The Definition of Literature

23 Nov

The city I live in, lovingly called “The Bubble” by its residents, has an annual book club event in the spring called One City, One Book. Past books have included Farenheit 451  by Ray Bradbury and Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

This year the book chosen for the event was The Mountain Story by the incredibly talented Lori Lansens. Lori is one of my favorite authors. She writes unique, compelling stories in gorgeous prose. Her writing gets to the heart of human emotions and her books always stay with me for a long time after I’m done reading them.


Looking for a great read? Look no further!


Lori is a local resident so there was a real opportunity to have several One City, One Book events that started with a launch party where the book was sold a week before its release, a library event and finally a book club meeting a few weeks later held at our library. The city put a lot of publicity and effort behind the event and it was quite successful.

Do you want to hear something really cool? I’m actually friends with Lori. I met her years ago at the beach through a mutual friend after I was already a fan. Can you imagine what it’s like to meet one of your favorite authors and become friends with her? (I don’t have to imagine – I know! And it’s awesome!)

Anyway, Marley said to me the other day, “Mom, when your book comes out next year you can do One City, One Book.”

I smiled and said, “That’s sweet, honey, but my book would never be picked for One City, One Book.”

“Why not? We live here.”

“Yes,” I told her, “but you don’t have to live here for them to choose your book. My book is not the right kind of book. Lori’s book is literature; my book is a funny beach read.”

“What do you mean?” she asked. “Aren’t all books literature.”

Um… No.

“Not really,” I said. “There are lots of different kinds of books. Books that are literature not only tell a good story, but do so with beautiful writing. My writing is funny, but it’s not beautiful. Also, literature often has a deep meaning or complex theme. My book is not deep; there’s not much to discuss. Other than, you know, how freaking funny it is!”

“So do you mean that literature has big words?”

“Not always,” I said. “In fact, I think the best literature makes small words have big meanings.”

She looked at me with narrowed eyes.

“I’ll give you an example. Think of the John Green books you’ve read. He tells a great story with many layers in beautiful, quotable language. Someone who writes a book about kids with cancer that people actually want to read, and writes things like, ‘As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once,’ is writing literature.

“Now think of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Those books are great and incredibly funny, but they’re easy to read and aren’t very complex. I’m not saying that John Green is better than Jeff Kinney, both of those writers are among the best at what they do, and both of their books have value. But Diary of a Wimpy Kid ain’t literature.


Hilariously funny. Not Literature

“So Lori Lansens is like John Green and you’re like Jeff Kinney?”

“Well, Lori Lansens is like John Green. I aspire to be as witty as Jeff Kinney.”

“I still think your book could be in One City, One Book.

“Well, that would be awesome, but I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one.”

She shrugged.



(If you’ve read this John Green book, then you know that in the right context writing an exchange as simple as “Okay? Okay.” is truly literature.)


Let’s Marvin Gaye and Get It On

16 Nov

Marley and I were running errands recently and since she won’t let me listen to country music while she’s in the car we were listening to the pop station 104.3 My FM when the song Marvin Gaye by Charlie Puth featuring Meghan Trainor came on the radio and I started singing along.

Marley scrunched up her face and said, “What are these lyrics? What does that mean?”

I smiled, glad she was making a face at the song and not at my singing. (Although who knows, it could have been both.)

If you’re unfamiliar with the song the lyrics start out with:

Let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on
You got the healing that I want
Just like they say it in the song
Until the dawn, let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on

“Well,” I said, “Marvin Gaye was a soul singer in the 60’s and 70’s. He had a big hit called Let’s Get It On, that was out in the 70’s I think, and then had kind of a come back with a song called Sexual Healing in the early 80’s.

“So, when they say, Let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on, what they’re saying is, ‘Let’s put on some sexy music and have sex.'”

When you have a 15 year old, you have to kind of tell it like it is.

“I would never want to lose my virginity to a song,” she said. “Because then for the rest of my life whenever I heard that song I would think of that.”

I smiled. “Hopefully when you’re older and you look back on losing your virginity, which I hope is many, many years from now, like in college, you look upon it fondly because you were with someone you loved. And if there was a song that reminded you of it, it would be a happy memory.”

