Friday, December 27, 2013

eHarmony - "The Enron of online dating"

Neil Clark Warren should be ashamed of himself.

After joining eHarmony for a trial subscription ending on Dec. 14th, costing approximately $20/month ($59.95 for three months), my account was then charged $49.95 for an additional month.  I had previously tried to close my account several times but was unable to because I had a 3-month subscription, and the website won't let you close out if you still have time on a subscription. So I had been very careful to make sure that the auto-renew feature was turned off prior to Dec. 14th.

Imagine my shock on the 15th when I checked my account, saw that it was still active and that I had been charged $49.95 for an additional month of a totally worthless service. I immediately called Customer Service, as there is a 3-day cancellation period in their terms and services.

Customer Service informed me that I had renewed my membership on Dec. 10th. I don't recall doing so, but I do recall looking at the subscription options recently to see if there were any changes to the available plans. I did not complete the subscription offer and therefore thought that my account would still close on Dec. 14th. There was no message stating, "Your membership is now renewed and you will be charged full price on Dec. 14th."

I was warned after I joined eHarmony about them charging to continue unwanted memberships, and was therefore very careful to be sure auto-renew was turned off. I had been travelling a lot for work that week, however, and clearly was not as vigilant as I should have been against stealthy charges.

Customer Service directed me to their email complaint department, which today informed me that they cannot issue me a refund and directed me to read the terms and services on their website. The terms say nothing about refusing to give a refund, but do include a 3-day cancellation period.

According to the email, they will not address the issue further and I have no other recourse. They won't even let me talk to a human person.

Since then I've found myriad complaints about eHarmony. The real shock is that Mr. Warren is an evangelical Christian, upon whose personal reputation the service is promoted.

Maybe I shouldn't be so shocked. Actually, I'm not. I'm just deeply disappointed and embarrassed on behalf of all the other evangelical Christians who get a bad rap because of charlatans like him.

One anonymous person wrote this on a complaint website:

Please tell everyone you know to avoid eHarmony. Online dating can work. There are honest and effective online dating sites out there. The top two competitors of eHarmony are both genuinely good sites. I know because I've used them since my experience with eHarmony.

I sincerely hope others are more fortunate and learn of eHarmony's deception before signing up. Because eHarmony will steal your money and according to the dozens of other complaints I've since read, they will renew your contract and charge your credit card even after you've cancelled.

eHarmony is clearly the Enron of on-line dating.

A friend gave me a good tip to avoid bogus charges on a website like this. You must enter a credit card to sign up, but what you can do is change the card to a Visa gift card that has no value on it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Shostakovich and the Glory (or Odium) of the Internet

My son is doing a school project on Dmitri Shostakovich for his music class. He didn't know how to find the composer's greatest hits. I showed him how to search "Shostakovich Greatest Hits" and then take the playlist from the resulting CD listing.

Then I tried to explain about how when I was a kid, we went to the library. We used BOOKS. Some of them were called ENCYCLOPEDIAS. Our local library recently got rid of the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. A friend called me and asked if I wanted it. I did, but I had no room for it and had to pass.


Despite the slovenly ease of the Internet, I see books for sale all the time. I even see books for free. Recently, I attended a book festival and visited the tent of a small publisher that has published books by some of my friends. Both of their books were on the table. I bought one, having already ordered the other from the author. Then I was told that with a purchase, I get a book from the Free Table.

Ouch. May my books never be on the Free Table.

However, the free book I got looks really good. It's called Productive Procrastination by Kerul Kassel. The subtitle is "Make it work for you, not against you!"

Could it actually be wise to procrastinate sometimes? This book contains the secrets to understanding when it can be productive to procrastinate, and provides strategies for switching on the inspiration and motivation to start and finish the important tasks and goals you've been putting off.

Of course I've been procrastinating about reading it but I'll get around to it eventually.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's All About Perspective

Bell Tower, Longwood Gardens
Perspective on our own work is nearly impossible to achieve in the beginning. We are scaling a tower and fighting dragons of doubt and incomptence to reach the prize at the top: a sense of self-worth. A feeling that no, I am not a delusional maniac with a multiply-split personality, but someone of vision and coolness and writerly awesomesauce.

