In which I stand up for myself.

I’m not a confrontational person. You will never see me get in someone’s face and start a throwdown. I just don’t have that kind of personality.

While I have a keen BS-meter, it’s rare that I’ll call someone on it. I’ll smile and nod and let them think they’ve pulled one over on me — and then I’ll go on my merry way.

When I drive, I’m an assertive driver. Not aggressive, just assertive. When I used to teach horseback riding lessons, especially when teaching kids to jump, I’d always tell them to “commit to the fence.” If you’re going over a jump, you’re going over a jump. Once you’ve made the decision, there’s no time for wavering. The same holds true for driving: if I’m going to change lanes, I do it, I don’t dilly-dally about it. If I miss my turn, I go to the next one and turn around. When people are aggressive around me, I get the hell out of their way. Life’s too short to police the highway if you’re not an actual, ya’know, policeman.

On my drive to work, I exit the highway, go approximately half a mile to a U-turn area, and proceed to make a U-turn. This U-turn area is one lane, meaning only one person is supposed to make a U-turn at a time. Now, this U-turn area can also be used to turn left, so many times people will pull up next to me on my right, intending to go across the intersection, while I’m waiting to turn left into oncoming traffic.

Today, a man in a sedan cut inside me to my left. There was no road there — only grass and gravel. Clearly I wasn’t making the turn quickly enough for him. I drive a minivan, he was in a sedan. There was no way for him to see around me. When the traffic cleared and I started to pull out, he did the same.

I had no idea he was there.

I didn’t hit his vehicle, but it was really close. I had to swerve into the other lane. Oncoming traffic on this road is going approximately 50mph, so it’s not like I was turning left onto some tiny side street. His action could have caused a massive accident.

He was obviously furious that I chose to make the turn at the same time he did. I know this because he then hit his accelerator, swerved around my car, swerved in front of me, and crossed two lanes of traffic to make a left at the next intersection–which was also my turn.

This left me rather shaken. And I’m a pretty secure, solid driver. 

I then proceeded to watch him run a stop sign to beat me through the intersection, then swerve around another driver who had the gall to make a signaled turn into an office complex.

He kept going up the hill, and at that point I knew, I knew he was going to my building. (We’re at the top of the hill.) Sure enough, he turned into the same parking lot where I park.

Through sheer irony, we pulled into the parking lot at the exact same time. I wasn’t even rushing, and I made it into the lobby before he did — despite the maniacal driving.

When I got into the lobby, there was a man and a woman waiting for the elevators. I saw my driver friend approaching the building, so I decided to wait. When the elevator came, the woman held the door for me, but I said, “Go ahead, I’m going to wait for this guy.”

She must have heard something in my voice, because she held the elevator anyway. (Honestly, I would have done the same thing. Show time!)

When the man entered the building, he was a big guy. He was wearing a polo shirt and khakis, but still a big guy. I’m not a small woman, and I’m also seven-and-a-half months pregnant, and he had at least 100 pounds on me, and a good foot in height.

He was on the phone. He tried to walk around me. He was very deliberately avoiding eye contact with me.

I stepped right in his path and said, “Why would you drive like that? I’m seven-and-a-half months pregnant. Why?”

He hesitated, just for a moment, like he couldn’t decide what to do.

So I asked him again, a little more forcefully. “Why would you drive like that? Why? Tell me?”

He gave me a rude gesture — not quite the finger — then turned around, ducked into the stairwell (which is open — no doorway), and sprinted up the stairs. 

I was upset about this all morning. I worried that I should move my car. I worried that he’d be waiting in the stairwell with a knife this afternoon or something. I worried that he’d come after me.

But then, this afternoon, I realized something. He ran. From a big pregnant lady. He ran.

And I realized that this is how bullies have so much power. They’re used to people being afraid of them. They’re used to the impression of size and sheer badassness carrying them a long way. This guy probably drives like a dick every day, and no one gets in his face because he obviously has the size and demeanor to back it up.

Until you call him on it.

Now, looking back, I realized that my brain read the signals as soon as he came in the building. He could have made it into the lobby before I did, but he walked more slowly, probably hoping I’d be up the elevator before he came in. When he wouldn’t make eye contact with me, he didn’t want to have a confrontation. When he was in his car, he had a steel shield and the power of anonymity. In person, he was a scared little boy who’d been caught with his hand in the neighbor’s candy jar.

