Wednesday, February 29, 2012

These are a few of my favorite words...

So, in my head, the title to this post is being sung to the tune of "These are a few of my favorite things..." but that might not have come across right away. So now I've told you and you can now have that song stuck in your head, too.

You're welcome.

There is much hubbub made about people's LEAST favorite words. A recent survey I read said that the most hated word in America is "moist." A survey of a lot of really important people my sisters corroborated this finding and lead my sister to literally put her hands over her ears and make gagging noises until I stopped talking about it.

But, I wonder- what about favorite words? For all the love of words and their correct usage, I don't feel like we talk about this topic enough. Sure, there's a whole website: MyFavoriteWord.com, but so many of the words on there are simply not practical. Seriously, when was the last time you needed to use the word "vexillology?" (the academic study of flags- which, by the way, sounds incredibly dull)

I am a lover of words. I particularly love that words have very specific, and sometimes nuanced, meanings.

For instance, people often use the word "supposedly" when they really mean "ostensibly." Yes, supposedly is a real word, and they're pronouncing it correctly (unless they are saying "supposably," in which case it's still a real word, but they're using it incorrectly). However, they mean to say something a little more specific that what "supposedly" can convey.

"Supposedly" is not wrong, per se, but there's a word out there that is a better fit.

Thus, I love the word "ostensibly." It is often the best word to accurately convey what I'm trying to say. 

I also love the word "vernacular." It's not used very often, but I don't know why. Especially as writers, you would think this term would be bandied about a lot. It encompasses slang, colloquialisms, idioms and jargon into one all-inclusive term regarding everyday language. This one word means something very specific regarding a whole slew of words that we use together on a regular basis.

So, what about it?

What are some of your favorite words? Especially ones that don't get used often!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Social Incompetence

I've found a new definition of "ironic."

Socially incompetent adults in a graduate course on how to teach children to be socially competent.

I spent the last thirty minutes of class wondering to myself "How in the world are you going to help kids be socially competent when you are, by far and away, the most socially awkward and unpleasant people ever." And really, that's saying something, because I've been introduced to people in the following way:

"This is Gina. You'll get used to her."

And that disclaimer is completely necessary, by the way.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Best Marriage Advice Ever

A couple weeks ago, I posted the Worst Marriage Advice I Ever Got. Today, I'd like to share the Best Marriage Advice I Ever Got. Some people really do know what advice is universal, and what can be applied to every relationship. These are the three best pieces of advice I received, and what I give to every couple looking at tying the knot:

"Start your own traditions"- Forget what your mom did, or his mom did, or whatever. Keep what you like, discard the rest, and start your own. It helps you bond as a couple and, quite simply, makes you both happy.

This can apply to several aspects of your relationship: you don't have to cook what his mom cooked, and you don't have to clean like your mom cleaned. You don't have to go on the same kind of vacations and you don't have to make the same goals. This is YOUR life together now, and it doesn't matter what anybody else's vision of it is.

Of course, you might want to keep some of your parents' traditions. These multi-generational traditions can be sweet memories for everybody involved. And don't throw something away flippantly just because you want to be different. But realize that just because your family had pot roast every Sunday, you don't have to. The important part of the meal was that you were all together, right? Go crazy. Have salmon. Or chicken. Or peanut butter sandwiches.

Oh, and don't forget: You can pick up a tradition after you've dropped it. Learning to adjust to another person, early marriage finances and a whole slew of other things can cause traditions to fall through the cracks. That's okay. There's no law that says Thou Shalt Never Skip A Year Sending Christmas Cards. A tradition isn't set in stone- it's an overall feeling.

"Kids change your relationship, be prepared for it"- Oh, boy, is this true. I can't say that kids makes it either "better" or "worse" but it is definitely "different" and if you spend your whole life trying to recapture the pre-baby-days, you'll be miserable.

Be ready for the change (as best you can- there's really no way to prepare 100% for this) and embrace it when it comes. Find ways to make the baby days special, and find a groove that fits your parenting style. Wishing that this stage of your life would just be over so you can get to the good part is folly. Someday, you will miss the baby days, or the terrible twos... okay... maybe not that. But the cute two year old tushy? Yes, that you will miss. Don't wish it away.

Even once the kids are out of the house, you're never really "done" being a parent. Kids (and teens, I imagine) change who you are at a fundamental level. I am a different person because I am a mother. My husband is a different man because he is a father.  And that's okay. We accept the changes and keep communication open so that we can change and evolve together.