“Well, I still don’t want to do it to a song,” she said.

I love the conversations I have with Marley. Her frankness with me and my ability to be frank with her.

“You know, we’ll have to check with Dad when we get home, but I think it was Marvin Gaye that-”

“Oh God, Mom. No!” she interrupted me.


“I don’t want to know what music you and Dad were listening to the first time you had sex. Or ever!”

“Ha! No!” I laughed. “That’s not what I was going to say at all. I was going to say that Marvin Gaye was murdered by his father. At least I’m pretty sure it was Marvin Gaye. That’s what I need to ask Dad.”

“Oh thank God,” she said. “Not that Marvin Gaye was murdered by his father – that’s terrible, but that you weren’t going to tell me about you and Dad.”

“Don’t worry, Marley, I would never tell you about that.” I said I was frank with her, but there are some things that don’t need to be told.

“Thank you Mom.”

“You’re welcome, Marley.”

“You should write about this in your blog,” she said. “It’s pretty funny even though it may have scarred me for life.”

“I think maybe I will,” I told her, so glad that I could finally write a funny story about my teenage daughter with her blessing. “I think maybe I will.”


Charlene and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Hair Day

26 Oct

I cut my hair.



Why does hair off of your head look so gross?

Yep, two weeks ago that was on my head. (I think it looked better there than on the floor.)

I like my new haircut, but I’m still trying to get used to it and how to style it. I wanted to look like Julie Bowen. (I cannot watch Modern Family without saying, “I want her hair,” out loud. It’s practically Pavlovian.)

I showed my hairdresser these two pictures:

Julie Bowen-layered-bob-haircut

So cute!

I know what you’re thinking. Julie Bowen is blonde and doesn’t have bangs. I know!

But, even though my hair is auburn (do not call it brown, it is not brown, it is dark red) and I have bangs, I wanted it to look Julie Bowen-esqe.

Which, by the way is basically the same haircut that Kim Basinger had in 9 1/2 Weeks.


This is some awesome 80’s hair!

So you know, in 1986 I asked my then-hairdresser for Kim Basinger’s 9 1/2 Weeks ‘do. I was blonde then (believe it or not I was born that way), but still had bangs.  (I have always had bangs because I have a very intense widow’s peak that creates a huge cowlick and makes my hair part in the middle. You see that awesome side-swipe thing that Kim and Julie are sporting? That does not work on me.

And now I also have to have bangs because my  gray roots are ridiculous. If I didn’t have bangs I’d have to touch up my roots every two weeks instead of every three. At least the bonus is bangs = no need for Botox! (I mean, the lines are there, you just can’t see them.)

My hairdresser is awesome, and like I said, I like the new ‘do, but it doesn’t look sexy like Julie Bowen’s style. It looks sort of momish. And even though if you didn’t know who Julie Bowen was and I said that she’s the mom on Modern Family, you would totally know who I meant even though Sophia Vergara is also a mom on Modern Family, I don’t think her hair looks momish. Her hair is sexy. Her hair is hot.

My hair? Cute. But momish.


I cannot get a decent shot of me with my new haircut, so this in-the-car-at-a-stop-light-half-smile-selfie will have to do. Please be kind and ignore my old lady neck.

Holy crap, that’s a big picture! What the what? (All the better to see your neck wrinkles, my dear!)

Anyway, this morning? My hair? Not cute. Not momish. Just bad. As in terrible, horrible, no good, very bad. (And no you don’t get a picture.)

Two weeks ago I could have put it in a low side ponytail and called it a day, but that is not an option with my hair this short.

I would have put on a hat, but I don’t think painters caps with wine glasses that say Wine Sisterhood are considered office appropriate.

I curled it. I flattened it. I put it in a clip. It was bad, people. So with only ten minutes before I had to walk out the door (and I still had to pack my lunch) I took out the spray bottle, wet it and blow dried it all over again. Fortunately it’s short so it dried fast.

And it actually turned out kind of cute. Momish. But cute.

I wonder if Julie Bowen (or Kim Basinger) ever has mornings like this.

And of course a well-deserved shout-out to Alexander and Judith Viorst.

Photo credits: here and here.

