Friday, September 28, 2012

Goodbye, Old Friend

My fuchsia finally succumbed to the heat:

The fuchsia is one of my favorite flowers. Its flowers look like fairies! Whenever I see a blooming fuchsia, my heart swells until it feels like it might burst (but in a good sort of way). So obviously, I need a fuchsia of my own.

But my fuchsia just could not handle the summer heat. I can't say that I blame it. The heat has been relentless. Usually we have a good mix of days in the 80s and days in the 90s, but for the past six or seven weeks, Pasadena has been all about hitting those 90s. Day after day after day. I watered my poor fuchsia and gave it pep talks, but it lost the will to live in late August.

I could buy another fuchsia, but this is the second fuchsia to perish on my front porch. Le Sigh. I hate to buy another fuchsia only to see it wither and die under my watch. I'll just have to have fuchsia envy and gaze longingly at my neighbors' healthy fairy blossoms.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nail Polish Idiot

Confession: I have a bad habit of buying a brand new nail polish in an exciting fun color ... and then buying the exact same color, one month later, because I'm an idiot and forgot that the color in question is already in my possession.

Exhibit A:

The nail polish on the left is called "Read My Palm." The nail polish on the right is call "Read My Palm." Funny how they have the same name. OH WAIT THAT'S BECAUSE THEY ARE THE EXACT SAME SHADE OF MERMAID GREEN. Yes, green is my favorite color, but why oh why did I need to buy a lifetime supply of this particular shade?? (A: Because I'm an idiot).

Exhibit B:

To my credit, at least these polishes are from different brands. But it doesn't matter what you call these polishes because they are the exact same color.

This is my newest bottle of nail polish:

I'm not certain what to call this cheerful shade of blue, so let's just call it Cheerful Blue. So far, I only have one bottle of Cheerful Blue in my nail polish collection. But I assure you, by the end of the month, I will accidentally purchase a second bottle of Cheerful Blue - and I'll be convinced that I'm adding a new color to my nail polish collection. When I get home and "discover" that I already own Cheerful Blue, I will howl with frustration. (Actually, I'll probably just stamp my foot and say Sh**).

I suppose I could carry around a photograph of my nail polish collection to consult when I'm considering a new purchase. But that would be way too much work.

Monday, September 24, 2012


My grocery store is selling pumpkins! Woot woot!

Thus far, I have been very restrained and only purchased a single miniature pumpkin for the mantle. But doesn't he look lonely? I think he needs some pumpkin friends. Lots and lots of pumpkin friends.

p.s. The little fluffy chicks on the pinecones are from Easter, and I realize that September is no time for Easter decorations. But what am I supposed to do? Put the fluffy chicks in a dark scary box and abandon them in the basement? What sort of sick maniac do you take me for?! Little fluffy chicks belong on the mantle, all year long.

p.p.s. I gathered the pinecones for the mantle last year, and they have been on display for the past 12 months. I realize pinecones do not say "summer!" and Martha Stewart would be appalled at my total disregard for the seasons. But I don't care.

Friday, September 21, 2012


I finished the rough draft of my novel yesterday afternoon. I'm still in shock that I can actually say, Oh yeah, I finished the first draft of my novel, no biggee.

On Monday, I'm going to start reading it. I am excited and nervous. I know it will need a lot of work - but what if the entire thing is a big steaming pile of crap? I don't think that is the case. I've been rereading parts of my novel throughout the process of creating the first draft, and I often catch myself thinking, Hey, Courtney, this is not half bad. But still: what if it's a big steaming pile of crap?

I'm going to try to read the entire thing before I start revising. I love revising, and I know I will just want to jump right into improving the novel; but I need to read the entire thing to get some perspective and see what needs work.

For example, as I was finishing the rough draft, I remembered the main character has a cat. Or, at least, she did. I wrote one funny page about that cat, and then I completely forgot about it and never mentioned it again. I need to delete the page about the cat (sorry, kitty) or else mention the cat elsewhere.

This is an adventure! I am the creator of this novel, and yet I know I will be constantly surprised by what I wrote. It feels like I'm experiencing Christmas, my Maui honeymoon, a trip to the ER and the California Bar Exam, all at the same time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In The Homestretch

I am writing a novel. This process started in April 2011, shortly after I quit my last job with a law firm and started working from home as a contract attorney.

I have wanted to be a novelist for as long as I can remember, but I mostly abandoned creative writing after I started law school. I always had an excuse. I'll start writing after the bar exam. I'll start writing after this trial is over. I'll start writing when I have a job with more "balance." I'll start writing after I have kids. I'll start writing after I retire. I'll start writing after I'm dead. In April 2011, I decided, Eff it, I'll start writing NOW. I started going to coffee shops and spent long hours writing.

