Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The March Photo A Day Challenge

I recently discovered a fun blog through Facebook. Some of you who are photography fans might find this to be a fun thing also.

The blog is Fat Mum Slim, living, loving, everything, and each month there's a "photo a day challenge." 

I have not participated yet, but I have been following and I have enjoyed the photographs I've seen immensely!  The different perspectives I've seen from one topic have been wonderfully diverse.

I've decided to join the March challenge which begins tomorrow  -   Here's how to play:

♥ Starting on March 1st take a photo each day with inspiration from the prompt. For example prompt 1 is 'up', so take a photo looking up. Or of the word 'up'. Or something that lifts your mood 'up'. It it totally up to you how you want to interpret it.

♥ Once you've taken your photo you can share it on Instagram, Facebook {on your own profile or business page}, Twitter, Flickr, your blog, Pinterest, Tumblr or even just keep them in a folder on your desktop. If you're sharing on Twitter or Instagram add the hashtag #Marchphotoaday so others can find your photos too.

Here's the list of daily challenges:


Monday, February 27, 2012

New Year's Resolution Check-In

oTAY -

Time to fess up to how I'm doing on those New Year's Resolutions.

big sigh.

Not so great.

Pretty poorly, actually.

Taking them in the order I told you about them, we'll start with Julia Cameron's THE ARTIST'S WAY.  I was all gung ho about not just reading the book, but doing the exercises.  As it turns out, the exercises are just not for me, I'm afraid.  I have read a good bit of the book, and I think for some people it would be an excellent set of exercises and I may go back to them myself at some point.  But right now, no.   

Number Two.  David Busch's great book about my camera, the Canon PowerShot G12.   I love my camera.  I'm just not doing it justice because it's capable of doing so much more than I'm actually doing with it.  And reading David Busch's book will help me get better acquainted with it.  And I do still plan on reading it -  Really! I do!  I will!  - but I have not read even the first page yet. 

So, a big loud "BZZZZZZ" to me on my first two resolutions.

But, I also told you about another one. 

And that's the novel I'm writing.  My first.

And I am proud to tell you that this is coming along swimmingly.  Yay!!!!!!

I had recently gotten up around the 60,000 word mark, but removed a couple of scenes that weren't working.    (I don't even want to try to tell you how hard it was for me to actually remove scenes. That just seemed so wrong.   But I recognized, with some misgivings, that the story is clearly better without them). 

I now have an editor who is patiently working with me and I've just finished revisions he suggested on the first 125 pages.  I'm waiting to hear back from him about the next 136 pages which he tells me to be expecting pretty soon.  No hurry though - because, what I have not yet done is a major re-write of a big "info dump" he pointed out to me.  This is gonna take some serious thought and a lot of work.  But I "think" I have thought my way through to what I want to do, it's just a little scary figuring out how to actually execute it.

But.  Ever onward, right?!

And when you have an editor working with you who manages to pepper his revision suggestions with kind words of encouragement, well - it's the perfect way to motivate this novice, I must say.

Baby steps, for sure, but definitely moving forward.

And here's the thing.  I'm learning.  Wow, am I learning.  SO much.  And I think my writing is improving as I write more.  And I'm definitely learning from my editor/mentor.  Two mentors, truth be told.

I mean - holy cow, y'all.  A few days ago I had never even heard of an "info dump."  Apparently though, it is not a good thing.

As another writer friend recently told me when I mentioned what hard work I've found this to be  - rewarding and fun and fulfilling - but hard, she responded, "Well, Kaye, the only people who think it's easy are those who've never tried it."

In the meantime, while this new venture of mine is happening, I've been completely gobsmacked by the support and words of encouragement I'm hearing from everyone.  Many have brought tears, some have brought outright sobs (yes, yes, I'm a tad emotional).  I will remember every kind word, believe me.  They serve as quotes for me to remember when things aren't going so well.

While those quotes stroke my ego and keep me flying high, this is the one that keeps my feet to the fire and my fingers on the keyboard -

"The secret to being a writer is that you have to write. It's not enough to think about writing or to study literature or plan a future life as an author. You really have to lock yourself away, alone, and get to work."

- Augusten Burroughs, author best known for "Running With Scissors, a Memoir"

Perhaps, with all these quotes, supportive words and acts of kindness, along with the pats on the back that are keeping me going, this novel will actually get written.   A dream realized. 

So, thanks, everyone!   Very much.   And keep those fingers crossed, please!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Turn the Page by Michael Wiley

Michael Wiley writes the Joe Kozmarski PI novels, including most recently A Bad Night’s Sleep (St. Martin’s Minotaur), which January Magazine has called one of the best crime novels of 2011. Winner of the PWA/SMP award for “Best First Private Eye Novel” and currently a Director-at-Large on the Mystery Writers of America Board, Michael lives with his family in Northeast Florida, though he sets his books in Chicago, where he grew up and got most of his scars.

