1 Day Till Christmas!

I'm being a little bit naughty over the next few weeks. I'm busy working on a really cool travel writing project while cramming my Christmas shopping, cookie baking, goofing around with friends and spending time with my beautiful family into the interim time. So in lieu of my usual blog posts, I figured I'd share short scenes from some of my favorite Christmas movies over the 12 days leading up to Christmas.  ENJOY!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer



2 Days Till Christmas!

I'm being a little bit naughty over the next few weeks. I'm busy working on a really cool travel writing project while cramming my Christmas shopping, cookie baking, goofing around with friends and spending time with my beautiful family into the interim time. So in lieu of my usual blog posts, I figured I'd share short scenes from some of my favorite Christmas movies over the 12 days leading up to Christmas.  ENJOY!

Scrooged -The Truth is Painful (Warning: Clip contains profanity)

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at MOVIECLIPS.com

3 Days Till Christmas!

I'm being a little bit naughty over the next few weeks. I'm busy working on a really cool travel writing project while cramming my Christmas shopping, cookie baking, goofing around with friends and spending time with my beautiful family into the interim time. So in lieu of my usual blog posts, I figured I'd share short scenes from some of my favorite Christmas movies over the 12 days leading up to Christmas.  ENJOY!

It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at MOVIECLIPS.com


(And one extra one...just for you, Melissa! ;o)

A Christmas Story



4 Days Till Christmas!

I'm being a little bit naughty over the next few weeks. I'm busy working on a really cool travel writing project while cramming my Christmas shopping, cookie baking, goofing around with friends and spending time with my beautiful family into the interim time. So in lieu of my usual blog posts, I figured I'd share short scenes from some of my favorite Christmas movies over the 12 days leading up to Christmas.  ENJOY!

When Harry Met Sally (Hey, it covers Christmas in the story!)

5 Days Till Christmas!

I'm being a little bit naughty over the next few weeks. I'm busy working on a really cool travel writing project while cramming my Christmas shopping, cookie baking, goofing around with friends and spending time with my beautiful family into the interim time. So in lieu of my usual blog posts, I figured I'd share short scenes from some of my favorite Christmas movies over the 12 days leading up to Christmas.  ENJOY!

Polar Express (First Gift Of Christmas)

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at MOVIECLIPS.com

6 Days Till Christmas!

I'm being a little bit naughty over the next few weeks. I'm busy working on a really cool travel writing project while cramming my Christmas shopping, cookie baking, goofing around with friends and spending time with my beautiful family into the interim time. So in lieu of my usual blog posts, I figured I'd share short scenes from some of my favorite Christmas movies over the 12 days leading up to Christmas.  ENJOY!

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (Merry Christmas You Filthy Animal)

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at MOVIECLIPS.com

7 Days Till Christmas!

I'm being a little bit naughty over the next few weeks. I'm busy working on a really cool travel writing project while cramming my Christmas shopping, cookie baking, goofing around with friends and spending time with my beautiful family into the interim time. So in lieu of my usual blog posts, I figured I'd share short scenes from some of my favorite Christmas movies over the 12 days leading up to Christmas.  ENJOY!

Frosty The Snowman

8 Days Till Christmas!

I'm being a little bit naughty over the next few weeks. I'm busy working on a really cool travel writing project while cramming my Christmas shopping, cookie baking, goofing around with friends and spending time with my beautiful family into the interim time. So in lieu of my usual blog posts, I figured I'd share short scenes from some of my favorite Christmas movies over the 12 days leading up to Christmas.  ENJOY!

Christmas Vacation - Squirrel! (Warning: Clip contains profanity)

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at MOVIECLIPS.com

9 Days Till Christmas!

I'm being a little bit naughty over the next few weeks. I'm busy working on a really cool travel writing project while cramming my Christmas shopping, cookie baking, goofing around with friends and spending time with my beautiful family into the interim time. So in lieu of my usual blog posts, I figured I'd share short scenes from some of my favorite Christmas movies over the 12 days leading up to Christmas.  ENJOY!

Charlie Brown Christmas (The True Meaning of Christmas)



10 Days Till Christmas!

I'm being a little bit naughty over the next few weeks. I'm busy working on a really cool travel writing project while cramming my Christmas shopping, cookie baking, goofing around with friends and spending time with my beautiful family into the interim time. So in lieu of my usual blog posts, I figured I'd share short scenes from some of my favorite Christmas movies over the 12 days leading up to Christmas.  ENJOY!

Miracle On 34th Street  (I Believe)



Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at MOVIECLIPS.com

11 Days Till Christmas!



Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at MOVIECLIPS.com
I'm being a little bit naughty over the next few weeks. I'm busy working on a really cool travel writing project while cramming my Christmas shopping, cookie baking, goofing around with friends and spending time with my beautiful family into the interim time. So in lieu of my usual blog posts, I figured I'd share short scenes from some of my favorite Christmas movies over the 12 days leading up to Christmas.  ENJOY!

ELF - (You Sit on a Throne of Lies!)

Quote of the Week

"You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement
while you are learning. Like any other artist, you are learning your craft—
then you can add all the genius you like."

~ Phyllis Whitney ~




Image by: HandsLive

Author Interview: Heidi Willis

As many of you know I posted a review of the book, Some Kind of Normal on my blog last week--I just loved it! The book was written by debut author Heidi Willis who kindly consented to an interview. So now, curious readers and aspiring authors want to know…

1. Was Some Kind Of Normal the first novel you ever wrote?

No. Right before I wrote Some Kind of Normal I wrote my first real novel, a book I titled Ocean Deep. It took over two years to finish it. I queried and got three immediate requests for partials, and then three immediate rejections. I realized it still needed a lot of work and I might have worked on trying to revise it but then I'd gotten the idea for Some Kind of Normal, and that just took over.

