Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Have Yourself a Merry Little Controversy

There’s a lot of controversy out there about the correct way to offer holiday greetings in our multi-cultural society. Although I’m not one for political correctness, I do have strong opinions about the slow but steady encroaching of holiday greetings in our society, and so on behalf of all who are fed up with excessive obligatory phrases, I present:

Guidelines for Greetings

“Happy New Year!” Appropriate for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day only. After that, shut up about it. Other cultural New Years greetings, (Jewish, Chinese, Tibetan, whatever), should be exchanged on the appropriate day, by people who celebrate that tradition and their close friends.

“Happy Valentines Day” This greeting should be exchanged between loved ones on Valentines’ Day only. Also appropriate for elementary school Valentines parties and card exchanges. Should not be used among random strangers, except as an invitation for a one night stand.

“Happy St. Patricks’ Day.” On March 17th only. Must be either a.) Irish b.) Wearing Green or c.) Drunk.

“Happy Easter.” Should be used in conjunction with the actual celebration of Easter either at a place of worship or among friends and family. Exception: if you are wearing an Easter Bunny costume.

“Happy Memorial Day” Seriously? Don’t say it. Remember your loved ones, appreciate your family, grill some meat.

“Happy Fourth of July” Can be said on July 4th. Preferably while waving a flag or watching fireworks.

“Happy Labor Day” Come on people, just shut up. We are in denial that summer is over. Besides this just sounds like you’re creepily encouraging a birth.

“Happy Halloween” this should be said to or by trick-or-treaters. On Halloween. Please do not wish me a Happy Halloween the entire month of October. It’s just weird, and pretty much convinces me you’re trying to sell extra Halloween crap.

“Happy Thanksgiving” Say it on Thanksgiving. Or the day before. If you must.

“Merry Christmas” can be said up to one week before or 3 days after Christmas. Best used among those actually celebrating, but can be given as a standard greeting, in place of other meaningless conventional phrases, like “How are you?” and “Have a nice day.” If you choose to take offense when someone wishes you Merry Christmas, you must also ask probing follow-up questions every time someone says they’re “Fine, thank you.”

“Happy Holidays” is a perfectly acceptable generic greeting that can be used from about a week before Thanksgiving, until the day after New Year’s Day. Those offended by this should feel free to NOT have a nice day.

All other religious, cultural or personal holidays can be wished on the appropriate day to and by those celebrating. Happy Birthday to you. You’re welcome.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Irish Moss. The only thing that looks good in the garden right now. Reminds me of fields of winter wheat. I love seeing the bright green surprise in the dreary winter landscape.


Christmas Music. Barenaked for the Holidays, by the Barenaked Ladies (of course) my all time favorite.

Commercialism. I’m probably the only person who doesn’t bemoan the commercialization of Christmas. But the idea that there’s one time of year to focus on generosity and acquisition is just so. . .efficient. I love it that the stores are jam-packed with people and products and decorations and music. Even the 12 years I worked in retail, I loved it.

Cookies. And other holiday baking traditions. But especially creatively decorated cut-out sugar cookies.

Cinnamon. Scented candles, sprinkled on oatmeal, and Big Red gum, which I chew while baking so I don’t eat too much cookie dough.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Open Mike

21 days into Novemeber, and I'm woefully behind on my goal of finishing my book by the end of the month. I've managed to crank out 21,000+ words and 10 chapters, but I still haven't made it to the end.

I figure if I write a chapter a day for the next 10 day, I might make it. But that's a big might, because I've just reached another one of those awful bogged down and discouraged places, where I'm pretty sure my book sucks. Where I feel like every single book I happen to pick up, or hear about, or suddenly remember from freshman year of high school English class, has already done what I'm doing, or at least part of it.

I keep thinking of that Bare Naked Ladies song, "It's All Been Done." It's not like I've stumbled across another story exactly like mine. But whenever I come across similar elements or themes, I start to panic. Heck, I'll be honest, I start to panic if I come across a story that has a character with the same name as one of mine.

Then I start to worry that my story is too over the top, my writing is too wordy (yes it is, but I'm working on it) and that this is bound to suck.

But you know what, I'm not giving up. I happen to love this story, and I love my characters. They've been growing a lot over the past 6 months, and I want to see what happens with them.

The first novel I attempted to write will never be seen by another human in my lifetime. But this one, I'm putting out there. I will finish it, revise it, query it and receive a bunch of rejections. I'll show it to friends and fellow writers for input and I'll cringe as they point out obvious flaws, or give me a half-hearted compliment.

But I'm working on the theory that everyone has to start somewhere. It's taken this long for me to just start. But I'm doing it. I'm getting up there on stage with this thing, ready to take the boos. Hoping someone will sing along. Or to eventually get a hit.

Monday, October 31, 2011

It's November Again. . .

This is my obligatory NaNoWriMo post. Thanks to a friend with a GREAT suggestion, I'm not actually doing NaNoWriMo. No offense to those who are diligently preparing to crank out their 50,000 words, but what I've come to realize is that as a writer, I'm already too wordy. I don't need any further incentive to pad my word count.
So thanks to my friend and fellow writer, Vicky G. who is also halfway through writing a book, I'll be doing FiNoWriMo, with the goal of actually finishing the first draft of my WIP by the end of November. This is just about as daunting, but more likely to help me focus and not go off on lengthy tangents that I end up cutting three days later.
Oh yeah, also, November is the month when I'll be doing all my tax classes, and skills classes, and maybe a certification exam too. Should be a piece of cake.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Satisfaction

Thinking about things that are "worth it" as opposed to things that are not. A list.

