My kitchen is a place where strange and wonderful things happen. Examples of the strange (they’ve only happened once): tuna manicotti, pumpkin soup. A sample of the wonderful: broccoli quiche, stuffed peppers. But I’m not just referring to recipes. My kitchen is a twilight zone of odd occurrences. Don’t take my word for it, judge for yourself!
I will admit to being somewhat skeptical, but I may have gotten a truthful explanation for this one. Someone claims this lemon rolled off a counter and when it was set it back upon the shelf the lemon rolled right into an errant onion peel!
The jury is still out on this one, but I’m thinking tiny elves were running around on my counter tops in the middle of the night with their arms full of M&Ms. One of them must have slipped in the butter, which surely alerted the dogs to their presence. The elves must have been forced to flee without collecting all of their candy. Note to self: train the dogs to be kind to visiting elves.
This one had some help from me. I walked by a counter and spotted one lone cheese puff sitting in a taco shell. I presumed a hasty snacker had accidentally dropped it there. I sacrificed a small bag of puffy cheesy snacks to satisfy my sense of humor, snapped this picture, and left my creation on the counter. Hopefully the elves had as good a laugh over this as I did!
Then there’s salmonella stew…but I’ll save that picture and story for another post.
The fireplace in the central room of any home is where Evlantian women gather to gossip, work on projects, tell stories, play games and sing songs. On cold or chilly days a fire is lit to spread warmth and light. Though separate from the kitchen, a savory stew or kettle of tea is often found simmering above the flames to welcome people around its sitting stones and comfy chairs.
Blood feuds often begin and end at home hearth. A woman who has been insulted in her own home, at her own hearth, may start a vendetta that sometimes stretches on for generations. When peace is made, whether by mediation or by illegal means, home hearth is where the peace contract is signed.
A woman and her daughters will fight and die to protect their home hearth. Since the city is contained by a wall and the population carefully controlled by the Quickening Committee, inheritance of homes is a hot topic of gossip and speculation. Woe to the woman whose status is so low that her home’s hearth is a puny excuse to burn kindling. Greatly exalted is the woman so royal and privileged that her hearth is vast and the fire burns continually and warms dozens.
I can’t remember the date, or even the year, when the idea for my series first occurred to me. I do remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the inspiration struck. I was in my kitchen. I had my hands in hot, soapy water and I was washing the dishes. The radio was on. My daughters, both teenagers now, were very young. I have a vague impression that my youngest a toddler at the time.
The series started then, in my imagination at least, and it lived there, growing ever and ever bigger until after my father passed away. He haunted me until I sat down to write. The toddler was in elementary school by then. Thoughts of what a “girl world” would look like consumed me in that interim period.
Writing about it was a relief, as if I had finally reached a destination I had been longing for. As I wrote I would frequently scribble notes or sketches, like the one pictured, to keep myself firmly acclimated in this alternate world. Evlantis would intrude into my “real” life and sometimes I found myself saying, “I’m sorry, I have one foot in Evlantis today” to explain to my why my attention was elsewhere. Here is a brief overview of this fascinating girl world…
The city itself is on the coast of an ocean. The People’s Palace, where the High Queen resides, is the focal point of Evlantis. Six pie-shaped wedges shoot out from the center. Each wedge is known as a Sector, where women of somewhat similar temperament and vocation live. The population is tightly controlled by a committee. No more than one thousand women may live in a Sector. A wall, not pictured in the sketch above, surrounds the city and the members of the all-female army stand guard upon the wall to keep the citizens in.
Back when I was a teenager, I asked my dad to teach me how to change a flat tire and he did. Not even a week after that, one of my tires blew out while I was driving and I got to practice my new skill. Sometime between that day and this one “they” invented services that will come to your car and change your tire for you, so I retired my tire changing skills…until Easter 2014. That’s when I learned that changing a tire is like riding a bicycle. Once you learn how, you never forget! Here’s how to change a tire using my method:
Choose a major holiday and plan a busy day.
Promise a friend you will drive her to church and pull into her driveway fifteen minutes before the service starts.
As you back out of her driveway hear the sound the car makes when one tire is flat.
Jump out of the car to assess just how flat it is. Air low: you can drive a very short distance. Air completely gone (rim resting on the street): don’t drive anywhere, no matter how badly you want to get your friend to church on time. Riding on a tire rim turns an inexpensive repair job into a phenomenally expensive one. I know this from experience.
Get out of the way of traffic.
Head to the trunk to find the jack, the thing to take the bolts off with, and the spare tire. Display these items near you.
