Saturday, June 30, 2007

Life List Day 103 - Get a Book on CD

As much of a bookworm as I am (and I am), I've never listened to a book on tape or CD.

I was at the library today and decided it was about time to give one a try.

I'll be honest - I'm skeptical. I've been to quite a few author's readings, and I have a hell of a time staying focused...guess I'm one of those visual people. I always hope they'll bring slides. Or maybe puppets.

Still, I'd love to be able to fill a roadtrip with a book rather than listening to the radio. Or how great would it be to want stretch my workout because I just can't stop before I hear the end of a chapter?

I chose Native Tongue by Carl Hiaasen - I had The Great Gatsby in my hand (I've always meant to read it, and thought I could kill two life list birds with one stone) - but since I fear my short auditory attention span could be a problem, I thought I'd go for a page turner.

I loaded it onto my iPod & will try it out tomorrow in my workout.

Anybody out there a fan of books on tape or CD?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Life List Day 102 - Finally Cook the Asparagus

I don't know what it is about asparagus that makes me buy it again and again - and never get around to cooking it. I'm sure it somehow goes back to my childhood. I'm playing out some sort of neglect issues.

Yesterday I bought asparagus.

And today, ladies and gentlemen, I cooked it.

I steamed it until crispy tender. The entire process took about two minutes - which was good because I'm working against a deadline and two minutes is about all I had for my life list today.

(But when I have a little more time, I intend to try one of the recipes at - thanks for passing that along, Caitlin!)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Life List Day 101 - Take My Work Out to Play

People always ask me, "Where do you write?" I know what they're hoping I'll say. There is in our culture the romantic notion of a writer, cozied up in a coffee shop, scribbling away on a notepad while sipping mug after mug of brew. Or maybe on the beach. Or a table at an outdoor cafe.

Which is why I hate to answer it truthfully: I write on a laptop, usually parked on my couch or - if I'm feeling especially frisky - my dining room table.

Today, I decided to take on the fantasy and write in a coffee shop. I went the Catalina Coffee Company in Redondo Beach, which is cool in that "matching furniture is for sissies" sort of way.

I loved it! I got myself an iced tea, snuggled into a chair, and wrote away (on my laptop - I won't even write a note longhand anymore). I'm not bothered by noise, and I actually found the general hubbub quite energizing. I'll definitely go there again (plus I hear they have the best Cobb salad in town).

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Life List Day 100 - Pause & Reflect About 100 Days of Tiny Adventures

Today is the 100th day since I started my life list where I do something new, fun or challenging every day.

So far, it's been an amazing experience. Most of the things I've done haven't been big - holding a snake, eating a new fruit, trying new restaurants, pulling out my old clarinet, rediscovering jogging, enjoying a drive through the Jacaranda trees - yet it's added up to a sense of fun in my life that I realize had been missing. Every day, there's a part of me that's more awake than ever before & wondering...what will I do today? What sense of joy will I find along the way?

Some days I plan (I looked forward to taking my guinea pigs racing for days). Most I play by ear.

I can't wait for the next 100 days!

Any suggestions for what I might want to try?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Life List Day 99 - A "Party Line" Book Club With Distinctly Diva

Woo hoo - one day to go to 100!

I marked it with an hour-long book club hosted by Distinctly Diva, a community of women who "want to put fun back into their lives and live a life that they love," according to founder Maureen O'Crean, author of I Am Diva.

Even though I've done a lot of book clubs, readings, interviews, etc., I was nervous about this one because it involved a "party line" call-in.

In other words: unknown technology.

That always scares me. I'm sure that I'm going to press some button that will - oh, I don't know - launch a rocket that will start World War III or something. As it turned out, we DID have some technical difficulties...and you know what? We survived! And I got to "meet" a bunch of great ladies.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Life List Day 98 - Face the Worst of Horrors...Swimsuit Shopping

After a while, I get tired of starring in my own Cathy cartoon strip - screaming "AAACK" from the dressing room as I try on swimsuits.

Today, at the suggestion of my Aunt Marcy, I bought a suit online at Lands' End, thus avoiding all that misery... or at least postponing it until it arrives in the mail.

The cool part: I could actually try it on a model based on my measurements (although you have to take it with a grain of salt - the swimsuit fits neatly over her proportions, no annoying riding up like happens in real life). And maybe the worst of horrors wasn't buying the swimsuit - it was taking my measurements so I could.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Life List Day 97 - Cuddle a Puppy

I'm not a dog person, but who could resist this?

