The Deep South, part two: The Adventure Continues

I saw an alligator today and, let’s be real people, I was super excited.

In today’s edition of “I’m in the South,” I’m sunburned and Zayn Malik quit One Direction.  Jeez, it’s like becoming a fan of the Beatles in 1968 and Ringo quitting.  Seriously?  I just jumped into this fandom and you’re quitting?  Whatever, at least there’s still fabulous Harry Styles.

Anyway, so, today I did stuff that I’ll blog about tomorrow, but yesterday–yesterday–my friends, I headed to Louisiana.  Louisiana: home of the Louisiana Purchase, parishes, the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878 (RIP John Bell Hood), and New Orleans.  Yes.  The Rambling Jour takes on New Orleans.

la3But any respectable history chick starts a trip to New Orleans with a trip to Chalmette National Battlefield and Cemetery.  Here’s what I know about the War of 1812: Andrew Jackson was involved.  I can also tell you that Americans won the Battle of New Orleans, which was fought at Chalmette, and had like, 20 casualties whereas the British had around 2400.  Also: it took place in 1815, not 1812.  Which makes this the bicentennial year!  Yes!  I bought a sweatshirt.

Of note, you can see me here standing at a house that was not there at the time of the battle.  I was still very excited.  I was also one of the few people wearing shorts which, again, is another waving, spinning, firework shooting red flag that I’m from Pennsylvania.  The weather hit 65 degrees: boom, shorts.  I was actually paranoid that all the jacket/sweater/sweatpants wearing visitors knew something I didn’t about the weather.  But, whatever.  I’m Rick James, bitch.

Anyway, so we walked down the levee (fun fact: when I was in Louisiana in 2008 at the dawn of Hurricane Gustav, we went to a barbecue shack where a band was singing “Hooch” and I wrote my name on the wall while they sang, “Let’s get real, let’s get heavy, ’til the water breaks thela1 levee…”) and to the Chalmette National Cemetery.  There are soldiers buried here from the War of 1812 all the way up to Vietnam.  There were only four from the War of 1812 and only one of those was actually at the Battle of New Orleans.  His name, however, is unknown.  There’s around 15,000 buried there (this picture was of my favorite grave marker).  Regrettably, it wasn’t until after we’d walked out of the cemetery, did I see the sign noting that there is a female who dressed as a male to fight in the Civil War buried there.  Now that’s a stone I would have liked to see!

After leaving Chalmette, we made a left and cruised through the 8th Ward to get to New Orleans.  There is the second time I’ve been to the 8th Ward and, although it’s better, there is still visible damage from Hurricane Katrina.  They’ve come a long way.

la5New Orleans!  Ahh, New Orleans, you sassy, sassy girl.  What’s to say about New Orleans?  It’s unlike any other place I’ve ever been.  It’s gritty and old and scandalous and amazing.  A man wearing a cowboy hat asked me and my cousin Jilly if we were “home grown.”  I saw a man with a fabulous beard playing the fiddle.  I ate red beans and rice.  I used a public restroom in the French Quarter.  I was in the French Quarter!

I bought a t-shirt.

There are some amazing, amazing stores in the French Quarter.  I wandered into a shop with corsets and short, 50s style dresses.  Leather coats.  Phenomenal shoes!  Another shop had vintage 70s dresses.

I wanted to buy everything.  I settled for the t-shirt and the red beans and rice which,la2 not surprising, cost almost as much as the shirt.  Jilly got an alligator burger, which took about four decades to cook.  I told her it takes time to go out to the bayou and drag it back to the French Quarter.  She said whenever she imagined eating alligator, she’d had nightmares of getting a baby alligator on a stick.  I told her hopefully the burger didn’t have a face but, if it did, just to ignore the stunned look.  Personally, I wanted bayou rabbit which…now that I think about it, might have just been a fancy way to say alligator.  Or “crawdad patty.”

I also saw a fist fight in Jackson Square.  That was exciting.  Jilly said, “I saw him punch that guy!”  I think I sorely underestimated how nervous the whole situation should have made me.  The Hubs, Army veteran, only looked mildly interested in what was going on and, in fact, most other people standing around hardly looked like they cared.  So, I just idly stood around and pondered aloud what to do in this type of situation.  Do I film it for Facebook?  Do I take my pictures as planned and leave?  la4Do I grab my children and run, tucking and rolling, out of the square and back onto the street I just came from?

