Monday, December 31, 2007

LOL

Free Bird!!

Last night we took our kids (and Kailani and Dusty) to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. We've been before but this time our seats were a mere ten rows from the front. It was Dusty's first introduction to TSO (she was worried she'd be bored by a quiet performance of classical music) and she is now a rabid fan.

Items of note from last night:

1. It's the first time I've gotten snow in my eye during an indoor concert.

2. It's the first time I've heard someone yell "Free Bird!" between performances of Christmas carols.

3. It's the first time a rendition of Beethoven's Fifth has made me want to throw up the fist of rock.

All in all, it was a fantastic night. =)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Vote or Die

Isn't that what the ever-insipid Paris Hilton said before she - oops! - forgot to not only vote in the last Presidential election but failed to even register to vote at all?

Don't emulate Paris.

Blogger has a new feature: polls. I just couldn't resist. Place your vote (you can choose more than one answer) for the topic of the week on the sidebar to the right.

Happy voting!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

For Paul




Beware.

Gingerbread...WHAT??

I spent some time talking about the Christmas traditions that have been a part of my family since I was little and that I've carried on today (with some alterations...)

But one tradition is unique to my immediate family alone.

The tradition of making Gingerbread Poop.

I did not start out my stint in motherhood with the goal of instituting a tradition whereupon all the participants would use cookie dough to create replicas of excrement.

I planned on baking plates full of all sorts of homemade goodies, an apron wrapped around me, my cherubic children lined up to stir, roll, decorate, and lick the beaters.

Of course, I neglected to plan for boys.

Boys change the rules of the game by virtue of being boys. They don't stir cookie batter, they attack it with the sole intent of mastering the flour, sugar, and eggs and demonstrating who is boss.

Boys don't roll out dough, boys annihilate dough with a wooden rolling pin as their weapon of mass destruction.

Boys don't decorate cookies, boys fling heaping piles of sprinkles or frosting in the general direction of the cookie as they are racing through the room chasing, being chased, or on their way to rig the ceiling fan with legos for their unsuspecting mother again.

Boys do, however, lick beaters.

When we first moved to Tennessee, Scientist was 5, Daredevil was 4, and Starshine was 2. I decided we would start a new tradition of making gingerbread cookies for Santa. I mixed the dough, rolled it out, asked for volunteers to man the cookie cutters and baked pan after pan of perfect little gingerbread men.

When I got to the last pan, I had enough dough left over to give a chunk to each boy to design his own cookies, sans cookie cutter. The boys worked on their individual masterpieces and then I place them in a row beneath the perfectly proportioned gingerbread men, baked it for ten minutes, and pulled the pan out to see that dough crunched up, rolled up, and smashed by little boy hands had expanded beneath the gingerbread men's legs to look like nothing more than some pretty impressive specimens of poop.

Anyone with boys knows that poop is one of their favorite subjects.

They were beside themselves with glee. They'd made POOP! In an oven!! And now they got to eat poop and drink eggnog! (because Mom was a spoilsport and firmly declined the notion that Santa would love to eat some poop too.)

That Christmas passed and, being a girl, I forgot about the poop incident. My boys, however, did not. Somewhere in the back of their testosterone-soaked brains, hidden behind the alphabet, how to ride a bike, and plans for the eventual destruction of middle Tennesse, lurked a memory of the most enjoyable Christmas tradition they'd even encountered.

And so it happened that the following Christmas, when I hauled out the rolling pin and announced my need for helpers to create gingerbread men for Santa, I was met with an excited chorus of little boy voices all exclaiming one thing:

"Yay! We get to make gingerbread poop!!"

Thus it began. Every year since, I roll out dough, cut perfectly proportioned gingernbread men and then hand an ever increasing amount of dough to my boys to make their poop masterpieces. Honestly, it's the most interest in cooking any of them have ever shown.

I took pictures of this year's delicacies. The first shows the offerings from the Scientist (always precise, even when dealing with excrement) and Daredevil (whose work looks like a cross between poop and seriously over-worked roadkill). The second pic is Starshine's unique interpretation.





As proof that I have completely capitulated, this year I pulled the pan out of the oven and yelled up the stairs, "Come down for poop and eggnog!"

Nativity Cake

My hubby made a cake recently for a Christmas party for the elders of our church and he videotaped the process. The banner he wraps around the back of the base cake is the Christmas story from Luke 2. The nativity scene figurines are made of white chocolate. Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas



"And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Fo unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

- Luke 2:8-11

May your Christmas be full of great joy.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Favorite Christmas Memories




1. The reel to reel tapes of Christmas music my dad played on a continuous basis for the entire month of December. He copied them recently onto CDs for me so now I can do the same...though with my 6 disc changer, I have other musical influences in there as well.

2. The time my mom got me Strawberry Shortcake underwear - 7 pair. Each labeled for a specific day of the week. And yes, I am just anal enough that I never wore a pair unless it matched that day.

3. The year my little sister panicked because she felt our stockings and they were empty (a week before Christmas, I think). Worried that I wouldn't get anything in my stocking, she gathered "treasures" from her desk and dumped them into my stocking. I was so suprised when I upended my stocking Christmas morning and my pile of little presents was topped by used erasers, pencil shavings, and rocks. =) Starshine has filled each of his brother's stockings with hand-drawn notes and pictures or used items he thinks they'll love. He keeps bringing down another book or toy of his that he wants me to wrap up for one of his brothers and place under the tree.

4. Baking plates of cookies for our neighbors: candy cane cookies, molasses, chocolate chips, Jello cookies (both red and green), and almond brittle. I still bake for my neighbors but my kids deliver pumpkin bread instead of plates of cookies. It saves on time and sanity (though we still bake candy cane cookies and gingerbread men for Santa).

5. Singing and acting in Christmas plays.

6. Christmas lights. All kinds. Except the houses that are outlined entirely in blue. Or red. That just looks menacing.

7. Setting up the nativity scene.

8. Christmas morning breakfast - between stockings and presents, my dad made his incredible "from scratch" waffles. I do Christmas breakfast now - eggs, pancakes, and sausage.

9. Cats stuck in the Christmas tree or diving on packages or running around the house with tinsel hanging from their ears.

10. Lazy Christmas afternoons curled up with one of my new books (always the perfect gift for me!).

11. Eggnog

12. Seeing my kids enjoy traditions from my childhood and making a few new ones of our own. (will blog about one of those soon...with pics)

Friday, December 21, 2007

LOL




I laughed so hard the first time I saw this pic, I nearly choked. =)

LOL

Friday Flashback: Interesting Injuries

You all know that recently I took a walk across my yard and ran straight into a tree. Weird injuries like that are not unusual for me. Here are a few of the more memorable ones for this Friday flashback.


1. A few months ago at work, I was told to "marry" the half-used bottles of Tabasco sauce together. The only way to do that is to pry off the tiny plastic top with a fork. Unfortunately, when I popped off the top, a drop of Tabasco flew into the air and straight into my left eye. I learned two things: 1. Given the right incentive, I can scream like a little girl. 2. You can develop a welt inside your eye. These were both unwelcome discoveries.

2. Two years ago, I was vacuuming underneath my dining room table - on my hands and knees with the extension hose - and I misjudged the edge of the table. I sat up too soon and knocked myself silly. By the time my husband got home, it was clear I needed medical attention. I went to the emergency room with a severe concussion, had to convince the nurse that yes I really had delivered the fatal blow myself (with the help of my new nemesis, the dining room table, and its nefarious accomplice, the vacuum cleaner) and my hubby had nothing to do with it. I learned two things: 1. It takes weeks to unscramble your brains after a blow like that. 2. A male doctor does not see the logic in writing a prescription for maid service even when presented with clear evidence that housework is dangerous to my health.

3. A few months after the dining room table fiasco, I was taking a shower, reached up to grab the shampoo out of the shower caddy (which hooks over the nozzle and as I'm a fairly short person, is therefore above my head) and knocked a full can of shaving cream loose. It flipped toward me and I swear I had a millisecond to think "Oh, crap" before it hit me square in the middle of my forehead leaving a bruise and a headache in its wake. I learned this: 1. The speed of my reactions is seriously flawed. 2. My hubby finds the things I do to myself entirely too funny.

4. This past summer, while completely hopped up on cold medicine and ibuprofen (I can't hold my alcohol or my meds!), I attempted to drive over to say goodbye to a friend who was moving. Turns out driving wasn't my main problem. Walking across the lawn to my car was the true challenge. I did a graceless stop drop and roll toward the street that might have won me $100,000 on AFV except none of my neighbors had the good sense to be outside filming my house for possible comedic material.