2. How long did it take to finish Some Kind of Normal?

It ended up being about seven months, but I worked much harder and longer on it than I had the previous book I'd written. Instead of writing when I had time, I made a decision to view myself as a writer instead of a mom who sometimes wrote. That made a huge difference in helping me make priorities and sacrifices. Also, that year all three of my kids were finally in school. :)

3. To outline or not to outline?

I'm firmly of the belief that every writer should do what works for them. I was a pantser on my first book and discovered that it absolutely doesn't work for me. I combine two different outlining approaches. I divide the story into three acts, and also divide it by percentages. At each point, I know something has to be happening to move the story forward, so I have those basic events in place. After that, I just let my characters take over. Even though I have some idea about where I'm going, I still face tons of surprises as I write! For a better description of my "outlining" process, you can check out my blog: http://heidiwillis.blogspot.com/2009/05/methodology.html

4. I understand you're part of a writing group. How did you find them?

My writing group is fantabulous! I think Heidi Bailey is the first person I met online, and that was through Nathan Bransford's blog back in early 2008 or late 2007. Then Jen Blom found the two of us through blogs and that started the core of our group. Erin Halm and Brit Lary were in another online writing group I'd joined in 2008. They were by far the two most dedicated and talented writers in that group, so when Heidi and Jen and I decided to start our own group, I asked Erin and Brit to come with. Jen had two other fantastic writer friends, Kerri and Marsh, she brought along, and there we were! We span three continents, but we write each other every day and have become close friends as well as colleagues.

5. Your characters and their relationships are so authentic. Where did the voice of Babs come from?

I have no idea where Babs came from. She just showed up the day I sat to write. She is unlike me in almost every way, and unlike anyone I know. I have to admit that for a while, I was a bit afraid of her. She'd say things and I'd delete them, thinking "You can't write that! Do you know how many people you'd offend with that?" And then I'd realize it wasn't me writing and talking, it was her, and I needed to just let her tell the story.

6. Did you use an agent?

I did not end up with an agent. I queried over a hundred of them. I had a fair amount of agents request partials and then fulls, and almost all of them gave me personalized rejections, most explaining they loved the writing but just didn't know who to submit to, or they just weren't taking on new literary fiction authors. It was tough.

7. How many rejections did you get before your story was accepted by NorLights Press?

Over a hundred. Ouch. The querying and waiting were like a festering sore. I finally decided it wasn't going to happen for me. I stopped sending out queries and when I received the rejection on the last request I had out, I figured the boat had sailed on this book. Less than a week later I got an email from a friend I'd met on Twitter whose publisher had seen my blurb on his blog and was intrigued. They wanted to see the book. The rest is history.

8. Did you have a platform established before you were published?

I've been blogging for about three years and developed a pretty good network of people through that, although I like to think of those people as friends rather than just contacts. I Tweet, I Facebook. I'm a diabetic myself and am involved in groups that fight for cures, and so that was a natural in with this book. I also belong to a couple online book groups, writers groups, and Christian groups.

9. What are you working on now?

I've just finished my latest novel tentatively titled PRODIGAL. It's the story of a runaway girl who comes home at the begging of her younger brother and ends up eyewitness to the murder of her parents, which leaves her as the sole caretaker of her brother in the town she'd tried so hard to escape. It takes place in the same town as Some Kind of Normal with some of the same peripheral characters, but it has a completely different feel to it. It's really the story of forgiveness and hope and defining what family means.

10. What advice do you have for aspiring novelists?

First of all, surround yourself with other writers who will encourage you and be positive, and yet be honest about your work... people you trust and like. Find them in your book club, or library, or online. The road to publication is bumpy and often discouraging. You need other people who are going through it with you and can help KEEP you from jumping off the ledge.

Read books in the genre you write, and read books about writing. And write. A lot. The only way to truly get better is to keep writing.

And take to heart that just because you've been rejected doesn't mean you don't write well or you don't have a good story. Rejection just means that book wasn't for that agent. Or the timing just isn't right. It's not personal. Keep sending out your work, and keep writing, because if not this one, maybe the next one.

Visit Heidi's Blog: www.heidiwillis.blogspot.com
Purchase Some Kind of Normal: HERE

Quote of the Week

Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.
~ Seneca ~

 
 
Image by: Sakeeb

Book Review: Some Kind of Normal

Title: Some Kind of Normal
Debut Author: Heidi Willis
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Literary/Edgy Christian
Publisher: NorLights Press 2009

Opening Lines

"I ain't one to bash being healthy, but it sure takes the fun out of living. My motivation to be the perfect mom starts about six a.m. when I swing my legs over the bed and ends fifteen minutes later when I stumble into the kitchen to make coffee and figure out what I can cook that won't kill no one."

The Story

Babs Babcock, her husband Travis, and their two children live an ordinary life in a small Texas town. Until page three, that is.

In that split second we all know can happen, their normal family lifestyle disintegrates when 12-year-old daughter Ashley is suddenly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She swiftly develops some unique complications causing a short hospital stay to stretch into months as doctors work to find a cure, and she fights to hold on.

Armed with only a tenth-grade education, Babs is relentless in her search to find the cure for her daughter that doctor's say isn't there. While her home church members offer up prayers and an endless abundance of food, we witness Babs wrestle with her family, faith and science as she explores the answer to the question everyone can relate to: How far would you go to save the life of someone you love?"

My Thoughts

From the opening line of this story, I was hooked. Although I tend to be more of romantic suspense kind of gal, I loved, LOVED this book!

