Entries in Hurray (49)

Monday
Sep282015

Transitions


All nine of us (plus Moneypenny!) the day we left to take James to the MTC. Anne couldn't manage a smile.

The years just keep rolling around, don't they?

Our house has experienced all kinds of upheaval in the past several months. We went from having seven kids living at home to just four. We got a new roof and are having solar panels installed. And I was accepted into a Master's of Fine Arts program in Writing at Vermont College of the Fine Arts!

No, I'm not deserting the family and moving to New England for two years. Vermont College offers a low residency program, which means I'll travel to Montpelier (oh, darn) for ten days straight each semester, then do the bulk of my work with my professors through the mail. I'm so excited to work with VCFA's amazing faculty to improve my fiction writing. 

I start classes in January, and I'm glad I have a bit of time beforehand. I have a long-ish commissioned piece of fiction that must be finished by then, for one thing. More on that in a post to come. For another thing, we're starting the long slide into the holidays this week, and I'm trying to whip my routines into shape little by little in preparation. 

Update on the kids: Christian, our oldest, graduated from college in May and moved home while he looked for a job. He landed a temporary gig working on the campaign of a Virginia state senator, and left for the East Coast on August 24th. The job ends on Election Day at the beginning of November, and then he'll be on the hunt for more permanent work. But he's enjoying himself and learning a lot.

Mid-July, our second oldest, James, left on a two-year mission for our church. His assignment? The France Paris mission, which comprises the northern half of the hexagon. (The southern half is the France Lyon mission.) He spent six weeks in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, then left for France on August 30th. He's currently assigned to the Parisian suburb of Évry, and he's having a wonderful time. The work is hard, but fulfilling; his letters have been delightful. 

And then our foster daughter, Aolani, got a job in Hawaii and left the second week of September. She's delighted to be living her dream, and already has her Hawaiian driver's license. After two years with us and her high school graduation in May, she felt ready to fly, and we are so proud of her. 

Four kids at home. I haven't had that few in eleven years, and back then, they were all little. Though teenagers are as demanding as toddlers, family life feels a little like a cake walk most days. I'm not doubling recipes anymore; in fact, I often have leftovers. It's quieter around here, that's for sure. Less homework to supervise, fewer papers to edit. I miss my big three, but it's nice to have more time to focus on those who remain.

Speaking of which, they (Hope, 16; Tess, 14; Daniel, 11; and Anne, 7) decided they needed to switch bedrooms all around, so we're in the midst of a massive purge/declutter to get ready for the big shuffle. The fun never ends! Hope and Tess are at high school together, Daniel has started middle school, and Anne-the-caboose still has a ways to go at the elementary school. Moneypenny and I walk her there every morning, then go on a long, circuitous ramble on the way home. 

Decluttering, redefining, redecorating...I've had (virtual) help and inspiration from Marie Kondo, Alison May, and Martha Cilley. I'm trying to streamline my daily obligations even as I lighten our material load. Adding the Master's degree program to my schedule in January means I'll have to be very disciplined and organized, so I'm starting now. I want my house and life to remain peaceful, even as I tackle this new challenge--and I don't want sweet Patrick or the kids to suffer at my expense. 

Though it doesn't yet feel like fall here in Southern California, I love the sense of renewal that the new school year always brings. Here's hoping I'll be prepared to navigate the transtions to come with grace! 

Moneypenny in the jacaranda litter. I need to copy her poise and dignity.

Sunday
Aug092015

Ten Great Reasons to Live in L.A.

It's no secret that I miss the New York. What do I miss about it? Pretty much everything. I was constantly near tears when we visited this summer. Our friends and family, the seasons, the culture, the food...It has been hard to leave all those things behind. 

And then there's France. I actively hope that we can move there in 15 years or so, and I try on a daily basis to prepare for that, language-wise and otherwise. 

But I'm here now. I knew moving to Los Angeles was the right thing for our family, and Patrick has never been happier in his work. And I believe strongly in savoring and living in the moment, even while preparing for a different future. As I've struggled to adjust to life in Southern California--finding zen despite the traffic, enduring the relentless sun, dealing with homesickness--I've identified at least ten great reasons to be here and be happy about it. Some are general, while a few are personal. See what you think.

10) It's always easy to be a dog owner here. 

As much as I love the seasons on the East Coast, I'm not sure I'd want to own a dog there, where every element must be braved to ensure dogs' comfort and hygeine. Here, my morning walks with Moneypenny (above right) are delightful. It's almost always cool and pleasant, with no violent weather to endure. This may sound like a small thing, but since I spend nearly an hour walking Penny almost every single day, it's a significant portion of my time, and I appreciate the ease and convenience.