Big News

5 Oct

I’ve got some news just in case you haven’t already heard. (And if we’re friends on Facebook, then you probably have.)

My novel is being published. Let me pinch myself and say it again. My book is being published.

I am not agented and it’s being published by a small independent publishing house, but did you hear me? I’ve got a book deal. My book is being published. Published!

People I’ve never met before said, “I love your book.”

I love your book.

I will admit that this is not the first time I’ve heard these words. But it was the first time I’ve heard these words from someone who didn’t love me. Who didn’t know me at all. Never read my blog. Didn’t follow me on Twitter. Hadn’t clicked “like” my lame Facebook fan page.

(Oh, BTW, feel free to follow me on Twitter here and “like” my lame Facebook fan page here!)

After all the rejections (not as many as Kathryn Stockett but plenty more than JK Rowling), someone finally said yes.

Someone finally said, “I love your book.”

It will be coming out on February 8, 2016 on Velvet Morning Press.


Oh, that’s just me, sitting in my messy kitchen, signing a book deal.

The name of my book is FROSTED COWBOY and if you missed the cover reveal and a sneak peak at the first few pages you can check it out here.

What’s it about? Here’s a little blurb:

Laney Delaney was living the dream. She had a fabulous fiancé and a career as a couture wedding dress designer. But after catching her (not-so-fabulous) fiancé cheating and being accused of upstaging one of her brides at a wedding, Laney finds herself with no boyfriend, no job and no plan. After some serious soul searching and a few intriguing encounters, Laney is determined to start over. But can she learn to trust again and believe in herself?

It’s a romantic comedy. Chick Lit. (With the emphasis on chick, rather than lit.) It’s just a bit of mindless fun that probably won’t make you think. But it will make you laugh.

I promise.



Gif credit: here


What Happens in Writers’ Group Gets Turned into a Blog Post

28 Sep

“I like your hair like that, Mom,” Marley said to me the morning after my last writers’ group.

I had it pulled to the side in a low ponytail with a piece hanging free in what I hoped was a oh-this-piece-just-won’t-stay-back messy curl, not a perfectly-curly-cued bridesmaidy curl.

“Are you making fun of me or do you really like it?” I asked. Marley can be sarcastic. And I wasn’t particularly feeling like my appearance was compliment-worthy.

“I really like it,” she said.

“Oh good. Thanks,” I answered.

I liked it, but I thought maybe I was trying to look too young. I wasn’t. I was just trying to look put together and semi-professional on a day I did not have time to fix my hair because of this:

wine bottles

Writers’ Group Math: bottles of wine(5) = snooze button(100)

This is what happens at writers’ group.

There are six of us in case you’re wondering. Though, to be fair two of the bottles were already open and already half-empty, so we really only drank four.

“So 3/4 of a bottle of wine each?” Dave pointed out to me.

“Uh, no. More like 2/3. What kind of lushes do you think we are?” I replied.


We meet once a month to discuss our goals, share our victories (and failures), support each other and give advice (like actual, useful, requested advice instead of buttinsky-who-asked-you-anyway advice). We also do a ten minute writing exercise each month chosen randomly from a writing prompt app. (Oh yes, there is an app for everything.)

Our writing prompt this month was “List 10 Reasons for not Showering for a Week” and we all laughed because Julie was coming late due to Back to School Night and would be missing the prompt portion of our meeting. And while I’m sure Julie has never gone a week without showering (probably), she doesn’t shower every day. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure none of us showers every day except for Laurel who sometimes showers twice a day (maybe to make up for our unshowering), but I’m only calling out Julie because she’d tell you herself. (Kim, Rina and Lexi might not want you to know their showering habits.)

The pieces were all funny and clever (because we are all funny and clever) and we had a good time with it.

Some of my reasons for not showering?

  • We are in a drought, people!
  • Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • It saves electricity – no need to blow dry.
  • It saves gas. In fact, I read in the book Gorgeously Green that the number one energy killer in a house was using gas to heat water. Or something like that. I read that book a long time ago. But the foreward was written by Julia Roberts, who won an Oscar for playing Erin Brockvich so whatever I read about using a lot of gas to heat water must be true. (Yeah, not a lot of logic goes into my 10 minute writing prompts.)
  • If I run I have to shower. (It seems like the polite thing to do.) So no showering = no running. For a week! Yay!