That feeling lasts for about ten minutes when we actually finish a draft. Then we look down from the top of our completed manuscript, find we are dizzy and disoriented, and climb right back down to start all over again from the beginning. We repeat until we are so sick of that damned tower that we decide to go write poetry by the lake instead.

Eventually, however, we get jaded enough to gain real perspective. I believe that has finally happened to me ten years into my literary adventures. I finally have started to look at my work as... well... work. A draft is just something to be refined and edited like a report for my day job. This sounds callous but it's actually very freeing.

My soul's well-being no longer depends on someone liking my stuff. I know what I like. I know what sounds good. I know that there are lots of people who don't read the kind of stuff I write. Who aren't going to get the whole literary-fantasy thing.

One day I really do want to write a literary fantasy novel, about a character in another world getting to know himself. I want to write a fantasy literary contemporary novel, in which "she doth rise and toss the laundry into the washer with one meager cupful of viscous liquid, which when combined with cold water from the city supply doth miraculously make her clothing bright and fresh."

One day I shall write that report I jokingly mentioned on Facebook about how "68% of physicians are having affairs with their nurses and 42% of psychiatrists have unicorns to take notes for them during patient sessions." (I analyze health care provider surveys for a living. Sometimes you just gotta spice things up.)

Most importantly, I TRUST MYSELF. This is a huge thing, people. No longer will critique partners or casual commenters on my blog or Facebook cause me to rush to change a work I've slaved over yet again.

How did I get this way?
  • Practice. Lots of it. Writing junk, seeing what works and what doesn't. 
  • Talking to other writers, going to conferences and writers' group meetings
  • Reading writing and agent blogs. 
  • Having the courage to put a few things out there and getting some positive feedback from people who don't know me
  • Realizing how very subjective anything to do with the creative arts is.
  • Most of all... getting to know my characters inside and out. They guide me. They know what to do. 
As my friend February Grace says, "The characters are in control. I just take dication.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Internal Dialogue Dilemma

Internal dialogue is the term writers use for the thoughts that run through people's heads, revealing emotions, prejudices, states of mind, and reactions to external events. My current story has quite a bit of it, as the character thinks she is being haunted. She lives alone and talks to a friend she runs with on the beach every night, but much of the action takes place in her house.

I tend to prefer to put internal dialogue in third person so that it blends seamlessly with the narrative. Other writers (and readers) prefer that it be in first person and italicized. I'm going to give you an example and ask what you think.

Third person (the way I wrote it):

     Amber strode to the door, pushed it shut, and locked both the knob and the deadbolt. She could call the police, but what would she tell them? That she thought she’d seen a ghost and her front door was open? She checked in closets, behind shower curtains, and any other place a person could hide but no bogeymen jumped out at her. Leaving the lights on, she went back to bed still clutching the flashlight.

First person, italics:

     Amber strode to the door, pushed it shut, and locked both the knob and the deadbolt. I could call the police, but what would I tell them? That I thought I saw a ghost and my front door was open? She checked in closets, behind shower curtains, and any other place a person could hide but no bogeymen jumped out at her. Leaving the lights on, she went back to bed still clutching the flashlight.

Only now we have dialogue buried in the midst of description, which requires paragraph breaks:

     Amber strode to the door, pushed it shut, and locked both the knob and the deadbolt.  
     I could call the police, but what would I tell them? That I thought I saw a ghost and my front door was open? 
     She checked in closets, behind shower curtains, and any other place a person could hide but no bogeymen jumped out at her. Leaving the lights on, she went back to bed still clutching the flashlight.

This is really disruptive, so I could take the internal dialogue out altogether:

Amber strode to the door, pushed it shut, and locked both the knob and the deadbolt. She checked in closets, behind shower curtains, and any other place a person could hide but no bogeymen jumped out at her. Leaving the lights on, she went back to bed still clutching the flashlight.

In my opinion, this version deprives the reader of valuable insight as to her state of mind.

Really, though, in the end, it boils down to personal preference. So, which of the three versions would YOU prefer?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I want to be good, not published

Okay, I DO want to be published. Let's get that clear. But I want to be published well.

I've seen several new writers publish bad work and get excited about it. I admit, there is a definite thrill to seeing one's name in print, but in the long run it's going to hurt you to have crappy stuff out there on the Interwebz or even - gawd help us - printed on actual paper.