Turn the Page

by Michael Wiley
When our son was two, we took him to Story Telling Hour at our neighborhood library. He loved (and loves) stories, and he sat on the carpet politely – legs crossed, hands in his lap – alongside other toddlers as a librarian read a tale about a rabbit, a hedgehog, and a train. My son was silent, enthralled. The other kids were too. You could have taken a picture and used it to advertise the value of libraries in young children’s lives. But when the librarian paused, looked up from the book, and smiled at the children, my son yelled, “Turn the page!”

Ever since that day, I’ve thought that these are words to live by, both as a reader and as a writer. Plato says that an unexamined life is not worth living, and he’s probably right, but if he examines it too long and I’m in the audience, I’m going to shout, “Turn the page!”

I want rising action, complications, twists and turns, growing suspense, a climax, and a couple of pages of falling action. I want to lie in bed afterward, smoking a cigarette. Then I want another book, another page-turner.

When I write, I want the same: I want a story – not a theme or a message or a deep meaning – and I want the story to take readers for a ride. In my dream of dreams, hundreds of thousands of readers are lying in bed, smoking cigarettes, after turning the final page of one of my books. Then they pat the book on the cover and say, lovingly, “Again?”

I do have insights, buckets of them: insights about . . . almost everything. You need a political candidate? I’ll give you one. You’re looking for religion? I’ll tell you what I think. You’re searching for a good book to read? You mean after you’ve finished mine? Yes, I have lots and lot of insights and I share them with my family and friends until they scream, “STOP!”

And then I stop, because I know what they want – and it doesn’t involve my lecturing, moralizing, or sermonizing. They want the same thing I want: a story that makes them move, a story that makes them turn the page.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Crossnore, Part Two

There's a wonderful little chapel up the hill from The Crossnore Fine Arts Gallery - The E. H. Sloop Chapel was built in 1956 of river rock.

And in this church is a fresco by renowned fresco artist Benjamin F. Long, who has done a number of frescoes in the state.  There's a Benjamin F. Long Fresco Trail you can see at his webpage -

The fresco in Crossnore is titled "Suffer the Little Children."

It measures 16' x 9' and is on the chapel's back wall.

And as you turn to leave the church, these are the stained glass windows across the front wall.

'tis a lovely spot, indeed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The rest of the trip - Crossnore, NC

On our way home from Asheville, we stopped in the small mountain community of Crossnore, which is the home of The Crossnore School.

"In 1913, before electricity and paved roads, Dr. Mary Martin Sloop founded a boarding school “in the middle of nowhere” for impoverished mountain children.  Today, almost a hundred years later, The Crossnore School has come full circle in once again providing a residential education for children in need, weaving together experiential learning and highly focused, individualized care."

This stone cottage houses The Crossnore Weaving Room - a working museum which is actually where the weavers have been since the school opened.  Some of the first looms are still here and on display. 

"Women would weave their rugs and clothes on looms in a special building at Crossnore, and sell their wares from the site. They would pass on their tradition to young Crossnore residents in the process.  Today weavers still ply their craft in the river rock building on the edge of campus and travelers the nation over visit to marvel over their skills and purchase unique items."

The cottage also now houses The Crossnore Fine Arts Gallery "which represents regional painters, sculptors and fine craft persons who want to take part in benefiting the children of The Crossnore School. The gallery specially supports the school's Stepping Stones program which transitions students from foster care to successful independent living."

Behind the stone cottage is a labyrinth and healing garden.  Not looking so great right now, but I'd love to go back this summer when things are green again to see what it's really like when it's alive.

And next to this wonderful labyrinth complete with some ancient looking statuary and one lone stone wall with windows

is a delightful sculpture built over a creek.  The sculpture is named "Follow the Dream."

Crossnore is one of those small towns tucked into these mountains that seems frozen in time.

We love it, and expect some of you might also.  Others, however, seeking a more lively sort of entertainment would not be as charmed by its simplicity.  Which is, I suppose, one of the reasons it remains exactly what it is.  Which suits us to a "T."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Guilty/Not Guilty by Sarah Byrne

Sarah (EC) Byrne is a lawyer and jazz vocalist from Canberra, the capital of Australia, where she has held such diverse roles as General Counsel to the AMA (Australian Medical Association), Public Advocate of the Australian Capital Territory, and lead singer for the Spectrum Big Band and quartet Frequently Asked Questions. Her chief characteristics are extraordinary impatience, and a great love of books, theatre, jazz, vintage earrings and of course her remarkably patient partner, Peter, who claims to have been selected especially by a secret panel of experts.

by Sarah Byrne

A few years ago I had the great privilege of appearing on a panel at a crime fiction convention with some really outstanding reviewers and critics, to speak about the topic of what new books we thought were great and wanted to recommend to others who might not have discovered them yet. These were serious writers in their own right, with a lot of years and accolades between them, recognised in the crime fiction community as experts. People whose names, unlike mine, you will have heard of.

