Monday, June 29, 2009

Dieting on Vacation

My niece's wedding is two weeks away. So last week, when I had a whopping three weeks, I decided to go back on Weight Watchers Points. In a perfect world, I would lose all 25 of the pounds I gained because of a bum knee. In a semi-perfect world, I'd lose 10. In this weird world we live in I'm shooting for seven. Seven pounds, three weeks. It didn't sound so hard. In fact, Monday was a breeze.

Tuesday my husband took me to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. Staring at the menu filled with things that made my mouth water I realized I had a choice, give in, eat like a fool and start again tomorrow. Or order something realistic. (Realistic being a sketchy word.)

Anyway, just as I was about to succumb to temptation, I remembered that we were going to Gettysburg the following weekend. Was I going to quit every time something special happened? If I was, I certainly wouldn't hit my goal of seven pounds. And if I continued to indulge myself every time we got in the car and drove anywhere that served food, I'd soon be buying my clothes from Omar the Tentmaker.

So...last Tuesday morning, I took the plunge. I said, "You're not going to be a wuss anymore. You are going to do this."

It was actually very easy to order an egg and a biscuit and drink black coffee while my husband ate gritts, several eggs, biscuits, bacon, ham, and baked apples. (When I say easy, I actually mean possible.)

But we soon found ourselves in the golf store (he needed new golf shoes) and breakfast was quickly forgotten. With this success under my belt, I raced home and plotted my strategy for the trip to Gettysburg. I looked up our usual restaurant haunts online and found meals on the menus that I could eat without breaking my WW points bank. Then I planned what I'd order in the small mom and pop restaurants that don't have websites and menus online.

I also made some rules or guides for myself for traveling while trying to lose weight...or even trying to stay the same.

1. Go online and review the menus for the restaurants you know you'll frequent while you are away. If you're going to a new destination (Ocean City this year instead of Virginia Beach) find a website for your destination, see what restaurants are available...see if they have online menus. If they do, you're in luck!

2. Choose a few meals and figure out the calories, Points, or dependent. Eventually, you'll find something you can order and if you can' least you'll know what you are getting into! If you figure the Points for a meal at 25 and your total allotment of points for the day is 25, you have a choice. Eat only that one meal...Or be smart and eat half.

3. If you have determined that certain meals work for your diet DON'T LOOK AT THE MENU. Stick to the meal choices you've already made. Don't tempt yourself!

4. Take salad, fruit, diet bread, reduced fat peanut butter. If you're staying at a beach house, you'll have a fridge. Already made salad is better for lunch than the burgers or pizza your family will buy. Don't worry about feeling deprived. Feel smart. Feel empowered! Think of your heart, your arteries, that new black dress you bought!

5. Take a container of low fat Coffeemate. Most restaurants have cream. Don't drink your calories in a few cups of coffee! Get the low fat Coffeemate (and a big purse). Or get a small purse-size container of Coffeemate.

6. Focus on your goal. Do you need to fit into a new dress for a wedding, as I do? Do you need to get back into your skinny jeans? Are you fearful that your next shopping trip will be to a tent maker? Scare yourself! Motivate yourself!



How did I do on my weekend trip to Gettysburg. Good and bad. I stuck with all of my pre-choices. Unfortunately, I made a "whopper" of a mistake. I misread the Weight Watchers points guide and thought Whopper Juniors had only six points (which is the number of points in a "small" fast food hamburger in the guide). Turns out Whopper Juniors are in a class by themselves and have 10 points! So I went over my points by 4 on two days.

Now, this doesn't mean I gained weight. I simply didn't lose. But, after a mini-vacation, I'll settle for not gaining! LOL

Enjoy the week!

susan meier
MAID IN MONTANA, still available!

Monday, June 22, 2009


I do my best writing while also doing the laundry. I don't know. Maybe it's the sound of the washer? The hum of the dryer? The scent of fabric softener? Or maybe it's that women are built to multi-task.

