Friday, March 22, 2013

The Friday Morning Bear Report

Baby Bear was up at 4:30 this morning.  I went into his room to find him fully dressed, all the sheets ripped from his bed, and the bed itself completely disassembled.  A suspicious puddle lurked in the corner, just waiting for my bare foot to step into it.  Oddly enough, the light was off, but it couldn’t be turned on without yanking on the pull-chain in the ceiling fan.  Yet I couldn’t turn it on for the following reasons: 

(1) He’d long since removed most of the pull-chain, so what remains is only two inches long.

(2) The bed on which I might have stood to reach it was in pieces.

(3) I didn’t feel like searching for the stepstool at such an ungodly hour.

(4) Even though HE’S tall enough to reach it without artificial assistance, he wasn’t about to help this time because he had more important matters on his mind—like escape. 

So I had to rely on the hallway light.  Meanwhile, Bear grabbed his shoes and thought he might turn on the TV and enjoy a little Playstation or Netflix.  I thought otherwise and remanded him to his lair once it was back in order.

Of course, his father slept through all of this, though that didn’t stop him from remarking many hours later that he could’ve sworn he’d heard strange noises in his sleep.  The only reason I didn’t wake him up for assistance is because he thinks a 10 minute sleep disruption to deal with his son’s vagaries automatically entitles him to three extra hours of sleep.

Bear never went back to sleep.  Neither did I.  On the upside, he went to school in a better mood than I’m in this morning.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

WAGERED TO THE DUKE by Karen Lingefelt

The Truth About Georgiana, written in 2005, had a secondary character for whom I never intended to write a book.  Her name was Kate Baxter, and she was the hero’s sister.  She wore spectacles, enjoyed playing the pianoforte, and expressed opinions that everyone else preferred she keep to herself.  In the original version of Georgiana, Kate was betrothed at the end of the book to a timid widower old enough to be her father.  Early last year, as I gave Georgiana a final polishing before submitting it for publication, I had a sudden, inexplicable hankering to write a story for Kate.  It was almost as if she was screaming for her own story.  
So I started writing something in which she was still betrothed to the widower, waiting for his one-year mourning period to end.  Apparently she was still determined to go through with it, but then along came the widower’s long lost son who was much closer to her age.
I’d written several chapters when I received the revisions and edits for Georgiana’s book, in which the editor singled out Kate and wanted to know why she was so willing to settle for a much older widower?  Kate was in her late twenties, which in Regency England was the equivalent of pushing forty, so maybe she thought this was the best she could do.  But surely she could do better?  Since I didn’t like what I’d written thus far on her story, this was like a gift from the heavens—or at least the editor—so I removed any hint of Kate’s betrothal or supposed interest in the widower from Georgiana’s story.  It never happened!  This allowed me to start over from scratch and do whatever I wanted with her.
I’d always wanted to write a “road romance” as well as one where the hero won the heroine in a wager and here was my chance to do one or the other.  I decided to stick a bar of chocolate into the jar of peanut butter and do both.  I resolved to complete this book before the end of 2012.
At the Tampa Area Romance Authors, or TARA, we have what’s known as the Book Challenge.  At the start of each year, the participant pays $10.00 for each book she or he intends to write that year.  It can be a book already started from a previous year, but the whole point is to finish writing the book by the following December.
If you finish the book by the December deadline, your name goes into a drawing at the TARA holiday party.  Whoever wins the drawing receives half the money in the Book Challenge pot, with the other half going to TARA.  I won in 2006 with the manuscript that later became Pride and Promises.
Usually we have “mini-challenges” within the Book Challenge.  The most popular of these is called the 100 x 100:  The goal is to write 100 words a day for 100 days, which gets one in the habit of writing every day.
When I took part in the 100 x 100 back in 2008, I turned it into the 1,000 x 100.  I wanted to see if I could write a book in 100 days, and to do that I had to turn out a word count of approximately 1,000 words a day.  I crashed and burned on Day 88.
But in 2012, when our Book Challenge launched its annual 100 x 100 challenge, I resolved to write the whole book in those 100 days.  And I did, using my1,000 x 100 formula.  The first draft of Wagered to the Duke was written in 87 days, from May 1 to July 26, 2012, with a total word count of 93,297 that was pared down in the revision process that began a month later after Baby Bear started a new school year.
And I won the Book Challenge again in December!
I love the cover of this book.  Even though the story is set in Regency England, the cover has a sort of 1930’s screwball comedy look to it that fits the overall tone of the book.  Think Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.  Or Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.  Or Cary Grant and Myrna Loy.  Or Cary Grant and—well, you fill in the blank.  And the artist, Harris Channing, took great care to give Kate green eyes. 

