Friday, June 29, 2012

Isms




I'm a feminist.
I also don't feel that men should be disparaged. I hate ads that demean men as much as I hate ads that demean women. You've seen them: "So simple my husband can cook it." "Easy enough a dad can do it." (just check out this article from AskMen.com: http://m.askmen.com/daily/austin_60/65_fashion_style.html)

I also support religious freedom. Many forget lately that our country's freedom of religion means that anyone can practice their own religion. It doesn't mean that you have to approve of your neighbor's religion. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan? I support you all.

LGBT equality? Definitely. Marriage equality? Yes please!
Equality among all races? Should have been old news by now.

The one thing I am tired of, however, is labels. So I have decided I'm only one "ist" - equalitist. One all-encompassing term that demonstrates how I really feel: we are all equal. Every one of us. No matter our gender, who we love, what we believe, how we look, how we vote, or how much we have, we are all equally important. Equally special. Equally deserving of love and support.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Be kind.


Today I received the regular email newsletter from Kind Over Matter. I adore this site. It makes me smile regularly. I'm ever grateful to my friend Mercedes for retweeting something from KOM a long time ago, that led me to the site.

There is a quote from Buddha at the top of today's email. "Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy." Such a simple, yet profound, statement. How easy it is to spread a little kindness in our world! I see examples of it every day - a door held open, a driver letting another driver pull into traffic, a meal bought for someone else in the cafeteria line, strangers stopping to offer help.

I've been on the receiving end, too. When my mother had surgery last fall, I was in line to pay the parking fee, and when it was my turn I was told the stranger ahead had paid for my car also. Just last week a friend at work helped me carry the many items I was transporting so I didn't have to make multiple trips up and down the stairs. A friend messaged me on Facebook to ask about my oldest daughter's medical tests this week.

These things are so simple, and seem like nothing when we do them, but I know from experience that these little things mean so much to the other person. There is no reason to not spread kindness around! And don't limit yourself to strangers - when is the last time we did something nice for a family member "just because?" Or a friend or neighbor? Let the people in your life know you care about them.

And just for fun, here is a whole page of free printables to help spread kindness in your world. Tear-off flyers, cards, lollipop flowers, all kinds of nifty things. Have fun!

And remember: You are beautiful.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Absence

I realized I haven't blogged in a week, and my last two posts were only photos. Oops.

Where have I been?

The best answer to that is just living. I've been busier at work, so no time for lunch break blogging. My oldest has been having a medical problem, and last week we saw a specialist and tomorrow she's having tests done hoping to diagnose her problem. Sophie is potty training and has a new love - swimming. She tells everyone "I simmin!"

I've also been trying to be more present with my family. When we're together I don't want to spend as much time on the computer. But the days are longer and there is more to do, so there isn't much time for sitting down as it is.

But I still have lots to say, and I will be back to say it. It might just take a few more days.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Feminist love

Today's post brought to you by Pinterest and Facebook.




Exactly! Until the "she was asking for it" mentality is abolished, things won't get better.

The only words I can think of to describe this one are not family-friendly.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Take me out to the ballgame - again!

For Father's Day weekend we went to another baseball game! It was much warmer (and longer days) than our visit in April. We had a great time!
















Friday, June 15, 2012

Fiction Friday: Interview with author Daniel Sickbert

Daniel Sickbert is the author of the fantasy novel The Death of Innocence. To be honest, I didn't know it was a fantasy novel when I began reading it. I would have missed out on a great read if I had known, since I don't usually read this type of book. I am so glad I didn't, though! It really draws in the reader, and the story moves along quickly. There is none of the long, draggy filler that you often find in fantasy novels. And the final twist at the very end will keep you thinking for a long time after you finish the last page.

I had the opportunity to interview Daniel about the book. He was gracious enough to answer all my questions quickly, even though he and his beautiful wife have a new baby and a two year old at home. Here is the interview, and be sure to check out his book! You'll be glad you did.