My friend, Kirsten, and I took our sons to a skate shop opening, and I was thinking that would be my "thing" I'd do for my life list for the day. It was a bit of a bust for us (the boys liked it), so we decided to do some poking around the mini mall instead. That's when we found the puppy store.

I would never normally walk into a store called Puppies for the simple reason stated above - I'm not a dog person. I don't dislike them - I was just raised with cats, and now I have the pigs. I find dogs a bit too eager to please. (Which I suppose could be quite the insight into my love life - how my #1 objection to a species is that they WANT me.)

Anyway, Kirsten and I totally fell in love with a little spaniel pup. She was sweet, flirty, petite - and I finally understood where the term "puppy dog eyes" came from.

If I was allowed a dog in my apartment - and if I had a spare $1,200 to spend - I'd have definitely tossed her in my purse and brought her home.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Life List Day 96 - 3 Musketeers Mint Chocolate Bar

I'm starting to understand why I'm not having a lot of success with with diet I started on Day 38. It's stuff like today: Discovering that 3 Musketeers Bars now come in mint flavor with dark chocolate coating.

I wasn't sure if this was one of those "limited time only" things, so I figured I'd better go for it now.

Did you believe me on that one? Or did it just sound like a cheap excuse to eat a candy bar?

(And, for the record, what a candy bar it was: minty, fluffy, yummy.)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Life List Day 95 - Lunch With Someone I Met on MySpace

I've constantly warned my son not to meet up in person with anyone he "meets" on MySpace, yet today, I did just that.

After months of messaging back and forth, I finally met an author I befriended on the site: Carol Snow, who wrote a very funny book called Getting Warmer.

It felt strangely like a blind date waiting for her at the restaurant. I was looking for someone who looked like this (the author photo on her book jacket):

I was a little nervous "Carol Snow" might not really be the author but rather, this guy (whose pic I used to have on my son's computer as a screen saver, just to remind him who "cute, nice girl" might really be):

As it turned out, it really was Carol, and we had a great time talking for four hours about all kinds of authory things - the highs (seeing your novel for the first time in a store) and the lows (book signings where nobody shows up but your mother).

I love how the Internet connects me with people all over the world - but every now and then, it's fun to see a cyber-friend become a real friend.

(And Danny, if you're reading this, do as I say, not as I do.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Life List Day 94 - Write Down 5 Things I Want Do in 10 Years

My friend, Monica, is hosting a book club meeting with my book, The Next Thing on My List, and she's asked us all to bring a list of five things we want to do within the next 10 years.

Oddly enough, even though I wrote a novel about a woman doing a life list, I don't have one of my own.

So here's my top 5:

1. Live on the beach (in a house, not literally ON the beach)
2. Walk the red carpet at a movie premiere based on one of my novels
3. Have a closet full of clothes that actually FIT me
4. Volunteer my time regularly to something I care about
5. Oh, what the heck: Be in love

What's your top five?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Life List Day 93 - Set the Alarm for 5:30 AM

I'll be honest: this is a substitute activity. Originally, I'd planned to do a virtual book club hosted by Distinctly Diva- but a problem with the phone lines postponed the call for a week and left me with nothing done for my life list at 8 PM. (And I'd been looking forward to So You Think You Can Dance all week, so not even my life list was going to drag me away from my TV at that point!)

So instead, I set my alarm. 5:30 AM.

That's it, but it's a bigger deal than it might seem. For quite some time, I've been trying to rally to wake up earlier. I learned when writing my last novel that I'm my most creative in the wee hours - I can put down more pages between 6 and 9 AM than I can in an entire day.

This means I need to go to bed at 10:00. It means I need to actually get up when it's dark, start up my laptop, and write before my brain wakes up and starts thinking about things like email/errands/worries rather than the story I'm working on.

Well, nighty-night!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Life List Day 92 - Play the Lottery

I'm always saying how I'd love to win the lottery - but I never actually buy a ticket, which I think really stands in the way of the likelihood that I'll win.

Today, I went to my local 7-11 & bought a scratcher lottery ticket and two Super Lotto tickets (one "Quikpik" and one where I played my roulette numbers, including lucky numbers 11, 12 and 27).

The scratcher, as it turned out, was a bust.

The Super Lotto I won't know about until tomorrow (so if there's a headline that begins Woo - hoo!, you'll know).

I know the odds are, like, a billion to one, but that's better than if I hadn't bought a ticket at all. All in all, a fair amount of entertainment for three bucks.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Life List Day 91 - Go for a Destination Walk

On the days I don't go to the gym, I sort of propel myself out the door and attempt to walk for an hour or so.

