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November 2005
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January 2006

for Steve

                                     Steve_bday_cake_2002_1  Steve_bday_2001_1               

            You never know the influence you can have on someone just in a simple conversation. A couple years ago, Steve and I were on the phone talking about life and ways to find balance. He shared with me something he'd recently read in a book. It was a strategy that appealed to me, being the list-maker that I am. When making a "to do" list, he suggested, instead of making a big, impossible list, use the following grids to help prioritize what you actually have to do. When I remember to use this method, I do feel better. So, all these years later, thanks for that :) Steve is a friend of Matt's from way back in the day. I enjoy spending time with Steve and his family and vow to do it more this year! Steve is a loyal, funny, hardworking friend and I'll be eternally thankful to him for bailing us out when my car stranded us on 16. Happy Birthday, Steve!                                          


                                                                Urgent                                   Not Urgent


Not Important

Not what I expected

December_2005_147Let's just say this wasn't the break or the holiday I expected. Freshly out of my fluish fog, I wanted to do a little writing. As I moved some piles (because I haven't gotten "clean office" off my to do list) to get to my keyboard (yes this is frustrating and yes I will do something about it, eventually) I saw a stack of Christmas cards, signed, stamped, and half way addressed, waiting for me to look up a zip code, spelling or new house number. And here they sit. Super. So, I find that once again, I'm behind on my life and as I emailed a friend tonight, it occurs to me that perhaps this is just the new status quo and I should simply stop pretending there is a point where I will ever feel caught up. But I'm not saying it was a bad holiday. Because it wasn't. It was just really not what I expected.

The main gift I got from Matt this Christmas, doesn't come in a box. It was a reminder that he loves me with all of his heart and it is the geunine hold-your-hair-while-you're puking kind of love. That's the real deal.

We got to the coast in a flurry of grocery bags, gifts, games and expectations of good times ahead. Our rooms at the Ocean Rogue Inn were perfect. We unpacked, got settled and the games began ... we played Family Bingo (complete with prizes), Scattegories - where you really learn a lot about each other. For the letter "W" and the entry "things that are cold" Matt and I both wrote exactly the same thing: witches, tit.





As we nestled into our beds on Christmas Eve ... I suddenly didn't feel so good. And it was on. The worst flu I've had in years. I'll spare you the details. I'm still recovering and in after we got home from the coast, Matt got sick, too. The sick part pretty much just sucked. The games, being together, getting to know my nieces and the intentions behind it all, that was the good stuff.

So, that's why I didn't meet my 300 word a day quota, why no blogging at all and why I haven't made any progress toward accomplishing 2004's resolution of "organize everything." And, this, friends, has wiped me out. Back to bed.

Vesele Vianoce

Vianoce_sparkler So maybe 300 words a day, every day, was a little drastic. This chunk of the story is nearly finished. I have the begining, middle and end and just need to work out some transitions, come up with a title and do some heavy editing. My goal is to at least edit the draft over the weekend.

My last post until after Christmas - so a Vesele Vianoce to you! The photo on the left, in addition to featuring my super cool rainbow belt - captures one of many Slovak Christmas traditions I will miss this year - the sparklers on the tree. Matt being the practical American doesn't believe that we actually put lit sparklers on our tree but here is proof. Sure, it's a fire hazard, but oh! the memories!


Word Count: 13, 569 (48 pages) Three hundred words at a time doesn't seem like so much but I think it'll get me closer to my goal than waiting until I have time to sit down and write a novel! Two things to keep in mind as I share my draft. 1) This is a work of fiction so all the usual disclaimers about any similarities to real people or situations apply. 2) This is not about my family. If there are any similarities ... well, it's not like I had a lobotomy so some of my memories might be mixed in here but bear in mind they are fictionalized and spun into made-up stories.

            So it’s Thanksgiving weekend of my Senior year of high school and Pete isn’t with me. Just me and my parents who are actively trying to talk me out of getting married next summer. And Andreas, my boyfriend, is making it harder and harder for me to convince my parents that we should get married. Take the fight we had last night for example. It was nuts. Actually, I’m on vacation. Forget the fight for now. I promised dad I’d do my best to have fun. He told me to put dwelling on the fight on the verboten list. Not that my brother wants me to get married either but he provides a distraction by giving our parents other things to worry about. His pot habit for example. I can’t believe my parents even let him stay home for a week, alone.

Keyboard_ladybug_2 My ladybugs showed up again this morning ... Ladybug_screenjpg_1

Ladybug Luck

It's been one of those serendipitous days ... and I know I'm high on the rush of being back in my writing groove, but I still think it's pretty cool that as I was writing that last post a lady bug landed on my computer screen, just as I was writing Destination write a book for real! And then another one landed on my hand. Could be a coincidence, but I'm going to go ahead and take it as a sign of luck ... and you know how they say:

"The harder you work the luckier you get."

At the coffee shop this morning (because my office is still too, um, cluttered to think in) I wrote a question down in my book, "When is Ani's birthday?" And paused for a moment and was sort of stunned when I heard the guy at the next table say "April 3" loud and clear. I don't know the context of his conversation but how do you argue with that kind of feedback from the Universe. I couldn't wait to get home to look that date up in my Birthday Book - and it is so right on I can't believe it.

April 3: The Day of the Fulcrum

ful[crum 7f-l$kr!m, ful$-8


pl. -[crums or -[cra 7-kr!8 5L, bedpost, support, akin to fulcire: see BALK6

1   a) the support or point of support on which a lever turns in raising or moving something (see LEVER, illus.) b) Zool. any structure that supports or acts like a fulcrum

2   a means of exerting influence, pressure, etc.