In the end, the police showed up, arrested everyone (well, everyone involved, not everyone standing around.  Obviously I’m not blogging from jail because this would have been a much more interesting post), I took my pictures and we left.  New Orleans!

I love New Orleans, I’ll be honest.  Old, grimy, and sometimes really questionable, but still a fab time.  Look how happy I look in this picture.  You can’t see the grizzled pack of thirty-somethings in dreadlocks that were just to my left.  But they were living the dream.  Let me tell you!

And now I need to find some aloe for my sunburned feet.  I’m pale and Irish-y and now I walk like a crippled leprechaun.  More on that tomorrow.

The fast talking Yankee heads South

I’ve taken my general awkwardness and weirdness on the road and am currently writing from the wilds of the Gulf Coast, where I’m blinding the populous with my Pennsylvania paleness.

The trip began as any decent road trip should: in the wilds of West Virginia.  And it’s a fourteen hour drive with two children age 5 and under!  Yay!  The name of the game is who can hold their pee the longest–the preschooler is winning.

We broke the fourteen hour drive into two days and multiple stops because a) the kids don’t want to be in a car for fourteen hours and b) I don’t want to be in the car with whining people.  Fair.  We got lost in rural West Virginia trying to find a Civil War battlefield which was interesting.  Thanks a lot, GPS unit.  Then we rounded a corner and found a gas station advertising gas for $1.99 a gallon, which made me think, “Wow–we go looking for a battlefield and instead find the year 2001!  Excellent!”

gulf2Eventually we did find the battlefield, Carnifex Ferry, where we were the only people at the park.  Probably because the park was closed (technically the visitor’s center was closed, but, you know.  It was still a wee bit strange) and it was raining.  We’re a hearty, rowdy crew, so we got out of the car anyway.  It was a small battlefield as battlefields go, with only around 7,000 on the field total and around 180 casualties.  There was a Confederate soldier’s grave on the property.  I spent like, twenty minutes staring down into a dark well, trying to take pictures because I’m weird and that’s how I roll.  But we love you Rosecrans!  They have a reenactment in 2015 and you should go.

As we wound our way through the humid South, my Pennsylvanian brothers and sisters were shoveling out from underneath snow because, hey, it’s Spring in Pennsylvania and nothing quite says spring like more snow and misery!  We went to Tennessee, which was awesome, and I ate at a Taco Bell, which was also awesome.  It was not awesome the next morning, but, you know.  Sriracha.

Our next stop was Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.  The Hubs quizzed me on what Western Theater battles of the Civil War I could name and, excitingly, I picked this as one of them (I also scored bonus points by guessing Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Murfreesboro).  Chickamauga was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, with around 35,000 casualties in a two-day fight.  The field itself reminded me of Gettysburg, in a way, with a lazy, curving road running alongsidegulf3 open fields and woods.  Rosecrans fought here, as did our friends Longstreet and Hood (I may have squealed when I saw a market to my hero John Bell Hood).  According to what I learned, Chickamauga was second only to Gettysburg in number of casualties and was the greatest Union defeat in the Western Theater.

Some of the things that stuck most with me were the soldiers recollections of the battle, of men on the ground with their entrails piled up next to them, but still alive; of soldiers who had their jaws shot off–still attached to their face by the cheek–who were begging for water.  Chickamauga is actually the Cherokee word for “river of death” gulf1something that became a reality for those two days in September 1863.

We were the world’s fastest tourists, though, since we still had a 6.5 hour drive to go to Mississippi.  We literally jumped out the car and raced Older Child to monuments, snapped a picture, and raced him back to the car.  We speed shopped in the gift shop, selfied at the speed of light, and followed the abbreviated (and free) cell phone tour instead of the regular audio tour.  (Side note: the cell tour may have been the best invention ever.  Awesome in so many ways.  And, did I mention free?)

So, here we are.  Day two?  Day three?  I have no idea.  I just know that I’m writing beside the beach (mainly because I’m not a fan of sand in my crotch and prefer to be “at the beach”, not “on the beach.”) and that makes me happy..  Of course, after falling in love with Chickamauga, I now want to write about Chickamauga.  I have nogulf4 plot in mind.  But I want to write about it.

