I’ve always been a night person. Ever since I can remember, my mind has been most alive in the dark hours. As a child, I reveled in weekend nights, when I’d go to bed with a book, and fall asleep reading, waking later to find it nearly morning, the light in my room still burning. I credit the designer of the condominium we lived in, that my mother never saw the light in the crack under my door.

As a teenager, I’d wait until my parents went to bed, then claim the dimly lit living room as my own. I was addicted to Saturday Night Live, then, and would curl up on the couch and laugh quietly as my parents slumbered blissfully in their own space. Every so often, my stepfather would rise from sleep, and break my solitude. Sometimes I’d glare at him, he’d lecture, and we’d all go back to our separate beds. As I grew to accept him more, as we got to know each other more, it was more likely that we’d have wonderful midnight conversations – he’d show me whatever new math trick he’d discovered, I’d talk about the books I was reading,. Once, he explained to me why he doesn’t believe in time travel.

Being nocturnal is murder when you have to function in a daylight world, but having a night job, for me, was worse. Why? Because my creative hours were usurped by work, and I had no time or desire to write, to play with words, to create anything. I became addicted to bad television and even read less, when I worked at night.

After all this, after nearly 34 years of being nocturnal, my muse has started to betray me. Instead of happily visiting around nine PM, she’s been showing up just after dawn. Perhaps she knows that, just as computer processors are faster when they’re cooled, my brain is more active in the soft, grey, chill of morning. Or, perhaps she’s just being fickle. I wouldn’t put it past a muse to goad, taunt, tease, and , yes, to destroy sleep patterns, in order to get her charge to do something, anything, creative.

For the past two weeks I’ve been waking before six, faced with two choices: go to my office and write, or go back to bed, and try to sleep. The thing is, though, that when I wake, I always have to answer nature’s call, and that wakes my body as well as my mind. And I’m the kind of person who, once awake, STAYS that way. I’ve been forcing myself back to sleep, and as a result I feel drugged, muddled, and, oddly, not very well rested. So I’m determined to let my muse win tomorrow. If I’m wakened in the hours before true dawn, I will pad down the hall to my desk, and see what, if anything, flows from my fingertips to the screen.

Benjamin Franklin said, “The muses love the morning.” Apparently, he was correct.


I’ve tried to capture him in motion more than once, but the camera is never handy, the moment is always over too soon. Still, I love to watch him jump, even if I can’t capture it on film or datastick.

He weighs almost nothing, and when he takes off it always amazes me that there’s such power and strength in such a tiny body. He makes vertical leaps seem effortless – Baryshnikov in canine form. And when he lands, there’s no loud thud, just a tiny click of his claws touching the surface of the floor.

We joke, of course, that our Zorro-dog thinks he’s a cat, rather than the mostly-chihuahua he really is. Why else, we wonder, would he be so fastidious about cleanliness, so picky about food, so terpsichorian in his movements. (Ironically, his balletic moves limited to jumping – walking, he tends to be underfoot a lot. I’ve never seen a small dog so often stepped upon.)

I see him aging, now, even though he’s not that old for a small breed, a mixed breed. He’s stiffer, and on cold nights he scratches at me to lift him into our high bed. He whimpers if I don’t move fast enough, too.

Still, when the sun has warmed his muscles, and we’ve just come home from a long day away, he greets us as he always has – a seemingly endless series of joyful jumps, until we pick him up, tickle his ears, and set him down again.


Maybe it’s because one of the first sounds I ever heard as a child was the foghorn in Atlantic Highlands; maybe it’s because I learned how to swim in the ocean off Sandy Hook; maybe it’s something more primal, fascination with a creature capable of eating humans, compelled curiosity about huge fish, and the concept of dying by being eaten, but I’ve been in love with sharks for as long as I remember.

Almost every year since The Discovery Channel started celebrating Shark Week, it’s coincided with my birthday, and I always found it strangely appropriate. After all, what better present could there be for a girl in love with big toothy fish? This year, they’re running it almost a MONTH early (Beginning tonight), but I find consolation in the knowledge that in August, Animal Planet is running a movie based on the book Twelve Days of Terror, about the early twentieth century shark attacks along the Jersey Shore and Matawan Creek. Even if they don’t get the facts right, I love a good shark movie, so I’m really excited about this.