Author Heidi Willis has created an entire cast of characters that are refreshing and genuine. The story is told through the eyes of main character, Babs. And I was instantly drawn in by her distinctive voice. Babs is a frank and sincere woman with a quick, sarcastic wit. Although she has her insecurities to deal with just like the rest of us, when it comes to her kids, she rises up to become as strong as she needs to be—just as all mama lionesses do. (Don't mess with our kids!)

I appreciate how "human" Babs is in acknowledging the tenuousness of her faith, which up until the point of her daughter's illness, had gone unchallenged. The Christianity element of the story is not filled with "holier than thou" preachiness, which is a personal pet peeve of mine. Instead it's filled with realistic people as they deal with the issues in their lives.

As a mom, I could relate to Babs's willingness to consider ALL options in the fight to save her daughter's life—even going up against everything she's been taught to believe, and despite the negative ripple effect this causes among her family, friends and church members. Willis has also authentically captured life parenting teens and the challenges that occur within the family dynamics are extremely believable.

I enjoy learning new things when I read fiction and Willis has masterfully woven information about diabetes and its treatment into the story in such a way that it is never boring or "text-bookish."

The tale was gripping with some surprising twists and held my attention to the very last line. (I actually found myself annoyed that I had to stop reading it to handle mundane tasks like feeding my family or taking care of household chores!) It's honest, poignant, funny and sweet. It's a story about love, about family, and about choices. I highly recommend this book—it would make a great Christmas gift for somebody on your list.

You can purchase a copy here.

About The Author

Heidi Willis, a graduate of Penn State with degrees in Education and Communications, taught junior high English in Texas. As a type 1 diabetic, she has plenty of experience managing the disease and considers herself an expert at carb counting. Heidi is an avid photographer and loves to travel. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and three children.

I will be interviewing the author, Heidi Willis, on the blog next week. I can't wait to pick her brain and discover all her secrets for success! Tune in next week.

*I purchased my own copy of this book and receive no compensation for my review besides the gratification that I'm helping a really great author promote a really great book.

Quote of the Week

"Courage is nothing more than taking
one step more than you think you can."

Proverb
(Discovered on the site of author
and writing coach, Holly Lisle.)






Image by: Alex E. Proimos

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you have a truly blessed time spent with loved ones.

(I was sent this video by a friend and I thought it was adorable. A most fitting reminder to have a gratitude attitude--especially for our food . ;o)

Quote of the Week

Sweet is the breath of vernal shower,
The bee’s collected treasures sweet,
Sweet Music’s melting fall but sweeter yet
The still small voice of Gratitude.
~ Thomas Gray ~



 
 
Image by: Unkle_Cheese

Top Ten Reasons For My Gratitude Attitude

Thanksgiving doth approacheth! It's that traditional time of year when we all tend to focus on the many wonderful blessings in our lives—those blessings we've sometimes taken for granted at other times of the year. I figured it might be nice, in honor of the upcoming holidays and all, to do a TOP TEN list of things I'm grateful for this year.

So, if I could have a drumroll please…



I am grateful that…

10. God make chocolate a bean so I can be confident I'm always getting my daily requirement of vegetables.

9. My son and daughter have let me be their "friend" on Facebook and haven't blocked me even when I post comments on their wall and put <3 (hearts) on their pages and on their friends' pages for the entire world to see.

8. My son can't hear me when he's on the soccer field and I'm yelling things to the other players like "Does your mother know you talk like that?" "Yo! Stop pushing my kid!" "No cheating!" as well as my myriad helpful tips for the referees.

7. I haven't had to change a diaper in 13 years!

6. My sister-in-law taught me the secret to opening spaghetti sauce jars so I can have spaghetti even when my husband isn't around to open the blasted jar for me. (Man, that was frustrating!)

5. Whenever I blank out on somebody's name I have a whole bunch of over-40 friends who can't remember the name either so I can therefore conclude with confidence that it's not just me and I truly do not have dementia.

4. Naps...'nuff said.

3. My daughter's bedroom has remained immaculately clean for the past three months. (Yeah, yeah, okay. So she's not exactly living in it right now, but it's still really sparkly clean.)

2. My dog shares my home office and actually looks at me when I'm talking to myself—er, to him, so I don't appear as crazy as I really am.

1. I'm RICH, I'm RICH! And it's all because of you--my beloved family and treasured friends both online and in real life.


Happy Thanksgiving to you all!




Image by: linh.ngân

Quote of the Week

I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge.

~ Igor Stravinsky ~




Image by: Moriza

Confession: I Change Endings

A couple of weekends ago, my daughter Ashleigh came home from college and she, Joshua and I attended the high school fall play, Mother Hicks. One of her closest friends had the lead role.

The play is set in southern Illinois during the great Depression. It relates the tale of three outsiders—an orphan girl known only as Girl, a deaf mute named Tuc and an eccentric recluse, Mother Hicks, who is suspected of being a witch. The story chronicles the journeys of these three characters as they find themselves, and each other, during this troubled time.

When the play ended, the lights came up and Ashleigh turned to me as we gathered our things, "Well, what did you think?"

"The actors did an incredible job!" I gushed. "Your friend was awesome!"

Then I paused.

Ashleigh cocked her head. "What?"

I took a breath. "You realize I'm going to have to change the ending."

Joshua rolled his eyes and Ashleigh groaned at this.
"Mom," she said in her best I'm trying to patient here, but I've been studying ancient Greek literature for the past two months and you really don't understand art voice. "It's supposed to end like that."

"Yeah, yeah I know." I said, waving my hand airily. "But I need an ending with more…closure."

