Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Penny for Your Thoughts on 2009

1. What did you think of 2009? It began on a positive note. I believed the country was headed toward change. I bought it. But here at the end of December, it doesn’t feel like much—if anything—has changed, besides the fact that like the President, my hair has gotten grayer.

2. What do you think was the news story of the year? The US Airways plane landing in the Hudson River.

3. What happened this year that you never want to hear another word about? Tiger Woods’ conga line of mistresses.

4. What was your favorite song of 2009? Can’t answer this. I listen to “my kids’ music” when I’m driving them all over town and frankly, it’s all crap. Will SOMEONE please send me some GOOD new music?

5. What did you accomplish this year? Increased business revenues in a down economy; wrote/published 100+ blogs; moved ahead on my newest manuscript; made several new friends from my daughter’s new soccer team; re-established contact with my brother—although once again, I haven’t heard from him in weeks; stayed physically fit; managed home, kids, marriage and business and feel it’s a happy home.

6. Did you learn anything new this year? Yes. Vocabulary words, of course, and a new method of telling whether or not the moon is waxing or waning. I also learned how to use a Nikon D90 camera.

7. What are you looking forward to in the new year? Using my new camera; watching my daughters play soccer and volleyball; laughing with my husband (because it’s my favorite thing to do); and finishing my manuscript.

8. What are your plans for New Year's Eve? Going to a party.

9. What's the best thing you ever did on a New Year's Eve? I learned the words to “Auld Lang Syne” from my friend Jeanine during a snowstorm. Everyone should know the words to this song—and their meaning—on New Year’s Eve.

Happy New Year everyone. Thanks for reading, and all best to all of you in 2010. Stay in touch.



Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Bad Hair Blast from the 1980s

All it takes is a brief look back to determine with absolute certainty that the 1980s were filled with a lot of big, bad hair.

I heard from an old friend today, someone I’d actually given up for dead until a surprise message turned up in my “in” box. Thank goodness for the Internet and a thing called Google. This woman, who actually served as a bridesmaid at our 1989 wedding, got in touch after Googling my name. I believe the search led her to my blog, which led her to my author website, email address and, to one of my books, The Things I Wish I’d Said. Given this book was, in part, a lot about my life shortly after I was married, she remembered a lot of it. I’m not sure whether or not she remembered why we fell out of touch, but truthfully, it’s not important. I am very happy to hear from her.

My longhaired bridesmaid included good news about her life and then, hit the old photo albums and made a few scans. “Here are some of the hundreds of pics I have from the times we shared,” she wrote. I couldn’t wait to see which ones she chose.

The first was of Mike and me as Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey on Halloween, circa 1987. I remember we had only one ‘Mr. Microphone,’ (that yellow thing in his pocket) and fought over it all night saying things like, “Caller, you’re on the air!” I also remember doing a pretty decent pass as an African-American person. That was until an actual African-American friend showed up at the party and told me that my “blue eyes would never allow me to pass as a sistah!” There was no question, though, that Mike was the spittin’ image of Mr. Donahue.

She also included a photo (at top) of what looked like a double date, with one of the guys who stood up for Mike at our wedding. Neither Mike nor I can remember if it was a set-up, but we know nothing ever brewed between the two of them. Perhaps it was because of the cigar in her hand???

There were others, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the picture at left, of three girls in their late 20s at a San Francisco comedy club. I’ve known the blonde woman since elementary school and she currently lives in Tucson, not too far from us. Her son and my daughter correspond more than we do, but we get together when we can. She’s one of those people that no matter how much time elapses, we can pretty much pick up where we left off.

I’m not sure the same can be said for my bridesmaid. It’s been close to 20 years since I’ve heard from her. But for a moment today, this blast from the 1980s reminded me of a very carefree and fun time in my life. I’m grateful for the memories.

And I absolutely do NOT miss the hair. Thank you Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuusan.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas When You’re 49

When you’re 49, you are Santa and everyone in the house knows it. It doesn’t bode well when your bedtime is far earlier than your kids’ and they’re still up late playing Facebook games like Farmville and going through the motions of putting out milk and cookies next to the fireplace.

Thank baby Jesus, the Mr. Claus in this Southwest pole regularly burns the midnight oil. Last night he fulfilled the stocking-stuffing and placing the surprise gifts of the season under our tree long after I was sawing wood for the night. I did manage, however, to wake up at my normal three o’clock feeding time to get his one and only surprise into his stocking. He had purchased all the rest of his own presents himself. (This is a man who knows what he wants and wastes no time fulfilling the wants.) At least I wrapped them. Good wife?

One thing that hasn’t changed on Christmas morning in all our years of being parents is that it’s the one day of the year when our kids get up before us. As a rule, they come to our room and beckon us to the Christmas tree in order for the gift opening to begin. The wake-up calls have gone from as early as six a.m. to nine a.m.; however, both our darling girls still patiently await the espresso machine churning out at least two good-sized lattes for their groggy parents, Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

On that note, today, Christmas 2009, it was a pleasant surprise when we opened their first gifts, which were his-and-her espresso mugs. They had purchased them in Las Vegas during our Thanksgiving trip. I loved the mugs, and immediately abandoned my original, having my second decaf latte in a white mug with “Las Vegas” printed all around it. Yes, that’s another thing that’s changed. Before I was in my late 40’s, my coffee had caffeine.

In the meantime, Santa managed to fulfill every item on both of their rather modest Christmas lists . . . save one item. They’d been begging for a Wii for weeks—perhaps months.

Now this is where the age of 49 comes back into play. I’m afraid I am not a child of the videogame age. On the contrary, I’ve always found video games to be a complete waste of time and energy. I believe children should instead spend time playing a real game or reading a book. I suppose it’s my personal generation gap. My parents liked Glenn Miller, I liked The Stones! Video games? I always thought they were for morons.

