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November 30, 2007

Stop by and say hey on Sunday!

I didn't post this sooner because I though Sunday, December 2nd was still a week away, not this Sunday! But indeed it appears that December starts early this year, and Sunday, December 2nd is indeed THIS Sunday. Who knew!

So, come visit with me, chitchat and get a book signed this Sunday at 1 p.m. at:

Compatto Yarn Salon
2112 Wilshire Blvd.(between 21st & 22nd Streets)
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Phone: 310-453-2130


I'll be there and you can also meet Nancy from Compatto who comments here, too. I also plan on doing some shopping, mmmm... say it with me ... alpaca. We're just going to knit and hang out, so stop on by!

And I'll have to post my responses to your questions about writing tomorrow, or maybe late tonight, this week has been... chaotic to say the least and it's raining in Los Angeles today which means that my commute this morning was two hours and fifty minutes. Nice! However, I did get several inches completed on my first prototype of the one and only ever (yet) Christmas-themed knit thingamajig I am making. If this cruddy commute continues, I'll be done before December even arrives! Along as it's arriving later than I thought.... isn't it? Is it really DECEMBER already? So soon?

Posted by laurie at 10:07 AM

November 28, 2007

The Reincarnationist: An interview with author M.J. Rose

The Reincarnationist by bestselling author M.J. Rose is her ninth novel and the first in a new series.

While I was in Miami for the Miami Book Fair International, I had the opportunity to have dinner with author M.J. Rose. This was incredibly exciting for me because I had just finished her most recent book, The Reincarnationist, and I REALLY loved this book, so I asked her if she would mind being interviewed for this little website and she agreed! I was going to break this story into two pieces because it's long, what with all my editorializing and having to talk about my reading habits, but if you get exhausted you can come back tomorrow and finish it. Bring coffee. Or wine ...

First, a little background.

I got a copy of M.J.'s latest book almost three months ago and it kept sitting there on the top off the bookshelf in my bedroom, taunting me. I keep the books on my "soon-to-read" list right there by the door so that if I need one for the bus ride I can grab it and go. But for the past couple of months I've been so busy that reading has fallen way down on my list of things I have time for, and Lord have I missed books.

Reading is my very favorite past time and my oldest friend. I learned to read when I was very small, and I have always been a fast reader, someone who can get so involved in a story that hours pass (delicious when that happens) and real life seems full of stories just waiting to be told. We moved around a lot when I was little, sometimes two or three times a year, so I never had many real friends growing up. It's hard to make friends and just leave them again a few months later. So I had books as confidantes: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Betsy, Tacy and Tibb, and all of the Lloyd Alexander magical characters, and of course the Scholastic hits. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Go Ask Alice!! Sweet Valley High. Gone With The Wind. Anne of Green Gables.

I read everything I could get my hands on, and it drove my folks a little nutty the way I talked about Laura Ingalls like she was MY sister, or the way I knew all about the entire life of Anne Frank but couldn't seem to remember things such as "pick your shoes up off the floor." I took a book with my everywhere -- I would read in the car, at the dinnertable if no one was looking, at the laundromat. You could just escape into a good story, it made everything in the real world seem a little softer around the edges, as if your dusty little smalltown life could be magical too if you just believed in storytelling enough. I believed. I have always loved books, even the smell of them makes me happy.

Also, I am not a book snob, I've always been an equal opportunity reader. I did go through the highbrow "I read nothing but classics and cutting-edge literature" phase (coupled with my highly aromatic Patchouli phase, alas, gasp.) I even remember once -- before a date with an adjunct History professor who I was TOTALLY IN LOVE WITH OHMYGOD -- I actually hid my copy of Wifey behind a strategically placed Henry Miller. If that isn't pie-pan-shallow trying to be deep I don't know what is.

Anyway, aside from that ill-fated and smelly phase I've always enjoyed books just for their appeal at the moment, and I've never cared much if they fall into some category or not. I read children's books and history pieces and paperbacks (LOVE my Sidney Sheldons and Michael Chrichtons!) and I like cookbooks, Henry James and anything first-person, especially from the European front of WWII. I am a nerd. I also like chick lit and lit-lit and feng shui manuals and self-help guides and biographies.

I go through phases, if a particular author gets me going I'll read everything he or she has written, or if a subject sticks with me I go through the aisles of the library combing for more information (I am a magnificently dorky history nerd. If I ever went back to school, I'd do it just to learn more history.)

But sometimes life gets so freaking hectic and busy and all the sudden reading a whole book -- a hardcover, even! -- feels impossibly decadent. I would reach for M.J. Rose's thick hardback book and suddenly the litany started: I should be writing emails, sending off packages, cleaning the house, visiting grandma, finishing up that powerpoint for work, returning phone calls. On and on. The idea of grabbing a novel and spending an afternoon reading it in bed or on the sofa or sprawled on a chaise lounge in the back yard, or propped up against the pillows as the cats snuggle around your legs ... it all seems as realistic as marrying George Clooney. Like that's gonna happen.

The happiest thing about traveling for the book tour, however, was that during all that time spent waiting in airports and sitting on airplanes it was simply impossible to clean the house, work on presentations or go to the mailbox. You just sit.

And read.

And read!

My Review of the The Reincarnationist

I'll be brief here:


It's fun! It moves quickly, it's a top-notch page-turning thriller and best of all I just escaped right into it. This book was exactly what I needed at the time. I had been stressed out, exhausted and scared of being able to make it through what would become the busiest time of my entire life. So I carried M.J. Rose with me those first few weeks, grabbing a chapter here, a chapter there, and finally finishing in Peoria, on an airplane, where I turned to the person next to me, shut the book with a sense of authority, looked her right in the eye and announced, "YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK."

If you like romancy-adventure-escapist-mystical-adventure-thriller-historical books, this one is for you. Lots of folks have compared it to the DaVinci Code and it is kind of like that book in the sense that it moves quickly, takes place both in modern times and in the past, and sort-of-kind-of involves theology. But this book also is about reincarnation and at its center is a believable character who makes the topic seem more accessible. And as far as books go it gets one of my highest compliments: it's a can't-put-it-down book! It's just fun. You're not plowing through it, wondering when the chapter ends if you can make it through another. You finish a chapter and wonder if you have enough time before the plane boards to read another chapter...

Also, it immediately made me want to phone Astrologer Phyllis and find out if I had any past lives. Not that I am crazy, much.

The Interview

From L-R: Kim Weiss, boobs, amazing author M.J. Rose.

M.J. Rose and my publicist Kim are friends and so I'd like to thank them both for allowing me to ramble on and on at the restaurant over The Reincarnationist. And most of exciting of all... I also learned that this book is the beginning of a whole series of books on this subject! I tried very hard to get M.J. soused so I could learn all the secrets but that woman can hold her alcohol.

And now that I have written a whole book and I know exactly how hard it is to come up with a storyline that doesn't sag I was that much more excited to be able to pick her brain and see how a best-selling author many times over dreams up her stories, fills them in, and how she decides on just the right ending.

- - -

Me: When I read the book, I felt like so much of it was part of Rome, the history and city. What came first, an interest in ancient Rome and ancient history or an interest in Reincarnation?

M.J. Rose: I'm not interested in Roman history at all. [Ed. Note: I gasped aloud. In the restaurant. Because she had written the Rome scenes so well!--laurie]

I mean, it's not that I'm not interested in Rome, I just don't have a particular thing for it, you know? I've always been fascinated with the idea of reincarnation, though. When I came up with the idea for the story and started writing the book, I just knew it had to take place in Rome.

Me: How did you know?

M.J. Rose: I don't know.There's something magically weird about writing fiction. I'll have an idea, and I usually start with a "What if...?" For example, what if a guy, a normal rational guy who didn't believe in reincarnation started having flashbacks that only could be reincarnation memories?

So then I spent about three months making this scrapbook... for this person.

Me: For the main character of the book, Josh?

M.J. Rose: Yes. And I created this scrapbook for him. What is he like? What would he wear? where does he go? And I included theater tickets and birthday cards and all sorts of things. What happened to him when he was two years old? And who was his father? And what was his mother like? And I created all this to make him come to life. And as it turns out, I finally realized it was... well, it was three months or more of procrastination. [Ed. note: we started laughing, me maybe louder than is required, because DO I KNOW ABOUT PROCRASTINATION. Yet my procrastination efforts were never that productive. I made note of her methods for future procrastination needs.]

Me: Wow, you really did some character development...

M.J. Rose: Well, what happens during that time is that the person comes to life and their story starts building unconsciously in my head. So by the time I'm ready -- however long that is -- I just know the story.

I go swimming in the mornings and while I swim, I think about the character. And for me, there's just something about water... for coming up for ideas. [Ed. note: I am the same way, except for me it's the shower. I get all my best ideas in the shower. Sometimes when I'm in desperate need of a good idea, I spend half the day showering...]

M.J. Rose:And while I'm swimming I kind of feel like I'm in an altered state -- not a weird altered state -- just thinking, and so to answer your question, How did I know it was Rome? I don't have the memory of exactly how I knew it, or when exactly I decided it ... it just evolves. The whole story evolves each day, and it evolved that he was a Roman priest and she was a Vestal Virgin. And so I had to do Rome.

Me: One of the reasons I'm so excited about The Reincarnationist is that it's so well done, it's a fun and escapist adventure book but at the same time it's got all this historical plot going on, and it doesn't get messy. And now that I have written a whole book, I finally understand how incredibly hard it is to make a story come together. To write the story accurately did you have to do a lot of research?

