Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bringing words to life

Today is the last day of May and therefore the final day of the Blog Me MAYbe blogfest. I admit I'm a little sad; I've had a great time writing these posts. Still, this morning I'm excited to introduce you to a man who, along with Ted Kooser, has had a great deal of influence on my writing: May I tell you something about Billy Collins?

Billy Collins at D.G. Wills Books, La Jolla, San Diego.
Photo by Marcelo Noah.
Collins is an American poet who served two terms as the U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003). He writes about everyday, ordinary aspects of life in a very conversational and accessible way, and Bruce Weber of The New York Times once called him "the most popular poet in America."

I began reading Collins' poetry about a year ago, and during my research, I learned that several artists have worked to create animated videos of some of his poems, bringing them to life even more vividly than the poet's words alone. I'd like to share a few of these short videos with you today. I hope you enjoy them.

"Now and Then" -- read by Billy Collins and animated by Eun-ha Paek of Milky Elephant:

"The Country" -- read by Billy Collins and animated by Brady Baltezor of Radium:

"The Dead" -- read by Billy Collins and animated by Juan Delcan of Spontaneous:

"Forgetfulness" -- read by Billy Collins and animated by Julian Grey of Headgear:

(You can find more of Collins' animated poems on YouTube.)

Do you have a favorite poet or poem? What do you think of animated poetry?

* * * * *

Photo credit:

Billy Collins. Photo by Marcelo Noah ( [CC By 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The other one about the celebrities

Image courtesy of
Billy Frank Alexander,

It's Wednesday again and time for Blog Me MAYbe's "May I ask something about you?" day. I had a great time reading your responses to yesterday's post about my encounters (and near encounters) with celebrities, and now I want to hear more. My question for you today is this:

If you could meet any celebrity, who would it be?

Since I can't go back in time (yet!) to meet Scott Speedman on that street in New York City, I started thinking about other celebrities I'd love to talk to, and although there are many, here are two that are near the top of my list:

Ozzy Osbourne: I mentioned in this post that Ozzy has always been one of my favorite singers, and he's definitely someone I'd love to meet. Here's one of his videos, a cover of The Beatles' "In My Life." I chose it because I like how it features so many photographs and images from Ozzy's career and personal life.

Tom Hanks: Hanks is a wonderful actor and someone who seems to be an all-around nice guy. I loved him in Forrest Gump, A League of Their Own, Cast Away, Larry Crowne... And who can forget all the great films he did with Meg Ryan?

This is one of my favorite scenes from A League of Their Own. Dottie (Geena Davis) has quit the team right before the World Series, and Jimmy (Hanks) gives her a piece of advice that I think of often when I'm writing:

And for something lighter, here's a clip from an interview Hanks did on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She asks him what he does when he's just at home being Tom Hanks, and his answer is hilarious (if a little uncouth):

It's your turn: Which celebrity would you like to meet?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The one about the celebrities

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Since today is Blog Me MAYbe's "May I tell you something about myself?" day, I thought I'd share a little about my minor (but still exciting for me) brushes with celebrity.

Several years ago, I was in New York City for a few days with my husband. He was working, so I had my days free to explore. One of the things I loved to do was walk around and take in the sights and the people around me. New York is such a great place for writers!

Scott Speedman at the New York film premiere
of Barney's Version in January 2011.
Photo by Justin Hoch,
photographing for Hudson Union Society.
During one of my walks, I saw a man sitting alone on a stoop and looking as though he might be waiting for someone. He was very familiar to me, and it took me about a nanosecond to realize that he was Scott Speedman, an actor I knew from one of my all-time favorite television shows, Felicity. To say I was excited would be an understatement!

I couldn't believe that I'd actually seen him--and I was surprised that no one else seemed to notice him--so I walked down to the end of the block, turned back, and walked past him again. Sure enough, it was Scott, and this time he made eye contact with me and smiled! (I smiled back, of course.)

I continued past him to the other end of the block, turned the corner, and called my sister. Her response to my excitement? "Who's he?" Oh, well. I decided to cross the street and stare look at him some more from over there. (I didn't want him to think I was stalking him.) Later, when I was back at the hotel and had time to process the event, I became upset with myself for not speaking to him. I still kick myself about that, all these years later.

Actor Ed Westwick on the set of Gossip Girl,
 season 4 on July 6, 2010.
Photo by Audrey Aït Kheddache.
My second brush with celebrity was more recent and started on Twitter. First I should say that, despite my "advanced" age, I love watching Gossip Girl, a teen drama series. One of the stars of that show is Ed Westwick, a British actor who, like Hugh Laurie, has the most remarkable American accent. (His character is American.) I've had kind of a married-old-lady crush on Ed since I first saw him on the show. My husband jokes that I'm being ridiculous. I say the same about him and his crush on Renée Zellweger. We've agreed to no longer speak of these things...

Several months ago, I noticed that Ed was on Twitter, so I followed him. One day I saw that he was online and responding to tweets, so I decided to try my luck and send him one myself. He ended up retweeting me, which made me schoolgirlish-ly excited. Then a few weeks later, he tweeted that he was moving over to Formspring, so, fangirl that I am, I followed him there. (Formspring is a question and answer social network.) I asked him about the best moment of his life so far, and he actually chose to answer my question, responding, "Meeting the one!" Wow: an actual comment from Ed Westwick! I floated on air for days after that.

So there you have it: the story of my celebrity encounters. Have you ever had any brushes with celebrity?

