Since The Girl Who Stopped Swimming is fresh out in paperback, I am doing some guest blogging.
From the guy who brought you The Page 69 Test, comes another groovy concept blog: My Book, the Movie, and it is probably the only place on EARTH where writers get control over Hollywood casting decisions. (This may be a good thing.)
ASIDE: Two entries before my The Girl Who Stopped Swimming entry I saw Vonda N. McIntyre casting Dreamsnake, a book I have read at LEAST 100 times, starting when I was maybe eleven. There are books you read in childhood that are your books, forever, world without end, amen, and no matter hwo much you love a book as an adult, you don't inhabit them in the same way as you can before puberty. I read Jane Austen for the first time when I was a kid, and that's also when I began my life-long love affairs with To Kill a Mockingbird,The Hobbit...and Dreamsnake. I was so invested in this book that I asked my librarian how to contact authors, and then I wrote McIntyre a fanmail through her publisher. She was kind enough to send me a postcard back. This was back in the day when it took STAMPSâ€¦classy woman, fantastic writer.
If you have already read The Girl WHo Stopped Swimming, PLAY ALONG! Please? THis is endlessly fun to me --- tell me who you would cast!. Especially as Laurel and Thalia...I think they have to be cast as a set you know? Choosing the perfect Thalia really depends on who you cast as Laurel...
I have joined an Organic Farm Vegetable Co-Op.
Wow, just SAYING those words, itâ€™s as if I can feel a thick patina of leg hair sprouting, as if I hear the pitter-jingle of little bells creeping upstairs to attach themselves to hems of all my skirts. Next Iâ€™ll be living in a commune, smoking hemp and speaking reverently about Marxism, which would be cute. IF I WAS TWENTY. AND THIS WAS 1969.
But, in my defense, organic vegetables are just SO dern expensive in the Kroger. I canâ€™t bring myself to buy them. I am psychologically and fiscally INCAPABLE of paying four bucks for an avocado when the one across the aisle looks identical, costs 99 cents, and when questioned, the regular avocado swears up and down it was NOT grown with nuclear waste as a pest deterrent. As far as it knows.
What can I say? I buy the cheaper avocado.
But then my friend Julie told me I could join her farm co-op. She drove me out to a vacant lot where a guy in the back of a truck---I call him The Veggie Pusher---hooked us up with full boxes of the good stuff. Heâ€™s there every Thursday, and if I do not show, my box is donated to the Atlanta Food Bank. Win-win.
We call it The Crazy Farm Box (CFB). It costs 30 bucks, and it is full enough to give my family of four salads and side-dishes all week. Iâ€™m paying that in the produce section at the grocery, easily. AND THE SALADS! The first time we made one out of our CFB lettuces, Scott and I both tucked the first bites in, chewed twice, and then did double takes and stared at each other. We started chewing more slowly, more reverently.
Scott: That lettuce. It does NOT taste like lettuce.
Me: No. It does not. It tastes likeâ€¦It tastes likeâ€¦
Scott: FOOD. IT TASTES LIKE FOOD.
Me: YES, YES. FOOD! LETTUCE IS FOOD! WHO KNEW?
I NEVER liked iceberg, because it tastes like water to me, but Crazy Farm Box is spoiling me for grocery store green leaf and radicchio, as well.
Itâ€™s also kinda exciting, because you never know what you are going to GET. One of my Better U goals is to eat more fresh fruits and veggies, prepared in heart healthy, olive oily instead of buttery ways. SO we are tailoring our menus a LOT this summer to what comes in CFB and what is wild caught and on sale at the fish counter. Itâ€™s making for adventuresome eating! Sometimes in CFB we get thingsâ€¦and I do not know WHAT THEY ARE. We got some sort of green leafy bundle last week, and I thought it might be some kind of FIELD GREEN. But a nibble of a corner leaf convinced me this was too STRONG a taste for salads.
Thank the LORD for Google Images. It was Arugula. I googled around for recipes and ended up putting all of it (about 2 cups worth) in the cuisinart with half a cup of toasted pine nuts, half a cup of parmesan cheese, a little salt, a clove of garlic, and a couple of TBS of olive oil. WHEEE! Pesto. A very THICK pesto that can be stored in the fridge and used for up a week. All week you can take out as much as you need, and add VERY hot water, a tablespoon at a time, until it is sauce-level thin.
I served it over whole wheat pasta primavera (just pasta topped with a colorful blend of more CFB veggie that I had stir fried in my no-stick pan with a little PAM.) Three thumbs up, although my PICKY child, Maisy, did not care for it. Understatement. She was COMPLETELY creeped out on the basis that it was GREEN. She believes spaghetti sauce should be RED! RED, MOM! Anything other than red is an abomination. Only red, red eternally, world without end, amen, and one day, come the revolution, the pasta gods will SMITE all us Crazy Farm Box mothers who try to pervert the natural order of things with our wrongfully colored sauces. *sigh* I gave her plain pasta with parm sprinkled on top and said, â€œMORE PESTO FOR ME THEN.â€
As much as I love Crazy Farm Box, I AM still a devoted leg shaver, and there are some places my Crunchier-than-thou friend Julie goes that I CANNOT follow. For example, last Thursday, I noticed the Veggie Pusher had gallon jugs of MILK, too.
Me: He has organic milk?
Julie: Itâ€™s â€œpet milk.â€
Me: PET MILK? You mean he milked hisâ€¦cats?
Julie: No, silly. He is only allowed to sell it as milk to give your pets because it is not pasteurized. Itâ€™s real fresh milk, straight from the cow.
Me: BLERG! Ew! Yick! What is this, FRANCE?
Her: You should try it. We drink it and LOVE it â€“ it tastes like magic.
Me: No. No.No. Because, Blerg. Also no. EW NO. And it is VERY dangerous. Here in AMERICA we are all addicted to Tums and Nexium and if we run around all French eating unpastuerized soft cheeses and drinking â€œpet milkâ€ we puff up and get brain lesions and have seizures and amputations because our tamed American stomach acid is too TUMMED OUT to kill the bacteria!
Julie, who is a registered nurse, gave me very skeptical eyebrows, but I KNOW it is true. I saw it on House. So.
I know I said I'd have a contest today, but I have to put it off. Yesterday ended up being slightly FRAUGHT as a friend needed help, AND I forgot it was my day to blog aout my cat's armpit over at Southern Authors.
Yes, it is BONDAGE TIME at last, but first I have to tell you that it is MAY 26th, and my third novel, THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING, launches in paperback today, just in time for poolside reading. There it is â€“ top of the sidebar, to the right.
<-----You can click on the picture of the cover to read about it and see reviews, like, for example, the one where Entertainment calls it â€œa wild, smartly calibrated achievement" and gave it an A-. Or where Family Circle calls it a â€œspellbinding southern-gothic tale.â€ (Did you see how smoothly I slipped those in there?)
It should be sitting out in every bookstore in the country, and I strongly believe that you should go get you one. Oh heck, take two, they are SMALL. If you already own your copy, remember that MOST TEACHERS love to read and only have time now, in the summer. Beach reads make excellent end of year thank you gifts.
Release days are exciting. Itâ€™s the end result of a couple of years of work, made tangible. You see your book in stores, you feel hopeful that browsing people will notice the cool blue cover and pick it up and read a few lines and like it enough to buy it and give it a try. Thatâ€™s the upside.
Itâ€™s also scary as all get out. Nerve wracking, in fact. You LOVE your book, and now it is OUT THERE in this uncall-backable way and people are going to buy it â€¦ or not. Like it and recommend it to their friends and book clubsâ€¦or not. My general response to this is to take a pan of brownies to the closet and have my savage way with it. BUT. I am trying to be a BETTER ME, and the ravaging of brownie pans is not exactly heart healthy behavior. Alas.
