Monday, July 23, 2012

This is Thrillerfest - Day 4

Before reading on, if you haven't already, first read
and
and
and
This is Thrillerfest - Day 3:  All you need to know about publishing a novel

Now for the (sort of) gripping conclusion of Mother-Daughter Trip 6 . . .

For our final day in the city, which happened to be Bastille Day, I was anxious to cross "Walk the Chelsea High Line" off my list of Things I've Never Done Before in New York. My three glorious days with my knee scooter were up, so I did walk--not scoot--the High Line, and I highly recommend you do it too. The Chelsea High Line is representative of everything that is great about New York City:  it is about reinvention, it's full of unexpected surprises and pops of color, it's creative, it is a gorgeous amalgamation of both old and new, industry and nature, and it's open to the public. Here is the High Line through my eyes . . .
Someone's apartment rooftop "zoo"
An interracial gay couple taking engagement photos

As we walked the High Line my mother and I didn't talk much except when we'd pass the odd art installation (like the one pictured above) about which she would say, "I just don't get it, I'm sorry. That does nothing for me." Her exclamation reminded me of Bastille Day 2011 when my husband, children and I visited my mother in London for two weeks. (She stayed in a flat there for the entire summer to research the book she is writing about Wimbledon). We rode the London Eye together (read about that here) and then walked to the Tate Modern museum. After viewing one installation of what appeared to be a female Roman statue standing in front of a pile of laundry (see photo below) Mom said, "This is just stupid. Do you mind if I head home?" And she did.
Years before, on Bastille Day 1997, Mom and I vacationed in Tahiti, French Polynesia, where we viewed the more traditional art of Paul Gauguin. She did enjoy his works, but mostly because "it's nice to see someone appreciate full-figured women."

Bastille Day celebrates the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress and the beginning of the French Revolution. It is a symbol of the uprising of a modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French in the constitutional monarchy. Kind of funny that historically, my mother and I have so often vacationed together on Bastille Day, examining art, declaring our opposing opinions and enacting our own uprisings and reconciliations, as they were (which are inevitable because as everyone knows, fish and family go bad after three vacation days).

From the High Line we walked to the Chelsea Market where my mother enjoyed a caramel eclair from Ruthy's, and I enjoyed a cheddar and fig ciabatta sandwich from Lucy's Whey. Our bellies (mostly) full, we walked only a block or so more before we spotted the gorgeous outdoor seating at the Standard Grill. Tres chic.
More specifically, we spotted the GIANT punch bowl from which these two girls where drinking.
We somehow got a table right next to those girls (here's our view)
and watched every tourist stop to take pictures and ask about their $55 gin "punch bowl" cocktail. The Standard should always offer a free gin punch bowl to someone at those front tables to draw a crowd. It's brilliant marketing. When people stepped close enough to ask the girls about the drink, they would then spot the English bulldog puppy sleeping under the table and ask to pet or hold her. Simply precious.


*  *  *

We had tickets to see War Horse that evening (No, really! Mom had triple-checked the date this time), so after eating (again), we caught a cab back to the hotel and went our separate ways to nap/read/relax/pack/whatever. It's nice to travel with someone who doesn't have to talk to you nonstop or spend every second with you. I like to take a dose of perspective when I travel, and it's easier to swallow alone.

I threw back my perspective two blocks up from our hotel at the New York Public Library, yet another place to cross off my list of Things I've Never Done Before in New York. There I found the most gorgeous public bathroom door I've ever seen, aged and patina'd to perfection:

On the way back from the restroom I passed a woman manning an information booth who looked like New York personified. I asked her, "Do you mind if I take your photo?" and she answered with thick sarcasm and a New York smoker's accent, just as her character should, "I don't know why you'd want to." Then she struck this million dollar smile:
I loved how the wave in her jacket mimicked the wave in her Conan-inspired updo, and I applauded her for snubbing her occupational environment and wearing the Boca Raton sunglasses--even indoors--for the sake of fashion. WORK, cover girl!  I thanked her and she said, "I wanted to tell you that your necklace is very pretty too. I noticed it when you walked by a minute ago." I wished I could invite her to (a third) lunch just so I could hear her back story.
People always ask my mom, "Where do you get ideas for your characters?" Just open your eyes, people! They are EVERYWHERE. These are the moments and images that excite me. A casual exchange between two people who will likely never meet again. How we are all so different and all so the same, all putting on smiles for each other or calling each other liars or getting engagement photos taken or apologizing for something.
Thank you, New York, for inspiring me as you always do. Thank you, Mom, for surprising me as you always do. I'm re-energized now, and ready to FINISH THE BOOK.


