Friday, August 24, 2007

The House That Joe Painted

Several years ago I was in a paint store where the staff had taped a cartoon to the counter. It showed a man buying cans of paint, and the clerk saying, “Sir, I’ll need to see a note from your wife.”

Until this week, that summed up me and my husband. He does a meticulous job of painting, but after several what-on-earth-were-you-thinking occasions when he made solo trips to the paint store—one of which resulted in the living room being painted with pink semi-gloss—I choose the paint and he chooses the brushes.

This week we’re painting the exterior of our house, which is not only a huge job, it’s also out there for the whole world to see. So we have to get it right.

The previous owners had always painted the house white with a turquoise gable and front door. If any of you are old enough to remember the turquoise trim color that was popular in the ’50s, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

We’ve wanted to change the look of the house and add some personality to its charming 1940s cottage style, so we finally settled on a nice cheery yellow for the main color, white for the trim, including the gable, latticed porch, etc., charcoal for the concrete steps and porch floor, and an eye-catching dark red door. We actually agreed right away on the door color and that’s, ah, not always how things go around here!

For the past few months I’ve been taking note of all the yellow houses I’ve seen throughout the city. Turns out that yellow is not a forgiving color. We could either get it right, or we could get it horribly wrong.

This week, after two long days of power washing and paint scraping, we were finally ready to head to the paint store. I had already chosen a color that looked similar to other yellow houses I liked, but I still insisted we buy only one can and try it out. My husband is always in a big hurry to get moving on things, but I didn't want to buy multiple gallons of paint until I was absolutely sure we had the right color.

We were not even close. The yellow that looked bright and cheery on a two-inch-square paint chip was capable of doing permanent damage to the retinas when applied to an entire wall.

So I went back to the paint store, alone this time, and enlisted the help of a very knowledgeable woman who patiently discussed with me the pros and cons of various shades of yellow. We settled on a more subdued shade, but it still wasn’t right.

Meanwhile my husband was doing lots of silent eye rolling while he applied primer to the turquoise gable, and neighbors were stopping by to ask if we were really going to paint the house that color, in reference to Yellow #1.

I went back to my notes and decided to drive around one last time and look at the yellow houses whose owners had managed to get it right. My favorite even had similar siding to ours and the exact style and color of shingles. If they could get it right, so could I. So I knocked on the front door and asked the nice young couple who answered if they could give me a sample of the paint color they’d chosen. And they did!

Armed with a lid from one of their empty paint cans, I made yet another trip to the paint store. The same woman who’d helped me choose Yellow #2 came up with a custom color that’s a perfect match and exactly what I was looking for. And not a moment too soon! I think my husband and our neighbors were about to suggest I have my eyes checked. And then someone could draw a new cartoon, with the paint store clerk saying to the crazy lady, “I’ll need to see a note from your optometrist.”

We still have a lot of work to do but when it’s finished, it’s going to be fabulous!

Anyone else doing major home reno projects this summer? I hope yours are going more smoothly than mine!


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bad News/Good News Week

I'm posting really late today, and I'm sorry. It's been one of those weeks. My son was in the hospital this past Friday and Saturday. All is well now but it was kind of a bad couple of days there (he'd had what should have been minor sinus surgery three weeks ago but something went wrong and he suddenly had this severe, uncontrolled bleeding from his nose).

And, I have a cold. Not that a cold is anything like losing two liters of blood through your nose, but I'm miserable. Maybe it's a sympathy illness for my son — he did have plugs in his nose for four days and sounded like he had a cold.

On a positive note, I typed "The End" yesterday on my latest book. Still have a lot of editing ahead of me before I have to ship it off next week, but it's a good feeling to be done. More than good. It's great! I counted, and this is my twelfth completed book (not including all those other ones I started and didn't get past chapter four or five). The two most thrilling moments for me in writing a book is the beginning when I'm falling in love with the story and the characters and the end when I've given them their happily ever after. I think it's probably that way with a lot of writers and readers.

Well, I'm off to nurse my cold, kiss my son and kick back on the couch for some more editing. Hopefully by my next post in September, I'll be deep in the process of falling in love with the characters in my next book.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Another birthday

Well, it was bound to happen. We had a major scheduling conflict on my birthday. I grew up celebrating just about every holiday. And, well, even though I now have two teenagers far more sophisticated than myself on most days, I still make a big deal about each person’s special day. They know I expect attention on my day, too. Oh, not all day long. Just dinner out.

But, well, everyone was busy on Saturday. My son had to work, my daughter had cheerleading. No problem, I said. How about we go out to eat on Friday night? You guessed it, Friday night wasn’t good either. Both my kids and my husband had plans. Thursday involved other commitments. On Monday, my husband was flying out of town. So, after much discussion and looking at social calendars, Sunday night was it. My husband made dinner reservations downtown. We were set…so I thought.