I didn’t scream at him. I didn’t get in his face. I didn’t even report him to building security, though I thought about it. I can guarantee you he’ll still drive like a moron.

But maybe he’ll think about it for half a second if he’s anywhere near a white minivan.

~

Demonstrating Strength

On my desk at work, I have this little list printed out. I got it from Seth Godin’s blog, but I can’t seem to find the entry again, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The list is titled “Demonstrating strength.”

The first thing on the list is, “Apologize.”

I love that.

The funny thing about apologies is that they seem to represent weakness. You’re admitting a failure, not only to yourself, but to someone else.

But they don’t really represent weakness. It takes a lot of guts to apologize. To genuinely apologize. How much gumption does it take to BS about something? To throw someone else under the bus? To make up a little white lie about why something wasn’t done, or why you acted the way you did?

I’ve been thinking about apologies a lot lately, especially since we’ve had this roofing problem in my house for YEARS. We’ve paid one roofing company $4,000 to replace our roof, then another $4,000 to repair our roof, and we’re still having a leaking issue. The insurance company sent out a new guy who gave us a quote to rebuild the back section of our roof for a third time — for another $2,000.

I called the original roofing company. What did I have to lose, right?

I wasn’t a bitch. I didn’t go in screaming at the owner. I just said, “Hey, we’ve paid you guys $8,000, and our roof is still leaking. Can you do anything?”

She came out yesterday to figure out the problem. She agrees that we need a flat roof system instead of the shingles they originally installed. It would have cost more money for them to originally install a flat roof system, but you know what she told me yesterday?

She apologized.

And then said they’re going to rebuild the back roof. For free.

That took strength. And money. It cost her something.

But you know what? It’s going to earn them a customer for life. And a considerable amount of word-of-mouth.

A heck of a lot better than a little white lie, huh?

~~

How my new phone is changing my life

So I have a new phone. The Motorola Droid X2.

You can totally ignore the rest of this post if you want to. I’m going to relate it back to my writing, but if you don’t care about phones, just stop reading now. I won’t be offended in the least. One of my favorite things about the Internet is how you can find out the real deal on just about anything, so when I find something I really love (especially something expensive), I like to talk about it.

I used to have a Blackberry Curve.

Verizon Blackberry Curve 8330 Cell Phone Pink (Refurbished) with 30 Day WarrantyBecause I really only needed a phone for email and text messaging (I’m not an app person), my Blackberry worked just fine. Mostly. Usually. Until it would freeze when sending an email. Or text messages would be delayed 20 minutes. The ONLY two apps I had on my Blackberry were Facebook and Twitter, and neither of those are hugely intensive apps. I could get to YouTube (if I needed to entertain my preschooler while waiting at a restaurant), but more often than not, the videos would time out.

I couldn’t read Word documents. The internet interface was HORRIBLE. Want to read a web page on a Blackberry? Forget about it.

Again, I put up with it because I liked having buttons, and I really only wanted it for email and texting.

But let me tell you, the minute I got a text message saying I was eligible for an upgrade, I was all over it.

Now, I used to be the type of girl to go out, slap down her credit card, and buy something without thinking about it.

Then I met my husband.

Now I’m very careful about my money. I read product reviews. I ask people for opinions.

I looked very carefully at the iPhone 4, the HTC Thunderbolt, the LG Ally, and the Droid.

My husband has an iPhone 4. I’m not opposed to it, but I’m not a fan of the on-screen typing.

Several people trashed the HTC Thunderbolt, saying the battery barely lasted 2 – 3 hours. Since I like to plug my phone in all night, then not worry about it all day, that was a killer for me.

My stepson has the LG Ally. It’s nice, but I’m not a fan of the flip-out keyboard. I have no idea why. It’s a personal thing. He loves it.

When I went to the Verizon store, I was pretty torn between the Droid X2 and the iPhone 4. I even said that to the salesman, and said, “Help me make a decision.”

He said, “Do you want to link it to your iTunes?”

No. I have an iPod, and I will never use my phone to listen to music.

He said, “Then, it’s a toss-up.”

Really, it was. They were exactly the same price ($199 with a two-year contract). He said the iPhone has better apps, but the Droid has many more free apps. The Droid has a much bigger screen than the iPhone. But — as I learned later — the Hulu Plus and Netflix apps are not available on the Droid X2 yet. (They are available on the older Droid X, however.)

