Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Samhain! (The best Halloween ever)

This one is for Sam’s friends.

(For those who don’t know, Sam J. Lea, a most dear, wonderful and tender friend, was found murdered in his apartment on Halloween in 2005. His killer was found and has since pled guilty. As far as I know, Kyle Nathan Johnson is still in jail.)

Sam had the most wonderful ability to weave himself into people’s lives -- to ruin our bad moods and force us to laugh hysterically, to kick our asses when we felt sorry for ourselves, to challenge our self-imposed limitations and to help us dream impossible dreams. He loved his friends deeply. It is impossible to forget his goofy laugh, his pirate shirts, and his intensity. Even now, he’s still bringing people together, still touching lives, still making us wonder.

Octobers have been hard for all of us. It took a long time for me to make peace with his tragic exit. It took even longer to forgive Kyle. But for me, the anger is gone at last. I’ve got a most wonderful story to tell you about Sam. What happened is bizarre and open to spiritual interpretation. I believe that it only could have happened now because I’m no longer paralyzed by grief and can smile when he pops up in my thoughts.

It doesn’t matter what flavor of spirituality you favor. I think you’ll appreciate the wonderful strangeness of this story. Bear with me as I give some necessary background. The surprise at the end is worth the wait.

A few weeks ago, I went to Ye Old Bull and Bush (an Irish pub in Fort Worth). I’d skipped an evening class to write a letter to my friend, Mark. He’d asked in a previous letter how I was handling this October. I began to answer that letter, when a stranger waltzed over to my table -- with incredible sincerity (and glass of red wine in hand ) -- and told me that my energy was “calling out” to her and she wasn’t sure why she had to come talk to me but she needed to. It was strange and intriguing enough that I invited Trudy to sit at my table.

It was a fascinating conversation that bounced from topic to topic for over an hour. Buddhism. Pagan beliefs. Interconnectedness. Art. She kept coming back to the topic of her two artist friends, of whom she was so proud for their achievements -- a man who’d finally come into his own as a painter, a woman who produced brilliant work at Renaissance festivals. It was interesting, yes, but I couldn’t figure out why on earth she was talking to me, however intriguing her thoughts were. She wrote her e-mail down on a scrap of paper and handed me a business card for the woman painter. I couldn’t help but think that maybe she’d had a bit too much wine or was a touch strange. But I don’t turn away interesting characters, no matter what they might be interrupting. You never know what you’ll learn.

For weeks, the card and scrap of paper have been stuffed in my wallet and I don’t know why I kept them.

Now, many of you probably know that Sam was in love with the Renaissance fairs. It played to his love of fantasy -- dressing up and role playing. We had our routine down when we visited Scarborough Faire every year: mead, tarot card readings, more mead, visiting all the costume booths, a palm reading, some good food, and not leaving the fair without some extravagant purchase.

I now visit the Texas Renaissance Festival in Plantersville on Halloweens. It’s my tribute to him. We camp for two days so we don’t miss the evening bonfire, drumming, and dancing. I toast him with mead and say a prayer. That place is simply where I feel closest to him. Sarah came up with this fitting tradition. We’ve also visited Scarborough Faire several times.

This year was different. I wasn’t teary-eyed and sad. We were having a good time when we passed a booth that featured fairy art. It reminded me of a story I’d forgotten about Sam. I told Sarah about it, how Sam had strayed from our routine during that last Scarborough Fair visit in 2005 to stop in a booth that featured a female artist with an interesting talent. She was a wonderful photographer and oil painter, who took portraits, painted over them, and transformed people into mystical creatures -- girls as fairy princesses, boys as forest dwellers, couples as kings and queens. Sam was enthralled. He was obsessed with the idea of himself as Pan, a Greek god. He’d really gotten into it, and I told Sarah about how he’d stripped down for his portrait session, so serious and yet whimsical in his poses.

We were chuckling about it, that happy memory.

Half an hour later, we walked past another booth and I stopped abruptly. “This is that woman’s art,” I told Sarah. “This is what I was just telling you about.” Sarah smiled and asked if Sam’s portrait would be here, turning to look at the portraits on display. “I doubt it,” I replied, ready to move on. “He wanted to be Pan, right?” I nodded, definitely not intending to find the artist and ask her about it.

But the artist overheard us. “I’ve only ever had one Pan. I still have all his pictures. Where is he? He seemed so serious about this project but I never heard back from him.”

We both froze.

“You have his pictures?” She nodded. “All of them?” She nodded again.

“He was such a beautiful man. They were too pretty to throw away.”

We told her why Sam never contacted her. The look on her face is hard to describe -- a mixture of shock and sadness. Tears welled up in her eyes. And mine. And Sarah’s. I still can’t quite believe that she kept his pictures for four and a half years, that Sam was the only “Pan” she’d ever had, that she remembered him after all this time when she sees hundreds of people every year.

She spluttered for a few moments. “He had such a beautiful face. I have so many pictures…”

I was too stunned to speak, but Sarah was quick to recover and asked if we could have them. She said we could. Christine Angele is a wonderful woman.