Worth it:

DVR
Big Screen TV
Growing Own Tomatos
Homemade Truffles
Homemade Pumpkin Leek Soup.
Blueberry Picking



Not Worth it:

High-Efficiency Front-Load Washer (any savings of reduced water use are compromised by excessive need to run cleaning cycles to prevent horrid odors)
Homemade Chocolate Covered Cherries.
Homemade Yogurt (because no one but me will eat it)
Extreme Couponing (Casual Couponing will have to do)
Nook E-reader (where to start. I can't take it in the bathtub. Tech problems getting the library books to download. Major wait list for e-library books. Starts up too slowly--i.e. it takes longer than opening a book.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Concord Grapes

It's been so long since I've posted, I bet you thought I'd stopped wasting time! Wrong. I have been a little busy between squeezing all our summer fun into the one month of summer when I could actually walk, and then going right into the paperwork deluge of back-to-school. But I've still managed to find time to learn about the world via the internet. For example, The Lion of Gripsholms Castle

Which then led me to a facebook page and before I knew it I was teaching my son the basics of photoshopping a picture.



I really hope you click through to the link, because it illustrates perfectly the whole focus and direction of this blog, and maybe even my life. Very simply put, I'm just on a mission to laugh hysterically on a daily basis.

I should point out that when I attempted to share this gem with my children they were mildly amused, but did not almost pass out laughing like I did. I'm choosing to attribute this to the fact that they watch so many cartoons that they have no idea what real animals look like. It is in no way a reflection on my own maturity level.

To sum up the highlights of my past few months:
Vacation
Internet discovery of Lion of Gripsholms Castle
Vacation to Toronto
Kids back to school
MCR concert
Germs back home from school
And Today, Concord Grapes

I wish I could pick them in my own backyard every day, like I did after school when I was a kid. Wish I could read a whole book every day like I did back then too. Although I don't miss riding the school bus. Tradeoffs.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rockin' the Towel Turban

Ah the power of a good night’s sleep.

The first indication that it would be a good day? I had a dream. That in itself proves that I slept, long and deep.

I actually dreamed about sleeping, what does that tell you?

In my dream, I was due to go to work at a new location at 11 am, and I was reading at the computer beforehand. Next thing I know, I’m waking up, and its 2 pm, so clearly I’m already 3 hours late. I kept looking at the clock as I got ready, in total disbelief that I could have been so tired that I fell asleep sitting up at a desk for that long.

When I arrived at my new job, I fully expected to get a lecture or worse. But my new boss just said, “Don’t worry about it, you’ll make it up sometime. We work hard enough, we don’t need to stress out about the clock.”

Wow! That was so nice! I was pleased about my new job as I went to the coatroom to put my things away. That’s when I realized I’d forgotten to dry my hair, and it was still wrapped up in a TurbieTwist towel. For a minute I was embarrassed, but then thought, “Now they’ve seen me at my worst, it can only get better.”

Wouldn’t that be a great place to work?

Whenever I’m getting in a rut, I tend to dream about going back to work. Yesterday, I was fed up with my current position as a stay-at-home-mom. Summers can be brutal and boring at times. I’m not really as fascinated with knock-knock jokes as my 4 and 6 year old are.

So I was thinking this morning about this awesome job, where I could show up late in my TurbieTwist, and no one cared.

Ya know, my current job does come with some pretty great benefits!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

In The Beginning

Question. What is the most important thing you will ever write?


Answer. The beginning.

I’ve been writing for a while. Or years. Or recently. Depending on how you want to define it. But this year, I decided to get serious about it. I write nearly every day. I keep of writing log of the work I’m doing on my current novel in progress. I’ve committed to a chapter a week, which may seem ambitious to some, and pathetic to others.

As part of my commitment to work seriously on writing, I’ve been reading books and blogs for advice on writing. One thing that’s come through loud and clear from all of them is how important the beginning is. The first chapter must draw readers in, have a hook; your first 50 pages must be unstoppable.

I can’t stop thinking about this advice, because I think my beginning kind of sucks. Oh I know how important they are. I studied journalism in college with an old school professor, O’Reilly Rickard, who drilled us in leads. I spent a semester in Journalism 101 writing leads every day, and not to brag, but I was pretty damn good at it.

I never pursued the field of journalism, mostly because I couldn’t fake the level of passionate idealism that seemed to be a requirement. But I still cringe at some of the horrific leads that pass for journalism these days.

But back to beginnings. You can’t write the lead, until you know the story. And with a novel, that’s a little different. Because even if you have an outline, or think you know all your plot twist and details and endings, there are still inspirations that strike as you write, still details and nuance to work out. So you don’t truly know the story until you’ve finished it.

I know this, I know I have to just keep moving on, and stop obsessing over my beginning, but then I read about a first page contest, and I started agonizing over my first 250 words. Which I might change completely, after I’m done, but still, I spent an hour analyzing each and every one of those words.

Then yesterday, I read something about a Twitter pitch. Basically one sentence, 140 characters to sum up the heart of your book. Advice about how to do it--good advice, here. I beat my head on the laptop for a while trying to come up with that. I haven’t succeeded yet, probably because I have yet to write the heart of my book.

So time to get back to writing the book, and not worrying so much about the beginning. I’m sure next week, I’ll read a blog about how the first word in your book must be riveting.

Hmmm, I wonder, what is the most compelling word in the English language?

It probably starts with Q.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Writing is Like

I wasn't actually Tagged in this game, but Heather Kelly's blog inspired me, so here goes

Writing is like painting. It looks easy until you try it. Then you realize, there's all this "pre-work.” Moving furniture, washing walls, taping off, outlining, brainstorming, character development, plotting.


Finally, you're ready to start, and you put that first coat on, and it's easy, it's kind of fun rolling the fresh color on that blank surface. But then there’s then next wall. And the next. And now you’re tired and it’s starting to bore you, even though you’re listening to all your favorite music.

At last. You’re done. Well, not really done. Now you have to wait at least 4 hours and you’re starting to think, “This is good, it probably doesn’t even need a second coat.” But you know it will; even now as it’s drying you can see places where it looks a little thin.