If my husband is making a sandwich, even if he's finishing up, setting the top slice of bread into place, he can't talk. He's deliberately mute. Focused and on point with his bread and cold cuts. Talking and cooking don't work for him. But I can't make a sandwich without also washing the dishes or chatting with the kids, filling a glass with milk or talking on the phone. Because women are multi-taskers!

When I realized that, my writing life became a lot easier!

Many times when writers tell me they have writers block or they can't seem to come up with the next chapter or plot point or interesting scene, I ask them what 'else' they're doing as they write. Most think I'm being critical of their focus, accusing them of letting their minds wander. In truth, I'm trying to show them that sitting down, staring at a computer screen isn't what most of us were made to do and that's why we aren't very good at it!

Ask my husband how many times I've written a new scene on our church envelope and then had to take it home with me and sheepishly drive the money to the rectory the next morning!

How many times have you been at a movie, reading someone else's book, showering, driving, cooking, attending a child's ball game (or ballet recital), singing happy birthday, chatting with a neighbor, cleaning a toilet. . .and had the perfect idea come to you?

Probably lots! LOL

Because we're not made to sit and stare at a screen. We get our ideas from living life.

This actually takes me to my two points for this blog. First, never leave home without a pen and paper. Trust me. It's incredibly embarrassing to have to explain to your pastor that you are handing him cold hard cash without a church envelope because you scribbled all over it during his sermon. He will not be amused.

Second, get out and live life. Seriously. Silence may be golden and we may actually need silence to get the words on paper (or screen). . .but you're not going to find the answer to anything staring at the blue and white screen in Word.

You need to watch kids play. See the very old interact. Watch a new mom with her baby. Study the color of the sky. Observe a mailman on a familiar route. Scrutinize lovers. Watch a gaggle of teens. Oh, dear heaven, do watch teens! They virtually speak another language and they are so up on technology they will force you to either keep up or die! Star Trek has nothing on teens when it comes to boldly going where no one has gone before! If you want to get up to date on anything. . .just interact with a teen!

So watch people, but then listen. Eavesdrop on conversations. (Carefully and with discretion.) Listen to sales clerks in stores, parents disciplining kids, married couples making decisions or talking about their days. Listen. That's how you learn.

Many years ago, I attended my first conference with two authors who were already published. Sitting in the restaurant dinning room on Saturday night, the one author pointed around us at the tables, most of which were filled with multi-published authors. She said, "What do all these women have in common?" My friend said, "They're all published." I (being young at the time and very stupid about how short of a time span youth is) said, "They're all old!"

I can laugh the time I was rewarded with a cross look and a scathing tone when my mentor said, "They're all over forty. They've got some life under their belts. They've learned some lessons. They have something to say. That's why they're writing the bestsellers."

Yeah. That about sums it up.

But you don't have to be over forty to have something to say. Simple life experiences of winning and losing will teach you lessons worthy of being shared. So will secondhand knowledge of someone else's pain, heartache or joy. (Watching a friend or loved one go through a life trauma. . .even something as simple as getting his or her insurance company to pay for damages in a fender-bender can teach you a great deal about life!)

More than that, life experience isn't merely about having good lessons for your heroes or heroines to learn in your books. The things you see and experience are also fodder for scenes, character, stories.

Mining your real life for sad, funny, infuriating situations is the best way to come up with scenes and chapters that resonate with real people!

That's not to say that you copy events. That could get you sued. It's the underlying core emotion of the experience that resonates. Names and details can be changed if the emotion rings true!

So today, instead of sitting at your computer angry with yourself because you can't pull something out of thin air, get up, go outside, peek at your neighbors (discreetly). . .Better yet, talk to your neighbors. See what's going on in the world around you. Look for emotions behind actions - - the stuff that connects your make-believe people to readers.

Your story will probably be richer for it!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Good News!

Just got "the" call from the More Than Magic Contest coordinator...