As we met in the Green Room and introduced ourselves, I felt it best to make a clean breast of my terrible sins of omission and set expectations low from the beginning. “I hope this is OK, guys,” I said, “but I’m planning to talk mainly about Australian crime fiction. I just haven’t had an opportunity this year to get as far into the rest of the new releases as I’d have liked.” I made this confession with some trepidation - wasn’t I essentially volunteering that I had no right to be on a panel with the rest of these luminaries, people who actually read and reviewed for a living, former “Fan Guests of Honour”, people who must know and devour all the hot new stuff, usually before it even hit the shelves? At best, I could surely only be there as the red-shirted ensign of comic relief.*

To my surprise, and gratitude, this admission was met with a collective sigh of relief, and a general outpouring of "oh, thank goodness, I can't get through a fraction of what hits my desk/am so far behind in my reading/have a TBR pile a mile high/haven't even read Girl With the Dragon Tattoo yet"!! It seemed NO ONE had time to do all the reading they felt they need or were expected to do. Even the people who did it for a living! I suddenly felt a lot better about my credentials, with a bit more perspective on how much is out there and how much normal person could reasonably be expected to read. And it turned out to be a great, fun, packed out panel, because in fact, all of us had read a pretty respectable amount.

But afterward, I got to thinking: why did I feel so guilty about not having read more? Why did all of us (well, most of us!) feel like we hadn't done enough? How did I manage to take something I love and did for fun into something which was work and an obligation?

It's actually something I seem to do a lot, and I know I'm not alone. I talked to a friend the other day who has a job and family commitments which suck up all of her time. For years now she's been longing to take singing lessons, to do something for herself for once. Three years after I gave her the number of a great teacher, she's finally started lessons, and two weeks in is paralysed with anxiety. How is she going to practise every day? And find time for lessons? And get through the written work? Something that was supposed to be a source of joy and refuge is suddenly one more burden to worry about and sacrifice time for. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Another friend loves pantomime and agreed to write an original kids show for a local children's theatre. As the deadline approached he got more and more blocked and more and more anxious. He actually stopped going out in the evenings and on weekends because he couldn't finish this thing he'd promised and felt obligated to spend every spare moment writing (or, to be more accurate, staring into a blank screen while sinking into a slough of despond and desperation.) His girlfriend fought with him over it. Finally he delivered most of a script and confessed he didn’t have the rest in him. We all hope for a happy ending.

A few years ago, my sister the US resident was planning to use her two weeks annual leave to visit Australia. Everyone loves an overseas holiday, right? Except every time she started talking about it she almost cried from sheer exhaustion. After working her @rse off for 12 months**, she was going to fly 20 hours in economy class with a toddler, and then spend the whole ten days flying around the country to catch up with people she felt would be offended if she didn't. She knew there wouldn't be time for everyone and was already stressed about how to deal with that. And then she would fly 20 hours home again and would not get another two weeks break for another 12 months. Finally I persuaded her (well, her common sense kicked in and she decided) not to go. As badly as I wanted to see her, this was clearly the worst idea for a holiday ever. Again, something that should have been relaxing and exciting and something to look forward to had become a source of guilt and fatigue.

Possibly I am particularly crazy in this respect. I'm a musician in my spare time - something I truly do love - so last year I found myself on the boards of two music organisations. And I'm a theatre nut, and wound up on the board of a local theatre company too. ( I was not quite crazy enough to actually put myself forward for election to any of these; in each case I was approached and co-opted, because a lawyer is always useful on a board, and hey, I love music and theatre, right?) And everyone knows I love books, so I also somehow found myself committed to giving a speech at our High Court on Dickens' bicentenary, and ... Oh, a whole heap of things that looked shiny and fun, but then turned out to be a huge amount of work and a source of stress and quiet misery. I even feel guilty about my monthly book group, where mainly I catch up with dear friends over a cup of coffee, if I haven’t finished the book. Although fortunately most of us are in similar boats, and the actual reading of the allotted book has long since become aspirational rather than compulsory.