* * * * *
Photo credits:

Scott Speedman. Photo by Justin Hoch (, photographing for Hudson Union Society ( [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ed Westwick. Photo by (
[CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 28, 2012

A conversation with my muse

Charis, still protecting her identity.
Photo by Jiri Hodan
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

So last night Charis and I were talking. (Well, I was talking. She was filing her nails and watching a rerun of I Love Lucy. She thinks she has something in common with Lucille Ball, but other than the red hair, I just don't see it.)

Me (fists clenched and pacing in front of the computer): Charis, you've got to help me! I don't know what to write for tomorrow's blog post. It's "May I tell you something about writing?" day, and I'm out of ideas. Give me something. Quick!

Charis (smiling at something Lucy did): Hmm?

Me (standing in front of the TV and flailing my arms): Are you listening to me? You're supposed to be my muse. Inspire me!

Charis: (looking at me and flipping her perfect red hair over her shoulder): Listen: don't yell at me. I don't have to be here, you know. Your cable is crap, and you never have anything decent to eat. Maybe I should go back to Bermuda. (She starts to stand up.)

Me (sighing and sitting down in front of the computer): No, no. Stay here, okay? I just need a blog post topic. Can you give me one? Please?

Charis (uncapping her fuchsia nail polish and filling the air with noxious fumes): You do this all the time, you know. Write about it. Simple.

Me (voice rising in frustration): Do what all the time? Write what?

Charis (suddenly beside me with her face two inches from mine; I notice she's been drinking my Pinot Grigio and make a mental note to apologize to my husband for blaming him): Write. About. What. You. Need. To. Do. In. Order. To. Write.

Me (thinking out loud): You mean like the post I did about my quirks, except this time focusing on my writing quirks? Hmm, that's not bad.

Charis (standing in the doorway): Of course it isn't. It's a great idea. Now if you'll excuse me, there's somewhere I have to be.

Me: Charis, wait! When will you be back?

But she was already gone.

* * *

Fast-forward to this morning:

I haven't seen Charis since last night. I hope she's not taking another three-month leave of absence. I've been mulling over a new story idea and could definitely use her help. Oh, well. She's fickle, but I like her anyway.

Anyway, as Charis suggested, today I'm going to write about some of my writing habits. I'm sure I share a lot of them with other writers, but some may seem a little quirky.

Photo by Petr Kratochvil
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
1. As you might have noticed in my conversation with Charis, I'm a pacer. Whenever I get stuck on a scene or can't think of the right word or am having trouble with ideas, I get up and walk around. Something about the act of moving seems to help my mind break free of its clog so I can think again. I'm very specific about my pacing, though: it has to be done in a straight line, back and forth, and woe to the person (or animal) who gets in my way. Just ask our cat.

2. I write best in the morning, before everyone else is awake. I do write late at night as well, but the words usually come more slowly and I find myself taking nap breaks. Sometimes those breaks last all night.

Image courtesy of John De Boer
3. I can't begin writing in the morning unless I have a cup of coffee beside me. I don't have to drink it; it just has to be there.

4. I need silence when I write. Otherwise, I can't hear the voices in my head.

5. If my writing is going really slowly, I make myself work in 100-word bursts. I'll write 100 words, then get up, walk around, get a snack, read a few pages of some book... Seeing my word count increase this way makes me feel productive, even if most of the words will need to be tossed out later.

Image courtesy of  Billy Frank Alexander
6. When I write longhand, which I often do when I'm   brainstorming a new idea, I cover about half of each page with doodles of flowers and faces. I don't know why.

7. Like most writers do, I usually keep a pen and a small notebook with me so that I can capture the ideas that come to me when I'm away from my computer. If I don't have a notebook, I'll write on whatever I can find--the backs of receipts, notes from my son's school, my hand, the arm of the guy standing next to me... (Okay, I only did that once. He wasn't as thrilled about my idea as I was.)

8.  I always write the first draft of poems in longhand. I feel more connected to the words that way.

9. I have a bad habit of wanting the first page of a new story to be absolutely perfect before I move on to the next page. Even if I end up changing the beginning after the whole piece is written, I still need to polish it as much as possible before I can go on with the rest of the story.

10. I act out dialogue as I write it, facial expressions and all. (This is yet another reason I rarely write in public.)

11. When the words are flowing, I go into a writing trance, and when I come out of it, I sometimes find myself chewing on the neck of my shirt. I have no idea why I do this, but it's probably a good thing that my writing uniform consists mainly of old T-shirts.

So tell me, what are your writing quirks?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday inspiration

Happy Sunday! I hope you're having a great holiday weekend.

I have two inspiring videos to share with you today, both featuring an amazing dance company called Pilobolus. In the first clip, the group showcases Oscar movies in a unique way:

The next video is from the group's performance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in July 2008:

You can find more Pilobolus performances on YouTube.

What inspiring things have you seen or heard recently?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The one where I do things FRIENDS style

"I have a question..."
Image courtesy of Vikki Taylor,
Happy Saturday!

Recently, two wonderful blogging friends, Eliza at Ellie's Blank Book and Tara at Tara Tyler Talks, were kind enough to honor me with some awards. They both presented me with the Kreativ Blogger award, Eliza gave me the One Lovely Blog award, and Tara handed me the Versatile Blogger award. Thank you both for thinking of me! Be sure to check out their amazing blogs, and take a look at my sidebar to see the fresh look Tara gave her awards.

I'm going to change things up a bit with these awards. Instead of giving ten random facts about myself, I'm going to focus only on the questions Eliza presented me, answering them with clips from one of my all-time favorite television shows: FRIENDS.

Here we go!