M.J. Rose: Yes, definitely. I had over 1500 pages of research. Luckily I had been to Rome three or four times, so it wasn't as if I were writing a bout a place I had never seen, ever, that would have been far more difficult. Usually a book takes a couple of weeks of research, but this book required so much -- I had never written anything that required that amount of research before. It took almost two years to write and research it.

Me: One of the things I thought was so great about Josh is that here's this character having these experiences of reincarnation memories, and yet he doesn't even believe in reincarnation! Was that part of the plan, to ease the reader into the story?

M.J. Rose: This is a series, and I really wanted to do the books right, so I figured I'd start with someone who didn't believe in reincarnation. See it through his eyes. Initially, I started with another idea for this book, involving a completely different character but it just wasn't working, so Josh is this other character, just reinvented.

Me: So is there a secret past-life regression society like the one that exists in the book?

M.J. Rose: No, nothing like that, nothing secret and so on, but for thirty years there was a man named Ian Stevenson who devoted his life to studying past-life regression in children and it was all very above-board. He died this past summer and another man named Jim Tucker has taken over the place.

Me: Did you ever have a past-life memory? Or an experience that made you so interested in the subject of reincarnation.

M.J. Rose: When I was a kid we were having dinner and my great grandfather who had come over from Russia was there, we were all around the table. I must have been around three years old at the time and while we were at dinner and I said, "Remember that time we broke all the windows..." and everyone became very quiet. And I would apparently tell him things, and before long the family became convinced I was reincarnated. And of course, being Jewish this was a problem for so many of my family. But my mother, she was a very interesting woman, she began to do research and found there was a long history of reincarnation stories in Jewish mystical writing. She sort of made it a family joke, we'd be talking about something that happened in the past and she would laugh and say, "Oh you were probably there..."

Me: When did you first start thinking about writing a story of reincarnation?

M.J. Rose: I was writing a screenplay, this was years ago, and it involved reincarnation. So I went to a past-life regression specialist.

Me: Ooooh! Really?

M.J. Rose: Yes, but I was never anyone famous. (laughs)

Me: Without giving away the ending... did you know how the book was going to end before you got to the ending?

M.J. Rose:I had written an ending -- a different ending -- [Ed. note-- HAH HAH! Suckers! She told me the alternate ending! I feel very in the know. Alas, I can tell no one.] and I gave the book to a friend of mine to read, and she said to me, "M.J., I think you have an ending here but you don't want to see it..." and she was right. So I did change the ending to what it is now, and it was the right ending all along.

Me: So how many books are in the series? And will we see some of the same characters again? Are you already working on the second book?

M.J. Rose: I'm almost finished with the second book, it takes place in Vienna.

Right now I know that there are three books at least, but there could be twelve in the series. As far as the characters go, I've done something a little different .... this series focuses on the Memory Tools, and rather than follow one character or a set of characters around, each book focuses on a new memory tool that gets discovered. There are new characters who have new adventures, each one connected to a different tool that helps in remembering past lives.

Me: And the next book is set in Vienna? Will Gabriella be there? Malachai?

M.J. Rose: Some of the same characters may weave into the storyline (laughs) ... are you trying to get the ending out of me?

Me: Yes. Definitely.

M.J. Rose: Well, turn the recorder off...

- - - - -

After that I ordered her another Mojito, but she really can hold her liquor, unlike some people who shall not be named but can be heard on the tape saying things such as, "I love coconut cake! I had more questions but hi, waitress, can I have another beer, and don't ya'll love coconut cake? Is this the best cake blah blah blah..."


You can catch up with M.J. Rose on her website, and if you're interested in the subject matter of past-life experiences you can join in on the discussion on a blog she's created just for the topic. You can find The Reincarnationist at Amazon.com and on shelves at most bookstores.

Thank you, M.J. You were so gracious and I appreciate your time and I cannot wait for the next book!

Posted by laurie at 11:22 AM

November 26, 2007

A week of writing...

On Saturday morning I got up at dawn and fed the cats, packed a bag and drove out to Palm Springs to spend one last weekend with my folks before they leave California and get back on the road for more adventures. We had the best time just hanging out, they were staying in a beautiful RV park that used to be a date grove and the huge palm trees looked prettiest right at sunset:


They taught me how to play this card game called Thirty-One and I am proud to say I beat the pants off 'em. It was a great, perfect day and night and I needed that break more than I can tell you.

I shall take all your quarters because I am a card shark!

When I got home yesterday I had a day of just quiet and stillness, the first one in months. And of course the only thing I wanted to do was get a pen and start scribbling away, and later I got out my laptop and just started typing. God how I miss just banging away at the keyboard in my three-fingered typing frenzy, it's almost like there is a direct line between the emotional center of my brain and my fingers, I don't know if that's normal. I feel all cloudy and chaotic inside until I can get it out of me, in words, either longhand or typing.

I prefer a clackety, loud keyboard, too. That used to drive Mr. X a little crazy. I think of him less and less these days ... even though strangely enough at book readings I would realize with a little shiver of terror that I was reading aloud in front of people about the very night my husband told me he no longer wanted anything to do with me. I had chosen to read the first chapter because that is where the story begins, and also in case people hadn't read any of the book yet I didn't want to spoil it. After a while I started reading a different piece, just for fun, but even having to re-read that same part of my life again and again it wasn't like re-living it. You just close the book and take a deep breath and you're back to being you, and you're standing there! It's weird and strangely exhilarating, too.

And so it's weird to remember something so dumb, like the way my loud typing was annoying to someone.

But either way I guess I am a loud typist. And a terrible one at that. People at work are always amazed that such fast typing can come from three fingers plus one thumb on the space bar! I love the way I type, it works for me, but it does cause people to pause when they see me.

I don't talk about writing much. I just do it, all the time, always have. Even before all this b-o-o-k stuff, I got a lot of emails from folks asking about writing. How do you decide what to write about? Do you ever decide not to publish things to the public? Do you self-edit? When do you write? Do you make yourself write each morning, evening? Do you have a schedule? And most of all, my God how are you so wordy?

I've ducked and dodged as many of these questions as I can without seeming too rude. I was always a little shy or scared to address any of them mainly because I'm no expert. I'm not someone who went to a fancy school or got a PhD or a Master's in Literature, and I still get emails on a daily basis informing me that I need to spellcheck and also y'all NOT ya'll, dammit ("I have emailed you already about this heinous error in your writing... the correct spelling of that contraction is Y'ALL, I will have you know I am no longer reading your blog until you correct the error...")

And because I'm a little knucklehead, I wouldn't change the spelling on this website if you paid me. Pure ornery, that's what I am.

But I've been thinking a lot about writing lately, in a good way, and missing it. And tomorrow I'm going to be posting the first part of my interview with writer M. J. Rose. I had the incredible experience of being able to quiz her about her latest book and about writing, too, while we were both in Miami for the Book Fair International. I'll post part two of that interview on Wednesday because yes, I am wordy, and I like to interject my own opinions into interviews (which as you may already know makes one a terrible, bad reporter.) (But funny, nonetheless!)

It wasn't until I found myself eagerly quizzing M.J. about all sorts of writing technique stuff that I realized maybe there was a good reason to answer your questions if I could. (Even though truth be told I do cringe at anything that seems even the smallest bit pretentious, such as "Talking About Writing." Yikes.) But I loved talking to M.J., she got me so excited about one day being able to write fiction ... I don't feel like I'm ready yet, but someday. Someday. And I am living proof that you do not have to be an expert anything to love something all the way through and make good on it. Plus, I am not someone who was able to take a year off and ponder my navel and then achieve my lifelong goal. Just like most folks, I have a full-time job and life and laundry and still know that if you love a thing you make time for it.

So if you do have any burning questions about writing and all that stuff, you can post them in the comments here and I will do my best to answer what I can. Not as an expert, not as some great, well-trained and fabuloso bestseller or any of that, just as a person who is still learning this weird business who also loves to write. I decided to do this because if there is anything at all I have learned that can help you even the teetiniest bit or make you excited about your own writing, well. I would love to be able to give it to you, even if it's small. Even if I am a notorious comma splicer.

I'll keep the comments here open until Thursday. I don't know if it will be useful or helpy at all, but if it's not we'll just make jokes about it later! And then I will take all your quarters at cards, because I am a card shark at Thirty-One. Especially when you add wine.

Posted by laurie at 10:11 AM

November 23, 2007

My pants are tight

Thanksgiving was great!

It started out a little rocky, something icky happened Wednesday before I got on the road so I was all emotional and dorky, then traffic was CRAZY and then this guy tried to kill me and a bunch of other people on the 5 Freeway with his whacked out drunk driving:


Can you tell in the picture he is giving me the finger? Yes, he nearly caused a sixteen-car-pileup and HE is giving ME a gesture. Awesome!

Normally I just laugh at bad drivers, or give them scabies with my mind powers. But this guy was horribly dangerous, weaving in and out of nearly stopped traffic and driving on the shoulder, so I called 911 just like all the signs say to report a drunk driver. He had to be drunk, no one can possibly be that stupid while sober!