This year I am trying my hardest not to put myself under this sort of needless pressure. I have a stressful job with long hours, and a few health problems I need to address, and any free time I have I'm going to enjoy, dammit. And I’m damned if I’m going to feel guilty about it! I weaselled out of my Dickens speech (not before finding the organisers two far better & more qualified speakers) and resigned from the two music boards; I've refused to nominate for re-election for the theatre company next month. I know that someone needs to do this stuff, but perhaps it should be people out there who can find it genuinely rewarding. I've even decided that I'm not going to stay past interval for a show I'm not enjoying. I used to feel guilty for wasting the cost of the ticket, but then it occurred to me: why did I buy that ticket? To enjoy myself, right? So if I'm not enjoying myself, why waste my time as well?

And I'm going to read whatever I like, not what I feel I ought to read to make myself qualified to be a part of the crime fiction community. I got into that because I love it - and I want it to stay that way.

Sarah (EC) Byrne

(*yes, yes, “Galaxy Quest”.)

** why is it that despite consistently working my @rse off, there never seems to be any actual reduction in @rse?

A Little Get-Away - Asheville, NC

Several months ago, my friend Lesa Holstine mentioned seeing Don Williams in concert.

I immediately swooned and then got jealous, and then got curious about whether he might make it to North Carolina.  Then got worried that he had already been here and we might have missed him.  He does not tour very often.

I had never heard of Don Williams before I met my Donald, but was soon to become a huge fan.  Over the years his music has become quite meaningful to us, and I will sometimes hear Donald singing a Don Williams song and I have to just stop whatever I'm doing and listen. 

One that I love hearing him sing is "You're My Best Friend."

As luck would have it, Don Williams was indeed going to be coming to North Carolina, and with nothing less than a huge bit of luck - the tickets were going on sale within just a couple days.  And, he was going to be in Asheville, which is one of our favorite little get-away spots. 

Serendipity is a lovely thing, isn't it?!

I was able to get very good tickets, and I put them away without telling Donald anything about them.  Instead, I gave them to him as his Christmas gift.

A little more serendipity is the fact that the concert took place just a few days after Donald's birthday, and Valentine's Day.

Cool, huh?!

All sorts of occassions all handled!

Time for a Road Trip!!!!!

But we don't take road trips any more unless Harley can go too.

More serendipity - The Hotel Indigo is about a block from the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium where the concert was being held.  And they're doggie friendly.  Hooray!

So off we went.

We arrived in Asheville early enough in the day to wander around and visit some of our favorite spots.

First we hit Earth Guild, so Donald could pick up some weaving stuff.

The we scooted across the street to The Chocolate Festish

oh my.


And fun!

Then we walked less than a block and crossed the street again to visit with one of my favorite bookstores, ever.  Malaprop's. 

And they have this marvelous sculpture out front. 

That evening when we walked to the auditorium, we were welcomed by yet another bit of sculpture -

I love this!

Asheville is full of wonderfully whimsical and artsy things like this, along with several galleries.  They are also quite well-known for their diverse architectural styles including Neoclassical, Romanesque Revival, Art Deco, Beaux Arts, Gothic and Spanish Renaissance. 

One of the buildings most widely known and admired is one we passed on our way to the auditorium from our hotel.  The Basilica of St. Lawrence, featuring what is reputed to be the largest freestanding elliptical dome in North America.

It's all but impossible, of course, to even think of Asheville without mentioning the famous Biltmore Estate, which is breathtaking.

But - when visiting Asheville, don't limit yourself to only the Biltmore.  There is just so much more to this city.  If you're a fan of architectural styles, as I am, you might want to consider walking Downtown Asheville's Urban Trail.

And, of course, back to the man we came to see.

Don Williams.

The man writes beautiful songs, he sings with the voice of an angel.  And he engages the audience with a sweet and dry humor.

If you have an opportunity to see him, please don't let it pass you by.

They just don't make 'em like Don Williams any more.

The next day when it was time to head back home to Boone, Harley got a little testy.  Oddly enough, although Donald and I are avowed homebodies, Harley, it would seem, has a streak of wanderlust.  He's beginning to enjoy these occassional road trips.  He thinks doggie friendly hotels are just about the cat's pajamas (for lack of a better saying).

He thinks those big brown eyes of his are going to get us to do things his way.

And if that doesn't work, he's not above arguing about it.

(notice Harley's tongue?!)

On the way home we stopped in Crossnore to visit the weaving studio at The Crossnore School, which has grown into a wonderful gallery since we were last there.  Gorgeous! 

More about that in a few days, so check back!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Malice Domestic - Agatha Award Nominees Announced

The Agatha Award Nominees have been announced.  The awards will be presented at Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD on April 28, 2012.