"Show him you love him every day"- Whether you say it out loud, kiss for real (not the typical goodbye-peck), do a kind thing, have sex, whatever, you need to be sure to connect in a romantic way every single day. It's too easy to let one day become two, and two become ten and ten become thirty... and then there's a gaping space between you.

I've been very lucky that my husband hasn't had to travel for work, and he's entering a line of work that means he will likely never travel extensively. This isn't the case for many, many couples, and I know this daily-show-of-affection is more difficult in those cases.

Still, I think it's some of the best advice out there. Quick emails, text messages, phone calls and skype calls can work wonders to keep you in synch as a couple.

What's the best marriage/relationship advice you ever heard?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Not Happily Ever After.


Writing Jewels is hosting another flash fiction contest. I promise, this won't become a regular thing on this blog, it's just a coincidence that two of these came up so close together.  This one had a 650 word limit, and it had to begin with the words "Once Upon A Time..."

“Once upon a time, in a land far, far away­­-“

“UGH!” I grunted at my mother. I probably rolled my eyes, too. I wasn’t really paying attention.

“What could you possibly be complaining about, Angeline?” She was a patient woman, but even patient women can’t handle a fifteen-year-old girl in a bad mood.

“Can’t these stupid stories ever start with anything else? I mean, honestly, isn’t there any other way to say it?”

“What would you prefer? ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy-“

I cut her off with another grunt of disapproval. Grunting had become my favorite form of communication. Ever since my dad left eight months ago, I had run through them all: crying, shouting and even screaming. I spent three whole weeks without making a single sound, just to see if it made a difference.

It didn’t.

My mother had kept up her constant show: smiling a little too hard, speaking a little too quickly and laughing a little too loudly, and a little too often. It didn’t seem that anything I did pulled her away from her performance, so I stopped trying. I went with what was easiest, and that turned out to be a lot of grunting and skipping school in favor of playing World of Warcraft in my room.

“Well, Angeline, if you don’t have a better suggestion, then this is what we are reading.”

“I’ve had plenty of suggestions.”

“I meant productive suggestions.”

Our therapist, Dr. Mark (I’m still not sure if that his first name or his last name. It probably doesn’t matter; he’s a wanker either way.) asked us to do something together each week. There was one catch: the ‘one thing’ we did together couldn’t involve electronics of any kind. No TV, no cell phones, no laptop, no iPod. He said we needed to “connect on a more real level.”

Whatever that means. Like I said, he’s a wanker.

My mother decided that we needed to read together. Out loud, and from old fashioned storybooks. Like I’m a freaking kindergartener or something. I wanted to go shopping- at least that way I could get something good out of this punishment/therapy session, but she thought the credit card machines and sliding glass doors would break the “no electronics” rule. I said that was stupid since we needed lights to read, and the air conditioning was on.

That was when she decided we were going to read outside on the front lawn, in the middle of every Saturday afternoon. This was two weeks ago: about the time I decided talking was too dangerous and grunting was a better idea.

My mother sighed and closed the book she had started reading from. She looked tired. She looked old, if I was being honest. Maybe getting divorced just before her fortieth birthday was harder than I thought.

“Angeline.” She started, but then took a deep breath, like she didn’t know what she wanted to say.

“What?” I snapped.

A pained look crossed her face. I felt bad. My dad had hurt her so much already- hurt both of us- that I didn’t need to make it worse.

“What?” I asked in a softer tone.

“Angeline, I just don’t want to lose… us.”

“Us? What are you talking about?”

“I don’t want to lose what you and I had… before.” She didn’t want to say it, but I knew she meant- ‘before the divorce.’ She never said the word. “You and I used to be so close. I felt like you really trusted me, and I felt like we were handling this whole teenager thing pretty well.”

I squirmed. I knew what she meant. Before, I had been happy. Because I was happy, I didn’t need a lot of anything. But after… I needed more. I know my dad is the one who betrayed my mom. But I felt like he had betrayed me, too.



Monday, February 20, 2012

A Time For Flight


Our First Campaign Challenge has come! Over at Rach Writes, the challenge was presented:  

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”.

I'm a little late in joining the party, but here's my entry (and it's EXACTLY 200 words, thankyouverymuch): 

Shadows crept across the wall of the princess’s chamber, slowly and deliberately.

Someone was in the room.

Iliana kept her breathing steady and her body still. If this new attacker thought her still asleep, she might catch them by surprise, giving her just enough time to throw a spell at them. She had thought the protective charms she cast around her chambers would have kept any new would-be assassins at bay, but it seemed they found a way around them, once again.