The one thing I’ve wanted to do, ever since we came back to California in 1998, and the one thing I likely won’t be ever to do before we migrate to Texas, is take a day trip to the Farralons to photograph them myself. But, there are always vacations, and there’s a Mexican cruise that offers night diving with sharks if you get scuba certification first.

Meanwhile, I’m curled up in the bed, with two sleeping dogs, and my lovely ocean-blue carpet, and I’m watching Shark Week.

100 Things About Me

Subject to change without notice.

1.) I think of myself as shy, but the more accurate description is that I’m selective about who I talk to, and I like to observe a while before I let my whole personality show.

2.) I don’t like large groups of people – large parties, etc. They overwhelm my senses.

3.) I have perfect pitch, and I sing, but most of my friends have never heard me.

4.) For that matter, they’ve never heard me play the cello, either.

5.) My mother gave me a really nice sewing machine, that I never use. I plan to, though, soon. No, really.

6.) I believe everyone should be able to do somekind of hand-work. My preferred option is crewell embroidery. I want to learn to quilt, though.

7.) I don’t know how to cross-stitch, crochet, or knit.

8.) I like to cook, and I’m good at it, but I don’t like cooking for just the two of us.

9.) I have lived on both the east and west coasts of the United States, and in it’s geographic center. (New Jersey, California, South Dakota).

10.) I’m terrified of spiders. Especially if they’re in my shower.

11.) I like cats, in small doses.

12.) I’m a dog person. We own two: a chihuahua-mix and a mutt.

13.) I don’t have a favorite color, but I generally like bright bold colors like royal blue, purple, and deep red.

14.) I collect hats.

15.) I like pens. A lot. My favorite kind have liquid ink (in dark blue or royal blue) and roller-ball points, and micro-fine tips.

16.) Even though I cannot draw, I love art supplies. In my cabinet, I have crayons, paper, and oil pastels.

17.) I grew up watching my mother sew. I remember the smell of the big boxes of straight pins with great fondness. (It’s actually the machine oil scent lingering on the metal. But I like it.)

18.) I have more pairs of shoes than any person needs. I only regularly wear about four or five pairs.

19.) I like most kinds of music, with the exceptions of hard-core metal and rap, and tribal drumming. I’m melody-centric.

20.) I don’t like songs with indistinct lyrics.

21.) I am NOT a soprano.

22.) I’m five feet tall, exactly. This means that most upper cabinets are too high, and that I’m always being choked by the shoulder-strap portion of seatbelts.

23.) The only vegetable I truly hate, is bok choy.

24.) I think pizza is a comfort food. My favorite kind is on thin crust, and has just roasted garlic and extra cheese, no meat or other veggies.

25.) As I write this, our house in California is for sale. Once it sells, we’re moving to Texas.

26.) I love coffee, but I’ve limited myself to one coffee drink per day, and I don’t even have one every day.

27.) My writing ‘voice’ changes depending on the beverage I have. Tea inspires moodier pieces. Cranberry juice makes me more acerbic.

28.) My favorite cold drink is unsweetened iced tea.

29.) I cannot drink coffee or hot, black tea, without milk. Sugar is optional.

30.) I both read and write fanfic. It’s taken me a long time to admit this.

31.) The first fanfic I ever wrote, before I knew what it was, was a 300-page musical that combined Superman, Annie, and Peter Pan. Hey, I was eleven.

32.) I used to dabble in poetry, and I love the form and structure of verse, but I rarely write any.

33.) I’m harshly critical of my own work.

34.) I believe that the best sweet corn and tomatoes are grown in New Jersey.

35.) I’m pro-choice, anti-death-penalty, and yes, I’m a feminist. Anyone who thinks feminism is about bashing men is wrong. It’s not.

36.) Even though I went to a performing arts school, I still hated high school. I had a chance to graduate early and go to college early, and now I wish I’d done it.

37.) I never finished my degree. Instead, I have several computer certifications, and a real estate license. Someday, I’ll go back. Maybe.

38.) I’m slowly exploring my spiritual side, but I don’t believe in organized religion.

39.) I know how to ice skate…badly.

40.) I think making bread is a zen-like experience. There’s something truly magical about feeling warm dough between your fingers.

41.) Despite my shoe collection, when I’m at home, I’m generally barefoot.

42.) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was the first real science fiction I ever read. I was 12.

43.) I read a lot. In 2003, I read 117 books. I was keeping a list, but I lost it in a reformat. I believe that B&N should track card-purchases, so that card-owners can go to the website and see what books they purchased.