And, in other but somewhat related news, my official Yankee-ness has been confirmed: The Hubs found a long, not mentioned member in my West Virginia family tree of a Union soldier named John, who served in the 15th West Virginia Infantry.  He died at age 21 at Camp Chase, which is strange because Camp Chase was a Union POW camp.  It was, however, used as an exchange point and sometimes, those exchanged Union soldiers died there before they went home.  We’ve got absolutely nothing on him, other than that.  I almost went blind reading the death records on microfilm , trying to find his name and cause of death.  Nothing.  So, for now, John is a mystery.  More on this to come, as we’re going to write to the National Archives for more information and his military records.

Meanwhile, I’m here in the deep south, being pale and looking forward to what trouble I can get into when we go to New Orleans.  So much to see!  So much to do!  And finally: Ship Island, damn it, because it’s about damn time.

Stay tuned.

I’m much less glamorous and far more hobo

I’ve been working in the coal mines of Day Job the past few weeks and have been a mere shell of my normal, vivacious, sarcastic self.  Things have calmed down.  I’m probably not calm (case in point, last night I dyed my hair purple) but I’m focused enough to sit and stay in place long enough to write.

I tell you what, I’m the unhappiest writer right now.  This happened after I finished writing Anything You Ask of Me: I hate writing.  I’m not creative; I just want to sit and eat ice cream and watch RuPaul’s Drag Race (may the best woman win!).  I finished Since April and I basically want nothing to do with creativity.  My girl Lindsey (author extraordinaire and writing partner-in-crime) says this is my muse saying: hey.  I’m tired.  My muse and I apparently have similar personality traits this month because, I too, am tired.

Confession: I wrote some fan fiction.  And no, I’m not fessing up to what it’s about.

officialHere’s my somewhat official (aka as official as it’s going to get until the spring thaw and I climb down from Mount Doom, heading into the real world) author picture.  This is how I would like to think Writer Heather is.  Pale, yes.  Approachable.  Maybe a wee bit of crazy in the eyes.  But all around sweet and nice and fun and a really cool gal.  I’d like to think this is the look I’ll be pulling off at my book release party (perhaps less pale).  This is the confident woman who wrote a book and is preparing to peddle it to the nations (shameless self promotion: you can preorder at Amazon by clicking here)!  I’ll autograph your book!  I’ll take selfies with you!  I’m probably not as cool as I think I am, but I play well with others.

However.

Let’s discuss how I actually look when I write.  My muse likes to think we write in a huge, write room with a floor length window, overlooking…something…with a warm breeze blowing in and gauzy curtains blowing against a heavy wooden desk.  The only thing on the desk is my laptop, a mug of tea, and a lava lamp.  For reasons.  I’m impeccably dressed.

This sounds great, but here’s the reality of it: I sit under a down comforter, with my hair pulled back, and I frown a lot.  Thereallife Hubs took this picture when I wasn’t paying attention and, frankly, I think I look like a chicken hawk.  No makeup.  Possibly no pants.  That is the face of a writer that is not impressed.  Not.  Impressed.

And I’m perpetually cold, which explains the blanket.  Look, my book release party is in August and I’m willing to bet I’ll still be sporting a hoodie.  That’s how I roll (more on the book release party to come).

Anyway, so, right now I’m sporting that face as I work towards “other things.”  Right now, these other things are:

  • Keep submitting Since April to agents/publishers
  • Stop getting bummed out every time Since April is rejected
  • Narrow down the next writing project

For the possible writing projects, we have our two favorite contenders: a historical or a contemporary.  Two, contemporary projects actually, to choose from: weird or weirder.  Meh.  For now I’m going to bounce between all three and see what sticks. Like cooking pasta, right?  Slap it up against the wall and see if it sticks: if so, it’s done?  No, no, I’ve never done it.  I once heavily suggested we try it at a charity event, but we ended up eating a bunch instead.  Again, this is how I roll.  Obviously, like a boss.

Eating fudge and writing: Five minutes of living the dream

Last fall, I changed my schedule at Day Job and now work four ten hour days instead of five eight hour days.  This is exciting because, frankly, who doesn’t like a three day weekend.  I also feel as if I physically need ten hours a day to do my Day Job job duties, but that’s neither here nor there.  There’s no crying at Day Job.  It’s like Fight Club, but with less fighting and more singing and movie trivia.  Anyway.

