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Do you remember?

11 Sep

My mother called that morning, eleven years ago, waking the Helvetican and me on a rare day off. “Turn on your TV,” she said. “A plane just hit one of the twin towers.”

The first channel visible when the TV came on showed the smoke pouring from the torn side of the tower. My heart lodged in my throat. How could such a terrible thing happen? It must be an accident, a horrible, impossible accident… And then the video filled with a second plane and the horror engulfed us, watching the plane deliberately fly into the side of the second tower.

I remember wishing fiercely that I could wake up for real and escape the nightmare.

I called my best friend, with whom I’d lived in upstate New York years before. With whom I’d explored the amazing, singular borough of Manhattan. She turned on her TV as I related what I knew so far, which was little. Together, linked by the phone, we watched the towers fall and cried for the city that held such a special place in our hearts. Later, as the magnitude of the day registered, as we learned this was far bigger than New York, that it was the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania–that it was our country–the emotions grew into something encompassing and surpassing sorrow and fear. Patriotism took hold, but more than that: a binding of countrymen that gave us all strength, and, for a while, made us all better, a collective loving and lifting one another.

We live directly under the flight path for planes landing at the airport. The silence felt so wrong. I’d tuned out the sounds of jets passing overhead long ago. To have them absent spoke volumes. Days later, when the first plane finally took that path, the whine of the engines shook me. Life returned to something resembling normal with the passing of that plane, though true ‘normal’ would never really come back.

And now, we find ourselves in an election year, each side tearing down the other, politics as usual. The economy has left us with yet another semblance of normal, while, for too many, true ‘normal’ has not returned, and may never return. And on this anniversary, when we mourn those lost, when we mourn all that followed, when we rub at the scars left behind, I can’t help but wish we could have held onto that sense of love and concern for one another, as fellow Americans. I wish we could grow that again, without suffering a tragedy first.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Public Affairs 2nd Class Mike Hvozda (Public Domain)

Another Birthday Gone and Blog Hop Wrap Up

4 Sep

Birthday flowers from my boys!

Hi everyone! What a great Labor Day weekend. Things were truly hopping around here with the blog hop. Locally, after a huge thunderstorm rolled through here and cleaned out the air, we finally got a refresher course in what the mountains and blue sky look like without wildfire smoke haze obscuring everything. Ahhhhh! As an added bonus, the weather has cooled off, FINALLY. Sooooo done with summer heat. Bring on fall!

Thanks for all the lovely birthday wishes! The birthday stretched to three days this time, to accommodate everyone’s schedules. The Helvetican and I went for sushi on Saturday, yummy, then the family party was on Sunday, with my sister and dad hanging out with us for grilled chicken and ribs. My mom called and her hubby sang a birthday song he wrote.

The kids all remembered my birthday this year, and it was so much fun. The Princess wrote a song about my birthday with ukulele accompaniment. She also made me a Doctor

Tardis card, made by the Princess.

Who Tardis card, complete with the Tenth Doctor inside. Perfect nerd-girl gift! The boys went all out, with cards, coupons for free household chores, cards, flowers, Diet Coke, dark chocolate of several varieties…yes, I’ve trained them well. Then last night, we hit our favorite Mexican place, whose chile verde-smothered chimichangas are divine. I’m calling it a successfully completed birthday.

Inside the Tardis card…The Doctor, of course!

Romancing the Hop ended last night, and I have winner announcements! I plugged all of your comments into the Randomizer to come up with a winner. Miriam Roman wins her choice of a $15 Amazon or B&N gift card. Congrats, Miriam!

FYI, there were 9,000 comments left across the blog hop! Wow! The Hop Grand Prize winners are:

Kindle Fire Winner:
Laurie Goudge
(from It’s the Journey that Counts’s Blog)
$130 Amazon Gift Card:
Ellie
(from Carrie Ann Ryan’s Blog)
Swag Pack:
Cassandra
 (from Dana Delamar’s Blog)

Today’s plan? Get a magazine article out the door because today is deadline, and maybe sneak in a nap. Anything else is a wonderful bonus accomplishment.

What did you do this weekend? Any big plans for your week?

Romancing the Hop!