It reminds me of the guy who had a sandwich delivery business to our office last summer. He called himself The Deli Man and came to the second floor every day with a cart containing sandwiches and salads. The sandwiches were bland and soggy and the salads were composed of barely torn up pieces of romaine and huge chunks of veggies that were impossible to eat without cutting them up further. He expressed interest in feedback and I politely gave it to him, but did he change the way he did anything? No. That's just the way he does it, he said.

In addition, the variety of offerings never changed. Even those of my colleagues (including myself) who were willing to put up with sub-par fare in exchange for the convenience of delivery, got tired of eating the same thing every day. So his patronage dwindled. He got snippy, took his food and went home. No one noticed.

The same is true of any other product. If you want people's respect and continued interest, you have to give them something worth consuming.

So that's why I'm taking my time with my novel and future stories. I don't just want to be published. I want to be good.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Meditative Silence

I've been rather quiet here, other than my celebrations of alcoholic strawberries (yay!). The divorce has been final for a couple months and summer is our busiest time at work, so between home and office I've been pretty frantic. Also, the South Jersey Writer's Group has completed a very successful Kickstarter campaign and we will be publishing not one but TWO more anthologies. One is yet to be named and the other will be Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey Vol. II.

So I've been wrangling those ideas onto the page when I'm not working or lawn-mowing. My ex-husband was the king of the yard, so I never had to deal with spinning blades of death until now.

My son found this joke in his Boy's Life magazine:
Q: What is a perfect summer day?
A: The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the lawnmower is broken.

Today happens to be one of those perfect summer days. The lawn is already mowed and I am taking the day off for the beach. This is research as well, of course, as it's been a while since I experienced Ocean City. We've had a very rainy summer. Ginger's story is going to get written one of these days. I'm just not sure when or how.

This morning as I sat in bed drinking my coffee, in the peaceful quiet of my own house, I thought of how I can't stress out anymore about being the perfect mother, the perfect writer, the perfect employee, or the perfect neighbor whose lawn is always well-tended. God gave each of us a certain amount of physical and mental energy. There's only so much we can do. When I was younger, I could blaze through my Saturdays in a manic burst and get everything done. Now I need a nap. Sometimes two naps.

The amazing thing is... when things don't get done, the world doesn't fall apart the way I thought it would. That's partly because I have excellent bosses who know the workload is crazy and are willing to be flexible and even pitch in to help when necessary. Diane and Susan, I love you and I love working for you. It's also because without my ex, God bless him, every little tiny thing isn't a crisis any more.

God is blessing me, too. In little ways, every day I see His grace. There are things that need to change about our lives but I am able to trust the One who knows me best to help me make those changes. I'm waiting on His wisdom and insight.

I'm writing while I wait.

Have a lovely weekend!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Chocolate Strawberry Shots

A few months ago a friend posted a photo of these on Facebook and I just had to try them. I believe the original photo came from Erica's Sweet Tooth. They were a huge hit at my party last night. The ladies all drooled over them. Everyone wanted the recipe, so here it is:

1 quart large strawberries
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 oz. Godiva chocolate liqueur
2 oz. vanilla flavored vodka
2 oz. chocolate syrup
nonstick cooking spray

Start with large strawberries.  I bought three quarts and sifted through to find the biggest ones. Wash, pat dry with a paper towel and cut off the tops. They were already hollow inside but I cut extra space in the biggest ones with a grapefruit spoon. The smaller ones will break if you hollow out too much.

Cut the bottoms off the strawberries so that they will stand up. Try not to leave a hole at the bottom of the berry, but if you do that's okay. Just be sure to cover the hole with chocolate. Pat the cut part dry as well. Be certain the berries are dry before you dip them or the chocolate won't stick.

Put a ceramic plate in the freezer to cool it down. This will help keep the chocolate from sticking to the plate. Spray generously with cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave on 30% power, stirring every 20 seconds. Be sure not to overcook the chocolate. Dip the strawberries in the chocolate and stand up on the plate. Cool in the refrigerator for one hour. You could also put them in the freezer, but don't let the berries freeze or they'll get mushy.

Carefully separate the berries from the plate with a knife or sharp spatula. Fill and enjoy!