And yet Mr. Claus managed to convince me that the price of the Wii had become affordable, and my workout buddy, the Beave, told me she and her kids regularly broke a sweat while playing with one. Honestly, my girls wanted it so badly, that I heard the word “we,” or perhaps the adjective “wee,” or even the French word for yes, “oui,” about twenty times a day in their daily vocabularies.

So, here’s what this 49-year-old Mrs. Claus did AFTER her Mr. Claus purchased the Wii for their kids. She wrapped it and all its accessories—games, extra remotes, what-have-you—in special green paper. Then she directed Mr. Claus to NOT put them under the tree in case she fell asleep before him. (Yup!)

Then, on Christmas morning, the girls got through all their gifts and appeared grateful for their bounty.

At this point Mr. Claus left the room to get himself yet another latte. Mrs. Claus stayed put, totally happy about the new telephoto lens she received as a surprise gift. (Complete and happy surprise!) In the meantime, she couldn’t help but keep one pointed-ear tuned-in to the exchange between her little elves: One was happy, one was clearly disappointed. It was obvious that both had tried to cover up their disappointment at NOT receiving the most coveted gift, the Wii.

Sensing a breakdown, she gestured to Mr. Claus. “Go get it,” she said, in no uncertain terms.

The bottom line is that the Wii brought our youngest to tears. And the elder was equally as happy although she claimed she knew what we were up to. Meanwhile, they haven’t stopped playing with this TV-oriented interactive game all day. They even got me in on the fun and I’m happy to report winning scores in both table tennis and basketball. I need to work on my wakeboarding and baseball; however if life matches videogames, I will dominate this family. I’m sure of it.

If I know one thing at the age of 49, it’s that I RULE!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When Your Novel is Available for a Penny

We’ve all heard of “dime novels.” Now, thanks to, there are “penny novels” available, and one of them happens to be mine. How did I learn this?

An old friend, someone with whom I went to school, recently sent an unsolicited review of my first novel, A Line Between Friends, and I asked him to post a version of it on He did. And when I went to the site to read it, I noticed there were two “new” copies of the book available from Amazon vendors for 1¢. One flippin’ cent. How can that be? Even I can’t get copies of my own books for under nine bucks!

My friend Beaver, who has a thriving Amazon business, explained that vendors make more money on some of their items from the minimum $3.99 shipping allotment Amazon provides than they do on the product itself. I get that, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. Placing the value of a story that I labored to write and edit, and on which my publisher invested printing and distribution expenses at a mere penny is, well, pretty damn degrading. It’s almost as bad as a negative review.

On a brighter note, my friend’s five-star review of A Line Between Friends was the 22nd five-star rating of the work posted on Amazon. And I know for a fact that reading it and reconnecting with his past (and with me) was worth far more than a flippin’ penny. 

In the meantime, don’t bother looking for those new copies at the bargain basement rate at the Amazon site. I snapped them up. Now you’re going to have to pay as much as four dollars (plus shipping, of course) for my award winning first novel. It’s still a good deal on what “Steve from Florida” deemed, “an awesome book that addresses the universal experiences of college life and the relationships we develop during those times, especially that special one we all experienced.”

And one last thing I'd like to convey is that from those Amazon vendors, I don't receive one red cent.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I Made $$$ Off of Tiger Woods

There, I said it. It’s true. I may be the least exotic of the “conga line” of blonde-bombshells to come forward, but I am one. Regardless, I’m quite sure Extra, The Today Show or The National Enquirer won’t come a knockin,’ even though I’m convinced that my big boobs and Tiger Woods helped to pay an entire month of tuition of my daughter’s volleyball club.

Last February during the Accenture Match Play Golf Tournament near Tucson, I signed up to be a concession worker as a fundraising opportunity for the Zona Volleyball Club. The best part of fundraising for this club is that any funds you earn go directly toward your own child’s fees rather than the club. Since my husband and I both like golf and certainly relished the opportunity to see Tiger Woods on his first tournament after an extended injury break, we thought this was a great opportunity.

Early in the week, we were stationed at a remote concession booth between holes 15 and 17. A character named “Ernie” was our concession boss, and he showed us the ropes. He put Mike in charge of making dogs and, a smart move, put me at the register. He had no idea how good at it I would be. Not only could I count quickly and make proper change, but I could also bark orders to my fellow concessioners, and put up with a large population of the progressively drunken gallery. Any time one of the big name players, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, or Camilo “the Spider” Villegas, for example, headed down fairway 15, the lines grew as long as a par four fairway.

But the crowds had truly come to see Tiger. By the time he hit our end of the course, I, in my cash register mania, had stripped down to my tank top (we were required to wear our Zona Club shirts, which I used as an apron) and my tip jar, which I had to empty at least five times, tallied over 300 bucks. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to personally keep the tips—everything made by all concession workers in terms of profit and tips were split among the volunteers—but what we made was still enough to pay for an entire month’s tuition and still have some left over for next season.

And I think we owe it primarily to Tiger.

Ernie, who works concessions on the PGA tour across the country, said it was a fact that when Tiger was not on the course, profits decreased by fifty percent. (Phil Mickelson, he said, was the second biggest draw.) So, by Sunday when BOTH Tiger and Phil had been eliminated, we only had to stay in the stand for about an hour. On that day, I’m not sure my tips tallied more than three bucks. Compare three to three hundred. That’s a 99 percent drop in revenue. The good news is that we were paid per shift, regardless of how long the shift was and how hard we worked.

The Sunday volunteers got off very easy. But they, on the other hand, didn’t get the chance to see Tiger Woods. I did. And now that Accenture has become the first major sponsor to drop him as a spokesperson and he’s taking an indefinite break from golf, he may not be coming back to Tucson any time soon. So we got when the getting was good. But that’s probably over now too.