5. Recently I was chatting with my friend Paul online and he made me laugh. This is not unusual. I was eating lunch at the time. This is also not unusual. When I laugh, I do it with everything I've got. No polite little chuckles, no lady-like giggles - I just let loose. This kind of laughter requires air. To get air, one must suck it in through either the nose or the mouth. My mouth was full of chicken. I chose to suck air in through my nose. This, it turns out, was a very bad idea. The nose and the mouth are connected in such a way that when I sucked in a snoot full of air, I sucked in my bite of chicken as well. I don't care what anyone tells you, snorting chicken hurts.

6. When I was a sophomore in college, I was kicked in the head by a horse. Yes, yes, I realize this explains everything you've ever wondered about me. Yes, it hurt. Yes, I had the kind of whiplash usually reserved for victims of 13 car pile-ups or women who've just caught a glimpse of Orlando Bloom. No, I haven't been near a horse since. But on the bright side, I've got a great ice-breaker story for parties. I mean honestly - how many people do you know that can honestly say they've been kicked in the head by a horse? *grins*

Thursday, December 20, 2007

LOL

Considering Killing A Dutchman

I just read this article about a Dutch diplomat and his wife who adopted a girl from South Korea when she was a baby (she's now 8) and are now "returning" her to foster care.

Their excuse is that Jade (their daughter) is emotionally remote and has been diagnosed with severe fear of attachment.

You think??

And dumping your daughter because she has emotional difficulties is going to what - make it better?

The father said that Jade never assimilated Dutch culture and food (and yet he never, in all their years petitioned for Dutch citizenship for her. Why not?) and that was part of why they are rejecting her now. Seriously, you want me to believe that a child living in your home since she was 4 months old doesn't eat your food?

Give me a break.

Nannies and caregivers who've worked for the family were interviewed and stated that Jade was mostly cared for by nannies and was rarely in her mother's arms and that her mother treated her as if she weren't her "real" daughter, especially after two biological children were born to her.

The family, of course, says that isn't the case but what I found telling was the father's comment in an open letter to a Dutch newspaper: "We are Jade's parents. We feel responsible for her well-being."

Unbelievable.

You feel responsible for her well-being? What about love? I can promise you that I do a whole lot more than feel "responsible" for my children's well-being. I feel responsible for my plants. I feel all-consuming love for my kids.

This is a tragedy for Jade and a blow to the cause of international adoption. Stories like this make the news where all the millions of success stories never do and an outcry goes up from the child's original nation and officials begin to cut off adoptions (Guatemala) or make them prohibitively expensive (Russia) and where does that leave the millions of orphans who have no one to love them?

A child is not a possession to be returned if they aren't easy to raise. Any child, biological or not, can have difficulty attaching, can have health or emotional issues that are challenging, can have a personality that doesn't mesh easily with yours. Guess what you do? You roll up your sleeves and meet them where they are and just love them.

You just love them.

At the heart of this (and it makes me sick) is this Dutch couple's basic belief that their adopted daughter was a trial run. Or a faulty product. Or something that they could back out of when things weren't easy.

That is abusive parenting. That is NOT adoption.

When you bring your child home, you've made a lifelong commitment to them and that doesn't waver, no matter what. You aren't a parent for what the child can bring to you. You're a parent for what you can bring to your child.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hobbits Don't Have Adventures

Until now. Peter Jackson has signed on with New Line Cinema to produce The Hobbit!! And even better...it's a two movie deal so I get to be all excited and go to midnight openings twice!

Paul and I were just talking last night about how much we wanted to see The Hobbit done right but that if they got anyone other than Peter Jackson to do it, it just wouldn't have the same incredible impact of the LOTR trilogy.

Seriously thrilled now!

Here's the link, Paul. =)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lost!

It's back! The fourth season of Lost arrives on Thursday, Jan 31st. To see a trailer click here.

Random Tuesday List

1. I'm sending out my Christmas cards today - minus any newsletter this year since my computer and my printer are currently not on speaking terms.

2. Half of the kids' presents are wrapped.

3. Starshine asked how old I am. I said 33. He then informed me that this was my thirty-tooth Christmas. I didn't correct him with "32nd" because thirty-tooth is just so cute.

4. The laundry has formed ranks, elected a general, and is now staging a major coup to take over the house.

5. I need to bake cookies...but when? When??

6. Sunday. I can bake cookies Sunday.

7. I forgot to buy more tape last night so now I have to go back to the store. I'm thrilled.

8. Paul and I introduced Dusty to The Lord of the Rings Sunday night. Always fun to cultivate a new groupie.

9. Saw I Am Legend Sunday afternoon as part of my anniversary date with hubby. It was good enough but not something I care if I see again.

10. Hubby is taking kids to see National Treasure 2 tomorrow night (preview tickets or something...I'm working).

11. How many items does a list need to have?

12. Can I just cut it off at a wierd number like 17?

13. Missing some addresses for my Christmas card list...if you got an email from me, better respond promptly or your card is going to be late. :)

14. If you make sustained eye contact with my cat, she feels compelled to come to you.

15. Unless, of course, you really want her to come to you because she's into something she shouldn't be. Then, she can stare you down with no problem whatsoever.

16. I dislike the word "loiter". Rhymes with "goiter". Ugh.

17. Off to do laundry, run errands, walk around the block, clean my kitchen, wrap some presents, write some chapters, shower, and go to work....

Monday, December 17, 2007

13 - My New Favorite Number

Today marks our 13th wedding anniversary. I can say with honesty that there were hard years and glorious years and that I don' t regret a thing.

Here are 13 things I've learned about marriage:

1. The feeling of being in love comes and goes but a rock-solid friendship never wavers.

2. Men really don't appreciate advice on how to hang Christmas lights.

3. Sometimes men need a hint the size of Texas to know what you want or need from them but the fact that they care enough to want to get it right means more than their inability to read minds.

4. Women have stronger stomachs when it comes to cleaning up things like vomit and excrement. (or is that just a vast conspiracy to convince us to do all the dirty work?)

5. It's better to be kind than right.

6. Fight fair.

7. Laughter is the second most important ingredient in a successful relationship.

8. Integrity is the first.

9. Making time spent together a priority is an excellent way to stay connected at the heart.

10. Any man who agrees to try a food experiment where canned salmon (bone- in! oops!) and yogurt are involved should get a medal.

11. Have a hobby, all your own, that you are passionate about and be interested in the hobby of your mate.

12. Speak as respectfully of your partner behind his back as you would to his face.

13. Never withhold affection or words of love when it is in your power to give them.

And that concludes my brief foray into Dear Abby territory. *grins*
Tags: relationships

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

Things I've Found Funny Recently

1. The fact that alpacas can "spit" at will - using either end. (I've added this to my "Reasons Why I Never Want To Own An Alpaca" list.) My hubby and I decided that spitting from the anal region was a combination of spit and fart and therefore a spart.

2. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "This is Sparta!!"

3. A quote I saw recently on a friend's page in facebook said "Ninja turtles are the real deal. Chuck Norris swallowed some baby turtles and when they came out the other end, they were five feet tall and had learned karate."

4. Yes, I laugh at things like that.

5. I took a walk today and ran straight into a tree. For the whole story, go two posts down.

6. My hubby is working on an incredible Christmas cake sculpture and is experimenting with various techniques. Today, he had me hold a large balloon filled with air while he poured warm white chocolate over it, trying to create an eggshell-shaped mold. Either the chocolate was too heavy or too hot because the balloon suddenly burst and sprayed the two of us (and our dog, our kitchen, and our floor) with copious amounts of white chocolate.

7. The dog was very excited.

8. Last night the Radio City Rockettes performed at the Grand Ole Opry and my hubby had to open the show by dressing up in the whole nightgown and nightcap thing and reading "The Night Before Christmas". Apparently, the Opry wanted "local celebrities" to kick off their show every night this week. My hubby is the morning show D.J. for the top-rated station in Nashville. We don't think he's a celebrity.

9. They felt differently and offered him $100 for the gig.

10. He decided he could impersonate a celebrity just for the evening. =)

Lesson Learned

So today I decided I'd recovered enough from my bout with pneumonia to take a brisk walk through my neighborhood. I pulled on my running shoes, plugged in the headphones for my ipod, and left the house.

These were all good ideas.

I turned my ipod on as I walked across the yard and Evanescence began playing.

This was also a good idea.

I decided I wanted to listen to a different album so I looked down at the ipod screen and scrolled through my musical choices while still walking across my yard.

This was a really bad idea.

We have trees in our yard.

We had a tree directly in my path.

I know this now because I walked straight into the tree and managed to body slam the poor defenseless plant with one toe, both knees, my chest, and the top of my head (looking down, remember?).

The tree didn't care. I can't say the same for my body.


