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.

Bullet Train Joyride

Can’t stop! Having surgery soon!

You ever feel like you’re on a train that’s going too fast, but then you look at the control room and the engineer who keeps the accelerator on is you, and the brakeman who refuses to slow down is you, and the coal-shoveler is you, and you all realize you should probably slow down but you’re all so busy doing your jobs that slowing down makes no sense?

This is my life right now. My kids are starting school next month, which means shelling out SO MUCH MONEY because they’ve outgrown their pants, shoes, school supplies, and coats. I’m juggling notes from my critique buddies (aka beta readers) for Bai Treason so I can wrap it up and send it to my publisher with a bow on top. I’m also plotting out and researching my next project, which will not be a Bai book so it might just have a non-punny title (right now I’m leaning toward Tranquility Land).

Why am I in such a rush? Why is everything so urgent? Why is the bullet train that is my life careening around corners and blasting through level crossings? Surgeries. Two of them.

All summer, I’ve blissfully denied that I’m having surgery soon because the first one isn’t happening until September and hey, that’s a whole season away. Ages away!

Now, however, September is breathing down my neck. It’s running its back-to-school fingers through my hair and whispering sweet shopping lists in my ear and suddenly I’m very aware of the fact that all of this will come crashing to a halt soon.

I’m not one of those people who has surgery and then moves on like nothing happened. It’s extremely disruptive for me. Pain, pain meds, nausea from pain meds, physical therapy, the unavoidable torture that is crutches, it’s all disruptive. My first surgery, in September, should mess things up for a week or so, and then things will hopefully go back to normal.

The surgery at the end of October, however, is a big one. A doozy, you could say. That one will keep me on crutches for six to eight weeks. I’ll lose all my muscle tone in my left leg again and have to learn how to walk for the second time in as many years. It’s going to be a challenge, and you can trust me on this because I’ve already done it.

So I guess you could say the reason my bullet train life is speeding out of control is because I know my awesome, reckless train has to pull in for some scheduled maintenance soon so I’m getting some joyriding in while I can.

The only thing I can do is hope this scheduled maintenance keeps me on the rails for a long time. Fingers crossed.

Empty Tubes and Tests for Days

Man, I tell you. Coming back from Santa Barbara was a great, big, freezing cold splash of reality. Wes had to leave on a series of business trips, which is normally the cue for both my kids to get all kinds of peeved about their father’s absence and take it out on me.

They did not disappoint.

Me in my giant scrubs, mere moments before yet another health professional jammed a needle into my poor knee.

Adding to the fun, I did another MRI with contrast to see why my knee continues to be a literal and figurative pain and lo and behold, it wasn’t all in my head (ha?). I have a flap of cartilage that’s collecting edema, and the microfractures I had done a couple years ago healed irregularly, which means things are all kinds of messed up in there.

Before I go in for (yet another) surgery, I’m going to get tested by a rheumatologist to see if it’s possible to determine why the cartilage in my knee is shredding like a nice mozzarella.

As if all that wasn’t enough, I’m currently undergoing testing from an endocrinologist to see whether he can figure out why I keep gaining weight despite healthy eating and exercise habits.

Just think blood tests. Blood tests for days. All the doctors are holding up empty tubes with my name on them.

It’s all stressful, and at times terrible, but I’m keeping my focus firmly on the things that are going right. Things like:

  • Wes is home from his business trips, and will be home for awhile.
  • I have friends and family who care about me and all my suddenly myriad health issues. My best friend, husband, and mother-in-law all collectively spent hours on the phone with me when I found out about my knee, just letting me feel sorry for myself and assuring me things would turn out ok. I’m inclined to believe them.
  • I’m free of deadlines for now and making progress on revisions for Bai Treason (book 3 of the Bai Hsu series). I love it as much now as I did when I wrote the first draft, which is always a good sign of a worthwhile story.
  • There’s a book blog tour of Bai Tide (book 1 of the Bai Hsu series) that’s happening now and the reviews are uniformly positive so far! Like this one, and this one. I’m always particularly gratified when people who don’t normally read my genre enjoy my books. It shows me I wrote a good story, not just a good spy story.
  • I might be getting LASIK soon because you know what? My knee may be FUBAR but damn it, there’s still hope for my eyes.

