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August 2010
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October 2010

I can't knit, but I have other qualities...

So I've been knitting for a few weeks now, and the truth is, I suck at it, like all crafts. I don't know what it is about me and crafts, but it looks like I flunked kindergarten. The only one I can do well is scrapbooking, and I haven't done that for some time. Crafts have to be social for me to care.

So I joined my church coffee shop's knitting group. I love this group. There are three Aussies (my people!) and one of them swears like a sailor and knits like an angel. LOVE her! Every week I go with my little project, and people look at it like it's an ugly baby. They give me pity.

But I don't want their pity. I don't knit for the beauty of it. (Obviously!) I knit, because it's relaxing, and I can do it while watching bad reality TV. Every week someone tries to help me, but the truth is, I know, that no matter how much I practice, my knitting is not going to improve. I do not have the gift of craft. Know what I do have? The gift of crap.

I'm knitting a hat, and the pattern tells me to cast on for a gauge of 24" and I say to the Aussie expert, "Doesn't that seem big? Most people's heads are only 20 or 21 inches. I mean, Oprah's is 25 inches, but I'm not knitting for Oprah."

Everyone looks at me. "How would you know that?"
"Know what?"
"That Oprah's head is 25 inches."
"I heard her say it once on the radio."


Then, it dawned on me. I got an email from Elle's teacher on Friday saying that she was very worried about Elle's retention skills. I thought after the Oprah debacle, ask her what episode a certain song appears in Glee, who sings it and what they're wearing. They're nothing wrong with Elle's retention skills. What's wrong is that she, like her mother, doesn't want to retain what you want her to retain. Ugh. I have cursed her with my bad genetics for remembering pop culture trivia and not much else.

I'm still knitting by the way. What's better than good coffee and conversation? So what if I end up with an oversized hat? I can always send it to Oprah.

Jersey Shore -- Um, no.

I tried to watch this the other night. I tried. But it made the Bachelor Pad look like true romance. What is WRONG with people??? Okay, you're going to have a one night stand -- bad enough, but you're going to have it on camera, in the room with a roommate? Girl, you got PROBLEMS. This is entertaining, how? Enough for me. I'm back to "Ghost Hunters."

I am shocked at what people will do to be "famous". The whole teenage mother thing seems to be a road to fame now. Bristol Palin's on "Dancing with the Stars" and a young couple from "Sixteen and Pregnant" are on the cover of "People."

I will admit to being fascinated by the arguments on the "Housewives" shows, only because I have lived for 18 years as a housewife, and never in my life run into women who would get into a brawl. Maybe I'm not rich enough. Seriously, isn't there a charity they could support or something?

Also watched the Kardashians for the first time this week. Their fights I can understand. They're trying to get their sister away from slime central: Scott Disick. That guy gives me the willies. That's a battle worth having. All this to say, I'm ready for "Glee" to return --with the return of Britney Spears -- who is famous because she's talented. I really wish that girl the best. I hope she will go public eventually with her struggle with bipolar disorder. I think she can do a lot of good for that cause seeing her now, obviously medicated, and the successful life she's living. Plus, she's a Gleek and a mommy. I want her to win. She looks so happy in her new life.


California Freaks of Nature


In contrast to what my bad doggie did today...though in her defense, it's what she's supposed to do, I went to the grocery store today and came by this pretty little sight:

A woman had left her dogs in the car while she ran into the store. When she came out, this big, fat man approached her about the sins of leaving her dogs in the car. He had called the police, but she'd come before they could get there. (Our sheriffs have nothing to do, but give out tickets for California stops, so they must have been across town.)

Anyhoo, Moby Jerk will not move from behind the car when the woman is ready to leave. He is determined that she get her punishment for her crime against canines. So he bangs into her car (and seriously, he seems bigger than the compact car) and falls to the ground with flair. He is now laying across the parking lot, width-wise behind the vehicle, with his white belly fat hanging out onto the street. A crowd is gathering, trying to talk to him rationally about leaving. Not me. I'm no such good samaritan. I'm a writer. I'm watching with fascination to see how this plays out. I mean, no one's in danger other than my own eyes, which have been blinded by pale belly blubber.

