Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fireworks, Underwear, Corn, and Car Hops

Okay, time to talk about the trip. It was wonderful, actually, a nice break from the hustle and bustle of my everyday life. A good chance for my son to get to know his grandparents better as well, spend some time with them in their environment. They live in a retirement community, and the first night we were there, the community had a small fireworks display in the parking lot. I’m not sure that was such a good idea, but they’d done it before and I hadn’t seen any fireworks yet this year, so off we went to join the line up of lawn chairs outside the main building. The fireworks were the kind that come in a can, and were pretty and not too loud, but it was windy out and two of them turned over, shooting fireworks into the crowd. Whoops! A little extra bang for your buck.

Fortunately, no one was hurt, but they might want to re-think that activity in the future. Afterward, as we walked back to the house on the street that circles the main building, I felt like I was walking amid in the Indy 500 of seated scooters. There must have been seven of them sedately rolling down the road, everyone talking and laughing in friendly camaraderie after our narrow escape from renegade fireworks up on the hill.

Our first sightseeing adventure was to the Old Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, where they have exhibits that change every so often. (For a link to previous exhibits that might be of interest, go here.) This trip they had one on medical instruments of the past, corn and its many uses, underwear through the ages, hot air balloons in the area, man’s best friend, Indian beadwork, and a particularly fun exhibit on Sioux Falls area drive in restaurants.

That one was my favorite, and inspired several ideas for the inspirational romantic suspense I am currently pulling together in my head. They had a booth with a table jukebox music selector, and you could play all the tunes you wanted from that era. There was a full size soda fountain counter, and every now and then, some machine puffed the smell of chocolate sundaes into the air. It’s too bad those burger joints with car hops on roller skates went the way of the dinosaur. I love to learn about people and their lives, and reading the memory book of people who worked and hung out there gave me all kinds of ideas for stories.

I also enjoyed learning all about underwear through the ages—and the beginnings of the various underwear companies in business today. Warner’s, Hanes, Bali, Maidenform, Joe Boxer, Fruit of the Loom, Jockey, and Victoria’s Secret. Some of the exhibits from the 70s and 80s I remember wearing, myself. Whoda thunk my unmentionables back then could some day end up in an historical exhibit?

I liked the one about corn, South Dakota’s largest cash crop, next. Never knew corn was in so many things, or that corn could be used for so much. Planting and harvesting techniques sure have changed over the years. In some cases, I’m not sure it’s for the better. Modern agribusiness companies seem to be driven to edge small family farmers right out of the American picture.

Sioux Falls also offers hot air balloon rides, and every evening we would notice a few floating in the sky, a sky with some of the prettiest sunsets to be seen. The flat landscape also provided a unique perspective on storms--one that came our way one evening I could see approaching from miles away. I simply stood there, fascinated, watching evening descend and lightning light up the sky both above and below the clouds--until individual bolts began to snake out of the sky and my son took my by the shoulders and moved me away from the window.

Sigh. It’s nice to be loved :).

Sioux Falls is known for two main service industries, and those are financial companies (you, know, where all those credit card applications in your mail come from), and hospitals. I think there are six in the area. I can’t believe how much of the local landscape has turned into housing developments in the three years since we were there. If you’re going to get sick, Sioux Falls is apparently a good place to do so. One of the first exhibits we went to see was the Sioux Empire Medical Museum, housed at Sanford Hospital. It included displays relating to medical history from the early 1900's through today. Nursing uniforms through the years, medical equipment, and photographs showed the changes in medicine over the years, and retired nurses who actually went through the Sioux Valley Hospital School of Nursing volunteered an abundance of information about each display. Personally, I winced at the display of glass catheters.

But I found the daily lives, life, personal accounts, and diaries of various nursing students who had gone through the program fascinating. Do you see a pattern here? I just love personal accounts of experiencing just about anything. I wish I could pick out one favorite fact to share with you, but there are too many to choose from.

I do know, however, that my next heroine will probably be a museum curator, and I’ll find a way to share my facts in her story.

