Monday, May 31, 2010

We Remember

They say a photo speaks a thousand words, so today, I'll let the photo I snapped of my 7-year-old son at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., do the talking:

 From my porch to yours, I wish all of you a wonderful Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

God's Jar

It dawned on me that I haven't posted one of my melodramatic poems in months, friends. Tsk. Tsk. We can't have me not being melodramatic! I have a rep to protect.

Anyway, this is one of my favorites and it seemed appropriate in light of the heartbreaking BP catastrophe in the Gulf. Oh, Greed: she is a terrible, terrible thing. As I watch our waters, wetlands and wildlife succumb to oil and poison, all I can think about is the old saying, "Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money."

God's Jar

He holds in glass a foreign land
Where darkness dwells inside of man
And fruit withers on gnarled trees
In gardens sowed with mankind's seed.

He peers inside and tears soon well
As rain descends and oceans swell
Fatherless men seek clemency
Waters purge and shores recede.

He shaped this place of life and death
And was The One who gave it breath
He fashioned man; is He to blame?
Is His triumph, also His shame?

The grace of God held in His hands
His Son asks, "Father, what is that?"
God lays it in his tiny grasp
"Be careful, Son," is all He asks.

A child of faith smiles down from high
Across the stars, his laughter nigh
He marvels at this world afar
Tiny grains trapped in Heaven's jar.

He shakes the jar and gazes in
As water wipes the world of sin
Then light imbues the once dark space
And new life rises in its place.

He holds in glass a foreign land
Where waves caress crushed golden sand
And sea oats whisper in the wind
On shores barren of man and sin.

© 2008 by Jennifer Jenkins Reese
All rights reserved

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Mom Rocks! (OR, This Explains A Lot About Me, Doesn't It?)

Mamas, if they are good ones, are always picking us up, dusting us off and patting us on the backs. Although I'm (gulp) 40, my mom still sings my praises. Man, do I have her fooled or what?! Regardless, I love her (and dad) dearly for continually supporting and encouraging me.

Look. I'm completely unbiased, but she really is the best mom in the world. Sorry if that makes your mom sub par, but I just tell it like it is. Don't blame the messenger.

Need supporting evidence? Here are just a few of the many, many reasons why my Mom is the best: 

She's my biggest fan. When I was a little girl, Mom sat through numerous dance, piano and clarinet practices and recitals. Although I clearly sucked at all of those things, Mom never complained about the time or money, always applauded enthusiastically and made me feel like a super star (<--- say that with Mary Katherine Gallagher-like emphasis, please). I think she also thought the years of ballet would keep me from falling down stairs so often. Someone owes her a refund.

She has mad driving skillz. When I turned 10, Mom took me to an area mall to shop for my birthday presents. For some strange reason, a big chain drug store in the mall was selling hamsters (do hamsters serve medicinal purposes? Is that why Richard Gere used them? Hamster colonics?). I looked up at Mom with my much-practiced, big, brown puppy-dog eyes expression and she actually fell for it and bought me a hamster. During our 30-minute drive home - at night - during a storm - the hamster chewed his way out of the drug store's cardboard container and scampered around the car, just as we were crossing a long bridge high over a river. Miraculously, Mom didn't lose control of the car in spite of torrential rain, our screams and a hyper, panicked rodent underfoot.  

She's always "Doing it All for My Baby." Mom went through what she refers to as her "MTV phase" with her four kids during the '80s. She would sit glued to the tube and occasionally yell things like, "KIDS! Come quick! They're showing 'Thriller' again!" She also developed a crazy mad crush on Huey Lewis and would drop whatever she was doing to run into the TV room and dance during his videos. Yeah. I didn't bring friends home with me much during those days, but I appreciated having a mom in the Bible Belt who didn't think music videos were evil.  

She weathers the storms with grace. For my 13th birthday, Mom begrudgingly let me have a slumber party and invite all my girlfriends - both those I was close to and those I hoped to impress. She somehow piled a dozen of us into her Datsun hatchback (clown car, anyone?) and, with various adolescent limbs in her face and on her lap, drove us to the movies during a tornado outbreak. She wasn't comfortable with this arrangement, but I told her we HAD to go to the movies or I would forever be dubbed as the loser who threw the lamest birthday party ever. Later that night, Mom and Dad came downstairs when the storm sirens sounded and discovered a couple of 13-year-old boys hiding in the basement. Ummmmm. I don't know how they got there. (My friends were slutty). Although I was never allowed to have another slumber party, Mom calmly sent the intruders home and did not embarrass me in front of my friends. 

