Posted by Caren Crane Dec 4 2013, 12:41 am in Caren Crane, Christmas presents, flat screen TV, Flexi8, hair clips, holiday wish list, Irish Walking Cape, SmartWool socks, tablet computer, watch band
This is the time of year I really knuckle down and start holiday shopping in earnest. Some people are proud Early Shoppers (squinting at YOU, Tawny!), but many of us wait until Thanksgiving to get serious about it.
Normally I sit here, pretty content with my lot in life, and can’t think of much I really want for Christmas. But I know for sure my husband will expect a Wish List with web addresses, specifications and colors, so I try to pick a few things out. This is quite apart from the Things I Am Coveting list of last month, since my Christmas List should supposedly contain things I actually expect that I might receive. My Things I Am Coveting list was chock full o’ whimsy! Here, in no particular order, are some things that have officially caught my eye this year:
1. Flexi8 Hair Clips — These are no ordinary hair clips. These things are easy-to-use, flexible, don’t pull, and they are available in a huge range of sizes and styles. I’m not even kidding about the sizes and varieties. They can hold the skimpiest wimps of hair, dreadlocks, or anything in between. It’s kind of astonishing and awesome. My friend Liz Carlyle turned me on to these and I went to the Flexi8 website and ordered clips for me and all the long-haired females in my family!
2. Big Old Flat Screen TV — Officially, this will be my husband’s Christmas present, but all wives know that these things are really for the both of you. On Cyber Monday, I tooled over to the New Egg website and answered their questionnaire to find the perfect TV for us. Once it suggested a couple, I went and checked prices everywhere and, lo and behold, New Egg had the lowest price! So in a few days, we — I mean, he — will be enjoying some large, flat screened, HD viewing.
3. Tablet Computer — Y’all know me well enough to know that I am not an early adapter of any technology (see flat screen item above). So it’s no surprise I don’t have a tablet of any sort. However, I also don’t have a smart phone (mostly because I don’t want to pay for an expensive data plan) and I’ve found that many times it would be more than handy to have something I could use to look up addresses, directions, phone numbers, etc. My husband has a smart phone, but it is useless in his hands so we might as well not have one. About a year ago, Donna let me use her iPad when we were at a conference so I could post comments to the blog. I was hooked! Ever since, I have envied the tablets of others. I found another handy questionnaire that helped me pick out what I do and do not need in a tablet and narrowed it down to one. After explaining to my husband why that was the best one for me, he agreed to get that for me for Christmas. I am looking forward to having my tablet (and case with built-in keyboard, also on the List!) so I can actually write AND answer e-mail AND look up information when I’m away from home! I anticipate it will change my life and definitely for the better.
4. SmartWool Socks —I am no stranger to SmartWool socks. I have quite a few pair in my sock drawer. However, I have one particular pair that are my favorites and they are developing thin spots at the balls of my feet. I really need some more, but they have to be exactly the right ones. Just the right amount of cushion, the right color, the right pattern (or lack thereof). I anticipate I’ll have to order these for myself, wrap them and put them under the tree. But by gum, I will find those socks. REI, here I come!
5. Leather Watch Band — I have no idea how old the black leather watch band I have now is, but I think it’s the third one I’ve had on this particular watch. My wristwatch has a HUGE analog face and keeps pretty accurate time. It’s also an Indiglo, so I can see it at night or at the movies without bothering EVERYONE (people who check the time on their phones, I’m looking at you!). It has probably been at least 4 or 5 years since I bought the one I have now. It is battered, tattered and about to give up the old leather ghost. I need a new one. I will also have to buy myself this one, I’m afraid, since I’ll likely have to take it to a jewelry store somewhere to find another band. It’s a necessity, but left to my own devices, I’ll never get one until I have to, so I might as well throw it on the list. I may even spring for a new battery!
As noted, I am a creature of simple needs. I am so excited about the tablet and the TV I can hardly stand it. I’ve already worn one of the Flexi8 clips I got for myself to work, where it was much admired. Even thinking about soft, new SmartWool socks makes me smile in anticipation. It will also be a great relief to get the new watch band, so I’m not waiting for it to break every time I put it on. I suppose other people dream of different things, but I only know what makes my toes curl. Please note, the red cashmere Irish walking cape from the Things I Am Coveting post did not make the final cut. Still too expensive!
Now that the holidays are upon us, what has made the Final Cut and landed on your list? What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever asked for and received? What was the most unexpected and welcome? (And yes, Suzanne, puppies count!)
Posted by Caren Crane Nov 24 2013, 8:24 am in baby animals, Caren Crane, high-maintenance pets, kitten, kittens, orphaned animals, puppy love
…but they should call it KITTEN LOVE! In case you missed the dozens of pictures on Facebook, we adopted a kitten a couple of months ago Chez Crane. That wasn’t my idea, by the way. Our old cat, the infamous Chaps, passed away at the beginning of August. I was in no way ready for another cat. And then…
…one day while I was off celebrating a friend’s birthday, a girl (now grown-ish) who grew up with our girls in the neighborhood found a recently-orphaned kitten outside the building where she works. Its litter-mate was dead nearby and, obviously, the mother was gone. Probably hit by a car. This tender-hearted lass brought the tiny orange-and-white bundle to her parents’ house in our neighborhood. Her mother took one look and gave her a concrete-firm, “NO!” So she called the Crane house, a den of soft-hearted and impulsive creatures who can’t resist an orphan. She quickly got a yes.
Not from me, mind you, but from Mr. Crane and my youngest, who was home from college on Fall Break. Now, I love cats and I am as susceptible to an orphan as the next person. However, I had reservations about taking on a kitten. See, my father was a veterinarian and I grew up around tons of cats, dogs, birds, fish, rodents and reptiles. I am not at all starry-eyed about animals. I looked at the kitten and knew it was only a few weeks old and probably not fully weaned. In other words, an incredibly high-maintenance little bundle of fluffy goodness.
But of course, one look and I knew for sure we were keeping it. Him. His official name is Kimba the O.G. White Lion. He was named by my son. Why he got to name the kitten when he hasn’t lived with us in 9 years, I have no idea, but he tossed it out there and the girls loved it. So Kimba he is. He was obviously the product of a feral mom, who taught him a lot in his 4-1/2 weeks with her. He has great grooming habits, learned to eat canned and dry kitten food in short order and possesses a ton of personality. He fits right in!