In the meantime, have a blessed weekend.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The National Music Museum, A National Treasure Indeed

It’s hard to believe that three weeks ago today was our first full day in South Dakota. It seems so long ago. Last week was a blur of constant motion, getting back into the swing of things, unpacking and doing laundry and grocery shopping and catching up on emails and blogs and friends here locally. Now I have to think back to all we saw and did…

I usually do a day-by-day accounting of my trips, but today I just want to write about the National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD, on the campus of the University of South Dakota.

We visited two college campuses while on the trip, which reminded me that I love the whole college campus atmosphere. The buildings, the houses, the green lawns and sidewalks and sculptures and flowers and benches and overall look and feel of the place. They took me right back to the memories of my own.

They also reminded me that my son will be going off to school in the next few years, and for the first time, I was actually comfortable with the idea. I can picture him living in that kind of setting and atmosphere, and I think with his love of learning, he will thrive.

My son, in fact, was the reason we went to the National Music Museum. For our itinerary, I chose only places I thought would interest him, because I don’t care…I’ll go to museums of any kind.

We arrived just before noon and had a picnic of peanut butter sandwiches, assorted fruits and vegetables, and grandma’s home made chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies in the shade under a tree just outside the building before going inside. The building itself is not overly large or imposing, not like the national museums in Washington DC, just your basic stone museum-type building--so I didn’t expect much from the inside. Figured we’d be through it in an hour or two, ho hum, been there, done that.

Three hours later I still hadn’t seen everything, but was dead on my feet and hungry, in need of both a place to sit and something to boost my blood sugar.

That is one place I am going back to, first chance I get. And one place I would love to endow, should I be blessed enough to become anyone’s benefactor.

Call me cloistered, but they had the most amazing setup I have come across in a museum. They had nine galleries, full of instruments spanning five centuries from the Renaissance to Rock and Roll. Stradivarius violins, mandolins, and cellos, harpsichords, lutes, lyres, Civil War and slave instruments, banjos, fiddles, brass instruments, wind and reed instruments, guitars, organs of every shape and size, player pianos, a Nickelodeon.

They had instruments that were invented, but never took off, or fell into disuse when something better came along, and instruments owned by famous people or used in movies. There was a room of non-western music, with instruments and drums from places like India, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Africa, Iraq, the Pacific islands, and so forth. That room alone took ages to get through…

Why? Because in most galleries I’ve been in, you look at the object on display, read the accompanying plaque, and move on. But here, upon paying the $7 admission fee, ($3 for students) each of us was given an iPhone type device with headphones. It had a pointer, but your finger worked just as well. You tapped on what gallery you were in, and a screen opened with pictures of the numbered exhibits. You tapped on the picture of, say, a harpsichord, and a voice told you the story of that harpsichord.

Your next option was to tap on the word music, which allowed you to hear what the instrument sounded like. A full song. So walking between exhibits, you could listen to music. And you could play it over and over again, as many times as you liked.

Each person in there was on their own personal tour, at some different point in the tour or room, listening to what interested them. It was quiet, peaceful and totally full of music. (They even have virtual tours. Check it out!) If you need to research anything musical, this is one place you want to contact.

Like I said, three hours later I still hadn’t listened to everything. The one thing I would recommend—but where would they find the space?—are benches like you find in art galleries in ALL the galleries, so that visitors can sit and rest their feet as they listen to all the different instruments. Walking for three hours is hard enough—standing for that length of time when you’re not used to it gets wearing. We had to leave the museum long before any of us were finished experiencing all the exhibits.

And where did we go? To a restored drug store soda fountain a few miles down the road, where each of us ordered something different, made the old-fashioned way. I had a chocolate ice cream soda, my son a cream soda float, grandma a miniature banana split, and grandpa a sundae. A nice way to cap off an afternoon of pure musical enjoyment.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Taking Time to Listen to Your Body

I'm going to have this post do double duty, since I'm still recovering from vacation. This will also be posted on my PMDD site, but applies to women's hormonal health and the need to listen to and take care of our bodies in general. That said, here goes:

I’ve been scanning the PMDD loops and forums, and there are so many women out there crying out for help. As I read the posts, I can pinpoint some things they are doing to make their PMDD worse, without even realizing it. Nobody intentionally wants to make themselves feel badly, especially a PMDD woman. We know—even if at times it seems only like a distant memory—what it feels like to feel good, and we want to feel that way all the time.

