A New Toy To Play With

Saturday I had an Arbonne party. It’s a home party similar to Mary Kay, Tupperware and the like. I put out a spread of food and some drinks, invited a few friends and had a nice afternoon planned.

Two of my friends brought their girls – one our five year old God Daughter. The other was a sweet little two year old name Addy. I was a bit worried about how these two might sit through the presentation, but we had snacks and a few toys for them to amuse themselves with so it went well at first. When they became a little restless, I sequestered them to a section of carpet with new toys and they continued to play blissfully for a while.

As the afternoon wore down the youngest became increasingly restless and I realized how little there was to do in my home for kids. I felt bad. I tried enticing her with snacks and with the few toys I had, but she was not having it.

Just then my husband came home. Apologetic for interrupting the party he scurried through the living room, went to his desk and occupied himself on the computer. Of course, our five year old wouldn’t stand for that! Now she had Uncle John to play with and she would show Addy what fun it could be! Soon she was tugging his arm and asking him to play with them. He tickled her and turned away from his desk.

I turned my focus back to the party and didn’t notice their antics until we all heard barking from their corner. Yes, barking. John had convinced the two girls that they were all doggies and they were barking (or speaking) to one another. How adorable! Imagine a grown man now on his hands and knees facing two small girls on their hands and knees. He would bark. They would respond in kind. *bark!* *bark!* Each time the little ones would bounce with glee when they all had responded to one another. What fun!

Soon the girls were in hysterics.

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As they bounced on our chairs and playfully swatted each other with pillows, John continued to engage them in the revelry. The girls now were entertained, but I noticed John had snagged a huge section of the rug as a makeshift bed. They played and bounced about him, lightly smacking his upturned knees or calling out his name to garner his attention while he lay on the floor – already spent from the activities. Addy would tap his knee ever so slightly and, as John yelped in mock pain, would go running to Mama across the room – a bright smile on her face. Megan would laugh and encourage her to do it again.

And so it went.

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At last, it was time to leave and Megan declared “I don’t want to go. I could stay here forever!” John groaned from his position on the floor and the rest of us laughed. The two mothers inquired as to how much his fee was for ongoing babysitting duties to which he declared “You can’t afford me!”

We hugged the girls goodbye, despite their protests, and shooed them off with their mothers promising to do it all again real soon. I felt better about not having toys to play with for the little ones, because, after all, who needs toys when you have Uncle John?

 

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Helpful Household Fridays – The Grocery Store

Getting groceries used to be such a chore to me. I don’t really enjoy large amounts of people and I always seem to find the aisle with a pair of neighbors chatting. When I lived by myself I never created a very firm list, so I would end up trekking to the store several times a week, which made the task even more unappealing. Plus if I did write down a small list, when I would remember items I needed, I would then promptly lose the paper. Then, once at the store I would become easily distracted and end up buying more than I needed.

I was wasting my time and efforts.

Then I met my husband. He promptly started a new way of grocery living for me.

1) Once a week shopping: We only go to the store once a week. Unless there is an emergency – like unexpected guests coming to stay – we wait until that day to get what we need. If you keep a good list it’s easy not to make multiple trips.

2) Keeping a good list: We keep a list of items that we need ongoing right on our fridge. We have one of those long list magnet things and each of us add to the list throughout the week as we run out of items (or with things like toilet paper and paper towels, when it’s getting close to running out.) When grocery day comes we cut off the piece that contains our list (saving paper!) and head to the store. In addition, when I have coupons I want to use I pull them from the clip next to the list and attach them behind the magnet. Those coupons – and only those coupons – go with us to the store. So we’re not sifting through massive amounts of paper at the checkout or in the middle of the store. The importance of item number 2 helps to eliminate multiple trips to the store – thus saving time and money.

3) Keep to the list: My husband’s motto is: if it ain’t on the list – we don’t get it. I’m a little more lax in that thinking – especially since I am the cook. Sometimes you just see something that you want to try or you forgot that Aunt Ethel was coming for Sunday brunch. It’s okay to go off the list for 3-5 items – MAX. Many times my hubby will hit the store without me though because I am known to be an impulsive shopper. It’s good to have someone to keep you in check if you know this is your Achilles heel too.

4) Utilize a staples list: I’m now learning to add certain staples in a rotating fashion to our list. For instance: some weeks we buy a container of small mushrooms. I can add them to stir fry’s and casseroles easily for a quick fix meal. Asparagus is also becoming one of our favorite staples because it can be easily steamed or sauteed.  Some other quick fix items: olive oil (I have several flavors too), minced garlic (you can buy it already minced. I keep mine in the fridge for easy use, but I do often buy whole garlic too. It is fresher tasting, but takes more time), frozen meatballs, frozen shrimp, broccoli, pasta (we mostly use spaghetti, but occasionally I buy others to mix it up. And we always use whole wheat pasta), Spam (don’t knock it. It comes in low sodium now and I love it – in moderation), tuna, and rotisserie chickens.