I imagine seeing him now will no longer offer the pure thrill of witnessing an amazing athlete in action. Instead it’ll be just one more cad who got too big for hit britches, and ultimately became known not for his birdies, but for his bitches.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dumber Than a Box of Socks

Aaaaaaargh! I found another solitary sock in my daughter’s bathroom this morning. I wonder, should I grab it and try to hunt down its mate? Or should I save time and simply add it to the ever-growing collection of strays in the Cozzens family’s box of socks?

Does anyone else have this problem? It seems every time I pull out a load of clothes from the dryer and start the sorting process, I end up with at least two or three single socks. (None of them, by the way, belong to me). Apparently I’m the only one in the family who places BOTH socks in the hamper after use.

A few years back someone suggested I keep big safety pins in the laundry room and actually pin pairs together before washing. It sounded like a good idea. But the problem is, both socks don’t make it to the laundry room. One ends up in the sofa, another on the bathroom floor. One is tucked inside a sneaker, the other walks off to the Great Sock Hiding Place, the location of which will always remain a mystery.

My kids don’t seem to mind wearing mismatched socks. People often point to their feet and say things like, “do you realize you’re wearing two different socks?” Oh, they realize it all right. And they don’t care. To them, it’s become a fashion statement.

Well, this Christmas, I don’t think I’ll add to the problem (the problem being the box of socks, not the misguided fashion statements). I vow not to stuff the stockings with more potential stray socks. Instead, I think their fireplace socks might just be filled with rocks.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Lac du Flambeau Gets a Clue

You don’t see THIS everyday in your morning crossword puzzle:

3. _____ du Flambeau, Wisc.

In all my years of doing puzzles, I’ve seen _____ du Lac, Wisc. about a hundred times and it never got me excited. Today, however, seeing a clue for our little remote corner of the Northwoods—home to the Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe Indians and Sandy Point Resort and Disc Golf Ranch—in the USA Today puzzle, gave me a bigger rush than a double dose of cappuccino.

Sandy Point Resort is outside the town limits of Lac du Flambeau, but it does carry a “Flambeau” mailing address. The town itself is located in Vilas County and is comprised of approx. 128 square miles, 260 lakes, 65 miles of lakes, streams and rivers and 24,000 acres of wetlands. People population at the last census was 3000. I can’t say what the fish population is; however, I can report that according to the Lac du Flambeau Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest sturgeon came out of Lake Pokegama and is currently housed in a Lac du Flambeau museum. This monster measured 7 feet, 1 inch, weighed 195 pounds and 40 inches around.

That’s quite a catch. And this clue was a great piece of bait. I filled in every square of the crossword in record time.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Making Sense of a Murder-Suicide

He had recently sent my younger sister an email, telling her she was missed at the class reunion. I saw photos of him on Facebook from that reunion and recognized him immediately. (The same could not be said about the boys/men at my own thirtieth reunion last year). Some sweet faces never change. His was one of them.

The news came to me inadvertently through a friend, who said she was still reeling from the tragedy. She assumed I’d heard. I hadn’t. I’d been out of town and paid little attention to the news. So, when she told me that an old friend, a boy from the neighborhood with whom we went to elementary and high schools had put bullets in the heads of his two young sons, his wife and then one in his mouth, the reeling began for me.


This news is impossible to comprehend or explain. The note he allegedly left has not been released. According to my sister, his best friend had no insight. All accounts say he was a good citizen, a neighbor, a coach, a buddy. There didn’t appear to be any financial woes or domestic squabbles. But unfortunately, there were firearms in the house. And clearly there were underlying demons within this man, which led to a fatal and awful SNAP.

I don’t know if what remains of his family can or will forgive him. I don’t even know if God can forgive such inexplicable violence. All I know is that when we were kids, when our whole lives were still ahead of us, I liked him. I liked him very much. And all of us who remember him fondly are left with the unanswered questions and the charge to keep on living in spite of this horrible, practically unspeakable incident in our shared history.

Are we supposed to make sense of it? Can we? Perhaps the only thing we can do is hold our loved ones a little closer, be grateful for all we have, and treat this as a lesson in perspective.

Meanwhile, “Mange,” rest in peace.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weapons of Self-Destruction

1. Kids

2. Wine

3. Worry

4. Heat

5. Heels

6. Over-exercise

7. Lack of Sleep

8. TV

9. Poor reading light

10. Did I already list kids?


Fell asleep with the TV on again and an open book on my chest. I don’t even remember what I was watching or reading when I got between the sheets. Anyway, something woke me up (a movie argument or a machine gun?) and a moment later, I saw a commercial for Robin Williams’ upcoming Special, “Weapons of Self Destruction.” Even though I forgot to take note of when the special aired, I immediately made a list.

See above.

Now, before I spend too much time in this hot flash worrying about my kids, lamenting that last glass of wine and all those miles I walked in Vegas wearing three-inch heels, I better go turn down the heat. It may be possible for me to get three more hours of sleep before I start the Monday mommy cycle all over again.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Flat Tire

“Good God! What the F--- was that?”

I was in the car alone—on my way to pick up the soccer carpool—when I hit a pothole the size of Montana. I only had two girls tonight, so I drove the sedan rather than the SUV-soccer-mobile. It was along my regular route to the high school, which I’ve driven a hundred times in the past few months.

I swear, that pothole came out of nowhere.

Was there an earthquake last night I didn’t feel? Did some construction vehicle drop a load in the middle of the road? What the hell causes a crater that large to appear so suddenly?

I want to make it very clear that I wasn’t the least bit distracted when driving. I wasn’t talking on the phone, texting or changing the radio station. In fact, I was in a pleasant mood, freshly showered after a double workout and an attitude readjustment after a day filled with angst. For once, no one had changed “my” radio station from NPR to the local Top 40 or the satellite Howard Stern show (gross-me-out!). I looked forward to seeing my daughter, hearing about her day, and talking about our Thanksgiving plans.

