Friday, November 26, 2010

Word Cloud

I've been working on a middle grade fiction. My WIP (work in progress) is called Blackberry Tree and writing has been both painful and wonderful. Overall, a good experience when I don't lay awake in the wee hours thinking about throwing the whole thing out and getting a job bagging groceries. Not that there's anything wrong with bagging groceries. It's just not writing middle grade fiction and I might be better at bagging groceries than at writing middle grade fiction.

I didn't realize it would come out so small. But if you click on it, it will take you to the bigger picture. Guess what the name of my main character is?

 Wordle: blackberry word cloud

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bird Nerd

I realized at 2am as I lay awake in my bed, too cold to get out from under the covers, that I have turned into a bird nerd. This feeder is right outside my kitchen window so I get an up-close view of all the birds that come to eat. It's fun to watch them fight over the best position on the perch. Well, fun for me.

This is a House Finch that looked particularly pretty* against the backdrop of snow. I also have a few Black-capped Chickadees, and Dark-eyed Juncos visit the feeder every day.

This February, the Jackson Bottom Wetland is having a bird house contest. They're calling it the Tweet of Dreams. How clever is that? Anyway, I'm totally in. I'll get started on it right after the holidays. I'm sure the fact that I've never built a birdhouse before will not hinder me in the least.

*Just to make myself clear, I think the bird in the picture is pretty, not cute.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Not Cute

I love animals. Just not in my house. I don't mind animals in your house, as long as they are not sniffing me in really embarrassing places and don't leave my clothes covered in fur. Oh, and it would be great if they don't chew up my shoes that you asked me to leave by the front door.

Cute animal videos also don't hold my interest. If you've seen one sleeping kitten, you've seen them all. But cute animal videos apparently have a wide audience because there is no way to be on the Internet without being invited to watch one.

I always pass, thank you very much.

But today I clicked. The picture on Yahoo News showed a box of sleeping kittens and said something even more cute was underneath them. My interest was piqued. The link took me to a Purina website loaded with links to cute animal videos. It wasn't too late to get out, but I stayed. I had to know what was under the pile of sleeping kittens.

But the video didn't work.

I was a little offended. After all, I never click on these lame time-wasters and now I clicked. And Purina wouldn't show me the video. How dare you Purina! Offending me apparently wasn't enough. Now they had to humiliate me by making me refresh the page three times to try and get that cute animal video. And still, nothing.

I'm so mad at cute animals.

And I hate balloons too.

And Christmas is annoying.

And don't get me started on "The Royals."

If I haven't offended everyone yet, can someone tell me what was under that pile of sleeping kittens?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Blossom Handbag

I have a million things I should be doing, but I decided to make this purse.

It all started when I needed $1.43 extra to get free shipping on an order at Amazon, so I bought this book. When the book arrived, I wasn't blown away by any of the purses, but I had a hankering to go look at fabric and thought that if any particular fabric really called out to me, I'd buy it and make a purse.

At JoAnn's, no particular fabric called out to me. But I bought some fabric anyway. But I wasn't going to make the purse right away, because I had so much to do.

Then, one night, I put in a movie and decided to cut out the pieces for a purse. But I wasn't going to make it for a long time. Just cut. The cutting took 4 hours. There were a lot of things to cut.

I guess you know the end of the story. Two days later, and I have made the purse. I used up all kinds of time I needed to be doing other things, but it was fun. And now I have a cute purse. It doesn't necessarily look like my style and I'm still not crazy about the fabric, and that zippered pouch was a pain in the butt to make, but not as much of a pain as sewing it into the purse.

I feel like I need a new outfit to go with it.

And I already bought fabric for the next bag. But I'm not going to start that one for a while. I really have so much to do.

If you want the pattern for the bag, it's offered online for free. I sure wish I'd known that before I paid for the book!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Et Tu, Harry?

I read some sad, sad news on Monday. It seems the director of the latest Harry Potter movie has decided to push the limits of the "13" in the PG-13 rating for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.

If you recall, in the book Harry, Ron and Hermione set off on their own to find the remaining horcruxes and destroy Voldemort once and for all. While they are camping in the woods, Ron comes under some kind of hallucinatory spell in which he sees Harry and Hermione kissing. This throws Ron into a fit of jealousy and he leaves.

Here is how the director saw that scene according to this article:

"Though they were partly clothed, the scene leaves the impression that Radcliffe and Watson are stripped naked. Both wore jeans, while Radcliffe went shirtless and Watson had the front of her torso covered, leaving her back and shoulders bare.

"'I didn't want to put them through complete nudity,' said director David Yates. 'I didn't think it was necessary, because we were going to put some smoke around them' for the scene, which Ron witnesses through a hallucinatory fog.

I wonder if director David Yates knows who will be seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Or should I say, who will NOT be seeing this movie now that they know about this scene.

Honestly! This is a kids book. I realize the plot has warped into Young Adult territory over Harry's seven years at Hogwarts, and that's absolutely fine. The Harry Potter series is an anomaly in that it appeals to readers from 5 to 105. But Harry Potter is first and foremost a kids book and the movie should be appropriate for kids to see. There are plenty of readers and fans who do not need to see Harry and Hermione in a naked kissing scene.

I'm a 41 year old married mom and I'm one of them. And my 12 year old son is definitely another. He's been looking forward to this movie since he finished reading the book and now I don't know how I can possibly take him to see it.

I might be in the minority with my position. And I haven't actually seen the scene, so perhaps I'm not the best judge. But the director's intentions seem clear according to the article: he wanted the viewers to believe both characters were naked. How is this not pornography?

And don't give me that business that it's a short 15 seconds out of a 120 minute movie. If there's a fly in your soup, you don't eat around it. You send it back!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On Swearing

Last night we had the "swearing" talk.

See, my boys get big eyes and very worried looks when they hear me say things like this:

"Uncle Andrew is helping to fight the fire in California and just got stationed in Hell's Canyon."

Or, from the Bible, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

Or, from More Adventures of the Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, "Tom and I rode on the seat of the buckboard with Papa who was driving our team of Bess and Dick."

Maybe I should enjoy this time when even "shut-up" and "stupid" are bad words in their every-day vocabularies. Because I'm guessing that soon enough, those and far more offensive words will be added. But I had to let them know that the way a word is used is often more important than what the actual word is. Sometimes.

Any word spoken in anger or hate can be offensive. Whether it's "darn" or "sugar" or "barnacles." I've heard some pretty offensive flips and fetches, that in my mind were no different than if the queen-mother-of-all-swear-words itself had been uttered.

On the other side of the coin, there are many words that are considered swear words, that are perfectly fine when used the right way. And there is no need to giggle or worry that you are saying the wrong thing.

"How do we know when it's OK to say a word that might be a bad word?" The kids asked. "Can we just say whatever we want as long as we aren't mad?"

Hmmm. Not exactly. I told them that if they were talking about a structure built by Beavers, or a place in California that has been affected by fires, or reading the scriptures, or a story about a man or animal who's name is short for Richard, then it's perfectly fine to say the words that describe those things.

They seemed to get it.

I just better not hear them holding their tongues and trying to say "ship."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Creativity on Demand

Some people are so demanding.

Some people demand I update my blog daily. And if I don't, they call me and leave threatening messages. Or write aggressive notes on my Facebook wall. Or leave flaming bags of poop on my front doorstep.

OK, that last one was a lie.

Still, you can't force a creative mind, right? I need to be inspired to write. One can't just expect my type of genius to be "on" all the time. First I have to wait for the kids to do something clever slash crazy slash annoying. Then I need some kind of original thought which will give that thing my own funny spin. Then I need to have time to sit down and write about it. And find the perfect picture on Google images to go with it. And edit it, and read it over and over, and change words here and there and consider posting a link on Facebook, or e-mailing demanding people and saying, "There! Are you happy now?"

It takes time. It can't be rushed. It can't be demanded.



One of my favorite authors, Cinda Williams Chima, has this quote on her website:

"Write every day. It is easier to keep a patient on life support than to resurrect the dead." Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander

I have read in many writing books (OK, the one writing book* I read) and heard from many writer's workshops (OK, the one workshop I attended), that this is true, true, true. You need to write everyday and not wait for inspiration to hit. Inspiration is far more likely to hit if you have a prepared receptacle in which to receive it. (That receptacle would be me, the prepared writer!)

Last month when I participated in the Game On! diet with friends, I put this theory to the test. My good habit goal was to write for 2 hours every day. I quickly realized that this was a big goal and worked hard to accomplish it so I didn't lose points for my team. I wished I'd made the goal one hour a day. But I didn't. I needed to write. About something. Anything.

And I did.

I wrote on my blog every day, (which is why some people got demanding when I stopped the daily updates). I worked on a young adult novel that's been sitting on my computer for a year and a middle grade novel that's been sitting on a 3 and a half inch disk for 3 years. I wrote articles and submitted them to magazines I'd never submitted to before. I didn't care if they published what I wrote; I just had to write to get my points.

And that "just do it" attitude was eye opening. I was writing more and writing better. Ideas were coming more freely to me. And my inner critic--the one who tells me I have no business sending in articles to real magazines--was summarily dismissed. (I attacked him like a ninja: it was quick, painless, and he never saw it coming!)

I am sorry to say that I have not kept up on my goal after finishing the Game On! diet. I need to get that daily writing goal back and keep up the momentum. Because yesterday, after Ethan brought in the mail and opened it, he said, "Mom, someone wants to publish something you wrote."

I grabbed the letter out of his hands from the editors of The New Era magazine. Something I wrote, to fulfill my quota and earn my diet points, and that I submitted because I didn't care that I had no business doing it, had been accepted for possible publication.

Possible. Publication.


Does this mean I'm going to update my blog every day? Probably not.

But will I write every day? I think I have to.

Writer Peter DeVries said, "I only write when I'm inspired, and I make sure I'm inspired every morning at 9am."

*I just remembered. I also read this book, which then necessitated the reading of this one.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Learning to Walk

It's only taken 41 years, but I've finally come to terms with my height. I'm 5'10" and not afraid to show it. No more slouching to try and fit in with a group of average height friends. No more complaining about having to pay extra for "tall" sized clothing, and no more shunning high heels. (OK, I'll probably still complain about paying extra for clothes. Sorry)

Today my first high heels came in the mail. Actually, I should say the first high heels of my adult life, because there was that sadly misguided pair of knock-off Cherokee wedge sandals I wore in 6th grade. I thought I was being conservative on the heel height of my new shoes (pictured above). After all, if you look at it from one angle, they don't appear to be too tall.

But when I tried them on, I realized I'd stepped into a different dimension. First off, my head was at a higher elevation than it had ever been. I might possibly have to duck through doorways now. I'll certainly be the first to detect rain or snow fall.

The main issue, of course, is the walking. In other words, will I be able to walk and not look like one of those new born calves with the wobbly legs? Or a deer who can't get her footing on the smooth floors of a high school? The jury is still out.

One thing that concerns me is that when I walk, my ankles make a strange click. Is this supposed to happen? Will it eventually go away? Or is it the sign that with continued high heel use, my feet will eventually need to be amputated? At the very least, the clicking is mildly uncomfortable.

But the shoes are fabulous. And if I can learn to walk in them, and suffer the strange ankle clicking, it will be totally worth it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On Being a True Fan

We don't have cable. We don't have Dish. We do have a digital converter box and rabbit ears and $90 extra in the bank every month. Since we don't watch a lot of TV, it's a sweet deal.

But today we wanted to watch some football. With our digital converter box and the rabbit ears, our TV gets about 3 channels and the Ducks were playing the Huskies on one of those channels. Life was good.

We ate nachos for lunch and watched the kick-off. Did I mention, life was good?

Then the TV started acting funny. The reception was going in and out, the audio and video were stopping and starting and we turned on the radio so we could hear what was going on. It looked like we were going from 3 working channels to 2.

Robert went out to the garage during a commercial to work on something and came back in. Suddenly, the reception improved. "Don't move!" I said. "Stay right there. The reception is really good when you are right there." And it was. For a few seconds.

"Maybe if I do this?" Robert suggested as he raised his arms out to the side. "Maybe you should come over here and see if it makes a difference."

I went to the fridge to get some water and the picture momentarily cleared up when I opened and closed the door. So I stood, opening and closing the door so we could see if the Ducks kicked for the extra point or went for 2. They went for 2!

"It seems to be best when you are in the garage," I pointed out to Robert, who was standing around the corner, peeking into the room so the TV wouldn't know he was there. "Maybe you should just stay in the garage," I joked.

The TV reception continued to fluctuate and Robert and I continued to reposition ourselves around the room in hopes of appeasing the digital television gods. We were marginally effective. Or not. It's possible our movements had nothing to do with the reception, but it felt good to think we wielded some sort of control over the situation.

During half time, Robert adjusted the roof antenna. I stayed in the house and reported on the reception quality over the phone while Robert stood outside on a ladder. "Better. Worse. We just lost the picture completely! Oh, better now."

Finally, we had the best reception ever. The game was coming in clear as a bell. There were no hurky jerky stops and starts. We could hear what the commentators were saying and what the penalties were for.

By that time the Ducks were so far ahead though, so I decided to call my mom and chat instead of watch the rest of the game.

Just like a true fan.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Dress Story

Confession time: I sometimes buy clothing from Fred Meyer.

Because sometimes when I walk by the clothing section, something pops out either because it's a screaming good deal, or super cute, or both. And it's strange to think that at Fred Meyer, the store where I do 98% of my grocery shopping and home and garden shopping, that I would also do my clothing shopping. But sometimes, I do.

Just so you know, when ever I've purchased a piece of clothing from Fred Meyer, I've always had compliments. And when I share my secret of where I bought the item, friends are always shocked. Or maybe they are just acting that way.

Anyway, the dress.

I saw the dress out of the corner of my eye as I was wheeling my cart over to the toothpaste section. I wasn't planning on buying clothes, let alone a fancy dress. I just saw it. I went to investigate and found out that the dress was on sale. Originally $58, it had been marked down to $38. And it wasn't too short. And it had sleeves. And a cute ribbon tie at the waist (I know it's hard to see in the picture...sorry). I would have been a fool to pass it up.

I took the dress home without paying for it. But before I get into that mess, I first need to tell you that when I got home I decided I needed a new pair of shoes to go with it. So I ordered a pair of black suede heels from Then I figured jewelry would be a swell addition, so I ordered a lovely necklace. All justified, of course, because of the screaming deal I got on the dress.

Just how screaming that deal was, I had no idea.

Later, I was admiring the dress and I noticed that the bulky plastic security tag had been left inside the dress. I was a little ticked at the thought of having to return to Fred Meyer to get the tag taken out, but when I remembered I go to Fred Meyer about 3 times a week, I figured it wasn't too much trouble. I retrieved my receipt and scanned it to make sure it was the right one. It was the right one. There was no question it was the right receipt. The problem was, the dress was not on the receipt.

I never paid for the dress. I'd taken it through the check out line and reminded the cashier to scan it. I didn't want to put it on the conveyor belt with my raw meat and suspiciously drippy milk containers, so I'd kept it in the cart. She looked at the dress, but never scanned the tag.

Today when I went back to explain the mix up and get my security tag removed, the customer service gal was so grateful. Because I was honest. She mentioned there was a 15% off coupon for apparel and said she wished she could give me a bigger discount.

I did too, but $32 is a pretty good price for a dress. Maybe enough to justify a cute sweater to go with it?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

On Organization

One of my children has a birthday in March. He's had his guest list made out since August. Yesterday he pulled out that guest list, which, I might add, he knew exactly where to find, and went over the names of invitees to make necessary changes (a couple new friends have been made and one moved away). He then began to make another list. A list of things we would need for the party. The Harry Potter party.

15 boy gift bags
3 girl gift bags
18 wands
18 ring pops
18 pencils
1 cake

Did I mention his birthday is in March?

Another child is not so organized. He doesn't write things down. He doesn't put things away. He has trouble finding things not only because he can't remember where he put them, but also because he has no idea how to look for them. Really. No idea. If it's not 2 inches in front of his face, it might as well be on Mars. He does his homework, but doesn't turn it in because he either left it at home or lost it somewhere else. He loses coats, lunch boxes, water bottles and bike lock keys. His bedroom is a disaster.

His parent teacher conference was not very positive. His lack of organization is affecting his grades and everything else he does.

After getting this feedback, I came home and ordered Organizing the Disorganized Child from Amazon. It may just be the first of many books I read on the subject, but I'm determined to figure out how to help my kid. It has become clear that his brain is taking a different path from A to B that mine is. I have to figure out what that path is so I can walk it with him and help him learn how to organize.

Darn you underdeveloped frontal lobe!!!

The book outlines 3 different organizational styles with a list of behavioral traits to determine which style your child fits into: visual, spatial and chronological. Ethan didn't seem to fit into any one category. There were things I identified with him in each category. But the thing that really got me confused was that each list contained a similar statement: My child feels disorganized when their work area is...

I don't believe my child feels disorganized. I feel like he is oblivious to any kind disorder around him other than when he is looking for something and can't find it. He doesn't care that he lives and sleeps in squalor; that there is a Twix bar wrapper with a bit of caramel stuck to his pillow case, or that he's put wet clothes into his laundry basket 4 days ago and something is starting to smell, or that his floor is covered with dirty socks, Legos, Nerf darts and weeks of school papers, some of which are important, others which are not.

I know he doesn't like the consequences of his disorganization, but I'm pretty sure he is not making the connection that being organized would get rid of those consequences. Because if he was making that connection, wouldn't he try to be organized? How hard can it be to put your bike key in your backpack? Or your candy wrapper in your garbage can? Or your assignments in your student planner?

I just don't understand.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

DIY Halloween

The theme for this Halloween was DIY. When the kids wanted to carve pumpkins, I said, "Do it yourself." When they wanted to get costumes, I said, "Do it yourself." When they wanted to make real, homemade taffy on Sunday night, I said, "Do it yourself." And when they wanted to open the door to the trick or treaters and hand out candy, I said, "Do it yourself."

And they did!

The pumpkins were scooped and carved. I don't know how well the job was done, but it was good enough. I gave the boys safety tools and laid out big plastic garbage bags and they went to work. Except Ethan had to wear latex gloves and ended up having Jonah help him so he didn't have to get his hands dirty.

The big bin of costumes upstairs was pulled out (not by me) and rifled through until costumes of days gone by were pulled out and tried on and adjusted and used.

I showed Ethan where the candy thermometer was and he made taffy. Although I did end up pulling most of it, and cutting it into bits and wrapping with with waxed paper. It turned out great. Just like taffy at the beach, except we only had one flavor: peppermint.

Isaac and Jonah took turns opening the door and handing out candy. I didn't see one trick or treater all night. It was surprisingly enjoyable.

And thanks to a vigilant Sunday School teacher who showed the kids, "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" in church, Ethan came up with the great idea to hand out rocks along with candy to some of his friends. Most people I told this to were confused and alarmed. "Tricks!" I reminded them. "Don't forget it's tricks OR treat."

And no, we didn't get toilet papered later on.

There are no pictures to post of the DIY Halloween because I was too busy being lazy and none of the kids thought to get the camera out. I did worry that maybe I was too lazy about this seemingly important holiday. I've been reassured, however, that lazy moms make self-reliant kids.

I would finish this post with a rallying cry to lazy moms everywhere who are in reality doing their kids a huge service, but that just seems to go against the lazy mom modus operandi. So instead, I'm going upstairs to read a book.