New Year 2014

Happy New Year!! I remember a time when I couldn't even begin to fathom 2014. When I thought I would never be this old or that 2014 was some too distant thing I didn't need to think about. Now, here it is and I am thinking about it, and I'm hopeful that it will be an amazing year.

All things considered, 2013 wasn't a bad year. I got a job that I love, working as an adjunct instructor. After almost 15 years of pain, I finally met my threshold and had my wisdom teeth taken out--and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I had the opportunity to go to California not once, but twice, and was able to spend my 35th birthday with my family. I've lost 20 lbs in the last four months. Matt started graduate school and has done really well. He also got a promotion at the beginning of December. It was a good year.

Now, looking forward, I'm hoping for one that's equally so, if not better. This year will change a lot of things for me. I go back to work on January 14th. Then, within the first few months of the year I should find out whether a leap I took will pan out. If yes, then I have to decide whether to take it. If no, then a door is closed to me and I don't have to think about it anymore. Matt will graduate in December with his MS in Management and Leadership. He's hoping to move up at the company he's been working for for the last two years, and I hope he does too, because he likes the company he works for. My fingers are crossed for him. No matter what happens this year, 2014 will change our lives in some major ways.

With that in mind, my 2014 New Year's Resolution is to take chances when they present themselves, even when I'm afraid, to try to dwell less on things that I cannot control, and to accept the possibility that when things don't work out it could be a blessing in disguise.

Happy New Year. I hope yours is filled with every possible blessing!

a new tradition?

On Christmas Eve, while at HEB on Christmas Eve looking for wine to take to Melanie and Joey's, Matt proposed we start a new Christmas tradition this year. Here's how it will go. We each buy for the other a book we went them to read. Not a book we think they'll like, but one we want for them to read. It took me a while to consider it. I thought about it that night and all through Christmas before I came to the decision that I liked the idea. Because, honestly, this has the potential to be the worst idea in the history of ideas. This idea has the potential to crash, and burn, and cause an inferno of hurt feelings. Have I mentioned this was Matt's idea? Yeah, you probably got that from my reluctance to agree.

Here's the thing, I tend to be the kind of reader that wants to read what I want, when I want, and not on someone else's schedule--which made going to college an interesting exercise in tricking myself into thinking I had created the timeline for finishing a book, rather than having it dictated by the class schedule. Matt, on the other hand, tends to ignore a book he's not interested in. I'm still trying to get the man to read The Great Gatsby, for crying out loud! I also don't go anywhere near anything sad because I'm pretty sensitive and once I'm sad I can't get happy again, which means a work like, say, Frankenstien isn't high on my list, while Matt considers it an absolutely genius work of literature. I don't read a whole lot of non-fiction that doesn't pertain to my direct areas of interest (women's history and studies, things related to literature, etc.), nor do I go anywhere near political biographies, while Matt has taken a hard and fast liking to all things non-fiction. He's devoured close to everything Malcom Gladwell has written and he read I am Malala,while I have no interest whatsoever in reading about Pakistan.

So, this should be interesting. I think we'll start it this year, but we're both still thinking about what we want to get for the other to read. Maybe I'll try to talk him into it being not a Christmas tradition, but a New Year's tradition, that way Christmas won't be attached to this potentially painful new tradition. Which, I should give him credit where it's due, could turn out to be awesome. Assuming he doesn't make me start my year by being mopy about one sad story or another.

our christmas holiday...

How was your Christmas holiday? Did you get what you wanted this year? Are you glad it's almost over just in time for stores to start stocking the shelves for Valentine's Day?! ;)

Our Christmas was nice and quiet. Of course, we had some unexpected things come up, so we're not quite done celebrating Christmas and probably won't be until the middle of January. We haven't even seen my in-laws yet. So, our tree will stay up until then, which means I may be taking it down just in time for Valentine's Day. At this rate, we're going to be putting Valentine's Day presents under the Christmas tree--suppose I should be glad my tree has a predominantly pink & silver theme. Heh. But, I put it up late this year (during the second week of December rather than at Thanksgiving), so I'm not quite sick of it yet. I'm sure I will be by the time we're done with it, then down it goes until next year.

For the holiday we spent Christmas Eve with our friends. Melanie and Joey had a last minute get together, so we went to that. There was delicious, fattening, I-so-shouldn't-eat-that kinda food (frito pie, chili dogs, s'mores) and some friends came around. We spent most of the visit eating food and chatting with people we haven't seen in a long time, and in one case with a gal we hadn't previously met. We got along famously, of course. Because everyone knows I'm the absolute easiest person around to get alone with. Eh hem. Yeah. But in all seriousness, we did get along beautifully. We all made plans to get together again on January 5th to play 2e AD&D which should be a lot of fun. Definitely looking forward to it.

For Christmas day, Matt and I just hung out. My parents got us Amazon gift cards and my sister got me a recipe card tin with Philadelphia Cream Cheese recipes (all of which look deliciously fattening!!), a really pretty peacock ornament for the tree, and cross stitched me a book mark with a lighthouse and the caption "Books Light Our Way to Knowledge." Matt and I haven't gotten one another gifts yet (but will soon), so we spent the day just sort of being together. Which is, really, what Christmas is about--among other things. We watched some Christmas movies, spent a little while playing 7th Sea, and then went out for Chinese food--Matt was supposed to work but got an early de-crew. A lot of people had the same idea because by the time we got around to eating, the Chinese buffet was quite the popular spot. Lots of people were around. Huge families with kids, couples, even a cop who was having dinner alone... oh man, now that I think about it, that's kind of sad. Except he didn't look at all unhappy, so I suppose it's okay.

We also rode around town some and took in the Christmas lights. Some of the houses were absolutely beautiful, while others were less interesting, and many were completely dark. Matt and I merrily spent the trip "grading" the houses on an academic scale from A+ to F-. Houses with the Christmas tree showing through the windows made an automatic B+, while others made a failing grade for having "no thesis statement." It was really quite fun and something I think we might do every year. My favorite house was one that didn't have traditional lights at all, but that placed a filter on a light in the center of their lawn creating a green sparkly affect, like a thousand emeralds shining in the dark. I wish I could have taken a picture of it. I actually made Matt stop, in the middle of the street in this residential neighborhood, so I could gawk at the house. It was absolutely beautiful.

After that we spent a quiet evening together. Oh, well, there was this moment...


I had posted a picture of me and Chewbi earlier in the day. A friend gave me a hard time about not seeing Matt, so I talked Matt into letting me take a selfie of us. I took several, but this is the one that came out the most clear (he wouldn't sit still long enough for my lens to focus) and that had the most character. So that's our Christmas picture and, sadly, the only picture of the both of us from the entire year. That will change in 2014. There will be pictures of us!


In short (ha!), our holiday has been really lovely. I hope yours was, too! I had some more to talk about, like some pretty big things going on around here right now, but there's no way I can fit them into this already overly long (eh hem, 1200+ word) post. Trying would make this one big christmas-year-end-braindump kinda post. Definitely going to avoid that. Good night!

Merry Christmas...

I told Matt that in February, for our anniversary, we're having pictures made. Not those go to a photo studio and sit type pictures, but with a real photographer. The kind of photographer that takes you places and takes great photos. Because when I sat down to make our Christmas card this year, there were no pictures of us. There're pictures of me, of our dogs, of Galileo, maybe even one or two of Matt, but nothing of us together. It made me sad, then, as I tried to make it work with what we have, I got mad. Finally, I gave up on trying to include us. Instead, I used a picture of the Christmas tree (from the tree lighting) in Hesperia Civic Plaza Park that I took while I was in California this year.


Next year, there will be pictures for our Christmas card. I don't generally mail out cards, but like to have something for my blog. Maybe this coming year, I'll mail out a physical card with our faces on it. Maybe I'll include one of those smug letters about how awesome we were during the year and how jealous everyone should be... heh. No, really, though, maybe there'll be physical cards and maybe not. But there will be recent pictures of us!

And now that you've heard the story of my Christmas card (kind of), I hope you have a lovely Christmas and, if I'm not back here before then, I hope your new year starts out wonderful!

a guilty pleasure...

You know it's officially the end of the year when your social media sites start offering to show you a snapshot of your year. You don't even need a calendar, just wait for Facebook and GoodReads to offer you a recap. Facebook was the usual fare, but when I took a peak at GoodReads, I realized two things: First, I don't keep up with it well enough and, second, I'm addicted to romance novels.


It's only showing 19 books for the whole year, which is hilarious, since I read several times that. Maybe my new year's resolution should be to better track my reading? Even if I had, though, it would look just like this... only longer. Because I can't stop reading them. I don't even want to. Historical romance, with it's wonderfully-formulaic reliability, has stolen my heart. And if you're looking for top notch historical romance, I highly recommend Sarah MacLean (start with Nine Rules to Break when Romancing a Rake, Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord, and Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart). Her books are wonderful! I should know, I've read all but one of them.

Or maybe my new year's resolution should be to see help for my romance addiction, because it's not just books. Not even close. I find I'm also addicted to those sappy Christmas romance flicks. You know, the ones on the Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and ABC Family? I never watched them, but this year while I was visiting family in California, my sister got me watching them. Now, I can't stop. I even DVR'd them, though Matt is lodging a protest and refuses to watch. Still, since it's almost Christmas I may press the issue. Just a few more days and he won't have to see them until next year... probably.