I am starting BETTER U on MONDAY, JUNE FIRST. If you if you want to do the same twelve weeks I am doing, you need to go register THIS WEEK! Be sure to FRIEND me. After today, I will be blogging about BETTER U on MONDAYS instead of Tuesdays, as we get our new program guidelines for that week. I will also give a small update on how I;ve done that week on Fridays.
The last thing they did to me at the COOPER INSTITUTTE FOR BEING SUPER HEALTHY: was give a me stress test to measure my BEFORE fitness level. I had this darling miniature nutritionist with long glossy hair, slim as a filament, slim enough to be used to pick locks, and she had glowing skin and bright eyes, and I am not saying that she had a tail under her khakis, but if DID have a tail under her khakis you can BET it was BUSHY AS ALL FRICKEN GET OUT.
Basically, this glossy haired bendy straw of a creature took me to see an equally darling, slim and glossy nurse, and she took me to a back room and taped electrode thingies ALL OVER MY BODY. Really a lot of them. In weird places. In fact, after she was finished, I think in some countries she and I might have been legally married.
The nurse took me to a glossy male doctor who was aging in that craggy, tanned, salt-n-peeper, strong-jawed George Clooney way that actually makes men MORE good-looking with each passing year. He did not look like a real doctor. He looked like the excruciatingly good looking actor who gets cast to PRETEND to be a doctor to say reassuring yet sexy medical things on informercials. He was so blindingly man-beautiful that I could only peek at him sideways, lest I go blind. I wondered why they didnâ€™t have HIM attach the electrodes â€“ they would have a heck of lot more female clientele, THAT I can promise you.
Meanwhile, each of my electrodes was being attached (by the nurse, alas! Alas!) to a wire that ran into a Star Trekish machine that was hooting and beeping diabolically to itself beside a treadmill. Then they took this THING and put it on my head. It wasâ€¦not a good thing. It was, in fact, a terrible, terrible thing.
If an evil snorkel version of an S and M ball-gag made a baby with a medieval RACK, it would be this thing that went on my head. They screwed it on my head and said, â€œTell us when it is fitting comfortably,â€ and then I laughed so hard while trying to say, â€œUM, why donâ€™t you sit on this CACTUS and I will press down on your shoulders and you tell me when it is comfortableâ€¦â€ around the snorkel part that they had to take it off and start over.
The weird thing was, even after we had the thing on my head, the nurse could understand EVERYTHING I SAID. It was like, she had MAD DENTIST SKILLS. I would say â€œIIII ISH I HA GAA AA JA AAA-OOOâ€ and she would say, â€œWell you can go to the ladies room right after.â€
Then they put me on a treadmill, and started it off going at a nice, steady, not too rigorous pace. CAKE! Thought I. But every minute, they raised the elevation by ONE degree, so that I started out walking on a flat surface, la la la, but by the end I was marching vertically straight up a treadmillian Killamanjaro. (Say that three times fast.)
I was told to keep going until I my heart exploded and I died. Or maybe I misunderstood. Perhaps they actually said â€œuntil it becomes too difficult,â€ which is po-tay-to, po-ta-to, in my humble opinion. This is me all suited up in my ball-gag bondage gear with a robotic panel making that square JUTTING thing under my shirt and all my WIRES crossed, bravely marching forward:
Treadmill Time: 15 minutes and 6 seconds
Maximum Heartrate: 175 beats per minute (!!!!)
Training Zone: During exercise, my goal heart rate should be between 114 and 149
MET level: 10.5. (This is a measure of how efficiently my body uses oxygen. The higher it is, the greater your fitness level, and the more calories you can burn in a workout. With a MET level of 10.5, my fitness level is catagorized as HIGH. (PREEN!) I peeked at the chart and was pleased to learn that my fitness category would still be HIGH if I was 30 â€“ 39. I looked back FARTHER and found it would also still be HIGH if I was TWENTY. So. Well, you know I am an endorphin junky, so WHY am I overweight? Oh right. Genetics. And MAyyyyybe all those hours logged in the closet perpetrating bad acts with the brownie panâ€¦)
If you want to get some BEFORE fitness numbers and do not have access to a stress test snorkel and Dr. Hotness P. Clooney, you can do my BOOTCAMP fitness check. As long as your doc says itâ€™s okay for you to start an exercise program, that is. You know. ANYWAY. Itâ€™s EASY.
BOOTCAMP BASELINE TEST
FIRST Do the following three exercises for ONE MINUTE, and write down the maximum number that you can complete in that time. Hopefully, at the end of twelve weeks, all these numbers will be HIGHER! (If you donâ€™t know the exercises, the links will take you to videos that will show you how to do â€˜em without hurting yourself.)
31 (I did only 10 Marine style REAL pushups and then had to swap to Girlâ€™s Gym push-ups and did 21 more.)
44 (I did 19 REAL marine style dips with my legs almost straight, then had to bend my knees and did 25 more.)
SECOND see how long you can hold PLANK: 2 minutes, 15 seconds. (When I first started Plank, my time was 14 seconds. Plank SUCKS. Then I started practicing plank with my feet braced on something, and then eventually I was Planking alone. Now, my husband calls me PLANK BEAST because I can hold Plank the second longest in my whole Boot Camp.)
THIRD: Run timed laps around something. You do not have to go to a track. You could run around your BLOCK if you wanted, and drive around it after to see how many tenths of a mile your block actually is. I ran my laps around my church building, which is ALMOST a quarter of a mile around.
Lap One: 2 minutes and 30 seconds
Lap Two: 2 minutes 45 seconds (Stop watch said 5: 15)
Lap Three: 2 Minutes and 23 seconds (Stop watch said 7:53)
TOTAL TIME: 7:53 Total
TOTAL DISTANCE: About 7/10ths of a mile.
Thatâ€™s all our BEFORE numbers. On MONDAYâ€¦ we begin. Let us now make our best Hayden Panettiere Cheerleader faces and say, â€œYou better Bring it, American Heart Association. Bring. It. On.â€
I hope you are having an excellent long weekend with cookouts and Memorialness and not rain. Fifteen years ago, on a much sunnier Memorial Day Weekend, I did something SO SMART and so condusive to my long-range happiness and SO MENTALLY WELL that I still canâ€™t believe I managed it: I married Mr. Husband.
We celebrated on Friday, Theatre-Geek style, with beer cheese bread and asparagus soup and a thoroughly entertaining performance of The Tempest at Shakespeare Tavern. If you are an Atlanta local, GO; weâ€™ve NEVER seen a bad show there, and this one was particularly fine.
I am hip deep in line edits on Backseat Saints and the MS is due back in NYC come Tuesday. Line edits make me crazy. It is my very, very second to last chance to decide ONCE AND FOR ALL if I want to say, on page 237 that Roseâ€™s choice is â€œfortuitous,â€ or if I should say her choice is â€œlucky.â€ Once I sign off, if I have chosen lucky, it will be lucky FOREVER. Heh.
If you donâ€™t think I can spend 15 minutes staring and changing the word out 100 times and then pacing while reading the sentence both ways out loud to the dog and then discounting his opinion on the basis that he will EAT RIGHT OUT OF THE LITTERBOX if I let him, so how smart can he be about literature? and then calling Karen and Lydia and making THEM listen to the sentence both ways and then finally realizing that WHAT WAS I THINKING â€“ it isnâ€™t lucky or fortuitous at ALL, itâ€™s FATE, and the whole adjective should be sliced out like the bruise-y patch on an otherwise fine peachâ€¦ then you must be new here. Welcome to FTK, Iâ€™m Joshilyn, Iâ€™ll be your neurotic hostess, can I get you something to drink?
Between the line edits and the anniversary, I never rolled for or posted winners of the contest for signed copies Michelle Richmondâ€™s very fine book, NO ONE YOU KNOW. It was one of my favorite reads last year. I plugged 1 â€“ 97 into this random roller and it gave me back 33 and 76.