Motorola DROID X2 Android Phone (Verizon Wireless)But again, I really cared about the phone for email and texting. I wanted to have something my husband didn’t have. (This is a big deal. My husband is a tech guy. He has every “toy” under the sun.) So I went with the Droid X2.

The on-screen keyboard is taking some getting used to, but it’s not bad. I had to play with the settings because it included a setting that would automatically “guess” your next word. I suppose that’s convenient if you say the same thing to forty different people, but I got rather sick of typing “phone” and having it automatically add “input” when I hit the spacebar. (I don’t even understand that. Are a lot of people typing “phone input”?)

I also find the “autocorrect” rather amusing. As I told my friend Alison the other day, when I typed “effing,” it automatically changed it to “edging.” When I typed “f**king,” it had no problem with it. Clearly Motorola doesn’t want me to be coy.

The Word app is stellar. I didn’t realize how nice it was until my editor sent me the back cover copy, and all I had to do was click to download, and there it was. In beauty on the screen. (Reading a word doc on the Blackberry was similar to reading a calculator, circa 1984. Grainy, pixelated, and hard on your eyes.)

I just discovered I can use HBO Go, and it’s awesome. The picture quality is amazing.

The camera takes incredible pictures. The Blackberry took pictures that looked like I’d used an old Polaroid.

Here’s a picture taken with my Blackberry:

Here’s a picture taken with my new Droid X2:

So there you go. Nicer pics. Easily as nice as my Canon Powershot.

The Droid does have a Blogger app, but the reviews said it was a battery hog, so I didn’t bother to download it. I can’t see myself doing a lot of blogging from the phone. It does have a nice Twitter interface and Facebook interface. I did download Tweetdeck, but that’s not really a phone app (not for me, anyway), so I uninstalled it. The Gmail app is fanTAStic if you use Gmail, because it automatically syncs to your computer, and automatically knows everyone you’ve ever emailed (whereas in the Blackberry, even if you emailed someone from your Blackberry once, if you didn’t add them as a contact, it wouldn’t remember their email address).

The screen is huge, which I love. Much bigger than the iPhone. I had been considering getting a tablet, but now I don’t think I’ll need to.

My husband’s iPhone on the left, my Droid X2 on the right. 

Does anyone else have a Droid? Do you use it to manage your writing career? Do you like it? Can you recommend any useful apps?

Anyone else have a Blackberry and want to throw it at the wall? On that, I feel your pain.

Maybe I’m missing something…

First, some housekeeping: Go congratulate Becky Wallace on signing with Jennifer Laughran! I’ve been meaning to post this for about two weeks, but since the baby is eating my brain cells, I keep forgetting until after a post goes live. Congratulations, Becky! I had the privilege of reading the first few chapters of Becky’s MS back in January, and I knew she was going to get snatched up quickly.

Second, some results: The poll on the right is still live, and it looks like people either hate cliffhangers, or they don’t really give a crap. In my opinion, that means we should eliminate them entirely. That’s some solid science right there. I mean, fourteen people responded. Clearly a global majority.

Third, the Facebook drama:

Basically (I’m trying to save you from clicking on links), Facebook is rolling out some new software where, if you post a picture, Facebook will try to recognize your friends and suggest tagging them.

People are flipping out about this.

Now, from what I understand, Facebook does not automatically tag you in photos, it just suggests the tag, and you have to accept it. Aside from that, everything is exactly the same. The person being tagged will get an alert that they’ve been tagged, and they can remove the tag if they want. There is nothing now to prevent you from being tagged in a photo. The only difference is that before, you had to tag your friends manually (using those baby-consumable brain cells), and now Facebook will make suggestions.

Am I missing something? Why are people so up-in-arms? Is it just the knee-jerk reaction to change? Is it like when Facebook rolls out some minor change every six months, and there are a billion “Like” pages about how people want Facebook to go back to the way it was? I understand privacy concerns, but I’m not sure how this is really any big deal. I honestly don’t understand how this is all that different from how Facebook operates now.

What do you think?

I’m a writer and a mom. Here’s the best advice I can give you.

Use grocery delivery.

Seriously.

I have never done this before, but I saw an ad that you get free delivery from Peapod (by Giant) for the first 60 days, and I figured, what the hell.

