The Universe has been good to me.
During Christmas I got to spend a few days with the family I love. We grazed on all sorts of yummy foods, cookies, fudge, veggies & dip, pita & hummus, cheese & crackers, deviled eggs, panini and soup. We had punch and eggnog lattes. We laughed and hugged each other and opened presents.

The puppy dogs traded toys all day long and my present to my dad, a big basket of exotic foods, was a big hit. My sister liked the tea set I painted for her. The Horatio Hornblower set went over very well with my mum (I couldn't believe she had never seen it before).
My big gifts were a Kitchen Aide mixer (WooHoo!) and the first four seasons of MacGyver, my favorite show when I was in high school. I remember seeing the one where he's battling killer ants in the Amazon about four times before I got hooked. And now I carry a Swiss Army knife, of course. (Except that the fracking airport security stole my original one.) I also got small gifts, like DVDs and comfy socks and a dragon statuette and books and music. They are as much appreciated as the big gifts.
We lounged around and watched DVDs and ate and napped and did a puzzle and watched some more DVDs. All in all, it was a wonderful day.
We managed the 11 hour drive home without murdering each other too, which was very nice. The portable DVD player helped a lot. Good purchase, Brian! And I was overjoyed to come home and be with Da Boyz again. They were happy to see me and are being very clingy for the moment.
I feel very blessed to have such a nice family and the best cats ever. I feel blessed that I can afford to buy gifts to show my affection and to be able to travel to see the people I love. I feel blessed that I have a nice house to come home to and a steady job that I enjoy. Thank you, Universe!


Christmas Trimmings

I have given myself over to the madness of Christmas preparations. I've put the novel on hold and am living guilt free for the next two weeks or so.
Presents were bought (more spent this year than any year before, I believe) in two evenings and one morning of intensive shopping and were wrapped in one afternoon and one evening of intensive wrapping. I have my wrapping scheme, of course -- silver and white this year -- and I've packed all the presents ready for transportation to OK.
I've attended holiday parties. My sister was my date at the office party and we both had a good time. I did much better at the Texas Hold'em Poker table than I thought I would (being my second time). I didn't mingle as much I perhaps should have. Oh well.
I got to reconnect with an old friend whom until Sept. I hadn't seen in 6 years. In Sept. she got married and to my surprise and delight, she invited me. As is usual with weddings, I didn't get to talk to the bride or groom much, so I was happy when they said they would be spending a week in December skiing in CO. I had a wonderful time visiting them.
I've also managed to keep up with my soccer team. We've been moved up to the B League (out of 4) and though it's been challenging, it's been fun. I've also been helping out with a beginner tai chi class. Unfortunately, that means I'm going to have to carve out a third day in the week to go to the upper level class for my own improvement.
I really do love Christmas, despite the strains on my wallet and time and despite the stress. I love showing how much I care about my family and friends.


Secrets Revealed

I just went on to Amazon.com and was presented with PostSecret : Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives as a book selection (I'm not sure why, maybe it's just a popular book at the moment).
It sounded interesting for some reason, so I tracked it back to the website that is the source of the book's material and to a news article by The Guardian about the project.
The original instructions (+ a postcard) from the creator, Frank Warren, were as follows: "You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything -- as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative."
The Guardian had this to say:
For the anonymous contributors to postsecret.com, for the millions visiting it, and for Frank himself, the most profound realisation that comes from peering so deeply into the troubled souls of the postcard-senders is simply this: that the things that make us feel so abnormal are actually the things that make us the same.

I found a bunch of other "confessional" style websites with associated books, but this one has a better feel than others, mainly because requirements include creativity and brevity (and the real-life time and effort to create the card).
I thought it was very interesting.



But mostly, I'm very curious about what "highlighting [your] femininity" might entail! ;-)
- my friend, belsum's, response to my post, "Mixed Reaction"
In the last year or so I have gotten more compliments on my appearance than I got in the previous 30 years combined. Though that may be an exaggeration since I can't really remember all of my childhood, certainly none of those "oooh, que linda!" that I'm sure my mum got when I was first born.

Why has this happened?

Because in the last year my self-confidence about my appearance suddenly bumped up from about 3.5 to an 8. Why? I have no earthly idea. It may have something to do with the very difficult (internal) personal growth I went through the year before. Maybe not. It may have had something to do with an attractive male pursuing me briefly (but persistently enough it got through even my thick skull). Maybe not. Some of the changes began before that. Maybe it was my sister coming to live in the same state and starting to help me shop. That certainly helped, but it's only a symptom.

Whatever the cause, I have been feeling lots better when I look in the mirror. The result is that I take more care with my appearance, with the image I am projecting. I learned how to put on a little makeup that accents my beauty. I trusted a doctor enough to treat my skin so that it's lovely and clear now. I learned how to dry and dress my hair quickly and attractively. I wear clothes that are not so shapeless and baggy. I take that little extra time in the morning to be a little more creative and thoughtful about my appearance.

So "highlighting my femininity" is simply emphasizing what I feel is feminine about me -- my curvy body, my long brown hair, my confident and generous attitude, my blue eyes and long dark lashes, and my smile. Doing this has garnered me more compliments than I know what to do with, but the most important person who compliments me now is myself. Even in the morning, in my pyjamas with my hair uncombed, I can look in the mirror and smile because I like... I love myself.

(Thanks for being so patient, bel. Does that answer your question?)


No Thanks

I submitted a short story to a magazine a month ago and today I got the rejection email. It was very nice (though not written specifically for me or my story), but is still a rejection. Interestingly enough, I was expecting to be rejected. I think every beginning writer that braves the wilds of submission gets used to the "thanks, but no" response from editor. You never know when you might get that acceptance letter!

ETA: I thought I'd clarify that it was a story I had shelved because I didn't think it was original enough. I just submitted it because it happened to suit the parameters of the submission offer. So it was a low-risk thing.
High risk is me getting my butt in gear and finish and market a fracking novel.

Mixed Reaction

A male architect I work with was invited out to lunch with the construction side of the business. I have to admit I was jealous. It is nice to feel included and it certainly doesn't hurt that there are several good-looking guys in the bunch.
But after some thought, I also have to admit that were I invited, it would be because I was "just one of the guys" and not perceived as a threat in that way that all single men think of women as a threat (which, to be perfectly honest, has a corallary in the female thought process). Would I want to be seen as non-threatening? I don't think so, but what do I know? I've been working lately on highlighting my femininity, which brings with it "otherness", which can be threatening.
I do so enjoy being included though.


Simplify simplify simplify

Lately I'd been worried that my prose is becoming too stark. My writing has lacked some descriptive flair that I used to have. I really like metaphors and similes, so sentences would have a lot of "as (blank) as (blank)" or "like" (and not in the valley-girl way). I thought my writing was losing something.
Imagine my relief when I read the following evisceration of a published novel. Many of the flaws the writer is pointing out are ones I've exhibited in the past. These are the traits I thought I was missing. I am forced to admit that they belong in the past because my writing is maturing. WOW.
Need I say editing is my latest passion?
I am really interested to find out if, stripped of all this thesaurusizing, my work will be revealed as well-done.

In the same editing vein, here is an interesting rant against writers who take rejection too personally (not a problem I have, but an interesting read nonetheless). The blog in which it appears is by a couple who happen to be editors at a major science-fiction publisher, and I'm tempted to link to it permenently, but I find it has more partisan politics in its contents than I like to support.