Of course, I’ve spent the past 8 weeks driving home at lunch every day to feed him, since he needs to eat at least 3 times a day. He has already been to the veterinarian 3 times and is costing us a fortune. And since it’s Thanksgiving this week and we always spend it out of town? A pet sitter for two days that is costing us over $100 and my husband is returning Friday night rather than Saturday or Sunday as he thought, so the baby won’t be alone or lonely.
Is he worth it? You bet! Because we’ve all fallen prey to the Kitten Love.
Tell me your favorite baby animal story! Many of us have rescued an orphan or suddenly-homeless pet and we would all love to hear about yours. If you’ve not had a pet, what kind would you like? For some reason, I dreamed my son was little last night and adopted a lizard of some sort with a fungal skin infection we had to treat. Where does my brain get this stuff??
Posted by Caren Crane Nov 3 2013, 7:46 pm in Caren Crane, Exclusive excerpt, Tiara Wars
Hi, Bandita Buddies! Here is a seriously most-exclusive excerpt from my upcoming release in the Cross Springs series, TIARA WARS. This book features Katie Warren, who was kind of…horrible to my heroine, Linda, in KICK START. Well, as we’ll find out, Katie isn’t all bad. She’s simply lived under a burden of Great Expectations from her mother and the good people of Cross Springs. Here is how TIARA WARS starts.
Blog entry from Cross Springs CrossTalk:
When Will Our Katie Come Back?
Watch out, Cross Springs! After a year in mourning, Katie Warren should be recovering enough to resume her duties as Cross Springs’ resident Queen Bee any moment now. All the Wannabes should be happy to have her climb back up on her throne! The Women’s League silent auction for the Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration is rumored to be a sad, sorry mess. Only Katie’s purportedly magic touch can set things right. But will she shed her widow’s weeds and jump back in the social saddle in time to spare the Leaguers certain embarrassment? Or will she remain in seclusion, a shadow of her former glorious self?
My husband Larry haunted my garden. Well, his feet did, anyway.
Even as the North Carolina June suffocated me like a magnolia-scented blanket, I could almost see his grass-stained Topsiders and office-white lawyer’s ankles peering at me from behind the rose hedge.
Most would look around my garden and see serious Southern Living center spread potential. But even after a year, the memory of Larry’s dead legs sucked the joy right out of my once-sacred retreat. Added more fuel to my slow-burning anger at him.
The anger was secret and would remain so. My Mother and the Women’s League of Cross Springs would never countenance display of such an unsavory emotion. Or any other emotion, really.
A sudden burst of Für Elise jarred me from my gloomy thoughts. I fished the cell phone from my pocket.
“Mom,” my daughter Callista barked. “Where are you? I’ve been waiting fifteen minutes already.”
I swiped an arm across my damp forehead. “What time is it? I thought you worked until three today.”
“Mom, it’s 3:15.” She hurled the words with that particular level of disdain only available to teenage girls.
Since this was standard issue Callie these days, I ignored it and glanced at the phone display. She was right. It was later than I had thought. My keen sense of timing had fallen prey to days with no structure.
“Sorry, sweetie. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”
I rushed into the mudroom behind my kitchen and scrubbed the bulk of dirt from my hands. No hope for the garden clogs, which I left on the ceramic tile by the kitchen door. I slipped into the old, comfortable sandals waiting just inside the kitchen.
Sandals I would never have worn in public last summer. But lots of things had changed since then.
I slid on sunglasses in the car and, as a nod to the beauty queen I had been, applied sheer pink lipstick. I still looked awful, but as Mother would say, “Dark glasses and lipstick cover a multitude of sins.” She should know.
I used to care about my appearance. No, scratch that. I had always been obsessed with how I looked. Part and parcel of living on the pageant circuit my entire youth, then spending my adult life being properly put together, Women’s League of Cross Springs style. My current negligence was evidence of how far down the hill I had slid since Larry died. I couldn’t seem to care anymore.
Callie was nowhere to be seen when I pulled into the parking lot of the renovated shopping “village” housing String ‘Em Up. It’s a bead store, not a lynching parlor, no matter what the name seems to imply. Callie and a couple of girls from her youth group had worked there the past three summers.
Teenagers manned cash registers, bussed tables and peddled muffins in the quaint brick shops that made up Farmsworth Village. It served as the heart of historic Cross Springs, North Carolina. My church, Cross Springs Methodist, was old as the town itself and sat in squat splendor right across the road.
A block away was the pseudo-historic train station. “Pseudo” because the original had been a tiny wooden shack they had torn down ages ago. The new one was brick and housed the drivers license office inside and, on weekends, the local Farmers’ Market in the parking lot. “Picturesque” was what the Chamber of Commerce liked to call Cross Springs. “Bourgeois” my real estate agent friend Connie—an official transplanted Yankee—liked to call it.
Für Elise summoned me again. “Katie,” said a voice, sliding into my ear like sun-soaked molasses, “I’m so glad I caught you.”
Uh-oh. It was definitely trouble when the senior pastor called. Kind of eerie, too, since I sat right across the street from the church. But I didn’t think he was stalking me or any such thing—not then. “Willis, what a surprise. Whatever can I do for you?”
“I wanted to ask you a favor.” Double uh-oh. “There’s a project I’m trying to get off the ground and it needs strong leadership. A special touch. The kind I know you could bring.”
My stomached bottomed out. Nobody ever said “no” to Rev. Willis Toms and made it stick. I, however, had made a habit of saying no since Larry died. “What sort of project?”
“It’s a new evangelism course called Genesis that we’re going to host, starting this fall.”
Evangelism? The hair on the back of my neck stood up and gave a parade wave. “That sounds…interesting.” Like a root canal. “And what did you want me to do, exactly?”
“I would like you to lead the course and serve as administrator. There’s a lot of preparation to be done, lots of planning, recruiting, training. It will take someone with enthusiasm and focus. I know you’ve been on hiatus since Larry passed, but naturally, I thought of you.”