En route to a dreary governess position, Katherine Baxter meets a frightened young woman whose brother wagered and lost her to a Scottish duke traveling to London, where Kate longs to go and be reunited with her own brother. Craving the adventure she’s never had, Kate brazenly takes the girl’s place but must hide her growing attraction to the dashing duke she can never hope to have.

Nathan Fraser, Duke of Loring, has no need for the plain, bespectacled woman he won at cards, for he plans to choose his bride from a bevy of beauties at a London ball. But when an enemy from his past threatens to claim the prize, Nathan’s honor forces him to keep this headstrong lass under his protection. As they travel incognito on a rollicking odyssey as husband and wife, the high-spirited Kate proves to be more trouble than he gambled for, yet Nathan risks all to win her heart while losing his own.

Buy here or here.   

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Annual Christmas Shopping Post, 2012 Edition

As part of the family budgeting program, we have a certain amount of money allocated exclusively for Christmas presents.  Even though we’ve acquired everything requested (save for the newest Ice Age movie that doesn’t come out till next Tuesday), we still have an ample amount left in the budget, so Mr. Lucky and I went to the mall today to do some extra Christmas shopping. 

We found something for one child at The Disney Store, and something for the other child at the As Seen On TV Store.  In the case of the latter, it was NOT a Chia Pet, a Clapper, a set of Ginzu Steak Knives, or even a Turby Twist.  It was actually a wooden puzzle which I’ve never seen advertised on TV. 

In both instances, Mr. Lucky was the one who pulled out the debit card and made the purchases. 

When we returned home, I placed all shopping bags on our bed to be wrapped later. 

I went to my office and opened my laptop. 

Moments later, Mr. Lucky came into the office with a sheet of paper and a pen. “How much did we spend today?”

Hello?  Who made the actual purchases?  I told him to check the sales slips in the bags on the bed.

“I don’t want to do that,” he said. “What did we buy?  That puzzle and what else?”

Again, “Check the sales slips in the bags on the bed.”

Men!  I think he wanted me to get up and go check the sales slips, but I stood my ground—or rather, I sat my seat.  I wasn’t budging.  Finally he left, grumbling under his breath.  A few minutes later he came back and told me how much was left in the Christmas budget after today’s purchases.  He then asked if there was anything else I wanted. 

I asked him if he got everything on the wish list I e-mailed him.  There are seven items on that list.

“I’m pretty sure I got everything,” he replied.

But did he?  Four packages arrived yesterday from Amazon in three separate deliveries, and they’re all addressed to him, so those must be my presents.  They’re still sitting in the front hall, unopened.  He has yet to take them into his man-cave to confirm all seven items have arrived. 

I have reason to believe he’s one item short.   

Before I e-mailed him the wish list, I tallied up the cost of my wishes.  On Sunday he mentioned placing a large order on Amazon, and wrote down the amount. 

The amount he put down is approximately $11.00 less than my tally. 

One of the items on my wish list happens to be $11.68.  (It’s a book.  Almost everything on my list is a book.  Year after year.) No, none of the prices on any of the items have dropped at any time as sometimes happens on Amazon.

Even before I sent him the wish list, he said he’d bought a few items for me already.  I would be very shocked indeed if he’d already bought this particular book.  I suppose it’s possible, but I think it’s a long shot.

This is going to drive me insane until Christmas Day.  And maybe that’s his intention.    