Alright, I admit, perhaps my reasons for not showering for a week are not that funny and clever. I think I was the weak link on this writing prompt.

And while I would never go an entire week without showering (unless I was camping), I did find it a bit serendipitous that the day after a writing prompt about not showering I went to work without showering and got a compliment from my daughter about my hair.

I’ll have to add that reason to my list.


There is no reason for this picture, but seriously, how could I not post it?

My 2015 Snarky Emmy Awards Red Carpet Comments Because I’m So Qualified to Give Them

21 Sep

I have to admit, I feel like a bit of a fraud. I missed the Emmy’s Red Carpet shows yesterday. I know…

I know!

There was a snafu with our DVR that is just too convoluted to explain and when I sat down with my laptop ready to snark I found myself staring at the Kardashians. WTF?! It was like my worst nightmare come true. Thank god for freezer vodka!

Of course I watched the awards. But there is something about the red carpet – you can see the dresses so much better. Not everyone wins (obviously) or presents and it’s impossible to get a good look at a dress when someone’s sitting in a theater chair. Even if they have an aisle seat. Plus it was 90+ degrees yesterday. I was hoping to see if the celebrities were actually real people and, you know, sweat.

So I had to find all my red carpet looks online. I mean, sure I steal borrow the photos from online sources (thank you, but only after watching the red carpet show to see what looks work and what looks don’t. And remember, I’m qualified to know this because I wore the same dress as seven other girls at my prom. So that obviously means I have excellent taste.

So without further adieu, my snarky red carpet comments…

Heidi Klum. What is there to say except, Heidi, you always make it easy for me. The dress is credited to Vercase, but it looks more like a Project Runway design that was only half finished when the challenge time was up.


Pssst… Heidi, you’re still a 10, but that dress is a 0!


Anna Chlumsky. We all fell in love with Anna when she was eleven years old and stared in My Girl with Macaulay Culkin. It looks like she kept her same hairdresser from 1991. That over-the-head braid? Nope! Not sure how I feel about this dress. It’s interesting. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either.


Anna Chlumsky in a cute-ish dress ruined by a bad ‘do


Zoe Kazan. I did not see Olive Kitteridge (though it has been in my DVR queue for nine months – unless it’s been Kardashianed), and I’m sure she is a wonderful actress, but this dress makes my eyes hurt. It’s a good thing I don’t have epilepsy, it might have caused a seizure.




Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan. Ouch Zoe – you’re hurting my eyes!


Ellie Kemper. You’re adorable. This dress? Hmmm… if you cut it to cocktail length it would be super cute to wear to a wedding. Hell, if it was short I’d wear it to work if I was shorter and not sequiny. But to the Emmy’s? I have to say no.


Cute at a wedding, but not at the Emmy’s!


Alan Cumming. I love Alan Cumming, but WTF? It looks like he didn’t get to the tailor in time and had to wear pants straight off the rack that are about five inches too long for him (and about two sizes too big). This suit makes you wonder if he took a limo to the ceremony or a clown car.


Alan, you’re tailor is calling!

January Jones. When I first saw this photo I was confused. Is that a slit in her dress? Nope, it’s a pantsuit. (You see, this is where the television broadcast of the red carpet would have come in so handy.) I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m not opposed to pants. It’s not the Oscar’s after all. But… I just don’t know. I would be a super-cute outfit for a GNO. And her hair looks fab.


You look beautiful January, but did you steal that pantsuit from 1976?


Okay, I’m getting old, which makes me tired. Not sleepy tired, tired of being mean. I like to be nice. Plus Amy Schumer, who I love and adore and can do no wrong, called me out on live TV when she said, “people on the internet make fun of what you wear” when she was presenting with Amy Poehler. I mean, she had to be talking about me. Right? Well, Amy I think you looked fab. And that smokey eye was gorgeous!


Amy, you’re the bomb!


