wasn’t David Bowie? It seemed unthinkable. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

What Happens on the Island, continued yet again...

Dear friends:
Well, you know I must be far from Winterville in the next scene because I am on a DATE! I know, the excitement may kill us all. Anyway, feel free to point out my flaws and flubs on this date while I try to impress a good-looking blond man!

   "I work as a writer in New Town,” I answered, gracefully bypassing mention of Winterville.
   “I’ve heard New Town is a pretty cool place,” he said. “Probably better than Fort Myers.”
   “That’s where you live?” I asked.
   “New Town is great for the under-30 crowd and the retirees,” I said. “I see friends from time to time, and I work with some nice people, but everyone else has spouses and families. I mean, once in a while we’ll go to a concert or something, but most weekends I’m on my own. I don’t have as many friend dates as I used to have when I lived in Tampa Bay.”
   “Friend dates, I like that,” he said. “My friends call it meeting up at the bar.”
   “Yeah, I know. It’s girly. Sorry,” I said, smiling at him.
   “You’re not dating anyone now, I take it?”
   “There’s no one to date. I’ve met some unhappy married guys, and I’m not going there. Other than that, they’re seniors. Seniors in high school or senior citizens. Not much in between.”
   “Maybe it’s a Florida thing,” he said. “I go out and see either college girls or cougars.”
   “Right, but cougar sounds so much more appealing than dirty old man.”
   “Right, but they don’t all look like Anne Bancroft.”
   “Yeah, I bet. I tried dating someone 10 years younger than me, but he freaked out when I told him I used to wear a Swatch. Apparently his parents wore Swatches,” I said, and we laughed.
   After we ordered lunch, the conversation swung around to food.
   “You ordered a salad?” he asked me, after the waitress had left. I could tell from his tone that the busting of chops would begin shortly. “That is so cliché.”
   “Sad story, really. I can’t eat a lot of pub food or drink beer. I’m allergic to wheat,” I answered. “I swear I’m not making that up!”
   “What are you going to do if you get croutons? Will you die?”
   “Shut up. I’ll put them on my napkin and eat the rest of the salad. That is, unless you want them.”
   “When did you find out you couldn’t eat wheat?”
   “Um,” I thought out loud, “I think I was 31. So it’s been about four years, I guess.”
   He looked at me quizzically. “You’re 35?” he asked. “I thought you were about 26.”
   “Aren’t you thoughtful. What about you?”
   “I’m 35 too.”
   “Seriously? Class of 91?”
   What were the chances we’d be the same age?  I thought everyone else from Generation X was married already. Here I was with a guy who grew up with the same music, TV, and pop culture as I knew, who probably even graduated the same year from high school. This was what I wanted to find in a man if I ever was able to date again, but since my options had been so limited for so long, it wasn’t something I thought about that often anymore.
   Then, our food arrived. My salad, which was heaped onto a huge plate, resembled a plant more than an edible thing. I called it a shrubbery. Darren pointed out the window and said, “No, that’s a shrubbery,” while pointing to a bush outside the window behind my chair. I asked him to go chop down the tallest tree in the forest with a herring, and he laughed.
Here is a man who understands Monty Python references, I realized. I thought all the good ones were taken, or else really odd ducks.