Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guest Posting @ Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Good morning! This is the post that was supposed to go up yesterday morning...but there are days when technology and I don't play well together.

I'm excited to let you know that I'm guest-posting at the new, official A-Z Challenge blog!  If you head over there, you can check out what I learned last year, and then catch what Shannon @ The Warrior Muse has to say about her participation in the challenge last year. If I'm speaking Klingon, let me briefly remind you what that was all about.

Last April, 1282 of us participated in the month long blog party. We posted everyday except Sundays, each day's post built around that day's letter of the alphabet. It was a lot of fun to meet new bloggers (not all writer blogs, by the way, we also had photoblogs, music blogs, poetry blogs, and random other delightful but uncharacterizable blogs. (Open office says “uncharacterizable “ is not a word, but I'm a writer and hereby declare it a real word. Feel free to use as you wish!)

We will officially introduce this year's challenge hosts on January 6, and open the linky-list for participants to register on January 30, 2012. So check back here and meet all the hosts! (Pssst...I'm one of them.)

Of course you don't have to wait until January! Feel free to come back when ever you wish. If I've been too busy sledding with the kids, or hosting sleep-overs, or a house full of teenagers in a 36 hour marathon's of Xbox 360 live, or trying to keep enough food in the house for a multitude of teenage boys, and therefore haven't posted anything new, there are over 260 other posts you may read ;-) You might try April 2011 to see what sorts of posts I did last year.

One last thing! Sign-up to follow the AZ Challenge blog when you're over there reading what I wrote, and if you're here from the AZ Challenge blog, welcome, and of course I'd be delighted if you followed me.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

To Save, or Not to Save

Have you seen the show “Clean Sweep” or “Hoarders”? I'm not quite that bad, but I'm a clutter-bug, a girl with many piles in many places. There's never enough time to finish whatever project I'm working on, but then I need the table for something (say, serving dinner) so I sweep the paper storm into a pile and put it somewhere. This event then repeats itself over and over. Pretty soon all the chairs in the “pretty room” (that's what my boys called it when they were young and it stuck, it's just a living room, but no toys allowed, those go to the family room, or their own room) are stacked with precariously perched piles of paper. Deciding what to save, to what to file, what to shred and what to just recycle seems like a daunting task when you survey the scenery.

The problem isn't so much lack of motivation (because clutter drives me nuts and makes me feel even more claustrophobic) or time (I'm no longer homeschooling {yippee yippee joy joy dance}) it's the deciding. Am I ever going to look at this program again (like the one I got from attending The Nutcracker where my friends daughter was dancing)? No, I'm not. But suppose her mother is making a scrapbook for her when she becomes a prima ballerina one day. She might need it if she lost hers. So give it to her, you say. No! She has one! She doesn't need mine now, but boy would I be the hero if she needed one later and I still had mine!

I'm thinking you're catching on to my dilemma here. Why save that letter from Grandma? It's just taking up space. You know she loves you, and you love her. Now fast forward to her funeral, and you're making those posters of the deceased's life, and there is a letter she wrote to her granddaughter. In fact, it's the last letter she ever wrote because very shortly after that, Alzheimers stole her brain. It's now a precious keepsake, and you're so happy to have it.

What should I save of mine? I have ticket stubs: first time I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert, front row at the downtown historic movie theater where my uncle took us to the premiere of “The Empire Strikes Back.” I know I don't need them. I have the memories. Well, for know. With my medical issues, I don't know how long until someone steals MY brain.

Then I fast -forward to some future relative of mine, sorting through all my piles, and finding those ticket stubs and thinking, “Wow, she was around for THAT!” I know it's not a moon landing or anything of that scope, but it was an occasion that was important to me.

For my last point, I do have a counter-example. I write poetry. Have since I was in about 5th grade. I have journal after journal with poems and rants and raves and excited to just be alive entries when love was in full bloom. Those I'd rather others not see. As a human person, I'm not perfect, and some of the events described in detail aren’t for consumption by family members. Skeletons in the closet, described in the journal.

Ok, just one more example. When my mother was in college, a friend dragged her to hear some poet read his poems in one of the lecture halls on campus. I really wish she'd saved the program. It was in the early 60s, and the poet was Robert Frost.

How do you handle this issue? What do you save? What never makes it home? How do you store the treasures? I'd love to hear what you do.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Swedish Christmas Part 3 ~ Advent

One of my strongest memories from childhood Christmas celebrations is the advent calendar. Farmor (“father's mother”) spent an inordinate amount of time each year making this tradition really special for her grandkids.

Advent is from the Latin adventus which means “coming”. Scandinavians (if you're new around here, you need to know I'm Swedish, immigrated here when I was 9) have celebrated this tradition for centuries, and it's becoming more well-known in America as time goes by. Our church's denomination (Evangelical Free Church, where evangelical means our main goal is to let others know about the saving grace of Jesus, free means that though we're affiliated with our denomination, we answer to no higher authority. Well, besides God. He's a big authority ;-) has Swedish roots, so these churches have celebrated advent much longer than most folks in this country. Ok, history lesson over.

The advent calendar is only one facet of the advent celebration though, so if you want to hear more, remind me about the candle-lighting and the the fire that resulted. (Wood burns, by the way.) Back to today's programming: The advent calendar Farmor used was hand-embroidered. There were tiny Christmas pictures numbered 1-24 (tree, presents, santa – see this post  for more on Swedish santa) and 24 little brass rings, one for each day. (I would of course take a picture, but this is Swissie's year to use it so I can't.) Farmor shopped for or made tiny gifts, wrapped them, and attached them to the embroidered wall-hanging by those rings. Since we lived very close to Farmor and Farfar (by now, you should be able to translate those – but I'll give it to you one more time: father's mother, father's father) (Which just gave me a great idea!   In your comment, tell me what maternal grandmother and maternal grandfather would be, and I'll {not kidding} send you a Swedish prize) we just hiked into the forest at the end of our street, climbed the hill, and then back down on the other side, and we were at their house.