The shadow did not slow at it approached her bedside as she had expected it to; most assassins needed a brief moment to prepare themselves before actually killing a person, particularly when that person was the princess of the realm, and a powerful sorceress in her own right.

Iliana gathered her strength, preparing for the blow, but it never came. Instead, a hand was quickly placed gently but firmly over her mouth, and the man dropped his face close to hers, whispering urgently.

“I know you are awake, Princess.” It was Michael, the captain of her personal guard. “The time has come. Your father is dead, your brother has ascended the throne, and your life is now forfeit.”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Responsible Reviewing

I review books. I'm not a professional. I don't make a living- I don't even make any money at all- doing this. Occasionally, I get some free books from authors asking for a review, and I've made some cool author friends. But that's the extent of my "perks" for being a reviewer.

I don't pretend like I have a lot of influence, either. Yes, there are about 600 people following my Goodreads reviews, 2,200 following me on Twitter and around 800 subscribers via RSS on the Fantasy Casting blog. Even with a fair amount of overlap, I admit that's a couple thousand people at least glancing at each review, but in the grand scope of things... that's not really a huge number. For most books, most authors, my review isn't going to change their sales, for good or for bad. (I will come back to this thought.)

So, if I'm not affecting an author's sales, why do it, right?

Here are my reasons:

1) I like doing it. That ought to be reason enough, but...

2) It stretches my skills as a writer. If I'm specifically watching for what works and what doesn't in another story, I can shape my own writing. I can try to learn from the pitfalls of others, and aspire to emulate those I admire (there are far more of these!)

3) I want people to have honest, no BS opinions of what I've read.

I know a lot of reviewers who have a policy of never, ever posting a negative review. This means that one of three things is happening. First, they are lying sometimes.

Or two, they're way too easily impressed and really do like everything, no matter what it is. These are the same people who will tell you that Olive Garden is "like, really, really good!" and that Michelle Branch rocks. This means you can't trust their opinion.

The last option is that these people dislike a book sometimes, but they just keep their mouth shut about it. Which is fine, but it doesn't really help anybody.

And here's where my opinion as a non-reviewing reader comes in: I want to know when something is worth my time. 

Story time: About a year ago, a book came out. As a book blogger and reviewer, I heard about this book quite a while before it hit shelves. I saw ARCs reviewed on other sites, and thought this book was going to change. my. life. The day it arrived, I put down whatever else I had been reading to start this book.

And it was terrible.

I wanted to shake every reviewer whom I had trusted and ask them "What in the world is the matter with you?!?!?!?!?!"

I wrote a review about this book. I gave it one star. I pointed out all the flaws (they were numerous). Most of those reviewers commented or tweeted or emailed me saying, "Oh, yeah, I saw all that stuff too, but *shrug* I just wanted to love it, so..." And I realized that, basically, these reviewers were caught up in the hype of the book that they forgot to be honest. They forgot that other readers see their reviews and use that information to make decisions about what to spend their time and money on. They were too busy "SQUEE"ing over the Next Big Thing to worry about whether or not it was actually good.

Now, I am not advocating for meanness, although Goodreads users do seem to love the meanness. That one-star review has garnered more comments and "likes" than almost all my other reviews combined. I was not mean, but I was brutally honest. (I think this author is actually very talented, and I said so in the review, but the book is terrible.)

But people want to know when a book sucks.

Now, remember how I said that "For most books, most authors, my review isn't going to change their sales, for good or for bad."? The exception to this is, of course, the fledgling or indie author. You know, the one who only has five ratings on Goodreads. One bad rating can really hurt their average and affect their sales.

So, I've made a habit of not marking an indie book on Goodreads until after I've finished it. If the review is good, it goes up. If it's bad, I contact the author to let them know. Since I enacted this policy, only ONE indie book review has gone up.

One.

All others? CRAP. (which makes me doubt the "threat" that self- and indie-publishing are really giving to traditional publishing, but that's another post for another time)

Usually when I tell an author that the review is not going to be positive, they say, "thanks but no thanks." and leave it at that.

However, recently, an author got mad at me. Said I should be more careful about accepting books to review. That somehow it's MY responsibility as a reviewer to make sure that the book is in my favorite genre, and that the book meets my standards for quality and that the author and I share similar opinions of what constitutes quality prior to them sending me a book.

I'm sorry. I thought that's what your marketing team is for.

Now, if you're an indie author, you are your own marketing team, but still. That's YOUR job, to make sure it gets into the hands of the proper reviewers. You can't send the next big teeny-bopper-vampire-love book to someone who lists Kafka as her favorite author (neither of these apply to me, just speaking hypothetically). And it's not the reader's job to say to the author/marketing team, "Um, excuse me, I think you've done your job wrong."