KATIE B of comment of 33
Vicki of comment 76 and The Cool Done Run Out
Please email a SNAIL ADDRESS to Joshilyn at Joshilyn Jackson dot com and I will pass your info on to Michelle and she will get your prizes right out to you. If you lost, no worries, I am going to be doing more contests for free reads, starting Wednesday..
Happy Holiday! Iâ€™ll be back Tuesday to talk FITNESS and finalize my goals for BETTER U. It is LIVE now, by the way, so go register!
1) To answer suh-suh-suh-somethinâ€™ from the comments, OH HELLSYA you may steal my buttons if you are Better Uing and want to pop em up on your own blog.
ALSO, if you are planning to BLOG your progress every week for Better tUesday, send me an EMAIL with your blog link and I will put a â€œBetter Yaâ€™llsâ€ category on my Links page and remind peeps it is there every Tuesday. Below is a stealable button for this site and for GO RED...Steal away:
2) If you missed it, thereâ€™s a 3Q with Michelle Richmond below, and a drawing to win a signed copy of her latest (really super great) book. You have til midnight EST tonight to enter.
3) Scott and I were watching TV last night and a commercial---a not very good commercial --- for some kind of new Banana Nut flavored cereal came on.
Me: That commercial has not been over for thirty seconds and I already canâ€™t remember if it is Cheerios that has Banana Nut flavor now or Mini Wheats.
Him: Me either.
Me: They need a better slogan.
Him: TRY THE NEWEST FLAVOR OF CHEERIOS! BECAUSE IF YOU HAVE A BANANA, YOU PROBABLY HAVE NUTS.
Me: *dies laughing*
Dear Cheerios Ad Men (or possibly Mini Wheats Ad Men),
YOU ARE WELCOME!
Scott will be here waiting for that million dollar check you owe him now.
Neither â€˜Nannered nor Nutted
For those coming late to the party, I am prepping to begin BetterU, a 12 week makeover that probably wonâ€™t do a DERN thing about my shapeless eyebrows and total lack of fashion sense (Clinton? Stacey??), but could save my life. Also, it could save yours, so hopefully yaâ€™ll will try to do it with me. As we discussed last time, I need a Posse.
Some of you said you were concerned about committing before you know what the program IS exactlyâ€¦specifically you feared that we would be asked to sprint everywhere naked for 12 weeks, gathering tree sap and locusts for sustenance. HA! Well, this program is put out by the American Heart Association (as opposed to â€œThe Dirty Hippie Consortium For Making You Eat Macrobiotic Liceâ€) so I SUSPECT it will be mostly about relinquishing FRIED FOODS and upping our activity level.
They promised me SMALL STEPS, baby steps for busy women seeking better health, notâ€¦Naked tree sap shenanigans. That would lead to scurvy and very bad head colds due to exposure, NOT better heart health. So! BE NOT AFRAID. I donâ€™t know what the program WILL ask of us exactly, but I feel safe promising you that you can do all the OUTDOOR portions with your pants on.
BetterU begins June first, so right now I am mostly gathering my BEFORE data so that the AFTER data will be meaningful.
If YOU want to play, gather some BEFORES of your own in the next couple of weeks. The TRULY BRAVE AND MIGHTY can post their BEFORES in the comments on ANY of the BETTERU posts (There is a whole CATEGORY for it beloveds, and YES, VIRGINIA, you CAN be selective about which â€œbeforesâ€ you choose to make public.)
I went to the COOPER INSTITUTTE FOR BEING SUPER HEALTHY to get a BASELINE for my heart health. Knowing my numbers lets me set GOALS.
The first thing they did was suck a bucket of blood out of me. I donâ€™t much care for being POKED with POINTY OBJECTS until I release vital fluids (WHO DOES???) so I was nervous. I think my inner weird got out a little bit.
For example, the fella who played mosquito for me was trying to put me at ease before he came at me with his gleaming silver dagger-sized skin poker. He said, in soothing tones, â€œThis is going to be easy. You have good, prominent veins.â€
I made crazed google-eye face at him and hollered, â€œI know, right! They are HUGE. Look at THIS one! Itâ€™s like MEGA-VEIN. I bet I would make a FANTASTIC junky!â€
By then he was Backing. Slowly. Away. So I shut my pie hole and let him do his business. Here is what my blood said:
TOTAL Cholesterol: 199
Um. You want it to be less than 200, soâ€¦ basically I SQUEAKED under.
LDL Cholesterol (aka the very bad kind we do not want): 119
UM. You want this to be UNDER 100. Oops.
HDL Cholesterol (aka the good kind we like): 67.
You want this to be ABOVE 60, so I WIN good Cholesterol. I would like to thank all the pesto-broiled salmon I ate. *burp*
You want this mystical number to be under 150. I still do not know what a Triglyceride is. I only know more than 150 = bad. I am FAILING at Spokesmodeling! I WILL FIND OUT WHAT THEY ARE SOON. Unless I forget again.
Fasting Glucose: 90
This is my blood sugar, and it should be under 110. I have some relatives with diabetes, and I am a complete addict who eats a lot of SECRET CANDY, so I felt very interested and also nervous about getting this number. 90 is a delightful answer, but I am not sure it is completely accurate, as I misunderstood the word FASTING.
Apparently FASTING means you arenâ€™t supposed to ingest anythingâ€”ANYTHING----for hours and hours before they suck out your blood. I have since been told that here â€œANYTHINGâ€ includes COFFEE, which isâ€¦insane. Thatâ€™s like asking me not to ingest OXYGEN for twelve hours. It never occurred to me they meant no BLACK coffee, so I may have ingested a cup. Or two. Or FINE, technically two and a HALF, if you want to get all anal and EXACT about things. *cough* I hope black coffee does not work as a SECRTE BLOOD SUGAR LOWERING AGENT and I am actually rocking a 200 without knowing. Heh.
Blood Pressure: 112/68
Lower than 120/80 is optimal, and 130/85 is considered normal. YAY! I win BP! My blood pressure is always around these numbers. I know because my children like to make me sit in the BP Torture chair at the pharmacy---their little arms are too skinny to make the machine work so they get their vicarious robot chair jollies via my squeezey-armed agony.
Here endeth the blood info.
WAIST SIZE: *mumblenumbermublemumble*
Now, one of the EASIEST before numbers you can get is your waist size. All you need is a string, a ruler, and the ability to find your waist. (Itâ€™s the piece in the middle. Youâ€™re welcome!) If you are a female person, you want your waist to be under 35 inches. Men only have to get under 40 inches, those pooheads). A waist over 35/40 inches increases your risk for diabetes and heart disease. My waist IS currently under 35 inches, so we donâ€™t need to talk any more about that. Move along. Nothing to see here.
BMI: 26.5 (YARP!)
BMI is your BODY MASS INDEX. Here is a handy calculator that will help you figure out yours.
If yours is below 15, you are probably Kate Moss. Go eat a cookie and/or get off the coke.
Under 18.5 means you are underweight.
18.5 â€“ 24.9 is normal.
25 â€“ 29.9 is overweight. (YARRRRP!)
Greater than 30 is obese.
Weight: The Most I Can Weigh and Not Die Plus Eight. (Abbreviated henceforth as TMICWAND+8) The Most I can Weigh And Not Die is my own number, not from a chart. I am 8 pounds over it. To be fair, AHA scale said I was actually TMICWAND+10. This is A DIRTY LIE. According to the One True Scale, I am, in fact, TMICWAND+8. (In the AHA Scaleâ€™s defense, it weighed me dressed, but with no shoes, so, if we back out 2 pounds for jeans and a lightweight sweater, the AHA scale was rightfully concurring with the One True Scaleâ€™s one true assessment.)