And when it's not Christmas, I'm watching rom-coms on Netflixs, the movie channels, or Lifetime. Seriously, if Netflix gave me a year-in-review thing, it would look something like my GoodReads re-cap, only much, much more obsessive. Matt even occasionally records them for me because he knows I love them. Oh, and have I mentioned that I've stopped watching TV shows when they string me along too long? NCIS is a good example. They took way too long to get Tony and Ziva together, then when they did it didn't last long. Or, House, which I stopped watching after he and Cuddy broke up.

It's an obsession. But, at least it's a fairly innocuous obsession. Even if it is a little bit embarrassing. I mean, shouldn't I be reading something with substance? Maybe so, and I do some of that, too, but I've decided that embarrassing or not, I'll stop reading romance (and watching it, too) when I'm dead. Life's too short not to give into this small guilty pleasure. Now, I'm going to read a novel I just got, and yes, it's romance. Good night.

A Week in Pictures...

I'm back in Texas. I got home from California late last night. One day later than expected, but I'll get to that. I had a nice visit and I miss my family already, but I'm happy to be able to hug Matt and cuddle my babies again. The boys went absolutely crazy when I got in, kissing and jumping on me. That's exactly the sort of welcome home I needed, even if I would have liked to be able to jump on and kiss Matt, too. Unfortunately, he was at work, so I had to settle (ha!) for the sweet furry cuddles of my furbabies.

My trip was really nice. Though my mom was supposed to have surgery, she was sick so her surgery was delayed until January 2. With that, this turned out to just be a visit, which is fine, too. It's always nice to spend a week with my parents and little sister. We mostly just hung out, had thanksgiving dinner together, trimmed two Christmas trees and put out all the decorations, went to see Christmas lights, and went to the tree lighting ceremony in Hesperia. Other than the anxiety of flying, it was a nice trip. The only thing missing was Matt (and having food with Jodi and Shannon).

So, rather than being wordy about the whole thing, I thought I might share some of the pictures I took during my trip...


The Second day I was there we had a thanksgiving dinner together. A turkey (yum!) and all the trimmings. Then we ate turkey, in it's various incarnations (bbq sandwiches, turkey tacos, etc), all week long.


After that we decorated the christmas tree and had a little selfie fun...


A few days after that, we went to the tree lighting at the Civic Plaza Park in Hesperia.



I really like these lighted fixtures on the posts...


And, while I was there, an ice storm hit Stephenville and left everything frozen over. Several inches of solid ice formed over everything, schools closed for days (and were still closed as of the day I came home), and right now as I type this there's still a thick sheet of ice over our entire front yard.


This is out where Matt works, he sent me this picture while I was in CA. He had a tough time getting home. This is the storm that delayed my flight for one day. DFW was covered in ice, which made conditions too poor for flight.


But, as you can see, eventually the airport reopened and I took an afternoon/evening flight home. The views were beautiful. I love flying into darkness and I especially love how cities look from the air when it's dark, like thousands of golden sparkles. It's the best part of flying.

Today, I put up my Christmas tree and spent some time with my husband. It's pretty cold here still, but it's pretty and, in Matt's words, it "feels like Christmas."


All in all, the last week has been pretty nice. And, when I got home I found out Matt got a promotion that he's been working toward and that he's most likely made all A's this semester (carrying nine graduate hours while working a full time job). I'm so, so proud of him. You can't imagine how just how proud--there's just not words to describe how I feel.

And with that, bed. I'm exhausted and still trying to adjust to the time change. The older I get, the harder it is for me. I swear, I'm like a 70 year old sometimes! Good night!

PS. Clearly, I took the lazy route and embedded these pics from Instagram. If you want to see more pics, you can click the name link at the top of all the pictures. I am super, super lazy tonight. :P

happy thanksgiving & hanukkah

Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, I hope you have a beautiful day filled with food, football, and family. Most of all, give thanks.


A very Happy Thanksgiving holiday to you and yours. And for my friends who celebrate, a very Happy Hanukkah to you. I hope your holiday is filled with wonder! Now it's time for me to take the pies out of the oven. Happy Holidays!!

image by American Greetings

on thanksgiving and a trip back to california...

Can you believe that one week from today it'll be Thanksgiving? That's insane! Where has this year gone? I hardly remember it, actually, except for a few notable things here and there. I feel like I should write about all the things I'm thankful for, but I'm not really in that sort of mood. Maybe I will be again before Thanksgiving actually get's here, but I highly doubt it. I think my "five things..." post (the one below this one) will have to do this year.

Then again, maybe by this time next week I'll be thankful that my mom's surgery went well and that she's okay. I really hope so, but from what she's said everything sounds like it's going to be alright. Oh! I don't think I've really mentioned this before, have I? On Monday the 25th, my mom's having a pretty major surgery to have some not so pleasant parts removed before they become a much bigger nuisance than they already are. I'm really nervous for her, actually.

Okay, so, for Thanksgiving day, Matt and I are just staying home and eating too much food together. Mainly because my in-laws are going to my step-sister-in-law's house for the holiday and because it's only a few days before I leave for California. I'm making a pretty big turkey (I've never made turkey before, yikes!) so that he has plenty of left-over food to eat while I'm out of town. I'm flying out to spend some time with my mom after her surgery and to help her while my sister has finals and my dad has to work. I'll only be there one week (December 2 - 9) and then I'm coming home to spend Christmas with Matt and my babies. He won't be able to come with me again this time because of work and graduate school obligations. I can hardly believe I leave a week from Monday!

Though I'm nervous to fly (as usual), I'm less nervous than I was last time. Also, I still have two Xanax my doctor reluctantly prescribed for me in July when I flew out. So, that should be fine. No worries there. We're still working out how I'll get to the airport because Matt has to work, but he's planning to try to trade some days with someone on another shift so that he can bring me. Otherwise, he's going to have to take a day off, which we can't really swing right now both because money's tight and because he doesn't have space attendance-wise (they're only allowed to miss a certain % of their total work hours before it becomes a problem).

Alright, there's some other stuff I don't really want to talk about right now, so I'm going to go do something else. I'll probably talk about the aforementioned thing later, when it's more worked out and certain... or maybe not. Oh and I met my first weight loss goal! I'm down 15 lbs just in time to gain it back on Thanksgiving. Awesome. ;)

five good things...

I feel like hell today. I slept pretty well last night, I had a good breakfast, but emotionally, I'm really low. The fact that I have pretty much zero reason to feel low is only making it worse--it always does. But then, depression works that way, doesn't it. It makes us feel ugly and numb, then tears us down when we feel ugly and numb.

Maybe making a list of all of the reasons I shouldn't feel like this will make me feel better? Lists are the answer to the universe's problems, after all. Right? Right. Ugh, positive self-talk always makes me feel stupid.

Okay, so...

1) Last night I got quite a lot of writing done. I wrote about 2,750 words. After those words, I'm now only about 8,000 words behind schedule to finish NaNoWriMo.

2) This picture of this guy...


Chewbi loves playing dress up (eh, hem... yeah).

3) I've lost 14 lbs since I started working toward losing some weight about two months ago. That's one pound shy of my first goal. When I lose 15 lbs, as a reward, I'm going to get myself RunKeeper Elite.

4) I have a really smart, supportive husband. Really, really smart and supportive. He works hard to remind me that I can get my writing done and he cheers me on when I meet my goals.

5) I get to go back to work in January. Thank god! I am absolutely lost without something meaningful and productive to do. Since I love my job, it's great that I have the opportunity to go back to work after Christmas.

I just took a whole lot of nastiness out of that list. Almost all of the things was twice as long and included the negative things. Like the fact that I hate like a garbage bin last night (1,600 calories in one meal, yikes!). But, I think I needed to see the list exactly the way it is, with only the positive stuff. Sadly, a list of good things going on has done nothing to make me feel better. I think I'll go clean something or get some writing done. If I hand out here much longer I may decide to make a list of bad things. I can think of a lot more than five bad things.

my song: lorde's "glory and gore"

Right now, with the things going on in my life, this is my song. I listen to it over and over. In the car, in the house. I'm not a little bit obsessed with it because it makes me feel strong and energized. It makes me feel powerful and, right now, I really need that.



It's funny how significant it's become to me, particularly since I wouldn't have ever found it had Matt not bought Lorde's "Pure Heroine" album while we were in Wal-Mart one afternoon. We're both fans of her song "Royals," so it was a good fit for us and we occasionally still buy disks for groups we really like (like Mumford and Sons, for example). Now, I have to go listen to my song and get some writing done. Good night.

the nanoflop...

Well, I certainly didn't rage. That's for sure. I didn't even saunter. I sort of just flopped. I got, like, 500 words written at Writing Group (which sometimes is much more like Chatting Group) and when I came home I promptly ignored it. Because, well, 500 words is nowhere near enough to get out of the rut I had gotten myself into. Not even close. I had this great bit of action, my heroine stomped off into a storm, and then... what? I have no idea. Or, had no idea. I'm mostly past it now, I think.