She keeps me grounded. My mom grounded me for the entire summer vacation when I was a rebellious 15-year-old who was getting in over my stupid teen-age head. My older brother (punk) ratted me out and told her that a friend and I tied bedsheets together and climbed out of my second-story window to sneak out with boys (are you seeing a pattern here?). That was the last straw in a long list of teen-age offenses, and I was grounded for two whole months. Truth is, I was relieved - even grateful - for the punishment. I knew I was headed for trouble, and Mom gave me the perfect excuse to get out of it. I probably pouted and didn't thank her at the time, so I will now. Thanks for the boundaries, Mom. 

She understands hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  The first time a (dumb) boyfriend broke my heart, I cried all day and told Mom I would feel so much better if I could take all of our relationship mementos and throw them in his face. Much to my surprise, she told me to gather his things in a grocery sack and meet her in the car. We drove slowly into his neighborhood, looking over our shoulders like two criminals as we approached his house. When no cars were around, she handed me the bag and said, "Go for it!" I jumped out and trashed his yard with love notes, photos, t-shirts and other relationship paraphernalia as Mom cheered me on from the sidelines. Satisfied, I jumped back in the car, tires squealed and Mom sped off like a mad woman. We laughed all the way home. It was considerably more therapeutic than ice cream. 

 She's good clean fun. After my sophomore year in college, I told Mom I wanted to get out of the dorms and move into my own apartment. She was concerned, but she supported me, even convincing my wary dad that I could handle the responsibility of being on my own. I couldn't afford a nice place by myself, and I noticed my parents' horrified expression as they drove me and all my belongings up to a decrepit white house with peeling paint, sagging gutters and cracked windows (sadly, that was its better side). Mom and I spent the entire day scrubbing every square inch of that filthy, roach-motel apartment and sprucing it up with plants, curtains, fresh bedding and pictures. By the time we finished, the apartment had come such a long way that we kept walking around it, marveling at our handiwork. To celebrate our inner Martha Stewarts, we went to eat at a local Italian restaurant, but we were so utterly exhausted from the day of moving, cleaning and decorating, that neither of us could summon the energy to talk. When we both nearly crashed face-first into our plates of spaghetti, we burst into a delirious fit of laughter and couldn't stop. Mom spent that first night with me, and we woke up in a terrible, but sparkling-clean apartment. As she and Dad pulled away the next morning, I'll never forget her looking back over her shoulder and waving. It was the first time I truly felt on my own in the world, and thanks to her, I was ready for it.

She shoots for the stars. Mom is a total lightweight and mostly goody two-shoes who rarely partakes of alcohol. On a trip to Florida, Mom and I packed some wine down to the beach, where we sat sipping and talking. After a couple of glasses, we decided to head back to our condo, which was on the building's second floor. We began to ascend the stairs, and I stopped at the appropriate landing, but Mom kept climbing ... and climbing. I asked her where she was going and she said, "Back to the condo! Where are you going?" I swear, she would have climbed all the way to the top if I hadn't retrieved her. Good times. Good times.

She's duckin' funny. My older sister moved into a lovely house in a beautiful country club neighborhood that backs up to a golf course - you know, the kind of neighborhood with very strict association guidelines about what can and can't be placed outside the home. So what did Mom and I do to welcome her to her new home? We went to the local Big Lots and bought the tackiest yard decor we could find: a big, concrete, bright yellow duck with googly eyes and an animated, cartoonish face. When my sister was out of her home one afternoon, we snuck over and placed the duck prominently on her porch, then giggled and high-fived each other like school kids as we drove away. Thankfully, my sister has a wonderful sense of humor and kept the duck (but moved it to the back deck).

She always has time for me. Mom and I were leisurely perusing a large big-box sort of store one Sunday afternoon, picking up gardening supplies and  thoroughly enjoying our day of bargain shopping. Our cart was nearly full when a store employee came down the aisle, a bewildered expression on his face. "Excuse me, ladies," he said, "But what in the world are you doing here?" Duh. What a moron. Rolling our eyes, we told him we were shopping, of course. And that's when he told us the store had been closed for nearly an hour, and we needed to leave. Oops.