So far, any potential neighborhood witnesses have failed to come forward.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Quote This

"A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down."
Arnold H. Glasow

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Toy Nostalgia

Cross-posted from my LJ:

So last night I was lying in bed and for reasons I couldn't possibly explain, I started thinking about some of my favorite toys from when I was little. Some of them I don't think I could find anymore, except maybe on Ebay (and I might look for them, once I have my daughter!)

Here's my list, feel free to add your own!

1. The Fisher Price record player.



2. My bright pink hula hoop. I don't want to brag, or anything, but I was good. Really good. I could start it on my neck, go out to each of my arms, and then send it up and down my body. I was pretty proud of that. =)

3. My entire Strawberry Shortcake collection, complete with the trolley and the bakery. My only regret is that I never owned Sour Grapes.

4. A set of play dishes with a yellow daisy in the center and swirly edges.

5. Friendship pins (okay, I know it's not a toy but hey, deal). This was before the days of the bedazzler and all those fancy "make your own beaded jewelry" kits and before parents freaked out about their kids having access to things like safety pins...We would string a few colored beads onto a safety pin and give it to our best friends who would then proudly wear them pinned to the front of their shoelaces. (not the part that flops around, the part that's laced in)

6. My Miss Piggy puppet. All the excuse I needed to run around screaming "Hi-yah!" at everyone.

7. My WonderWoman underoos. It took a little finesse to undress while spinning in circles but I managed it (mostly).

8. Our little black and white tv on which I would watch, without fail, The Dukes of Hazaard. (until the day I came home from school and my dad had thrown out the tv. Didn't get a replacement until I was in high school. It was good for me.)

So what's yours?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

LOL




I'm adding this as one of my avatars on LJ. =)

A Writing Experiment

In September, Wandereringray did a fun writing exercise in her journal where she started a sentence and invited her readers to finish it. Because I misunderstood her intention (just finish the ONE sentence...) and because it sparked my imagination, I wrote something that I'm going to use in the next series I write. To read my response, go here.

I thought it would be fun to try a new twist on that exercise. So...I'm inviting you to post a first sentence (or partial sentence) and I will use it to write a paragraph (or more...).

The only rules are these:

1. No profanity please.

2. No sexually explicit/disturbing subject matter.

Anything else is fair game. I'll take your sentences and post my responses over the next week or so. =)

And since I've already responded to the "It was a dark and stormy night", we'll take that one out of the running. :)

Quote This

A man who wants to do something will find a way; a man who doesn’t will find an excuse. - Stephen Dolley Jr.

Monday, December 10, 2007

LOL




Just for Paul. =)

Missing Johanna

A letter to my daughter:



I had hoped this Christmas would be easier to face than last. Last Christmas, I was so sure. So very, very sure that I would have you. A year and a half was longer than anyone had ever waited for their baby to come home from China and I was so sure you would make it home by then.

When it became clear you weren't coming home for Christmas, your brothers put up a little stocking for you anyway and filled it will old Halloween candy and a few of their favorite Matchbox cars. Take my word for it, this was a huge indication of love for their baby sister.

I cried a lot last Christmas, looking at that little stocking. Envying all the moms who had all of their children beneath their roof. Struggling to explain to others why I missed you when I've never met you.

It's hard to explain instant, overwhelming, life-long love for the child you know is coming to someone who hasn't experienced it. It sounds crazy. Grieving for you sounds crazy but I do it anyway.

This Christmas it's been 2 and 1/2 years and China just keeps slowing down the process. I don't have any firm deadline in mind anymore. I wish people would stop asking me because I can get along alright if I don't think about you.

I'm sorry about that. I try not to think of you because if I do, I wonder, are you born yet? Do you live in an orphanage or are you one of the lucky few in foster care? Are you warm enough? Does someone care if you cry at night? I want to get on the next plane to China and search the orphanages because I will know you when I see you. My heart already knows you.

Saturday night, at work, someone asked me about waiting for you. I answered, barely, then kept cleaning the kitchen and Christmas carols were playing and it was one of my favorites: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. I heard the line "Next year all our troubles will be miles away" and it broke me.

I cried. At work. When you're older, you'll understand how much I hate to cry at all. I'm thankful it was past closing and only my closest friends were there to see it.

I wonder if I'll have you next year or if I'll have to go through this again while I wait. You're worth the wait. You're worth anything I can give. You are priceless.

I stare at our mantle, where five stockings hang, and I want to hang one for you too but I don't think I can face a daily reminder of missing you. Your room is full of stuff that needs to be sorted and probably most of it given away but I don't do it. I keep your door shut. One bedroom, in the middle of our hall, with the door locked tight. Because if I clean it out and make it look like my little girl's room, missing you will be too real to bear.

I've missed you for so long, I'm afraid to hope. People who love me and mean well keep telling me that it will happen and you will come home and I know that, of course. I trust that God has led us to you and that He has this in His hands. But knowing that doesn't stop the grief over my daughter who isn't home with me this Christmas.

I pray for you, as do the boys, every night. I pray that you are safe and loved and that you don't suffer before we can take you home. I'm afraid to pray this and afraid to hope for it but I ask that next year, you will be here, your gorgeous almond-shaped eyes wide with wonder at the twinkling lights, your little hands full of sugar cookies, your baby-laugh filling our home as your brothers crowd around you, excited to share the wonder of Christmas with their baby girl.

Merry Christmas, Johanna Faith Redwine, wherever you are. I love you.

Disregarding Traffic Laws

My friend Kailani (link to blog on the side bar) is working toward her dream of traveling the world for a year (by plane, train, and pack mule) and a recent blog of hers got me thinking about what it takes to passionately follow the dreams in our hearts.

As children, anything seems possible. I remember watching Mary Lou Retton win the Gold Medal in gymnastics and thinking (with absolutely no regard to my staggering lack of coordination) that I too would be a gold medalist, but not just in gynastics. I would medal in figure skating too. And I would do that while writing stories and performing concerts where I would sing, play the piano, and play the violin. And in my spare time I would race horses and live in a castle and keep a pet dragon that I took out for night flights to burst through the curtain between this world and that of the faeries who would, of course, crown me their long-lost Queen. And when I was done with that, I would go to college, get married, have children, bake Christmas cookies, and maybe travel overseas every few weeks.

Of course, my staggering lack of coordination prevented me from competing in the Olympics (although I'm still holding out for Power Shopping) and I don't yet know how to play the violin. I've never raced a horse (and after being rudely kicked in the head by the last one I approached, I don't think I really want to after all) or lived in a castle (though I'm still young, that can happen) or kept a pet dragon. I am, of course, the secret Queen of the faeries but you didn't hear it from me.

What happens to our delicious sense of adventure and daring as we grow up? Why do we slowly cast aside all the dreams that used to sparkle for us until we are left trudging the same well-worn rut of everyone around us? Graduate from high school. Get a job. Or go to college, graduate, then get a job. Hopefully it's one you like but better just take what you can get rather than hold out for what you really want because who gets that?

It's like our lives become cluttered with traffic signs: Stop - that isn't practical. Merge - everyone says you need to go this way. Dead End - just forget about the road less traveled. Speed Limit - keep it safe and steady.

What if we looked into our hearts and identified our dreams? The ones that still sparkle if we dust them off. The ones that still make hearts race with possibilities. What if we decided to breathe life into our dreams and ignore the traffic laws littering our adult world?

What if we didn't stop but found a way to mix the practicality of paying bills with the passionate pursuit of an impractical dream? What if we stopped merging and said, God has called me to go this way and off I go? What if we didn't see a dead end but saw endless possibilites in uncharted waters instead?

What if we valued risk over safety?

I will never be an Olympic medalist (unless that blasted committee finally approves my Power Shopping petition). I won't be a jockey. I won't be a concert pianist either. But that's okay because the deeper dreams of my heart are alive and growing. I will not come to the end of my life and regret the path I took to get there. Better to live a life of spectacular, beautiful failures on the way to seeing a dream come true than to huddle in safety, never stretching myself to discover what I can really be.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My Reading Checklist

I recently finished reading a book that I really, really wanted to like. It was the first novel for this author but he is involved in the composing and production side of the music industry here in Nashville and since I'm a fan of his creativity there, I figured I'd be a fan of his written creativity too.

My problem was that he "pinged" every item on my reading checklist - a sort of mental standard of what I can't stand in a novel. He made me laugh outloud on page three and again on page four and it wasn't because he was trying to be funny - it was me laughing in disbelief that his editor let him get away with this stuff.

Here are a few of my pet peeves while reading:

1. Starting a paragraph by clearly denoting which character is speaking or doing and then feeling the need to remind me halfway through the paragraph of that character's name again. i.e. "Ashley raced to pick up the phone. It was a wrong number. She put the phone back into its cradle. Ashley wondered why someone kept calling her and hanging up."