Between April and December 2011, I started a few different novels, all involving the same cast of core characters. These novels were all "fluffy." Two were wedding comedies (inspired by my own July 2011 wedding); one was a dating novel. I didn't feel like I was writing the best novel I could write, but they were good reasons to keep me writing.

A day or two after Christmas 2011, while I was taking a shower in Nebraska, I realized what story I wanted to write. And that's all I'm going to say, because I need to reread the first draft before I commit to a plot summary! (But I will say that it was the most productive shower of my life).

Since the New Year, I have been working steadily on this novel. To date, I have written 189,667 words. In my Word document, that's 428 pages typed in Times New Roman Size 12 font. (And I thought my 150 page history thesis about Ben Franklin's autobiography was long).

I think I have about another 10 pages to write AND THEN THE FIRST DRAFT IS DONE. Depending on how the spirit moves me, this could take just a few days or maybe a few weeks to write.

I want to take my time with these final pages of my first rough draft of my first novel. They deserve as much thought and love as the first 428 pages. But holy crap, I am so ready to be done with the first draft. So if I don't blog much over the next few weeks, it's because I'm giving all my creative energy to my novel.

Then again, I might start blogging more than ever. Sometimes procrastination is the best type of inspiration. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Panda Cam!

I am currently obsessed with the San Diego Zoo's Panda Cam. I even downloaded a San Diego Zoo iPhone App so I can check in on the baby panda ALL THE TIME.

The panda cub (yet to be named, but it should obviously be named something bad ass like Darth Vader or Bruce) was born on July 29, 2012. He's so young, he can't do much of anything, so the panda cam is hit or miss. Here's a breakdown of what I see when I check in:

  • 45% of the time: Mama Panda's butt, as she crouches protectively over Baby Panda. There's no sign of Baby, but I assume he's buried somewhere beneath Mama (and not suffocating).
  • 40% of the time: Mama Panda and Baby Panda cuddling and sleeping. 
  • 10% of the time: Baby Panda lying alone in the den while Mama Panda is eating outside. Once, I saw Baby Panda throwing a fit as he tried to roll on to his stomach. Usually, he's just sleeping happily on his tummy looking like a fur ball.
  • 5% of the time: Something interesting happens.
Looking at the numbers, I realize the Panda Cam is about 95% boring - but I still keep watching. Watching Mama and Baby together is more soothing (and cheaper) than a massage, and sometimes, something really exciting happens. Like Monday night, when I checked in, Mama was spinning Baby around and sticking his head playfully in her mouth. I could not tell if Baby was having fun or freaking out, and I wondered if there was someone I needed to call. Help! Mama Panda went off the deep end! But five minutes later, Mama and Baby were back to being boring, lazy pandas.  

I think a trip to the San Diego Zoo needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fall Wish List

It is still summer in Pasadena. With a vengeance. I suppose I should be grateful because extra heat means extra pool days, but I'm ready for the 10 Day Weather Forecast to stop taunting me. This weekend, we are looking at temperatures on the wrong side of 100. Next week, the high temperatures are just supposed to hit 89 ... but that's a lie. When the forecast says Pasadena is having a high of 89, that means it will be 89 degrees by 10 a.m. and about 95 by 3 p.m.

But a girl can still dream about autumn weather (right? RIGHT?) These are some of the things I hope to do once Pasadena's temperatures dip back into the 70s:
  • Wear sweaters! Oh, my poor neglected cardigans! I'm not certain I even remember how to wear them. They are supposed to cover your arms, right? But where does the open part go, in the front or the back?
  • Buy pumpkins! Lots and lots of pumpkins! Big pumpkins! Small pumpkins! Medium pumpkins! OHMYGODILOVEPUMPKINS! (Disclaimer: the day that pumpkins first appear at my grocery store, I'm buying some mini-pumpkins for the mantle. Even if it's still 100 degrees outside).
  • Bake a pie. Although I love to bake, I have still never baked a pie (unless cheesecake with a graham cracker crust counts, but I don't think it should).
  • Make the fancy pork butt ragu sauce that has been on my to-cook list for years, ever since Nathan spied the recipe in the L.A. Times food section. (Seriously. This is the Year of the Pork Butt Ragu, so help me).
  • Knit something more complicated than a baby blanket or scarf.
  • Go on a weekend trip somewhere in California. My mind keeps wandering to San Francisco but I'd be equally happy to visit Santa Barbara or Palm Springs.
  • Go crazy with apples. Eat apples. Pick apples. Make applesauce. Bake apples into delicious treats. (Disclaimer: we have an apple tree in our front yard, so picking apples is something I have to do. Otherwise, the squirrels go crazy and I start discovering apple cores in really strange places).
  • Bust out the crock pot and fill the house with tantalizing smells.
  • Deck the house for Halloween (because every front yard should become a haunted graveyard at least once a year).
Excuse me while I go gaze longingly at my cardigans.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Fistful of Quarters

Have you ever seen The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters? It's a documentary about a group of video game dweebs obsessed with earning the highest score ever in Donkey Kong and it is amazing.