Best Novel:

The Real Macaw by Donna Andrews

The Diva Haunts the House by Krista Davis

Wicked Autumn, by G.M. Malliet

Three Day Town, by Margaret Maron

A Trick of the Light, by Louise Penny

Best First Novel:

Dire Threads (A Threadville Mystery), by Janet Bolin

Choke, by Kaye George

Learning to Swim: A Novel, by Sara J. Henry

Who Do, Voodoo? (A Mind for Murder Mystery), by Rochelle Staab

Tempest in the Tea Leaves (A Fortune Teller Mystery), by Kari Lee Townsend

Best Non-Fiction:

Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure, by Leslie Budewitz

Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making: More Stories and Secrets from Her Notebooks, by John Curran

On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling, by Michael Dirda

Wilkie Collins, Vera Caspary and the Evolution of the Casebook Novel, by A. B. Emrys

The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, by Charlaine Harris

Best Short Story:

“Disarming”, by Dana Cameron (in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

“Dead Eye Gravy”, by Krista Davis (in Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology)

“Palace by the Lake”, by Daryl Wood Gerber (in Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology)

“Truth and Consequences”, by Barb Goffman (in Mystery Times Ten)

“The Itinerary”, by Roberta Isleib (in WMA Presents the Rich and the Dead)

Best Children's/Young Adult:

Shelter by Harlan Coben

The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby

The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey

The Code Busters Club, Case #1: The Secret of the Skeleton Key by Penny Warner

Best Historical Novel:

Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen

Murder Your Darlings by J.J. Murphy

Mercury's Rise by Ann Parker

Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

Congratulations, everyone! 
I look forward to seeing you in April!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Life After The Library

Today was the first day I haven't had to do anything.

After a month of the house being somewhat topsy turvy (what a lovely way to say things were a royal mess!), I was able to get back to a somewhat normal routine.

Up with Donald, coffee, visits with Harley and then a trip to the gym.

And lunch with Donald to celebrate his birthday.

Then once I got home I didn't have a stack of books to move, a sit-about to wash, or a picture to hang.



What to do, what to do?!

What I did was take a long hot soakie bubble bath, put on comfy sweats and a soft t-shirt and fell into bed and took a nap.

A long one.


Now that the adrenaline rushes I've been living on for the past few weeks have gotten me through Project Little Library I can truly say I am just flat exhausted. But a good kind of exhaustion. A project complete. One that I love. And I'm proud of what we've accomplished. A side benefit I didn't expect is that the house also received a really good, really deep spring cleaning. What better time to scrub baseboards and windows, polish furniture, etc. than when everything is all torn up? The house has never looked more sparkly.

After hanging the last picture on the wall last night, I did something unusual for me.

I turned on The Grammy Awards Show.

I am a huge music fan.

Music is one of the joys of my life, and it's one of the things Donald and I share. We have attended some pretty awesome concerts during our years together, and some of those people we've seen were on the show last night.

However, I stopped watching the Grammys a few years ago when the main focus seemed to be on music I'm not a big fan of.

And to be truthful, most of the show did not hold my interest last night either.

It almost lost me when Chris Brown was doing his thing. Remember him - he's the guy who was all over the news a few years ago, not for his music, but because he beat up his girlfriend. He may have a sweet baby face, but as I've always heard; "you can't judge a book by its cover." I know, I know - forgiveness and all that. uh huh.

And I found all the references to Whitney Houston's death to be painful. Especially the performance by Jennifer Hudson, which was beautiful. But painful to witness.

Whitney Houston was a phenomenal talent with the voice of an angel.

Her personal life, however, was apparently full of demons she was unable to whip. I've read today about how heart-broken her former husband is. I'm sorry y'all, but I fear this man may have some serious guilt he needs to be facing up to. Yes, yes - I know, I know - forgiveness and all that. uh huh. Tell that to their daughter who lost her mother way too soon.

And then I was gone for good when there appeared to be a torture scene of some sort taking place with a singer I'd never heard of.

'Course now, I will totally admit to being a Pop Culture Challenged person, so she may be a fine performer. Just one I don't "get."

I was tickled pink to learn The Allman Bros. had won an award - The Lifetime Achievement Award.  I'll say!  These guys have been making music now for 43 years.  Forty-three years.  It would have been nice, I think, to have actually seen this during the show.  But - what do I know.  The woman being tortured, or whatever, on that wall was probably an important part of the show, after all.

I'm wondering if that woman singer being tortured on that wall will still be around making music 43 years from now.  You think?  Did I mention that I just did not get that whole thing?

One performer I do get, however, is Adele. I think the woman just flat rocks. I love her sense of style, which is very much her own - and I love her music. And I admire her whole attitude about herself and "the business." The interviews I've seen with her have been quite something.

I was happy I had turned the show on for her alone. And yes, yes, yes, I'm one of 30 beezillion who ordered her new CD, "21" today.