So, fellow reviewers: What do you think? Is it your responsibility to only post positive reviews? Is it your responsibility to make sure that every book coming your way is of your favorite genre? What is your responsibility? 

And to writers, I ask this: Do you think you (collectively, as a community of authors) deserve only praise? Should nothing ever be called out for being substandard? What role do you see reviews playing in sales?

And to readers: Do you rely on reviews? Have you ever been burned? How do you know if a review is worth trusting with your time and money?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Getting to know the campaigners

I didn't post about this when it started, but I joined in the Platform Builders' Campaign for the first time ever. I read about it on Julia King's blog and then again on Morgan Shammy's. If both of them are doing it, I pretty much have to, right? It's basically a way for aspiring and up and coming writers to get to know one another and help build each other up and support one another.

As part of this Campaign, there are a bunch of games and challenges and blog hops and blog rings and such.

Today (actually yesterday, but I had... drama yesterday, so I'm doing it today) it's basically a big game of bloggy-tag. I answer questions, tag eleven new people and ask them new questions. If you're curious, I was tagged by Mischa Gericke and Sophie.

1. Do you believe in fate? I don't, actually. I believe that we have choices and our choices affect everything we do. More of a butterfly effect, I guess. 
 
2. How the heck do you write and have a life?
  I don't. No, really. I don't have a lot of time outside the house. 
 
3. If you were in a written story, which character trope would you most likely have followed?
  I'm not entirely sure what this question means... do you want to know who I would literally follow around? Or which stereotypical-element-of-a-story I would match up with naturally? I would follow the hero and I would probably be the one screaming. If that helps, at all. 
 
4. Sweet or Savory?
Savory. I've never had a big sweet tooth, except during my second pregnancy. #37pounds

5. What's your big dream? Duh. To win the super-duper-powerball-300-million lottery.  Isn't everybody's?

6. Fondest memory? Disneyland. Every time, every age, it's the best.

7. What's your biggest wish? (world peace does not count) Does the lottery thing not count here, either? Cuz... that.

8. Would you rather have an exciting life and be alone or find the great love of your life and live a relatively normal one? Normal and in love. It's what I've already chosen. I wouldn't give up that partnership for any level of excitement, ever.

9. Have you ever done something, only to realize a half a second later that you made a mistake? Of course. Have *you* ever tried to put on liquid eye liner?

10. Did you try to go back and fix it, or did you follow through? No way. You gotta scrub your face clean and start over.

11. Do you edit while writing or after the draft is done? Both. Minor edits along the way, then a big overhaul, and then more minor edits while drafting additional/replacement scenes. 

1.When did you start writing? Officially? About a year ago. But really, I've been that weirdo telling myself stories my whole life. Only... I didn't know it was weird. 

2. Who are your literary heroes? (/favourite authors) Not authors... so... characters, I guess? Lucy Pevensie. 

3. What is your favourite fictional character? Uh... Lucy Pevensie. (psst... I feel like I've been here before.)

4. What genre(s) do you write? My current WIP is basically a romantic comedy. However, I have several in the pipeline that are speculative fiction, and that's where I'd like to end up, eventually. 

5. What is your favourite book, tv show and film? Book: Harry Potter (yes, that counts as one book) TV Show: Friends, Gilmore Girls or 30 Rock (I cannot pick between them) Film: When Harry Met Sally...

6. What is your favourite place you've visited in the world? Disney. Always. 

7. What is your favourite music? Late nineties/early millennial pop-punk OR eighties-nineties country OR late seventies arena rock.  But pretty much anything with a guitar. 

8. Have you ever written fanfic?/Opinions on it? No. I pretty much think it's a waste of time. There is no sense in striving so hard to capture somebody else's magic: Find Your Own.

9. Where is your favourite place to write?
At my computer. 

10. Tea or Coffee? ugh. If you're referring to a morning beverage, I pick orange juice. If you're referring to a caffeinated pick-me-up... I don't really do that often, but I guess it would be a Pepsi. If you're referring to the beverage I have on hand whilst writing and relaxing, it's water. 

11. Have you ever taken part in NaNoWriMo?/ Opinions on it? Sort of. I signed up in 2010 and totally forgot. I signed up in 2011 and started, but got sidetracked by some fascinating research and only completed about 25,000 words. But I did learn some AMAZING things. Next year. Maybe. 

