Update on My Crack Addition (Dr Pepper)

It’s been three weeks now, and I’ve had only one Dr Pepper in a moment of weakness. And here’s the thing. It’s not getting easier! I still crave it like crack. When will this end? I need a patch. (And it’s a helluva good thing I never got addicted to Virginia Slims.)

Current Problems of Life Without Dr Pepper (not an exhaustive list):

Eating a burger today without Dr Pepper was like eating warm, freshly baked bread without real butter. It just shouldn’t be done.

Dr Pepper is a connection to home; it’s the national drink of Texas (unofficial). Without it, I’m a tad bit unanchored. And trust me, no one wants to be around me when I’m unanchored.

Coke is not a substitute. Neither is Root Beer. And don’t get me started on juice.

Water tastes like … nothing. Adding lemon makes it takes like lemon-nothing.

Coffee makes me speak really fast in meetings and pee too often. And I can’t drink it past 5 p.m. or I’m up all night craving Dr Pepper (and peeing).

Tea tastes like grass. Not the good kind.

I’m having to go to bed early just to keep myself from going to the SitNBull Saloon down the street to get a take-out Dr Pepper from the mean biker-bartender. Note: I don’t even think they have takeout cups, but I could bring my own. The biker-bartender would love that, I’m sure. I can see the look on his face right now.

Drinking vodka and wine at the same levels as I was drinking Dr Pepper is not advised by the American Medical Association.

My old stand-by comfort foods just aren’t the same without my refreshing, fizzy DP. Now, when someone asks, you want to go to Noodles? How about a bowl of chili? I say, eh.

The real kicker? My husband has quit Dr Pepper, too. And weight is dropping off him like <insert good metaphor I can’t think of right now>. Me? I’m gaining weight. Because in my sick little head, if I can’t have DP, then I’m damn sure gonna have pie and peanut butter.


If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here:

THIS Is 40, or You Are the Wind Beneath my Bat Wings

There are a lot of things people never tell you about hitting age 40 and beyond.

A blog just isn’t legitimate until there’s a picture of the Ropers in it.

Sure, I knew about the wrinkles and gray hair coming my way. I knew my eyesight would begin to worsen and I’d be shopping for Mrs. Roper-style-hanging-around-my-neck drugstore glasses at some point. And my doctor kept warning me about the “belly roll” that would collect and be hard to get rid of in my 40s. (Can’t they come up with another term for it? Like Lower Abdomen Memory Foam?)

But here’s what they don’t tell you. They don’t tell you that the pimples of your high school years will start coming back and your chin is gonna start to look like your freshman yearbook picture. For no apparent reason. They don’t tell you that your joints will start making sounds reminiscent of old, haunted-house hardwood floors. And it’s scary. Really scary.

This is what came up in an image search on Google for a “complicated outfit.”

They don’t tell you that those ads you used to laugh at that targeted women with a “sudden urge to urinate” might one day not be so funny, especially when you happen to be wearing an awesome, complicated outfit that, well, takes a while to remove.

And yes, they may have told me that my skin would one day fight back from the years of baby-oil tanning, but they sure as hell did not tell me that the fight would include having strange-looking skin tags frozen off my body in a dermatologist office once a year. Seriously, no one EVER mentioned the freezing machine. That thing burns like a mother.

But mostly, they didn’t tell me about bat wings.

Listen, I’ve never been especially proud of my arms, but they weren’t hideous before. A few scars and red scales, but fairly firm, I would say. After all, I can hold my own tossing cattle feed bags and I’m a master snow-shoveler. We’re talking heavy, wet spring mountain snow, too. Not any of this dry powdery two-inch stuff down here in the foothills. (Mountain snob alert.)

These are not my bat wings. Mine are way sexier.

Regardless, something has changed. I now have a layer of bonafide flab hanging down on each arm, flapping in the wind like sheets on a clothes line. And as sexy as that sounds, it’s upsetting.

The first time I noticed them I was putting my hair in a ponytail in front of a mirror and actually looked behind me to see if someone else was possibly standing there with their own bat wings. No such luck.