Besides, talking to this man rationally doesn't seem all that wise of a move to me.

The cops come. The man tells his tale of woe. They tell him to head on home now and let this poor, older woman get on with her life. And her dogs. Moral: The tattletale does not improve with age.

I don't do nature...what part of this do you not understand?

Once, when we were in Saratoga, my kids caught this darling mouse outside. I called DH to see what to do with it, and he told me to bash it over the head with a shovel. I'm sorry, have we met?

Yesterday, there was a darling little squirrel in the neighborhood. Something was obviously wrong with it, but the girls were all fascinated, so I took a picture. This a.m., I am lounging in my bath after the two-hour daily fiasco to get four kids to school, and the dog will NOT stop barking. My dog is not usually this obnoxious. But I will admit, she's a terrier and her breed was bred, to get critters. You guessed it, I go outside, and there is the dead baby squirrel in the backyard.

Now Fiona's very favorite toy in the world is a flat squirrel doll that she tears apart with vigor daily. I don't even want to know what said baby squirrel went through, I only know that there is currently a really dead, really cute animal in my backyard and if my daughter comes home and sees it, it will be my head. (My daughter thinks this is Animal Kingdom, we have a dog, three fish tanks and she catches lizards with zeal.)

SO once again, not having learned my lesson the first time, I call DH and ask him to come home at lunch and rid the backyard of the evidence. His answer? "Just pick it up with a plastic bag, and put it in the garbage."

"It has EYES. I am not picking something up that can look at me pathetically, just come home, or Elle will cry all weekend."

"I have meetings all day."
"And I have a dead freaking squirrel in the backyard! Am I not making myself clear?"
"SO just get the shovel out and pick it up that way."
"Again with the shovel. I'm on my way to get my BALL gown today -- I'm wearing heels. I am NOT picking up a dead critter with a baggie, a shovel or anything for that matter."
"I have to run," he says. Typical.

So I will pray that one son gets home before Elle and I can pay HIm to use the shovel. Now my dog is a MESS from being in the mud, but I did get her before she tore the little thing apart, but I am grossed out this morning. I am not feeling like I'm on my way to the ball, you know what I'm saying??? And if you think I'm exaggerating the cuteness factor...


Still Fighting the System, Doing Business as Princess Brat

I hate stupid rules. Rules should have reasons. If I don't know that reason, I just may make your life miserable. It's why I hate red tape, the DMV (I mean, come on. Look at the auto industry, are we still driving Model T's? We are not, so do you think the DMV could maybe advance?)

In high school, we couldn't wear shorts of any kind. To prove what a stupid rule this was, I wore long, plaid shorts under my purple cheerleading skirt. That was one of many up close and personal visits with my principal, Mr. Earl P. Walker. (Who I loved and respected, and he always gave me a reason -- shorts was because he was trying to teach us respect for the workplace -- okay, fine. That makes sense. I'm good with that.)

So I have to incorporate my business. I went to the library and got "How to Incorporate, Fourth Edition"; Finance for Dummies and a business math book that is so simplistic, I didn't even have use for it. That book, therefore, should probably not exist. There is nothing worse than government red tape, and tax law. It is the pinnacle of ridiculous rules gone wild. So you have to do a "Doing business as" sheet. I was going to just do Kristin Billerbeck, Inc. But now, I want to buck the system: I'm thinking "Frothy Chick, Inc." Maybe "High Maintenance Is Us, Inc." "Scarlett Was Right, Inc.", "My Handbag Is Better Than Yours., Inc." Got any ideas? Help me buck the system. I have new covers to show you all for your opinion, but so far, I can't upload them. Grrr.