She started telling Sarah about the session and my memory sharpened, playing out like a film in my head. I remembered how he’d tried to climb her fake tree in the courtyard where she took pictures, how it had nearly come crashing down, how we’d all giggled about it, how he’d described exactly what he wanted to the point of sketching it on a piece of paper for her, how wonderful he’d been as a subject when he so often hated being photographed. I remembered rolling my eyes when he began talking to her about the project, that I couldn’t understand why he’d want this thing done and was baffled by how he thought he could afford her work, and how annoyed I’d been when he mentioned it the next ten times I saw him after the fair. You’d think I wouldn’t have forgotten that story, especially since he was naked during the session to “make it more real.” But I did.

How could I think that anyone would forget Sam? Even a stranger at a period festival.

I suddenly interrupted her. “I met a woman in Fort Worth three weeks ago. She talked about you a lot. Her name is Trudy.”

Christine smiled broadly. “She’s in the booth next door, selling jewelry.”

I could have said something cheesy, like “Wow, it’s a small world,” but I said instead, “That explains it. That’s why she came to talk to me.” I don’t even know where those words came from.

Later, Sarah and I found Trudy and told her why she’d found me in that bar. We didn’t speak long, but she was happy we told her.

Many Pagans believe that the veil between life and death is thinnest at the end of October, during the holiday of Samhain (which later became All Hallow’s Eve and then Halloween). Tradition essentially states that it’s the time when one might be contacted by those dearly departed, or when one should honor them. I don’t know all the details, but Trudy said that the events of that day had Sam written all over them, that he’s obviously in a good place “if he can pull this off.” She also said she believes that people subconsciously know when their time is nearly up, and that they appear to do strange things that will later have meaning for those they leave behind. Like having all those pictures taken.

The timing is important, too. Christine is always at Scarborough Faire and the Texas Renaissance Festival. I could have seen her on any number of occasions over the last four years. But it would have upset me too much, I think, and that’s why this didn’t happen until I was in a better place emotionally. Somehow, it’s all perfect.

It doesn’t matter if you believe in that sort of stuff -- contact after death, spiritual connections, etc. I think this whole thing does have Sam written all over it. And how wonderful that there are so many beautiful pictures of him that we’ve never seen! I’ll have them soon. And you bet I’ll share them with you if you like.

After much discussion, Sarah and I went back to visit Christine. We’ve commissioned her to complete the work that Sam had so dearly wanted. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity -- to have a beautiful portrait of him in exactly the way that he hoped for. She immediately offered the pictures freely, but I insisted to compensate her for her art. She’s still giving us an exceptional deal. She deserves to be rewarded for her instinct to keep those pictures.

I just thought I’d share this story. You miss him as much as I do.

When you think of Sam, don’t be sad anymore. Remember how happy he made us, and how dedicated he was. He’d probably kick our asses if he knew we were having a poor time on Halloween! Somewhere, he’s giggling and smirking about this whole thing and is extremely pleased with himself for finally getting to be Pan.

Thank you Trudy. And thank you Christine. You’re absolutely wonderful women and have made my year. Honestly.

And Sam, I love you so much, even if you are still costing my ass money in the afterlife! ;) I can’t wait to see your pictures. You’re going to be a beautiful Pan.

(By the way, I’m writing this from Ye Old Bull and Bush. It’s only fitting. I half expected Trudy to walk through the door. But she’s probably out helping someone else right now.)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Being Broke Made Me Greener

Any day now, I'm going to get that phone call to come in for an interview. It's only a matter of time. There's need for substitute teachers in this area.

So I'm waiting. And waiting. And trying to be patient and not pester the human resources department. I'm anxious to rejoin the working population, to earn that first paycheck in what seems like forever. I'm ready to contribute to growing the economy.

Being broke sucks. It's horrible. But I'm beginning to think that I was denied opportunities so long because I needed to learn some lessons about money, like the universe was saying, "Nope. If you find a good job now, you'll just blow all your money again."

Here's what a year of having to stretch few dollars has taught me:

**Having six different kinds of shampoo and conditioner from various salons is ridiculous, especially when the $3 bottle of 2-in-1 from the grocery store will do the job well enough. Most body care products (except toothpaste, soap, deodorant, and a basic lotion) are a waste of money. Commercials lie about creams that make your skin glow or tighten your ass. You might as well set your money on fire if you're going to spend more than $10 per month on body care products.

**If you only have $50 spending money per week, and a pack of cigarettes costs $6.37 at the local 7-Eleven, and you smoke a pack of cigarettes every other day, you'll blow half your money on something everyone around you thinks is disgusting. Ergo, making the choice to quit is a financially intelligent decision. Not to mention you're no longer killing yourself slowly.

**I did some research into my past bank records. Three years ago, it wasn't unusual for me to spend more than $600 per month on eating/drinking out. Wow. W.T.F.? What was I thinking? That works out to about $7,200 per year. Yikes! And more than half of that money was spent on beer and wine. I wish I hadn't eaten (literally) all my savings! Now it's a long internal debate on whether I can spend $10 at the bar.