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

PRIDE AND PROMISES by Karen Lingefelt

Who’s up for some “fun facts” about my newest Regency Historical? 

Pride and Promises was written in 2006.  It was the first book I wrote on a laptop, which Mr. Lucky gave to me the previous Christmas. 

I saved my work in a folder marked “UR5” for “Unpublished Regency No. 5.” I was about a third of the way through the book when I decided the story wasn’t working at all, so I dumped the whole thing and started over. 

But before I started over, I wrote a 5-page (approx. 1,400 words) synopsis for the story as part of a Tampa Area Romance Authors (TARA) critique workshop.  Usually I can’t write a synopsis till after the book is written, but in this case, I forced myself.  It took me all of one day, about eight hours, to write it.  To this day it remains the only book where I wrote a complete synopsis of the story before the book itself was written.  I really need to make that a regular habit!   

In submitting the synopsis to the aforementioned workshop, I had to come up with a working title besides “UR5” so I called it Malcolm in the Midden.  While there was never a scene where he found himself stuck in a dungheap, he does find himself tangled in quite a mess, figuratively speaking.  A fellow writer critiquing the synopsis suggested Malcolm in a Muddle, which I had to admit was a slight improvement. 

I underwent some stressful life events while writing this book:  Mr. Lucky was deployed to the Middle East, while our firstborn moved away from home, leaving just me and Baby Bear.  And there was other doo-doo flung by doo-doo flingers who didn’t think I had enough doo-doo already.  Yet all of this was nothing compared to what I endured while writing PR1, or Published Regency No. 1. I continued writing, and managed to complete the book before Mr. Lucky returned home.
The book went on to win the 2006 TARA Book Challenge, in which participants feed $10.00 into a kitty at the start of the year for every book they plan to write that year.  Completed manuscripts are brought to the TARA holiday party the following December, with the authors’ names entered into a drawing.  Whoever wins collects half of the pot, with the other half going to TARA.  I won $200.00. 

Several years later, the book, now titled Pride and Promises, was a finalist in the 2009 TARA Contest. 

Three years later, it’s finally published!             

Malcolm has to be one of my favorite heroes.  He first appeared as a secondary character in Confessions of a Lady Ruined, in which he was shot and wounded by a bungling sniper who mistook him for the hero of that book.  He played a larger role in The Truth About Georgiana as the title heroine’s older brother who was abducted and briefly held captive, only to observe afterward, brandy in hand, that if misfortunes happen in threes, then all that remained for him after being shot and abducted was marriage.   

That finally got him the starring role in Pride and Promises.

Friday, September 21, 2012

On the Treadmill

This week I went on a treadmill for the very first time in my life as part of a stress echocardiogram test (to make a long story short, I’m expected to live).  The technicians seemed surprised that I’d never been on a treadmill before.   

Not all of us have gym memberships.   

I get my exercise by walking a mile, sometimes two miles around the neighborhood several times a week.  And it’s not some casual stroll, either—it’s a very brisk walk.  I’ve always been a fast walker, and while I wouldn’t mind the company of Mr. Lucky, I always leave him behind when I go walking because even if he went with me, I’d leave him behind anyway.  He’s always exhorting me to “slow down” but that’ll never happen unless he puts me on a leash along with the beagles.   

And no, I don’t take the beagles with me, either—they want to stop and sniff everything, and I just want to walk.   

What do I need with a treadmill?  I’ve certainly thought about the what-ifs of life with a treadmill in the house.  For one thing, it would allow me to go walking at any time, regardless of the weather or temperature.  I wouldn’t have to worry about suffering The Pamela Tudsbury Effect, in which every time I see someone approaching from the opposite direction, I have to feel like a neurotic fool getting ready to smile from forty paces away, when my forced friendliness could be all for nothing if the other person fails to even make eye contact. 

But that’s where the advantages end.  Actually, they end when I see the price tags on treadmills.  Do I really want to take out a second mortgage just because I’m an introvert who hates having to grin and mumble, “Hello” to strangers, and walk around slow pokes because they might be offended by the fact that I think they’re too slow for me even if I don’t say anything?   