Allison Janney. I loved her dress. This is a 55-year old woman, people and she looks freaking awesome! How many hours a day does she work on that bod? And even more importantly, who is the hot dude she was with? Is that her boyfriend? You go, Allison! You go! And as always when she wins (which is often because she’s so awesome), she is just so gracious and lovely and full of love and respect for her fellow actors in her category. She is a true class act.


You go, girl!


Regina King. This is one of my favorite dresses of the night. What you can’t see in the photo (and what would have been nice to have seen on the red carpet) is the way it swings when she walks. It’s so feminine and flattering and very 1950’s. This is my favorite style of dress. I love it!


Classically beautiful

Aubrey Plaza. This is how you do sexy. A plunging neckline and high slit, yet still understated. Simply elegant. I love this dress.




Niecy Nash. I loved this dress as well. Gorgeous color and incredibly flattering. I think it’s gorgeous.




Kerry Washington. Jennifer Lopez needs to call Kerry Washington’s stylist. This is how to wear a see-through dress in a stylish and classy way. This dress is beautiful and sexy and just the right amount of va-va-voom!


Kerry Washington is sexy and stunning!


Ariel Winter and Sarah Hyland. I thought the Modern Family sisters looked beautiful. It’s so nice to see young women dressing classy instead of trashy. Oh crap, did I just say that? I am getting old. I think it’s time to stop.


These girls look lovely!


Except for…

Sofia Vergara. Sofia always looks so pretty at awards shows (and well, everywhere). But that arm candy she brought with her? Even stunninger! (Yes, I know that’s not a word – I said it was time for me to stop!)


Move over Brad and Angie, these two might just be the most beautiful people in the world!


And lastly, the Emmy’s are always kind of a bummer for me because as much as I love TV (and I do), there is no Bradley Cooper. This year Nikolaj Coster-Waldau made me feel better about that. A lot better.


Bradley who?


What did I miss? Who did you love (or hate) at the Emmy’s? I want to know!

*Photo credits: All photos from except for the photo of Allison Janney and hot boyfriend from

Lost in Virginia

27 Aug

I dropped Chandler off at college last weekend.

Chandler chose a liberal arts college in Washington DC, so by dropped off, I mean flew 2700 miles across the country, stayed five nights with a girlfriend in Virginia, and drove around picking up bedding and hangers and toothpaste (not to mention 5 Costco-sized boxes of granola bars and 6 pounds of protein powder) before depositing Chandler at his dorm where he almost didn’t let me stay and help him unpack. (Fortunately for him, he came to his senses.)

We flew out on Wednesday, did our errands on Thursday, went sightseeing on Friday and moved him in on Saturday. I stayed a couple extra days in case we forgot anything (which of course we did) and because it’s way cheaper to fly out on a Monday than a Sunday.

The roads in Virginia are confusing to me. In California we are on a grid. Virginia? Not so much.


See those lines? Those are roads. It may not be pretty, but it’s easy to find your way around.


I could find no rhyme or reason to how they planned their roads. Streets randomly change names, there are trees everywhere, which is lovely, but it means that there are no landmarks and everywhere looks the same. There are also no signs. I understand and appreciate sign laws, but they have seriously taken the whole “no sign” thing too far. Strip malls sit far back off the street (behind the trees) and there is no possible way to know what store is inside of a shopping center unless you drive into it (down a quarter mile long driveway). Can someone please explain to me how someone from out of town is supposed to know where a freaking Starbucks is if you can’t see them from the road?!

Loudoun County Map

This is so not a grid.


And to make matters worse the GPS on my phone was not cooperating so we had to use Chandler’s. Yes, the navigation lady on Chandler’s phone would tell us to In half a mile turn right, In 400 feet turn right, TURN RIGHT! I mean, yeah, she was a little bossy, but in this case it was comforting to be told exactly where to go.

The only thing my navigation lady said was GPS signal lost. (Bitch!)

When I left Chandler on Saturday my GPS lost its signal (again) but at least it happened after I downloaded the directions. Then the battery started to die. My portable charger was dead and the car charger would not work. “Really, universe?!” I screamed said out loud. “I just dropped my son off at college 2,700 miles away. He’s so excited to start life on his own, he wouldn’t even let me stay for dinner. And now you’re not going to let me find my way home?” They say if you put it out into the universe what you need you will get it and this time it actually worked – with a bit of effort (and a lot of jiggling) I was able to get the car charger to work(ish).

