Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our Spirit Is Stronger And Cannot Be Broken

For those of you who know me well, you know that I tend to shy away from discussions involving current events, religion, and politics. These are all, in my opinion, dangerous subjects to discuss amongst loved ones, and admittedly, I don't have a great deal of political insight.

Yet today I was awed, and I felt compelled to share my favorite parts of Barack Obama's Inaugural Address:

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

And my absolute favorite, that I'm sure I will carry with me for a long time to come:

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

We Got A Wii

Yes. Tim and I have joined the masses. We finally purchased a Wii, after 2 weeks of trying to find one.

Here's how most of my conversations went with salespeople over the past 2 weeks:

[Polite and bubbly sales associate]: Thank you for calling Best Buy, this is Polite and Bubbly Sales Associate, how may I help you today?

[Me. Friendly and Equally Polite]: Hi! Do you have any Wii in stock?

[Instantly Grumpy and Irritated Sales Associate]: No.

I had about 12 of those conversations yesterday, and then this happened:

[Polite and bubbly sales associate]: Thank you for calling GameStop, where we buy, sell and trade used games,this is Polite and Bubbly Sales Associate, how may I help you today?

[Me. Friendly and Equally Polite]: Hi! Do you have any Wii in stock?

[Still Polite and Bubbly Sales Associate]: I have one left.

[Me. Shocked and Gasping for air]: Seriously? Can you hold it for me?

[Hesitant and Wary Sales Associate]: For how long?

[Me. Still Shocked and Gasping for air]: I can be there in 15 minutes.

So we have a Wii. And it might just ruin my life. Between 7PM last night and 1AM this morning, Tim and I played about 80 frames of bowling, 9 holes of golf and roughly 502 tennis matches.

Here's what I should accomplish today: (Keep in mind that some of these things should have been accomplished yesterday.)
  • Laundry

  • Increase word count on WIP

  • Post first chapter of WIP on WB

  • Work on website

  • Yoga

  • Make dinner
Here's what I will probably accomplish today:

502 more tennis matches and a few boxing rounds.

God Bless America.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Drug Experimentation

It's not what you think.

The drugs I am experimenting with are all legal and over the counter.

And my experimentation was completely accidental.

But it should be interesting to see just how NyQuil and Starbucks react to one another.

I'd be willing to bet that the NyQuil wins, but you just never know.

I would like to share with you something that threw me for a loop tonight, and is currently making me hope that the NyQuil kicks in real fast.

As I was working on the novel tonight, I started to describe something that I knew I had described fairly well in an earlier piece of work. I went searching through my old files (because I keep everything) and successfully found the particular description I was looking for.

Here's the disturbing part:

The description was in the first few paragraphs of an 81 page, 42,000 word piece of work.

Why is this disturbing?

Because it was crap. No, seriously. I'm not even a little kidding. C-R-A-P, crap.

So, right now I am having a small crisis of faith, wondering who the hell I am kidding that I can write, and publish, a novel.

Oh NyQuil, take me away.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad

Today I am reserving this space to wish my parents a Happy Anniversary! 42 years of marriage, and they still like each other. For the most part. Yay Mom and Dad!

(They are probably going to kill me for posting their picture on the world wide web. I may receive frantic phone calls and be forced to replace their picture with one of Fred and Wilma Flintstone.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chutes and Ladders: The Corporate Edition

Today, after sitting in a conference room from 8AM to 3PM, I thought about high school.
In particular, I thought about my high school Guidance Counselor's office.
Nowhere, not on any of the motivational posters or in any of the counseling literature, was there a description of my job as a career goal to achieve. (My job, in case you are curious. I wouldn't recommend being curious.)


Because who wants to achieve sitting around a conference room table for 7 hours, only to leave the room having no idea what the meeting was about?

Here are the achievements you are never taught to strive for. (Or avoid). (And these examples are just from today):

1. Ten employees surrounded a conference room table. Nine are Senior Management Executives with varying statuses from Director to President. And then there was one: Me. Non-Senior Management Executive, and the only woman: Ladder.