OK, here are the eleven questions I am asking: 
1. What was the greatest live music experience you've ever had? 
2. What was your worst date ever?
3. If money is no object, what would your dream vacation be?
4. Would you rather live in a crowded city or small town?
5. Would you be willing to murder one innocent person if you knew it would guarantee an end to all world hunger? 
6. When did you last cry in front of somebody (who is not your partner)?
7. Would you be willing to endure night terrors- every night- for the rest of your life if you were given vast personal wealth to use however you wish in exchange?
8. If you could choose the manner of your death- but not the timing- what would you choose?
9. Would you rather switch back to black and white TV with only five channels, or no internet?
10. If you could use a voodoo doll to hurt somebody, would you do it?
11. What if the voodoo doll was only able to annoy them tremendously (for example: causes pervasive itching of genitals while in public, causes slight ringing in ears at nighttime, etc), would you do it?

And the eleven campaigners I am tagging: 
Barbara of Barbara's Meanderings
Jennifer Fischetto 
Carrie of Where I Get Wordy 
Amber of AmberAfterGlow
Jeigh of Writer Brained
Jolene Stockman of Everything is Possible
Melodie at Forever Rewrighting
Cindy M Hogan 
Celesta Rimington
The Great, The Good and The Bad
Tyler and Susan of The Feather and The Rose

However, because I have awesome blogging buddies that are not participating in this campaign, and because I did not specifically ask writers-only questions, I want to tag a few more folks: 
Libby from Eisparklz
Kirsti from A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings
Nicole of Sweeney Says
Kim of Kim in a Trope
Jessica of Faith Permeating Life
Jia of Untypically Jia

And... now I'm all brain farty and can't think of any more people at the moment. However, if you want to do it, please do and post a link in the comments (if you want, I'll even edit the post to add your name to it... I'll totally do it.)

What Harry Potter Taught Us...

I made this a few months back and posted it on the Fantasy Casting blog that I run. However, I think everybody needs to see it, and often:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Better Parenting Because of College

I love, love, love, love, LOVE my classes this semester.

On Tuesday mornings, I have a class called Infant and Mental Health. It's actually one of my few pre-approved electives, not one of my core, required courses. Instead of being part of the College of Education (which my program is), it is part of the College of Social Work. I am one of two people in the class who is not pursuing a Master's or PhD in Social Work.

So, I often have to ask the professor to explain clinical terms that she assumes everyone understands. I thought I knew what "borderline" meant. But I was wrong. (just to be clear: it does not mean that one is on the border between two adjacent/similar clinical diagnoses)

However, this class is making me a better parent.

The whole class is all about how early life interactions affect children in the short- and long-term. We talk about attachment disorders and how to correct them. We talk about developmental delays and how to encourage children to overcome them.

Of course, everybody else in the room is planning to use this information on strangers. (side note: is it weird that in a room of 50+ adults planning to become social workers, not ONE of them is a parent? no personal experience to draw from?)

I am planning to use it in my own life. Every single week we cover something I can use in my real life. Today, we talked about how to overcome the debilitating effects of extended hospitalizations on toddlers and preschoolers. Now, if my kid is ever seriously sick, I know how to best manage that situation, regardless of whether or not the hospital gives me the information.

I am better because of it.

Plus, you know, we get to watch videos of babies for three hours.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Oh, BOYS!

I definitely live in a house full of boys.

At dinner, if somebody burps, it is greeted with uproarious laughter. The laughter is broken for a brief instant to hear a stilted "excuse me."

Same thing if somebody farts.

Though that, thankfully, is not usually at the dinner table.

Usually.

I've convinced my son to eat more than one dinner by showing him how some kind of wild animal also consumes that same dinner. Salmon? Grizzly bears eat it. Ribs? Lions eat meat off the bone. Salad? I showed him the scene in Jurassic Park of the brachiosaurus eating greens. It's a pretty gross technique, but it seems to be working. 

Today, the following conversation was heard coming from the hall bathroom:
5 year old son: I have to pee!
3 year old son: But I have to pee, too!
5 year old son: Let's pee at the same time! One... Two... Three...


Monday, February 13, 2012

Worst Marriage Advice I Ever Got

Today, I am sharing with you the worst marriage advice I've ever received. Now, I'm not a professional psychiatrist or anything, but I'm sharing what works for me, and how my husband and I use common sense in our marriage.



"Once a cheater always a cheater"- While I haven't had personal experience with this, it is still a sentiment that bothers me greatly. The line, while being quite pithy and quotable, is explicitly saying that people can never change, never grow, never learn from their mistakes, and that we need to be militant in our judgment of others. The statement is being made that if a young man cheats on his girlfriend in college, at the age of 20, then you can never expect him to be faithful to a marriage; not at age 30, or 40 or even 50. He made a mistake and must be judged and held accountable for that mistake for the rest of his life.