9) Excellent ethnic grocery stores are close by--and mad inexpensive.

My favorite of these is 99 Ranch Market, a Chinese supermarket less than ten minutes from our house. The fish, poultry, meat, and produce are amazingly priced and much fresher than what you find in more mainstream stores. Ditto goes for Baja Ranch, which is just a little farther away. (Fresh, house-made tortillas...drool....) And when we want to make sushi at home? We go to Mitsuwa to get all the essentials. I can never resist trying new things--the Asian cookies, the Mexican drinkable yogurt. I don't love shopping, but these stores make it more of an adventure.

8) The Pacific Ocean is better than the Atlantic.

It's true. The waves and tides are more interesting, the topography is more varied and wild. The abundance of beaches can't be beat. And then there are the sunsets. We don't get to the ocean all that often, but when we do, the Pacific refreshes my soul. 

8a) Corgi Beach Day

7) White flowers are my favorite.

For a good portion of the year, jasmine, mock orange, all kinds of citrus, and gardenias are blooming in our yard and neighborhood. Their exotic, bewitching scents fill the air, making every inhalation a luscious treat. Oh, and the datura. Last night, we were watching a movie in our room, and as usual, our French doors were wide open to let in the evening air. The datura beneath our balcony, which releases its fragrance mainly at night, was out of control scent-wise. Bliss. 

7a) We sleep with our windows open nearly year-round.

As hot as it gets in the summer, it's almost always cool enough to turn off the A/C at night. And, you know, winter doesn't really exist here. I love to fall asleep looking out at the palm trees and the city lights far beyond. It's like living in a treehouse, and it's amazing.

6) We never run out of terrific, inexpensive restaurants to try.

It's true that great Italian food is scarce and great French food is almost nonexistent. (But we've squirreled out a few favorites in that regard, so we'll get by.) But when it comes to Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Mexican options, the San Gabriel Valley is a treasure trove. Oh, the dumplings; ah, the scallion pancakes, tacos, beef rolls, banh mi, and pho. I mine two excellent food blogs: 626 Foodettes and Gastronomy, for ideas, and haven't been steered wrong yet. Also: donuts and burgers. In these things, L.A. excels. (But don't get me started on In n Out. It's not good and never will be.)

5) I love me some Trader Joe's.

Here's another great thing about L.A. that may seem trivial, but affects our life for the better on a daily basis. (And I fully realize that 30% of this list concerns food. That shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me.) I'm at Trader Joe's at least three times a week for lovely dairy, produce, and other groceries that make life good. Just this week, we discovered Thomcord grapes, a hybrid of sweet, crunchy Thompson and luscious, full-bodied Concord. Insanely delicious and affordable. They'll likely only be around for a few weeks, because Trader Joe's likes to focus on seasonal stuff, but we're eating them while we can. 

We're doubly fortunate, because Trader Joe's is notorious for having horrendous parking options--or lack thereof. If I lived in Toluca Lake, for example, I'd likely only walk to TJ's. But our local branch is close, convenient, and has ample and sane parking, which again is a bigger deal than it may appear.

4) The independent bookstores and movie houses are the best.

I've never been to a better bookstore than Vroman's. It boasts a huge selection of wonderful books, intelligent staff reviews and recommendations, lovely stationery and gifts, international magazines, and a really cool program that rewards the community with every purchase you make--Vroman's rocks. But then there's Once Upon a Time in Montrose, Kinokuniya downtown, San Marino Toy and Book, and a host of others over on the West Side that I haven't even gotten to explore. Yet.

Movie-wise, we favor either ArcLight, a local, upscale chain, for mainstream movies, or Laemmle for independent and foreign movies. I love them both.

4a) Also: the Pasadena library is great: branches all over town, and the ability to order any book in the Pasadena/Glendale system online. The Central Branch in Old Town is gorgeous. 

3) L.A. has given my children opportunites they didn't have in New York. 

Specifically, my younger four have become avid, skillful swimmers. Hope and Tess swim and play water polo in Pasadena High School's aquatic program, and Daniel and Anne are on the town swim team here in Sierra Madre. They're fit and having a great time. Marching band and orchestra are two other activities that weren't available to us in New York. And I doubt that James would have decided on UC Berkeley had we been on the East Coast--and it has turned out to be the perfect place for him to attend college. 

2) I'm closer to my family.