Did any of you watch the show? What did you think? High Points? Low Points?

My turn to do a guest blog

Today I'm hanging out at Patricia Stoltey's place.

Pat is a mystery author, and a fellow blogger.

If you have a minute, drop by and say "hey!"

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Project Little Library. Fini!

The little library room is complete.

well, sorta.

I had planned on putting a small writing desk in there, but I think the room is just too small for it, but I'm still thinking.  And eventually there will be a new area rug in there - but not till later.

I was going to use some of the same pictures I had hanging in there when it was a guest room, but that fell by the wayside when I ran across a tube of old posters I had put away years ago.  Some of them hung in my office when we were working at Georgia Tech, so they're pretty old (and look it, I'm afraid), but I love them.  It was like running across old friends.

Especially this one -

My Hero!

Eloise is who I wanted to be when I was a little girl, and I still just love her to pieces.

It just wouldn't do for me to have a library and not have Eloise in attendance, so she hides behind the door so she can pop out and shout BOO! and scare folks when they come in.

Anyhoooo - - -

Here's what it looks like -

My little dream room.

'Course, this only covers books written by authors A through some of G.

The rest of the alphabet meanders throughout the house.

And that's okay, 'cause . . . .

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Advice From The Rabid Shrew and Oban The Knuckle Dragger OR What I Learned From The Opposite Sex By Julie Dolcemaschio

Photo by: Alexis Rhone Fancher
Julie Dolcemaschio is an author and a poet. She has written several books of poetry, and has had her work published in literary journals.
She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and The Los Angeles Writers and Poets Collective.
Her crime novel, TESTAROSSA, was published by Krill Press in May 2010.
She is currently working on a romance novel. Her research is extensive and time-consuming. 
Julie lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.
Twitter AuthorJulieD

By Julie Dolcemaschio

So, what HAVE I learned from the opposite sex, now that I’m…over 40? Why do I care? My eldest son is a senior in high school, and when I was talking to his Honors English teacher the other day, she told me that she had given the class a writing assignment. The assignment was quite simple: What Have You Learned from the Opposite Sex.

Wow. I told her I was fascinated with that idea, especially considering the group she was asking. She assured me that this was going to be an incredible assignment for the kids. She also asked me if I would write something on the subject. Naturally, I said I would. Her unabashed enthusiasm is part of why I love her. The other is that she can open a tequila bottle faster than anyone I’ve ever met.

So, where to start with this impressive and interesting subject? The first thing I thought of was that they are a sad bunch. Then I thought, ‘Oh, God, I can’t say that, can I?’ I mean, how sad can they be? They’ve ruled the earth since Oban The Knuckle Dragger discovered fire, and they still do, no matter how far women have come. But, I do believe they are sad. Sad and hurting, and I don’t mean it as in hapless or incapable, like they sit around and drool into a cup all day. What I mean is that they are hurting deep in their souls. They don’t know who they are supposed to be and they are unable to tap into their authentic selves for reasons both obvious, and not so. And as the wife of a man, and the mother of two men-in-training, I hurt for them, too.
In the 50s and 60s it was easier to be ‘a man’. The expectations were clear; their roles in society, in the workplace and at home were well defined. Rarely did we see a man at home taking care of his children while his wife worked. A man coming home after a long day, and doing anything other than sitting in his favorite chair, snapping open the newspaper, and signaling for his bourbon was a rarity as well. This, of course, did not advance the role of women any, but let’s face it; back then, women’s roles were pretty well defined, too. Society expected her to be a good mother and a good wife, and if she had to help bring home the bacon, she’d better know how to prepare it to her husband’s liking. No bourbon or newspaper for her. The kids better be clean, preferably fed, and ready for bed, and once dinner was served and the dishes were done, she’d better be ready to perform her wifely duties in bed.
Today, a man’s role is less clear. The Feminist Movement, while essential in moving women forward and up in the workplace and in society, confused the issue somewhat for men. Back in the day, a man who helped a woman on with her coat, pulled out her chair, and opened doors was a gentleman, and the behavior was expected. Once “The Movement” took hold, these kind souls were blasted with dragon fire for assuming a woman was incapable of putting on her coat or opening a door for herself. Suddenly the lady of the house wasn’t offering him the paper, a bourbon, hot dinner, and a roll in the hay when he walked through the door; she was handing him a screaming baby, a dinner plate on top of the microwave, and no chance in hell of sex.