She's got the write stuff. I love plenty of writers, but my mom is my favorite. She's a newspaper columnist who has a tremendous gift with words. She has long been considered another Erma Bombeck, and my childhood antics (and those of my siblings) were often reported in our local newspaper. Yep, she even wrote about the time I jumped off the carport roof at 13 and left my shorts dangling on a nail. You know how much fun it is to be a very sensitive eighth-grader and have the entire school know I was rolling around in my underwear and crying for my mommy? I'm not remotely bitter, mind you, but have you read the story about her Christmas grape tree?

She's still got it. Last but not least, she wrote me this encouraging email about the Porch just last night. It might be the last one she writes me, once she realizes I'm using her messages for blog fodder. Sorry, Mom, but that's a chance I'll have to take:

I was just catching up with your blog and as always am amazed at your spectacular writing and wit. I keep thinking, "Why didn't I write that?" But then again, I can always steal it. Copyright, schmapywrite.
There was one disappointment, however.
I thought you were referring to an entirely different kind of PENIS, so I was avidly reading along, even skipping whole groups of words to get to the dirty part.
What a bummer.

Love you,

Of course, I told her I was sorry the PENIS didn't satisfy her and that she'd better not think for one second that just because she's my mom, I won't sue her ass if she steals from me.

Like I said, we're close like that.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

You've Come to the Right Place!

You did not take a wrong turn. You did not bookmark the wrong blog. You did not have too much wine and stumble up to the wrong Porch (but if you did do any of those things, I'd welcome you with open arms, so long as you shared the wine).

I'm the same ol' deranged writer you know and lov--, well, I'm the same ol' deranged writer you know, anyway.

The Porch, on the other hand, has been completely remodeled. I'm sorry I didn't scream, "DRIVER, MOVE THAT BUS!", so you had some warning. But for some time, I've been looking for a template that is more "me", whatever the heck that is. I mean, what kind of look fits topics ranging from gardening to vajazzling, Chocodile yearning to Olympic dreaming? Yeah. I don't know either, so I picked this one. I found it under the "schizophrenic" template category.

And I'm still toying with it, trying to get it to do what I want (all together now: that's what she said!).

Does it rub you the right way? The wrong way? And now that we have your sex life out of the way, tell me what you think of the blog...

You like? Dislike? Admittedly, I'm very much a novice when it comes to layout. Last time I worked in design, I used an X-acto knife and wax rollers.  I tried that on the computer, but it just scratched up the screen and made it really sticky.

This is a template, but I can tweak, rearrange elements, alter colors. In other words, I have options, so your feedback is welcome. And while you're at it, please feel free to tell me what you think of the Porch in general. What kind of posts do you enjoy most? least? What would you like to see more of? Or less of? Less "that's what she said" jokes, for instance? Errrr, no promises.

Ultimately, I can write only for myself because I'm selfish like that, but it's always good to hear from readers and then ignore their suggestions because it makes me feel omnipotent. I'm kidding (mostly). You really do matter. And I haven't been omnipotent since I discovered those shower photos of Christian Bale online.

In all seriousness, I am incredibly grateful for your support and readership. I still do a happy dance around the house every time I get a new follower or if a post gets more than 100 hits. Thank you so much for reading, following and sharing.

Everyone has to start somewhere. The Porch is where I begin...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Walkin' on Sunshine

What sunderful days!

After far too many unseasonably cool, cloudy, damp days, the sun has finally ventured out to play. [ADHD Writer's Note: I suspect the sun had been out partying with Jupiter, who came back from their little soiree without a belt. Psssshhh. No, I'm not drinking tonight. Here's the scoop on slutty Jupiter. Or to summarize: Jupiter goes behind the sun for a while. Jupiter comes back without one of her belts - the bottom belt, I might add, as I elbow you for effect. Astronomers don't know what happened but all agree sun is a playa'.]

Regardless of where the sun has been, I was a happy, happy girl to see it return to Kentucky. It was needed on my porch. Fo sho.

I hate to admit that I'm such a victim of seasons and weather, but alas, I am (Also - who says "alas" anymore? When did I start channeling Du Maurier's Rebecca? Before long I'll be dreaming I went to Manderley again..).