And then, just over a mile from home: Ka BLAM!

My front left tire hit this meteorite impact area, and it sounded like a TNT explosion. My car sounded off too. The dashboard lit up. Its first red alert indicated a “tire pressure” warning, which I momentarily read to mean: “Hey woman, you hit a pot hole that knocked the snot out of your tire.”

But I already knew that.

Ten seconds later, the alarm went off a second time. The bright red letters read: “Tire DAMAGE.” I pulled over immediately. I didn’t want to be the idiot who continued driving on a flat tire only to cause rim damage or whatever.

Instead, I became the idiot who didn’t know how to change her tire.

Heaven help me, I haven’t changed a tire since I was in college and driving a ’63 Dodge Dart, which was when I developed a revolving door supply of fifteen-dollar retreads. I suppose it’s fair to say I’ve been spoiled with a series of luxury, well-maintained cars. Okay, okay. Shut up! So I’ve driven my share of BMWs, Lexus and Mercedes. That’s not the point. The point is, I opened my trunk to find that jacks have changed!

Being the excellent student I’ve been my entire life, I resorted to the manual and learned how to do everything from locating the trap door in my new car to the spare tire to the tool kit, which impressively included protective canvas gloves. I unloaded everything, continued reading, and then uttered a helpless, “huh?”

Luckily, it was at this moment when a good Samaritan, a clean-cut, red-haired man named “Keith,” came along in a Lexus without a hood. He stopped and asked me the five most desired words to a sedan-driving damsel in distress: “Do you need a hand?”

Keith had never before seen a new-fangled jack like the one I presented, but with one look at my manual and an explanation as to why he was wearing greased-stained overalls with flowers embroidered upon them (he’d just finished installing a new motor on his Lexus and the overalls belonged to his wife); that man had my car jacked up and the spare tire in place in record time.

Long story short: the soccer girls were picked up shortly after practice and had no clue what it took to get them. Meanwhile, my husband, who was miles away in our other vehicle, stopped what he was doing to get to my side. Unfortunately for him, he arrived just as Keith finished the job. He was exhausted from dropping all his afternoon plans (and bless him for that), but I rationalized for both of us because of God sending Keith, who saved him from reading the manual and dealing with this foreign car jack. Keith, by the way, didn’t even bother to wear the kit-provided gloves to protect his hands from grease. I gave him a handshake anyway. Who wouldn’t?

I’m certain no one will rescue us from the expense of replacing that wide Michelin tire, which upon inspection, was definitely damaged by pothole impact. Insurance? Forget about it. Pima County? Huh! Doubt it.

Moral of the story: Tanque Verde Drivers Beware! Northbound Solider Trail Road in Tucson. North of Limberlost, south of Synder. Pot-hole. Butt-hole.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Parenting is THE Most Difficult Job

Take this job and shove it. I’m failing miserably in my role as a mother. Why? It’s not because I don’t have great kids. I do. They’re both healthy and beautiful and SHOULD be a parent’s dream.

So, why the whine?

It’s because I can’t take any credit for it. And because of this, I feel like a failure. And unfortunately, I’ve never considered failure an option.

Here’s my problem: I can’t find a way to NOT live vicariously through my children. Their grades are my grades. Their performances are my performances. Their pimples, their laughs, their farts, their failures, their successes, their joys AND their sorrows … they ALL affect me in a way I had never anticipated.

I guess I thought that in order to be a good mother—an involved mother—I had to give up my own ambitions and concentrate primarily on the health and wellbeing of my children. And how can anyone blame me? I got pregnant, right? They weren’t accidents. They were planned. I know we were lucky because the traditional methods worked and I got to have the moment of discovery and conveyance to their daddy. Twice. And during my pregnancies, I gave my body—my entire life—over to the growing fetuses within me. I ate well. I ate A LOT. I gave up wine. I did normal exercise until I fell and couldn’t get up. I delivered both children naturally. I even pulled out the second one myself. My doctor asked me, “Do you want to reach down and do this yourself?” Of course, I said “yes!” And every minute since bringing these children into my home, I dedicated myself to their existence.

Giving birth to them, as it turns out, was easy. No one told me how difficult raising them would be. No one talked about all the curve balls life has to offer. They didn’t tell me about bullies or bad grades—the unremarkable, even disappointing performances. They didn’t tell me about diseases or death. They didn’t tell me about the lies or the myriad of bullshit modern day existence would roll down my alley … all the while aiming for my pins of perfection.

And even if they did, hmmmm, did I listen? Wait, did I miss that class?

I want you all to listen and to know, I’m not just talking about me, and MY kids. I have friends who have faced and are facing far worse shit brought on during the course of parenthood than I’m facing. [[This isn’t just a completely self-serving rant.]] Some of the things I’ve learned in recent years—even in recent days—for example, have sent my mind reeling.

Know this: You have a child and you step into a world you simply cannot predict.

I NEVER thought I’d miss the days of diapers and car seats. NEVER. But if any young parents are out there reading this lapse into helpless, self-pitying puke of parenthood—ENJOY YOUR BABIES. When all they can do is fall down and skin their knees, when they are still under your control and you are still paying 100% attention and thinking of yourself as THEIR mom rather than YOURself, mark my words: life is a blessing. You are lucky to have them and you won’t regret it.

As for the rest of us? Get a grip. They’re not perfect and neither are we.

BTW: I realize I’m talking to myself.

Friday, November 20, 2009

When Your Teenager Treats You Like the Chauffeur

The other day we went to our annual neighborhood watch block party. It’s an opportunity to have real conversations with the people with whom you share the roads and to whom you wave everyday as you drive in and out of the hood. Let’s face it. Suburban living—even in our rural desert oasis—is all about driving in and out of the hood.