Shockingly enough, even I’m not that neurotic.  I walk away from the treadmills, satisfied that I can get just as much of a workout by walking that mile or two around the neighborhood.

As I got on the treadmill for the first time the other day, I had to date myself by making some crack about being like George Jetson on the dogwalker (“Jane, get me off this crazy thing!”) that the technicians probably hear at least once a week.  Once the test was underway, I got the hang of it rather quickly, though I was advised at one point to, “walk, don’t march.”

Don’t march?  I was marching?  I left the Air Force twenty-four years ago, and I’m still marching like I’m on my way to the chow hall?   For a moment I felt like one of the von Trapp children—I don’t play, I march.  Is that what I do when I’m perambulating around the neighborhood—I march? 

Only now do I realize what they meant.  I wasn’t doing an Air Force march, which was basically just everyone walking in time with the same footsteps, left right left, but more of a kindergarten march, where the children lift their knees straight up and stomp the feet straight back down.  It was more of an incline than I’m used to after eighteen years of living in predominantly flat Florida (and by the way, I’ve now lived in Florida longer than I’ve lived anywhere else). 

But I was surprised at the workout I got in less than ten minutes—perhaps more than I get from twenty to forty minutes of walking one or two miles. 

So maybe I would also save more time by exercising on a treadmill.  A whole half hour.  But I still don’t think that’s worth shelling out all that money that’s better spent on my bibliophilia.  That and we don’t have room for it; plus Mr. Lucky already has his own chair of exercise equipment that takes up space and collects dust, and I might not be able to hold that over his head anymore if I got a treadmill.

Oh, and let’s not forget Baby Bear.  In fact, let’s not even go there.  While it might be a good workout for his pent-up energy, he’s unable to comprehend the potential hazards and their consequences.  Even with close supervision, he’s quick enough to hurt himself in two seconds.  It’s not worth the risk. 

The treadmill is fine for others, but I think I’ll continue to walk around the neighborhood enduring slow pokes and the awful agony of having to stretch my facial muscles into a smile every time someone comes my way.            

I don’t think my facial muscles would get such a much-needed workout on a treadmill.

Friday, July 13, 2012

In Which Mr. Lucky Becomes a Rival Blogger

Mr. Lucky has started his own blog that mainly chronicles his ongoing efforts to lose weight.  His other topics include photography tips (he was a photographer while in the military) and his own 21st century take on George Washington's Rules of Civility. 

In the meantime, he's been going back to college on the 9/11 GI Bill.  He had to write an essay for one of his classes which I would've loved to put on my own blog as it fits so well with what I usually write about here; but since he's started his own blog, I will cross-post it instead:    

my daily belly: Pizza, My Favorite Food

Read it and tell me if it doesn't sound like something that could be on my blog, only from his point of view.  The irony is if he hadn't eaten all that pizza, his blog would probably be called something besides My Daily Belly.

BTW, he blogs under a different name than Mr. Lucky and refers to me by the name of a well known supermodel, which might be complimentary if only she wasn't a supermodel from the last century. 

I gotta love this man.  Belly and all.     

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Unsurprising Fakery of House Hunters

I enjoy watching the popular HGTV program House Hunters, but I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see on the news this last week that many elements of the program are faked.  Indeed, I don’t see how they couldn’t be.  I fail to see why this is newsworthy, well aware that others might question why it even merits a topic for my blog.   

Honestly!  What’s the big deal?  It’s always made sense to me that the show was staged to a certain extent; that by the time the people “chose” their dream home toward program’s end, not only had they long since selected it before the program was even taped, but they’d already signed the papers and been mercilessly wrung through that meat-grinder known as the mortgage application process.  (If you’ve ever bought a home, then you know it’s really not too different from making sausage.)  

For instance, you know those scenes where the couple is playing hearts in the cramped old apartment they hope to vacate soon, and his cell phone rings. “I wonder if that’s our agent,” he says, picking up the cell without even bothering to check his caller ID. “Hello?  Oh hi, Agent!” He leans across the card table and sotto voce, tells his wife as if she hasn’t already figured it out, “It’s the agent!”

