In Deep Smit

Greetings from 38,000 feet. Or as the flight attendant called it before take-off, “upstairs.”

We’re winging our way to our niece’s wedding. Mr. Smite will be performing the ceremony and I was asked to write some pithy advice on the secrets to a happy marriage. Please don’t tell my sister-in-law I’m writing this instead.

Mr. Smite sits next to me, happily bobbing his head to the music coming through his earbuds as he reads something super-esoteric. He’s even sexier than the day I married him.

Especially now that the giant vein in the middle of his forehead has receded. 

He hates traveling. Loves getting away, but hates the trip. Individual people he adores, but large masses of humanity who don’t know how to navigate security or can’t figure out the whole overhead carry-on thing infuriate him.

It makes me giggle.

Just one more way we’re polar opposites. I love travel. I love people. Even the stupid ones. Something about airports makes me giddy. Maybe it’s the limitless destinations. The sense of adventure. The beginning of a great journey to be savored every second and the anticipation of the cherished memories that are about to be made.

Maybe I have some marriage advice after all.

Aren’t the best unions simply made up of great travel companions? Because there’s no greater journey, no more amazing adventure than sharing yourself completely with someone. Falling and wallowing in the bliss of Deep Smit.

When I was single that was always the real test of a relationship. Did we travel well together? Some very promising liaisons were severed before we even got to baggage claim.

On the outbound trip.

The secret is you can’t both freak out at the same time. Whether it’s lost luggage, flight delays, foreclosure, unemployment, or the thousands of other minor and major issues that can bog down a marriage.

Despite the release of his inner curmudgeon every time tray tables and the use of personal electronic devices are mentioned, Mr. Smite is my ideal traveling companion. We’re in perfect sync even though we’re polar opposites.

A few years ago, he’d planned a romantic get-away. On the first flight, we were surrounded by the Loud Talker, the Armrest Hogger, the OverSharer and That Guy – the one who is an expert on


Mr. Smite smiled, was social and not a single “W… T… F” crossed his lips. The mix-up with our rental car didn’t throw him. He was determined to be his best self, rise above and make it a perfect romantic trip.

It wasn’t until the unexpected highway construction, lane closures and inevitable delays started to make that forehead vein twitch. A forced detour that added 60 miles to the trip made his jaw clench. Missing the unmarked exit to the romantic B&B with our private cabin on a rushing river, brought out the death grip on the steering wheel.

I chatted to distract him. Made jokes about the situation. Sang goofy songs and was generally my most entertaining self. It worked.


We arrived after midnight. To find all the cabins dark and not a soul anywhere to be found in the remote town. We searched under doormats and in mailboxes for the keys that were supposed to have been ready for our delayed arrival.

He cussed often and loudly. Actually kicked the tires on the rental car, hurt his foot and then cussed some more. All I could do was laugh. Not at him, but at the situation. It was like a scene from a movie. I just threw my head back and roared.

“Honey, look how beautiful the Milky Way is out here with no light pollution. Listen to the rush of the river. It’s perfect. Just like it is. We don’t have to stay here to enjoy it.”

He took a deep breath, smiled and gave me the sweetest kiss. The kind that buckles your knees and threatens to send you both plummeting to the ground. “Thank you for reminding me what’s important. You ready to drive to the next exit and try to find a hotel room?”

“Only if there’s a lumpy bed, roaches and no scenic vista.”

We laughed and kept laughing for another 100 miles, until we finally found a place that staffed their front desk in the middle of the night.

I’ve never had the heart to ask him if he got his money back on the beautiful cabin we never got to stay in.

So, J and R, it’s easy to be happy together. You’ve already found your perfect traveling companion. Now all you have to do is enjoy each other, try to be your best selves and when you find yourself kicking and cussing inanimate objects, laugh at yourself. Your emergency flotation device is standing right there next to you.

Deep Smit – it’s a trip…

Holla for Homicide!

There are just some people who need killin'. I know, Love and Non-violence are all the rage, but hear me out on this...

Admit it, there's at least one person in your life who is so annoying there is no hope of redemption. Maybe they're socially retarded, incredibly self-absorbed or they have these little habits that make an otherwise peaceful person want to slaughter them.

For me, it's the personal catchphrase that is encouraging homicidal tendencies. I have a friend whose answer for everything is, "Take deep breaths and center your chi."  Well, that and bacon.  

And time-traveling ninja robots.

But maybe it's time to take his advice and center my chi, because the annoying catchphrase is starting to take over my world.

I know, right?!
Dude, you rock!
It's a no-brainer.

I've suffered my share of crap-phrases over the years, but Annoying Co-Worker has amped things up this week.