It was very exciting to get a small gift each day. Sometimes it was a candy, 
sometimes an ornament, and sometimes it was a tiny decoration, some that I still use today as in the above photo.  (I have NO idea why editing it counter clockwise, though successful in the iPhoto file, does not translate to the uploaded-to-blogger-file. I guess you'll have to turn your head)

Cherishing this countdown to His birth as a child, I wanted my boys to have the same wonderful experience as I had. This American piece,

 a gift from Aunt Risky, has the boys as excited about opening those doors each morning as I was. The gifts have varied over the years, but Saturday's surprise is always a bit more than the rest of the week. Lately, what they look forward to are the privilege cards. Skip a chore. Stay up an hour more. Go out to breakfast with a parent. Choose what's for dinner and who has to clean up. Jake cracks me up, because he has from time to time handed me one of those cherished cards in say June, but from two Christmases ago, and I've had to follow through. He's a saver. YellowBoy, on the other hand, “spends” most of his right away.

I appreciate you sticking around for these posts. Preparing for the celebration of Jesus' birthday takes many forms and family traditions. I'd love to hear yours.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Swedish Christmas Part 2

This post is a sequel to Swedish Christmas Part 1.

Swedes celebrate Christmas for three days in a row. What kid wouldn't love that? My parents did a great job of each sharing their family's favorite traditions. What resulted was a wonderful and unique combination of celebrations. Now we've come to the next iteration of that plan. Our boys have the chance to celebrate Christmas with two sets of grandparents, in two ways, while each of those celebrations are in turn derived from what their parents, as in me and The Engineer, celebrated as children. Are you following? Today I'm going to share a bit about the Swedish version of santa – Jultomten. (Jul is Swedish for Christmas.)

As parents, The Engineer and I decided that we weren't going to tell our kids about Santa, The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny, or The Great Pumpkin. Since we were already teaching them about Jesus, we didn't want Him to be lumped into the category of, “My parents said these people existed, but I now know that {insert fake holiday icon here} isn’t' real, then why am I to believe that Jesus is true? I mean, all the rest of that pack is pretend. Jesus must be, too.” We did our best to “let them in on the secret” since we didn't want them to go around spreading any “heresy”, or spilling the beans and in turn cause trouble for those kids who were taught differently. My boys were told not to share what we believe to be truth, and to just let those kids have their fun. I'm not so silly that I believe they never told anyone, but I do believe that what they took away from the whole situation is that their parents are truthful, and sometimes it's fun to pretend so we don't hurt anyone's feelings.

American kids grow up with Santa dressed in red and white, big white beard, sleigh, flying reindeer, and presents to everyone in one evening. Swedish kids of yesteryear grew up with santa looking more like the (completely annoying) Travelocity gnome. (I used to watch The Amazing Race and the worst product placement ever was making them carry around that &*^% gnome all over some country.) Swedish kids today are exposed to a Santa closely resembling the commercialized “American” version. I'm a history buff and was just fascinated with the story (which is most easily accessed at wikipedia) of the “evolution” of the Norse santa. Since I know all of you have time to spare this season, here's the link to Wikipedia if you care to explore. 

There's a lot more to tell, including The Swede's dad dressing up as tomten when I was a kid. However, I tend to get long-winded, so I'll pause the story here and share some of my favorite Swedish tomte decorations.  I inherited these from Farmor (“father's mother”) and am proud to display a piece of my heritage.

These little ones are hand-knit by my Farmor.  The guy jumping out of the candle holder is knitted and stuffed with scraps.  The short little guy is like a hat, and slipped over a cardboard toilet paper roll.  She made a lot of these, all to be donated to the church's yearly craft fair.  Remind me to post about that.  You crafty types might enjoy that.  The runner and the wall hanging you are seeing a piece of were made by my Farfar ("father's father")

This tomte is hand-made glass.  I have him hanging from my (hideous and I'm dying to replace) dining room chandelier as seen in the following picture.

This whimsical little fellow looks more like American santa.  A good transitional piece from history to what we have today.

This little girl is my favorite.  I have no idea how old she is, but she and her brother (who lives at Swissie's house) decorated Farmor's childhood home.

What Christmas objects are special to you?  Did you believe in santa as a child?  Did you tell your kids about santa?  I enjoyed the comments on my last Christmas post.  Always nice to hear how others celebrate.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Magic Maxalt

Why the sledge hammer,
in my head?
Spotty vision,
I'll go back to bed.
Sleep so elusive,
light too intrusive
Magic pill, do your best
ease the migraine
so I can rest...

It's Sunday 160, hosted by Monkey Man.  He's taking a break, so go visit him and say "come back soon!"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Failure to Yield

Rude, selfish behavior makes my blood boil. It's a virus, quickly spreading, and parents are teaching it to their children by their example. I'm not going to talk airplane travel, because that one is so obvious. No, I'm talking about carline. Pick-up and drop-off of kids at school. There you'll find even more rude, selfish behavior, and done in plain view of a multitude of children. It's gotta stop.

I realize some of you are blessed with never having to experience this ritual. For your sake, I'll fill you in on the “courtesy guidelines” provided by YellowBoy's middle school. Those of you who do have to endure this torture, please chime in. Knowing that there are others out there also outraged by their particular version of this situation will make me feel a bit better. I hope.

Like many schools, his has a long, circular driveway/loop dedicated to the purpose of making it easy to drop or pick-up your child. You enter this single lane and inch forward as those in front of you pull up as far as they can, discharge the student, and go on their merry way. It's a lovely theory, and quite easy to understand.