In the workplace, his boss—a man—with whom he once shared a nightly gin-for-the-road while listening to exaggerated stories of golf scores and trysts with the hatcheck girl at Sardi’s, has been replaced by a woman who had to work twice as hard as her predecessor to become the boss, and she believes that the only way she’ll get any respect is to behave like a rabid shrew who keeps her employees’ freshly amputated testicles in a jar on her desk. And for the first time in his life, he is being turned down in bed. He is no longer king of his domain and he’s wondering what fresh hell he’s wandered in to.
Is all of this a cliché? Am I generalizing? Have I burned the rump roast? Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus wasn’t on the bestseller’s list by accident. Author John Gray determines that men and women speak different languages. Well, duh. A man does one big thing for his wife, like build her some bookshelves, or buy and install a widescreen HD TV in her office, and he feels he’s good to go for the year. Meanwhile, she’s sitting back wondering why he can’t see that the trash is overflowing, or, God forbid, lower the damn toilet seat after he pees. Little Things vs. Big Things. But really, doesn’t it go deeper than this?
Here’s how I see it, and I have been married for 26 years to the same man—a man’s man, an enlightened man. What I learned from him is that men have a deep need to connect—to their guy friends and to their wives/girlfriends. They want to be loved and understood and honored. Yes, I said honored.

When a man feels he is being honored for the man he is, he opens like a flower. When he does not feel honored, he shuts down. Pretty simple. When he feels appreciated for his contributions—even if it’s shelves or a widescreen—he feels like he is taking care of business. When he hears we’re unhappy that he didn’t notice the new drapes or acknowledge we’ve lost a few pounds, he’s understandably hurt—The Big vs. The Little again.

When a man is honored for acting as the leader and mentor in his house, he will lead. When a man is allowed to bond with his children, make mistakes, and be open about his insecurities without being made to feel like a drooling buffoon, he will nurture. When a man is allowed to love, protect, and provide for his family freely and without being made to feel as if he’s dominating or taking over, he will thrive.

A man wants to fix, find solutions. When his wife or the kids get sick, he’s pissed he couldn’t prevent it from happening, and even angrier that he can’t fix it. That’s when he’ll turn to his wife and say, “How the hell did you let this happen?” This will prompt her to say, “I’ve been cleaning up barf all day and I’m tired” or, “I’ve been barfing all day, give me a break.” This is his cue to say, “Yes, of course, my angel. Let me make you a cup of tea,” but he doesn’t do that. He wants to know why she is acting like such a bitch, and why the hell she is, or the kids are, still sick, dammit.

This is a good time to acknowledge his need to problem solve, and her need for a stiff martini—or a cup of tea. The bottom line here is he is dying to be understood, and he is woefully incapable of understanding himself. I have found that in the acknowledging, there is acknowledgment. Everyone wins—most of all the man.

The genderless way in which many people live today is not good for men. I’m not sure yet how we women are fairing, but I can tell you it is not good for the men. They need to be men. They need to be able to be open about their needs, their wants, their hurts, and their desires without being labeled a whiner. They need to be able to express themselves sexually, where appropriate, without being labeled a cad or a pervert. They need to be given permission to admire the beauty of a woman without being labeled a leering wanker with a lazy eye.

When I quit my job almost 18 years ago to stay home with my son, I had a hard time adjusting. I’d worked for my own money since I was fourteen, and now I found myself in the position of contributing nothing financially, and on top of that I was expected to have the kitchen cleaned and dinner ready when he got home. When that wasn’t happening to my husband’s liking, he let me know about it. I believe his words fell along the lines of, ‘This is your job now’. Did I enjoy hearing that? No, I did not. But the man wasn’t wrong. It was my job—that, and caring for a baby. He had his own job to do outside the home, and it was damn stressful. He brought home a nice paycheck and he denied me nothing. But, in my mind, I wasn’t an equal in the work force anymore. I was a housewife. I was June Cleaver, and all I was good for was a clean house and smiles at the end of the day, while he navigated through the exciting world of business. I didn’t have my own money, and this made me feel incredibly insecure.
But, wait…I chose this, didn’t I? I decided that I didn’t want to go back to work. I decided I wanted more for my son than a woman-who-was-not-his-mom coming in every day to care for him while I went out and fulfilled my obligation to the feminist movement. Even my mother, who worked all during my formative years, said, “I’m afraid you will lose yourself if you don’t work.” I didn’t. I actually found myself, and when I did, I found a woman, and I liked her. I decided I would be the woman and let him be the man. I decided I would let him protect, I would let him provide, and I would let him cherish, and I would do some things, too.

