Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sign-Up For the Blogging From A-Z Challenge, April 2013


Are you a blogger? Do you want to build your blog audience, find new blogs to follow? This opportunity is your best chance!

Today we begin the sign-ups for the Blogging From A-Z  Challenge April 2013!

As a quick summary in case you've been offline for four years... this challenge was started by Arlee Bird of Tossing it Out. He was celebrating a milestone on his blog, and thought that this challenge might be a fun way to do so. This is the fourth year, and the hundred or so participant list from 2010 grows by leaps and bound each year. Last year over 1700 participated!

Rules are simple. On April 1st, post about something that starts with the letter A. On the 2nd, something on B, and so on. You get Sundays offt. Whatever style blog you have, this is a challenge you can do! Some freestyle it (like I did my first year) some go with a theme (a lot of folks did that, and I tried that last year - much easier, so I'm theme-ing it again this year). Whatever your style, you'll fit in fine. So sign-up on the linky below, grab the badge from my side-bar, check out the other co-hosts and follow them (also in sidebar) and start planning! April will be here before you know it!

One more thing, don't freak out about having to visit everyone. All we ask is that you visit five new blogs a day, starting with the one after yours on the list. Five! That's totally doable, and by the end of the month, you'll have met at least 150 new blogs!  Of course, the more you visit, the more traffic you'll get, so challenge yourself.  Set a goal of what you can reasonably do and then go for it!

I'm not going to go into more details here, because The Challenge has its own blog chock-full of info. Lots of tabs. Answers to all your questions. It's HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you follow Blogging From A-Z Challenge April 2013and read all the posts. Following by email is a sure way not to miss a thing!

Between now and April we will have tips and hints, introductions to your co-hosts, and lots of other good stuff to get you ready for the marathon in April! 

Due to feed back from previous years' participants, this year you have the OPTION of adding a category to your blog from the following list.  LET ME STRESS OPTION.  For example, I'm a writer, but I don't write about writing, I just write.  At Life is Good you'll find poems, embarrassing stories, Swedish lessons (that was last year's challenge), memoirs, fiction, fictional's me practicing writing.  You never know what you're going to get...

That's also how I like to approach visiting new blogs.  Where in the world will I land?  However, that's me, not you.  This challenge is all about you doing your thing on your blog.  we offer guidelines.  The only hard and fast rule is that if your blog contains adult content code (AC) then you are REQUIRED to categorize yourself as such.

IF you're going to pick a category, choose wisely.  Once it's up there, there's no changing it.  Put it in CAPITAL LETTERS, IN PARENTHESES just like in this list. Or go nude, like a good Swede.  No category.  See who shows up...

3. FILM :(FM)
7. ART:(AR)
19. HUMOR:(HU)

So without further ado, I give you the sign-up list!  wHICH IS NOW FOUND UNDER THE TAB ABOVE LABELED AS SUCH.

Monday, January 28, 2013

People Watching: Writer Style

Are you a people watcher? I think I've always been. I used to just watch because it's fun, but now I've found that it's a great way to build depth into your characters, and get ideas for minor ones.

I think waiting rooms are the best for this exercise, and believe me, I've spent my share in a wide variety of those. This week found me in the ER with my “Youngest Teenager” (the child formerly knows as YellowBoy who is now 13 and is starting to like red...too...)

I don't know if non-writers do this, because I've never asked one, but I watch people for details so that I can figure out who they are and why they are there. This is not much of a challenge at an airport if they're at the gate with you about to board the same flight to Seattle. It's much harder in the ER.

What's wrong with them? Why are there three family members over there (all who look like they could use a visit to a doc) and a perfectly normal looking guy over there who looks like he's in line at the DMV, except for the carefully folded, faded red piece of cloth he's clutching? Tightly.

The man screaming verbally abusive obscenities that I'm glad my head injured child is paying no attention to seems to have been dragged here by his romantic partner, who when threatened, tries to sneak a pill out of her purse and hand it to him over by the bathroom but not much escapes me. They leave after he swallows it with...spit I guess. Probably not his day for a full mental health evaluation though I applaud the woman for trying. He's in obvious need of serious help.

The trio also leaves. They do stop by the desk and leave saying, “We don't have time to wait anymore for the migraine to be treated.” “OK” says The Cheerful Guy who made my head-injured boy answer all the form questions. Good for him. Head injury test and registration all in one.

