Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pajama Party.

Now that my gig at the book publishing office is over, I'm finding it exceedingly difficult to take off my pajamas and put on, well, real clothes.

I admit that i may be saying this prematurely. After all, it's still technically the holiday season, and a lot o' folks are not working this week. But it's not like I don't have work--I'm swamped with writing and editing that needs to get done. I'm just doing it from the comfort of my own sofa. Thus, I'm spending most of the week wearing cloth pants and sporting no particular hairdo.

I did get dressed for a time today, to drive my roomies and myself to lunch. But when we returned from the outing, I put my pj's right back on!

"Geez Denise, I see you have your pajamas back on," noted my roommate Dana, who's the type to never leave her bedroom without a shower.

"Yes indeed," I replied. "I'm feeling lazy."

And it's true. I'm lazy. The holidays wore me out, and damn it, I deserve a couple of days to recoup. I'm just worried that I'm getting a little spoiled. I even went to the neighbor's house tonight without changing. I did put on a bra, but that's about all. My neighbor said he wasn't offended by my lack of street clothes.

What about the rest of you? Do you get dressed to work from home? Or is life one big pajama party?

Christmas in Florence.

Christmas Eve with my friend Gayden and her beau.

Enjoying grandma's tree with my cousins, Isabella and Gabrielle.

My grandma's tree, decked out with gifts. 

Fabulously delicious cupcakes from Sweet, the new bakery in Flo-Town!
Christmas in Florence was spectacular as usual. I spent a whole week there without killing myself or any other family members. I also saw a multitude of golden friends and got a slew of fabulous gifts, including a new camera from my sweetie, fluffy bath towels, luxe bath products and good ole cash. I'm basking in the afterglow of all the festivities this week...a post-holiday high, if you will.

Monday, December 12, 2011

That Freelance Freedom.

This week is the my last week of working at the book publishing office. That's right--after this week, I'm strictly freelance writing and teaching adjunct composition classes, but that's practically freelancing too, as everyone knows.

Today is a rainy, cozy Monday. I'd love nothing more than to check out the books I bought at Goodwill over the weekend and lie around gazing at our Christmas lights.

Alas, duty calls and I'm going to have to get better at answering it. With all this newly-unstructured time on my hands, it might be tough on days like today, when reading and napping sounds better. But as the old saying goes, time is money.

On the agenda for today: write my article about Mayor Riley, interview a couple of bartenders for more of the holiday cocktails story, make appointments regarding a kid I'm tutoring in reading comprehension, and email folks to make sure we're on the same page.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Christmas Cliff

Now that it's the first week of December, the Christmas Cliff has begun. Sometimes it starts even earlier like the week of Thanksgiving--or before!

What is the Christmas Cliff, you ask?

It's that special time of year when everyone you speak to--coworkers, vague acquaintances, relatives--wants to make sure that you "get together before Christmas."

It's as if once December 25th hits, everyone falls off the face of the earth.

I started noticing the Christmas Cliff once I became an adult with a busy life. I suppose as a kid it didn't matter so much, because A. I didn't know as many people and B. I had plenty of free time.

Nowadays, everyone is super-concerned with getting that last drink in before the holidays are over. We all know what comes next: January, the most miserable of all months. Surely we must see each other before that!

But the thing is, we will survive January. And we'll see each other in February for my birthday. And we'll drink beer on the beach in the spring. So if we don't see each other for one more festive cocktail with a holly sprig, our friendship won't wither and die, and we won't fall off the Christmas Cliff.

 There's another year coming.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hair-Raising Salon Experiences.

Let me just start off by saying that if your hair is mega-curly like mine, you probably have hair-raising experiences all the time. But lately, trips to the salon have been no picnic. Several years ago I had a fantastic cut--the best of my life--by a gay man named Donald. Unfortunately, Donald moved back to New York. And I cannot seem to repeat exactly what he did to my hair! I have tried oodles of salons since then...both fancy and basic. Each time, I've tried to explain what I want. And my experience is always about the same.

I have to go back. I mean, they don't CUT ENOUGH OFF.

Unlike a lot of curly ladies, my hair looks good when it's not overly weighed down. It needs lots of layers to catch the light and bounce. I like for the overall length to be long but don't want super-long layers. And for some reason, a lot of stylists cannot handle this information. They end up not cutting enough, and insisting that they've "done the right thing." Then I go home and whine to my mom on the phone about how putrid my hair looks! Not a good scene. THEN I have to go back, either to the same salon or to a different one, and get more of my hair cut off...but it still doesn't look how it looked when Donald cut it.

"Just go home and see if it looks right later. If it doesn't then you can come back" said the annoying stylist who "cut" my hair yesterday. She barely snipped, so of course I went back this morning! Now I'm mildly satisfied with my hair. But not thrilled.

Did I mention that this chick had curly hair too? Only, she flat-irons it every morning? This is NOT what I want from a stylist. I want a stylist who recognizes how curly hair looks best WHEN WORN CURLY. I want one who empowers me and knows what he or she is doing! I want one who does it right the first time, and listens.

Donald, are you out there?

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's Time for THANKSGIVING, Dang it.

I enjoy Christmastime just as much as the next over-saturated-with-commercialism American. Well, maybe not as much. But I also really enjoy Thanksgiving, to the point that I would call it my favorite holiday. It has been my favorite holiday for several years now.

Long ago, when I was a kid, my mom told me that my Uncle Joe's favorite holiday was Thanksgiving.

"WHY?" I shrieked. "You don't get PRESENTS! I like Christmas and birthdays the best!"

"I think it's because it's less commercialized, piped in my Grandmother.

At the time I didn't know what that meant, nor did I care. Now, I completely agree with it. I love Thanksgiving because, while it comes right before Christmas and is included in the end-of-year clump of holidays,  it's a ton of fun and still low-key enough. This year I'm attending two pre-Thanksgiving dinners with Charleston pals. I've got the perfect excuse to make desserts this weekend. Next week, my family and old friends will get together in Florence, eat food and socialize. What we WON'T do is put up a Christmas tree right after we clear the dishes. We savor the tradition of Thanksgiving separately from Christmas. I like it that way.

That's what's up.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Hip Church Sign.