Then, I continued to let it rot. Until tonight, when I told Matt that I was 10,000(ish) words behind with NaNoWriMo, which is way more than the 3,375 words I was behind when last I wrote. One is nearly insurmountable. He encouraged me to get back on the pony and go. He said I could do it, that I wasn't so far behind that I couldn't make up the difference. That all I had to worry about tonight was writing 2,100 words. Then, tomorrow, the same and so on. All of that, but not before asking me "aren't you the woman who wrote more than 10,000 words in one day during your first NaNoWriMo?" Frankly, I couldn't believe he remembered that. I sort of accused him of reading that on my blog. Silly me, he doesn't bother with my blog. He actually pulled that from his mind somewhere. Astonishing.

So, I got my 2, 100 words (well, 2,118 actually) for tonight and tomorrow I'll worry about doing the like, until I've done that every day for the remaining 15 days of NaNoWriMo. That's all there is to it... I hope.

But, I've also decided that I'd like to finish the first draft of this manuscript before I go back to work. That means I have from now until January 13th to get this sucker done. Though I have my doubts, I'm trying to tell myself that it not only can it be done, but that I will do it. That's almost exactly two months. Oh man, put that way it sounds like much less time to work with, especially since I've been working at it for a few months and I'm still only less than halfway done. But, if I can manage to finish NaNoWriMo, I can definitely get the first draft done. I'm hopeful.

And yes, I know it's not on the topic, but did you catch that? I'm definitely going back to work in January! I am absolutely thrilled. I've really missed teaching, which is something I thought I would never say. It's surprisingly true, though. I'm only concerned that when it comes time to go back to work, writing will fall by the wayside again. I'm just going to have to work at it. As it is, I have three classes which will put me at work every week day (one class on MWF and two on TR).

So, now, with all that in mind, I'm hoping to avoid another nanoflop like the one I've had this week. Because, frankly, NaNoWriMo week two can bite me. I'm still here, still plugging along. So, take that!

nanowrimo week two: advice from dylan thomas...

Matt's favorite poem is Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas. It's a poem which advises that one (Thomas's narrator's father, presumably) should fight to the very end with everything we have. He says to, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

So why am I telling you this?

Because it's NaNoWriMo and I'm being overly dramatic. That's why. Because right now, that advice is what I need to keep myself from throwing urgent forward progress out the window in favor of slow and steady wins the race. Because as of the end of tonight, I'll be about 3,375 words behind.

I went from being two days ahead, to being three days behind. That's what happens. I sabotage myself, but 3,375 words isn't insurmountable. It's a small thing, really. Not even too much to write in one day, except that by tomorrow I'll be 5,041 words behind and that is too much to write in one day. That's definitely not going to happen, but NaNoWriMo's trackers says that I can still finish if I write 1,752 words every day for the rest of the month. That's manageable, only 85 words a day more than the 1,667 they recommend you write every day in order to finish it.

Let's be realistic though, that's not how I work. I won't write every day this month, NaNoWriMo or not. I won't do it. I've already proven that in having skipped something like 4 of the 11 days this month so far. That's not good odds. I figure I can still get it done, if I work at it, and if I consistently write between 2,500 and 3,000 words on the days I do find the motivation. I think I can do that. I mean, the first year I did this and won (the only year I've won--2004) I had one day left and 10,000 or so words to go. I put my heart into it and got it finished. I can do that again, hopefully I won't have to, especially since I'm going for something less than tragic and Visions my 2004 NaNoWriMo novel is just that, tragic.

But here's the thing. Even though I'm trying to "rage" and all that, I'm kind of stuck. I'm sitting at a crossroads and several different things can happen. I just don't know which of them it'll be. So, in classic procrastination style, I'm avoiding it. I'm avoiding Gabriel and Helena, and Jane, and Contessa. I don't know what I want to happen next, which means nothing is happening next. Nada. I'm stuck. I know a few things need to happen in order to push the thing forward, but I don't know how they will happen.

Hopefully, I can get past this tomorrow. Tomorrow is writing group and I'm going to stop avoiding my imaginary friends and get some writing done. Tomorrow I'm going to "rage," I hope. I think once I'm past this little lost place, things will start flowing again. I just have to get my proverbial wheels out of the mud, which I'm hoping to do tomorrow. Hoping being the operative. Wish me luck or whatever, I'm probably going to need it.

nanowrimo week one...

A quick note to my MS...

Can you please settle on a plot, rather than some plots. It would have been nice if it had been the plot I devised for you, rather than those bits of plots that seem to be cropping up along the way. And yes, yes, I know, those bits of plot are probably more interesting that what I had initially planned, but you're making my synopsis look like a liar! I also know that we'll eventually get to some of the stuff I had planned, but really, this would go much more smoothly if you'd get on board with the plan. Okay? Okay!

And that about sums up my NaNoWriMo so far. Hell, that sums up my entire novel so far, not just the NaNoWriMo parts!  I have too much plot. Way, way too much. I need to decide on one and roll with it, which means at the end I'll have to cut out some rather sizable sections, do some reorganizing, and fill in some blanks. I'm okay with that, as long as things keep rolling right along. And, I suppose having too much plot is a good problem to have. It means I have something to use later, when I write the next book (which I think will be about Gabriel's sister, but I'm trying not to get ahead of myself).

I had one day this week where I wrote practically nothing, a mere 407 words. I had a day this week when I wrote nothing, a whole whopping zero words. But, on days when I'm productive (five out of seven ain't bad!), I've managed to write well over the required 1,667 words per day to finish and thank goodness, because if I didn't, I would already be behind the curve. Thankfully, I'm not. My average per day is something like 1,975 words. Which makes me feel pretty awesome, actually.

I keep hoping this will be a habit I can make during this month and keep writing at a fairly decent pace when the month is over. Not going to hold my breath, especially since I'm hoping to go back to work in January (fingers crossed), but this is pretty important to me. It may look like a huge mess, in fact, much more of a mess than any MS I've previously worked on, but it's my mess and I'm absolutely in love with it. Now if I can just find the time and drive to work on it regularly when it's not NaNoWriMo, I might get this thing written and re-written/edited some day. ~.^

making coffee...

You're about to learn something totally arbitrary about me. Ready? Okay, here it is: I absolutely, positively hate making coffee. Hate it. If I never made another freaking pot of coffee again, it would be too soon. That, though, is about the farthest thing from reality imaginable. In reality, I make at least one pot of coffee a day and sometimes two or three.

But here's the issue: I don't drink much coffee. I don't drink it. I think I've had one cup of coffee in the last six months. I hate the way it tastes without a hiding the nasty flavor behind tablespoons of sugar and flavored creamers. I like a little coffee with my cream, as they say--and I will eat up some flavored creamers, mmmm, empty calories. But I'm still stuck making the damn coffee and it's starting to make me resent the coffee drinker in my life who's too lazy to make his own.

And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, it's just a pot of coffee. A little water and some grounds. That may be what it is to you, but to me it's an expensive, annoying, headache. To me it's a new coffee pot every 6-8 months because our water's so hard it destroy's coffee pots. To me, it's bean grinders and $8-$15 pouches of coffee that'll make five pots. To me it's having to make a huge water mess all over the place (and myself) because they've never made a carafe that could pour water evenly. To me it's huge coffee grounds messes because when he does make his own coffee he often misses the trashcan with the used grounds--do you have any idea how hard it is to sweep up coffee grounds? To me it's the constant, "honey, could you do me a favor?" in that whiny voice that says one thing but means, "I know this is going to piss you off, but could you go in the kitchen and make me coffee, even though you don't drink it, because I can't be bothered."

So yes, I'm ranting about making coffee because one of these days I'm going to throw the stupid coffee pot at his head. You know, the 12-cup coffee pot, becasue lord knows his 64 oz. coffee tankard can't hold the product of a one-cup coffee maker. Have I mentioned that I've been trying to get a Keurig (for my occasional coffee, tea, and ciders) for the last two years, and STILL don't have one, but we've bought something like three or four 12-cup coffee pots in the same amount of time? Yeah. Not awesome.

Now I have to stop bitching and go into the kitchen to see if the coffee is done so I can put it in his cup, with ice of course because heaven forbid he should drink it hot and save me a few steps, so that Matt has coffee while he does his homework. I cannot wait for coffee to go extinct (yeah, arabica, it's going extinct--unfortunately not until I'm dead).

nanowrimo: so far...

Today is the second day of NaNoWriMo and so far, I'm rocking' it!! I'm tracking my progress on my sidebar, separate from my Novel in Progress (sort of). Since I was working on this novel before November, I'm tracking my total progress using the gray tracking bar. The pink tracking bar shows how much of that has been written this month... does that make sense? I guess the only person that really has to get it is me, though, right? Right!

So, yesterday I got out more than 3,400 words, which was awesome. For whatever reason, likely because I haven't worked on this novel every day, I'm struggling a little bit. I'm second guessing myself, wondering if I'm telling to much, hoping it makes sense and that the plot is unfolding in a way that makes sense, isn't too slow or boring, etc. But, I also have an issue where when I know what will happen I worry that it's too transparent. I worry too much, something I'm trying to let go.

Today, I worked on and off, but wrote more than 2,500 words. Not quite as well as yesterday, but still pretty good. I'm well ahead of where they suggest being for day two, so I'm happy with it. Still struggling a little bit, but I'm also having fun with it and I figure whatever I mess up can be fixed in editing, later, because that's what editing is for.