Today is my flex day.  I’m still in this weird Limbo place between novels, trying to decide which plot idea strikes the most fancy with me, deciding, and then having a bizarre cheese induced nightmare that translates into a new, awesome story idea and just….look, long story short, I’ve got two word documents open and I’m bouncing between novel beginnings, just going with whatever comes to mind.  Two new characters, two new contemporaries (sorry historical fans), and waaaay too many ideas.  Simmer down now (Side note: why am I never wearing pants in my dreams?  Last night’s dream had me wearing a Pittsburgh Penguins t-shirt, striped socks and striped underwear.  Dream Heather realized this was a problem and went to Dream Macy’s clearance rack.  I just…I’m so weird).

Anyway, so, here I am: chilling on the couch.  Typing hilarious bits of sarcasm and a main character named Abby who talks to her cat (“Got no friends: hi five myself!”) and, trust me, it’s not as weird as it sounds.  The Hubs sneaks over to my writer’s nest and hands me a piece of fudge.  Glorious!  Is this what JK Rowling feels like?  iPhone blasting One Direction, wrapped in a down comforter, and wearing yoga pants and an old Army PT shirt, eating chocolate fudge and basking in the glow of a new novel and new characters and new ideas?  (Answer: Noooooo, that’s probably not at all how JK Rowling looks when she writes).  This is the life.  This is living the dream: eating fudge and writing and listing to music.  I am an author.  I am the creator of worlds.

At that point, one of my children walked up to me and shot me in the face with a Nerf dart gun.

And, welcome back to reality, Heather.

I remember the days of my youth when I laid around the house like a slug, just piles and piles of spare time and wallowing in the eternal decision of “should I watch TV?  Or write?  Or watch TV while I write?”  Endless hours of laziness and laying here verses there and playing Sim City on the computer and singing at the top of my lungs to the Lion King soundtrack and, eventually, sitting in my bedroom–lit only by the glow of a lava lamp–listening to NSync as loud as my little boom box could blast, and writing horror short stories about haunted houses because THAT’S what I do and I like it.

I’m not really all that different now.  I’ve exchanged the boom box for an iPhone.  NSync for One Direction (out of my way, teenage girls, I’ve been fan girling since before you were born).  I’m still writing.  And singing.  And generally being weird.  But, before all that happens, I first have to:

  • Wake up early(beat ya again, sunrise!)
  • Eat breakfast and drink coffee because look, people want to live
  • Commute to work (music!)
  • Commence in working
  • Eat lunch
  • Finish working
  • Commute to home (angry music!)
  • Make food for Rowdy Boys
  • Pick up food off floor because Rowdy Boys are uncoordinated and rowdy and boys
  • Bargain with Rowdy Boys to eat dinner and threaten to eat ice cream in front of them if they don’t
  • Watch Rowdy Boys eat vegetables and throw rest of dinner at each other.  Chalk this up as a win.
  • Put Rowdy Boys in bathtub and warn them not to dump water on the floor
  • Mop up water they dumped on the floor
  • Hide in the hallway and eat chocolate
  • Get caught eating chocolate by Older Boy who has managed to sneak out of tub like a ninja
  • Put Older Boy back in tub, yell at Younger Boy for peeing on Older Boy
  • Take Older Boy back out of tub and send him send him to his room to get dressed
  • Take Younger Boy out of tub, dry him off and get him dressed.
  • Drain tub, hang up towels, clean up toys
  • Find Younger Boy’s clothes and discarded diaper in hallway
  • Observe two naked children running through the house
  • Declare first person who pees on the floor is going to be in trouble and corral them back into pajamas
  • Clean up pee off carpet because Younger Boy isn’t potty trained despite ability to pee on command
  • Help Rowdy Boys clean up living room.  Reward them with cheese sticks.
  • Clean up living room again, as in the time it took to fetch cheese sticks, someone has dumped duplos all over the floor
  • Initiate bedtime sequence
  • Fall asleep on Rowdy Boys floor
  • Get woken up by The Hubs.  Take shower and put on pajamas.
  • Sit down to write.
  • Fall asleep on couch.
  • Get woken up by The Hubs.  Brush teeth.
  • Go to bed.

