Framers Hate Her!

Not many people know this, but for three years in high school I worked at Aaron Brothers. I took classes and seminars and actually had a lot of fun helping people custom frame the pictures, artwork, and memorabilia that were important to them. To this day, I’m still the weirdo who inspects the artwork on her friends’ walls and occasionally admires a reverse-beveled mat or float-mounted piece of artwork.

As you can imagine, I’m pretty finicky about my own framing projects when I get a chance.

Today, I took this beautiful photograph my good friend Aaron James (you may remember my glowing endorsement of his photography work from this post) printed out for me down to Aaron Brothers. My goal was to get it custom matted and framed in an off-the-shelf frame (also known as a Quick Frame in Aaron Brother terms).

I unrolled it onto the familiar counter top and announced my intentions with the frame, specifically that I wanted a top mat the same color white as the moon, and a 1/4″ gray mat that matched the tone of the moonlight on the waves. What did the framer pull out?

A black top mat (the tone of which was wrong) and a double white mat (which is twice as expensive) to go on the bottom.

Having lost my faith in his eye for color, a crucial skill for a framer, I corrected him and picked out the correct colors. When he rang it up, he told me the grand total would come to $225 not including frame. As I looked at the cost breakdown, I laughed and told him he could skip the Preservation Mount (something expensive you only need to do if something is rare, one-of-a-kind, or signed/numbered and worth money), the UV glass (preserves the colors in your artwork longer, but not necessary if you’re hanging the piece out of direct sunlight, and that pesky double mat again (hi, I’m not new, here).

As I turned down the unnecessary services, one of his coworkers tried to convince me of the necessity of the Preservation Mount, to which I held up one hand and said, “I’m aware of what it is, I worked here for three years. It’s not necessary.”

She shut up, he took the extra charge off with a sheepish look, and I left having secured the correct price for the services I was requesting.

This might all sound like gibberish, but what it boils down to is this: Either through incompetence or greed, people will try to upsell you if you don’t know better. If you need something framed, ask me to go with you. I’m really good at it, and I’ll make sure you’re not charged for something stupid.

Also? How awesome is this photograph? I love it so much I want to stare at it while brooding and drinking Scotch. Aaron is crazy-talented. Go buy a bunch of his work and then let me come with you to frame it.

Me, too

On Facebook right now, there’s a movement wherein women post Me, too to spread awareness of how widespread the issue of sexual assault is. I’ve been thinking about these disclosures a lot, and posted this on Facebook in response. I’ve copied it here because I feel strongly about what it says.

The Me, Too disclosures have been on my mind a lot. For every female acquaintance or friend of mine who speaks up, my heart breaks a little. That these women, these strong, articulate, educated women have been violated and humiliated by men who by and large escape the encounters unscathed is wrong in every way.

The reason the disclosures have been bothering me is that very few of the women I know well can say they’ve never been harassed, molested, or raped. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve talked to about this. It’s something almost all of us have done our best to put behind us.

What this tells me is that this isn’t the kind of thing WOMEN need to be more aware of.
In short, what I’d like to see all over Facebook is men speaking up and owning up to the times they pushed things too far, did something they weren’t supposed to, or made a woman feel uncomfortable. What I’d like to see is men holding EACH OTHER accountable.

I’ve been sexually assaulted three times in my life. Two of those times I was underage and my assailant was more than twice as old as me. I promise you, those guys didn’t bother themselves a bit about their actions, because we were all taught that men can’t be held accountable for their libidos.

It’s time for men to hold themselves accountable. It’s time for the perpetrators to feel shame, not the victims. The women I know who’ve been assaulted have all found strength in each other and found ways to move on. We, by and large, have each other’s backs on this.

It’s the men’s turn. Speak up. Own up to it if you’ve messed up and do better in the future. Call other men out on their predatory behavior. Raise a future generation of men who will respect the women in their lives because YOU demonstrate respect for the women in your life.

It’s time. Past time, really. We’re 3D printing body parts, for crying out loud. I think being respectful of women isn’t too much to ask.

Are You Ready for Bai Treason?

Have you finished reading Take the Bai Road and wondered, What’s next for Bai after this? Well, I have good news! Bai Treason, the third and final book of the Bai Hsu trilogy has a release date! June 4, 2018, baby!

Bai Treason is very special to me. One, it’s my longest and most ambitious story to date.  It has a plot so twisty that so far no one’s been able to guess what’s going on until they’re almost to the end. To be honest, I wrote it way back in 2014 and, when I dusted it off for revisions in early 2017, even I couldn’t remember the twists. If that’s not the mark of a good story, I don’t know what is (pay no attention to the fact that I have the memory span of a goldfish).