I remember when churches used to have things on their signs like, "Men's Club breakfast on Sunday!" or "Save Yourself and Turn to Jesus!" But now, every time I drive by a church, I'm amused to discover that the sign is most likely trying to attract a young person by alluding to trendy social media.

First I saw a sign that said something like, "There are some searches that Google just can't satisfy." I thought it was clever.

How wise of that church, I thought to myself. They're keeping with the times.

Then, I started seeing more.

"Send a Tweet to God!"

"God has sent you a friend request on FAITHBOOK!"

It has gotten a bit silly, in my opinion. I mean, are young people really going to see the signs on churches and suddenly say to themselves, Wow! Church is actually pretty cool!
I, for one, think that young Christians will go to church whether the sign talks about Twitter or not. Their interest is not teetering on how much the congregation uses social networking...right?


Grocery Store Grubbing.

I went to Publix tonight to score some ingredients for a dessert I'm making this weekend, (no, not that accursed lemon tart!) as well as a few other basic items.

One of the things I love about venturing to the grocery store during peak hours (and it's not the bumper-cart-mayhem in the popular aisles) is getting free food from the "Publix Chefs." Tonight, for example, right when I was pondering making chili again (I made it before and it was easy, even for me) I was offered a free plate of turkey chili.

"Here! Would you like to have some of tonight's feature meal?" asked the bubbly-looking woman in the chef outfit. "It's a delicious chili made with turkey and white beans."

I accepted the plate from her. I usually go to the grocery store during the worst time possible--when I'm hungry enough to practically faint.

"Mmm," I moaned, shoveling food in my face. "Normally I don't like turkey in place of where a four-legged animal should be, but this is good!"

"Yes," said the woman, eyeballing my curvy body and noticing that I indeed don't always opt for the healthiest options. "Well, this is nice and flavorful. Would you like the recipe? All the ingredients are right around the corner!" She handed me a card and I politely took it. I knew there was no way I'd ever make this turkey crap. I was just...starving.

Suddenly feeling ashamed of how vigorously i was noshing right at the front of the store, I thanked the woman and found a less...populated area to eat my prize. I finally decided on the greeting card aisle. I wolfed the rest down, and threw away the plate. Then I threw away the recipe card. Promotions be damned. But thanks for the free food, Publix.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Long, long ago, I used to write poetry down in an actual journal. I'd have an idea, then I'd get out my trusty book and handwrite the poem that sprang into my head. I have tons of poetry journals from my youth, and I still enjoy leafing through them.

But as I've gotten older, I've started (gasp!) composing poems only on screens. It started with my computer screen. These days, instead of a pretty notebook with poems in it, I have a desktop icon. And now it's moved on to phone screen poems! I kid you not. I have probably four or five poems on my phone's "notepad" application as we speak.

I even leave the poems on the phone for a while, to the extent that I'll meet my friend on Thursday morning (we're both poets and we trade) and...hand her my phone. I watch her furrowed brow as she scrolls down the screen of my BlackBerry and I think to myself, This is wrong. A poem should have more organic origins. 

But I can't help it. When a poem hits me now, I reach for the object that my hand is never far from--the phone. I type furiously into the notepad app, then I forget to remove it later. When I do remove it, I transfer it to the poetry desktop folder.


I'm thinking that it's time to start a REAL poetry journal again. There's just something about pen and paper that seems more inspiring.

Do the rest of you write things down on real paper anymore? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this matter!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Intrusive Telephone Call.

I've made a startling discovery. Perhaps some of you have already noticed this.

A real phone call is now an intrusion.

Let me explain. In this world of "Facebook me! Text me! Email me!" and the like, it's now considered "intimate" to actually dial a number and call someone, as in voice-to-voice. It seems odd, especially considering all the phone calls I made as a teenager. I literally spent hours on the phone back then--with acquaintances, with strangers during crank calls, with my friends' mothers while begging them to have me over for dinner.

I pondered the issue this evening, when I was discussing an upcoming rock show on Facebook with a girl I went to high school with. She sent me her number in a Facebook message, and I typed it onto my phone, intending to save it. Then by accident I almost dialed it.

Egads! I thought to myself. I don't want to call her....

And I realized why. Because a real phone call these days is meant for a real issue, between real friends or family members. If you're simply trying to say "What's up," or you're planning to meet at the corner BBQ joint, or you're corresponding with someone you don't know so well, it's preferable just to type. Let's face it, we've all ignored a phone call from a friend, only to text them a minute later.

The good, old-fashioned phone call has become the 2011 equivalent of entering someone's bubble. And you only wanna do that every so often...and with some people, never.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Fair Saturday.

Happy November! The first weekend of the month is lovely thus far. It started off with a yummy breakfast, and then some shopping. Not only did I find some new additions for my wardrobe at rock-bottom prices (Yay!) but Stefan and I spent the rest of the afternoon at the fair.  I'm glad I got the chance to go, even if it was slammed with people.

When it comes to the fair, eating junk food and seeing the animals are definitely my thing. I don't do rides anymore (I used to be more adventurous as a teen, but my nerves just can't take it these days) so I just enjoy walking around, seeing the sights and eating funnel cake.

At one point when I went to the restroom to wash my hands after feeding a goat, I saw a $10 bill. It didn't belong to the lady at the sink beside me either--I asked her.

Hmm, should I just keep it? I pondered to myself.

But in the end, i decided the right thing to do was to return the money to the restroom attendant.

"This is someone's lost cash, and I don't know whose," I told her.

"I'll see if anyone comes back for it," she said, a little surprised.

She probably pocketed it, and that's ok. She works hard in that nasty bathroom, and at least now the burden is off my shoulders.

After all, I'd rather hang out with the elephants with a clean conscience.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Job Title? Writer.

Our mail usually arrives around the time I leave the house, so I often take it right out of the mail carrier's hands. It's a different person most of the time, and today it was an older gentleman.

"Any GOOD mail? Or just junk like usual?" I joked.

"'s a magazine!" he replied, sifting through his boxes.

"Probably one of my roomates' tennis mags," I grumbled. Then I saw that it was Poets & Writers. "Oh! It's one of mine! I'm the writer in the house, and my roommates are athletes," I explained.

"Wow, you make your living as a writer?" the mailman asked.