I love you guys. Letâ€™s hug! That said, you can know the exact number of pounds I possess when you weigh my cold dead body. (Also, to the person who DOES eventually weigh my cold dead body, here is a TRUE SCIENCE FACT THAT IS TRUE: DEATH causes you to weigh ten pounds heavier. *vigorous nodding* )
I know â€“ itâ€™s crazy. I KNOW, okay? I told you my BMI, after all, so crafty people with really, NO REALLY, wayyyyyy too much free time on their hands could get within 5 or 10 pounds of figuring out my weight. But we just donâ€™t say that WEIGHT NUMBER out loud, much less have it in print. I would sooner die. So. Letâ€™s just agree to call it TMICWAND+8
DIGRESSION: I am SO crazy on this point I refused to stand on a TURNED OFF SCALE for a camera crew. They were like, â€œItâ€™s just a publicity shot, the scale is turned off, STAND ON IT!â€ I VEHEMENTLY REFUSED, and they laughed at me and told me to and told me to until I finally I got mad and said, â€œThis feels WAY too personal meâ€¦it is like you are saying, HEY! COME SIT ON THIS TOILET AND PRETEND YOU ARE POOING WHILE WE TAKE PICTURES TO POST ON THE INTERNETâ€”YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ACTAULY POO!â€ Then they laughed and seemed ot GET it and left me alone, but there was NO WAY ON GODâ€™S GREEN EARTH I was going to STAND ON A SCALE in front of 3 strange men.
It is TOO personal and creepy to me. Yes, yes, I AM mentally ill on this topic and if you didnâ€™t know that by now you MUST be new here. HI! WELCOME! The first rule of Weight Club is WE DO NOT TALK ABOUT WEIGHT CLUB. Onwards!
MY BETTERU GOALS:
1.Get my BAD cholesterol under 100.
2. Get my overall Cholesterol to not be the VERY VERY HIGHEST IT CAN POSSIBLY BE without being officially above Optimal. In other words, a few points lower than 199.
3.Get my BMI < 25.
4. Lose more than 8 pounds.
(I donâ€™t want to lose EXACTLY 8 pounds, because then I am one slice of chocolate-pecan pie away from being BACK OVER the most I can weigh and not die. I need a BUFFER ZONE. If my weight is TMICWAND+8 (and it is, it is, I am sad to report.) Then my GOAL weight should probably beâ€¦.The Most I can Weigh and Not Die Minus Seven. (TMICWAND-7)
Math says that 8 + 7 = I NEED TO LOSE 15 POUNDS. In 12 weeks, that is a sensible goal. Losing more than 2 pounds a week is not healthy, so with a 12 week program, setting a goal of losing more than 20 pounds is probably unrealistic, and it isnâ€™t good for you. (blerg). I am TRYING to remember than this is not about BEAUTY and surface stuff (Although Lord knows I need one of those kind of make-overs, too, and WHERE THE HECK are Stacey and Clinton!) This is about being healthier. SO. Those are my four goals!
Any of you guys gotten BEFORE numbers done yet? Set any goals? POST YOUR GOALS OR BEFORES! come on! POSSE UP! Pls?
Here are some helpful buttons I will put at the bottom of each BetterU entry.
MamaLaw is the site where three fellow bloggers taking the challenge will be posting about their goals and progress every week. They are in our posse. *nodnodnod* OH HEY â€“ thought! If you blog and decide to start BLOGGING your progress every Tuesday, let me know---Iâ€™ll put a section up on my links page for BETTERU Blogs! And let me tell you â€“ nothing will help you STICK to a program like posting your BMI to the internets and saying it WILL be lower in 12 weeks. HEH.
Next Tuesday Iâ€™ll do NUMBERS REVELATION PART TWO, REVENGE OF THE NUMBERS, which is all about fitness levels and stress tests and other sweaty whatnots, and Iâ€™ll set some fitness goals.
No One You Know was one of my favorite reads last year, and â€œanything by Michelle Richmondâ€ is one of my most frequent answers when I call or visit book clubs and they ask for a recommendation for their next pick. Her books are so smart, and so beautifully written, and SO hooky.
I invited Richmond to do 3Q, and she graciously offered to throw in two signed copies of the poppin-fresh new paperback. Just leave a comment before MIDNIGHT EST on Wednesday, May 20th, and you are entered in the drawing â€“ HOW EASY IS THAT? Just one comment per human being, please! And no comments by dogs.
BOOKLIST, in a starred review, describes NO ONE YOU KNOW like this: As in her previous two novels, Dream of the Blue Room (2003) and the best-selling Year of Fog (2007), Richmond turns a family crisis into heartbreaking and compelling reading. Ellie Enderlin has never recovered from the unsolved murder of her sister, Lila, a Stanford math prodigy, some 20 years earlier. The day her sister went missing has become â€œthe touchstone from which all other events unfurled.â€ Compounding the tragedy is the fact that her English professor, the person to whom she confided some of her most intimate feelings about her shy, private sister, has turned the tragedy into a best-selling true-crime book. To have those moments turned into fodder for the publicâ€™s voyeuristic appetite has felt like another violation. When Ellie, a world traveler and coffee buyer, meets up unexpectedly with the brilliant mathematician implicated in her sisterâ€™s murder, she sees it as a way to wrest back control of her own narrative and solve the crime. Richmond gracefully weaves in fascinating background material on the coffee culture and the field of mathematics as she thoughtfully explores family dynamics, the ripple effects of tragedy, and the importance of the stories we tell. Combine all that with perfect pacing and depth of insight, and you have a thoroughly riveting literary thriller.
JJ: What's the significance of the title and how did you come up with it?
MR: Early in the book. Ellie recalls a conversation she had with her sister Lila twenty years before, when Ellie was a college freshman and Lila was a promising graduate student in mathematics at Stanford. Ellie asked Lila whom she had been seeing, and Lila, always private, answered, "No one you know." Weeks after this conversation, Lila was murdered.
Two decades later, in a cafe in a foreign country, Ellie encounters the man who was accused of the crime but never charged. This meeting convinces Ellie that the story she has always believed about her sister's death--a story made famous by a bestselling true crime book--is false. Ellie sets out to uncover the truth about Lila's death, and in the process she discovers that she never really knew her sister. The title is meant to evoke the sense that it is difficult to truly know anyone, and that even the people with whom we are most intimate--siblings, lovers--have secrets they keep from us.
JJ: Who did you dedicate this book to and why?
MR: I dedicated No One You Know to my sisters, Monica and Misty. It is, at heart, a novel about sisters, and while neither of my sisters is similar to the women in the book, the intricacies of the sisterly bond that I've experienced in my own life very much inform the book. The paperback contains supplementary materials--a playlist, a reading group guide, and a Q&A.
Given the subject matter, my editor suggested that my two sisters conduct the Q&A. They did, and I love the questions they come up with, because their perspective on the novel is naturally informed by our childhood. My younger sister is a photographer, and she always takes my author photo; she also helped me with the photography aspects of my previous novel, The Year of Fog.
JJ: Your main character seems to have a lot in common with you. How is she different from you?
MR: Like me, Ellie is a coffee addict. But she takes it one step further; she's a coffee buyer. Researching the life of a coffee buyer was a tremendous pleasure for me! I spent a lot of time at cafes, toured a local coffee company, attended tastings, and drank more coffee than anyone ought to! We're both in our thirties (I won't say exactly where I am in my thirties), and we both live in San Francisco.
But I think I'm somewhat more content than Ellie, who is always searching for something, never quite able to settle down. I have a husband and a young son, while Ellie is single. Ellie's life has been deeply influenced by a tragedy that happened when she was still young--the death of her sister--a tragedy that altered the course of her life. I had a pretty happy childhood, and the tragedy is an imagined thing. I was interested in exploring how the death of a very close loved one would reverberate in a person's life through the years.