This is Thrillerfest! - Day 3: All you need to know about publishing a novel.

We are in New York for this sixth mother-daughter trip because of my mother's obligations to speak at the back-to-back writing conferences, Craftfest and Thrillerfest. In honor of this, I'm going to give all you author hopefuls the FREE CLIFF NOTES VERSION of "take aways" you will receive at any writing conference.

Disclosure:  I am not a published author, but I have lived with a published author (of 53 novels!) all my life, so I can say with confidence that I understand firsthand the world of a successful career writer--writing, publishing, editing, deadlines, contracts, agents, platforms, fans--all of it. I have also attended enough writing conferences of my own (everything from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference to the Writer's in Paradise workshop at Eckerd College) to know this much is true:  Becoming a traditionally published author or a bestselling e-published author is a crap shoot.

Here's why . . .
If you ever attend a conference on the craft of writing, you'll undoubtedly learn in one session all the hard and fast rules of writing for this genre or that. You'll learn the proper way to outline and structure your book, to build tension and develop your characters. Then in the very next session, you will hear an expert say, "Yes, you have to do all these things and follow all these rules, but the books that are being bought today are written by people who bucked these rules. And it just works for them because they have an amazing voice.” 

Unpublished authors get really caught up in "voice," but it's not complicated at all, really. Either you have one or you don’t. And if you don’t, you can stop writing now. Well, don’t stop writing, but do stop hoping to be published traditionally.

Basically, what the industry experts repeat in these conferences--and what Lee Child so succinctly stated in one of his sessions--is that anyone can learn grammar and the elements of style and story, but at the end of the day great writing cannot be taught. It’s instinctual. What's worse, even if your writing is phenomenal that still may not be enough. The success of your writing career is hinged on one person’s opinion of your voice.

Perfect examples:
1) The keynote speaker at the Craftfest luncheon on Thursday was Jamie Raab, Senior VP and Publisher at Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books). In her speech she listed her favorite thriller/suspense books of all time. She said that these books, which included Marathon Man and Silence of the Lambs, are like the new ones she bids on now and hopes to purchase, in that they make her literally shake with excitement.

2) During an expert panel the following day, an author hopeful asked Mitch Hoffman, Executive Editor at Grand Central Publishing, “What makes you want to purchase a manuscript?” The answer was simply, “I just have to be able to walk down the hall to my publisher and say without a shadow of a doubt, ‘I love this book. I have to have it.’”

So basically, all your hopes and dreams are pinned on one gatekeeper's taste, which is predetermined by his or her upbringing, eating preferences, whether they like wide wale or thin corduroy pants and a million other factors which you cannot possibly know or write to. So here's the deal:  If you finish your book and send it out to a couple agents and get a couple rejections, Don't. Give. Up. Publisher Jamie Raab's fireplace kindling may be agent Dan Conaway's next bestseller.

That said, if you've heard repeatedly from critique groups, professional editors and agents at conference pitch sessions that your story and/or writing style is bunk, there is a consensus there, and you can safely assume it's not just that you haven't found the right person to appreciate your voice. Your voice is weak. Start over or give up. If you're a real writer, you will not pick the latter.

And much as it pains them all to admit it, I have recently heard conference experts reveal that, unfortunately, even if you are not a real writer, and you have no interest in taking the time to develop your writing chops but plenty of interest in making money, you still have options. With the exciting, uncharted world of e-publishing, you can skip over all the agents, editors and publishing houses and self-publish your crappy, no-voice-having e-book and watch it turn into fifty shades of million dollar bills.  Just don't bank on becoming the next E.L. James. Her success was a perfect, arbitrary storm that illustrates the importance of platform and timing in book purchasing today. Here's a woman who blogged fan fiction in the right genre at the right time touching an unspanked... er, um, untapped market of 40-something housewives hungry for stand-in angsty lust in between Twilight movie releases. She showed publishing houses an undeniable fan base (which = cha-ching!) and THEN they wanted to buy her. It would appear then, that you have not only your story, your writing and your voice to sell to the gatekeepers. You also have to prove without a shadow of a doubt that you can sell hundreds of thousands of books (and note this in your query letter: "I have been #2 on Amazon's Kindle Top 100 list for 38 weeks!") before an agent will accept your manuscript.