"But wait!" I know you're thinking, "You're saying that if my husband/wife cheats on me, I should just take it and be okay with it?!?"

No.

That's an incredibly personal decision that relies on a lot of factors, most importantly (I believe), the penitence of the "cheater."

I think the phrase should be "Once a cheater, usually a cheater." It's difficult for people with abusive or pathological behaviors to change those behaviors. Therapy can help, time can help, but setbacks are likely, and not everyone can stand by and support that kind of behavior on the road to recovery. Nor should they have to, frankly.

I know that our lives are filled with shades of gray. I know that I would never want to be judged forever for my worst moments, my biggest mistakes, my heaviest regrets. In my experience, forgiveness and compassion are a very, very big part of a successful marriage, and there's not a lot of room for this kind of all-or-nothing judgment.

"When you get mad, just start kissing passionately, you'll forget why you were mad"- I've actually heard this from several sources, some of which are shocking in retrospect. I just think it's terrible advice, though. I think it's bad for a lot of reasons (and remember, I am not a trained mental health expert, this is opinion, based on a lot of reading of psychology textbooks and self-help type stuff).

1) You never actually solve the problem at hand. What if you're mad because he spent all the rent money on magic beans and green stockings? If you start kissing before you can discuss it, you never solve the problem of the beans and stockings. Bad choices become bad habits, bad habits drive wedges between happy people... and you know where that leads.

2) You start using sex instead of communication. Physical intimacy is important, but so is emotional and intellectual intimacy. Replacing the latter two with the first leaves two big, gaping holes in your marriage.

3) You develop an unhealthy attitude about sex and intimacy. This doesn't really take a doctoral degree to figure out: if you closely associate romance with anger or disappointment, it won't be long before those two are interchangeable and inseparable. Any romantic activity can easily make you feel angry, emotionally frustrated or disappointed.

"Never go to bed angry" - This is probably the most common marital advice given, period. I also happen to think it's some of the worst advice, period. I understand where it's coming from: you should talk about problems or conflicts as they come up, instead of waiting until you reach a boiling point and you "explode" (or "implode," depending on your personality type). However, when you vow to never go to bed angry, you are vowing to stay up all night long until you reach a solution that makes you both happy. No matter how long it takes. No matter how wrong or stubborn either of you are.


This, in my opinion, is a recipe for disaster.


Fatigue and frustration are a bad combination. Inevitably, somebody will say something they regret; an unkind word or phrase, an agreement to something they aren't happy about, or an outright lie, just to make the night and the fight be over. And you can never really take back the things you say. Even if you apologize, those words are still out there, bouncing around in your partner's head.


Instead, my husband and I sleep on things. If we're having a heated discussion that is important, but it is getting late, we say "I love you, but we're not going to fix this tonight. Let's get some rest and talk about it again tomorrow." A little bit of time and rest can help give us some perspective. Things that seemed big or daunting at 2 AM, probably aren't so bad in the light of day. Plus, we woke up next to each other again, so we know that we still have a partner by our side for whatever this problem is :)

This post was inspired by a discussion on 20 Something Bloggers. All the content here is based on my answers. If anybody would like to share their opinions, or their answers to that discussion, feel free to comment or get in touch with me, and I'll host you as a guest blogger. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rediscovering the music

I don't have an mp3 player.

Well, I do. But I don't have the little FM thingamajig that lets me listen to it on the radio. (Bonus: my spell check totally recognizes "thingamajig" as a real word.) My phone has storage space and a Pandora app, full of stations I've been carefully honing for years, but it has the same problem: no FM thingamajig.

In my old car, I had an auxiliary input to just plug the phone straight into the radio, but my new super-mom-ish minivan doesn't have that.

So I've been listening to the radio ever since we bought this van. And it sucks.

I got so fed up with it all that I went diving through the back of all our closets, looking for something that I just knew I would never have thrown away. And I was right. In the back of the playroom closet, underneath an extra computer monitor and my high school letterman's jacket (why do we have so much stuff???) I found it.

My CD collection.

Yessiree, 650 of the rockingest CDs ever. Well, to be honest, about 75 of those are my husband's. Including the Avril Lavigne album. No way am I taking responsibility for that. The techno? Yeah, it's mine. But not Sk8r Boi.

Now, you have to keep in mind that I started using mp3s exclusively in 2002, and was using them pretty extensively before that to find new music. You know, those one-off songs that I knew I was never in a bajillion years going to buy the CD. So most of the CDs in this collection were released in the nineties, with a few stragglers reaching all the way up to 2003 or so.