(Note: Since I would never in a million years use a full-sized bottle of vanilla vodka, I bought a little bottle from the checkout display at the liquor store.)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My First 6 Years as a Would-Be Novelist

This February marked the sixth anniversary of my dive into novelling after a very long hiatus from writing for career, marriage and motherhood. I've been thinking about what I learned from this ordeal, which has spanned three career changes, a divorce, and the first six years of my son's education. He is starting middle school next fall, I'm starting life over as a single mother, and my book still isn't done.

So what have I learned? I thought I'd have a ropeful of pearls of wisdom for you. I don't. It really just boils down to three things.

1. It's okay not to know what you're doing.

 People kept telling me to trust my instincts and my own process. When you're starting out, you HAVE no instincts nor process. You're watching everyone else and trying to learn as much as you can. That's good! Keep doing it. Eventually you will develop the skill and the know-how to do what you need to do. The writing community is extremely supportive and if you are active on Facebook and comment on blogs, you will make friends who will gladly help you.

2. It takes money, but not as much as you think.

Although you can learn a lot from blogs, networking, writer's groups and such, the broke writer is going to struggle to compete with those who take classes, attend big conferences, and so on. BUT... there are some inexpensive ways to learn. I started out with an adult education class at our regional high school. Later I took a $95 online fiction writing course through the community college that was the best hundred bucks I've ever spent on writing. There are inexpensive local conferences to attend, and even some online workshops you can join for free. Keep your eyes and ears open!

3. Writing is not your life. 

People will tell you that it is, but it's not. Your family, your spiritual life, your day job, your home, your friends, your health... all of these things must be taken care of and are essential to a healthy, productive you. Your novel is not worth losing your marriage or your job (because you stay up till 1 a.m. every night and then screw up at work, for example), nor missing your child's soccer games, nor being so isolated you never talk to anyone IRL. (In Real Life.)  Writing is an essential part of your life, but it must never, ever take over completely. At the end of the day, a fictional hero will not hold you and you still have to do the dishes, the laundry, and cope with piles of tedious work for your boss. Embrace it. It will keep you real and give you more fodder for authentic writing.

Health is the first muse and sleep is its requirement. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have a healthy, productive, restful Sunday, my friends.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Signing Friday Night, March 1st

My fellow "Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey" authors and I will be hanging out at the Casciano Coffee Bar and Sweetery in Hammonton tomorrow night from 7:00 - 10:00. Come on down for coffee, tea, and conversation in South Jersey!

212 Bellevue Avenue (Rt. 54)
Hammonton, NJ 08037

I'm looking forward to a cappuchino!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

You may live in Ohio if....

A field near my parents' home, beautiful in any season

Having grown up in Cleveland, I find this so true and just had to put it up. 

"Jeff Foxworthy has a lot to say about Ohio:

If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you may live in Ohio.

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't even work there, you may live in Ohio. (this is totally my dad!)

 If you've worn shorts and a jacket at the same time, you may live in Ohio.

 If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you may live in Ohio. 

If "vacation" means going anywhere south of Dayton for the weekend, you may live in Ohio. (Or if a vacation means going to Pittsburgh for the weekend)

If you measure distance in hours, you may live in Ohio. 

If you know several people who have hit a deer more than once, you may live in Ohio. 

If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day and back again, you may live in Ohio. 

If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you may live in Ohio. (totally!!!!)

If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both doors unlocked, you may live in Ohio. (this is for animals, by the way.)

If you carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you may live in Ohio. 

If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you may live in Ohio. (Totally!!!! ROFL!!!)

If the speed limit on the highway is 55 mph -you're going 80 and everybody is passing you, you may live in Ohio. 

If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you may live in Ohio. (TOTALLY!!!)

If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction, you may live in Ohio.

If you have more miles on your snow blower than your car, you may live in Ohio. (Also my Dad)

If you find 10 degrees "a little chilly", you may live in Ohio. (Dad)

 If you actually understand these jokes, repost this so all of your Ohio friends and others can see, you definitely do live - or have lived - in OHIO!

I would add one more... If you have ever waited for the bus during May finals week and had snow blowing in your hair, you may live in Ohio.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Snapshot

I got nothin' people. It's been a very busy week and I haven't done any writing at all. So I'm giving you an actual snapshot of my dog looking out the window. What do you think he's saying to himself?

Perhaps, "It's January. Where's the snow?"