These are just comical examples, but if you have one share it. I won't use any of those up above. Except maybe Frothy Chick - or maybe Author of Froth. Hmmm

A Lifelong Love of Reading...

Is not happening in this house. My kids save for one, hate to read. Not only that, but their math scores are through the roof. How did this happen? Genetics are a funny thing, and it's my lot in life to try and create this love where none exists.

I'm especially discouraged by my daughter. What will her future look like without the lessons of Judy Blume? So wrong. Over the weekend, my high school sons announced (one to their father, one to me) that they needed a book for school. One needed "The Alchemist" which I had from one of my publishers, but got rid of because I couldn't believe how stupid it was -- no offense to said publisher. Or the bajillions of people who adore that book, whose life was changed because of it, blah, blah, blah. I didn't get it. Thought it was stupid.

So this book costs us $16 because my husband is in Nevada City at the time. (Small, quaint town.) The reason I don't keep books is I have NOT ONE bookshelf in my new house. I built my house with walls of gorgeous, glazed alder cabinets -- but I don't live in that house, my parents do. Nora Roberts and history books fill them now. Sigh.

The other son comes home and announces he too, needs a book. Of course, the library is closed at this time and this is my hot button. I will run to the bookstore as if an emergency if my boys want to read. So I check his list (it's for history) and Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October" is one of the choices. BINGO. He will love it. Adventure. People dying. Military knowledge. It's everything he needs. So I jam to the bookstore, pick it up (along with a darling "Woody" bookmark that makes him roll his eyes) and we're in business.

While we're there, Elle announces, "Look Mom, it's a Kindle!" The guy selling the "Nook" overhears her and tells her, "It's NOT a Kindle! It's better than a Kindle!"

Elle is mortified. I lean over and tell her, he's selling them, honey. He has to think it's better. But it dawns on me that a Kindle could solve a lot of problems in this house. And I really wanted to like the Nook better, because I want to support brick and mortar bookstores. But I love my Mom's Kindle.

I came home and DH and I decided it was worth the money to not run out in the middle of the night every time my boys got a whim to read. I ordered a Kindle. I figure I wanted to read the rest of Dostoevsky anyway, and those will be free or cheap. So it's a win-win.

In the meantime, son reads the first chapter of Red October and promptly tells me with glee someone's already dead.

My other son gives me all the details about how this character in the Alchemist was going to do this, but then he did that, and circled back and...get used to that baby. IF there's one thing this journey is missing, it's a destination.

Long story short, I got a Kindle. YAY!

Like a fine wine...

Today is my birthday. I'm 44. It doesn't even seem possible, since a few weeks ago I was giggling with Beth in Mexico. I mean, we've been friends since we were four, and no matter how old I get, I can always revert to childhood giggles when with Beth.

Girlfriends are like that. They make you feel young. Children, husbands, parents...they all have expectations. Friends? Friends know that a new pair of shoes can soothe the soul -- and they won't give you a lecture about the cost.

So although my age is climbing, I feel like this year is the start of something big. I'm excited to see it through and the future. Today, my friend Patty and I worked on a business idea we've been perfecting.

Patty is one of those incredible women who touches things, and they turn to gold. She's run her own successful business since graduating Stanford. She's bought her own gorgeous house overlooking the ocean (where we were today) and she's got a condo in the heart of a darling, local downtown.

I am not kidding or exaggerating when I say you could fit my entire house in her garage, which originally housed 18 cars until she reconfigured it and gave herself a huge office, a bedroom and a downstairs gym -- and still, she has the largest garage I've ever seen.

So, 44 is the year I look forward, not back and I see possibilities. Endless possibilities.


Besides, after a weekend free of kids and a "Hoarders" marathon, who wouldn't feel inspired?

The Key To Happiness...and Good Fiction

According to science, the key to happiness is "Successful Relationships"

The key to successful relationships is a bit more complicated.