Unfortunately, they kept me on hold waiting for an operator for over 20 minutes and by then I had to exit the parking lot ("freeway") and since I have a stick shift, unless I am in park ("again, "freeway") it's not safe to drive and hold a phone. So I had to hang up. Also, isn't it reassuring to know 911 will keep you on hold for 20 minutes? But I have photographic evidence of the bad guy, and that is somehow comforting.

By the time I got to Orange County I needed a drink and some carbs, STAT. In case no one else was ready with food, I brought all the traditional Thanksgiving necessities:


I brought the traditional Thanksgiving goldfish crackers, an assortment of traditional pickles, the festive holiday WINE, the traditional Boston baked beans. And of course the feasting of Star magazine.


Grandma, you are so awesome! Happy Thanksgiving!


My mom and I having a laugh. We had the best time!


Me neck-hugging my dad, I missed you so much.

Seeing my family is the best for so many reasons. For one thing they don't think my germ weirdness is weird at all. Also, they get my jokes (we tend to all have the same sense of humor.) What is not shared by the whole family, however, is the ability to cook. I myself have not had a working oven since November of 2005. Has it deterred me? Nosiree. I generally make elaborate meals such as "salad from a bag" and "potato baked in microwave."

But my dad is what you would call a gourmet amazing cook. He can make any four ingredients into some kind of delicious out-of-this-world meal. (My brothers also got this gene, me ... not so much.) My father also travels with his master tools ... much like a doctor travels with his doctor bag, my father travels with a bag of spices and cooking essentials.




The man travels with gumbo file. How can you not love him? How do you expect me to fit in my jeans when food that good is being made???

We had a big Thanksgiving meal of enchiladas, rice, chili and beans. I even learned how to make enchiladas, under my dad's supervision of course!



That pan where I am lifting the tin foil is the pan I made! They were the best tasting enchiladas, I am sure of it.

And because I am spoiled rotten, and because my dad makes THE best cornbread dressing on the planet and it's my favorite food, he made me a whole turkey and a whole pan of dressing to take home, which is what I plan to eat for every meal from now until you have to roll me off the sofa and force me onto a treadmill. I loved Thanksgiving, best day ever. I had to change into my pajama pants for the drive home because my jeans did not fit, and that is a sign of an excellent day.

Hope you all had an awesome Thanksgiving! Oh, and don't forget to enter the sweepstakes, winners are chosen each day to receive a book and some other crazy thing such a a signed lint roller or some such. The lady who was the mastermind of the sweepstakes is hilarious, I can't wait for you to meet her if you win the grand prize. Also check out the updated list of winners here. And some people said the link to the rules was broken and since I do not have any control over the sweepstakes, I cannot fix it. As a control enthusiast, you know this makes me insane. But here is a link to the rules, too. Yes, with yet even another weird scrunchy forehead video. Obviously the camera not only adds pounds, it adds ... scrunchies.

Have a great weekend and see you Monday!

Posted by laurie at 12:31 PM

November 21, 2007

Thank you!

Hi ya'll! I won't be online at all tomorrow -- Grandma has no innernets you know. But I have been thinking all day of the many things I am unbelievably thankful for -- and I have to say, it's pretty great to have a single day of the year where you eat yourself into a new pants size and think through all the true things that you are blessed with.

There's my whole big crazy, lovely family. My friends, oh my friends. My cozy herd of felines. Enough food on the table, a roof over my head, cute shoes. Bras with padding. A year in my life that has no match in any way, unbelievable.

And I'm thankful for you, each and every person who has given me a little kindness, each person who has made me laugh, made me think, just said hey on a stressful day. Those hugs, when we met in person -- thank you for that. I never in a million years imagined I would be able to connect with other people like this, I'm so awkward sometimes in real life and introverted and goofy. And shiny. You know? But somehow in words, on paper, it makes sense. It worked, it connected us. If someone would have told me a few years ago that I would "know" more people online than I do in real life, and feel infinitely happy to know them, I would have shown them the door. I would never have believed such a thing was possible. I have learned to believe in the unthinkable.

I thank you for your time, for checking in on your busy days, for reading over coffee, or with a cat on your lap, or a baby on your hip. Thank you for sharing your lives with me, too. Thank you so much.

And of course, thank you for cats in sweaters!

This image needs to be the cover of a movie. It is AMAZING. Thank you for sharing it Lindsey and Sax the Cat!

How did Lucy manage to get the cat to sit still for this? I would be in the hospital with cat scratch fever at this point...

I am so happy about the overwhelming nuttiness and response to the photo gallery, and I thank each an every one of you who participated.

Don't forget to enter the big time fancypants Book-Readin', Wine-Drinkin', Meet-Me-In-California Sweepstakes! There are winners each day (OK, a signed book and some, um, signed Cheetos! hee.) And already we have two winners! I was real up-front with the sponsors of this sweepstakes that they had to post the winners' names because I am Southern, and that makes us suspicious of sweepstakes with no winners' names POSTED CLEARLY for everyone and their uncle to see. (I do not know if being Southern is really any part of that at all, by the way, it could possibly just be my eccentricity but I choose to blame it on cultural upbringing, because I am all about blame. And winners!)

You can see the winners list here. Yes, there is yet another goofybutt video of some cracker yammering on. I know, I know. But what I don't know is why is my forehead so scrunchy? And why can't I talk normal without so many... expressions? Lord have mercy.

And thank you again, thank you. I owe every bit of this to you, who kept reading even when my forehead was weirdly scrunchy.

And thanks for not killing your owner in her sleep, man.
At least I think she's alive... right? yes?

Posted by laurie at 1:46 PM

November 19, 2007

Cats in sweaters, cats in hats, dogs in pants. The winners are announced! Plus: A new Sweepstakes!

Have you been waiting anxiously for photos of cats in sweaters, cats in hats, ferrets in sweaters, parrots in scarves and dogs in legwarmers? Oh! and let us not forget the children, chickens, rabbits and assorted household items wearing handknits, too!

It's the Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Sweater Sweepstakes Gallery!

This was possibly the most hard work and the most fun I have ever had combined! The cat sweater entries took about five years off my life to sort and upload into a gallery, but it is finally as complete as it ever will be and you can see the photo gallery here.

In fact, I got so deep into the cat sweater underworld that I started dreaming of these creations. Over the weekend I had this vivid, scary dream that the winner was getting a prize that somehow involved opening a new restaurant with Gordon Ramsay. You see, I have been watching episodes of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares to de-stress at night, with wine, after uploading cat sweater pictures for hours and hours and I somehow combined the two in a dream and I woke up and sat dead upright in bed, freaking out because I SO had not cleared that prize with the legal department and also, I do not know Gordon Ramsay. Shiite!

Then I realized it was just a dream. Then I realized I must have fallen asleep, which is good, since that is not something I have been doing a lot lately. Also, then I realized that possibly I am crazy.

However, if I am crazy I am in good company! I cannot help but wonder how much catnip and anti-bacterial medication and band-aids might have been involved in some of these photos. I have never seen such awesomeness, however! And I am happy to announce all three winners.... drumroll please...

The two winners of the random drawings for a book and a $100 gift certificate to SuperCrafty.com are:

Inky of Inkyknits.blogspot.com


Christine Landry at christinelandry.com


And now for the big BIG Grand Prize winner ... she'll receive a whole basket of goodies and a signed book and a $100 gift certificate to SuperCrafty.com ...



Eve in Texas, you are a winner.

Eve had this to say about her creation:

Cat needed a versatile sweater that could take her from her daytime napping duties into her more glamorous evening activities such as... ummm... napping. A small addition of marabou to the cuff and collar of this classic sweater gave her just the right look for all the upcoming holiday parties.

And the yarn has just the right amount of sparkle to catch the eye of that Tom who's been coming around lately.

Eve in Texas

The only thing really wrong with this sweepstakes is that I could not give out 40,000 prizes to all those who entered! Please keep in mind that if you do not see your entry photos, it was likely because any number of tragic things occurred to your email as gnomes hand-delivered it through the mysteries of the innernets OR the pictures were not attached. I got many many entries with no pictures attached!

I hate to admit it but I do that all the time at work. I'll write up a big huge very official email with tons of important details about the attachment(s) and forget to actually attach the attachment(s). Then I have to write a follow-up email that says, "Um, totally helps if I attach the very well-explained attachment! Whoopsy!"

I am very professional.

However, because this was MY sweepstakes, all entries (even the unreadable ones and the ones with no images) were eligible to win from the random drawings. Of course, the ones without images were not eligible for the gallery. If you do not see your image in the gallery, I apologize in advance. Please do not dispair, as we will have more opportunities in the future for dressing up our animals and I will make sure there is a more fool-proof entry form (ahem).

All winners are chosen at random by me and all winners are final. As you may recall, this sweepstakes was open to all people in the world. Including those with loose definitions of "cats" and "sweaters" and it was so much fun! The entries are amazing, I hope you will go look at them all, each photo has information about the project and the mastermind of said creation.

We had cats in amazing sweaters:


Cats in hats and sweaters:


Dogs in pants:


Parrots in scarves:


Children in cat sweaters:


And I am sure a good time was had by all.
Well, OK.
Maybe not by ALL:


I learned many many things from doing this fun little sweepstakes.

1) I like it when people win things.

2) Cats and dogs and animals in sweaters are funny.

3) Ya'll crack me up.

4) Spam is a problem that makes me want to never go onto the internet again. You cannot imagine the spam. It was so bad the server company's tech support team had to help me divide up all the inboxes. Yikes!

