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Archive for the ‘awkward girl’ Category

You might have noticed a bit of silence around here the last few days… that’s because I’ve moved this here bloggy, and I forgot to tell you.

Oopsie. I’m giving away a necklace over at the new place, will that make it up to you? Please come over and say hello!

(And put www.wranglerdani.com/blog in your readers. Plzthx.)

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This Saturday, I went to the Orange County Christian Writer’s Fellowship Conference. I’d been nearly coming out of my skin for weeks, excited at the prospect of my first-ever real writer’s conference. I told you about submitting the first 20 pages of my manuscript into their contest back in February, and although I’ve managed to contain myself somewhat, I’ve been alternately excited, terrified and like a little kid on Christmas Eve for months. There would be experts! Editors! Agents! Helpful talks! Sweet people! Gobs of inspiration! I couldn’t wait.

Luckily, I wasn’t the only crazy one, since Sam registered with just as much gusto, gamely sent her writing in to be reviewed and contested and met me at her front door in a barely post-dawn sunshine, giggling like no one should before 7 a.m. on a Saturday. Her husband sleepily smiled at our fervor, reminding me of my own husband’s excited grin – the smile of a man who’s not sure why we’re so jazzed at the idea of taking notes all day, but who loves us enough to humor our wild whims. After the obligatory stop at Starbucks, we were off, Venti lattes in hand and jabbering away like two kids on the first day of school. Who would we meet? What should we say? AAAAAAAHHHHHHSOEXCITED. (That could have been the Ventis talking).

We arrived and found our monthly writer’s critique group, a lovable bunch of journalers, poets, writers and bloggers from all walks of life and every generation. After hugs and exclamations we settled in, and one of the veteran conference attendees told us what to be prepared for and how to pick out our consultations – 15 minutes of fame with the agent, editor, or writer of your choice.

I picked an agent and one of the women at our table – a passionate, empathic prophet – said she got a “witness” when I said the agent’s name. I grew up in a church that swung wildly between being slain in the spirit and contending that logic conquers all, so I could only assume this was a good sign. We sat through the first session and ate our mass-produced pastries in silence until one of our number returned from a consultation with tears in her eyes and a potential book deal.

Decorum was long gone and the excitement only bubbled at a more fevered pitch.

The morning wore on and I headed to my consultation. I had started to feel a bit nervous – writers are not always the most joyous bunch – eyeing each other critically from our sensible shoes and making snap judgments from the long practice of being more frequently watchers of people than lovers of them, and I’d started to feel both judged and judge-y myself.  Iwalkedinandsatdownallinarush, spilling out my words with eager enthusiasm. I have a dream and story to tell, see, and I blog and I write and I’ve yearned for this chance and now I’m laying my soul bare, like me, won’t you?

She didn’t.

There are a host of totally legitimate reasons why she wouldn’t take a chance on an unknown author with a harebrained idea, but what I heard was, “Nice try, but you’re not enough.”

I left the consult with a host of solid pep-talks in my head. I’m pummeling my dreams into submission, dammit. One agent doesn’t speak for the whole industry. I write because I must, and that is enough. I walked around the beautiful campus at Mariners Church, soaking up the springtime warmth and allowing hot tears to well up behind my sunglasses, in a moment of freedom. After a brief indulgence, however, I pulled myself together and went back in for another session, finding Sam again as my rock. “How’s it go?” she asked. Well, bummer.

She didn’t have any way of knowing that such a supportive question would send her into a solid hour of therapy for her needy friend, but I am sorry to say that it did. We both pitched ourselves to the sweet editor who taught our class and we both got very kindly shot down. The editor said something to me, however, that particularly stung. “Just write your blog as yourself. If you’re authentic, readers will flock to you.”

It almost got nasty, y’all. WHAT DO YOU THINK I’VE BEEN DOING FOR THREE YEARS?!

I shook her hand and said thank you and walked outside with Sam, only to surprise my kind friend with “Maybe I’m done. I’m not enough, my blog is not good enough, and I personally have been rejected as not fun enough to read/hang out with/support. I think I’m not supposed to tell this story, and I think maybe I’m done trying.”

I wouldn’t have blamed Sam if she’d said, “Well, NOW that’s certainly the case, way to go, Sunshine. I’m going to go talk to someone who hasn’t jumped off the Crazy Bridge.”

But she didn’t, sweet friend that she is. She stayed with me as we ate our lukewarm pasta with hundreds of other hopeful writers, and helped me stay afloat in multiple conversations when I would abruptly drop out in order to Not Cry. She and Todd, one of the guys from our critique group, both nodded knowingly as I told my story and encouraged me not to give up, honestly being so kind that it almost made me cry again, because here I am being so lame and needy and everyone is SO FREAKING NICE, how did I deserve this?