**You can't buy friendship. It just doesn't work. So why do we have the tendency to want to buy drinks at the bar for near-strangers? Why do we spend more than $20 on Christmas presents for co-workers who never hang out with us outside of work? What's up with that?

**You don't have to go to a fancy restaurant to be romantic. Romance doesn't equal fine dining and luxury hotels. Yes, that's nice sometimes. But it doesn't have to be the norm. Writing sweet post-it notes and leaving them around the house can be just as sweet. Being more thoughtful with presents can be just as sweet. Making a nice dinner at home and eating it by candlelight can be just as sweet. Hell, free romance is even better: dancing to a special song in the living room, going for a walk through the park on a beautiful day, taking a bubble bath, etc.

**I can cook on a very tight budget. If I need exactly 24 spears of asparagus, that's how many I'll buy. Not 30, not even 25. I check the cupboard against my grocery list every time I leave the house now, whereas before, I'd just wander up and down the aisles and dump whatever shit in the grocery cart that appealed to me at the time. At one point, I had six containers of lemon pepper spice, four bottles of Worcestershire sauce, five containers of garlic powder, three tubs of butter, and four Pam spray cans because I never checked to see what I already had before leaving the house. What a waste!

**Speaking of waste -- I can remember at least ten occasions when I wanted to go on a date, couldn't find anything to wear, and bought new clothes for the evening. I couldn't find anything to wear because 90 percent of my clothes were dirty. I had plenty of clothes. In other words, I was too lazy to do laundry so I bought new clothes instead. WTF? You better believe I keep up with the laundry now. I haven't bought new clothes in a year. I don't need to. I take care of my stuff now instead of treating all my clothes like disposable crap. And there's no way in hell I'll even consider spending more than $20 on a pair of jeans. Plato's Closet and thrift stores, here I come!

**It is more expensive to be on a proper diet than it is to exercise. Seriously. Healthy food -- fresh produce -- is not cheap. It's much cheaper to make PBJ sandwiches and then go kick butt at the "free" university gym (admission is included in tuition fees). There's free pizza for attendees of a science lecture? Bring it on! I'll eat anything that's free, and damned the calories. I'll run it off later anyway.

**Cheap entertainment is awesome. I haven't read so many books for pleasure in quite a while. Belong to Me and Into the Wild are fantastic books, by the way.

**I will never drop another paycheck at the mall again. Shopping sprees that cost hundreds of dollars are ridiculous. And using coupons is NOT GHETTO.

**Memories are more important than stuff. I'll remember that trip to New Orleans. I'll never remember what I wore or what purse I carried. I'll remember that trip to Las Vegas. But ask me what souvenirs I got -- I have no idea!

**Most importantly: It is completely unnecessary to buy super-expensive presents for birthdays and Christmas, even for your better half. Do you think they are going to remember that $300 gym membership or the scrapbook of your time together? Are they going to be more impressed with the bistro-style outdoor patio set for two or the book you wrote just for them? I've decided that thoughtful presents are more important than glamor and glitz. I try to give presents that people can't get anywhere else. No more Bath and Bodyworks gift baskets. No more gift cards.

Money doesn't burn a hole in my pocket anymore. I think I needed this last year, even if it sucked money-wise. I'm not going to follow some of my peers in living beyond my means, accumulating massive debts, or being constantly depressed and disappointed because I can't afford that perfect living room sofa addition.

Being broke made me green. I buy less crap, throw less crap away, and don't want more crap. I had to learn the hard way, but it's going to pay off, I just know it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Con

It's been a long few days -- reading facebook status updates, being jealous, trying to tame the envy, reading more updates, becoming more jealous, trying to keep a lid on the envy and failing...


I miss the Con (The Golden Crown Literary Society Convention), a four-day long event filled with exciting workshops for writers/readers/editors, award ceremonies, games, a dance party, and tons of impromptu merriment and debauchery. Put a ton of fun-loving ladies in a room and watch the fun begin.

For me, being there as a writer is only a small part of the event. Going is more about being with friends and peers. I love the workshops, but I love the meet-and-greets more. I love the awards, but I love the dance even more. In short, I really, really, really miss my GCLS Con buddies.

I keep thinking that I should be there. Why aren't I there? Why am I sitting in my room instead of having drinks poolside (even at 1 a.m.)?

Life forces you to make hard choices sometimes. And the choices I had to make this summer were good -- but very hard. I decided to be a teacher. That takes lots of training and commitment and can't be blown off. I've sacrificed a lot of time with friends and family around here. But it really just hit me today how much I gave up.

In the long run, I hope my choices will allow me to never miss another GCLS Con. I'll have summers off. I won't be horrendously broke. I'll be prepared.

So have fun, ladies. I'll see you next year. Please post pictures.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What happens when you don't blog?