Sunday arrived. We went to church. Then there was the fun family activity of cleaning out the garage on just about the hottest day of the year. Everyone started getting grumpy. After an hour, I looked around…the kids had mysteriously found other things to do. Next thing I knew, my husband did, too. And then the phone started ringing. Actually, my family’s cell phones started ringing.

Uh oh, everyone started getting invited to all kinds of places, including a golf outing for my husband. I listened to everyone’s conversations, kind of feeling guilty when everyone cancelled…it was mom’s birthday. They had to spend time with mom. No, it wasn’t an optional thing. Mandatory~ just like they were in the army.

Well. I started feeling guilty.

The car was pretty silent during the drive downtown. I sat there remembering years that had passed, when the kids drew me pictures and the Dairy Queen ice cream cake was looked forward to with breathless anticipation. Yeah, I’ll admit it. I was kind of bummed and irritated with myself. How come I was making a big deal out of my birthday, anyway? I mean…I’ve had LOTS of birthdays.

But then, after we got to the restaurant, a series of things happened. My husband presented me with a special menu signed by the staff. The kids put away their cell phones and started chatting. We laughed about my daughter’s seventh birthday, when her birthday dinner consisted of Top Ramen. We remembered swimming parties, slumber parties, parties that I thought would Never End, and my husband’s fortieth. We had a nice dinner. We all dug into my slice of chocolate cake. And lo, and behold, my son and daughter both handed me cards. My new driving son had taken my daughter out shopping just the day before-without me saying a word!

So, I had a great birthday, even though it wasn’t actually on my birthday. And I got what I wanted-family time, even though I had to whine and put my foot down to get it.
Okay…anyone have a birthday story to share…either their own or a family member’s?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Characters Live On!

I've been woefully deliquent in my blogging. My only excuse is that summer is hard! My daughter is a teacher and was off until last Friday, so we did lots of lunching, shopping and goofing around. Then in the afternoons I went to my part-time job in our company. Summer is our busy time, so I was very busy at work there. My life was a study in extremes these past two months.

I fear I am much better at goofing off than I am at hard work.

But just in time for the upcoming fall season, I have received a new contract for two more Brody's Crossing books. Yeah! My continuing characters will live on. The potential heroes and heroines mentioned in previous books will find love. The cattle, bison and other animals on the Rocking C will continue to be fed. My heroine in (tentatively titled) An Honorary Texan will restore the 1960s Sweet Dreams motel so visitors will have a place to stay. And best of all, everyone will get together again for the Christmas traditions, including the parade, Settlers Stroll, and chili dinner at the VFW post. I'm thrilled to have another Christmas book in 2008.

I hope your summer was great and you got more done than I did these past few months. Here's wishing we all get our deadlines met in the coming months! Best wishes from sunny, hot Texas.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Life in Howelltown

I missed my last post. No excuses whatsoever. Simply got busy and by the time I remembered I was to blog, it was the end of the day.

School started August 8 with teacher meetings. We worked August 8, 9, and 10, and then the freshman had a transition day August 13. By August 14, I was meeting my students, and they've already completed 4 out of 174 school days.

We also received our state test scores and last year's juniors did great on both the Missouri MAP test and the ACT. Our students were up a full point in the English section and are 2 points above national average.

This year's going to be different. The team of teachers who have been together for 4 years is split. Dave's the associate principal in our school. Andy has moved on to be a dean of students at another high school in my district. I'm no longer teaching American literature and composition but a full journalism schedule.

The new preps and getting used to my 5:15 AM wake up call have had me needing naps each afternoon when I get home. And I've got revisions in today.

So as I leave you until the end of the month, happy August. Enjoy those last minutes before school starts if you're one who has kids or is ready to go back to a school schedule. If not, do me a favor and sleep in one day for me. :)


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fried Green Tomatoes

I read Kara’s post about family traditions with interest. It got me thinking about food. (I’m always thinking of food!!) We all have cooking traditions learned through our families and the regions where we live.

I live in the Pacific Northwest (just outside Seattle) now, but I grew up in the Midwest, in Indianapolis. Land of the best corn ever and meat and potatoes. Fish and Asian foods are big in the Pacific Northwest. Combining both ways of eating has been wonderfully creative and tasty! One food culture that has always interested me is Southern cooking. I’ve made a few dishes (and I love to watch Paula Deen on Food Network). So...

We’ve had a cool, gray summer here and our tomato plants are woefully behind. Lots and lots of green tomatoes, and I’m wondering if they’ll ever ripen. So I asked some friends in the south about fried green tomatoes. Here is what they advised: Make sure the tomatoes are in that first pale blush before turning red, because they taste so great then. Dip each slice in egg, then in a mixture of cornmeal and flour, with salt, pepper and a little garlic. Fry until browned and crisp on both sides.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I tried it and it is.

Trying new things is always an adventure. What have you tried lately that was new and different?
Summer Lovin’ Anthology: A Reunion Story, June 2007
Mitch Takes A Wife, August,