With the above items in place it takes much less time at the store and I don’t get so agitated. Plus, my pantry is well stocked and so is my wallet – since I’m not spending willy nilly on items I don’t need!

However, now I rarely even go to the store. My list is thorough and my hubby knows how I roll so it’s easy for him to go on his own. We still sometimes go together and maybe catch breakfast on the way. It can be sort of like a date. Although my husband likes to go at “0 dark thirty” as he calls it, so many times I do not tag along.

What tips and tricks to do you that make grocery shopping easier?

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Don’t get cocky

When I was growing up and we would go on vacation trips, my mom and I always skipped the drinks because my dad was not one to stop for rest areas. We needed to make time! The faster we got somewhere, the more family time we’d have. Even it it meant the women in the family practically peed their pants.

I remember back to one particular trip back from Lancaster county. Mom and I were whining pretty desperately for a bathroom break and we knew that our favorite Hardee’s was up ahead. (We used to call it Halfway Hardee’s because it was about halfway home and a welcome rest stop.) Suddenly Dad pulled the car over the side of the road and used the “roadside facilities.” I hate men sometimes for this. Mom and I writhed uncomfortably waiting it out, knowing we’d soon be to Hardee’s. But then Dad didn’t stop. We were mad, but I learned one thing from this experience:

Learn to hold it.

To this day, I can hold it for almost any trip. So much so that my husband had deemed me “The Camel”. He tells everyone who will listen “oh, we didn’t have to stop. My wife is the Camel.” I can drink a large iced tea from Dunkin’ and make it two hours without a stop. It’s a thing of beauty. And I have gotten, perhaps, a bit conceited about this. I actually am proud of my camel moniker.

BUT my pee holding ability was seriously tested just the other week when we traveled to Missouri. No, I didn’t hold it the entire trip to MO. That would have been… well, hard.

On the first morning we were in Missouri our host took us out on his pontoon boat. I didn’t realize that we would be out on the lake so long and I had to urinate pretty bad when we got back. My title of “Camel” was being compromised. So I had to find a work around. Then several of my boat mates explained that we could pee in the lake. What a concept! So the next day I donned my swimsuit and was prepared to make it a happier, less painful, trip.

My sister-in-law brought along a large pickle jar full of sangria. Knowing that I could just let it all loose into the lake, I sucked down glass after glass. The afternoon on the lake was beginning to look pretty appealing. Then… it hit me. The urge to go… and the knowledge that I couldn’t go in the lake. I tried, but it just wouldn’t happen. It’s funny how trained we are to sit on a little seat to do our business…

Defeated, I returned with my crew, who had all been able to go in the lake, to the boat. After about 3 hours. And about 4 glasses of sangria. I felt good and bad all at the same time.

As we loaded back onto the boat, I mentioned to my captain that I really had to go. He hit the throttle and we were off. (The first of my many blessings…) tAlthough it wasn’t a long trip back – it seemed like several days. I mouthed to my husband several times that I was in serious pain. I doubled over in pain and winced as we hit several wake waves.

When I (finally) stepped off the boat, one of my vacation mates, who had stayed behind to enjoy the pool, saw me across the dock and motioned for me to the nearest bathroom. (Yes, apparently she could tell by my duck walk that I had to GO.) May God bless her and her children for the next decade (at the least.) (My second blessing.)

I have never, ever, been so happy to see a semi-clean bathroom. I’m not sure how long I was in there, but they had the boat all cleaned off and they were busy relaxing back in the condo.

Although I was in serious pain, I still held onto it until we got back so… I guess my moniker still stands. But I don’t think I’ll test it again to such a stiff extent.

The moral to my story??

Don’t get cocky.

And learn to pee in the lake.

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The Importance of Editing

There is nothing that makes me crazier than reading a really good novel, the author has a great premise and I’m seriously invested in the characters… BUT the author makes some dumb mistake that takes me right out of the story.

I’m reading this decent novel about mind readers. I really enjoy the premise and I even bought the second book in the series because the first one wrapped me up so well in the story. I noticed in the first one that the author used some lame cliches, but I forgave him because the story intrigued me.

Then I started reading the second book. Now I’m pissed because I spent money on this book and the same cliches are being used on almost every page. This is the importance of editing folks. Have someone, besides yourself and apart from a family member or best friend, read your work before you publish it.