Begin to unscrew the bolts on the hub cap.
Be approached by a kind gentleman who asks if you need help. (This happens every time.)
Say “Yes! Thank you!”
If you have a friend who needs to get to church on time in the car, divide the tasks for the tire up and keep working. For you: remove the hub cap, look for WD 30 in the car when it would help the kind gent to have some, and later, put the decorative piece back on. For the gent: jack up the car, remove the bolts on the flat tire, remove the flat tire, put the spare tire on in its place, and put the bolts back on.
Offer effusive thanks to the kind gent as you merrily fling the flat tire, the jack and the thing to take the bolts off with in the back seat of your car and speed away!
With my heart racing and my hands grimy I made it to the front door of my friend’s church one minute before the service started! I still can’t believe it.
Me, cross? Almost never. But I do have an obsession with cross-stitch—particularly and exclusively with the counted kind. Frequently, between the hours of seven p.m. and nine p.m., I can be found hunched over my craft table, huddled under an OTTLite®, working on my latest project.
Here’s my most recent completed project to date. I started “Cat Bag” by designer Lucie Heaton in August 2013 and finished it February 18, 2014. I sew, also, and wanted to put the design directly onto a piece of linen fabric instead of purchasing the tote bag as suggested by Cross Stitch Gold Magazine. (The design appeared in their August 2013 issue.) After not being able to find the 20 count natural linen locally, I found the perfect piece of linen online at Needle in a Haystack.
Now all I have to do is sew it into a tote bag! It is for my sister, whose birthday is in September. There is a slight chance it will be done on time, LOL
My brilliant editor recently got in touch with me to tell me how much she enjoyed a particular passage in my novel, Sephora’s Revenge. She wanted to know if it had been drawn from a real experience. Though there was one section in Unfallen: Exile that contained an image from an experience of mine, the passage she asked me about was a total figment of my imagination—my fiercely over-active imagination.
Which brings me to the robots. While riding my bike in my neighborhood this past summer I noticed a sign off the main road that I would have never noticed in my car. I didn’t give it my full attention until I became curious as to whether the nicely paved path that is flanked by the sign might be a short cut through an idyllic wooded area between where I was and where I wanted to go.
I read the big sign, noticed the little sign, and after giving the matter some thought came to the obvious conclusion. There are robots running amok in those woods. I am really curious about the robots, but I’m convinced that these are not the friendly type, programmed with Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” that make it (almost) impossible to hurt humans. No indeed. The cautionary nature of the signs clearly indicates these are precursors of Terminator-type robots. I quickly nixed the idea of exploring a possible short cut. Now I can’t pass those woods without keeping a sharp eye out for a robot gone berserk, ready to seek revenge on the species that enslaved it. If I spot one will I have enough time to call the authorities to avert disaster? Maybe I won’t be on hand when they escape and there will be a knock at my door one day…ding, dong, killer robot calling! Come to think of it, my dogs have been barking a lot more vociferously at people on the street lately. Now I must wonder, are the dogs barking at my human neighbors? Or is it too late—and the robots are already among us?
“Life is changed, not Ended” was the sentiment on the card a pastor I knew sent to his parishioners whenever a loved one passed away. I’ve heard stories about how during that change, that transition, there is sometimes a connection between this life and the next. Here is my personal experience with one of those times.
There have been few people in my life that I have been as close to as I was with my Grandma Jeannie. I had an indefinable bond with her that was one of the greatest treasures of my life. When I was pregnant with my first child her health declined. I visited her often.
During the final month of my pregnancy I was diagnosed with Preeclampsia and confined to bed. I knew Grandma’s condition was serious. We kept in touch by phone. Neither one of us wanted the other to worry, so we each made up excuses why we could not get together. I was “too busy preparing” for the baby. She said she understood. She was “resting up” so we could see each other after the baby was born. I thanked her for taking such good care of herself. It was important to both of us that she see my baby.
The time came when, due to my medical condition, labor had to be induced. Late at night the next day, after an emergency C-section, I was presented with my very beautiful, healthy, baby girl. It came as a complete shock to me when my husband walked in the next morning and said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but your Grandma Jeannie died last night.”
I remember feeling bewildered. The baby was here, how could Grandma be gone? I did not fully understand then, but I was certain there was a connection between the event of her death and my baby’s birth. It wasn’t until months later, in a casual conversation with my aunt, that I found out that Grandpa said Gram had passed away before the time written on her death certificate. He estimated she had passed around 11:30 pm on December 20th. Neither he nor my aunt knew that was the time listed on my daughter’s birth certificate. Somehow, and I am sure of this, in some incomprehensible way Gram “saw” baby Rose and knew I was OK before she left me. Death, life, and the bond we shared were all mingled together at that place and time.