How long did it take to write the book?

-It took about a year and a half of total time.  About 90% of the book was written at work on lunch breaks and things like that, and I took a break of four months or so in the middle of the book (in between writing parts 4 and 5). 


Where did you get the idea?

-The book started with Christopher Dauphin’s account of the curse of New Haven.  I suppose the idea came from a dream; I got out of bed in the middle of the night, wrote it in the span of an hour or so, then went back to sleep.  Interestingly, I did the same thing with the prologue of my second book (which is included at the end of this book as a bonus).  The next morning, I got up and read what I had written and then spent a week or so thinking about it…I had set up an interesting framework for a story, but there wasn’t much substance there yet.  At some point along the way I decided to use this book to play with some fantasy clichés (the amnesiac hero, the daring raid to rescue a fair maiden, the hero’s invincibility, etc.); I liked the notion of moving the story along these familiar paths then veering off into unexpected territory, and I actually think this is largely responsible for the positive response I’ve gotten to the book.  Once I had created Shane and his starting situation, I knew that Alphonsus had some siblings out there to provide the story with villains, and I knew how Alphonsus would make his return to the book.  Once I had those very basic details sketched out I just started writing, and most of the rest of the book almost wrote itself.


What inspired the creatures?

-I wanted the raol to be very literally the shadows of someone’s nasty mind.  They are, if you will, hatred personified.  They gain substance and strength as their prey fears them (they often begin as little more than wisps of black smoke).  I liked the idea of an army being summoned not as skeletons or demons, but directly from someone’s thoughts; the more evil the person, the stronger their constructs could be.  It gave a more personal animosity to the attacks directed against our heroes, and when Shane is shown to be capable of summoning them it shows how far he’s fallen throughout the book.


What was easiest about writing the book?

-The writing process itself, actually.  I very rarely had any kind of writer’s block (the break I took had more to do with life getting in the way than a dearth of ideas).  I think more than anything it was just a fun book to write, since I was writing off the cuff with very little pre-planning; when big events happened it was like watching my baby grow up.


What was hardest?

-The hardest part was definitely keeping all of my loose plot threads together…I laid a lot of seeds throughout the entire book that all needed to come together by the end.  A lot of things happened along the way that were not planned and ended up contributing to that final cohesive answer (for instance, Shane losing his arm), which was pretty gratifying.  Stephen King says in ‘On Writing’ that stories should take on a life of their own and write themselves, that the characters should do or say things that you weren’t planning, and that’s when you know the story is alive.  That happened for me about 2/3 of the way through the book, and it’s an odd sensation – things flowed very quickly from that point and I just wrote without really thinking very much about the path the book was taking.  I think in the end I tied everything up with a pretty neat bow, but there was a lot of work put in to combing back through the book and making sure nothing conflicted with what was written before.

I have the same problem, trying to keep everything straight for consistency. How did you do it? Did you keep a notebook, a computer program like OneNote, or something else, if anything?

I kept pretty copious notes on characters, starting on post-it notes (as I was mostly writing at work) and moving on to a word document with character details.  With long-form writing in particular I think you develop a picture in your head of how the character should look and act and consistency becomes a bit less difficult in terms of characters.  I will say that with one character losing their arm I had to be very careful in editing to make sure I didn’t talk about them using that arm/hand or avoiding the plural of either word.

In terms of events, I kept notes (again in a word document) on open plotlines that I’d revisit at the end of each Part of the book and update as necessary.  I also kept bullet-point notes of important plot points of each Part.  I re-read all that I had written prior to resumption of work after my months-long break as well, which I think helped focus me on what my goals were for the rest of the book.

The only place in the book where I really did any kind of an outline was in the last section of the book, where events start speeding up.  I wanted to make sure my story beats were hitting in a good order and also the location of all of my characters in the big battle.  That was my first experience in writing a constantly-shifting narrative and it was fairly difficult balancing my characters and the pace of the battle itself with the bulk of my cast versus what was going on with Shane.  Everything had to flow into one natural progression and then crash back together at the right spot.  I used a fairly top-level outline to avoid constricting my writing, essentially a list of events that needed to happen in each chapter and where my characters were at the end of each chapter.


