Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Moment of Truth

Word Count Validator:

Up until November 25th, this area contained a run-of-the-mill word-count updater. Now it's become your portal to victory. If you upload a manuscript that is 50,000 words or more, you will be logged as an official NaNoWriMo winner, and will be sent to a special page to collect your winner's certificate and web icons.

Upload a manuscript that has less than 50,000 words, and you will be returned to this page (with your word count handily updated for you).

To use it, please save your manuscript as a Text Only file (with a .txt extension) and upload it here!



You've Won!

Dear Novelist,

You did it.

Despite everything else going on in your busy life, you managed to pull off the creative coup of writing a 50,000-word novel in just one month.

When the going got tough, you got typing, and in four weeks, you built vast worlds and set them in motion. You created characters; quirky, interesting, passionate souls with lives and loves and ambitions as great as yours. You stuck it out through the notoriously difficult middle stretch, and pressed onward as 80% of your fellow writers dropped out around you.

And now look at you: A NaNoWriMo winner. And the owner of a brand-new, potential-filled manuscript. It's an amazing accomplishment, and we're proud to have had you writing with us this year.

Official count: 50,660 words. 11 Chapters. One Children's book. "The Trouble With Charlie". I am a writer.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ettiquette

I work for a company that has about 40 employees. Over the past year, there have been several occasions where someone has brought gifts to the office for only the four women (including me) that work here. Five of my co-workers have brought me back something from their vacation ranging from a postcard and a magnet to earrings, a bracelet or a nice wooden kangaroo (from Australia, of course). I am not the sort of person who normally buys things for other people when I go on vacation (assuming for the moment that I ever DO go on vacation).

What do I do? I'll be on a Disney cruise, for starters, so it's not really an exotic destination, but should I bring something back for the five that have bought something for me? Do I bring something back for everyone (because I don't understand the logic of only buying for the women). Do I just skip it?

HELP!

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Conversation with My Brother

Me: "So, LM was talking about how much he had enjoyed the guest pastor over the last couple of months at church. I asked him what, specifically, he liked about Dr. B. He said, "He makes the sermons to applicable to my life..."

G: (interrupting) "Did LM actually use the word 'applicable'?"

Me: "Um, yeah."

G: "I just recently figured out how to use the word 'applicable' correctly."

Me: "Well, if you thought that was impressive, the other day I was commenting to LM that now that I've won the "Mom of the Year Award" I can blow off the next 360 or so days until it comes around to nomination time again when I have to kiss up. LM told me that 'Mom of the Year' was a misnomer, that it was more accurately a 'Mom of the Moment' sort of award"

G: "misnomer? I have no idea what that even means. Man, I need a dictionary to keep up with my 10 year old nephew."

How to Make Your Sister Angry

When you normally write a creative, homemade Christmas card and letter, and mail it faithfully every single year on December 1st, when it's 6 days before the first and your sister emails you saying she has a good idea for hers but hasn't developed it out entirely yet, and you confess that you haven't even thought of an idea for yours, you've been so busy pouring your creativity into this blasted NaNoWriMo thing and getting ready for the cruise and trying to finish a book and all, if you send her a completed letter within 24 hours of such a confession, she will, in all honesty, hate you for life.

Now, to finish the last 8K words of my novel before midnight on Thursday.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

For That Which I am Most Grateful - Part II

While I reflected the other day about the positive changes that have occurred in my life over the past year, I failed to mention a hidden blessing that has impacted my daily life. Every workday I look forward to the time I spend in blogland. I have my list of favorites, which has evolved and changed over the months, but there have been some blogs that have transcended just words on a page. I have truly enjoyed getting to know all of you out there in blogland. I have thought of many of you throughout my days, not just while I read. It has been a rewarding experience to get to know you and to interact with you through this medium. To you, I dedicate my gratitude today.

To Newlywifed: It was so fun to read snippets from the first year of your marriage. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the ups and downs, the joys and struggles in your eloquent and funny style. I am thankful that you chose to write them down and to allow all of us to peek in and see a piece of your life.

To UC: You are always a delight to read. We are perhaps, nothing at all alike and it is the different perspective that always makes me smile. You are funny and intelligent and beautiful and you truly have such a kind spirit. I’m glad to know you, UC.

Wendy, Photographer Extraordinaire: Your eye through the lens is tremendous and your ability to take it even further in Photoshop is an enviable skill. Thank you for sharing your photos with us. On a dull rainy day, I enjoy looking through all your flowers and birds and gardens. You have surrounded yourself with beauty, inside and out!