I still don't know if it was guy-on-oxygen looking like death, or slightly older woman between her two companions, looking like life had gotten the best of her, or the girl whose face I never saw because woman in the middle was stroking her head THE WHOLE HOUR we sat there, who had the migraine. I'm voting for Mr. Oxygen, though.

However, Cheerful Reception Guy sure got an earful about letting them leave. A “clacker” (name the movie) supervisor came by and the gist of the um, rear-chewing boiled down to you can't let ER patients leave without trying to make the experience “more satisfying” for them. “What are you going to do next? Dip it in yogurt and cover it in chocolate?” (I'm in a movie quoting mood...) I don't think that would have helped. I know as a patient that I have the right to refuse treatment. Besides, no one complained when the mentally unstable man left.

My YT (TCFKAYB) (youngest teenager, the child formerly known as YellowBoy) is fine. He has a closed head injury but bounced back like kids do by the time the weekend was over. Meanwhile, I've met some people who just might show up in my novel. Mr. DMV even came back out to the waiting room, red cloth folded in a different configuration..I'm dying to solve that mystery.

Do you people watch? Do you use that for your characters? Or do you have another method you'd like to share?

~Tina, who really needs to find the brevity card before the challenge starts...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to Wake a Family, The Hard Way

I don't know how I ended up being everyone's personal alarm clock, and that many of you out there will scoff and say, “She's SUCH an enabler. It's her own dang fault.” They're probably right. Which is why I'm so irritated...

So imagine this scene. I get up at 5 am, and start studying, because I study best in the morning when it's dark, and quiet, and I light my candle, and it's cozy. Sort of. Because studying isn't my only responsibility.

I am aware that (names have been changed to protect the irritating) that "The Accountant" needs to be out the door by 6:15, for a meeting, one of the "Teenagers" needs to be in the shower by a time not close to THAT and that other "Teenager" is going to be impossible to get up because he has homework to finish. I have a timer on my iPhone. I set it to BEGIN the laborious process of waking up an accountant. “Just give me ten more minutes.” I have of course planned for this, so that he can go back to sleep and not be late. I set the timer for ten minutes.

Ok, what was I studying? Oh, I left my pencil on the bedside table. Dang. Fetch pencil. Try to find spot in study. Timer goes off after about 3 minutes of actually accomplishing anything. “Ten more minutes please.” Reset timer. Realize that reset timer will not coincide with time Teenager needs to hit shower. At least that one sets his alarm. But turns it off. And falls back asleep, but when I knock on his door he will stumble to the shower and say thanks, Mom. One down, two to go.

Still trying to study. Repeated attempts to get The Accountant out of bed. I know he's tired. He stayed up way too late trying to get the car fixed so that it would be drive-able in morning. Finally I just pull off the “band-aid” (also known as sheets) and not so kindly say, “You're 20 minutes behind schedule! GET IN THE SHOWER!” “Why didn't you wake me up??”

I don't dare answer that one because there are children still in the house and murder and mayhem are best performed with no witnesses. So is the language I preferred to use at this time. Two down.

Believe it or not, the hardest is still to come. But I'll spare you the whining, the complaining, the bargaining, the denial, the tears, the procrastination, and the eventual completion of very little homework.
Not that I got much done either this particular morning.

So alarm clocks for all my men? Individual accountability for all over 13? I think so. But here's some advice I got in the wedding journal that all my shower attendees filled out with their best wedded bliss advice:

What you find endearing about him now will drive you about flippin' insane in 20 years.” Gee, and I thought that we both liked to sleep in was a good thing...

Don't start doing something for your husband unless you plan to do it for the rest of your marriage.”

Honey, will you wake me up tomorrow, instead of me having to set the alarm?” “Sure, honey, no problem.”

I think I'll start the training of the teens. Like immediately. I'm already dreading tomorrow morning when I need to be TEACHING the class I was trying to study for...

Do you wake your spouse? Do you drag teens out of bed? Or are they the ones dragging YOU? Curious. And feel free to criticize my parenting at will. Your marriage advice better be dang good though...