So, yeah, I might not be living the writer’s dream per se.  But it’s not bad.  I mean, I managed to finish three novels with a schedule like this.  Right now, I just need to decide which novel to work on and I’m golden.  I’m set.  Right?  Right.  But first: lunch.  Because adhering to a schedule is very important.

But while lunch cooks?  More One Direction and dancing.  Nothing embarrasses the men in my family more than me singing and dancing to boy band music.  Let the chorus of “awwww, MOM!” begin!

The one where I got sunburn in January

There was a brief, brief moment during our recent vacation where The Hubs and I almost got some great pictures of our cruise ship sailing away from Nassau without us.  Luckily, one of The Hubs qualities is an innate sense of direction.  Even when drunk, his internal radar got us from Senor Frog’s–a bar where even pedestrian’s need designated drivers–and back to the ship before it left.  Did he win a beer chugging competition?  Yes.  Was I in a drunk conga line?  Yes.  Did we pee in a government building?  Yes.

This year’s jaunt to warmer weather was to the Eastern Caribbean.  It was amazing.  The only downside to the cruise was the fact that, from the moment we got to Miami, we turned into the Rip Van Curleys.  I seriously have not slept that much in my life.  Example: From Nassau, we got back on the ship around 2pm.  I don’t actually remember getting back on the ship, but whatever.  We promptly fell asleep.  We slept from 2pm until 9pm.  Puked.  Ordered room service.  Then slept from 11pm until 8:30am.  We literally slept through lunch, dinner, second dinner, and midnight snacks.  This is not getting one’s money’s worth.

Nassau

nassauWe weren’t actually supposed to go to Nassau.  I mean, we weren’t scheduled to go.  We didn’t illegally cross borders or something and smuggle ourselves into Nassau when no one was looking.  We were supposed to go to Half Moon Cay, but there was a medical emergency onboard and we had to be diverted to Nassau.  As related above, I don’t remember a lot about Nassau.  In fact, the Senor Frog’s Swingers Club photograph here I don’t remember having taken.  But I look happy.  Anyway, while in Nassau, (and this was before Senor Frog’s) we fell in line with a random group of tourists all heading in the same direction, just to see where we’d end up.  The beach.  We ended up at the beach.  Still, this was exciting.  I watched a guy jump off a pier after his Starbuck’s cup.  I stood in some sand.  I drank a yard of beverage at Senor Frog’s, which was what The Hubs won after dominating a beer chugging contest.  A yard.  It’s no wonder I have no recollection of getting back to the ship.

St. Thomas

We went on a shore excursion in St. Thomas, which took us to some nifty historical sites on the island.  It also took us to the shopping district.  And when I say shopping district, what I mean is somehow we ended up going down the wrong street and st. thomasinto the Expensive Jewelry Stores of St. Thomas land.  I stood inside of Tiffany’s for a few minutes, pretending to browse, and I swear the horrified bald man behind the counter could smell the poor on me.  That’s fine, whatev.  We also went to a bar called Magic Ice which, although expensive, was a delightful little ice experience for people not used to cold.  We were bundled up in parkas and mittens and send into a 21 degree ice box, where, we could drink shots at an ice bar (literally carved from ice) and slide down an ice slide.  I heard a guy go down the slide and scream “It’s just like Pittsburgh!”  What’s up, Western Pennsylvania? Of course we’re hanging out in an ice box.  We know cold.  I went down the slide three times.  I also got my picture taken with a pirate at Blackbeard’s castle.  “I want to write about Pirates” I informed The Hubs.

San Juan

San Juan!  San Juan!  You’re amazing!  I loved San Juan.  We ate street vendor food in San Juan. We ran all over not one, but two forts.  Our tour group jay walked in front of a muscular policeman in bicycle shorts.  According to our tour guide, jay walking is legal in San Juan?  I’ll go with that.  We threw caution to the wind and walked back to the port instead of relying on san juanpublic transportation because why?  Because The Hubs can read a map and I can walk fast.  Look, I’m telling you, go to San Juan and eat delicious empanadas and little corn cake things filled with delicious hot cheese.

Our time spent at the forts was fantastic.  I said to The Hubs, “Now I really want to write about Pirates!”  The forts were from the 1500-1600s and were incredible.  From their start to now, the forts were never taken.