Every Saturday, Michael and I used to load Nick into the car and go to Giant. We have a pretty standard list of things to buy. All total, it takes us about two hours (including driving) to go to the store, shop, pay, load the car…why am I explaining this? You all know how to shop for groceries. So two hours, every Saturday.

TWO HOURS, people. I can write 2,000 words in two hours.

So I tried Peapod. After one experience, I was hooked. I know not everyone has Giant in their area, but most larger chains are offering grocery delivery, so check it out.

Aside from the time premium, we’ve discovered that we’re saving money. I load the virtual “cart” and place the order on Wednesday, scheduling delivery for Saturday morning. Since you can update the cart up until 6pm the night before delivery, as I notice things in the house, I can update the cart. (Oh! We’re out of detergent, better add that! Or, hey, we don’t need another box of macaroni and cheese, Nick is boycotting yellow foods this week.) So by Saturday morning, I get exactly what I need to get through the week.

Delivery here is $7.95 if you order more than $100. Personally, I haven’t spent less than $100 at the grocery store since 1995, so it’s not a hard target to hit. It’s free for the first sixty days, so there’s no risk in giving it a try. If you choose a wider time window, you get $2 off delivery.

Seriously, considering gas prices, you probably blow through $8 just driving to the store and back.

Last week was our first glitch, and it was the 4th week we’ve done this. We ordered plain Coffee-mate creamer, and they sent French Vanilla. I sent them an email, and they gave us the money back.

I do not work for Giant. I don’t care if you use this or not.

But we love it. It’s like getting a morning of writing back.

Give it a try.

Cedar Summit Playset (Or, what I bought with that advance)

(Edit May 2014 – I get a lot of hits on this blog post by people looking for info on the Cedar Summit Play Set. If that’s you, keep scrolling down. You’ll see our pics and experience putting it together. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about our satisfaction with the playset, and I’ll get back to you. We’ve had it for three years now, and it’s still going strong, despite some VERY heavy rain seasons, and pretty hard use by my boys. Nothing has faded or cracked, and the swingset still seems as sturdy as the day we put it together.)

So I got my advance check a few weeks ago. We set a big chunk aside for Uncle Sam. Another big chunk is going towards some major home repairs. (Does anyone remember the saga of the flooded basement from last fall? Or the major roof leak? We’ll rant about homeowners insurance in a later post.)

Here’s me with the check. Please pardon my trashed house. I didn’t even want my husband to take this picture, as we’d been doing yard work all morning, and I was completely disgusting.

I probably should have spent some of that money on a housekeeper.

 

My husband is amazing.

My husband did buy me a tee shirt for my novel. I can’t tell you how excited I was that he did this for me. (Don’t judge the belly. I’m 20 weeks pregnant.)

Anyway. I wanted to buy something fun with SOME of that money, and we have a nice backyard, so we decided to buy a play set. My stepson is 14, and way too cool for play sets, but I told him he could sneak girls out to the clubhouse. For some reason he thought that was hilarious.

Anyway, with a four year old running around and another boy on the way, a swingset was the way to go. We did a lot of research on play sets like Rainbow Play Systems, Cedarworks, and WoodPlay. (I say “we” like my husband did more than smile and nod when I showed him what I was looking at. That’s all right. I was saving him for the heavy lifting.) Anyway, I didn’t want to drop $5,000 on a Rainbow play system. (No, I’m not kidding.) After looking around and reading reviews, we decided on the Cedar Summit Play Set from Costco. It only cost $999. The downside? We had to put it together. (Again, I say “we” like I had anything to do with it.)

I wasn’t even going to do a post about this, except maybe a picture, because I don’t want to bore anyone, but when we were assembling the damn thing, I found a few blog posts about other people putting it together, and hearing their mistakes and recommendations was incredibly helpful.

So here you go.

These kids look entertained.

This was the picture from the side of the box. Don’t throw this away. If you’re a woman, you will want to keep looking at this picture while your husband is cursing at bolts. If you’re a man, you’ll want some motivation that all this hard work will eventually lead to something.

The climbing wall / ladder combo.

One of the first things to be assembled was the rock wall / ladder combo. Pay close attention to the instructions if you’re doing this yourself. The picture in the book is upside down, and my husband wasn’t too thrilled when I mentioned that I thought he and his dad had assembled this backwards. (They had.)