Time to do that second coat, and it’s even more boring. You just want to be done, to put your room back in order. It feels like you’ve been working on this project your whole life. Even worse, you’re starting to second guess your color choice and point of view (that whole 1st person/3rd person agony).

But at least after the 2nd coat, now you’re done. Oh. No. You’re not. Now, you have to wait again, untape, retape, and paint all the trim. And after all your detailing and editing is done, someone reminds you, yes the trim does need another coat. So get back to work.

But now is it done? Oh yeah, it’s done. But you are not done. Time to untape again, clean up and move the furniture back. Don’t forget to clean your paintbrushes, write your query letter and hang the curtains back up.

All that work is worth it though, for the finished product. The room looks new and bright, you sit on your sofa, admiring your work, friends visit and compliment you. It’s all good. All except for that little spot in the corner of the ceiling where it wasn’t taped quite right and the paint bled through. And there’s a smudge on the windowsill. And behind the sofa, a splatter on the carpet. You notice these things and try to accept the fact that you will never fix them.

Eventually, you’ll need to hang up some artwork too. Especially if that query letter works.

I would like to tag Vivi Bickell who listened supportively to my writer's rant a few days ago.  Clearly I haven't followed her advice to stop looking at blogs and just write. Haha.
 
As for my other two tags, if you read this and feel inspired, consider yourself tagged!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Question Is Why.

Because. Because even though you say you won’t, you will drop one or more ice cubes on the floor, causing puddles that I’ll slip on, or soak my sock in later. Because you will close the freezer door almost all the way, enough that it looks closed and fools the alarm into thinking it’s closed, but tomorrow, everything will be covered with frost crystals. Because you will track sand and dirt all over the floor, and even though you say you’ll take your shoes off, you’ll probably forget. If you do take your shoes off, you will either go back outside in stocking feet, or come bug me to put them back on because you’re too lazy to do it yourself. Because you’ll leave the screen slider open a half inch, just enough to allow an entire army of flies and mosquitoes into our house. Because you will leave a stack of wrong-color cups on the floor in front of the cupboard. Because you will splash water all over the counter top, and then wipe it up with Kleenex. Because you will drink two sips of the water and then use the rest to make a mud puddle. Because you’ll leave the empty cup directly in front of the door for me to step on. And because if I explain all this to you, you will argue each and every point, and cry and promise not to do any of these things. But you will. You will do all of these things. And a few I can’t even imagine.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Creativity vs Routine

My friend Scott just posted on facebook, the intriguing question “Does routine destroy our creativity or do we lose creativity and fall into the routine?” (from a comic by Randall at xkcd.com)
But are routine and creativity really opposing forces?

For me, creativity went on the back burner for many years while I worked full-time, because I fell into that trap of thinking that all the busyness of life and routine left no time for creativity.

As a stay-at-home mom, working only part-time during tax season, I decided I had no excuse anymore for neglecting my dream to be a writer and so, I embarked once again on a quest for creativity. But those with children know that there’s no such thing as working “part-time.” I’d find myself writing at midnight, feeling resentful of the “routine” that kept me from the creativity. Other times, I’d squeeze in a sentence or paragraph between loads of laundry, feeling (slightly) guilty that creativity was causing me to slack on the routine.

Then I broke my ankle. Which is a perfect excuse to ignore the routine, and sit at the computer with my leg elevated, churning out page after page of amazing literature.

Except it’s not working out that way. After a few productive days, it all dissolved into staring at the computer screen, fixing a typo here or there, and then reading blogs, twitter, and facebook. What I now realize, is that the routine had never really prevented the creativity. While I was washing the dishes, or making dinner, or driving in the car I was always thinking about my story, and by the time I had a chance to write, I’d already mentally done a few revisions, or came up with that perfect line of dialogue (the one that caused dinner to be a little late, because I just had to write it down).

Out and about, running errands, I’d notice things that might filter their way into my story. I saw the perfect mom for one of my characters, walking out of the grocery store as I drove by. A Cobra Mystichrome that passed me at high speed on the freeway became the perfect vehicle to sideswipe my heroine in the fan-fiction I wrote.

I’ve even made a playlist on my ipod of songs that go with my story, so I can keep the ideas flowing throughout the day. It works great to keep me focused while I’m busy. But it’s useless if I’m just sitting around. I get bored, and look for other diversions.

Tomorrow, I’m supposed to be getting a walking cast. I hope so. I hope I can get back to the routine, back to letting creativity be the cure for boring rather than the source of it. Back to breathing a sigh of relief at 9 pm because I can finally write what I’ve been longing to all day. Back to realizing I stayed up till midnight because I couldn’t stop writing, not because I couldn’t get started.

For me, creativity depends on the routine. The only essential, is to make creativity part of the routine.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Readers

I need a few people to start reading a first draft for me. Not proofreaders. Not beta readers. Not critique partners.  I'll be needing those too, in the future. Right now, I just need people who love me enough to waste a little time reading chapter by chapter installments of my book in rough draft format. People who will say stuff like "oooh, interesting, I can't wait for more." People who will nag me saying, "it's Sunday, don't you have another chapter done?"

Sure, I'll take corrections, suggestions or constructive criticism. But I'm also going to try my best to make it reader-worthy, with a minimum of typos and an effort to be at first-draft level, or at least a bit above true "rough" draft.

For any  fellow writers, I will return the favor (in any manner you like, FYI I'm a very good proofreader--to other people's work, not so much for my own). 

Here's the concept of my story, if you're interested.

Kelsey knows it’s rude to stare at Calvin Baker, when everyone else at school glances away politely. She knows it’s wrong and cruel to think of him as Creepy Boy. It’s not Calvin’s fault he was in a disfiguring accident and can barely speak a coherent sentence.



