Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Quiet Christmas

I hope everyone is having a warm, cozy family Christmas.

It's so quiet here. Every Christmas I wish I lived closer to home, though family and friends are so scattered. For the last two Christmases I was able to spend it in Maryland with my girlfriend's family but this year the job calls.

For all those I love and can't hug in person from California to Maryland, and Vietnam to Bolivia to Canada - JoAnn, Barbara, Clara, Ruth, Martha, Bonnie, Pete, Lesley, Maria, Gary, Cletus, Dean, Bob, Carol, Robin, Wanda, Doris, Mike, Chris, Angela, Karen, Jeanne, Stan and Janet, Richard and Suz.

Here's the hug. Merry Christmas and have a spectacular 2008!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Football -a girl's sport

As an only child, my parents each had their views of what a girl should be. Mom's vision was illustrated perfectly when she came to visit an antebellum home in Natchez, Mississippi and she saw a room decorated in pink satins, laces. She said, "oh, Martie, this is what I named you for."

Well she knew by then that it was wistful thinking. By the time I was 8 or 9, I was Daddy's girl. We went to Redskins and University of Maryland basketball and football games and Washington Senators baseball games. He taught me to golf, bowl - he even taught me to drive a stick when I was twelve around our D.C. suburb. His heroes were my heroes. I was memorizing sports statistics way before it was cool for most girls.

So now during football season, I'm the one saying - "You're going hunting today? But the Patriots are playing the Colts. What are you thinking!" And last season when it seemed the Saints were on the verge of something really big, I was the one saying, "You have to believe. They really are different this year. (Unfortunately, they've blown it this season.)

The thing is I see lots of women at those football games on TV, so I don't think it's so odd. I just hate it when February gets here and there's no football. I start counting down the months until pre-season. I'm going to get as much of my fix during bowl season and playoffs as I can, squirreling them away for the long Spring and Summer layoff.

Go, Redskins. Go, Brett. Go Drew. and for my neighbors' sakes, Go LSU.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Civil War shot of New Orleans

My friend, JoAnn and I were in New Orleans the same day Brad Pitt and Angelina were in the ninth ward raising money for the rebuild. (no, this was 2007, my camera loses the date everytime I change the batteries - aaargh!)

New Orleans certainly isn't what it was, with many many vacant house, subdivisions, businesses and roughly a third of the previous population.

This is a picture from our room in the early morning fog. Someone swore it looked like a Civil War battle.

Not much has changed about the Quarter though since our visit about four years ago. This time we stayed 29 floors up in the Marriott on Canal St. overlooking the Mississippi River.

What an intelligent elevator we had. Even with her extensive travel she'd never seen one quite like it. You go to the bank of elevators, press your destination floor, the system then tells you which elevator to take. Once you enter the elevator, relax and let it do the driving. There are no buttons to push, control is completely in the elevator's hands. Is that a good thing?

Anyway, that's not all that runs through your mind. As the elevator ascends, in this case, you will be entertained by the steady beep of the floors ticking off, well, maybe not entertained. It sounds exactly like the last 30 seconds of a bomb as it ticks...down...blrp...blrp...to...boom!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Remembering friends at Christmas

This is a time for remembering old friends and favorite journeys.

Several years ago I was lucky enough to be with friends from Salt Lake City who were extraordinary examples of friendship, family, and integrity. These two special people were actually married in the Mormon Temple, something which isn't done anymore. They introduced me to a tenor who sings with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and he got me in to sing with them which was just about the highlight of my life.

I remember seeing the snow pouring in over the rockies from the office window, the huge banners of athletes hanging on the sides of buildings from the 2002 Olympics, the Christmas lights on the Temple grounds, skiing for the first time in 20 years at Park City and so much more.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Iced Catfish

I know that a lot of people don't consider the South a cold place. I certainly don't. But the ice storm that hit Missouri, Kansas and other states lastweek reminded me of a cold spell we had in Louisiana in the 90's.

The Mississippi river had ice flows in it, our bayou froze over and the catfish ponds where my husband worked froze. It had never happened before so they didn't know what would happen to the catfish. We all assumed they'd die. Catfish are very tricky to raise. Everything about their environment is precarious. Air temperature. Water temperature. Grass in the water, feed, ammonia, disease, etc.

