Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lighting The Luminaries

My neighborhood has a long-standing tradition of lining our streets with luminaries on the Saturday night before Christmas. A few stalwart volunteers put out hundreds of white bags filled with sand during the afternoon, and then a few more people go out at dusk with their trusty lighters and light up as many as they can. Block by block, street by street. The result is magical - a line of flickering white lanterns up and down the street, Christmas lights on all the houses, neighbor talking to neighbor in the gathering dark.

Peace on earth. Goodwill toward fellow men. For a little while, anyway. :-) Christmas traditions remind us to take a little time and appreciate what we have, where we've come from, and hopefully where we're going.

Do you have any special traditions for the holiday?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Quiet Heroes

For the last couple of years, I've done a little bit of fundraising for The Freedom Playground Foundation, an organization formed with the goal of creating the first barrier-free, all-access playground for the handicapped children of Tampa.

The Freedom Playground is the brainchild of my neighbor, Stefani Busansky, whose oldest daughter Sarah was born with cerebral palsy. Freedom Playground began as a dream, and it is about to become a reality, all because of some wonderful people who have donated both time and money into making it so.

My feeble efforts at fundraising have raised only a few hundred dollars a year, until this year. This year, I want to give a very special thank you to a wonderful woman who, out of the goodness of her heart, just donated a total of $50,000.00 to the Freedom Playground Foundation. While this extremely generous, very kind soul has asked to remain anonymous, I'd like her to know that what she's done is about to make some very special children very happy. The legacy of her generosity will live on for years and years in the hearts of children who, because of their disabilities, often have a much harder time just "being kids".

So for those of you out there who think that angels don't exist, think again. :) Merry Christmas to all the quiet heroes out there, who put their money or their time where their mouth is!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In Memoriam: Jon Kipling Bohannon Nov. 3, 1956 - December 19, 1998

My brother Jon was a guy who was passionate about fishing, about partying, and about women. Combine all three of those things and Jonny was in heaven, which is where (I can only hope) he is right now.

In our family of five, Jon was the only boy, and the sibling closest to me in age. One of my favorite memories is how - when he'd teased me to the point where I'd finally lose my temper, which he loved to do - I'd chase him down the hall to his bedroom and he'd jump into bed and pull the covers of his head, shouting and laughing that the blanket was his "shield of defense" as I did my best to pummel him senseless (hey, I was a little girl and he was my older brother - I couldn't have hurt him if I wanted to). No matter how mad I'd get at him, we'd both end up laughing over his very verbal, and very ridiculous mock defense.

As an adult, Jonny wasn't perfect. He was often unreliable, sometimes a bit shady, and always drank too much, but he'd give you the shirt off his back if you asked for it. He had a big heart, and zest for life. That zest for life is, unfortunately, what eventually what did him in, and he died far too young of chronic liver failure. He knew it was coming for a couple of years, and he became very, very ill near the end, but he wasn't bitter. He'd lived his life the way he wanted - he'd traveled all over the world only to settle in his beloved Key West, where he could fish and laze away his days with pretty girls and laid-back people like himself.

He died nine years ago today, just before Christmas. So today I'm remembering him, and I hope a few other people do, too. Even though I had a chance to say goodbye right before he died, I'd like him to know one more thing: I've finally forgiven him for reading my diary when I was thirteen. :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The New Suburb Beautiful Book Club

I just wanted to say thank you to the warm and wonderful women of the New Suburb Beautiful Book Club, who invited me to share in their monthly fun last night. I had such a great time! Special thanks to Jane, who spent all day cooking up a true Southern feast for fifteen: peppered pork tenderloin, black-eyed peas with ham, green beans and potatoes, roasted pears and cornbread baked with maple syrup. It was DEE-lish, particularly the cornbread. :)

I knew it'd be a fun evening when Jane met me at the door wearing a tree skirt. As in tree skirt - the skirt that goes around the bottom of a tree. She'd pinned it on herself so neatly that it actually worked, flocking and all! It was the book club's Christmas gathering, and all the members brought wrapped books to exchange. Wine and conversation on the patio in a mild Florida night (sorry to all you folks in the great White North!), laughter and teasing among women who obviously knew each other well, a chance to get to know some of my own neighbors better.