Of course, my first course of action was to look online to see if I was the only one that this was happening to so early in life. I mean, I thought bat wings were for women in their 60s. Turns out, they indeed start in your 40s, as “middle-aged skin is like cotton with less snap,” causing sagging.

First of all, WebMD, don’t call me middle-aged. And secondly, I want Spandex arms back.

Experts say you can do boot-camp-style tricep exercises to help, but not completely solve the problem. Which does not in any way sound encouraging or appealing. Plus, as Sweet Brown says, ain’t nobody got time for that.

You can also have upper-arm liposuction. But if I’m not going under the knife for the aforementioned lower abdomen memory foam, I’m not risking my life for my breeze-making upper arms.

I tell my son that I love my muffin top (which he so generously pointed out to me after seeing a weight-loss commercial one day. It’s a good thing he’s cute.). I tell him that it’s a souvenir from lots of good food and good times. But these bat wings? I don’t know that they represent anything but old age and the lack of funds and courage to hire Jillian Michaels to yell at me.

By the way (ATTENTION: stop reading here if you are easily offended!) when I googled “bat wings” during my research, I came upon a horrible discovery. Apparently, according to Urban Dictionary, there are other slang definitions for bat wings that have nothing to do with arms. They include but are not limited to:

  •  A woman’s large vaginal skin
  • The spreading and sticking of a man’s testicles to his inner thigh. This usually happens at random in summer and is caused by perspiration and must be physically unstuck.
  • When a female neglects grooming in the pubic region and wears a bikini.
  • One that I just cannot bring myself to type right now.

Nothing like a little Urban Dictionary to make you 1) gag and 2) feel even older than 40. You’re welcome.

And …. now … I don’t feel so bad about my arms for some reason. Maybe I’ll just buy me some Mrs. Roper tunics. You know you want some, too.


If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here:

Readers’ Top 10 Blog Posts in 2012

I started this blog in early 2012, at the request of my publisher. I’ll admit I was worried about it. I’d written a weekly online column before, but that was different. This was a BLOG, something I’d resisted for years. Would I have time to blog and blog well? Would people (other than my mother) care enough about what’s going on in my head to read it? And what in the hell would I write about?

Well, I haven’t kept up with the blogging schedule I’d hoped for, but I have written a few fun pieces. Below, I’ve featured links to the 10 most popular posts, just in case you missed `em. Even I enjoyed rereading a few.

Oh, and just to recap this AMAZING year in publishing for me (because that’s what you do on New Year’s Eve-Eve) … after becoming an Amazon bestseller in the spring and summer, Blue Straggler (released as an ebook in August 2011 and in paperback in March of this year) remains in the top 30 in sales and customer ratings in comic fiction on Amazon. It hit #2 again right after Christmas and #5 in a different category (humor). Pretty cool. Or rather, a huge dream of mine come true. A Good Kind of Knowing was released in ebook in October and in paperback earlier this month. It made it to the #10 spot in its category (fiction/drama) on Amazon and remains in the top 30 in ratings. It also made the top 100 in customer ratings in literary fiction. Whew. That’s as good for this writer’s soul as crab legs, cheese biscuits and a Bahama Mama from Red Lobster.

I’m so thankful to everyone who has supported me this year and always. Having my work touch just a few people would’ve been satisfying. But this kind of success has been overwhelming. Thank you!

Now on to those posts, and here’s to 2013, y’all!

 #1  Our Dogs Are Going to Get Us Kicked out of the Neighborhood

#2  Saying Goodbye to My Dream, or the One-Year Experiment With Normal Living

#3  And This Is Why I Hate Dental People

#4  Friends Are Worried About My “Girls”

#5  What Happened When I Turned 30 …. and 40

#6  What Being a Texas Woman Means

#7  How Growing Up With Country Music Made Me a Better Writer

#8  21 Facebook Posts You’ll Never, Ever See From Me

#9  Open Letter to High-Fructose Corn Syrup

#10  Your Official Music-to-Read-By Playlist 


If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here:

A Texas Christmas (Early) and Other Thoughts

We flew home for a quick holiday visit to South Texas this past weekend. As always, it was great to see my family, wear sandals and shorts in December, and enjoy my mom’s awesome cooking.

