NaNo 2014

Once again, I am participating in NaNoWriMo.  I know it's probably bad form to admit this, but I don't expect I'll win.  I'm already struggling to find a balance between work, teaching, and home life. Adding in a 1,667 word count expectation every day borders on masochism.

But I want to be a writer and writers write.  

Other writers are busy.  They have families, jobs, and random obligations that threaten to derail their writing.  The difference between those who regularly produce words and those who don't is that those who produce refuse to put the writing aside.  They make it work.  Somehow. 

So, that's my plan.  I'm going to make this work.  Somehow.  

Summer Recap

Hello, world!  Terrible blogger here!  It's been awhile, but I'm in the mood to share, so I thought I'd put together a little recap of our summer adventures.

We started camping in late spring and didn't stop until Labor Day weekend.  I'd love one last trip, but I'm not sure that will be possible with Gage's football and my teaching schedule.



I also was lucky enough to be sent out to California for training.  Even better?  My mom decided to make a six-hour one-way drive to come spend some time with me while I was "nearby".  We went to Disney and the San Diego Zoo.  It was great mother-daughter time.






In the middle of all this camping fun, but after my trip to California, we also managed to squeeze in a concert.  This year's headliners were KISS and Def Leppard.  In order to avoid the need for a designated driver (or three), we decided to rent a party bus.  The trip down was fine; the trip home was not so great.  We ended up with two stranded groups on our bus because their limos/party buses were red tagged by the DOT and, being tagged, could not give their paying customers a ride home.  Our group, being the awesome people we are, said "sure, we'll give them a lift."  Boy, was that a mistake!  We had a drunken crazy woman on the ride that put many of us on edge.

On the bright side, Def Leppard was as amazing as they always are.  I only got to hear about three KISS songs before I had to go searching for my husband in the parking lot.



What else?  Oh, Ken and I had an adult's only trip.  We spent the weekend on Troy and Ronnie's boat. There may have been a party involved.  A really big party.





Reading Habits

So, I was totally inspired by this post, and as a result I decided to write up my own reading rules or habits. As Jeanette mentions, these reading rules really do seem to reveal a little something about my personality as well as my habits.

Habit #1: 
If I love the book and have to have a copy on my keeper shelf, I will not loan it out to just anyone.  This was not always the case.  I used to loan out books all the time.  This changed, though, when the books I loaned out failed to make their way back to me, leaving me no choice but to purchase the book again.  

Habit #2: 
If I loan someone a book, I try to be very clear about whether or not I want it back.  If I say I don't, I don't. However, this also means I think the book was less than worthy of my keeper shelf.  

Habit #3:
I tend to read multiple books at a time.  For instance, at this moment in time, I am in the middle of four books.  It's ridiculous, but true.  
  1. A paperback copy of Hood by Stephen Lawhead.  This book is "safe" for bathtub time. If it falls in the water by accident, I'm only out a few dollars, not hundreds. 
  2. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, which is in e-book format and easily highlighted and notated.  The Kindle (and it's iPad app) stores these highlights and notes online for me for easy reference. 
  3. Wish Upon a Tiger by A.T. Mitchell.  This is another e-book.  I've been reading it mostly at night, right before bed.   It's a bubble gum read that doesn't require much brain power, which is exactly what I need right before drifting off to sleep.
  4. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I've been reading this book with a fellow writer.  It's meant to get our creativity flowing, but I must admit we're both beginning to struggle with the text. 
Habit #4:
Different settings require different reading formats.  

If I'm taking a bath, I grab a paperback or, less frequently, a hardcover.  I have this nifty little reading tray that I can take into the bath with me to help support the awkward weight of a hardcover, a snack, and a glass of wine.

If I'm reading in bed, I always pick up the Kindle.  The built-in light sources can't be beat.  Not even a bedside lamp or a reading light can come close to offering the same reading experience.  

I always have my e-books with me.  This means I can read anywhere and at any time.  

Habit #5:
Reading for pleasure differs from reading for literary analysis and here's how.  When I read for pleasure, I don't highlight or write in margins.  I simply read.   However, when I approach a text with a more academic focus, I highlight and leave marginalia in my wake.  I also use Post-It notes and/or tabs, usually color coded to a specific literary element. 

Habit #6:
If I highlight or mark up a book, I don't resell them or lend them out.  I know many readers are maddened by such behavior, so I keep those books to myself. 

Habit #7:
I always prefer to read the book before I watch a movie and television adaptation.  This tendency often leaves me feeling a little saddened by everything the movie failed to do, but I find it also helps to fill in the many blanks that films, by their very nature, create.   One of the most obvious examples of this is the Game of Thrones series on HBO.  I think the show is great.  However, I often feel like the non-readers who watch it are missing out on so many small, but significant details. 