Along come the special parents. They are the ones who instead of crawling towards the drop-off, single file, squeeze their vehicles past all the politely waiting parents and zoom to the open place that the car now behind them can no longer pull into. At least the kid gets out on the sidewalk.

Not all parents are so rude that they'd sneak forward in line like that, so they just pull up next to you, discharge their child to walk in front of your car so that you can't pull out and go on your merry way because you're waiting to not drive over their child, and you can't get going anyway because they are still beside you blocking you in. If you've been trapped a while between the “get out here” and the “I'm moving to the front of the line” folks, then there seems to be some sort of conspiracy to leave you trapped there. It's as if they're saying, “Oh just ignore that Volvo, she hasn't moved for 5 minutes, must be staying a while.” Chicken? Egg? As you can tell, by now it's a traffic jam, kids everywhere, parents hurrying, holding their Starbucks in one hand, their Blackberry in the other, driving like idiots.

You think the kids don't notice? They do. YellowBoy decided that he's not wanting any part of the pick-up in that “death-trap”. (That's an exact quote, by the way) Instead he walks through the pedestrian tunnel to the other side of the two-lanes each way major thoroughfare, and then three blocks to my waiting car. I park at a nearby park. Not another parent in sight. He makes it there eventually, and my blood pressure is in much better shape.

So why not do this in the mornings, too? I would. Except YellowBoy is a procrastinator, and even though we have a five minute timer and final buzzer, he still manages to make us just off schedule enough that he no longer has time to walk from the park. Set the timer earlier you say? Maybe. But look at all the fun we'd miss.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Swedish Christmas, Part 1

We've been in full swing with traditional Christmas preparations around here this weekend, and I thought I'd share. We're a mix of Swedish and American traditions, so it's rather a hodge-podge sorta blend of his, mine, and ours. I love it. But don't worry, I'm not going to bore you (I hope) with too many details, but share a few things you might not know about since (I'm guessing) all of you aren't Swedish.

I think the most Swedish thing we do is our real Christmas tree. Unless things have changed in my home country since my 1974 emigration, no Swede has an artificial tree. (I even called The Swede to confirm this.) My Sissie and Mr. Clean head up into the mountains for trees for the whole family each year. I'm so grateful for this service, and eagerly await my delivered tree. We usually get a wonderful Charlie Brown tree of which we are very proud. This year though, they hit the jackpot because our tree is just absolutely gorgeous. I might show you a picture, but as of this minute, it's only half decorated.

The Engineer has, with a sigh of relief, yet great difficulty, delegated the placing of the lights to YellowBoy. This is no small passing of the torch. He's famous for using a ridiculous amount of lights to wrap each individual branch as he moves up the tree. Very slowly. We're talking 500+ lights on a seven foot tree and it takes FOREVER. Not kidding. Engineers don't idle well, and he's all engineer. Idle you say? How could putting up lights be idle? Yeah, you're asking the wrong person.

I've never been one for theme trees. You've seen them. Perfectly coordinated, balls, beads, garland, ribbons, etc. Not at my house. You'll find the Spiderman that Jake drew as a young child, precariously still hanging from a piece of yarn. The glitter-dosed popsicle stars with the school picture at the center. The stale marshmallow snowmen holding an “I love you, Mom!” sign. Yes, it's hard for me to have all the ornaments clustered in one place, with crooked lights, and the top half of the tree bare.  But my focus isn't on decorating, it's on my kids and the traditions they cherish. We had a great time listening to Christmas music and working together. As we get closer to celebrating our Savior's birth, I'll share more about Swedish Christmas. What are your family's favorite traditions?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Latest Project

It's good to be back! I feel like I owe an explanation...but I'm not quite ready to do that. Life is not just “Good”, sometimes, it's hard. I've been in “hard” for a while. But I do have a blessing to share. I'm soon to be published!

The book I'm involved with is called Until They Have Faces. I'm one of over 40 or so authors to contribute to this fundraising project. The purpose is to raise awareness about and tell the stories of the homeless in our county. Each section includes a professional portrait of the subject, and then his or her story, each one from a different author. We also interviewed and photographed people whose careers intersect with the homeless community. I interviewed Ian Engle who is the director of Center for People with Disabilities in Boulder, CO.

I'm thrilled to be part of this group effort! This coffee table book release will be in February, and I'll share the info should you want to buy a copy for yourself and in so doing, help the efforts to raise funds and awareness. If you feel like checking it out, this is the blog chronicling the process of the project.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Flash Friday 55: Until They Have Faces

He isn't invisible
holding the sign, but
he probably wants
since he won't meet my eyes

Easier, to hide in the stereotype
Pan-handling bum, flying the
God Bless Anything Helps”
than speak truth
his story

I wave him over, hand him my ashtray
ten bucks in change,
now a grin,
and I see.

Flash Friday 55 is hosted by the g-man over at Mr.Knowitall
Place your link and play along.

Yes, I've been gone a while...and you'll hear the story someday.  Today is not that day. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Worst Movies Ever Blogfest

My good buddy Alex J. Cavanaugh is hosting another party. Simple ~ list your 10 worst movies. It's sorta like a public service announcement: watch out for these. Legions of bloggers have found them to be so bad that they're not even worthy of making fun of. Sci-fi fans know that is a category of movies all of its own. For that list, we need a different party. (But I do have to say that one of the very best of these is Tremors. C'mon, it's got KEVIN BACON, AND giant, man-eating worms. and we all now how relevant the Kevin Bacon degree is...) So without further yammering, or ado, I present:

  1. Two of a Kind with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.
    We actually walked out, even though we were on a first date, doubling with my best friend and his best friend, who coincidentally were dating. If this sounds familiar, you must have read, “The Tuba Player and the Clarinetist”. This was my first date with The Engineer. We've been married 19 years.