It was truly a lovely, fun evening. Thanks, ladies!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A New 'Do

As much as I hate to admit it, my husband was right again. :-(

One of our favorite TV shows is Medium, which stars Patricia Arquette as a woman who sees spirits (it's based on the life of real-life psychic Allison DuBois). My husband has told me many times that Ms. Arquette and I have a lot in common - longish blonde hair, curvy figure, even a slightly crooked tooth which gives her a teeny bit of a lopsided smile similar to mine. Anyway, last season Patricia Arquette got a new hairdo - she cut her long blonde hair into a short, straight bob which looked fabulous on her.

"You'd look great with that haircut!" says my husband.

"But it's so short," says I, "and besides, she's got hair and makeup people."

Over the next few months, the debate continued. I was, in fact, tired of my long hair, but very leery of cutting it - it's been a part of me so long I was worried I'd end up like the Biblical character of Samson, who lost his strength when he lost his hair. I was ready for a change, but hesitant to walk into a salon, hand my guy a picture of an actress and say, "Here, make me look like this."

But, veteran watcher of "What Not To Wear" makeovers that I am, I knew that a great hair stylist can work miracles. I did my homework and found a "master stylist" here in town (yes, there are different levels of hair stylists depending on their training) who recommended a consultation before the actual cut - you come in, talk to him, let him evaluate your style and your "look", then go away and think about it before you come back for the cut. Suited me perfectly.

So, I went for my consultation and let him evaluate me. And what did he recommend? A short, straight bob just like this:

What a surprise, hm? :-)

So now Patricia Arquette and I kinda look like sisters, and I ain't complainin'. I'm still getting used to it, but I'm liking it better every day (no pictures of me yet, but it looks just like this, I promise).

Change is good, but having your husband be right when it comes to your hair style is a little weird. I mean, most men don't notice these things, do they? (My husband insists on disclaimer here: he's a Marine, a manly man of manly pursuits, and he never notices anybody's hair except mine. Feel better, honey?)

So have you ever had a haircut that you just loved? How about one you hated?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

How Much Does It Cost To Get Published?

Alas, it's finally happened. The inevitable awkward cocktail party conversation I've heard about so many times, but hoped never to experience. The one where you're chatting away with a woman you barely know, but she knows you're a published author because her husband knows your husband so she wants to hear the details. "Great!" you think, "a new reader!" You try to sum it up your book in a nutshell, explain that it's available in the bookstores (It is? Yes, it is. You mean like Borders and Barnes&Noble? Yes, like Borders and Barnes&Noble), and then you drop a coy little comment about your literary agent and take another sip of your drink.

So now it's her turn, and you're listening to how she's had a book stuck in her head forever, and how she knows it would be a huge success if she could get around to writing it. How she knows the perfect artist to do the illustrations, and how Nora Roberts has got nothing on her. And then, a question that took me completely by surprise: "How much does it cost to get published?"

My first thought, I swear, was "Is she asking how much I spend on paper and office supplies?" And then I realized that she was assuming I was self-published; that I'd paid someone to publish my book. While I have absolutely nothing against self-publishing or print-on-demand publishing, what surprised me the most was that it obviously hadn't occurred to her that anyone could get published any other way.

"I don't know how much it costs to get published," I said, very politely. It wasn't this woman's fault that she'd misunderstood. "My publisher paid me," I told her. "They bought the book."

Her eyebrows went sky high, and I could see the skepticism in her face. No more questions about publishing, and she immediately changed the subject. I was left feeling like I'd said something wrong, and even though we chatted for a while longer, I was relieved when she moved on to chat with someone else.

It was weird. It was awkward. How strange not to be believed when you've achieved something that you worked so hard for.

My husband claims that you're never a hero in your hometown, and I think he's right. I think that woman at the cocktail party made an immediate assumption that I couldn't possibly be a bona fide author simply because I move in the same circles she did. How could the woman who shops at the same grocery store she does be a published author? Ah, well. Her book is still in her head, while mine is on the shelves. Clean up on Aisle 3.