When the ponds started freezing the workers seined as many as they could for sale before the freeze. Afterwards, amazingly, even though the ponds froze over, the catfish thawed out like they'd been in a sci-fi cryogenic state, and most of them lived though quite a lot were weakened by the change in temperature. We ate a LOT of catfish that year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas around the world

It's so neat, isn't it, seeing the way people celebrate Christmas around the globe. From tropical climes to mountain hideaways, from hometowns to faraway cities, we all celebrate a time of friends, family, and giving.

Here's a picture of my hometown at Christmas. Isn't that beautiful?

I won't get home for Christmas this year because of work and I'll miss the special Christmas with my friend, JoAnn, her brother's family, and mom. Then there's my other 'mom' Clara who lives nearby. Last year I lived with her in her condo overlooking D.C. while I was working up there. She cleared out a room and a closet and made me a little home away from home. A hometown home away from transplanted home - Louisiana. And though the temperatures got into the twenties and it snowed, I never got cold like I do here.

I miss it.

Often Christmas at our house means men visiting to hunt, camouflage piled up three feet deep, muddy boots, lots of 'missed the big one' tales. But this year it will be pretty quiet though I hope My Hero does manage to get to the woods and get some meat. And maybe I'll get to Natchez to hear Alcorn University's Choir perform at St. Mary's.

Whatever a peaceful, happy Christmas means to you, I hope it's yours this year.
Get out and Celebrate the Season!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Way to Go!

Congratulations, Leah, on finishing your newest book and submitting it! The tough part is over. I just know you're going to get good news.

Party hors d'oeuvre

Struggling to come up with something different to take to a holiday party? I took this to our Post Office party recently and it was gone in no time. Easy to fix, doesn't matter if it gets luke-warm, and sometimes you have the ingredients oh hand.

Jalapeno Tortilla Cheese Spirals

6 White flour tortillas
10-12 slices ham patted dry
1/4 cup diced Jalapeño peppers, enough to sprinkle
8 oz Cream cheese softened

On tortilla, spread a layer of softened cream cheese, sprinkle with diced jalapeños, and top with sliced ham, keeping everything within 1/2" of the edges. Roll tortilla.
Continue layering and rolling tortillas until you have 5-6. Place saran wrap over them and chill for thirty minutes if possible. Slice in 3/8" pieces and arrange on large plate. Separate layers with wax paper. Pop a couple in your mouth the taste test. Only TWO!!

They're easy and quick so you might want to get enough jalapeños and cream cheese to do the whole pack of tortillas. Optional: sprinkle with pimentos.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I love my Macbook

I have had many laptops. Three Fujitsus, two Acers, a Sony, a Toshiba, I think that's it. But I used to trade laptops like I traded cars, every year. The Sony is four years old and the hard drive was making a lot of noise so I decided it was finally time to get a new one.

I made the leap to Macintosh two years ago when IMACs came out with the Intel processor - I purchased a 20 inch IMAC. So this time, I thought why not just go for the Mac laptop? Macs truly are easier to connect to peripherals and wireless networks and they don't tend to have the crashes and slow operation that Windows computers are famous for. And they have built in video conferencing. I used it one time when my critique partner and I were chatting.

My concern was that I might need some of my windows programs. But there's is this nifty new program, Parallels Desktop, that allows you to go into Windows on your Mac and install and use Windows programs, without going through a dual boot type of process. Virtual Windows!

So, I figured it would be the best of both worlds. So far, it has been.

Yesterday, I connected to my printer wirelessly where before I'd been unable to get my Windows laptop to print a document to it and went through a whole lot more setup.

Another big reason I love Macs is my new writing program, Scrivener, which was created for Macs. You can store research, sound files, pictures, organize, write forward, look at a storyboard of your draft, insert keywords to search for later. Just look for Scrivener at www.literatureandlatte.com. Or if you insist on Windows you can find www.celtx.com a Windows based writing program that has been suggested by writers containing some of the same features.

Do something wild and crazy! Next time you're in the market for a new computer, give Apple a try. There's a bit of a learning curve, but well worth the effort.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lagging behind

Well, it's been over a week since I posted. Bad, bad Marley. Between trying to finish strong in NaNo, reworking my entry for the contest, writing my first synopsis, working four days straight, critiquing, and getting the bronchial crud, I just haven't had the energy.