  2. Speed 2.
    If you've seen it, this needs no explanation. If you haven't, DON'T.

  3. Labyrinth.
    I was completely inebriated, and still couldn't sit through it.

  4. Any of the numerous Pokemon movies my children have made me watch. Yes, they have that power. It's called Boys' Night and you can learn more about why I would subject myself to such atrocities in that post.

  5. Ponyo
    Any movie where you fall asleep of boredom while watching a boy and his goldfish, only to wake-up and find that the goldfish has now transformed into a toddler girl is just too freaky for me.

  6. Mission Impossible 2 Too many masks, Tom's hair is too long, and I lost ten years of my life watching him free climb that big rock.

Six is what you're getting from me. I blew out my knee this weekend (that would be the knee I already had scoped in college from a skiing accident but have been relying on as my “good” side while my “bad” side awaits hip replacement) and am feeling sorry for myself here in my bed. Going to go drown myself in Hell's Kitchen. At least there someone else is in pain...

If you'd like more warnings of hazardous to your movie-watching time sorry flicks, check out the rest of the lists over at Alex's.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Friends Indeed

At this moment, I'm totally stressed out, and don't quite know which of the many crises du jour (du week? du month?) is the worst. Of course, some of these are only crises because of my own depression and waning ability to move forward at anything other than a snail's pace. But in my world, they feel huge and important. And then there are those crises that are real. As in capital REAL.

When I'm feeling like this, I love to look at pictures. That slice of a moment, captured in time for all eternity. {Provided you don't lose the negatives (in the past) or jpeg files (now the norm)}. I'm a visual learner, and that's how I process my world. Show me. That will tell me. And comfort me.

I've been very blessed to have generous friends who have shared their photography with me. I follow a lot of blogs, and no, I don't get to each one every day, but to me, follow means, “I really like this and I want to come back.” These friends' photos have now become my screen saver. I've put all the wonderful images on rotation, and as I sit at my computer, not able to do anything but sit there, I get to slip away to India, to the East Coast, to the Carolinas, to Coastal New England. I've been a witness to amazing sights that in my life-time I most likely will not see in person. Each of these bloggers has enriched my vision of our world, and I'm eternally grateful.

Today I'd like to introduce you to two of my friends.

Cheryl of Deckside Thoughts is a “don't miss” on my blog travels. She is genuine, and not only a photographer, but also a wonderful writer.  Most importantly to me, though, is her honest feedback.  I value that immensely.  

H of Little Sealed Packages has given me not only a glimpse into the moors of England, but many other places I'm now wanting to visit. She doesn't just put up photos, her narration helps you understand the history behind her images. If you're looking for someone to write your tourist brochures, she's you gal. When she does a post, I immediately want to go there. As in TODAY.

How do you choose to follow a blog?  What is your interpretation of "follow"?  I'd love to know.  I'm still fairly new to this world.  Have only been here since 2009.  Would love to hear your feedback on this subject.  (After you visit my amazing friends, of course!)

Friday, August 12, 2011

In Darkness Hides

I used to know the way
Traveled it often,
with joy-anticipation
A sunny path, with
enough obstacles
for an interesting

Now, light fades
darkness cloaks the way
trees who danced,
arms swaying to honor
bird's song, grasp-reach
ominous arms
seeking to snag-drag
at my will
while fear
snakes up my spine

The path
long forgotten,
overgrown, unused
where happy feet
in circles danced,
squishing the delicate
blossoming flowers
in their joyous
ballet travels
now tangled
with neglect

Won't you shine your light?
To guide
just need a tiny
to travel on
the road not traveled
in so long.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Novel Film Blogfest 2010, Day 3

As this short but sweet book-to-movie blog-hop comes to its close, I want to share with you what I would do were I the casting director for the film adaptation of one of my favorite books. Yes, its already a movie, three of them, in fact, but they did it so wrong with the 1974 edition, I just have to jump in with my ideas.

The Great Gatsby. Don't know how many times I've read the book, but my first time I do remember well. (Don't we all.) (..oops, sorry, been a long, hot summer...)This classic was assigned reading for my junior year English class. I think it would help you to know that the teacher of junior and senior English was NOTORIOUS for being strict. She didn't give As. You might be lucky to pull a B. (For more about her, read one of my first blog posts where I tell you why I'm even here, doing this blog thing.) (It's her.) She made us read the book, talk about the book, write about the book, and pretty much live and breathe F. Scott Fitzgerald for over a month. I was in heaven.

Because of all that work with the novel, the picture in my head of what each character looked like was pretty firmly implanted by the time I read it again. And again. As an adult, I discovered the 1974 Robert Redford version of the movie adaptation. I tried to enjoy it, I really did. But as some of my long-time readers know, I'm a bit of a control freak. It was hard to watch it when the wrong people were on the screen.

Were I casting it, Jay Gatsby would be played by Aaron Eckhart. He totally charmed me in Erin Brockovitch. Yes, it's a crush. Have you seen his eyes? When they are all on you...Where was I? Ok, Jay is set.

Daisy Buchanan. I don't know why, but I've never been a fan of Mia Farrow (who played Daisy in the 1974 edition).  Instead I'd pick Renee Zellweger. She'd made a great debut in Jerry Maguire, then continued to show us her range in other films. Have you seen Chicago? How many Hollywood actresses can actually act, sing, and dance all at the same time? Not many, in my opinion. Not that they're not trying...but Renee has the chops. And the delicate, waif-like look.  And in my head IS Daisy.

For Nick Caraway, I'd pick Jake Gyllenhaal. He also has great range, and I think he's right to capture Nick's “trying-to-fit-in-but-do-I-really” conflicts.  And, um, some rather pleasing physical attributes.