When you began, did you know how it would end?

-I knew the ultimate endpoint from the start but I didn’t know how I was going to get to that endpoint.  There were certain scenes that I knew from the start would be in the book (Belinda’s fate, the storming of Raht) but almost everything else, including a certain sci-fi twist to things near the end, was not pre-planned.  I have written some short stories and novellas (as writing exercises, not for public consumption) with an outline and I feel like it constrains the story a bit too much.  Being more in control of the story does not necessarily equate to a better story.  Of course, I may have just been lucky that my plot pulled together as nicely as it did without the benefit of pre-planning.


How did you get published?

-I self-published this book as that seemed to be the most expedient way to get it out there.  The publishing market isn’t too kind to either long books or fantasy books right now, and mine fell in both of these categories.  Before I got serious about sending out queries to publishing houses, I started writing my second book, Sin, and I intend to self-publish that book for e-readers everywhere and then get serious about getting published for the brick-and-mortar stores.

I've heard both good and bad experiences with self-publishing lately. What was that process like? How long did it take from beginning the self-publishing process to having your book in hand?
 
 I used Xlibris and I had no problems with them.  The only thing I might have liked was for them to have some artists on staff to aid with cover illustrations (my mother actually did a charcoal sketch for the cover and then Brandon Seda, a friend of mine, did the coloring).  They set up a payment plan for me, asked what marketing plans I wanted (I did an email marketing plan and I wouldn’t suggest it), and asked if I wanted both hard and soft cover books.  You’re really in control of the entire process…the price point (to an extent), the font size (I used a fairly small font size to keep my book to a length that allowed for a slightly lower price point), the font and formatting, etc.  Once they’ve gotten everything ready they send an electronic proof for you to approve, and upon approval they’ll start manufacture and send out the hard copies of the book.  It took about 6 months if I recall correctly from my first payment to getting the book, which is truly a surreal experience.

The only negative I had about self-publishing outside of the lack of cover artists was the marketing…the companies offer a number of marketing plans but from my own experiences and what I’ve read from others they aren’t particularly effective.  A dedicated publishing house would almost certainly be able to provide more robust marketing, though who knows how much they’d provide to a first-time author.  Really, marketing is sadly just not a skill of mine and I didn’t put the time and effort into marketing that I could and probably should have.  I just moved on to the next book and decided I’d pursue publishing with a ‘real’ publisher, if you will, somewhere down the road.  Before I do that, and after I finish editing Sin (my second book), I’ll self-publish on Kindle, Nook, etc. as I’ve heard very positive things about that process from other authors.
Is Sin a sequel or free-standing book? If it's not a sequel, do you plan one? The ending seems open to one.

Sin is a free-standing book and it’s very different from The Death of Innocence.  It’s set in our world and follows a woman several years after both her husband and son die in a horrific domestic violence situation.  She and her new husband settle in a small town called Sin and things literally go to hell.  This book sits very firmly in the horror genre, and I take the same approach to playing with horror clichés that I used when manipulating fantasy clichés in The Death of Innocence…her house is potentially haunted in a very Amityville-esque fashion, there are brutal murders sweeping through the town, a blizzard cuts the town off from the outside world, and the protagonist takes a literal journey through hell and back.  I think those interested in (and open about) religion will find some interesting ideas here, and anyone who loves horror in all its forms will find it a fun ride.

Who do you see as the hero of the story?

-Based on response from readers, it seems like Belinda is everyone’s favorite character.  I personally feel that if anyone were to fit the classical definition of ‘hero’ it would be Alise, but I do see Shane as the protagonist, if you will; you’re meant to root for him as everything is taken away on his quest to determine who he is.  His ultimate fate is again meant to be a play on the typical fate of ‘heroes’ in fantasy novels, particularly those suffering some amnesia…while Shane may come from royalty and have magic powers, it may not come from the heroic origins one would expect!