I geeked out this weekend and watched another brain special called "The Emotional Life" from PBS.  I am completely fascinated by the brain and sort of wish I had another lifetime to become a neuropsychiatrist. However, something tells me people don’t want their neuropsychiatrists to be experts in reality TV.

It does count as research though, my brain love. First off, I’m the eternal, annoying child always asking why. Secondly, it’s not enough as a novelist to understand why someone behaves a certain way. As authors, we must offer the reader a reason WHY someone acts in a particular way: MOTIVE!

When I finished watching the series (on Netflix streaming video -- LOVE THIS!), I was struck by the universal desire for happiness, and then recalled a saying I've heard many Christians say, "God doesn't care about your happiness, He cares about your holiness."

Here’s my problem with that statement, and it gets into good fiction writing as well. Everyone desires happiness, but not everyone desires holiness and when you sell that statement, you not only sound unloving, you sound proud. It seems to me that God knows Universal Truths, as least as well as Jane Austen, no?

As an author, even a Christian author, we must give our readers something that resonates with truth. I think that’s why the sappy heroines of old were so hard to take. They wanted to be “good” more than they wanted to be loved, and I think there’s a fundamental flaw in that characterization. Not saying it doesn’t happen, just saying it doesn’t happen to most of us. Do I want to be “good” more than I want to walk off with Colin Firth in the sunset? Not likely, but if it's my pastor asking, well sure! Actually, maybe a better way to put it, is can't I have my hero AND be holy too?

Sacrificial love is a universal truth. Life is Beautiful, The Titanic, Babbette’s Feast, Sophie’s Choice – and yes, even Darcy giving up his pride to save the silly Lydia from her own demise, to demonstrate his love for Elizabeth. Rick giving up Ilsa for the greater good in Casablanca...Can you imagine if these characters stopped in their choice to preach about their godliness? Godliness is shown in love. No explanation necessary.


Back to the brain: We are created to love. I a horrifying study of old, scientists gave Rhesus monkeys a choice between a wire surrogate mother who fed them, or a comforting, terry cloth monkey who didn't. Time and time again, the monkey chose comfort over food.

Sadly, the monkeys later showed bad behavior from being deprived of nurturing, even though all their physical needs were met. I'm sure this is why so many people choose food as a comfort.


What I found most interesting is that a lack of relationship, chronic loneliness can literally kill by leading to many diseases -- and it's why people will so desperately reach out to others when they feel drained, why they feel utterly without hope when there is no connection. People who don't reach out in those times are in serious trouble.

I know many who think life is all about self-control and rules, but then why do people who know better, sin? Self-control isn’t enough.

The answer, I believe is here, where science proves Jesus’ sacrifice – there is no more powerful motivator than love. We experience love, apparently, when we are connected to others.

Connection makes us better. We push and pull our friends to find a middle place we can both live with – since we are also created to have conflict.

In a happy marriage, studies say that couples are excited about their partner’s successes. Arguing can actually bring you closer, as long as they aren’t fraught with criticisms and affection can still be expressed even when angry. In short, you accept your partner and his/her flaws and work for harmony.

I’m simply fascinated how a lack of love, a lack of connection can break down the body’s physical health. It’s just one reason successful relationships are worth working toward, I suppose. Clearly, God cares about your happiness too. What sacrificial love story best speaks to you?

Only because I love you...

Am I willing to make a complete and utter fool out of myself.  Okay, that and I'm channeling my high school cheerleader within --  because I've been playing "Just Dance" to Hammertime and Cyndi Lauper and watching "The Breakfast Club" to find my inner teen for my upcoming YA Perfectly Invisible, the follow-up to Perfectly Dateless.

So these are my peeps that are going to be in an upcoming devotional with Summerside Press, called "Delight Yourself in the Lord, Even on Bad Hair Days" -- this is us just bonding. My kids are utterly humiliated, which makes it that much more fun.