Anyway, when the light starts to change in October, my temper grows shorter and my mood cooler with each passing day. I honestly try to embrace winter, but nah. I no likey the cold. Or naked trees. I even joined the Facebook group A-yo, Winter, I'm Gonna Let You Finish But Summer is the Best Season of All Time - because I love it when the seasons get all Kanye and talk smack to each other.

Spring is a wonderful time, and when she comes, I tolerate her cooler, wetter days as the world awakens and greens.

But what I really, really, really love is a Southern summer (which unofficially begins the end of May). I want to have my morning coffee on the front porch in my shorty pajamas (sorry, neighbors). I want to slip on a sundress and sandals and feel the sun on my shoulders. I want to sleep beneath a thin sheet on a sultry summer nights as an orchestra of crickets lulls me to dreamland...

You get the idea.

This weekend, when the sun came out and the mercury rose past 80 (and then 90!), I was blissed out. I had been a little sad, so the sun couldn't have come to my rescue at a better time. Sure, my house needed to be scrubbed; laundry needed to be folded; and the blog needed to be updated, but I decided to live in the moment and embrace the sunny weekend with my family. Everything else could wait.

And it did.

On Saturday, I woke slowly - languished, even! - as sunshine filtered through the sheers. Soon, its golden fingers of light beckoned me outside (I totally get why Jupiter gave it up to Sun), and I enjoyed hearty coffee and conversation on the front porch with my husband as squirrels chattered and fussed at our cat.

Later, I perused garden centers and filled my van with my finds. I do not have a passion for shoes, makeup, jewelry or handbags. But put me in a garden center, and hold onto your Visa, baby! That afternoon, I helped my spouse dig up our front-yard landscaping and transplant it to other areas (Okay. Okay. I pointed and told him where to put stuff).

In the garden, I mulched and I deadheaded (plants, that is, not alien babies from Jupiter that I'm hiding in my basement - so far as you know). And I planted herbs, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers that will make bowls of summer salads and buckets of salsa later this season. I even plucked lavender and lemon balm - already in full bloom - and rubbed them on my neck and the inside of my wrists (because it smells so, so much better than anything from a bottle).

Before dusk, I took the kids to the park, where they laughed and dared each other to jump from swings, then tumbled and rolled in the grass. We hiked a nature trail bordered by sassafras and honeysuckle vine.

All weekend, I drank sweet tea by the gallon. I wore sundresses and sandals and ate a hot fudge brownie ice cream sundae bigger than my head (tip: the sundress is very forgiving).

I watched my son study a silver-tipped dragonfly that perched forever on a Stella de Oro daylily.

I shared the front-porch swing with my daughter and took her swimsuit and sundress shopping, marveling at the stunning young woman she sudden is.

As the sun set yesterday, I sipped a small glass of shiraz on the porch swing, feeling sunkissed and serene.

My friends, I don't know how you describe perfection, but last weekend was sublime. As I soaked up the sun, I forgot that it had been raining for days on end. I forgot that I had been sad about something.

I've told you before that I'm a girl who is grateful for simple pleasures. And I was grateful this weekend for the simple pleasures of a Southern summer.  The days were full of the little moments that remind me that these are the best days. Right now! If you worry about tomorrow or live in the past, you're gonna' miss all the good stuff.
You can't see it, but I'm toasting you with a glass of sweet tea.

Happy, happy summer!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I Dream of PENIS

When I was a little girl, I used to tell my mother that when I grew up, I wanted to be a ballerina with at least 10 kids. Don't look at me like that. I never said I was a bright child. Sadly, I also was prone to tumbling down stairs and tripping over my own feet - and I'm not as fertile as that crazy Duggar woman in Arkansas - so I was forced to relinquish that particular dream.

Now that I'm 40, some very sad people who live sad, pathetic lives would officially consider me a grown up. I don't, but I'll play along for kicks. In that vein, I've been giving some thought to what I want to be.

The thing is, I have to write. That's a given. Writing is as essential to me as breathing, sleeping and eating snack cakes. It's what I do - maybe not well, but it's what I do. I still dream of being discovered and actually getting paid for it. I have these delusions of grandeur - kind of like Tracy's character on 30 Rock who wants to capture the EGOT (or win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award). I, on the other hand, dream about the PENIS (Pulitzer, Emmy, Nobel, International Writers Award and best Screenplay Oscar).
But I've considered other career paths as life dictated them.