See? I know it's Ashley, right from the start. I don't need a reminder halfway through that "she" refers back to Ashley because since I'm still young enough to have most of my mental capabilities roaring along at full capacity, I'm unlikely to forget what I've just read. Whenever I see this in a novel, it screams "Amateur" to me and I wonder how their editor missed it.

2. Giving a character technical information they wouldn't logically own. In the book I just read, the main character starts out on an airplane. Extreme turbulence causes an overhead bin to fly open and an older man is injured. The main character rushes to his aid and when a flight attendant asks why he needs a flashlight to check for a concussion (perhaps because she's been living in a cave up until now and doesn't possess the knowledge the rest of the population has about dialated pupils and head injuries?), the character gives this long and involved explanation about brain tissue swelling and uses several technical medical terms.

Okay, I'm thinking, our MC must be a dr, right? The flight attendant is in agreement with me and asks our MC the same thing. He says, "No" and I'm waited for the "But I play one on tv" punchline that never comes. At this point, the author gets an eye roll from me and it's only page three. Not good.

3. Making a character do something so completely unrealistic that it yanks me out of the flow of the book. In this book, when our MC rushes to the aid of the gentleman two rows up who's been struck by a suitcase (and I was already sitting there wondering if plain old turbulence could really fling a suitcase out of an overhead compartment...), he does it by crawling over the seat in front of him, stepping on the man hunkered down with his head between his knees, and then leaping into the aisle. Who does that?? Answer - nobody. It's just plain unrealistic. He could have slipped past the slender, attractive woman seated next to him and gone down the aisle like any sane, normal person would have done.

4. Using unrealistic dialogue. This was the kicker. I'd already had Superman leaping over airplane chairs, an MC with no medical training but who somehow managed to sound like a medical textbook, turbulence and injuries that, upon further reading, added nothing more to the plot than the opportunity for said MC to demonstrate his remarkable chair leaping skills, and now I had dialoge ripped straight from an early days Harlequin and somehow coming out of the mouth of a professional woman.

Here's what set me off: Our MC returns to his seat, quite the airline hero, and the woman next to him strikes up a conversation. She immediately gains the knowledge that he has a son and she says (and I'm quoting here), "I bet he gets his casual good looks from you."

I nearly choked, I laughed so hard. He gets his casual good looks from you??? No one, and I do mean no one, talks like that in real life.

5. Using cliched ideas or mimicking a popular literary work too closely. This book, despite the above mentioned amateur blunders, had a very interesting premise...sort of like National Treasure and the Da Vinci Code combined. Except the more I read, the further toward Da Vinci Code it leaned until near the end, the characters are speculating that the huge secret hidden in the illustrations of priceless old Bibles is that the God of the Jews was a woman. Even though it turned out they were wrong and the secret was something totally different, I was very turned off by this because it so strongly echoed the premise in DVC. I'm a big fan of taking an idea and pushing it until it looks like nothing else you've read. =)

So, yes, I was disappointed in this book overall and most authors who pinged all five of my pet peeves would have had their book given to Goodwill unfinished by me. =)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas Lights

Because some people have a lot of time on their hands. =) Enjoy!


Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's Like Caffeine - On Steroids

Reasons why I shouldn't drink caffeine:

1. My hands shake.

2. It goes straight to the part of my brain whose sole function it is to control rational thought processes.

3. I tend to find everything extremely funny. I do mean everything.

4. I give new meaning to the term "motor-mouth".

Reasons why I shouldn't drink caffeine right after taking an energy-inducing steroid:

1. Forget my hands shaking - my whole body vibrates like a tuning fork.

2. Rational thought processes, like volume control and the ability to blink without developing an unsightly twitch, fly right out the window.

3. People find me extremely funny. Or terrifying, depending on their tolerance for the wierd.

4. Motor-mouth morphs into the equivalent of OhandIjustthoughtofonemorethingtosaybutthenitflewoutmybrainjustlikethatbecausewowI'mfeelinghyperandthatcan'tbeagoodthingbutthenagainmaybeitisandWOOOOOOOOO.

10 pts. if you can dicipher that last sentence.

50 pts if you were within range Tuesday night and experienced it in person.

100 pts if you said WOOOOOOO back at me. =)

I Can't Wait

I know where I'll be on May 16th. =)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Random Wednesday List

Just because:

1. Paul made me snort a crumb of pumpkin bread (okay, it's a possibility that I just need more practice swallowing but he's a handy target. I blame him) and I have to say that having a crumb of anything lodged firmly in one's sinus cavity is most uncomfortable.

2. I really love the movie Unleashed starring Jet Li.

3. We now have six foot tall penguins on a sled in our yard. It's considered cute.

4. Our Christmas tree is beautiful.

5. I tried turnip greens (for those of you who don't live in the South, that's kind of like cooked spinach with bacon in it) and I surprised myself by enjoying them.

6. Still won't touch okra though.

7. My dog is one big lazy baby. He even lays down to eat his food.

8. There should be a mandatory age cut off for yanking driver's licenses. Like, before age 90.

9. I'm getting stocking stuffers for the kids tonight. =)

10. My mom was once treed by a herd of pigs when she was a child.

11. I've never been treed by anything but I've been spit on by a llama, kicked in the head by a horse, and knocked over by a sheep. A really fat sheep.

12. I don't actually care for barnyard animals up close.

13. Bumper cars would be so much more fun if you could actually speed up before you rammed someone.

14. Daredevil was listening to one of the cds my hubby and I got a decade ago (Supertones) and singing along in his room. It was fun to listen to.

15. I really love every single Christmas-scented candle I've come across.

16. My birthday arrives in a month and three days, followed by Starshine's five days later.

17. I really really love the color red.

18. Not so big on purple though. Or chartruese. Or puce. Puce. Even the name sounds frightfully unattractive.

19. I've become known at work as the girl who can instantly come up with vividly creative death threats.

20. Contrary to some people's opinions, this does not make me psycho. It validates my wide streak of creativity and my lightning fast, never-really-silent mouth.

December 1982

I'm wearing my pajamas, the fuzzy red sleeper-blanket with glittery snow flakes across the front and a hole worn through the heel of the left foot. I'm curled into my window seat, nose pressed against the glass, watching the condensation from my breath fog the window in a rhythmic circle.

I'm supposed to be in bed.

But it's Christmas Eve and I can't sleep. Not yet. We've opened one present already, like we always do. One small gift to tide us over to the wonder and sparkle of Christmas morning.

I got a set of Nancy Drew books, hardback. I'm relieved my mom didn't pull out the soft, squishy package with my name on it. I found it while rummaging through the brightly wrapped gifts and stuffed it to the back of the tree. I'm pretty sure it's underwear.

My books are lined up neatly on my desk but I don't look at them now. My lights are off and the house is settling for the night, though I can still hear Christmas music drifting down the hall from the living room and my Dad's reel to reel tape. Hours and hours of Christmas music are captured on those tapes. I love to watch the glossy chocolate ribbon roll slowly from one silvery disk to the other while the Nutcracker or Karen Carpenter or Boston Pops fills the air.

I strain to recognize the song playing now. White Christmas.

I smile and look out the window again. It is a white Christmas, here in Oregon. The snow swirled down today, deceptively slow, coating the bleak expanse of dead grass and bare trees with icy brilliance. Our Christmas lights, a single string of large bulbs in blue, red, green, and orange, blink steadily across the line of our roof and I watch their reflection wavering in the glittery snow heaped beneath my window.

I am waiting.

We are a family that has never believed in Santa Claus. He is a fun story, part of the Christmas time lore and legend, but we don't put out cookies. We don't get presents from Santa. And we don't worry about lighting fires in our fireplace.

I sit up straighter, looking around the aerosol-sprayed snow-from-a-can letters on the inside of my window. "Christmas", it says. My sister's room next door says "Merry". I stare at the sky with nearly unblinking vigilance.

White Christmas fades and something else takes its place but I am not listening. Not anymore. I'm straining to hear bells and far off sounds of something magical sliding through the winter night.

The stars seem brilliant tonight, sharply cut into the frozen sky. It isn't hard to imagine a sleigh and some reindeer darting among them, carrying joy and mystery and hope.

I don't believe in Santa. But still I watch. And I listen. And I wonder. Because I do believe in hope.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Perfect Aim

Early this morning (very early this morning), I woke to the alarming sound of my cat puking. I say "alarming" because she sleeps on me. I have a strong stomach but even I quail at the thought of a face-full of kitty vomit.

I sat straight up and looked around (it's dark, remember, and she's a black cat so she blends well in shadows...)and she wasn't on the bed.

The sounds increased with the inevitable "hork and splat" conclusion and I fumbled around with my bedside light so I could investigate and clean it up.

I found - nothing.

The dog was sleeping beside my bed. The cat was staring at me from the middle of my bedroom floor as if to say, "What, we're getting up now?"