31 Aug

Welcome to the hop! There are over 200 authors and bloggers participating in this blog hop, and the prizes are AWESOME! Each participating blog is offering a prize, plus, for each blog where you leave a comment, you are entered into the drawing for one of THREE grand prizes. Remember to leave your email address in your comment!

Now what are those prizes?

 1st Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet

2nd Grand Prize: A $130 Amazon or B&N Gift Card

3rd Grand Prize: The following Swag Pack!

 So, on with the hop! But first, and this has nothing to do with the blog hop, but I’m throwing it out there anyway…Sunday is my birthday! Happy birthday, Self!

Now then, let’s chat a bit about romantic gestures, those sweet things our heroes do that just melt our hearts. The Helvetican has always been good about the classic gestures: remembering the dates of my birthday and our anniversary, taking me out for regular date nights, buying me flowers (extra points for remembering that roses are not the only flower on the planet) and/or chocolate, and accompanying me to events he has no interest in just because he knows I want to go.

I love those things, but it’s the little things he does that really turn me to mush. Like how he remembers so many details from funny or sweet moments in our whirlwind courtship, and how he’ll talk about falling in love with me, or what he loves about me now. Or the way he always manages to walk in the door holding a Diet Coke when I really need one. Or the quiet flirting, the way he’ll hold me or drop a quick kiss on the back of my neck and pat me on the backside, even when there are teenagers in the room. Yes, they groan and tease us, but I think it’s a great example to them of keeping the good stuff alive in your relationship, even when you’ve been married long enough to have teenagers.

In return, I give him little romantic gifts, too. Guys do tend to find different things romantic than we do. With the Helvetican, when I pick up his car at work and return it to its parking spot after a wash and vacuum, he gets a little misty eyed. He’s the only guy he knows who never gets a honey-do list on his day off, and he regularly mentions how much that means to him, that he’s allowed to just enjoy his time off work. But I think his favorites are those little gifts of physical affection when he’s not expecting it, like a quickie before he heads off to work, or a little flash when we’re alone on a mountain trail. Those moments tell him I still find him sexy and I still enjoy playing with him after all these years.

It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut in a relationship, but it doesn’t take big romantic overtures to keep the wheels of love turning and stir up the passion. What’s your favorite romantic gesture to give or receive? Leave a comment (remember your email addy) for an entry into the Grand Prize drawing, as well as an entry into MY drawing! I’m giving away a $15 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card! Then, continue on the Hop with this link: Romancing the Hop. Have fun!

Photos from the Roadie

17 Aug

Life is a little more hectic than usual with students preparing for the return to school, so I’m a bit late on this. Better late than never, though, so in that spirit, here are the photos from the roadie the Helvetican and I took on Tuesday!

The goal of the roadie was to see places neither of us had seen before. We’ve lived in Utah for much of our lives and neither of us had ever been to the Golden Spike National Historic Site. Rail was the future of the growing nation in the 19th century. The Union and Central Pacific railroads laid railroad tracks across the United States, one from the east and one from the west, heading toward a place in Utah where the two would meet. At this spot, Promontory Summit, north of the Great Salt Lake, on May 10, 1869, locomotives from each of the rail companies met at the completion of the transcontinental railroad. During the official Golden Spike Ceremony held that day, four final spikes were driven into the last railroad tie: the Golden Spike, courtesy of a friend of the Central Pacific’s president; a silver spike from Nevada; a gold and silver spike from Arizona; and a second golden spike from the proprietor of a San Francisco newspaper company.

Arriving from the east via the Union Pacific line was locomotive No. 119. The original locomotive was scrapped after the turn of the century, but a California company, O’Connor Engineering Laboratories, undertook a four year venture to re-create No. 119 in time for the 110th anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony. The locomotive is massive and so impressive to see in person. No. 119 is a steam engine, burning coal to generate the heat for the steam. It’s an amazing piece of engineering, especially given that there were no blueprints to work with. The engineers worked from an 1870 designer’s handbook and scalings from enlarged photographs of the original locomotive.

The same company also built the replica of Jupiter, the locomotive that came from the west via the Central Pacific line. The original had also met its end in the early 1900s. This equally impressive machine burns wood rather than coal to build the engine’s steam. The engineers running these locomotives wear period clothing, complete with the smudges one would expect from working with coal and wood fires and parts that need to be oiled and greased regularly.

