Saturday, May 21, 2011

On the Road Again

We're heading out in about an hour for our family vacation. I'm so grateful that school is over. (Well, officially at least. Some students made some poor choices during the school year which will necessitate work throughout the summer. A research paper needs to be written, and the failing grade in spelling (due, not to lack of ability, but lack of completion) will need to be revisited.) Sigh. But first, the beach!

We will be driving to Waterford, VA to visit DataBoy and YogaGirl. Then it's on to Ocean City, MD and our aunt's oceanfront condo. Then to Annapolis, MD for our cousin's wedding on my family's waterfront property. My mother and her two siblings own this legacy. It's named The Briarpatch, and if you plug that into my search thingie-ma-bob you'll find stories about the place.

My internet access will be sporadic, but I will throw a few posts up there from the road. We'll be back June 5, and I'll have stories to tell. Hoping that one of them isn't involving a kayak, like last year.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Embarrassing Story du Jour

We all have embarrassing stories we'd rather not tell. However, I'm pretty used to embarrassing myself frequently, so in some sort of self-defense, I've learned how to tell those stories in full, gory detail. For the entertainment of others. I'm generous that way. My amazing Aunt Risky taught me how. You've heard about the kayak, the prayer chain, and the bar stool.  I think it's about time for me to tell another.

My late, beloved Grandma had some strange ideas. You know about the jello obsession, and about her teaching me to drink and gamble. Do you know that she used to set me up on dates? She was terrible at it, but this didn't deter her in the slightest. One of the more memorable date fiascos occurred at THE National Theatre. We're talking downtown Washington D.C. (we lived in the suburb of Silver Spring), senators and other politicians and famous people in attendance. We went there to see Evita. I was almost 16.

Grandma's best friend since kindergarden had a 20 year old grandson and the grandmas cooked up this idea that I would go on a date with him while he was visiting from Kansas City, MO. Now why they thought that cultivating a relationship with that age difference, a situation that should it get “out of control", was also illegal, I'll never know. And that's not even considering the geographical difference, should things go well. But she was determined. I was to go with him “to the theater.” I wasn't interested. I had a boyfriend (of course, the fact that my parents didn't know about him kinda complicated the situation.) And I didn't have a dress.

I was a jeans and t-shirt girl back then, too. Oh, I had a few embarrassing dresses picked out by others, but I didn't wear them. I did have an amazing Aunt Risky (yes, I'll probably always use amazing to describe her, perhaps I should capitalize it and incorporate it into her nickname...) so Amazing Aunt Risky was also compassionate Aunt Risky. She had a great dress to let me borrow. (You need to understand that my jeans and t-shirt persona was a direct result of weekly time spent with her. That's another post, though.) This was a soft, drapy jersey dress, very simple, but very elegant. I actually liked it, and I felt OK wearing it because it was hers. All that was needed was shoes. Oh how I wish I'd bought a different pair.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the shoes. They were sexy, black, strappy, high-heeled sandals. Gorgeous. Wrong. Don't ever put a person who breaks her ankle on the take-off for a split leap (another post, you keep track of what stories I owe you) in high heels. You're just inviting what eventually happened. I did practice walking in them, but apparently not long enough.

It's intermission. He takes me to the refreshment stand. (I guess I should throw in that he was a very nice man, and had from when he picked me up made me feel at ease and joked about how happy we were making our grandmothers) “What would you like?” said the bartender. There were beers on tap, wine, and mixed drinks. Drinking age at this time was 18, and I did look the part. However, I hadn't had a drink before, so I was a bit flustered. He ordered. Two cokes. Sigh of relief. I can drink coke. (I didn't think this was the time to mention that what I really wanted was a diet pepsi. I was just so glad he took care of it.)

I decided that a restroom break would be appropriate at this time and proceeded up the Tara style winding staircase to the upper floor. Carpeted, winding staircase with lots of people going up and down. He said he'd be at the bottom waiting for me. When I returned I saw him at the bottom and smiled. And then proceeded to trip, somersault, and roll down the stairs. Head over heels in it's literal sense. Dress flapping, panties and hose showing, spectacular fall down the stairs. Gasps from the onlookers, snickers from the not so polite onlookers. Me wanting to just be swallowed by the floor never to have to show my face again.