Life is cancelled. My favorite television show. It was so perfect and great â€“ so well written, well cast, well produced, well acted. SO nuanced and smart and funny and exciting. I think they KNEW it was on the fence, so the way they ended the season finale was SO typically SMART. Smart is how they roll on that show. It ended with hope---NO never-to-be-resolved cliffhanger, and yet, also, if there was ANY justice and they HAD been renewed, you could see how this end could cause an IMMEDIATE HORRIFYING CRAPSTORM of fall out in the season opener.
But it is gone, so I will choose to look at only the upside of HAVING AN END THAT HINTS AT GORGEOUS CLOSURE and not all the loose threads the writers left cleverly unraveled at the tips in case of renewal.
I tend to think of myself as a happy person, you know? A glass full glass kinda girl. I know these are hard times full of economic unrest, rising crime, war, and crystal meth is eating the souls and teeth of half the county next to meâ€¦even so, there are times when I feel downright cheerful about our lovely nation, and I think, SURELY AMERICA IS NOT DOOMED!
I think, hey! Letâ€™s hold hands and sing, come on people now smile on your brother everybody get together try and love one another and we shall buy each other cokes and ebony and ivory will live together in perfect harmony side by side on my piano keyboard as we feed the world and let them know itâ€™s Christmas time, and then.. I see LIFE cancelled while CSI FREAKING MIAMI has been renewed and I lose hope not just for OUR NATION but for, you know, THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE.
Just so we are clear? Those hours people have WANTONLY spent watching CSI MIAMI? They will not get those back.
I have two friends, Karen and Mir, who are POLAR opposites, but both make me laugh my butt off. Here is a conversation I had with Karen Abbott yesterday:
Me: Wow. I hate that picture of me. It looks like four whales got mushed up together into a whale wad and then someone stuffed the wad into pants and cut/pasted my head on top.
Karen: Hi! You have TOTAL BODY DYSMORPHIA, did you know that?
Me: *as if she had not spoken* Luckily, I hear fat is the new hot.
Karen: Yeah. And crazy is the new fat.
Mir is that way, too. She can hit the conversational ball back over the net. BLAM! And I LOVE her blog.
Today I went to read her entry on spring cleaning, and I laughed my BUTT off, both with her and AT her. I started to write a comment that got SO LONG I just brought it back hereâ€¦
Excuse me, but you are SO silly. I HAVE SEEN YOUR HOUSE and this OH THE MESS. LOOK AWAY LOOK AWAY thing will not fly. Your standards are extremely high...when your house is at the level of mess that YOU would call an untenable pig sty? That is what we call FRESHLY CLEANED AND PERFECT at my house.
Like, your WORST CASE SCENARIO --- some toys and shoes scattered about, couch cushions unplumped, the throw unfolded and slung over a chair, a smear of jam on the kitchen floor---that's my BEST case scenario. Except I have a convenient dog-vacuum who will replace the jam on the floor with a slick coat of dog suck. If only I could find a way to make my dog;s suck smell like PineSol I would just spray jam all over the floor, let him loose, and call it mopped. I may do that ANYWAY, and when he is done put a Christmas Pine Scented Plug In from 1997 in the wall socket.
My standards are, granted, a bit TOO low. They are, in fact, SO LOW that a TINY BEETLE recently failed to limbo under them, and went off to sulk himself to DEATH in a corner of my basement. By the time I noticed him, he was nobbut a husk of former beetle, and there he lay, entombed, completely unmolested, for WEEKS. I would go downstairs, see the dead beetle husk in the corner, think, â€œI should vacuum that dead beetle up, or get a paper towel andâ€¦HEY! LOOK! SOMETHING SHINY!â€ and then forget about him. One assumes that EVENTUALLY someone else noticed him and gave him a pomp-n-circumstance filled funereal walk to a trashcan, or perhaps from dust he came, and now to dust he has returned.
Either way, I feel certain your house is fine, and I am scared to let you come visit again until I hire BLEACHWEILDING GERM MURDERING CLUTTER ANNIHILATING professionals to splash down my house.
DO NOT JUDGE ME.
It is worth noting that SEVERAL months ago, Karen had MICE living in her oven, and her response was to fill the oven with poison, seal it shut, and NEVER OPEN IT AGAIN. So. I may have negative number standards, but I am not alone.
It is also worth noting that after reading this, the next time Karen or I invite Mir to dinner, she is likely to bring her own meal in a hermetically sealed bag. Or just come in a bubble like baby John Travolta.
Or, what happens in Dallas Gets Pink Socked Into Oblivion, part the Two-eth. And immediately, I am ready to digress. Huzzah. Before the opening SENTENCE I am ready to digress, and put off telling you about the trip to talk about POSSE-MAKING.
On June first, a program called BetterU will pop into existence over on the AHAâ€™s GO RED FOR WOMENâ€™s website. Itâ€™s designed to help women become healthier, and itâ€™s FREE, and itâ€™s all ONLINE so you can participate from anywhere. I am going to be doing it.
Here is the fun part: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS.
When Go Red contacted me and asked me to be an INTERNATION SPOKESMODEL for the BetterU program (they may have used another word---perhaps guinea pig? Or maybe blogger? Itâ€™s all a little fuzzy, but what is NOT fuzzy is that they CLEARLY meant to say â€œInternational Spokesmodel,â€ and also, they gave me this cunning little bracelet, I was all distracted by the glam title and the shiny bauble and said OH HELLZYA, and forgot to ask important questions like, â€œDoes this program allow for the watching of the entire second Season of 30 Rock on Netflix while plowing through a bucket of Ho-Hoâ€™s?â€ ALAS! It seems this is NOT the 30 Rock/Ho-Ho program. This is something else.
I am not SURE, but I THINK I am actually going to have to stop whining (My tail fell off! My tent blew down!) and take actual concrete steps to become healthier.
Here is what I know: The BetterU program starts June 1, although you can start it any time AFTER June 1, individually. It is 12 weeks long. Itâ€™s predicated on the idea that women canâ€™t pop out of bed on Tuesday, totally change their schedule, their diet, toss in an exercise regime, abandon all their bad habits, and become Poppin-level practically perfect by Wednesday. Baby steps. BABY STEPS to being healthier and making smarter choices.
Hereâ€™s what else I know: Silliness aside, if I have a community, if I am held accountable, if I have a POSSE with me, I almost ALWAYS win. Want me to write a book? Give me a deadline. I will produce a book. Probably even on time. Is my house a filthy and disreputable slagheap? (Answer: Yes. Yes it is.) Left to my own devices, I will happily squat in my own filth until carnivorous bugs spawn from the dust bunnies via Aristotleâ€™s theory of Spontaneous Generation and kill us all. The fastest fix for a dirty house I know is to invite people over for dinner. THEN I will DERN WELL unearth the vacuum cleaner from its musty tomb and waive a duster about with purpose and vigor. There may even be MOPPING.
I donâ€™t work well in a void. I do not WIN in a void. I need peeps. I HAVE to be held accountable. To someone. So. This time? I PICK YOU. If we make ourselves into a POSSE, we will ALL have a much better chance at succeeding. I want you guys to hold me accountable. I will hold YOU accountable. Pinky swear.
Every Tuesday, up until June first, here on FTK, Iâ€™m going to report to you guys how I am doing on the program. YES, I said every Tuesday, as in, I am going to CONSISTENTLY do this. Stop laughing. I am. I know I always say I will do this or that (Pink Socks! FAQ! More 3Q Features! BLAHBLAHBLAHâ€¦.epic fail), but THIS time I will. You know why? Because if I do not, YOU are going to be disappointed in me and tut and make sad eyebrows at me. SEE? SEE HOW THAT WORKS? Plus itâ€™s only for 12 weeks plus whatever is left in May. Whether or not I die of totally preventable heart disease now rests squarely on your ability to make your eyebrows look REALLY REALLY sad. So begin practicing.