1. What is your favorite song? The answer could only be Phoebe's "Smelly Cat":

2. What is your favorite dessert? It's definitely not Rachel's trifle:

3. When you are upset, what do you do? I think Ross says it best:

4. What is your favorite pet? It's not this one:

5. Do you prefer to wear black or white? I like white, but not this white:

6. What is your biggest fear? I don't know if I'd call this my biggest fear, but I certainly understand where Rachel is coming from:

7. What is your attitude, mostly? Well, a lot of the time, it's kind of like this:

8. What is perfection to you? I wouldn't mind sharing Monica's idea of perfection--with just a little less OCD:

9. What is your guilty pleasure? I like sandwiches, but not as much as Joey does:

So there you go: my answers, FRIENDS style! Please feel free to grab the awards if you'd like them. Let me know if you do; I'm looking forward to reading your responses!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday fun

Happy Friday! In honor of Blog Me MAYbe's "May I share something funny?" day, here are some funnies I hope will get your Memorial Day weekend off to a good start. Enjoy!

Something about Fifi made Rex feel unsettled.

Bob had no clue as to what was really causing his baldness.

Finally, I wanted to share this video by a prank collective called Improv Everywhere, whose mission is to "cause scenes of chaos and joy in public places." Using what they call undercover agents, the collective has come up with some great pranks since Charlie Todd created it in 2001, like the No Pants Subway Ride and the Star Wars Subway Car. If you enjoy this video, check out their Web site to learn more about them and see other pranks they've done.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Will you dance?

I Hope You Dance [single]
Happy Thursday, and welcome to Blog Me MAYbe's "May I tell you something about someone else?" day.

Many of you are probably already familiar with country singer Lee Ann Womack. I admit that country isn't my usual genre and I don't know much about Womack's musical repertoire, but she sings one song that really speaks to me as a mom: her 2000 hit, "I Hope You Dance."

I discovered the song one day just after my son was born in 2007. My little boy was finally napping, and I had logged on to the Internet to do some research. Somehow I ended up on a page that featured the lyrics to Womack's song, which I read and thought were beautiful. I searched YouTube for the video and was so moved by it that I thought I'd cry. It said everything I wanted to say to my son: all my hopes for him, all my dreams. I decided that moment that "I Hope You Dance" would be the message and the wish I'd pass down to him--and now to my daughter as well. I've included the song in their baby books, and I'm looking forward to the day when they'll be old enough to understand it and listen to it with me.

This is the video. The two young girls featured in it are Womack's own daughters.

Lyrics here.

Music is such an important part of most of our lives. What song or songs hold special meaning for you?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Can't get you outta my head...

It's Wednesday, and that means it's time again for Blog Me MAYbe's "May I ask something about you?" day. Ever since my post last Thursday about that iconic Folgers coffee ad, I've been thinking about television commercials and the catchy (yet sometimes annoying) slogans and tunes that accompany them. Over the years I've had several favorites, but today I've narrowed them down to my top four. Which of these do you recall?

Meow Mix: I remember singing this one (and probably annoying everyone around me) when I was growing up in the seventies.

Kit-Kat: Beware: this one is definitely an earworm!

Life cereal (starring "Mikey"): This is one of television's longest-running commercials. A bit of trivia: Several years ago, a rumor went around that the actor who played Mikey had died from mixing Pop Rocks candy with soda. The rumor was, of course, untrue.

Oscar Mayer Bologna: This kid is cute--and I've always loved how he asks for validation at the end of the commercial.

So tell me, do you have any favorite TV commercials--or ones that just drive you crazy?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On headbands and writing

I was never without my notebook and pen.
Image courtesy of Stefan van Bremen
Happy Tuesday! Today is Blog Me MAYbe's "May I tell you something about myself?" day, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to share a little about how I began writing.

I've been writing stories and poems from the moment I learned to print, but it wasn't until I was around twelve that I wrote the first story I can remember with clarity. It was a short about a twelve-year-old girl who caved in to peer pressure and shoplifted some headbands from a department store. She was caught, of course, and the rest of the story was about the Big Life Lesson she learned. Never mind that I had no firsthand knowledge about the topic. I didn't care. I just wanted to tell the story, and so I told it--simple as that. My seventh-grade creative writing teacher (I wrote about her here) encouraged me to do more writing, and I did, using most of my free time to tell tales and pen poems. I was happiest whenever I had a notebook and pencil in my hand.

The words didn't come easily.
Photo by Anna Langova,
courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Not long afterward, though--right about the time in high school when I decide I wanted to be a Writer with a capital W--writing started to get more difficult. Ideas didn't come as freely, and neither did words. Where I had once found writing freeing, I began to find it somewhat enslaving. It became something I felt I had to do rather than something I really wanted to do, and I started to have doubts about whether I was good enough to make it. Instead of writing, I began worrying. I worried about my ideas, my word choice, my writing process. I even worried about things I really had no business concerning myself with at that early stage, like marketability and appeal. My Inner Critic had come to town and worked me into a writer's block that lasted for nearly a year. I didn't think I had it in me to write again.

Eventually, though, I did, and what brought me back was the realization that writing is supposed to be hard. It's supposed to take time and effort. Once I let those thoughts sink in, I was able to tell my Inner Critic to scram, at least for a time. Writing still isn't easy, of course--and as I said earlier, it isn't meant to be--but I've found my way back to that twelve-year-old girl who wrote freely and without abandon about whatever was on her mind, and every day as I practice my craft I'm learning more and becoming a stronger writer.