The rest of the characters can stay as they are. They didn't in any way stand out as “wrong”. So if you're looking for a casting agent, feel free to give me a call. I'd love to have a useful outlet for all the images floating around in my head...

If you could re-cast a movie, who would you choose? I'd love to know. And a big thanks for hanging around for the last day of Novel Films Blogfest 10. Click the button in my sidebar for more entries. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled program tomorrow.

Novel Film Blogfest 2010, Day 2

Yesterday I wrote about my worst book-to-movie disappointment. Today I'm going to be positive and talk about a successful adaptation. Ok, I'm at least going to try to be positive. I don't know if others have this same problem, but when I'm reading a book, there is a whole other world inside my head. I see it clearly, in color, and then Hollywood comes along and messes it all up. There is an exception, though. They've really done a great job with the Harry Potter movies.

I read all the books, trying to stay just a step ahead of my now 14 year-old book worm son. I was hooked almost from the first sentence and found her style so refreshingly engaging and no-nonsense. Her work is very accessible for those just beginning to enjoy reading for its own sake, and with enough funny twists and odd characters to keep the attention of video-game addicts and adults alike. (Pretty sure she even reeled in the video-game addicted adults as well...)

Adapting books so widely read by so many had to be a daunting task. I mean, one wrong step and you might have rioting crowds of kids to deal with. I was therefore very happy to see that they'd taken great care to follow the books so closely. And oh what a world they created.

I was just enthralled watching Hogwarts come to life. The dining hall, the head table of professors, the floating candles, the crazy staircases, the swooping was just so magical to see it just like I'd imagined it. And they didn't cast a single lead wrong!

It's been a joy to watch those kids grow up and learn acting right before our very eyes! We've watched all of the movies too many times to count, and eagerly awaited the finale.

Yes, of course they changed some things. They couldn't possibly put everything in a movie that only last two or three hours. But the screen plays did such a nice job of showing characters' internal struggles as well as the major events. To me, that is why most book adaptations disappoint. When I'm reading, I'm privy to the personal struggles and thoughts of each character. That's hard to pull off in a movie without narration, and without using long, clunky, expository dialogue.

Just give me my Quidditch, my snarling, angry books, and some every flavor beans. I'll visit that world whenever I want. Look out though, I'm after your invisibility cloak, so keep that hidden. Couldn't resist.

What movies do you think have done justice to their book beginnings? Chime in! There's still tomorrow to go, so it's not too late to join the party! Come back tomorrow when I share my dream casting for some of my favorite books.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Novel Films Blogfest 10

I've been having such fun with Life is Good lately! In striving to visit all the A-Z Challenge participants by the end of the summer, I've met some wonderful new people and have found great new blogs to follow. That hasn't (as you've probably noticed) left me much time for writing.  I decided to shake things up and jumped into this blog-hop. These community events tend to motivate me, and what can I say, I do like a good party ;-) For the next three days many of us (42 at last count) are going to be writing about the connection between books and movies.

I'm always, always disappointed when a book I've enjoyed is made into a movie. They start by casting the wrong lead. I know it's wrong because I've been "looking" at that character the whole book, and he/she doesn't look like that! Then they change the plot, sometimes completely destroying the story I so enjoyed. I understand a bit about the Hollywood scene, after all, I read tabloid headlines in the check-out line ;-) but sometimes it baffles me what they get away with.

In my opinion, the worst offender in the book butchering category is “The Horse Whisperer”. I loved the book by Nicholas Evans.  It had shifting points of view, a unique story, and the easy writing style all combined to please me.  I grieved with Grace. I understood Annie's feelings. The subtle undercurrents of attraction to someone inappropriate, the drive to “fix” whatever problem comes her way. The worry about her only child.

Don't get me wrong, The Horse Whisper wasn't a bad movie. If I hadn't read the book, I probably would have really enjoyed it. But how on earth can you get away with letting the main character live, when in the book, he dies? That's not a minor change. That turns the story upside down and forever alters its impact. And in my opinion, not for the better.

What's the worst offender in this category, in your opinion? Whose book got butchered the most?  Please chime in!  Tomorrow I'll be talking about the best movie adaptation. (And it's NOT “Adaptation”, I guarantee you that ;-) I'd love to have you come back and chime in with your opinion. AND you could even use the button in the side-bar and hop aboard this party train. After all, it's only three days.  Madeleine of Scribble and Edit is waiting!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Love Like Lead

Heartbreak is heavy
like wearing lead clothes
weight so immense, it's hard to
just even stand
that robe of burdens
too big to

You've left me
with a sweet kiss
and a smile of pity
at my (hidden) tears,
I lack the strength
to stop the (silent) stream,
making tracks
down the disappointment
etched so plainly
on my gaze

I smile the last
of my love, then
stagger drowning
an anchor
back to my life.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Random Bits'n'Pieces

My brain seems to be on vacation this summer. Not thinking that's totally bad though. After all, at least some part of me is on vacation. It just that lately I haven't finished anything I've been writing. It's just sitting there. That's when it occurred to me that I could do a “random quarter” post with these unfinished pieces.

What's a random quarter?” It's a post with 25 items. These items, or entries, or whatever you wanna call them, can be anything. Ideas, rants, stories, secrets, etc. RANDOM, if you will ;-) (I totally stole this idea from jenn over at Quirky Pickings. She's smart, snarky, funny, a great writer and supportive bloggy friend. You should visit. After you read the rest of this post, though.)

You know that little stand on restaurant tables? It usually has sweeteners, salt and pepper, maybe a drink or dessert menu, etc. They need to put magnifying glasses there for when people of a certain age forget their reading glasses and can't see what's on the menu because her arms have gotten too short...not that I've experienced this personally, or anything. Just an idea that came to me when I was last out to dinner...ahem.

