Saturday, November 29, 2008

Channeling the Music of the Gods

Lacking Culinary DNA
OK, I'm a total failure. Instead of baking a chocolate cream pie for Thanksgiving, I brought a store-bought chocolate cake. I know, I know, I'm pathetic. I have to admit, though, my chocolate cake was a big hit. Even still, I felt like a total loser. I don't know what it is about the kitchen that scares me so. I would be so much better off if I could come to grips with the fact that I'm lacking culinary DNA and happily go through life canteen-free. But, every now and then the apron-clad devil on my shoulder whispers that I'm capable of working in the kitchen. You'd think by now I'd have learned to ignore this cruel and taunting voice. However, my motto in life has always been, "where there is life, there is hope." Clearly, I need a new motto. How about, "If you can't stand the heat, why is there a kitchen in the house?"

Screamers
Right now, I'm sitting in our music studio listening to my husband, Chuck record my son, Ethan's, band. Their music is hard core metal. What I'd like to know is, when did screaming become an acceptable vocal method? John Lennon did some pretty awesome screaming back in his day, but it seemed to compliment the music as opposed to fight with it. I must be getting old, but I just don't get it. It's scary to hear my parents words coming out of my mouth. In high school, they'd hear me listening to Led Zeppelin and say, "How can you listen to that crap? Why is the lead singer screaming?" For the record, Robert Plant was not screaming, he was channeling the music of the gods.

India
My deepest sympathy goes out to all touched by the tragedy in India. What an indescribably horrible drag. I hope that there will come a day when senseless death and destruction will no longer be a part of the human story. Until then, please join me in praying for peace and healing to those who need it.

Shalom. Peace.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Got a Nibble!


My First Nibble!
OMG!!! I got my first nibble! An agent in Washington, DC liked my query and wants to see the first three chapters and a synopsis of my book. OMG!!! If it's not obvious, I am like so totally way excited! (My inner Valley Girl comes out whenever I'm excited. Just ask my husband.) My dad was sitting next to me as I read the agent's e-mail and he said, "You just said OH MY GOD!!! so many times in a row, that I thought maybe you'd finally found religion!" Of course, he knows better, but I just couldn't contain my joy. I felt like a five year old in FAO Schwartz! (Did I mention I'm excited?)

You see, I felt like quite the failure when I didn't get any nibbles at the Algonkian Writer's Conference in NYC in September when some of the other (amazing, brilliant, fantastic) writers in my group did. Of course, I'm not dil-you-sional, as Lewis Black would say. I'm clear that said agent's interest doesn't, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that I will be published. But at least it means I've got a shot! And if this one is interested, than maybe someone else might be, too, right?

So, now I'm feverishly revising my first three chapters, and I need to write a synopsis (which I've never done before.) As I mentioned in my last post, while I was in Denver I met with Karen, my copy editor, and she suggested I chop nearly half of my book out and add more stuff mainly pertaining to my fascinating musical past. (Her words, not mine.) And, I've been a very good girl, working hard on this angle. I have also been advised to take my time replying to the agent, and I will heed this advice as well. I figure it's better to take my time and feel like I've nailed those first three chapters, then to quickly reply before I feel more certain. (Did I mention I'm excited? No, I didn't think so. I'M EXCITED!)

I'm sure plenty of you out there in blogland have had numerous encounters with interested agents. I'd love to hear your stories, both good and bad!

Holiday Dilemma
Replying to a post on Amy Nathan's brilliant blog: http://amysuenathan.com/ got me thinking about the annual holiday dilemma. How do you get stuff done for the holidays, while simultaneously enjoying them? I've got part of the answer. Say you don't cook! I actually don't cook, and, let me tell you, that little deficiency pays off in spades! Of course, I did volunteer to bring some sort of chocolate thingie to my cousin's house in Jersey on Thursday - not quite sure what I was thinking (maybe a big Toblerone bar?). I've decided that chocolate thingie will take shape in the form of a chocolate cream pie. Now, I can hear some of you kitchen-savvy types snickering right now, but this is like a totally way-big major deal to me (Uh, oh, here comes Inner Valley Girl. I must be getting excited!) I scoped out the pie crust situation at my local grocery store and found out they sell them ready-made. Brilliant! Unfortunately, my mom informed me that the instant pudding mix doesn't cut it for a great tasting chocolate cream pie. "You mean I have to combine the pudding mix with milk and then stir until it boils?" I asked. "That sounds dangerously close to cooking!" OK, baking, but in my world, they're one in the same.

