Signs of the Season

Today is the first day it's actually been cool here. The high today is only 70 and it's possible that we won't hit 90 this week! Besides making my dogs act like they're puppies again, the cold breeze got me thinking about this post and missing my mom. This ran six years ago, almost to the day. It's one of the few blog post she ever read. And I think it made her smile. 

Thinking about Thursday

                 With the exception of one year in Missouri, I have lived my whole life in Texas and Oklahoma. Fall here never looks like the picture above.

                  For example, my children are still wearing shorts to school and my thermostat is still set to AC. The temperature this week won't get below 65 degrees, even at night.  So, it is hard to get into the feeling of the season.

                   In fact, I don't associate autumn with the turning of the leaves at all. Instead, I associate it with the smell of chili.

                  My mom isn't big on cooking. She has stated on more than one occasion that she could happily live in a house with no kitchen. But every year when the weather would finally turn cold enough to need a jacket instead of a sweatshirt, our house would be filled with the smell of chili.

                  The weird part is, I don't even like chili that much but it could definitely be considered one of my comfort foods. One whiff and I see myself in the warm glow of the lamp in parents' living room, sitting on couch with my feet tucked under an afghan, carefully balancing one of mom's special chili bowls on my lap. 

               And that feels like Fall to me.

What about you? What's the weather like where you are? What brings the images of the season to your mind? 

Until Dawn: My ill-fated venture into video gaming

Until Dawn - PlayStation 4
Sony Computer Entertainment

 I am not a all. 

My husband always has been. When we were dating and first married, I thought he was the most considerate man in the world because on lazy weekends he'd look at me and with a gentle smile and say my favorite words, "Baby, do you want go to the bookstore?"

And, I LOVE going to the bookstore. Off we'd go, he'd patiently check out the magazines while I wandered through the aisles then he'd encourage me to buy a few and I'd skip out of the store like a happy kid with a new toy. That's when he'd casually add, "Hey, while we're already out, do you mind if we pop in this game store real quick? I just want to see something." 

In my new-book-induced bliss, I nod like a bobble-head doll. Inevitably, he'd "happen" to find a game he'd been thinking about it and purchase it. Then, I'd spend the afternoon (okay, sometimes, the afternoon, evening, night and early morning, ) reading while he played his game. 

Took me YEARS to figure out I was being had. 

Sneaky, but cute. :)

Sneaky, but cute. :)

He did attempt to involve me in the gaming. Once, he set me up on this game where I was a diver on an underwater jet-ski and I was supposed to be hunting fish or taking pictures of fish or finding fish, I don't remember. Something with fish. 

I was all proud of myself, checking out the underwater scenery, looking for the fish. After a good while of that he said, "Do you know you haven't moved? You're just turning in a circle." 

And I went back to my books. 

But he passed on this love of video games to our youngest daughter, who had a birthday this week and used her birthday money to purchase a new gaming system and some games. 

That's where the creepy picture at the top of the post comes in. 

Another important point to this adventure is I am proudly a BIG FAT CHICKEN. I don't do horror. I don't read it. I don't watch it. I don't want to hear the campfire stories. Absolutely NOT MY THING. 

My girls BEGGED for this game. I knew it was rated Mature. Both my girls are teenagers. They've both watched "play-throughs" of this game on YouTube and both repeatedly assured me that the M rating was about the language and some violence but it wasn't worse than an action movie. 

So I caved (which is something I rarely do.) 

The rule in our house is that computers and gaming systems stay in public areas so I knew I would still have veto power if the game got too inappropriate. 

We all settled in the living room with all the lights ON and the afternoon sun shining through every window. This game is more like a every bad teenage horror movie than a video game. The animation is startlingly realistic and it's the basic: cabin-in-the-woods-no-help-coming-ever-who-will-survive-the-night? storyline. 

I can tell you the answer to that is never: Dawn! 

At some point, for some reason, a boy in the game is looking for a can of deodorant to use in conjunction with a cigarette lighter to melt the ice from a lock because how else would you do that? 

He wanders around this empty house, finally locates a bathroom and reaches for the cabinet. 

This is when my oldest, who was playing at the time paused the game and said, "Mom, there's going to be a jump-scare here. Be ready." 

Jump-scare. Got it. I am an adult. It's bright enough to land an airplane in here. I'm safe in my living room. Not in a cabin on a snow-covered mountain with a possible maniac chasing me (we can put that on the list of place I NEVER intend to be). 

Bring it on! 

She resumed play. The character reaches for the cabinet. I brace myself. The cabinet opens slowly, revealing the can of spray deodorant. Nothing happens. 

Whew. I was worried for nothing. 

"Wait for it, " My youngest says. 

Oh, not over yet? Okay. I'm ready. I've got this. Nerves of steel, baby. 

The character grasps the can of deodorant, removes it from the cabinet. Nothing happens. 

*sigh of relief*  

The girls must have this wrong. They must be thinking of a different cabinet. Everything is-


Cue me shrieking like a B-movie actress.

This created a domino-effect.

My fearless, four-legged protectors both jerked from a sound sleep, barking as if the world was ending and my daughters had to stop playing the game. 

Not because it was too inappropriate. 

Because they were both laughing like drunk hyenas and couldn't manage the controller. 