... You lose your password and have to spend an hour trying to figure out what it is.
I set up this blog under a special e-mail, too, one I don't access very often. In fact, that e-mail account has been deleted. Whoops. But I eventually puzzled it out.
In other words, I'm baaaaack!
Okay, here are some quick highlights:
I'm definitely not going to GCLS Con this year. It's a real bummer. I love being around my writing peers and lovers of lesbian fiction. But I have two good reasons for not going:
1. I simply don't have the cash. However, I'm saving for next year -- got $17.32 in the piggy bank so far.
2. I'm currently in training to become a middle school teacher.
Yes, you read correctly. Ladies and gents -- yours truly is going to be put in charge of educating future leaders.
(That's right. I passed my content test for Generalist 4-8 (English Language Arts and Reading, Math, Social Studies, and Science). I was terrified and didn't sleep the night before. My score: 286 of 300. That's a 95 average, folks. You only need a 240 to pass.)
Seriously, though, I'm really excited. I have a million ideas. Give me math -- I'll make them love it. Science? Heck yeah, we'll discover great things together. Language arts? You bet. Social studies? I finally memorized the Pledge of Allegiance and The Star Spangled Banner, so I'm ready to rock.
I've got my classroom rules all ready to go.
Except I don't call them "rules." Way too negative. Those laundry lists of do-nots always turned me off as a kid, and I don't intend to have any of those. My don'ts are implied in a much more positive statement.
Check it out:

Discover. Commit. Soar. Enjoy. Grow.

Come to class with a learning attitude
Be prepared, alert, polite, and eager to discover new knowledge.

Always do your best
Commit to working hard and never giving up.

Keep an open mind
Everyone wants to be respected, so be respectful. There are no bad questions and opinions in this class. Stretch your imagination, and let your ideas soar.

Have fun
Learning is easy if you have a positive attitude and are willing to enjoy sharing ideas.

Love your school
Be strong, proud, and productive for your community! We grow together as a team.

So there you have it. Good things are happening. My brain is being stuffed daily with tons and tons of information. I'm tired -- exhausted, really. Completely swamped. But this life-long love of learning all kinds of new stuff is finally going to be put to seriously productive work. And I can't wait.
Now, this doesn't mean I've given up on reading. Far from it! Having summers off is going to be fantastic for my writing ambitions. You just wait... I'll crank out a book or two annually. That's the goal. So hang in there. I'll give ya'll a short story here and there until next year.
Thanks for dropping by and have a fantastic week!!

Finally free, since June 1, 2009. I have previously "quit" but never really conquered the addiction -- always ended up sneaking cigs weekly at parties or with certain friends. I always used the crutch of "but cigarettes and alcohol" or "cigarettes and writing" go together. Not anymore. It's done.
I offically broke up with Marlboro Lights.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I've been...

...completely swamped lately.

It's crunch time for many of us co-eds. You gotta get in all those projects, term papers, extras, and still have time left to study for an exam every other day. Yeah, it's that kind of busy.

But it's not like I haven't had any fun lately. Sarah and I managed to sneak out of town for a few days a couple of weeks ago. We drove four hours north, north-east to Beaver's Bend Resort and Park in Oklahoma.

(Beaver's Bend... *giggle*)

We stayed in a cabin just outside the park with a few of our friends. And we had a blast fishing for trout. We actually caught some, too. They made for a very yummy dinner.

That park is absolutely gorgeous. It was perfect -- not too far away, not too expensive, not too crowded or commercialized. I can't wait to go back. And I hang on to the thought of that beautiful forest and river when I get too stressed.

Thank you, Sarah. I needed that.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ask me how I get through the day...

... and I'll tell you that for now it involves a lot of coffee, Red Bull, sugar, or any other energy-inducing substance I can get my hands on.

Today's menu:
One giant Red Bull, two cups of coffee, one chicken wrap from Sonic, one Cliff Bar, one Mountain Dew, one Milky Way bar, and one cranberry-raspberry martini.

Reread the above menu. Note the excess of sugar, caffeine, and a serious lack of anything decent. That's how you know you're back in college.

When I graduated three days after my birthday in December, 2004, I had an attitude along the lines of, "My Alma mater can kiss my a**! I'm never going back to school. Not for a master's degree. Not for anything."

Sometimes, when I remember thinking that, I kinda smirk and chuckle. Then there are those days when I groan in despair and can't help but wonder what on earth I was thinking when I enrolled back at UTA in January 2008.

It's hard -- telling my peers I'm back. I ran into a girl the other day that I haven't seen in four years and her comment was very matter-of-fact, "I didn't think you'd still be here. You were going to rock it out with the journalism thing."

(What are you still doing here? Hello?!)

I'm not still here. I'm back. For better or worse. If I'm going to jump career tracks, better now than later, right? Right.

That doesn't make it easier.

For now, I'd be incredibly grateful if the damned mid-terms could be over with already. Until then, I'll stick to my co-ed diet of Red Bull, candy bars, and chicken wraps.

The only thing that's missing this time around are the bi-weekly hangovers and all-nighters. Oh, and the last-second cramming that is a result of too much time at the bar and not enough time cracking the books. In so many ways, the last five years of your twenties DO make all the difference.

Oh, and forget about running and writing this week. I'll play catch-up next week -- that sacred co-ed week -- SPRING BREAK.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My "AWKWARD" Folder

A facebook conversation leads me to this blog entry. We were discussing whether writing at Starbucks is too distracting. There was some talk about rowdy children and teenagers.