Thursday, June 14, 2012

Going natural

I tried making some natural cleaners tonight. Since we have a sensitive skinned toddler, and I have lung issues and can't breathe around strong chemicals, I've been exploring different methods.

The first thing I made was laundry soap. To begin, grate a bar of Fels-Naptha soap. I'd never heard of it, either. But it was right there on the shelf in the laundry aisle! You'll also need a box each of borax and Arm & Hammer super washing soda. After grating the soap bar with a cheese grater, I mixed in one cup each of the borax and washing soda. The end. One tablespoon of the mixture cleans an entire load! Here is where I found the directions.



Grating the soap. It looks like cheese!




All done.




All mixed up



I also made a daily shower spray, found on Curbly.com. There were no directions, only a formula of 1:1:2 mix of baking soda, vinegar, and water. I finally found a large empty spray bottle (96 cents at Home Depot). I hoped that dissolving the baking soda in the water first would eliminate the foaming issue that comes from mixing it with vinegar, but no luck. I had a mess all over my kitchen! I tried it out this morning, and the baking soda is still thick in the bottom of the bottle. I had to shake well before using, and during use to keep the sprayer from clogging. I'll definitely try something else next time. It was too messy to make, doesn't mix well, and leaves a baking soda residue all over the shower fixtures.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Unexpected

Day 14's song is one no one would expect me to love.

This is one.
There is another one that I really love, but it's SO bad. I'm actually embarrassed to put it here. It's Eminem featuring Nate Dogg (may he rest in peace), so if you Google it I'm sure you'll find it. The feminist in me can't stand the lyrics, but I can't help but love the song.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Be happy!

As I was browsing Kindle titles today, looking for something new to read, I came across the book 14,000 Things to Be Happy About by Barbara Kipfer. I read the description and reviews, then decided that instead of reading someone else's list, and that's all it is, I'd just make my own.

hugs
kisses
air conditioning
chocolate
tea
sugar
coffee
peppermint mocha Coffeemate
comfy beds
warm blankets
late night chats with my daughter
snuggles
clean pets
indoor plumbing (don't we all take this simple thing for granted?)
sunny days
blue skies
white puffy clouds
rainshowers
birds
flowers
Nutella
cheese
ice cream
honey
fresh fruit
homemade vegetable soup
fresh-cut grass
bubbles
playgrounds
sidewalk chalk
kites
a good book
time to read
bubble baths
DVR
wi-fi
washi tape
shoes
purses
warm days
autumn
boots
corderoy
Amazon
iPod speakers
Facebook
connecting with distant family and friends
family
PBS Kids
iPhone apps
nature
the mountains
autosave
creativity
the lake
the ocean
ponytail holders
essential oils
all-natural soaps for sensitive babies
Hershey's cookies and cream
WhoNu "oreos"
caramel
Pinterest
Target
craft stores
music
friends
Mokka Bonner
mobile phones
staying in touch with my traveling husband

That's enough for today. What is on your happy list?

Shhh... Don't tell

Day 13 asks for a song that's my guilty pleasure. I have a few in my iTunes list. Here's one from an artist I never thought I'd enjoy at all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A song from a band I hate

Another easy one. I do not like this band at all. I'm so glad they're not together any more! The lead singer's voice grates on my nerves so much.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 11 - My favorite band

This one is easy.

I'm a grown up now. How did that happen?

I can tell I'm getting older by the things that excite me now. It used to be things like the September issue of Vogue magazine, clearance sales at the mall, and new CD release dates. Now, I get Working Mother magazine and occasionally check the new releases section on iTunes to see if I recognize anything.