And cherish he did. I noticed the change right away. It was immediate. Gone was the closed mind, the demanding tone, the business-like way in which he dealt with our marriage. I got back the man that I married, simply because I let him be a man. I was in no way diminished by letting him be who he was, naturally. And from this came his need to connect, his desire to let me know that work wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and that he worked his ass off for me, and for the kids. And he told me he’d rather be home with me than anywhere else, and in those cherish words, those heartfelt love words, in that honesty that I can only guess came from the changes I made, I, too, opened up. I became more, and then he became more. It isn’t always perfect, and occasionally we forget the Mars and Venus stuff and we fuck up. A past-lives expert told me once that in one of our many previous lives together, my sweet boo killed me—quite violently, in fact. I made the mistake of sharing this with him after one particularly silly argument. “And this surprises you?” he snorted. He’s funny, in addition to being manly.
If I had the ear of all the young men in the world, I would say to them the following: Be who you are as a man, every single day. Strive to be a good man, in society and in your home. Love hard and strong and with honor, always with honor. I would tell them that Snookie and Kim Kardashian will never honor them as men, so look and enjoy, but do not bring that home.

I would say be brave in expressing your needs, because unless those needs are taken care of, you will not be able to meet the needs of your wife and your children. Open doors, pull out chairs, and help with coats if that makes you feel good. The right woman for you will take it for what it is—a gesture of love, and not an attempt to weaken or dominate. I would advise young men to connect with their guy friends as deeply as they can. Where a woman lacks, your buddies will fill in. Don’t let the lure of sex weaken you. It will be there, whether you are a dog or a man of honor. Choose honor, and with the sex you will also get respect. Be conscious of how you speak around girls your age. Broadcast that you are not that guy—the guy who thinks of them as nothing, not worthy of respect, or decent language, or a kind word. Speak and act with honor.

I would also like to invite young men to hug their mothers once in a while. You know you want to, so do it. She won’t bite, or offer to change your diaper. She knows you’re grown up because she has felt you drift further and further away from her since you were ten. Hug her and let her honor you as the man you are becoming. She sees it, sees where you’ve been, and where you are going, and it kills her, and it fills her with pride. She knows she has to let you go, because she’s been doing it for years. She can’t wait to see how things will turn out, so hug her once in a while. It won’t kill you.

Last, honor yourselves. Honor the man you are becoming and the one you’d like to ultimately be. Don’t compromise and don’t settle. Honor yourself, be true to yourself, and pass it on to your friends. You’re worth it. The women of the world need you—and we need you at your best.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Harley says, "Time for a break, Mom!"

and I say, "I Agree!!"

Time for a progress report while I kick back and have a nice fresh hot cup of coffee and a little visit with Harley.  He's feeling a bit neglected.

Here's what the little library room is looking like right now.

Still a mess!!!

But - all the bookcases have been filled.

I haven't put any "pretties" around yet, just the books.  I have started bringing in a few pieces of pottery that might decide to live in here, but we'll just have to see as things progress.

We got almost through the G's, but had to pick back up with them again in the little sitting room around the corner.

The two top shelves are biographies, then the rest of the G's, and some H's.

And that's when Harley insisted it was time for him to take a little walk, and for me to take a break.

After these shelves are filled, I'll move over to here -

The books you see in the back of that cabinet are old sports books that were my Dad's.  And some art books - and a few books still be sorted. 

I'm going to put novels in front of these - maybe two rows deep.

Then up the stairs we go into the sunroom. 

It was a mess the last time we were there.

And guess what!

It still is!

Lordy, Lordy. My Mother would die if she knew I had invited people in with the house this big a mess. Don't tell, O.K.?!

But, for now - - -

oh well.

Time for a break.

I was in bad need of coffee and Harley was in bad need of skritches on his belly.

And maybe we're both due a little walk while there's still a little snow on the ground. It's a gorgeous day in these mountains!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

and slowly it goes . . . .


I have all the A's, B's and C's shelved - Yay!!!!!

(except for those that might have been over-looked the first time around the house pulling books.  I've already found more than a few while pulling the D's and E's).

These pictures may look a lot like yesterday's pix, but you'll notice there are finally some books on some shelves. A good thing!

While a few more have made their way in to replace them . . . . 

Once the bookcases have been filled, I can start the fun process of decorating a little.  Yippee Skippy!


In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in seeing some of the destruction I'm leaving in my wake.


What a mess, huh?

Obviously, the little room I'm now referring to as "The Little Library" is not going to hold all the books, so a lot of those I'm moving out of the sunroom will eventually end up right back.  But.  This time they'll be alphabetically organized and from now on I should have a better chance of putting my hands on that one particular book I "need" right this minute.  (I know you know exactly what I mean).  Then I will be oh so happy I did this.

I have to keep reminding myself of that in the meantime.

This is not an easy thing to live with if you're a person who likes things in their place.

But as one of my former bosses at Georgia Tech, Dr. Robert Loewy, used to say "Kaye Alan, you can only eat the elephant one bite at a time."



In the meantime, I think I'll feel better if I'm allowed just one little bitty scream, if you don't mind - - -