I have a DMV parents moved to CO when Jake, now 14, was only 8 months old. Dad went to get Colorado plates for his big, GREEN pick-up. "Needs a VIN verification. Don't show your face around these parts 'til ya'll got that sucker verified." Or some such words. I went with Dad to the emissions/VIN verification place because it was on the way to where we were playing golf, and we sure didn't think it would be any big deal. We get in line, get the guy to come out, and he checks the VIN. (By the way, why is it that some dude who does emissions tests is more accurate at reading a number than, say, the owner? Or the lady behind the counter at the DMV? Just asking.) Anyway, guy says, "What color is your truck?" While standing in front of it. Dad is puzzled but says “” Guy says, "Looks like a blue truck to me!" And proceeds to fill out the paperwork for a BLUE truck. So folks, as you can imagine, we had some trouble BACK at the DMV since, "Obviously, you took a different truck. This other paperwork all says GREEN...)

Are you a “leave the tag in” person, or are you a “cut the tag out before wearing or it will drive me insane molecule by molecule as it cuts into my skin, brushes by my skin, or tickles-like-a-spider-my skin.” Guess which one I am...But I do read them before I cut them out. Some of them I save, because I'm such a total dork about clothes and mostly (seriously) buy them at Walmart...(Don't tell Best, she's trying to reform me, one gorgeous wardrobe piece at a time...with little success...I still haven't spend any regular amount of money on clothes, though I cherish the boutique pieces she has found for me and then bought for me...) So if there's a tag that's a real brand-name, I save those. Really. They're in my jewelry box. Both of them.

Is it obnoxious to provide your own laugh track to ramblings, like I did above? Yeah, I thought so. Sigh.

Ok, so another tag thing. This one was from my bathing suit. The first new suit I've bought in 12 years. Yes, really. I have witnesses! Anyway, it said “wash in cold, gentle cycle, hang dry, iron if necessary.” Ok, first of all, why would I need to wash it in cold water if it's already been in a hot tub? And c'mon, how many of you have ever ironed a bathing suit? I mean that, if you have, please speak up. I promise I won't hassle you. Very much.

Why does my pharmacy have signs for a blind person (blue background, white “walking man” holding cane) and another one that says, “Braille instructions available.” Not sure the market they're aiming for are able to um, read, those signs.

Why do so many customer service workers hate customers and don't want to provide service? Seriously. If you hate people, work in some other sector. We'd all appreciate it. And you managers? If your aforementioned employee screwed up my order, just give me what I actually ordered, don't reach into my bag, grab the one that was wrong, and throw it in the trash can next to me. What does that accomplish? I mean, which story would you like repeated for millions (I wish ;-) of blog readers? A: Arby's is so great, they gave me a free NON-cheese-slopped sandwich, or B: Arby's can't get anything right and wastes food.

Some faithful readers might remember “Ketchup Packet in the Compost”. Goes well with the previous tidbit. Only better written, I hope ;-)

Why do plants you want in your flower bed slide out of the dirt like a knife through butter, while weeds that you don't want have to be dug out with great effort, and even if you manage to get them out, just return in less than a week. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Oh wait, it was. And then they ate the apple...

Why is it that kids will spend HOURS using a computer program that builds Lego models with an auto-cad type interface, instead of with the MILLIONS of actual Lego bricks gathering dust and creating road hazards all over the floor?

If I were going to be stranded on a deserted island, I'd want Sawyer instead of Jack. I know I'd be out a doctor, but I'd never be bored with the con-man. And no, his perfect physique and gorgeous eyes have nothing to do with this issue. Really. Now if I could have two people, the other would have to be Locke. He's the most McGyverish of the bunch. Yes, I'm one of those Lost fanatics. And no, I didn't understand the ending. But I've certainly spent enough time trying to figure it out.

We moved into this house eleven years ago. I have several boxes and a huge hope chest still packed full that I've never opened since then. Not curious enough to take on this project in this heat. Maybe ever. I haven't needed that stuff yet, so why now?

Yes, you counted right.  There aren't 25 items.  There are 12.  When I said I was stealing her idea, I of course have to tweak it a bit.  Not to mention the fact that YellowBoy wants to watch Lost re-runs.  I miss Sawyer, so I'm ditching you guys and heading for netflix streaming.  One of the best inventions ever!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Exploding Pasta, Anyone?

They used to joke that I couldn't even boil water. They did have grounds for that accusation, but that's a story all by itself. If I forget to write it, remind me by saying, “Tell us the one where you made your own molten lava.” This week, I learned that I also can't boil oil. It explodes.

I've only been cooking for about nine years, which when you're 46, isn't really that long. I've mostly learned how from cookbooks and cooking shows. I'm a complete Food Network addict, and I've learned chopping techniques, how to bloom spices, why dips and guacamole and the like need to “marry” and how to perform that ceremony, and I have a lot of fun, easy recipes that are staples.  But about once a week I like to try something new. This week I wanted to make aglio olio sauce. I've had it in the legendary Blue Parrot in Lafayette, CO (nearby town, only about a ½ hour drive.) It's an olive oil and garlic sauce, so I figured it would be pretty simple, but I didn't know the ratios.