As I said last week, the information is out there. The problem is it’s scattered all over the place, and some of it isn’t quite true. Some of it is slanted toward getting us to purchase products in which the author of that information has a financial interest. In the interests of my research I’ve bought several books and tapes and products designed to make me feel better, even “cure” my PMDD. Most have failed, because the information they are based upon is faulty to start with.

For instance, there is one doctor who insists over and over again in his literature that PMDD is caused by using birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. If that is the case, I shouldn’t have it, because I’ve never used either. But a vast majority of women have used one or the other, and so by claiming that they cause PMDD, he is guaranteed to have a wide range of women wondering if that is the cause of their PMDD and flocking to buy his products. Instant consumer base.

Based on the scientific information I have read, in particular the information produced in the past five years—information which is not referred to at all in this doctor’s literature--it’s clear that birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies worsen your PMDD, but do not cause it. The studies I have read indicate that overall there is some relief in the initial months when using these methods to treat your symptoms of PMDD—and that is all you can do with these methods—treat the symptoms—because neither of these treatment methods address the underlying cause of PMDD.

But after a certain period of time—usually several months—both clinical studies and anecdotal stories show that birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies make your PMDD worse. And if that’s not enough misery for you, when you stop taking these drugs for your PMDD, your PMDD worsens even more. Because your body has to do all that additional work to recover from the damage that was done to your hormonal balance through using these methods of treatment. The bottom line is you end up feeling worse than you did before you started these treatments.

Realize now that the failure was not yours. The failure was in the treatment, which is at best a one-size fits all treatment for what is a highly individualized disorder.

I have not used bio-identical hormone replacement treatment, so can not address that subject here. At this point I’m still on the fence about that. I have been able to manage my PMDD symptoms through rest, diet, nutritional supplements, and exercise. I still have episodes, but they are mild compared to what they once were, and more than manageable. I would like to make them go away completely, and in the interests of doing so (and research!) hope to try bio-identical hormone replacement therapy in time, but have yet to find a doctor in my area who will prescribe them. So for now I muddle along, but again, my symptoms are mild and more than manageable.

Two other things that make your PMDD worse are:

Any prescribed drug, including anti-depressants.
Any over the counter drug, including NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—that’s right—ibuprofen. That wonderful substance that does wonders for our cramps and sore joints only adds to our PMDD burden.

I’m not saying to never take drugs again. There are genuine disorders, diseases, and conditions that can not be managed any other way. I’m saying you need to be aware that these things make your PMDD worse, and that it’s not just you and you’re not crazy.

For instance when you reach for that bottle of ibuprofen, you need to reach for it knowing you’re making a trade off…relief from your cramps now, or relief from your PMDD later.

Just knowing this makes me pause, and decide whether my cramps and aches are really bad enough for me to need that ibuprofen. Or do I really just need some rest and relaxation to give my body the time it needs to deal with the inflammation on its own?

Dealing with PMDD is more about awareness than anything else. It’s making ourselves aware of what our body is trying to tell us. For example, we need magnesium—chocolate craving—we need carbs—to boost the level of serotonin in our brain—we need sleep—to allow our brains can naturally re-regulate themselves.

Our bodies are designed to heal themselves naturally, given the right nutrients and rest. In our busy society, more often than not, we don’t have the time to stop and listen to what our bodies are telling us. We’ve been conditioned to carry on, no matter what, and consume whatever pill, food, or drink is handy to get us through. Recently I heard an ad on the radio for some kind of product you can puff into your mouth that brings you up to five more hours of energy. It has some nutrients in it to make it sound healthy, but it also has a heavy dose of caffeine—which cancels out any questionable benefits of the nutrients added. Never mind that a PMDD woman needs to avoid caffeine like the plague.

This company promotes their product as something you can take in the afternoon to get you through the rest of the day. So you can be even more productive than you already are. It’s touted as a good thing. Something to make you virtually indefatigable. In our case, a superwoman.