My family members already know this about me. And honestly, as a writer, I would probably have a BIG problem if I knew people were doing this with something I wrote. But as a reader and member of the audience I've gotta be honest here…

I change endings.

Call me shallow. Tell me I don't appreciate true literary art. But I can't help it. I want happy, satisfying endings! I do not want to be left hanging or confused. I do not like loose ends. And most of all I do not like unhappy endings. I figure there's enough misery in the world without my choices in entertainment adding to it. (For the record, Mother Hicks does not have an unhappy ending, just too many loose ends for my taste.) Perhaps I'll "evolve" at some point. But for now, gimme my happy ending darn it!

Allow me to share some examples of what I mean…


***SPOILER ALERT!***
(I'm discussing the endings of each title listed below.
If you haven't read the books or seen the movies,
you may want to step away from the blog!)


Okey dokey, then. Let's start with MOVIES..

Pay It Forward (2000)
No way does main character 11-yr.-old Trevor McKinney die in the end! That ruined the whole movie! Instead, in my ending he comes to his friend's defense, standing up to the bully, who then ultimately realizes what an awful person he's been, breaks down and decides to become part of the positive "Pay It Forward" movement.

Arlington Road (1999)
Are you kidding me? Sorry folks, but in my ending single dad Michael Faraday, does NOT become an unwitting pawn of the terrorists, blowing up a federal building and leaving the psycho terrorist neighbors to raise his 9-yr.-old son. Instead, Faraday uncovers a critical piece of evidence making it clear that his "crazy" allegations about his neighbors are absolutely true. In a race against time, their plot is uncovered and they're busted just before they can complete their mission.

Pirates of the Carribean: At Worlds End (2007)
Uh…no. Will Turner is NOT mortally wounded while trying to retrieve the Deadman's Chest and therefore is not forced to become the new captain of the The Flying Dutchman, destined to see Elizabeth—his true love and new wife—only once every 10 years. Yeesh. Instead Captain Jake Sparrow is! And he's fine with that because his true love is the sea anyway.

Now for some BOOKS

Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare
(I know, I know it's Shakespeare. How dare I?) But in my ending Romeo arrives at the tomb to find Juliet presumably dead. He agonizes over her, of course. Then, just as he's about to put the poison to his lips, Friar John miraculously locates him! He relays the message from Friar Lawrence telling him Juliet's only taken a sleeping potion to appear dead. Romeo smashes the poison container against the stone wall and seconds later Juliet awakes to find her true love waiting to embrace her. Then they and their families all live happily ever after.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult is an amazing writer! And her fans were super hot when the major motion picture of this book debuted with an ending that was completely different from the book. But I was completely frustrated with the book's twist at the end and I've gotta tell you, this time Hollywood got it right. They ended their version the exact same way I did.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
(Ooooh, I'm on dangerous ground now! Heh, heh!) But I was required to make a few minor changes to the end of this final book of the incredible Harry Potter series. In my version, the following people do NOT die:

* Hedwig
* Dobby
* Fred Weasley
* Tonks
* Lupin
* Colin Creevy

I'll let Mad-Eye and Snape go, for dramatic effect and all, but that's it. Everybody else lives happily ever after.

C'mon, admit it. Aren't my revised endings much more satisfying?



Image by: N3T1O™


Quote of the Week

(I liked this quote because it can apply to parenting or writing!)

"We are all apprentices in a craft
where no one ever becomes a master."
~ Ernest Hemingway ~




Go Directly to Jail! Do Not Pass Go.

So, I had parent/teacher conferences for my son last night. Our local paper recently ran an article on the topic of parent/teacher conferences which is apparently receiving national attention.

It seems a local prosecutor is requesting a law mandating jail time for parents who skip parent/teacher conferences. Her proposed plan requires parents to attend at least one conference per year, or spend three days in jail. If it passes, this law would be the first of its kind in the nation.

Hmmm…

I've never missed a single parent/teacher conference for either of my kids, but I'm thinking: Really? Will facing jail time make parents who aren't interested in how their children are performing academically suddenly care? I doubt it.

My initial thought was, what the heck are single working parents supposed to do?! But the plan does make allowances for parents of students who are "excelling" as well as for those parents who have health issues, or are "actively engaged" with teachers via another route such as phone calls or e-mails. The prosecutor is pushing this plan locally, but ideally wants to make the mandate state wide.

Supporters of her plan claim that parents who aren't involved in their children's education are guilty of child abuse. While the opposition calls the idea "dumb" and points out that jail time won't make a difference to parents who don't care anyway.

You can read the online article here: The Detroit News


So what do you think: Absurd idea? Or the kick in the pants some parents may need to get involved?




Image by: S. Baker

Quote of the Week

Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt.

~ William Shakespeare ~



Image by:  lgkiii

Okay vs. Not So Hot



Since I whined in my last post about how my daughter is off on her new college adventure while I'm stuck in the old adventure without her, I thought it might be helpful if I shared some tips I've gleaned from my own personal experience in dealing with this transitional time in a parent's life. The following is my brief compilation of Okay vs. Not So Hot advice on handling a firstborn going off to college:

OKAY: Keeping tabs on your offspring by performing silent-as-a-ninja Facebook stalking. It's even all right to hit the "Like" button on occasion.
NOT SO HOT: Commenting on every new picture, status and profile change. Striking up conversations with other commenters (whom you don't know) in your desperate attempt to discover what's happening each and every second of her daily life. You may soon find yourself blocked and your quaint witticisms deleted.

OKAY: Short texting exchanges a few times a week to check up, see how she's doing or to share something funny.
NOT SO HOT: Whining to everybody and his brother about how she doesn't call enough. Telling her how much you're crying and missing her when she does call. Inundating her with burning text-messaged questions like:

"So, whatcha doing now?"
"…How 'bout now?"
"What did you eat today?"
"What time did you go to bed last night?"