Mom made 12 pies at last count, and I think I ate 10 of them. We’re talking pecan, peach, lemon icebox, lemon black-bottom … mmmmm. We had her famous chili and beans for our “Christmas” lunch, along with homemade tamales. She also made all of her traditional cookies, and Dad barbecued my favorite sausage for me. It was all delicious, and I’m pretty sure I gained 10 pounds in three days, as evidenced by my jeans getting tighter and tighter each day. Ask me if I care!

The best quote from my son since we’ve been back was: “It sure is hard to come back here after eating at Grams’ house.” Which did not go over well, as he said it while eating a dinner my husband had cooked.

During the Texas Christmas gathering, we also enjoyed another rousing singing competition we call “Harris Idol.” My favorite moment was when the whole kid gang (minus my nephew who preferred to go deer hunting instead) sang Feliz Navidad as a finale, with all their hearts, even the parts they mumbled. It was priceless.

I don’t care who you are. This is funny.

There was the usual craziness in Texas, too, of course: We played our traditional Christmas Lights Game and some Unnamed People cheated badly. There was a strange Santa Claus toilet seat cover involved, dating back to the 1960s. My parents’ dog hid behind the couch a lot. I encouraged my kid to write “Wash Me” on my sister’s dirty prized Cadillac, which in hindsight might’ve been a mistake. We opened presents one at a time (to make the fun last longer) and there was disagreement as usual over whose turn it was. My son got a youth-size power drill. (And I’m totally on board with it. After all, he asked Santa for wood.) The usual country music CDs and knives and handheld spotlights were given and received. There were a few disagreements here and there, some harsh words may or may not have been spoken at one point. I was enjoying Hazelnut Martinis, so I’m not the best judge.

My son wants his own goats.

My son, by the way, loves Texas even more than I do. He cried for a long time at the airport — so much so that I truly think some people assumed I was abducting him. The only way I could get him to stop was to talk about all the things he’d do once he moved to Texas, which he plans to do as soon as he graduates from high school (as long as I come with him). He says he will attend Texas A&M (good boy), build his own log cabin on my family’s land, dig three water wells so he won’t run out of water, and drill one oil well so he won’t run out of money. He wants 10 dogs, three goats, three milk cows, five beef cows, one rooster, some chickens for eggs, and a pig. Also he will have three horses, and I get to ride one of them. The other two are his. And he plans on having several tractors because they are always breaking down. He’s got it all planned out — has even sketched out how he will design his log cabin. When I was his age, I’m pretty sure all I cared about was my Lite Brite and Raggedy Ann doll.

On a much sadder note, Newtown happened while we were home, too. Like so many people, there were entire moments when I couldn’t breathe when I heard the news. Could. Not. Breathe. But I couldn’t let myself get too vocal about all that I was feeling while I was home — I didn’t want to ruin Christmas with my family, a lot of whom are supporters of the NRA and who believe guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Just typing that old cliché upsets me, actually. To me, that’s like saying (and I’m stealing this from a Twitter feed) chickens don’t lay eggs. People with chickens lay eggs.

But here’s the thing. We as a nation have to do something. Something is terribly wrong in our society. The easy availability of assault weapons — weapons designed and manufactured to kill — is part of the problem. I believe that with every ounce of my being. It’s not the only thing wrong, but it’s a large piece of the puzzle.

So I say this: Please, please, let’s have some rational discussions about assault weapons. Let’s demand a plan of action from our leaders.

Please.

For the sake of every little soul who was killed, for every parent who waited at that firehouse for their baby … who never came, for the children and adults who lived through the massacre and now have to go on with those images and emotions forever embedded in their brains and hearts, for our own children.

