"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Sometimes my mind wanders

First, it was a lot of fun to sell my books at the Placentia Shop Small Boutique. I gave some books as prizes, sold some, and as usual, made friends and connections.

Where am I next? Celebrating Read Locally: Local Author Day at the Yorba Linda Library on April 6 from 2-4. I don't have a flyer to show you, but here is the link: https://www.ylpl.org/authorfest/ 

I will be flying back from a conference in Columbus, Ohio that same day, so if someone could bring me a Starbucks and slap me into consciousness, I'd appreciate it.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about memoirs recently, having read a couple of good ones, Honeymoon at Sea by Jennifer Silva Redmond, and When Your Heart Says Go by Judy Reeves. I've written a sort-of memoir in my book From the Horse's Mouth, even though it is fictionalized a bit and told in first-person Snoopy. But I've never thought of writing my very own memoir, mostly because I don't believe anything huge and life-changing ever happened to me.

Did I go through two divorces before I found a man I not just loved, but felt safe with? Yes. Did I move from Illinois to California by myself in a Honda Civic with my dog Tyler? Yes. Did I walk away from a lucrative 30-year career as a software engineer in order to write, work with my horse, and be in the room when my son had a question? Yes.

Do these things make a memoir? No, mostly because these big things weren't as important as what went on before, and what went on before was a series of little things. I was 23 years old when my grandfather Hansel died. I was close to him, and I remember driving down 22nd Street in Decatur, Illinois, feeling thoroughly unhappy with my life and thinking that I had to stay here because my parents would be unhappy if I left. 

And then it hit me that my grandfather had died, and someday my grandmother would, and then my parents, and I would have lived my entire life trying to keep them happy and have a shell of a life when they were gone. That little moment was the catalyst, the idea that I wasn't living the life I wanted. The trip out west seems anticlimactic by comparison.

I mean, I am 70 now so maybe it's time to write a memoir, but it might never be time to publish it, and the public might not take the time to read it. At least I have a couple of title ideas. I was thinking of:

1. Things I Did When I Wasn't Doing Anything Else, or

2. I Think I'm Boring But What Did You Want To Know?

Maybe I'll stick to fiction.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Why doncha come up and see me sometime?


It's March and I haven't been here since December so of course I'm wallowing in the guilt and shame of my own perfectionist tendencies. I don't have a bunch to talk about because my brain is completely obsessed with the novel I'm trying to finish and it's hard to think of anything else.

In addition, I'm having a hard time sleeping at night, my squirrel brain teasing me at 3:00 a.m. with questions like, "Who was that actress who played in noirs but it wasn't Jane oh-what's-her-name she was in that movie with Robert Mitchum...?" You get the picture. This means I sit down at my computer to write and fall asleep instead.

Anyway, I wanted you to all know I'm not dead yet, I'm working on MURDER TAKES THE REINS, and I'll be at a bunch of artsy craftsy festivals selling my books. I'd love to see your faces!

First up, this Sunday, March 17, at the Placentia Women's Club Round Table. They give prizes out at this event, and there are lots of vendors. I would love to see you--and maybe give you a prize!

I've got more appearances at more festivals, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

And to all...


Forgive me, Mr. Claws. I'm afraid I've made a terrible mess of your holiday.

I’ve leapt into the 90s with this quote. I do love me some Nightmare Before Christmas.

2023 has been busy and surreal. On the plus side, we were all kept running to vacations, to weddings, to engagements and activities galore. On the minus side, there was a minus side.

I think it’s all going to even out with enough miles behind us.

We do have a new member of our family this year. We are fostering a delightful 10-year-old Cairn terrier named Nessa. Think Toto from the Wizard of Oz. She is still quite spry for her age and has told our 2-year-old Corgi Piper that she wears the crown in this group. Nessa’s owner is sadly quite ill, so we are treating this foster like an adoption unless a miracle happens, and the owner is capable of taking care of her again.

