Archive for December, 2011

My family, on my father’s side, has always been extremely close.  Dad was one of only two children, and the bond between that family of four was incredibly tight.  Because of this, my siblings and I were able to make some of our most cherished childhood memories.  Even though my family moved around alot, from Florida to South Carolina, to Georgia and back to SC, then back to GA and then to Alabama, it was a given that we would always make time to reconnect at my grandparents’ house.  Every Christmas was spent around Granny’s tree, with all of us in attendance – aunt, uncle, cousins, grandmother (my granddad had already passed away before my birth), my immediate family, and even one or two great-aunts. 

Just as we always knew where we’d spend Christmas, every summer my sisters and I could count on spending at least a sizeable chunk of time on those beautiful, white-sandy Florida beaches.  We were allowed to spend a few weeks with Granny each year after school was dismissed, and at least part of it was without our own parents being there.  Mom and/or Dad would drive us there, stay a few days and then leave.  Then they’d come back to pick us up a few weeks later.  The list of things to look forward to was very long:  Granny’s homemade fried chicken and veggies right out of the garden;  the huge watermelon patch next to the house with such an abundant crop that we’d split the melon, eat the heart of it, and then pitch the rest; picking blackberries so Granny could make homemade blackberry jam;  getting paid to go to our aunt’s insurance office to file records for her, and then getting a donut mid-morning at the bakery just around the corner; going to bed at night and having Lallie scratch our backs until we fell asleep (but our great-aunt was very smart…she always asked us to scratch her back FIRST so she could ensure she got a turn!);  swimming out in the Gulf to, not the first sandbar, but all the way beyond it to the second one (that’s where the biggest shells were)!  The list is endless.  THere were only a few things I did NOT look forward to:  shelling butterbeans (and the inevitable sore thumbs the next day!);   those infernal military helicopters that would fly overhead and I was convinced if they saw me in the yard they’d kill me (it’s a long and wierd story, and thankfully I grew out of it…suffice it to say I was very young and it was during the latter years of the Vietnam war…I didn’t understand that it was all happening on the other side of the globe); Granny’s lack of central air conditioning (but she did have a lot of oscillating fans and two window units, although she didn’t like to turn those on); and….well, what do you know – I can only think of three things.

The point is, it was the stuff that makes a childhood magical.  (more…)


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Merry Christmas

It’s the holiday season, and I find myself always walking down memory lane during this time of year.  Growing up, our family always traveled to sunny Florida to enjoy Christmas with my father’s family.  It was so much fun, and ended the year on a high note for us. 

My paternal grandmother and my own mom are the two women I admire most in the world.  Granny is no longer with us, but I’m convinced she’s keeping tabs on us from heaven.  I’m blessed to still have my mother, and she is the closest thing to a living saint that I know of.  Both women were/are an inspiration.  Both know about sacrificing in the name of love.  Both learned how to look beyond their circumstances to find a reason to still have inner joy.  My grandmother lived until she was almost 98 years old.  During those many years, she developed her own set of “isms”, as we all call them, and even though she’s been gone for ten years, we still quote her frequently.  This weekend I am reminded of one particular piece of advice she used to give my sisters and me back in the days before we had all gotten married.

Today, I am working on my final edits for Perfectly Imperfect.  After three weeks of silence from the publisher, I found it in my inbox late yesterday and was immediately catapulted to cloud 9.   There are only a small number of things to revise before it’s ready to publish.  In re-reading the story last night and today, I have tried to pay attention to the emotional arc the heroine goes through.  

You see, my book is about a woman who has achieved everything in her professional life that she set out to do, and careerwise she’s totally confident in her abilities.  But personally, she isn’t as sure of herself.  This is due to the fact that she’s had a lifelong  struggle with her weight.  Those years of feeling like the “fat friend” left her with low self-esteem.  She has finally committed to a lifestyle plan that incorporates sensible eating and exercise to win the war over weight, once and for all.  She has a lot of success with diet alone, then on the first day she goes to a gym, she meets a handsome British gentleman.  After getting to know one another as they workout, he falls for her.   At this point, due to her poor self image, her battle against that number on the scale suddenly takes a backseat to her inner struggle to accept the fact a gorgeous hunk could truly have feelings for her and that she should give love a chance. (more…)