Wish me luck. I'll let you know how it turns out. And, most importantly, may you and your families enjoy a cozy, joyful, loving, healthy, and laughter-filled Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A WRITER'S WORK IS NEVER DONE


A Writer's Work is Never Done
While in Denver, I met with my copy editor, Karen Carter. She is simply amazing. She read through my entire manuscript, all 70,000+ words of it, and edited the whole darn thing. She did a lot of cutting, which needed to be done, and by a lot, I mean nearly half! Fortunately, I've been in a major writing mode for most of my time here, and have written close to 8,000 new words. The challenge is making the new stuff fit perfectly with the old. It's kind of like putting a puzzle together with pieces from two different, yet similar puzzles. My original ms is very funny, and the stuff I've written recently is more honestly autobiographical and not quite as funny. I need to go back through and sprinkle in some laughs. I will gladly take any advice anyone has to offer! It's brilliantly clear to me that a writer's work is never done...

Birthday Surprise!
This morning we are having a surprise birthday party for my sister, Sharon. Little does she know, she is going to have to work to receive her gifts, because we have decided to send her on a scavenger hunt. I've had fun writing the rhyming clues for her to follow as she searches for her treasures both inside and outside of the house. And, treasures they are! My mom got her a traditional strand of pearls and matching earrings, and my sister, Michelle and I are giving her a modern-looking freshwater pearl and moonstone bracelet, ring and earring set. My sister, Laurie, always needing to be different, is giving her an original work of art from Africa. So far to date, Sharon has never read my blog. I'm hoping she doesn't start right now!

Denver Trip Winding Down
I've been in Denver for almost two weeks now, and I'll be going back home to Philly tomorrow. I've been trying hard to take care of my mom, which has been tricky. She has been suffering from a staff infection and related complications, and has been weak and unable to eat or drink much. For those of you who don't know her, she is a vibrant, life of the party kind of gal, so to see her in a weakened state is hard. However, the last few days she does seem to be coming out of it. I'm just so glad I've been able to be here to help her and my dad out. My presence allowed my dad to work a bit and even have a little fun with his friends. He is such an amazing husband and father, and it feels good to be able to give back. On Christmas Eve, my whole family will be traveling to Denver together, and we'll be here through New Year's Day. I hope my mom will be close to her old self again as we welcome in the new year together.

I'm also missing my husband, sons, and kitties! Two weeks is a long time to be away from your family. To Chuck, Adam and Ethan: "One more sleep!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Straight From the Heart

RECONNECTING
I had dinner this past Sunday night with a girlfriend of mine from high school. Back in the day, we were cheerleaders together. The first time I ever got high was at her house (not to be confused with the first time I ever smoked pot!). She was and still is gorgeous, sweet, funny and kind, and has lived a most interesting life. She dated a VERY famous rock star for a while, and was married to a fairly famous musician for five years (sorry, I can't name names here). But, what was most special about our visit was simply reconnecting.

Comparing memories is fun - it's interesting to see different slants or parts of the picture we each recall. It's comforting to know those we shared so much with in an earlier time, have gone on to lead successful, fulfilling lives. I make great use of my computer to keep in contact with people in different areas of my life, but nothing can ever match up to a nice, quiet one-on-one, with a glass (OK, bottle) of wine in a cozy restaurant by a fireplace. (Lucky for us, this was the scenario on Sunday.)

In what ways have you reconnected with those in your "past" life? Do you get together on a regular basis with anyone from high school or college or from somewhere you once lived, or do you simply e-mail to get caught up? Do you have any great reconnecting stories to share?