Five years ago that was a fun phrase. A celebratory exclamation, as in, "The hot guy who's been checking me out all night just asked for my digits. Holla!" Or, "I just got accepted to law school. Can I get a 'Holla?' "

My personal favorite was its more sarcastic usage. "Ooops I crapped my pants. Holla!" Or, "I just drunk dialed my boss. Holla!"

Annoying Co-Worker is not only behind the times, she has no command of the word. "Here's a paperclip, holla!" "Can I borrow a pen? Holla!" Yesterday's Holla-count was 27. I started fashioning a shiv out of my yogurt's foil top.

Today's count is approaching 35. 

Justifiable. Homicide.  

Maybe a garrote from my phone cord?

I want to like her. She's cute, perky and means well. Size Zero with dark hair and giant, china blue eyes. She shares homemade treats. I have coveted her shoes on no less than three occasions this week.


If I do it just right, the blood shouldn't splatter on those cute Steve Madden wedges.

No fear. Cavalier. Renegade steer clear...


Sorry I've been gone awhile. I've been busy getting ready for the impending Rapture. It's tomorrow, you know? So if your ascension robe is still at the cleaners, you might want to swing by and grab it before they close tonight.

Harold Camping and his followers must be planning one heck of a party for tonight. I truly hope they enjoy it, because come Sunday morning I have a feeling they're going to be disappointed. Now, of course, the joke could be on the rest of us and the Rapture really does happen tomorrow. In which case, I hope one of my heathen friends will adopt our dogs. On second thought, they're the purest souls on the planet, so they should be coming with us. 

I don't want to mock anyone's faith. Faith is a wonderful and valuable thing. I'm just a little skeptical of someone who's predicted this once before. Apparently he got his math wrong last time. Camping swears tomorrow is the day and that it's in the Bible. Could I get a page number on that? 'Cause I'm not finding it in my version. In fact, all the versions I've seen say no one knows the day or the hour.

Camping and his followers have become the butt of countless jokes on the web and creative entrepreneurs are even trying to make a buck off of this.  No matter what you think about his prediction, there is some value here.

A learned Greek once told his followers:

Socrates is a man.
All men are mortal.

Our individual worlds will all end at some point. Most of us aren't living like we're dying. You could even argue that most of us aren't really living like we're living.  Zombies make for wonderful fiction.  They're creepy, nasty, oozing, moaning reanimated critters. Maybe part of the scare factor is that deep down, we know on some level, we're all zombies. 

How often do you take a second to look around and marvel at the world around you? How often are you truly living in the moment, sucking the marrow out of life? How many times a day do you do something that scares you, challenges you?

Our own Raptures are coming -- tomorrow or sometime in the next 100 years. When mine does, I want to be able to tell God I danced in fountains, made love under the stars, jumped out of airplanes, dived the oceans, loved and laughed to my fullest and hopefully made lots of lives better by being here. Of course, (S)He'll already know...

I hope you do the same.

Rapture = bliss.  Follow your bliss and savor this wonderful gift called life.

As Michael Stipe and the boys so eloquently put it,  "It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine."

Standing on the Precipice

A damp chill slithers through my clothes and settles deep in my marrow. There is no shaking it. The bleak landscape is the charred grey of skeletal ashes. The sickly black-green clouds are a sure sign the storm front is here.

"Ohhhh, Merry, we're not in The Shire any more. That's for sure."

He does a nervous little Hobbit dance and says, "We could always turn back. Look behind us, so lush and green. This place speaks of evil, death. No good can come of moving forward."

But we must soldier on. There is no turning back on a hero's journey. Forward momentum or death. Besides, the Shire is near idyllic, but how many picnics can you go to? All that Hobbit foot hair getting in the potato salad...

We stand on the precipice, toes hooked over the edge of the cliff. You can sense a deep chasm before us, but it is shrouded in a dense fog. No way to see if there is a suspension bridge to the distant land beyond. Lightning illuminates the giant cloud head above. Should we search for a trail down and hope there is one to climb up on the other side?

"Who wants to plunge into the creepy chasm first?  Valley of the Shadow of Death, anyone?"

This is where I am in writing my current novel. The first four chapters came to me with a big red bow on them, straight from the Muse herself. The lush green prose of the Shire. I also know where the story ends... a long way from here on the other side of that scary chasm.

I have no signposts, no map, no way to know how I'm supposed to get from here to there. It is daunting. I owe my characters so much. They are fully-formed, breathing, trusting me to do their tale justice. They want me to chronicle every painful but necessary step from setback to ultimate victory. I can't let them down.

My loyal beta readers are clamoring for more. They want to know where the story goes from here. "Do you have any new pages for me?  I'm desperate to read the next chapter." Gratifying to know I have them hooked, but rushing things at this critical juncture could be rash. We could all plummet to unseen rocks below. Hurling ourselves to an untimely death is no fun, even if it's fiction.