She gasps. “Maybe it’s about the offer we made on the house!” 

He returns his attention to the cell. “What’s up, Agent?  Really!  That’s great news!” Whereupon he rudely cuts off the real estate agent and says to his wife, “Guess what, honey?  The seller accepted our offer!  We got the house!” And the wife shrieks in delight as playing cards go flying.   

Seriously!  Did anyone out there ever think for a moment that THAT wasn’t staged?  That the videographer didn’t move in with these people and keep the camera running at all times till the phone call came? 

Really!  It’s not as if House Hunters is some old game show where a favored long-term contestant is furtively being supplied with answers to trivia questions.  So the participants’ life stories are embellished!  Who among us hasn’t padded a resume, exaggerated an employee evaluation/performance report, or cobbled together composite characters in our memoirs?

Frankly, I’ve never cared about the participants’ life stories.  I watch House Hunters for—are you ready for this?—the houses!  I love looking at different houses, and how other people live.  I like to imagine that I’m the one checking out those houses and picking out my favorite.  For the record, the participants rarely pick out the one I like, but then I’m not looking for the same features they are.  

It seems to me that for most of these prospective homebuyers, their primary consideration is choosing a house that will best impress their friends.  They say they like to do lots of entertaining.  To this end, they want a house with an open floor plan.  They want the kitchen configured in such a way that they can talk to their guests while they prepare food and sip from a glass of wine.  I’ve lost count of how many episodes I’ve seen where they say this.  The kitchen could have cabinets galore and acres of counter space and fully upgraded appliances and recessed lighting to die for—but if there’s no way their guests can sit on barstools on the far side of that counter, slurping margaritas and listening to their hostess pontificate while she slices and dices and juliennes and takes an occasional sip from her glass of Zinfandel, then it’s thumbs down on an otherwise perfect house. 

Maybe I can’t relate because even though I do have an open kitchen, I can’t talk and prepare food at the same time.  Nor do I want people watching me do it.  It leaves me open to unsolicited comments and suggestions and critiques—but maybe that’s why I’m supposed to keep them plied with alcoholic beverages.  I do know it’s why I’d keep the bottle and the glass of Zinfandel handy, and all my knives sharpened.     

Of course, they also insist upon a guest room, preferably secluded with its own private entrance to the pool out back.  The wife wants it for when her mother comes to visit.  (Mr. Lucky: “Just give her a sleeping bag and a flashlight, and put her in a pup tent in the backyard.”) Every episode invariably ends with an elegant dinner party or backyard cookout attended by all the friends for whom the couple with their growing brood really bought the house.  

Because of Baby Bear, Mr. Lucky and I just want a house that’s built solidly enough that we’ll have a roof and at least four walls still standing by the time the mortgage is paid off and our Ursine Terror has left to rampage and ransack elsewhere.  I suppose if we wanted to buy another house and went on House Hunters, the producers would embellish our life story by portraying us as wanting an open floor plan not to give the Bear plenty of room to run around and fewer walls to knock down, but because we want to throw lots of parties for our many friends. 

Apparently viewers will find that more fascinating—and certainly less horrifying.    

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Another lighthearted romantic comedy set in Regency England.

She can cause scandal just by opening her mouth, whether to say something shocking or steal a kiss from a handsome stranger.  To Georgiana Hayward’s horror, her despairing family betroths her to a marquess who’s hardly England’s most eligible bachelor, but is certainly the oldest.  Worse, his dashing nephew and outraged heir, Anthony Baxter, is the man she brazenly kissed and secretly desires, but to win him she must remain betrothed to his uncle, and start behaving properly.  
A stickler for propriety, Anthony opposes this harebrained match due to decorum, panicked relatives, and especially Georgiana’s kiss that’s put a chink in his armor.  When his efforts to dissuade the notorious hellion leave him frustrated, amused, and falling in love with a woman no one else dares to know, Anthony must shed his dented, cumbersome armor and risk a scandal of his own to claim the heart of this wild vixen.

