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Favorite Things 2011

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Every year I think back over the new things I fell in love with over the previous twelve months. Past lists have included butter bells, Droid cell phone, floor steam cleaners, and UGGs. Here are the things I loved in 2011:

iPad — I held off getting one of these expensive buggers for a long time. But dang…I LOVE this thing! It's so versatile, and it doubles as an e-reader for my son. I have a Kindle, but I don't really want him using it, since I have, er, adult books on it. I also bought the little portable keyboard to go with it, so in a pinch, I can write on my iPad. Love!

Haflinger Slippers — these might not be the most attractive things on the planet, but they are SO comfortable and warm. They mold to your foot and fit like a glove. I adore these slippers.

Lip Fusion XL — Yeah, this stuff is EXPENSIVE. I happened to get a few bottles when Sephora had a closeout sale, so they were ridiculously cheap. But boy, this stuff works to plump up your lips, and the plumping effect lasts. For days. You use it at night, and it moisturizes and exfoliates like nothing I've every used. I wouldn't pay full price for it, but you can find sales sometimes, and some good deals especially on trial sizes (which should last a month) on Ebay.

Furminator — For those who follow me on my blog, Twitter, or Facebook, you know that this year we got a puppy. She's a long-haired King Shepherd with one hell of an undercoat. We got regular brushes for her, but people kept saying to try the Furminator. I was skeptical. I mean, those things are expensive for a brush. Yeah…call me a convert. The Furminator absolutely works and is totally worth the money. Even after a thorough brushing with a regular brush, I can run the Furminator over Hexe, and in ONE STROKE, I have a handful of undercoat. A good, all over brushing will get me enough fur to make a large cat. Amazing product.

FitFlop Pietra Flip Flop — I bought these fit flops because I needed something comfortable to wear while walking around New York City last summer, and I'd heard these were great. Um…yeah. They are beyond great. The most comfortable flip flops I've ever owned, with the added benefit of toning your legs. Okay, not so sure about the toning, but I will say that after walking in them, I do feel it in my upper legs and butt. My feet have a tendency to hurt after only a little walking, but they NEVER hurt in these. I especially like this design because it's narrower than the other FitFlop designs, and I have narrow feet. The only issue is that the leather on top can rub on the top of the toes, but I solved that by working the leather a little until it was soft. No issues after that.

Waffle Maker — I love this little sucker! I make waffles for my son for breakfast, and this particular maker is nice because it stores upright, so it has a small footprint on the counter. No having to find a place to put it after using it or having it take up a ton of room in the kitchen. Makes nice Belgian waffles too! Yum!

Okay, that's all I can think of for this year. Is there anything you loved this year that you can share?



Where Were You?

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Ten years ago today, I was working in the Lindbergh Field air traffic control tower at San Diego International airport. My job was to provide weather for incoming and outgoing aircraft, but after the second tower was hit, all flights were incoming as controllers scrambled to bring planes out of the air.

There wasn't one single incident — controllers all over the world deserve kudos for handling an unprecedented emergency operation like that so professionally and without an accident.

I'd been working at airport weather stations for eight years, and I'd never seen anything like what went on at Lindbergh Field. As I watched the TV in horror and the weather with anxiety, the airport, including the tower, was locked down. I'd gone in for an 8 hour shift, but ended up staying for 48.

During that time, the planes that, before the order to bring planes back, had been queued for takeoff were kept lined up as planes were brought down into Lindbergh Field. One after another, just minutes apart, planes came in. Planes were nose to tail on the taxiways.

Then, the airport turned into a big police and military operation. The planes were emptied, and luggage was laid out all over the tarmacs as police dogs were brought in to search. It was incredible to look out onto the runways, taxiways and grassy areas and see nothing but luggage spread like a big quilt from one end of the airfield to the other.

They were looking for other terrorists, part of a West coast plot. From what I've heard, the action the FAA took in grounding all planes averted more tragedy.

The next 48 hours were weird and scary. All planes were grounded, and yet, in the middle of the night on the second day, a plane landed at Lindbergh Field. I was in the Air Force, where I worked in the weather station at a base that was home to KC-135 Stratotankers. I'd know that plane anywhere.

So when one landed in the middle of the night…I recognized it, even though it had been painted to resemble a commercial aircraft — the windows had even been painted on.

To this day, I don't know what was going on…I suspect a military decoy operation, but boy…it was weird.

I began to hear from other weather and air traffic control friends who were putting events prior to 9/11 together. Freaky things, stories about foreigners who had been training with aircraft and doing things that, at the time, were odd (sneaking under radar, sneaking in landings at airports without permission, etc.) but that now made sense.

So much was happening behind the scenes during those days following 9/11, and I can only think that while that day was horrific beyond belief, a lot of lives were saved. (I'm not even going to address the conspiracy theories, which are ridiculous.)