Now, anyone who has ever seen WHAT NOT TO WEAR knows that before you can have an AFTER, you need some before. We need some numbers. Like, for example, blood pressure. Cholesterol. Waist size? BMI? Triglycerides? (WTH IS a triglyceride? I donâ€™t know what they are, actually, but I know more than 150 of them is bad for your <3.)
Whenâ€™s the last time you had a check-up? Not, like, OH I HAVE FLU I better try to remember where my doctorâ€™s office is. But a regular check-up. Dudesâ€”if you are one of the lucky Americans who HAS health insurance, your regular check-up and bloodwork and such is covered â€“ 20 buck co-pay. (Or 50 if you have my craptastic insuranceâ€¦) And you can ask your doctor to tell your important numbers. Cholesterol, BP, Triglycerides. ASK, he may not do it on his own. If your doctorâ€™s next open appointment for a check up is August of 2017, get the appointment, and try to scrounge up some baselines before then on the cheaps. You can take your blood pressure for free at a lot of pharmacies and measure your own waist with a string and a ruler.
Next Tuesday, I am going to gird up my loins and tell you MY before numbers. *gulp* ALSO, I have a fitness test scheduled at Boot Camp on Thursday, so I will tell you how THAT went and how you can do your own just as soon as I KNOW. (I have never done one before, heh.) Also, you can get a pedometer CHEAPS at Target (they starty at 10 bucks) and track your steps for a week.. I am doing that too.
Last thing, you guys need to meet the other GLAMEROUS INTERNATIONAL SPOKESMODELS-SLASH-guineapigbloggers. They are going to be in our posse. This is all of us---Me, Fergie, Ny and Jonesie---getting OUR before numbers at the COOOPER INSTITUTTE FOR BEING SUPER HEALTHY in Dallas.
They are going to be blogging BetterU over on their group blog, MamaLaw. (Pssst, today they have a give-away for a whole big bag of FREE Avon make-up and skin care products---I already entered to try to win it.)
ANYWAY. We had a crack team of glossy nurses and nutritionists poking us with needles and stuff all day----I WILL get to that â€“ next Tuesday, when I tell you my BEFORE numbers. *Gulp*. They were exceptionally glossy, all those Cooper people. Well, nutritionists, what do you expect? They had thick, pelt-like hair, and they were all as thin as little bendy straws from the near-constant tantric-yoga, and all their skin looked glow-y and glisten-y, like they had recently been buttered. Which is ironic, because I think the last time any one of them ATE butter was in 1987, and that one STILL feels bad about it.
ANYWAY. We are not them. We are US. And we are going to BABY STEP our way to glossier pelts and butter-free-butter-skin. And healthier inside bits, too. Yes? YES? Beloveds? Will you be in my posse?
I can't explain it. It was just a thing I had to say.
Itâ€™s not news to you, Best Beloveds, that I am mentally ill on the subject of _____.
But the queen mother of ALL my mental illnesses is the terminally co-dependent love-hate triangle I have crafted out of food, my own body, and a BUCKET full of grade-A crazy.
We have discussed here, nigh unto DEATH, my unending and revolting belief that my dress size is intrinsically connected to my value as a person. Like, if we were going to pick half of humanity to walk into the sea like lemmings, and if I was once again a size 8, I would believe that I definitely should be picked to cling to this mortal coil. If I was wearing a size twelve (and THIS VERY SECOND I AM SITTING HERE ON A SIZE TWELVE BUTT, God Help Me, Beloveds) I should absolutely be E-lemming-nated. If I was a size ten? Tough call. Could go either way, really.
This is ME specific. I WOULD NEVER consider something as ridiculous as PANTS SIZE when deciding what OTHER people should have to lemming on down into the Atlantic. If it were up to me, I would choose who had to walk into the sea based on things that actually matter, like, does this person consistently use bad manners, has this person ever tried to perpetrate Genocide, and is this person now or has this person ever been a dentist? Answer yes to any of those and you would be beach-bound, Beloveds, so sorry.
I wouldnâ€™t even ASK your pants size, because in my Rational Mind, I know pants size is NOT EQUAL to value-as-a-person. Unfortunately, when it comes to me, how I see and value and rate myself, Rational Mind is seldom allowed to have the driverâ€™s seat. In fact, in the VW Peace Van of my brain, Rational Mind is quite likely to be tied up in the trunk, or, on particularly bad days, shot dead and tied to the roof rack like Bambiâ€™s hapless Momma.
I decided to STOP.
Quit laughing. I really mean it, this time. Or, well, not STOP, exactly, but try to change my focus. Try to REFOCUS on stuff that actually matters. Yes, yes, as I indicated yesterday, I have decided to go on ahead and grow as a person. Maybe even grow up. IT COULD HAPPEN. I want to be better. In heart. In mind. In spirit. And yes, in body.
AND YES, FINE, I am unhappy with my body right now. But Lord, When have I ever been happy with it? Even when I am fit and in my size eights, I wish I was a sixâ€¦ LE SIGH. I am 41. I need to stop being 13 about this. I need to focus on whatâ€™s inside---kindness, my relationships with God and my fellow man, and, yes, how my body WORKS, not how it looks. Itâ€™s about HEALTH---about putting down the butter and walking away not because if I do so, I may FINALLY get to do runway in Milan, but because I want to see my kids grow up. All the way up. I want to hold my grandkids. I want to be eighty and crabby and cheat at the bingo.
I was already thinking about all this when The American Heart Association contacted me and asked if I would like to be a SPOKESMODEL for their BETTERU program. Itâ€™s part of GO RED FOR WOMEN. You can see their little button on my sidebar now, there, to the right, under the thumbprint link of the new PB cover for The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.
DIGRESSION: To be fair, The AHA didnâ€™t use the word SPOKESMODEL. *sigh* They asked if I would be one of their â€œbloggers.â€
I said, â€œNO! BUT I WILL BE A SPOKESMODEL!â€
They said, â€œUmâ€¦okay. Well. We have Andie McDowell for that. We actually need, you know, BLOGGERS.â€
I said, â€œBLOGGER, SPOKESMODEL, PO-TAY-TO! PO-TAH-TO. I will be a, umâ€¦blogging spokesmodel!â€
See, I am a child of the 80â€™s, and if you say ED MCMAHON to me, I do not say PRIZE VAN as a 90â€™s kid would, much less JOHNNY CARSON as a 70â€™s kid might. I say STAR SEARCH! Back in middle school, I watched Star Search religiously on Saturday mornings.
My friends and I even played Star Search, even though I CANNOT sing and I dance like a spastic penguin being electrocuted. We didnâ€™t care about those competitions anyway. When we played STAR SEARCH, we were always, in our minds, 6 foot tall, 100 pound blondes with C cups and tease-able coils of PUFFNORMOUS hair , wearing spangled thigh-slit gowns and trying to make the words â€œSTAR SEARCH RETURNS AFTER THESE MESSAGESâ€ sound dirrrrrrrty. /end digression
Anyway, I said yes. I said yes because heart disease is the number one killer of women, and EIGHTY FREAKINâ€™ PERCENT OF IT is absolutely preventable. I said yes because my mom has hypertension, and I still need a mom. I said yes because I have delightful children, and they still need a mom, too. And yes, to be completely HONEST here, I MAY have said yes VERY SLIGHTLY PARTIALLY because IF I follow the 12 week BETTERU program, I will not only get healthier and live longer etc etc blah blah personal growthâ€¦I will probably go down at LEAST a dress size.
HEH. Baby steps to better priorities, Beloveds. BABY STEPS!
BAH, we didnâ€™t even get to Dallas and the bondage gear. And I am out of time.