I'm hoping to stay on track and write every day, but at this rate I'll be done well before November is over. Not a bad thing at all. Maybe I can reach for 75,000 original words in November or something like that. That will more than finish my novel, if I can ever stop being so wordy and get to the point. I see a LOT of stuff being cut out later. As is, this draft is going to go on forever!! ;)

on the halloween holiday...

I had a sort of strange and miserable Halloween holiday yesterday. I woke up feeling like the world was spinning and climbing out of bed only made it worse. But, yesterday was Melanie's birthday and we were supposed to walk (we walk Tues, Thurs, Sat & Sun), so I got up and had breakfast thinking a shower and food would help. Nope. I could barely walk straight without falling over, I definitely couldn't drive, so we postponed our walk for today and I went back to bed where I spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon. The second time I woke up wasn't any better than the first and I spent the rest of the day feeling horrible.

But what made it strange was that even though it was Halloween, and even though we did end up going out to get Subway around 7:30 p.m., I never saw a single person dressed up for the holiday. I suppose I was in the wrong places, I'd almost definitely have seen someone in costume had I gone to, say, Wal-Mart. Still, it's the first Halloween I've had in years where it felt like any other day of the year--a side-effect of being without children. We don't get trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood and never have. In the 9+ years we've been living here we've never had a knock on the door on Halloween. No munchkins begging for candy. No inappropriately trick-or-treating teens. Nothing.

And I noticed something when we were out getting food that was a little bit unsettling. All of the neighborhoods we drove through, ours included, were remarkably dark. No kids in costume walking up and down the street, no house lights on. Again, nothing. Matt drove particularly slow to avoid potentially hitting kids that might be in the road, but there weren't any. It actually made me a little bit sad to see the empty streets. I told Matt that back home, last I knew, kids still went door-to-door trick-or-treating. My folks still buy candy to hand out. While here it's a tradition that's morphing into a short community event, rather than something kids venture out in packs to celebrate with their neighbors.

Here, instead of kids going from house to house, our community does a safe trick-or-treat event in the town square. While I love the idea that I live in a town that has a town square, and the idea that our community cares enough about it's kids to host this sort of events where all the businesses in the square hand out candy, this is the sort of safe community where door-to-door trick-or-treating might still be safe. We don't live in a city, we live in a small college town. Most people don't even lock their doors, yet many aren't willing to share this holiday with their neighbors the way they once did. And, I remember that several times when I was a kid our mall hosted an event where the businesses gave kids candy. But for us it wasn't something we did instead of door-to-door trick or treating (at least not most of the time). It was something we did in addition to our usual festivities.

I suppose, though, that it's been a long time since I've really celebrated the holiday at all. Which, in all honesty, makes me a little bit sad. As a kid, Halloween was a big deal for us and while I know it's a pretty big deal for most kids, it was an especially big deal for us. Since mom had a daycare in our home that was constantly filled to capacity, we had a huge Halloween party every year. It became so popular that kids that we're even actively enrolled, along with their parents, showed up to celebrate with us. There was candy, apple bobbing in it's various forms, a pinata, tons of food. Everyone dressed up and there was Halloween music, like "Monster Mash." It was huge fun.

In the years since then, Halloween at my parent's house has turned into something smaller and more intimate. Mom hasn't run a daycare in years, but since I have a little sister who loves Halloween--a love of the holiday I really think mom installed in her--Halloween rarely, if ever, goes by uncelebrated. They have friends over, make a huge pot of chili and cornbread (a tradition since I was a kid), and hand out candy to kids. Candi still dresses up and she's 24 years old now. Case in point, check out these amazing Halloween treats Candi made for this year's Halloween get together:


Crazy, right? That girls has mad talent. They were having some family friends, my aunt, and my cousin and her little girl over for the holiday.

So, for me not to celebrate Halloween is particularly strange, but has become a sort of thing with us. Matt doesn't much care about the holiday and I don't have friends who celebrate it beyond the fact that it's my best friend's birthday. No costume parties, no handing out candy to kids... I just have no reason to celebrate. Even when I was working at the university--a job I'm hoping to return to in January--I don't remember seeing many students dressed up for Halloween. Some did, of course, but not as many as you might think would. Maybe they wait until after class to dress up for their parties and bar-hopping? I don't really know. And, you know, every year I think about getting a pumpkin to carve. When it comes time, though, I never do it. I walk past them in Wal-Mart, but never pick one up, even though I really want to carve one and put it out on the steps.

Maybe next year I'll make a more concerted effort to celebrate the holiday. Then again, maybe not. Maybe it's just something I'm going to have to let go since I don't have kids. What I know is that I miss the days when Halloween was something to look forward to, rather than the holiday that made me say "Ugh," while trying to resist the urge to put 2,000,000,000,000,000 bags of Halloween candy in my buggy at Wal-Mart. ^.^

So how did you spend your Halloween? I hope it was less depressing than mine turned out to be.

Credit: I stole that picture from Candi's Facebook page.

Happy Halloween

In honor of Matt's favorite horror movie series of all time...


Have a safe and happy Halloween, and eat lots of candy for me!!

nearly nanowrimo...

I'm pretty excited this year. I'm ready, I have a working manuscript (which is technically cheating) and I've done a good bit of planning. I'll have those 50,000 words in November if it kills me!

Okay, that might have been an exaggeration, I've never known writing to kill anyone... unless you count Hemingway, I guess, but technically it wasn't writing that did him in.

Anywho, what was I saying? Oh yeah, NaNoWriMo starts in two days. Yesterday, during writing group with Melanie, I took my iPad and my trusty stylus and got down to planning. I didn't technically write any words toward my manuscript, but I did get a whole lot of pages of planning in and jotted down some things I need to think about, too.

And, rather than killing trees for my note taking, I used my iPad. Helps me keep things organized. I was going to share a page, but then you'd see all my notes. Bah.

Anyway, every year I try to hunt around for new tech and tools that will make the process less hectic.This year, quite by accident, I found an app called Penultimate for my iPad. If you have an iPad, get it. It's awesome. Basically, it allows me to take notes directly on my iPad, in my own handwriting, in multiple colors and with lots of different types of "paper," and best of all the notes I take sync up to Evernote. This allows me to see them anywhere I have access to Evernote. Since I have Evernote on my desktop, MacBook, iPhone, and even my iPad, I can see my planning wherever I happen to be working. Oh, and even if I didn't have Evernote everywhere, I could still see it on the web.

Granted, I can't alter my notes on Evernote, they're read only. But, I can definitely see them. Also, if I update them on Penultimate, they update when Penultimate syncs. So, I have a constant stream of notes. Since I've been using iCloud to write my manuscript (Pages on iCloud to be more specific), It's easier for me to keep up with everything.

Oh, and I can send them to dropbox, too, because Penultimate syncs with dropbox. That way, I have a back-up. I've also started using a service that allows me to email my documents to dropbox, which I do from Pages in iCloud so that I have extra back-ups.

Technology makes me happy. I also worry constantly that I'll lose my work, but since I have so many back-ups, I worry about it less. So yeah, technology makes me happy.

So, with a fair amount of planning behind me (I stopped short of planning everything out because I don't color inside the lines well), I'm looking forward to getting started. I won't count my current word count and will be putting another bar on the sidebar to show what part of my progress is NaNo-specific. I'm not sure if Matt will work on it this year, too, he says he doesn't have any ideas which is absolutely absurd. The man is bursting with good ideas. But, he also works full-time and goes to graduate school. So, time is definitely not on his side.

Either way, I'm going for it. Wish me luck!

may need an intervention...

Oh, procrastination...

Remember when I used to play World of Warcraft? Yeah, I quit a while back and every time I think about going back my visceral reaction is "Nah." I can't even summon up enough energy to think about why I should, or shouldn't. I just think of it, my brain clicks over to no-mode, and I move on. But now I have a new video game addiction and, lately, it seems like all I want to do is play hidden object games. You know, those little games you buy at Wal-Mart or Hastings 3 for $9.99? Yeah, those, except when I played all the ones I had in my possession, I started buying them online at sites like Legacy Games and BigFish--mostly the latter.

Day before yesterday--because yesterday I felt like I might die of a migraine--I played them all day long. ALL DAY. They only take between two and a half and four hours to complete in easy mode (much more in harder modes, I'd imagine). I completed four different games, then I went hunting for more like a crazy crack addict looking for a fix. And when I found them, I downloaded them. Okay, not all of them because there are dozens and dozens available.

But, I also learned something. These games come in series and stand alone. They have pretty good story lines, particularly the ones that're based on books--like the Fiction Fixers series, where you go into a story and stop the evil "illiterati" from ruining the story, or the series based on the stores of Edgar Allen Poe or Agatha Christie. Oh, and the cute romance hidden object game from Harlequin, too. They have nice graphics, in some cases amazing graphics, and I feel like they work my brain since they're problem solving.

I also signed up for the BigFish Game Club which allows me to buy games at a discount and which give me free games when I fill my punch card (by buying games, of course). After the free month, I'll probably pay the nominal fee to keep doing so. But now I have to go and see if the ones I got this morning are still downloading or if they're playable. ;)

PS. If I keep this up, keep downloading and playing them at this pace, I'm going to need an intervention. Seriously and soon.

can't we all just get along?

I recently read a childless/childfree-bashing article on a mommy blog. I won't share the name of the blog because I don't really believe  it's this one blog that's the problem. Instead, I think everyone, on both sides, who take part in this sort of rhetoric are the problem. The post, which said in no uncertain terms that childfree people are frivolous and ridiculous and that parents don't really want anything to do with us, only promotes the sort of poo-flinging that happens between those with children and the childless/free.

