Thanks for dropping by my niche in the universe.

I write contemporary romance. Building families--one romance at a time.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Repelling in Costa Rica

The first step backwards into space is the hardest. I had to trust that two strangers would keep me from tumbling down 165 feet of rock face and water. I surely didn’t want to be that little note in Tripadvisor that warns – This group lost a tourist recently.

I gritted my teeth. Heck if the 11 year-old could do this, so could I. Behind me waited a 4 year-old that would go down on a guide’s legs. I sure couldn’t chicken out.

It sounds simple. Guides were at the top and bottom of the repel holding my rope. I gripped the rope above my head and below my hip. My left hand, my power hand, tucked the rope next to my hip. This was my brake. Then – I stepped into the void. My harness acted like a chair. Kicking off the rocks, I forced my fingers to let the rope slide. As my momentum swung me back into the rock face, I took the impact with my bent legs. Repeat -- until I returned to terra firma.

Oh – and keep your legs out at about a 90 degree angle. The natural tendency as you fall is to drop your legs. Bad. You drop your legs, you swing into the rocks and bang assorted body parts. In my case, it was a knee connecting with a rock camouflaged by a waterfall on our second repel. I didn’t even notice the injury until someone pointed out that I was bleeding.

Combine all these techniques, add in gorgeous waterfalls and a lush green tropical forest – and you have waterfall repelling near the Arenal Volcano in Cost Rica.
Our tour was through Pure Trek Canyoning. Our guides’ English was excellent. The company handled all transactions in US dollars. After a traditional lunch of chicken, rice and beans, they loaded the group of 12 tourists into trucks and drove us to our debarkation point. There our large crew of guides tucked us into harnesses. After zip-lining and skiing a glacier in Chamonix, I’ve become adept at climbing into all the gear. Then we needed to be fitted with helmets. (Note – my helmet matched my top.) Add leather gloves, and you’re ready. Boy, did the gloves smell once you got them wet.

The entire experience takes 5 hours. With lunch, travel time, 5 repels, hiking back out of the canyon, changing into dry clothes, and cookies and coffee (Costa Rican coffee is excellent and I’m not a coffee drinker) it was a memorable afternoon. They also provide a photographer and pictures were available while we had a coffee.

It was so much fun – I would do it again!

Friday, March 25, 2011

2011 Golden Heart Finalist

I have to admit, two years ago I had no idea why people went crazy the day the Finalists for the Golden Heart and RITAs were announced. Of course, that was because I'd never been a finalist.
In 2010 I was thrilled when Steel Hearts was a finalist in the Single Title Cateory. I joined the Unsinkables, the class of 2010 Golden Heart Finalists. I have learned so much from the group. The Unsinkable have supported me, advised me and commiserated with me.
So as March 25, 2011 approached, I finally understood why people fret. this year, I felt I had to prove 2010 wasn't a fluke. Unfortunately, GH judging is very subjective.
So last night I plugged my cell phone in next to my bed. (I couldn't remember what phone number RWA had.) Then I made sure the alarm was set, because last year the call woke me up.
Well I didn't wake to a GH call. In fact, I decided to exercise -- Wii Fit. Wouldn't want to be at the YMCA if the Call came in. First time I've exercised and made sure the phone was in reach.
Thank goodness I did. Just as I finished up my 30 jackknifes -- ughh -- the phone rang.
I can't even tell you the name of the board member who called. She was very nice, but the name slipped by me -- all I heard was RWA and SAVANNAH SIGHS was a finalist in the Contemporary Series Category.
I emailed my critique partners and family. Then I headed over to the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood for the craziness. By the time I caught my chapter loop, I already had congratulations waiting for me. It's a wonderful feeling. By midmorning I already received an agent request.
I'm looking forward to a wonderful time up through the end of June and the Grand Finale in New York City.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Year, Death and Reminders

A new year is always so full of hope and possibilities. Setting new resolutions, dreaming new dreams all seem to symbolize a fresh beginning. A person can shrug off anything negative that happened in the prior year and build on all the positives. Use those positives as a foundation to continue to grow and achieve in the next year.

I made the typical writing goals. Last year they were all about completing projects, this year they’re about querying. No use being a writer if the only people who see work are your critique group and contest judges. 2011 will be the year I hone the art of querying and revisions.

Two events last week brought me up short. And it's taken me a while to post this blog.