I decided I'd dreamt the entire incident and went back to sleep.

This morning, in the act of racing through my morning routine so I could head out the door, I found the puke.

In my shoe.

And yes, by "in" I bloody well mean in my shoe.

Yuck.

Leave it to a cat to have such perfect aim.

Up It Goes

When I was little, we had a German Shepherd/Alaskan Husky dog named Daniel who would eat, quite literally, anything.

Everything.

No exceptions.

When he was a puppy, he ate my big wheel. It was a beautiful pink big wheel with tassles streaming from the handle bars. When he was finished with his afternoon snack, all that remained was the thin metal rod used as the big wheels's foundation. His poop was full of pink chunky plastic for weeks.

We moved to a home that had a plum tree in the backyard and every year, as over-ripe plums fell to the ground, he would eat them. All of them. And over-abundance of over-ripe plums is not kind on the digestive system and he would leave piles of bright violet poop all over the yard. (But hey, at least you knew where not to step!)

Once my mother decided to grow onions along the back of our home. She planted seven onion plants and nurtured them along until one night she announced the onions would be ready for harvest the next morning. The next morning arrived, we trooped outside to pick onions and stared in awe. Not a shred of those onion plants was left. Not one shred. Daniel had eaten them root to tip. He stunk for a month.

It was our family's habit to finish a meal, clear the table, and then let Daniel in to clear the floor. No crumb escaped his detection. He would burst through the back door, scramble toward the dining room (sliding on the linoleum more often than not) and then frantically snuff and lick his way across the floor. My mom mopped often but even she was no match for Daniel.

One morning, my dad filled a bowl with Cheerios and accidentally knocked it to the floor before pouring milk on it. Cheerios as far as the eye could see. Naturally, this wasn't a problem because we had the most up-to-date version of Canine Hoover available so my mom swept the Cheerios into a nice, neat pile and called Daniel in.

At this point I should tell you that the linoleum in our dining room was a light yellow. Cheerios, as I'm sure you're aware, blend very nicely into light yellow.

Daniel raced toward the dining room, his nose already working overtime, and began to search for the source of food. He looked around but didn't see the pile. He raced under the table but still missed it. So he put his nose to the floor and began snorting in huge chunks of air searching for the Cheerios.

He found them.

Unfortunately for him, he was still snorting when he did. He stuck his face into that pile of Cheerios and snorted them right up his nose.

If a dog can look comically surprised, he did. Then he started sneezing. Violently. Every sneeze sprayed Cheerios around the room. It took a while to cleanse his sinuses of every vestige of breakfast cereal but he did it and seemed none the worse for wear.

I won't tell you how we cleaned those Cheerios up (besides, if you're at all familiar with how dogs operate, you probably already know).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How Uncouth Can You Be?

So last night was our company's Christmas party. This means several long tables of buffet style food. We had everything ready and called all the employees and their families to get in line and start filling their plates.

One of our newer employees was at the head of the line. I watched in complete amazement as she went through all three tables of food, filled her plate, and then grabbed a chair and pulled it up to ONE OF THE BUFFET TABLES, shoved her plate in between pans of food, and started eating.

Who does that?

We have an entire dining room full of available seats and you sit and eat where others need to get their food?

People were passing by her, staring, and NO ONE was taking food from the dishes right next to her plate. I decided to fix that situation so when I approached the table, I started moving the dishes away from her immediate vicinity. As I reached beside her to shove another casserole dish to the left, she belched.

I don't mean she burped.

I don't mean she quietly hiccuped.

I mean she belched.

At me.

And then looked at me and said, "Oops, that one got away from me."

Ugg.

Words fail.

Today's Birthdays

I told you November is a crazy month for me and birthdays!

Happy Birthday to my hubby, Clint! I can't imagine life without you and am so grateful God brought us together. I love you! Here's my "gift" to you (it's the thought that counts, right?)




Happy Birthday to my friend Opal! Love you, girl, and you know it.

What Have I Done Lately?

1. Went to see Enchanted with hubby and Kelly. Paul refused to see it and went to Hitman instead. It was a good movie and one the kids will love (although, unlike hubby and Kelly, I could have done without the loooooong song sequence in Central Park. The only highlight there was when the prince got flattened by the bikers.)

2. Worked last night and realized that sadly my stupid lungs are still not quite cooperating and working more than two hours becomes difficult. Thankfully, I'm surrounded by friends who are more than willing to help me when I need it.

3. Saw a preview for the following movie - I laughed so hard during the preview that people around me were questioning my sanity. This is top on my list of things to see this summer:



4. Finished (drum roll please) ALL of my ironing. Every last miserable shirt. This, I believe, may be a first.

5. Attended my company's Christmas party last night.

6. Watched Beowulf last week. I liked it but I wish I'd loved it. I think using live actors instead of computer animation would have made all the difference but a lot of the 3D effects were really cool.

7. Finished reading a book I'd hoped would be amazing. I was disappointed.

8. Figured out (at two in the morning, where the best ideas seem to happen!) what was wrong with the flow of information in the last three chapters of SHADOWING FATE and am fixing it today.

9. Cleaned my shower (and we all know how much joy that brings me.)

10. Baked a cake (the regular, non-sculpted kind) for my hubby's birthday.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Heart Failure Imminent

In October, my hubby and I added our surrogate teenage daughter (who doesn't live under our roof but might as well) to our cell phone plan because she's 15, gorgeous, starting to date, and had no cell phone. Not the safest situation. For various reasons, her father wouldn't get her one himself so we added her to our plan (with his permission), ordered the free phone that went with it, charged her $15 a month, and, in a stroke of sheer brilliance on my hubby's part, signed up for unlimited texting at the same time.

My hubby did all of this online. One stop shopping...open your account page, add a member, choose a phone, adjust your family plan's minutes and texting options, and off you go.

Easy.

In her first week, our daughter sent over 3000 texts. 3000. In one week. We warned her of the dangers of carpal tunnel and arthritis and marvelled that anyone could find 3000 things to say through texting.

And we congratulated ourselves on having the foresight to sign up for unlimited texting.

A week ago, our bill arrived.

$1300.

Excuse me???

1300 frickin' dollars? My hubby clutched his chest and rapidly scanned the bill...texts, texts, texts...thousands of texts at 15 cents each. He grabbed his phone and dialed our provider, all the while muttering things that sounded suspiciously like death threats under his breath.

Here is a transcript (as close as I can recall) of that conversation:

"Thank you for calling Idiots-Are-Us, my name is Tom, how can I help you today?"

HUBBY: Yeah, I just got a bill for $1300 from you guys and it's all these texting charges but I signed up for unlimited texting under my family plan last month. *hubby's tone is irritated but calm - this should be a simple mistake to fix*

TOM: Hm, well let me pull up your account information. *long pause because apparently one of the largest cell phone providers in America still has dial up on their customer service computers* Okay, Mr. Redwine, I see you added a phone line to your plan in October.

HUBBY: *wondering what this has to do with unlimited texting on his family plan* Yes and at the same time, I signed up for unlimited texting.

TOM: *gives a rueful little chuckle* Well, sir, you did but the package you chose was for just one of your phone lines. Your number has unlimited texting. None of the others do.

HUBBY: No, I signed up for unlimited texting for the whole family. It's right there on the same page as adding a line and increasing minutes. I had three options - $9.95 for 200 texts a month, $15.95 for 500 texts a month, and $19.95 for unlimited. *hubby's tone moves from irritated to angry*

TOM: Well, that only applies to one line. *manages to sound sympathetic and condescending at the same time. not wise*

HUBBY: But it's on the same page as signing up for more minutes. Are those only for individual lines too? *tone is stubborn, challenging*

TOM: No, that covers the whole family.

HUBBY: So what you're telling me is that I can sign up for minutes under my family plan and it works for all of my lines but ON THE SAME PAGE if I sign up for texting it only applies to one line?

TOM: *not recognizing his imminent danger of bodily harm* Well yes, sir.

HUBBY: Where does it say that on the page? *grabs his laptop and opens the page* It doesn't say that anywhere on this page. There's not even an asterisk. Why wouldn't I assume that if I could change my minutes for the whole plan, I could change my texting too? What kind of unethical operation are you running over there? *abandons all pretense at a civil tone of voice*

TOM: You needed to sign up for the fourth option. It's $29.95 and it gives unlimited texting to the whole family.

HUBBY: There is no fourth option.

TOM: Yes, sir, you need the $29.95 option....

HUBBY: Tom, listen carefully, I am looking at the page - on YOUR website - that I can use to adjust minutes and texting and there is no fourth option. I signed up for the only one that says "unlimited texting".