Delegate, delegate! I was firmly out of the run-everything-for-everybody business. I sifted through my mental Rolodex. “What about Sandra Holmes? She’s the first person I would have considered.”
As a matter of fact, it was suspicious that Sandra had not been his first choice, since she practically leapt out of her pew as soon as anyone sent out a plea for help in our church.
“Sandra isn’t able to take on anything else right now, I’m afraid.” He cleared his throat in a significant way.
Wonder what that’s about?
“No, you are definitely the best choice, Katie. The church Council agreed with me. What do you say?”
Just say no. Say it! “I…have to think about it. When do you need an answer?”
“Well,” he shifted into business mode, “there’s a training conference on Thursday, so I’ll need to know by Tuesday whether you’re going.”
“But that’s tomorrow—”
“And we need to know by then who will represent the church. I look forward to hearing from you.”
The phone clicked off and a volley of knuckles whapped the window beside my head. I jumped, risked a look and stifled a groan. Angela Kehoe. Of all the parking lots in all the strip malls in town, she had to pull into mine.
I powered down the window and said nothing, hiding behind my dark glasses. I did not smile.
“Why Katie! However are you?”
Saccharine sweet as always, the horrible harpy.
“We’ve missed you so at WLCS.”
That is, the Women’s League of Cross Springs, as previously mentioned. An institution Angela only breached due to the hefty influence of her mother-in-law, the formidable Estelle Kehoe. The standards of the WLCS have declined since the invasion of the Yankees and granola types from the west coast, according to Mother.
“When will you come back to meetings? The plans for our silent auction at the Old Fashioned Fourth have stalled without you riding herd on us to get it done. It really is time for you to get back out in the world, Katie, and figure out what you’ll do without Larry.”
The woman was beyond crass. I couldn’t believe she had the gall to act like she hadn’t ruined my life. She was something far beyond shrewish, but I didn’t know a term for it. Scum-sucking life destroyer, maybe?
I managed a semblance of a smile that probably looked as ghastly as it felt. “Angela. I wasn’t aware we had anything to say to each other.”
Her mouth hung open in an unattractive way, showing lots of capped teeth. She had no class when we were in elementary school together, always smacking gum, laughing too loudly and showing far too much emotion. Some things never change. “I wanted to tell you our good news. Alan was promoted to partner!”
My ears tingled and the top of my head burned. High blood pressure, I was sure. Angela Kehoe was going to kick off an embolism and deprive Callie of her remaining parent if I didn’t get a grip.
Angela babbled on. “We’re taking a trip to Fiji to celebrate. Isn’t it too much?”
Thank goodness the passenger door opened then. It kept me from lurching out the window and grabbing Angela by her stringy neck. Alan was a partner because Larry died and left that corner office open. And it was all Angela’s fault.
“Hey, Ms. Kehoe,” my well-trained daughter said. “Nice tan.”
Yes, if you liked the crispy-fried leather look. Callie didn’t. She was merely practicing the sort of honey-coated backslap she had witnessed her entire life. I am a bit ashamed to say I enjoyed watching her deliver it.
“I needed a base tan,” Angela trilled. “We’re going to—”
I powered up the window and cut off her gleeful “Fiji!”, threw the car in gear and backed out—startlingly close to Angela’s French-manicured toenails.
I felt Callie staring at me, but she did not mention the incident. Not yet. My baby possessed the keen sense of timing that had apparently deserted me these days.
“You used to freak out if my seatbelt wasn’t buckled when you put the car in gear,” she said.
No censure, but lots of curiosity. After all, I hadn’t reacted this strongly to anything since my last conversation with Angela—the day before Larry died.
“You’re practically grown now—seventeen. I trust you to strap yourself in these days. Anyway, you should be driving yourself around, not waiting on me.”
She stared out the window. “I’m not ready to drive.”
“You’ll have to get ready, Callie. Next year is it. Then you’ll be in college and need a car.”
She lifted a shoulder and her silky blonde ponytail slid over it. “Most schools don’t let you have a car on campus when you’re a freshman, anyway.”
“How will you get home when you want to visit?”
She shot me the cocky grin I almost never saw anymore. “You’ll come get me.”
I gave her a rare smile of my own. “Of course I will.”
The smile didn’t hold, though. I owed it to Willis to consider his request, even if every fiber of my being screamed at me not to do it. But my mind raced with visions of that wretched Angela Kehoe frolicking on the white sands of Fiji with her pasty lump of a husband. The one who now occupied Larry’s office.
Since I was still so angry at Larry, the vehemence of my fury at the Kehoes surprised me. Nothing like a writhing bundle of inner turmoil to interfere with rational thought.
“So, why did you almost run over Ms. Kehoe anyway?”
Ah, there it was at last. But this was not a conversation I planned to have with Callie. I arched an eyebrow at her. “Trust me, you really don’t want to know.” Callie had heard enough dirt during my years of WLCS committee work to believe it. “Sorry I was late, sweetie. I was in the garden.”
She gave me a head-to-toe, taking in my scraped back hair, dirt-caked fingernails, and grass stained toes. “You don’t say.”
“Give me a break. I didn’t have time to primp.”
She looked disgusted. “You never take time to look nice anymore. It’s like you don’t even care. Even though you never really go anywhere, people notice, Mom.”
I had no defense. I didn’t care what I looked like anymore.
Callie snorted in disgust. “You have all those stupid tiaras and stuff from a million pageants. I’d think you would care a little bit.”
“I’m doing the best I can.” My latest lie hung in the air, unbudged by the blast of arctic air blowing from the vents between us.
I rolled into our neighborhood, past the purely-for-show gatehouse, not seeing the manicured lawns and seasonal flags. Callie waved at the stay-at-home moms and retirees. With effort, I managed to give them a chin nod. I had lived in Cross Springs most of my life. Larry and I had lived in the lofty confines of Moss Rose Farms for twenty years. Larry chose the house. I got used to it.
At this point, it is worth noting that:
1. I do not live in the wealthiest neighborhood in Cross Springs—those are populated mainly by Yankees and nouveau riche techie types living in what my friend Connie terms “McMansions.”