And I think if we decide to do this again next year, I should find some magical person to build me one of those database thingies so that you can upload your entries all on your own and then we'll close the sumbmissions and for two weeks the whole world gets to vote on your creations. And we should do a calendar, because this stuff is PRICELESS! Maybe all the proceeds could benefit a pet charity, like one who gives psychological counseling to the poor animals after said sweepstakes.

I could use a therapist now, mom.

And finally, the most important thing I learned is that I am clearly not staffed for such an endeavor (my three cats, sadly, are poor internet specialists) and for real big big sweepstakes... a real company who is (really) staffed and has people and money should run such an undertaking.

Which is exactly what is happening!!

That's right... a real, actual bonafide big-time super chi-chi sweepstakes is taking place. I'm not sponsoring it myself, either, which means you won't get any weird "My gnome ate my email entry" excuses, either.

So, without any more blabbering....

It's the Book-Readin', Wine-Drinkin', Meet-Me-In-California Sweepstakes!

Enter to win a fully paid trip for two to Los Angeles to meet me (sorry, Heidi Klum wasn't available, I'm her stand-in) (HAH HAH) and come to a book reading and get driven around in a fancy car and if you pass the background check, I will even hang out with you for a while! Maybe with wine!


One entry per person (per email address) per day. You can also get bonus entries in all sorts of crazy ways, just read through the site. As you can see from the um, design, I am not in charge of this sweepstakes. I am just the goon in the videos. I am trying to release my need to control all things designy at all times.

Oh yeah, and about the videos. Please be kind. It is not easy being me and the camera really does add fifty pounds and wrinkles. And weird facial expressions. And apparently I cannot talk without my hands.

But ya'll know what? I just love sweepstakes. I have never won a darn thing in my life, but just being associated with people who do win makes me happy. I hope you'll enjoy the Big Big Time Sweepstakes, it runs from now until December 21, 2007. And I hope it makes up for any cat sweaters that got lost in the mail. Or cats who are right now plotting my imminent death for dreaming up such a thing....


Posted by laurie at 1:48 PM

November 16, 2007

I am blinded by the cat sweaters...

Have you been anxiously awaiting images of animals in ponchos, hats and legwarmers?

Well, I wanted to post the winners today but I am still waiting on responses from two of the winners. I am not complaining, though ... it gives me time to finish the web photo gallery! And believe me, I need it. I am back to being a week and a half behind on my life. It is very fun. It makes it very exciting, such as when someone calls you for an interview and you are thinking we are still in October. Whoopsy!

But this sweepstakes we did is hee-larious. All I have to say is that the pets of the world did not go nekkid this autumn. OH NO THEY DID NOT.

We should make this an annual event, don't you think? And also I should clone myself in the future to make good on promised web showcase galleries on time. By the way, whether or not the winners respond back to me over the weekend, you'll see the whole entire gallery on Monday along with the list of selected winners (because I myself always want to know who wins things, especially since I have yet to win at the McDonald's Totally Rigged Monopoly Game) but wait -- I have even better news!

A real company with real money is actually sponsoring a new sweepstakes for readers of this here website in which you do not have to do any of the following:

• knit
• get attacked by your cat for forcing a sweater on his/her body and publicly humiliating him/her
• ditto for dogs
• also, for children
• and also birds and ferrets. Ya'll have got to see these entries, I mean really now.

For the Brand New Totally More Expensive Sweepstakes sponsored by Obviously Not Me, you do not in fact have to do anything at all but enter a sweepstakes form and the grand prize is so good I tried to rig it so that I can win, but alas. My unbroken losing streak shall remain unbroken. For now!

Full details on Monday. Oh, it's a doozy. You might even get to meet me... I am just suggesting is all...

Cat sweater optional!

Posted by laurie at 4:09 PM

November 15, 2007

On other people writing

When I was about 24 I decided to write a book and got about six pages in before I went off and made iced tea and never came back to it. A few years later I added a few pages and then again when I was about 28 or 29 I started something else altogether and got about eight chapters written before I set it aside. Maybe I got unfizzed on the idea, or the main character began to bug me, or I just couldn't figure out what to write about for all those many pages. Or maybe I was tired, or had to make dinner, or wanted to go shopping, or wanted to do anything but try to figure out how to write a whole long scary book on that particular day.

I always knew it would come together one day. I had no idea it would end up being about my own actual experience of coming unglued and eating Cheetos off my chest and knitting weird stuff with pom poms on it but hey, not complaining over here!

Anyway, prior to writing this thing I had NO FREAKING IDEA how much work goes into a book. I sort of thought that one day I would be inspired and write a whole book and that "one day" would occur in my vague and misty and awesome far-off future and between the Right Now and the far-off Future, I was pretty content to write in my diary and write essays and write articles that no one ever read and play with the sound of the words and experiment with horrible punny titles and get my comma splice on.

And of course, I read books. Which I believed made me an expert on books.

I've always been an equal opportunity reader. Well, I did go through the highbrow "I read nothing but classics and cutting-edge literature" phase (coupled with my highly aromatic Patchouli phase, alas, gasp.) I even remember once -- before a date with an adjunct History professor who I was TOTALLY IN LOVE WITH OHMYGOD -- I actually hid my copy of Wifey behind a strategically placed Henry Miller. If that isn't pie-pan-shallow trying to be deep I don't know what is.

Anyway, aside from that ill-fated and smelly phase I've always enjoyed books just for their appeal at the moment, and I've never cared much if they fall into some category or not. I read children's books and history pieces and paperbacks (LOVE my Sidney Sheldons and Michael Chrightons!) and I like cookbooks, Henry James and anything first-person, especially from the European front of WWII. I am a nerd. I also like chick lit and lit-lit and feng shui manuals and self-help guides and biographies.

But I never actually thought about the mechanics of getting a book together. It never dawned on me to think about method and writing schedules and editing and deadlines and structure and plot and all that stuff. It fell under the category of "shit I will figure out once I find a story that I need to tell that takes more than three pages to tell. Including descriptions of food." I just assumed that writing a book would be as easy as writing anything else, you just had to make more time for it and have a story that exceeded the length of a newspaper article.

I was so incredibly wrong. And also kind of right. But still, very wrong.

You do need to make time and just sit your butt down and type. But there's also an enormous amount of work that goes into a book. There's the contracts and proposals (if you go that route) and meetings and the actual writing and deadlines and edits and turn-around edits and (if you are me and have no idea what the hell you're doing) there are more edits and "Why is this book as long as the encyclopedia?" and then there are covers and art and bios and press and publicists and advertising and logistics and also, MAYBE I WANTED TO WRITE AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OKAY. heh.

I remember once many years ago buying the paperback Jemima J. at the bookstore and reading it on a weeknight, lying in bed next to a snoring husband and getting madder and madder at the author for making this heroine who has to get skinny to be acceptable. I was specifically SO MAD that the author, Jane Green, made the fat descriptions of Jemima seem so greasy and horrible and blah blah blah and I had all sorts of critique about ol' Jemima J. Yes I did. I was just a walking literary critic. Said nary a nice word about poor Jemima J.

Now that I have written my own book and spent approximately seventeen hundred hours editing, refining, and taking out thirty bazillion pages and trying to tell a story without going off in a ditch or a tangent or a maudlin weepy pile, I would like to say for the record I have more respect for Jane Green than ever before. SHE WROTE A WHOLE BOOK AND I BOUGHT IT. And then she wrote another and another. YOU GO ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF JANE GREEN.

It's kind of like those episodes of Dr. Phil when a man thinks it's so easy to be a stay-at-home mom and then he has to swap places with her for a day and later he's so grateful she's the mom and he gets to run off and play office all day. Now when I read a book I don't love some things about specific plots, or maybe I'm not completely overwhelmed by the story or the writing, but I find myself saying nice, reassuring things to the author in my mind. I think I may have gone just a little more nuts than usual, but I tend to give the author the same kind of leeway I'd give my best friends. Telling them how proud I am of them for getting off their asses -- or more accurately, getting ON their asses -- and writing their book down, page by page and word by word.

Posted by laurie at 4:29 PM

I have nothing funny or interesting to say, but I can enable you...

Right now I am trying to catch up my life, work piled up, blah blah blah. I think maybe I've hit the proverbial wall, a tiredness that goes beyond the physical. They are so going to revoke my self-help author's club card if I don't get it together, STAT. Paging Dr. Vino, Dr. Vino are you in the house?

In the meantime, I'm thinking obsessively about vacation, which seems about as likely as me becoming a Victoria's Secret model, but still ... it's nice to daydream of things such as "sleep" and "shopping."

So, speaking of shopping, my favorite bath product ever (I first mentioned it in this column) is from L'Occitane, and right now they are offering a special where if you buy $40 worth of products, you get free shipping. At checkout, use product code SHIPFR and you'll have your goodies with no shipping charges. The product I swear by is the almond shower oil, although the supple skin oil is really great, too, and doesn't leave you feeling oily at all. Right now it's so dry out here in California that my skin is starting to look scaly and ick, much like an old leather belt. (Nice visual on that one, eh?) So I am using their richer, heavier body cream on my skin, the ultra-rich shea butter body cream. It's unscented, too, so if you use perfume there's no weird clashing going on.

I don't work for this company or get any kickback (sadly) but when I find a product I love I just want to share it! Hope you enjoy!