But Kelsey can’t forget her recurring dreams that predicted Calvin’s fate. And she can’t shake the haunting sensation that Calvin has returned from the dead. Soon she’s drawn into a voyeuristic fascination with Calvin and discovers that he has an obsession of his own—Kelsey’s long-time friend and recent ex-boyfriend Dave.


As Kelsey attempts to salvage her relationship with Dave, she finds herself unwillingly sympathetic to Calvin’s own attraction to Dave. Until one day she discovers Calvin’s true dark desires, depicted in the pages of the lurid comics he draws. But by then, Kelsey has already gotten too close to Creepy Boy.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Writing Blog

How would I classify myself as a writer?  Fiction, for sure.  My first effort was chick-lit, of the "lifetime movie" variety.  Which is why I suspect it's currently buried, awaiting a rewrite that may never come.  I enjoyed the tortured love-affair aspect of it, but got really tired of the redemptive ending I tried to create for my main character.  And honestly, what's the point of all the agony I put her though if she doesn't learn/grow/change?  It's just that learning and growing can be so good and boring. 

I'm new to this writing, but have been told, Young Adult is where it's at.  I know this genre is rife with fantasy, which I've never really felt inspired to imagine or write.  The other biggie is the "post apocalyptic" types, which I cannot fathom writing.  Not that I've never imagined in this style.  But usually my "end of the world as we know it" fantasies are just an excuse to send myself, my crushes, and my enemies into the wilderness, where I then show how tough, capable, clever and compassionate I am, and they all fall in love with me. A lot of fun to think of, but would be embarrassing to write.  In fact, even a little embarrassing to admit.  Just forget I even mentioned it.

The book I'm working on now, I can clearly classify as YA (teenagers, high-school, angst, it fits), paranormal (out-of-body-experiences, comic book alter ego) and romance (a twisty love-triangle).  This one is fun and I'm pretty excited about it, and it has a nice dramatic showdown for the ending, so I know I'm not going to get bored. 

I can think so much faster than I can type, and in the time I've been writing this particular blog post, I've come to the conclusion that if I had to label what I write, I'd classify it as "Misfit Romance."  Which sounded a lot better with all the accompanying thought process.  Forget I even mentioned it.

P.S. For you faithful followers of my blog who are more used to my "mommy life" type posts, I'll not be posting all of these writing posts on facebook, and if I do, I'll clearly title and label them so you know what to expect.  I'm sure there's some better way to do this, but I can't get bogged down with tech stuff.  Need to keep writing my book while I'm feeling it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Splittttttt

Just imagine a 6-year-old, missing two front teeth, with a mouth full of mostly chewed french fries, excitedly shouting "Banana Split!"

Now imagine her doing it two inches in front of your face.

No dessert for me, thank you.  I've lost my appetite.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Survey Backlash

Everybody wants to know what I think.  I'm so flattered.  Every time I go on a website, a survey window pops up.  Every time I shop, the cashier is circling something on the receipt and telling me "go to our website and take a survey."  Right.  I'll get right on that.  Just as soon as I clean out my purse.  So, like three months from now, okay?

My son's preschool just sent home a 3 page survey form.  Three pages.  Front and Back.  Something about accreditation, full of questions like "My child's teacher cares about what's important to my child, and My child's teacher gives me ample opportunities to participate in classroom activities."  And I was supposed to respond Yes; Yes, but; No, but; or No
.
The thought of answering questions with "Yes, but I couldn't care less, because I just want to get away from my kid for a few hours so I can shop, think, clean, shower without the voices in my head saying "Mommy, mommy, mommyyyy"," just seemed way too tedious, and too shamefully honest.

So I just whipped through that survey, circling yeses like crazy, even accidentally some that I should have chosen "not applicable" because overall, I'm satisfied with my child's school.  So yes, they have accommodated my child's special needs, language barriers, discipline issues, and food allergies, or, I assume they would have, if he had any.  Hope this helps.  

Then today, when I went to swipe my credit card at Kmart, the lovely card reader prompts a survey before I can even make a payment.  What tha..???

It asks me, "how likely are to to recommend to another person to shop at Kmart?"

Again, they don't have a choice that fits my thought process, which is, "Much to my surprise, I was rethinking my whole hatred of Kmart today because you actually sell plain white, sturdy, Rubbermaid laundry baskets, unlike Target that's so focused on being trendy that every laundry basket they sell is a non-branded weirdly-shaped modern art piece in colors that match nothing in my home or in nature.  And your employees were pleasant today which is nice.  A shocker, but nice.  But now, I'm just thinking, I'm "Not At All Likely" to recommend a person to shop at Kmart, because you are forcing me to participate in this moronic survey."

Fortunately the cashier was both nice, and smart, and as soon as I grumbled at the screen, she said, "I don't know why they do this," and quickly pushed "Likely" on the screen on my behalf.

I understand the desire for feedback, but I wonder if researchers are taking into account the "survey backlash effect."  How about you add one more question.  "Does this survey annoy you?"  
  • Yes greatly, it triggered an aneurysm. 
  • Yes, (I threw up in my mouth) a little bit. 
  • No, not any more than your average housefly or mosquito. 
  • No, not at all, what annoys me is everything else about your website/establishment/self.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Things That Cannot Be Done Faster

There are certain tasks that are impossible to complete more quickly regardless of how fast or hard I work at them.
  • Ironing.  Several slow passes with a properly heated iron will make that skirt look beautiful.  Skating the iron furiously back and forth as if beating eggs, after letting it heat up for 5 seconds, will not get the skirt ironed any sooner, but will just make me sweaty.
  • Blowdrying my hair.  It takes 10 minutes.  It always takes 10 minutes.  It will not take less time if I brush faster, or hold the hair dryer closer.
  • Vacuuming.  Same as ironing.  Vacuuming faster can save time only if I use it as an excuse to skip exercising.
  • Cooking.  Because raw food sucks.  And so does bleeding on the veggies because I was chopping too fast.
  • Putting kids to bed.  Speed reading the Clifford book will result in at least 2 additonal minutes of interruptions and requests to see that page again.
Those are my "will I ever learn?" downfalls.  What about you?  What do you try to rush, even though it doesn't work?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tell Me All Your Thoughts On God