2. The presentation you are scheduled to give at 8:30AM begins "wobbly": Chute.

3. You are pegged by the IT Department as an email whore. I quote: "You are receiving this email because your current mailbox is exceeding the mailbox limits that are going to be put into effect shortly. To prevent you from losing email and/or not being able to send or receive email: Please take a moment to either delete or archive your mail.":Chute.

4. One of the Senior Management Executives remembers that you are a vegetarian, and has a special veggie sub ordered for you for lunch. It comes in a separate bag with your name on it and everything. As an added bonus, you discover that you do, in fact, like guacamole: Ladder.
So, in the end, it all seems to have balanced itself out. I may not have gotten any higher on the corporate ladder today, but I managed to keep myself out of the Molasses Swap. Oh wait, that's a different game.
And even though this job is practically the opposite of what I intended to do with my life, it is kinda fun.
I hope to look back on it and smile fondly when my real life kicks in.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Can Cats Be Trained?

Oh, can you tell by the title that I am racking my brain for something to post about tonight?
Hades and Azrael, though I love them dearly, have very little respect for me.
Tim tells me this is my own fault.
Probably true.
If Azrael whines, I pick him up.
If Hades misbehaves, I don't discipline.
I don't yell. I cuddle. (Umm...still think I should have kids?)
Here's what it gets me:
5AM, Hades sitting on my chest (and by the way, he's not a feather), and Azrael biting my head. Yes, biting my head. (It is his way of saying, 'Hey Mom, I'm hungry. Here's what I'd like to be doing to food in my bowl right now.')
Mind you, Tim is sleeping less than a foot from me. Would they dare attempt this kind of behavior with him? Never. Why? Because when they behave this way, I either:
A. Get up and feed them
B. Get up and kindly escort them out of the room and shut the door until I am ready to get up.
It is more often than not option A, because option B results in Hades scratching at the bottom of the door until I do get up, while his brother sits by his side and eggs him on.
If they attempted this behavior with Tim, the result would be the following:
A. Punting across the room.
6PM, I come home from work and am greeted with yowling and desperate maneuvers toward the kitchen, as though they haven't eaten in days. They do not relent until they are fed.
Again I ask, Do they do this to Tim?
Wouldn't even dream of it.
Tim enters the kitchen, and Azrael and Hades sit on the dividing line between the carpet and the linoleum, on either side of the kitchen entrance, like little kitty gargoyles.
Tim retrieves their bowls.
They sit like statues.
Tim fills their bowls.
They quiver a little, but they don't move.
Tim puts their bowls on the floor, tells them "OK. Good boys!" and they run, like greyhounds released from the starting gate, and slobber all over themselves devouring their dinner.
If they move during this process, one short, loud "Hey!" from Tim freezes them in their tracks.
He tells me it is all about respect.
I wonder what Cesar Millan would say?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Some Cool, Random Stuff

It has been a fairly uneventful Saturday, which I suppose I should be grateful for. However, it does leave me with very little to kick start the creative juices, so I will just share with you a few random things that I think are pretty neat.

I have discovered my perfect background music for writing: The Harry Potter movie soundtracks. So far I have downloaded the music from Sorcerer's Stone, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Goblet of Fire. The soundtracks are all completely instrumental and soothing and a great source of inspiration: The scores vividly evoke the movies, which perfectly call to mind Rowling's stories, and J.K. Rowling is among my top five writing idols. The other four are Neil Gaiman, Nora Roberts, Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes.

I opened an account with Twitter: http://twitter.com/NanciBlock. I plan to use this solely to track the word count of my current works in progress (WIP). Hopefully it will be a great motivator to keep me writing. Feel free to follow me. I'm considering opening an account on Facebook or MySpace, but I really can't get past the idea that these sites are places for teenagers and horny adults. Plus, I'm not sure I want any of those skeletons from my past crawling out of the closet.

A certain literary agent who shall remain nameless (since he did in fact get Google alerted that his name was on my blog, and I don't want to do it again and give him the impression that I am cyber-stalking him) left a comment on yesterday's post. It may seem silly, but I'm a little starstruck. Let me give you a little analogy. Cool literary agent is to wannabe writer as Miley Cyrus is to teen girls across America. (Hmm...I wonder if Miley Cyrus is going to read my blog now.)