Have a good... eh, what day is today? Monday for the fiftieth day in a row? No, it's Thursday. Have a good Thursday. I hear they're having Thanksgiving on Thursday again this year (that joke never gets old... to me...)

Posted by laurie at 9:12 AM

November 13, 2007

What a weekend!

My crazy non-stop weekend (and month) (OK, two months) has finally wrapped up in the form of me spending all day yesterday lying on the sofa surrounded by felines and, truth be told, adult beverages. I'm not sure I have ever been so tired, but it was well worth it!

And wow, I take a lot of pictures. I love this flickr thing, it makes sharing ONE BAZILLION vacation pics so much more fun! For me! You can check out all my Florida pictures right here.

Before I headed off the the Miami Book Fair, I made a one-night stopover in Deerfield Beach, Florida where my publisher HCI is based.

I got off the airplane, changed clothes and twenty minutes later I was seated at a table with these guys:
That's Sean Geary there in the blue shirt, seated. He's the stone-cold FOX who I cannot be alone in a room with because I might molest him, and alas... he is married. Also, Sean has managed to get every store on the planet to buy my book, so to reiterate once again... you SO cannot leave a grateful cat-hair author alone in a room with that guy. Next to Sean is Allison who made my book happen. Allison is my editor and I adore her and even better than that I respect her. She's pretty amazing. Allison is the one person on this planet who has read all my inner junk, all the paper-diary stuff... and she is still speaking to me even after a 500-page initial draft, which says something about her fortitude! There's Jose sitting next to Allison, and he is in charge of IT for all of HCI and is very cute and also married. Damn you guys. I mean really. That's me in back with my friend Terry York, also cute, also taken, who I love and he has three cats too so we kind of bonded on the cat hair issues.

The next morning I got to take a tour of HCI, given to me by these three amigos:

Kim, Terry and Allison.

We walked through the press facility and it was like smelling home, I love press rooms. They remind me of all my childhood summers spent at the newspaper office with my dad, and later working in the newspaper and hearing the bell ring before the press run. I remember watching my very first ever story come off the press (it was about plumbing fixtures, not exactly the heights of journalism but still so exciting. For me.) And if just being in the press facility at HCI wasn't exciting enough, Kim managed to somehow finagle the surprise of a lifetime:


Ya'll. THAT IS MY BOOK. Coming off the binder!

I took a video of it too, in which I sound shrill because I am bawling like a freaking baby. There is nothing so exciting in all this world as seeing your very own book being assembled and shipped. I cannot even describe it to you.

One of the reasons that I feel so at home at HCI is because everyone who works there is just good people. They don't even laugh and point at you while you cry in their press room. The whole company is staffed by creative, talented people and they have a huge history of philanthropy. Also, they can hold their liquor.

But my favorite initiative by far (what with my desire to marry Al Gore and all) is their partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation -- HCI actually replaces each tree it uses in the printing process.

Since 1998, for every tree used by HCI one is re-planted through the National Arbor Day Foundation. That's a lot of paper ... and trees!

Later after I pulled myself together and re-applied some mascara, the President and Publisher Peter Vegso totally let me hug him and attach myself to him in this photo much like a fungus attaches to a tree:


I am all about the inappropriate hug.

I loved meeting everyone there, we even had an impromptu book signing before lunch!

Thanks for coming to the signing!!

Later I got to see Allison in action:


Allison is not just a rockstar editor, she's also an author and a bonafide germ freak. When we were in the ladies room at the restaurant in Miami (after the book fair), we both managed to wash our hands and not to touch a single surface and found this incredibly normal. You see why we get along, yes?

She wrote an awesome book called The Germ Freak's Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu: Guerilla Tactics to Keep Yourself Healthy at Home, at Work and in the World. She has five-year-old twins (a boy and a girl) and if anyone needs to know about how to keep the germ level down it is a mom of twins! I actually blame (or credit, depending on your level of nutty) Allison's book for making me move my toothbrush from the countertop to the inside of the medicine cabinet. For people like me (i.e. "Obsessive Handwashers") this book is a must-must have.

After hanging around HCI for a while and having lunch (I ate more grilled fish on this trip than my body is used to, I had to later offset it with a cheeseburger for breakfast) Kim and I drove to Miami ... by way of Dania Beach and the Yarn Tree:

That's Maya on the left, thanks for having us!

And then we were back in the car and you know I made Kim listen to that Will Smith song "Miami" about eleventy-nine times in the car. I believe I also sang "Hot Stuff" and maybe she had a headache by the time we arrived. But definitely not related to my singing.

Now I have seen some pretty places in my life, but Miami is just unbelievable. The weather was paradise while I was there -- not too hot, very low humidity -- and as soon as we drove up to the hotel we saw Nich Lachey and his girlfriend having lunch. Did I take a picture? No. I did however get a shot of the typical prettiness on our way:


That night we had dinner at a Haitian restaurant called "Tap Tap" and if you go to Miami and want a restaurant with outstanding food at very good prices, you should definitely go to Tap Tap and while you're there you MUST have their coconut cake, it's gooey and creamy and rich and SO FREAKING GOOD. I ate well on my trip to Florida, I am just saying is all.

This is my favorite picture:

That night we had dinner with the author M.J. Rose who was gracious enough to let me interview her for this here website! I was so excited about this I changed clothes like three times. I sort of became obsessed with her latest book and I'm going to run our interview in a few days. I don't want to spoil it by saying anything more, but we had a great time at dinner!

The next morning I discovered that I am the only human in South Beach who gets up early:


It was by far one of the best moments I have had on this whole crazy tour, just being alone and walking on one of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. I didn't bring flip-flops with me (who goes to Miami and forgets beach footwear?) so at 6 a.m. I walked down to the gas station near my hotel (in my three-inch heels thankyouverymuch) and bought a pair of flip-flops and walked down to the water and collected shells for the better part of two hours. It was peaceful and beautiful and I felt like I got a little present, having the beach all to myself:

Perfect beginning to the day.

Kim and I had breakfast and then headed out to the Miami Book Fair International, where I got to not only accost General Wesley Clark, I also got to shake his hand! Did I take pictures of this event either? Sadly, no.

I did get some happy-smiley face pictures of me with Dr. Adamse, God's Shrink:
I'm still doing that thing the photographer said would make me look like I have a skinnier waist but it is so not working. Also, I am shiny.

Dr. Adamse was very gracious and leaned over to me across the table in the author's area and lowered his voice and confessed he was not wearing Spanx. He got a good chuckle out of that one as I tried to melt under the table in horror of realizing he had read my website. Whoopsy.

The book fair was PACKED! Here is a shaky Blair-Witchesque video of the crowd:

I was a little sad to leave Miami because of these two:


But I know I'll see them again soon, hopefully in just a few months. I feel like there have been a hundred best moments in all of this, a hundred number one memories, a lot of inappropriate hugs and smiley pictures. It has been hands-down the most scary, exhilarating, exciting, exhausting and rewarding adventure of my whole life. I can't believe I'm so blessed.

Also -- I still can't believe I did all that!

Also -- I still can't believe the mannequins in South Beach have such giant boobs!

Notice she does not have to pose with the hand at the waist to emphasize... anything...

I'm home now, comments are open!

Posted by laurie at 12:07 PM

November 12, 2007

About Email

I'm home but exhausted -- a real update will be up tomorrow.

Someone out there is spoofing my email address and sending emails that appear to come from me but have a virus attached. I sometimes hate the internet, you know?

I can assure you I have not sent you an email. This is the first time I have been on a computer in five days. If you have a random, unprovoked email from "me" in the past week, it isn't from me. I don't even send email on a good day, I certainly can't send it with my mindpowers.

Comments closed, thanks!

Posted by laurie at 9:32 AM

November 7, 2007

I'm going to Miami! (Sorry, couldn't resist the temptation to have you singing.)

Going to Miami ... Bienvenidos a Miami!

Before I go to the book fair, I'll be yarn shopping! If you live nearby, stop in and say hey ...

The Yarn Tree
Friday, November 9, 2007
3 p.m.
1418 S. Federal Hwy.
Dania Beach, FL 33004

We'll be chatting and signing books and you get to meet Kim, too, who somehow got shackled into driving me places. I haven't warned her that I sing in the car. A LOT. Whoopsy!

And then... drumroll, please...

Miami Book Fair International
Saturday November 10, 2007
Event begins at: 1:30 pm
Miami Dade College
Room 3315 -- Building 3, 3rd Floor

This event has the potential to be hilarious or disastrous or both. I am speaking side by side with the kind, incredibly smart and talented Dr. Michael Adamse, he's an HCI author who wrote an inspirational book called God's Shrink.

Doesn't that seem... funny? Like the jokes kind of write themselves, you know?

1) God's Shrink speaks for 20 minutes, then you get to see my publicist and friend Kim Weiss try to figure out how to gracefully segue way from God and psychiatry to introducing the girl who uses the word cootchie not once but like thirty-seven times in her book.

2) Also, guess which author demanded that if they were coming to Miami (Bienvenidos a Miami...) they better darn well have a naked Ricky Martin lookalike waiting at the hotel. One guess. Go ahead, I'll wait.

3) Guess who got turned down.

4) Which begs the question... if I sit on the lap of God's Shrink, will I be closer to God?

5) And if I try to get God's Shrink liquored up and telling me tales, will that make me closer to divinity or will it get me an engraved placard and permanent table setting in H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks?