And my Inner Critic? He's still around, of course, but Charis, my muse, helps me kick his butt. ;)

We all have a passion. For some, it's writing, and for others, it's something else. So for those of you who are also writers, how did you get started? And if you're not a writer, tell me about what made you decide to follow your passion.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Did you hear that?

Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom /
Have you ever been chatting with your spouse or a friend in a restaurant and discovered that someone eating at a nearby table was listening to your conversation?

Yeah, that was probably me.

I admit it: I'm an eavesdropper, and today, for Blog Me MAYbe's "May I tell you something about writing?" day, I thought I'd talk about how listening to the people around me helps to strengthen my writing.

I can't help but overhear things. Writers are naturally curious, and sometimes I feel as though I have ears that are specially tuned to take in the words around me. I don't set out with the intention of listening to what other people are saying, but much of the time, the conversations just seem to come to me--a word or sentence strikes my interest and suddenly that conversation is all I hear. I've listened to random dialogues in restaurants and airports; I've overheard one-sided phone conversations in grocery stores and waiting rooms (and have had great fun imagining what the other person was saying); and last night I listened through my already-open window as the neighbors (loudly) fought in their backyard.

What I've learned from listening to those around me is this: people are complicated and often more bizarre than any characters a writer can dream up, and writers would do well to pay attention. Wonderful (and often useful) snippets of dialogue exist in overheard conversations, as do great story ideas. For example, one thing I overheard during my neighbor's loud argument last night was a man saying, "You better watch her. I gotta go to work." My imagination took off immediately: Who is he talking to? Is it his wife, or is someone else outside with them? Who (or what) needs to be watched--and why? I can think of several stories I could write based on this snippet of conversation alone.

(If you haven't heard any interesting conversations lately, check out a Web site like Overheard in New York, where people submit the things they've overheard in the course of their day. It's an excellent--and often hilarious--source of both story ideas and dialogue.)

What it boils down to is this: People are both more unusual and more normal than we can ever dream, and being curious and really paying attention to what people are saying can only strengthen our writing.

As they say, you can't make this stuff up.

Have you ever eavesdropped on conversations? Did any of what you heard end up in a story?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday inspiration

Happy Sunday!

Some of you may already know that one of my first loves is poetry. Today's bit of inspiration is a poem called "How to be Alone," written and performed by poet/singer/songwriter Tanya Davis and directed and animated by filmmaker Andrea Dorfman. I found this video several months ago and was so inspired after viewing it. Enjoy!

How do you feel about being alone? Do you embrace it? Dread it? Fear it?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My life in song

Happy Saturday!

Today I'm excited to announce that Funny in My Mind at In My Mind It's Always Funny and Krista McLaughlin at The Jelly Beans of Writing have both presented me with the Kreativ Blogger Award! Many thanks to them for thinking of me! Be sure to check out their amazing blogs.

The rules for accepting the awards are a bit different, so I'm going to go with the ones I received from Funny in My Mind, since she was the first to present me with the prize:

1. thank the blogger who nominated me and provide a link back to his or her blog;

2. share ten things about myself; and

3. nominate six other bloggers for the award, then inform them of their win.

I already share a lot in my blog, so I thought I would change things up a bit with this award. Instead of giving ten facts about myself, I've decided to post a playlist of songs that represent ten important times in my life. Some of the songs are from the time period they represent, and others are not, but they all showcase the things that I was thinking and feeling at the time. Enjoy!

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

1. Day I was born: "Alone Again (Naturally)" by Gilbert O'Sullivan

This song was number one on the day I was born many, many years ago. I wasn't listening to much music in those early days, so I'll admit that I'm not very familiar with this song. Still, I wanted to include it because it does represent the day that everything began.

2. Childhood: "Shiny Happy People" by R.E.M.

I chose this song because I feel lucky to say that I had happy growing-up years, and to me, this song represents that lightheartedness.

3. Junior high: "The Glory of Love" by Peter Cetera and "You're the Inspiration" by Chicago

These two songs remind me of my junior high boyfriend, Matt B. (You might remember him from this post.) Both songs came out during that time period and were popular at our school dances. I remember one time when Matt tried to get the DJ to dedicate "You're the Inspiration" to me. He didn't succeed, but he tried hard. :) It's funny I remember that after all these years.

4. High school: "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison; "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi; and "I Remember You" by Skid Row

All three of these groups were big during the years I was in high school. "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and "Livin' on a Prayer" were songs I really loved, and "I Remember You" was our senior class song. Here's an embarrassing tidbit about the Skid Row song: When my classmates and I were voting on songs and "I Remember You" was nominated, I asked everyone in the room if they really wanted our song to be sung by a band called Skid Row. I mean, skid row... It kind of seemed like an omen to me, I guess. Everyone just looked at me, and one of the girls said something like, "What do you want then? Something by Tiffany?" So embarrassing. That's just one of the many moments in my life when I wish I'd kept my mouth shut. :)

5. College: "Run-Around" by Blues Traveler; "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana; and "No Rain" by Blind Melon

These were just three of the many songs I enjoyed when I was an undergrad. For many reasons, "Run-Around" will always remind me of my college boyfriend.

6 and 7. Graduate school and the summer thereafter: "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega; "Dreams" by The Cranberries; "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morissette; and "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day

These songs also remind me of a guy, this time the one I dated in grad school. He loved "Tom's Diner" and would play it most mornings as he got ready to head to the college. It quickly became a favorite of mine, too. (Of course.) "Dreams" was a song I remember hearing in a bar when I went out with some girlfriends. Things between me and my boyfriend weren't going well, and I always think of that time when I hear the song. As far as "You Oughta Know"... Well, if you're familiar with the song, I bet you can guess what was happening in my life at that time. Still, I'll always consider my years at grad school to be among the best of my life, hence Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life").