Princess, my cat, which of course started out as the children’s cat and as they went off to college became mine, started losing weight in December. When a seven pound cat starts losing weight, you feel the bones of her spine and shoulders pretty quickly. Then Princess started fixating on water. She’d wander into the walk in shower. I was never sure if she was licking up the drips, or just listening to the pipes. Then she would stare for hours at her water dish. She’d always had weird habits when she ate, pulling each morsel of cat food out of the dish with her paw, and then eating them off the floor. But then she started to dip her paw into her water dish.

And of course she slept, nothing unusual for a twelve-year old cat. Typically, she would curl on my legs as I wrote with my laptop on my lap. She’d act disgusted when she couldn’t crawl up next to my face. But last month, she didn’t have the energy. Instead we’d find her curled in her cat bed on our heated floor. It had gotten cold, so that didn’t seem so strange. I like sitting in that warm and toasty sitting area too.

Then I found her peeing in my closet and under my vanity. Constant reminders to keep to the closet door closed didn’t seem to work for my husband, so I took to blocking off access and spraying with Febreeze and Lysol and cleaning with Windex.

But when my son brought his one-year old cat home from college for a visit, you could see the differences. Roybert, the invader, wanted to play. Princess wanted to be left alone. Off and during the last year these two cats have had to deal with each, Princess always being the alpha. Even as sick as she was, she was still the alpha, putting a cat three times her size into his place. His place? Under the Christmas tree.

Once all the children and Roybert had gone home I knew I had to call the vet. Fearing the worst, one of my daughters volunteered to go with me. And it was the worst.

Even though dogs barked in the background, Princess curled up and fell asleep on the exam table. This wasn’t my feisty cat, proud killer of rabbits, mice and birds. Gifts she left lovingly displayed on my front step mat. (Yuck)

The doctor talked through her symptoms with us, already suspecting renal failure. Then the nurse came back with an estimate of the costs tests. Based on recommendations, we started with the blood tests - $220.

Diabetes. And liver problems.

I’d already had a cat with diabetes. An overweight Russian blue who’s life’s work was to get people to feed him. While we treated his diabetes, Sampson dropped from 18 lbs to 9 lbs and his quality of life was miserable. I was the only one able to give him his twice daily shots. One of the children hled him so he wouldn’t bolt when he saw the syringe. Now we were seeing another cat with diabetes but she only weighed 4 pounds 13 ounces. This was not a disease that could be reversed.

The vet was incredible. He told me there were no right and wrong decisions. There was very little chance of reversing her disease, because it wasn’t caused by weight. If I wanted to take her home and think about whether we wanted to start treatment that was fine. The most traumatic parts of her treatment would be in the beginning as they tried to determine the right insulin dosage.

I remember leaving Sampson at the vets, all the K-9 shepards barking each time someone came back to the kennels. When we would visit, he wanted to come home. His ears flattened against his head as the dogs howled.

The cure was almost worse than the disease.

We didn’t spend the next $150 to determine if there was renal failure. I made the decision after conferring with my husband that we wouldn’t put her through the insult.

Two sad days later, my twins received a distribution from a trust set up from the proceeds of my brother’s life insurance policy after he committed suicide. A reminder, death doesn’t always happen to the old and infirm.

My brother will forever will be 38 in my mind. I picture him smiling, usually doing something physical. Swimming, playing with his 5-year old daughter, or laying on the beach. It is hard for me to understand his despair, his depression. He owned a Kirby distributorship and never let a negative word past the threshold of the door. Everything was positive, positive, positive.

So when I talked to him on the phone, I didn’t hear his pain.

He’d relocated to Mississippi, a long way from Minnesota or South Dakota where we grew up.
We learned a lot about depression after my brother died. My sister became actively involved in SA/VE – Suicide Awareness/Voices of Education becoming a Board Member and speaker in their school outreach program.

Depression is preventable. But it has to be diagnosed. I wish my brother had been closer to the family so we could see the changes wrought by this insidious disease. I wish his ex-wife and called someone in the family when he’d threatened to commit suicide previously. I wish he hadn’t been drinking on his last night.

But I can’t control the past. I can -- and do -- give generously to SA/VE -- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. My sister has set up a fund in my brother’s name, our brother, forever 38 and smiling in our hearts. I no longer attend the annual SA/VE remembrance ceremony put on by the organization. It is too hard to see all the pictures of lives lost.

May 2011 be a good year for all.