6) Also, do you think maybe everyone in Miami will be wearing bikinis? Except me of course. Ya'll know I never wear lumpy white after Labor Day HAHAHAHA. Not coincidentally, I need to ask this book publishing world to please send me to places where I can wear a parka.

7) I am going to be sitting next to God's Shrink. And speaking after God's Shrink. And in all of this you know what I am most worried and preoccupied with? That I will possibly have to forego my Spanx because of the humidity. Yes, folks, I am sitting next to a man with a doctorate who will be speaking on divinity and I have to come up with something witty to say that doesn't make me appear like a total dumbaii and all I can think about are my smooshy parts being free to roam about without the comforting bonds of my industrial-strength underwear. THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME, PEOPLE.

So there you have it, Welcome to Miami! Ya'll come see someone with a phD and someone without Spanx speak at the Miami International Book Fair. Actually, now that I think about it... one thing Dr. Adamse and I have in common is I bet he'll be without Spanx on, too! Or at least I assume so. (I do believe I just figured out the first question I'm asking Dr. Adamse! "Dear Sir, how does God's Shrink feel about the new trend of girdles disguised as pantyhose?")

Also, I am totally going to start telling people I have a phD in Felineology, which sounds more scientific than Drunkenology, or Bootyology, don't you think?

And because I haven't used the word "also" enough in the past month....

Also -- Cat Sweaters!
I will be announcing the winners of the multiple Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Sweater Sweepstakes on Friday, November 16, 2007. YEE HAW!!! Thanks for your patience, I am kind of having trouble keeping up with my head these days. So this gives me time to assemble the photo gallery, which is not only massive it is also hilarious. Thank God (and his Shrink) for the invention of Flickr, because it will make this gallery not only function correctly, but might even keep my head from exploding. This also gives me time to notify and verify the winners.

Anyway, that's all folks! Comments are currently closed because not only will I be sexually harassing inspirational authors and making self-conscious panty-line checks, I will also be innernetless. C'est la Miami!

Posted by laurie at 9:30 AM

November 6, 2007

The writers are on strike!

Yes, that's write. Right. The high-paid big time Hollywood writers are on strike. Here at Chez Felinestein we just keep turning out the hits.

Such as:

1) My cat Bob is incredibly handsome, to make up for the possibility that he is a himbo.





2) I'm on a Mexican Radio (or Canadian, but there's no song for that)...
I got a file of the recent CJAD Montreal interview I did with Peter Anthony Holder -- he was so much fun! Unfortunately, I had been traveling for 14 hours and it was 11 p.m. and I had literally just gotten off a plane and gotten home about ten minutes before the interview started so I make about thismuch sense. Whatevs! I am not a professional, merely an amateur enjoying my 22 minutes over here.

Also, there's a funny moment when he's talking about another knitter and I pause because what I wanted to say was that the knitting community is very... close knit. And even Cheesy McCheesepants over here fully understands that is not something to say on air. So I said it was a "small" community. Then I said it like 25 more times. hehehehe. It was late. I'd had three glasses of wine on the plane. Whoopsy.

You can listen to it here. Also, I believe it is obvious how much I lurve my friendly neighbors to the north, especially when drinking, tired, and happy to be not on airplanes anymore.

3) Welcome to Miami, Old Lady

Me (humming and also singing but not realizing I am doing it): Welcome to Miami, bienvenos a Miami...

Friend who is Cute, but Very Young [and don't even bother asking as that is the most details you will get]: What are you singing?

Me: Was I singing? I don't sing.

Friend: Yeah, you're telling me.

Me: Har har you're a real jokester. No, I'm just thinking about my trip to Miami and every time I think of it I get that song in my head! You know the one ... Welcome to Miami, Bienvenidos a Miami...

Friend: ...? No?

Me: You know! The Will Smith song, about Miami!

Friend: ...?

Me: Oh come on, it was all over MTV a few years ago, when he did that song about Summertime and then the Miami song.

Friend: You mean THE Will Smith, the actor?

Me: Well, yeah but before he was THE Will Smith, he was the Fresh Prince. You know, Parents Just Don't Understand?

Friend: Just don't understand what? Who's the fresh mints?

Me: The Fresh PRINCE. Come on! Don't tell me you don't remember DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince?

Friend: Who is that?

Me: Don't tell me this is news to you. ARGH. Before Will Smith was THE Will Smith, when he was on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air...?

Friend: Never heard of it.

Me: Oh my God tell me again what year you were born in?

Friend: 198* [Editor's Note: I am editing here as you can see, because the shame is too much to bear.]

Me: Oh God. You were like, in preschool or something during the reign of the Fresh Prince. As God Is My Witness let us never speak of this again.

Friend: I want to hear this Miami song, I can't believe Will Smith did a song.

Me: He didn't just do a song, he had ALBUMS. Do you know what ALBUMS are?

Friend: Is this going to be like the time you got mad because I didn't know who that Mia Sparrow chick was?


Friend: It's OK, you still look good for an old lady.

(Physical violence ensues, wherein I am triumphant using Fall Vogue as a powerful weapon.) (Note to the guv'ment ... instead of bombing other countries, just drop copies of Fall Vogue from above.)

Me: Just for the record, on Friday I am going to MIAMI, bienvenidos a Miami, and I plan to meet Puff Daddy and never speak to you again!!

Friend: Good luck with that. They don't even call him that anymore.

Me: What?

Friend: He's just Diddy now.

Me: Yeah, well I was alive back when MTV played actual music videos! So there!

Friend: Heh, yeah and when Will Smith was on a TV show. YEAH RIGHT.

- - -

4) And finally, don't tell the cats I'm going to hang out with DIDDY. Or diddlysquat as the case may be...


It's not easy being Bob. Or cheesy.

Posted by laurie at 10:46 AM

November 5, 2007

Welcome to Old Lady

Me (humming and also singing but not realizing I am doing it): Welcome to Miami, bienvenos a Miami...

Friend who is Cute, but Very Young: What are you singing?

Me: Was I singing? I don't sing.

Friend: Yeah, you're telling me.

Me: Har har you're a real jokester. No, I'm just thinking about my trip to Miami and every time I think of it I get that song in my head! You know the one ... Welcome to Miami, Bienvenidos a Miami...

Friend: ...? No?

Me: You know! The Will Smith song, about Miami!

Friend: ...?

Me: Oh come on, it was all over MTV a few years ago, when he did that song about Summertime and then the Miami song.

Friend: You mean THE Will Smith, the actor?

Me: Well, yeah but before he was THE Will Smith, he was the Fresh Prince. You know, Parents Just Don't Understand?

Friend: Just don't understand what? Who's the fresh mints?

Me: The Fresh PRINCE. Come on! Don't tell me you don't remember DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince?

Friend: Who is that?

Me: Don't tell me this is news to you. ARGH. Before Will Smith was THE Will Smith, when he was on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air...?

Friend: Never heard of it.

Me: Oh my God tell me again what year you were born in?

Friend: 198* [Editor's Note: I am editing here as you can see, because the shame is too much to bear.]

Me: Oh God. You were like, in preschool or something during the reign of the Fresh Prince. As God Is My Witness let us never speak of this again.

Friend: I want to hear this Miami song, I can't believe Will Smith did a song.

Me: He didn't just do a song, he had ALBUMS. Do you know what ALBUMS are?

Friend: Is this going to be like the time you got mad because I didn't know who that Mia Sparrow chick was?


Friend: It's OK, you're pretty cute for an old lady.

(Physical violence ensues, wherein I am triumphant using Fall Vogue as a powerful weapon.)

Me: Just for the record, on Friday I am going to MIAMI, bienvenidos a Miami, and I plan to meet Puff Daddy and never speak to you again!!

Friend: Good luck with that. Heh, Will Smith on a TV show. YEAH RIGHT.

- - -

The end.

Posted by laurie at 4:03 PM

When did it become November?

This is what a busy weekend at my domicile of residence looks like:


That is the Sobatator, making sure the freshly washed and dried towels are fully furred before being allowed back in the cupboard.

As soon as she sees me with the laundry basket she starts following me and finally, because these cats are spoilt rotten, I give in and let her decorate the warm laundry with her butt. She can sit there quietly keeping the laundry from escaping for hours:

(That thing in the top left of the picture is our Comfort Zone Plug-In Diffuser that we cannot live without. You can read more about that here.)

Laundry is not safe from the Sobanator. I have to lint roller whatever was on top of the pile when she finally removes herself from it, usually hours later. And speaking of the lint roller, other forms of craziness in our house are calico in nature. This is one very badly done home video of me and Frankie (Frankie is a cat who does not meow, she whines like a baby and it's annoying and also strange because she sometimes sounds eerily human) in which Frankie gets lint-rollered:

Have you ever seen a cat so excited about a damn lint roller?

On Sunday I got up Painfully Early and went to get some inspiration and afterwards I met up for breakfast with Faith and Allison at a great diner in Culver City called Dinah's. Later when I got home I was doing more of the aforementioned dreaded and soon-to-be-refurred laundry and trying to get stuff accomplished before setting out again for another trip and I walked into the bedroom to put some clothes away.