Tied for first place in the traditional category!

Sprinkle, anyone?

Easter week for my family was our last peaceful week. After that, we hit the ground running with weddings, showers, graduations, ballet recitals, T-ball, Little League, birthdays (my own included), mother's day, father's day and prom. With eleven kids in my family and thirty-something nieces and nephews and ten or so great-nieces and nephews there's always something to do.

This year we added a little something special, though. My mom's been saving for years to remodel her bathrooms. Several thousand dollars later, she finally has two wonderful new bathrooms.

And no money for new accessories and towels! LOL

At my niece Carissa's bridal shower we got to thinking that it would be a good idea to throw my mother a sprinkle for her bathrooms. Not as big or elaborate as a full-fledged 'shower' a sprinkle would have just enough invitees to get the new towels, toothbrush holders, fuzzy rugs and wall art to complete her new bathrooms.

A few days later (at my niece Lea's graduation party) we counted out how many people we had to invite (sisters, sisters-in-law and nieces), and how few things a person really needs for a bathroom and we realized we had more people than gifts.

So we did what any red-blooded American family would. We decided to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond together on Tuesday night. . .Oh, wait, Laura works on Tuesday nights, let's make it Wednesday. . .and buy all the things my mom would need and then split the cost.

We chose Johnstown, and, at niece Madeline's ballet recital, realized that we had to make that Altoona because Mary and Jessica would be working that day and they could meet us after work if we went to Altoona.

In group email on Monday morning, we realized we couldn't shop on empty stomachs. So a visit to Chilli's was planned for before we hit the stores.

At the last minute on Wednesday, two of my sisters couldn't come along but two of my nieces joined us (probably for the margaritas).

While we ate, we discussed who would bring what food for the sprinkle. (Please. You are not getting eighteen adult women together to give gifts without serving pie. Or cake. My youngest sister Tammy makes cakes that will make you weep and thank your maker.)

I was assigned wine. I cannot cook. So I daily thank God that there is a need for drinks and plastic silverware at parties. Otherwise, I'd have to hang my head in shame.

After some jumbo margaritas we trooped into the first store. As usually happens with normal women, we spent the time in the first store negotiating our tastes.
Unfortunately, even though we had a clear picture of what we wanted, the second store didn't have it.

Store number three was actually a bridal shop. My niece, Carissa, who was with us, is getting married and none of us has a dress. Might as well kill two birds with one stone, right? Wrong. We flipped through racks, lamented weight gain, lamented being too old to wear some of the styles, tried on a few and left without any one of us having bought a dress.

Back on the trail for bathroom supplies, we hit two more stores before finally, finally finding some wonderful things that all seven us of agreed on without a hitch. (It really is possible to find things seven women will like. . .the items simply have to be absolutely gorgeous and well priced!)

In the parking lot we decided that the gifts should be wrapped. Oddly, the bathrooms that didn't need so many things actually needed an entire cart of things. Mirrors, extra toilet paper holders (not to be confused with the actual toilet paper roller by the commode), shower curtains, shower curtain hooks, fancy towels, every day towels, art work, fuzzy rugs, wicker baskets, towel racks, soap dishes, tooth brush holders, soap dispensers, waste baskets. . .and other things I'm sure I'm forgetting.

There was some definite wrapping to be done. So we decided to meet Saturday evening at my at my mother's after my sister Helen took Mom to church. We would drink wine (we certainly couldn't wrap gifts thirsty) and wrap the presents.

Saturday night, while my oldest sister Helen took our unsuspecting mom to church, Laura and Tammy straightened the kitchen while Kate and Carissa (two nieces) and I knelt on the living room floor and wrapped the gifts. Then niece Stephanie arrived with a friend and they joined the wrapping team. My sister Janette and her daughter Mandy arrived and they also wrapped. I looked up at one point and could have sworn I was in Santa's workshop.