It turned out OK though. He was truly classy because he lightened the mood and made everyone laugh. “I thought I told you not to fall head over heels for me!”

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

One of the blogger buddies I met while completing the April AZ Challenge is the amazing Shannon Lawrence of The Warrior Muse.  We've joined forces to encourage each other and keep the momentum of the challenge going. Our goal is to visit each of the 1282 participants by the end of the summer. If you're looking at 100 days, that means 12.82 blogs a day. I'm the math nerd, so I don't like weird decimals like that and will be aiming for 13 new blogs a day.

If you were a challenge participant, we'd love to have you join us. We've asked for permission from the challenge hosts at Tossing it Out to help advertise what we're proposing, and are looking forward to seeing what they say.  We are also looking for someone with the talent and time to design a badge for displaying on our blogs, something along the lines of “Not only did I survive, but I visited everyone else!” to be earned for completing the challenge-challenge ;-)

My personal attack plan is to first visit each of the bloggers who wrote a reflections post which was to summarize the experience they had during the challenge. Then I will move onto the rest of the list. Wanna play? Hop on board.  The linky list is on the right in my sidebar.

P.S Can't leave until I introduce you to another friend of mine.  Her fantastically talented family is Amber Waves Band.  She just started a new blog called Parenting From the Stage.  Her writing style is highly enjoyable, and I love learning all that goes on behind stage.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wine (Whine?) Club

Last month my Wine Club met in our camper. We really should have thought of it long ago, because it turned out to be one of our favorite nights. Not that there's ever been a bad Wine Club, because c'mon, wine, friends and fancy food, what could be wrong with that? I think the difference was that we could really let loose, with no eavesdroppers.

What's a wine club, you ask? It's like a book club, only the focus is WINE, not books. Best and I started it a few years ago when we returned from our wine country trip. We had so much fun tasting all the different varieties and styles, but our budgets go more in the wino direction as opposed to wineaux. How could we keep trying new wines without breaking the bank? Best and I each chose a friend who wasn't a mutual friend to join us and Wine Club was born.

We took this fun seriously. Matching t-shirts.

Little notebooks for, you know, notes.

We take turns hosting this monthly gathering. What's wonderful is that three of us live within a half block of each other. Really convenient because driving home after wine club is not usually a good choice. The fourth is about a mile and half away, and teaches Jazzercise at 8 am. She's usually the most restrained, and leaves first anyway.

The hostess picks the theme. We each choose a wine which follows the theme, and then bring a dish that pairs with the wine. Some previous themes have been summer, anger, Italian, decadent. When I hosted in my camper, the theme was, “You are stuck camping for a day longer than expected, what will you eat and drink?”

Regardless of theme, we approach our tasting the same way. We number the bottles #1 to #4. Each of us has four mini-glasses (these are my late grandmother's cordial glasses, meant for an after dinner sherry, port, or some sort of luscious libation, perfect for a taste)

Once we've debated the merits of each, laughed at the ridiculous label descriptions, then we pick a wine for our big glass. I should say first big glass. We try to stick to wines we could actually afford for a special occasion, as opposed to going nuts and buying something we could probably not buy again. In my notebook, I keep track of what I think it tastes like, what the price was, and where it places among the four in ranking. This works for the most part, but how do you compare one evening's #2 with another evening's #3? That is hard. Sometimes we really like all four, and some nights we actually don't finish one of the bottles. Believe me, wine has to be pretty stinkin' bad for me to leave an open bottle. We consider that alcohol abuse ;-)

We really have fun with the food. Three of us still have picky kids in the house, so getting to cook something fancy that people will actually appreciate is a treat. We don't usually plan out our menu ahead of time, at all. Makes it truly potluck. However, we must have some 6th wine-sense, because we have never ended up with more than one dessert, and we've never been salad-less. One night we ended up with a full, four course meal. Appetizer, salad, entree, dessert. YUM!