I preened a bit. "Yes I do," I declared, not bothering to add that I also work at a book publishing company AND teach two composition classes. "I write for several local publications."

"That's great," he said. "I used to be a writer. I wrote about sports. But I got married and had children and I couldn't make a living for my family at it. So I became a mail carrier! Good luck with your writing!"

I couldn't decide whether I felt amused or discouraged as he drove off. I didn't share the fact that I, too, can't make a living totally as a freelance writer. Instead, I let him think that I do. It got me thinking: Are most writers like that? Either juggling a bunch of jobs or switching careers to something secure like mail delivery in order to support the family, but still telling people that they're a writer?

Years ago I was out with my friend Gayden who works as a nurse, when a bunch of other nurses that knew her asked me if I was a nurse too.

"Heck no. I'm a writer," I said without missing a beat. And back then I was in graduate school! I hardly wrote at all--and I definitely didn't write for money to speak of.

So it seems that, no matter WHAT we writers end up doing with our lives, we remain writers, eager to share our stories with whomever chats us up at the bar or hands us our mail. The rest is just...filler.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'll Take My Halloween With a Side of Juvenilia, Please.

Around Charleston, folks are already celebrating Halloween. Saturday night was the "Skinful Charleston" Halloween party that everyone seems to adore. (I had a few friends who live in other states actually venture to Charleston for it.) It's basically a giant party on a giant piece of land where everyone gets insanely drunk, watches light shows, listens to bands, and wears the most scandalous outfit possible. Despite the expense of the tickets, everyone raves that it's the "coolest party all year."

It is not my scene. Instead, I hosted a small gathering at my house for a few good friends. But somehow, I got roped into the whole Skinful drama when I had to pick up an exceptionally drunk friend from the soiree. She..uh...had a bit too much to drink and pretty much had to go home immediately.

 It got me thinking about what Halloween represents these days. I loved the holiday when I was a kid. It meant scouting the neighborhood with my sister and tons of our neighbors, receiving a load of candy, and eating it for weeks. It meant scooping out pumpkin guts in the sunny backyard with my awesome Uncle Joe. It meant wearing makeup to school when I was too young to actually wear makeup. 

But now, as a grownup, Halloween seems to be nothing more than a time for trashy dressing and drinking yourself silly. Not everyone does that, of course, but it feels like if you don't have children of your own, to carve pumpkins for and to take trick or treating, then the wholesome fun of Halloween is long gone. My sister says I'm "just being grumpy," and that not everyone has to get drunk and show their rear end in order to enjoy themselves.

So, I think I'm going to have to change the tradition, at least for myself. Not that I don't love a drink every now and then, but I don't need a special day, or outfit, to celebrate with a cocktail. Nope, this year my halloween plans will include the following:

1. Carving the awesome pumpkin that Stefan brought home for the dinner party.
2. Buying candy. I'm not sure what kind yet, but maybe something deliciously childish, rather than my usual salted dark chocolate. I'm thinking Tootsie Roll Pops and Starbursts.
3. I don't like horror movies, but I'm positive I can handle reading something spooky, like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
4. I'll probably pay a visit to the fair and I'll probably eat some junk.
5. Maybe I'll wear a traditional costume next weekend, like a giant sheet with a hole cut in it for my head.

Happy Halloween!


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oh! K.

I went to dinner with my stepsister tonight, and she returned a book of mine that she'd had for absolutely years. In fact, in the front of the book where I always write my name it said "Denise James." That's how long I've had the book, and how long she's had it.

I didn't always use my middle initial. As a kid, I hated my middle name and I hated my name, period. I didn't know anyone named Denise, and my middle name seemed even weirder. Now that I'm grown I love my middle name. It was my great-grandmother's first name and I'm proud to wear it. Around the time I finished graduate school I started using my middle initial for everything. On research papers, on the cheesy freelance pieces I wrote for publications that no longer exist--and it just became my whole name: Denise K. James. When I got a Facebook I put K in the last name spot for my account moniker, thus being nicknamed "Denise K." Nowadays, I tell everyone not to leave out the K.

When I checked out the front of the book that Rebecca returned tonight, my name seemed naked. I love my middle initial. I think it adds flair.

But don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled to have the book back. Even without a K.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Every Picture Tells a Story.

Tonight I met up with a friend of mine, Melanie, who has known my family since before I was born. She used to date my uncle in the eighties, back when I wore dorky nightgowns and elbowed my sister on purpose. We decided to meet up for mexican food, and practically the entire time we talked about my family, and about old stories of Florence. It was fine with me--I find these old stories fascinating.

She also brought a lot of pictures with her, mostly random events and holiday snapshots from back in those days. I pored over the pictures, trying to piece together the foggy memories in my head so that they make more sense. It reminded me of how important real photos are--not the digital kind that will be gone when I'm too old to keep track of a computer or social media--but the kind that get passed down from grandparent to grandchild, inside of shoeboxes and old albums.

My mom and me


My sister and me 
I have plenty of pictures of my family, but I think I'm going to have to print some of them. After all, when the time comes for me to tell stories, I'm going to need props just like Melanie had tonight.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Baking Tips from the Local Grocer.

As I write this post, my lemon tart is in the oven. I hope and pray that it's good--it's my first time trying this recipe, which I found in one of my fashion magazines. I tend to steal a lot of recipes from either my fashion magazines (the ones in food mags are too complex) or from friends. I like simple stuff, with one or two steps. This tart seemed easy enough for me to make--until, that is, I realized that I did not know the exact difference between a tart shell and a pie shell.

It all started when I talked to my friend Katrina, who is an excellent chef. She told me that the frozen pie crust I'd just purchased from Publix was, in fact, not what I needed for the recipe. So after work, I actually went back to Publix and approached the customer service desk with my pie crust reject and another crust made of graham cracker. I had no idea what I was doing.

"Help me," I implored. "I don't know what a tart crust is."

Turns out, neither did the teenaged guy who was at the customer service desk. He called over this self-important chick from the bakery to help. She of course knew the difference between the shells, and decided neither of the ones I had at the counter were correct. Next thing I knew we were on a wild goose chase all over Publix for the right pastry.

She led me to the freezer section and handed me a box of dough. "Just unroll this and put it over your pie shell, then it'll be more tart-like," she explained. With everything she said she had this air of authority like Betty Crocker had been her aunt or something.