And to all those who say it won’t help to ban assault weapons, I say this: Maybe it will. It’s a start. And what if it COULD help? What if it could save one child’s life? It’s worth a try. Slippery slopes, be damned. Can you look a parent in the eye whose child was shot 11 times and say you are worried about losing your right to own a hobby gun?

That’s all I want for Christmas. For us, as a nation, to act on this.

In the meantime, I wish all of you, no matter where you stand on gun control issues, a warm holiday with your families. Tell everyone you love that you think they are pretty great. Make sure that every friend and family member knows that if they are ever feeling so completely hopeless that they want to take their life or others’ lives, that you are there and you will help them. Tell them that killing is never the answer. And to every family who lost someone to a mass shooting this year, I pray for your hearts to heal. And I’m not even the praying kind.

Sending love and peace to all.

 


If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here:

Open Letter to High Fructose Corn Syrup

Dear High Fructose Corn Syrup,

Listen. It has come to my attention (my mama hates you) that you are a key ingredient in two of my most favorite things on earth: Dr Pepper and Cool Whip. If you were also in Cheetos, it would be a trifecta of incredible goodness. (By the way, I looked that up to make sure, and nope, you’re not on that list. There is, however, something called Disodium Phosphate, which concerns me, but that’s another blog post.)

But here’s the thing, HFCS (I can call you that for short, right? I think our relationship is at that point now) … you’re no good for me. You’re like that guy I dated for a few weeks in 1998 who drove a fast motorcycle and smoked The Mighty Herb for breakfast. He was fun and all, like a chilled-out version of Bandit from Smokey and the Bandit (Part 1, not the sequels), but I knew it would still probably end with me in a body cast at some point.

This is not the guy I dated. Mine wore pants. Most of the time.

You see, sugar (just kidding), people tell me you cause diabetes (in small studies, and only type 2). You make my cells into cancer-receptors (in even smaller studies, in adolescent mice). And I’m afraid you might be directly responsible for my muffin top that’s gotten so large it’s more like a wedding cake layer. One of the bottom ones.

In fact, did you know there is a website titled “Why High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You?” Which made me so sad. Because I love you. And what hurts you, hurts me.

Of course, your PR team has set up its own sites, as well. I found one that I read for a really long time because I really wanted to believe in it all. You. Santa. Effing Elves on the Shelves. It all sounded so true! So right. So hoofs-on-the-rooftop magical.

You seem so innocent.

But alas (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a blog post), I know it’s only pot smoke and mirrors. I know the Real You, and you’re bad, bad, bad. You’re so bad that I won’t even let my kid near you, lest he fall for your mysterious powers. I’d push him away from you as quickly as I’d push him away from a growling pit bull. (I almost changed that to say “push him away from a falling boulder” because I really don’t want a bunch of pit bull people taking down my website because they think I’m a PB hater. I’m not. But a rolling rock didn’t sound nearly as dramatic as a snarling dog with a locking jaw, so I kept it in. I’m going for the visual here, people. Lay off.)

Random rusty nail picture to drive home the impact of my words.

Back to us, HFCS. You and I … we’re like fire and gasoline. We’re like oil and water. We’re like a rusty nail and a foot attached to a person who’s never had a tetanus shot.

And I’ll admit it. I think I may be addicted to you. You’re my crack. My meth. My scotch on ice. I need a 12-step plan. Or I need to go cold-turkey. (Typing that makes me get a little shaky in the hands. Hallucinations may be next.)

Even Dr. Oz tells me to stay away from you. And he knows stuff. He’s like Prevention magazine. Or maybe Wikipedia. But still.

This one’s for you, Mom.

So what are we going to do about this little situation? Are we just going to continue with this tango of no-goodness? Are we just going to keep driving into the night on that motorcycle and a cloud of weed? Am I going to keep this charade going on forever?

As Jack Twist says in Brokeback Mountain, “I wish I knew how to quit you.”

