Friday, September 23, 2011

You've Never Tasted RANCH??!!

The morning's view of fog rolling off the Mississippi. 
In the far left corner, you can just see the bridge.

When my dear friend and fellow writer, Winnie Griggs, had no roommate for the ACFW conference in St. Louis and offered me a few free nights at the Hyatt, I was instantly on board!!  Not only do we have kinks to work out on a two-hour workshop we're giving at New Jersey RWA's Put Your Heart in a Book next month, but something about nice hotels makes me write like the wind!!  (Already sent a fun new project to my agent last night!!)

Anyway . . . We got adventurous for dinner last night and walked a few blocks west of the hotel to this place called Calicos.  Anyone who's a fairly close friend of mine knows I have a thing for ranch dressing.  All right, let's call it more of an obsession, but I'll claim it!!  I LOVE RANCH!!! 

We get our menus and what do I see?  Beer-battered Zucchini strips--be still my heart!!  Angels sang!!!  Only one problem--how was the ranch?  Homemade with buttermilk?  Or from a big jug of Great Value Imitation Ranch?  As any respectable ranch lover would, I asked our waitress what kind of ranch they serve.

She got a blank stare, and I swear to you said, "I don't know.  Never had ranch."


At this point, I felt a little faint.  She had to be twenty-something.  How had she made it this long in the world without ever learning the joys of a superb buttermilk ranch?  I got a little panicky, thinking it might be time for a ranch intervention!!

My dining companion talked me down, assuring me the ranch would be fine.  Being from Louisiana, though, she felt my apprhension.

My food comes and the zucchini is beyond extraordinary!!  Long, lovely quartered strips with just the right amount of batter.  In the center of the dish is my ranch.  Hands trembling, I go in for the first dunk.  Anticipating the tastes of Tulsa's Hideaway Ranch or Ron's, you can't imagine my displeasure to find it wasn't real ranch!!!  It wasn't just from a jumbo, industrial-sized bottle, but had to have been part glue.  Chef Paula Dean would've died on the spot.  Chef Gordon Ramsay would've told the chef to piss off then shut the whole place down!!!

Sigh.  Waitress appeared, so I asked for an alternate dip.  She brings an imitation of the sauce Outback Steakhouse uses for their Bloomin' Onion.  It was okay, but still not what I wanted.  I managed to eat a little, but I wasn't happy!!!

Making matters worse, twenty minutes later the waitress gave me the stink eye, asking in a snarky tone if I was enjoying the new dip.  NOOOOOO!

Winnie and I salvaged our evening by snagging free Dove Chocolates from one of the publishing house giveaway tables!!

Never tasting ranch . . . Pffft.  Ridiculous.    

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

 Me and Tulsa City Councilwoman Karen Gilbert!

Last night was a first for me--attending a candidate watch party after an election.  The candidate--Karen Gilbert--has been a friend since our kids were in third grade.  They're sophomores in college now, so you do the math!!  Over the years, we've spent hours together at PTA meetings and school open house nights.  I write about doing things, but Karen is one of those people who actually does things.  Everything!!!  She's a fireball I greatly admire.  Any goal she sets, she doesn't just meet, but exceeds, with grace and integrity and great wardrobe flair.  (Always a plus!)

Throughout the years, for as much as Karen has done for Tulsa Public Schools, I've urged her to go bigger.  She's the kind of woman who inspires and isn't afraid of a challenge.  She tirelessly fights for what she believes is right and is a champion of the underdog.  She launched an anti-bullying campaign for which she was recently awarded by our governor.  Karen worked SO HARD on her campaign for a seat on city council and as is usually the case when she sets her mind on accomplishing something, she got the job done.  My dear friend is now to be addressed as Madame Councilwoman and the whole thing has me more than a little teary.

Why?  Simple answer--I'm drawn to dreamers.  There's nothing more thrilling to me than folks who have big dreams and aren't afraid to go for them.  Karen put herself and family on the line in taking on this campaign.  Sure, had she lost, no one would've died or anything, but it still would've been hard.  Even knowing that, she trusted enough in her resolve to take on the challenge. 

Tying all of this in to writers, or athletes, or anyone working for a job promotion, last night was a reminder that dreams seriously do come true.  My sweet and funny friend is suddenly putting her talents to work on a pretty big stage and I couldn't be more pleased.

About a month before Karen announced her candidacy, I complained of a stomachache.  Months later, after surprise gallbladder surgery and more unpleasant tests than I care to count, I still have a raging stomachache.  Having been sick for months, I'm noticing a trend in myself that's distressing.  I'm forgetting how to dream.  I spend my days on the couch, nurturing this pain the way I used to nurture my family and friends and career.  I despise this new side of myself and want to fix it.  My next specialist appointment isn't until October, but if there's anything last night taught me, it's that I can't just shut down until doctors figure out what's wrong.

Karen's happiness and drive are contagious and fed me a huge dose of resolve to not let this temporary setback in my health beat me.  My goals for today are writing five pages, unloading the dishwasher and cooking Hubby and myself a healthy dinner.  Not much, but it's a start toward regaining normalcy.  Another thing I'm going to do is make a fresh list of dreams.  Some giant, some small, some a little nutty, but all mine and all achievable as long as I give them that initial seed.

What are your dreams?  What are you doing to make them come true?