TOM: Well, the fourth option is actually located in our terms and conditions area. Didn't you read our terms and conditions before you accepted the changes to your plan? *manages to sound shocked that someone wouldn't think to search for a fourth option under terms and conditions.*

HUBBY: Your terms and conditions are 29 pages of dense legalese. No one is going to read through all of that and your company knows it. Are you telling me that you don't offer the option you know I need unless I wade through 29 pages of this stuff and somehow find out I need to choose an option you haven't even provided me yet? *hubby's voice has reached dangerous levels*

TOM: Well, sir, you really shouldn't try to adjust your plan without first having the proper training. *said, apparently, with a straight face*

HUBBY: *loses it completely* Are you serious??! Every bill I get from you guys has an ad encouraging me to conduct all my business with you online. Change my minutes. Add a phone line. Alter my texting. Online. Nowhere in your ads or on your page does it suggest that I need TRAINING to do any of those things. That's bait and switch. That's unethical and illegal and I'll tell you what we're going to do now.

TOM: Sir, if you could just -

HUBBY: *rolls right over him as if he'd never spoken* You're going to take away every cent of these charges and make unlimited texting retroactive to when I first signed up for it. And you're going to give me something in writing that states that you are taking care of all of that and I am not responsible for this stupidity on your part. If you don't do that, I will gladly pay the $400 cancellation fee and take you to court in a class action lawsuit and make millions off of you.

TOM: Sir -

HUBBY: You're going to buy me a new house.

TOM: I really don't -

HUBBY: You're going to send my kids to college.

TOM: That's not -

HUBBY: How many other people have you done this to? Offered them only three options, hit them with a huge bill, and then told them it was their fault for not realizing they needed to read EVERY FRICKIN' PAGE on your site to make sure you were being upfront with them? I bet most people pay it because for them it's not too much extra. I have a teenage girl on my plan and this is a mortgage payment. I will own your company when I'm through with you.

TOM: Now Mr. Redwine -

HUBBY: Did I mention that I'm the morning show host on the number one rated station in Nashville? I have thousands of listeners and they'd love to hear about this. And my wife - did I mention she has a strong internet presence? We can have this story across America in less than 5 hours. Get rid of this bill and change our plan.

TOM: I'm not authorized to do any of that.

HUBBY: Well read through your 29 pages of terms and conditions and find out who is and get them on this phone.

TOM: One moment sir. *sounding properly chastened*

HUBBY: *spends twenty minutes on hold listening to a running loop of commercials all stating that he should adjust his plan online because it's safe, fast, and easy. Hubby nearly chokes on the irony.*

TOM: Sir? I've cleared it with my supervisor. We're waiving the bill and making the unlimited texting retroactive as you requested.

HUBBY: Of course you are.

TOM: Is there anything else I can do for you?

HUBBY: Change your page so no one else falls for your little trap. Someone somewhere is going to sue the crap out of you soon.


Three days later we received a letter from them (mailed, apparently, three days after they sent our bill and one day before our confrontation) warning us that they'd noticed our texting was unusually high and to be prepared for a larger bill than normal.

Gee, thanks for the heads up.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Birthday Slacker

I admit it. I'm behind on nearly every aspect of my life right now. I blame 3 weeks of bed rest due to pnuemonia. Now that I'm (tentatively) back in action, I need to make up for lost time!

I missed acknowledging two birthdays this past weekend: My mom (cat lover, close friend, and fellow shoe addict) turned, ummmm, 39(!) this past Friday and my college roomie and friend Kim (Flambo on this blog) turned 33 (I think...aren't you younger than me?) Saturday.

November is a crazy month for birthdays in my life. I sat down and figured out that I have 4 family member birthdays and 7 friends with birthdays just this month. Maybe I'm attracted to people born in November? Or maybe the romance of Valentine's Day is more effective than I thought... "Here, honey, have a box of chocolates, some flowers, and a little morning sickness on the side!"

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Inspiring Quote of the Week

The difference between the possible and the impossible is one's will. - Hironori Otsuka

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

You Write - What??

A comment a few posts down got me thinking about something I posted here shortly after I started this blog. I was working through the idea of writing what I felt passionate about writing, even though I am capable of telling any number of stories.

It was me fumbling my way to a recognition that others might throw opinions and reactions at me and that I needed to learn to sift through those, looking for any grain of truth and tossing the rest out the window because really, it is my writing.

My art.

My story to tell.

And I'm getting much, much better at telling anyone who thinks I should be doing something different to just go do it themselves.

Anyone interested in my earlier post, go here.

Happy Birthday Shelley!

Happy Birthday to my beautiful sister-in-law, Shelley! She is a sister of my heart and one fun, loving, generous Texas girl and I am grateful to have her in our family (and to be a part of hers as well!)

Shelley,

Have a wonderful day with your family and know that we love you very much and we're thinking of you. And tell your hubby that if he doesn't bring you out to Nashville BEFORE summer, I will have to hunt him down and make him pay. ;)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Quote of the Day

This morning Starshine showed me a comic book he wrote in which one character brandished a sword at another character and said,

"Keep it up and you will taste my rash!"


=D

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Competing With Myself

Cross-posted from my LiveJournal page:

I'm a competitive girl.

I don't think it's possible to overstate that fact: I am a competitive girl.

If I sit down to play a game, I play to win. I may love you but if you are sitting across the poker table from me, I play for keeps. If I play against you in volleyball, I will do my level best to leave you huddled in the fetal position, whimpering for your mama. If I take a class and the professor says he doesn't give out A's (happened twice in my college years), I will not only earn an A, I will do so in memorable style just to prove the man wrong.

So you'd think pursuing my personal dreams with the same single-minded passion would be a given.

It nearly wasn't.

I've wanted to write books since the second-grade when I took a one page writing assignment and turned it into a four page story told from the point of view of a poor, over-worked school bus. (Having a second grader of my own now, I can fully appreciate the magnitude of producing 4 pages of single-spaced writing at that age.)

I spent my high school and college years being known as the "girl who writes" by everyone. I produced poetry, short stories, and essays that won A's, were published, and lined my door with poor hopefuls clutching impossible assignments and twenty dollar bills hoping I would provide the magic cure for their academic woes.

But life happens fast and dreams have a funny way of sliding toward the back burner, especially dreams that in reality won't pay a decent dime for years. I got married, started teaching, used all my time away from school to write my own curriculum as I wasn't satisfied with what the school provided, and didn't write a creative word for my own pleasure for three years.

Then I had babies, one right after the other (and THAT is a post unto itself, I assure you) and every creative brain cell fizzled and died in the wake of sleepless nights, potty training, gummed up graham crackers, and laundry that, despite my repeated efforts, refused to just go away and leave me in peace.

Most nights I could barely stand to even read a book because it took more thought than I was capable of giving.

My kids grew and my brain began functioning again and with the resurgence of something approaching a normal thought process, creative ideas began flowing. I had ideas for novels, something I'd always dreamed of writing but had never attempted.

Honestly, I didn't know how to write a novel. The leap between a twelve page short story and a three hundred page novel was daunting but the ideas I had needed the scope and breadth of those three hundred pages.

I started one novel. Quit after three chapters because I just didn't know what happened next.

Started another idea and did the same thing.

Life kept moving forward in a blur and before I knew it, another year was gone.

Then I got the wake-up call of a lifetime when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the ripe old age of 30. My battle with cancer changed me in many ways, not the least of which was my sudden appreciation for seizing whatever time I had left.

Growing up, I dreamed of being three things: a wife, a mother, and a writer. I'd accomplished two of the three. That wasn't good enough for me.

I sat down, four months after my second surgery to fight the cancer, and started writing. I got to the point where I didn't know what should happen next and I kept going. I got to the middle of the novel, realized what I was really trying to say, and started over.

My first novel took a year to write. Along the way, I met an already published author who took the time to give me sage advice, to critique my WIP, and to offer me my first compliment from someone who didn't care about my feelings.

That first novel is now in Amazon's contest and is on a publisher's desk, at her request. My second novel is nearly finished and I have ten more ideas clamoring for a voice.

I'm a competitive girl, alright. I just forgot, for a while, that competing with myself, pushing myself to be better, not accepting anything less than the passionate pursuit of my own dream, is the most satisfying game of all to win.

Dinner On Murphy

Some nights at work, everything seems to go horribly wrong.

There are the nights when a guest causes it by being incredibly rude or childish (like calling me "Sweetcakes" when my apron clearly says "C.J." or letting their spawn toss forks at other tables.).

There are nights when I cause it. (like when I jiggled a tea pitcher to get some ice into a woman's glass - as requested - and ALL the ice flew out and covered the table)

And then there are the nights only Murphy can deliver.

One night in particular comes to mind.

A party of five came in and chose to sit at a four-top with a chair in the aisle. This is a common practice and really isn't a problem except that this guy's chair happened to be right beside the doorway from one part of the dining room to the next. Very high traffic area. Waiters carrying beverages and plates of food and a chair sticking out in their path are a bad combination.