Out of the seventeen books I’ve written since I first started writing, The Truth About Georgiana is one of my absolute favorites, while Georgiana herself is one of my favorite heroines.   

In an era when women seldom misbehave or say what they really think for fear of being shunned by good society, Georgiana does both, at great peril to herself, her reputation, and her future.  By contrast, the book’s hero, Anthony Baxter, adheres to the rigid rules of society so as to protect himself, his reputation, and his own future—which isn’t really the future he wants.  

But as in any aspect of life, to get what you really want always requires you to take a risk of some sort.  To gain anything, you will always stand to lose something else.  You need only decide if what you hope to gain is worth what you might lose.  This is a lesson the book’s hero, Anthony Baxter, learns from Georgiana herself.

The Truth About Georgiana is the last book I ever wrote on a desktop computer, before Mr. Lucky bought me a laptop so he could spend more time on the computer.  What happened in my life while writing this book?  I served as Vice President of the Tampa Area Romance Authors.  Our firstborn was hospitalized with pneumonia.  We also built a brand new house and moved into it, only to endure some of the usual brand new house glitches:  The dishwasher flooded the kitchen the first time we used it, and the bathtub leaked into my office next door.  I’d be sitting at the computer and suddenly notice that the carpet beneath my feet was feeling cold and squishy and wet.  Everything had to be pulled up and out, and the carpet and padding had to be replaced.   

Alas, that was not the last time we had to do it.  But not all house floods are caused by Baby Bear!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Writing the Write on Walking the Walk

I walk about two miles every day. It’s just about one mile from my house to the community center, so there and back makes two miles. I hope to increase it. I used to walk in the mornings, after putting Baby Bear on the bus, but this being Florida, at this time of year it’s now too hot to walk that distance at nine in the morning. I can’t do it any earlier because the Bear himself is frequently up around six. So now I go in the early evening, when it’s relatively cooler.

There are just two little things I don’t like about the walking, both of which come from having a hopelessly introverted personality: Having to go around people ahead of me who walk slower than I do, and greeting strangers walking or biking in the opposite direction.

Anytime I set out walking and I see someone else on the sidewalk ahead of me, my heart sinks. I don’t have to run to catch up to them. I’ve always walked very fast, and Mr. Lucky is always exhorting me to slow down and wait for him. It’s my normal pace. If I walk at my normal pace, I will always catch up to whoever is walking in front of me, even if they’re a hundred feet ahead. Sometimes I think if other people walked any slower, they’d leave a trail of slime.

I can’t slow down myself. I’ve tried. It drives me insane. My legs must move faster, only not fast enough to run. As I catch up to the person in front of me, for some stupid reason I always dread having to go around them. I’m afraid they’ll hear me coming up behind them and turn to look—and then I’ll have to smile and say something to them (oh, God forbid) as I hasten around them.

Yes, I know. Just go around them, Karen! It won’t kill you to smile and say, “It’s just me,” and then go around them!

This wouldn’t be a problem for me if I ran, or rode a bike. Runners and bikers go around me in the same direction, and we’re all cool with it. But this is walking. No one ever walks around me. I have to walk around everyone else, or take baby snail steps and make slime.

And then there’s what I call “The Pamela Tudsbury Effect.” In a scene from one of my all-time favorite novels, Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War (I can’t recall if it’s also in the mini-series, not having seen it as many times as I’ve read the book), protagonist Victor Henry is enjoying an early morning stroll around the deck of a passenger ship taking him to his new assignment in Germany. He figures five laps around the ship add up to about a mile, and he means to walk up to fifteen or twenty laps if he can.

Ambling in the opposite direction is Pamela Tudsbury, who has a similar objective. On each side of the deck they run into each other, so they smile and say hello. After this happens two or three times, Henry suggests joining her in going the same direction. Pamela is grateful for this, confessing that every time she sees him coming towards her, she feels like a fool preparing to grin and greet from so many paces away.

How I can empathize!