Our book club read the Shack by William Young. I was a little apprehensive before the discussion, because I wasn’t crazy about the book, although I know some people are. But as always, it was a great conversation with the ladies, not only hearing their different perspectives on the book, as well as an amazing conversation about our different perspectives on God, Spirituality and Religion.
One of the questions we discussed was whether we liked Young’s vision/description of God. My answer was that honestly, I prefer my own 4 year old child’s impressions of God.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite songs, by Dishwalla, “Counting Blue Cars.” It’s a song full of great imagery of childhood and adult/child interaction. When I first heard it I was reminded of summer evenings with my grandma, playing the counting cars game. But it also made me wish for a child of my own to whom I could say, “tell me all your thoughts of God.”

So I’m loving my little boy’s thoughts, like, “I think God’s house is really, really big, bigger than the whole world. And the whole world is inside it. And it’s invisible.” I wonder how to respond to his complaints that “God didn’t say anything back to me,” or “God didn’t give me what I wanted.” (what did he want? Oh, just a pet bird.) Or “God knows how to get to the restaurant, because God knows just about everything.”

It makes me laugh, it makes me think back to when I longed to have a little one to have these conversations with, and it takes me back to my own childhood, the carefree games, the incomprehensible adults, a memory of fresh air. It’s one of the most wonderful things about parenthood, that vision back into the past with new eyes, like rewatching a movie with a twist ending like “The Sixth Sense” or “Fight Club” and saying “aha”, as everything becomes clear with new meaning.

Monday, April 25, 2011

T'witter or not t'witter?

See that cute little "follow me on twitter" button I've just added to my blog?  No?  You don't see it?  Over there, on the right.  Yeah, that's it down a little more.  A little more, a little more.  Oops too far. there you go. 

It only took me about 1.35 hours to get that itty bitty little thing on this blog, I honestly did not think I was that technically challenged.  Maybe there was a glitch.  Yeah, that's it, a glitch.

Anyway, if you are more tech savvy than me, and are already on Twitter, why don't you go ahead and follow me? I promise it will be painless.  I don't even have an i-phone so I can only tweet from the safety of my own home.

Monday, April 18, 2011

More Detonation

1 am Sunday April 17th. Back home from the My Chemical Romance concert and happy to say, I have no regrets. Not the tickets I overpaid for on Stubhub, not ditching work early on the last Saturday before tax day, not the 2 hour drive or the $4/gallon gas, not my crazy 6 ponytailed hairdo, not the fact that the majority of the audience was half my age, and not the fact that I had to drag my reluctant husband along to a show he probably hated.

To be fair, he didn’t actually say he hated it; it was something more like “I don’t think that’s my scene.”

Well, I can say, without any hesitation, that it was definitely my scene. Since I’ve been anticipating this concert for two months now, I was prepared for, well, anything, and trying not to let my expectations get too high. Outside the Orbit Room, shivering in the rain/sleet/damnyoumichigan/wind, I was pleased to see the crowd a good mixture of ages and genders, much to my relief, as I was fearing a onslaught of fangirlyness that thankfully never materialized.

Once inside the Orbit Room, I was thrilled at the smaller size of the venue and eager to get in with the crowd in front of the stage, ok, not first row, because I wasn’t willing to wait in the rain/sleet/damnyoumichigan/snow, for several hours, but still, close enough to ensure I could clearly see the faces of the performers. One small regret, I’ll have to confess is that I did let my husband convince (trick) me into believing I’d get a better view in the balcony, so for about 1 ½ songs, I was just a little too far from the action, and sound, but I soon realized my mistake and went back to the main floor.

I won’t go on about the opening act the Architects, I wasn’t there to see them, and didn’t find them too compelling, but before too long at all, the boys of MCR were there, Na Na Na Na Na-ing it for the crowd. And from then on, it was just one non-stop rocking party of great people singing and dancing along with their favorite band. Most of the time, my eyes were fixed on the stage, at Gerard singing, Mikey headbanging and Frank and Ray thrashing on the guitars, but occasionally I’d look around at all these people singing along, boys and girls just rocking out.

I did have a little wariness before, because you know music never sounds the same live as it does recorded, and I was just hoping that I wouldn’t be disappointed, especially as I’d pretty much been listening to their CDs non-stop for the past month. Whatever little concerns I might have had about how they’d sound were quickly blasted out of my head, because this band sounds best loud, and live and rough. I didn’t even need to think about what my ears were hearing, because it was as if they just injected that music directly into my body like an adrenaline shot to the heart. And it was pitch perfect.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m a recent, but instantly obsessed fan of this band. I wish I could explain it; I love practically every song on every one of their albums, I’m fascinated with the story of how they started; mesmerized by the lead singer Gerard Way; impressed with the friendship between the band members and their genuine niceness. And okay, if you’re wondering do I have a bit of a crush on Gerard, I’d have to say. . .oh, nooooo. It’s way beyond that. And darling husband, don’t worry, it’s not that I want the guy, or even want to do things TO him or with him. Oh, no, no, no. I actually want to BE him. Yes indeed. I’m that crazy. If I could have just a fraction of the geeky cool talent of Gerard Way, I’d be a happy happy girl.




I was hoping for some weirdness from the guys, or at least from Gerard, but there wasn’t much more than a few of his faces, and that moment when he carefully tied the Michigan flag someone gave him onto the mike stand and it just slipped right down the moment he let go! Haha.