~ Tina

P.S Teaching Matthew, Part 2, Chapters 14-28.  Precepts.  Good stuff, man.  If you can do it without being interrupted...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Parents: A Lasting Legacy

Om man skulle räkna
Vad det är värt,
finns det inget pris -

Gåvan dom ger
inte bara med
och böcker skrivna
som arv
av deras integritet.

Men vad dom gör
på en vanlig dag:
Älskar sina barnbarn
med ett oväntat besök,
eller bakar kakor
kanske fiskar en hel dag,
med bara lite råd, men alla fiskarna

Det är jag som också fick
denna oförtjänt gåva
Vem JAG är, är föratt
Dom är

Vårldens bästa föräldrar.

Written for dVerse's poetics challenge: write a poem in another language.  Those who know me can guess what language.  Those new to Life is Good, it's in the footnotes.


If one were to count
What it's worth
There is no total

The gift they give
Not just with parties
and books written
as a legacy
of their integrity

But what they do
on a normal day:
love their grand kids
with an unexpected visit
or baking cookies
maybe fishing all day,
with just a little advice, but all the fish

I'm also the one who got
This undeserved gift
Who I am, is because
They are
The world's best parents.


I love writing poetry, and have reams of it since childhood, but I've never written one in Swedish before.

The topic came easily. This week we attended my parents' traditional “take down the Christmas tree” party (yes, very late, due to illness) and it was just such a wonderful time, and great reminder of how blessed I am. My Dad is writing another book (I've now officially lost count of how many he's published...) as a legacy of his life, for his kids, grand kids, and perhaps other immigrants to be inspired to remember their homeland and pass on the legacy of foreign traditions.
As to the last line? One of the activities at the party was some Swedish lessons. He sent the boys home with this phrase for their dad:
Du är vårldens bästa pappa.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What Engineer's Do for Fun in the Morning

So guess what exciting and glamorous activity I'm doing this morning, while writing this blog? Yup, trying to help my youngest (who by the way no longer wants to be called “Yellowboy” (you can check out the nickname tab above to find out why it's his (FORMER) perfect name) with his math homework. I, a former teacher of 7th grade (his grade) know nothing, and my ways of getting the answer are WRONG, they must be obtained only by Mrs. BestTeacherI'veEverHad's method. Don't get me wrong, she is wonderful, and the reason he's taking high school algebra already. But it's a frustrating endeavor... 

Engineers on the other hand get to be heroes in the morning. He gets up, announces, “The hot water faucet won't turn off in our bathroom. I'm going to shut off the water to that sink until I can deal with it.” Ok, no problem. Well, yes there was. The thingamajig that turns off the water is no longer functioning, so he has to turn off the water to the whole house to remove the sink. Sigh. So many projects, so little time.

Here comes the hero part. The Engineer returns from his man-cave, his storage area of “this might be useful someday”. Half of our basement is this category. I'd take a picture, but he doesn't want me to. Just imagine a room 15x20, full of shelves, with boxes with labels like, “Pin-ball machine parts”, “broken appliances with good motors”, “old computer fans” can't really walk in there anymore. It's STUFFED. But! He returns from there with a BRAND NEW FAUCET that our former neighbor gave us. (Neighbor got rid of a lot of stuff that is now in the man-cave.) 

So The Engineer installs the new faucet, and we once again have water in the whole house and a working sink. He still leaves for work at 8:00. My hero.

I also have a bubble-wrap update. Some were wondering if it's working. Here's evidence: Note the ice making a backwards L shape where there is no bubble wrap.

I asked why he didn't cover the other part since we're not using that door. “I ran out.” This from the man who has reams of pink bubble wrap (remember how he saves all packing materials?) “Honey, we have lots of pink we could use. “I will NOT put pink bubble wrap on that door. I guess even eccentric engineers have their limits to how crazy they'll go...I just didn't know his line was pink. 


Monday, January 14, 2013

Announcing the Official Blogging A-Z Co-Hosts!

I'm so excited about gearing up for this year's challenge!  It's the best blogging fun around, and the best way to expand your followers and find new blogs!  The people who participate (and lead) are a whole bunch of wonderful folks.  Yes, they're letting me play again.  Must have "played nicely with others" enough last year...

        So without further ado, say hello to The 2013 A to Z Team:

The A to Z Team 2013!