In addition, two more people whom I don't know have commented on the blog. I'm loving it. I get so excited every time there's a new post or a new follower! I'm such a loser. But, umm, keep passing me around, OK? It's my goal to become a Blog of Note and entertain the masses. Note: I will take topic suggestions!

I am designing a website to become the companion of the Pickle Tree. It'll be pretty sparse to start, only containing some info about me, the two stories I've had published, and a photo album, etc., but I will welcome all your feedback.

There are no Wii game systems anywhere to be found in South Florida. And the people at Best Buy, GameStop, Circuit City and FYE get really mad when you call and ask. Except for Jonathan at the Parkland GameStop. He was really nice to me. Thanks Jonathan.

Glade flameless candles are very cool.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Pickle Tree Gets Pruned!

If you're like me, you're addicted to all things Google, and read your blog subscriptions through Google Reader. (Or some other inferior reader.) No, I do not work for Google, I just think they are mad cool. Check out my iGoogle page:

Anyway, if you're reading through a reader, you probably see something like this:
Visually BORING. (But please note that I do have a blog crush on Nathan Bransford. And in case Nathan Bransford also loves all things Google, and uses Google Alerts for his name, and is reading this post, I say the following: the last month of posts is not my best work. Please read earlier, wittier posts.)

Now, to finally get to the point:

The Pickle Tree has a new look, and if you are using a reader, you're missing it. So visit, check it out, and let me know what you think. Here's a sneak peek:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

You Say Anagram, I Say Acronym

Another one for the PTM archives.

Monday night Tim walks in the door and announces, "Do I have the perfect thing for you."
"What's that?"
"Trivia Tuesdays at Sullivan's."
"This sounds promising."
"Want to check it out?"

So at 8:00PM on Tuesday night, Tim and I are sitting in John L. Sullivan's Irish Pub, waiting for the trivia contest to begin. Somehow I managed to get my husband to agree to drive, so I started the night right with a shot of Jagermeister.

Here's how it works:
You pay $10 per team to enter the contest. Teams are not limited to a certain number of participants. The contest is 6 rounds of trivia with a bonus round. Prizes consist of various monetary amounts you can use to contribute to your John L. Sullivan's tab.

Round 1: General Trivia, Simple Question and Answer.
We sailed through.

Round 2: General Trivia, Multiple Choice and True/False.
Again - no problem.

Round 3: A handout round. We were given a sheet of paper with 10 celebrity pics, and we had to name the stars.
Piece of cake.

After round 3, Tim and I (the only team with less than 5 participants) were in 4th place out of 12 teams. I was so excited I had a 3rd shot. (During rounds 1-3 I had downed a second shot and a vodka and red bull. Note: I'm definitely starting to feel the effects of the alcohol.)

Round 4: History.
We were given another hand out. Left column had events that occurred on January 1st. Right column was full of years. Match the event to the year.
Again, I say: Crap.

After 10 minutes, we were left with Ellis Island's first day of operation as January 1, 1994.
"Something's not right," Tim says.
"You think?" I asked.

We re-worked the sheet, and ended up with Fidel Castro taking control of Cuba in 1862. Turns out the fact that NAFTA was formed in the 90's completely threw us off. Who knew?

Round 5: Anagrams.
"What's an anagram?" Tim asked me as the host passed out a third sheet of paper.
"You know. When letters stand for something, like AWOL. Absent Without Official Leave."
"I thought that was an acronym."
"Crap. You're right. What the fuck is an anagram?"

Luckily, it was explained to us.

I looked lovingly at my husband. "I'm too drunk to unscramble anything," I told him.
"But you're the one that's supposed to be good with words!"
"Not tonight I'm not."

There were 5 anagrams to unscramble, all with a central theme: Let's Get Stoned. Turned out that the theme was The Rolling Stones, but I kept looking at "Wagon Burrs," seeing "Bong" and trying to make a word out of R-R-S-U-W. I was insistent. We never made it past "Wagon Burrs." (Brown Sugar, in case it is going to make you crazy.)