Bob and Frankie were all stretched out on the bed in a big pool of sunshine and the sheets were all fresh and I just sat on the bed for a minute -- just a minute -- to pet on the cats all splayed out and showing me their fluffy bellies and before I knew it I was taking a nap. ME. I am many things, but a napper is not one one of them (napper - no. Gangsta rapper - yes.) I have not taken a nap in years, no really, I mean YEARS. I kind of woke up about ten minutes into my nap and thought, "I have to get up!" but Bob stretched his legs out so that the very pinkest part of his toes rested lightly on my arm, something that has never happened before. Roy used to do that all the time, just needing something of him to be touching something of me. So I stayed still.

I closed my eyes. From time to time I would feel myself waking up, feeling guilty, because I'm supposed to be doing this, completing that, fixing that one thing, sewing on a button, vacuuming, reading that book before this weekend, finding that document about that other thing, putting together the cabinet for the office, cleaning the catbox, calling that person back... but then Soba got on the bed too and curled up behind my knees and I just gave into it. Slept for almost two hours, which if you knew me would shock you.

For people who have trouble sleeping, a nap is like a miraculous gift, kind of like checking the pockets of your jeans before washing them and instead of finding a fiver, you find a stack of hundreds. The cats nap all the time, maybe I could learn a thing or two from them.

And just so we don't end this one with Bob feeling left out, here he is in a late-night picture, grainy because he's scared of the flash but still bobaliciously cute:


Also, if you are new to Los Angeles, let me remind you to leave work extra-early today. You don't believe me now, but trust me: this is one of the worst traffic days of the entire year. On the Monday after Daylight Savings Time ends, the city gets dark earlier and you will find that in the months of summer and lazy sun-filled afternoons and evenings people have lost the ability to drive in the dark. There will be gridlock and honking. Trust me, I know of what I speak.

My city may be crazy, but at least it is predictably crazy.

Posted by laurie at 9:22 AM

November 3, 2007


My close friends and I have a weird joke, one of those things that somehow always makes us laugh ... raise that hand up front and center and yell "Check, please!"

It's from a movie, Being John Malkovich, in the scene where the two characters played by Catherine Keener and John Cusak are having dinner. She asks him what he does for a living and he says, "I'm a puppeteer."

She immediately raises her hand for the waiter and says, "Check, please!"

We use this joke all the time when things get weird. You're talking about a date that went wrong, or this horrible job interview, or the time your car accidentally ran into a Volvo... raise that hand and say "Check, please!" like you just want to get a move on, get the hell outta Dodge.

I always wanted to be someone who could dismiss things so quickly, who could just shrug, raise a hand, say, "check, please!"

- - -

I can feel myself getting better at some things, slowly feeling more comfortable doing things which once seemed impossible and in other ways all this new stuff I'm doing brings up new issues, too. That's life, isn't it? The main reason I hid myself away, stayed in my house, stopped trying new things and stopped taking risks was that I needed to retreat from the unknown. At that time, just being all-the-sudden single and broke and broken was enough change. I needed my world to be very small, controlled, quiet.

But another reason that hiding and becoming a hermit worked for me was that it felt safe and I wasn't having to expose myself to judgment. Anytime you try something new or make a change or come out of your shell or especially put yourself on display (at a bar, at a party, work event, book signing, all of it is the same risk) deep inside there is a voice wondering what will people think? There have been times in my life that I didn't do things because I knew (or assumed, or expected) I would be judged harshly for them.

It's one of the reasons we don't take chances, try new things, change our lives (or change our hairstyle, even). We're just afraid of what people will say. More specifically - I was afraid of what people would say.

The biggest change happening in my life right now is not at all what I expected: I am having to give up on people pleasing. I am letting go of a part of my personality so deeply ingrained in me I thought it was impossible to change. But it is not impossible to change. The impossible never happens.

Every day I am actively having to let go the fear of being judged and found lacking. It's trial by fire, really, going from closely limited interactions with the world to suddenly interacting with strangers all day long. It's a much larger scope of being judged. And Lord, everyone has an opinion! I am learning finally that while of course everyone has an opinion (I myself have one or twenty-nine) it's the part inside me that has to change, the place always trying to be a pleaser, be pleasing, be good enough to some stranger, measure up to an opinion I can't even be sure of. It comes down to how well you know what is on the inside, and how much chatter you're willing to just let go of.

Imagine going from a life in which you speak to MAYBE three people a day -- on a busy day -- to a life in which complete strangers make ongoing assessments about your clothes, hair, makeup, accent, talent, height, weight ... all day long. It's perfectly normal to make assessments, we all do it, but finally what I am learning is that if I tried to please everyone I would be Britney shaving her head right about now.

And I think we are our own harshest critics because we know ourselves better than anyone else ever can know us, we are intimately associated with our broken and weak places. I have my flaws. But I like working through them, I like thinking that life is something that makes us better for having lived it and learned something. I don't talk about self-help because it's a topic, I really believe in self-help. I believe in making your own life changed. I believe anyone can grow at any age, I see it in my own parents who surprise me each day with the new things they're doing in life. Sometimes you make just the smallest change and it can ripple across your life, and I love that idea. I love that you can keep striving to be better, happier, more balanced and whole. It keeps me hopeful.

So I am changing. I'm trying so hard to just keep both feet very solidly in my own ground, the life of my own making, know my heart, know my own intentions, and let go of what other people think.

I see now that people will try to tell you who you are, or who they think you are, or ought to be. If you listen to enough people, they will all have different pictures. How can you be all those different viewpoints of yourself? You can't, pure and simple.

Sometimes I feel like God/The Universe/The Cannoli is testing me, then giving me little hints. For example, in a ten-minute period on Thursday night, a woman I know tangentially informed me that my book was "hokey." She used that exact word. "I could tell your publishing house does the Chicken Soup For The Soul books," she said. "I could really see the hokey parts, parts that were so cheesy."

I stared at her, perplexed about how to respond to that. Dear God Universe Cannoli, a little help please?

A few minutes later, another woman in my knitting group hugged me and told me she was so proud of me, that she'd read the book and loved it. I breathed, exhaled, thank you. It's as if some unseen hand is letting me choose which viewpoint will be the one I focus on, both of them exist: One telling me I suck, I'm hokey, I'm a cheeseball bad writer. The other saying thank you, I'm proud of you.

- - -

The strangest thing happened to me in Nashville. I sat in the airport O'Charleys having a beer and waiting for my plane to come and I just started crying. In public. It was the end of the most busy and stressful month of my entire life and I think I took a moment to think about it and I sighed and it was almost like a reflex in my body and I started crying. Luckily it was just the little cry, not the ugly cry and my back was to the restaurant and I was staring at the wall and it just hit me.

There is nothing like having a breakdown in an airport restaurant to make you feel sane, balanced and full to the top with self help (so much that it overflows in the eyeball area.)

Part of it was just finally un-tensing, I think. And part of it was wanting to go home, to a place I love so much that it is what I refer to as my most enduring relationship. I can blame it on being tired, or in emotional overdrive, or that I finally realized so clearly that everyone I knew growing up is now married with children. Understanding finally what a strange, colorful, long road I am choosing. I love it, am blessed, love my new life, but it is still new and the old pictures you held for yourself (and the pictures people want to put upon you) aren't always in harmony. Sometimes you need a minute to adjust.

And at the signing in Nashville a lady approached me toward the end of the evening and informed me in no uncertain terms that I did not have a Southern accent at all, she could just hear the California. (Just two days earlier a woman in Peoria had mentioned she could barely understand me through my thick Southern accent.) I sat there for a second, not sure what to say. It sounded like an accusation, almost, and I wanted to apologize, am I not Southern enough, not this enough? Not that enough? All those automatic people-pleasing feelings rose to the very top, feeling like whatever way I talk is wrong. I took voice and diction for years to lessen my accent because I was determined to "talk normal." And here it was all over again, right in my face, never being good enough.

That was the exact moment it dawned on me that I am never going to please everyone. End of story. No discussion. NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. It was like a lightening bolt, the proverbial "a-ha!" moment, as if I had been trapped inside a darkened room for thirty-six years and all the sudden I opened the door and walked outside. GIVE IT UP, LAURIE. YOU WILL NEVER EVER PLEASE THEM ALL.

So I just laughed. I laughed. I shrugged, made a joke about saying "fer shure" all Valley Girl style, and I signed her book. I decided in my own heart that she was just making conversation, and observing some "hey dude" in the twang (I have lived in surfer-dude-valley-girl land for 15 years you know, it better have sunk in by now! Like totally!) and then I do believe I may have hugged her. Or maybe I just wanted to hug her, I can't remember. All I know is that in that moment I had to make a decision -- choose to believe she was judging me and I had not measured up, or choose to believe she was just making chitchat and it honestly does not matter if I measure up to anyone anywhere except myself.

I chose the latter, and I am SO FREAKING GLAD she came to that event or I would never have been given that one illuminating moment. No one can tell you who you are. And even if someone says something about you ... you don't die. It doesn't make you less-than. You can laugh, you get to decide how to take that comment. You get to let go of it. It's a decision.

That's the key, isn't it? There is so much I want to do in my life, I feel like I've been given a second chance. All these ideas take me way outside all my comfort zones but I want so badly to see just what I am capable of. Can I play tennis? Maybe I would be good at Pilates? Maybe I can write a fiction book, maybe it could be really good. Maybe I like hokey cheeseball self-help and maybe that is my thing. Maybe I can be the best damn hokey cheeseball author ever.

Each person takes risks differently, I guess. Mine seem so silly on paper, in words. Even my own judgment is exhausting.