In addition to talking about safety and the overdue asphalt sealing of the three main roads comprising our subdivision, we asked about one another’s kids. Who is now in junior high? High School? How’s your son handling his first year away at college? The conversations are mostly mundane and predictable. We answer things like: “She’s fine. Still playing soccer.” And “yes, he made the basketball team.” Or “she’s great—just got her acceptance letter from the U.” Occasionally, however, someone decides to be perfectly frank.

“How’s your son handling his first year away at college?”

“Well, he’s enjoying it a little too much.”

“Going off the deep end a bit, is he?”

“Oh yes! We had to have the ‘Come to Jesus Talk’ the other night.”

Come to Jesus? I wasn’t exactly sure what my neighbor meant by that, but his general meaning was quite clear. I have another friend who calls those heart-to-heart-parent-to-child talks, “the blue chair talks.” When her kids are called to the blue chair, it’s serious business.

My husband and I have these talks with our kids, too. We simply refer to the process as “reeling them in.”  We’d like to give them a long leash, allow them privileges and reward them for good behavior, but the ole ‘give-‘em-an-inch-and-they-take-a-mile behavior comes into play ALL THE TIME.  

This morning I had to have one of those Come to Jesus, Blue Chair, Reel ‘em In conversations with my teenager while driving her to school. Without going into all the details, the main subject was about her expectations and assumptions that she could make all the plans in the world about this party and that performance, this practice and that meeting, and leave it up to me to not only gather the times and locations, but also arrange my schedule to get her to and fro.

This kid has NO clue that I have a life beyond chauffeuring her all over town. I’ve seemingly become a non-person to her—something without value except how it can be of service to her.

Lately I’ve found myself counting the days until her sixteenth birthday and wondering what kind of car we’re going to get her so she can do the driving herself. Granted that leash extension may open up a whole new set of Come to Jesus criteria . . . but at least I’ll retain the power to not only take away her cell phone, but her car keys as well.

And yes, I realize, that even though these teenage years are taxing, they go by very quickly. My mother, who I miss dearly, went to Jesus over ten years ago. And I’d give just about anything to have her wake me up, make my breakfast, and drive me to cheerleading practice just one more time.

Meanwhile, if anyone has a trick to penetrate the teenage mind—something that gets through—please let me know. My gas tank is about empty.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Turquoise

I did a Tuesday show once in Wisconsin where my jewelry was on display. It was one of the rare shows that wasn’t juried, and as a result there wasn’t a lot of high-quality artisans selling their creations. I believe the venue was called Crazy Days, and my beautiful jewelry didn’t fit in.

Crazy Days are like Flea Markets. Shoppers come looking for a bargain. And even though my handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces were and are very reasonably priced, I had to endure watching overweight tourists waddle by while munching on soft pretzels and Minocqua Fudge. Some stopped in, bringing their lit smokes with them. Occasionally one would toss a bracelet back onto my display table and say something like, “Hrumph! I could make this for a dollar.”

I don’t think they could have even made the junk food staining their Green Bay Packer sweatshirts for a dollar. But hey, at least they took a moment to enter my street tent and give the products a look.

That’s more than I can say about one pair of old ladies with beehive hairdos, red lips and rhinestone glasses. Shuffling by with scowls on their faces, one of them spotted my sign advertising TURQUOISE JEWELRY FOR SALE.

“I HATE turquoise,” said one.

“Me too,” agreed the other. And then they waved their hands at me as if to tell me to get lost, and shuffled on, only to criticize the next vendor.

How could anyone hate turquoise?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Swarovski Sunday

Say it with me: SWA-RO’VF-SKI. Try it again. Take a deep breath, imagine you’re at the top of an Alp and let it go: SWA-RO’VF-SKI. I’ve been helping people pronounce this word—this brand name—ever since I started using Swarovski crystals in my jewelry designs.

I used to care about it being pronounced correctly the same way I used to care whether or not someone spelled my name with two Ls instead of one. I don’t care anymore. You can spell my name any way you want—as long as you remember it. And you can pronounce the name of these beautiful Austrian crystals any way you want as long as you take a minute to check out how nicely they go with the fine Hill Tribe Silver I describe in a previous blog.

Dream Life Designs

Swarovski Crystal, also known as Austrian Crystal, is regarded as the finest quality, full-lead crystal available today. It is named for Daniel Swarovski, who was born in Bohemia (at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) in 1862. Bohemia was a center for crystal and glass manufacturing and Swarovski’s family owned a crystal-cutting factory. Daniel served an apprenticeship in the factory and then at the age of 21, he developed a new cutting machine, which enabled him to cut crystal “to perfection.” He received a patent on the machine and in 1895, established the Swarovski Crystal company. Daniel's sons and grandsons carried on his work.

Today’s crystals have hundreds of identical facets in several directions (thus achieving the unmatched sparkle for which they’re known). Machines using high-tech computer programs and 3-D imaging cut them. The example at right uses Swarovski crystal wheels and crystal rondelles in a necklace called “Only God Is Perfect.”

My favorite crystals are the Aurora Borealis (another name for the Northern Lights, which I’ve been lucky enough to see in the Northwoods of Wisconsin). Aurora Borealis crystals came about in 1956. According to the Swarovski history, in this innovative process, crystals are coated with an almost imperceptible layer of metal, giving them a rainbow sparkle. Manfred Swarovski, Daniel’s grandson worked with Christian Dior to perfect this process.