OKAY: Learning to use SKYPE and "chatting" with her briefly when you both happen to be online at the same time.
NOT SO HOT: Lying in wait for the moment you see her SKYPE status change to "online." Then bribing her with promised webcam images of the family pet in your attempt to get her to videochat with you every night.

OKAY: Appreciating the cleanliness of her now-vacated bedroom—sighing in delight at its clutter-free beauty.
NOT SO HOT: Re-arranging her room, and re-organizing her drawers, shelves and closet the way you've always wanted it. Raiding her wardrobe for clothes that she left behind…and wearing them.

And finally…

OKAY: Dusting off your old hobbies. Developing some new ones. Getting together with friends you haven't seen in a while. Taking a new class. Volunteering.

Turning your focus outside will help you on the inside, and eventually you'll work your way into a new kind of normal. Then you'll be okay… instead of not so hot.

Quote of the Week

I do not try to dance better than anyone else.
I only try to dance better than myself.

~ Mikhail Baryshnikov ~





Image by: grand.jete

Adjusting to College

"It was great while it lasted," I sigh.

Chris rolls his eyes heavenward and flips to the next page of the newspaper he’s reading.

"What? She was with us for 18 amazing years. Now it's all over."

"She’s not dead. All she did was decide not to come home last weekend."

"For my BIRTHDAY!"

"Did you come home for your mother's birthday when you were at school?"

"Well…noooo. But why doesn't she want to come home?" I'm whining now.

"Because she's having fun. Isn't that what we both wanted for her?"

"I suppose," I grumble. "I just miss her. She probably doesn't even miss me."

"She misses you."

"Hmph."

I'll tell you what, it's been a hard adjustment to college. Hard for me I mean. I knew it would be difficult when we sent our oldest off to school, just not this difficult. I didn't really cry much before she left. In fact, the day before we took her up to school I'm embarrassed to say I was downright mean. I'm sure this was because I was suppressing my emotions. (Either that or having a major PMS attack, but I'm sticking with the first idea.)

She had come home sobbing after saying good-bye to her friends, and was looking for sympathy. I remained coolly distant, shedding naught a tear.

"Mom, you'd better cry when you drop me off at school!" she'd wailed at me.

I did. A little.

Of course, after we arrived back home that night I really broke down. I was a mess! I proceeded to cry several more times after that. Great wracking sobs which left me in a puffy-eyed, nose-plugged heap on the floor. Chris would pick me up and hold me tight each time till I stopped.

"Aren't you getting tired of this?" I sniffled against his shirt.

"No," he replied, ever patient.

The thing is, this is the moment we were preparing her for all along. It's what all parents are preparing our children for.

Independence.

From the moment we let them begin making decisions for themselves, like choosing whatever mismatched outfit they want to wear to school, the process starts. We give them incrementally greater freedom with each passing year. We discuss morals, ethics and values with them. We let them know where we stand on issues and listen to their views in return. We teach them to prioritize, to study. Guide them through difficult decisions, even let them screw up on occasion for the sake of learning. All of it culminating to this point in time. The moment where we let them go it on their own.

But in the midst of all that preparation and parental hard work, we maybe forget about preparing ourselves. (At least I did!) Everyone tells me it will get better, so I hold onto that thought. I've even had parents tell me they cried at first, but now groan in dismay when they learn their kids will be back home for extended periods. It's hard to imagine reaching that point. But then again, when I was a hip, young D.I.N.K. it was hard for me to imagine anybody calling me mom in the first place. But “somebodies” do. And so hopefully, I will.



Image by: DOliphant

Quote of the Week

"Don't live in that mythical land of 'Oneday Isle.'
Manage your time NOW and don't always promise
yourself you'll do it One Day. Today is the day!"

~ Dennis "Doc" Hensley ~



Image by: Ilsaa

The Middle and Me

I don't mean to whine, but I never get to watch real T.V. Even though I work out of my home, I'm at my computer all day and in the evenings it seems I'm always doing stuff till 10:00 p.m. or later. Exhausted, I'll eventually flop down on the sofa to simultaneously read a book and watch reruns of Friends, Seinfeld or The Office.

I've randomly caught a few episodes of popular shows, but I am never able to contribute knowledgeably to conversations with my friends whenever they begin discussing the most recent episode of Glee or whatever.

Last Friday evening we were actually home for a change. I dragged out the laundry basket full of clean laundry that had needed folding for two days and proceeded to turn on the television for something to look at while I performed this mundane task. The "Homecoming" episode of The Middle was just starting. I vaguely recalled friends describing this show as funny so I flipped it on. My hubs wandered in and sat down to watch it with me.

It was pretty good, had a quirky sort of humor and I smiled during a few parts, but I wasn't positive I'd be drawn to watching it again until this scene hit. And by the time it finished, my hubs and I were laughing so hard we were doubled up. Tears were streaming down my cheeks.

Oh my gosh! This is ME! This mom (Patricia Heaton) IS ME!!




I've said it before and I'll say it again. I know there is an unwritten rule against doing this, but please don't tell me it's not every mom's impulse to do exactly what Frankie did! We're just forced to quash that impulse for the sake of not embarrassing our baby—er, teen.

I've been forcibly (but politely) held back from rushing the field by baseball coaches and have managed to get other soccer parents to go check on my son during games when he appears to be in pain. Oh yeah. I'm that mom. I'm definitely tuning in next week!

Just curious, can any other moms out there relate? Have you ever "accidentally" embarrassed your child at a public event?