I read several recipes, but settled on one from Not Joe Blow's recipes, but kitchen tested, expert approved REAL recipes. I read the directions and thought, huh, pour water into boiling oil, that doesn't sound right. After all, when I'm done with the griddle after cooking bacon and then pour the grease into a ceramic bowl (once it's completely cool, emphasis on COMPLETELY cool) it will splatter and hop around if there are ANY drops of water anywhere near it. So I'm DOUBLE checking the recipe, and it truly does say, “Remove oil from heat. Gradually stir in one cup of water.” Well, alrighty, I'm no expert, so let's try just a ½ teaspoon of water. It bubbles, it bubbles over, it catches the gas stove flame on fire (we're talking CONFLAGRATION here folks) and I reach for the lid to cover it up, and then it EXPLODES. Garlic slices flying, oil taking off for outer space, splitter-splatter ALL over my kitchen. I'm up against the fridge, still waiting for that chance to cover the, um, problem. That time doesn't come. About ten minutes later, after nothing has exploded for a while, I reach over, turn off the burner, and cover the pot.

I will say, it was a damn good dinner, all things considered. We didn't need the full cup of “sauce” at all, I just poured about a half of the half that was left, and the pasta (angel hair) was just fine. The zucchini I'd steam/stir fried with Vidalia onions was equally delish, and the grated asiago over all of the above mentioned parts sealed the deal.

After doing the dishes, I wrote a scathing review of the “Sure To Explode” Pasta. My unfortunate cleaning teenager had to deal with the grease spot on every cabinet, counter, and floor space. Yes, I tipped her.

The motto my friends is, “Trust your instincts” and certainly NOT Just sayin'.

What's your worst kitchen disaster? Please share. I'll be back with more, because though this one was entertaining, it certainly wasn't the worst thing I did in a kitchen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guest Post @ Tossing It Out

I'm thrilled to have been invited to guest blog at “Tossing It Out”. Arlee is the originator of the April A-Z Challenge, and along with a faithful group of fellow bloggers, made this such a successful endeavor. Please head on over there and say “hi”. AND, there's a totally serious sorta-challenge/give-away for those not opposed to waxing mathematical in cyber space.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Playing Hooky

Yesterday I took the day off. It was lovely, and I'm considering making it a weekly treat. How can a mother take a day off? Not easily. It requires sticking to the plan no matter what, firmly and consistently saying, “No. Sorry. It's my day off.” It also requires that the mommy-guilt switch must be disabled. After that, it's a breeze.

The idea came to me yesterday morning as my migraine was pounding while I was bending down to load the dishwasher. Fellow migraine sufferers know that to change the position/orientation of your head causes even more pain than just sitting there trying not to barf. I thought to myself, “Wouldn't it be great just to crawl back in bed? So I took a shower, and did just that. As my boys went about their business, which in the summer is Halo, Halo, and begging for just one more level of Halo, they soon discovered me in my room.

Whatcha doing in bed, Mom?”
I'm taking a day off.”
Will you still be my mom? Like make me lunch?”
Yes, if you need help. Try to do it yourself, though.”
Fine, whatever, can DearFriendWhoMovedAcrossTown come over? He broke his arm and can't ride his bike will you pick him up?”

Now technically, that would not be included in the “taking a day off”. Taxi service was supposed to be suspended for the day. But I love this kid, and I of all people know what a total pain a broken arm is, so I relent. I leave my PJ's on, since I'm not getting out of the car. Fetch wounded child. Go back to bed.

Mom, will you make us lunch?”
No, sorry. You traded taxi service for lunch service. Go away.”
Are you OK, Mom? You never take the day off.”

I was rather surprised by that statement, because as you know, in the last 18 months, I've spent plenty of time on doctor ordered bed-rest. But I think instinctively, they realize, like I did, that CHOOSING to stay in bed and be lazy for a day is way different than being FORCED to stay in bed. Besides, mandated bed-rest usually comes because of some nasty ailment far worse than a migraine. Yes, such a thing does exist.

I watched a movie. I knitted. (I'm two baby blankets behind. All of a sudden three friends were having babies, and three friends' KIDS were having babies. Yes, I guess I'm that old...but it's a bit freaky, let me tell you. I don't feel ready to be a grandma. They didn't either, but at least their kids were married and ready, whereas Jake is 14...I think I have a few years left to get used to it. But I digress, as usual.) I napped. Lovely nap during a lightning storm. Safe and cozy. I visited blogs, I wrote the beginning of this post.

Of course, all good things come to an end, and I did have to get up and presentable for a family function. But it was a refreshing day, both physically and mentally. I think I'll have to do it again soon.

What would you do with a day all to yourself?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

For a Season

Hello Faithful Followers,
Wow. Summer has really re-arranged my priorities. not only the BuNoWriMo challenge, but my blog life in general. Silly me, I had imagined the summers when I was a single teacher. Lying out by the pool (this was before skin cancer was everywhere), working out, hot tub, popcorn for dinner, sappy chick-flicks into the night. Sleep in. With that schedule, I could have fit writing and blogging into any of the mentioned time slots. Well, not really. There was no internet back then. I am NOT kidding.

It doesn't go that way now. It goes like this: “Mom, get UP! You promised you'd make bacon today!” Make bacon. Feed children. Go garden until fused wrist and needing-to-be-replaced hip protest loud enough for me to hear. Shower. Oh look, it's lunch time. Lunch. Wow, I'm so totally tired from that gardening, I need a nap. Nap. Wow, it's dinner time already??? Make dinner. Dishes. Family sci-fi event du jour. We're currently watched all the old Star Trek episodes. 

 Kinda hard to fit blogging into that schedule. No nap you say? Blasphemy. I'm a napper, always have been, always will. Greatest luxury on the planet. Besides, it's like a re-charge for the evening ahead.

Yes, I could of course fit what I want to do into what I'm currently doing. I've always said that you have time for what you want to have time for. Lately the urge to write hasn't overtaken my urge to spend time with my kids. So instead of them grabbing a granola bar and heading out on their bikes, we sit down for breakfast. They help with the gardening. Fourteen-year-old boys are mighty strong and that's what you need when that pesky root just won't give up. My particular eleven-year-old boy like to cook, so we make lunch together frequently. Another time to sit down and connect. By the time I'm napping, their neighborhood friends have been freed from their chores and homework. Oh, and did I mention that both boys are still in school? That's what happens when Mom says, “Oh, it's fine if you don't want to do that now. We have access to the online school all summer long!” I didn't really think they were going to take me up on it. But dammit, they did.