44.) I never drink enough water. I know I should, but I just can’t. It makes me feel nauseous.

45.) I love rain. I especially love curling up with a pile of books and a pot of tea on a rainy day.

46.) My favorite lunch food is tuna fish.

47.) I don’t like visiting other people for Thanksgiving or Christmas, because I’m picky about turkey. My grandfather’s stuffing recipe is the only one that tastes “right” to me.

48.) I love bubble baths. My favorite bath scent is rosemary and mint.

49.) I don’t particularly like roses.

50.) I love irises, calla lilies, gerbera daisies, and sunflowers.

51.) If I could make money playing in the garden, sipping coffee, and writing, I would be completely happy.

52.) I don’t like the use of “emails” as a plural noun. It really irritates me.

53.) My birth stone is peridot. I’ve never liked it.

54.) I love watching my dogs sleep – they’re so cute when they’re quiet.

55.) Fuzzy and I met on the ‘net, and will be celebrating our tenth anniversary in March, 2005. I’m still amazed that I get to wake up with him every day.

56.) I was nearsighted all my life, but I had LASIK done in March, 2002. I’m glad I did, if for no other reason than I can see to shave my legs in the shower.

57.) I’m craving toast, but the toaster is packed in the garage, because we needed everything off the counters for the open house.

58.) I have never had a job that required me to wear a uniform or a name tag (security badges don’t count).

59.) I’ve almost always had jobs where I could wear sneakers to work.

60.) I have a fairly good memory, but I only retain information that interests me.

61.) The process of getting my house ready for sale, has me seriously considering working as a realtor instead of in mortgages, once we’re in Texas.

62.) I dye my hair. When I was little it was strawberry blonde. Now, it’s kind of dark brown, but we color it to add depth and highlights. The name of the color blend is “Chocolate Bar.”

63.) I LOVE Aveda products.

64.) I like trying different kinds of foods, but Italian and Japanese are my favorite types. Indian food tends to involve too much curry for me.

65.) There are moments when I miss snow.

66.) My favorite pair of shoes ever were black ankle boots with just a touch of a heel. I miss them horribly.

67.) Far too much of my wardrobe is black.

68.) I don’t like pink. Usually.

69.) I love beach glass, but I didn’t have any, so in order to fill come conch shells that were laying around the house, I resorted to buying beach glass. (My grandmother would be rolling in her grave if she knew. Or, for that matter, if she’d been buried.)

70.) I’m not sure I believe in ghosts, but I think I’ve been visited by each of my grandparents, since their deaths.

71.) My grandparents ashes have been mixed into the earth of my garden, my mother’s garden, and my aunts’ gardens. I like to think of this as a form of eternity. I also like to think it means they stand guard over our houses.

72.) After visiting my parents in Baja California Sur, I fell in love with limes and black sand.

73.) I participated in NaNoWriMo last year, and plan to do so again this year.

74.) I don’t like wall-to-wall carpeting, but I like having an area rug near the bed. No one should have to put their feet on a cold floor first thing in the morning.

75.) I don’t like granite kitchens. I LOVE tile.

78.) One of my favorite sensations: Slipping into a freshly-made bed piled high with pillows, just after a hot bath, and feeling the cool sheets against my skin.

79.) I’m my most creative in bed. It’s where I do my deepest writing, and thinking.

80.) Most of my reading takes place in the bathroom. What else is there to do while you sit on the pot?

81.) I sing in the shower.

82.) I dance in the rain.

83.) I love the smell of line-dried cotton t-shirts.

84.) If liver tasted the way it smells, I’d like it.

85.) I’m fascinated by sharks. I’m not sure why. But I consider it appropriate that the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” always coincides with my birthday.

86.) I like meat to be very rare, and cookies to be almost burnt.

87.) I think smoking is vile, and I don’t let people smoke in my house.

88.) I never thought I’d want children, but more and more, lately, the ticking of the biological clock is getting through to me, and I think having ONE child would be extremely satisfying and enjoyable.

89.) I love handwritten letters, but carpal tunnel has made it really difficult for me to write legibly. Still, there’s something special about pen, paper, and ink.

90.) I love wooden boats, and sailing ships, and have an addition to novels and movies that take place on ships or submarines.

91.) I don’t like libraries. The books always smell funny, and I never remember to return them on time. For me, bookstores are cheaper.