Sometimes, though, I know before I even watch a movie or television program, that the book cannot be done justice.  In those instances, I try really hard to let go of my criticisms and simply enjoy the visual spectacle in front of me for what it is: passive entertainment.





The Gifts of Imperfection - A Reader's Response

I recently finished BrenĂ© Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.  I was drawn to the book because of these two Ted Talks. Go ahead and watch them.  I'll wait.





I've watched those two videos multiple times. I find Brene a charming and authentic storyteller.  As her talk moves from the academic to the personal, as she lets the audience into the vulnerable areas of her life, I am amazed at her courage.  I don't think I could stand in front of an auditorium full of strangers and admit I had a breakdown spiritual awakening.  Fear of being judged, of being vulnerable to attack, would prevent me from admitting such a personal weakness.  Yet, Brene does so with humor and grace. She appears powerful, not weak.  Her time on stage is riveting because her revelation brings with it keen insights into the human condition.

Her talks left me wanting to know more about the power of vulnerability, fear, shame, and guilt.  The reason isn't hard to figure out: I am human and I suffer from all these afflictions.  I fear vulnerability.  I feel guilt.  I struggle with shame.  Finding ways to recognize these patterns of behavior or emotional responses seemed to offer some hope of gaining control over them.  At least, that's what I hoped Brene's book would say.  And it did.  It also told me the dragons of fear, shame, and guilt  are immortal and cannot be slain, only bannished to the borderlands.  Again and again.  After all, if a vulnerability expert with years of research in her toolkit was still vulnerable to their attacks, how could I or anyone else expect to be otherwise?  

As I read the book, I liberally highlighted passages that resonated with me. I found myself - and so many others that I recognized - lurking in those pages.  There were moments when I wanted to pick up the phone and read a passage to my cousin, to my sister, to my husband.  I wanted to share my Kindle highlights - I still do - but Amazon hasn't quite gotten that feature rolled out yet, so I'm left with this blog post and the quotes that have been added to Goodreads.  

One of the sections of the book that really struck me has a lot to do with this quote: 

“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” 

I like to think I'm a fairly positive and upbeat person, but I have dark moments, too.  I struggle with anger and hurt and pain. I am sometimes easily frustrated and quick to anger.  I rage.  I curse and cuss, I think bad thoughts, and indulge in unkind thoughts.  My heart has been broken and walls have been erected to help numb the pain. 

It's a normal reaction, this tendency to numb.  Yet, it can be detrimental.  Here's a longer passage from the book that addresses this very thing. 

For many of us, our first response to vulnerability and pain of these sharp points is not to lean into the discomfort and feel our way through but rather to make it go away. We do that by numbing and taking the edge off the pain with whatever provides the quickest relief. We can anesthetize with a whole bunch of stuff, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, staying busy, affairs, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the Internet.

That list of numbing agents got me thinking.  I will admit that I sometimes use alcohol as a means of "taking off the edge".  If I've had a rough day at work, I look forward to putting my feet up and sipping on a glass or two of wine.  What do I do, though, if I'm still at work when the need to take the edge off appears?  I eat.  I seek out caffeine. I check Facebook or search Amazon for free books that I'll likely never have the time to read. Sometimes my favorite numbing agents are books.  Sometimes, though, a book seems like too much effort and I need something even less challenging: television. 

This list of items made me think of the other people in my life.  I know a couple of people who can't stand being idle; they need to keep moving, to do something.  I know others who treat their personal discomforts with routine shopping.  I may even know a few perfectionists.  I won't presume to guess what underlying issue drives each person, but as I read through this list and saw the ways in which we numb ourselves, I wanted to show each of these people this book and tell them there is a high probability that what they assume is a simple personality trait may be a means of coping with whatever negative influence is at work in their lives. 

I guess that desire is the reason for this post.  There are a lot of interesting observations and insights in Brene's work, and I think they're worth sharing.   

Travel Bucket List

I've split this into two categories - Travel Abroad and Travel within the US. I figure the destinations in the latter category are, for the most part, doable.  The hubby and I love to travel, but our pocket book only allows us to do so much.  


Travel Abroad



1.  Egypt
This is why it's at the top of the bucket list: it's the one trip I fear I will never take.  Given the political climate there, it's a little too dangerous for my liking.  However, I am fascinated by Ancient Egypt and would love, love, love to visit some of the historical landmarks that make that country so famous.

2.  England / Scotland / Wales
I'm lumping these together because I have this idea that visiting all three would be possible if we gave ourselves enough time.  I'd want to rent a car and drive from the big cities, like London, to the more rural areas.  I'd want to see as many castles as possible and perhaps indulge in a guided tour or two. 