Quote of the Week

"If Columbus had an advisory committee
he would probably still be at the dock."
~ Arthur Goldberg ~



Excuses, Excuses

My son is considering taking lifeguard lessons to boost his summer job marketability. He's not on the swim team, but he's a confident swimmer. I find this amusing considering his rocky initiation into the underwater world.

I am a terrible swimmer. When I took swimming lessons the custom was: If you didn't jump in by yourself, they threw you in. Sink or swim, baby.

I sank.

To this day the smell of chlorine makes me nauseous.

Not wanting my children to be equally as traumatized, I sought out kind, nurturing swim instructors who would introduce my children to the skill of swimming in a gentle, loving manner. Mrs. H. taught private swim lessons in her own pool each summer. I signed up my daughter Ashleigh first. Within six lessons she went from barely getting her hair wet to executing a lovely front crawl. Mrs. H. was perfect! She was nurturing and kind, yet firm—in a loving way—when she needed to be.

Anxious for my son to benefit from this woman's incredible teaching skills, I signed Joshua up the next summer. Secure in her embrace, he did gentle dunkings beneath the surface of the water, just as his sister had done, and held onto Mrs. H.'s arms as he happily practiced kicking his little legs. But when the day finally came for him to jump into the pool on his own…

NO WAY.

His little arms clung to the side of the pool in a death grip. No amount of kindness, gentleness, cajoling or bribery would pry that kid loose. Then loving, gentle, nurturing Mrs. H. uttered the words that sent me spiraling back in time and I experienced my own personal version of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

"Sweetheart, if you don't jump in on your own, I'm going to have to throw you in."

What?! Was she serious? My gut clenched.

Josh just shook his little head and held on even tighter.

I sat, frozen, as Mrs. H. climbed from the pool. I wanted to stop her. To say something! But my mouth and throat went dry as paper towel.

"I don’t want to jump in. NO! Noooooo!" my little guy cried.

"Yes, sweetheart."

I could feel my own heart race as she detached his skinny arms and lifted him from the pool.

"Hold your breath, honey."

"Noooooo—"

Glug.

I leaped to my feet, complete panic galvanizing me into action. Although I lacked swimming skills, I prepared to dive in and save my baby when his dark head suddenly bobbed to the surface and he dog-paddled the few feet back to the edge.

Mrs. H. looked down at him.

Josh wiped his nose and looked up at her, grinning. "Can we do that again?"

I sank back down, slack jawed, he LIKED it?! Was he nuts?

Mrs. H. dropped him in several more times that day and he LOVED it. The nut!

Remembering this story got me thinking metaphorically again. What happened with Josh is what happens to a lot of us when it comes to our private goals and dreams--like my desire to write novels (published novels!). Maybe you have the same desire to write, or you'd like to go back to school or make a career change. We happily kick around in that dream stage. But when the moment comes to actually dive in, we balk. Sure, we've got loads of great excuses. Life is too busy. Now is not a good time. We don't have the money right now. But what it really boils down to is fear. Fear of failure? Fear of success?

So we procrastinate.

I was blessed with the equivalent of a psychological toss into the pool from a writing class I took. Now I've got a finished first draft of my novel to show for it and I'm swimming my way through revisions. What about you? Do you have a secret dream you've kept tucked away, hidden from everyone's view—including your own? What's stopping you from jumping in?
Image by: Grace Family

Quote of the Week

“It’s a funny thing about life;
if you refuse to accept anything but the best,
you very often get it.”

~ Somerset Maugham ~


Image by: Tell Jeeves

What I Learned From the Girl in Last Place

My daughter ran for her high school cross-country team for three years. Up until that point my only experience with sports involved watching my kids play traditional "team" sports like soccer, baseball, basketball, etc. I'd sit on the sidelines cheering obnoxiously for my child's team and shouting much-appreciated suggestions to the referees.

It wasn’t until I attended my daughter's first cross-country meet, however, that I witnessed true team spirit and discovered an interesting metaphor between a cross-country runner and my writing life. And it was all because of the girl in last place.

In case you're unfamiliar with cross-country races, they’re 5K races that are run…well, across country. Through woods, over fields, up hills, down hills, in the pouring rain, under the beating sun, occasionally even through snowstorms. These runners are relentless. They are powerful. They are awe-inspiring.

During that first race, runners flew by the waiting crowds at different points along the route. I was surprised then delighted by the reactions of the spectators. EVERY parent of EVERY team cheered for EVERY runner. It was such a refreshing change from the usual "Hurrah my team," "Boo your team" and stay on your side of the 50-yd. line please.

Eventually, spectators converged along either side of the finish line. Amid cheers, the top runners sprinted past, followed by clusters of mid-level runners and finally the slower runners straggled in. Several minutes passed and figuring the race was over, I went to find my daughter. Then I heard someone say, "I see her. Here she comes." Curious, I squeezed back into the crowd and squinted up the trail. Sure enough, one lone runner topped the hill in the distance. Coming in dead last, she continued her run at a slow, rhythmic pace.

She entered that final stretch and the crowd--which hadn't moved--went wild. Whistles, cheers and thunderous applause followed in her wake. I felt ridiculous tears well up in my eyes. I didn't even know this girl. But the sense of accomplishment that shone from her face as she crossed that finish line was like the glow of a candle flame filling a once darkened room.

Later, I asked my daughter about the girl and learned that she was a much-loved team member who almost always came in last place. This girl's single-minded goal was to finish every race and achieve her personal best, no matter what anybody else did.

I tried to imagine what that must be like. To stand ready at the starting line of a race and know you will not win. That you will most likely lose, and lose big. Yet to show up race after race and run anyway. And finish. Despite what the scorebook says, the girl in last place is the true winner. And I use her philosophy as inspiration in my writing life.