Does anyone else have a life/death connection/transition experience to share?
It seems appropriate that while my sixteen-year-old daughter is chasing her dream of modeling/acting at a not-so-local event, I am holed up in a hotel still chasing mine. A rare entire-day to edit my second book has come along, slightly more than forty-eight hours before I let go of the financial tether that my day job has provided and leap into a new venture with a fair amount of risk. The new venture affords me time to write daily, a clear avenue onto my personal Street of Dreams.
The drive into Syracuse—the cozy, hilly city nestled between the thumb and Finger Lakes in Central NY—last night was breathtaking. The autumn foliage was nothing less than spectacular. Deer grazed at the edge of the thruway in spots as the sunlight faded poetically from day to night during the drive. It was an out-of-the-ordinary drive into an out-of-the-ordinary editing adventure!
It is no wonder that before I settle down to the work slicing and dicing the final draft of Sephora’s Revenge that the reality of quitting my day job has finally sunk in. I love the work I’ve done for the past five years, but I’m at a place where it is interfering with my writing. I wonder if I’ll be able to make enough money in the coming months to pay for groceries, medicine, pet food, and gas. It was a sure thing with the day job. Am I crazy as a loon to be leaving or as smart as a fox? Am I talking to myself now, asking rhetorical animal questions while I could be using my eagle eye to edit? Absolutely, which means it is time to close this file and click into another. The reverie was short and sweet. Time for action…Evlantis, here I come!
Picture, if you can, the exuberance with which Steve Martin greeted the delivery of the phonebook in the movie “The Jerk.” That is how I feel today. The skies are grey and rivers of rain are flowing down the street outside my window, but nothing can dampen the great joy I feel that later tonight I’ll be driving to the country to pick up my very first portion of farm share produce!
This illustrates a drastic transition in my life. For most of my life fruits and veggies fell into one of two categories: punishment (spinach, squash, peas) or extravagant treat (cherries, pears.)* My rapid and permanent transition to fruit and veggie fandom began soon after my youngest daughter, at the age of six, was diagnosed with juvenile (insulin dependant) diabetes. Since that day fruits and veggies have moved from a token spot on my grocery list to a staple: at least a quarter of the items on my weekly grocery list are found in the produce department. I can’t speak for the rest of my family, but I personally have grown to love them.
I’d heard about farm shares. I’d wanted a farm share. When someone close to me offered to split the cost of one and share the share I said yes! That was an entire half-a-year ago. Every shopping trip since then I’ve longed for this day. A haul of locally grown, organic veggies with my name on it is waiting for me at a farm twenty-six miles away…hooray! Today is the day! It’s Farm Share Day! It’s Farm Share Day!
*A side note: when I was a child I discovered I could fool mom into thinking I’d eaten my vegetables by taking an infinitesimal spoonful of veggies when she wasn’t looking and mash them up into bits. When mom would turn, as she always did, to ask if I had eaten my veggies, I would reply, “Yes, I did, see the (corn, bean, beet) guts on my plate?”
In August of 2006 I sat down at my computer and began to type the first draft of my first novel Unfallen: Exile. Eight months later I added the words “The End” to the last page of that manuscript, which contained a whopping one hundred fifty-five thousand words. Fast forward five years—my editorial team tactfully told me that I had too many sub plots. I tearfully waved goodbye to some minor characters and parted ways with four thousand words.
So I was genuinely surprised when the Kirkus Indie review of Unfallen opined that my promising novel is “slightly overstuffed”! Upon reflection I had to admit it might be slightly so and after a week of intense introspection I traced my propensity to give my characters action-packed lives back to my own life choices. My tendency to overstuff began in High School. I needed nineteen credits to graduate. I matriculated with twenty-seven. I’ve often worked two jobs at a time, occasionally even three, to support myself. I’ve had scads of hobbies, a couple of children, a few careers, and my fair share of real-life drama.
At fifty plus years of age I like to think of this as living life to the fullest, though for the past couple of years whenever I’ve considered adding a blog to my “to do” list I’ve balked…until now. Clearly I could no longer resist the temptation to blog now that I have the perfect title inspired by “my” Kirkus Indie review. “My Overstuffed Life” is the place where I’ll record random snippets of my life experiences and/or opinions, in no particular order and in no more than three paragraphs per entry—I promise! Welcome!