This man was a nice guy. He smiled at me when I greeted the table, placed his order politely, and generally seemed like someone I'd like to wait on.

I delivered their drinks and checked on them a few minutes later, puzzled to see a look of distress on the man's face. He quietly informed me that there was a gnat in his water.

Ewww.

It's rare to find a bug anywhere in my restaurant. We pass all our health inspections with flying colors. We have a "bug guy" who regularly services the entire store to ensure things like this don't happen.

But there it was. One little gnat carcass floating in his water. As his table was next to a window (and bugs that get trapped in a restaurant inevitably head toward a window), I figured that was the culprit. I apologized and replaced his drink. He was nice about the whole thing.

No big deal.

Or it wouldn't have been a big deal if one of my fellow waiters hadn't tripped over his chair on his way through the dining room to refill tea. Tea sloshed out of the pitcher and landed right in my guy's lap.

Since the Mt. Dew incident in Taco Bell with Paul, I have firsthand knowledge of how uncomfortable it is to get a lapful of icy beverage while wearing jeans. There are more uncomfortable things, of course, but most of them involve sand, salt water, or someone with a medical degree.

I apologized again to him and brought him a towel. He continued to be nice about everything. I really, really liked this guy.

I delivered the table's food minutes later and wouldn't you know it? This guy's steak was raw in the middle. As he'd ordered it well done, this was a problem. I apologized again, got his steak re-cooked, and we began to joke about his poor luck (we wondered aloud if perhaps he'd broken a mirror lately or offended a black cat).

Unfortunately for him, the worst was still to come.

And the worst came from me.

We deliver our food on large rectangular trays. These suckers are heavy when full of dishes and unwieldy even when they're empty.

I picked up a tray of food, headed through the dining room, past my guy's chair, delivered the food, turned to go, and heard the fateful words, "Oh, Miss?!" from the table whose food I'd just set down.

I was already walking away, entering the doorway between the two dining rooms. I whipped around to see what this table still wanted and the tray that I'd carefully tucked under one arm smacked my guy upside the head and knocked him to the floor.

There is no apology in the world that can make up for that. I offered him free chocolate instead. He accepted and, unbelievably, was still totally nice about the whole thing.

He even tipped me well.

Oddly enough, I haven't seen him enter our restaurant again.

Thinking of Thanksgiving

Some things I'm thankful for:

1. My Savior and the lover of my soul, Jesus Christ.

2. My incredible husband who loves me completely and who is still my favorite person.

3. My children who challenge me and amaze me and light up my life.

4. Pancakes.

5. The fact that I now know to pull everything out of the middle of the turkey before I cook it.

6. A strong sense of humor.

7. Friends who have become family (Paul, Kelly, Leigh)

8. Friends who offer love and faithful friendship (Dusty, Kailani, Opal, Drew, Tricia, Sandy, Luke, Shelley, Dawn, Sharon, John, Derreck...can you see how blessed I am?)

9. A critique partner who has also become a friend (Katy)

10. An extended family that spreads from Louisiana, through Texas and New Mexico, winds through Arizona, and ends up in California.

11. Music.

12. Writing (my own and the incredible work of other authors as well)

13. Our armed forces and the sacrifices they make for us every day.

14. Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman - two actors whose body of work I thoroughly enjoy.

15. The fact that I am content with who I am and where God has led me.

16. A marriage of nearly 13 years that is unbreakable.

17. My new couches.

18. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin anything, really.

19. Tennessee: there is no place more beautiful in autumn.

20. Blog readers who suffer through an entire list of "thankfuls"! =)

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Perfect Gift?

Those of you who've been regular blog readers for a while will appreciate this one: Wandereringray sent me a link to the perfect Christmas present for our friend Mal (Paul, aka bluedragoon25).

Those of you who are new to the scene can get caught up here.


Click here to see how you can make Paul's Christmas the best Christmas ever.


I personally love the warning not to use this to try to stop real bullets. Gee, thanks for the tip.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'll Give You A Hint

Something that will show up in the Alexa Tate series:




Thank you to my friend Paul (aka bluedragoon25) for photoshopping my idea into reality. =)

Friday, November 16, 2007

On The First Day of Christmas...

*Again, borrowed the idea from LiveJournal, even though we aren't quite on amicable terms yet.*

The concept is to list some of your Christmas wishes, whatever they might be, and to browse other's blogs/journals and see if there are any wishes there you might fulfill. =)

1. This is my true heart's longing and no one but God can fulfill it but all I really want for Christmas is my daughter.

2. I would love a fancy title/heading on my LJ like all my friends have but since I am barely on speaking terms with icons (and even then, I can't change them out on individual comments/posts without changing ALL of them...*sigh*), I can't figure it out and instead, I have a bar of annoying ads on mine.

3. A new battery for my laptop. This one lasts approximately 35 seconds once the plug comes loose (which, unfortunately, happens easily) and that isn't all that helpful in the grand scheme of things.

4. A bag of groceries and some coats to a family in your area who needs it. Don't know who needs it? The principal of your local elementary school surely does.

5. My carpet steam cleaned.

6. An offer from my dream agent to represent Shadowing Fate. (Especially since I just learned today that I already have a publisher interested in it!!)

7. That we would all take some of the money we would have spent on ourselves or our family and use it on someone else instead...Sudanese refugees, orphans, your local homeless shelter, a neighbor you know needs some help.

Those are my 7 Christmas wishes. Make your own list, let us all know, and we'll see what we can accomplish together!

Get Creative

I am often asked how I come up with my ideas. The short answer is - they just come to me. Something will catch my eye or an idea/question/phrase will grab my attention and my brain uses that as a springboard to launch into the fantastic world of "what if".

I long ago discarded any restraints to the "what if" world so that if the moon looks like the half-lidded yellow eye of a Dragon, I can quickly construct the outline of the Dragon circling Earth and imagine what will happend when he opens his gaping maw, jagged teeth dripping fiery venom as he lunges toward Earth...

But I digress.

The long answer is it's all about what sparks your imagination. I have a friend who loves pictures - she snaps pictures, she cuts out pictures and does collages, she uses photo shop like it's going out of style...that speaks to her. Another friend can see entire battle scenes when he listens to instrumental music. My hubby can envision a three-dimensional sculpture and create it out of cake. (and aren't I the lucky girl?!)

For me, it's a combination of visual and audio. Music inspires me. I use it when I write - at the moment I'm using mostly the soundtrack to Batman Begins but I've been known to write to Evanescence, Harry Potter, Seether, Enya, and Mozart. I can slide right into the mood of the music and let it take me where it will. I recently wrote a song while at a concert - I just kept texting phrases to my home email and I cleaned it up a few days later. I don't let location or event get in the way of a rush of creativity.

Words inspire me. I can hear a phrase and be so captivated that I will spend three pages exploring the emotional curves of those words until I wring out every last impression and satisfy myself that I've accurately transfered the weight and depth of what was in my head onto paper.

Pictures inspire me. I have a collection of images snatched from Google that catch my eye and fire my imagination. Here are a few:












Sometimes taking one idea and talking it through with my hubby or my critique partner pushes me to stretch the borders of my creativity until I reach that magical place where I know I've got something.

I think being creative comes down to knowing what speaks to you and to carving out time and space to let it run free.

Currently listening: Fuel - Something Like Human

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Soundtrack of My Life?

An idea I picked up from LiveJournal.


So here's how it works:
1. Open your music library.
2. Put it on shuffle.
3. Press play.
4. For every topic, type the song that's playing.
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button.
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool. =)



Opening Credits: Batman Begins - Vespertilio


Waking Up: Handel - Water Music Suite #1 in F


First Day at School: Daughtry - Breakdown


Falling in Love: Harry Potter - The Werewolf Scene


First Date: Disturbed - Prayer


Fight Song: Three Days Grace - Burn


Breaking Up: Switchfoot - Redemption


Prom: Star Wars - Padme's Ruminations (are we seeing a movie soundtrack theme here?)


Life: Fuel - It's Come To This


Mental Breakdown: Celtic Visions - Spencil Hill


Driving: Snow Patrol - Hands Open


Flashback: Flyleaf - All Around Me


Getting Back Together: Atreyu - Falling Down


Wedding: Yanni - Swept Away


Birth of Child: Sarah McLachlan - Possession


Final Battle: Lord of the Rings - Many Meetings (yet another movie soundtrack)


Death Scene: Harry Potter - The Face of Voldemort (I know, I know...soundtrack again)


Funeral Song: Reliant K - I So Hate Consequences (kind of an ironic song title given the topic...)