I am one hip and happening minivan driving, bass thumping mother.

No Doubt? New Found Glory?  Black Eyed Peas? Lit? Jimmie's Chicken Shack? NSYNC? My Chemical Romance? George Strait?

Alright, well George Strait has released several albums since then, but these were all eighties and nineties releases. In fact, the Latest, Greatest, Straitest Hits album was purchased during my senior year. In high school.

Today I drove around singing along to late nineties Clay Walker at the top of my lungs. Tomorrow, I think it's going to be Weezer's Blue Album kind of a day.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My new bedtime

I need a lot of sleep to function properly.

I know some people can get by with only five or six hours and be just fine, but I am not one of them. I need eight, preferably nine, to feel well-rested. Additionally, I have a very hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. I usually wake four or five times during the night, and then spend thirty to forty minutes trying to fall back asleep, each time.

And that's not counting all the times that kids/babies wake in the night needing my assistance.

Luckily, I've made some headway.

I finally got my three year old to sleep in his bed, all night long. Turns out, he gets really, really hot and was sweating so much that he woke himself up. He also, of course, refused to sleep without a blanket on his body. So, we switched his blanket, eliminated jammies and set up a fan in his room, solving that problem.

The baby is now sleeping all the way through the night and not falling out of his toddler bed, so that's a plus.

Now, it's all down to me.

I don't drink any caffeine, and I follow all the healthy nighttime rules: no food after 7 PM, no TV in the bedroom, no screens within thirty minutes of bedtime, all of it.

I started taking melatonin, an herbal supplement to help me sleep, and it's been wonderful. I can fall asleep in about thirty minutes, and then stay asleep all night.

It is BLISSFUL!

So, now to calculate my bedtime:

I want to get up about an hour before my kids do, so that I can shower, dress, read some scriptures and be ready for them when they wake. They wake at 5 AM. So, I need to wake at 4 AM.

I need nine hours of sleep, plus the thirty minutes to fall asleep. This I need to go to bed at 6:30 PM, which is one hour before their bedtime, and right around the time I finish eating dinner.

I will never be well rested.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An annoying trend:


There you go folks, the five steps you need to follow for your YA Novel to be an instant best seller.

Will novels NOT following this format become bestsellers? It's possible. But following these steps will ensure you the maximum amount of "SQUEEEEEEEE!!!!!!" upon your novel's release and eventual film adaptation.

So, follow these steps, and voilà (Or, as so many are taken to saying these days, WA-LA!), instant bestseller!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Moving

I am moving in a little less than six months. In some ways, that's a long time, but in others... not really.

I've moved a lot in the eight and a half years I've been married. I moved out of my parent's house and into a tiny apartment across town. Eight months later, we bought a house and moved. We stayed in that house for a little over two years before we decided to sell it and move to Texas (super long story, and this isn't the place for it). While that house was on the market, we lived with my sister-in-law (keeping a house realtor-ready with a one year old is a losing battle).

We finally moved to Texas, where we were in another tiny apartment waiting for the house in Scottsdale to sell. We were there for seven months before we decided to move back to Phoenix (another super long story, and this still isn't the place for it). In Phoenix, we lived in my parent's house while they were overseas. We were there for a year and a half before we moved across the country to Orlando for my husband to go to law school.

That's six homes in eight and a half years. And I'm getting ready to pack it all up again.

And in mentally preparing for this move, I've finally noticed a terrible pattern of behavior of mine. I find myself looking around and (basically) saying, "Forget it!"

Usually, I'm a fairly organized person. I have ginormous to-do lists: one for daily chores, one for weekly chores, one for monthly chores, one for a set of organizational chores that I do in a different room each week. With little kids, the house is never clean, but I do my best.

However.

With a move on the horizon, I find myself mentally crossing things off the to-do list, because I figure it doesn't matter.

Fixing the wallpaper in the boys' room? Bah. I have to take it all down soon anyway.
Organizing my closet? Bah. It's all being separated into boxes shortly.
Scrub the carpets? Bah. I need to have them professionally steamed before we leave.
Touch up wall paint? Bah. It's gonna get dinged when we move furniture, I'll do it all when we are done.

You can see the danger in this line of thinking: My house will look like transient hoarders with a penchant for crayon-wall-art live here.

Is this extreme laziness? Or some new evolutionary stage of self-psyche-preservation?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dear High School Gina,

Today, I am writing a letter to my high school self. If you happen to be a long, long time follower of my family blog (which I will not link to and is not searchable- so please don't try), then maybe you've read part of this before.