I finally rallied enough to help her hone her own consultation pitch, and continued to tell myself to quit being ridiculous already. (Berating myself usually works well. Sarcasm intended.) After lunch, they announced the Memoir Contest winners. As the judge preambled, Sam squeezed my arm and the other sweet people at the table grinned knowingly at me. I shook my head as they did so, snorting a little bit to myself in my self-deprecating wisdom. “It’s not me,” I thought, “because I’ve already been told multiple times (by the experts) that I suck.”

Third place.

Second place.

The people at my table are in a frenzy of winks and smiles and shoulder rubs.  I don’t know why they’re being so nice, it’s obviously NOT ME.

First place.

DANI NICHOLS.

Sam squealed, Todd said, ” I knew it!” and I burst into tears.

I walked up in a daze and collected my prize money, shaking the judge’s hand clammily. I shakily stumbled my way back to our table, hid my face in my hands and tried not to sob uncontrollably. Someone was saying something on the microphone and I have no idea what it was. The unbelievably kind woman who won second place came over and gave me a tissue, and the lady seated behind me handed me her napkin. Our table was in an uproar, giving me winks and smiles and being SO GENEROUS with their congratulations.

Then Simon Tolkien (J.R.R.’s grandson) got up and spoke, and it finished off the surreal sense of the day. The judge of the memoir contest wants to help me polish my book and publish it. The editor who had (in a nice way, but still) shot me down earlier shook my hand and said congratulations. My friends did not begrudge me my victory but wholeheartedly rejoiced with me. Sam’s hugs sent me soaring.

I’m so blessed, you guys. Even though I, once again, foolishly allowed self-doubt and crippling despair to grab my soul, I got an umpteenth chance to persevere and do it right. It seems silly to let another person’s opinion crush or validate my dream, but it just reminded me of how fragile the creative process is, and how jealously I have to guard my hope.

I’m not done. I have tons of work to do, loads of edits, hours of continued doubt and dreams and sweat.

But I WON. And for today, that’s more than enough.

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…and I need you all to tell me what you think.

(Sorry for the shameless self-promotion lately, but this IS MY BABY.) (Honestly.) (So much sweat was involved, you have no idea.) (Ok, maybe not sweat.) (Just concentration.) (I’ll stop now.) (Sorry.)

Clickity-click!

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Adam and I started a young couples group at our church, and it’s been great.

I consider food (the love of, the cooking of) to be one of my spiritual gifts, and have been dubbed the “Team Mom” by several of our friends. We are the house where the boys drop in after some strenuous athletic activity to find a less-than-tidy living room but something scrumptious cooling on the table or a spontaneous invite to stay and eat a meal. I’m the one who packs lunches, makes snacks and sends my hubby to work with muffins. The short of it is that I love to share food, and often it’s the best and only way I know to show that I care.

One of the great by-products to this gift is that this works out really well for our love of people, because we can bribe them to hang out with us using promises of grilled salmon or Texas bar-be-que or maybe just a box of Cheez-its and a beer. Also, have you ever noticed how many people hang out in the kitchen at a party? Well I have, and it brings me great joy, natch.

Loving food and loving people got us going on the young couples group, which led us down the ever-slippery slope of planning events for said young couples group and introducing ourselves to people on the basis of stereotypes, which leads to awkward encounters, like this one.

Young Couple at table in church foyer. I walk up, awkwardly.

Guy: “Hi?”

Me: “Sorry to be awkward, but you guys look like a young couple, and we’d love to be friends!”

Honestly, that’s how it goes. It works surprisingly well. Only one out of about every 30 people avoids eye contact with me afterward, which is pretty good right? If it’s too awkward, I sic Adam on them, because he loves long pauses and staring people down. (JK. Kinda.)

Given my stellar track record at making friends with strangers my own age, Adam and I decided to try the “run up and blurt out your business” tactic on an older couple last week. Here’s how Adam told the story:

Also, FYI, some of you may have heard that Jerry and Nancy Briggs (our eldest couple) is not going to be able to be on the panel due to an unforseen circumstance. Bummer, I know.
BUT have no fear.  My wife has no shame so she and I chased down an elderly looking couple on their way to the parking garage at church.  We had seen them around serving at church and thought, maybe?  So after they got over their initial fear of being mugged they were totally open to being on the panel!  AND they will have been married 50 years this June.
Here’s the moral of this rambling post, dear ones. Embrace the awkward encounter. If that doesn’t work, just give people food.
The End.