8. My first job: "Crazy Train" and "Mama, I'm Coming Home" by Ozzy Osbourne.

I love Ozzy! I was working as a college English and journalism instructor, and my students could never quite believe that their teacher adored the Prince of Darkness. "Crazy Train" and "Mama, I'm Coming Home" were--and still are--two of my favorite Ozzy songs.

9. Meeting my husband: "Breathe" by Faith Hill

This is a beautiful song. It always reminds me of when my husband and I were just getting to know each other. We met in a chat room and spent a lot of time talking on the phone before he flew across the country to see me. The rest, as they say, is history!

10. My life right now: "What a Wonderful World" by Louie Armstrong

I love my life: my kids, my husband, my friends. Writing. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I'll echo Armstrong's sentiment: "What a wonderful world!"

Thanks for indulging me in this little journey through my life. You're all great, so instead of nominating six people, I'm going to invite anyone who wants the award to grab it. Please let me know if you do. I'm looking forward to reading your responses!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday funnies

Do you feel like this cat looks?
Read on for some Friday fun!
Photo by Shari Weinsheimer
 Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

Ready for a laugh?

It's Friday, Blog Me MAYbe's "May I share something funny?" day, and I've got some hilarious signs, some humorous pictures, and a funny video that I hope will help start your weekend off right. First, though, in true Momma fashion, I want to share something my five-year-old son said yesterday.

I was working in the kitchen, and he and his sister were playing in the living room. He called for me to come and look at something, and when I went to see what it was, I found him sitting with his arms extended straight out in front of him and crossed. "Look," he said, "my hands are in the wrong order!" Ha! Gotta love five-year-olds!

Okay, on to the signs and pictures!
(Click to enlarge.)
I've been to some restaurants that should have had this sign!
The management here obviously doesn't think their customers are the brightest bulbs!
Remind me to leave my hovercraft at home...
Well, at least they're honest!
This seems about right.
There's always one!

Finally, here's "1985," a very funny video by Bowling for Soup about a woman who is living in the past and reliving her glory days as a teenager in 1985. The song mentions several music icons from the 1980s, including Whitesnake, Madonna, Ozzy Osbourne, and Van Halen, as well as three iconic 1980's movies: The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and St. Elmo's Fire. I think anyone who remembers the decade will find something to laugh about in this video!

Lyrics here.

What made you laugh this week?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Introducing... my muse

Charis, protecting her identity.
Photo by Jiri Hodan, courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
This is Charis, my muse. As you can see, she wouldn't allow me to show her face. (I don't know--something about a wild night in Vegas, an ex-boyfriend, and a car chase.) Regardless, she is allowing me to say a few words about her in honor of Blog Me MAYbe's "May I tell you something about someone else?" Thursday. Be happy. She's usually quite shy.

So I've known Charis for several years now. She's been with me since my days of adolescent angst and teenage trauma, which means, of course, that she knows a lot about me. (Note to self: weigh your words carefully here.)

Charis and I have a love-hate relationship. We have days when she calls me boring and I accuse her of being annoying. Some days I just wish she'd go away, but others--when deadlines loom and I sit for hours idly staring at the blank computer screen--I wish I had her phone number.

She's unlisted.

Of course she is.

Charis claims to work only for me, but I don't know if I believe her. I once saw her with a suitcase in one hand and a first-class ticket to Bermuda in the other. She claimed they belonged to her sister, but we all know what liars--er...storytellers--muses can be.

Charis is fickle. Sometimes she'll stay away for weeks--even months--at a time. Once she was gone for three months, and when she came back and I asked her why she had left--"abandoned me" were my exact words, I think--she said that she'd had to go because she was offended by my flip-flops. Coincidentally, those shoes disappeared right around the time she did. (Hmm...maybe it's time to apologize to the husband now.) I have no idea where she goes or what she does, and she's not telling. I've noticed, though, that she often returns looking suspiciously tan.

Could this be where Charis has been spending her time?
Photo by Darrell Goode, courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

Once Charis hung around here for two months straight. She took over my bed and rearranged my underwear drawer and proclaimed my kitchen a dairy-free zone. I would have thrown her out, but she was spending all her non-organizing time feeding me awesome story ideas. (And I'll let you in on a secret: I kind of liked my smaller, dairy-free derriere. Just don't tell her I said that.) Still, I refuse to let her control my life. I keep my ice cream at the neighbors' house now.

Most of the time, though, I'm on my own, and--dare I say it?--I miss her. It's not just because she gives me story ideas and organizes my medicine cabinets. No, the real reason is this: she's become--and I can't believe I'm saying this--a friend.

But she'd better stay away from my ice cream.

I've love to hear a little about your muse. If you don't have one, tell me about the people in your life who inspire you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's your best part of waking up?

Happy Wednesday! Today is one of my favorite days of the week, Blog Me MAYbe's "May I ask something about you?" day.

Those of you who are "slightly older"--like I am--probably remember the Folgers coffee commercials and their slogan, "The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup." For those of you who don't, here's a version from 1989:

Before I go any farther, I just have to say that after all these years, I still can't figure out how decaffeinated coffee wakes these people up. The smell alone wouldn't do it for me, nor would the small amounts of caffeine still found in decaf. I don't know--maybe they go to bed really early or are just annoyingly chipper people. Possibly it's because they're actors. ;)

Anyway, my question for you today is this: What's your best part of waking up each morning? Is it Folgers in your cup? Reading the newspaper? Looking out the window and watching the sun rise? Hitting the snooze button? Reading blog comments and checking your e-mail? Eating cold cereal and cursing the boss who makes you go to work so early?