I made it back and had half price sushi with my very good lifelong friends who now live in Virginia. Fortunately I did not have to drive.

On Sunday I had to go to Walmart (light bulb for desk lamp, thumb tacks and dryer sheets) and Old Navy (flip flops for the shower that inexplicably Walmart did not have) in Virginia, then to Chandler’s school in DC, and then back to Virginia to a cool restaurant/wine tasting bar called The Wine Kitchen to meet my long-time blogger friend Abby Byrd IRL. (That’s In Real Life for all you non-bloggers out there.)

Easy-Peasy, right? I mean, I’m a full-time working suburban mom; my typical Sundays have three times the items on this list.

I got to Walmart and Old Navy just fine. But then my GPS decided to PMS and completely shut down on me in the Old Navy parking lot even though I had full bars. (I told you she was a bitch!)

And when you’re somewhere you’ve never been before, you’re feeling very emotional about just dropping off your firstborn at college (that did I mention is 2,700 miles away?) and lost, it kind of stresses you out.

I went back into Old Navy to get on their WiFi so I could pull up my navigation. And I was running late so I had to get in touch with Abby and ask her if we could meet an hour later. BUT, even though I connected to Old Navy’s WiFi I could not get my navigation to work. And to make matters worse I did not have Abby’s phone number and could only contact her via Facebook messenger, which was also not working.


I decided to go next door to Nordstrom Rack hoping their WiFi would be better, because, you know, it’s Nordstrom. Success! I was able to change the time with Abby and pull up directions. Of course the navigation signal was lost the minute I walked out of the store, but at least it was stored in my phone.

After saying goodbye to Chandler I punched in the address to The Wine Kitchen and surprise, surprise, my GPS had shut down again. I saw a university shuttle bus that takes students to the closest Metro stop so I followed it knowing there was a Starbucks at that stop and I could go inside and get onto my navigation system using their WiFi.

By this time I was running late, mentally exhausted, emotionally drained, frustrated and lacking confidence (though I have to admit it was pretty clever of me to follow that bus). My phone screen kept going black and I had to continually swipe my screen and re-pull up my directions. It was while doing this that I missed an exit on my way to the Wine Kitchen. As I drove past it I literally screamed, “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” at the top of my lungs as tears rolled down my face. I felt completely undone, as if this were some harbinger of what my life was going to be like without Chandler. Without me he was untethered and free. Without him I couldn’t find my way; I was lost.

Can I ask that you indulge me (yes even more) for a minute and let me tell once again how crazy the roads are in Virginia? You can’t just get off at the next exit and get back on in the opposite direction like you can in California.

As an example it was 22.6 miles from the Old Navy to Chandler’s school. This relatively “short” trip had 9 turns, 7 roads, 1 parkway, 1 state road, 3 highways and a traffic circle and is a 35 minute trip with no traffic. (Thank you Google maps.)

In comparison, from my house to UCLA it is 26.7 miles that has 5 turns, 6 streets and 2 freeways and is a 33 minute trip with no traffic. Okay, the fact that there is never no traffic between my house and UCLA, even at 4AM on Christmas is beside the point!

Thank you for your indulgence, back to the story…

I did pull off at the next exit (I was still a good 30 minutes away and was supposed to meet Abby in 10 minutes) and saw a Ritz Carlton. I parked in front a shuttle bus, walked up to a valet and said, “Hi. I’m incredibly lost. I’m 3,000 miles away from home, I have no idea where anything is, I’m late for an appointment and my GPS is not working.” I did my best to hold it together and not have crazy eyes or tears.

He kindly directed me to the concierge where the lovely man behind the desk agreed that Virginia roads are jacked up and printed me a map. Abby had arrived and texted me (I had given her my number) and I was able to let her know that I was going to be really (really) late.

I finally found my destination with Abby waiting graciously and patiently for me. The wine and conversation made me feel better (because wine and conversation makes everything better). Afterwards Abby helped me find my way back to my friend’s. (Which miraculously only had 3 roads and 2 turns!)

I’ve been home a few days now. I know where everything is, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m lost, still trying to find my way.







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