Another ten or so miles from the Golden Spike site, we found the northern beaches of the Great Salt Lake, and an artwork called the Spiral Jetty. An American sculptor named Robert Smithson created the Jetty in 1970, when drought had dropped the lake to extremely low levels. The Jetty is 1500 feet long and 15 feet wide. Most of the time it is underwater, but this year the lake has dropped enough to let the basalt outline of the Jetty surface. And how’s this for cool…did you notice the lake is pink? That’s not a trick of the camera, it really is pink! Algae and bacteria that don’t mind the massive salt content at the north end of the lake are responsible for the color.

This rock, sitting at the edge of the lake near the base of the Spiral Jetty, is supposed to be black. The white you see is actually a crust of salt, left behind when the lake water splashes over the rock and then evaporates. Several salt companies operate around the lake. Your favorite table or sea salt may very well come out of the Great Salt Lake.

The pinkish haze in the sky in this photo is a result of smoke from all the western fires burning right now. While the haze makes for gorgeous sunsets, the omnipresent smoke is wreaking havoc on folks with allergies, asthma, and sensitive eyes. But that’s not the point of this picture. This photo gives you a general idea of what most of Utah’s north and west deserts look like. Also, it’s very easy in this state to find yourself in a place where you are completely alone, the only human for miles and miles. There’s still a great deal of the wild, untouched west in this state. That’s a big part of what I love about living here.

Thanks for joining me for my roadie slideshow! By the way, since these are my photos, if you want to use them somewhere, please give me credit. A link back would be lovely.

A Goodbye and a Roadie

14 Aug

Our time with our Japanese exchange student has come to an end. We’re leaving in about an hour to take him to the airport. He became part of our family so fast! We will all miss him. I think he will miss our pets the most, especially the dogs. He spent a lot of time playing with them and enjoying their company.

After taking him to the airport, the Helvetican and I are taking advantage of his day off and taking off on a roadie. This time, we’re trying something new and venturing into the northern parts of the state that we haven’t seen. I’ll be back with photos!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Keeping my nose above water

9 Aug

Hi all. Oy, what a week! That seven days absolutely flew by. Sorry to leave you all for so long, but, silly me, I didn’t realize prepping for and hosting an exchange student would totally consume my life. And that’s for a temporary one. Our student is from Japan and is here with a group of 30 or so students for a whirlwind 10-day trip to the USA.

Delicate Arch at Arches National Park. Image courtesy of porbital / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re in the middle of the trip right now, during which all the students are gone to see the wonders of Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point in Moab. They’ve already explored Timpanogos Cave and spent time at the Olympic venues in Park City. We get our student back tomorrow, and I expect him to be too tired to go forward with our Friday evening plans (Son #3’s band is doing a show). We can do fun things on Saturday and Sunday, then Monday the students have group activities until the goodbye party. They leave us Tuesday morning for a couple of days at Disneyland before returning to Japan.

It’s been enormously fun so far. Our student speaks far better English than I speak Japanese, and as long as I pay attention I can understand him pretty well. My kids seem to do better than I do.

I was supposed to do Camp NaNoWriMo this month and get 50k words typed by the end of the month. So far, I’ve had a less than stellar start, but I think I can catch up…amid the chaos of prepping two high schoolers to start classes at the end of the month. What a way to say goodbye to the summer.

Is your summer ending quietly or in a mad rush?

The Game of 15 Firsts

2 Aug

A friend of mine, MJ Fredrick, posted this on her blog, and I loved it, so I swiped it. It’s the 15 Firsts game. Here are mine:

1. What was your FIRST job?
I worked at a malt shop, where we specialized in mixing huge shakes and malts from something like thirty different flavors and add-ins. We also made burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, french fries…typical fast food. It was located a mile or so from a university, so we were really busy, especially on the weekends.

2. What was your FIRST car?
I bought my first car, a yellow 1972 Volkswagon Super Beetle, with the flared rims and a Porche engine. I really loved that car, and to this day I regret selling it.