Cue cussing. And 8pm drilling.

 

Fort supports

I think the caption covers it.
My husband accidentally snapped a bolt (or two) by hand cranking the bolts in the corners. Be careful.

Coming together.

At this point, we realized we should probably move the fort into the yard before it got too heavy. Two pages later in the manual, it says you should move it into the yard after installing the floor for the upper level.

Oops.

 

 

 

The floor, installed!

Nick wanted to play at this point. I didn’t want to have a heart attack, so I went inside for an antacid when my husband set him up there to stand.

He looks almost as happy as those photoshopped kids on the box.

Luckily Mike got a picture of it, so I can see it after the fact.

Nick wants to know when the hell this thing is going to be done.

 

 

Seriously, Mike would come in the house at 8pm every night (after working a full day, then spending three hours on a play set), and Nick would cry, “But, Daddy! You’re not done! Go back outside to finish my swingset!”)

I’m trying to remember why we bought this thing again…

 

 

Roof coming together…

It was starting to look like a playhouse at this point…

 

 

Shh. This was after the ladder / rock wall was rebuilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The fort was fully assembled by Wednesday night. (We started on a Saturday.) All that was left was the swing bar and swings, plus the “crows nest” and the slide.

Of course Nick wanted to play at this point, but there was still a huge opening where the slide was set to go.

 

Two brothers, waiting on the third.

We still let the boys sit up top for a picture.

Swings!

 

Slide coming together!

From watching my husband and father-in-law get this thing together, I take it the swing bar was a pain in the you-know-what.

But Nick sure seems to love it.
The instructions say the slide takes two people three hours to assemble. We came home from work and my father-in-law (who was amazingly helpful in assembling this entire thing) had put the whole thing together himself.

The finished product!

Now, if we could only get our whacko neighbors to stop blasting death metal all evening, it might be enjoyable to sit outside and watch Nick play on this thing.

We started this project last Saturday, and it was completely done last night. So one full week. My father-in-law worked on it during the day while we were at work, and my husband worked on it at night. Neither is a professional architect or carpenter, though both are great at reading directions.

What I’m saying is that the label on the side of the box that says “12 hour installation” is a load of crap.

That said, it looks beautiful. It’s extremely sturdy, and it’s going to last a long time.

Nick woke up at 5:45am and wanted to go play on his swingset. I’d call that a success.

This playset made writing the whole book worth it.

Really.

If you want to know what the playset looks like one year later, I’ve done a new post. Just click here.

Quick and dirty.

This is going to be a short one, but it’s been making me crazy, so I need to see if other people feel the same way.

I love and value good writing. Not just in books. On television, in songs, in movies, whatever.

I’m not a prude, and I don’t have a problem with sex, with dirty words, whatever. (I do, however, wish I’d taken my husband’s advice to NOT look up what The Human Centipede was about after I read a sidebar about the movie in Entertainment Weekly. Don’t do it. Trust me. Don’t.)

(Okay, if you’re like me and you HAVE to look, at least look on Wikipedia. God only knows what a Google search will turn up.)

(But don’t look. Trust me.)

Now I’ve completely digressed.

While I love hearing clever lyrics in a song about sex, I absolutely hate when the lyrics are straight out vulgar. I know this might make me sound like a hypocrite when I have the F word in my novels, but I don’t mind profanity. I do, however, have a serious problem with a song called, “Down On Me.” I mean, come on. Thank god I have XM so I don’t have to listen to more than a note before realizing I have to change the station. The song is by an artist named Jeremih, and he might be the greatest new thing since sliced bread. I won’t listen to it. Especially since his previous single was a song called “Birthday Sex.”

There’s a song by Flo Rida called “Right Round,” loosely based on the eighties song of the same title, and while that song is obviously about oral sex, the guy at least dresses it up a little. It’s all metaphor. Or for a more classy top 40 example, go listen to “Come on, Get Higher” by Matt Nathanson. (Come on, really listen to the lyrics.)

Does this bother anyone else?

Maybe I’m just nuts.

Word verification

Okay, seriously, I hate word verification thingies. They’re a pain in the ass. I turned them off on the blog because I didn’t want to put anyone else through that.

You know what happened? I started getting a metric ton of spam comments.

So they’re back on. My other option is to turn off the option to comment anonymously, and I don’t want to do that either.

Bleh.

How’s everybody doing?