I nearly always write in a social setting. I can’t focus if it’s too quiet. Silence is my distraction, my reason to pack up the laptop and call it a night.

Without the noise to stimulate my imagination, my laptop turns into this big white screen that freaks me out and forces me to reject even the most ingenious sentences as “seriously lame.” I’ll sit there – typing, selecting, erasing… sighing in exasperation, typing a new sentence, selecting, rejecting… cursing, and snorting self-deprecatingly – until finally reaching a breaking point that results in me jumping up to get away from the freaky white screen with its annoyingly blinking curser only to knock over the coffee mug, spilling half the hot stuff all down my favorite pair of jeans while the Husky nearby darts out of the room, clearly having decided that I’ve lost my damned mind.

Silence is bad.

So instead, you’ll find me sitting by the river near downtown Fort Worth – lots of noise from Interstate 30 – at Starbucks, IHOP, or occasionally at a college dive in Arlington. I just need a decent backdrop. In my head, it’s just buzz noise to kill the silence. If I’m stuck (writer’s block, grrr!), I can people-watch or pay attention to the way people speak. Either way, it’s a good study and beats freaking out over spilled coffee.

Sometimes, though, after writing a few paragraphs or a few pages, I’ll “come back to the present,” and catch a snippet of conversation out of context. Usually it’s just random junk – pets, kids, work, diets, fashion, whatever.

And then there are those other snippets of conversation. You know what I’m talking about.

I have a folder on my laptop. It’s called “AWKWARD.” Oh, yes. I’m that writer. The one who will jot down whatever weird, awkward thing you just said. And tonight I’m going to share my Top 15:

· "I get hot every time I see him, if he wasn't my preacher... Well, you know."

· "... I found him in the bathroom and he had two tampons shoved up his nose!"

· "Oh, come on. I know she's your sister, but she's way hot. You can see that, right? Have you seen that? What do her tits look like?... Hey, man! Take it easy!"

· (Woman on her cell phone) "...It's not my problem if she didn't want to know. She shouldn't open *that* drawer. Everybody knows what's in *that* drawer... Are you serious? ... Cindy, *that* drawer is where you keep the fuck rag."

· "I spiked it with Vodka... Well, I wanted him to go to sleep -- that damned kid was driving me nuts with his Bob the Builder bullshit."

· "I think I saw my boss fart at my co-worker on purpose."
"How could you tell?"
"He was standing behind her and he bent over like this, strained like he was constipated, and then it smelled really bad."

· (Lots of mad giggling from two teenage girls). "He said it was gonna be great... you know... with an Altoid in his mouth down there. But it burned like crazy!!" (more giggling). "... and I was mad at him so I *shoved one up his butt*!" (roaring with laughter).

· "We were laughing so hard... My sister snorted, and then I snorted, and then Tina snorted, and then I snorted again and a great big wad of snot hit the table and Mom just about died."

· "Excuse me... Um, not to be rude or anything, but you have a rip in your jeans and I'm not sure if it's the fashion or if it's not on purpose, but your flesh is showing. Actually, it's kind of oozing out of your pants and my kid won't stop staring."

· "I don’t know why you get to sit on her lap. I want to sit on her lap. She’s my babysitter, Daddy!”

· “… I don’t know if we’re at that stage in our relationship where we can give each other enemas, honey.”

· (Another woman on her cell phone) “Ewww. That’s disgusting… He really heated it up in the microwave?...” (laughter) “…Well, maybe he won’t blow his wad early again, now that he’s had some relief!”

· “Yes, I know what he means when he talks about his junk.” (Long Pause). “Oh, I thought he was talking about all the stuff he has flying around his room. Why are the kids calling it ‘junk’ nowadays? It’s not ‘junk.’ It’s good stuff. ”

· “It’s not my fault she hasn’t password-locked her computer or that she doesn’t know how to hide her files, or erase her browsing history, or that she leaves her diary all wide-open next to the bed, or that she has a shoebox full of letters in the closet.”

· (Fraternity boy on his cell phone) “… Man, you’re not going to melt into the toilet. Trust me. It’s not physically possible. Don’t make me come pry your sorry ass off the seat, dude.”

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Just Warming Up

Let me get the stats out of the way: My official time for the Cowntown 10K-run was 1:12:42. That time placed me in the bottom third of my division (F 25-29). About half the women who finished the 10K finished before me.

Some more stats: When I checked the weather first thing after crawling out of bed yesterday, it was 32-degrees outside with howling wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour!! Yikes! The trees were rattling against the windows and a quick step outside sent me dashing back for additional clothes. Even after the sun came up, it was bitterly cold and miserable outside. I applaud every single person cheering the runners and all the volunteers brave enough to hand out water and pick up trash. I don't know how they did it.

What weather to have on a first official run! It had been nice all week —70s and 80s—and I'd laid out a nice short sleeve shirt and shorts. Ha! I ended up running in sweats and it still wasn't warm enough.

At least I finished the 10K (althought the temptation to chicken out was strong). Now I know what a real running event is like. And no matter what the weather does at the next one, it'll never touch the ice block that was downtown Fort Worth yesterday.