WRITING
Yes, I'm actually doing it! And not only on my blog! My copy editor made a suggestion for my book that I've taken to heart and am furiously delving into. It involves digging deeper into my rock and roll past - describing that whole musical world - and then tying it in to how I live my life now as a suburban housewife, and if and how music still fits into my life (which, thankfully, it does.) As she said to me, "How many girls in the 70's & 80's wanted to be a singer in a rock and roll band? And how many of them actually did it? I, for one, would love to hear about what that was like!" Great point. So, I'm working on it. I've penned over 6,000 words in the last few days, and I'm still going strong. Of course, this means rethinking the whole book. Should I make it more of a memoir sprinkled with humor or keep it as it is - a humorous work of fiction sprinkled with truth? The beauty is I'm writing purposefully and joyfully. And, although getting an agent and a book deal always seems like the ultimate goal, in reality, the ultimate goal should remain simply to write what matters to you - straight from the heart.

Any thoughts on the subject?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tomorrow is Another Day

Talk to the Animals
While I've been in Denver this past week, I have been taking morning walks around my parent's neighborhood. It is a big circle, and it takes about 25 minutes to complete my walk. The first third of the walk is flat, the second third slopes downhill, and the last third is uphill. About a year ago when I was visiting after my mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I could barely make it up the hill without taking a break or at least doing some seriously heavy breathing. Now, I hardly even notice the incline. I owe this increase in stamina to a cruise my family took through the Panama Canal in March. If you have never taken a cruise, I pity you. Cruising is the single coolest form of vacationing known to mankind. That is if - like me - you revel in being treated like a princess (or prince) in a 5-star hotel atmosphere complete with mini-mall, Zagat-rated food 24/7, pools built for the gods, a casino, art gallery and auctions, entertainment, a full European spa and salon staffed by gorgeous women with Russian accents (Chuck's personal favorite), and a gym that looks out over the serene Caribbean as you huff and puff your way to fitness. On this cruise, along with my weights and machine routine, I huffed and puffed for 35 minutes a day on a treadmill. I'd never done this before, always surmising that walking outside or on the track at my YMCA club was better and more interesting. That may be true, but it's not a better work out. I credit the treadmill with catapulting me into the next level of fitness, and allowing me to walk the Heritage Place circle un-winded. And, while on my walks, I get to talk to the animals!

Two days ago, I met up with a giant, black crow. He was towering at least 30 feet above me in a tree that had recently lost it's leaves. He cawed, and I answered back, "Hello, Mr. Crow!" I said this out loud thinking if anyone was listening, they'd think I was nuts. "How are you doing today?" I asked. "Caw! Caw! he replied. "Do you want to follow me while I take my walk?" "Caw! Caw! he replied."Great!" I answered. "Let's go this way," I said, pointing forward so he wouldn't be confused. Mr. Crow then flew from his current perch to a new one on the next tall, barren tree about 50 feet away. It was very cool. I was one with the crow.

Yesterday was even better. About half-way through my walk, I met a beautiful, grey tabby. He was quite patriotic, which was evidenced from his red collar with a blue stripe and white stars. He had a red bell and a red heart that listed his name and phone number. "Frosty" laid down in front of me on the sidewalk and rolled around in pure bliss. He walked with me for a while, and then laid down at my feet again. I leaned down and picked him up and set him in my lap. He softly dug his paws into my legs and got comfortable. He was purring loudly enough that Chuck could hear him two thousand miles away through my cell phone. Once again, I was smitten. Smitten by a kitten. The story of my life. Along with really fabulous Zinfandels and Cabernets, cats are my true weakness.

I was disappointed today when I took my walk and there was no Frosty. When I got back, my mom asked what was wrong. I told her my sad tale and she said, "Maybe he is a religious Jewish kitty and he's in temple on the Sabbath!" Maybe. All I know is, I miss my new found friend. "Don't worry," my mom said, "Tomorrow is another day."