That’s right, High Fructose Corn Syrup. You’re my Jack Twist. I’m your Ennis. Only I’m a 28-year-old writer (no comment necessary)/future blues singer, and you’re just a common sweetener made by processing corn in some weird, unnatural way and subsidized by the government.

I don’t have the answers.

All I know is that for now, there is an ice-cold DP in the fridge calling my name, and the makers of Cool Whip now make a Cool Whip Frosting in three heaven-inspired flavors.

Damn you, High Fructose Corn Syrup. Damn you.

 


If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here:

Children’s Book — Character Sneak Peek

Did you know I’m working on a children’s book (estimated release date, March 2013)? The title is Higgenbloom and the Dancing Grandmas, and it’s gonna be awesome!

I’m so lucky to be working with an amazing illustrator, Kate MacGillivary, and she just finalized the first complete sketch of the book’s main character, Higgenbloom the Honey Bee. It’s in black-and-white now, but he’ll be full-color for the book.

And here he is … I love him. Hope y’all do, too.

Stay tuned. I’ll try to provide additional sketches as we go along, so you all can see the work as it progresses. Children’s books are so much fun to produce.


If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here:

My First-Ever 99-Cent Sale

Today is a first for me — both of my novels are just 99 cents (ebook/Amazon Kindle version). A sale of epic proportions!

Not sure yet how I feel about it, since obviously the royalties on these sales wouldn’t even buy me a can of Dr Pepper or a scoop of Cool Whip. But the more readers, the better, right?

So there you go. This is a one-day sale on both titles, so get it while the getting’s good. (Texas translation – hurry and buy them while they are on sale.)

And thanks to every person who has read either of my novels. I’d add in a “mwah!” but that may be over the top.

 


If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here:

Putting Up the Tree — and Missing My Mammaw and Granny Like Crazy

Well, first I’ll get the mountain-snob snarkiness out of the way: It’s just plain weird to me to put up a Christmas tree in Colorado when there is no snow on the ground, no howling wind outside your door, no traipsing through knee-deep drifts to find the perfect tree, no fire burning in the wood stove. You get the picture. That was always our life when we lived at the top of a mountain. And I loved everything about it.

Down here in the foothills, we put up our tree today, and it was 60 degrees and not a flurry in sight. I wore shorts. We got our tree from a commercial seller.  It was too warm for a fire in the fireplace. Blah, blah.

But there are a few things that didn’t change. First, we made kettle corn to munch on while we decorated our tree (Grand Fir, $34.99. Ooops, snark returns.) We played Christmas music (on Pandora instead of CDs – hey, you can’t stop progress). And we pulled out all the same ornaments we use every year.

And that’s when I always start to miss my grandmothers, both of whom have passed away, so bad it’s a downright physical thing.

My grandmothers (Mammaw on my mother’s side, and Granny on my dad’s) could not have been more different, but I have such great memories of time spent with them both at the holidays.

I’m lucky that we lived fairly close to both of my grandmothers, and that both liked us girls to help them decorate for the holidays after Thanksgiving.

With Mammaw, it was fragile glass ornaments and shiny, gold-beaded balls she’d made herself. It was a pristine white angel with real feathers as wings as the topper. Some years, it was a full, lush tree flocked with fake white snow. It was white lights and a silver-trimmed tree skirt, probably bought from a department store. It was Eddie Arnold on the stereo. It was quiet and beautiful.

When my grandfather passed away (Mammaw left us years earlier), my mom shared some of Mammaw’s ornaments with me, and I cherish them. There are a couple of delicate antique ornaments in gold and red and silver, and two of her ornaments she decorated herself with old jewelry and tiny sequins and pins. They are as classy and lovely as she was. And they make me miss her so much. Our conversations. Our games of cards. Her Thanksgiving turkey and dressing. Her walking around with that kitchen towel on her shoulder as she cooked holiday meals. Her long, lean, soft hands that, as she got older and sick, she’d ask me to hold.