Check out all my designs, many of which feature Swarovski Crystals at The Shop at Sandy Point Resort. FREE SHIPPING through the holidays.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hill Tribe Silver

Hill Tribe Silver is made by the Karen Tribe in northern Thailand. This fine silver is 97.5-99% genuine, which is a higher silver content than sterling silver (92.5%). It’s therefore easy to bend and shape into forms. Oxidation, hammer marks, and slight design variances are part of the allure of these distinctive pieces. They can be worn often and will not tarnish as quickly as sterling.

There are six principal tribes in Thailand and they are the best known of the Hill Tribes. While the street life of Bangkok has changed and grown to include expensive cars, department stores and condominiums, life in the more remote hill tribe villages hasn’t changed for centuries.

The geographic area lies between the upper reaches of The Yangtze, Mekong and Salween Rivers. This is known as the Golden Triangle. The hill country reaches to and around the borders of Burma, China, Laos and Thailand. Roads are in poor condition and the main form of travel is by trail. The Karen Tribe arrived from the west, across the lower Salween River in Burma.

Until recently, Thailand was the only country in which it was possible for travelers to visit hill tribe villages, and is still the only country without travel restrictions.

Most Karen Hill Tribe Silver goes through an oxidation process. This causes the silver items to turn black. The silver is then polished leaving the black coloring only in the grooves. This allows tiny details and patterns to stand out. White Karen Hill Tribe Silver is a silver item that has not gone through the oxidation process before final polishing. As silver is the whitest of all metals, the item appears to be pure white.

Dream Life Designs’ Fine Silver Line includes Hill Tribe Silver pendants and toggle clasps, and incorporates, sterling, copper, Swarovski crystals, gemstones and Swarovski crystals. Each piece is one-of-a-kind. Check them out at They are available now with FREE SHIPPING through the holidays.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Peso Finds a New Casa

I may have had the PESO for two years? Help me, girls, to remember how long it's been since a weekend in Mexico had a group of six women tossing around a peso every time a bad joke escaped our lips. Wait, were they "bad" jokes or merely tasteless? (I can't remember that either). I do remember they were darn clever and I had the last one of the weekend so I got to keep the peso.

Well, last night I brought the peso to the party in my back pocket, and I willingly gave it up to the better pool players. Just before the stroke of midnight, the new recipient sunk exactly the right ball to deserve peso ownership.

Way to get behind that eight-ball, Beav. Love ya! Now take care of our precious peso. It's worth a hellofa lot!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Desert Dwelling

I saw a snowman on TV this morning. Looks like the rest of the country is having an early winter. Meanwhile, we desert dwellers are still sweating. The thermometer outside my kitchen window reads 98° at 2:00pm . . . and, mind you, it’s in the shade. It appears in the two months since we’ve been back from the Northwoods, we’re experiencing the summer we didn’t have. Whew.

Another thing I saw when looking out my kitchen window, which was probably the opposite of a snowman, was a roadrunner. We see (and hear) coyotes everyday but roadrunners are little bit more elusive. And I don’t think I’ve ever had one bouncing around my garden. Yesterday we saw a bobcat and last week we had a rattlesnake in the guesthouse and two black widows under the ramada. All we need is a tarantula on our doorstep and we will have batted for the cycle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Birthday To My Irish Twin

On October 13 each year, my sister, Gayle, catches up to me. She walks beside me, equal in age for two weeks. It’s a time when we are reminded that we have always led parallel lives. But have our lives turned out the same? It’s a question I’m exploring by using our history as the basis for two fictional characters, sisters named Jennifer (Jenny) and Catherine (Caylie).

When I first began writing a novel I’m calling “Irish Twins,” it was hard to separate Jenny and Caylie from Gayle and Michele; however, somewhere around chapter seven or eight, I finally had a clear distinction in my head. I had taken so many liberties and had as much “untrue” stuff in there as “true,” that the book took a satisfactory turn from memoir to fiction. BTW: It’s an oxymoronic event when fictional characters become “real.”

Readers often suspect authors of writing autobiographical material and I make no excuses about pulling detail from my life and masquerading it as fiction. After all, I come from the school of “write what you know.” But after what started out as a comfortable stroll down memory lane, it soon felt like running the risk of offending the truth. I, for example, didn’t want my sister to come after me and say something like, “wait a minute! I never said or did that!”

It’s gonna happen. I’m sure of it. And my planned response to my sister is, “I know you didn’t do that. Caylie did it.” Let it be known that at this point, I don’t even know what either character is going to do move the plot forward. That’s part of what makes the process fun for me.

Gayle hasn’t given me any rules where this story is concerned; however, she did make one request: “Can you make sure that ‘my’ character ends up extremely successful and very rich?”

If I could write prophetic rather than reflective fiction, how successful would that make me? Perhaps I should give some thought to walking a parallel road with Caylie. In the meantime, I’d like to wish my dear sister, Gayle, the happiest of birthdays. And honey, my hope for you has always been that all your wishes come true.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Jewelry Store is Open

PLEASE NOTE: The necklace featured in the photo above HAS sold.

I have been feverishly creating new designs in the Dream Life jewelry store. Inspired by some beautiful new silver pieces, I have created a new line of Fine Silver. Please take a moment to check out our online store I try to upload photos and descriptions daily. Start thinking about your holiday shopping!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Shrugging It Off

I have the overwhelming desire to turn a cartwheel, to celebrate the completion of the chore of reading Atlas Shrugged. And there’s no mistaking it. Reading this 1168 page tome was a CHORE.

Why did I take it on? Number one: It was the October selection for my book club, a group of women I cherish. Number two: It’s been on my bookshelf gathering dust since 1992. (Do the math. That’s 17 years).

So, it took me 17 years to think about reading this monumental piece of literature, and six weeks to plow through it. Until yesterday, it took over my life.