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Okay, I’m leap frogging over Christmas to talk about New Years, but there is a reason for that.  You see, I have to put thought into my New Year’s Resolutions.  Even though I could probably make the same one every year (which lets you know I fail at that same goal each year!), the older I’ve gotten I’ve tried to really think about my resolutions and come up with new ones each year.  Ones that are attainable.  Ones that cause me to be a better person to the benefit of someone else…not just myself (or my figure! LOL).  In recent years, my challenges to myself each January 1st have included:  reviving the nearly extinct custom of writing letters and sending them via snail mail to friends and relatives;  organizing old family photos and making separate photo albums for each child;  completing a manuscript and actively seeking publication (okay, that one was primarily for me, but I like to think that it will benefit the lives of everyone who reads it if only by providing a romantic way to spend a few evenings).

I have heard of people who resolve to read the Bible every day, or who commit to a community volunteer program, or to recycle more, plant a tree, join a book club, adopt a pet, pick up trash once a month at the local park…the list is endless.  Whatever your goals, make them realistic.  There is no reason to set yourself up for failure or the ensuing disappointment if you don’t achieve them.       

And when you pick something, commit to it.  And I’ll tell you a secret.  It’s okay to have a “backup” wish too.  I always do.   I can’t help it…every January I dream that maybe  by New Year’s Eve I”ll be back in my skinny jeans.  But at least if I fail, I can console myself with the fact that I did achieve my other resolution.

I challenge you to think outside the box too…there are so many opportunities  around us.  If we focus on others, then maybe we’ll make the world a better place along the way to getting back into those skinny jeans!  🙂


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Last year, the men’s chorus at my son’s school performed a song with its own cute take on this classic holiday song…but their’s was called the Twelve Days AFTER Christmas.  It was hilarious, and the entire auditorium laughed as we heard all about the mayhem that ensued as a couple has a fight and the man wreaks havoc with all the gifts his girlfriend had given to him. 

I thought it would be fun to give it a new twist.  But in the spirit of giving, how about I give you all some eye candy to look at?

The Twelve Hunks of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my present to you is…Guy of Gisborne’s Richard Armitage

On the second day of Christmas, I’ll give to you as well… that gorgeous Frenchman Gaspar Ulliel

On the third day of Christmas, this is what I got…a DVD with soap star James Scott!

On the fourth day of Christmas, I had wassail on the burner…then wished I could share it with Aidan Turner!

On the fifth day of Christmas, while I set the table…I thought about Clark Gable!

On the sixth day of Christmas, my kids began to pester…and I lost myself in thoughts of Philip Winchester!

On the seventh day of Christmas, I played a game of chess…and wished my partner was Olivier Martinez!

On the eighth day of Christmas, while the fire light was glowing…I watched a movie starring Clive Owen!

On the ninth day of Christmas, while I tried to wrap a toy…I watched Atonement with James McAvoy!

On the tenth day of Christmas, I read a book about Korea…and imagined traveling there with Andy Garcia!

On the eleventh day of CHristmas, I ate a sandwich with bologni…and heard True Blood had added Christopher Meloni!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, while traffic was a-zoomin…I saw a picture of hot young Paul Newman!


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My cat has shamed me because I posted a blog about dogs two days in a row, but there has been no mention of her yet.  So as any “mother” who can’t play favorites with her kids, I’m going to write about our cat, Peekaboo.  (forgive the background of this picture…she was on my son’s bed while he was in the middle of studying for finals and it was a mess!)

Healthy and Happy

Peeka is a solid black cat, which is my favorite cat to own.  I got my first one for my thirteenth birthday, as a gift from my sister.  I had just started taking French, so I named him Beau, after Napolean Bonaparte.  He lived until I was 25, when he died of old age.  It was as if fate was looking out for me after Beau’s death…one night a black kitten came into my life.  I adopted the stray, and named him Maison.  We pronounced it the American way, like Mason, but I was still into the French theme in those days, and maison means “home” so I thought it was the most fitting name for my little stray kitty.  Maison enriched our lives for seventeen years, and then he too passed away.  