Every time I see someone coming up the sidewalk in the opposite direction, I find myself clearing my throat and pushing any stray hair back from my face. I try not to make eye contact till we’re within ten paces. Then I force all the muscles around my mouth to stretch back into some semblance of a pleasant expression, and with a deep breath I manage to push a pathetically mealy-mouthed “Hi” out of my throat.
Ninety-nine percent of the time they’ll say something first, but I always respond even if it kills me, or I think it will. Sometimes I worry they might not have heard my response and they’ll press on wondering what my problem is. But would it really make sense for me to say “Hi” again, only louder—just in case they might not have heard me the first time?

One percent of the time I might actually be first to grin and greet, but let me tell you, for the introvert, that’s death.

Especially when the other person doesn’t respond, or even look at me. Then I get to wonder what their problem is.

Do such people have any idea of how much effort it takes for me to stretch my facial muscles into something approaching a smile? To force that choked “Hi” out of my mouth? And most importantly, of how stupid I feel to have socially exerted myself for nothing?

I wonder if this is why treadmills are so popular? Are they just preferred by introverts, or people who don’t want to have to walk around obstacles and someone else’s slime?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Does This Make Me a Victim of Birtherism?

My driver's license is up for renewal, so today I went to renew it. New regulations in Florida require the presentation of certain documents in order to renew, to wit: Proof of U.S. citizenship (e.g. birth certificate); SSN card; two documents confirming current residence; and a marriage certificate to show the link between Karen Maiden Name on the birth certificate and Karen Married Name on the driver's license. That'll teach me not to keep my own name!

We were married in Denmark, so the marriage certificate is Danish, and in four languages! Thank the Lord I've never been divorced or remarried, or I would've had to bring along divorce and marriage documents for each and every marital misadventure, because Florida wants to see the whole painful trail of name changes.

The birth certificate is wallet-sized and sort of resembles a credit card. It includes the Seal of the State of Washington, where I was born, and clearly states that it's a "Birth Record Certification" from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. On the reverse it states, THIS CERTIFICATION IS A TRUE ABSTRACT OF THE ORIGINAL BIRTH RECORD OF THE PERSON NAMED ON THE REVERSE SIDE, WHICH RECORD IS ON FILE WITH AND IN OFFICIAL CUSTODY OF THE STATE REGISTRAR OF VITAL STATISTICS AT OLYMPIA. ISSUED UNDER AUTHORITY OF SECTION 43.20.090 REVISED CODE OF WASHINGTON. Signed by some bureaucrat who by now is probably enjoying a nice fat pension.

(Bear with me; I really do intend to get somewhere with this.)

Although not requested, I also brought along my DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty, just in case I needed to wave it at them and yell something along the lines of, "You can't do this to me--I'm an honorably discharged veteran!"

Once there, the clerk spent quite a long time furrowing her brow over the birth and marriage documents. She accepted all the other documents without incident, but these two made her suspicious, and she took them to her supervisor. At one point a third bureaucrat was summoned to scrutinize these documents which certified two of the most important events in my otherwise pathetic life. What, were they going to deny me a new driver's license because they didn't think my marriage was valid?

No, but in the end they turned me down because in their collective opinion, my birth certificate was not valid and ergo unacceptable.

That birth certificate, obtained and given to me by a parental unit, was accepted for enlistment in the United States Armed Forces. It was accepted when I applied for a passport. It was accepted by the rejecting triumvirate's Danish counterparts when we applied for a marriage license. The United States Air Force, in turn, accepted the marriage license as the basis for changing my last name and later, recognizing me as a military dependent spouse.

But it is unacceptable for the mere renewal of a driver's license in Florida!

Oh, I did pull out the DD Form 214, if only to prove my assertion that I was in the military where that birth certificate was accepted. They did tell me that with the 214 I could get a "V" for Veteran on my new driver's license, and I can't begin to tell you how comforting that was; but I was going to have to contact the State of Washington for a certified birth certificate.

That's costing me $31.50. In the meantime, they kindly issued me a temporary driver's license in case the birth certificate doesn't arrive before the current license's expiration date of March 16th.

Thank you for letting me rant.