Today, instead of just wandering, I decided to pick a destination and aim for it. I've been meaning to check out a new Conrans store that opened a couple miles from me. That's where I walked.

As for the experience, I have one word:


On the plus side, I walked farther and with more purpose than usual.

On the negative side, I walked on busy, exhaust-choked streets. Plus, when I got where I was going, turned out it wasn't Conrans (a furniture store I remember fondly from the '80s), but rather Crate & Barrel, which I already get a catalog for.

Ah well. There are 365 days in a year in which for me to try new things - they can't all be winners.

I have to remember that, sometimes, the reward is in the effort.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Life List Day 91 - Learn to Tie a Tie

With today being Father's Day, it makes me think of all the things my son's dad isn't around to teach him (having died five years ago when Danny was nine).

Today, I decided to take on one of those "dad things." (I thought about teaching Danny to shave, but he's already figured that one out on his own - and may soon need to teach me, as I'm not that many years away from chin hairs.)

Anyway, I taught him to tie a tie.

In order to do so, I had to learn it myself - which I did by googling the instructions shown above.

I figure it'll come in handy for him at some point... and for me as well if the Annie Hall look ever comes back in vogue.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Life List Day 90 - Make a Decision

I've been waffling back and forth on a decision for months now.

Last night, I told myself that today, I was just going to decide. This being in limbo has been sucking the life out of me, so my plan was to look at all my options and JUST PICK ONE ALREADY.

Not to get too earth mama on you, but I woke up this morning, prepared to weigh my choices carefully and make the best decision I could. As it turned out, I didn't need to. I woke up AND JUST KNEW.


That's it.

Today, for my life list task, I decided.

(As to WHAT I decided, sorry, that's kind of none of your beeswax. But thanks for asking!)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Life List Day 89 - See What's at the Top of the Stairs

Talk about a failure of curiosity - I live in a building of four townhouse-style apartments, with this staircase separating the front and back apartments:

Even though I've passed the staircase (that leads up to a UNLOCKED GATE no less!) literally hundreds of times, it's never occurred to me to see what's up there. Or maybe I just assumed it must be off limits. Or not be very interesting or else the landlady would have TOLD me it's off limits.

After living here for nearly a year - it finally dawned it me that it might be something good. For all I knew, there could be a jacuzzi up there. And a pool. With cabana boys.

So today, in honor of my life list, I tiptoed up there. This is it:

OK, not so much an LA-style paradise as a NY-style roof where, say, people might sit on their lunch hours trying to grab a tan. At least now I know!

Besides, it's sturdy enough to bring my own inflatable pool, and for that matter, private enough to bring my own cabana boy (preferably not of the inflatable variety).

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Life List Day 88 - Try for Myself "The Best Fries in L.A."

Los Angeles Weekly dubbed Skooby's french fries the best in L.A. - extra exciting since there's actually a Skooby's near me in Hermosa Beach, right on Pacific Coast Highway. I pass it all the time and think, "I ought to try those fries." Today, I finally got around it. I didn't have a lot of hope. A fry is a fry, I figured (I was intrigued mostly because the Weekly never includes anything near me in its "best of" list.)

So I tried the fries...and nearly wept from joy.

They really ARE the best fries in L.A.! Quite possibly the world!

The reviewer described them as "a mix of strips and chips, twice-fried in peanut oil until sienna-brown, crisp but still soft inside, and tossed with salt and special seasoning. The little serving of 'gourmet dipping sauce' (garlic-and-roasted-red-pepper mayonnaise) pushes the good-grease level off the charts."

Yeah. What he said.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Life List Day 87 - Pull Out the Ol' Clarinet

I played clarinet for eight years and was in my high school marching band and orchestra. (Yes, I was also in yearbook, student government and national honor society... what's your point?) Anyway, even though it was so much a part of my life, after graduation, I put my clarinet away and never gave it a thought again. It's not like I had any great musical talent or passion. I only ever practiced so I could kick Rob Stevens's ass when he tried to challenge me for my chair.

Today, I pulled out my clarinet. I had to go buy reeds before I could play it, and I'm here to say: It's nothing like riding a bike. I couldn't remember a thing. The sheet music I'd found in my case may as well have been written in Russian. (Maybe it was - it was Shostakovich.)

I managed to honk out a scale - and was feeling pretty lousy that that was all I could do - when my 15-year-old son came charging into my room and exclaimed, "Hey! You can play!" And not even sarcastically.