What I'm starting to wonder is, why?

I've had my fair share of moments when I wanted nothing more than to move to some sort of childfree commune where I could live without parents. Note, I said parents, not children. I'm really starting to think I like parents less than I like their offspring and it's because of this very thing. Kids are unbiased. They've not yet formed the capacity for critical bigotry. It's not the kids who're saying people without kids are heartless, soulless, selfish, less than human-beings. It's parents.

And, to be completely fair, childfree people are often no better. We provoke them, we talk about their children in the meanest possible terms, and we expect them to shut up and take it. I get how they could be less than pleased with the prospect of quietly accepting such criticism. Those human beings, whom some childfree people so cruelly call names like "sproglodyte," are a part of them, they lived inside their mothers for almost a year. I wouldn't want people talking about my children like that, if I had children, that is. So we're at fault too. Children are a part of society, it's something we should come to terms with and accept. Even when we don't like to listen to them screaming and crying.

What I really want, though, is for everyone to shut up and mind their own business. I'm exhausted with the effort to keep up. I'm exhausted with all the whiny crap from both sides. I'm exhausted with the negative, and often wrong, perceptions on either side. I'm tired of hearing parents saying things like "you can't really know love until you have children," which is hurtful and wrong. I'm tired of hearing childfree people brag about how much they have--money, free-time, etc.--and how much they think their friends/family with children are mombie breeders with no lives. It's ridiculous.

Try to understand that LIFE IS NOT A COMPETITION.

So, please try to MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.

Try it, really. For one day, lets try not judging someone else for their life choices. Try considering that people who chose not to have children are trying to be responsible about their life choices. Not everyone is cut out to be a parent. Try considering that people who have children have every right to build their families however they see fit as long as no one is getting hurt. Try considering that children are a reality and aren't going anywhere any time soon. Try, just for a moment, not to put your fingers on the keyboard, where we feel like we're protected enough to say things we would never, ever say in real life. Don't bash other people's life choices.

Seriously. Because, really, bashing people for having kids while whining about how they don't have a right to bash your decision not to, it's a double standard. Just like bashing people who don't have kids while complaining that they bash you, yeah, double standard.

Lets try, instead, to remember that every single person has free will, whether you believe they got that self-determination from God or not. The decision about what to do with your body, or in the case of men bodily fluid, is entirely yours. Treating someone like shit because they chose to use their womb is just as bad as being treated like shit for choosing not to use yours.

And, just for a minute, let's remember that this fits neatly into the body politic issue on both sides. No one has a right to tell another person what to do with their body, including using them to have kids they don't want. Or, using it to have lots of kids they'll love. That is absolutely no one else's business.

So, let's just try to stop being judgmental pricks to one another. Just for a little while, let's see how it goes. Okay?

a writer's workshop...

One of my college professors is friends with Nathan Brown, the poet laureate of Oklahoma. So, the two got together and planned out a writers workshop to be held while he was passing through town. That's where I was last night. For a completely nominal fee, I was able to learn from someone both interesting and accomplished as a writer. Which is exactly what happened, for two or so hours I was able to take away bits of information that will make my writing better.

Most of the workshop revolved around how to never be caught without something to write about. His suggestions involved making lists of, well, just about everything under the sun and expanding upon them, pretty much forever. If you have piles and piles of information stashed away, it's nearly impossible to say you have nothing to say. That was the crux of the thing. Since he's a poet and song writer, the list ideas were mostly aimed at making better poets, but every single list idea he gave (some more conventional than others) could be applied equally to fleshing out and understanding fictional characters.

But he also said some other things that really reverberated with me. Things like suggesting that writers who want to write for an audience should think about that audience, while writers who're "writing for themselves" should keep it to themselves.

You wouldn't think that would be mind-altering for me, but it was. I actually teach my students to be aware of audience when they're composing papers, but I, myself, rarely take into account audience when writing fiction. It's the same thing though, right? When academics are writing and publishing papers--this includes students--they must consider their audience in their argument, otherwise, they have no argument that will influence anyone. The same seems to be true for fiction.

Don't get me wrong. Of course I'm aware of who my audience is--other women, like me. But I rarely think of that audience when I'm putting down words. The same is true for blogging, but with blogging I don't actually aim for any particular audience. I just write what's on my mind. I only worry that if I think about my audience too much, or too hard, I'm going to cripple my ability to get the story out. But, it's a balance, I suppose. No one said it was easy.

He also talked about how he thinks the best books are pieced together and suggested that writers of long fiction should take their work in snapshots, rather than trying to tackle the whole thing. Long fiction can be (read: is) overwhelming. It's sometimes difficult to keep all of those balls in the air, spinning around, without dropping any. The snapshot approach, which always makes me think of Jane Austen who is said to have written miniature situational portraits of her era, is a way to make all that juggling approachable. He said that much of the best literature isn't written outright, but knitted together from those snapshots.

After the workshop, the restaurant where it was held brought in snacks--cheese cubes, delicious fresh fruit, loaded potato skins, mozzarella sticks, poppers and breaded baked mushrooms. They refilled the water and tea, and there was a sort of reception. Everyone was charged and feeling inspired by the workshop, chatting about their ideas, what they got out it, and the like. I had a really good time and it felt good to get out and take part in a workshop with other people in the community who write--some of whom were my professors when I was in college.

It was, all in all, a really well-spent night. They're planning, at some point, to do it again and I'm really looking forward to it. Oh, and I meant to get some pictures to share, but my phone was off the whole night--wouldn't want to be that student. So, there're no pictures. It was a modest gathering of really interesting people, though, and I'll definitely have to make a priority of getting some pictures next time.

Now, though, I think I'm going to work on my novel. I have a few new ideas. ;)

technology that's helping me change my life...

...because my life could use some changes. Serious changes! I want to live a long time and be healthy (and comfortable) in my skin. So, I'm doing something to help myself reach those goals. I wrote a few weeks ago about having lost the first 2 lbs and what that mean for me. I said the move toward a healthier life was prompted by something pretty mind shattering (the scale can be such a bitch sometimes!). That two pounds are now eight. I've lost eight pounds so far and I've done it with the help of my gadgets.

The hubs always teases me and gives me a hard time for checking my gadgets so much. Well, he can bite me. Those gadgets are what's helping me to stay motivated and accountable to myself. Technology is, rather than that thing that promotes an unhealthy lifestyle, my constant helper as I learn to make better food choices and change my relationship with eating.

Here're just a few bits of tech that're making my journey a whole lot better (notice I didn't say easier!):

1) SparkPeople: It's such a great web community. SparkPeople makes it possible for me to track my food and nutrition, watch workout videos and demonstrations, get health advice and articles, and has an amazing supportive community. A must for me to plan and track meals, and their site is fun!

2) FitBit: Very cool little gadget. FitBit can track your steps and tell you how many (approximate) calories you've burned. It can also track your sleep and help you see how much sleep you're really getting. Now a days, the only thing I've been using FitBit for is that last little bit, to track my sleep, because sleep is really important. But after a while, I stopped using it because it was one more thing I had to track. It also links up with SparkPeople, which makes using my FitBit easier because it'll report directly to SparkPeople so I don't have to use FitBit's less than user-friendly website. Awesome!

3) RunKeeper: When Melanie and I started walking, I began using the RunKeeper app on my phone. It's a simple app that tracks how far we've walked, how long it took us, our pace, elevation climbed, and how many calories burned (approximate). It relies on GPS to track the distance, but it's a really neat tool that helps me to stay motivated on walks and is great for gauging progress. So far, I've just got RK basic, but my planned reward for losing 15 lbs is to spend the $20/yr and buy the upgrade to RK Elite. The only thing I don't like about it is that it doesn't link up to SparkPeople.

4) SparkPeople Activity Tracker: Admittedly, this little guy is a whole lot like FitBit with slightly fewer functions. I bought it anyway. It's a little bigger than a quarter and tracks a lot of exercises, including running, walking, cycling, and daily activity (and a few others I can't quite come up with at the moment). What makes it attractive and handy is that it links directly to SparkPeople. Rather than having to use a third party application or gadget to track and report, I can just use my SparkPeople Activity Tracker. I absolutely love how simple it is. Oh, and it's very durable. Chewbacca chewed mine up and it still works!! It's not as pretty, but it does the job.

5) GPS for the Soul: A free app that helps me stay in tune with myself. It's clearly not an exercise type thing like the others, but this app is really neat. It reminds you to check in with yourself daily. When you do, it scans your heart rate using your phone's camera and tells you whether you're balanced or stressed, or somewhere in between. From there there's a breathing pacer and guides. Each guide has some positive activity or bit of information/advice such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and nature. It's a pretty easy way to take a few minutes out for yourself each day and do something for your peace of mind.

There're a few other apps, sites, and gadgets I really like that help me to stay focused, track and see progress, and to connect, but these are the ones I use/like the most. These are the ones that are helping me to remember what I'm doing and why, even when I feel unmotivated by naysayers (see: Fat Shaming Week). These are the ones that will be with me as I reach and maintain my goals! :)

fat shaming week

I learned today, on Instagram of all places, that some "manosphere" men's rights jerks decided that last week would be "Fat Shaming Week." They took to posting horrible articles on their blogs with titles like "Why Fat Girls Don't Deserve Love" and "5 Reasons Fat People are Evil." Originally, I was going to share the name of the blog that started it all, but I'd rather not liter my blog with that trash. The worst part was that they aimed it all at women. Shaming fat women for having even a shred of self-esteem, calling the body positive and fat positive movements self-entitlement.