On camper night, I didn't set the table as above. Instead, it was paper plates, plastic silverware, ceramic coffee mugs for wine, and dixie cups for the tasting glasses. We had a blast! I sorta cheated on the food, though. I'd been to a bridal shower the week before and had a fabulous appetizer. I made a croissant roll crust veggie pizza. (Bake the crust according to roll directions, then top with flavored cream cheese and assorted veggies.)

Our Jazzercize member, however, really stuck with the theme and brought cold fried chicken. I have this thing about fried chicken. I'll eat it like green eggs and ham: anywhere, anytime, any style. My neighbor across the street came in her bathrobe and husband's slippers and told stories of childhood camping trips where she'd steal her brother's shoes and robe, not bothering to look for her own. Best got in the spirit by bringing two 1.5 L bottles, “When you're camping, you don't want to run out!”

You saw the “group therapy” shirts, and probably snickered, but it truly is group therapy. After three years, we are so comfortable with each other that everything gets said. We have a confidentiality agreement, too. It's been tremendously helpful for me to have listeners as I've fought my way through the last year of challenges. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I started this with, “it's all  about the wine” but what it's really about is friendship. Whatever form it takes, true friendship is something we all need and can all provide. It just takes some figuring out what's going to work for you. As for me, I'll take my friendship with a glass of wine and good conversation.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Awesome Award

You all know already that I'm a total dork when it comes to prizes. And I'm competitive. (Yes. That's my picture there in the dictionary as reference.)  I don't like games that are totally chance (say, stupid BUNKO). I like games where brains and strategy are all that's required. Please leave out all those things I can't control m'kay? No dice, no draw a card. I need a game where when I win, no one can say, “You got lucky.”

Therefore, I'm also a total dork about blog awards. As I was writing more, and getting around the blogosphere more and more, I noticed awards on people's blogs. And wondered where to enter the contest! What do I need to do to win? Then I began seeing, “This is an award free blog”. Huh? Who wouldn't want an award? I totally didn't get it, and still really don't. If someone wants to recognize you and appreciate you, what's so bad about that? I do understand about blog clutter, and yes, some people have too much stuff everywhere, making finding even the post, or the follow button time-consuming, but personally, I think awards shouldn't be the first items to go.

I do understand the time thing, though. I know that some awards “require” you linking back, and promoting someone else's blog as you pick your own “winners” to pass it along to. But then they in turn promote your blog. Aren't we all in this together?

That said, I got an award a while back from a wonderful bloggy friend, Rayna, of Coffee Rings Everywhere. She writes in drabbles ~ exactly 100 word stories. I was thrilled to get it, but a bit shy to put it up after seeing all the award-free blogs. Is that some secret club that I won't be able to join if I have one? Cuz I sure wouldn’t want to be excluded from somewhere because I was proud of myself, you know, in a braggy way. Sigh. Maybe I over-analyze.

Rayna gave me this award.

Adorable, right? What she wrote about me here really made me smile.

I'm passing it on to six bloggers who I find awesome, as instructed. Choosing was quite hard because I've met so many really gifted and unique bloggers. I'm putting these in alphabetical order by first name since it was hard enough choosing just six, let alone putting them in order...smiles (as a friend would say)

Amanda @ House Revivals and Redemption by Beauty Everlasting: We met at church, and she's the reason I have any followers at all. I'd been blogging sporadically for over a year, and she was my only visitor. Then she invited me to Alphabe-Thursday (button in side bar) which let me begin my journey through blogland. I will forever be in her debt. Plus, she's the McGyver of crafts. Seriously.

Barbara @ signed...bkm: She's one of my favorite poets, and a very encouraging blogger. Her poems make me think, feel, question, and smile. A visit there is always worth it.

Brian Miller @ WaystationOne: Immensely talented and such an encouragement to writers of all levels. I find his comments all over blogland. How he has time to do that I have no idea, but wherever I find myself, he has usually boldly gone before and left a footprint. (Also, got to admit it was a kick when he asked me to do a two-part story with him.)

Cheryl @ Deckside Thoughts: We have a lot in common, and I just love her honest “just put it out there” attitude. I appreciate her sincere comments, and that she takes the time to give me constructive feedback. She's also a tireless crusader for the underdog, and funny as hell.