My confidence thus bouyed, I wowed him with Mary Had a Little Lamb (which I can also plink out on a piano) ... all in all, a fun little trip down a musical memory lane. I can't see me taking lessons or anything, but if it astounded my son this much, just imagine how it'll go over at parties.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Life List Day 86 - Go Hands-Free

I once threw up the night before a three-minute speech because I was so nervous.

Doing book readings, signings, etc., however, has forced me to get over my stage fright.

That said, I sure do like a podium to hide behind.

Today, I had a speaking engagement in front of about a hundred people, and when I was asked if I'd like a hands-free mike, I gulped, pulled my shoulders back bravely, and said, "Sure!" I figure if I ever get invited on Oprah or Ellen, I'll have to be comfortable with one. So I pinned the mike to my lapel, fastened the receiver to my belt loop, and gave it my best shot.

It was quite freeing! I was able to point and gesture and wander around while I spoke - although when a joke I told fell a little flat, I didn't have anything to tap and say, "Is this thing on?"

Monday, June 11, 2007

Life List Day 85 - Sponsor a Woman Survivor of War

Today I signed on to sponsor a woman survivor of war through Women for Women International .

I've been wanting to do this for quite a while, so today I did. It's $27 a month, and the money goes to give a woman from a war-torn region (Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, or the Congo, etc.) financial and emotional aid, job-skills training, rights education and small business assistance so she can rebuild her life.

Once I'm matched with a woman, they asked that I write letters to her. (I was a bit nervous about committing to that, but then I said to myself, wait! I write for a living! How hard could it be?)

Anyway, I knew it was the right thing to do when I watched the little video on their web site and started blubbering.

My cry-dar never fails.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Life List Day 84 - My Own Personal Watermelon!

How did I miss this? How did I not know about the evolutionary miracle that is the personal watermelon? I didn't think science could improve upon going seedless, but I was at the grocery store and saw a watermelon that could fit in my hand and - more importantly - in my refrigerator. I bought one for me and one for Danny. No need to share!

As if that weren't exciting enough, I googled "personal watermelon" only to find out this fun tidbit that I offer to you today in honor of my life list: In Japan, they grow watermelons in various shapes.

Like this:

And this:

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Life List Day 83 - Go to a Performance of the California Theatrical Youth Ballet

I went because my cousin, Danica, had a solo in a pre-show to the ballet (that's her in the photo...she's a cutie!).

I managed to nab a seat in the front row, and the theater was so small, I literally pulled in my feet a few times for fear I'd trip a dancer.

Seeing professional dancers do their thing is always lovely - but seeing a not-quite-pro show like this was downright fascinating. Not yet to the point where they knew how to put on a disguise of effortlessness, there was no missing how HARD these dancers were working. They sweated. They strained to control their breathing. They made noise when their feet hit the floor. (Kind of like what I do walking up the stairs these days.)

Anyway, with some of the illusion stripped away, it was a reminder to me of both the physical limitations and the amazing capacity of the human body... of the effort it takes to really keep these things we call our bodies humming.

That said, I think I'll go the gym now.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Life List Day 82 - Snub Starbucks

I don't even like coffee, but when someone says, "Let's meet for coffee," I always suggest meeting up at Starbucks. I have no idea why. They don't serve unsweetened iced tea, which would be my beverage of choice in the morning. I suppose I lean toward Starbucks for the simple reason that they're everywhere. I don't have to think.

Today, when a friend suggested grabbing a coffee, I said, "How about anywhere BUT Starbucks?"

She suggested a local place called Java Man which, to my delight, not only had passion fruit iced tea, but free Wi-Fi.

Another tiny victory for my life list.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Life List Day 81 - Don't Take My Son His Homework

After dropping Danny off at school this morning, I came home to see he left his Science homework on the table.

I'd said, "Did you pack your towel for PE? Did you get your essay from the printer? Do you have lunch money?" "Where's your retainer case?" Because I didn't specifically say, "Did your homework make it from the table into your backpack?" it didn't get done. This kid is 15 - three years away from independence - and I sometimes wonder because I don't say, "Did you wipe your ass?" after he goes to the bathroom if it actually gets done. Actually, I don't want to know.

Anyway, Danny needs every point he can get in school- I know even if he doesn't that even one assignment could tip the scale on a grade between really crappy and just plain crappy. Therefore, I thought about all the ways I could somehow get him that homework to turn in on time. All of them involved me calling/driving/doing what clearly at this point my son should be doing for himself.