No wait, the absolute worst part was that some women post comments on their drivel and actually AGREE with them! Some women post comments about how they work to stay in shape and shouldn't have to share a gender with women who don't. It's sick. I mean, seriously, what is wrong with them? So much for sisterhood and all that crap!

And it's really hard to stay positive and make positive changes after reading things like that. It's like they hate you (without even knowing you) if you happen to be a) a woman, b) fat, c) a woman trying to do something about being fat, d) a woman (did I say that already?). What I don't understand is why. Why do they think they have the right to spew hatred at people who're minding their own business, living their own lives, doing absolutely nothing to harm them? If they don't like fat people, which is ridiculous, then they should just not befriend any.

But they say things like, "I'm out at a restaurant and have to suffer sharing the same space with fatties who're spilling out of their chairs," then go on to describe how that really ruins their appetites. Why should it? Why not just, oh, I don't know, not look at them. Why take the extra steps to actually be disgusted by them? Who does that really hurt?

It makes me wonder if these guys--and the sick in the head women who actually agree with them--realize that this is bigotry. They justify it by saying women are entitled feminazis who bring it upon themselves, but do they realize that justification is weak and wrong? Do they even care? Do they stop to think for one minute how painful it is to be fat? How utterly humiliating it is? Or are they just thinking about how fatties cost more in medical care and how we're a hazard to the beauty of public spaces? Doesn't help that the fucking government has decided being fat (not the health issues associated with being fat) is an actual disease.

It makes me hope that one day karma will come back to bite them in the ass. They deserve it for even thinking the things they're willing to say on the internet, but are too weak to say to a person's face. Do you think they go around talking to people like that? Of course not, but the simple fact that they think it really disturbs me. How many people in a day do I cross paths with that judge me for my size?

I only hope that these jerks are in the minority and that people, in general, are better than that. Unfortunately, I don't believe that. I don't think people are generally good. I think people are judgmental by nature. I'm just thankful that most people can keep their judgments inside. That most of us have an internal mechanism that leads us to understand it's wrong to make such judgments, even though we probably already have.

Happy Birthday, Matt!!

Tomorrow is his birthday. If I told you how old he'll be, he'd have me tarred and feathered. So, my lips are sealed.


He is looking good, though! This was taken on the 8th, he swung by Melanie's after being out and about so that I could see him all dressed up. I laid out his clothes, so I knew what he was wearing, but I certainly wasn't expecting that naked face!

Actually, he shaved his facial hair a few weeks ago and I sorta, kinda got mad at him, which I felt bad about later and had to apologize for having a fit (I totally lost it!). In my defense, he throws a fit about my haircuts. Anyway, he was growing it back, at my request, but he thinks this look is more professional. So, he shaved it again. Doesn't help that the guys at work tell him it makes him look younger. Bah!

Who worries about looking younger when they're only just approaching 36...er... I mean... 21 (again!!). Ha!

Happy birthday, honey!! I love you!!

nanowrimo 2013

It's that time again... I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year, are you?

Last year, thanks to grad school, I wasn't able to really participate. I tried. I really, really tried. But, thesis writing had destroyed me. After graduating in August, I had nothing left in November. The year before that, I couldn't participate because I was actually in grad school and working on my thesis and every word I put down that wasn't directly related to my thesis made me feel guilty. As though all my brainpower should be devoted to the singular purpose of finishing that academic exercise that, in fact, resulted in a book--all 128 pages of it.

When put like that, I don't feel quite so bad about skipping 2011 NaNoWriMo. I have no excises for 2012 except that I just... couldn't.

This year, not only can I, I am! But, for the first time, I'm also playing the "NaNoRebel." They actually have a whole forum for that on NaNoWriMo's website, no kidding. Anyway, I'm going to work on my still unnamed WIP rather than starting anything new. I'm making really good progress, my writing sessions have been productive and meaningful. I don't want to lose that, so I'm holding onto it with both hands.

I still plan to write 50,000 words in November. But, those words will be devoted to my current project, rather than a new one. And, in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I thought I'd share a rough synopsis...

Miss Helena Spencer has lost everything. At only five and twenty,she's a spinster without a single prospect because, unlike the other ladies of the  ton, Helena has a disability that makes her unmarriagable. That is, until her father's death leaves her squarely engaged to the handsome young widower, Earl of Ashwood. Gabriel Radcliffe. But Miss Spencer has a secret, something she's managed to hide in plain sight for fear of her father's reputation, that has lead her to fall for a nameless, faceless stranger. All of which has left the inexperienced Miss Spencer alone to negotiate marriage to one stranger, while attempting to balance her feelings for another. A situation complicated by Gabriel's decision to spirit Helena off to Ashwood House, a dilapidated country estate, far from London and from her ability to reach out.

And yes, I know, I said no names, covers, or synopsis/blurbs, but clearly I lied. Remember, this is a really, really rough sketch of what I'm currently planning, but there it is, in black and white, all 135 words of it. Hopefully it doesn't give too much away. I'm terrible at figuring out how much information is too much. But either way, there it is.

So if you plan to do NaNoWriMo, what will you write about? Do you plan to be a NaNoRebel, like me, this year or will you play by the rules? I'd love to hear about it.

If you're planning to give it a try, I hope you'll add me as a friend/buddy so we can keep up with one another's progresshttp://nanowrimo.org/participants/kristynmarie

up with the sun...

It was 47 degrees here this morning when I went walking with Melanie. I'm hoping that means the autumn is here, but the rest of the people are in my life are skeptical. I can't say I blame them. The weather bounces around so much here,  like my moods and mental condition--sometimes unbearably warm, others cold and unyielding. Bi-polar weather.


Isn't sunrise here beautiful? I love this time of the morning, when everyone else is sleeping and the day is still. It feel like it does me good to get out and get some fresh air, and I read that exercise can do as much good for mental stability as taking anti-depressants. I'm thinking there's some wisdom in that, particularly since exercise is actually making me feel better--that and the beautiful morning views. And it's helping me write. And, best of all, there's no crazy side effects. Can't beat that.

Weakness & the Heroine

So, I've finally gotten around to watching The Vampire Diaries season premier. Early on, Elena is asking Damon how they'll make a long-distance relationship work and kissing him goodbye on her way to college. For whatever reason, it reminded me that there are people who think Elena is a co-dependent weakling. Not something I agree with, I've always liked her and thought she was reasonably strong considering all of the people in her life are vampires who're more powerful than she is (at least until she is, too). As a writer, though, this brings up certain issues for me. Particularly since I spent the whole process of thesis writing examining this exact problem.

That is, the issue of strength in heroines. Particularly Gothic, romantic and postmodern heroines. Elena is definitely a postmodern Gothic heroine. Like Bella and Sookie and Buffy, except she's more likable than any of them. As a writer, the issue now becomes how to balance strength with humanity. If a heroine cries, for example, is she automatically labeled weak?  What if the circumstances she's crying about are completely reasonable issues, like the death of a loved one or the loss of everything they have. If she's meek and ladylike does that make her a weakling? What if meek, ladylike behavior is a a defense mechanism? What if she uses it as a shield to hide something she couldn't want anyone else to know. Does motivation matter?

Notably, in The Mysteries of Udolpho the heroine, Emily St. Aubert, is constantly feinting--often a conveinient times--and women who read the story regularly complain that she's a weakling because she's constantly losing it. But consider the following scenario and tell me if you wouldn't be afraid, too...

You're 17 years old. Both of your parents are dead, so you're shipped off to live with your aunt who actually hates you. She hates you so much that she literally steals your wedding day to marry a creep who drags the both of you away to an abandoned, dilapidated castle in the middle of no where. You're constantly tormented. The new uncle, who is now holding your sick aunt hostage and refusing her medical care, promises to protect you from rape and torture, but only if you'll give him all of your worldly belongings. Oh, top that with his attempts to marry you to a broke stalker, while refusing to allow you to see your boyfriend. But he doesn't exactly protect you, so you're being chased around by his rapists employees. The whole time falling on dark passages and what seems to be dead bodies stashed away.

You would be scared, too. If she cried, or fainted, maybe she had good reason. Maybe she was a scared teenager and was reacting the way any scared teenager would? Maybe she's more human than readers are willing to accept. But why are we unwilling to accept it? Why can't women in books be closer to human than superhuman? Why do they have to put on a brave face and suffer in silence to be real "feminist" heroes?

Why am I rambling on and on about this?

Well, I've run into this problem. My heroine is a regency era lady. She lived her whole life in the country. She has a secret she wants to keep, she's got some unfortunate issues that make her a less than perfect prospect for the gentlemen of the ton. She's just suffered a loss and is about to lose more and, well, she's sensitive and overwhelmed right now. But, if she cries or feels overwhelmed and loses it, does that make her weak? I'm feeling like she's could be misinterpreted as weak, but I'm also not certain how to fix it. The responses she's having are human and natural. But does it translate to the page or are her responses going to be interpreted as weakness? I don't actually know. For now, I can only keep writing and hope that if she comes across as weak,  I can make some adjustments later.