Sound like an eagle's nest of contradictions? It is.

OK, maybe I'm being a little dramatic (but not really). Here is all you really need to know about writing and getting published in 2012:  FIRST, finish your book. From there, just as in any crap shoot, all things are possible because the game is always changing.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

This is Thrillerfest - Night 2


Before reading on, if you haven't already, first read
and

All caught up now? Good. Let's continue.

As The Book of Mormon ticket-taker peered closer at our $350-apiece tickets he licked the sweat off his upper lip, and I knew he was about to tell us news that would push my mother over the sanity cliff.

"Um, I'm sorry, but these tickets are for JUNE 13. Not July 11. These are for last month."

My mom looked at me with hysteria in her eyes. 

"Oh my god. This can't be happening," she said. She pushed her way to the ticket counter as I stepped into a long line next to a sign that read CANCELLATIONS, just in case. I could see the back of my mother's head jerking and I knew she was letting her anger for the cab drive out on this poor theater worker bee. I watched her throw her hands up and then back down as she slapped the ticket counter. The bee behind the glass just kept shaking his head.

Mom turned around and walked toward me in a death march. "There's nothing we can do," she said, with what looked like tears in her eyes. "I don't know what to say. I've been so busy and so tired and I never opened the ticket envelope before tonight to look at them. They must've sent me the wrong tickets. Or maybe I clicked the wrong dates when I booked them online? I don't know. Oh, Heather, I know The Book of Mormon was the one thing you wanted to see while we were here, and I messed it up. I'm so sorry."

"It's fine. It was an honest mistake," I said.

I felt guilty. She wouldn't be feeling so awful if I just wouldn't ask for things. She suggested we see Porgy and Bess instead, but I didn't want to see anything else and repeated, "It's fine. Let's just go back to the hotel. I don't want you to spend any more money." Honestly, after scooting through Brooklyn in the heat and the Garden Scurry and the maniac cabbie "liar" accusations, I just wanted to curl up in my hotel bed and reboot.

"It's not fine. Wait here." She walked outside and somehow found a man scalping one ticket. Through the window of the theater lobby I saw her open her purse and I ran toward her to stop her, but it was done. 

"You're going to see this play," she said as she pressed the ticket into my hand and pushed me into the Eugene O'Neill theater. "Go on. Go. It's starting. Can you get home OK after the show?"

"Yes, but Mom. . ."
"Don't worry about it. I'll see you later at the hotel." And she was gone down the street.

In his Craftfest session earlier that morning titled PLAYING GOD: Creating Memorable Characters, Robert Dugoni said, "Forgiveness and self-sacrifice are two great character abilities. A character who is willing to forgive someone? That is a powerful strength. And someone who is willing to sacrifice themselves for someone else? Think Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond or Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. . .we root for those people."  

BEST: Here we were, each the embodiment of great character attributes. At the end of the day--both literally and figuratively--I would always forgive my mother, and she would ultimately sacrifice herself to see me happy. And happy I was, because The Book of Mormon was the Best. Show. Ever. I enjoyed every single second of that musical.
WORST: My mom couldn't be there to see it with me.

Though I had told her yes, after the play I realized I didn't have any money to get a cab ride home. I didn't have my scooter either because we had just intended to go from hotel to cab to theater and back, and in that scenario there weren't enough steps to justify the scooter.  

I Googled the hotel, and it was 1.5 miles from the theater. I could walk it if I went slow. So like a powder-nosed late '80s Robert Downey Jr., I inhaled deeply the vibrancy of this city with each slothful step.

High off the Mormons and my mother's largess, I documented my emotion . . .
Outside the TODAY Show studios:
 Across from Rockafeller Plaza:
The house that will one day publish my memoir:
Grand Central Station and the stunning, art deco Chrysler building:

Marilyn Monroe once said, "Little girls should should grow up knowing how much their mother loves them." Without a doubt, I do. Thank you for this gift tonight, Mom. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

This is Thrillerfest Day 2

I know you all (all three of you!) have been sitting on the edge of your seat wondering how I ever made it through the Big Apple with a sprained ankle. Well, my friends, I shall tell you. I did it on a knee scooter. And I ROCKED that f'ing knee scooter up and down Manhattan's ass!