TO BE CONTINUEDâ€¦
When we started, you and I, things were different. Back then, "You and I" was me and Scott, my mom and dad, a couple of my friends from church and grad school, and maybe a dozen peeps from various internet games I played. On March the 10th, 2004 my sweet friend Shawn Box posted the first ever legit, non-spam comment on Faster Than Kudzu. On March 28, 2004, a stranger found the blog---just surfed in somehow, via a random google search, and left a comment.
I sat boggling at it---it was like I'd thrown a message in a bottle out into an infinite sea, and a couple weeks later a seagull buzzed past and pooped a magic answer on my shoulder. I had yelled into a cybrous void, and someoneâ€”another voice--- yelled back. Not an echo. A response. I called Scott and my mom and my friends and made them go look. Since that weird moment, I have checked for comments an average of nine times a day. Maybe more, on the bad days.
My mental illness number has run the gamut from as-low-as-it-goes up to about 100 freakin' billion, and back down. And back up. And down. AND WAYWAYWAY BACK UP. Each time, you have gladly climbed aboard the crazy train and kept me company and some of you have even blown your very own crazy train steam whistles as we ran side by side along loop-de-looping parallel crazy-tracks.
Over the last five years, I have said MANY dumb things that I truly meant at the time. I said, for example, that I would never, never grow as a person. You agreed with me. It was a PACT. We pinky swore. We agreed that we do not do that here.
I think we have failed each other on that.
(On the most hateful, literal level, I was wearing a size 8. I have certainly grown as a person, all the way into a size 12. I cannot say I am pleased about this.)
But I think over the five years plusplus that we've been building this weird-ass little Kudzu community, we've all grown up. At least a little. We've all, God help me, grown on the inside. Where it counts. I see you on your own blogs, and in the comments of other blogs many of us frequent, and I have witnessed your HEARTS going up a dress size or two. I have certainly seen you guys reach out in beautiful ways, here.
We grew, and yet the world got smaller. When we started, you and I, My Space was The Hawt New Thang, and it was pretty much ONLY for 14 year boys trolling hopefully for training bra profile pics. Now it is part of a HUGE network of Social Media, and many of you are my facebook friends now. We have made the world become smaller and hopefully a little warmer. How much smaller? Okay.
Remember, back in high school? I told you there was a girl who wanted me dead, and she payed this frizzy haired future felon girl 5 bucks to bring her brass knuckles to school and punch me in the face. Luckily the plot was discovered, the both girls got suspended and the one who had hatched the plot got sent away to Catholic school.
Well. She and I are now friends on Facebook.
Back then, I always referred to my daughter as Beautiful Maisy Who Is Barely Two. Because she was beautiful and barely two. (And if you have not read the entry I just linked to, about SIEGRFRIED THE TIGER, you should. Really. Follow that link. That is all.)
My son, Sam, was seven. He didn't have a context for words like BOOK SIGNING. He did not quite get what his mom was doing. So he dragged all his books around and had everyone he LIKED sign them. I have his old Lemony Snicket books, completely innocent of a LEMONY signature, that have been lovingly autographed by both his parents, all three of his grandparents, his teacher, and his scrawly little friends from church.
At one of my first FOR REAL book signings, Sam sat beside me at the table and didn't understand why HE couldn't sign the copies of gods of Alabama, too. One of that bookstores righteous handsellers---a word I remain convinced is Olde English for "FREAKIN' SAINT"---gave him a pad of yellow post-its, and READERS (quite a few of them from this blog) WHO CAME TO BUY MY BOOK, ----Another Olde English Phrase, meaning, "Oh HELLSYA another buncha freakinâ€™ saints,"---- waited a little extra time, so my son could sign the post-its and carefully affix his signature to each book, under mine.
Back then when we took pics of Sam he made Calvin-face. We had to sneak up on him while he was reading â€“ here are both kids in 2004:
On the end, for his AMBER ALERT ID CARD, they did NOT sneak up on him while he was reading, and he made his usual photo face. Had, God forbid, he actually been kidnapped, and had they sent that photo OUT, the state of Georgia would have been trying to find a crack-monkey, not my gorgeous son. Remember? Well. Here he is NOW:
My beloved niece was Beautiful Erin Who Is Barely Ten, and now she is taking pictures like the one below. Here is Maisy NOW:
Unbelievable. My mom said, last time she saw them, â€œStop growing up so fast, I am going to put a book on your heads.â€ Maisy Jane laughed and Sam shrugged---easy, insouciant--- and said, â€œKnock yourself out. Iâ€™ll just pull it off my head and read it.â€
When we started, Kudzu was mostly me. Now we are all here together, and you make me laugh and ask me to adopt your wasps and make me get all misty, and half the comments are not about the original entry â€“ they are you guys, talking with me and to each other other. What began as a speech has become a more fluid, much more lovely thing: a conversation.
When we started, I never asked your opinion, because you did not exist to meâ€¦now I think out loud, here, and we talk about it. Like, should I get a dogâ€¦I had no dog when we started. Now I have the best and stupidest dog ever born.
When we started, I was more than a year away from seeing my first novel published. Now, I make a living doing what I love most in the world.
When we started, I had never been on a book tour, and I was terrified it would be like throwing a big party where no guests come. Now it's just a nice part of what I do.
These things are all connected to and because of you. You came, you built this community, you told me HELLSYA get a dog, and you bought my books and gave them to your friends and told other people about them. You have been my ongoing guerilla marketers, finding my books in the stores and turning them face out. You chose them for your book clubs. You showed up when I came to your cities. Some of you sidled up shyly and handed me a book to be signed and whispered that you read my blog but never commented, but you were THERE. Some of you came up, boldly announced the name you used on comments, and dragged me off post signing for fancy cocktails in Los Angeles and Shrimp-n-Grits in South Carolina. When I was back home, whining and tired and trying to start the next book, you said nice things to me. You patted my hair. You told me I was pretty when I had bad days and celebrated with me when I had good days, and now, look. Here we are.
Today is the littlest millennium.
This is the thousandth post. 1,000. 1K. Holy CRAP.
Faster Than Kudzu is a thousand posts long.
I want to use this 1000th post to thank you guys, all of you, you Best of all possible Best Beloveds, from the ones who have been here since 2004---you know who you are, and so do I --- to all the friends we picked up, year by year and chat by chat, all the way to a woman named Susan who surfed in only yesterday. This morning she was kind enough to make my day start out bright and hopeful by sending me an email saying she'd spent two hours tramping through Kudzuâ€™s archives and had only navigated away to go order one of my books from an online bookstore.
Thank you all so much.
I met River Jordan more than twenty years ago. (Eep.) Obviously, I was still a fetus. Okay, fine. I was a teenager. Same thing, in a lot of ways. We were in a playwriting class together at the University of West Florida, one of the many Southeastern colleges I passed through on my loop-de-looping path to getting both a piece of paper and an actual education. Back then, I thought she was both a brilliant writer and an excellent human being. My opinion has yet to shift on either front.
I have not read her new book, Saints in Limbo, as it is just now out. In fact, it releases TODAY. But I can tell you that I will be getting it the very next time I am in a bookstore, and that I TRULY loved her first novel, The Gin Girl to distraction. I loved her second, The Messenger of Magnolia Street enough to blurb it.
When a mysterious stranger appears at her door on her birthday and presents Velma with a special gift, she is rattled by the objectâ€™s ability to move her in timeâ€“back to a place where Joe still lives, her son Rudy is still young, unaffected by the worldâ€™s hardness, and the beginning is closer than the end. Secrets old and new come to light in a book Publisherâ€™s Weekly calls, â€œa thrilling, often touching gothic tale about conquering fear and regret with a stubborn, Southern love.â€
JJ: What do you think of your cover and how does it compare to the cover you imagined when you were writing the book?