2. Living in Moss Rose Farms was a choice Larry and I (sort of) made, despite the fact that we could afford a lovely old Victorian home in the more exclusive downtown area (where I grew up).
3. Living in Moss Rose Farms ensured we rubbed elbows with persons who had no live-in help at all.
4. We had no live-in help at all, at Larry’s insistence.
As I said, I had gotten used to it.
I paused next to my mailbox and Callie powered down the window to fetch the mail. “Wow, tons of cards again today.”
I swallowed a sigh. “Just put them in the kitchen with the others.”
I fished out my keys as I neared the door and heard the distinct click of doggy toenails on the tiled path, rounding the corner of my house from the patio. A horse-sized dog hurtled toward me and Callie, a stream of drool trailing behind him.
“Tuck!” Connie yelled.
I should have expected Connie to show up. Somehow, the quiet life I had worked hard to construct the past year had gotten really loud today—and crowded.
A few points about Connie Burns:
1. She is not Women’s League material—never was, never will be.
2. She does not care.
3. She is sleek, career-oriented, a Yankee and disturbingly frank.
4. My WLCS friends do not know what to make of Connie or our friendship.
Life had thrown me and Connie together four years ago when she decided to adopt her daughter Desi and I had, for the first time ever, defied Larry and foiled the sale of a house he owned. A house dear to my heart that he cared about only for the money. Connie and I had been friends ever since, despite our vast differences.
She sauntered around up the path, clicking her lime green stilettos in a more genteel way than her dog’s nails had. Stilettos, to walk the dog.
“Decide to drop in unannounced?” I asked.
She knew how I felt about such things—not kindly—and gave me a cheeky grin. “Just walking Tuck and thought I would pop by. I know how you adore company.”
I knew better than to comment on her walking the dog in those shoes. I unlocked the door. “Come in. But Tuck has to—”
“Stay outside, I know. Come on, monster dog!”
“I’ll take him to the patio, Ms. Connie,” Callie said. She had a soft spot for dogs. Larry could never abide them. Neither could Mother. Therefore, we had never owned one, though Callie had begged for years.
Callie handed me the stack of mail and raced off with Tuck. Connie followed me into the too-cold kitchen. “Good Lord, it’s like a meat locker in here!”
I shrugged. “I know. We wear sweaters. I need to figure out how to change the settings on the thermostats, but…” Another shrug.
I tossed the stack of mail on the island. A slow landslide of pastel envelopes headed for the edge of the stainless steel surface.
“Cripes, Katie. What is all this?”
“No, really?” She gave me her big-eyed, dumb bimbo look. She’s really good at it. Which is extra scary considering how wickedly smart she is.
“Sarcasm is quite unbecoming, Constance.” I drifted toward the sink. “It was a year ago today, you know. I suppose people remembered and thought to send cards.”
“And you think everyone remembered that? I can barely keep up with major holidays.”
I shrugged. “How else do you explain it?”
“Cross Springs CrossTalk. I guarantee they posted a reminder on the blog.”
“Not that again. I haven’t checked that thing in ages.”
“Well, you didn’t need to, did you? But I’d say that pile of cards is telling you something.” She sifted through the pile. “Nice of people to send cards, though. I suppose it’s another one of those things I never learned. Like at cotillion or whatever. Why haven’t you opened any of them?”
I grabbed a cloth and swiped at an imaginary stain on the counter. “Imaginary” because Inez had been here earlier today for our twice-weekly cleaning. I said no “live-in” help, recall, not no help at all. I had learned to cook and do light cleaning but was not inclined to scrub toilets. “I haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
“Cause you’re so busy, right?”
“There’s no need to be nasty, Constance. I am as busy as I care to be.”
She shook cards at me. “People are trying to be nice to you. Why? I have no idea, since you’ve kept yourself totally secluded for the past year. Not only that, you’ve hardly been civil. You don’t return phone calls—even from me—you ignore invitations and can’t even bring yourself to wave at the neighbors.”
I scrubbed harder and tried to ignore the guilt crowding my brain. No good. I threw the cloth down and leaned against the counter, arms crossed. “I’m in mourning, Con.”
“You’re in something, but I’m not sure it’s that.”
Her eyebrows climbed. “Like you don’t know? Come on, don’t you look in the mirror anymore?”
Heat rose in my cheeks. “I know I’ve let myself go a little—”
“A little?” She dropped the cards and began pacing and ticking things off on her fingers. “You quit every group, club and committee you belonged to—a substantial list, might I add—you stopped going to any social events, you never show up for anything at church. Worst of all, you’ve completely let yourself go. Your skin, your nails, your clothes. Look at those sandals! Even your hair.”
She spoke like it was a cardinal sin. For a woman like me, it was. Connie was no cotillion-weaned belle, but she dressed well. Flashier than the WLCS could stomach, but she knew what a dyed-in-the-wool Leaguer should look like. I swallowed the lump in my throat and raised a self-conscious hand to my dry, sun-bleached hair.
“People have noticed all that, Katie. Big time. And you know they have. Let’s not be coy. You were kind of the queen bee of the social hive in Cross Springs.”
Guilt again, stronger than ever. Guilt truly is an unpleasant emotion. “But I thought everyone would get over it. They didn’t need me, they simply thought they did. Anything I ever did, someone else could have done just as well.”
She stopped in front of me and shook her head. “Not just as well. Not even close, in some cases. I heard about the silent auction for the Fourth. Sounds horrible. No one even approached my firm about making a donation and you know we’re always on the list since Bob Newsome’s wife Carol is in WLCS.”
I leaned toward her. “I’m not irreplaceable, Con.”
She leaned toward me until we looked like those boxers I had glimpsed at one of Larry’s sporting event viewings with his lawyer friends. “Yes, you are. Nobody else is you, Katie. You’re a freaking paragon around this town.”
“No, I’m not.”
She grabbed my upper arms and gave me a little shake. “I’m not going to fight with you. You know why you have that mountain of cards and I do, too. People want you to snap out of this funk you’re in and pull your shit together.”
I pulled back and leaned against the counter again. “I almost ran over Angela Kehoe’s toes a little while ago.”