Photo by Petr Kratochvil, courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Now, I like coffee in my cup just as much as the next person, but it's not the thing I find best about waking up. For me, the best part of waking up is...waking up. What's not to like? I get another sunrise (if I'm up early enough, which I usually am), another day (I hope) with my family, more time to follow my dreams, the opportunity to live life better than I did the day before... I get possibility, and to me, that's better than any coffee, Folgers or not.

Sure, there are also practical things that I absolutely love about waking up. Since I always get out of bed at least an hour before anyone else, I get to have "me time." I write or read or just sit and think, all things that are tough to do after the rest of the house wakes up and the interruptions start. And even though I'm often tired, I usually accomplish a lot in the early hours, which helps get my day off to a good start.

Lately, as the weather has gotten warmer, one of my favorite things about waking up is getting a large cup of coffee from the kitchen, then reading out on the patio in the early-morning sun, losing myself in someone else's world for a time. Bliss!

So tell me, what's your best part of waking up?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Quirky? Why yes, I am!

I know this may come as a shock to you, but I'm not as normal as I look.

Yes, I know that's hard to believe, especially since yesterday's Blog Me MAYbe post about writing motivation was a little on the serious side. For "May I tell you something about myself?" Tuesday, I thought I'd lighten the mood a bit by presenting eighteen quirky things about me.

But first, here's my idol, Phoebe Buffay, the ultimate quirky free spirit:

On with my quirks!

1. I can't stand the thought of anyone touching my eyeballs. I don't even like thinking about my eyeballs, and if I get an eyelash in one, I hop around on one foot (who knows why?), cup a hand over my eye, and yell.

"And then we sauté the vegetables
until they're nice and soft..."
Image courtesy of Graham Soult
2. When I make dinner, I sometimes like to pretend I'm filming a live cooking show.

3.  I hate calling people I don't know well. I'd rather talk to them in person or send them an e-mail.

4. After I've parked my van, I almost always have to walk around it to make sure that the sliding doors are indeed closed.

5.  I hate the smell of ranch dressing. Unfortunately,
my kids love the stuff, so I often have to hold my breath while making lunch. (Weirdly, I do like the taste.)

Hey, Stinky. You're not so bad!
Wikimedia Commons (public domain)
     6.  I don't mind the smell of skunks.

     7.  I always put on my right shoe first.

     8.  I like all the hangers in the closet to be facing
          the same way.

     9.  Before I pick up the phone to make an
          appointment, I rehearse what I'm going to say.

     10. I often have full conversations with myself
           when other people are around.

11. When I order hamburgers at "good" restaurants, I eat them with a knife and fork. If I'm home, I pick them up.

12.  I hate going up escalators, but I don't mind going down them.

Image courtesy of Dominic Morel,
13. When I put towels away, I always put the most recently washed ones on the bottom of the pile so they all get used evenly.

14. I always blow-dry my hair on the left side first.

15. I eat a square of unsweetened chocolate almost every day.

16. I like to sing Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You" and Lisa Loeb's "Stay" in the shower.

17. I like Popsicles but don't eat them often because I can't stand the taste or feel of the wooden Popsicle stick.

18. I'm claustrophobic and therefore terrified of being trapped in an elevator. Interestingly, as a child, I was reading underneath my bed, and my long hair got caught in the exposed springs. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Image courtesy of Hans Thoursie,

So what are your quirks? Do we share any of the same ones?

Monday, May 14, 2012

My first loves!

Today, Alex Cavanaugh is hosting the First Loves Blogfest, a chance for participants to blog about their first loves in movies, music, books, and people. Here are my picks:

First Movie: Dirty Dancing

I was about fifteen when this movie came out and at the age when anything romantic made me swoon. I fell in love with Patrick Swayze the moment I saw the film, and I desperately wanted to be Baby! I don't think my husband really understands how the line "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" can make my heart melt the way it does. Here's that climactic scene:

First Music: Cyndi Lauper

I love Cyndi! My uncle gave me a cassette of her first album, She's So Unusual, back when I was about thirteen. I admired her unique talent and her undeniably carefree spirit. (I loved her hair, too, but my mom wouldn't let me copy it!)

Two of my all-time favorite songs are "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" and "Time After Time."

First Book: Little Women

This category was difficult for me because I've read so many great books in my life. However, the one I find myself coming back to year after year is Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Of all the characters, I think I identify most with Jo because I admire how hard she works to follow her writing dreams.

First Love: Matt B.

I was twelve years old and in the seventh grade when I had my first real boyfriend, Matt, who was thirteen and in the eighth grade. We met in band class, where we both played the clarinet. I don't remember how we started "going out"--a silly thing to call it actually, since neither of us could drive and we really didn't go anywhere--but we used to dance together at junior high school dances and call each other every night. He also used to carry my books to class for me, which I was a little embarrassed about then but now think was sweet.

Matt gave me my first kiss--on a little-used staircase near the band room. We broke up a few months later, although I can't remember why. We did date again for a few weeks the next year, but after that, we were just friends. I often wonder what became of him.

So what were your first loves? Click the First Loves Blogfest button at the top of this post to read about other people's firsts.

But I don't wanna write!