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Highlighting Tips

"They" say that writers shouldn't blog about writing all the time because it's boring, so today I'm going to blog about hair. I do my own highlights at home with a kit from the grocery store, and a lot of women say to me, "How can you do that? It's so hard."

It's actually very simple and today I'm going to show you how.

Disclaimer: Follow all of the rules on the package. ALL of them, including the annoying allergy test. If your scalp turns green and your hair falls out, don't blame me. Ahem.

Step 1: Put the plastic cap on your head and poke your scalp dozens of times with a metal crochet hook, pulling the hair through until you look like an orc. If you don't have a triple mirror or eight arms, get a friend to help with this or just do highlights around your face. It does get easier with practice.

Note: If you're having trouble pulling the hair through, poke the hair-puller through the hole in the cap with the hook facing down, twist it halfway, then pull out. If you pull out too much hair, you can slide your finger under the cap to smooth it down and back underneath. You want small strands, not huge clumps, or you'll look like a tabby cat afterwards.

That's what my grandmother said once when I used one of those paint-on kits: "You look like a tabby cat." I laughed. She was right.

Step 2: Put on the plastic gloves, mix the coloring paste together and cover the orc hair with it until you look like Strawberry Shortcake's evil twin, Saccharine Cupcake.

Wait half an hour or so, depending on the color result you want. Your hair will look much lighter  than it will after it's washed and dried. If it looks as yellow and brassy as Rumplestiltskin's straw spun into gold, don't panic! It's supposed to be like that. It will look great, I promise.

Most of all, don't leave it on longer than the maximum recommended time. Your hair will be very dry and brittle, and possibly break off, leaving unsightly tufts. You definitely don't want that.

Step 3: Rinse, shampoo, condition well and style as usual. Enjoy your new, subtly brighter look!

Son: "Mom, why are you taking pictures of yourself in the bathroom?"
Me: "I'm blogging. Get ready for bed."
Son: "I can't. You're in the bathroom."
Me: "Okay, okay, I'm done. Think of all the great stories you can tell when I'm rich and famous."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Snapshot: Zyla, the Gargoyle Cat

People have been asking me about the gargoyle cat, who appears in Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey and is the heroine of my very first published work of fiction. I haven't put anything up yet from her story, so today's Sunday Snapshot features Zyla.

   An airplane churned the gray, humid air over the sleeping neighborhood, crickets chirped coded messages, and fireflies blinked above the grass. Not a breath of wind stirred the curtains of Gracie’s room.

       Zyla, the gargoyle cat, peered down from the top of the bookshelf, wings folded along her back like Japanese fans and front paws hooked over the edge of the shelf. Her fur had been etched in thin strokes by some unknown artist thousands of gargoyles ago, when the first cat was sculpted in clay and cast for a resin mold. The same artist had pressed his thumb and forefinger together to smooth the tapering triangles of her ears , flattened the bridge of her nose just so, and left the points of her claws extended so she appeared to grab the shelf with them just like a real cat. Her green glass eyes caught the faint glow from the night light.

       Gracie’s hair trailed in a dark, seaweed tangle over the pillow as she slept. Her fingers curled against her forehead as if she were deep in thought. Zyla longed to cuddle next to her. If she were a real cat, Gracie would stroke her fur.

       Something flickered near the foot of the bed, a darker line among the shadows. Zyla blinked, then leapt from bookshelf to bureau to floor, spreading her wings to break the air as she landed on silent paws. 

To find out what Zyla does next, get a copy of the eclectic anthology published by my friends at the South Jersey Writer's Group by clicking on the photo on the sidebar. It features memoirs, poems, flash fiction and short stories in a variety of genres. Mine is the only middle grade selection, by the way. The rest are adult fiction.

This piece was inspired by a statue I saw in a museum shop that looked like it could come to life. What little things spark your imagination?

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Fairy in My Fireplace

I caught a glimpse of a fire fairy dancing in my fireplace. Or is it something else? What do you think?

If you're a writer, what would your characters think this is? A fairy, a demon, an alien, a magical messenger... Do tell me.

As far as my own characters go...