3.  Ireland
Again, the history nut in me would want to go in search of castles and tours. 

4. Italy - Venice
Visit what appears to be a  floating city?  Yes, please. 

5. Italy - Rome
Oh, the architecture and history!  I think I just nerd-gasmed.  

6.  Belize
Not only does this appear to be a tropical paradise, it's also home to some Mayan ruins I would love to visit. 

7.  Maldives or Bora Bora
I think it would be amazing to stay in an overwater bungalo. 

8. Aruba
I've heard the weather is amazing and the scenery stunning. 

9.  Caribbean Islands Cruise
I'd probably try to find one that includes either St. Maarten or St. Thomas, but really I'd be happy to visit almost anywhere in that general area. 

10.  Iceland
I hear they have a spectacular view of the northern lights.

Travel within the US


1.  Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming
I've always wanted to visit Yellowstone.  This last year, we made it happen.  It was a two week vacation filled with many, many hours of driving.  We drove across the country to get there.  We drove through the park.  We drove through Beartooth Pass into Montana.  We drove down to South Dakota to visit Deadwood, Mt. Rushmore, and the Badlands National Park.  Then we drove home.  

I wouldn't change a thing.  It was one of the most beautiful trips we've taken so far.  I'd go back in a heartbeat.

2.  Badlands National Park - South Dakota
Another national park we can cross off our list.  The thing is, though, I would love to go back.  It was stunning in an alien kind of way.  

3.  Glacier National Park - Montana
I've been told it's gorgeous and should be on my bucket list.  So, here it is. 

3.  Boston, Massachusetts
I don't really have a reason.  I just want to go there and see what the fuss is all about. 

4.  New Orleans, Louisiana 
I want to experience Mardi Gras at least once.  That is all. 

5.  Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
This one is about to be crossed off the list.  Pictures to come!

6.  New York, New York
I'd want to visit the 9/11 memorial, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, and Times Square.  I'd also try to talk Ken into a Broadway Show.    

7.  Acadia National Park - Maine
Technically, we've visited this park.  For a day.  It wasn't nearly a long enough and I vote for a second, more extended stay!  

8.  Yosemite National Park - California
I love national parks.  As this one is so famous, I'm sure 

9.  Grand Teton National Park - Wyoming
See #8 for an explanation. 

10.  Redwood National Park - California
I need to see those trees.  Really, I do.  I don't think pictures can do justice to their immensity. 

11.  Alaska
This is one of the places I'd like to visit from the deck of an ocean liner.  I want to see the orca whales at play and spot an eagle or two perched in the treetops.
11.  Hawaii
This trip has been moved down the list year after year, but I think I'd still like to visit. 

I Think I'll Just Ramble A Bit...and Call it a Blog Post

It's been awhile.  I haven't really been able to come up with any riveting topics, so I've pretty much been in avoidance mode.

We're in the process of planning our summer.  Vacations of varying length have been scheduled or are being discussed. Other than Myrtle Beach, all of these trips will take place in our home state because it's expensive to pull that camper too far!  Although, one of our yet-to-be-finalized trips will take us on a nice 8-9 hour journey.  That is, if the trip gets finalized before all our weekends are booked elsewhere.  

Let's see.  We have two open houses that I know of so far.  A concert to attend.  Motor City ComicCon to marvel at; although that's in May, so maybe it doesn't count in the summer tally.  

Of course, I have yet to buy the tickets for those last two events.  

Image courtesy of Motor City Comic Con.

Image courtesy of Def Leppard

I really want to do both this summer.  I've always wanted to attend the Motor City ComicCon, but either money or prior engagements have prevented me from buying tickets.  I'm hoping this year things will be different. I'd love to take my boys down there for the day and let them soak in the fandom. 

The concert...well, if you know me at all, you know Def Leppard is one of my very favorite 80s Hair Bands.  I've seen them in concert too many times to count (the best friend probably knows the number by heart, but she's not writing this post, I am.).  Since none of us are getting any younger, you never know when it might be their last tour, so I want to be there...just in case.   Also, the hubby is thinking of maybe trying to talk our group into going in on a party bus.  Fun!

Winter Isn't Coming...It's Here!

This will likely be a Christmas many in our area will remember for many years to come.  While we were one of the fortunate ones Christmas morning, a lot of people in the surrounding areas were without power before, during, and after the holiday festivities.  Not that we didn't lose power.  We did.  Ours went out and stayed out for a couple of days, but we had heat, water, and limited electricity thanks to the generator.  We could even watch television and play offline video games, if we felt so inclined.  Food was either served cold, picked up from the gas station's Subway station, or cooked on the Coleman stove. 



The reason for these less than ideal living conditions was a beautiful, but destructive ice storm that rained down on us just days before the Jolly Old Elf and his flying reindeer were expected to arrive.  These pictures don't do the scenery any kind of justice.  The light shining on and through the ice was simply stunning. 