"But the recipe doesn't have a pastry top," I insisted. "It's just lemon filling in a crust! It's a one-step recipe that I got from Glamour!" 

"Hmm..." she replied with a furrowed brow.

After a few more minutes of deliberating, we finally decided that I should just stick with my original pie crust. I was amused that I'd come all the way to Publix to keep my same crust, but I felt satisfied that the bakery expert had approved it.

"Just pre-cook the crust a little to make it harder, like a tart," she said. "It'll work fine."

So now, said crust and filling are in my oven. I feel pretty anxious to taste it when it comes out. This particular tart is a trial run, before I make another one to take to work for the bake sale. So if it sucks, I guess I'm going back to Publix and letting what's-her-name make me something.

Mountaintop Picnic.

I would have to say that my very favorite part of Asheville this past weekend--and there were plenty of awesome parts, like having a Guinness with Billy, watching the freaks in the square, checking out the Thirsty Monk, and more--was definitely having a picnic at the top of a mountain with Stefan. It was cold, but it was romantic. Our menu was simple but tasty: meat and cheese, fresh bread, plums, veggie chips, and my favorite part: the apple cider. Yum.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The World is My OYSTER.

There are very few people who love oysters as much as I do. Oh, sure, here in Charleston there are throngs of people who attend oyster roasts or who love a raw oyster on a cracker with hot sauce. (Raw IS the best way to eat them, of course. And the best place so far? Felix's of New Orleans. The worst way is fried..but I'll deal with it if need be.)

But that isn't even the level of addiction to these little sea critters that I'm talking about. While I adore going to Pearlz, ordering oyster shots, attending roasts (and politely elbowing other eaters out of my way) or eating a dozen (or more) on crackers...I've also been known to just keep oysters around. 

I think it all started with my mom. She introduced me to oyster stew--the canned soup made by Campbell's that you mix with milk and heat up. She likes it, and we used to eat it when I was a kid--before I was even fully aware of my need for oysters.

But in the last couple of years, my need has turned fierce. Last Winter, for example, I started looking up my own oyster stew recipes. I made soup from scratch. It was yummy. Much better than the canned version.

But the canned version still does in a pinch. I have one in my cabinet right this minute.

Guess what else I have in my cabinet? Smoked oysters in a tin. Before you declare this post the most disgusting one I've ever written, hear this: They are delicious. I particularly like them on a cracker with a slice of habanero cheddar cheese. It is divine, I'm telling you.

It's officially oyster season here in South Carolina, but I don't think the season ever truly ends for me. Chillier months are just an excuse for me to declare my favorite food more proudly, since everyone else is eating it too.


And no, I've never found a pearl...although I probably will some day. As for the aphrodisiac properties, you'll have to see for yourself.

Plans for Asheville.

If I can just get through this week, I'll be handsomely rewarded with a trip to Asheville, NC. I've never been there before, and not only am I excited to take in the sites (and the actual FALL weather, which hasn't been the case in Charleston these last few days) but I'm also going to spend time with an old college buddy and his wife. I haven't seen them in several years. In fact, the last time I saw this friend, he didn't drink--he was a teetotaler all through college--so I'm looking forward to having my first beer with him ever. A dark one, preferably.


Any other suggestions for places to visit in Asheville and the surrounding areas?

Friday, October 7, 2011

The (New) Office.

Whew! What a week! So glad it's Friday, although my Blackberry is still vibrating off the hook.

This week I helped my boss move our tiny book-publishing business from his old house (which he just sold) into an actual office. No more working from his cozy home--now we're in a typical office building, mini fridge and all.

It's been weird and exciting so far. I'd have to say that the weird part is running into strangers. No more just seeing Jan's family. His charming wife and fuzzy feline have been replaced with...random lawyers.

This morning, I tried to unlock the door to the building and as I stood there struggling, said lawyer opened the door for me with a giant grin. "It's already unlocked!" he crowed.

So basically, even when my boss isn't there to harass me, I'm far from alone.

What's even more amusing is that I somehow met one of my boss' ex-employees. Small world, eh? The lawyer guy, who is really becoming a mainstay in my work life, introduced me to another lawyer who used to be in the US Navy.

"Denise and her boss just moved into the building," explained Jim, the first lawyer. "They publish military history, so I thought you'd be interested."

He was.

"Is this JAN'S BUSINESS? I used to work for him in the nineties! Before I went to law school! My name is Miles! Has he ever mentioned me? I love Jan! How is he?! Is he here?!?!"

I could barely get a word in. The guy examined our bookshelves for like half an hour, reminiscing about all the titles he remembered.

"He's moving out of his house today, but he'd love to see you," I said.

"Well I would love to see HIM," Miles boomed. "Let me leave my business card on his desk! Tell him I came by!!"

It was an interesting afternoon, all in all. While I'll have to get used to the idea of NEVER being alone (which means no blaring music, prancing around, or talking on the phone at a million decibels) I feel like today was a good start to the new digs.

Now, for some hard-core weekend lounging.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Half and Half.

Happy October!

I'm just finishing up another fantastic weekend. I spent half in Litchfield with my mom and her best friend Lorraine, and half here in dear Charleston. Sometimes, these weekends are my favorite. It somehow makes the weekend seems longer, making a mini-road trip to our house up the coast and then coming home to enjoy Sunday in my own city. The weather this weekend has been extraordinary, both here and in Litchfield. It's the kind of glorious weekend that puts one into a decadent mood. I've been shopping for soft sweaters, eating the best meals, and writing poems. I've been surrounded in Stefan's records, my own reading material, and great company.

Me on Litchfield

The gorgeous beach, with Stefan in the corner. :)

Colonial Lake in Charleston. 

Oh, I also learned that Stefan is not afraid of Black Widow spiders. Just another reason I love him.

Happy Autumn, readers! 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This Writer's Life.

Hi Y'all. I know I haven't written much in September but whew! It's been a crazy month so far. But a good one, too. I've just returned from my yearly poetry retreat in Litchfield with other writerly friends, and it's got me thinking about my life as a writer. So far, it's been a struggle of small steps, but I think that's just how it is when you choose a profession that doesn't just COME to you once you're finished with your education. We writers have to work hard to get there, degrees be damned.