And the personality description is a perfect match with my character description and story lines. The book's advice to April 3 people is: Don't be so dependent on the approval of others nor possessed with serving them. Find your inner values; guard your spirt and develop hidden talents. Curb the desire to control those you live with; learn to back off and just disappear sometimes.

47 and counting

Word Count for Ani's next adventure: 13, 235 (47 pages)

I am stoked to be able to post that! If you're new to my blog, you may not have noticed that sometime in October, I finally dropped the word count tally from my blog because, well ... it was painful to regularly report no progress. It's winter break and instead of going in to work to catch up like I meant to, I decided to set the right tone by putting in some writing and refocus time these first couple days of break and voila! Word count is back and my goal is to keep increasing by 300 words a day. Until I'm done. With the book, not break. Because, here's the thing. I'm never going to get on Oprah for the book I've written if I don't write it before she retires. And both of my parents believe I can, and will, do it. So, I better get writing so we can all go together.

If you're wondering what happened to Izzy, the answer is nothing. Making a Stand is still on the percolator but as I tried to force myself to work on it the other day, Ani's voice kept coming through and I couldn't deny it any longer. I pulled out my notes and combed through it and did more editing than writing, so to be totally honest, it's not that I've written 13,235 words since break started. Not by a long shot. But that's the station where I'm choosing to hop back on the train - Destination write a book for real this time.

Last time around, I think I got so hung up on the logistics and details that I lost track of the pleasure and purpose of the process itself. I don't even have a title for this. It's a prequel to Kickin it with Ralph. Maybe a part of the same book, I don't know yet.

But, it starts like this:

It was strange to be leaving on a family vacation without my brother. Even though we had a hard time getting along day to day, somehow everything changed when we were on vacation. When we were on vacation, it was like he actually liked me and wanted to hang out with me. Granted, he didn't have his groupies and friends hanging all over him, but still, he could go off on his own, but he always did fun stuff with me. It was on vacations that I got to know my brother. It was because of our vacations over the years that I loved Pete and defended him during normal life. As much as one could defend a moody, too cool for his family, teenager anyway. Even my dad and Pete got along okay on vacations. Could be the flow of rum and Coke, could be the sun, but whatever it was the only time they really argued was during heated sessions of Canasta, and that's to be expected.

Christmas Memories

Vianoce_stadium_way_1 When my parents moved, they gave me boxes of old family photos knowing I would keep them safe, as well as treasure them - this morning I came by a few that got me tripping down Memory Lane. I love the peripheal details in all these photos. I forgot exactly what certain rooms looked like. Seeing pieces of furniture peeking out in the background of pictures takes me back to other memories. I love that I have the butcher block from our old kitchen and the dishes we used for our holiday and special meals - and this tablecloth would be on the table downstairs as I type this if our dining table wasn't on display at Matt's booth!Tati_tasting_sauce

Here's my dad sampling sauce - putting his stamp of approval on the meal mom spent all day making - I am really sad I'm not going to get to eat this the Oravetz Christmas meal this year, carp soup and all!

A brother's love

Martin_and_me_vianoce_1 One of my favorite Christmas memories came back to me at school the other day as I overheard kids discussing gifts they were buying their siblings.

I remember my brother, Martin, walked to the store, PayLess or something, and was there for a very long time before coming home with what he said was "just the right gift." He was very pleased with himself.

On Christmas Eve, after Jezisko came and the Angel rang the bell for us to come out of hiding - because only my parents were allowed to see the Baby Jesus - we exchanged gifts. I was thrilled to open the package of a dozen coordinating lipstick and nail polish colors. Martin shook his head, shrugged and said, "I looked everywhere and couldn't find the little brush things you use to put the polish on."

Sadly, in exchange for his thoughtful gift, I think that was the year we watched In Living Colour a lot and I got him a "Homey the Clown" shirt and thought he'd like it. Not so much.

Tis the Season

Nathalie_susan_branch Tis the Season to ... just be.

I haven't decorated the tree, partially because there is no tree to decorate and partly because I don't think I'm going to get to that this year. This year instead of stressing out about all the things it seems I should do because the calendar turned to December, I'm going to do the things I want to do - like write some Christmas cards, make some rum balls and spend some time enjoying the company of people I adore. And, quite probably, drink the leftover rum. Maybe instead of spending hours decorating the house, I'll just curl up with a blanket and read a book.

It's not that I don't like the decorating and the holiday hoopla - it's just that I know I need a breather this year. I need to prove (to myself) that the things I do every year at around this time that drive me full-throttle, pedal to the metal into Meltdown Ville are not necessary.

The rum truffles will be made with the music cranked high - maybe even some holiday music or maybe not - and I'll make as many as I feel like making and then I'll stop.

Susan Branch's Rum Truffles

Makes 24

These are particularly rich and chocolaty - and extremely easy to make. (and messy as evident in the picture)

5 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (you can sift it, but it seems ridiculous)

1 stick unsalted butter - at room temperature

4 tsp. dark rum

Unsweetened cocoa, for rolling truffles in (Again with the sifting, but I didn't) I didn't use unsweetened either

Melt the chocolate over very low heat in a heavy saucepan

Remove from heat; stir in sugar and butter, a little at a time

Add rum, beat well

Roll into any sized ball you like

Place on wax paper to cool completely

Roll in cocoa powder to coat and put in fridge for just long enough until firm

Serve at room temperature