After Maison died, I missed having a cat, but wasn’t in a huge rush to go out and find a new one.  Then one day my neighbor called to tell me a stray kitten had taken up at her house.  With two cats and a big dog already, she didn’t think she could handle one more.  I told her I wasn’t sure I wanted a new one yet, but asked out of curiosity, “What color is it?”   I should have known the answer even before I asked…it was a little black kitten, and we took her without ever looking back!  When we first got her home, I wasn’t sure if she was a male or female.  My son had just been to a costume party, and he and his girlfriend went dressed as Danny and Sandy from Grease.  My daughter made the comment the kitten was so black that it looked like a grease spot.  Inspiration struck and we decided to call the new pet Zuko after John Travolta’s character.   A couple of days later, we realized we had a little female, and were  back to the drawing board in search of a name. 

At this point, the kitty was still shy, and she had a tendency to get behind something and then peer out from behind it to watch us.  Thus, the name Peekaboo.  But over the years we’ve gotten into the habit of just calling her Peeka.   She is one of the sweetest cats I have ever been around.  Most cats are more aloof.  Even the ones who are friendly within their own family usually often don’t take kindly to strangers.  Peeka isn’t like that…she will hang back and observe for awhile.  Then once she decides our guests are okay, she will enter the room and grace everyone with her presence.  She will sometimes even rub up against their legs or let them pick her up.  And everyone loves her.

A couple of years ago, we almost lost her.  She is an inside cat, and never goes out.  Our dogs, come in the house often, but generally stay outside.  We treat them with vet prescribed flea medicine, but never got any of it for Peeka since she never goes out in the yard.  A couple of years ago, there was a sort of flea epidemic in our town.  Everyone was complaining about flea outbreaks in their homes.  Even the exterminator told us they were unusually  bad that year.  We noticed a couple on the cat one night.  Since the vet was closed, we decided to get some over the counter stuff to administer to her.  We bought something at PetsMart and rubbed it on her back.

The next morning, my husband came in very early to wake me up.  “Something is wrong with Peeka – I think she’s dying.”  I was out of bed in a flash and raced to her side.  Sure enough, she was trembling all over and could barely stand up.  She certainly could not walk.  I was terrified, and mystified too.  She’d been perfectly fine the night before, and I couldn’t imagine what she could have gotten into that would have done this!  As soon as they opened, we raced to the vet’s office.  They took her, and we explained the circumstances and how this had come on so suddenly.  As soon as I mentioned the OTC flea meds, our veterinarian said, “That’s it!  They shouldn’t even sell that stuff.”  She proceeded to tell us that it isn’t particularly common, but some cats do have reactions to the chemicals used in the cheaper brands of flea medicine.  She told us how many cats she’d seen die as a result of being treated with that stuff during the years she’d been in practice (around 30!).  She warned us Peeka was one of the worst she’d seen, and didn’t sugar coat the situation.  They admitted our cat, and said I could call that afternoon to see how she was doing. 

Peeka was given a relaxer to calm her down, and then she was subjected to nearly a dozen baths to get the ointment out of her fur and skin.  The vet said they would bathe her, blow dry her, give her a short rest, and then do it all over again for as many times as it took to feel like they’d gotten it off of her.  They also put her on fluids.  By that afternoon, we got an encouraging report.  Peeka was still alive, and she seemed to be showing signs of improvement, but she wasn’t out of the woods yet.  They kept her overnight.

The next morning I called to check on her again, and was so relieved to hear she’d made it through the night.  I was able to pick her up later that afternoon, and she seemed weak but otherwise okay.  And her fur had never been more beautiful!  A dozen bath and blow dry “salon treatments” had made her as radiant as the sun! 

I’m so thankful that Peeka survived her brush with death.  And I hope this message might spare some other cat a similar fate.  I tell everyone I know that owns cats to never buy that stuff!  It isn’t worth the little bit of money you might save.  Who cares about saving a few dollars if you lose your beloved cat in the process!  Needless to say, before we left the vet’s office we had a multi-pak of Frontline in our possession.  Most importantly, we were taking our cat out with us as well.  She had survived the awful ordeal!