I could be really disappointed, especially since I've completed 6.2 miles in just under an hour several times before. My time yesterday worked out to an average of about 12 minutes per mile, which isn't terrible, but I can do better. The way I see my 1:12:42 time is this: It certainly leaves a lot of room for improvement. It wouldn't be that hard to shave off 10 or 15 minutes next time. And you better believe that I will.
Some women have planned to be married by the age of twenty-five, have bought a house with their significant other by the age of thirty, and have that first baby in the house by the age of thirty-one. Me—I wanted to birth a novel by the age of twenty-eight (and one more every other subsequent year), run a half-marathon by the time I'm thirty, and finish my first full marathon by the time I'm thirty-one. Hmmm.
I haven't figured out the baby thing yet (unless I'm allowed to count books and dogs as children). But I know that I love to run and can only improve from here on out. It's barely been four months since I started running for real. I think I can handle a half-mari before the end of the year. I've just got to get Lesson Number One in mind: Don't. Start. Fast. Because. You're. Excited. PACE YOURSELF.

So here's my first run report:

Mile One: I was really excited and took off running as though I were doing interval training. Before the first mile was up, my throat was completely raw from sucking in the freezing air, I had a terrible stitch, and my whole core felt numb (I never warmed up!).

Mile Two: I had to walk out my stitch for about 30 seconds before starting again at a much slower jog. I focused on my breathing this time and keeping it slow so I wouldn't have a repeat incident.

Mile Three and Four: A slow, steady jog. I'd wasted too much in that first mile. Nerves, I guess, but I'll learn. I got in a grove and was slowly picking up speed.

Mile Five: I love the hills. I'd been so worried about Seventh Street hill that I spent a lot of time working on my hill performance over the past month. This is where I picked up speed and felt strong, relaxed, and good. (My mantra on hills: It's not a hill, it's just another step).

Mile Six: I was tired, my left knee started aching badly, but I knew it was almost done. My favorite part of the run was those last two-tenths of a mile—seeing the finish line. Sarah, Monique, John, and Diana were screaming so loud that I started giggling and laughed my way accross the finish line.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Getting Over the Midday "Blah"

Today, I felt extremely "blah."

You know the feeling -- that sinking weight in your chest and tight shoulders, a head full of pressure, heavy arms and legs, fingers that don't want to type, eyes that don't want to open, and a stomach full of knots.

That's what I call feeling "blah." Others might call it feeling unmotivated, lazy, stressed, moody, or a combination thereof.

I don't get this feeling often. I've been working my butt off, sure, but mostly I don't let it get to me. I'm typically at peace with most everything around me, even with all the bad news (layoffs, the economy, people all around me freaking out). The meditating has been very good for me.

Today, though, I couldn't seem to shake the "blah" feeling until I resorted to some old favorite pick-me-ups combined with a few new tricks.

A fast, hard run to force the heavy feeling out of my limbs.
A long, hot bath after the run -- complete with herbal bath salts and soaps.
Playing Queen on the stereo at full-blast; dancing around my room to "We Are the Champions."
Thick lotions, filing my nails, applying a mud mask.
Re-reading that beautiful note my girlfriend gave me for Valentine's Day.
Cleaning the kitchen and fixing myself a tuna sandwich (I love sandwiches!).
Taking the Husky for a walk around the block and watching his tail wag excitedly.
Knocking out a couple of small assignments so I'm free to tackle the big ones when I have more energy and motivation.
Playing tug-of-war with the Husky and letting him win.
Making faces at myself in the mirror; not taking everything so seriously.
Reminding myself that I have accomplished so much in the last couple of years and will continue to conquer my fears and let go of my resentments.
Smiling at goofy facebook status updates (Cindy Tingley) and happy celebrations (Sarah Spieth).
And finally... cranking out 3,000 words for a new book.

That's how I beat the "blah" today, and I feel great -- ready to tackle my management and business law classes tonight.

I love you all. Have a great week!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is it time?

Should I do the Breast Cancer 3-Day event this year? I've been wanting to participate for a very long time. But it involves a lot of time commitment and fundraising.

I want to throw myself into something that'll actually help people.

In other words, I want to do something good.

Is it time? And more importantly, will my peeps be there to help?


I just realized that my last post was about this kind of a decision...

So, I need to just go ahead and do it. In the coming weeks, I'm going to speak with a friend who is equally interested in the 3-Day to see if we can set up a team and do this thing together.

Is it time?

It's always time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

If not now, when?

I was talking to a friend the other day, who wanted to know when I find time to go to school, write, run, keep up with facebook (the ultimate time-suck), and still have time leftover for my friends and family.

The honest answer is that I'm frequently overwhelmed. The stress typically coincides with the waves of exams every three or four weeks. This past week? I was totally swamped. Hence the lack of new short stories and blog posts.

We can all find justifications for why we don't do the things that matter to us. And those justifications can range from bullsh*t excuse to very valid reason. ("I just wasn't feeling with it that day" versus "I had three exams that day").

But here's the thing. If something is really important -- you want to write a book or run a marathon -- you have to fit it in. You have to make it work. You can only take so many shortcuts. For me, the number of excuses a person will make for not doing something they claim they "want to do" really says something about their true commitment and dedication.