She frowned at the non sequitur. “The Key ‘Ho?” Connie’s rude nickname for Angela, one of her most difficult clients ever. “Any particular reason?”
My heart pounded. I had to tell her—had to tell someone. The weight of suppressed emotion overwhelmed me. “Yes, actually, there is a reason I almost ran over her unfortunate pedicure. There’s also a reason I’ve let myself go and that I feel like I’m completely replaceable.”
The clock ticked. My heart pounded. My pride packed it in and left town in a hurry.
“A year ago, the day before he died, Angela Kehoe told me Larry was cheating on me.”
Posted by Caren Crane Nov 3 2013, 12:57 am in Caren Crane, Carrie Fisher, Christmas, Christmas catalogs, cinephilia, Classic Musicals, Claudia Dain, coveting, covetousness, Grammar t-shirt, Irish Walking Cape, pithy t-shirts, Robert Herrick, Rustic Old Man Tree Planter, Shockaholic, wish list, witty t-shirts
Okay, that quote in the title is by some dude named Robert Herrick. I had no idea who he was, but I looked him up because I liked the quote. He was an English poet (born in Cheapside) who lived in the late 1500s to late 1600s. During the English Civil War, he was ousted from the parish where he was vicar and had to survive on the charity of his family and friends. Obviously, Robbie knew a thing or two about coveting and how it could eat at the soul.
Friends, I am coveting these days. Normally I don’t want much that I don’t have or can’t get, but right now I am clearly in a fragile mental state. The Christmas catalogs started arriving last week and I have been bitten with the bug of covetousness. Since I probably won’t shake it for a while, I decided just to roll with it. Here is a list of things that, as of the past five days or so, I find it hard to live without.
1. Irish Walking Cape – It is a blend of wool, cashmere and nylon. It is hooded. It is claret. That means RED ladies. And it is IRISH! Apparently, the hood doubles as a scarf or muffler. What?!?! I am completely in love with this walking cape. Sadly, it is $250, so I will not be getting it for Christmas. But I keep caressing the picture in the Acorn catalog!
2. Rustic Old Man Tree Planter – Okay, I have no need for another planter of any kind, but this one stole my heart. I think I would want him inside my house, though, where I would see him often. I think he would go well in my office that I don’t have yet but would love to establish in my older daughter’s bedroom. Isn’t he delightful? His face looks like that of an Ent from Tolkein’s The Lord Of the Rings trilogy. I would love to hang him on the wall and look to him for inspiration as I write. He might talk to me one day! I found him in the Bits and Pieces catalog. They also have a gorgeous Royal Peacock I am totally getting my mother for Christmas!
3. Grammar T-shirt – In the Wireless catalog, there are many awesome t-shirts with pithy sayings. Some sayings ring true for others in my life and some for me. The fun sayings involving calculus make me giggle and the Latin one that reads “Vetustior Humo” (Old As Dirt) is a hoot! They have a ton of awesome shirts, though, so choosing a favorite was tough. The one that emerged as my favorite reads “Silently correcting your grammar.” When I saw it I laughed and laughed! My husband rolled his eyes, because he thinks I do this out loud. He has NO IDEA how many corrections I keep inside my horrible, judgmental head. Poor thing. I decided at his eyeball roll that I must have it. I am not only covetous, but sometimes petty.
4. Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher - Wireless catalog also has autographed copies of Carrie Fisher’s new memoir. Not only is she an amazing and hilarious actress, she is a fine writer as well. I adored her Wishful Drinking (which, believe it or not, was a selection I read for my book club at work), so I would love to read this. Carrie Fisher is not only funny, but also honest, poignant and suffering from some pretty serious mental illness. It is fascinating to read her tales about herself and the labyrinthine relationships between her and all the (other) famous (and infamous) people in her life. I always enjoy books that are signed by the author, so this is kind of a perfect gift for me. Hint, hint, Mr. Crane!
5. Classical Musicals: 50 Movies – Okay, my eyes and brain took a minute to synch up after I saw this listing in the Acorn catalog. It didn’t have much information about which 50 musicals were included on the 12 DVDs, so I went online to check. Now, I love musicals but I’ll readily admit I have seen only the Really Big Hits on this list. My cinephilic friend, the Incomparable Claudia Dain, would probably know many of these. I, sir, am no Claudia Dain! I think it’s worth investing the $29.98 to further my sadly lacking education, don’t you?
I have only received three Christmas catalogs and have already found about a hundred things I want to buy for Other People! Finding things I want for myself is much harder and rarer. I am insanely happy I have found things to covet, even if a certain poet said it consigns me to be “evermore a slave.” I’m a willing slave to that Irish Walking Cape, Mr. Herrick!
What about you, my fine and fickle friends? Has the taint of covetousness possessed you this year? Any Expensive Enticements or Maddening Must-haves on your list? Do tell us all about it. This is a Safe Space, after all, where no one will judge your deepest, darkest, most forbidden desires. (Unless, of course, you use improper grammar! Bwahahaha)
Posted by Caren Crane Oct 16 2013, 12:41 am in Caren Crane, chronic illness, elderly, flu season, flu shot, flu vaccine, illness, infants, influenza, Obama, sick coworkers, tis the season
No, not that season. At least, not yet. ‘Tis the season, however, for one of my favorite autumn rituals. It’s one that rolls around every October here in the United States, just like clockwork. Commercials appear on the radio. Billboards advertise the need we have for it. Everyone I know is prompted, pushed and — if they are unfortunate enough to know me — harassed until they give in. Yes, friends, ’tis the season to get a ‘flu shot!
People tend to fall into two camps on this one. Either they get a ‘flu shot every year or they never do. Those of us who get a yearly shot usually have a Very Good Reason for doing so. Some people have a chronic illness or live with someone who does, making it a necessity. Some have elderly or very young family members, making a ‘flu shot more than just a good idea, but a lifesaving one.
Other folks are not doing it for others, but only for themselves. They have Stories. ‘Flu Stories. I have one of those myself. Back in the winter of 1994, I was pregnant with my third child. A really egregious ‘flu swept the country that year. The kind of ‘flu that knocked people off their feet for days at a time, settled into the chest with a rattling cough and soaring fever, and left the sufferer feeling rode hard and put up wet. My son had it. My infant daughter had it (complete with vomiting and diarrhea, as happens to the Very Young). My husband had it. Then I had it. I caught it last, after days of nursing my ailing family, feeding broth to the febrile, soothing fevered brows and giving doses of ‘flu medicines.