For those of you who do not have a leg injury, I recommend the knee scooter anyway, as a means of general transportation. It's just plain fun. You can ride it on the downhills, you can sit on it while waiting for anything or anyone, and you can pretty much go to the front of any line by just pointing down to your leg brace, pursing your lips and shrugging as if to say, "What's a girl with a knee scooter gotta do to get a bathroom stall around here?" People get out of the way. It's magical.

I found the knee scooter via an email link my friend in Florida sent me (Big Apple Mobility) and I rented the it for three days, enough to give my ankle some more healing time. They delivered it to our hotel and picked it up there afterward. Easy peasy.

But the whole trip was not so easy peasy, dear readers. No, it was not. However, though I would love to give you the down and dirty on all the mother-daughter caterwauling that went on, I cannot. On the flight over, my mother turned herself to face me (as much as one can turn in a coach airplane seat these days) and said, "Alright, no mean blogging about me this time, OK?" What? As IF I would ever . . . OK. No mean blogging.

Instead, I will share with you the best--and worst--of all that happened on a Wednesday in the city that never sleeps.

BEST: Knee walker. Nuff said.
WORST: Carrying the knee walker up and down the subway stairs to get to Brooklyn. Honestly, how do handicapped people get around the city? Or mothers with strollers for that matter?

BEST: Finally getting to Grimaldi's famous Brooklyn pizzeria.

WORST: The service was slow and the pizza was... meh.

BEST: Looking forward to visiting the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.
WORST: Walking/scootering for 40 minutes on shadeless, ninety-eight-degree streets before flagging down a cab to drive us the rest of the 2.6 miles to the Garden. By the time we got there, we were so hot and sweaty we went straight to the Cafe, drank an iced tea and then mom said, "OK, we've got 20 minutes before we have to head back to the hotel to get ready for The Book of Mormon."

Wha? Huh? A garden, by definition, is a place to stroll, not to race. But race we did.

BEST: As we dashed through this large plot of gorgeous mid-city flora and fauna, we saw (in a blur) all of this:
WORST: When we exited the Garden on the other end, it turns out there was a subway entrance RIGHT NEXT TO THE GARDEN that we could've gone right to and saved ourselves all that wasted time and perspiration.

BEST: On what I now refer to as our "Garden scurry" I open up and share with my mom (this is a relationship-building trip, after all) that I find it excruciatingly difficult to cope with her need to control every situation and to always insist--no matter the topic--that she is right. I encourage her to let go, trust me to be in control in sometime, and if in the end she is right and I am wrong, to find the fun in mistakes and unplanned moments.
WORST: Time and time again, mom is right.

BEST: Mom graciously insists that she alone will fully fund our amazing annual mother-daughter trips.
WORST: Mom also fully reveals to me the cost of each and every purchase she makes on these trips (from the airport limo to the hotel to the restaurants, shows, and morning coffees) as if she's keeping an audible running tab of how much our relationship-building is costing her and that, given the economy today, I had better be grateful she's making the effort. Which I am. Immensely. Just wish the gratefulness and guilt for all the expenses could be mutually exclusive.

BEST: I'm finally going to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway!
WORST: On the way to the show our cab driver had a language/accent barrier that resulted in a miscommunication about our final destination. My mom is always right (see above) and though she told our cabbie "We're going to the theater on 8th and 49th," he unfortunately heard, "We're blee blabba blu ba 8th." When our cabbie started heading downtown, mom (who, I repeat, is always right) said to him with an anxious and terse tongue, "You're going the wrong way. This is away from the theater. Why are you going this way?" To which he responded, "Eighth, yes? This is way! I have been driving cab for twenty years. I know way to go."

With a sigh and a huff mom pulled out the tickets and shoved them through the plexiglass window into the front seat saying, "NO! This is NOT the way. We're going to the Eugene O'Neill Theater! We're going to the THE-A-TER."

The cabbie grabbed the tickets, studied them for a New York minute and the next 120 seconds went like this:
CABBIE: "WHY DIDN'T YOU SHOW ME THIS BEFORE? YOU NEVER SAID YOU WERE GOING TO THEATER! YOU DID NOT SHOW ME THIS!"