Below is a picture of me taken moments after the incident:

Picture credit: Eric Gorski- flickr creative commons

Picture credit: Eric Gorski- flickr creative commons






Adventures in Dressing Myself

It's the time of year when I go on a hunt for the perfect dress to wear to the Romance Writers of America RITA awards ceremony (kind of like the Oscars for romance writers).

So far, I've stuck to solid colors, kind of a plain-but-dressed-up-with-jewelry style. 

Here are pictures from the three years I've gone with my fabulous writing tribe:  Roni Loren, Jamie Wesley,  and Genevieve Lynne







*You see that thing in Roni's hand? That's a RITA! Because she's awesome. 

**We all have weird smiles in this one because the hotel dude didn't seem to be able to work a phone camera. 

This year I wanted something a little flashier. Maybe a little more daring (at least for me.) So, I ordered this dress. 

This is not me. This is some awesome model. 

It came in yesterday. It has more gold on the roses than I’d like and I was worried it might be a size too small. But, it fit well, hid my tummy, showed off my legs. Everything I was looking for in a dress except when I pulled it down over my chest, I noticed that it “accentuated my assets" a little better than I'm normally comfortable with. It accomplished this with a thin band that should have been at my waist but was across my rib cage, making each breath an adventure. 

 I modeled it for my older teen first (who is the resident fashion guru). She gushed about how cute it was and how flattering. She liked it so much, I was debating how much I enjoy breathing and if I could make it through a few hours without doing that. I mean, when a fifteen year-old compliments your style, you got to consider your options. 

I had her unzip the back (ahhh, oxygen!) and made my way back to my room. 

At this point, I discovered a universal truth about tight dresses and large chests. Pulling something down is much easier than pulling it back up. 

I couldn't push the whole dress down because it's fitted and wouldn't stretch over my hips. I couldn't pull it over my head because, well, there were obstacles. 

Basically I ended up with the dress half over my head, trying to squish and pull at the same time. All while having panicked thoughts of being trapped in the dress forever or, at least until I lost consciousness from lack of oxygen to my brain, which might have been slightly irrational. 

It probably looked very much like this, just without the frogs. 

It probably looked very much like this, just without the frogs. 

 I  was already picturing being cut out of my fashion choice by paramedics when  I heard my youngest daughter's voice.

"Mom, are you okay? Do you need some help?" 

Bless you, child. Bless you

I held things in place while she pulled it over my head as if I were a two year-old. 

So, if you see me at RWA this year, please, please say hi! I love making new friends, will probably talk way longer than I should and will be happy to pose for a picture in my nice, safe, plain dress that won't attack me after the RITA ceremony. 

My Last First Friday

Today is the first Friday of this school year. It's the day teachers release a collective sigh and head home in a near delirium state of exhaustion. We've made it through the first week. The routines will settle in on Monday and we've only got 35 more weeks to go.  

For me, the first Friday of last year was my last day of "normal". 

I remember the sound of the dismal bell for last period and calling to my students to, "have a great weekend!"

I remember leaving piles of paper on my desk but still shoving some in my bag to take home.

I remember still feeling slightly sticky from the weak AC in my room and the first pep rally of football season as I locked the classroom door behind me and exited the building. 

Having no idea I'd never walk back in that room as a teacher again. 

I don't remember if I cooked dinner that night or if my husband and I left the kids with my mom and ate out.

I can barely remember driving to Oklahoma the next day for a birthday party and driving home Sunday afternoon. 

What I do remember about Sunday is before I sat down to go through those papers or gather my lesson plans for the week, before I cooked dinner for my kids or really even had a conversation with my husband, I went into my mom's room. 

I guess not everyone can pinpoint the minute their life changed. For most people, it's probably a gradual shift that sneaks up on you like those extra pounds on your hips or needing reading glasses after 40. I know the exact moment my life changed. 

August 30, 2015 4:30pm. 

Mom and I were sitting on her bed, talking about the birthday party. That's when her head dropped to her chest as if she'd fallen asleep. That's the moment that triggered 36 hours of her being incoherent, a 13 day hospital stay, a devastating diagnosis delivered by a teary-eyed surgeon, folding his mask over and over in his hand and a decision.

I would leave teaching for 12 weeks. 

But 12 weeks wasn't enough. So, I resigned. I packed up the personal things from my classroom, leaving any materials I thought my replacement could use until I could collect them at the end of the year. 

I became a full-time caregiver until March 10th when I became Executrix of the estate. 

I didn't return to teaching this year. I wasn't ready. I have too much reassembling of my life that needs to happen first. 

I thought it would hit me on the first day when my daughters headed out to their new classes and my husband left for work. I thought that's when I'd miss it. I didn't. 

Not until today. 

I don't miss teaching, yet. I've missed my students and my co-workers but not teaching itself. I'm sure that will come.

What I miss today is the me who walked out of those high school doors on the first Friday last year. 

The one who didn't know what was coming. Didn't know to be worried and didn't know everything in her world was about to change. 



Five years ago, I posted


about jumping into the world of querying and pitching. 


The daughter I mentioned is now a teenager. The teenager I mention is probably married and raising her own kids. Well, maybe not, but it's possible.

And, me?

Until a few months ago, I was still standing on the end of that diving board.

I didn't jump.

I was pushed.

Now, all I have to do is make sure I cannon ball and not belly flop!