I thought I was going to die. We all, at some point, were sure we were going to die. These were the days before the miracle that is Tamiflu, which at least hastens your recovery if you realize really early that you have ‘flu and not just some random virus. Back in those days, you just suffered and made do with treating the symptoms. As my husband and I had some flu-weakened minor trench warfare about Who Was Sicker and Whose Turn It Was to clean up the baby, I made a vow: next year, flu shots for everyone. And every year since then, we have all gotten flu shots.
I’m pretty sure my son rolls his eyes at those these days. Since he doesn’t live with me, though, I don’t do more than issue a reminder. The girls are both in college, so they are harassed mercilessly until they make it to one of the many flu shot clinics held at their universities. I get mine at work, where they realize it’s better to give us free shots than have everyone out sick. My husband it usually the last one to get his, even though the pharmacy on the corner offers flu shots every day.
So now it’s ‘flu shot season again and I am here to issue you, dearest Banditas and Buddies, a helpful reminder. Get your ‘flu shot. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your elderly and infant relations. Do it for your chronically-ill friend. Do it for your co-workers, who really need you there doing your job. Heck, do it for me so I will rest easier at night. Please don’t wait until you have a Story to tell. A ‘Flu Story. A horrible, fevered tale full of aching muscles, delirium and fervent prayers for sweet oblivion. Just get the shot instead. And if your own ‘flu season won’t roll around for half a year, get one then.
So are you a ‘flu shot veteran or a ‘flu shot avoider? If you get a ‘flu shot, what convinced you to do it? If you are an avoider, why do you play chicken with the ‘flu? Or are you one of those cocky people who never has the ‘flu? (Believe me, it only takes once to make you a believer! And look, even our President gets a ‘flu shot!) Share your Stories, friends, for ’tis the season!
Posted by Caren Crane Oct 6 2013, 11:15 pm in Ada, Anita H., Autographed tote bag, Bandita Booty, Caren Crane, Debra Webb, gift cards, prize winners, Regan Black, Secret Ninja
Congratulations to the winners from our extra-fun visit from Regan Black and Debra Webb. Sadly, no mentoring was on offer but we have a few other goodies to give away:
ANITA H. has won a $10 gift card to either B&N or Amazon (her choice) and an autographed tote bag!
SECRET NINJA/ADAhas won a $10 gift card to either B&N or Amazon!
Lucky you guys! You can use your gift cards to buy BULLETPROOF by Regan Black, which is available for pre-order for Nook and iTunes and on sale everywhere October 17! To claim your prize, please contact Regan at black.regan @ gmail . com.
Congrats again and thanks for being such great commenters!
Posted by Caren Crane Oct 6 2013, 12:36 am in Caffeine-Free Coke Zero, Caren Crane, couples, Hilton Head Island, Loch Ness, Lodge Cast Iron, Lodge Dutch Oven, Nessie, Piggly Wiggly, Raleigh Air Quality, vacation
Last month I took a very enjoyable vacation to Hilton Head Island, SC. Hilton Head is a gorgeous, quiet getaway. One of those places that feels very far away from the Real World. Imagine my surprise when, on our annual visit to the Piggly Wiggly at Coligny Plaza (there I am with the Pig), I found something mythical. Something magical. Something I had dreamed of, felt certain must exist in the world, yet had never seen nor heard tell of.
Yes friends, I found caffeine-free Coke Zero. This may not be as shocking to you as it was to me. I was actually speechless for a few seconds. I took a picture of it to prove it existed. It was like finding Nessie floating in Loch Ness! Even more astonishing, just last weekend I was at a writing retreat in Littleton, NC, and found it in a Food Lion there! Not 2-liter bottles, sadly, but a fridge pack of 12 cans. I still have some in the fridge!
This led me to reflect on whether there were other things I have obtained that I may have previously considered unobtainable. I’m sure there are lots, but my brain only gave me access to a few:
1. Independent HVAC Guy – Over the Labor Day weekend, our upstairs heat pump stopped cooling. Although it was early September, it was still plenty warm enough to need air conditioning. Plus, I have terrible allergies (especially in Fall) so we can’t really open the windows. My husband and I try, as much as possible, to support local businesses. I don’t know about where you live, but in the Raleigh, NC area we have very few independent business owners specializing in Heating and Cooling. Most of the HVAC businesses (and plumbing businesses, come to that) are owned by huge regional or national companies. My husband dug around, though, and found Abdul. He is the most technically savvy, honest and responsive HVAC guy I’ve ever met. He fixed our Labor Day issue without charging us extra and he came out just yesterday to fix an issue with the downstairs heat pump. An issue, btw, caused by the large national company who installed the heat pump. I am ecstatic to have found Abdul. For anyone in the Triangle area, here is his website: Raleigh Air Quality.
2. A Couple You and Your Spouse Both Love – My husband and I have been married for almost 21 years. We dated for 4-1/2 years before we married. That’s a lot of years, folks. It became clear early on that the love of my life had few friends. The ones he did have had spouses I did not particularly care for. I could be perfectly pleasant to them, but didn’t want to hang out for long periods of time. Then, a miracle happened. My husband met my best friend from high school, Nancy, and her husband Keith. Nancy and Keith live in Chicago and we went to stay with them for a few days about 4 years ago. Ron and Keith hit it off right away. There were excursions, late nights talking and drinking, and an epic quest for mead in the Chicago area. They have now been on vacation with us twice and we plan to visit and travel with them again. We all get along incredibly well and have the best times ever! Here is a picture of Ron and Keith cheesing it up at dinner one night. There may have been beer involved.