RJ: Usually when Iâ€™m writing Iâ€™m so lost in the story I forget itâ€™s going to be in a book. I mean, to me, itâ€™s a very real place that Iâ€™m visiting or more like â€“ living in at the movement. When the final cover came through it astounded me. I mean it. It captured so much of my childhood in a moment that I could barely breathe. White clothes on a clothesline being as much a part of the south to me as sweet tea and cornbread. And yes, most of the clothes always seem to be white in my memory. Whites and work jeans. And right there is that green grass that my barefoot toes could run through. And my Granddaddyâ€™s barn in the background. I mean, just look at it! Itâ€™s all southern, off-center, part shadow, and part light. Itâ€™s captured the story perfectly!
JJ: I hate writing sex scenes. I get embarrassed, even when I KNOW the way the sex plays out is thematically important.....I hear you have trouble with your sex scenes, as well. How do you approach writing about sex?
I never thought I have a sex scene in a book because I hate writing them, too. I used to joke with people who said that sex sells that I was going to start my next book with a sex scene just for that reason. But dang if I almost didnâ€™t do that â€“ unintentional of course. You often ask people about their being an organic writer or outlined writer and to describe that process. Well, Iâ€™m an organic writer and follow the story and next thing I know - thereâ€™s a sex scene in the first chapter of Saints In Limbo.
Velma, though the power of this mighty surprising gift she has been given, travels back in time and the next thing you know she is young again and living mightily in the moment to the fullest with her husband right there in that barn on the cover. I ainâ€™t lying. If anybody has a problem with that, they will just have to take it up with Velma. I didnâ€™t have nothing to do with it.
JJ:Tell us about the place your story is set in called, Echo.
Itâ€™s the very place my daddy grew up in. Seven Swampy acres on a creek full of all manner of fish good to eat and alligators sunning on long, dead logs. Cypress trees and long-legged birds nested at the waters edge right alongside the chicken coop, the barn, the pigs, and a horse named Maude that does not make her way into this story. This is the part of north Florida they call L.A. meaning lower Alabama because the beaches feel a thousand hot, sticky hours away.
It was Daddyâ€™s spot of heaven on earth and that is very evident in the story. It was his touchstone to all that was good when he was away in the Army and his healing balm when he came back from Vietnam. Itâ€™s still in the family in spite of a cloud of vultures that descended immediately following his death and tried to talk/trick Momma into selling. Next thing I knew I was channeling that spoiled, sassy Scarlet when one lady caught me in mourning in the front yard. I remember saying something out of my mind like â€“ â€œAs long as I have breath in my body this land will belong to my children and my childrenâ€™s, childrenâ€™s, children . . .â€
I must have scared her because she put her witchy hands on that steering wheel and left a trail down that dirt road I can see to this day. So that land is very sacred to me - full of magic, and memories that echo far back before my time. I fully intend in my most stubborn, southern way for them to continue echoing long after Iâ€™m gone.
Thanks, River. HA! I grew up in L.A., too.
Meanwhile, soon, VERY SOON, this week, possibly tomorrow, I can tell you about THE MYSTERIOUS DOINGS in Dallas. I am not Pink Socking you, Beloveds, really. I am only waiting on my friend to e-mail the pictures of me in full on bondage gear that I need to tell the story PROPERLY. And in your hearts, donâ€™t you think the story would be better WITH bondage gear pictures? Most stories are.
This is the boogery little something we found in the leaves we brought in to feed our Pestilent Vermins. Maisy calls him Tiny Ted but the rest of us call him Mookvonavich. Maisy says Tiny Ted is a nickname...for Mookvonavich. He must be a Russian Mafia bug. *shrug*
We have NO IDEA what he will cocoon up into and we can't find him on the WHAT IS THIS CATERPILLAR database, but he has white furs, an orange face, interesting body dots, two wavy deedlies on his head (You can see them clearly in the middle picture, where Mook looks like he just finished his floor routine and stuck the landing at the summer Olympics) and he also has one spare butt butt deedlie, for fooling birds.
He eats leaves, poops, likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain, and if he is biologically slated to cocoon up and morph into 100 Brown Recluse Spiders, I am going to be deeply disappointed in him.
TODAY a moistened slump of cardboard box was sitting on my porch (stupid rain, stupid late Friday delivery) but when I opened it, the inside was still magically DRY and WARM, it was like TOAST in there, and nestled safely in the cardboard depths were a couple of advance copies of TGWSS in trade paperback. IT. IS. SO. PRETTY.
The blue is SO blue. The feet are SO FOOTY---real chipped-toe-nail-polish authentic thirteen footy. You canâ€™t see from the pic, but it has that kind of double cover thing going where there is a beveled edge, and you open it and there is an UNDERcover, so pristinely blue it looks cool and refreshing â€“ maybe even chlorinated, with review quotes.
I think itâ€™s sexy.
It wonâ€™t be in stores JUST yet, but SOON! SOON! May 26th is the release and they generally start dribbling into stores before that. The physical book, existing in my hands is always sych a good feeling, especially when it is SO pretty and touchable and inviting. OH, how I hopehopehope people who do not know me from Adamâ€™s off ox will be tempted by its beauties to pick it up and look at the reviews and read a few lines and think, â€œoh, yes, this is my kinda thingâ€ and buy it. <---This is my most secret and beautiful hope. I am only telling you.
I am also telling you that B and N has a discount on pre-orders right now. SO you could, for example, pre-order it to ship to your momâ€™s house, and then give her a Motherâ€™s Day card with flowers on the front, chock full of both touching Hallmark-style poetry and the knowledge that a fresh new copy of a book she will surely like with all kinds of MOTHER DAUGHTER THEMINESS is coming. In fact, you really want to do that. HEY! Look at the swinging chrysallis. Look at it sway! You are getting sleepy. Also, your best friend has a birthday coming up. You want to get your best friend one, as well. Sleepyâ€¦sleepyâ€¦And you, yes, you there in the back, I remember you said you were going to wait for paperback, and lo! That glorious time is here. Yes! Yes! Take two, they are small.
When I tap your shoulder you will sit upright feeling rested and pleased, secure in the knowledge that you were all ABSOLUTELY CORRECT about Maisyâ€™s stinking caterpillars. They are, in fact, the dreaded tent worms. They are, in fact VERMIN. Horrible. reviled, defoliating, awful vermin.
When you told us, we were LOATHE to believe, but Scott went and looked at your sites you recommended and then we went and stared bleakly in at the worms and sure enough: We have a box of vermin in our kitchen. The next thing that happened only confirmed it. They tented up in the aquarium, and now it looks like we are nurturing a herd of pet hair balls.
Scott: Do you think the children would be permanently scarred if they see me burn their little pets alive?
Me: Yes. I do. I suggest that after the pets hatch you take the moths to go â€œlive on a farm.â€
Scott: Do you mean that glowing red farm lapped in flames in the black pit of deepest Hell? Where everything burns up cleanly and doesnâ€™t lay 1 billion eggs and destroy every tree in Georgia?
Me: That exact farm, yes.
We brought in new leaves yesterday for the last untented vermin (I think it is either Hookah or Mookah) and a NEW caterpillar was in those leaves. He has a black body and white fur and a red face and cheery liâ€™l deedlies on his head. We tried to get a picture but he is VERY TINY. Hopefully he will become a NICE thing.
After the Tent Worms go to He---the lovely farm, I am not sure what we will raise in our aquarium. Maybe a mated pair of darling roaches. Or plague rats. Maybe we can get some Waterford crystal culture bowls where we can host colorguard trained flag-waving teams of Ebola virus. Or we can fill the tank with yellow, scientific FLUIDS and incubate carnivorous soulless sheep. The cloned kind. That eat people. After tent worms, these things are really all a step up.