Perhaps slightly changed by reading this rich story of American industrialists in a capitalism vs. communism struggle, regardless, I want my life back—my productive, happy life. Because I had both the hardbound version and the audio version, the story and the characters rarely left me. The good news is that I didn’t just sit on my arse and read. While listening, I was a productive member of society and created an entire jewelry line using precious metals and copper. I’m not sure, however, if it would have earned me an invitation to “Galt’s Gulch” (Rand’s version of Atlantis). In fact, I had a hard time sorting through all the larger-than-life characters to find someone to whom I could relate.

The heroes are all, perhaps, too perfect and the “looters” are all too pathetic. Dagny Taggert is a brilliant and beautiful engineer who runs a railroad. One of her many lovers is Hank Rearden, who creates a new, industry-changing metal. Another is Francisco d’Anconia, of the d’Anconia Copper family. And then, of course, there’s the most significant character of all, about whom we are asked from beginning and throughout the story, “Who is John Galt?” The king of the pathetic looters is James Taggert, Dagny’s moronic brother, who is one among a host of government-directed 'officials' who systematically take steps to destroy the country by imposing and acting upon a series of directives/acts.

The story is fascinating and the characters are incredibly well drawn, albeit highly unlikeable. First published in 1959, some aspects are dated, and yet, current political and governmental activities, particularly relating to corporate bailouts and economic stimulus plans, make Atlas Shrugged eerily prophetic and certainly worth discussing in intellectual circles.

Its biggest detriment is the length. Characters don’t dialog. Instead, they engage in proselytizing speeches that go on and on and on and on and on to the point of mind-numbing repetition. I think Rand could have easily gotten the same message/information/story across in half the number of pages.


Now that I’m finished I don’t regret the reading experience. As a writer, I can’t help but admire Rand’s accomplishment and her amazing focus. I could take a page from her book—so-to-speak—and get back to writing my own novel. So, I will therefore close Atlas Shrugged once and for all (I don’t anticipate reading it again) and before I get back to work, I will contemplate my role in society and what I have to offer.

First things first: Should I name the new jewelry line “Rearden Metals?” How about “Michele Shrugged?”

Whatever. Who is John Galt?

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Running with an iPod

If I had started running with an iPod sooner, I’d be in much better shape right now. 

I’ve always been an athlete and have spent a good portion of my life working out to various degrees, but shortly after the birth of our second child and my retirement from professional disc golf and competitive volleyball, working out became more of a chore than something to enjoy. (And I’ve got twenty pounds on me to prove it.)

But the chore of working out has once again become a source of enjoyment. And it’s all because of the music.

The girls and I got Mike an iPod for Father’s Day, which was about the time when he doubled the length of his daily run. First he ran with me, where we discussed and solved all the family and business problems facing us. We used this time to chat and enjoy one another’s company. But soon he needed more of that runner’s high, and as I hit the shower, he veered off for several more miles. An iPod seemed in order.

On the first day of iPod running, he had the memory filled with ten thousand Grateful Dead tunes and shaked his way all the way down the street, getting off on that special high. Six weeks later, when he couldn’t join me for our morning workout because of a project at the resort, I borrowed his iPod. A week later, he and the girls bought one for me.

And it wasn’t even Mother’s Day.

I do have a few Grateful Dead favorites on my play list, and even a few of Willow’s hip-hop and/or rap tunes; but my iPod overwhelmingly carries songs that make my daily running in this hot flippin’ desert not about the work out, but instead, about the music. To name a few artists, I’ve got Neil Young, Eric Clapton, The Band, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Phoebe Snow, Chris Isaak, Sting, and perhaps the most uplifting, Gloria Estefan, who covers a lot of standards on her album, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me.” These songs make me want to throw out my arms and sing while I run. And sometimes I do. But only when I believe no one is watching.

So if you happen to see what appears to be a nutty old lady running down the road, or heaven forbid hear her singing “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me!” please don’t call for the men in the white coats. She may be a little carried away with that so-called runner’s high, but really, she’s just enjoying the music playing in her head.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009


“What’s the homework situation?” 

This is the first question I ask my girls everyday after school.

Is it just my kids or has the second half of the first quarter led all teachers to pile on the homework? During the past week, both our seventh grader and our freshman have spent every “free” moment at home stationed at their desks.

The freshman has about two hours of algebra per night, which is most likely because it’s a class with the lofty title, Honors Algebra II. She also has lots of work for her GATE classes, but I think she knew what she was getting into when she chose that program. That she runs x-country and plays club soccer, her lack of actual free time makes me amazed that she finds time to update all her Facebook friends on nearly every move she makes. BTW: since I inevitably reach REM sleep before she calls it a night, it’s fun to wake up in the morning and check out what she was up to the night before. It’s become more interesting than my email.

The seventh grader has had abundant homework in nearly every class but PE. After volleyball she heads straight to her desk and has been up past 10pm for the past several nights diligently working through her assignments. And this is a kid that almost always turns into a pumpkin at eight o’clock. Welcome to junior high.

Thankfully neither has had a meltdown yet, and both have been rewarded with good grades, along with praise and congratulations from their dad and me. I can say with absolute certainty that my parents weren’t even one-tenth as interested in my progress in school as I am in what’s happening with our girls’ education.

And yet I turned out okay.

So, I wonder, is my involvement with my kids’ progress in school a good thing? What’s more important—that they self-motivate to learn and please themselves or that they know I’m looking over their shoulders—both at their desks and by way of the Internet daily grade books?

Boy-oh-boy, it’s only the first quarter and I’ve already had enough of my recurring class in Mommy Micromanagement. Perhaps it’s time to get back to my own work. (If only I could remember how to self-motivate !) I seem to recall having written eight chapters of a new novel, which I had to set aside in May to help run the family business. Well, I’m away from the business now, having left it in the hands of a capable employee. So WTF am I doing?

Note to my own managers—you know who you are—I think I need a “mommy.”