In other words, like my Dad says, "Shit or get off the pot." Do it or shut up about it. I know so many "one-day" writers (one-day as in, "One day I'll be a writer") who never amount to anything.

I didn't have time to write the novels I did. In fact, the first book was pieced together from e-mails that I wrote and sent to myself when I had a few minutes of downtime at work. Instead of surfing the net for ten minutes while waiting for a phone call, I wrote five or six paragraphs. Over time, it became a novel. And if that's what you have to do, then do it.

I don't want to sound negative about this. I just want people to be happy and do what they need to do to get there. If not now, when? Just admit that the reasons you're not doing something are excuses. Cut the excuses and get moving.

At any rate, I need to go transfer some notes I scribbled at the bar while waiting for my friend. It's all about making the best of your time. Every time.

Have a beautiful weekend!!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A (Good) Sign of the Times

So Valentine's Day was definitely different this year.

Last year, Sarah and I went out to eat at a very nice restaurant near Fort Worth's arts district. Then we went dancing. I bought her a bouquet of flowers and left them on her front porch. She showed up with red roses and a chocolate covered strawberry when she picked me up for our date.

This year -- like so many people -- both of us are struggling with money.

But, as our teacher at the Buddhist temple says: A problem is only a problem if you see it that way in your mind. You should never be upset by a problem. If there's a remedy for the problem, you should be happy that there's a remedy and start working toward the remedy. If there's not a remedy, you shouldn't be upset about the problem because there's nothing you can do about it anyway and being upset will only disturb your inner peace. Seen that way, problems become challenges instead of problems.

So our tight budgets don't upset us. They just force us to be creative. There are many remedies to a Valentine's Day without a lot of spending money. A.) Don't celebrate, just skip it. B.) Do something special for very little money.

I made four dozen red velvet cupcakes, decorated them with heart sprinkles, and sneaked them into her office at work so she could share the sweets with her staff. She wrote me a wonderfully sweet list of 25 reasons why she loves me. We made an awesome dinner at her house and enjoyed it by candlelight.

Cheaper? Oh yes. Less romantic? Absolutely not.

Lack of money isn't a problem. Lack of money just makes you think outside the box. You don't have to blow a bunch of cash at a restaurant to be romantic.

The economic downturn might be terrible. It is a very real crisis. People are losing their homes and their jobs. But they are also losing that extra spending power that allows them to just throw money at their problems. Kids acting up? Just buy them another Wii game. Trouble with the wife? Just buy her a diamond necklace.

And what about spending quality -- and super-cheap or free -- time at the park together? What about long walks, or cute notes, or a nice, homemade meal? Personally, I think there's a silver lining in all this economic drama. Call it a nice side effect. Without money to spend at the mall or on a new flat screen TV, we might just be forced to be with each other more instead.

Just a thought...

I hope everyone had a beautiful Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Picking Up Pennies

About a month ago, I was listening to an NPR program on the way to visit a friend. A guy was talking about how he started picking up change he found on the street and had saved over a thousand dollars in one year. He said his neighbors thought he was a bit crazy for searching the streets, but that he didn't care what they thought because he'd found a thousand dollars.


In the past three weeks, I've found $50.89. That dude was on to something.

Maybe I can make this my retirement plan. Better yet, maybe I can make this my plan to afford this year's Golden Crown Literary Society Convention ticket. I'm almost at 30 percent already!

So go ahead, folks. Drop a penny? Don't bother to pick it up. I'll find it.

Friday 2/6 -- $0.11 from the 7-Eleven parking lot on Camp Bowie Blvd. in Fort Worth.
Saturday 2/7 -- $0.30 found near the middle school down the street on Thomas Place.
Sunday 2/8 -- $1.05 found in three different locations along my running route.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hard Choices

Every summer, I attend a writer/editor/literary fan event called the Golden Crown Literary Society Convention. The society was founded to support the lesbian literature community and sponsors the annual event so we can get together and talk about the books we love so much.
It's a ton of fun -- much debauchery (and some learning with workshops) -- there's even an award show and following dance, which I like to call the "lesbian prom."
Last year it was in Phoenix, AZ. Hotter-than-hell Phoenix. It was good times, as usual, but seemed more sleepy and quiet than past conventions. Fewer people attended the event. The hotel was spread out and everyone was scattered.
I wonder... How many people are going to be there this year? It's in Orlando, Florida, and the rates are a bit cheaper. The society has done away with upping ticket prices for latecomers due to the economic situation. But still... Are there going to be even less people than last year? Is it going to be even more quiet? Am I going to have to throw another party in my room to shake things up?
Can people afford plane tickets accross the country?
I'm just concerned. It's such an important organization to have around for the lesbian community and an even more important event for readers and writers. With so many organizations hurting and failing during these hard times, I don't want GCLS to fizzle out. We need more people! We need people who want to party! We need people who want to network!
Good writers. Good editors and designers. Avid readers and fans.
If you're a lesbian and like to read, get off your butt. Join GCLS. Beg, steal, and lie to get to the convention this year. Bring your friends. Come on. Let's do it.
And even if you're not a lesbian -- if you just want to support the community and have a good time, you're absolutely invited to this event. We don't bite.
And I'll be there, one way or the other. If I have to rob a bank or crash in somebody's room on the floor, I'm still going to be there.
Here's a link for more information. They'll start posting schedules and more details within the next month or so. http://www.goldencrown.org/.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Brrr... Part II

I was supposed to run Tuesday and Wednesday. But when I looked out the window, the sidewalks were frozen over.