MOM: "YES, I DID tell you this. I said 8th! 8th!"

CABBIE: "You didn't say 8th AVENUE, did you? No. NO!"

MOM: "No, but I said the theater. We're going to the Eugene O'Neill THEATER. If you've been driving a cab for 20 years, you know where the Theater district is, don't you?"

CABBIE: "That is NOT true. NO! You are a LIAR. YOU LIE. YOU ARE LIARRRR!"

The screaming continued--both their neck veins bulging--her saying, "I DID tell you where to go," and him saying, "You are a LIAR!" all in slow motion as we navigated New York during rush hour while thousands of passersby watched me through the window of my bright yellow, air conditioned hell.

When I couldn't take it anymore, I growled at them both, like a lioness at her bickering cubs, "ENOUGH! Seriously, Mom, do you think this guy has ANY respect for women or humans when you're his CUSTOMER and he's repeatedly calling you a LIAR? Do you think if you yell loud and long enough he will change his mind and say, 'Oh, sorry m'am, you are correct, I remember now. You are no longer a liar!'?" No. He is not going to change his mind about you and you are not going to win this. Just get us to the freaking theater. That's all."

The cabbie continued mumbling up front about liars and Americans at which point I yelled, "We're not getting out of this cab. Just get us to the theater. Do you understand where we need to go now? Good. Then stop calling my mother a liar and drive."

The rest of the ride was pretty quiet. All I could think was, this is how wars start. It begins by placing someone like my mom who has high blood pressure, low blood sugar, an anxiety about arriving early to any destination and an intense predilection for women's rights in a small space with a man who cannot hear properly from a culture with little respect for women, who probably just this morning had it out with his boss or found out someone in his family has a terminal disease.

Blend the above with summer heat and rush-hour-tourist-jaywalkers and you've got a war on your hands. Like any war, it's just one person taking out his or her anxieties and insecurities on the other who unfortunately has no understanding of those anxieties or insecurities and really, nothing to do with them. Perhaps if they met under different circumstances on a different day, they might have held the door open for each other at a coffee shop and said, "Lovely to have met you!" But not on this day. Dooms Day.

BEST: We finally get to the Eugene O'Neill Theater.
WORST: When the ticket-taker scans the tickets (which my mom has informed me several times over the months leading up to this trip were $350 a piece), he pauses and says, "Wait. Let me see those tickets again?"

To be continued. . .
(hey, I'm getting the hang of this suspense stuff!)

Friday, July 13, 2012

This is Thrillerfest - Day 1

I will stay on theme as I recount this year's mother-daughter trip, which is easy since each day really was a mini thriller suspense.

After 10 days of couch, rest, elevation, ice and compression, I had done all that I could to heal my sprained ankle before this trip to New York, the city that never sleeps . . . and the city where people walk freaking everywhere.  The day before I left, I put pressure on on my ankle for the first time and walk-limped. It was a first step (ha!), but I wouldn't be able to take Manhattan without help.

DAY 1 - Will our heroine be able to walk the streets of New York? Or will she be a hobbling mugger's target?
My mom refuses to check luggage--ever--for reasons I can't take time in this blog to list. The night before we left she called and instructed me to, "only bring a carry-on, OK?" I don't think she realized I was still on crutches.

Pulling my own bag would mean I could not use both crutches, so I opted to take just one crutch, an ankle brace and a side of codeine. This worked fine enough through the airports (I've never had so much help through security!), but I am independent, impatient and vain, and me and these crutches weren't going to last.

Mom had a lunch meeting with her editor and publisher straight away, and I was off to explore the city, alone and crutchless--not to be confused with crotchless. I took tentative steps at first, but the more I walked, the more things seemed to stretch out and loosen up in my ankle. So I kept walking. I walked 3 or 4 miles in 3 hours, stopping only momentarily to visit the beautiful showrooms at ABC Carpet and Home store:

And eat a salted caramel sundae at ABC Kitchen, which, if you ever get to New York, is a must. Yes, that's caramel popcorn and a sea of hot fudge.

Sugared up and foot-rested, I walked from Union Square to all my favorite SoHo haunts.





I ignored the feeling of hot lava coming from the muscles and tendons on my foot as well as my ever-thickening ankle.  Instead, I focused on the myriad food trucks in this city now! WOW, you can get anything on the street now! Was hoping for a Big Gay Ice Cream Truck sighting, but I wasn't mobile enough to walk to it.