I've been anxiously waiting for months for my favorite convenience store chain to open it's new location near Sophie's babysitter's house. Sure, there are several others. But if I want a cappuccino, I either have to take a 2 year old in with me, which means unbuckling her from the car seat, keeping her with me in the store, paying, trying to carry said hot beverage and hopefully a breakfast treat back to my car without spilling either while simultaneously getting her to the car without her running off into the path of drivers not looking out for my 2 year old, and buckling her back into her car seat. Or, I have take a different route to work, which isn't really a big deal, but it's a little out of the way. The new location is perfect! Also, it means I can get gas quickly and easily, without playing peek-a-boo through the car window. So yes, this excites me.

Then this morning, I discovered that there is a stoplight going in at a busy intersection I often use on my way to work. There has been construction there for a couple months now, widening the road. But that's a busy intersection. That light will be very handy in the evenings especially.

What else really excited me this weekend? We got a new lawn mower. I'm officially a grownup now, when I'm thrilled about this purchase. I also was happy to find - are you ready for this one? - wood cleaner! Our new-ish (they were new when Sophie was new!) wood steps need a good cleaning before sealing. I really didn't want to seal in the greenish tinge, muddy dog prints, and mulberry tree bird poop.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sleepy time


Day 10 is a song that makes me go to sleep.
When I was a baby, my mom sang this song to me as my lullaby. It no longer actually puts me to sleep, but I do find myself yawning whenever I hear this song.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dance? Me?

Day 9: A song I can dance to

Suuuuure.....

We'll go easy with this one. Motherhood sucked the coolness out of me when it comes to dancing.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sing along

Day 8 - A song I know all the words to

There are so many!
This is not the singer I know for this song, but this song is covered by Stephanie Biddle at the end of the movie The Whole Nine Yards (my favorite movie). I love this song.

This one is very embarrassing. But, even though I was in middle school when this song came out, I still remember every word of it.

And still more:

Fiction Friday part 3

Read previous installments here


A jingling of the bell startled me. I turned around and saw it was Carrie coming in a little early. “Book club is today!” she said cheerily, shaking her bouncy blond curls after removing her fedora. “I thought you could use some help with opening so you can relax and enjoy the group when they arrive.” She added her coat to the coat rack and topped it with her hat. I just love her hats. This one was bright red with silver sequins on the band. Not what you would expect for a Monday morning walk to work, but that is what made it even better. 

“It looks like we’ll have an early customer, too,” she said as she opened the cash register and dusted off the counter. “There is a man lingering outside the store like he’s waiting for us to open. I wonder what kind of book he is looking for.” She had a mischievous twinkle in her eyes when she said that. We play a game when there aren’t any customers in the store, in which we speculate what off-the-wall books a customer is looking for. A well-dressed businessman wants a collection of erotic poetry, a mom with four kids in tow slips in a guide to S&M while paying for the children’s selections, a party girl still dressed from the night before takes home biographies of past presidents. It’s amusing, and we collapse with laughter when we are actually right!

“He’s early,” I say, starting the game, “so he must be on his way to work. Maybe he is looking for…” and I trail off as I glance out the window and see who it is. “You have to be kidding me! Not him again!”

“What are you talking about, Lizzie?” asked Carrie. “Not who? Who is that man? What’s going on?”
“He’s no one! He’s crazy and I’ve never seen him before this morning!” I told her about what happened this morning, how he came up to me from nowhere and said my mother lied, and my dad was not my real father. “He even knew their names, my name. What is wrong with him? Who does that to someone they don’t know?”

“No way!” Carrie exclaimed. “And you’ve never seen him before? That’s insane! Who did he say your father really is? No – he has to be wrong. You were the light of your dad’s life!  Of course he was your father!”

“I didn’t give him a chance to say anything else. I got on the bus and came straight here. He must have followed me. Or who knows, he knew my name and Mom and Dad’s names, maybe he knew about the shop, also.” I was fuming. He shouldn’t be here! I went about the motions of readying the shop for opening, but I was distracted. Carrie, mercifully, didn’t say anything about it, or mention the stranger again while we worked.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Remember

Day 7 is "A song that reminds me of an event."