 By the way, in case you are curious, Dr. Greene said that you almost never see a reaction to the cheaper flea medicine by dogs.  Although it can occur, it is extremely rare. 

Here is another picture of Peeka, the most loving cat ever!


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There have been a million stories written about dogs and what we can learn from them.  So I apologize for adding my own to the growing number.  But I had an epiphany today, and felt like sharing it.

Yesterday, I introduced you to our dog Pharaoh.  But we also have an older dog, and she’s such a sweet and gentle darling.  She was a rescue through the ASPCA.  Her mom was full blooded Rottweiler, and she obviously has Golden Retriever in her as well.  Her name is Laysi, and she’s one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever had.

She is getting older, and we tend to coddle her more than ever these days.  Partly it’s because we feel like we have less days ahead with her than we have behind us.  Part of it is that she moves slower in her old age, whereas her much younger counterpart practically runs us down when we’re around; so by the time she reaches us to join in the “group hug”, we make a point to fawn over her so she knows we still love her too.

What does this have to do with romance?  I’ll tell you – and even though I am a romance novelist, I assure you it’s nothing kinky! LOL!

You see, I have been married for twenty-four years now, and that is a long time!  It’s a blessing to have been married to the same person that long, even moreso because we consider ourselves still very happily betrothed!  But it also means my husband and I have been together so long that we’re in a set routine and there aren’t many surprises any more.  We’ve settled into the “status quo” phase of marriage.  But not long ago, when my husband recently returned home from a business trip, I silently observed him and decided that he treated the dog better than he had treated me! Let me explain…He came inside the house, said “Hey honey” and gave me a quick kiss and a hug then went back out to get more luggage.  I walked to the door to follow him out, but paused and watched as he got down on his knees with Laysi and was baby talking to her and rubbing her behind the ears and telling her what a good girl she was!  She was so excited to be the center of attention!   At that precise moment, my thought was, “Geesh!  He paid more attention to the dog than he did to me!”  I wasn’t jealous of the dog (I’m just as helpless to resist her sweet face as he is!), but I was struck by the difference.

My husband is out of town again today, and I was pondering that same notion again – that he seemed more animated when he was talking to the dog than he did when he greeted me.  And it hit me, even for those who’ve been together a long time, there are things we could learn from a dog that will insure that our partners’ eyes will always light up when they look at us.

Consider the evidence, and see if you too don’t agree with me.

First of all, dogs always run to greet you when you get home from work each evening.  It’s obvious they have missed you all day long, and they want you to know they’ve felt your absence and are so happy you’re not separated any more.  In fact, Pharaoh can’t stand it if we don’t immediately get out of the car upon arrival.  Heaven forbid a favorite song is playing on the radio when you pull in the drive…if you dare to sit in the car to listen to it until the end, be prepared to face the consequences!  He will wait as long as he possibly can (and since he’s so big, he can literally sit by the door and look at you through the window!), and if you don’t hurry and open that door he’ll jump up and put his front paws on the door and peer in at you as if to say “Hurry up!  You’re taking too long!”  My car door has more than a fair share of scratches as a result of me dawdling too long.  With our partners, we should make it an “event” when we both get home at night.  Don’t immediately ask where the mail is and start to open it.  Don’t come in already in mid-sentence on a rant about what someone did at work that ticked you off.  Instead, take the time to smile and exchange greetings (a kiss is even better) with your spouse.  THEN feel free to rant or open the mail.

Secondly,  dogs follow you from room to room as you move about the house.  Now I don’t suggest you do that all the time with your spouse, as it would decidedly become annoying after a while (and borderline stalkerish).  But it’s the dog’s way of saying that he’s aware of what you’re doing and he’s paying attention to you.  Aren’t we all guilty of scarcely taking our eyes off the TV screen or looking up from our laptop or a favorite book if our spouse says something to us?  These days even our cell phones captivate our attention more than our loved ones do sometimes!  We’re either texting or tweeting or checking emails on our smart phones, and we don’t always welcome an interruption.  Maybe if we’d be more like our dogs, and sacrifice ten seconds to at least make eye contact with our significant other when they tell us something, it would serve as a reminder to them that they still matter to us, and we’re still interested enough to actually listen to them.