3. The Perfect Stewpot - Those of you who do not cook much may not believe this, but there is a mythical kitchen instrument that all creators of soups and stews dream of finding. It is the perfect size, with just the right lid. It fits the burner on your stove nicely and does not have handles or a shape that make it impossible to store in your kitchen. I found mine just this year and bought it for myself for my birthday. Since it is my perfect stewpot, it did not cost hundreds of dollars either. It has all the fine qualities of a La Creuset enameled cast iron pot without the heart-stopping price tag. It is the Lodge 6-qt. Color Enamel Dutch Oven in Caribbean blue. I didn’t necessarily want the blue (they have one that is pumpkin!) but it was on Overstock.com at around $70. I snapped that thing up in a hurry!
Have you found something you thought you would never find in a million years? Is there an elusive something for which you have searched and come up empty-handed? Share with us so we can enjoy your triumphs and lament your unfulfilled wishes. Maybe someone will know just where you can get your unobtainable object!
Posted by Caren Crane Oct 3 2013, 12:17 am in Bulletproof, Caren Crane, Debra Webb, gift card, Impulse, Justice Incarnate, Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance, mentors, obsession, Paranormal Romantic Suspense, prizes, Regan Black, Romantic suspense, series, Shadows of Justice Collection, tote bag, Unknown Identities
I’m thrilled to be hosting a couple of dear friends in the Lair today. Both should be well known to you by now, since both have guested with us before! Regan Black and I met eons ago, back when we still had young children and life was hectic and somewhat crazed. Regan and Debra met a couple of years later and gradually the circle closed until we were all chums. I admire both of them so very much and seriously love their books. Today they’re talking about something that happens often in writing circles but is rarely discussed with readers: mentoring. Debra and Regan both write suspense (though Regan’s tends toward the paranormal) and Debra sort of took Regan under her very experienced wing. Showed her how to do what she already did even better. Now Regan is here to talk about this mentor relationship and what it does for both of them. Deb will probably be popping in to answer comments, as well. Settle in, pull up a chair, grab a cold beverage and a warm canape and listen in.
Thanks so much, Caren, for having us back in the lair today! Deb and I always have such fun here.
Mentors are people we look up to, people we admire for their various skills and expertise. They are the people we’d like to resemble when we grow up. Debra Webb, one of the top names in romantic suspense, has been that person for me for the majority of my career. She’s driven, prolific, and quick with a plot twist if you find yourself in need of one.
We first met at a Smoky Mountain Romance Writer’s conference ages ago (but miraculously, neither of us has aged a day since). Her advice from those sessions carried me in good stead (and still does). Though our publishing paths differed, Deb has always been a tremendous source of support and encouragement in my career.
Deb gave me my first cover quote for Justice Incarnate. She taught me how to write a synopsis (a feat my critique partners greatly appreciated). She helped me sort out the editorial language of revision letters. In 2011, she introduced me to the editor of the Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance, who purchased an original Shadows of Justice novella for that anthology.
But let’s fast-forward to August of 2012.
With Deb’s stunning success early in 2012 self-publishing Obsession and Impulse, the first two books in her acclaimed Faces of Evil series, Grand Central picked up the series. Just as her books were about to be re-launched in ebook and paperback, Deb called to check on me.
Seriously. Yeah, she’s good like that.
My year wasn’t going nearly as well as Deb’s. In fact, I was sure my career was going down in flames. I had the obituary written (it was some of my best work), but Deb refused to believe it. More importantly she refused to let me believe it.
That phone call last year was a tremendous change-up. I took pages of notes while she efficiently dissected my career circumstances, listened to my goals and ideas, assessed my strengths and productivity, and laid out a plan to move me forward.
Deb always has a plan.
BULLETPROOF, the first book in a new paranormal romantic suspense series, is the big next step in that plan. Deb brought these characters from vague concepts to three-dimensional with in-depth brainstorming and “Oh! What if…” phone sessions. She kept me motivated with hard release dates, promotional schedules, and killer advice for the cover art concepts.
A soldier is nothing without his honor.
To avoid a dishonorable end to his decorated military career, John Noble made a deal with the devil. He gave up his name, endured harrowing training, and accepted every mission thrown at him for one purpose: redemption.
An ambitious reporter, Amelia Bennett, is about to break the story of her career, if she lives long enough to tell it. Caving to her boss’s demand, she hires a bodyguard and soon it is obvious John Noble is the only obstacle standing between her and certain death.
Just when John believes he has found someone he can trust and love, who loves him unconditionally for who and what he has become, his orders are amended: Amelia Bennett is to be terminated.
Introducing Unknown Identities: an alternative for elite soldiers and spies facing criminal charges… if they can survive the program. Don’t miss Double Vision, the next installment of this sizzling, action packed series.
Available October 17, BULLETPROOF has enough of a paranormal edge to keep my muse happy, but still this venture often feels like a giant step into a new genre for me. When I start to freak out, Deb pipes up with the familiar ‘don’t worry’ refrain. (Sing it with me!)
It’s a blessing to relax in her utter confidence. And she should know whether or not I need to freak out. Not only is she one of the best in the business when it comes to romantic suspense, she was the editor-in-chief for BULLETPROOF.
Deb’s philosophy of mentoring is rooted in the theory that authors need to work together for mutual success. While our writing styles are different, we can still brainstorm, evaluate, and share experiences (or nightmares) from marketing to formatting to tangled plots in order to help each other stay productive.
Some days that involves listening to the natural highs and lows of working in the weird, non-linear publishing industry. Other days it means a swift kick in the creative pants to get ourselves back to the keyboard and into the next wonderful tale that wants to be told.
To celebrate this new book and the Unknown Identities series, Deb and I would like to give one lucky winner a $10 gift card to Amazon or B&N along with a signed BULLETPROOF tote bag. To enter, just leave a comment about your experience being mentored or being a mentor.
Good luck everyone!
Live the adventure,
Okay, y’all know what to do. Tell us about your adventures in either being mentored or being a mentor!
Posted by Susan Sey Oct 1 2013, 12:01 am in Amy Andrews, Anna Campbell, Annie West, Caren Crane, Christie Kelley, coming attractions, contests, Debra Webb, gerry russell, reading, Regan Black, sarah jane stone, tamara hogan, Trish Milburn
I love fall. There’s so much to look forward to–chunky sweaters, soft scarves, fresh-picked apples. Then there’s the first frost, first pumpkin pie, first crockpot chili… Some among us might say football season (I’m looking at you, Suz & Jeanne) but some of us married Nebraskans without full disclosure about much of every weekend would be sacrificed to televised Husker coverage. (It’s extensive. I should’ve been warned.)