She's right. I hope I'll see him tomorrow. And if not, maybe I'll meet a new squirrel or bunny friend. And, maybe we could share a glass of Cabernet!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From Crystal Nacht to Barack Obama - From Despair to Hope

It's a New Day
It's been 70 years since Crystal Nacht, the horrific night in Germany when the Holocaust began in full force. Windows were smashed, businesses destroyed, and buildings were burned to the ground. Jews were arrested for simply being Jews. No one could have imagined that the terror of that night would pale in comparison to the terror of the next few years. Gas chambers? Husbands and wives seperated? Children, even infants, shot in front of their mothers? Unimaginable. Or, so we thought. 150 years ago, blacks were slaves in this country. Sold to the highest bidder like cattle or pigs at an auction. They were then "owned" and forced to work hard, manual labor. If, after working for hours in the hot sun, they wanted to rest, or get a drink of water, they were whipped by their "owners" for their laziness.

Eight years ago, Joe Lieberman, a Jewish man, ran for Vice President. And last week, a black man, Barack Obama, was elected to the highest office in this land, and by extension, to the highest office on earth. A black family will be moving into the White House - a house that slaves helped to build. Blacks and Jews share a lot. They share the history of slavery. They share a deep knowledge of what prejudice means. They share the experience of what hatred feels like, looks like, smells like, sounds like, tastes like. And now - along with all the peoples of the earth - they share something else... hope. As will.i.am so succinctly sings, "It's a New Day." And, although we must never forget the devastation that hatred and prejudice bring, let us rejoice at the strength of the human spirit to rebound and transcend. Together let us offer a rousing, gospel-inspired song to the gods for bringing us to this brand new day in history. "Free at last, free at last, thank G-d almighty, we are free at last!" Amen brothers and sisters!

Like Steven Tyler, I'm Back in the Saddle Again
I'm back in Denver at my mom and dad's house. Today was my first day of a two-week stay. I helped my mom get to her doctor's appointment, to her office to get some work done, to the florist to order flowers for her office's upcoming annual holiday party, and to dinner at Panera Bread. She ate chicken noodle soup and a tuna salad sandwich. Seeing her eat is a blessing in itself, because she hasn't had much of an appetite lately. Even in her weakened state, she is so full of life and love and incredible insights. She is committed to being fully engaged in life. It is hard for her to accept that she needs help, but she is doing her best. My being here clearly makes a difference for her, and her being makes a difference for me. So, here's a toast to parents everywhere - may they be blessed with love, laughter, good health, appreciation, and, most importantly, with the closeness of those they hold dear.

Somehow Getting By Without Me...
My son, Ethan, called today and told me that his girlfriend, Paige, is doing something tonight that I never do. "Clean the house?" I asked. "No, but close!" he said. "She's making dinner! Chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, and all the trimmings!" Some kids sure know how to make a mom feel like crap! So I'm wondering, should I feel badly about this or should I send Paige a 'thank you' card and ask her what her culinary availability is on a weekly basis? Maybe I should insist that, even though Ethan is only 16 and a junior in high school, and Paige is 17 and a senior, they get married straight away and move in with us so I can have one thing I've always dreamed of - a full-time chef! And, would it really be so wrong for me to inquire into her house cleaning abilities? I'm in somewhat of a quandry. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Satan's Favorite Agent

COLORADO HERE I COME!
Well, folks, I'm heading to Denver again. Unfortunately, mom is still having a rough time. Family and friends are doing a phenomenal job caring for her, but I think it will help if I can drive her to the doctor (she's getting daily IV antibiotics), make breakfast (stop laughing - I actually know how to cook an egg), and do laundry. But, as Lewis Black would say, "have no fear my precious snowflakes!" For, I will continue this fascinating and informative blog in the land of many mountains...