92.) But I still think libraries are under-funded.

93.) It annoys me when public figures (entertainers, politicans, etc.) don’t speak correctly, or use language well.

94.) I have a vivid and overactive imagination. Movies like “The Ring” give me nightmares.

95.) I can’t sleep with the door open, or lights on.

96.) I love the way sunshine looks on hardwood floors.

97.) If I were rich, my biggest indulgence would be having someone wash my hair more often than just whenever I have it cut.

98.) I don’t like animation. I haven’t since I was six.

99.) I do like design shows like Trading Spaces. They’re addicive. For that matter, so is Celebrity Poker.

100.) I have no real interest in professional sports. Except horse racing. I love horse racing.


It may be the middle of summer, here in the states, but to me it’s the turn of my personal year, as well. Yesterday, as we were out with the dogs, so that E. could hold our house open, I had an idea for a new blog template, and last night I put it mostly together. Today I tweaked it a bit, and in doing so, in changing the blog template, I cemented the mental shifts that have already begun.

As we’ve gone through the process of prepping the house to sell it, I’ve been analyzing things, making resolutions for when we move. Things like:
-We won’t wait to do all the little things to make the house cute.
-We’ll be better about cleaning – not just doing the easy day to day stuff, but the rest, the stuff we all ignore until we think company is coming.
-We’re going to take walks with the dogs, daily, using it as us-time.

We keep talking about what we’ll do, how we’ll change our lives. I make mental pictures of moments I want to have. I’m nervous, of course, but excited.

It’s three weeks til my birthday, I really hope we’re in contract by then. I think we will be.


I hate waiting for things. I make decisions quickly, most of the time, and read quickly, and I get very impatient with people who have to plod through things slowly and carefully. If the entire world operated at Melissa-speed, I’d be very happy.

So, the house as been on the market all of 12 days, and no offer yet. And I’m anxious, because I’m enough my mother’s daughter that, like her, I want everything done NOW. Or at least, everything affecting me.

Someone brought clients over last night. Someone is showing it now. My house is unnaturally clean, and my dogs are pissed because they’ve been tossed into the back yard all day every day this week, and generally, they’re only barred from the house when they’ve been bad.

They think they’re being punished, and their little brains can’t understand that they’re NOT.

They’re stressed, too, because there are BOXES, and we’ve cleaned everything so all the SMELLS are gone. Not that the house stinks, but, you know, normal dog-smells that they’re used to are replaced by soap and bleach scents.

I haven’t managed restful sleep in almost a week.
I am crabby and tired, and even more impatient than usual. And I recognize it, but that’s not helping.

It’s sort of like PMS, except chocolate doesn’t help.

Bone weary, brain dead

A week of cleaning, and if I ever smell bleach again, I shall have to kill someone.

A shout-out to Jeremy, for his help, and for making me laugh, which was crucial.

A weekend of angsting, and spending three hours (each day) with puking doggies who don’t like car rides.

E. says there are two prospectives who might want to make offers.

I think it’s too soon, but we’re hoping.

Still, the house shows well.

Tired now.
Real post…soonish, I guess.


So, we’re happily moving toward an open house on Saturday with a repeat performance on Sunday. My boss bought a new lockbox, and gave me his lockbox key, so I can take it off at night, if we need a little privacy, or if we want to sleep late in the morning some day. (As real estate is not my company’s business, this is not a problem, really.)

BUT…some guy down here from Portland has driven by the house six or seven times in the last few days. He took the original flyer, at the price I felt was too high. (When all else fails, trust your instincts, yeah?) I lowered it ($584,950 – still sick, but less so), and the guy called.

He’s unrepresented, may do the loan through us, and everything. That’s cool. That’s what we want.

BUT, he has to fly back to Portland, OR, and reallyreallyreally wants to see the house.

So, at 5:00 we’re showing it. We’ve tried to make the man understand it won’t be perfect. He says he gets that. We’re racing through things. We won’t have time for the paint touch-ups, and the termite guys are still working on stuff (but so far, no section 1 – YES!!!!!)

And tomorrow, well, we’re kidnapping Jeremy and doing all the painting, and some final touches.