But here in the Lair, there’s something for everybody! And October is looking awesome. Check out what’s in store for you!
Love a good historical? Check out Christie Kelly’s new release ENTICING THE EARL!
More into the witty contemporary? Caren Crane’s KICK START is now available as a trade paperback!
Looking for something a little darker? How about Trish Milburn’s OUT OF THE NIGHT?
Click on the covers for more details!
On Wednesday, October 2nd, Anna Campbell hosts lair favorite Annie West (www.annie-west.com), who’ll tell us about her latest passionate tale, AN ENTICING DEBT TO PAY. Annie’s always great fun and we look forward to hearing about what’s going on in her life! Plus she’s giving away two copies of her new book!
On Thursday, October 3rd, our own Caren Crane will host Regan Black and Debra Webb as they discuss the Magic of Mentors. Regan and Debra will share what makes their professional friendship so beneficial – and so productive. They’ll be giving away an autographed BULLETPROOF totebag & a $10 Amazon gift card, so swing on by!
On Friday, October 4th, Sara Jane Stone will be celebrating her debut release, COMMAND PERFORMANCE, with us! Tawny says that this is one hot, hot debut, so you might want to wear oven mitts. One lucky commenter will receive her own e-copy of COMMAND PERFORMANCE!
On Monday, October 7th, Susan Sey invites Tamara Hogan to talk about all the things authors should never say on Twitter (but maybe want to.) Come hear all about it, & maybe win a copy of Tamara’s latest release TEMPT ME!
On Friday, October 11, Christine Brooks bring us another lair favorite–the fabulous Amy Andrews with her brand new release from Momentum, HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO.
On Monday, October 21, Nancy welcomes Gerri Russell back to the Lair. Gerri will talk to us about her new release, A LAIRD FOR CHRISTMAS, and dating customs in the 1700s.
Anna Campbell is holding a Halloween contest to celebrate a month-long price cut on her very romantic ghost story, THESE HAUNTED HEARTS, which is now only 99 cents. She’s giving away two copies of the novella (international). All you need to do is email her on firstname.lastname@example.org and tell her the name of her 2012 Christmas novella featuring Alicia and Sebastian. You might just find the answer on Anna’s book page: http://annacampbell.info/books.html For more information, please visit Anna’s contest page: http://annacampbell.info/contest.html
And that’s just what I can round up in advance! Stuff is always cropping up last minute, so make sure to stay tuned!
Turning over that calendar page always brings surprises–some welcome, some not so much. Any surprises on your agenda this week?
Posted by Caren Crane Sep 4 2013, 12:44 am in Assumptions, At-A-Glance Calendar, Brussels sprouts, Caren Crane, contemporary romance, dislikes, Food Journal, Haircut, likes, Self-Knowledge, Snacks, What I Like To Read
One thing I know about myself, most sincerely and with no doubt at all, is that I am guilty of making huge assumptions. Especially assumptions based on what I think I know. My husband often challenges me about these things and, sadly, he is right to do so. This may startle you, but my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. Shocking, I know! So sometimes, things I think I know turn out to be…well…maybe not quite as I thought.
One of the worst assumptions I make is that I know myself really well. Granted, I’ve lived with myself for several decades now and I do know quite a bit about what I like and dislike and things of that sort. But sometimes I make wrong assumptions about even that. I always find this fairly astonishing. Let’s look at a few of these things as cases in point:
1. What I Like To Read – I would hazard a guess that all of us here believe we know what we like to read. I, too, know what I like to read. In general. Where I erred was in making assumptions about what I read most often. I’ve had a Kindle for a couple of years now and I have nice categories set up for the books stored on it. This is not only a convenience for organizational purposes, though. It’s also handy because I can see at a glance how many of what sort of book I have bought (though not all have yet been read). I would have said, before owning my Kindle, that I mostly read Regencies and other historical romances. Turns out, that’s not the case. My Kindle currently says: Romance – Historical (28). It also says Romance – Contemporary (66)! It became obvious to me that I buy and read a heck of a lot more contemporary romance than historical. It still doesn’t feel true, though!
2. How Much I Eat – If you ever want to humble yourself, I recommend keeping a food journal for a few weeks. It’s one of those things nutritionists want you to do when you’re trying to lose weight and having little success (the story of my life!). Some years, I think I know exactly what and how much I’m eating. Then I step on the scale and realize I have no idea what is going in my mouth. When I actually keep a food journal and scrupulously write down everything I eat or drink, nasty truths begin to emerge. Such as, I really like to graze. Ten almonds here. Three Triscuits there. String cheese. A plum. By the time I get to the end of a day, I find out I’ve consumed far more snack calories than I should have. While I’m pretty good about remembering and being conscious of what I eat at meal times, all that grazing in the food journal paints me in a less flattering light. Wretched food journal.
3. How Long It’s Been Since My Last Haircut – When we were at the RWA conference in July, I noticed that my hair didn’t look as good as it should. I have pretty high expectations for my hair (not that it’s noticeable to anyone besides me how much time I spend on it) and it just didn’t have the bounce or the body that I wanted. The shape wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t figure out why, since I had just had it cut, like, a month ago – maybe 6 weeks at most. I valiantly battled the brown mop with hair products, round brush and blow dryer. Still, it disappointed me. Fast forward to the week after conference, when I recalled my ongoing disappointment and consulted my faithful At-A-Glance Administrator’s calendar. It hadn’t been 4 or even 6 weeks since my last haircut. My last hair appointment had been 11 weeks before conference. Yes, 11 weeks. No wonder I looked like Haggis McBaggis! My stylist, needless to say, was all astonishment when I came in and she realized it had been 3 months. It brought home the lesson that I desperately need to make my next appointment while I’m there rather than waiting. Sheesh!
So what about you? Has life taught you any lessons about what you don’t really know about yourself? Please share so I don’t feel like I’m the only one who thought, all my life, that I didn’t like Brussels sprouts and then found out I just hadn’t had good Brussels sprouts.