I'm just finishing up the first draft of my first attempt at writing a novel on my own. And I now realize that writing my novel is much like running a cross-country race. (For one thing, it's much harder than it looked from the sidelines!) And I used to think that crossing the finish line meant getting it published. (Still something I plan to do!) But I take joy in the simple process of creating. And I take great pride in finishing this first draft. Many of my writer friends may have started running the race after me and yet are far ahead of me on the trail, but I hold the image of that girl in my mind. No matter what anybody else is doing, I will continue to run my own race, continue striving for my personal best. I will finish. And when I do, I win.




Image by: Dru Bloomfield

Quote of the Week

"Failure really isn't terrible if you can say to yourself, hey, I know I'm gonna be successful at what I want to do someday. Failure doesn't become a big hang-up then because it's only temporary. If failure is absolute, then it would be a disaster, but as long as it's only temporary you can just go and achieve almost anything."

~ Jerry Della Femina ~



 
 
Image by: dam

Then And Now

I attended my 30th high school reunion a few weeks back and although I was a little apprehensive, I ended up having a blast! My hubs was such a good sport. (Yes, I dragged him along!) He never looked bored and only started hinting about leaving around 11:00 p.m. Of course, I successfully dragged out our departure until 11:45 p.m., but he humored me.

Something I think that enhanced the entire event was that one member of my graduating class took it upon himself to create a Facebook group several months before the big weekend. My classmates were all able to reconnect online beforehand, which was cool. We learned where everybody had ended up, and what sorts of careers we’d all grown up to achieve. Who had kids, no kids… grandkids!! (Talk about freakin’ me out!) When we finally met in real life, our conversations were all that much richer and more in-depth. By the end of the night, my face and jaw ached from laughing and talking so much.

Attending this monumental event has caused me to reflect on those ol' high school days. And since I’m in the midst of witnessing the high school (and college) days of my own kids, I noted some interesting similarities and differences between high school "then and now."

One thing that hasn’t changed much is fashion. I’m not talking about how the 80's leg warmers/leggings look has come full circle, but rather the whole lookalike thing. When I was in high school, we all pretty much dressed alike. Or tried to. Heaven forbid we weren’t wearing the right jeans, or our hair wasn’t feathered into Farrah-Fawcett-like fluffiness. High schoolers today are still doing that. Not the Farrah Fawcett thing, but the matching hair and clothing styles. Even the radical fringe tries to look like the rest of the radical fringe. I wonder if this all ties into a budding need to feel accepted?

In some cool ways, however, high school has evolved from my era. One significant difference I’ve noticed is in the clique thing. Now hang on, I know cliques still exist! But they’ve kind of morphed somewhat—in a good way.

After discussing this topic with some friends, I know not everyone will be able to relate to this, but where I grew up, clique lines were rarely crossed. There was no way a jock would’ve participated in marching band. Or that a band kid could be elected Homecoming King. Only the drama kids did drama, and nerds could never be “cool.” And while we were aware of the students with special needs, there weren’t many opportunities for interaction.

At the reunion, I met some great people I'd graduated with but had never formally met before. These were people I recognized from the old high school hallways, but our paths hadn't really crossed. This was because there wasn’t any real overlap of cliques. But there is now. At least at my teens’ high school, which is equally as large as the one I attended. Today, there is a melding of cliques and groups and I think it’s awesome.

Last spring I attended our local high school musical, Fame, where I listened to the melodic solos of a varsity soccer player who had a main part. I watched a non-jock, non-band choir kid get elected Homecoming King, and I was brought to tears by the student body's thunderous whoops and applause during the graduation ceremony, as their fellow special needs classmates went up to receive their diplomas.

Some members of my Class of '80 had to wait 30 years to get to know people from different cliques and friend groups, but now it happens all the time. How great is that?! Sure, there’s negative stuff influencing our teens today. But there’s good stuff too. Just wanted to point some of it out.



Image by:  Conspirator

The Great White Hunter: Part II

(In case you missed the first part of this exciting story, click here!) Now, our saga continues...

In the morning, Chris found the trap unsprung and the bait right where he'd left it.

"That's weird," he said, descending the ladder. "We need to call CC-guy back."

CC-guy returned and poked around a bit. "Well, I don’t see anything," he reported. "She must be hiding. By the way, the trap you have up there is a squirrel trap. It’s way too small for a raccoon."

"Are you kidding me?" I looked accusingly at my Great White Hunter who once again refused to meet my eyes.

"Nope. And another thing, since the mother raccoon has no way to escape don’t confront her in the attic. Cornered raccoons get very vicious. She’ll go right for your throat."

I gulped. "What about the new gaping hole? She can escape through that, right?"

CC-guy just smiled condescendingly then scrounged around in his truck, handing me a container of yucky-looking brown stuff. "Here’s some raccoon bait. It’s irresistible to them. Just smear it on some marshmallows and I guarantee you’ll catch her."

"Thanks," I said weakly and watched him drive off. I wondered again what exactly I’d written him that BIG check for.

Chris borrowed a large trap from our brother-in-law and purchased another one. He set them all in our tiny attic loaded with marshmallows and raccoon bait.

"Three traps?" I said.

"Just making sure I catch her," my Great White Hunter replied.

The following morning, he returned from his daily attic investigation looking grim. "Still unsprung. Plus, I left one marshmallow out in the open and it's gone.”

I grasped him by the shirt collar with both hands, yanking his face within inches of mine. You’re FEEDING her now! Are you crazy?”

He gently disentangled my fingers. “Calm down. Now, I need to go finish packing for my business trip. Let me know what happens." (Okay, he didn't actually say it like this, but that's what it felt like!)