POST ELECTION DRAMA
No, this is not about my neighbor, at least not the one two doors down. On Wednesday afternoon I was purchasing a few bottles of lovely, full-bodied red wines for our victory party later that night. The elderly, white guy who was next in line, asked what I was celebrating. "Our new president!" I said. He replied, "I hate to tell you this, but you just voted for Satan." I actually laughed out loud and told him that was the funniest thing I'd ever heard. He went on to explain that Obama is a baby killer and truly is the devil. And everyone who voted for him are agents of the devil. (Guilty as charged!) This guy clearly didn't know who he was verbally sparring with. I asked him if he and his peeps were so gung-ho on "saving precious, innocent lives" then why is it OK to shoot bullets into innocent animals for "sport"? He looked a bit flustered and muttered something about animals being lower species than humans. "If that's true," I asked, "then shouldn't we be smarter and more compassionate than them? And, if so, then how is it that hunters like Sarah Palin enjoy blowing their brains out?" He changed tactics and told me that the only people who have abortions are fornicators (duh!) and people having affairs. "Oh, really?" I countered, "What about all the people who neglect or physically abuse their children?" "In God's eyes, all children are in Heaven!" he answered. "Oh, yeah?" I asked, "I bet the kids who are being beaten by their parents think it feels a bit more like hell." And then for fun I added, "And, I bet you just love Sarah Palin!" "Why, yes," he said, "She's a real woman!" I guess I'm just a guy in drag, or maybe Samantha Ronson. The poor gal behind the counter looked like she wanted to crawl under an apolitical rock and die, or at least hide until this stimulating repartee was over. (Oh, and FYI: he mentioned the End of Days is near, so you may want to take that trip to Tahiti you've been putting off.)

VICTORY PARTY - A WILD SUCCESS!
Despite my encounter with the GOP (Grumpy Old Prick), our post-election night party was a blast! I don't know about you, but I am still floating on Obama-inspired air. It's both relaxing and exhilarating - like the afterglow of a great roll in the hay. What a major relief after these last, long, torturous eight years!

For the party, my friend, Joanne, made her famous vegetarian chili, and we had California rolls, hummus, salad, sandwiches, and, of course, soda, wine and beer. (My husband bought the beer and, in the spirit of the evening, chose a case from the Victory Brewery!) We also had a special guest. A full-sized cut-out of the President-Elect! (That's him above with my husband.)

I'd love to hear your election night or post-election night stories. And, if you run into the GOP, tell him Satan's favorite agent sends her love.

Signing off for now my precious snowflakes!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

YES WE DID!

VICTORY FOR OBAMA AND FOR AMERICA
Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. As Chelsea Handler would say, "What... a whirlwind!"

I watched with my husband, Chuck, and my sons Adam (who is 19 and voted in his first election yesterday) and Ethan (who volunteered with me handing out Democratic literature at the polls) as history was made. To be able to experience such a moment with your children is the manifestation of the American Dream.

I am blown away not only by the win itself, but by the depth of the win. For example, here in Montgomery County, PA, a place where McCain/Palin campaigned their tails off, Obama won nearly 60% - 40%! This is indeed a mandate from the American people. We have just stepped into a completely new (dare I say, transformational?) shift in American politics as we know it. How amazing is it that people, not only all across America, but all over the world were rejoicing in the streets at the outcome of our American election? Pretty damn amazing, I'd say. I believe Barack Obama has every intention to work across the aisle to steer the SS America into more calming and inspirational seas. He has already smashed to pieces the notion of Red States/Blue States with his phenomenal outcomes in traditionally red states (Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia, are you kidding me?!) thereby putting an end to the extreme polarization that this nation has experienced over the past eight years. Bringing us all together with common, clearly defined goals is key to opening the door to a more inclusive and more responsible American reality.

So, for now, my dear friends, family, and beautiful strangers, let's just sit back for a day or so and take in the glory, wonder and meaning of this - America's most historical election. There certainly is a lot to take in.

Yes we can, yes we did, and now let's begin!

MY SISTER, LAURIE!
Cut and paste the following link to see an impromptu celebration in Boulder, CO. The gorgeous girl hanging out the van window towards the beginning of the video is my sweet sister, Laurie!

http://www.dailycamera.com/videos/detail/boulder-celebrates-obama-win/ture at the polls)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Something's Coming...

IT'S A SUNNY DAY IN PHILLY!
OK, I promised a cheerier post. It's a beautiful, sunny day outside and you'll be happy to know I'm feeling much better! I'll be going to the gym when it opens in about an hour. I don't usually go on weekends, but I've gained 2+ pounds and I'm starting to feel fat. I know that must be horrifying news to all of you , and I'm sorry to drop it on you like that. Reality is sometimes painful. Secondly, I feel like someone has pushed the "pause" button on my world, so I need to take action! Do any of you ever feel that way? Like you're just waiting for something to happen, but you have no idea what? It reminds me of that song from my favorite movie, West Side Story - "Something's coming I don't know what it is but it is gonna be great..." I'd really love it to be a Grammy Award or a publishing deal. I think it's important to dream big. However, it will probably be a refund check for $56 dollars that I overpaid my son's orthodontist or my cat's not messing up the floor in my dining room for one, whole day. Maybe I'm sensing that Obama is going to actually win the election....!!! That would truly be something amazing coming...