3. Do you still talk to your FIRST love?
Occasionally, on Facebook.

4. What was your FIRST alcoholic drink?
A wine cooler. Don’t remember what flavor now, though it was white. I was 19, on a cross-country trip with my best girlfriend. When we stopped for the night in Colorado and went for snacks at the nearby gas station, we realized we were old enough to drink legally in the state. So the wine coolers made it back to the motel with us.

5. What is the FIRST thing you do when you get home?
Hang up my purse and keys on the wall racks and kick off my shoes.

6. Where did you go on your FIRST ride in an airplane?
Hawaii, when I was 2 years old, to visit my father. He was on R&R from Vietnam.

7. Who was your FIRST best friend & do you still talk?
Her name was Jennifer. Sadly, no.

8. What was the FIRST thing you did this morning?
Let the dogs out, then fooled around with the Helvetican. Hey, I’m a romance writer. What did you expect? 🙂

9. FIRST tattoo?
No real tats. I am terribly fond of mehndi tattoos, though. The Princess and I get them done annually at the State Fair. In fact, here is my last one: 

10. FIRST piercing?
Ears. I had them done when I was eight. I was lucky, the gun didn’t scare me too much, and they both healed really well.

11. FIRST foreign country you went to?
I have never been to another country. Sad, but true. Though the Princess is insisting that we go to Great Britain in a year or so. I’m game!

12.  Did you marry the FIRST person who asked for your hand in marriage?
Yes, because I was convinced, at the tender age of 22, that I would be an old maid and no one else would ever ask me. I’m sure the divorce three years later will come as no surprise. That was a much better decision that the first one.

13. What were the FIRST lessons you ever took?

Drawing lessons, when I was very young and very precocious. I’ve been drawing ever since.

14. What is your FIRST memory?

I remember playing in a yard with a white picket fence. There was a big pear tree, and I walked around beneath the tree, looking for fallen fruit that didn’t have worm holes in it. When I asked my mother about this memory, it took her a while to remember the house I described, and then her mouth fell open. Apparently I was all of 18 months old at the time.

15. FIRST published book?
Mending Fences, February 2012

So…what are YOUR firsts? Feel free to answer one or two, or all of them!

Happy August and Hero Hop Winners

1 Aug

Happy August! Or, to echo what I really thought when I flipped the calendar page over today, What the heck happened to the first two-thirds of summer??

Thanks to everyone who stopped by during the Hero Blog Hop. I was trying to make a couple of deadlines for nonfiction projects Monday and Tuesday, so I missed replying back to many of the wonderful comments left on my hero post, but I loved all the discussion about the traits of great romance heroes.  Now, it’s time to announce the winners!

For my own $25 Amazon or B&N Gift Card giveaway, the winner is Vanessa N. Congratulations, Vanessa!

For the Hop Grand Prizes, the winners are:

Grand Prize Winners:
Kindle Fire Winner:
Michele Ann Oboyle
(from Carrie Anne Brownian’s Blog)
$50 Amazon Gift Card:
Daphne Deaton
(from Kristine Cayne’s Blog)
Swag Pack:
Jan D
 (from Karen McCullough’s Blog)
If you’d like to see the full list of winners from all the participating blogs (which is still being updated), go here: http://carrieannbloghops.blogspot.com/

Catching Up

25 Jul

Time for another catching up post. At some point soon, I hope to find my rhythm again and get back to posting three times a week, but I need things to return to school-year-normal. Summertime-normal is always a madhouse around here. For now, here are a few random thoughts to bring me current…

The Helvetican and I went to see Dark Knight Rises last night. He picked it apart afterward, as is his nature. No, it wasn’t a perfect film, but I’m much more willing to suspend disbelief and just go with the world the moviemakers have constructed, overlooking bits of unreality in order to enjoy the created world as a whole. And it worked for me. I enjoyed the little twists, the touches like Scarecrow having an appearance, the overall darkness of everything falling apart with redemption well earned. Seeing what a toll being a superhero takes on a person was brilliant, and Christian Bale played it so well. Loved Bane (OMG, Tom Hardy put on some serious muscle for that!). Loooooved this take on Catwoman, now one of my favorite antiheroes EVER. Anne Hathaway was purrrrfect. (I know, lame, couldn’t resist.) And Blake, what a strong character. Great development through the film and a nice setup for him. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has grown into such a fine actor. I really enjoy watching his work.