But all of those are coming along nicely. I wrote over 26K in November and revised and outlined about additional 'K'. I'm just about through with my contest entry and have done the first draft of my first synopsis - a long winding road through Brenna and Nick's world which I will have to revise down to a straighter shorter path and still manage to include all of the turning points, love scenes, crises, characterization, and resolution.

The crud is coming along as well, though I wear myself out from coughing and have to waste good writing time sleeping. All of this has to be finished and I need to email my entry by around the 22nd because I'm running the mail for the two weeks of Christmas holidays.

Oh, and I just heard I have to work again. Working sure does get in the way of writing!

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Prize

I set my first real goal - the ‘put it out there and be embarrassed if you don't go for it’ kind of goal - in September when I decided to enter our RWA chapter contest. Deadline: October 8th.

So, when Margie Lawson's Deep Edits class began in October, I had about 6 or 7K written on a story that was close to my heart but wasn't going anywhere.

That class changed things for me concerning my writing. I learned soOoo much, my writing improved and I met my talented CP, Leah, who has become a friend as well as a great editing partner. How we chose each other across miles and borders of fiber in an online class of 90 or more is, in itself, amazing.

The chapter contest deadline passed and I knew I'd missed my first goal. I told myself I'd shoot for one with a deadline in mid-November.

Fortuitously, toward the end of the third week, I chose the first six pages of the new version to compare to the old as Margie suggested to see if I liked the improvements. That was on Thursday or Friday. On Saturday while my partner and I were working on this assignment I received an email from the contest coordinators advising of the new deadline - in two days!

I raced around like a crazy chicken. Leah, could tell you I forgot how to do everything I'd taught others to do in Word! I was panicked. I was going to meet my first goal of submitting my first contest entry. Not coincidentally, the contest requirement was the first five pages! We edited and I shaved and deleted and tightened until it was a perfectly full five pages. Then with a prayer, I sent it off.

This morning - OMG - I got the news that I'm a finalist in my category! Some might say ‘what the heck is she so excited about, she hasn't won’. But I believe we must each keep our personal journey in perspective.

For example, I'm a professional singer. My husband said he quit singing in the shower when he married me. Why? Because his voice wasn't as good as mine? What a loss. Do all the birds sound the same, some of them are meant to crow and caw and even croak and it’s beautiful to the creator’s ears and integral to the song of the forest.

When Leah and I began to count treadmill minutes in addition to word count, I didn't think she'd out-walk me in under a week. But that doesn't mean I'll quit, I mean, good grief, she used to do 200 push ups! The encouragement and accountability is helping me achieve my personal goal of being healthier, not to win the treadmill Olympics.

My goals are as individual as I am. But the the atta-girl strokes, our common goals to do more, write more, be more are universal.

No, I didn't win. The final deadline is January. Each of us has our own writing enemy whether it's our internal (and external) editors, family, or work stresses. My biggest struggle seems to be not believing in myself so that I constantly organize, plan, edit - I resist just going for it. Well, this time I did. It's a small step but I feel like a winner in my own personal contest. The main prize was the new writer friends and thumbs up from long time friends.

Thank you all, but especially Leah.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the changing leaves, the long weekend, the ritual of cooking for friends or just My Hero and me. He is usually hunting but this year he had trouble with his back and I went to work for the postal service so I'm working on the days after holidays. Soo00, as much as I love cooking the turkey, this year I opted for pork roast - which made wonderful gravy - cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, speckled butter beans and green bean casserole. A visiting hunter shared the meal with us while a Canadian cold front moved in.

I've had three days of those wonderful leftovers, even dressing and gravy for breakfast.

This year I am thankful for friends, old and new, for my sweet spouse, his family, our health, my part time job which pays enough that I can spend several days a week working on my passion, writing.

There have been p l e n t y of hard times but like clouds with silver linings, those times have made me appreciate a new closeness with loved ones, hard won peace, and a more leisurely lifestyle. (No more eighty hour work weeks for this gal.) And it's not just the big things; if we look at each day we can always find something to make us smile.

What made you smile today?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Because of NaNo I'm meeting goals and learning to trust my own process. I must truly be a pantser; my story unfolds as I write.

For instance:

Today my heroine picked up the phone and called her girlfriend, a character I didn't know. She wasn't in the outline I'd spent two days creating! I had no idea what she was going do. Before I knew it she was telling her friend everything. Then I realized that the girlfriend is going to be the heroine in the sequel.