Arlee Bird      Tossing It Out                           @ArleeBird
Damyanti Biswas      Amlokiblogs                    @damyantig
Alex J. Cavanaugh      Alex J. Cavanaugh        @alexjcavanaugh 
Tina Downey     Life is Good                          @TinaLifeisGood
DL Hammons         Cruising Altitude 2.0             @DL_H
Jeremy Hawkins       Retro-Zombie                  @iZombieJMH
Shannon Lawrence        The Warrior Muse         @thewarriormuse
Matthew MacNish       The QQQE                      @MatthewMacNish
Konstanz Silverbow       No Thought 2 Small      @KonstanzS
Stephen Tremp        Breakthrough Blogs            @StephenTremp
Livia Peterson       Leave it to Livia                  @LiviaGPeterson
L. Diane Wolfe        Spunk on a Stick                 @SpunkOnAStick 
Nicole  Ayers      The Madlab Post                      @madlabpost

Who Are the New Team Members?

         Livia Peterson started her blog Leave It To Livia last May, heading full force into the blogging world to make her presence known in many ways including landing a place on the A to Z Team.  Her blogging niche includes movies, entertainment, and, of course, writing.  She's ready to take the blog world by storm so be sure to head on over to her blog and become friends with her now.  We think you'll like Livia.

         L. Diane Wolfe was already in the blogging circle that I fell into nearly four years ago and I feel honored to be a part of her blog circle of friends.  Diane is an expert on writing, public speaking, marketing, and promotion.  In other words, she's a valuable contact to have.  You can find her at Spunk on a Stick.  If you're not following her blog, then now's the time to head on over and do so.

        Nicole Ayers from The Madlab Post is probably a very familiar name to A to Z'ers by now.  In fact you may be wondering, "Isn't she already on the A to Z Team?"   Nicole has been responsible for our Friday posts over the past several months as she sat in as an unofficial Team Member.  Now it's official--Nicole is part of the Team.  If you are looking for some inspiration about A to Z themes you may want to check out some her previous Friday posts on that topic.  And be sure to follow her blog if you aren't doing so already.

Follow The Leaders

      The links to all of the Team blogs can be found in the list above.  If there are any that you are not yet following then hop on over to their blogs and click the "Follow" button.   You will want to check in with all of these bloggers on a regular basis for the latest A to Z Challenge news and for helpful tips about the Challenge and blogging in general.

Where's the linky?  Where do I sign up?  What do I do now?  Patience, my young padawan, patience.  The list opens 1/30.  It will be at the main A-Z Blog, and there's room for everyone.  We will not leave you in the dark, and you don't have to camp out for tickets.  Just hit the linky starting 1/30.  There is no advantage to being early on the list (except bragging rights, which of course I'm into...) but we divide the list to make sure everyone gets lots of visits, and then after the challenge is over, many of us keep going until we've been to see everyone.

OK, so what can I do until 1/30????  Pick a theme for your posts (if you want), start writing posts and scheduling them early (we'll have a tutorial about that coming soon) and SPREAD THE WORD!

P.S Yes, that's really me.  Now on Twitter. Yes, that was also me who when it first came out said, NEVER...but I also said that about facebook... I was the last to join, so you can say I gave in to peer pressure. Or that I hate being left out, or that it was time, or...yeah, the peep pressure thing is most accurate. I've read some of the tutorials...downloaded the app, set my notification, tried tweeting, but don't know if anyone got I'm learning Windows 8 and Twitter at the same time.  I will admit,  I'm now following Bruce Springsteen.  Can't wait to hear from The Boss!


P.S At the main blog is an announcement similar to this one (because I stole parts - not the other way around) that has a contact us page.  If you write to the info@ email, it comes to me, so feel free to just write me at my regular address you'll find in the sidebar!  Ask away - I'm ready to help you navigate this adventure!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Kids' Art Conundrum

If you're a parent, then you know how many papers, projects, and arts and crafts the kids bring home from school, church, etc. How many do you save? Where do you save them? How long do you hang them up on display? Do you finally, gasp, throw something away? It's a conundrum for sure.

One method I've employed over the years with their school work is the “good work” folders. They choose what goes in it. This way I've managed to condense a year of school into one manilla folder. They are treasures for sure.

The art though? I've saved most of it...just couldn't bear to part with it. Yes, serious pack-rat here. Sentimental pack-rat, which is the highest level of pack-ratness one can achieve, and you know I'm an over-achiever.