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Boob Sweat and a Bowl of Rice

The other day, Beaver and I met for our morning work out. We usually switch between neighborhoods, hers’ being the groomed and mine being the rustic. Either way, according to her pedometer it’s a four- mile stretch. And at this time of year when the mercury climbs to 90° by eight am, it’s a sweaty adventure.

Anyway, last Friday when we closed the front door behind us, I noticed the Beaver had stored her cell phone in her sports bra and thought it a convenient pocket. I don’t usually carry my phone at this time of day, and because my iPod has a snappy little clip, I never even considered that my running shorts and shirts are pocket free. Nevertheless, when we again met on Monday, I was expecting two important phone calls: one from my husband on the road and the other from one of my oldest and dearest friends, whose daughter had just been hit by a car while on her bike.* (The driver was talking on her cell phone.) Because I didn't want to miss these calls, I used Beaver’s method and tucked my phone in my sports bra.

Big Mistake. After the workout when I pulled my phone from my sweaty bra pocket, the screen was black.


You’d think I’d know by now how sensitive electronics are to moisture. This past summer I witnessed both my sister’s and my daughter’s phones plunge from their pockets into the lake and immediately go dead. “Put it in the oven,” was one piece of advice. “Use the compressor to dry it out,” was another. After twenty-four hours of drying out, the good news is that both of their phones came back to life.

Upon learning of the murder by boob sweat attempt on the life of my phone, both Beaver and our friend, Julie, a cyclist, suggested the best ICU was to lay it in a bowl of rice. Since I’ve seen many a saltshaker in tropical climates filled with grains of rice mixed with the salt (in order to prevent coagulation), this suggestion made sense to me. So, I gave it a shot.

This morning, when I removed the phone from the rice and put it back together, it appeared to be back in working condition. The screen came up and the contacts were not lost. Then I plugged it into the charger, grabbed my iPod and went for another run.

When I came back, sure to wipe away the sweat pouring off my body before touching the phone, I found the screen had once again gone black. I can make and receive calls, but it appears the boob sweat has caused some serious brain damage. 

Damn! Why did I store that phone in my bra? I wondered, how could it not be a problem for the Beaver but be a BIG one for me? Perhaps it’s because of our difference in size. 


"The moral of the story," said the Beaver to her big-breasted friend, "is that when it comes to anything to do with bras, never take advice from an A-cup.”

* My friend’s nine-year-old daughter is still in the hospital with two fractured ribs, a lacerated liver, scratches to the face and one pupil remains larger than the other, causing some blurred vision. Five days after the accident her prognosis is good, and she will most likely be released by tomorrow. Unfortunately, it’ll be quite a while before she—and especially her mother—recover from the trauma.

Bottom line: DON’T RUN, WALK, or especially DRIVE and use your cell phone.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

So, Do You Think They’ll Let Us See It?

The front page of this morning’s Arizona Daily Star has a headline reading, “Obama school speech apolitical, text shows.” I read the brief article to my daughter, which is essentially a review of the President’s address to school children slated for 9:00am this morning.

The White House published a transcript of the speech with the intent (and hope) of neutralizing critics fearing his attempt to indoctrinate our children with his political agenda. The transcript confirms that Obama “will do what American Presidents have done before—urge students to work hard, stay in school and follow their dreams.”

After hearing the article, my 12-year old innocently asked, “So, do you think they’ll let us see it?”

I’m afraid not. And if her teachers don’t even discuss it—if it’s NOT a part of their curriculum—than it will be another missed opportunity.

I’m going to hope for the best, and out of respect, give them a chance to do their jobs the best way they see fit. Meanwhile, I think we, as American citizens, should have as much respect for our elected President.

Let him do his job.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

To Any Parent Who Phoned the School or Wrote to a Teacher Protesting Obama’s Upcoming Speech to School Children:

Do you truly believe our President has the ability or the agenda to “brainwash” American students through an Internet broadcast on the topic of education? Do you know he is not the first President to speak specifically to school-aged children? Did you (or your parents) protest when Ronald Reagan or Bush 41 did it?

Your complaints about our elected President trying to involve our children in the democratic process and encourage them to value education are alarmingly ignorant, culturally biased, and insulting. Because of your numbers and your threats to teachers and administrators, all you’ve managed to do is teach MY children about the unproductive and hateful nature of partisan politics. We had ENOUGH of that during the Clinton administration.

There needs to be a new War in this country and that is a War on Partisan Politics. STOP THE MADNESS!

I wonder, is it the conservative talk show hosts that prompted your actions or seeded your opinions? Talk about propaganda! (Have your child look up the word “propaganda” in the dictionary because clearly, YOU don’t know the meaning.)

According to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in the September 8 speech “the President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.”

Scary stuff, eh? Good God!

Because of the controversy and the number of calls (on both sides of the issue) our school district (TVUSD) has stated on its website that it will remain “apolitical” and therefore has made no directive to stop teachers from broadcasting the speech. “If there would be reason to have this event be a legitimate part of a classroom curriculum, teachers will notify their principals no later than 9 a.m. Friday, September 4 and parents will be notified on Friday if their teacher will be using the address as part of their curriculum on Tuesday.” An Opt-Out form will also be available for parents who don’t want their children to participate, and these students will not suffer any academic of behavioral consequences.

The Junior High Principal followed with a message reading “no Emily Gray teachers will show the address on Tuesday, September 8. After the initial broadcast and after viewing the material, should teachers determine the broadcast to be of educational value in their curriculum, they will notify parents of their plan to show the broadcast.”

Well, I, as my daughters’ most important and consistent teacher, am going to view it and record it, and show it to them. Anyone, particularly an extremely intelligent and successful person—the product of the finest education America has to offer—who is willing and able to talk to my girls about the importance of their education, is welcome in our home. And he should be in our schools as well.

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