I thought and thought, but couldn't figure out what event I was reminded of by a song. Nothing.
Then I heard a song on the radio.

I love No Doubt. Always have.
But my freshman year of college, I had been visiting my then-boyfriend at his college. We had been together over a year. I knew we weren't "forever," but I still cared about him. We went out as usual, had a good time, then when I dropped him back off at his dorm, all of a sudden he broke up with me. It was out of nowhere. On my way back to my own college and dorm, this song came on the radio. The perfect breakup song, written (like that whole album) out of Gwen Stefani's own breakup with a bandmate.

Six months after that breakup, I met my husband. Obviously, I was over the breakup. And I still love No Doubt, and this song. But every time I hear it, I remember that night. I don't feel anything from it of course, but I remember.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Memories in song

A song that reminds me of somewhere

We moved to Tennessee from Florida when I was in kindergarten, but still visited frequently. My grandmother still lived there half the year, and we would go for Spring Break, during the summer, and Thanksgiving. Sometimes we'd go over winter break, also. We had lots of family all over the state to visit, and of course we spent lots of time in Panama City, where we used to live.

I remember one year my mom and I were in the car on Panama City Beach driving back to Panama City and this song came on the radio. I remember thinking it was perfect for how I felt.  I was always happy when we visited Panama City. It was my other home - my grandmother's house and neighborhood, the church we used to belong to and still visited, the playground I played on as a child, the park across the street from my grandmother's house, the duck pond, the ocean... all of it. It was my happy place.

Every time I hear this song, I go back there in my head.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Girl

Day 5 is a song that reminds me of someone. I surprisingly had a very hard time with this one!
Finally I settled on one. When Emma was a baby, I was watching the movie My Girl on tv. This song played at the end credits, and I held her and we danced all around the living room. From then on, when she was small enough, we'd dance like that every time we heard the song. She would laugh and laugh.

Those times were so precious to me.

I think her growing up and approaching high school years are making me sentimental. I find myself realizing how little time we have left with her. It won't be long at all until she's off to college and out in the world on her own! But no matter what, she's always "my girl" to me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sad songs say...

Day 4 - A song that makes me sad.

(Song is U2's All I Want is You, video is a scene from the movie Reality Bites)
I'm not sure why, but this song often makes me sad. I've even found myself driving down the road crying as it plays on the radio, and I honestly have no idea why. I have the "you" that I want... It's just something about the music itself that gets to me.

I still like it, though.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The house of my dreams

This blog idea is from a nifty iPhone app I downloaded.

What does my dream home look like?
I have many ideas, but some themes recur in every house. Large closet. Lots of storage. Lots of space in the whole house. Windows, light. A library. High ceilings. A big front porch. Brightness. Lots of color. A big, inviting kitchen. Natural floors and counters, lots of wood and stone. A room to be crafty. A playroom. A basement. A room for my husband's Star Wars stuff. A guest room, or two. Comfort and warmth.

Check out my Dream Home pinboard on Pinterest!

Instant happiness, just press play

Day 3: A song that makes me happy

This one is easy! Just try to listen to this and not be happy and jump up and down a little.

And the Sesame Street version, that Sophie loves (good girl!):


Saturday, June 2, 2012

My least favorite song?

This is a difficult one to narrow down, also. I don't make a habit of listening to, or dwelling on, my least favorite songs. The first that comes to mind? Anything Kesha. I can't stand her music. Also Hinder, and most of the whole "emo" crowd. So whiny and entitled and annoying.
Ok, I know my two least favorites now.

Such "class" here. *eyeroll* Does this make me old? I'm okay with that.
This song makes my skin crawl. It essentially glorifies cheating. He has his girlfriend in the other room, but he's on the phone with another one telling her he wishes she was there instead? Jerk.