Poetry books in Litchfield 

That said, I feel extra-happy with the steps I've made this month. A few of my poems just appeared on Strong Verse, an online magazine. You can read them here. I'm feeling happy about that. (Even if it isn't The Southern Review. I'll get there.)

On the freelance writing front I've scored a couple of new gigs that should be interesting. In one case, the publisher told me he'd learned my name from a writer-friend of mine in Charleston who advised him to contact me. I was actually surprised! It's rare that a writer helps another one out, especially in a place as small as Charleston.

I went to the library yesterday and brought home a ton of poetry books and even a poetry handbook. I've been reading them. I've also been tinkering with another piece of writing, my sorta-memoir. It's still in the early stages.

Fall is a good time for writers, I think.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Heart Real Mail.

Maybe it has something to do with that aforementioned delicious gardenia bush at the end of my grandmother's driveway, but since childhood I've always loved to check the mailbox.

And lately, I love the mailbox more than ever. Why? Because I've been getting REAL MAIL. Not bills. Not advertisements or requests for donations. But real cards with real handwriting, intended just to brighten my day! In the age of sending emails and facebook messages, an actual card is really something to celebrate.

First I got an awesome note from someone I wrote a story about for the Charleston Scene. The card thanked me for my story, and said that my writing really delivered the message they wanted to send to the community. I was so thrilled, I immediately thumbtacked it to my wall.

Then, a few days ago, I got my royalty check from Andy Thomas--along with another card that said congratulations on a great book and on my first royalty check ever.

And today when I checked it, there was a card from my best friend Alice, just to thank me for being her friend through the years! In the midst of this busy week, it's nice to be reminded that I have people who love me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

One of Those Charleston Weekends.

Some weekends I get really wrapped up in traveling, whether it's to Litchfield or Florence or New Orleans or what have you.

But other weekends, it's nice to stay home and do at-home kind of stuff. This weekend, for example, I started off by attending a reading at the first meeting of the Poetry Society of South Carolina, which was great. The rest of the weekend was a little less formal, involving things like thrift store shopping, (see my awesome new handbag below), cooking out with my neighbors, bicycling, visiting the library, lounging in the yard with some downright gnarly insects, and finishing off with a big dinner, pals in tow, dessert included. I made ice cream sandwiches with ginger snaps and vanilla ice cream. Yum.

Here's to weekend staycations.

Crazy yard critter! 
My awesome new handbag that I scored at the Exchange Factor

Friday, September 9, 2011

First Ever Royalty Check.

I found out this week that I'll be getting my first ever royalty check, for the book I co-wrote last winter. I'm throughly pumped, even though it's only a check for $10.40. Hey, it's something, right? And this means that more money is coming. At least that's what I hope. 

What kinds of things can I buy with $10? Cocktails..lunch...maybe a book if it's on sale. 


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

End Of Summer.

September is finally here, and I just finished up a fabulous Labor Day weekend in Litchfield with Stefan and the whole family--including my grandmother and my mom! Yay.

It's funny; I thought I was good and ready for fall. This season has been pretty scorching hot, and disappointing in some aspects. Yet as I wound down the summer hurrahs with my loved ones, I found myself feeling that old sadness that we always feel when summer ends. Sure, we'll have warm weather for a few more weeks, but fall is already making her appearance known with cooler mornings and evenings.  I'm glad I made the most of my final real weekend of summer, with delicious watermelon cocktails from the Cocktail Club...

...and fresh, yummy tomatoes grown in my Uncle Joe's garden for our post-beach sandwiches...

...and of course, beers on the beach.

'Til next time, dear summer.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I Want to Ride My Bicycle.

Today I bought a new-used bike. I've been wanting a cruiser for a while, after owning a cheap 10-speed for years that I hated. I've just never been much for hand brakes, and when I look back on my childhood bike-riding heyday, I always stopped the flow of traffic with my feet.

Stefan recently purchased a two-bike rack, and ever since that happened we've both been scouring Craigslist for a deal. Today we spent the entire day examining bikes, test riding them around neighborhoods on James Island and in parking lots.  One guy had a ton of bikes, all rusty and weathered, that he claimed he'd found "in dumpsters, on roadsides, and just anywhere." We tested a couple, thinking he'd perhaps lower his prices to something sensible for an old beater, but nope. He asked a price that I knew I could beat--and I did.

I ended up getting my new bike thanks to a young woman from Summerville, whose recent pregnancy made her "too lazy to exercise," she'd said. I scored a bright blue cruiser and a helmet for practically nothing, and the bike is pretty much new.

I've already ridden around my neighborhood twice. Oh, how it brings back memories of riding around my grandmother's neighborhood, singing songs at the top of my lungs, flanked by my best childhood pals, from morning until dark. So carefree.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Who's Afraid of Hurricane Irene?

 I suppose I'm happy to be working from home today, and not going to the office or even to Mt. Pleasant at all. But when you're a true coastal gal who has been through way worse, a few rain bands and some wind doesn't  quite make me want to head for the hills.

Hurricane Hugo back in 1989 wasn't as bad as Hurricane Katrina, but for South Carolina it was an absolutely terrifying night. I remember sleeping in my grandmother's bed along with my grandmother, sister, AND mother--we were all scared to death. All night long we heard trees creaking and the house creaking. We tried to peep through the windows with our flashlights, but we saw nothing--it was like looking into opaque blackness. Now that I look back on it, why would we want to see? The sight of trees bending that far to the ground would not be comforting.

The next morning, the sky was blue and the air was filled with the fragrance of sap from broken limbs. My mother's new Toyota had been crushed by a Pine that fell on top of our carport. Our beach house in Litchfield was flooded. The power was out and neighbors walked the streets, helping each other out. My friend Gayden and I mourned the loss of a particular tree we loved.

Today, I'm sitting at home with Genessa, just like in January when we had the ice storm scare. I'm eating leftover macaroni and conducting phone interviews. It seems like a pretty regular day, aside from some windy rain.

Irene, thanks for the time off, and thanks for sparing Charleston the worst of you.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Paranormal Romance, Anyone?

So, I've started tutoring for the Fall, and that means I've been scouting out good reading material for an almost-teenager. 

Um, have any of y'all been to the teen section of Barnes & Noble lately? It's been taken over. See below. 