Every once in a while though, a treasure comes along which is so special that I'll never part with it.

The assignment was “Memory Jars” and the students were to bring in special things, from their earlier childhood, to create their masterpieces. This canning jar is so YellowBoy. On his jar of memories are nerf darts, lego pieces, a carabiner (his Amazing Aunt Risky taught him rock climbing – this isn't his real one, it's from a water bottle), lincoln logs, k'nex, the special Volvo keychain his Morfar (mother's father) gave him, and the last of the hot wheel cars he saved as his special ones when we gave away the collection during the kid-to-teen transition of his room.

His jar wouldn't be complete without one item he uses for many applications. Look at the top

That's a mostly used up duct tape roll around the rim of the jar.
Now that's totally YellowBoy.

What do you do with your kids art, papers, work, etc? Have any favorites to share?

~ Tina

Monday, January 7, 2013

Still Waiting

I know I shouldn't still watch for him,

He did the leaving me, with our baby still growing.

With hope still blooming in my heart. And didn't come back.

I'll be back. I've got to find work. If your dad finds out it's me, he'll send you away and take our baby away. But I'll come back, and I'll be the one to take you away, before they even find out there's a baby. We'll have our own life, then. It's our only chance.

I once was that girl. I once took the chance. I once waited for him.

Now when I stand in this window, I see things. I see little girls dancing, little boys wrestling. I see them wave to me. But if I leave the window, they are gone. Just like he is.
This woman mesmerized me.  I've had three miscarriages, and when I looked at her I saw longing, and disappointment.  I've never done the vignette option for a magpie, but then again, I haven't magpie in a while no poem this time.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Creative Uses for Bubble Wrap: The Engineer Style

The Engineer bubble wrapped my house. Ok, not the whole house, just the windows. Ok, not all the windows, just the ones I don't need to see out of. I just liked that opening line.

Some of you have heard some of the stories about what my Engineer does for fun. It's not what most people, or even most engineers would do. He's kinda like the dad in “Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang”. He invents things.

I read this description in Debi Pearl's book, “Created to be His HelpMeet” and it fits him to a T.

Mr. Visionary will take out the trash if he remembers it. But he may also end up inventing a way whereby the trash takes itself out, or is turned into an energy source, or he may just waste a lot of time building you a cart to take it out. He will not mind cleaning up if he notices it needs doing, but he may get so deeply involved that he decides to paint while he is sweeping, and then will switch projects before he finishes painting.”

That part about the energy source is really key. His first project love is alternative energy. For 10 years we had a wood-burning fireplace that used the existing forced air ducts that he hacked into, added fans (from the recycle bin at his day job because “we're changing parts and throwing these perfectly good, NEW fans away”) and blew the hot air from downstairs up to the main level.

However, I got asthma, so no more wood smoke. We now have radiant in floor heating, where water, heated by a special hot water heater (that he found on craigslist for a song) circulates through pipes under the floor.  Then that hot air rises.

What about the bubble wrap? Getting there.

The whole system isn't finished yet, only about ½ the rooms have the in floor heat. So he decided that we needed some more insulation to keep the heat that we have produced IN. Of course, not regular insulation.

He read somewhere that if you squirt a window with water, bubble wrap will stick to it adding enough “R factor” (um...used to measure the value of the insulating quality...these are the parts where my eyes usually glaze over...I mean, I've already said yes to the (slightly crazy, admit it) bubble wrap, I don't need to know HOW much it will work) to equal another window pane.

This is key on our back patio door because we've had to blow-dry it every morning to get it to open. (We were dog sitting – it was the best dog exit, but no more) Now it looks like this

No, we can't open it. But we don't need to now that the dog is back home. We also “wrapped” the boys' bedroom windows because they always leave the blinds closed, so who cares. In addition, we did our master bedroom window

because we haven't bought window treatments yet. It gives some privacy. And the Christmas lights look really cool shining through it as you're trying to go to sleep.

There is one last window – my “office” window from which I'm writing this. I needed to be able to see out, so it's partially done.

Questions? Yes, it's helping. Yes, it looks a bit weird from the outside, but I'm pretending that we've decorated the windows for the know with snowflakes. And yes, I'm a bit insane too.

And you thought bubble wrap was just for popping as stress relief...