That just about brings you up to current. Rest assured, if I’m not blogging it’s probably because I’m hiding from my health woes by writing stories. Given all the feelings around here lately? Bai TreasonĀ is going to end up being a goooooooood book. Trust me on that one.

Edits, Revisions, and Babies

From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

This is going to be a fast, to-the-point blog post so strap in and hold on.

I’m in the thick of several things right now, which feels exactly like drowning if instead of water you substitute edits, revisions, and deadlines.

For some mysterious reason (read: because I’m a masochist who loves being busy and until I’m actually busy, at which time I regret all my life decisions) I signed on to participate in an anthology at the same time I was working on a full-length novel. As you can imagine, the revisions are all hitting the fan at the same time, and I’m under deadline for both, which means I have mountains of fun, engaging, excellent work to get through before the end of the month.

Now, to make things even more fun, I’m heading down to California on Saturday for a full week because my brother and his wife had their first baby last week and 1) I needs must hold my tiny nephew and 2) she’s going to need some help when my brother goes back to work.

This is a very good thing I’m excited to do, but it’s rather unexpected as her due date was not until April. So wish me luck this week, I’m going to need it. I have a month’s worth of work to do, and one week here, and another week there to do it.

Snow Thank You

My view from the treadmill at the gym. I’m working out in a Norman Rockwell painting. #pacificnorthwest

A post shared by Erika Mitchell (@parsingnonsense) on

Pretty picture, right? I tell you, there’s very little that awes my little former-Californian heart more than a bloody great deluge of snow. There’s something magical about fluffy little pieces of frozen water that are FALLING from the SKY.

It’s even more magical when it’s sneak-attack snow, like the kind we had yesterday in western Washington. TWICE. Let me explain.

I woke up Monday morning and opened my curtains as soon as I was out of bed because 1) It makes me feel like Julie Andrews when I do that and 2) I like to know what kind of weather I’m going to be dealing with while I shepherd children out to the bus stop. I blinked a few times in surprise and looked again, then reached for my glasses and fumbled them onto my face in the hopes that they might explain what my blurry visionĀ had been trying to tell me.

It had snowed. A lot. Enough to obscure our grass, our shrubs, and, on further inspection, the road outside our house. Now, that last one is an important distinction because in Washington, snow doesn’t really cause much trouble unless it sticks to the roads and it very rarely ever does. Here in western Washington, we’re protected from the worst of the Arctic air by a crapton of mountains, so mostly we just get rain and very occasional flurries.

The last time we got snow of any note was in 2010. And before that? 2006.

This winter, though, we’ve had two big snowstorms. Weird, right? Well, it gets weirder, because yesterday we woke up to snow, had it melt in sunshine, had crazy-intense hailstorms, and then had more snow. A lot more snow. I’m guessing two inches in two hours?

In the midwest, two inches is laughable. “Ha ha!” they say to us. “Two inches of snow is bikini weather! Even for the men!”

What they lack that we don’t, however, is hills. Hills aplenty. It does not matter how many wheel drive your car has or how good your driving is, your car will slide out of control on a snow-covered and icy hill. Where I live in particular is just chock-a-block full of hills, so there were a lot of people parking on the side of the road last night.

My poor husband tried to leave early-ish last night to beat the snow home and it ended up taking him three hours to drive ten miles. Not because of the snow, mind you. The plows and salt trucks were out and the roads were fine. It was the people driving on the snow that were the problem. Traffic for no reason! So much fun.

All that to say, I love the snow. It’s terribly pretty. I’d like it to stop now, though. Let’s keep the roads and schools open. Let’s keep commutes to reasonable lengths. And, for the love of cake, let’s get some freaking sunshine around here for awhile.

I wore shorts in California a couple weeks ago and my legs were so pale the sunlight reflecting off them nearly blinded some drivers. My paleness has become a safety issue, which is my annual indicator for when I’m ready for winter to be done. So ready? Set. SPRING.