I have a degree in print journalism. You probably don't remember print journalism, but believe it or not, people used to have these things called newspapers - yes, made out of actual paper - that they would hold in their hands and read to get the news each day. You didn't have to plug them in or anything! How archaic!

The truth is, the only reason I majored in the ancient art of journalism is because my parents are both quite extraordinary print journalists, and my state's press association therefore thought I'd be a good one, too, and awarded me a full-tuition scholarship to a state university. Journalism paid for college, so ta-da! I became a journalist.

Turns out, I wasn't horrible at it, and I worked my way up the state's newspaper ladder fairly quickly as a young adult. But here's the thing: while I loved the daily writing part and even the thrill of writing on a tight deadline, I didn't like talking to people much or antagonizing them, as was occasionally necessary. That's kind of a big deal when you're a journalist, but I'd have to psych myself up for interviews and pretend to be someone I wasn't. It didn't mesh with who I really am. I'm certainly not shy when I write (duh), but in person? Well, let's put it like this. When I was a little kid, the preschool teacher had to say, "Duck, Duck, Goose" for me and actually place my hand on other kids' heads, or I wouldn't play.

Furthermore, I married a high school football coach who moved frequently as he pursued his career, and I popped out of a couple of kids, so it was increasingly difficult to stay in a career that thrives on the unplanned. Getting calls at 5 a.m. from an editor ordering me to haul my butt across the state to cover a train wreck doesn't exactly jibe with family life. My favorite job is being a mom, and I am completely okay with that. My employers insist I work ridiculous hours, but the benefits are many.

So I gave up newspaper work. Fortunately, that was a prescient move on my part, since newspapers are quickly going the way of the dinosaur. (I just high-fived myself, though I desperately miss vending machine Fritos and Dr. Peppers, which taste so much better when you're trying to think of a lead while an annoyed copy editor yells at you from across the newsroom. I wonder if I could hire an out-of-work copy editor to drop by and yell at me occasionally....)

With newspapers out of the picture, I did whatever I could that allowed me to write on a daily basis and earn a few bucks - while also following a football coach from one stadium to another and raising a couple of youngins. I free-lanced, worked in college public relations offices and even pretended to be a writing teacher for a while. (FYI: seventh graders thought I totally rocked, mainly because I operated at their maturity level).

But this last coaching move - our ninth move, I believe, but I lost track after six - kind of did me in for a while. I had started over one too many times, and I had no desire to be the "newbie" on the job again. I just didn't have it in me. Worse, my resume' was starting to look like a person with ADHD (which I clearly don't hav…SQUIRREL!!!).

That also was during a health scare that made me really, really evaluate what is truly important in life. If we budgeted carefully, we could survive on one income. After numerous moves and restarts, I desperately needed time to breathe and porch sit and just be… still. So I did that for a while.

Now I'm over it. I'm ready to do something again. Part of that something is this blog, but sadly, none of you send me money in spite of my numerous hints. Hell, I'd settle for Chocodiles, but your lazy asses won't get out to California and get me any. Some audience you are.

If I never get discovered as a writer or get my PENIS (this thought is unbearable to me, so please people, spread the word), I may be forced to consider other career options. Sigh…. With that in mind, I compiled the following list of possible non-writing careers I might actually be able to tolerate:

Paolo Nutini's Shampoo Girl: Have you seen this Scottish singer? Have you heard him sing? Have you tried to get so close to the stage that his sweat dripped on you (err, not that I did that)? I could lather him up, if you know what I mean. Don't worry. I would make sure he had a safe word.

Teaching People to Be So G they are almost H
: If I have to explain this to you, then you have no swagger and desperately need my class. I am the real slim shady. Have you not seen me cruising in my navy blue KIA Sendona minivan and jamming some Journey with the windows rolled down in the school pick-up lines while sippin' on a cherry limeade?

Hostess Distribution Specialist:
I would make it my personal mission to see to it that Chocodiles return to all the people east of the Mississippi. Then I would be revered as a god, and I would smite all those who have told me Chocodiles are nothing more than chocolate-covered Twinkies. As IF.

Master Baiter:
I am a Kentucky girl who spent a lot of my childhood in a bass boat. I know how to bait a hook with the best of them. What did you think I meant?