"Teen Paranormal Romance" is apparently its own GENRE nowadays. The Twilight-sucking-blood-horror-boyfriend-craze has taken over entire SECTIONS at your friendly, neighborhood bookstore. 

I don't know about y'all, but the YA lit I read as a kid had very little to do with vampires, the undead, and other such nonsense. But wait! It gets even stranger. Right when I was beyond disgusted, sure that all the good literature was nowhere to be found in teen-land, I saw this. 

What is it? A copy of Wuthering Heights. But what does it look like? A copy of Twilight! I mean, I get it--Twilight was popular. But does that mean that every book needs to look like it? Even the catch phrase at the top says "Love Never Dies!" Sheesh. 

Suffice it to say that I won't be giving my tutoring client any book that even slightly resembles something from the "Teen Paranormal Romance" section. What does everyone else think about this? 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fall Preparation.

While Fall hasn't *quite* started in our fair city of Charleston, plans for the season certainly have. Among my own are:

A road trip to Memphis, TN with my best gals, to see our friend Kim Thomas' art opening at the Memphis Museum of Art.

Volunteering for the new Reading Mentor program through Trident Technical College. I'll be sharing book experiences with school-aged kids and discussing the importance of literature.

Tutoring another kid in creative writing.

Contributing to the South Carolina Goodwill Fashion Blog, Trendy Thrifty Now.

Covering awesome stuff for the Charleston Scene, like the Pour House Mural Competition, The Charleston Green Fair, and the Open Arts Expo.

Whew! Full speed ahead!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Building Friendships the Modern Way?

 I can't help but notice how many new friendships have been fostered strictly over the internet. I'm talking about people you go to for real advice and sympathy via facebook and email--and then become close enough online to later visit that person on a road trip! Has this happened to anyone else, because it seems to happen to me frequently.

For example, a lot of the ladies I went to high school with did not speak to me when we were teenagers. Let's face it--i was a dorky outcast. But now, we talk online on a regular basis. And NOT just small talk--I mean we talk about the real issues in our lives--love affairs, job problems, and the like. We even make plans to grab drinks when we're home over the holidays!

It makes me wonder--are they hungrier for companionship now that they're adults and life is a bit more difficult? Or should I take this to mean that I'm just loads cooler now and they want to see what kind of gal I've turned into? Either way, my lunch card is full!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Don't Judge a (Children's) Book by its Cover...

This morning I went to a meeting with the Andy Thomas crew for the first time in a while. (He's the guy whose book I co-wrote, The Job I Need Needs Me.) Since I hadn't been with the team in quite some time there were new people to greet, including the young mother of a two-year-old little girl.

As soon as we all sat down and prepared to start the meeting, the little girl started to cry because she didn't want to be put into a high chair. More accurately, she started to HOWL. Very loudly. In fact, the whole Earth Fare building seemed to be looking at our table.

Oh my GOD, what a spoiled brat! I thought to myself and probably to everyone else by the look on my face. It was obvious the little girl just wanted her mother's attention. Finally, in efforts to calm her down, her mom gave her a chocolate chip cookie and the kid settled into chocolatey silence. The meeting went on as planned, although it was hard to focus with the kid smearing goo all over her face and hair right beside me. I looked over at her and caught her gaze while the rest of the folks in the meeting discussed sales, networking, and whatever else.

Have you ever caught a two-year-old's gaze? I mean a stranger, not your own children or your family members. It's such an honest look. I think we actually communicated. I could tell by the sheepish look in her eyes that she knew she had misbehaved for no reason.

At the end of the meeting, I spoke briefly to the mother and said goodbye to the little girl, whose name was Reese.

"Can you say goodbye to Denise?" her mother asked her.

"Bye-bye 'Neese!" She waved her chubby hand at me, and my heart just melted. I found myself thinking maybe she wasn't a brat, after all. In fact, maybe her mother was going about it all wrong, giving her cookies and movies on a portable dvd player. From the look I saw in Reese's eyes, she's capable of good, old-fashioned reason.

Sometimes I can't wait to be a mom.

But it'll be after I finally get sick of partying and buying handbags.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Here we are, in the last month of Summertime, and I'm enjoying a leisurely weekend at home in Florence. It reminds me of when I was a kid in college, and I'd come home for a while before heading back to campus, into the world of debauchery and drinking. I would "recharge" my batteries in Florence for a bit by visiting family and old friends, taking a break from the party, and getting back to my roots.

This weekend serves the same purpose for me now. Next week I have the usual abundance of writing to do, interviews to attend, people to see, and classes to teach. But for now, I'm sipping a cup of coffee on my Mom's couch and having the most peaceful morning I can remember. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's in the Bag.

Friends, I've gotta admit that I've already started buying clothes for the Fall as of this afternoon. I know I live in Charleston, and have at LEAST two more months of balmy weather ahead, but darn it, I can't resist it once my magazines start showing me the new trends.

One trend that I'm happily on board with is baggy jeans. Not SUPER baggy, mind you, but just enough that it feels relaxed, comfy, and quite Fall-ish. I bought a pair today, with the tags still on, at my neighborhood thrift store--along with a long-sleeved tee and a very wearable cardigan that will go with EVERYTHING. I'm totally stoked. I spent about $12 total, and scored three new items for my wardrobe! Now that's progress.

sportin the jeans and cardigan

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I've never been one to wear a ton of makeup. Back in college, in fact, I hardly wore any. But one product has been essential to my beauty routine since I was a teenager. I can't live without my Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers lip gloss.

This may seems a bit silly at first. After all, makeup is a luxury item and we're in a recession. Plus, Lip Smackers are for kids! And yeah, I have to admit that the bubblegum and grape glosses have never been my thing; some of the flavors are pretty juvenile. But the Dr. Pepper variety is actually useful as an adult beauty product. The red tint gives lips an understated, yet glamorous, sheen. If you don't feel like wearing any other makeup you can get away with only wearing this gloss--it brightens up your entire face. And who doesn't dig a product that costs less than two bucks?

I love this stuff so thoroughly that I once wrote a letter to the Bonne Belle cosmetics company and earnestly asked them never to discontinue their Dr. Pepper gloss. I explained to them that I'd been wearing it for years, and it's the only beauty product that has been a mainstay in my life. They never replied to my letter, but they've also never taken it off the shelves. I think that deep down, they know they've got a good thing going on. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lost Poets.