Dad said, "Ice and sneakers don't go together too well. So don't even think about it." Dad's still trying to protect me, like I'm ten years old. I guess what they say is true -- you'll always be that little girl to your Daddy.

I decided not to brave the weather. I had the idea of sneaking off to the gym to run inside, but if sneakers and ice don't go together too well, tires and ice aren't that much better. Especially in Texas, where nobody knows how to drive in winter weather. A little bit of ice will shut down the whole city. And it did. Thankfully, the storm wasn't nearly as bad as the weather channel initially predicted. As soon as the sun popped out yesterday, the ice thawed.

So I'm waiting for it to warm up today. It's supposed to get up into the 50s -- perfect. I'm tired of this cold mess. Is it March yet?

So yeah, I didn't run. And no, I didn't write either. I spent the afternoons hanging out with my folks -- watching the news, eating pot roast, drinking hot cocoa, and laughing at their Siberian Husky, who was scared of the ice. (So much for animal instincts).

There are a couple of deadlines creeping up on me for short story submissions. So I'd best get back to my notebook for ideas. Right after I run. And study. And update my facebook page. And... well, I'll get to it this weekend.



I've decided that I'm in love with GU Enegery Gel, specifically the flavors Orange Burst and Tri Berry. Yum. They taste good and prevent me from feeling like I need to throw up before I even finish the first two miles. I feel like I'm getting a treat every time I have one. Kinda cuts the craving for ice cream, chocolate, and cherry pie. ;)
And it was absolutely gorgeous outside today. I ran along the Trinity River. I took my notebook with me and sat on a bench for half an hour after my run to brainstorm for those short stories.
Guess I can kill two birds with one stone after all.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


It's 30 degrees outside (or feels like 21 with the wind). For Texas, that's pretty darn cold.

Now, I signed up for a 10K run on February 28 this year. Yup, one of the many Cowtown Marathon events. That's 6.2 miles. For some, that might not sound like a lot. But for the rest of us, that's quite a trek. I can do it -- slowly. I'm trying to build up my strength and speed so little children, people on wheelchairs, walkers, and people with babies don't pass me on the trail. ;)

So yes. I ran in the frigid cold. The arctic blast. In a temperature that made my butt, quads, and calves go numb so there was no pain. And I ran the fastest I've run in ages.

Five miles in 49 minutes.

My mantra: Get it over with. Get back to the house. Get in the warm. Get it over with. Faster. Faster. Faster. Brrrrrr....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Today's To-Do Item: Contribute a short story

Technically, I'm on break. That is to say: I'm not working much on lesbian fiction right this second. Don't worry. I haven't written the genre off. It's just tough sometimes -- getting motivated to keep plugging away at it because the niche is so small and audiences even smaller. Especially in these rough economic times.
It's sad to know that books have become luxury items. Cutting corners has become so necessary that books just don't make the cut anymore.
Still, I'm a writer. I write. It's what I do.
So, instead of despairing over the whole mess, I've decided to compile a list of upcoming anthologies and entry deadlines. I'll write for whichever call for submissions I can write for. The worst thing that'll happen is that I might waste a few hours goofing around on the Internet.
(Like I don't do that every day anyway).
So the first item for this year is a piece for Seal Press. The topic: "Girl Talk: 25 Letters to Our Female Friends."
No, this one won't be erotica. Lol. It'll be a bit more serious. As my mother might say: "There you go again, writing that noir stuff of yours. You're so funny. Why don't you stick to humor?"
Yeah, yeah. Sometimes, especially after a glass of red wine, I'm not much in the mood to crack myself up. There's something about the wine that brings out a need to reflect inward.
Anyway, here's crossing my fingers that by the end of the year ya'll can find me in a few new books! Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Time for a new blog...

MySpace is so dirty.

I swear, it's nothing short of a hook-up forum.

I haven't visited my MySpace site in forever and had to delete nearly 80 percent of the "friends" listed there because they were... well... being inappropriate. I discovered that after weeding out all the people who asked for a friend request simply because the word "lesbian" is listed on my site there were only twenty or so people left.

Enough of that. I'll be deleting it within the next week or so.

I'll chat about writing here every once in a while. I might rant about my characters trying to take over the story. I may post pictures from future conventions or book sighnings. Sometimes, like today, I'll add a little something simply because I'm excited.

2009 is going to be a good year. One of my short stories was published in Ultimate Lesbian Erotica Stories 2009 by Alyson Books. It's on the shelves in Borders Bookstores and Barnes & Noble. That's a pretty big deal.

And, like a dork, I took a picture of the anthology on the shelf. ;)

Thanks for reading my stuff!