Two, it’s the last Bai Hsu novel. I’ve been writing about my favorite Chinese-American CIA case officer for five years. Even though it’s time for me to move on to new projects, Bai will always be special to me because of his unique qualities. I’ve put him in some awful situations, but he’s always managed to extricate himself with good humor and self-deprecation. I feel pretty maudlin about saying goodbye to him.

Three, I had a chance to do some of the research for this novel in real life, which is pretty cool. Like all my books, this one moves from place to place, so you’ll have to read it to guess which setting I researched in person (hint: It’s the place in the picture. Can you guess where it is?). As a result of this IRL research, this story is personal to me. It’s my favorite book so far, and I can’t wait for all of you who have been reading Bai’s adventures to go with him one last time.

June 4, 2018. Mark your calendars. This one’s the big one.

Self-Improvement via Coercion

I’ve never been a person for whom moderation came naturally. Why stop at one thousand words a day when three thousand words a day will help me finish this novel three times as fast? If I cut out sugar, why not cut out bread, too, and then I’ll lose weight twice as fast. If exercise twice a week is good, then surely five times a week is better, right?

I wrote a few weeks ago about pushing myself really hard prior to surgery, and it both worked and didn’t. I cleared all my to do lists before surgery, which really helped during recovery because I didn’t feel as twitchy from my permanent spot on the couch. It did, however, make me feel like I was riding in a speeding car with no seat belt and someone slammed on the brakes.

Entropy after inertia is not an easy transition.

So now, two weeks after surgery and with four weeks to go until my next, much bigger, surgery, I’m in a strange limbo. Even though I feel like I should be relatively over it already, I’m still exhausted and my limits are set in stone. There’s really no sense pushing it at this point, because invariably my injury just pushes back.

I got really ambitious and walked around Target over the weekend and I was so tired afterward I had to come home, ice and elevate, and then take a nap. When I woke up, I realized it’s actually kind of stupid to walk more than I have to because hello, there’s a huge hole in my cartilage.

I feel pressure (from myself) to be back to normal, so for now life is a constant effort to reign in my Type-A Nutjob tendencies and remind myself that, unlike in mathematics sometimes, the limit does exist. Each day is a marathon, and if I sprint at any point, I might wind up with nothing left to get me over the finish line.

The same principle applies to my writing. In a fit of naivete a few weeks ago, I calculated that if I wrote a certain number of words every day of my recovery, I’d have the first draft finished by the time I went in for the second surgery.

That’s not going to happen.

I refuse to rush what is arguably my favorite part of the writing process, and I’m not going to do that to myself because some days I can hide on my couch and type. Some days, I have to go to appointments, ice and elevate a few times, or take my kids on field trips. Life happens, and I’m not going to short-change myself by trying to force all of it to happen in the narrow window between now and when everything stops again.

Writing will happen, because I’m disciplined enough to make sure it does, but first drafts, for me at least, are not the place for brute force. This is a time of discovery and finesse, and I’ll be damned if I don’t let myself enjoy that process.

So I guess I’ve finally learned some measure of moderation. Better late than never I suppose, and besides, what other choice do I have? Sometimes you have to become a more balanced, well-rounded person against your will. The universe drags you, kicking and screaming, toward progress, and then when you look back, you wonder why you put up such a fuss because really, this isn’t so bad after all.

An Honest View of Recovery

Don’t ask me why.

I feel like I’m two people at the moment. One of these people is tired of sitting on the couch and ready to jump back into the fray. School drop-offs, grocery shopping, errands running, and manuscript writing! Bring it on! Rawr! The other person is tired, stifled, and uninspired after a week of painkillers, painkiller detox, crappy sleep, and routine disruption.

To be honest, I’m never sure what to do at this point in recovery, because I always end up here eventually. There always comes a time when I’m functional enough to do most of my jobs, but so out of it after a weird week off that it all seems overwhelming and impossible. My life has revolved around ice packs and med schedules for the last seven days, now all of a sudden I’m supposed to go back to running things? How?

It doesn’t help that one of my children, who shall remain nameless, woke me up at 5 AM this morning, a scant hour after I went back to sleep after a 3 AM Tylenol dose. I think I got four-ish hours of sleep. Boo.

So this is an honest view of recovery. I can only sleep on one side because of the stitches on the outside of my leg, I’m still waking up to take Tylenol in the middle of the night, I find making toast overwhelming, and driving in the car makes my knee ache. My brain is stuffed full of cotton and all I want to do is watch TV, but then when I do watch TV all I want to do is want to write.

That said, I need to get back into my routine. One cannot survive indefinitely on The Office reruns and midday naps, and I don’t want to completely lose track of the novel I’m working on.

As for the fact that my next surgery is a lot more invasive and will take me down for a lot longer than this one? La la la! I can’t hear you! Denial is a perfectly valid coping mechanism!

Send chocolate and hugs, you guys.