Nathan playing Donkey Kong at our local car wash shortly
after we first watched A Fistful of Quarters.
You don't have to like Donkey Kong (or even video games, for that matter) to appreciate this documentary. There is a cast of compelling characters, and the film is well edited. The nerds are shockingly nerdy, the mean people are so very mean, and the arrogant asses take arrogance to new levels. Every time we see it on t.v., we stop to watch it. 

A Fistful of Quarters is really like a Gorillas in the Mist for uber-nerds. Most nerds eventually grow up and learn to do things like make eye contact and flirt properly, but some nerds endure. A Fistful of Quarters proves that the nerds in Big Bang Theory actually do exist in real life.

Other documentaries that prove that the Big Bang Theory is closer to fact than fiction: Trekkies; Spellbound; and Word Wars - Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Game Circuit.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Breakfast With Uno

Nathan and I like to bring our deck of Uno cards whenever we go out to breakfast. 

I don't remember when I took this photo, but it must have been many months ago in 2011 since there's a mug of coffee on the table. Nathan hates coffee, and I stopped drinking coffee last December. Coffee-Free Courtney is a healthier person than Coffee Courtney, but how photogenic is that mug of coffee? It makes the table look so cozy.

Uno is the perfect game for breakfast at a restaurant. It's just a deck of cards, so I can easily stow it in my purse. It requires just a little table space to play. It's fast enough to play a few games before our pancakes arrives. It's interesting enough to keep our attention yet simple enough so we can talk about other things if we want. (And I apologize for starting so many sentences with the word "it" or "it's." I guess I can't pursue a career as a game reviewer).

I often notice other diners staring longingly at our Uno cards, but I've never seen anyone else bring Uno or another card game to a restaurant. Children get to bring rattles and coloring books - why can't adults play while they wait for their food? Adults, however, seem to only do three things while they wait for their breakfast: (1) talk; (2) read a newspaper; or (3) stare awkwardly at the wall.

I keep hoping we are going to start a trend and other diners will follow our example; but at our favorite breakfast spots, we continue to be the only diners with Uno. So sad. So sad.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Life In A Remote Village In South Africa

My brother Matt and sister-in-law Sara are currently Peace Corps volunteers. They live in a remote village in South Africa. The last time I saw them was over a year ago, when they came back to L.A. for my wedding - and I won't see them again until 2013. Weirdness. I guess this is what life was always like for people who lived not so long ago, before air travel made the world a little smaller.

In a recent blog post, Matt and Sara listed ten reasons that you know you live in a small village. My favorite is Reason No. 2: the entire village runs out of milk and bread.

If you'd like to see the other nine reasons that made their list, read the blog entry here.

p.s. Another title for their list could be "Ten Reasons Courtney Will Never Voluntarily Relocate To A Remote South African Village."

The Law Is Really Boring

As I've explained before, I'm a lawyer-writer-homemaker-crime fighter. You know what is the biggest drawback to being a lawyer? It ruins any t.v. show that takes place in the legal world.

I still watch and enjoy lawyer shows, but I cringe every time the practice of law is depicted inaccurately. And the practice of law is depicted inaccurately CONSTANTLY because the practice of law is pretty freaking boring. The television writers have no choice but to sex things up. Otherwise, dramas about the growth of mold on bread would be more popular.

These are some of the things on legal shows that make me cringe:

- The t.v. judge is always banging the gavel. Sorry, folks, this NEVER happens. You are more likely to see a herd of buffalo stampede through the courtroom than to see the gavel getting any action.

- A case that moves quickly from start to finish. On legal shows like Ally McBeal and Boston Legal, it seems like the Complaint is filed on Monday and the trial takes place on Friday. No no no. Criminal law moves quickly, but civil law is slower than the second coming of Christ. In Los Angeles, several years can elapse between the beginning and ending of a case, and so much boring crap happens during that time. 

- On television, it looks like the law mostly involves lots of talking. In reality, the law involves a lot of writing. If a legal drama actually mirrored reality, about 98% of the show would involve a lawyer clacking away at a computer. (The other 2% would consist of coffee and bathroom breaks).