Marenya would think it a fire sprite.
Faldur would assume it was no more than a curious flame shaped by the wind.
Ginger would think she was hallucinating due to the drugs Roger is clearly slipping her to make her believe in 'magic.'
Batya would think the spirit of the baby dragon had returned to keep her company.
Chris would figure whatever it was, as long as it didn't bother him he wouldn't bother it.
Raynor would try to catch it and find out.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sunday Snapshot: After the Dance

I've started rewriting The Golden Gryphon. I was just going to edit it, but it's turning into a rewrite. I'm on page 27 of 371, so a long way to go but it's all good. I'm finding that more emotion flows onto the page now that I know the characters better.

So, here's my Sunday Snapshot. What are you working on? Will you share a sample with me?

As the crowd dispersed from the betrothal announcement, Faldur took her hand as naturally as if he were accustomed to doing so and guided her to a seat in the entry, which was cooled by air pouring through the open doors. It felt lovely after the crush of bodies inside. He moved stiffly.

“Are you well, Faldur?”

“Just a bit sore. It is nothing.”

Worry hitched in her chest. “That looks like Durken’s jacket.”

“It is. Would you like something to eat?”

“Sit and rest. I’ll get some for both of us.”

He huffed out a breath. “I am perfectly well. Allow me, this once, to do my duty toward you.”

She opened her mouth to protest.


There was such earnestness and pained dignity in his weathered face that she acquiesced.“Very well.”

She watched his lean figure merge into the throng heading towards the newly refreshed tables. He wasn’t limping, but he was clearly hurting. Why would he not tell her anything? Her father had hidden nothing from her, or at least she believed he hadn’t. She had been sixteen when he died, barely more than a child. Faldur had helped her and her mother move out of the captain’s cabin at the ranger post to make room for the next family and seen that they had all they needed until Lord and Lady Tarnbel invited them to stay. Faldur had been like an older brother to her all these years, though in her heart something more tender took root and grew unnoticed by him. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lucky 2013

I am declaring this year "Lucky 2013."

This is the year that I am going to get my novel published. This is the year I'm going to define myself as an author and a person.

I'm finally remembering who I am. That may sound funny but it's been so long since I just focused on myself that I wasn't sure any more. So, let's see, who am I? You'd probably like to know too.

I am a Hungarian/English/German mix of stubbornness, logic and idealism. You really don't want to get into an argument with me.

I am a creative soul that lives in rich worlds of imagination. Sometimes I have a hard time focusing on this world. I truly wonder if those people and places don't exist somewhere outside this current realm and we are just channeling them.

I am a statistician. Yes, I am. I count things, estimate them, and think about distributions, underlying assumptions, p-values and so on. It may seem counter-intuitive that a writer is also an analyst, but... Okay I have no explanation for it.

I love the outdoors but the outdoors does not love me. My soul wants to climb mountains, cross prairies and dive into deep, hidden waters. My allergies, sensitive skin and weakling body protest.

I love food. I will try anything, even octopus.

I also love wine and beer, but my tolerance is extremely low.

I am an extravert who wants everyone to read everything I've written as soon as I draft it. This tendency has resulted in quite a few embarrassing expositions of really awful writing, but has also created quite a few fans of my less awful work.

I don't have an abundance of ideas as a writer, but I take the ideas I do have and develop them into sagas worthy of Michener or Rowling. Well, okay, not necessarily that great but they are surprisingly complex.

I like simple things around me: primitive American or colonial decor, for example. I adore handmade pottery, and Celtic designs on jewelry.

I want to live in a log cabin someday. Actually, I want to live in a cabin in Alaska and hunt my own food like that guy on PBS. Not permanently, but for six months or so. I'd have to learn how to shoot first, I imagine.

Most of all, I want to be free to be myself. I want to love and laugh and stop worrying all the time. I don't care what people think; I never really have. People, in general, are caught up in so many things that they need someone to point the way out. I've been caught up for a very, very long time but I'm slashing at the web and almost out. God, it's a good feeling.

Life is a lot of trouble, but we make so much extra trouble for ourselves. There are so many things we can't control. I want to do my utmost to take care of the things I can control, pray faithfully for God to work on those I can't, and then lay it all down and enjoy my life. This philosophy is radically different from the first half of my life, where I felt I owed everyone my soul, including God. If I didn't work hard enough, I wasn't living up to my potential. I was letting everyone down.

You know what? This IS my potential. Yes, we need to work hard. But we also need to live.

Let 2013 be the Year of Living.