H @  Little Sealed Packages: She's supported me from the beginning, and has a stunning photo blog with wonderful narration. When I read her posts, I can almost taste the salt mist on my tongue or feel the wind sweeping across the moors as I gaze at what she captures with her lens.

Polly @ 5th Sister: She's real, amazingly talented, and a wonderful, open friend. And this woman can Haiku, let me tell you. Also, how she can make one post fit three memes at the same time baffles me. Completely.

I encourage you to take the time to visit my friends. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

How to Fix Your Sex Life: AZ Challenge Reflections

I'm so blessed to have found the AZ Challenge through my bloggy-buddy Rayna at Coffee Rings Everywhere. This challenge, as I told you in my A ~ A New Beginning post, came at a pivotal point in my writing. And as I promised in my V ~ Very post, I'll now give you the full scoop of why participating in this challenge was, for me at least, like trying to fix your sex life.

Ah, I see I have your attention!  As my dear, faithful readers know, I'm a walking, talking, medical worst-case scenario. If health insurance was priced like car insurance, I'd be paying the just-got-out-of-juvie-drive-a-red-sports car-not-so-spectacular-grades-but-would-you-please-insure-me-anyway rate. I go to a lot of doctor's appointments. (Just try my nifty search gadget in the side-bar and type “doctor” to get more stories.)

So I'm in a waiting room, forgot my book, and am therefore paging through, oh, probably Family Circle or Good Housekeeping or some other such magazine. In this issue, the regular marriage counseling  article is about long-married couples trying to recapture the spark in their sex life. There were three case studies. Yes, you get to hear them all because strangely enough, I think that each of these solutions can be applied to struggling writers. 

One couple decided that they'd take turns initiating sex. To writers, this translates as, “You give me a prompt, we'll both write something. Then next time, I'll give the prompt, and again, we both have to participate.” You still with me?

Another couple decided that they would only make-out. For a week. Then they'd see what happened after that week of, ahem, restraint. Writers: If I start to feel the beginning of a slowly smoldering fire,  I'll have to wait to write.  Until next week.  Anticipation makes everything sweeter.  No fair scribbling notes on napkins or jotting down ideas in your notes app. You have to WAIT to write.  Waiting makes the want grow fonder.

The last couple solved their, um, issues, with the equivalent of the AZ Challenge. Sex every 24 hours, come hell or high water or up the creek without a paddle. Once. Every 24 hours. If some unforeseen complication prevented this, then they had to do it twice in another 24 hour period. I probably don't need to translate this one...because...

That last scenario is what happened to me in this challenge. I hadn't foreseen it, but like what I read in the article, knowing that I had to put SOMETHING up every day just kinda freed my brain and my inhibitions. I was thinking, “Well OK, it just has to be something. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be long.” Some days all I managed was just a quick couple of observations, but then on other days, I was in the mood for a longer story. Some days I wrote about something I'd already written about. One day, I had no time time to write at all. To complete the challenge, I wrote two posts on the last day. I'll leave the translation from writing to sex up to you on this one :-)

Big thanks to my 27 new followers. I am honored. Also thanks to all who stopped by and left their footprints. My intent was to visit all of you in return, but if I missed you, please let me know. I really do want to meet you. As for the flip-side, I'm now following 23 more blogs, and I'm looking forward to continuing to build more inspiring bloggy relationships. I had a blast doing this, and hope our faithful and seemingly tireless hosts are willing to do it again. I knew I couldn't homeschool, write a post each day, and get to each of the 1282 bloggers participating during this event. It's like Santa.  Not really realistic.  But as long as the linky is alive, I will keep going until I hit 1282. I'm just too damn stubborn, not to mention competitive, to back down now.

This post was prompted by our challenge sponsors.  They asked all of us  to reflect on this month of writing, and then link up back at Tossing It Out, our host blog.  AND, last but not least...I got the groovy badge over there in the sidebar for completing the challenge.  Go me!  (I'm such a dork...)

P.S  My html prowess continues to grow...check me out!  I successfully got the linky on MY blog, so no need to link up at Tossing It Out.  You can link right here!  Wow.  Feeling really smart right now.  (Yeah, I know, copy/paste has been around a long time...but whenever I get some new widgie thingie to work, I celebrate!)