"Merry, have Sam help you set-up camp. Pitch the tents, find some firewood, we're spending the night here." Hopefully, by morning, the fog will have rolled out and we'll have a better view. If not, my high-strung companions will have to wait a little longer.

Sometimes you just need to take a moment and assess. Let your mind wander. Distract yourself and let your subconscious figure out the best plan of attack. Good advice for life and literature.

Where did we pack the chocolate for the s'mores?

Puppy Dog Tales

Cutest. Boy. Ever. I know, right? When my husband brought him home, I instantly fell in love. He looked like a stuffed animal that had come to life. He was so perfect both in looks and demeanor that we started calling him Proto-Puppy. He was soft, loved to snuggle and seemed to be in touch with a deep, eternal wisdom. Gazing into his eyes you could feel the unconditional love and sense that he knew all the mysteries of the universe.

Maybe most pet owners feel that way, but we knew our boy was special. He's a Swiss Mountain Dog and only about 100 Swissy puppies are born here in the U.S. every year. They're usually black, red and white, like their Bernese cousins. So Killian and his brother are Super Special Swissys, they may have been the only two red ones born in the country that year.

Even so, he almost didn't make it to his first birthday. Despite the perception that his soul was like Buddha's or Christ's, he was a demonic chewer. Furniture, moldings, blinds and socks were all eagerly loved by his rapidly growing maw. I came home from work one day to find a hole in the living room wall. There had been nothing special about that area, nothing sticking out, but he had managed to gouge it with a puppy tooth and got his chew on.

I have no doubt my, "NNOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooo!" was heard 'round the world. And he got the message. He stopped chewing. Even things he should have. Instead of gnawing on his chew toys, he swallowed two of them whole.  He was just 6-months-old and he came very close to death. My husband was smart enough to realize this wasn't regular puppy sickness and rushed him to the emergency vet. It would be the first of many visits and surgeries. It got to the point that I asked the vet if we could implant a zipper the length of his belly so that we could just remove whatever he'd gotten his mouth on.

As he matured, the chewing stopped. As did the walking-around-the-Great-Room-while-peeing. Had I been on the ball and put food coloring in his water, the NEA might have funded the giant works of Urine Modern Art. It would have been a big help with the vet bills. 

He left the ways of puppy-hood behind and became a breed ambassador. Since Swissys aren't well known in this country, we're always asked if he's a short-haired St. Bernard or a giant Beagle. We're happy to enlighten and he's happy to lean on the questioner and let them love on him. If he wasn't so giant and that tail wasn't a Weapon of Mass Destruction, he'd be the perfect therapy dog.

The funny thing is, I don't think he has any idea how huge he is.  Any time we're at the dog park, he'll find the smallest dog he can and then he wants them to run so he can chase them.  He's always gentle, but it freaks out some small dog owners. 

We almost lost him again, this last Thanksgiving around midnight. He hadn't had any people food that day, just his regular diet, but you could see in his gentle eyes that something was horribly wrong. Another trip to the emergency vet. This time it was gastric torsion. Had we waited 10-minutes longer he'd have been stalking Chihuahuas and Boston Terriers in Hound Heaven.

Today we're celebrating his 8th birthday with special treats and new toys. He doesn't look a day over 3. As with all large breeds, his life expectancy is shorter than we'd like.  Probably 12-years if we're lucky. Since we've come so close to losing him more than once, I savor every moment. Even covered in dog hair and nursing bruises from where his giant feet have stepped on mine, I can't help but adore him and be so grateful for all the love and laughs he's showered on us. He is pure joy wrapped in red and white fur. He is the Sweetest of Sweet Boys.

Since he can't live forever, even though he certainly deserves to, I'm immortalizing him in fiction. In my angel series, he is the model for the protagonist's faithful companion. She'll be able to heal him and extend his happy life well beyond the norm. In the first book in the series, "Sleep in Heavenly Peace," he'll play a pivotal role in keeping the forces of evil from destroying humanity. Killian seems okay with that. It's hard to tell. The words "novel" and "character" don't seem to strike the same chord as "walk," "dinner" and "treats." 

It sure would be cool if he's still around to play his literary alter ego in the movie.  Happy Birthday, Sweet Boy.  Shine on.

Food is the New Porn

It started innocently enough, like a pre-pubescent discovering his first Playboy.  I was running on the treadmill at the gym, flipping through the channels on the built-in screen when a cooking show batted her eyelashes and smiled a smoky come-hither that couldn't be denied.  She teased with her butter. Tempted with her heavy cream. Seduced with her chocolate creation...  a concoction so sinful it should have been wearing do-me stilettos and silky black stockings.  The thought of eating all of those virtual calories while I was burning real ones had a twisted masochism to it.