Notes: Katrina, my girl, we would be such friends if we lived closer, don’t you think? I am so grateful for your faith and your willingness to share it. Every thing you write comes through with a smile and a laugh. You are full of love and kindness and it comes shining through.

Texas: It won’t be long until there is a second little one in your house and the journey has been fun for all of us who read! You have such clever perspectives and insights on life and such an incredibly giving personality. I wish you, the Petite, Cutlet and the new pork chop all the best in the world!

Gorilla: Girl, you are hysterical! You are full of such funny stories and creative takes on life. You keep me from taking anything too seriously! I love how you tell a story and make it so much funnier by your wording and description. You truly have a talent for writing!

Bearca: First of all, if you said nothing at all on your blog and only posted photos of that adorable little one it would be enough. He is truly a beautiful child! I have enjoyed the tidbits of your life that you share with the world. I’m still waiting for that post that explains why your blog is called “Bearca”!!

Poka: My favorite post from 2005 (as many of you know) and the reason I got hooked on reading other blogs was your “294” post. This year, it was, by far, the “He Came Back” post. You are so sweet and so fun and so kind hearted, Poka. Thanks for sharing a bit of you with me.

Slush: What a year!! 2006 brought a son into this world for you and 2007 will bring him home. I cannot express how amazing it has been to travel parts of this journey with you. I am so excited for you and your family, and especially for the incredible life little Julio will have.

Ramblings: You epitomize for me what a young Colorado girl is like. Your love for the outdoors, for people, for family and friends shines through your writing. I love reading about your travels and your relationships, they all blend together on this road of life.

Out of Character: Holy smokes can you write! If I need a good hearty laugh, I know exactly which blog to read first! You are so incredibly gifted at humor! What a fun way to enjoy life!

Blunder: It’s all about the photos, dude. Amazing, amazing stuff. Each and every day I take a moment and just think, “wow.”

Behind the Stove: So many things about you are fascinating, but I especially love all the books you are involved with. From your quotes to your metaphors to what’s on your bedside table, you live and breathe books. Thanks for sharing some of that joy with us.

Jenny: Fellow Patriots fan – if ever I make it north, I hope you’ll meet me for lunch somewhere. You are a fun, clever, loving mom and wife and I relate in so many ways. You are not allowed to stop writing, I enjoy your blog far too much!

Pink: I have learned so much from you this past year. I have enjoyed your thoughts on your Bible studies and sermons, I enjoy the library notes you share with us and the inside librarians perspective. I have related well to struggles you have with some friendships, and truly enjoy the daily bits of you that you share with me.

Peter: GO RED SOX!! I do not follow any team with the vigor and dedication that you follow the BoSox, but I have truly enjoyed getting my daily does of Red Sox news from you each day. Thanks for keeping me informed!

Everywhere Man: You live the quintessential bachelor’s life, traveling around, meeting people, parties, events, sports. Being a single mom, it’s like a glimpse into “opposite world”. I enjoy the view so much, and enjoy reading about your perspective on it all!

Midwestern: When I was your age, I had been married for three years and was expecting my son. Reading about your life is like looking back at what mine might have been if I hadn’t gotten married right out of college. I wouldn’t go back and change my life, but I enjoy the perspective of yours. You are full of hope and joy, even when you are frustrated and cynical. You are a breath of fresh air.

Random: Funny, clever, witty, intelligent, creative. I could go on and on, but you would always say it better than I can.

Chaotic: You come across to me as such a sweet gentle faithful spirit. You are nurturing and devoted and it has been a real pleasure to get to know you.

Fish: In a poetry all your own, you take your readers from wherever they are and plant them firmly in your descriptions. Lost on the street of London, or walking the boys, or just out with friends, we are there in that moment, hanging on every metaphor, every scene as if we are seeing and feeling and living it on our own. You have a way with words, Fish.

Original (Jules): First of all, I cannot tell you enough how much I admire your efforts (and success!) with stopping smoking. You are strong, capable, smart, fun and generous. I’m glad you are back from your writing hiatus, I missed you while you were gone!

30something: You balance so much activity in your life and still manage to be creative in all parts of it. I don’t know how you do it! Thanks for putting your creativity out there for us to enjoy!

Far Side of the Ocean (Shell): I have just recently found you and have enjoyed each post. I look forward to getting to know you even better in ’07!