I just don't know how to make her anything but human. Hopefully that's enough. Food for thought, anyway.

#amwriting

Let's talk about something positive, because that doesn't happen as often as I'd like. Pessimist should be my middle name, but once in a while I have something to be optimistic about.

For example, this week, amidst a seemingly perpetual torrent of bad news,  I've made really good progress on my novel!!

Check out that progress meter, over there, on the sidebar. I'm already at about 11,ooo words. That's pretty good progress, I think, considering I just recently started this project. Though I had been working on it some, I just wasn't making the amazing progress I had hoped I might. So I talked to Melanie about resuming writing group again one day a week. She agreed that she had time and that it was a good idea. So, yesterday, we did just that. After we walked our two miles, we sat down to write together.

Though I only wrote about 1,300 words while we wrote together--admittedly, we got side tracked and spent a good portion of the time chatting--the process of writing, in a new (or at least different) environment was helpful. It got my brain working and running my ideas past Melanie helped me to work out one of the issues I was having with a the resolution of plot points. So, even though our writing session was only marginally fruitful words-wise, it was incredibly helpful ideas-wise.


So, today, with yesterday's progress fresh in my mind, I sat down to write while Matt slept. Whatever was jarred loose yesterday was still rattling around in there because I wrote a little more than 3,600 words today--that's like, oh, I don't know, a little less than 1/3 of my total progress so far... written just today!!

Eh, hem, pardon me for a moment... GO ME!!!

So, I'm sitting here right now and as I write this I'm thinking I should try to get some more words in because Matt's off tomorrow, which means he'll want my undivided attention. Especially since it's his only day off this week (he works six 12 hour shifts this week). But, it's already 8:30 and that means bed for me. I like to be up between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m., which cannot happen unless I go to bed. I need me some sleep. Good sleep + exercise + eating better + writing group = writing success!!

Okay, just one more, because 3,600 words in one day is epic... GO ME!!

Alrighty, I think I can go to bed happy now that I've patted myself on the back. Yeah, time for sleep. Maybe more words while he sleeps in the morning. He may want my attention, but the dude has to get some rest.

Good night!

The First 2 lbs...

...that's what I lost this week.

It may not sound like much, but it's a pretty big milestone for me. Which probably doesn't make much sense and I don't actually plan to elaborate--someday, when I look back at this, I'll know what it means and that's good enough. For now, just take my word for it, those two pounds are a big deal. They're the beginning of an even bigger deal.

Here's the thing. Earlier this year, I wrote about accepting myself. It turns out that was both a good and bad decision. Good because it was soothing to my self-esteem and the issues I have with positive body image. Bad, though, because that acceptance led to a whole lot of mindless, unconcerned eating that led me to gain a lot of weight. And when I say a lot, we're not talking about 10 or 15 lbs. We're talking about 55 lbs. That's a pretty big issue and I'm not blaming the whole deal on my self-acceptance, but a lot of it boils down to that.

Well, that and I'm an emotional & compulsive eater, which is something I am seriously struggling with. Something I battle every minute of every day because, well, I think about food every minute of every day. I want to eat every minute of every day. Some-days it's so bad that all I can think about is food, without the ability to concentrate on other things. This is an issue I have no idea how to effectively overcome. I can't seem to control my own brain, but I'm trying really hard to adjust my relationship with food so that this isn't an issue.

In order to do that, I've gone back to SparkPeople, which the community is really supportive and the tools are really helpful. I've been trying to think about my attempts to get healthier as a lifestyle change and not a diet. I've been trying to get more exercise--which I missed this weekend because my knee is a bitch, and which I actually missed doing. To that end I've been walking and using RunKeeper to keep up with said walks--a really good app that is very accurate as long as you have good GPS on your phone. Works amazing on iPhone, even in our tiny little town where we can get 4g but not LTE connections.

I've been eating better and cooking at home. Since I love to cook, this is a win-win. It's much cheaper to eat at home, and I know what's going into my food. But, on the downside, I think it feeds my agoraphobia a little bit since I'm going out of the house less (Matt and I used to eat out pretty much every day), an issue that going to walk is helping to balance a bit. And, eating better is making me feel better. Which is a positive for my mental health.

I'll be back to walking on Tuesday, since my knee is feeling a bit better. I can't wait to get back to the company of my best friend and this morning view...


Until then, I'm going to have a sandwich and watch the football game (Seahawks/Texans), and be happy knowing I'm trying to do something to improve my well-being. Have a nice weekend!

I'm a Bombshell...

Something you may not know about me is that I'm a huge nail color junkie. Okay, that sounds pretty strange, actually, but that doesn't make it less true. Sometime in the last few years I started picking up polishes at Walmart whenever I found one I liked, mostly Pure Ice polishes, until I realized I was accruing a heck of a lot of colors. Mostly, I just used them to pain my toe nails because, for a long time, I had acrylic nails. Well, that and I have a pretty hard time making polish keep on my fingernails. It usually just chips away in a matter of hours, so the hassle of painting them and waiting for them to dry, became not at all worth it.

But... I've finally found a polish that will keep on my fingernails! I discovered Julep by accident, when my friend Jennifer had posted about them on Facebook. I took the Julep Maven quiz to find out which style I was and signed up, getting my first box for free (I paid only $3.99 for shipping) since Julep sent me a coupon. Since their polish retails for $14.99 per bottle and their beauty products are often $20+, to get two bottles of polish and one beauty product for the cost of shipping was a deal. It took forever for my box to arrive, something like two weeks, but the colors inside were absolutely gorgeous. My style is "Bombshell" and in the starter box I got an orange polish, a gold glitter, and the 4 oz. Mint Condition Pedi Creme.

This was my first box. I say first because, after I realized how much I love their polish and products, I ordered the Mystery Box mid-month with $9.99 worth of mystery add-ons--I think the total price for those was about $50 (then I ordered two other polishes, which raised the cost). Check this out...

There's something like 12 polishes in there, a box of facial stuff you can't actually see, a hand & cuticle stick, and the rock star hand scrub & cream. This stuff is an addiction, I'm telling you. This month, I'm getting the October "Bombshell box" with a polish called "Casper," which is a glow in the dark polish. I can't wait for them to come.

But, since I've been getting these boxes, which are $20 per month, I've been doing some experimenting with my nails. Unfortunately, I don't have pretty nails, in general. They're a weird almost square shape and won't grow worth a darn. When they do grow, they just break and peel. It's irritating, but I'm coping. So far, I've tried a few styles, but the one I did today is my favorite. It's a silver polish called "Amity," made by Julep, with a Pure Ice color called "Tame Me Now." I think it came out pretty good for a first attempt at ombre...

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What do you think? I shake a little bit, so pardon the slight blurriness. In addition to the above mentioned colors, I use Revlon #005 base coat, Julep Freedom top coat, and Essie apricot cuticle oil. This is my first fall look. I chose the silver polish for the base color because the orange glitter has silver flecks. This picture doesn't much do it justice. I'm very happy with it. I think glitter in a clear base is the easiest to ombre. I once tried ombre with solid colors and it did not come out well--I only did one nail before I gave up on that attempt. Fortunately, I have lots of different glitters, so I'll probably be doing this look more often.

Another look I attempted, using two Julep polishes, "Karmen" and "Tatiana," is this one...

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Man, my hands look crazy dry in that picture. Anyway, the colors are so complementary, it could only be seen in direct natural light. So, it was pretty subtle, but it took a really long time. I used scotch tape to make the lines, but in order to do that I had to make sure the base coat was really, really dry. I actually pained them one color one day, then the other color the next day. It was okay, I think, but not my favorite. As we've established, the orange ombre is my favorite!

Still, I thought it was pretty and the scotch tape thing is a trick I'll definitely be trying again sometime soon. Maybe to tape off the tops of my nails, sort of the way the ringer finger is, so I can paint the tips a different color. Not for a while though, I'm thinking the orange & silver ombre look will keep for a while as one of the beauties of glitter polish is that it it doesn't come off easily. Amen for that!

Anyway, if you're interested in joining the Julep Maven program, it's $20 per month for two bottles of polish and a random beauty product. Mavens also receive a 20% discount on products on their site, which is pretty cool. It makes everything just a smidge more affordable. You can follow the "I'm a Bombshell" link below to take the quiz. If you do, make sure you come back and tell me which profile you are!


** Please note: This is not a sponsored post. I just really, really like their products. However, by way of full disclosure, I get incentives--in the form of free boxes--if I sign people up. 

Leavin' on a jet plane...

I took this picture from the terminal windows at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. It was in July and they were calling for boarding on this flight.  When I tried to board they told me I was an hour early. This wasn't my flight, even though it was going to my destination.

The next time I see something like this will be in December when I go to California. My mom's having a pretty major surgery, so I'm flying out to help care for her the following week. Although, I'm not going to Vegas this time. I'll be flying from Dallas to Ontario on Monday, December 2 and returning via the same route (the other way around) on Monday, December 9. I'm happily flying American Airlines again. Hopefully, this time I won't try to board the wrong plane. ;)

On Working Toward Healthier Habits...