I have to give a shout out to thank the slam-dancing, mohawked, overgrown teenage boys who cleared out a pretty good area in front of me with their wildness. I think they did scare the living shit out of some of the younger girls, but I held my ground and took full advantage of my five-feet ten inches to push my way up into their zone where I was able to get an even better closer view, as the show closed with Cancer, and Bulletproof Heart. What better ending than there in the mosh pit, bodies with feet flailing going right over my head, and MCR, loud and clear right to the last note.

No regrets, except that it’s over, and they didn’t play EVERY SINGLE SONG from every album. Haha, love you guys, you did great, and I’ll be back if you will!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Do-It-Yourself-ishness

I was sharing with a client today about how I got into the tax preparation business. I’ve told this story to a lot of people at my desk—


I always did my own taxes, from the time I first started working. At age 18, I read the IRS instructions and dutifully reported my income and withholding and got my first tax refund. At age 19, I discovered in the pages of some fascinating IRS pub that my scholarship could be taxable if I did not spend the entire amount on tuition, fees, books, and required course materials. That semester, I took a skiing class for my phys ed requirement, so I could “use up” my scholarship money on ski equipment (best decision ever!)

The main reason I always did my own taxes, is because that’s what my dad did. Every year, he’d get out that old plug-in calculator, which seemed so high-tech to us kids back in the 70’s. He’d sit at the kitchen table with his papers, and work away at this every April. And for years, I just figured this is what everyone did. I did my part, devoting at least an entire Saturday once a year to delving back into those obscure IRS instructions, trying to figure out if there was any way for me to get a few more bucks back.

I didn’t realize until much later, until I decided to make a part-time career of tax preparation as a kind of antidote to “stay-at-home-mom-itis”, that my dad was not typical. I’ve always known my dad to be the ultimate do-it-yourselfer, but I’ve just taken it for granted. I’ve already paid tribute in this blog to my dad, for passing on to me some of his “time wasting” abilities, so now it’s time to recognize my “DIY” heritage.

Thanks to my dad, I have always believed that any achievement is within the grasp of an average person. And although I haven’t taken “do-it-yourself-ishness” to quite the extremes he does, (yes, I can pay someone to repair an appliance without feeling that blood is being drained from my jugular, and no, I don’t feel compelled to build my own house or barn), I still can appreciate the sense of confidence his example has instilled in me.

I’ve managed my own finances, arranged my own travel, never worried about getting lost, always believed every challenge I faced was surmountable, and every problem has a solution. That anything you need to learn can be found in a book somewhere.  I may not act on it all the time, (even dad is the master of the unfinished project), but deep down, I believe that if I had to, I could do just about anything.

(Well, except maybe eye surgery, because I can’t look at something poking an eye without getting extremely squeamish. But just about anything else.)

Thank You Dad. I have now read more IRS code than a sane human ever should—at least I’m getting paid for it now.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Imagine

I’ve been getting a little nuts lately with all the imaginary time on my hands. Being a stay at home mom, from time to time I delude myself by thinking, “I can do it! I can exercise, knock out the household chores, then practice piano a little, shop, cook, indulge in a few crafty creative activities.”


No. Not. Not at all the way I imagined it. Instead, I can exercise, if and only if I manage to get up before the kids. Otherwise, my “warrior” pose becomes, “Mommy, you’re like a scarecrow. I’m going through the tunnel.” And pushups prompt an excited cry of “Horsey Ride!”

And what about the chores? You mean, like pre-treating a million stains before washing a mountain of laundry. Picking junk up off the floor, putting it away, and then coming back to the same spot to find different junk on the floor that I need to put away. 

All the while, I’m being whined at for not playing. So I must take a break to assist the 4-year-old in drawing up plans and instructions for building a flying machine. These crayon instructions are consulted very carefully, and we then construct our flying machine from a laundry basket, books, a paper plate propeller and rolls of masking tape for the landing gear. This is kind of a fun sweet time with my little boy, I’m thinking.

Sweet little boy gets in our newly-built flying machine and berates me because it doesn’t really fly.

I explain the concept of imagination, and provide a drum lid and wooden spoon to act as steering wheel and control stick. I narrate the takeoff, liftoff, flight through the clouds, and unexpected departure of the pilot in midair. Pilot is unhappy with the quality of the clouds: “I can’t see them.” Also wants a better horn for the airplane. Pilot gets back in with megaphone, and loudly complains that the flying machine isn’t working.

Mechanic quits, goes to work as chef. Pilot cries.

Eventually the child gets the drift that he must play on his own for a while. With all my dinner ingredients prepped and staged, I decide, I’ll try it, I’ll take a few minutes to try to play the piano. Child arrives to request we build ANOTHER flying machine. “One that works!”

I say, “Let me just play this song.” Child randomly pounds on keyboard. Bach is botched. I give up. It’s almost time to pick up the Kindergartener anyway, and from that point on, I’m just playing defense. Block the moves to dump lunchbox backpack, coats, and shoes on the floor, intercept attempts to start a fight with sibling, prevent the creation of chaos by assigning minor chores which will be performed carelessly, but accompanied by a flawless dramatic monologue.

“WHYYYYY do I have to do it? It’s not faaaair. HE doesn’t hafto. I did it YESTERDAY, WHY do I hafto set the table AGAIN? It’s too haaaaard. I DID put the silverware in the right place. It’s too HARD to line it up. I’m DOING IT! I just hafto go to the BATHROOOOOOOM.”

This whining is like a siren that shoots every rational thought out of my head, leaving behind only one thought. Or not really even a thought, just a mental image of my foot connecting to rear end and child launching across the room like a cartoon.

Fortunately, I need to keep stirring the stir fry, so I do not kick my children, I just grit my teeth, and get snappy. I try to save time, by going directly to that clenched teeth, over-enunciated tone of voice that is usually reserved for “the third time I’ve told you.” It doesn’t work, because of the hearing impairment that prevents kids from hearing any command the first two times, regardless of tone of voice, volume, or eye contact. Probably should begin every sentence with a fun word like “candy” or “playground” just to get their attention.