It's been an oddly solemn week. On Friday, I found out that my old friend Anna passed away at her home in Greenville, SC. Anna struggled a great deal with depression and mental illness and unfortunately, she took her own life.

Anna and I hadn't talked in over a year when I got the news. In August of 2009 she moved to New York City to begin her life as a professional poet with an MFA from Hunter College. But her sickness got the best of her, so she came home to South Carolina. Once she came home, our friendship fell between the cracks.

But for a few years of my life in Charleston, we were the best of friends. We met in a poetry class taught by Carol Ann Davis at the College of Charleston. I was immediately drawn to her air of sophistication and her great writing. Somehow, we exchanged numbers and hit it off--we started off, as many friends do, spending a lot of time at bars. But we had inspirational moments in our friendship as well. Anna was a wonderful poet, and a great poetry mentor. Her glamourous bookshelves were lined with dozens of  volumes, which she happily shared with me. She'd even give me the ones she was finished with. She wasn't really forthcoming in sharing her own poems, but the ones I did see were honest and beautiful.

Right when I moved to Charleston in 2004 I lost my first poetic mentor, Dr. Paul Rice. It was Dr. Rice who first pushed me and my poetry. I took several classes with him during my undergraduate years and learned a lot from him inside the classroom and just by chatting and trading poems in his office. When he passed away, I felt like I'd never have another person to share my poetic journey. Then I met Anna.

It seems strange now that both of them are gone. While I have other friends who write poetry and spend a great deal of time with me, none of them quite take Anna or Dr. Rice's places. I try to take comfort in the memories I have of these two writers, and how they shaped my own confidence and philosophy as a writer. It's a fact that some of the world's best poets--most of them--are lost throughout time. We're lucky to meet a few, but most we never will meet. Because of Paul Rice and Anna Moore, I'll keep believing in my poems. And I'll keep reading poems by people who inspire me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

For Carly.

I didn't know Carly Donohue very well, but I was drawn to her classiness, her style, and her sense of adventure as soon as I met her. When we first crossed paths last winter at a friend's football party, I admired her outfit so I started talking to her. Next thing I knew, we were casual acquaintances and facebook "friends."

Charleston unfortunately lost Carly to her relentless sense of adventure this week, and friends are shocked at the news. Although she and I never had the chance to foster a close friendship, I also share the feeling of loss.

But let's not let this post become just a dirge. My real point is that, all day long, the menial activities that I face on Thursdays--listening to my boss randomly bark orders at me, eating too many french fries at Five Guys, paying my car taxes--have seemed particularly important. The ironic thing about death is that it reminds us of life, and how full of wonder it can be.

In the biography I'm reading about E.B. White it describes how, even when White was a child, he was acutely aware of the danger involved in human life and the fragility in each day. When I initially read those words in the book they made sense to me. But today I've lived the words. Thankfully, I'm still here to write this despite death's constant grip on my shoulder. I'm glad that Carly had the opportunity, and the foresight, to make the best of her life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Didn't Your Mama Ever Teach You...

...not to talk negatively about other people's food?!

I'm seriously fed up with this garbage, y'all. It seems to be getting more and more common--or I just know a bunch of finicky eaters who are rude to boot!

It all started in the first grade. I'm serious. That's my earliest memory of it. This girl I knew literally chased me down on the playground to shout at me, "EWW GROSS!" when she saw my lunch. I think it was a deviled egg, which she proclaimed was disgusting. Go fig.

Nowadays, I expect folks to at least be cordial if I'm eating something they don't care for. After all, it's not first grade. But over and over, I've observed people dissing other people's food. Today at work, I had my leftover tomato pie (which was awesome--see my previous post) and my boss wrinkled his nose when I told him what I'd made.

"I've had that before...I don't like it at all. It's too...runny," he said.

Uh, thanks. You aren't the one eating it. 

And the other evening, at a friend's birthday dinner, the whole table was making fun of the entree that one girl ordered.

"That looks poo," said one woman.

That time, I looked up from my own fish n' chips and asked them if their mamas ever taught them that it's totally rude to talk about other people's food. They apparently didn't have mamas, because they never answered me.

But really. I urge you NOT to gossip about what your friends, coworkers, and classmates are eating. It ruins their meal, and it's just not a nice thing to do....even if they're eating a peanutbutter and butter sandwich, which is what my boss eats sometimes. And he wants to crack on my tomato pie?


Monday, July 18, 2011

Open your Pie Hole.

Tonight I made tomato pie, a dish inspired by my stay at a good friend's beach house. She made one, and it was so scrumptious I decided to try it myself. It has all the good stuff--red onions, fresh tomatoes and basil, and lots of cheeeese.

I scouted out this recipe, and made it tonight for the first time. It was so delicious, I almost forgot that I made it. Ha.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chef Zucchini.

When I was a little girl, my mom drove this white Pontiac wagon-thing. It was not cute. It also did not have FM radio, only AM. Luckily, I was still just a kid (not yet old enough to shout things like, "This obscure jazz SUCKS! Where's the Soundgarden?") so I was okay with listening to pretty much anything that my mother thought was worthy.

This one radio show in the morning is really the only thing I remember clearly. It was called "Chef Zucchini" and it was a comedy skit of sorts. It came on early, as my mom drove me to school, so it was perfect for the ride down Hoffmeyer Road.

I thought about "Chef Zucchini" tonight while making dinner. See, while Stefan and I were in New Orleans, Jenny and Joy's dad, Frank Peterson, served me the best zucchini ever when we went over to his house. I saw Frank the other night at trivia (he and Rose, Jenny and Joy's mom, were passing through Charleston during their own travels) so I got the recipe. I cooked a zucchini tonight, along with a rather childishly-simple dish of angel hair pasta, grated Romano cheese, butter, and garlic. It was tasty but extremely basic. Which, as y'all know, is about all I'm capable of in the kitchen.

(Y'all gotta 'scuse my blurry pic--I don't have a dang iphone)

Anyways, I haven't heard from Chef Zucchini himself since the 1980's. I hope where ever he is, he's eating well tonight.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Story Behind My Favorite Story Ever.