We miss Patrick's family in New Jersey terribly; there's nothing good about that. Visits with my family, however, have gotten much easier. My mother is in Reno, my grandmother is in St. George, and nine of my ten siblings are in the San Francisco Bay Area (2), Portland (2), Utah (2), and Arizona (3). This was a blessing when my father died, but being closer to my family under non-tragic circumstances has also been a boon. And we've even seen Patrick's family from Texas a lot more often. 

1) I've made life-changing friends.

Again, it's a bitter thing to be so far away from people I cherish in New York. Four groups of people have saved me. We are surrounded by kind, generous, interesting neighbors. My amazing book group is full of diverse, fascinating women who treasure each other and make excellent conversation (and meals). My world-class writing group (above)--I can't even believe these famous, skilled ladies want me around, but I've learned so much from our weekly meetings. And a few stalwart friends at church, who both understand and inspire us. I can't imagine life without any of these people--and I would never have met them if we hadn't moved here. 

I wrote this post mainly as a count-your-blessings exercise, a reminder to ground me either when the challenges of living here loom large, or when being away from New York seems intolerable (friends; bagels; autumn leaves). But maybe a few other immigrants to the Southland will find it helpful. If so, let me know by leaving a comment.  

Tuesday
Apr222014

The Weekend Getaway

This is our darling house. The guest house is around back.

As part of the Altered Perceptions IndieGoGo campaign, I've come up with a perk for a couple of big donors. It's outlined on the website, but I thought I'd give some more details here. 

Weekend Writing Retreat

A private, spacious, light-filled, air-conditioned guest house in sunny Pasadena will be all yours for a full three days and two nights. It includes a kitchenette with refrigerator (stocked with snacks and drinks of your choice), queen-sized bed, desk, full bath, Wi-Fi, cable/Blu-Ray, and a huge library of books and movies. The pool and hot tub are also available for your use.
Three gourmet meals* per day will be delivered to your door at times you schedule, selected from a menu similar to this: 
  • Homemade cinnamon rolls, yogurt parfaits, or French toast for breakfast
  • Panini, chicken salad, or charcuterie plate for lunch
  • Poached salmon, homemade ravioli, or homemade fried chicken for dinner
You are responsible for your own transportation (we'll work out the dates). Bring your laptop and your imagination.** We'll provide the rest!
 
* Here's the thing about the food. I've published a cookbook and taken a class at the Culinary Institute of America. I promise: the meals I provide will knock your socks off. But say you wanted to go out to lunch instead (on your own dime). Really good restaurants are within a few minutes of our house, like Din Tai Fung, named one of the World's Best Restaurants. 
** You don't have to be a writer to claim this perk. Instead, you could bring your significant other for a relaxing break. If you're a hiker, you should know that there are amazing hiking trails literally around the corner from us (and I can pack you a box lunch in that case). Take our boogie boards to the beach, 45 minutes away. Or go to Disneyland. Pasadena boasts great museums and amazing gardens. And, you know, there's L.A. Seriously: so much to do and see. You'll love it here.
Thursday
Apr172014

Altered Perceptions


Escaping Criticism, Pere Borrell del Caso, 1874

I've mentioned before that I have an anxiety/depressive disorder. I cope. A lot of the time, I'm fine. Most of the time, I can get through my days regardless. I'm very lucky.

But it's always there, like a scar that never really fades, and that once in a while swells up, gets ugly, and causes problems.

And maybe like attracts like, because I know a lot of people who struggle with mental illness in one form or another. Since you're reading this, you probably know someone who struggles, too. 

Which is why I'm thrilled to tell you about a new project I'm involved in. I was recently invited to contribute to Altered Perceptions, an anthology that SF giants Dan Wells and Brandon Sanderson are organizing to benefit writers with mental illness in general and the über-awesome Robison Wells in particular. 

The anthology will consist of:

Ally Condie, Foreword

Dan Wells, Introduction

Annette Lyon, An unpublished chapter from her retelling of the Finnish epic poem, The Kalevala