My fetish flourished when a dear friend invited herself over, "Hey, let's hang out, I'll bring a couple of beers."

"Great, but you can have both.  I'll be drinking water."

"Oh, that's right, you're on that crazy diet."

No booze. No sugar. No starches. No fun. But it must be done. 

A few months ago, when I wasn't looking, a couple of fiendish fat cells decided to invite some friends over for a party, "Hey the brain's out of town, she won't notice.  Come over and we'll rage."  It turned out to be quite the kegger.  Sadly, no one called the cops.  Neighboring organs, muscles and arteries suffered in silence.  Thousands of fat cells came for the beer pong and stayed for the good schools and low crime.

Eviction is a bitch...

"Yeah, let's hang out, definitely come over and bring the beer and I'll watch you drink it.  It'll be like porn.  I may force you to eat some popcorn and Pringles.  Or is that too kinky for you?"

She laughed, "I'll even dress up like a pizza delivery guy if that will help."

Good friends are there for you through thick and getting thinner.  They can make anything bearable... even the wet dreams about pasta and wine.

Cloud 9, Party of 2

Most creative people will admit, if they're honest, to a certain neurotic cycle.  They write, paint, compose or perform and filled with the wonder of what they've wrought, pronounce, "I'm awesome.  A true genius. Love me, for I am talented."  Then, stepping back to get a better view of their gift, they notice the flaws and suddenly it's, "I suck. I'm a moron. Ignore me, for I am deluded, maybe even demented."

This weekend, I was teetering in the middle -- right on the fulcrum of awesome and awful, naturally, because timing is everything.  This was the weekend I had the great fortune to spend a few hours with Ms. Brilliant Literary Agent at a workshop she was presenting.  I was excited to hear her insights on the industry and anxious to get her feedback on my work.  As she went down the checklist of what agents look for, the voice in my head was saying:

I'M AWESOME, I've done all of that.

As the list continued:

I SUCK,  I'm way behind on all of these other things.

And on that note, she wrapped up and told us to line up and she'd read what we'd brought her.  Since the space was small, it was hard not to eavesdrop on the six people in front me.  Ms. Brilliant Agent was kind and polite and pointed out things that needed to be fixed in the nicest of ways. 

As I waited, I pictured my time with her.  Reading the words I'd worked so hard to hone, her eyes would glaze over, she'd start to shake and pea-green vomit would shoot out of her mouth onto my work right before her head started spinning.  Yep, definitely SUCK mode.  And really, "The Exorcist" daydream sequence?  Trite and overdone.  I was sinking into MAJOR suckage.

Just as I was desperately looking for the emergency exit, she called me over. She was smiling, gesturing for me to sit down and chat. I handed her my pages and gave her my one sentence pitch explaining what the novel's about.  She read the first paragraph. Without taking her eyes off of the page she said, "Perfect!"

Then after the second graph, "Fabulous!"

Could it be?  We might be teetering back to the A-word.

Halfway through the third graph she looked up at me and said, "Is this a finished manuscript?" 

I'M AWESOME.  The look on her face says she wants to see the whole book!  Sadly, it's nowhere near finished, but I promise to contact her when I'm done and hope that there will still be space on her client roster.  She doesn't want me to change a single thing.  Every bit of feedback is positive.  She smiles again and tells me, "Happy Writing!"

That's when I see it, a Cartier-crafted, Tiffany-bejeweled staircase rising to the firmament. I float past levels one through eight, reserved for less lofty celebrations.  I arrive on Cloud Nine and an unctuous waiter escorts me to the cushiest of VIP booths.  The discreet sign on the table says, "Reserved for literati only." 

"Champagne, please," I tell the waiter as I settle into a cozy haze of golden feedback.  This place is so floaty and fun, I never want to leave.  The warm glow is quickly interrupted by a voice from way, way down there, back on Earth.  It starts low and then rumbles into a deep laugh and the voice gets louder.  It's definitely coming up my golden staircase and getting closer and more disruptive.

Then, there's Mr. Smite, floating over to my exclusive booth.

"My Sweet, you know I adore, you, but..."  I point to the sign, "this booth has certain restrictions and while I'd love the pleasure of your company, I'd hate for you to be embarrassed when the waiter has to kick you out."

He smiled, "My Pet, that's not going to happen. That phone call was to let me know I've just won First Place in a Major Fiction Contest."  Forget MILF, he's my Sweet VILF, Very Inspiring Literary Flame.

I catch the waiter's eye and raise my champagne flute, "We'll need another glass and please keep the Veuve flowing. We're going to be here awhile.  And could you please ask the band to play something uptempo?"

Life is Smite-y Good!