Here’s why:

This author’s main character has a heart issue. Or at least I think she should see a cardiologist because “her heart beats wildly against her chest” every time there is a slightest bit of suspense in her life. After I noticed this phenomenon the first time, I noticed frequently throughout the book. I even pointed it out to my husband when the author had used this exact phrase in two paragraphs in a row. Then the author even realizes that he is using it so much that his character says “I was seriously beginning to think I was going to have a heart attack from the way my heart kept beating wildly about my chest” – DUH! Then write it a different way! Maybe her breathing becomes shallow. Or her hand flutters to her throat. Or she has to remember to breathe.

Another example:

All the men in these novels “rake their hands through their hair” every time they are frustrated. Seriously this men should be bald by now. There is a lot of raking going on in these books. And not in the yard. In the first book I thought “Oh well, this is this guys quirk.” Then in the second novel two other male characters do it. Constantly.

There are so many words in the English language and so many ways to convey feelings, thoughts and emotions. Don’t get stuck on one and use it throughout your work. This creates a dull book.

Oh, and in these novels all the men (and most of the women) are stunning. Gorgeous specimens of the species. All of them. The main character hasn’t met a single person that wasn’t absolutely perfect. This is not real life. People are ugly. People have scars and nail biting habits and don’t go to the gym. If you want people to read your work then it has to be plausible. Having a book full of perfect, slightly obsessive compulsive about their hair, people who just happen to be mind readers – does not a good novel make. What are their other quirks? What was their home life like? Did they have surgery to look this good or were they born this way? Where are all the ugly people? Did the mind readers kill them?

Yes, I’m still reading this book. I’m kind of compulsive that way myself – I like to finish what I start no matter how horrible it is. And, no, I’m not going to slam the author by calling them out here. But, yes, I am going to write an Amazon review. And not to be mean, but because I think this book could be AWESOME if the author would have spent just a bit more time tightening these minor issues. I want him to aspire to make it better. He could have a best seller on his hands if only he’d take the time to polish. And edit.

And before anyone calls me out on this blog and all the typing and grammatical errors I’ll say this: I write from the cuff. I don’t edit a lot of my blog, but I try to use correct punctuation and grammar so my reader doesn’t get sidetracked. BUT blogs, to me, are basically journals. A personal insight to me. I’m not always error free and I don’t make money on my blog. My point is when you want to sell your work and become rich and famous… take the time to edit.

What novels have you read lately that could have benefited from a good edit?

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How does one “rest”?

Just recently I’ve been kind of running around like a chicken with its head cut off. (Who am I kidding – this has been my life pretty much – not just recently.) I have a lot on my plate and have begun to feel very run down, but the tasks never seem to be ticked off the list. They just seem to annoyingly keep piling up. Although I’m sleeping (Thanks Ambien!) it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m resting. I keep saying to my husband: I just need some rest. I just need some rest.

As I heard myself repeating this to him again a couple of days ago, I wondered “How do I get some rest when I have so much to do?”

So I looked it up:

Rest is:

1. the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep (Got this one covered. Again – THANKS AMBIEN!)

2. refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labor (Does collapsing into bed count?)

3. relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs. (Uh… nope)

4. a period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquility (Huh?)

5. mental or spiritual calm; tranquility. (Again… huh?)

Wow. Is it just me or does anyone else realize that they almost never have any of these moments? Especially that last one. “Tranquility?” What does that one mean? Yesterday I can’t really remember pausing to take a breath. I got up at 6:45; wrote a blog post; ate breakfast; took care of the dog; got ready for work; went to a doctor’s appointment; went to work (crazy busy ALL day); came home; snarfed down dinner; went to church to do some painting that needed done; had choir practice; painted some more… collapsed around 9:30pm. I’m sure I did breathe in there because I’m still alive and all… but I don’t remember it. In fact, most of the day was a blur.

Sure I got a lot done, but did I rest at any point? Did I take time to refresh myself as it says above? Were there any mentally tranquil times? uh… nope. (Women can I get an “Amen”? Are we ever  mentally tranquil?)

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No wonder I feel exhausted!

As a Christian, I know the bible says “find rest in the Lord” and I began to contemplate that. “Find rest in the Lord”… how do you do that? My husband said “You need to remember that all of this is God’s. He will take care of it.”

And this is why I think so many folks don’t like Christianity. We are entirely too vague sometimes. So God will take care of the dog? He’ll take care of the trash? The lawn? My job?

Not really.