While we lost power for a few days, we were very lucky not to lose a bunch of our trees.  Others were not so fortunate.  Ken and the boys had to help clear my in-laws' driveway and garage door.  What a mess!





Unbelievably, my in-laws didn't lose their power.  A blessing, for sure, as they don't have a generator.

You'd think Mother Nature would have been content to drop that loveliness on us and be done with it.  Oh, no.  She has a wicked sense of humor, that one.  Just a week or two later, we got a nice heavy snowfall.



You can't even see the steps leading up to our front porch.  On the bright side, this white landscaping did offer a nice contrast for some pretty cardinals that were feasting at the corn feeder. 

I zoomed as far as my lens would allow, and then digitally zoomed
again before cropping.  Not exactly in focus, but still pretty. 

Some digital zoom. 

No digital zoom.

Now, just a few days later, we've had a wintery rain/snow mix that has melted a lot of this snow and threatens to collapse people's roofs with ice accumulation. On the bright side, we don't have to worry about White Walkers visiting us.  
Image courtesy of www.thechonzone.com 

Writing Confessions

Today's First Writing Confession: 
I worry that my new novel is taking too long to get to the good stuff.  I feel as if I'm still laying the groundwork, which might not be bad thing, but likely is.  The potential for conflict is there, but I've yet to heighten the tension or raise the stakes, and those two things need to happen.  Soon.   

I keep reminding myself that this is the first roughest of drafts.  It's okay if I'm taking too long because I can edit out the unnecessary bits later or rewrite what's there. 

I'm tempted to give what I've written to my sister.  She's biased because she loves me, but she doesn't pull punches when she thinks I've managed to derail a project.  She'll tell me if she's bored or just getting impatient.


Today's Second Writing Confession: 
I haven't worked on the story in a good week and a half.  Finger pointing and scolding encouraged. 


Photo Book

Edited to say: 
I didn't realize this actually attempted to post yesterday.  I thought the system malfunctioned, and I decided it wasn't worth the effort to battle it out.  Seems the system fooled me!

Anyhow, even though I love scrapbooking and have at least a dozen bulky 12x12 photo albums completed, I don't display them because they can be a bit unwieldy.  That's why I've opted to create these little 8x8 photo books from Shutterfly.  Unlike my handmade scrapbooks, these display nicely on my shelf.  For this reason, I've decided to start doing a Year in Review style book each January.  The trick, though, is to work on it throughout the year and have it ready to print when Shutterfly sends me a half-off coupon.


Turn your favorite photos into a photo book at Shutterfly.com.

Reading Goals for 2014

It's time to set new reading goals!

Over on Goodreads, I've already challenged myself to read 100 books in 2014.  It sounds like a lot, but I think it's doable.  Being done with school has really freed up my evenings and weekends.  I no longer have to set aside time to read theory, research topics, or write out assignments of various length and difficulty. Another benefit of finally being done with school is that I am able to select my reading material based on whatever sounds good or catches my eye.  Unless I get a teaching job, there will be no syllabus demanding my attention. 

So, looking at 2014, I'd like to start out with revisiting last year's reading goals and focus on completing the books I had hoped to read in 2013.  There were both Kindle Books I'd Like to Read and  Books on the TBR shelf

I did an okay job with the Kindle books.  Of those listed, these are the only ones I did not attempt: 

Roanoke: The Lost Colony (Keepers of the Ring, #1)   The Heart of a Soiled Dove (Book #1)

However, they are downloaded to the device and ready to be accessed. I expect they will be read early this year.

The more traditional media did not fare as well. I definitely showed a preference for reading on the Kindle - I love the fact that when I'm done reading in bed, I can just turn it off and set it carefully on the night stand. No need to get out of bed and switch off the lights. Yes, I realize a lamp on the nightstand would likely serve me just as well, but there's no room for one. So, the Kindle wins. 

The Diary of a Young Girl  The Stepsister Scheme (Princess, #1)  The Illuminator  Watership Down
Kushiel's Scion (Imriel's Trilogy, #1) The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy, #1)

Of the paper and glue variety books, this one made it off the TBR shelf and into my hands.  It's actually the one I've decided to start off my New Year.  It's been a long time since I've read a novel with twins as the protagonists.

Mortal Coils

I also have these four books at various stages of completion.  They're a bit more dense and not as much fun as the fiction, though, so they seem to be taking much longer.  That being said, I aim to finish at least two of the four. Ideally, though, all four would move from "in progress" to "completed" by December 31st of this year.  

The Wave in the Mind: Talks & Essays on the Writer, the Reader & the Imagination  The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences  Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction  The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination

For good measure, and because I think it's a worthwhile goal to set for myself, I also want to read at least two classics.  I'm not sure which two classics I'll settle upon, but you may be sure neither option will be Moby Dick!