I was on the opposite coast, and yet, 9/11 affected me profoundly. I can only imagine how people who were in NYC and DC are feeling today. To everyone affected, you're in my thoughts.

And wow, the memorial that's been constructed in NYC is amazing. I hope to be able to see it someday.

Now you know where I was on 9/11. Where were you?



Sex and Violence in Young Adult Novels

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Okay, so this is a topic that may get people riled up. Bear with me here…

As a frequent hanger-arounder on Twitter, Facebook, and the internet in general, I see a LOT of complaints from parents about sexual content in Young Adult novels. These same parents don't ask about the levels of violence…and let me tell you, Young Adult novels can be SERIOUSLY violent and grim.

So, as an author of books that are chock full of both sex and violence, I was stumped at the idea that parents were fine with their kids reading about children killing other children, about kids being subjected to torture and death, etc.

I mean, I know parents who are cool with their kids watching slasher movies, but if a love scene comes on a prime time show, it's like, OMG, COVER YOUR EYES!!!! And let's not even talk about a gay kiss on TV.

Seriously…this baffled me.

To me, sex is not something to be ashamed of. It's natural, and between consenting adults, it can be beautiful. It's a way of expressing emotion. It's a way to communicate. In books, it's also a powerful way to show characterization. How a character reacts to sex can tell a lot about them. SO much can be revealed about characters and their relationships in a sex scene, which is why I never close the bedroom door in my books.

So…to sum this up, I am 100% cool with sex in romance. And again, I've been baffled by the, "Violence is okay in YA but is there sex???" questions. (And actually, I'm STILL baffled about that in adult fiction too, but that's another blog post.)

But the YA thing kind of makes sense to me now.

See, I have a 14 YO son. I buy him a lot of YA because the kid reads like a maniac, like I did at his age. Except I was already on adult books by his age — Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz. I was reading straight-out horror at his age.

And I started thinking…I turned out to be fine. My parents let me read horror, let me watch horror movies. But why? Weren't they afraid that I'd turn into a chainsaw killer? Weren't they afraid I'd go to school and beat my classmates to death with baseball bats or burn down a building?

No, they weren't, because they knew I wasn't mentally unstable, and a book wasn't going to change that. But I'll bet they wouldn't have let me read a sexy romance. Why?

I think it's because, even though sex (to me,) is natural and nothing to be ashamed of, we know it's going to happen. Our kids are curious, and sex is…well, it feels good, right? Their bodies are growing, and they are a mass of raging hormones when they hit the teen years. But most of us know our kids aren't violent. Reading a violent book isn't going to turn them violent. I read a lot of horror novels and never once wondered what it would be like to hack someone to death with an axe.

But sex? Yeah…I wondered. Because I was normal.

So what it comes down to, (I think, for some parents,) is that in the grand scheme of things, violence DOESN'T feel good for normal people. It isn't fun. We don't fantasize about it the way we do sex. It might be interesting to read about, but in reality, it's full of pain and shame, and it gets people killed. We know our normal teens aren't going to go out and commit atrocities. Reading about it isn't going to change that for NORMAL kids. And any kid prone to violence is going to act out eventually anyway (and by the teen years, it's pretty obvious which ones are the ones who need to be watched.)

On the other hand, NORMAL teens will want sex. Maybe not now, but eventually. It WILL happen. So I think parents who are concerned about sexual content are concerned that it's going to make a curious kid even more curious. Where with violence…probably not.

So anyway, I think for some these parents, it might not be a "prude" thing, but more a matter of, "I know my kid isn't going to go on a killing rampage, but sex is normal and fun…and it's not time for him/her to deal with that yet."

Yes, there are definitely people who are more conservative and those who think sex is worse than violence, but I'm not talking about those ones here.

I'm talking about the ones who aren't quite sure why they're okay with violence but not sex, and are feeling it out at more of a psychological level…as in, deep down, we humans are capable of violence, but we don't LIKE it. We're not going to DO it. But sex…natural, fun, and we WILL do it.

I also think that nothing is going to substitute talking to kids about the realities of sex (and the realities of violence) so that when they do read about these things or see them on TV, they understand all consequences. Making sex a non-taboo subject may help…we talk to our son pretty openly about it so he's not afraid to come to us. We also talk to him about the reality of violence and how making others hurt is not okay. Not people, not animals.

I want my son to read whatever he wants to read (okay, I do have exceptions…at 14 he is SO not reading the Anne Rice/A.N. Roqeulaure erotica novels,) and I want him to have a good foundation so that he understands what he's reading. I think YA can portray sex, relationships, drug abuse, eating disorders, etc., in lights that make teens think and can ultimately help.

It all comes down to knowing your kids and knowing what they're reading.

Okay, so long post over. Just had to throw some thoughts out there, since I'm in the process of buying a ton of books for my son. I had YA on the brain!

So what about you…do your teens read YA, or are they onto more adult books? I'm trying to decide where to go with my son from here!



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