Back at the hotel I met mom and I removed my now very-tight shoe to reveal this cankle an a spankin' new set of heel to toe bruises:

"That's a LOT of blood, Heather," Mom said when she saw it. "You need to let me know immediately if you feel any pain in your calf because that means you're having a pulmonary embolism and you'll need to be rushed to the ER so you don't die." Wow, thanks.

What am I going to do with five days more in this city? Dun dun dahhhhhhh. To be continued...

(Are you feeling the suspense? No? That's why I don't write thrillers.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Thrillerfest on Crutches: Mother-Daughter Trip 6

It's that time of year again. . . mother-daughter trip time! I say that with an exclamation point because good or bad, these trips are always an adventure. You can read about some of our past mother-daughter trips here:
Trip 5: Almost Here (which covers a brief recap of trips 1-4 as well)
Mother-Daughter Trip 5: Banff and Lake Louise, Canada
Banff: The Good Stuff

Today I am 48 hours away from Trip 6: New York City. While I chose the destination for trips one through five, mom requested that we tie in Trip 6 with her already-scheduled trip to New York where she will be a speaker at the writing conference Thrillerfest.

Though I have been to New York hundreds of times, and even lived there for three months in the summer of 1996 when I attended NYU's Summer Publishing Institute, I never turn down a trip to the Big Apple. And though I don't write thrillers (or novels at all, for that matter) I'm excited to attend Thrillerfest and learn from some of the best published authors today.

I planned our itinerary (as much as you can plan for the surprises that await you in NYC) to include some touristy things I have never done in all my time in Manhattan like walk the Brooklyn Bridge and Chelsea High Line, and visit landmarks like the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the 911 Memorial, the Chrysler building and the ABC Home store. What I didn't plan, is that I'd do it on crutches.

* * *

Back up two weeks, and you would find me grumbling and bitter about all the things that are "wrong" with my life while on a morning jog with one of my dogs. I'd like to blame PMS, but I'd been grumpy for a couple weeks due to a bouquet of issues that ranged from parenting frustrations (my son currently hates to read and I don't know how to handle this) to work stress to my father being diagnosed with prostate cancer. As I put one healthy leg in front of the other on that gorgeous morning, the five-year-old whiner in me thought, "I wish I had more to be grateful for." As soon as I thought it, I immediately said out loud to the gods, "NO! I didn't mean that. I have so much to be thankful for!" But I knew in my gut that it was too late. The universe had heard my request and would soon deliver.

Four days later, on a fun girls night out, I wore a pair of stilettos with heels like chopsticks.  I knew I had no business wearing these shoes, but my friends insisted they looked too good to trade for a more comfortable pair. Again, I tempted the gods and joked aloud, "I know they look good, but I'm going to break my ankle in these shoes!"

Sure enough, at our third bar as I stood still on a slippery floor and was bumped by a fellow bump-and-grinder, my ankle buckled in those stupid stilettos and I went down. I have never sprained anything before, but instantly my ankle ballooned and I knew I was not going to be able to tough out the rest of the night.

A trip to the ER revealed the ankle was not broken, just badly sprained. Thank gods for small favors! I have spent the past week on crutches, leg up and iced. I feel like I'm a race against time with the voice of the movie trailer guy as my soundtrack. . .

    "In a world, where broken travel plans cost big money and heartbreak, will Heather be able to take a bite out of the Big Apple? Or will she be forced to master subway stairs and crutches in 104 degree heat in a city where people expect you to get the f--- out of the way?"

{PAN TO PATHETIC, SWEATY GIRL ON CRUTCHES, TRYING UNSUCCESSFULLY TO GET DOWN BUSY SOHO STREETS}

I hope I don't have to find out. My ankle swelling has gone down significantly in the last eight days, and I'm hoping I will be able to put pressure on it come Tuesday so I don't have to hear my mom freak out about getting to the airport three hours early to book a wheelchair for a domestic flight. Only time will tell.

This much I know:  I will NEVER take two working legs for granted again. I am SO grateful for my health and my fast-healing body. And no matter what relationship discoveries await my mother and I on this trip, I am so grateful for the opportunity to get to know her, for better or for worse.

Stay tuned. . .