But if you’re tired, your body is telling you that you need rest, not that you need something to override your body’s natural warning system that you’re heading for a breakdown.

So sure, if you use this product--or any of the countless ones just like it you can find next to cash registers at any number of stores--you get the added boost for that particular afternoon. But what about the damage you are doing to your body, which is already screaming for relief? What about the price you will pay with a whopper of a PMDD episode down the line?

Is it really worth it? Or don’t you deserve any better?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Coming Down from Vacation

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. ~John Steinbeck

Hi, all,

I’m still getting my head together after ten days away, including taking 30 hours to get home from a trip that should have taken the same four hours it took us to get to South Dakota. Somehow we ended up in Minneapolis, Detroit, and Pittsburgh instead. Fortunately, our luggage arrived with us or that would be a whole new nightmare :). I’ll be blogging about our travel adventures once I get caught up on everything here. Right now there’s all sorts of unpacking and laundry to do, groceries to get, mail to sift through, and a sick cat to cope with.

Have a warm and wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Guest Author, Terry Odell - Those Darn Pigeonholes

Today's Guest Author is Terry Odell, a fellow Rose who has a new release out, Nowhere to Hide. It's got a great cover (done by the artist who did my website, Rae Monet) a great storyline, and great characters, too, according to (both me and) her latest review, which she'll talk about in a bit. One of those characters has stopped by with Terry today to share a little of her story, or the story behind the story. (So yes, not only do our characters occupy space in our hearts and minds--just like our friends and family--we also take them places with us :))
Welcome, Terry and Colleen.

Terry: Thanks to Liana for inviting me to sit in today. She's asked me to talk about my new release from The Wild Rose Press. It's a romantic suspense called NOWHERE TO HIDE.

Actually, I wouldn't really call it romantic suspense. I've never been one to pigeonhole things, and having to stick labels on things is a double-edged sword. Publishers need to sell the book to bookstores, and bookstores have to know what shelf to put it on. I'm using 'shelf' loosely here, because the same rules hold true for digital books. My publisher has over a dozen imprints designed to make it easy for readers to find the kinds of books they like.

My problem? I don't really like suspense. I like mysteries. But there is no such shelf as "romantic mystery" or "romantic detective story" so I'm stuck with my book being called a romantic suspense, when in fact, it's a romance set against a police procedural.

I've passed on a lot of books labeled "thrillers" because I don't think they're my kind of read. Only then I read one, and it doesn't fit my definition of thriller at all, and it turns out to be a great book, and I regret not having found it sooner.

For me, what makes a great read boils down to great characters. When I write, my characters are real. Great characters can carry a weak plot, but a weak character won't do much no matter how great the plot is. (There are a few notable exceptions, but they're rare.)

So, I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when I saw NOWHERE TO HIDE had been picked up for review by a site called "Got Erotic Romance." Trust me, erotic romance was never a pigeonhole I expected! Sure, there's a romance, and there are a couple of sex scenes, but erotica? No way. I say this with confidence because if it had been erotic romance, I know my editor would have told me it belonged in an entirely different imprint.

But…pigeonhole or not, the reviewer did "get it" about my book. She said:

"The plot is an interesting twist on a police procedural, giving the reader an insider’s view of the workings of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. But the main appeal of the book is the characters. They are layered and complex—real people with real emotions. The author has taken care to show Colleen and Graham’s developing love affair as much more than just sex. As a result, when they do make love it’s the culmination of an emotional journey from pain to joy."

And to show you what I mean about my characters being real, I'm turning the next part of this post over to Colleen.

People have asked me what it's like to star in a romance novel. Well, first you pay your dues. I was a minor character in Terry's first novel, Finding Sarah, and had a few lines, a few scenes, but nothing major. However, I didn't complain, hit my marks, was always willing to do revisions even if it meant my shining moments were in the deleted files folder on her computer.

In return, she gave me my own book.

It's been a long time coming. I had to move across the country, and she had to change publishers. But finally, I'm ready to take center stage.