- - -

So I am tired of worrying, tired of not being this enough and that enough, too much of this, talks to fast, too short, too fat, not polished enough, too much makeup, not enough lipstick. Wear black to hide stains! Wear colors, because you have on too much black! Talk slower, talk faster! It is impossible to make everyone happy. So I am letting it go. After all, the impossible never happens. It's a waste of time to bother with it.

God, I love that feeling of letting it go, even if it causes you to leak tears in the airport, even if it causes you moments of panic, even if it does feel like a change you never thought you could make. I'm sure there will be more moments when I have to remind myself all over again to just freaking let it go. But now I finally understand how to do it, even if it isn't habitual (yet) or in my nature (yet.)

Let go of the negative things, let go of not measuring up... because if your hands are holding onto the judgment, they can never be full up with the hokey, cheesy good parts. And there are so many good parts to focus on! The face of each person I meet who gave me their time, who smiled, finally putting faces to names! Remember that one time they laughed, the one time I got to hug someone who needed a hug, the time Liz chatted with me before I had to go on stage and she calmed me down, just talking about cats. The Wisconsin cheese-shaped erasers. Houston ladies, all of them. Seeing high school friends and college friends and my family. Leaving the damn house! Seeing new cities, rolling my little black carry-on bag through an airport like I mean business. Getting ready for Miami, excited. It is very exciting, all of it, even the scary parts.

Yes, it is so much better than trying to please everyone. Because I got that memo, it is never ever going to happen. NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. I am just fine with that.

You know how this one ends, because I am proudly cheesy and hokey that way....


Posted by laurie at 11:28 AM

November 2, 2007

Knitters Gone Wild

Lest you think that knitters are a bunch of stodgy, buttoned up little ladies, may I present to you the following:

1) Bridget, who is a real bonafide rocket scientist, in a corset she made herself:


2) Ellen, a crochet and knit UFO (Unfinished Object and also, UFO...) along with Natalie, a Crochetlien:


3) My favorite costume of the night -- Monkeygurrl as The Dreat Pirate Swatch!


4) Some goober trying to be a yarn pimp getting cozy with Jenna as Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy K:


5) And the most crazy costumes of the night -- so real! -- Sara and Richard came as "New Parents" and somehow found the cutest prop baby ever!


Last night was the annual Stitch 'n Bitch Halloween party, and since it fell on the day after Halloween it was also a Dia de Los Muertos party, and the costumes were amazing and the snacks were delicioso and a good time was had by all, including these two:


That's Jennifer and Laurel. Does Laurel look familiar? Perhaps that is because I first met her last month... in Katy, Texas at the Yarntopia event!!

That's Laurel and me in Katy, Texas.

Laurel happened to be in town visiting her sister Jennifer, who oddly enough lives about a mile from where I lived back when I was married. NUTTY. I had a ball talking to them and I hope they had fun at our Stitch 'n Bitch, Scary Edition. It's funny because usually I never dress up for these events, but for some reason I really wanted to be The Yarn Pimp this year (an inspired idea that came from a mimosa-drenched afternoon with Faith, Allison and Cory.) And I almost didn't even go last night because I am so tired these days and also, sometimes I am a weenie about going places, but I made myself promise this year (it was a New Year's Resolution) to stop cancelling on stuff, and to just go for one hour, or ten minutes, whichever comes first (because with me it's just that first moment, walking into a place, then I relax and have fun) and I am so happy I got over myself and went because we had fun and I even won one of the prizes in the costume voting!!! I about fell over!! Especially because the prize was AWESOME, a hand-made bag from the incredibly talented Crochetlien herself, Natalie, and filled with goodies from Ellen and A Mano yarn shop.

Faith, Monkey and moi, all weiners... I mean, winners!

It was a great night! I have a lot more I want to say about it, and all kinds of stories to tell you, and if there weren't this little thing called "real job" I would indeed fill your ears but I have to go and make up for being not at work and so until I get my head back attached to my body, check out the pictures which at this time are still uploading and have no captions, see "need to earn money for rent, be back on the internet fooling around soon enough." Also there I believe you will see many fine pictures of me making what I thought was a pimp face which apparently includes some weird fish-lips thing. Lord have mercy. I am so not cut out to be a pimp. My parents are likely happy at that news.

Have a great weekend! And watch out for the Dread Pirate Swatch!

Posted by laurie at 11:24 AM

November 1, 2007

Back in the land of the cat herd! Plus: Nashville, Franklin, Charo and As God Is My Witness I will never watch that one show again ever.

So, I didn't mean to string ya'll on about the possibly cute/possibly trampy shirt I had to wear on my final night in Nashville, but I couldn't post a link to it or a picture ahead of time because it was the last clean outfit I had left (I had one casual thing for wearing on the plane and for the events of the following day, but nothing else left for fancypants book store speaking) and so if ya'll had said ahead of time that I looked like a velvet-cutout-wearing hooker I would have had no ability time or wherewithal to buy a new outfit and would have either had to cancel the event or show up in a bathrobe from the hotel. It is best under such circumstances to just assume everyone will think you're wearing a tribute to Porter Wagoner, rest in peace, and then if the choice was indeed a lapse of fashion judgment you just make jokes about it later.


That is me with Laura, who was my best friend in high school and she has not changed one bit, she has no wrinkles, hasn't gained an ounce and is still funny and gorgeous and smart and lovely. It was so wonderful to see her again, I have missed her smiling face. And that is me in a velvet-net thing by Karen Kane but I can't find a link to that shirt anywhere on the internet so I have now given up. You failed me, internet. Just this once.

Nashville was so much fun, I cannot believe how many people showed up from my high school! I went to high school in Columbia, TN and this is Chris Grissom and his pretty wife Stephanie and their two kids, Jeremiah and Danielle:

A family with the Surname "Cuteness."

Chris and I have been friends since we were fourteen. It is crazy how old everyone is, except me of course, who refuses to accept the idea that we are nearing our 20th high school reunion. THEY maybe graduated almost 20 years ago but surely I can fib and say it was just eleventeen years for me? Yes?

Also what's funny about that is since I have been living in airplanes and finding it challenging to get water into my body, my skin is a wrinkled scary mess and up close I look a hundred and forty. In the pictures you can't see it though so it's all good. Thank God for no high-def picture taking. Now ya'll see why I like my measly three megapixels? No wrinkles!

And one of the most exciting moments in the evening was seeing these folks:

That's Dollie on the left and her husband Mike (Man About Murfeesboro) on the right, two friends I went to college with and I was so excited to see them! They knew me back when I was the biggest goobernut sorority bowhead on the planet. I loved seeing them, they are amazing people and I am happy to know them. Thank you so much for coming to the reading!

The next day I got to visit Threaded Bliss, a fabulous yarn shop in Franklin, TN where I am happy to say I acquired many colors of soft alpaca yarn. (This is a pricey thing, visiting pretty yarn shops. I am too tempted. Shopping ensues.)

This is Dana, who owns the store:

She was so warm and lovely, thank you Dana for having me over!

Look how cute this yarn shop is, you can see why I was tempted... so many colors... so much yarn ... so little time...


There are tons of pictures of Nashville and Franklin on my new Flickr site that I just love. Click here to view them. What a good invention. Why did I wait so long to get on the bandwagon? Why am I not an early adopter of bandwagondishness?

On the way back to Los Angeles, we had a major cootchie-coo celeb sighting ...


Yes, that is CHARO. She was on my flight. There was also a drunk woman in coach who kept trying to get to Charo in first class and you can imagine how much fun that was to watch. I love drunk people, but maybe not so much on airplanes. Finally I got home and at 11 p.m. (!) did a radio interview in Canada where I was so punchy from tiredness and yes, airplane wine, that I believe I said, "I love Canadians! I love Canadia! I went to the big lobster!"

I love the radio interviews, they are way fun and you can do them while holding a glass of wine in one hand and a cat in the other. I missed my cats. Poor Bob has been attached to me like fur to a lint roller since I got home, he apparently spent the whole week hiding from anyone who wasn't me. Bob has changed so much, he still isn't in love with other people, but now he's so much more affectionate and nutty about me, I just love it. It used to be that I had a cat named Roy and Roy had a cat named Bob, but since Roy left us I am now the recipient of Bob's attention and secretly it makes me so happy that he comes out from his lair just for me.

Being the cat's favorite human is revered status. Ya'll know.

And then because I couldn't sleep before knowing who got the axe on Dancing With The Stars, I forwarded to the very end of the Tivo'd results show and that is when I pulled a Scarlett and declared that As God Is My Witness, I will never watch that show again. How could cute Sabrina Bryan get voted off? She was the clear winner. I hate that show. I hate reality television. Also, I feel the need to apologize to Sabrina, because as soon as I pick a favorite on any of these shows they get voted off. This particular one is the worst, though, because I think the show is clearly fixed. They never post the amounts of so-called votes and also they obviously have been paid by All My Children to keep Cameron there for ratings and good chest viewing opportunities. Not that I don't love me some Cameron, but I am so mad at that TV show and I am finished with it. Done, finito, never to be spoken of again.

I'm back home now for a few days and so happy to sleep in my own bed and get back to the very important work of taking cat pictures and avoiding the zucchini. Which are still growing. But there are also other (less frightening) things still growing, too, like this bushelful of basil:


I may not have a future filled with celebrity dancing shows, but I do see pesto in my future.

So good to be home!

Posted by laurie at 11:16 AM