Ok, enough of the fangirl moment.

The car is still in the shop, one week after it decided to die. Why? Because the darn thing won’t replicate the problem for diagnosis. It started up fine for the mechanic all through the next day until the final time he tried, then it failed to start. That was Friday. First thing Monday, he had the car on the equipment, ready to find out what the problem was…and spent all day Monday without being able to make it fail. Started perfectly every time. The check engine light had cleared itself and no code was in the memory, so we’ve got nothing to go on. Yesterday was a holiday here (Pioneer Day) so, naturally, the shop was closed. The plan today is to run the car hard, on the platform where they can simulate driving without going on the road, with lots of turning off and back on again. If it performs all day properly, we’ll all chalk it up to some weird thing that cleared itself out. I mean, what else can you do? If the car says it is fine, and it behaves fine, it must be fine, right? If there truly is a problem, I can only pray that it shows itself while hooked up to the equipment that will tell us what the problem really is. Cross your fingers for me, okay? Being down to one car is not fun, but I’d hate to get the other car back, only to have it strand us somewhere again.

The Trio, enjoying their new room.

Finally, I don’t think I ever mentioned the latest happenings with the bunnies. Our grand old lady, Brownie, passed away a while back. She was nine and amazed us all every day that she kept going. The Princess, the Helvetican, and I were all there with her at the last, so she was loved up to the end. She was buried between the two mates she had outlived. Her current mate, Smokey, moped around and grew very cranky. We knew he was a lonely bunny, but combining him with the remaining bonded couple didn’t seem like a good option. After all, the boys had their share of fights in the common bunny yard. We ditched both of the bunny condo cages, and gated off an otherwise useless alcove downstairs by the heater/water heater closet. I haven’t measured, but it’s a good 50 square feet or so. Plenty of room for three bunnies. It was a neutral space for all of them, no one had previous claim to it. They tussled a bit, establishing warren ranks, but only the first day. The three have lived in harmony ever since, and the two boys are best friends, while Miss Chelsea is the queen of all she surveys. So, no more lonely bunnies! It was a bit of a change for the Princess, though. It’s the first time in nine years that she didn’t have a bunny living in her bedroom. She had a hard time sleeping for a while because of the quiet.

Writing-wise, I’m working toward a magazine deadline this week, and doing programs for a local theater company production. I’m trying to scribble some fiction here and there where I can, but this may be a lost week. I should add some counters so you can see where I’m at on the books in progress. I’m also trying to clear out some nagging items-that-need-doing around the house before August 1. I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo in August, trying to put out at least 50k words. That should be fun, working around our temporary exchange student who will be here for ten days next month. More on that later.

Have a great Wednesday! Be sure to pop in Friday when the Hero Hop starts!

Ups and Downs: A new review and more car trouble

19 Jul

I’m doing a happy dance this morning. Romance Junkies gave Finding Refuge 4.5 Blue Ribbons! The reviewer called it “Beautifully written, with heart-wrenching emotions and real life problems”. Have a look:  http://romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/contemporary/Finding_Refuge.shtml

It really helps boost my outlook on the day, given that the car died last night. Really, car? Did I need this? No, I did not. I think the biggest problem is that we took the car to the dealer when it was needing a tuneup because our usual, beloved mechanic was going to be more expensive. We’ve since taken the car back into the dealer TWICE to try to fix a problem they should have fixed the first time. The dealer didn’t end up being less expensive then, did it? I have a feeling that whatever is wrong with the car now is probably related to something the dealer did (or, likely, didn’t do), but I’m not making that mistake again. Even though the dealer might fix it for free, I’d rather pay our mechanic and know that it will finally be done right.

There are two conclusions to take away from this tale. One: A lower price when dealing with car repairs may very well come back to bite you in the backside and cost you more in time and irritation as well as cash in the long run. Two: Old proverbs exist for a reason. In this case, it’s the one about the car dealer being the worst place to get your car fixed.

Onward and upward! Keep your fingers crossed for me that the car repair won’t be horrendously expensive, okay?