Let me tell you, it's a lot easier being a secondary character. When you're the star, sure you get to hang with a hunk (although the LAST thing I wanted when I moved away from Oregon to Florida was a man, especially one in uniform), and there are some steamy sex scenes.

I had to agree to be pretty naïve in the bedroom department, but that turned out great, because Graham really knew what he was doing and Terry made sure he "taught" me well.

We had plenty of practice for that one. Now THOSE rewrites are fun. But she also threw all this back story angst at me – she actually SHOT me between books. I mean, that's going a bit far, don't you think?

Then she saddled me with this dotty landlady plus a complicated mystery encompassing three counties. And because she 'retired' me from my cop status before the book started, I had to play second fiddle to Graham, who was on his very first case as a detective. Actually, he was still in training, and I did what I could to make sure he looked good. Professionally, that is. Physically, he looks VERY good.

All in all, being the heroine in a romance novel turned out to be a great experience. I learned a lot about myself, and had fun doing it. One word of advice to any would-be heroines out there. Don't get your author angry. Ever.

Think back to your favorite books. Do you love the story or the characters? My money's on the characters.


The trouble with running away is you take yourself with you. After a case goes south, Colleen McDonald leaves her police job in Oregon for a fresh start as a civilian in Orlando. The last thing she needs is some cop with killer blue eyes coming around, looking for her missing landlord. The quickest way to get Deputy Graham Harrigan out of her life is to beat him at his own game.

Finding Jeffrey Walters might be Graham's ticket to a slot in the Criminal Investigations Division. Determined to prove he's the man for the job despite the stain of an unsavory reputation passed down by his training partner, he can't afford to be distracted by the pretty tenant in Walters' guest house. A tenant who seems to know more about the case than he does. A tenant with her own demons.

Will Colleen's secrets destroy Graham's chances for a promotion, or will love make theirs a permanent partnership?


Someone was at the door...

Colleen pulled the door open enough to talk, not enough to invite him in. Tall as he was, and with his eyes obscured behind mirrored sunglasses, Colleen fought the urge to slam the door.
“What do you want, Deputy?” She heard the raspy tone of her voice and cleared her throat. Her eyes automatically sought the nametag pinned to his broad chest. Graham Harrigan.

“I’m looking for Jeffrey Walters,” he said, removing his sunglasses.

Not for her. Exhaling with relief, she talked to his nametag. “I don’t know any Jeffrey Walters. Only Doris Walters, my landlady, and I’ve never met her in person. I got here last night. Try the main house.”

“I did, but there was no answer.”

“Is there something wrong?” That low-pitched sound rumbled through the air again, but if the deputy heard, he gave no indication. She fixed her gaze on his chin and waited.

“His daughter said he wasn’t returning her calls. Asked us to look in on him.” He pulled out a small notebook and pen. “Can I have your name, ma’am?”

His voice was more bored than belligerent, but he was a man, a cop, and she wanted him gone. She paused. No need to piss him off.

“Colleen McDonald.”

His tone warmed twenty degrees. “Good morning, Colleen McDonald. Scottish or Irish?” He gave her a congenial smile.

“Scottish.” As if he could disarm her that easily. She pulled her robe tighter and put her hand to the doorknob. “Why don’t you leave me your card, Deputy Harrigan, and I’ll tell Mrs. Walters, or this Jeffrey person—if I see him—to call you. I have things to do.”

You can read the first chapter on my website.

It's available for pre-order (paperback) here.

And I'd love to see you over at my blog, "Terry's Place"

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Freedom and the Power of Choice

Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.~Eleanor Roosevelt

Short and sweet today. I'm busy going to church, making an apple cake and going off to a picnic. Never am I more acutely aware of the freedom I have been blessed with than on holidays like this. I blogged about it last year on the Pink Ladies Blog, and really don't have anything new to say about it, so if you haven't already read it and would like to, please go here.

My friend Marc has also done a beautiful blog post on The Power of Choice.

Speaking of choices, the winner for June of an autographed copy of one of my books, winner's choice, is Tannie. Congratulations, Tannie, thank you for stopping by, and I look forward to hearing from you :)

Have a blessed 4th of July all, and don't forget to take a moment to realize how very lucky you are.