By the time the kids were at the table, scattering their rice and veggies all over the floor, I was very happy to see my husband home from work, so I could dash off to my part-time job. I kissed everyone goodnight and let the kids know that daddy would be putting them to bed.

I don’t know why they thought I said he’d take them to the playground.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Four A Happy Birthday!

My 4 year old kid fell in the ditch last week. I should be a sympathetic mom, but everything about this scenario just makes me want to laugh, starting with the angry sobbing rant he delivered upon being retrieved from the ditch by his dad. Something like, “Now l’m soaking wet, even my snowpants, even my pants, now I have to change all my clothes, I’m really really mad at her, she’s a mean girl, I didn’t want to get all wet, I don’t like it, I don’t like it, I don’t like it. She should NOT have told me to go in the ditch, that was NOT NICE!”


Then there was the sobbing and eloquent explanations offered by his six year old sister, the likely suspect. Nothing like a child defense lawyer in action to prompt mom into more restrained laughter. The transcript:

Mom: Did you push him in the ditch?

Child: It’s not my fault, I didn’t want him to fall in.

Mom: Did you push him?

Child: He was already in the ditch. I didn’t want him to fall, I just wanted him to keep going.

Mom: So you wanted him to go in the ditch?

Child: Well he already did, all by himself.

Mom: Did.You. Push.Him?

Child: Yes, but his feet were already in the ditch. I didn’t WANT him to fall down.

Mom: Why did he go in the ditch in the first place? Did you tell him to?

Child: Yes. But I didn’t think he would DO it.

The laughter continues the next day as the boy indignantly tells the story of how he fell in the ditch and it was his big sister’s fault to everyone he meets, including cashiers at the grocery store. Details include how the water was cold and his wet snowpants were sooo heavy, that he didn't want to fall in, and that his sister is a MEAN GIRL.

Two days later, we prompt him to tell Grandma and Grandpa the story:

“Tell Grandma about how you fell in the ditch.”

The boy looks curious and intrigued, “When did I fall in the ditch?”

“Just this week. Tell grandma about it.”

“I fell in the ditch?” he asks incredulously.

“Yes! Don’t you remember?”

“Was I in a canoe?” he asks.

I’m laughing hysterically now, as I say, “No! You were playing in the snow, remember?”

Clearly he's blocked the traumatic experience from his mind, because the next question he asks is, “Did I ever get out?”

Yeah, my kid fell in a ditch full of ice water and I laughed.  One of the perks of being a mom.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

She's Got Legs

I just killed a spider. Got to thinking about how my sister used to claim spiders were our friends. Ya’ know, cuz they catch flies and other annoying insects. She used to catch spiders and gently release them into the wild. Me, I’m cruel and I just squash them if they’re in my house.


Our last house, we got a lot of centipedes. Now those things are just nasty freaky scary. They had a favorite route they liked to run. Late at night, while we were watching TV in the dark, they’d come running out from somewhere behind the TV, and race across the living room on their hundred creepy legs. We called it “centipede I-75.”

People tried to reassure me of the harmlessness of these monsters by saying things like, “They’re beneficial you know; they eat spiders and other annoying insects.”

So yeah, I’m really excited about centipedes now, and I can’t wait to meet the creature that has nothing else to its credit except, “It eats centipedes, you know.”

I wonder how many legs IT has?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Multi-tasking vs. Obsesssing

I’ve never been that good at multi-tasking, which is bad news for me as a mom. I mean sure, I can fold laundry while watching TV. I can carry things up the stairs as I go, a skill which seems to elude the other family members. I can talk on the phone while cleaning up my “craft” room (or as I sometimes like to call it, “crap” room.) But only with my sister, because I don’t know anyone else who will tolerate a hour-long conversation that is interspersed with long pauses, and random comments, such as, “yeah, right, like I’m ever going to sew that thing,” and “when the hell did I buy this?” and “That’s where the birthday party decorations are.”

So other than those examples, I’m terrible at multi-tasking. This is mostly because I HATE it. If I could live in an ideal world, I would never, ever have to do anything remotely resembling multi-tasking. I’ve been this way for a long time. In school, I would actually do homework all at once, IN ADVANCE, just so I wouldn’t have to ruin yet another day with homework. Yes, I’ll admit it--what I’d rather do, falls dangerously close to the level of “obsessing.”

So last week, I spend several days obsessively cleaning in the kitchen, scrubbed the hell out the oven door (inside and out), picked dried-up bits out of the filter with a toothpick (It’s an downdraft so food splatters can really gunk up that filter and for some reason, dish soap has no effect on baked on egg residue). Vacuumed under the oven, scrubbed the oven racks, toothbrushed and dustbusted the crumbs in the crack between the oven and counter. And that was pretty much all I did that day, because despite my obsession, as a mom, I was forced against my will into multi-tasking anyway, even though I would have preferred to move on to scrubbing the baseboards (I couldn’t help noticing their disgusting state while I was on the floor vacuuming under the oven).

Instead of baseboards, I had to pick up a child from school, make dinner, tend to a three-year-old who was sing-songing “I did a poo-poo on the pot-ty and I’m do-one” (yes, done is a two syllable word). I also very meanly responded to all requests to “Play with me Mommy,” by suggesting that “Clean the Oven,” was the fun game of the day, which actually worked for a while. But the next day, when I suggested “wash cabinets and walls” as the day’s play, I got a little more push-back.

I will be honest, because I don’t want any of you to get the wrong idea and think that I spend my life obsessively cleaning. (My hubby: "I wish you would"). No, no, that is just an example. I also get the same way about my leisure activities, which is why, this week, during two snow days with kids home from school, I spent my days obsessively attached to YouTube and I-tunes, updating my I-pod and creating a new mix CD for the car. Obsession may also explain why I’ve been listening to my old mix CD since OCTOBER. Yeah, I’m due for a new music obsession.