I still have to do these things. I’ve made commitments and I need to still be responsible. I can’t just say, from my reclining position on the couch, watching the third season of Friends for the hundredth (who’s kidding who – THOUSANDTH) time: “Hey God – what the heck man? That trash should have been taken out yesterday dude!” It’s certainly blasphemous and I don’t think I’m going to see the trash magically disappear. If we lounged around all day “resting” crap wouldn’t get done.

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I LOVE this – and it’s very true. We do get stuff done. But maybe it conveys the wrong message. What about taking care of ourselves too and finding rest when we need it. Maybe Tina Fey has that figured out. I don’t.

Yet.

So what does “finding rest in God” really mean?

I don’t actually know yet. I’m working on it. In fact, our pastor has a questions and answers sermon series where he answers questions from the congregation. Guess which one I’ve proposed? Although, I have a sneaky suspicion it means I need to actually stop for at least a fraction of my day and focus on Him. In fact, even if I wasn’t Christian, finding rest would probably mean to just STOP and breathe for awhile.

Now there’s a concept.

Probably why all these “Keep Calm” memes are so trendy now.

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How do you find rest? What actions do you take to find that peaceful moment in your day?

 

 

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Where is my rest?

Today’s blog post is coming to you from my slap dash life. Typically I write my posts at least a day ahead (shocking, I know), but late last night I realized: I hadn’t written anything for today.

In the last two weeks alone I’ve traveled to and from Missouri, been the busiest I’ve ever been at my day job (with little to no help from the co-workers who apparently think I’m Super Woman), helped with a church remodeling project, hosted my in-laws for several days, been sick and then, yesterday, my dog got sick. Really sick. My pooch is my fur baby. It’s been with me through thick and thin and when he hurts – I hurt.

To say it was the last straw is to say it mildly. I missed a large chunk of work to deal with his illness (he’s okay now) and missed posting this blog post.

But the die hard blogger that I am got up early today to get it out to my adoring fans. And this is why I say “Where is my rest?”

I don’t rest. I sleep. I get the requisite 8 hours or so. But I don’t rest. I’m beginning to think I don’t know how.

The Bible says to take rest in the Lord. Whelp… sadly one of the first things to go in my busy schedule is my devotions with God. So it’s hard to seek rest in Him, when some days I forget to chat with Him.

But I’ve been feeling run down and in need of rest. So. Here’s ends today’s blog – I’m going to go rest.

Tell me how you find rest. What do you cut out from your busy schedule in order to get things done that, perhaps, you need to add back in for that restful period?

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Book Review: Scream by Mike Dellosso

I’m trying something new here on my blog: book reviews. I read a lot of books on my Kindle, but most of them are free (because I’m cheap) and you typically get what you pay for… so they aren’t usually worth reviewing. BUT I recently added a few new books to my repertoire by author Mike Dellosso. 

I recently met Mike at a local writing conference and bought a few “real” books from him. I read one and was hooked on his style, but I love my Kindle so I haven’t gotten back to read the other. It’s so hard to read “real” books anymore in bed! (*said in whiny voice*)

So I downloaded a few more of Mike’s books from Amazon and a few days ago starting reading “Scream” on my Kindle. Mike’s books are all from a Christian perspective, but involve murder and the other ugly things of the world. I love these kinds of murder mystery novels… I never thought I would and often would make fun of my Grandmother for reading such books. Now I’m just like her. And Mike is my author of the moment.

First off – Mike head hops. If you don’t know what I mean it’s when an author writes from the perspective of various characters in the story. A lot of people will tell you this is a big no no for writing, but Mike does it fairly well and it never bothers me. He uses different chapters to keep it organized, so I don’t mind it. In fact, I kind of love it. It makes the book so dimensional – you see the story from so many perspectives it seems like a real world event. Before I know it – I’m wrapped up good and not wanting to put it down.

This particular novel starts with a guy named Mark. He is talking with his friend on the phone when he hears this horrific screaming noise. He plays it off as cell phone interference until his friend dies shortly thereafter. When Mark continues to hear these screams during phone calls and people keep dying, he knows something else is afoot.

Laced into this story line are smaller ones with various characters that relate back to the bigger picture. By the end it all blends so seamlessly together in a climax that left me breathless. I seriously had to remind myself to breathe. 

Mike definitely has a style and I kind of figured out the surprise before the end, but it didn’t impact how Mike’s writing kept me engaged – he keeps the pages turning right up until the end. I will definitely be reading more by this author.

If you’d like to meet Mike Dellosso he’ll be teaching four workshops at our upcoming conference in October. Check out our website for more details! West Branch Christian Writers Conference 

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