* * *
On another note, Kerry Hamm is the best termite guy on Earth. He’s funny, sweet, smart, and thorough. He’s willing to work with people on getting paid, as long as you’re polite and honest with him. He teaches while he works – claiming, for example, that for the price of a single tube, he can make anyone an expert at caulking. He tells you how to treat stuff so it doesn’t have to be called. And, most importantly, he’s making the ants go away. I *HATE* ants.

The total of the work he’s doing – including the bathroom floor repair: $275 + some Asti Spumanti.

Pulling Weeds…

Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Til the rain comes tumbling down.

My hands smell of marigolds and damp earth, and I have dirt under my fingernails, and even though I’m bone tired and my back is killing me, I have words and images racing through my mind. Why is it that one’s muse must visit at only inopportune times?

When I planted the front flower bed a couple weekends ago (was it a couple, or was it only one?) I planted some things improperly, and as a result, I had to replace the cosmos and one of the zinnias. I chose another yellow zinnia, added pink zinnias, bright orange mums, and another bunch of fuschia impatiens, as well as two sixpacks of red salvia, to balance out all the blue and purple. As a result, the front of my house is a riot of color.

Pullin’ weeds and pickin’ stones,
we are made of dreams and bones
I feel the need to grow my own cause the time is close at hand
Grain for grain, sun and rain I’ll find my way in nature’s chain
Tune my body and my brain to the music of the land.

While I was planting, sitting in cool grass in the last of the sunlight, our Brazilian neighbor, Lars, came by to say hello. He’s not really old enough to be my granfather, but he has a grandfatherly manner about him, and he’s funny and sweet. We chatted about the flowers, the weather (we’re having a mild summer, and I’m very grateful), and the various termite companies in town.

He spoke of growing up on a farm in rural Brazil, and washing clothes by hand. He asked if there’d been interest in the house yet (there has not, but it’s only been listed for 5 days, and we haven’t had our open house yet). He said, “Be patient, have open house, you’ll do fine. You’ll make a coupla bucks. That’s a good thing.” His accent reminds me of my grandmother, though she didn’t have an accent, not really, but he says my name the way she used to when she was calling me by Italian pet-names. Meleeeeeeza. I rather like it pronounced that way. It sounds less frumpy.

As I planted flowers, he asked if we were planning a garage sale. I said, “Later, maybe.” He commented that if he ever moved back to Brazil (with hand on heart) “Someday, before I die, God willing,” he would bring only his clothes, and a few photos. “We have too many things, the washer, the dryer, the diswasher.”

And yet, I commented back, we all complain we have no time.

He laughed. “So true. And lemme tell you. In Brazil, every Sunday, we went to church and came home and had sausage and eggs. Every Sunday! We didn’t know from bad. But we were happy. Today. Here. Not so much. Everyone is unhappy, spiritually and just regular.”

He turned to go then, and bade me promise to wave more often, to come say hello. And I went on with my work.

Plant your rows straight and long,
Temper them with prayer and song
Mother earth will keep you strong if you give her love and care
An old crow watching hungrily from his perch in yonder tree
In my garden I’m as free as that feathered thief up there.

I finished planting and checked in with Fuzzy (who, by the way, had inadvertantly locked me out of the house!), who was pulling weeds of a different kind, culling things from the garage for Good Will or Salvation Army or someone to come pick up. Yes, we had planned a garage sale, but neither of us has the patience or time for one, just now, and there are other more pressing needs – like giving Kerry the Termite Guy access to the garage walls, and making room for the boxes of clutter we’re purging from the house.

It’s ten. We’ve got another good two hours of work before us, and then bed. And yet I’m taking ten minutes to write this, to get some of the thoughts out of my head before I lose them, because if I don’t they grow like dandelions, tangled and yellow, but ultimately bitter and useless because I left them untended.

There’s an image, though, that I’m keeping in my head. I wish I’d had the camera to shoot the picture – the moment won’t be the same…just after Lars left, just before twilight became full dark, I looked at the front of my house – saw the light glowing through the panes of the living room window, and the plants hanging from the porch roof, and I thought, “Wow, that’s a cute house.”

And then I thought…we spend all this time making the house pretty to attract buyers, making it so neat that anyone would WANT to live in it, and then we leave, and we never do the same sort of work to the new place until it’s too late to enjoy it.

I hereby resolve that I will do all the special things to my new home early in my time there. I will not let this be a pattern.

Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Til the rain comes tumbling down.

Note: Lyrics are from The Garden Song, as performed by numerous folk singers, and was originally written by Davie Mallett.