ASHTON KUTCHER SNORING
OK, so this probably falls under the category of "TMI" (too much information), but as I write this I'm listening to the not so beautiful sounds of my husband (you know the one who thinks it would be neato to have a menage a trois) snoring in the background. Why do so many men snore? It's highly unattractive probably even in the case of say, Ashton Kutcher, who I would take under any circumstances imaginable including the loudest snoring in the world. In fact, if I were to be in the same room listening to Ashton snore, that would no doubt be a really good sign! But enough of my fantasy life.

STEPFORD WIFE LOOK-ALIKE ALERT!
Did you see John McCain and his Stepford Wife, Cindy, on SNL last night? Could she be any stiffer? She reminded me of the scene from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes pretend they are dolls dancing in front of the bad guys and singing, "Truly Scrumptious" (which, by the way, is what Ashton Kutcher is!). Honestly, she makes the Stepford Wives seem like the Smurfs! And, although John was slightly funny in their QVC skit ("just buy my knives - I'll use them to cut out all the pork!" yuk, yuk), he really just seems like yesterday's newspaper. I sensed it was all Tina Fey could do not to reach over and strangle him to death right there on national TV in front of millions of adoring viewers, thereby putting to rest any doubts of Obama winning the election. After all, Tina's the one who said, "If Palin wins, I'm done. I can't do that for four years. And by, "I'm done" I mean I'm leaving earth." That's why she's Tina Fey, because really, who could say it better than that?

And did you see the end of the show where everyone schmoozes and gets all warm and fuzzy? This is often my favorite part of the show - I love seeing the actors, host/ess, and musicians get all cuddly with each other. Again, Cindy McCain looked like she'd landed on another planet where everyone is lifelike, happy, affectionate, and normal and she wasn't quite sure what to do.

"Hel-lo. My name is Cin-dee Mc-Cain from pla-net Stiff-Ass. It is a plea-sure to meet you. Hu-mans are int-er-est-ing crea-tures. Well, good-night. It is time for me to fly back to one of my se-ven hou-ses on my pla-net. Oh, and, please make more hu-man ba-bies. There are not e-nough a-bused and ne-glec-ted chil-dren on your pla-net."

At least John made an effort to shake a few hands and kiss a few babies. (And by babies I mean hot girls like Casey Wilson, Tina Fey and Kristin Wiig.)

Two more days...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Gray Day

ELECTION RESULTS...?
I'm sitting here on this gray day wondering what Tuesday night will bring. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for this election to be over! I've been volunteering at my local Obama office, which isn't as organized as I would like. The same people keep getting called and it justifiably annoys them. It seems the organizers can't get enough volunteers, yet they usually have too many. Everyone is spinning their wheels right now feeling like they've got to do something, but at this stage of the game, there's really not that much left to do. The 7% or so who claim they haven't made up their minds either love the attention or are complete idiots. There couldn't be a bigger contrast between Obama and McCain, so what on earth could they be "waiting" for? I'll be handing out Democratic literature at two different schools on Election Day, but again, it's hard to imagine that will effect anyone's vote. I think, no matter what side of the aisle you're on, at this point we're all mostly singing to the choir. And, although I love to sing, this song's getting a bit stale...

MOM
I'm feeling sad because my mom's back in the hospital again. She most likely has an infection - a complication from the surgery she had over four weeks ago. She's in Denver and I'm in PA, so I can't be there to comfort her. I have no doubt my family and her friends are taking good care of her, but I still feel I should be there. I hate that she's feeling pain, and I hear in her voice how it's getting her down. My mom is usually so full of life and energy, and it's hard to see her in this position.

I promise my next post will be cheerier...

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