It's no secret that I struggle with a pretty severe case of manic depression. I have my ups and downs, but lately it feels like, in general, I have more downs than ups. The thing is, I don't want to live like that. I want to enjoy my life and make others around me happy, rather than making them miserable, which seems to be the status quo of late. And by other people, I mean Matt. Poor guy has enough on his plate without my attitude and mental health to muck things up or make things harder. So, I've been thinking that I need to cultivate healthier habits, both mind and body, if I plan to make positive changes in my life. I'm 35 years old, it's about time.

So here're some things I've done and some I'm planning to do.

Drink more water: Huge deal for me. I'm not much of a water drinker at all, but I've managed to start getting down more than the recommended daily amount. Go me!

Take vitamins: Gummies, you see. When you make vitamins into candy, I'm there.

Get more exercise: Melanie and I have been getting out and walking a lot lately, which really seems to improve my state of mind. I generally feel better, both physically and mentally, when I've gotten out and had a walk.


Meditate: Not in a spiritual kind of way, but in a time out to get inside my head and acknowledge what I'm thinking and how I'm feeling kind way.


Write regularly: Would you believe blogging has actually made me a more competent writer? Yeah, crazy right? I'd like to continue to write here regularly (at least 3x per week), but also to get into a more regular writing schedule with regards to my creative writing projects.

Practice active happiness: They say the whole 'fake it till you make it' thing works. I'd really like to work more diligently toward trying to keep a more positive frame of mind.

Apologize: I hate to say I'm sorry, so when I'm wrong and I know it, I tend to get angry rather than contrite. In turn, I cork it up and it eats at me. I'm down enough without that to make it worse.

Watch less television: Pretty self-explanatory, but I tend to find a show then watch every single season on Netflix, non-stop, until it's done. This amounts to hours and hours of TV time. Hours and hours I could spend doing other things.

Eat more meals in & learn portion control: Eating out is not only fattening, it's crazy expensive. Not only can we not afford it, it's not as healthy as cooking your own meals. If I cook for myself I know what's in the food. Now if I could just learn some moderation, I might have a chance at cultivating healthy eating habits.

Get organized & de-clutter: I read something the other day that said a messy desk is good for creative productivity. I get that, I even like it, but I need to de-clutter my life and keep a cleaner house. Less chaos means a calmer mind, I think, which can only be good for my mental health.

Right now, the above ten things are what I'm working on. While some of them are in progress (water, vitamins, getting more exercise), others are harder. I don't know how to be actively happy or how to apologize gracefully, but I want to learn. That's what the whole cultivating healthy habits thing is about, after all, right? For now, I think just putting it down in black and white helps to cement these things in reality, where I can see them. Where they can't hide or be forgotten. Because, really, no one is better at denial or self-delusion than I am. Maybe I should have put "stop deluding yourself" on that list, too? ;)

Women's Lit & Marvel's Pride and Prejudice

In my junior year, I took a women's literature course with Dr. Mallory Young that completely changed the course of my education. Eventually it, together with Dr. Young's work, would influence the direction of my master's thesis. This class would also introduce me Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, a work that would become my favorite of all time. Before that class, I had always understood the concepts of  feminist literary criticism as abstract concepts. For me, it was just one approach to literary criticism, significant but no more concrete in my understanding than, say, reader response or the plethora of other approaches to understanding literature.

Though feminism had always interested me,  its use as an approach to understanding literature was new territory. This one class changed everything for me. So much so that even though I've managed to misplace a lot of my university notebooks over the years, I still have all of the notes I took for this course. It wasn't just the feminist approach, but also how the novel is constructed, the different sorts of narrators, the types of novel genres (bildungsroman, for example), all of it was new territory for me. I'd been an avid reader for years, but before this class I'd never looked at my novels like a collection of parts, brought together expertly to create not just a story but an atmosphere and mindset.

But back to Pride and Prejudice, because it was this one book in particular that introduced me to the regency romance novel--it was also my favorite of the class, with Edith Wharton's The House of Myrth and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre trailing not far behind. This is where my love of all things regency began. This book was so influential for me that I strive to experience every single way it's presented. I love all the different covers (some more than others), the movie and mini-series adaptations (again, some more than others), the spin-off novels (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would be the exception). I love everything the genre, because Jane Austen might certainly be considered a genre all of her own, offers.

So, when I saw that Marvel had issued a Pride and Prejudice graphic novel, I bought it. Just the cover was enough to convince me, though the graphic novel also recieved a whole lot of praise on the notoriously (un)reliable Amazon.com.



I love that it's presented like a teen/woman's magazine cover. The presentation is remarkable, but the cover really doesn't do the work justice. Elizabeth Bennett is presented as an unassuming Miss on the cover, but inside she's rendered as a comic book beauty--though she's not as pretty as most of her sisters, Jane in particular, but prettier than Mary (poor girl!), which is particularly true to the story.

Still, I was concerned that Marvel might have done the work a disservice. Looking it over, though, that doesn't appear to be the case at all. Rather, Marvel has attempted to remain as true to the spirit of the work as possible, including dialogue that fits the original. The first page offers readers the traditional opening where in Lizzie warns that, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" (Austen 3) [1. From the Norton Critical Edition Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (2001), edited by Donald Gray.]. Overall, the presentation manages to be very much Jane Austen, while remaining very much Marvel, something that cannot have been easy to accomplish.

I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I bought the hard copy paperbacks of both the Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey graphic novels, which I might not have done had the latter been offered as an ebook (as was the former, which looks spectacular on my Kindle app for iPad, I might add). In fact, Northanger Abbey is even more significant to my thesis, in a direct way, because in writing it Jane Austen relied very heavily on Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho,  the most significant primary source used in my thesis. The cover for that one is beautiful, too, if less magazine-like.



Notably, Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen's most humorous work. It's something of a Gothic parody, wherein Catherine Morland is pursued by one gentleman while loving another, all the while allowing her Gothic imagination to overtake her common sense--I can't wait to read it!  It was also her first work completed for publication, though it wasn't published until several years after Pride and Prejudice.

I simply cannot wait to receive them in the mail. Thank goodness Matt's Amazon account has Prime. I should get them sometime early this coming week. In the mean time, I may re-read the original P&P, pick up NA, and read the ebook version of the P&P graphic novel. That should keep me busy when I'm not cleaning my house or writing my own regency romance novel. On second thought, I may dig into Northanger Abbey first, which I recall Dr. Young telling me required a bit of context, suggesting I finish Udolpho first. With that done, I have quite enough context, having now read both Udolpho and one of the books that have come be to be know as  the "Northanger horrid novels," Regina Maria Roche's Clermont. Both works I used to complete my thesis.

On Cooler Weather & Seasonal Baking

It's been absolutely beautiful here lately. Rather than suffering triple digit heat, its been in the 80s the last few days. Today, it only made it to 70 degrees and it has been raining all day. It's been a long time since it did that. I'm feeling a little bit down again, but I'm trying to soldier on--my Mexican chocolate coffee with caramel Bailey's is helping, if I'm being honest.

But, the fact that we're having an early autumn here is making me feel a bit lighter. You know, I say that now, but it's probably going to go back to sweltering before fall really, truly arrives. For now, I'm choosing to believe it'll stay nice. The weather is innocent until proven guilty. Besides, autumn won't technically arrive anywhere for two more days, since the autumn equinox isn't until September 22 this year.

That said, in an effort to embrace the lovely weather, I decided to ring in the autumn season, which happens to be my favorite. Screw waiting until it's really fall. And, there's no better way to do that than baking. Even if baking gets me into trouble with my scale, which scolds me by suggesting that I may have gained a few (*cough*) extra pounds this year. But, screw the extra pounds too, that can of pumpkin puree has been mocking me for too long. It was time I whipped it into something edible and I saw this recipe on Facebook... who doesn't bake recipes on the word of Facebook people? So, I tried it.

Delicious.


It's one of those two recipe cakes. It called for yellow cake, but I used white because that's what I had, and a 15 oz. can of pumpkin. It makes an 8x8 cake, and it should have been cooked longer than the 28 minutes the recipe called for, but it came out really well. Even Matt liked it and he doesn't like pumpkin, at all. Though I think it was the caramel apple glaze he liked the most (1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 3 TBSP. apple cider, 3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, 1 tsp. caramel extract). So it was a hit and it made me feel like I was celebrating the approaching season. Wich, in turn, made me feel a bit less gloomy.

Now that I've baked something seasonal, I want to bake more seasonal goodies, which isn't necessarily a good thing since my clothes seem to be shrinking... eh hem, yeah, that's it. But, I'll probably do it anyway, screw the calories. I've been getting more exercise lately. Fortunately for my thighs, I can't bake anything else until I go to the grocery store. I'm mostly out of baking supplies, since I don't much bake all year. Oh, I also made my own pumpkin pie spice from a recipe I found online. I halved it, since the full recipe called for 1/4 c. cinnamon, which is a heck of a lot of cinnamon. I was pretty proud of myself, but now I have to buy all the spices that go in the pumpkin pie spice, which will probably cost more than just having bought the pumpkin pie spice to begin with. But, whatever.

So, it's almost eight o'clock and I've been up since two-thirty this morning. I think it's about time for me to get to sleep. Weird schedule, but it seems to be working for me. Awake all day and half the night, it just happens to be the wrong half of the night, but again, whatever.

Good night.

PS. Before I forget, it's looking like I'll be going to CA again during the first week of December as my mom's surgery is scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving. More on that later.