Trips, so many trips this year. We were in Big Bear for a wedding, Chicago for a library conference, and Temecula for another wedding. We also took our week in the mountains, which was delightful, came home to repack and fly off to Hawai’i. We were on the big island in Kona with my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nephew, plus all of my sister-in-law’s siblings and their families. We didn’t really do any touristy stuff, but I enjoyed the feeling of being in this big chaotic jumble of a family, not to mention all the food.

Dale got to go to Angels’ spring training camp, where he did a lot of ushering. There were a couple of nights when I had dinner at Craftsman Pizza and tried to find him on TV during the game. Alas, I never did. He also volunteered at the U.S. Open Golf Tournament, although he missed this year’s Boston trip to play golf with his friends. His mom is requiring a lot more help these days and he’s been on-call to take care of her, our developmentally disabled cousin who lives with her, and the house they live in. He still manages to golf and to coach a team in the local parks and recreation basketball league.

And I see him every now and again.

My year started off strong. I had an author booth at a lot of festivals, I was guest speaker at the National Federation of Women’s Clubs Convention, which was thrilling, and Dhani and I finished in the Top Ten at the AQHA Level 1 West Championships. And then my semi-routine mammogram discovered breast cancer. It was Stage 0, contained, and all I had to have was surgery. No radiation, no chemo, just five years of monitoring and hormone-blocking meds. The next time you see me, I may have grown a beard.

Marcus is still working the day job at Cal State Long Beach while he plants himself in the world of barbershop. It seems that the Newfangled Four are constantly traveling around the country singing, competing, and making goofy videos. They came in 6th at this year’s International Barbershop Competition, and vow that next year, they’re aiming for the top. He’s also still in two choral groups, but I’m afraid his days as part of Westbeat have come to a close. I will miss seeing him perform in Downtown Disney, but a guy’s gotta pace himself. In the meantime, he’s having fun as an amateur bartender, whipping up unusual and tasty concoctions. I may have to hire him for my next soiree. 

In the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter tells Alice she’s lost her muchness. “You used to be much more…muchier.” I’m thinking these days about the muchness of life and how many times I didn’t do something because I was overwhelmed by how much energy it took. Then COVID came along and I realized how many things I missed out on because I thought I’d get to them later. And this year, going through breast cancer, I wondered if I’d have a “later.”

So, don’t wait. We know life is fragile but it’s hard to believe when we’re sitting here, hale and hearty. Take the vacation. Go to the concert. Stop by the little shop you admire. Invite a friend to join you. Use up every scrap of every minute of every day. To quote Auntie Mame: “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”


Fill your plate!

The Carlines

Monday, August 28, 2023

Having it all

 Author. Singer. Actor. Artist.

We've all heard the response when we said we wanted a career in the arts. "That's great, but you should have a backup plan."

Accountant. Teacher. Nurse. Tech. The Backup Plan.

Not making a living as an artist, needing a day job while you pursue your dreams, sounds like failure. You're supposed to reach for the stars, pour your heart and soul into your desires, knock on every door, chase every opportunity until your book is a bestseller, or your song hits Number One, or your movie is a blockbuster. Anything less than that is a big fat ZERO, and so are you.

BUT...what if the day job isn't the Backup Plan? What if you can be an accountant with a weekly singing gig and be happy?

A podcast I listened to recently made the case for the Parallel Job. As long as artists are creating art, we are not failures. Our day job is not what we've HAD to do to put food on the table--it's a parallel role, an additional plan we put into motion to enhance our lives.

And I might argue, that parallel job is necessary to artists. Even the creative brain needs to take a break now and then. Rest enables the creative ideas to bubble to the top, keeps the heart and mind from burning out. Working with numbers, with people, with objects allows our creativity to wander. And when it wanders, it sometimes picks up pretty rocks, interesting leaves, and a new idea or two.

The podcast also made a case for creating art for art's sake. So many authors are locked into a series or a genre because that's where their readers are so that's what they sell. Singers stay in their country/rock/jazz lane because every song has to reach for the top of the chart. Artists who find a niche (geometric cows, luminescent landscapes, splatter patterns) are encouraged to "paint more of that."