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  • Brudda and Sista dropped in on us last weekend (click here for their photographic essay on the fun) and it was nearly 80 and sunny. We assured them that such a thing is not normal in February, and the day after they drove back home, it started to rain/fog/be cold. FAIL.
  • When I go to Costco for gas (which I often do, I’m all about saving $1 and wasting several hours) I always get in the line with the smallest cars, figuring that they have little gas tanks and will therefore be super speedy. However, I have not yet factored the age of the driver into my equations, and yesterday’s long wait taught me the error of my ways, as multiple large trucks filled up and left me waiting behind a tiny Honda. FAIL.
  • Last night, the Hubs and I were watching the TeeVee when he noticed I was recording “What Not to Wear” (my guilty pleasure). “Are you watching that because I told you to?” he asked. “No….” I replied, “Do I need to be watching this?” He laughed and said something about it’s just a good show, blah blah, but he still hasn’t really answered. FAIL.
  • Speaking of fashion failures, I’ve recently realized that my slowly grown-out mane looks like a certain man at arms:
  • He's very handsome and all, but still. FAIL. And time for a haircut, obvy.

    I've been informed that a picture is required for comparison, so here you go. Also the adorable baby is adorable is she not? BUT HONESTLY LOOK AT THE HAIR.

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About a third of my work week is spent outside with the handsome steeds and adorable kidlets, the other third is spent driving about Ye Olde Crowded Freeways, and the last third is spent hunched over my Lappy in a constant pursuit of a bad back and poor eyesight. All that to say, since I spend a lot of time driving, and a lot of time outside, and a lot of time wrecking my vision, sunglasses are kinda important.

However. I cannot buy good sunglasses. More than $10 sunglasses are completely wasted on me, because a) I don’t get the appeal of spendy shades and b) I lose stuff. Regularly.

The most expensive shades I ever bought were these:

And now I don’t know where they are. The case, it makes itself.

So, anyhoodle – on Saturday, I had a billion things to do. First off, I was “on-call” for a web-editing gig, plus I had a baby shower to attend and I was supposed to be helping at church that evening. No big, right? I have 10 arms, so why should I ever say no?

I was loafing about on Saturday morning when Adam reminded me that the shower started in five minutes. We live 15 minutes away. OMG TIME TO PANIC! I tend to run late these days. It’s Adam’s fault. Obviously. Anyhoodle, I could NOT find my sunglasses. In my despair I threw things around before realizing I was really late and needed to squint my way up to the shower. I flounced out of the house, thoroughly perturbed at myself.

That evening, it was the same deal – I rushed out of work and off to church, but NO SUNGLASSES were to be found. These were my cute ones! I bought them for $5 at Wal-Mart and they look like fakey Ray-Bans! They’re all the rage! I was downtrodden.

So, yesterday, I had an appointment with Fear Itself my tax guy, and I thought wisely, “I cannot drive 30 miles with no sunglasses. My eyes go through enough! Dani, hit up Wal-Mart. $5. You can do it.” So I did. And I was so proud of myself! I got all the essentials: $5 sunglasses, two bags of Cheetos and two bottles of bathroom cleaner for less than $15 and 8 minutes flat.

I wore my new $5 shades with the tags still on them as I drove to the gym. No time like the present. Sweat like whoa. Pump iron. Embrace today. I was feeling FINE and oh-so-proud of myself for my efficient shopping spree. When I parked at the gym, I reached for my jacket to cover my purse in the  backseat, as one can never be too careful in parking lots these days, doncha know. Something hard fell out of my jacket pocket. It was my faux Ray-Bans. My $5 beloveds. My plastic pieces of eye-saving joy.

I am so dumb.

Now at least I have two pairs, which will come in handy, when I break lose dismember forget about the ones I have on my head.

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I have some very stylish friends. I always have, and I have always been a bit behind them. Every decade or so the rest of the world likes what I like, and the rest of the time I trip along my merry road, wearing cowboy boots with everything and loving plaid, anywhere, all the time, no matter what you think of me.

Don’t get me wrong – I DO love trends – I just love them about two years after everybody else does. You know what this gets me, though?

I’ll tell you.

Amazing, phenomenal, unbelievable DEALS. I don’t buy wrapping paper before Christmas and I don’t buy skinny jeans when Lucky tells me to, thus saving myself much emotional and monetary pain. Allow me to illustrate:

  • Roughly four years after I saw my first skinny jeans with my virgin boot-cut-only eyes, I bought a pair with a free Rock and Republic gift card from a blogging contest.
  • At least 18 months after telling friends that I “might take the plunge and buy leggings” – I bought them. For $10. They are adorbs.
  • Two years after seeing Holli rock a tuxedo jacket, I bought one yesterday. For $7, on sale from $65.

I may not watch trends like the proverbial hawk, but sales? They are ALL MINE.

*All of this talk of shopping and cooking and homeyness lately has made me consider a new feature to this here blog. Should I write some reviews of cooking stuff? Perhaps home stuff? Maybe style stuff several years after it’s popular? My home and kitchen are smashing, even if my legs are still clothed in decades-old boot-cut light-washed jeans. I promise. You tell me, would you be interested in any of the above?

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