I also blame my social ineptness on my inability to multi-task. Either I remember what I want to say, or I listen to other people. Can’t seem to do both. Then I end up bluntly demanding, “When are those pizzas coming?” when I see the mom I ordered them from for her kids’ school fundraiser. I apologize for not saying hello, but seriously, if I had, I’d probably forget to ask about the pizzas. I’m amazed that I even managed that much.

Recent research seems to debunk the myth of multitasking, saying that it makes people less efficient. Well, duh. I mean just look at how little laundry gets folded, if Grey’s Anatomy takes a break from Meredith and Christina whining, and focuses instead on one of the McHotties.

Unfortunately, mommyhood doesn’t ascribe to the latest research, so my children still expect to be fed, even if I’d rather keep organizing the pantry, nor can they harness their desire for “playing” and confine it to a specific “play day”. So I’m stuck, multi-tasking, inefficiently, reluctantly, and often badly.

Unfinished Business

I''ve been avoiding writing here, because all I really want to do is blab about how I finally finished the fan fiction story I was working on.  And really, who cares?  What bigger waste of my time could I have engaged in than writing a story that is a total ripoff of another author's characters and plot, retold from a different perspective?  True, I added my own characters, with a little backstory of their own, but all in all, its just for fun.

However, even "fun" can bring its own type of pressure.  Like the fact that even though I'd sit down at 9 pm planning to write for an hour, hour and a half tops, I would find myself at Midnight or 1 pm, still going.  And despite the fun factor that caused me to lose track of time, I was getting a little tired of my story, seeing as how I had only gone over it my head a few thousand times.  I just wanted to be finished with the thing so I could stop feeling compelled to work on it.

I had to take a short break, to get the family and myself through some nasty cold germs, and then another break to prep a 6 year old birthday party and make a Castle Cake.  Afterwards, I told my husband one night, "I'm going upstairs to work on my story.  I have to finish it tonight."

"Why?" he asks, "It's not like you're getting paid for it." 

So I don't remember what I responded (that's my story and I'm stickin' to it), but the fact that I wasn't getting paid for it was precisely the reason I wanted to get it over with.  I have in computer files, thumb drives, CDs, diskettes and notebooks, plenty of "Unfinished" writing.  Even the NaNoWriMo novel that I successfully completed as far as "word count" went, was (and is) still unfinished.  It's not like I'm getting paid for any of it, but at least I wanted to enjoy the feeling of something being done, rather than abandoned, or avoided until I forgot whatever inspired me initially.

So in addition to finally finished something I wrote, I learned a few other things through the process.  First and foremost is that, as fun as NaNoWriMo writing 50,000 words in a month was, I think my writing does better without the pressure to be verbose.  I started my fan-fic as a short exercise, at 7000 words had covered the basics of the story, and then as I attempted to make it "reader-worthy", it began to grow.  Finished off in 3 months with 46,000 words.  If it were not a fan-fic, I would happily go back later and "grow it" a little more, but I'm ready to move on to other adventures.

Another thing I enjoyed about writing the fan-fiction was being aware of my audience, and trying to write in a way that would please people other than myself.  That was something I hadn't even considered with my first novel and has given me some serious food for thought about how I might now go back and finish it off better. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy New Year

I know its January 18th, not technically the New Year anymore.  I know I missed all opportunity to comment on Christmas.  Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day and I'm not going to comment on that either, except to share my nearly 6-year-old's take on the day:  "This is the most not fun holiday ever."  To be fair, she was sick, so we decided to stay at home rather than embark on some family outing. 

This blog is not about holidays though; I need to reconnect with my mission here and nothing is more applicable to "wasting time" than the concept of New Year's Resolutions.  What I really need are some new New Year's Resolutions rather than continually resurrecting the previous year's resolutions from their early demises somewhere in the middle of March. 

Let's just get them out of the way:  Eat Right, Exercise, Lose x number of pounds, do better at keeping in touch with friends, be more organized, practice piano. Nice to see you again resolutions--looking forward to hanging with you for a few months, and then we'll catch up again next year.

"New" New Year's Resolution #1: Be more optimistic.

Now my next two "new" resolutions are inspired by a moment I had shortly before Christmas.  You know how the holidays can make you feel, nostalgic, emotional, thoughtful about the fleeting days of childhood etc?  Well, I had just such a profound moment that brought me to tears inspired by the simple act of cleaning behind the microwave.

Go ahead, laugh, there is not some poignant next part of the story that will make you go "aww".  No, it just occurred to me that it had been almost exactly one year ago that I'd last tackled that particular task, and then with it came all thoughts of everything else I had not accomplished in a year, and the fact that my children were now a year older and NOTHING HAD CHANGED.

Oh, I'm sure things have changed, but going through the motions of all the holiday traditions, I couldn't think of any.  I guess many people actually have a fear of change, but I'm not one of those people. I fear staying the same.  Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, and a lot of the traditions that I've enjoyed since my childhood, like making and decorating sugar cookies.  I love sharing that with my kids.  But I realized I need to do something to keep the years from blending into one.

So "new" resolution #2: find a NEW tradition for next Christmas. 

I don't know what it will be yet.  Travel? Some kind of act of charity or giving back? Expanding the celebration beyond the same circles of friends and family?  A whole new menu of holiday baking?  I don't know, but I have about 10 months now to figure it out.

"New" Resolution #3: Find more babysitters.  All that nostalgia about how the children are growing up so fast made me realize that before we know it, they will be busy with their own lives and then my husband and I will be looking at each other saying, "Remember me?  The real me, not just the Mom/Dad version I've been showcasing these past 10 years?" 

My last "new" resolution:  I will blog more consistantly, even it if means I've not edited my writing repeatedly in an effort to make it perfect.  For me, trying to be perfect is just about the biggest waste of time ever.