This is what I look like some days when I sit down at the computer to write:

Photo by Petr Kratochvil
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

I don't know about you, but writing is sometimes the last thing I want to do, so on those days, I need to find extra motivation. Since today is Blog Me MAYbe's "May I tell you something about writing?" day, I thought I'd share some of the things I do when I'm looking for the motivation to blog or work on other writing. I hope some of these tips work for you.

• Make a commitment to write every day. The acronym BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard) applies here. Force yourself to write something, even if it's only 100 words. That's 100 words more than you had when you sat down, right?

Image courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

• Give yourself a firm deadline for whatever you happen to be writing: a blog post, a chapter, poem, whatever. If deadlines don't inspire you, try finding an accountability partner. She can check in with you at agreed-upon times to make sure you're staying on track--and you can do the same for her.

Image courtesy of Pedro Simao

• Track your word counts. Seeing the total increase is a real motivator for me. Even if I write only 100 words, I can see from the graph that I'm moving closer to my goal.

Image courtesy of Tomislav Alajbeg

• Start a writing ritual. Rituals can help get our minds in gear for writing and signal to them that it's time to work. When I sit down at the computer each morning, I check my e-mails and blog comments and read a bit of news. Then I head out into the kitchen for a big cup of coffee. My mind has learned that when I sit down with that coffee, it's time to start writing.

Image courtesy of John De Boer

• Give yourself permission to write rubbish. Sometimes it helps for me to tell myself to write whatever is going through my mind, no matter how bad or unrelated to the topic, just to get the words flowing. I often do this type of writing using a pad of paper and a pen so I feel more connected to the words. Give it a try. Who knows? You just might end up with something you can use!

Photo by Anna Langova
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

• Step away from the computer for a while (but not too long!). Take a walk, read a newspaper or magazine, watch some TV. If you're so inclined, take a few moments to read from a book on the writing craft, such as Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. This book is filled with writing prompts and other inspiration, and I've turned to it many times since I was introduced to it in college.

• Try NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a writing event held every November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in one month--and they don't have to be "good" words. NaNoWriMo provides writers with a great opportunity just to sit down and write--and have fun doing it! In addition, I've found the accountability on the site's forums to be very motivating.

You can also try doing your own personal novel writing month any time of the year, but if you prefer having the support of others, search writing forums like Absolute Write, where you'll find people undertaking the challenge nearly every month.

• Check out these sites. I haven't used them yet, but I've heard great things about their ability to motivate writers:

Written? Kitten! On this site, for every 100 words you write, you're rewarded with a cute picture of a kitten. I've heard people rave about the motivation factor!

Write or Die is "a web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing." As long as you keep typing into the box, you're fine, but if you stop for more than a few seconds, consequences are enforced, and they range from a gentle reminder to keep writing to the erasure of your words. It can be tough love, but many swear by it!

Finally, I think the greatest motivator for me is aging. The older I get, the more I realize that if there's something I really want to do--like write--the time to do it is today. After all, who knows how many tomorrows any of us have?

Image courtesy of Sanja Gjenero

What do you do when you need writing motivation?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

For all the moms

Happy Mother's Day!

Here's a song that I think says a lot about what it means to be a mom. Enjoy--and have a wonderful day!

(Lyrics here.)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The great sweatpants debacle

Last Wednesday, I spent the entire day walking around with my pants on backwards.

(I'll give you a second to gain control of your laughter.)

What the mailman looked like when he saw
 me and my pants walk out the front door.
Image courtesy of
bk images /
Okay now?

So, yes. My pants were on backwards--as in the front was in the back (and the back was in the front, of course). In my defense, though, they were sweatpants with no back pockets (I guess the tag wasn't a clue), I got dressed in the dark (Well, with my eyes shut, but it was early), and I'm a mom, and what mom has time to pay attention to her clothes when the oatmeal is boiling over and one kid is crying and the other kid is kickboxing the wall and she's just realized that there's no milk for breakfast....

Yes, I know. Excuses. Never mind. I'll just own it:

I wore my pants backwards. All day. I noticed about a half-hour before my husband came home from work.

Now, I have to give my husband credit. When he walked into the house that night and I told him what I'd done, he didn't laugh. No, not at all.

His response?

"At least you know where you've been."

(Yeah, it's a laugh riot at our house.)

Still, as I thought more about this latest in a long line of embarrassing moments (Oh, yes, I have quite the string of them. Hard to imagine, huh?) and my husband's response to it, I had a bit of an epiphany (if it's possible to have a "bit"--maybe it was more of an epiph). I thought (and I'm being serious now) that maybe--just maybe--the great sweatpants debacle was a sign that I need to slow down and take more time for myself.

Huh. That one made me stop and think. And also change my mind: it wasn't an epiph; it was definitely an epiphany.

Really, we parents have a lot on our plates, and sometimes we forget that we need to take time for ourselves, too. When we have children, the center of our world changes, and we rush around doing everything for everyone, sometimes neglecting our own needs.

We run errands, bring our kids to school, drop off library books, grocery shop, cook meals, do laundry, think up last-minute science projects, look for things that everyone else has lost ("Where's my sock monkey?" is a common lament here), change diapers, referee fights, perform minor surgeries, fill (and refill) sippy cups, scrape Play-Doh off the rug, give baths, potty train... Whew!

Now I'm not in any way trying to diminish the parenting roles we play--they are worthwhile and important--but what I am saying is that we do a lot for others, and maybe we should try to be better about taking a little time for ourselves every once in a while as well: time to breathe, to take part in hobbies, to relax, to call a friend, to sit down with a cup of tea and a good book, and yes, time to make sure we don't have our pants on backwards before we rush out the door.

Because it's not fun to go out in public that way.