And then there are the items I have from Granny that take me back to the holidays at her house. She was a ranch woman, but she also loved to crochet. Those rough, calloused hands were like magic when it came to yarn. I have crocheted icicles and snowflakes she made – their hangers are old bread ties in green and red and blue. I specifically bought big, round, frosted bulbs this year to put on our tree, based solely on the fact that she had some similar on her tree every year. (They were from the 1960s, I swear, and we often worried that they’d get so hot, they’d catch the tree on fire.)

This is what a mesquite tree looks like, for you non-South Texans.

And her tree! Oh, I loved Granny’s approach to her tree. It was usually just a cedar tree we’d cut from the pasture, lopsided and wispy and perfect. She didn’t have a tree stand; we’d just plop the tree trunk in a bucket and fill it with rocks to hold `er steady. Ornaments were mostly handmade by either her or us kids. We always added store-bought tinsel of some kind, and red-and-white candy canes. Lots of multi-colored, twinkling lights were a must, too. She’d hang mistletoe up (real mistletoe, people!). Plus she had some plastic pine garland we’d hang over the entrance to the living room, from the dining room. With fake red berries. There’d be nails up there from the year before to tuck the garland behind, or we’d just use scotch tape.

After we decorated our tree today, we made cookies as a family, and I found my Granny’s old recipe for Cherry Cream Delight, which is basically just Cool Whip, a can of cherry pie filling, cream cheese, and graham crackers. Man, I loved that stuff. And I think I’ll be making it this year.

It’s nice to have my grandmothers’ things around me during the holidays, since I can’t have them here with me anymore. But what I wouldn’t give to, just one more time, hear Granny say, “No need to rush off now,” late on Christmas Eve, or to hear Mammaw shooing us out of her kitchen on Christmas Day.

Miss you both.

What do love most about your grandmothers and the holidays? I’d love to hear about others’ memories, too.


If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here:

Music to Read By — Black Friday Special

Yes, I only put Black Friday in the headline to attract people to this site. (Ha!) I’m not above tactics like this.

Seriously, to continue in my quest to provide readers with music to read A Good Kind of Knowing (my latest novel) by, here is a great song to listen to while reading Chapter 16. And it’s a favorite of my son’s, too, so of course I had to feature it here.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!


If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here:

What I’m Thankful for Right Now, in This Moment

New and old friends and family who support my writing. A six-year-old who can already cook up a mean batch of fried catfish. Sonic ice and Dr Pepper. A husband who buys me Sonic ice because he knows it makes me happy. Two furry babies who make me smile, no matter how very bad they can be. My publisher, 30 Day Books (Laura Pepper Wu and Brandon Wu) — it’s so darn awesome to know that there are good, kind people all over the world, and that I have these folks on my side. Jeremy Kron for his wonderful work on my novels’ cover and interior design. My new job with Truven Health Analytics. I’m loving the work so much. Knowing that I’ll get to see my family and taste my mama’s cooking in just a couple of weeks. My Kindle Fire. Brilliant writing by people who inspire me. The herd of deer hanging out on our road this evening. The Rocky Mountains. Fresh mountain air. Memory foam. This laptop. Friends I know will be there for me if I need them. Texas Hill Country pecans, found at a Target in Colorado, believe it or not. Cool cotton pillowcases. Good wine. Stand-up comedians. A mother- and father-in-law who adore my son and treat us all with overwhelming generosity. The good health of myself, my family and my friends. The music of Lyle Lovett. Sara Lee pies because I don’t have time to make my own. Readers out there in the universe who are reading my novels and taking the time to let me know that my words touched them somehow. Every single person who has written a review of either of my novels. My eyesight. A soft, warm blanket on a chilly night. Stars. Avocados. Dark chocolate. Ariat boots. Vacuum cleaners. Wild Orange essential oil. A massage therapist as a spouse. And the sound of my angel-son saying, “I love you, mama,” as he drifts off to sleep.

What are you thankful for right now, in this moment? (Don’t think about it deeply, just spit out what comes to mind. It’s nice sometimes to just Let. It. Out.) PS: Vacuum is a weird word, isn’t it?

 

 

 


If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here: