Merry Christmas!

My oldest attempted to get us out of bed at 3:45 a.m. this morning. I told him to go back to bed because it was simply too early to open presents even if Santa had come during the middle of the night.

A little more than two hours later, we were taking the stockings down while Ken reprogrammed his new coffee pot to brew ahead of schedule. I guess he was thinking maybe the boys would sleep in until 7 or so. Silly man.

I found some delightful surprises in my stocking. Heavenly perfume. An ice cream scooper. A new can opener (much needed!). Some candy. Three small scented candles.

The boys found fishing tackle, games, Wizard 101 gift cards, and some candy.

Ken got a gift certificate to his favorite beer store and other manly odds-n-ends. You know, stuff from places like Gander Mountain.

The big presents this year were Tony Hawk's Ride for the PS3, a grinder and saw for Ken, and my new, sparkly laptop! I love it, love it, love it! Really, there aren't enough exclamation points to express my adoration of this little piece of machinery. I've already loaded it with my favorite, can't-live-without-them programs. You know, like Firefox, Picasa, and Photoshop.

The next thing on the agenda is making hot cocoa for me and the boys and filling the collage photo frame my oldest got for me.

I hope your Christmas morning was as blessed as ours.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas..

And, as such, the night for family traditions...

First, there was oyster stew to make.

Then it was time to hurry home and get the reindeer feed sprinkled in the lawn.

(Mom forgot to take pictures of the sugar cookie frosting that happened next, but believe me when I say the cookies were not forgotten!)

Only after the house was clean, the cookies were frosted, and the reindeer were signaled, did we open our traditional Christmas Eve presents: pajamas for all!

Merry Christmas Eve!

Getting Ready for Santa

It was a busy weekend. Saturday I spent 12 hours on my feet, something I must admit I'm not used to, especially since I ended up with very tired and sore legs by the time I crawled into bed. On the bright side of things, I got some nice gifts for myself (thanks to Mom & Dad H!) and managed to finish up a few more family members. After all that shopping, I guess you'd expect that I would be done Christmas shopping.

Not so! I had promised the boys I would take them them to the store so they could pick out something special for their dad. This meant I got up early Sunday morning to take them out.

After we got home it was time to pull together all the ingredients and get baking. First we made the chocolate chip cookies. While the first batch was in the oven, we mixed the sugar cookie dough. Since it has to be refrigerated for an hour, we played some Devil May Cry 4 while finishing the chocolate chip cookies, which I overcooked and are crispy instead of soft. I blame this entirely on the stove and not my video gaming ways. Whenever the timer would go off, I'd take a peek and decide they needed a few minutes more. In retrospect, I guess the directions were correct and I should have taken them out at the recommended time.

Still, they're pretty good crunchy, so I'm not complaining. Much.

Then it was time for rolling the sugar cookie dough out and cutting out shapes. What a mess!

But the end results were totally worth the time, effort and mess involved. While I may have overcooked the chocolate chip cookies, the sugar cookies are just about perfect. Soft, fluffy, and sweet. Frosting is optional, they're that good.

Then it was time for dinner, baths, and the traditional picture in front of the Christmas tree.

The only thing left to do is get the reindeer feed mixed together. We'll have to do that Tuesday or Wednesday night.

Working on my To-Do List

I don't usually work off a to-do list, but right now I have so many different things I want to accomplish that I really do feel the need to write them down and assign them priorities. (Thank you iGoogle for providing lovely little gadgets suited for just such a purpose! You rock!)

In the last week or so I've managed to cross three items off my to-do list.
  • Edit Jenna's senior pics & burn to CD
  • Create DVD of Jenna's pics for easy viewing in my Dad's computer-less house
  • Edit Dad & Connie's wedding pictures
That leaves the following outstanding items:
  • Finish Chapter 3 of Between the Heavens and Earth
  • Finish critiquing Chapters 25-27 for Martin (critique partner from WisCon 2009)
  • Create music slideshow DVD of Dad & Connie's wedding
Ideally, I'd like to update the to-do list on Sundays with things like "work on Chapter 4" and "critique Chapters 28-30". Seeing the list every time I sign in to iGoogle will hopefully remind me that time is quickly passing by and I need to get crackin'.

How about you? Got any pressing items on your to-do list?

New Pictures for the Wall

If you were to wander through my house right now, you would find pictures of my kids hanging on the walls. Not surprising, right? I'm a Mom. It's what we do.

The shocking thing is that the majority of these pictures are old. Old, old. As in my youngest is still a toddler in most of them. (I know. I should hang my head in shame...) The only up-to-date pictures are their school pictures and those happen to be sitting on the plant stand in my bedroom right now; we had to make room for the Christmas tree.

Now, I've been using the lack of leisure time in our lives as an excuse to explain the chubby cheeks and dimpled fingers in those pictures. We don't have time to get family portraits done. Trying to fit in an appointment between sporting events, school, and family obligations is darn near impossible.

Unfortunately, the excuse doesn't really work all that well. I have a nice camera and I'm not afraid to use it!

The truth is I have great pictures of my kids. Really great pictures. Pictures that are worthy of displaying throughout my house.

It just never occurred to me (until today) that I should replace the studio portraits I have hanging on the walls with the best pictures I've taken over the last year. All I need to do is send them to Walgreens or Snapfish and order the sizes I need. It's that easy.

So why didn't I think of this earlier? ~forehead slap~

Reading for Others

It has come to my attention that I am sadly behind on the reading/critiquing of manuscripts given to me by fellow writers. I have three books that I've promised to read and critique in my in-box. Two of the three are about a quarter of the way done. The other one is perhaps halfway done, but I have a feeling I'm going to have to reread a lot of it in order to continue on because I set it down quite some time ago.

In addition to these three, I also have a couple of novels-in-draft sitting in my Google Wave in-box. I'm not sure when - or if - I will be able to get to those.

So, if you're waiting on some feedback from me, please be patient! I really am going to make a good faith effort to get caught up!

It's Beginning..

To look a lot like Christmas. At least, at my house, it is.

Yesterday we prepped the house for the holiday clutter before heading off to the Christmas tree farm. A quick visit with Santa, a hayride out to the lot, and a quick walkabout led us to this year's scotch pine. Ken thought he'd let the boys cut down the tree this year. Although they each took a turn trying to saw through the little trunk, neither boy had the strength to do the job. (Honestly, I'm not sure I could do it without a great deal of cussing and sweating and cussing. Hubby may make it look easy, but I know it's not!).

While we waited for the tree to get the loose needles shaken out, we went into the barn. Hot chocolate, hot cider and coffee helped warm us up from our little outdoor adventure as we searched for this year's wreath. Then it was time to head on home and get the decorating done.

It took some doing but eventually we got the tree up and decorated, the lights strung inside and out, and all the other decorations arranged. Of course, as usual, we ran into a few problems. The wreath refuses to stay on the door; it's sitting on the kitchen counter until we can figure out how to get it to stop falling. I need some pushpins to help keep the lights around the kitchen sink window and the sliding glass doors. A new tablecloth wouldn't be a bad thing, either. Oh, and some Christmas-y scented candles..those would be nice, too.

So, is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas around your house, too?

A Shopping We Will Go

My husband, one of the best bargain shoppers I know, started months ago. A gift here, a gift there. It was a slow accumulation to be sure, but every purchase made on behalf of a nephew (his side) or in-law has made the Christmas shopping a little bit easier.

Of course, the true shopping didn't start until Black Friday. Since that pocketbook-draining day we've managed to get a good portion of our shopping done. Yes, you heard me right. We're almost done and it's hardly December!

However, there remain a few people we still need to finish buying for, most notably our parents. I know what we're getting my Dad and his new wife. We just need to figure out which sibling of mine is going to actually do the purchasing so we can hand them over our portion of the expense.

Then there's my mom and her husband. They've recently moved out-of-state, which means gifts must be shipped. (Sorry, Mom, we won't be traveling this year!) Now if I only knew what to get them. Maybe I should have them take a little time to create an Amazon wishlist. That would help tremendously!

My parents-in-law are another big question mark. They get harder and harder to buy for because it seems like they have everything they want. While I'm sure this is grossly untrue and there's plenty of things they secretly wish for, I don't know what they are. Wishlists for them would be a good idea, too, if they actually had a computer with Internet access.

Okay, so I'm on a wishlist kick. They're fun! You should try creating one for yourself and sharing it with those people in your life who really don't have any idea what to buy for you.

Because you know what? I wish my nephews-in-law had them, too, because right now gift cards are looking good.

Family aside, I still have to buy for the office Christmas party and, again, I don't have a clue what to buy. Knowing me, I'll probably settle for yet another last minute gift card. Oh, the joy of buying for the unknown recipient!

Quote of the Moment

Reading comments on another blog and this bit of wisdom caught my eye...
You're free to say, write and do exactly what you want... and live with the consequences. Don't complain if the consequences are unexpected and harsh.
~Donna Lea Simpson
Well said, Donna. Well said.

Technically, It Was a Fail

Okay, so I didn't hit 50K on the NaNo project this year. I have no excuses. At least, no good ones because I'm pretty sure watching TV and reading are considered, at best, distractions.

So, I failed. I didn't win.

But I'm not worried about it. While NaNo is fun and a great way to bring writers together, what's more important to me is the fact that it gets me writing again. I have a story I'm working on. Sure, it's slow and painful progress right now, but it's words on a page and that's more than I had a month ago.

My story is what most would likely consider epic fantasy. It involves gods, god-kin (human and god offspring), Elementals, and miniature dragons. My main character, Moswen El-Brideah, is the recognized keeper of the god-kin bloodline. Her biggest fear in the beginning of the book is that her secret will be revealed before the god who birthed her ancestors. Unlike most of her peers, she posesses more than god-kin magic. She's also half-Elemental, the product of a meddling Elemental who has finally succeeded in corrupting the god-kin bloodlines. This is a secret that could destroy her family and leave her people without a ruling family to protect them. It could also mean her death or, even worse, her spiritual undoing in the afterlife.

Things are complicated when the god reveals his plan to restore himself to his former power in both this world and in the heavens where he must contend with the machinations of the other gods. He directs Moswen's family to make war on a legendary people, to destroy their faith in their own godess and to feed him their spiritual energy through conversion to his will. Although the directive doesn't sit well with Moswen or her family, the truth of the failing magic in the god-kin families forces their hand and scouting parties are sent to ascertain the strength, number, and location of the worshippers of the goddess Runne.

Moswen, who has just passed her god-kin test in the Temple of Oryn, has little time to celebrate her success. Distressed by both the political jockeying at home, she finds an excuse to leave the courts behind when her brother goes missing.

Okay, so that's as far as I've made it so there ends the synopsis of Between the Heavens and Earth (current working title).

The only other thing I really tell you is the story is just about ready to pick up speed. The set-up is almost complete. I'm right in the middle of introducing one of the main antagonists. Once I get him situated where I need him (let's hope he cooperates!), I'm hoping the words will start falling more easily into place.

Building the foundation of the story is hard work! I said, I failed NaNo, but I'm okay with it because what I did manage to write is 100% usable. Not perfect. But usable. It'll need some polishing and refining, sure, but that's okay. It means I have something to work with.

NaNo Update


Not doing so hot. I've written 14,670 words (a little less than 69 double-spaced pages). I've made it to Chapter Four and am finally introducing the antagonist. Too late? Too bad! Whether I keep the preceding chapters as they are or not, I needed to write them in this order. I needed things laid out and ordered in such a way that the unfolding story would make sense not only to the reader, but to me.

I just wish the words were coming a bit easier, but they're not. Each scene feels like its being coerced into existence.

And, yes, I know I'm supposed to allow myself to write crap. I'm supposed to let whatever unfolds onto the page simply unfold. No deleting. No revising. No reworking things.

Yeah. I don't write that way. Not even when I want to.

I've got a few hours before bedtime. I'm not going to set a word limit goal tonight, but I'm going to try to keep myself planted in front of the keyboard for at least an hour before allowing myself to enjoy some mind-numbing television.

New Moon

Coordinating schedules is never easy, but somehow we managed it. Me, my sisters, one of my sisters-in-law, and my best friend found babysitters, change in the bottom of our purses, and a couple hours in which we could indulge in some vampire and werewolf make-believe.

The movie was pretty much what I expected it to be. After all, I've read the books. I know I can't stand Bella. And Edward is only slightly more tolerable. Jacob, though, is a different matter entirely. Of all the characters in Meyers' world, Jacob is by far the most well-developed, complex personality. In some ways, I feel like Meyers really told his story and not Bella's, she just didn't know it. The resolution of his story arc was the only thing I found redeeming in the entire series.

Okay, so I'm definitely "Team Jacob".

It's my prerogative.

The movie certainly didn't change my mind. I found the special effects wonderful. The transformation from human to werewolf...yummy. Of course, there were certain tensions that the unread viewer wouldn't realize they were missing, but their absence didn't detract from the movie.

Slow Moving

I've written 8,271 words so far on my NaNo project. I'm still falling short of the daily word count goals, but I'm not freaking out about it too much. I'm writing every day. That's huge.

What's funny, though, is how my writing is getting interrupted while I'm at home. My laptop has been taken over by minors!

For those of you who don't know, I signed both of my boys up for the Youth Program. I thought they might enjoy writing a story that wouldn't be graded or dissected in the quest to identify mistakes in spelling, grammar, or punctuation. I was right! They are enjoying it. My youngest has written over 500 (yes, five hundred!) words already on his story, The Dark Pokemon. My oldest, who started late, has kicked out a little over 800 words in just a few days on The Last Battle. (As you might have guessed, both stories are Pokemon fan fiction.)

Picture taken with Hubby's iPhone

Watching them cruise right along makes me realize just how picky I am about what I leave on the page. It's ridiculous when you stop and think that I'm supposed to be writing the world's suckiest rough draft. Despite knowing better, I find myself wanting to "get it right". This means fixing things that shouldn't be fixed until the revision stage. I am my own worst enemy!

Still, even with my inability to just let go and write whatever swill comes to mind, I'm confident I can still reach 50K. Why? Well, I'm taking a week's vacation! The only day I will not be able to write during that week is November 26, Thanksgiving day. Although, honestly, if the guys are going to watch football, maybe I'll try sneaking in a paragraph or two.

If I can keep the laptop away from the kids.

Word Count Meter Update

4885 / 50000 words. 10% done!

Still a long way to go..but I've made some progress today.

Getting Back on Track

Nano has not started off well for me. Sarah just posted her numbers for the first five days of Nano and while I'm insanely happy for her, I'm feeling pretty sucky about myself. Yes, this is a woe-is-me post. Deal with it.

I don't have day-by-day word counts to list, but I know I barely managed to make the minimal word count on Day 1 and have failed ever since. Oh, I'm still writing, but it's painfully slow. I'm starting today at 3,192 words.

Now, let's do the math..

Today is Day 6.
Each day I should write a minimum of 1,667 words.
This means I should have 8335 words done already.
Today's writing should put me at 10,002 words before midnight.
This means I need to write 6810 words today if I want to get back on track.


Problem #1: Day job. No time to write except at lunch.
Problem #2: Going to cousin's house to discuss planning for family Christmas party.

Yeah. It's probably not going to happen tonight. The only silver lining here is that other than tonight, I have no plans for the weekend. I can sit and write to my hearts content. Well, mostly. I will have to do some chores around the house. You know, pesky things like laundry and dishes.

Nano Snippet

I'm writing, but it's going slower than I'd like. The first day I met the minimal word count limit, but barely. Monday I was about 1000 words short and yesterday I barely got anything at all. I have good excuses, but excuses don't help the word count! Let's just say I have a lot to make up for tonight.

Instead of boring you with my excuses, though, I thought I'd post a portion of the opening chapter. Please be kind. This is rough (extremely rough) draft and I suck at beginnings. They usually take at least a half-dozen or more tries before I get them "right".


Chapter One

Precious water, a rare and sacred commodity in the depths of the desert, filled the Acolyte pool. The scent of untainted purity, of life, filled the small room beneath the hot sands and limestone bedrock, beckoning those who aspired to be recognized as god-kin to replenish their bodies and spirits before beginning the first of their trials. Oil lamps, artfully arranged around the room, flickered the passing of time, counting down the last hours of preparation and purification.

Moswen El-Brideah shrugged the linen robe from her shoulders and walked naked into the empty room. She paused at the edge of the pool, closed her eyes, and took a deep, calming breath. Images of hieroglyphs, the pictorial script of the god-kin, danced across her eyelids. She had not been able to escape them in her sleep, either. Hopefully the pool would wash them away, for a time at least.

Opening her eyes on a weary sigh, she stepped into the pool and waded across the center. She sank onto a rock-chiseled ledge, water sloshing over her shoulders. Normally she would wait for her attendants to arrive, but today she would have to wash her own hair and scrub her own flesh free of impurities. Knowing the burning oil would not last indefinitely, Moswen began the cleansing ritual.

As she slid beneath the surface of the water, her fingers working through her hair, she tried to focus on nothing but the feel of her body, the texture of her hair in the current created by movements. For a small time she wanted to forget the cramped agony of her ink-stained fingers and the hoarseness of her voice from the hours of practiced incantations. The anxiety of failure would not leave her even though her last attempt had been successful.

She had shed her human form to assume the visage of a god. She had been unable to hold the form for more than a heartbeat or two, but she had transformed her flesh, something only the gods and their offspring, the god-kin, could do. She had succeeded. She only hoped the short-lived success would be enough to please her family’s ancient benefactor. Without Oryn’s approval, her family’s right to rule would be open to challenge for the first time in history.

Not that she was the only descendant at risk of losing the right to call herself god-kin. News of struggling Acolytes had been reaching her mother’s court for years. The reason, quietly whispered far from the temple steps, was blamed on the dilution of the bloodlines. Generations of god-kin had ruled the Continent for eons without any new infusions to bolster the failing powers of the long-ago chosen.

She broke the surface of the water and reached for the soap one of the temple attendants had left at the pool’s edge earlier that morning. She lathered her hair and scrubbed her face.

The embodiment of the god would be the last of her trials. She hoped she would have enough strength left to perform the task because, without performing any other feats of magic, she had little enough ability to force the transformation. Unfortunately, she knew she would have to expend some energy before entering the final chamber. According to her mother, she would be required to perform three different forms of magic. Each trial would be held in its own chamber, each one leading her further and further into the heart of Oryn’s Temple. For her first trial, she would have to heal someone. If she were lucky, and she suspected her mother would be sure to help her luck along, she would get a clean, open wound to heal. Anything more complicated would require the expenditure of precious energy.

She rinsed and began scrubbing down the rest of her body. The fire from the oil lamps danced and flickered until one of them extinguished in a pale wisp of white smoke. Shadows thickened along the back wall, encouraging her to hurry.

The second trial would be easier. It required the manipulation of earthly elements, a feat Moswen knew she would have little trouble performing. Quite the opposite actually. She would have to hold back, to downplay the ease with which she could perform any elemental magic.

She would also have to fake the magic.

The idea sent a bolt of apprehension down her spine and cast a ripple of goose pimples across her skin. She shivered. Of all the tasks, this one, the easiest, worried her the most. It threatened to reveal a secret she had protected since he had first convinced her of the truth.

Fearing her very thoughts would betray her, Moswen clamped down on the memory threatening to overwhelm her. She could not, would not, think about him or his revelations. Not today. Not here.

A second lamp flickered out, deepening the shadows. She had perhaps minutes before the room would be lost to the subterranean darkness.

She finished her bath and exited the pool. She did not stoop to pick up the discarded robe near the doorway, but made sure to avoid contact with its contaminated folds as she stepped around it to select a towel from one of the three pedestals in the room.

She toweled dry and, as custom dictated, dropped the damp cloth to the floor before moving on to the next pedestal. A fresh, clean robe unfurled after a shake or two. She folded it around her body and secured it with the decorative pin at her shoulder.

The last station had been positioned before a polished copper mirror. Its surface held a comb, pellets of ground carob, brushes of various size and shape, and a collection of simple containers filled with kohl, malachite and ochre.

Fearing the last of the light would disappear before she could finish, Moswen reached for the cosmetic brushes. She could comb out her hair with her fingers if necessary. Appearing before her patron god without her eyes outlined and her lips colored was unacceptable.

The light held. She left the room properly groomed. She knew she should feel calm and prepared, ready to face the challenges Oryn dealt her, but as she exited the room, anxiety settled into her stomach. It formed into a knot as she met her mother’s anxious eyes.

“You look well-prepared,” her mother said, leaving the lonely bench outside the acolyte pool. A stunning woman of indeterminable age, her mother was often mistaken for her sister.

Moswen inclined her head, but could not manage a smile. She did not feel well-prepared. She felt sick. “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”

“You’ll do just fine,” her mother said, but she could not manage a smile either. It seemed the knowledge that the next few hours could prove the undoing of a dynasty weighed heavily upon her slender shoulders, too.

They walked in silence toward the gentle incline leading up to the desert surface. As they neared the narrow passage her mother motioned her forward, falling into step behind her. “You remember the incantations? You need to be sure to emphasize the third and seventh glyphs, otherwise the spells won’t work. I realized while you were bathing that you sometimes forget to put your energy into the central glyphs. You can’t afford a lazy tongue today.”

They had covered all of this before Moswen had entered the pool. Fighting back a flash of annoyance, she nodded her head. She could use the reminder. If her spells worked every time and worked as well as legend said they should, she might have given in to the urge to point out her mother’s limitations. After all, she wasn’t the only one who struggled with the god-kin magic.

A litany of recommendations and criticisms followed her out of the passageway. She paused as her eyes adjusted to the brilliance reflecting off the sands and the surrounding sandstone structures. Towering statues lined a broad walkway. Her mother stepped out and stood beside her, raising a hand to shield her eyes.

The Temple had been built inland, far from the god’s ruling city. The pilgrimage from the lush delta to the interior of the ever-expanding and unforgiving desert was supposed to help prepare the Acolyte for their first audience with their god. The shifting sands, the dry, searing heat of the days and the bone-chilling cold of the night were meant to focus the energies of the both the mind and the body.

Moswen found the desert exhausting. The barren landscape was only marginally improved by the magnificent structures that had been erected to honor the god Oryn.

She missed the palm trees and the balmy wind off the Great River. She missed the comforts of the women’s quarters at the city palace. She missed the chatter of monkeys and the twitter of birds, the smell of the spice market, and the sight of foreigners in the streets and in the court.

“They’re waiting for you.”

The unwelcome reminder did little to ease her nervousness. Her trials must be completed before the sun set. If her magic were more reliable, she might have retired to her quarters for a quick repast, but she could not afford such a luxury.
She moved resolutely toward the temple.

At the bottom of the temple steps, her mother stopped. She inclined her head and offered yet another rendition of the forced smile. Anxiety filled her eyes. “You can do this, daughter.”

Moswen laid a gentle hand on her mother’s shoulder. The fleeting touch bolstered her courage as she began her journey. As she mounted the grand temple steps, Moswen could feel her mother’s eyes as well as those in her personal retinue follow her ascent. She hoped to those looking on she appeared composed and confident. It was not until she came to the top and stepped onto the broad approach leading into the Temple proper did she feel truly alone.

Getting Ready for Halloween (in pictures)

Whole Lot of Nothing

I've started a couple different posts, but, after a few words, I've deleted them. I guess I don't have anything exciting to report and rambling on about a whole lot of nothing didn't appeal at the time.

I still don't have much to say. No profound words of wisdom. No insightful commentary. Not even a bit of juicy gossip to share. No, life is pretty mundane at the moment. The only thing of significance that I can report is that the children are done with sports. We should have the next month off. No practices, no games. Our lives will assume a leisurely pace for a few blessed weeks.

Other than that, I am still prepping for Nano. Random bits and pieces fall into place, adding further dimension to the characters and setting. I'm anxious to start writing, but, if I'm completely honest, I'm also enjoying the lull before the storm. It gives me plenty of time to indulge in my two favorite past-times: reading and vegging out in front of the television.

Tonight, after the pumpkins are carved and the seeds are properly salted and cooked, I plan on finishing Fearless Fourteen and watching the special episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Doesn't that sound blissfully indulgent?

Senior Pics

I took a vacation day on Tuesday so I could go on a senior photo shoot with my new step-sister, Jenna. Here's a few samples of our day together.

By the Barrels

Close Crop (8x10)




I was pretty happy with the results. There are a few that need some "tweaking" in Photoshop. Mostly, it's sharpening and adding depth with vignetting. I'm sure in more capable hands these good shots would be even better. Lucky for me, I never claimed to be a professional!

Did I mention it's been 15 years?

I've been a bad blogger.

Last week my hubby and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. Fifteen!

He was a sweetie and got me these lovelies. The flowers arrived on Wednesday and the chocolates on Thursday.




Friday night we splurged and went out to eat at a local Brewery where he sampled the beer and I sipped on a glass of wine. After dinner we wasted an hour or so shopping at the Outlet Mall before finally making it to the late show.

It was a great night. And yes, I know. Spoiled.

Nano with Children

Last night I took the boys with me to my writer's group meeting. As the only thing on the agenda was discussing the upcoming Nano challenge, I thought they might find the group energy inspirational. You see, normally I wouldn't take the boys, but since I've basically bribed them into participating in this year's Youth Program, I was hoping for the best.

Overall, I think they did fairly well. Little boys, especially my little boys, don't sit still for long. There was a fair bit of restlessness and some downright goofiness. Still, I think they did okay and can only hope no one else found them too distracting or disruptive.

The good news is that the boys were inspired. The oldest went from wanting to write about spaceships and aliens to wanting to tell a story about mythical creatures, like ogres and fairies. The youngest has decided to write about football (loosely based on him and his friends, of course).

So even though Mom might have been feeling the stress of having children in tow, the evil plan worked! Knowing that spelling errors, grammar and punctuation aren't going to be reviewed on a nightly basis also helped. As I told them on our way home, writing for fun is the goal during November.

Wish us luck!

Woe is Wednesday Night

For my husband!

It seems Wednesday night is one of my favorite nights to use our DVR. From 8 - 11 p.m. something is being recorded. Laugh if you want, but the first two shows are So You Think You Can Dance and America's Next Top Model. Up next is Criminal Minds and Glee, followed by Leverage and Eastwick. Hey, there's no accounting for taste. I like my trashy tv shows!

Since I must admit I'm a bit out of control with the whole taping-every-show-that- remotely-appeals-to-me thing, it's been decided that Wednesday nights are going to become Netflix nights. While my shows are recording, we can watch something a bit more universally appealing or at least something that won't leave the hubby wanting to gouge his eyes out.

I wonder what's up next on the list? ~skips off to check out the Netflix queue~

Righteous Kill with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Of course, that's assuming we don't watch it before next Wednesday. If we do, hubby gets to move another one of his movies up the list so that it ships next.

Little Things Make Me Happy

I collect books. I collect them not only because I love (wuv) them, but because I am one of those really nerdy people who actually re-reads their favorite novels. Again and again and again. New books in old series inspire me to revisit the entire storyline from beginning to end. This means some of the books sitting on basement bookshelves have been read 10, 11, or even 12 times.

So imagine my distress when one of my favorites goes missing. Loaned and not returned. It doesn't happen often because I must admit I am amazingly stingy with my most beloved books. Still, it does happen.

Knowing that I have an incomplete trilogy or series or even a missing stand alone will make me do crazy things like purchase a book I've already read a half-dozen times. This is exactly what happened this weekend. Happily, the book I picked up at B&N will once again complete perhaps my all-time favorite trilogy.

I don't know who I loaned out Black Sun Rising to, but now it doesn't matter. I don't have to wonder any more because the book has been replaced.

And that makes me happy.

New Thoughts on "The Story"

Normally I crawl into bed and fall right to sleep. Not last night, though. Nope. My mind was racing. I couldn't stop thinking about the amazing group of people I had just met at Barnes & Noble. More exciting, I couldn't stop brainstorming story ideas for my NaNo project. I almost got out of bed to write them down, they were that good! Of course, being the lazy good-for-nothing I am, I willed myself to remember the ideas after I got up in the morning.

And it worked! I remember the ideas, which is awesome because one of those passing thoughts provided me with my opening scene. I'm not going to question it or dissect it. I'm not going to wonder if it's the right or wrong move starting there. I'm going to trust my instincts for once and just let myself follow where they may lead.

Of course, this makes waiting for NaNo to begin all that much more difficult. I not only have my premise, my characters, and a good portion of the worldbuilding done, I have my opening scene! That's huge.

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Early Morning Blog Post

Just sitting here waiting on the clock. It's a strange feeling. My mornings are typically of the rushed variety. Snooze buttons and missing shoes. Grumpiness and exasperation. Unhappy husband and silently rebellious children.

Not that we didn't have some of that this morning. We did. But the kids are off to school already and the house is quiet because instead of rushing off to work, today I'm waiting on the clock. Waiting on the doctor's office to open. Waiting on the pharmacy to open. Waiting.

Not rushing.

It's rather strange.

Strange, but nice.

It almost makes me wish I were one of those people who jump right out of bed and tackle their day with optimism and hope. It makes me think early mornings without stress would be worth sacrificing a few minutes of sleep for, but I can't lie to myself. I'm not going to give up even 30-seconds worth of sleep. Never gonna happen.


I resurrected my photo blog. I know. As if I need another blog, right? I have a hard enough time keeping this one up-to-date. Thinking I can keep two of them current and interesting is probably stretching the fabric of reality.

You can blame this latest bit of craziness on photo blogs like this, and this, and this. Totally their fault for being so photo-fantastic. It puts crazy thoughts in my head, thoughts like "You should totally do this, too!"

And I can. I certainly take enough photos. Even if I failed to pick my camera up for the rest of the year, I could easily post a picture a day without any trouble whatsoever.

So. Photo blog has new life. Go. Visit.

Um...I've been absent.

The last couple of weeks were crazy busy. I thought I'd get so much done while the hubby was gone. I thought I'd scrapbook and read and laze about. Ha! No such luck. My evenings and weekends were devoured by the kids' schedules.

Luckily, the hubby is back home where he belongs. He pulled in around 7 last night. I don't know who was more excited to see him: me, the kids, or the dogs. There was a lot of smiles, hugs, and tail-wagging going on. The puppy couldn't wait to get roughed up and the youngest boy became his shadow almost immediately. It was so cute watching them.

Unfortunately, the only thing our hunter came home with was an upset stomach. It seems the bears were not willing to cooperate. Although I must be honest and admit I wasn't really looking forward to eating bear meat, I feel bad for him. His first ever bear hunt should not have been a bust! Not when he waited several years to get a license in the first place.

Hopefully, if he ever goes again, he'll have better luck.

Home Today

We had a busy weekend. The boys had games Saturday morning that lasted into the early afternoon. They both did very well, in my opinion, even though their teams lost. I was proud of them and had a great time watching them play. It's amazing how much better sports are when its your kid out there on the field. This is true not only of football, but of basketball and baseball, too. I really, really enjoy watching them become part of a team and achieve their goals.

Yesterday I took them to go see 9. It's a post-apocalyptic cartoon whose imagery reminds me a bit of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Dark and edgy. There were a few times when I wondered if wasn't a bit too sinister for the younger members of the theater going audience. I think the kids did okay. Although, I did catch my oldest hiding his face a few times..

After the movies we came home and had dinner before my sister and her kids showed up to watch yet another movie: Confessions of a Shopaholic. It was cute. Funny in places. While my sister and I watched the movie the kids played, for the most part, in the back yard, coming in only when it got too dark to be outside anymore.

Maybe playing in the cool evening air did it. I'm not sure. In any event, the boys both woke up feeling less than stellar this morning. After breakfast the oldest got sick. The youngest was running a fever. A few hours later and they were both feverish. No other complaints, though. No unexplained aches or pains. Just low-grade fevers that occasionally give them the chills.

I'm hoping they're well enough to go to school tomorrow. And that I don't catch whatever it is.


If you're trying to view this in Internet Explorer, don't! Apparently IE hates this slideshow frame. Try viewing in Firefox instead.

Day 2

Wait. That can't be right. Surely they've been back in school for more than two whole days!

I mean, what's the odds that on the second day of class the oldest would come home and start puking? Slim, right? Well, not as slim as I'd like them to be! While I drove Gage up to the practice fields, KC curled up on the couch.

What a great start to our school year!

The good news is that he seems to have recovered already. I'm hoping this means he simply ate something that didn't agree with his stomach and he's purged himself of it. The alternative is that sometime in the middle of the night, when I'm nearly comatose, he'll wake me up with a retching serenade. So, yes, I'm really, really hoping it was just some bad kool-aid or after school treat.

I guess only the next 12 hours or so will tell.

School's Back in Session

I have wedding pictures to share, but since today was the boys' first day of the new school year, I think I'll just treat you to the snapshots I took this morning while they were waiting for the bus.

I know they don't look it here, but I think they were happy to go back school, even if it was only to see their friends again.

Skulls are apparently the new "in" item with the younger crowd. And by younger, I mean elementary and Jr. High kids.

The older boy spotted this one and was happy. Of course, Mom would have liked for it to come in a somewhat sturdier make and model. I have a feeling this bag isn't going to last through the year.

School Jitters

My children start school on Tuesday. Tuesday. As in, just a few short days away.

I think I'm more nervous than they are.

Do they have the "right" shoes? Are their clothes stylish enough? Their backpacks? Do they have the necessary school supplies, and when did schools stop requiring children to bring their own paper and pencils and why wasn't I told?

That's just the insanely superficial stuff I wonder about. The stuff that really, really doesn't matter. Except that kids are terribly superficial, aren't they? They notice clothes and haircuts. They notice if one is not like the others and they're too young to value individuality or creativity at this age. Being different is bad.

But then I start thinking about the important stuff that moms and dads are really supposed to be concerned know, academics. Homework. Test scores. Responsibility and accountability.

I think about my oldest son's 504 Plan and whether or not the accommodations therein will be honored if I have to press them upon an unwilling teacher. While this has never happened, what if this the one time I have to really, really advocate on his behalf? And when am I crossing the line between a concerned, active parent and an overprotective pain-in-the-ass? I don't want to be annoying. But I can be. Will be.

Hopefully it won't be necessary. Hopefully the child will be just fine and his teacher will be the epitome of awesomeness.

Then there's the little guy. I can't forget to focus on him, to make sure just because he doesn't face the same struggles as his brother that I haven't overlooked his needs.


Nothing to Report


Life is pretty much a simple combination of work, football practice, and lounging around the house.

Should have wedding pictures to post after Sunday, though, so stay tuned!


Working at the University has its privileges, one of which is the ability to request books from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor libraries. While this comes in handy whenever I'm in school, this often overlooked perk is not restricted to my academic schedule. I have access to these resources whenever I want or need them.

Well, as I'm determined to start writing the next novel on November 1st in honor of NaNoWriMo, I want to make sure I am as ready as I can possibly be. I need my characters to be as real as I can make them. In an effort to do so, I'm working through the emotional toolbox and populating character charts. I'm working on their backstories and trying to define their ambitions and motivations.

Of course, the story isn't just about the characters. Not this time. Their story is going to be shaped by the world they live in. Because of this, I am also very concerned with creating a world that is solid and thoroughly believable. I know I want it to resemble Ancient Egypt without being Ancient Egypt; I'm not interested in writing historical fiction.

However, as most any writer will tell you, research is necessary. Even when mutating a historical foundation into something fantastical, there will be things I will cannot answer on my own, blanks I cannot fill. When I find myself faced with the unknown, I must rely on books and websites to help give me the details that my imagination cannot provide.

Sometimes, though, the blanks are not endless voids, but shadows between solid shapes. That's kind of how I feel about the current project. There are too many vague, shady areas in my worldbuilidng. Think of it like an unseasoned soup. Even though I have all the main ingredients, I don't have enough salt and pepper in the mix. It needs more flavor.

This is when the library inter-campus loan system comes in handy. Instead of being forced to work through my very small and very limited public library at home, I'm able to quickly and easily get my hands on a variety of academic texts. First up, Egyptian Medicine in the Days of the Pharaohs by Nabil I. Ebeid. I've only gotten through 68 pages or so, but already I'm able to add in a little bit of that missing spice!

Busy, busy weekend.

I knew it was going to be insane this weekend and I was right. Saturday morning I had to be up to the fields by 10:30 to help out at the souvenir stand. Immediately afterward the boys' games started. The youngest played defense during his two scrimmages and the oldest played both offense and defense for both of his. A welcome improvement over our first year of football!

For those of you who are new to the blog and just tuning in, our first year with the program (2006) was rather discouraging. At that time the oldest boy was just old enough to get onto a team. Unfortunately, he had a coach who didn't really believe in giving the kids fair time on the field. He had his favorites and he played them. Our boy, who was admittedly not a star player, was put on the field the bare minimum of plays allowed at each and every game. When confronted, the coach always seemed to have an excuse. It was beyond frustrating.

So, kudos to the coaches this year. I don't know if the rules have changed or what, but the coaches are giving each of them plenty of play time. A just reward for the hours of practice each one has put in during the week! Okay, it might help that the oldest has a better idea of what's going on this time around and my youngest is a bit on the competitive side and wants to do well.

In any event, they're being on the field made the 6 1/2 hours I had to be up at the fields enjoyable. Except for the bees. I could have done without the bees. They were everywhere!

After the games I rushed the kids home, got them cleaned up, and then we were out the door to finish up our school shopping. We were going to get haircuts that night, too, but I decided to save some money and do the haircutting myself the next day. Almost $300 later we pulled back into the driveway.

Gotta love this time of year.

The next day should have been a bit more leisurely, but when you're hardly home during the week, there's a pile of housework that needs to be done. I washed our bedding, did some laundry, washed both dogs, did some preventative flea treatment on the bedroom carpet (Yes, the puppy brought home fleas from our last camping trip. Yippee.), went grocery shopping, and made dinner. I have to add the making dinner in there. I don't cook. The fact that I not only made dinner, but I actually used the grill to do so, is a big deal in my world!

See..crazy busy! Other than a bubble bath Sunday morning, I didn't have a chance to sit down and relax until almost 9:30 last night! No wonder I'm tired.

Life Right Now


It's all about the football.

The boys have practice four nights a week. We're lucky in that my nephew, who is seventeen and has a driver's license, is dropping the kids off at the fields while we're still at work. For a few blessed weeks we don't have to worry about getting out of work early.

Of course, once school starts, this reprieve will come to an end. Until the end of the season it'll be shorter lunch hours so we can get out a half-hour early Monday through Thursday. I doubt my hubby will even notice. I get the sense his lunch is interrupted or exercised through on most days. Me? I enjoy reading, writing, or watching whatever is on Hulu or Netflix for that brief little siesta in the middle of my work day.

Weekends from now until the end of the season - which is what? October? - will be planned around their games. Our hope is that the boys will play on the same fields and not in different towns. The hubby and I would like to be able to watch both boys and not have to worry about making sure we flip-flop fairly. (Say that three times fast!)

I, as you may well imagine, will have my camera in my hands for most of these events.

Throw it!

Toppling Walls

Back in 2006 I was lucky enough to get into Holly Lisle's Breakout Novel class. Holly was still an active member of Forward Motion back then, which is how and why I came to be in her class. It was a huge honor to get to work with a professional writer in such a small group setting. Although we had several people "auditing" the class, there were only six of us that Holly agreed to mentor through the creative process.

Holly shaped our course around Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. After reading assigned chapters, we would have to complete our weekly homework assignments and turn them in for review. We had to come up with something new to work on, something fresh. We outlined scenes, discussed personal and world stakes, and filled in character sheets. Holly would comment and guide, ask questions and challenge plot holes. Trust me when I tell you it was hard work.

We didn't get a chance to finish the course, though. Real life interfered and Holly had to prioritize her work load. In the end, the class had to be sacrificed and the six of us were left to pursue the creative path on our own. Armed with the book and its companion workbook, we could continue on alone or amongst ourselves.

I still have the work I put into that fresh, new story of mine. I have the chat transcripts, the character sheets, the numbers, the scene outlines. I have it all. This story is by far the most thought-out, preplanned, pre-written story I've ever worked on. Yet, every time I've tried to write it down, to mold the ideas and scenes into prose, I lose my way. I flounder. I hit a wall.

Runners talk about hitting walls. As a fledgling runner myself, I've hit it the proverbial wall more than once. There have been days when I let the wall knock me down and keep me down, when I let the sheer size of it overwhelm my will. There have also been days when I've kept my legs moving, forced my lungs to keep the rhythm, and, in doing so, have pushed the wall down and left it behind me.

I need to do the same thing with this story. I need to force my fingers to keep typing. I need to let the story unfold in its own messy, undignified manner. I need to keep reminding myself that the first draft of the story is like training for a race. Each practice lap is necessary if you want race day to be successful, just as each draft of the story is necessary to the final product. Nothing worthwhile can be accomplished without putting in the time and effort.

And I believe this story is worthwhile.

Silly Meme

1. Put your iTunes/Mp3 Player on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
4. Tag 10 friends who might enjoy doing this.

Maneater - Nelly Fertado

My Love - Justin Timberlake

Chestnuts Roading on an Open Fire - Nat King Cole

Rollin' – Big & Rich

If I Had - Eminem

Welcome to the Jungle - Guns N' Roses

WHAT IS 2+2?
Drips - Eminem

Celebration - Kanye West

I Want You - Bon Jovi

Shake That - Eminem

Rap Superstar - Eminem

Maru's boychild - Thijs Van Lerr

Boom - P.O.D.

Gotta Be Somebody - Nickelback

Nobody's Crying - Patty Griffin

Only in America - Brooks & Dunn

Come on Over - Shania Twain

I Hate Myself for Losing You - Kelly Clarkston

Pulling Teeth - Green Day

My Boyfriend's Back - The Shirells

Forget about Dre - Dr. Dre & Eminem

Magic Stick - Lil Kim & 50 Cent

Crazy Dreams - Los Lonely Boys

21 Flash Questions - Q Unit

By Your Side - Antwan Stanley

No idea who wants to play along. Let me know if you do in comments!

Thanks, Zoe!

Look! I've been nominated! How sweet is that? Many thanks to Zoe from Le Chateau de Chiffon.

Picture Story

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned the fact that the boys are at home during the day now. While the hubby and I are off at work, they're enjoying their computers, DS games, and playing basketball with their cousin in the driveway.

Of course, it can't all be fun and games. They're getting a dollar-a-day allowance for doing small chores around the house. Chores that need to be done before Mom and Dad get home from work. These tasks range from cleaning their bedrooms, to sweeping and vacuuming, disinfecting their bathroom, and doing the dishes.

Before Ken and I left for our little mini-vacation on Friday, I opened the cupboard door to find this...

What a disaster! Not only were things not stacked very well, they weren't even put away in the right cupboard. Sure evidence that the kids had taken care of the dishes. When confronted with the mess, my little guy, the guilty party, could only offer a teasing smile.

He wasn't smiling quite so much after I had him help me reorganize. The little stinker.

Win a Lensbaby!

Jodie at MCP Actions is hosting another giveaway. Don't miss out on this opportunity to win a new lens for your SLR!

More info here: Win a Lensbaby Composer.

Nearing the End of Summer

Last night we took the boys shopping for school shoes and football cleats. We ran to the Outlet Mall and ended up visiting three stores before finally settling on soccer cleats instead of football cleats. That's right. Neither Nike, Reebok, nor Adidas carry football cleats for anyone with a foot under a size 9. And, to be fair, only Nike carried those. The other two stores only had soccer and baseball cleats on their shelves. Craziness! We'd have been better off driving into the city and visiting Dunham's.

While we were there looking for football cleats, we decided to get the boys their school shoes, too. We spent more on three pairs of shoes than I did on eight pairs of jeans. I can't imagine how much the bill would have come to if we hadn't insisted on buying sale-priced merchandise.

With their jeans and shoes out of the way that leaves backpacks, lunch boxes, shirts, underwear, and socks. I'm hoping if I wait until the weekend before they head back to school I'll be able to find some killer sales. Hope, hope, hope!

Of course, as I turn my focus to school shopping, I realize my summer is almost officially over. This weekend was our last vacation. I can't complain, though. It's been a great summer. We've spent a lot of time together as a family and that's awesome. We've also seen some great movies (Transformers 2 and Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince are the only two that come to mind, but I'm sure we've seen a couple others). We've celebrated graduations and weddings. We even managed to get our flowerbeds redone with perennials that were abundant and beautiful throughout the long summer months.

It was a good summer.

I'm sad to see it go.

The truth is I'm not sure I'm ready for school to start back up. Keeping track of sports and school schedules, helping with homework, keeping the lines of communication open with the boys' teachers, field trips, and sleep overs is a never-ending race. It's exhausting just thinking about what the next 9 months will likely hold in store for us.

It's also exciting. Every year the kids seem to develop another facet of their personalities. Every now and again you can catch a little glimpse of who they may become, what type of men we'll someday be turning loose into the world. It's nothing short of amazing.

Getting Ready to Blow Out My Eardrums!

What? It's not healthy? Might lead to impaired hearing in the near future?

Too late! Already there!

Here's just a small sampling of why (imagine me in that crowd, screaming my fool head off).

Nickelback - BURN IT TO THE GROUND from Nickelback on Vimeo.

Idle Hours

I love the fact that I'm not taking classes this fall semester. Knowing that I'm going to have a few more months to enjoy my favorite pastimes is so very, very sweet.

While on vacation I managed to sneak in quite a few books in between our touristy moments. I read romance novels (2), historical fiction (1), and science fiction (1), and fantasy (1). Yes, five books in two weeks. And it was glorious!

Right now I'm reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I've tried reading this book before but only managed to make it about halfway through. I blamed my lack of progress on school last time. We'll see if that was true now that I don't have that particular excuse to pull out of my magic hat of excuses. This book is challenging not because of it's content, but because the author used character names that are easily confused.

Of course, this isn't the only thing I'm reading right now. Remember that Writers' Conference I went to back in May? Do you also remember that I signed up for the Writer's Workshop, which required that I read and comment on the works of other aspiring authors? After the workshop I was contacted by a classmate and taken up on my offer to read his entire manuscript. So, I'm working my way through his novel right now, too.

What I've not been doing in my spare time is writing. I've been watching DVR'd television programming, playing video games (Sword of Heaven), and playing on Facebook. I've also been running/walking with some irregularity (need to be more disciplined, but every little bit counts, right?).

So, my goal for this week is to do some research. Make some worldbuilding notes. Get inspired! Hopefully by the time the kids are back in school I'll be itching to get writing.

Oh! I should be able to do NaNoWriMo without any trouble this year! That'll be a first. Maybe I should make Novemember 1st my ultimate goal. Between now and then I can worldbuild and create characters to my heart's content.

Good idea. Glad I thought of it.

Pictures from Week 2

I meant to post these a day or so after the week 1 pictures. Sorry they're a little late!

Our second week of camping was at Tahquamenon State Park near Paradise, MI. While the scenery was absolutely gorgeous, the mosquitoes were outrageously numerous and persistent. We couldn't be outside without a thick layer of bug spray coating every exposed inch of our skin.

Still, the Tahquamenon River was picturesque and the falls were amazing. Here are just a few of the pictures from our trips to the lower and upper falls.

The scenery wasn't the only thing worth looking at, either. The last time we vacationed in this area we visisted Oswald's Bear Farm (see old pictures here and here). After that first adventure, how could we not revisit the bear cubs and the older bears? We just had to go back!

A day or so later we took a nice long ride through back country roads to get to this lighthouse on Lake Superior. The climb to the top was very narrow but the view was well worth any bouts of claustrophobia we might have suffered!

While we were at the lighthouse the boys went for a swim in very, very cold waters of Lake Superior. KC tried telling us it wasn't that cold, but Gage couldn't hide his discomfort quite as well.

In the middle of the week we went horseback riding. The boys LOVED it. Although I was at the end of the line, I got to see a few delighted smiles as the trail wound back on itself. What I didn't expect was Gage's complete meltdown when the ride was done. He really loved his horse. Really.

When we weren't off on some family adventure, the guys tried their luck at fishing. While they often visited the river banks behind our campsite, there were other fishing attempts made at docks and roadside parks. The most beautiful trip had to be when they rented a boat for a half-day, though, and rowed near the bottom of the lower falls. It would have been perfect if they had had some luck!