Brandon Mull, Deleted scenes from Beyonders 2
Brandon Sanderson, Five completely rewritten chapters from The Way of Kings, in which Kaladin makes the opposite choice of what he makes in the published novel
Bree Despain, An alternate ending to The Lost Saint and an alternate beginning to the Shadow Prince
Brodi Ashton, The first chapter from her YA novel about an alien who has to rescue the boy she loves
Claudia Gray, A deleted scene from A Thousand Pieces of You
Dan Wells, The original John Cleaver free write
Erin Bowman, A deleted scene from Taken
Howard Tayler, A creative non-fiction story about life with mental illness
J Scott Savage, Three original chapters that led to writing Farworld
Jennifer Moore, A deleted scene from Becoming Lady Lockwood
Jessica Day George, A deleted scene from Princess of Glass, in which the main character plays poker with a witch
Josi Kilpack, The original opening scene to Tres Leches Cupcake
Kiersten White, An original short story set in a dystopian world
Larry Correia, A deleted fight scene from Swords of Exodus
Lauren Oliver, Two deleted scenes from Pandemonium, plus a hilarious scene about the plotting process
Luisa Perkins (ME!) A short story called  “Seeing Red," a retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood"
Mary Robinette Kowal, A deleted scene from Valor and Vanity 
Nancy Allen, Bonus scene from Beauty and the Clockwork Beast
Robison Wells, An epilogue to the Feedback and Variant duology
Sandra Tayler, Creative non-fiction, “Married To Depression”
Sara Zarr, A story featuring characters from one of Sara’s previously published novels
Sarah Eden, “Farewells” for Longing For Hope and Hope Springs
Seanan McGuire, The original opening for Discount Armageddon
Shannon Hale, "Ravenous," a previously unpublished scifi short story
SJ Kincaid, The original first chapter of Vortex, before it was entirely rewritten

 

Do you notice any familiar names? Like, at least NINE New York Times bestsellers? And a bunch of Hugo winners, yeah? These are amazing, generous, talented people, and I'm over the moon at the opportunity to have my work included with theirs--especially in support of such an excellent cause. 

This anthology will be seriously GOOD. I can't wait to get my copy! The IndieGoGo fundraiser will go live next Monday, so look for more information coming soon!

Thursday
Feb062014

You people are AWESOME.

I'm delighted to announce the winners of the giveaway to benefit Rob Wells, but before I do that, I want to thank each and every one of you. You are fantastic.

You all spread the news. Some of you gave cash. Others bought books. Some didn't have any money to give, but put the word out anyway. Many of you donated lovely incentives to encourage even more widespread giving.

Every bit of your generous efforts helped. You have made a huge difference in one family's life.

I won't disclose a number, but know this. You have helped keep the wolf from the door. Rob's ever-stalwart wife Erin can put groceries in the fridge with a lighter heart. Rob's kids can sense an ease in the stress level of their parents. And Rob has had a lifting of the mind-numbing financial anxiety that is absolute poison to creativity.

You did all that, and I hope you feel in your hearts the warm glow of satisfaction that comes from helping a brother in need. Thank you.

So let's move on to the warm glow of anticipation! Thanks to RANDOM.org, I came up with the following:

The $50 Amazon gift certificate goes to Krystle Perkins!

The goodie box from me, including my books and chocolate, goes to Maizie Arroyo!

The signed Sarah M. Eden two-book set goes to Shannon C.!

The hand-covered journal OR query critique from C. Michelle Jeffries goes to Cindy Mackert!

The signed Annette Lyon books go to Rebecca Lamoreaux!

The first chapter and query critique by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg goes to Braden Bell!

The signed C.J. Hill books go to Peggy Allred!

The book submission package critique by Shallee McArthur goes to Jennifer K. Clark!

The signed Dan Wells book goes to Julie Frost!

The signed Heather Moore book goes to LuAnn Staheli!

The signed Christy Dorrity book goes to Shelly Brown!

The signed Stephanie Black books go to Kathy (Scout 917)!

The signed book and 10-page critique/edit from LuAnn Staheli go to RuthAnne Snow!

The Michelle Beauchesne CDs go to Chris Todd Miller!

The Braden Bell trilogy goes to Dave Stanworth!

The naming rights to a J. Scott Savage character go to PGW/@hataroni/Zennerd!

The critique and novel by Chris Todd Miller go to Margot Hovley!

The Redbox gift card and novel by Danyelle Ferguson go to Laramyn!

The Julie Daines book goes to Luisa Johnston!

AND the signed Brandon Sanderson book goes to Cindy Fisher!

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks again! I KNEW you would do me proud. 

IMPORTANT prize delivery logistics: If you already input an email address when you left a comment on this blog, I will pass it on to the person who donated the prize, and he or she will email you for delivery information. If you did NOT leave me an email address (or did not email me privately), PLEASE email me at

luisaperkins at gmail dot com

with your contact information! If I don't hear from you soon, I'll do another drawing and give the prize to someone else. Thanks!