Funny how that happens.

Since I gave up trying to hit 10,000 in a day - (sheepish grin) - that was Saturday, I've hit or exceeded my goal of 2100 per day. Today I was writing along and before I knew it I had 3100.

Good luck to everyone for the rest of the month. It's not too late to set a different goal for the last sixteen days.

Amy Ruttan's experience encouraged me. Congratulations, Amy, on turning last year's NaNo project into a deal.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dreary Days

In the fall we are always treated to some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The weather has been so perfect, 70's, sunny, low humidity. You walk outside and just inhale the beauty wishing it could last forever.

But I have a couple of friends who are going through some difficult times, one lost her daughter - the mother of four - in a car accident this weekend. And I think while I'm enjoying this perfect day, perfect weather, those who are going through difficult times may be saying like that old song, "Why does the sun go on shining, why does the sea rush to shore, don't they know it's the end of my world..."

For all those who are dealing with hard times and tough decisions, I wish you days where there is more sun than clouds, and more happiness and peace than heartache.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Writing goals and starvation diets

Okay, I'll admit. Setting a goal for 10,000 words to catch up after four days of not writing is kinda like going on a starvation diet to compensate for overeating. If it hadn't been for NaNo...

Well, I know what I need to do - just keep plugging out the very manageable 1500 to 2000 a day. At least I'm developing a better pattern of writing behavior. I actually setup a hair appointment for 11:30 am Monday because I plan to write until 11:00. Baby steps.

Habits get better with practice.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Plans go awry

That's what happens when you plan and think in your arrogance - I have this all worked out, no problem, nothing will interfere.

Yesterday I told my critique partner, Leah, that I was going to do 10,000 words today to make up for the four days of interruptions, work, and other projects inconveniently showing up on my doorstep. My motto was - just do it. Roll up those sleeves.

I got up at 4:45am, turned on the computer as I headed to the kitchen to flip on the coffeepot. Washed my hair and watched a few minutes of news with My Hero. I got to work at 5:55. I closed my office door planning to write about 5,000 words at least before I had to run an errand.

My Hero came through the office door the third time about 6:20. I asked him if he wanted to run the errand with me which should only take about 45 minutes and I could get back to my plan. He agreed and at 8:30, said he would go fishing for about 45 minutes. I returned to what I was doing - editing. Editing what we'd worked on a during our workshop, editing what I did yesterday. This was not the plan. Decreasing word count. Sure, it's better, tighter but now it's 11:00 and my..er...hero hasn't returned and I have to leave.

Seven hours and only 200 net words.

I can hear everyone laughing.

There was a young guy in the service department of the car dealership where I used to work. I was having continual problems getting a supplier to change out my battery. Thoroughly frustrated, I looked at him and asked, "Isn't anything ever easy?"

This 21 year old looked at me with 85 year old eyes and said, "Should it be?"(eyes-crossed)

Okay, so I'll keep plugging and hope I wind up with a positive change in word count today at least. I know someone can relate.

** Hubby said well, 200 is better than nothing. -sigh- That was so sweet, and kind of unexpected.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Husbands as Heroes

What makes a hero? Is he only the guy you dream about or is there one living in your house, sleeping in your bed?

We write about him as a unique man of heroic action, a guy who could race in on his white charger and save the day. A guy who is the epitome of both sides of the male psyche, sometimes sweet but often difficult. And still, he's heroic.

In real life we might be caught thinking "Can't live with 'em...can't live.." I'm sure most of us wish our mates were more like the heroes we read and write about or that we simply had more in common. And poor guys - they're wishing the same thing!

But I have realized that many facets of my written heroes are reflections of my guy. He's a Sagittarius, known for his honor, enthusiasm, and romantic nature, although Linda Goodman describes the Sagittarius hero as the guy who arrives in time only to fall off his horse and land at the heroine's feet. Yep, that's him, too.

We celebrate thirty-two years of 'romantic bliss' in December, and he shines in the context of daily life.

When I'm away, I don't want to think about what the kitchen and bathroom look like. I shudder to think of it. All I know is that the day before I come home, he's busy making it presentable. When I return, I don't complain, when I find that the ruffle on the bed has been tucked in at the bottom, the embroidered towels are turned toward the wall, the dirt is literally swept under the rug, and the clothes have been left in the dryer too long.