But I doubt it. Because about six people read that blog every day. And two of them are my parents. So... yeah.

Anyway, in regards to this Dear High School Me letter, most people's messages probably have a lot to do with the Nike theme of "Just Do It." You know, dance even though you don't know how, go ask out that guy/girl because the embarrassment is not real and the possibility that you will have a good time is, etc.

I don't think I needed those messages. My high school self struggled in a different way, I guess.

Dear High School Gina,
Waaaaasssuuuuuuup.
Uh, yeah. I graduated in 2000, which means that this commercial was THE Super Bowl Commercial of the year:
and High School Gina would not recognize Future Gina if she did not use the Waasssuuuuup greeting, as High School Gina thought that this was the appropriate greeting for all occasions. Please don't stop being my friend.

I am talking to you from the future, and I have a few tips for you.

1. Talk softer. Yes, I know, not everybody on campus will hear you at once if you dialed it down a notch, but you will be so much more pleased with the way you come across in videos if you could just ratchet it back a bit.

2. Be a little LESS individualistic. Yes, this is contrary to popular advice; but someday you will regret wearing overalls, camo print, a pink plastic whale necklace, glitter eyeshadow, crimped hair, butterfly clips, sneakers and your Letterman's jacket. At the same time. Pay attention to what others around you are doing and maybe, just maybe, try to follow at least a little bit of what they are doing. This is called "avoiding extremes" and "being normal", and it is a skill you will need to perfect at some point, so get a little head start now; you'll have less catch up to do later.


3. The juniors department is for girls without curves. The misses department is for girls with curves. And by "curves", I don't mean "big thighs, stomach and bra fat" I mean the real meaning of the word : breasts and hips. You don't need a size 13, you need a size 4. Just because you developed early doesn't mean you are fat, you're just a different shape. Go shop on the other side of the store, you'll feel better about yourself.



4.  Smile in pictures. You look prettier. Less funny, perhaps, but prettier.

I rest my case.


5. Don't worry that you aren't dating a bunch (at all) in high school. Someday you'll actually be glad that you didn't kiss 15 guys before you graduated. You will share your "list" with somebody someday and you'll be glad it's short. Very short.

Besides, you marry this hotty patotty... don't even sweat it.

6. Your mom is right. You are intimidating. Later on, this will be referred to as "leadership" and "management potential" and you will be paid gobs of money for having it.

7.  Be honest with yourself as to what your skills are. You may think that you are "supposed" to be good at certain things, but you aren't. Just because you are smart doesn't mean you are good at everything. Figure out NOW what you are ACTUALLY good at, not what you WANT to be good at. You'll save yourself a ton of money and time in college. Speaking of college...

8.  Prepare for college. Take all the classes that your adviser advises. Yes, you can get in without taking calculus, but take it anyway. Take the AP tests, not just the classes. Take the SAT, not just the ACT. When you're in college, you'll want more time to take important classes, like the History of Rock and Roll and Literature vs. Film, instead of wasting time on College Algebra, Biology and World History when you already completed all the work to receive credit. Take the stupid tests.

9.  Put down the Snickers bars and Pepsi. I know, your metabolism is fantastic and right now you can burn through 5,000 calories a day and stay 130 lbs, but it won't always be that way. After you have 3 babies in 4 years, it will much easier to get back to 130 pounds if your favorite foods are not pizza, Snickers, Pepsi, Oreos, cheeseburgers and enchiladas. Branch out and learn to love some veggies.

Seriously, I am holding my lunch for that day.

10.  Don't try to steal that girl's boyfriend. You will succeed, but, ironically, you will be the only one hurt. (She will forgive you not because she is naive or stupid, but because she is a better person than you)

11. Those girls that you think are your best friends? The ones that you will "always" keep in touch with? Guess what. You do. Fourteen years after meeting, you still love them just as much now as you did then. You all have not been in the same state at the same time in... nine years? Is that right? But, my point is, don't listen when teachers and parents tell you that you won't stay friends with your high school friends. These are some of the greatest friends of your life.





While we are on the subject of high school, my husband and I had some common ground in high school. We were both in marching band:


And apparently red and black and white are the only acceptable high school colors...

And yes. My cape has been flipped up onto my head, I am crossing my eyes and sticking my tongue out the side of my mouth. You're welcome. Now you know, for a fact, there was somebody way, way nerdier than you in high school. 

We also graduated the same year (from different schools on opposite sides of town).

And then there is the matter of our proms:

Notice anything similar? How's that for cliche?