I am a potato chip connoisseur and am compelled to try every new variety of chip on the market. I could give companies awesome, informed chiptiques, like, "Soft hints of cheddar and onion and supple hickory aromas round off the sharpness you sometimes encounter in the most austere expressions of fine chip making. Hickory Cheddar Chip-Os delivers a pleasantly plush and luscious crunch with a velvety texture and a yielding personality. Best served with hot dogs, this chip will appeal to those seeking a life, but having none because they sit on the couch all day eating chips while watching stupid '100' lists on VH1."

Christian Bale's Vocabulary Enhancer
: Not one to shy away from a challenge, I could teach Bale that there are other f-ing words to f-ing use when some f-ing cameraman is f-ing up your f-ing set! This would involve numerous, intense one-on-one tutoring lessons in the privacy of clandestine hotel rooms, where I would teach him to use his lips for something other than saying the f-word. For instance, he could use his lips to help me critique the latest chips on the market. Geez. You people are dirty. This, of course, is why I like you so much.

Being Tina Fey: What do you mean that job is already taken?

Crackhead Chevron Jingle Writer: This is a last resort, but there is a Chevron station down the road from me that seems to attract all the local crackheads. Naturally, I composed a jingle for them: Get your cigarettes. Buy your beer! Deal some crack - while you're here! It's… Crack. Heaaad. Chev-ronnnnn! (Catchy, isn't it?) Surprisingly, Chevron/Texaco was not receptive, though I told them the oil industry's image could use some tweaking.

So those are my other career options, if this writing thing doesn't go anywhere soon. Please, help a sister out. Read frequently! Tell your friends! Follow along!

'Cause I would very much enjoy some PENIS action soon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I'm a Blockhead

Isn't it horribly annoying when writers write about writing? Yeah, about that ...

You've probably noticed that I'm not super attentive to the Porch lately. My bad. I'm such a blockhead - a writer's blockhead, specifically. Honestly, this is one of the worst creative blocks I've had in a while. It's not that I'm not writing; it's that I'm not writing well. And if it's not good enough for me, it's not good enough for the people who read me.

Yes, this from the chick who wrote about vajazzling vajajays. Whatever.

Maybe I put too much pressure on myself, but when I do something I care about, I want to do it to the best of my ability - unless it involves house cleaning or morning sex. But I digress. You see, if I were a gymnast, it wouldn't be enough to do a spectacular, gravity-defying flippy twist thingy (I'm sure that's what it's called). I'd also have to stick the landing. Lately, when it comes to writing, I can't stick the landing. I'm totally falling on my ass.

So I'm going to try a few things to get on top of this (that's what she said).

One, I'm going to write every day anyway. One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, dedicated an entire chapter to perfectionism in her brilliant book, Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life. She encourages writers to let go of perfectionism and seek the treasures in the clutter. "Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation," Lamott writes, "while writing needs to breathe and move." So I'll breathe. Move. Write. And sometimes not even on facebook.

Two, I'm going to make myself post frequently, even if the pieces suck or are just random little snippets of a tortured, blocked writer. At least then you'll know I'm not lounging on a yacht in the Caribbean having my back oiled by Christian Bale while Hugh Jackman dances suggestively in front of me - because you know that's what I usually do in my spare time.

Three, I'm planning another writing retreat very soon. Last fall, I loaded up all of my nagging, prodding, critiquing, annoying inner voices and hauled them across the state to a quiet place in the hills, and it was exactly what I needed mentally to start this blog. So maybe I need to do it again to rejuvenate and refresh, kind of like Massengill for the mind.

Four, I have bigger stuff stewing that sort of ties in with my retreat.You see, I like to go to the town where my late grandmother grew up and explore. I have always felt an incredibly strong connection to my grandmother, whose life story is fascinating. There's hardship, mystery, adventure, romance, three marriages (three! That hussy!) - and even murder and gypsies in her history. In fact, my mother and I have often said that her life would make an incredible book. So, I'm digging and exploring and contemplating writing a story loosely based on my grandmother's life. Maybe that's the big story inside me - and it has been with me all along.

Five, and this is the tough one for me, I have to write the piece I don't want to write. I suspect the real reason for my ferocious case of block is that another story is simmering inside me, latching on to all the parts of me that string words together and whispering, "Write me. Write me." The problem is, it isn't a story I particularly want to tell. But I'm going to have to buckle down and write it, regardless, even if I am its only audience. Maybe then I will get out of my own way ... and the words will flow again.

If not, I'll be on the yacht with Christian and Hugh, and that's okay, too.