But maybe you don't always need to monetize your creativity. Maybe sometimes write something just for you. Sing a song for your baby. Put on a show for free. Do something that allows you to let go, feel the wind through your soul as you reach inside yourself and hitch it to the breeze. 

Keep the day job and do your art. Your success comes from juggling multiple tasks, from doing things to the best of your abilities, and from feeling the freedom that comes with self-expression.

Art, and life, are to be enjoyed. Get out there and enjoy them!

Sunday, August 13, 2023

I have no regrets

Y'all know one thing about me, and that is I'm a lady of a certain age...that age being older.

What you may not know is that I went to Las Vegas last weekend with three of my friends. We were having a farewell to one of the gals, who is moving out of the area. I'm not much of a Vegas baby. I'm too pale to enjoy the pools, and I don't gamble. The only things I like to do there are eat and go to shows. But I was happy and willing to spend a weekend with friends.

Vegas' motto is "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Not when I come to town. I will confess all and feel no regrets.

NoMad Library Restaurant

Our weekend included shopping at fabulous stores, eating delish food, touring the Princess Diana Exhibit, ziplining down Fremont Street, and seeing the show, "Thunder From Down Under," where I ended up on stage with half-undressed young men. 

I'm pretty sure I know which one of those activities you want me to tell you

I wasn't excited about seeing Thunder, but I've never seen the show and I didn't want to complain. We were tucked into a lovely booth in the back of the theater where I figured the dancers would be far away.

Apparently, I was wrong. They like to include the whole room.

The show was as I expected--dancing, ripping off shirts, ripping off pants, etc. The audience was overwhelmingly filled with bachelorette parties and each lead dancer picked a young woman from the audience and did suggestive dance moves with her. Rinse and repeat.

I think I had just checked my watch when I saw the emcee come off the stage toward an older, white-haired woman. Her name was Judy and he asked her to accompany him. She declined. We tried to encourage her ("Ju-DEE! JU-DEE!) but she wasn't having it. So he smiled and said, "That's okay, Judy. I think I see someone else in the crowd who might accompany me this evening."

Then he wandered all the way to the back, all the way to our booth, and held his hand out to me. I could have said no, but my motto has always been, "Sure, I'm not doing anything else."

He ushered me to a tall-backed red velvet chair in the middle of the stage, wrapped a boa around my neck, and asked me if I wanted "an experience." My first thought was, "Thanks, I've had some." I mean, I'm not a nun, right? Then he asked, "Would you like the boys to dance for you?"

Oooohhhh. THAT'S what he meant.

The boys came out in shirts and pants, dancing to 70s disco music. It's so cute they think that was my era. At some point the shirts came off and they kept dancing. Every once in awhile they'd come over to me and smile and I'd smile back and it was just a very smiley kind of thing. 

At some point I noticed they weren't on the stage anymore but the emcee was. He faced me and put my hands on his tush. I didn't squeeze but I did hold. Then he turned away from me and stood in front of me with his hands away from his sides.

I'm such a dork. I didn't know what he wanted me to do. At last, I held my arms out between his waist and his arms, my palms extended in an "I'm clueless" pose. I guess that was the right thing to do because he took my right hand and ran it down his chest, into his pants. Not too far, though. There are laws about that.

At various times he would lean in and let his cheek touch mine (faces, people!) so that it looked as if he was kissing me, but his lips never touched me. That's when I realized it was all "smoke and mirrors," even the suggestive dancing. Each time he leaned in, he asked if I was doing okay. I assured him I was fine.

It was a little like having the young guy at the grocery store ask me if I needed help getting my bags to the car.

He took my hands and lifted me from the chair, saying, "Now we're going to bow."

Bow? I thought. What's a bow? I remembered just in time, we bowed, and he escorted me to the edge of the stage. 

The crowd all cheered and gave me high-fives, told me how entertaining I was. I took that with a grain of salt, since they'd all been drinking. But it was fun.

And now I have a boa.

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