The highlight of the wait for mom to return from church was when Tammy's S'mores cake caught on fire in the oven. After my brother Brian beat out the flames with a dishtowel, we pronounced it no worse for the wear, (who doesn't love a good charred marshmallow?) put it back in the oven to finish baking and later served it as if nothing had happened.

When my mother arrived home and saw all the cars in the driveway she thought someone had died and the whole family was there to support her. Imagine her surprise when she realized she was getting new toilet brushes and uber-fancy toilet paper holders.

While she opened her gifts, we ate pie and banana splits, drank wine and ate flambeed S'mores cake.

The next day at Gavin and Owen's birthday party at niece Jessica's house, we debriefed. Everything had been perfect. My mother loved the things we'd chosen. The apple pie was the best we'd had in a long time. White Zinfandel goes with anything.

That evening, I got home, finally put up my feet, seriously ready after the week we'd had to just get some rest, and my calendar fell off the coffee table. As I picked it up, I read. . .Helen's last day of school Monday -- set date for shopping for dress for Carissa's wedding, hair appointment on Tuesday with Laura, sister breakfast on Wednesday, surprise party for Dr. K on Saturday (bring a salad and a dessert).

Yep. It's summer. We've hit the ground running!

(Don't forget MAID IN MONTANA in stores now!)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Power of a Happy Ending

MAID IN MONTANA is now available on Amazon and should be in bookstores over the next few days. Monday is the official release date, but some stores will get it earlier. This is my thirty-eighth or thirty-ninth book. . .I'd have to go to my book list and count to know for sure and . . . well, it's just too early in the day to do math.

The release of an author's first book is such a cause for celebration that actual money is spent on champagne and parties. (I just remembered, my fortieth will be released in this must be 39!) But thirty-ninth books are sadly ignored.

But that would be a real shame in the case of MAID IN MONTANA.

Yeah, I know. I wrote the book, so I should feel that way. The truth is I put my whole heart and soul into every book I write. I want readers to come away uplifted and encouraged. Glad to be alive. Hopeful that there is good in the world. Willing to trust again.

That seems like a tall order for a story but that's why I write romance. Every day I see good in the world. I have three kids who aren't turning out too badly. Mikie has health issues, but we have two fabulous doctors - our family doctor and Mikie's neurologist - who keep him healthy.

My husband is...I genuinely believe...the best husband in the world!

I have six great sisters and four great brothers. My sisters-in-law are like friends. They've been the mothers of nieces and nephews I adore. My sisters are my friends. We shop, drink margaritas, plan parties, host parties. . .never thinking about the cost or the food because we all know that we'll chip in. Our goal is to see our children's graduations celebrated, weddings be picture perfect, birthdays acknowledged.

We have wonderful neighbors with three adorable little boys who will someday play football in our combined back yards.

My editors are knowledgeable, thoughtful women. If they didn't live "across the pond" I'd visit them. If they lived in my town, they'd probably be my friends.

You're probably thinking, "Oh, yeah, lady, you can say that because your life sounds easy." Go back up a few paragraphs. My son has had serious health issues his entire life. My mother had a major heart attack that precludes her from doing a lot of the things she loves. In my early years as a wife and mother, money was tight! So tight I once debated buying a $2 box of generic cookies.

And right now, I don't have a stairway. . .well, I have the stairs, just no banister! LOL My entire house needs to be remodeled because it's over twenty years old but with our recent recession woes, that's probably not going to happen.

But we have a roof over our heads, food to eat, and good company. . solid, trustworthy companionship.

And that's what I try to write about in my books. Life isn't about finding a rich hero (though that has its merit!). It's about seeing the people in your life for who they really are. Inside. When we take the time to really love the people around us, nine chances out of ten our vision of the world will change.

And maybe, just maybe, we'll become easier to love ourselves.

So read MAID IN MONTANA. See how a even a cranky rancher can become a better man when he stops long enough on life's trail to help a single mom.