Finally – and this is where the romance part really comes in! – dogs are notorious for coming up to us and nudging us in inappropriate places!  While this is annoying when a dog does it, even the mildest physical contact at unexpected moments can serve to add a little spice to your own love life.  For those of us who have been married a long time, remember back to the early days when you were first dating.  Weren’t you always holding hands?  Didn’t you sit so close any time you were side by side that it was hard to tell where his body ended and yours began?  Just because you’ve been together a long time doesn’t mean that has to stop.  When you are riding in the car together, reach over and take his hand and remember what it felt like to not want to let go.  If you’re having movie night at home with the latest release on pay-per-view, dim the lights and throw a blanket over your laps and snuggle together while you watch (and what may or may not happen underneath that blanket is nobody else’s business!!!).

And yeah, once in a while go ahead and follow your dog’s example and surprise your hubby with an unexpected kiss and embrace in public, and if your hand happens to “innocently” brush against an inappropriate place, oops!  But I bet he’ll like it!

Forced to wear elf ears

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Last summer, my husband surprised us by announcing we were buying a new puppy.  Not just any puppy…a Cane Corso.  If you’ve never heard of one, maybe you’ve heard it called by another name – an Italian Mastiff.   We  bought him to be a guard dog.  As we toured the breeder’s home and walked through the area where all of his dogs were, he explained that we shouldn’t make any sudden movements around his dogs and he instructed us on how to approach them to ensure they didn’t perceive us as a threat.  I was a little nervous, to say the least!

But when we got to the pen where the new litter of puppies was held, he opened the gate and let them out so we could decide which one we wanted to buy.   I had my eye on a little brindle female, but when she walked out of the pen, she was much more interested in everything else in the backyard but our family!  Her brother, however, was fixated on us.  He waddled over to us, and promptly sat down on my sandled feet and looked up with eyes that rivaled Puss-n-Boots when he does the sad-eye face!  That was all it took – he’d won our hearts in an instant.  My son pronounced that we’d found our puppy, and we named him Pharaoh.

Pharaoh is awesome!  He’s now one and a half years old, and weighs in excess of 120 pounds.  He will bark at anyone who comes near our house, and sounds like he will come through the fence to get you if you look too suspicious.  We’ve never had to put it to the test, thankfully, but I have a feeling that if anyone dared try to sneak into our yard, they would leave at least one limb and a couple of pints of blood lighter.  But for all his fierceness to any perceived foe, he is the sweetest and gentlest dog imaginable around our family and anyone we welcome into the home.  He truly takes his cue from us, and as long as our body language and tone of voice indicate friendship then he’s only too eager to befriend our guests too!  This is not without risk, however, as he does have wrinkly jowls that do tend to gather drool and slobber bubbles!  There have been many occasions where the kids or I have had to go inside and change clothes thanks to his overactive salivary glands!

I once read that Cane Corsos are called “velcro dogs” because they tend to want to always have contact with their owners.  Pharaoh has definitely proved that nickname correct.  If we are in the yard, he rubs up against our legs.  He doesn’t seem to realize that his sheer size is enough to topple a human!  If we are sitting in the den, he curls up by our feet.  If I would allow him to be on the furniture, I’m quite sure he’d be the world’s biggest lap dog. 

I have learned a lesson by owning Pharaoh.  When I found out we were getting this type of dog, I admit I was afraid of the idea.  I was worried that he would turn on us, or be a menace to our friends or other visitors we ever had.  Afterall, their reputation was that of a fierce guard dog; we’d been told that if you didn’t socialize them thoroughly then they would have that tendency to turn on people.  And even though his size is enough to intimidate you, once you look into his big brown eyes, it quickly becomes apparent that what is on the inside doesn’t match the outside package.  As long as you’re not up to no good, he’ll be your best friend.    And trust me, he can smell it if you’re up to no good, so don’t try him! 

The point is, we can all learn a lesson from my big Velcro dog.  Maybe we’d all have more friends if we were willing to take the time to look at the inside of a person instead of always judging by the outside package.  How many people have come in and out of our lives and we never bothered to get to know them?  We’ll never know what opportunites we missed out on by being too quick to judge. 







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