Needless to say we ended up in last place. The host was kind enough to note that we were the only team of 2.

And maybe we're crazy, but we're planning to show our faces and try again next Tuesday. We may bring a larger crew; either way, it's been decided that I'm driving this time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Skeletons Sometimes Surface

Got any skeletons in your closet? Who knows about 'em? Who should know about 'em?

I've got my fair share of skeletons.

Don't get too excited, I don't plan to out any of them here.

I'd be willing to bet that Liz knows every single one of my skeletons. Why? I've known her since I was nine; she was there when I shoved them in the closet. In most cases, she was helping me make room, holding winter coats and my cheerleading uniform while I shoved the scariest ones in the way, way back where no one would ever see them.

For the ones Liz missed, the ones I had to pack away without her, she's been filled in. I have to tell her. She's my second line of defense if a bony secret ever makes a break for it. Pity that she's a crap liar, but she's the best I've got.

What's amazing is that we didn't speak for five years, and she held onto all my secrets. She could have ruined me, yet my scariest skeletons remain intact, dusty, in the way, way back of my closet. That's dedication. Then again, I never told anyone that she...oops. One almost got away.

Is it wrong that Liz knows my deepest darkest secrets, and my husband may not? It's not that I have intentionally kept anything from Tim. In all honesty, every once in a while a random finger or ankle bone falls out of the closet while I am looking for something else, and he looks at me funny. Then I have to go, "Oh yeah. I never told you about the three days I spent in an Argententian prison?" Not because I was hiding it from him, but because when does that ever come up in conversation?

How much about your past are you required to disclose to your other half? Other than the standard past relationships-first love-disease-criminal record conversations in the beginning of the courtship, how much do detail do you get into? Do I need to reveal that in seventh grade I french kissed a boy who turned out to be gay because it may have an effect on my marriage?

I do know of couples who have disgusting disclosure policies. They tell each other everything about their past.


I have absolutely no desire to know how many other women my husband has slept with or what kind of trouble he got into before he met me. Unless he's got some kids running around, I don't want to know.

You tell me - how many of your skeletons are you required to reveal to your other half?

Monday, January 5, 2009


Everyone makes 'em. Everyone breaks 'em. And I did promise that one of my resolutions was to get back to The Tree; give it the love and attention it deserves.

I do have plans in store for the Picklers. (Yes, Picklers. It's what I have decided to call the 5 individuals who publicly follow The Tree - thanks, by the way - and the assorted family and friends who read, but have not delved far enough into the World Wide Web to comment, follow or post. I love ya anyway.)

1. I want to redesign. My rudimentary web design skills should allow me to play around with the layout a bit.

2. I want to post every day. What does this mean to you? Some days you may get really boring posts detailing what I did at work that day, the foolishness that Tim and I engaged in that evening, or what the word count on the WIP is up to, or random streams of consciousness to kick-start work on the WIP. Lucky you. Could be worth it, 'cuz every once in a while I manage to pull out something worth reading. In my humble opinion.

In case you are curious, I've made a few other resolutions. (Pie crust resolutions: Easily made, easily broken.) (I admit that I stole that saying from somewhere, I just can't remember where.)

1. Finish the novel. (Many of you may roll your eyes and think back to New Year's Eves gone by that had the same resolution. I will stick to this one if it kills me. Now, mind you, I did not resolve to write a phenomenal work of literature, nor did I resolve to publish the novel. I resolve to finish the novel. It's a big step, I don't care what you think.)

2. Rid myself of the constant road rage that plagues even short drives to the grocery store. (The speed limit is my friend, I will use my signal, I will stop tailgating, I will not hit a single curb in 2009. Oh, wait. I already did. I will not hit another curb in 2009.)

3. Be (gag, choke, cough) nicer at work. Professional, even. Non-sarcastic, if you will.

4. Grow myself some thicker skin. In the metaphorical sense, of course.

Now I'm going to leave you with something that inspired me this morning:

Watch your thoughts, they become your words.
Watch your words, they become your actions.
Watch your actions, they become your habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.