Oblivion: Down to earth, you remind me of myself in many ways (I hope you take that as a good thing!) I enjoy reading something so real, so perfectly simple that it’s so easy to relate to and enjoy.

Whoorl: Bits of bliss from everyday life, you take such simple events and make me smile and laugh and relate directly. You remind me of UC and Poka in a way, (do you all know each other?) you are all so much fun to read.

Butterfly: You are another recent addition to my daily reads but one I enjoy as much as the rest. Thanks for sharing with such honesty. I hope to get to know you better in ’07, too.

To all of you who blog, and for those who just read, thanks for making this such a fun and exciting community to be a part of. I’m so grateful for the friendships I have made here!

P.S. If you read here and have your own blog but aren't linked, let me know!! I'm always looking for great blogs!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

If My Sister Had a Blog

It would read:

My sister called today while I was at work. "Jules?" She said. I thought something must be wrong. "What's the matter, is everything all right?" "How much stuff should come out from inside a turkey?" she asked me. "What? Why are you cooking a turkey? You hate dealing with the bird!" I went on to explain to Amy, "there is usually the neck in the main cavity, but inside the neck, if you move the flap of skin, there is usually a sack of the liver and so forth, that needs to come out, too." "This is the most disgusting thing ever." Amy said. "I think I'm becoming a vegetarian."

Today Amy called me again. She's boiling the carcass of the bird to make turkey soup. Now I know someone has abducted my sister and replaced her with an imposter. My sister would never intentionally deal with turkey bones!



- Amy's Aside: It's all true. I was put in charge of picking meat off the bones when I was pregnant with LM. I lasted about ten minutes before I ran off to an upstairs bathroom to privately wretch. I only dealt with the whole 24 pound bird because it was free and then a co-worker suggested I make turkey soup after I got off all the good meat. After picking out bones and vertabre and such from the broth, I don't know that I'll ever eat a bite of the soup, but I'll make it nontheless. Today I am grateful that I didn't grow up during my grandmother's generation where I would have killed and plucked chickens to sell them for twelve cents apiece.

By the way, bringing you this blog on the eve of Thanksgiving Eve is just my way of helping you stick to your diet over the holidays. Nothing sounds appealing right now, does it? Nope, I didn't think so.

(As a note: I'm also grateful my sister doesn't actually have a blog. I can only imagine how much she would talk about me and my crazy life.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

For That Which I Am Most Grateful

A year ago, at this time, I was waiting impatiently to hear back on a job interview that eventually placed me at my current job. While this job is dreadfully dull and rarely engaging, it has, over the past year, allowed me to find a much more comfortable financial balance in my life.

A year ago, at this time, I was trying with everything I had in me to shake loose from more than one relationship that was too confusing to be labeled and too one-sided to be healthy. In the past year, I have not missed those relationships once. I feel lighter, healthier and certainly, without a doubt, happier.

A year ago, at this time, I was sifting through letters my mom had written when I was young. I spent many evenings surrounded by envelopes and pages of her handwriting with tears streaming down my face as I poured over the greatest gift I will ever receive. During this past year, the scrapbook I made for G has been read by everyone in the family and we have all come to realize what an incredible gift my grandmother gave to us by saving every single letter my mother ever wrote to her.

A year ago, I was still trying to find a solution to Gabe’s leash issues. I was constantly worried about what he would do out on a walk and felt as though neither of us were very happy with our situation. While giving him away was the hardest thing I have done in years (and didn’t go as well as I had hoped) he is now (finally) incredibly happy with a man who is incredibly happy to have him. I know we’ve done the right thing, even though it hurts.

A year ago, despite being home for the holidays, I didn’t attend church services for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I hadn’t found a church where I felt comfortable or where I knew anyone and I didn’t want to face the services alone in unfamiliar territory. This year, I will be celebrating the holidays with new friends and many many acquaintances at the church we have come to call home.

A year ago, we chose to stay home for the holidays and we didn’t see our family until the following summer making it a year that we didn’t see them at all. This year, I have been to Michigan twice, Tennessee once and will see my family during the week-long cruise in a very short while.

During this Thanksgiving week, I hope everyone takes a moment to reflect on all the blessings in their life.