Right now I'm reading the book The Story of Charlotte's Web: E.B. White's Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic. It's been a cloudy afternoon so far in Charleston, perfect for curling up with a book.

For those of y'all who don't know, Charlotte's Web is my favorite book of all time. I appreciate not JUST the clever plot (a spider who writes? a talking goose? heck yeah!) but also the philosophy behind it, which is something we can all learn from. If you've never read Charlotte's Web, it's the tale of a pig and a spider's friendship: the unlikeliest of creatures forming an unbreakable bond while they spend their days on a farm.  It reminds me of the importance of unity, cooperation and friendship between vastly different people.

My Uncle Philip had a copy of the book on his massive bookshelf when I was a kid. I somehow got the idea I was going to read it one afternoon...and I was hooked for life. The tattered edition from the 1950's was returned to the shelf as soon as I received my own copy.

I now own about three versions of the book--including one in large print so I can still read it when I'm old--along with the original and the remake of the movie. And yes, the movie is great (particularly the cartoon-animated original) but the book is outstanding.

I'm loving reading about E.B. White's life so far, although I'm only on page 50. It now makes sense that he wrote this story. He was a child brought up in a prosperous family who gave him everything--yet he still craved the simple solitude of nature. He felt most at home among the tiny critters on the ground, the birds in the sky, and the peacefulness that a lack of society brings. He somehow understood, even then, that the universe is full of important lessons.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Social Media Mania.

It took me a while to get a blog. It even took me a while to get a Facebook. I EVEN had to be talked into getting a Myspace--back when Myspace was rad. Poor ole Myspace.

Once I started Facebook, I was hooked. I now have about 700 friends--and only a couple of them are worthy of calling in a real crisis. The 700 faces are comprised of mostly acquaintances, work buddies, other writers and bigwigs in the Charleston area, and so on. Eventually, I started this blogspot, but I've only had it for this year. I like it so far, I must admit.

Then, I purchased the Blackberry. The social media mayhem continued. Suddenly, updates and emails and Facebook were all at my (quite busy) fingertips.

I've always drawn the line at Twitter, but AGAIN I was talked into signing up, this week, by a guy I met who clearly thinks social media is the best thing since coffee creamer. Now I'm tweeting with the best of them, even though I only have a few followers so far.

But right on the heels of me signing up for Twitter, I realized that ANOTHER social media outlet had reared its head. Google Plus! (Otherwise known as Google+. ) Of COURSE a few of my friends wanted to try it and invited me, so I went against my better judgement and checked it out this evening. It's pretty much like Facebook with a few variations. But I don't think I can handle anymore social media.

What does everyone else think? Have you jumped on this new social media bandwagon?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thrifty Summer.

Between the trip to New Orleans, and bouncing from one technical college to another (I got laid off and had to make a switch-a-roo), AND paying taxes, it hasn't been the most..wealthy summer of my life. I've been living check to check, and budgeting carefully. Yet, I've figured out a couple of good things about being broke.

One--the grocery store. I've had no choice but to hit it up. These are not the days for eating lavish lunches and dinners at restaurants and drinking top-shelf booze. Instead, I've been actually (drumroll, please) BAGGING my lunch for work. A typical lunch this summer? A turkey sandwich, chips 'n salsa, plus a piece of fruit. Very substantial, and very cheap.

Two--the public library. I've recently re-discovered how fab it truly is. There are a few books that I've been wanting to read, so I put them on hold, and lo! they're now available for me to pick up. Wayy less expensive than a trip to Barnes & Noble, right?! Tonight Stefan and I are having a cheap evening at home, watching movies that we scored down the street at the West Ashley branch. And, you you can never be sure who you'll run into at the library. Just the other day I had the joy of seeing the twin girls I used to nanny in graduate school at the Mt. Pleasant branch! Everyone loves the library, man. I even got a free bookmark.

So yeah, there are good things about pinching pennies. And summer is a great time to do it. Tomorrow, for example, I have plans to go to Folly Beach. Free admission, y'all.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Poem Cash?!

 I am astonished to report that today, three of my own poems actually made me a few bucks. The poetry site Strong Verse is generously putting up a few gems I wrote, namely "Loss," "The Old PC," and "Dryer." I'll keep everyone informed when they pop up on the site. (It's not a journal; it's a site that continually publishes work every few days.)

Totally exciting! So what should I do with my poem-money? It seems that money from a poem ought to be spent on something more noble and interesting than, say, a handbag. Should I invest in a felt beret? (ha.) Or perhaps purchase a book of verse by a little-known author? Maybe I should just buy a nice bottle of booze and share it with my other poet pals. After all, they help me foster my poet-ness. Hmm. Any other ideas?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Timeless Happiness.


  /ɪgˈzubərənt/  Show Spelled
effusively and almost uninhibitedly enthusiastic; lavishly abundant: an exuberant welcome for the hero.
abounding in vitality; extremely joyful and vigorous.
extremely good; overflowing; plentiful: exuberant health.


I've been thinking about the word exuberant today. I'm fortunate to know what it feels like to be exuberant, to just be ridiculously happy--in fact, there've been a few times when others have asked me "why I'm soo freakin' happy all the time." 

But as I get older (sigh), feeling thrilled-for-practically-no-reason gets a bit tougher. A little while ago, for example, I put on a song I like and started dancing around my bedroom. (I do this a lot.) As I danced, a strange thought popped into my head. I noticed that I wasn't happy enough inside to be dancing quite that enthusiastically on the outside. After all, I've danced before and felt like I was on the MOON! But it's not like I haven't had a decent day, I puzzled to myself. I've gotten work done at home, worked on laundry, blogged. 

What can I do, I wondered, to feel the kind of happiness I know I'm capable of? Is there a way to capture it at any time?

So far, the best solution I've discovered is going back to the time-tested tidbits that worked in childhood and basically throughout my life. For me, those include lying in my driveway and looking at trees and sky, eating cereal (my favorite food), calling best friends, listening to songs that carry emotional meaning, reading through old diaries and laughing, or, of course, spending time in Litchfield. 

Does this method work for everyone? Have you all tried it? I think that adult contentment is fine--clean laundry and checked-off lists--but I'd rather have that feeling I get when a caterpillar crawls across my pointer finger.