Yes, I want to write. Yes, I'm co-hosting a challenge. I am out there visiting a lot of blogs, but I'm not writing so much. I realized earlier in the month that this wasn't the month for me to do 50k words. A month for that will come. But for now, I'm sitting here smelling of chlorine and sunscreen from a day at the pool with my boys and their two closest cousins. It was a good day. Life is Good.

If you're here visiting from the AZ Challenge, the linky list is first in my sidebar.  If you're new and not familiar with the AZ, there's a button for that too.  Happy visiting!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Deep Cover, Shallow Graves


The dark clad man hiding behind the dumpster doesn't see the other dark clad figure approaching, or notice the “drunk” undercover operative stumbling down the sidewalk. The streets are slick with icy drizzle. His muscles are cramped from crouching, the burn becoming almost unbearable. The teen years of biathlon training which have helped him on other assignments is of no use in this gravity. Lungs searing from the decreased oxygen on this God-forsaken planet, he tries to gasp for air inaudibly. Silently cursing himself for failing, for losing his edge, for ending up in this hazardous position, he sends one more thought to her. “I'm so sorry, Leah. So sorry.”
It's over in a few seconds. The operative slumps all the way to the ground as the assailant calmly walks away from the scene, nods to the “drunk”. Mission accomplished.


When the body of the European terrorist hits the humble cop's car, Leah jolts to attention. John has been trying to convince the police that he isn't an insane pranker, and the only one who believes him is Abe Lincoln. But not until that body crunches the hood do others believe. Leah's been trying to convince the whole world that she's a trained soldier whose mission is to serve and protect colony residents, and the only one who knows the truth is Ian. Is he really the only one? Now that she's gotten her groove on, she starts humming. It's a nameless tune, and she's mostly unaware of this habit. Only one person ever asked about it.

What song is that? You hum that when you're thinking hard.”
I do? What are you talking about?”
Lon hums the tune. She smiles.
I guess it's my thinking song. My Grandma used to hum when she worked. It made me feel safe. Even when I couldn't see her, I could hear her in the apartment, and I wasn't so scared.”
Why is she telling him? She never reveals personal information. She's been undercover so long it's an ingrained habit. This bit about the tune just slipped out. She has to be careful. Instead of going back to her work, she heads to the kitchen.
Need anything?”
Nah, I'm fine.”

Leah isn't fine. As she did then, she needs a shot. Grabbing the soy sauce bottle out of the fridge door, she guzzles some smuggled in Jack Daniel's. Surveying the meager inventory available, she also grabs the tub of cheese product and the imitation wheat crackers from the cabinet above the cook top. Tomorrow, supplies.

She moves to the floor between the coffee table and the couch, downs several snack packs. Cracker-cheese goop-cracker. Shot. Cracker-cheese goop-cracker. Shot. As the familiar warmth slithers into her system, she grabs the timeline.

If someone else did find out the truth, when could that have happened?


Ian is worried. More worried than he's been since Leah left for Spartan, and that's saying a lot. They “met” just briefly, over closed chat, way back when she first began her undercover work.
So I hear you're my new ward.”
Yeah. Just so you know, I don't like this. I don't like the daily reporting requirement. At all. I can take care of myself. How 'bout I contact you when I need you? Wouldn't that save everyone a lot of hassle not to mention budget credits? Don't you have more important things to do than babysit me?”
Your mission is of high importance. And since you're new, and in a level 4 OP, you get daily. SOP. Nothing personal.”
Nothing personal is just fine by me.”
Ok then, I'll either hear, “I'd like a beer” or “I'd like a shot.” You do remember which is which, right?”
Don't appreciate the sarcasm, your supreme highness, but yes I do remember. Beer means trouble. Shot means fine. I'm not stupid you know. Many cadets drink during training camp. It ought to be allowed. Would save the agency a hell of a lot of money in enforcement.”
Well believe it or not, the agency values human life over regulations. We'd prefer that all personnel have self-discipline. It was a one-time blunder, right?”
How many times do I need to grovel? I've lost count. You'd think no one around here went to school, got stupid, puked on someone important, and embarrassed themselves.”
Point taken. Good luck, Leah. You'll need it.”
Ok, Ian.”
She'd have to get used to the Leah.


She knows Ian is worried, but that's nothing new. She doesn't understand how he can hold this job and be such a worry-wart at the same time. Throughout her training, she never came across a man who cared. Sure, there were men who cared about the mission, or the expensive equipment, or their covers, but that's not the same as caring for a person as, well, a person. A person who can get hurt or killed at any time during the OP. With whom they're going after, she's lucky to have gotten this far in one piece. Well, a put back together piece. She rubs her shin where the titanium tibia aches, despite it's lack of nerves. Stupid phantom pain. The irritation gets her back on track, though. She was lucky to have made it out of there alive. Aches and pains can be tolerated. Failure cannot.


Some of you might recognize the characters of Leah and Ian.  For BuNoWriMo, I'm working on the sci-fi piece I started in February.  If you care to go back and read, it starts here.  I'm finding this challenge quite challenging.  But the way I figure it, even if I don't make it to 50,000 words, I'll at least be further along then I was in May.  Oh, and keep in mind, this is me spitting out words, no editing done yet.  I hesitate to put raw stuff in Bloggyville, so I keep reminding myself of my purpose.  It's in the header: Wanna be writer seeks place to vent, practice, and share.