- On television, it's important to strut around the courtroom and wave your arms around emphatically. In reality, if you did something like that, the judge would kick your ass. The lawyer stands in one place, behind a table, and has to ask for permission to approach the bench. When questioning the witness, the lawyer stands far away, behind a podium. The lawyer does not get to pace like a lion before the jury box. The most interesting thing a lawyer might do in court is discretely dislodge a wedgie.

- On television, it looks like the lawyer sweeps into the courtroom at 10 a.m., holding her Starbucks latte, and by 10:01 a.m., she's shouting at the judge. In reality, the lawyer arrives at 8:20 a.m. - no coffee, food or gum allowed. At 9:10 a.m., there is still no sign of the judge. Then when the judge finally takes the bench, there are at least twenty matters on calendar and your case is always the last one to be called. Being a lawyer means spending a lot of time staring at a wall.

Of course, being a lawyer has its interesting moments. Once, while I was waiting for my case to be called, I saw a man named Sir Arthur Conan Doyle present some arguments to the judge. You would think that a man named Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would be dressed like Sherlock Holmes with a tweed cape and pipe, but this man was dressed like a cowboy, with a big 10 gallon hat and boots that belonged on a ranch. He was fantastic! But most lawyers are less than fantastic. They are very, very boring and not at all like the characters you see on t.v. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Autumn Nerd

I don't like to play favorites, but autumn is my favorite season. As much as I'll miss swimming in the pool and spending tons of times outdoors, my heart is already longing for falling leaves and pumpkins. It does not help that fall-themed magazines and catalogues are arriving in my mailbox.

Last week, I had a nightmare that it was 5 p.m. on Halloween and I had forgotten to buy candy and put out our decorations. I was at a drugstore that did not have any candy for sale. The horror! The horror! In my dream, I was calculating whether I had time to go to the grocery store or if I should just give away random dry goods to the trick-or-treaters. Either way, it was too late to put out the decorations.

Don't worry: there's no way I'll let my nightmare become a reality. The front yard will be decorated with tombstones and ghosts as soon as good taste allows (and probably a few days earlier). As for candy, I will buy 400x more than we actually need... and Nathan will still get distressed when I give away the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Swimming in the Rain

Last Thursday afternoon, it rained in Pasadena. As my best friend in the eighth grade would have said, "Well blow me down and call me Papa Smurf." (I have no idea where/when/how she coined that saying, but it is forever burned into my memory).

It never rains in L.A. County during the summer; but last week, it was raining so hard, it sounded like hail was bouncing off the roof. I stood outside on our covered front porch to watch the rain, but holy crap, it was too hot and muggy to stay outside! Rain in Pasadena usually means cool temperatures, but this August storm was like something you'd find in New York or Florida.

Nathan got home a little early and announced, "I'm going in the pool, because swimming in the rain is one of life's great joys." The following conversation ensued:

Courtney: You can swim in the rain?

Nathan: Of course, unless there's lightning. But I didn't see any lightning on the drive home. You've been sitting by the window. Did you see any lightning?

C: No! I have not seen any lightning. I'll put my suit on.

Two minutes later, I'm wearing my swimsuit and excited for my first ever swim in the rain.

C: Did you hear that thunder? It's been thundering like that all afternoon.

Nathan turns slowly around and looks at me. His expression says, "My god, wife, how stupid are you?"

N: I didn't hear any thunder. Has there been thunder?

C: Yes! Lots and lots of thunder.

Nathan puts his trunks back into the drawer.

N: You realize if there's thunder then there's also lightning?

C: Oh. So we can't go swimming?

DAMNIT. I'm 33 years old, and I have still not gone swimming in the rain.

In my defense, I know that thunder and lightning are partners in crime. But I grew up in West Los Angeles! I thought maybe you can sometimes hear thunder when the lightning is too far away to see. So I thought maybe it was safe to swim in the rain if you can only hear the thunder. I just assumed Nathan had heard the thunder during his drive home (it sounded like Zeus was engaged in an epic battle with the Titans) and that he was tapping into some secret Midwest knowledge about safety rules for swimming in the rain. 

Even though he's in New York as I type this, I can see my dad shaking his head and reminding me for the million gazillionth time that Assume makes an Ass out of U and Me.

Thanks, Dad, I got it. Still, I wish we could have gone swimming in the Pasadena August rain.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Neighborhood Signs

While taking a walk in my neighborhood, I noticed a sign on a shrub:

Curious, I walked closer to read the message:

Please Don't Pee on Me. I'm 10 years old and you are killing me.
I pray this sign is a plea to the neighborhood dogs... the other options are far too distressing to contemplate.