He called me the following day for a report. "Anything happen?"

Now folks, here’s where I draw the line. I'm all for marriage being an equal partnership and everything, except when it comes to stuff like hunting coons in my attic. There was NO WAY I was going up there to investigate whether the marshmallow-munching killer raccoon was still running loose. Nor was I sending my one-and-only son up there either.

I had raccoon nightmares for two days straight. When the Great White Hunter returned, up into the attic he went.

I waited below, wringing my hands until he descended the ladder.

"Well?"

"I have a confession to make," he said.

"What?"

"I’m not exactly sure that first marshmallow was eaten."

"Huh?"

My Great White Hunter went on to explain that he’d merely tossed the first marshmallow up there and thought it had been eaten but it was now possible he’d been mistaken.

"Why do you say that?"

"Um…because I put a second marshmallow out in the open and it’s still there, hard as a rock. And all the traps are untouched."

I growled low and went for his throat, but he dodged nimbly out of my reach.

Hmph! Guess there was nobody else home after all. Apparently, the sounds we'd heard were just the mother trying to find her way back in to her babies, but to no avail.

I felt a little bad for her, but please. She had the whole outside to play in! Why did she have to come into our attic?

I trailed after my hero. "Well, can you at least close up the new hole you created so we don't get bats in the attic now?"

"Why? It's perfect timing. They’ll be all settled in to add atmosphere for Halloween.”

I growled again. But he just rolled his eyes and laughed. Then did as I requested.

Yeesh. Finally, we can get back life as it was before the invasion of the killer raccoons.

Image by: andrusdevelopment

Quote of the Week

Photograph © Holly Bowne

There are no mistakes.
The events we bring upon ourselves,
no matter how unpleasant,
are necessary in order to learn
what we need to learn;
whatever steps we take,
they're necessary to reach the places
we've chosen to go.

~ Richard Bach ~

The Great White Hunter: Part I


I've shared stories before about how strange things seem to happen when my hubs is out of town. There was my “Take That, You Low-life Virus” post. And the time I was rescued by Louie da Plumber. So naturally, I’ve come to expect (dread?) those times when hubs announces another business trip.

Recently when he was gone, I was awakened during the night by the sounds of somebody breaking into our house. At least that's what I thought. I shot up in bed. Frozen. Listening, as loud thumps and scratches reverberated directly overhead. After several torturous minutes the sounds subsided. When no killer entered my room, I eventually fell back asleep.

In the bright morning light I thought I’d imagined it all till my son Joshua greeted me with, “Did you hear that thing in the attic last night?”

Great. Apparently some THING had moved into our attic.

Chris returned the next day and I initially forgot to mention it. But that night, the sounds started up. I shoved him awake. “Do you hear that?” I hissed. He mumbled something, turned over and immediately fell back asleep.

"Wake up!” I shoved again.

He mumbled some more but was dead to the world while I lay frozen once again. Listening.

The next morning, I went to rouse Joshua for church only to find rumpled bedclothes but no kid.

"SOMEBODY STOLE JOSH!!!" I shrieked from the top of the stairs.

"No they didn't," came a sleepy reply from down the hall.

I flung open the guest room door to find Josh comfortably tucked into the guest bed.

"What are you doing in here?" I demanded.

"That THING in the attic was thumping so loud last night I couldn't sleep,” he yawned. “I thought it was going to come through the ceiling so I came in here."

"Chris!" I bellowed.

"I heard," he said, suddenly at my side.

He and Josh spent the entire afternoon on our roof, and when they came down Chris looked quite satisfied with himself.

"I figured out how whatever it was got in," he said. “And I’ve completely sealed it up. Nothing else is getting in there."

"My hero!" I cried hugging him. That night, we all went to bed feeling safe and secure. Until around 1:00 a.m. when the sounds started up again. Chris groaned.

"Forget this!" we heard Josh grumble in the darkness as he stumbled his way down the hall to the guest room.

The next day we called in the critter control experts. CC-guy showed up and within an hour he discovered two baby raccoons hidden away in our attic.

He removed them, then handed us a BIG bill commenting, “I see your roof is completely sealed up now so nothing else can get in. Or out.”

"Out?" I said as I handed him a BIG check.

"Well, it's normally best to wait until you're certain all the critters are gone before sealing everything up and making repairs.

"What?!" I looked accusingly at my hero who refused to meet my eyes. “What else could be up there?"

"Well, the mother. But don’t worry,” CC-guy said soothingly. “I didn’t see any sign of her. I'm sure you're fine." He hopped into his CC-mobile and issued a final suggestion. “Unfortunately, you’re outside our trap zone. But to be extra safe, you could put a live trap up there.” Then he was gone.

(Outside their trap zone? What about the BIG check I’d just written!)

Chris immediately bought a live trap, baiting it with some delicious peanut butter and cracker sandwiches.

This is good, I thought.

Then he proceeded to rip away the siding underneath our eave, leaving a big gaping hole.

This is bad, I thought.

"What are you doing?!"

"I'm leaving an escape route for the mother raccoon in case she’s up there."

"Do you seriously think she’s going to attempt to exit that hole and plunge 50 feet to her death?"

"Maybe."

"Doesn’t that hole make a perfect spot for bats to fly in now?"

"Nah, I doubt it."

I didn’t. And I was seriously considering throttling my hero.

At precisely 1:00 a.m. that night we heard the sounds again.

"Aarrrgghhhh!" I buried my head under my pillow and Chris sighed loudly. We heard Joshua stomp his way to the guest room. I had raccoon nightmares all night.

(Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of "The Great White Hunter.")
 
 
Image by: MacJewell