I also met a 7 foot tall Canadian.  There’s nothing out of the ordinary about this, I guess, but that’s the guy you want in your tour group because you will never, ever lose him in a crowd.

Grand Turk

After our trip to Half Moon Cay got cancelled and The Hubs and I were really sad because we were supposed to swim with stingrays there, we made ourselves feel better by booking an excursion called the “All Inclusive Beach Excursion.”  It promised food.  Unlimited rum punch.  A beach chair on a private beach and a water trampoline and drinking and sand and whatnot.

So, of course, it rained.

It didn’t just rain, but it poured all day long.  Two things happened because of this: we made friends with the coolest kids on the bus, who were just as sarcastic as we are (and he’s an Army kid just like The Hubs)  I knew we would be friends thegrand turk minute I heard him say, “Rain?  No.  This is liquid sunshine.  I wish it would rain more.”  Second, we took the party from wet beach chairs to wet deck chairs to the bar.  Once at the bar, things got real.  Immediate refills on rum punch.  A bar tender well versed in the art of peer pressure and giving free shots of the strongest rum I’ve had in my life.  A burly British man named Wolf.  This was the place dreams are made.  People kept saying that Kelly and I must be sisters, because we’re so much alike.  Darn right!  We laughed.  We ate pizza.  We caused general mayhem and then ate more pizza.

Our next cruise is already booked for January 2016.

Philadelphia

I’m only adding Philly because I’d never been there.  I ate a Philly cheese steak that was life altering.  Delicious.

So, there you have it.  Cruise 2015.  Now that we’re back to real life, I finished editing my next historical novel, “Since April” and got my submission packet ready to go.    And now it’s time reach into the bag of novel ideas and pick out the next book to write.  Pirates?  Paranormal?  Paranormal pirates (nah, it’s been done)?  Back to the Civil War?  Decisions, decisions.  It’s my ongoing battle.  Guess we’ll see which storyline wins out this time….

Finishing my novel and partying like it’s 2012

Happy New Year!!  What’s up 2015?

So, this happened: I finished my next historical novel, Since April!  The stats are in:

  • Finished at 9:05am 12/29/2014
  • 371 pages
  • 108,080 words (pattern power!!)
  • According to Word, my total writing time was 21373 minutes.  Which….is horrifying.

Since April has firmly established itself has my longest novel yet.  There was a lot of plot to jam into it, let me tell you.  I’m casting the suspicious side-eye at an editing time of 21,373 minutes, though, for one specific reason: Pinterest.  It’s a slippery slope with Pinterest.  I go from “Oh, I need to hit up Pinterest really fast just to look up the type of shoes women wore in 1912″ which then turns into, “Hey, look, a recipe for cinnamon crumble cake with homemade vanilla glaze” which then turns into “I totally want to dye my hair that color…where are the bobby pins?”  Then, four hours later, I remember I’m writing a novel.

My hair color is currently burgundy, FYI.

Now I’ve moved on to the weird, purgatory place between novels: I don’t want to start anything new because I really need to edit Since April.  But I’m not doing that either because I really want to start something new.  I seriously don’t know how to function those first few days after finishing a book.  I’ve been wandering around for months plot plot plot plot and complaining to anyone who’ll listen “Look, I really need to finish this because I have too many other ideas to get started on.”  And now I’m done.  And now I’m promptly lost.  Oh, familiar characters.  I’m just not ready to move on.

But, I’ve edited 83 pages which means…..there’s still a hell of a lot of pages left to go.  At least my semicolon abuse is better with this novel.  It’s only taken me three.

Meanwhile, I’m late to the party named 2012.  What’s up, 2012?  The reason for this is that somehow, I’ve just now discovered the boy band One Direction.  Let’s not get into the details of how it took me like, three years and four albums to figure this out; the important thing is that now I’m onboard with this whole Directioner thing and think Harry Styles is the snazziest thing since sliced bread.  My God, that man and his tight black pants.

Here’s how it went down:

  • One Direction was on Graham Norton.  I said, “Hmm, that “Night Changes” song is pretty catchy.”
  • One Direction is available on iTunes.  I said, “Hey, look, “Night Changes” is only $1.29.  And “What Makes You Beautiful” is only $0.69 and I really like the number 69″ (as in 1969, you perverts).
  • One Direction is on YouTube.  I said, “Hey, I’m going to watch the video for “Night Changes” and see what it’s all about.”
  • Chaos.