So I didn't.

That's my big achievement for the day.

Honestly, it's one of the harder things I've done...and I know I need to be doing it more.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Life List Day 80 - Drive Through the Jacaranda Trees

I'm telling you, this photo doesn't do them justice. Driving through Jacaranda trees when they're in bloom is like traveling under a gigantic, fluffy, lavender umbrella. There's something about it that makes me positively giddy.

We don't have Jacaranda where I live by the beach (all we have are those damned bottle brush trees that drop red bristles all over my car).

I happened to be in Beverly Hills today. Once I realized it was Jacaranda season, I was inspired to take a detour to look for tree-lined streets. Truthfully, I wouldn't have bothered if I weren't doing the life list. I'd have noticed a tree here and there, said, "hmm, pretty," and that would have been that. But the life list made me think, "I know some of these streets have LOTS of them, and, by golly, I'm going to find them!"

Which I did.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Life List Day 79 - Conquer My Self-Cleaning Oven

I've had a few baking - let's say - incidents, which have resulted in a very nasty layer of goo at the bottom of my oven. And by "my" oven, I mean the oven that came with my apartment. I've typically rented from slumlords before and, therefore, have never had a fancy self-cleaning oven like the one I have now. For that matter, I don't think I've ever had an oven made after the 1970s. So I've had no clue how to work it. It may be self cleaning, but it's clearly looking for some sort of direction from me.

Today, I set out to make that oven clean itself if it was the last thing I ever did.

There's no manual. At first, I just started pressing buttons. Then I tried looking up instructions on the Internet. That failing, I called my mom. I called the landlord. My son got in on the act. I went back to pressing buttons. I was getting carpal tunnel in my index finger, but I hoped I'd eventually find the mystery combination of buttons... and I did!

Suddenly, the "self cleaning oven" light lit, and the oven sealed itself like a bomb shelter.

After about 20 minutes, my house was filled with noxious smoke.

"Is this supposed to happen?" my son asked nonchalantly, eating ice cream from a carton while I threw open windows and did a google search under "oven self cleaning smoke normal harmful death?" You'd be surprised how many web sites come up for that - one of which assured me that we'd be fine (but small animals could be harmed, which was why Joan and Scruffy's cage went outside for a few hours...they're still squeaking about it).

Anyway, it wasn't the most glamorous thing to do for my life list, but it sure was exciting.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Life List Day 78 - Call in to a Book Club

On my web site at, I offer to call in to reading groups that choose THE NEXT THING ON MY LIST as their book selection. Tonight, I talked via speakerphone to a lively bunch of ladies from from Spring Haven, Michigan. (Hollah!) I had a great's alway fun to get to meet readers, even if it is from 2,500 miles away.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Life List Day 77 - Get a Massage at the Car Wash

Some of my most enjoyable life list tasks seem to happen right after I say, "Oh, what the hell."

Like today's: I was at the car wash, and I noticed in the waiting area they had a massage chair. Five minutes for $1.

Normally I wouldn't have given it a thought, but I needed to do something for my life list, so I said - you guessed it - "Oh, what the hell."

Granted, I felt a bit silly sitting in the chair on full display of the other customers. I inserted my dollar bill, reminiscing about those "Magic Fingers" beds that were in some of the very fine hotels I stayed in as a kid. This, as it turned out, wasn't like that. There wasn't any jiggling and vibrating. It was more like a big fist built into the chair that ran up and down my back. It felt pretty good, actually.

So good, in fact, that I sprang for an extra five minutes.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Life List Day 75 - A Failure Due to Cowardice...and an "Oh, Well"

This is the guy who lives next door to me. Several times a week, he walks to the end of the driveway, faces the busy street, and sings while playing guitar. I can't figure it out - why?!? Why does he do it? Traffic moves too fast for anyone to notice him. He's drowned out by the noise of passing cars. Does he pretend he's in a nightclub? Does the wind in his hair aid his strumming? Today, I was going to wander by - all nonchalant-like - and ask him what he's doing.

I chickened out.

A bit later, I wanted to yell at a bunch of rowdy teenagers who were giggling/talking/answering cellphones while I was trying to watch the movie, Waitress (BTW, liked it, but not as much as I'd thought I would).

I couldn't work up the nerve.

So for my life list: today I realize that bravery doesn't come overnight. Sometimes I'll take on the hard tasks - and have. And sometimes I won't.

It's all baby steps. And I'm making them every day.