Ask me how I know.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday fun: Get your earworms here!

The earworms have invaded my brain!

Ever since I wrote Wednesday's post about some of my favorite 1980's television shows, I've had TV theme songs stuck in my mind on a seemingly endless loop. And it's not just the shows I featured. No, it's like writing about TV invited all sorts of theme songs into my brain, where they play themselves over and over and over again, and nothing--nothing--stops them.

And so for a bit of fun on Blog Me MAYbe's "May I share something funny?" Friday, I thought I'd share these songs with you. So here they are, the six earworms now eating their way through my brain.

You're welcome! ;)

All in the Family (1968-1979):

The Facts of Life (1979-1988):

The Golden Girls (1985-1992):

Roseanne (1988-1997):

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996):

F•R•I•E•N•D•S (1994-2004):

Have you ever had a TV theme song stuck in your head? Do you have one right now? ;)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursday spotlight

I love Lucy!

No, I'm not talking about that Lucy, but since today is Blog Me MAYbe's "May I tell you something about someone else?" day, I'm excited to introduce you to another Lucy: Lucy Banning, the heroine of Olivia Newport's debut novel, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning (Avenue of Dreams, Book 1).

From the publisher:

She has a secret to keep. But will she give her heart away?

Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work and squeeze herself into the mold of the well-dressed wife who spends most of her time and money redecorating.

When she meets Will, an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?

Get swept away into the lavish world of Chicago's high society as Olivia Newport brings to life an age of glitz and grandeur, stark social contrasts, and one woman who dares to cross class lines for what she believes.

When I begin a new book, I'm always drawn first to the main character: Is she likable? Is she portrayed realistically? Is there something compelling about her that makes me want to spend the precious few reading hours I have immersed in her world? And as I discovered from the first page of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, without a doubt, Lucy is a character worth getting to know.

In fact, the thing I find most impressive about this debut is Newport's ability to create a strong, memorable heroine. In a time when women of her social class are expected only to marry well and devote their lives to their families and homes, Lucy decides she wants more--an education--and she takes the initiative to go out and get it, even though doing so means keeping a secret from her family and friends. But while she is passionate about following her dreams, for me it's Lucy's heart for others that truly makes her a character worth investing time in. She's very aware of the disparity between her world of privilege and the world of those less fortunate, and she works to better the lives of those in need. And when she learns that Charlotte, a member of the household staff with a secret of her own, is in need of help, Lucy unhesitatingly offers both friendship and support. (Charlotte herself is an intriguing character, and I was pleased to discover that the next book in the series will focus on her.)

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning is a love story, but it's more than that: Newport weaves in elements of suspense, intrigue, and humor in a way that had me turning pages late into the night. I enjoyed this well-paced debut. Lucy Banning is exactly the type of heroine I hope to find within the pages of any book, no matter the genre, and I'm looking forward to the next two novels in this series.

Olivia Newport's novels twist through time to discover where faith and passions meet. Her husband and two twentysomething children provide welcome distraction from the people stomping through her head on their way into her books. She chases joy in stunning Colorado at the foot of the Rockies, where daylilies grow as tall as she is.

Visit Olivia at her Web site.

(Thank you to Revell Publishing for the complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own.)

So tell me, what criteria do you use for selecting the books you read? Have you read any great ones lately that you'd like to recommend?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Let's talk TV!

It's Wednesday, and that means it's one of my favorite days of the week. Not only is the weekend in sight, but it's also Blog Me MAYbe's "May I ask something about you?" day. Today's topic is childhood TV.

I was born in the early '70s and did most of my childhood television-watching in the '80s, a time I consider to be the Golden Age of TV. So many great shows came out of that decade, including several of my all-time favorites:

Beauty and the Beast (1987): My mom and I never missed this show about a man-beast who was in love with an assistant district attorney. I think the show probably appealed to the side of me that loved fairy tales, but when I think back on it now, the premise does seem pretty ridiculous! Take a look at the show's intro. I thought it was really cool back then, but when I watch it now, "cheesy" is the word that comes to mind. What do you think?

Best of the West (1981): This show was a spoof of westerns. I was around nine years old when it first aired, and I don't remember much about it except for the theme song, which I loved so much then that I taped it and played it over and over:

It's kind of catchy, right?

Charles in Charge (1984): This comedy was about a college student who moves in with a family and babysits the kids. I admit that I might have had a tiny crush on the show's star, Scott Baio.

The Cosby Show (1984): My list wouldn't be complete without this show that was based on comedian Bill Cosby's real-life family and was about a doctor, his attorney wife, and their children. My favorite character was the second oldest daughter, Denise, but I was (and probably still am) more of a Vanessa.

Designing Women (1986): This comedy about a group of women who work in an interior design firm will always rank among my top shows, mainly because of my favorite character, the outspoken Julia Sugarbaker. Oh, how I wanted to be as fearless as she was! Check out this clip of her in action as she defends her sister Suzanne against the current Miss Georgia World:

The Golden Girls (1985): Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia--who can forget them (or Rose's St. Olaf stories)? One of my favorite scenes is the one in which Sophia and Dorothy dress up as Sonny and Cher and sing "I Got You, Babe." The look on Rose's face as she plays the piano for them is priceless:

There are so many more: Full House (1987), Kate and Allie (1984), Magnum P.I. (1980), Roseanne (1988), The Wonder Years (1988), Newhart (1982)... There's no doubt in my mind that the 1980s were a great decade for TV.

Now I want to hear about some of the TV shows you enjoyed when you were growing up. What was your childhood must-see TV?