Next thing you know, I’m downloading the entire album “FOUR” which is freaking awesome and you should totally get it and then….look, the last thing I remember is putting my credit card number into my cell phone and boom.  I’m going to the One Direction concert this summer.

What the…..

I relayed this information to my BFF Sara, who said, “Aren’t you worried about being the oldest person there?”

ACK!!!  SARA!!!  I’m not OLD!!

But then……yeah, the last concert I went to was N Sync.  When I was 18.  And when I was 18, I was willing to have “floor seats” which actually means you’re standing the whole concert so you can see above all the people standing up in front of you.  32 is actually a long way from 18 (still not old) and, look, I’m cheap.  I love Harry Styles as much as the next person (maybe a little more because I have the “ghosts of boy bands past” to guide me in fan girling), but I’m not dropping six hundred bucks to stand and watch a concert and then complain because my head hurts, I can’t hear, and how in the heck did I manage to hurt my back?  No.  I purchased reasonably priced tickets where I can blend in with all the other old people, but not so high up that I’m going to need a Dramamine.  More on that to come.

And now back to editing Since April.  Yay.  I’m so thrilled to go massacre more commas.

Trying to be a reformed Grinch at Christmas

I hate the holidays.

I know.  People are skipping around, being all holly jolly and happy, and baking cookies and ho ho ho-ing and all that crap.  Meanwhile, I’m sitting in a corner with my arms crossed and singing, “You’re a mean one, Heather Curley.”

This year, I’ve made progress towards changing my Grinch-like ways and embracing the happiness that is the Christmas season.  I’m not in holly jolly/red nose reindeer territory yet, but I wrote letters to Santa with my boys.  We went to a Christmas light display and I sang along with the radio to fun 50s Christmas music.  I hung the stockings by the chimney with care.  Picked out a new tree and am doing an advent calendar and made cookies.

christmas cookieCookies.  Mmmmmmm.

My dislike of Christmas is, of course, because I miss my dad so much.  It’s been almost eight years since he died.  Somehow along the way it turned into an “I hate happiness” campaign.  Christmas is happy families.  I don’t have a complete family anymore.  My dad is gone, both sets of grandparents are gone, my Uncle Mike, Aunt Lynda, and Uncle Bill are gone.  Too much change, too much unhappiness.

This year, I’m changing things up and being happy.  I’m being thankful for the things and people I have, not wallowing in the people we’ve lost.  I have my kids, who are excited about Santa, worried he won’t make it down the chimney, and broke three Christmas ornaments the first night we had the tree up.  I have The Hubs, who challenges my patience by wanting to watch Christmas Vacation every day and I loathe that movie.  I have my mother, who told me over lunch this week, “I have the head of a gingerbread boy in the back of the car for you.”  Christmas 2014: Things just got real.

And, despite the fact the above cookie has frosting made with both butter and Crisco (nothing says Christmas like a fat dollop of lard!), my health improved this year.  This time last year, my blood pressure spiked to some ungodly number like 170/100 and then, over the summer, I had my notorious run-in with a 24-hour holter monitor and my doctor’s everything-but-reassuring, “Well, I don’t think you’re having a heart attack.”  Now, despite back pain from a lumpy mattress and my new-found oldness, I’m healthier this year.  Maybe not physically healthier, but mentally healthier.  That goes a long way towards feeling good–inside and out.

Yeah…and the cookies help too.

In the end, it’s important to reflect on what we’re thankful for not only during the holidays, but all year.  It’s like flossing.  You don’t just floss right before you go to the dentist (well, unless you’re me…..), you floss all year round.  My crazy family, my health, and my writing aren’t just important during the holidays, but all year long.  I’m thankful for all the blessings in my life and, while I might name them one by one throughout the year, this Christmas I’ll be naming them ton by ton.  We only get one shot at life.  It’s time to stop being the Grinch in the corner and, instead, start rocking around the Christmas tree with some spiked egg nog, a fattening cookie, and a smile.  Calories consumed in joy don’t count, right?

Special thanks goes to Oscar Health Insurance for the writing inspiration.  Oscar is a health insurance provider for New Jersey and New York residents, and uses technology, data and design to deliver a better healthcare experience. 

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