One day while I'm fixing lunch, he hears one of our favorite songs on the radio and swoops me into a slow dance near the refrigerator. He helps me clean house, takes me fishing and saves me the best spots to catch fish. Calls me sweetheart. Sends me perfect greeting cards and much less frequent flowers.

A couple weeks ago, the night I entered my first writing contest, I asked him if he wanted to hear my entry. I was just thrilled that I'd fulfilled a goal. He said, "Yeah, hold on." He turned off the tv and closed his eyes 'to concentrate'. When I finished reading he said with an astonished look on his face, "That's really good. Really good. You'll win."

My Hero.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Another giant leap

What would you do if the world was watching your every move? Watching you do something that had never been done before? Something that could cost you your life and cost your government billions?

Today one spacewalker who said he 'felt like he was on a tree at the top of the earth', completed a six hour spacewalk to repair a solar shield so that it would deploy and deliver electricity to the international space station. Without the repairs the wing would have been scrapped and would have crippled international operations.

Comments I heard today remind me that controversy still surrounds our continued space activities though many scientific, aerodynamic and medical advances can be attributed to the experiments completed on space missions.

Growing up 3 miles from NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland I was lucky enough to meet some of our remarkable space pioneers and experience their endeavors into spaceflight from its humble beginnings. Since then the space program has become a global effort with contributions and astronauts from over 18 countries.

Thanks to all the brave men and women for the work they do regardless of the danger, sometimes with little recognition of their many accomplishments.
NaNo 4200

Writer's block

I think I had my first real experience with writer's block Thursday, Nov 1 - the first day of NaNoWriMo. It reminded me of PMS in that it affected my mental state and everything else I did.

Burned the catfish for lunch, my biscuits didn't rise, put the wrong ingredient in hubby's pork n beans, my mind just wouldn't cooperate. So, I worked on easy stuff, excel spreadsheets, binder inserts for a work related project, paid a few bills, got my blog up and running. It was creative in a different way.

I didn't recognize the problem until I got away from it. I simply couldn't put one word down in any form related to the project I'm supposed to be working on.

Hubby noticed just like he used to in the days of the 'dragon' that my mood was - shall we say- somewhat antagonistic. Even then I didn't realize what was going on within. He's a good barometer. So, I set it aside until yesterday which made a big difference. Between my blog entry and my writing project I wrote 2900 words. Yes!

It's like a 12 step program, one day at a time. Total for Nov: 2300

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A New World

A lot is made these days of the bad things that happen on the internet and obvious criminal activities come to mind. In all areas of our lives - there's good and bad. But let's talk about some facets that have changed us for the better, forever, the far reaching opportunities of hooking up to the World Wide Web.

My husband, who is a very physical person, loves the outdoors, fishing, hunting, working in the yard, has been laid up this week due to a strained back with nothing to do but watch TV. He is completely, irrevocably and happily computer illiterate. And disinclined to change. He literally would not touch one to save his life, or mine.

Today, he said, almost wistfully after I'd been online a good while, "A person who knows how to use a computer can stay busy all the time." Like most people who know zip about computer technology he's unaware of the significance of that statement. I thought about it.

I began this morning by checking my online bank statement and transferring funds from one account to another in order to set up payments on credit cards. Then, I checked for refunds on my cell phone bill, posted a message to an online writing class that just completed, ordered a blouse, researched out of state hunting in Nebraska, found the best site to buy shrinkgrip (whatever that is) for his hunting stand and emailed customer service with his questions. Then I arranged for the return of a defective keyboard and ordered stamps from the postal service.

I purchased an ebook, tried to write forward in my current project, found synonyms from Thesaurus.com, and looked up a new recipe on Food Network for lunch. Well, lunch was another story. Then I downloaded pictures from my favorite Navy guy, emailed friends and family, and checked in with my supervisor from work.

But besides how the internet provides for work, research, budgeting, communication with family, and updating software there's a wondrous global advantage.

Last month, I left the bayou in central Louisiana to connect with Lesley, my new editing partner in Canada. An online writing group made us partners, and online chat allowed us to work as if we were neighbors. Thanks, Leah, for technical help, great critiques and for introducing me to your corner of the world.

I got a great partner, but with this global technology, I could have easily wound up with someone from Australia, England, South America or Dubai.

So where are you today and whose life in a distant land have you touched or been touched by?