End Credits: Todd Agnew - Grace Like Rain

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It All Comes Together

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'm close to finishing SHADOWING FATE (Alexa's first book) and that the plot took a very unexpected twist on me.

Twists can be good.

Twists can be incredibly good.

This one opened doors to a vast sea of possibilities and suddenly, I could see the conflict arc for the entire series, the conflict and romantic entanglements for each individual book, and what kind of stakes are needed to drive my characters to make the kind of desperate choices it will take to defeat the evil they face (and which characters will choose to join, rather than defeat!).

As I'm pouring the words out on this one, I heard back from the publisher who has DYING TO REMEMBER. She wants to re-pitch the manuscript to her new editor. Great, I say. Go for it. Then she asks "what's new?".

And I decided to take the opportunity for a two sentence pitch for DYING TO PUNISH, the sequel to DTR, and send my revised hook for SHADOWING FATE. I'll be pitching to agents next week and if this publisher is interested, I'll let my agent know.

I had to revise the hook (some of you remember my hook from the contest on fangs, fur, and fey) because some of the conflict in that hook never made it into the book and the end game is now much more serious.

So, for all interested parties, here is the hook for SHADOWING FATE that I'll be sending out to agents (sandwiched, of course, between the proper greetings and salutations it takes to make an excellent query letter).

SHADOWING FATE Hook:

Recipe for Disaster, New York City style:

Take one seriously toned single girl. Add a pinch of “please-God-just-kill-me-now” blind dates and some kick-butt vigilante justice under the cover of darkness. Mix in a handsome cop who should be off-limits and blend violently with a killer skilled in mind-control and focused on destroying New York City. Put on a pair of Manolo Blahniks, your best little red dress, and slam it down.

Alexa Tate is more than human. She can swim underwater without holding her breath, scale a brick building in five seconds flat, and hear the emotions of those about to commit a crime. A secretary by day, she uses her skills to hunt down evil at night. She is stronger, faster, and more lethal than anyone she’s ever met.

Until now.

A non-human hunter has come to town. Using mind-control to inhabit his victims and through them commit unspeakable crimes, the hunter leaves a trail of bodies leading right to Alexa’s door.

Suddenly, Alexa is the prey in an ancient war whose rules she is just beginning to understand.

To stop the hunter and save those she loves, she must uncover the truth about her origins, keep a certain handsome cop from suspecting her of crimes she may have committed, and unleash the tremendous power locked inside of her without becoming what she fears most: a killer.

Living in New York City can be murder.

Feeling Slightly Homicidal?

So Monday, my hubby made me go back to the Dr. since I wasn't really getting much better. The Dr. decided I should take steroids for five days to really give me a boost and get the infection out of my lungs.

Unfortunately, these aren't the steroids that build muscle. I might have been on board with that.

These are steroids that apparently don't really affect 98% of the population, other than giving them energy and helping them recover.

We all know when it comes to putting substances in my body, I am not like 98% of the population.

I took these steroids once before. I had a solid headache for three of the five days and when I finished the drug, I was slightly homicidal for the next two days.





By "slightly", I mean I avoided killing anyone because everyone around me had the good sense to take one look at my face and run in the opposite direction. I was Attitude with a healthy side of Edginess.

Not a great combination for a wife, mom, and waitress (some man out there is still breathing today simply because another waitress convinced me I couldn't shove a ribeye down someone's throat without losing my job).

So, I took most of what I was supposed to take yesterday and guess what?? Headache the entire day. I've decided it's not worth it. I'm starting to feel better anyway. And I don't really want to test my resolve to stay out of prison by finishing off the course and then crashing again.

Besides, the day I would finish is Sunday and I have to teach 3 year olds in Sunday School and then have 20 people over for dinner that night. No way everyone would come out of that in one piece.

=D

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mysteries

Various mysteries from the land of RESTAURANT WORK:


1. People who ask for "diet water".


2. People who insist on snapping their fingers at me as if that will somehow motivate me to move faster on their behalf.


3. People who order Coke for their toddlers and then wonder why the little angel is a hyper, screaming nightmare.


4. People who order French Toast and then ask me to cut it into quarters for them - clearly they are not yet proficient in the use of the knife we so kindly provided.

5. My manager who has a nickname for me. As if "C.J." (which is already a nickname) is too much to say, she calls me "Cieje". It's marginally shorter. It's C.J. without the "ay" and I guess that makes her feel like she's managing her time better. =)

Count This

We have a running joke that I cannot count large amounts of cash. By "we", I mean my husband and every teller in my bank. No one bats an eye anymore when I hand over a pile of cash (and as a waitress by night, I do mean a PILE) and am several dollars off one way or the other.

It's not that I am unable to count. Math was never my favorite subject but I did very well until I hit the black hole that is Algebra 3.

It's that I have a hectic, crazy life and my brain constantly runs at warp speed.

Here is what it looks like when I try to count 176 singles:


Me: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Starshine: "Look at me! I'm Darth Mal!"

Me: *looks up* "Well, that explains the use of black and red markers on your face. Very nice. Now go wash."

Me: "Where was I? Did I already say 10?" *starts over*

My Brain: "You don't think it's possible he colored that marker on more than just his face, do you? Like, oh I don't know, perhaps the wall? The bedspread? The cat?"

Me: "Starshine! Where were you using the markers?" *counts to 20 and puts it aside so I will know I've hit 20.*

Starshine: "On my face!"

Me: 21, 22, 23, 24, 24 "Yes, but what room of the house were you in when you colored your face?"

Starshine: "The water's too hot!"

Cell phone starts to ring.

Dog spots a jogger and begins frantically howling to go outside.

Me: "Turn the faucet to the right. Towards the shower." 26, 27, 28, 29, 30. *answers phone while opening the back door for the dog. Has hectic conversation with hubby that lasts 4.7 seconds.*

Daredevil: "Can I have a snack?"

Me: "Yes, get some fruit or a granola bar. Starshine, you should be finished by now, why is the water still on?" *stares at stack of money and scrolls back. 30?*

Daredevil: "I don't want fruit or granola. I want cheese."

Me: 31, 32, 33 "I can't cut cheese for you right now. Get something else. Starshine! Turn off that water!" 36, 37, 38, 39

Daredevil: "Can I cut it?"

Me: 40, 41, 42, 43 "Sure." *catches a glimpse of Starshine heading through the dining room, completely covered in soap suds.*

Daredevil: "Cool! I get a knife!"

Me: 47, 48, 49 "Starshine! Why are you covered in soap?"

Starshine: "You told me to turn off the water."

Me: "Well, not until you've rinsed off the soap. Go rinse." *stares at pile of money and tries to remember how much is there. 50? Sounds right.*

My Brain: "Is today the day the bug guy shows up? Or is that tomorrow? Maybe I should pull some chicken out of the freezer for tonight."

Me: 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, *notices Daredevil is standing beside me with a hunk of cheese and a butcher knife.*

Me: "What do you think you're doing??? Put down that knife."

Daredevil: "But you said I could."

Me: "No I didn't. Or if I did, it was a mistake." *stares at cash. Where was I? Oh yes, 50.*

Daredevil: "Can you cut it for me then? Please?"

Me: 51, 52, 53, 54 "Give me a second to finish this and I'll do it for you." 55, 56, 57

Starshine: *screaming* "I have soap in my eyes! I'm blind! I'll never see again!"

Dog barks to come back in.

Cat begins the preliminary horking sound that leads inevitably to the act of vomiting up a furball.

Cat is on my couch.

Me: "Hang on Starshine! Daredevil, drop the knife and wait for me!" *yanks cat off couch and onto hardwood floor in the nick of time. Nearly lets dog in before good sense and the memory of what dogs WILL eat kicks in. Runs to Starshine's rescue in the bathroom.*

Scientist: "Mom, some guy is on the phone for you."

Me: *wipes out Starshine's eyes and sends him on his way, grabs papertowels to clean up after the cat and gives the Beady Eye to Daredevil who is hovering over the knife.* "Who is it?"

Scientist: *waits until I shove the papertowels into the trash before handing me the phone.* "Some guy who wants your opinion on something."

Me: *gives my opinion on stangers calling my house to ask me anything at all* "Scientist, let the dog in please." *faces cash. Where was I? Oh yes, 70.*

My Brain: "You still didn't pull out the chicken. Better do it before you forget."

Me: *grabs chicken out of the freezer and slices cheese for Daredevil just to get some peace and quiet* "Hm, 71, 72...no that can't be right. 61, 62?"

Cell phone rings again.

Starshine and Scientist get into an argument on the stairs.

Doorbell rings as some neighborhood kid wants to play inside this madhouse.

Me: *stares at cash and gives up knowing if I start over, another long line of distractions will just interrupt me again*

And that is why I can't count piles of money. Thank goodness for bank tellers with handy money counting machines.

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