Friday, November 17, 2006

24

During the times in my life when I was actively dating (which have been few and far between) it was fairly typical to hear of a guy through a friend, or to meet a guy online, or to meet someone while I was out that would raise my hopes and make my heart beat a little faster. But, as was always the case, in the end, whether it was after the first date, or after a few, it wasn't meant to be. It was during these times, when my heart sunk and my confidence dropped and I felt as though it was an uphill climb I wasn't sure I could make again, that I adapted my #1 rule of dating. The rule (for me) is that if things don't work out, I can sulk, cry, be pissed, angry or jealous for 24 hours. And then I have to pull my head out of my butt and move on. Because life goes on. And no guy was worth more than 24 hours of my sorrow. It didn't always work, there are a few in there who took me a lot longer to work through, but for the most part, it was a helpful reminder to me that it's okay to be upset, but I can't let it consume me for long. I have a child to raise. I have a career to pursue. I have a family that needs me. 24 hours and I move on.


As it turns out, the job in Michigan has been relocated to the company's office in Grand Rapids, instead of Kalamazoo. It would defeat my purpose of moving to be more than an hour from my sister and to be ineligible for the Kalamazoo Promise (which pays college tuition) so it's not in our interest to pursue it any further. I will continue to search for a job that will suit my interests and help us to reach our goal to relocate to Michigan. But for now, please forgive me while I take my 24 hour leave of absense and sulk just a bit.

Azure Blue and Maize

As the weekend approaches, I would just like to take a moment to say:

Go BLUE!!

Here's to hoping the Michigan Wolverines can win one for all the fans
and especially in honor of Coach Schlembechler.

P.S. No, I have not always been a Michigan fan.
I'm practicing with the hope that I'll soon be a resident of Michigan.
Besides, if I don't cheer for Michigan, my bro-in-law might beat me up.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Conference

Someone asked how conferences went (thanks for asking - it's strange to think someone out there is actually paying attention!)

Here are my observations from conferences. They really apply to parenting in general anymore, too.

Why on earth are people afraid to give children consequences for their actions?

There I said it.

I should qualify all of this by saying my degree is in Elementary Education (not, in report binding) and my dad and step mom both were teachers, so I am at least somewhat familiar with the other side of the desk. I just don't understand why children can persistently give their teachers (or parents) fits about a particular behavior only to have little or no consequence, or perhaps a consequence that has nothing to do with the problem behavior.

For example: Mrs. B. (LM's teacher) said that one of the (many) ongoing issues she has with LM is that he hangs his backpack on the back of his chair (which all students are allowed to do in her classroom) but he doesn't keep it zipped. So many many times, papers and books and such are spilling out all over the floor. Kids step on them, trip on them, have to step over them, etc. She went on for a couple of minutes about this problem. I listened. And then I said, "So don't let him keep his backpack on his chair." (I kept the "duh" to myself at that moment in an effort to demonstrate the respect I'm trying to teach LM.)

Or: Mrs. B. has asked LM not to keep his trumpet right by his desk. It takes up more room in the aisle than there is and again, kids are tripping over it, etc. She says that as soon as he finally moves it, the next time he has it, he puts it right back by his desk again. I explained that a) he's afraid he'll forget it AGAIN and when he forgets his trumpet, his horrible mean mother gets UPSET with him for leaving a $500 instrument in the unlocked school hallways. I could, perhaps, see why he doesn't want to let it out of his sight. That said, couldn't they reach an agreement about someplace within the classroom to keep it? She said she had, he could keep it in the coat closet (which is open to the classroom, it has no doors, so he might not be so apt to forget it). I said that sounded like a great plan. But apparently, despite agreeing to this, LM continues to put it by his desk. I said, "Have you taken it away?" "Taken it away?!" she asked. Um, yeah, you know, when he can't put it where it belongs after you've repeatedly asked, then you TAKE IT AWAY. Shoot me an email so I know you have it, and he can get it back the next day."

Or: LM hates to write. This has been true for years. They have to keep a daily writing journal and LM has actually started writing a story (ahem, guess where he got that trait from?) and so when she finally collected the journals to grade them, he was anxious to get it back. He asked her on a Friday at the end of the day if he could have it back (get this: so he could WRITE over the weekend) and she said, no, she hadn't finished grading them yet. As it turns out, LM TOOK IT ANYWAY, which I realize is a crime punishable by death in fifth grade, but frankly, could she simply have offered him another alternative to keep him writing?! I mean, the kid who hates to write is asking to be able to continue his story IN WRITING over the WEEKEND and her answer was simply "No"?!?!?! (Okay, so this one doesn't fit my point, it just irritated me to no end.)

So, when I spoke with LM last night, we talked about these things and the other more serious infractions of fifth grade law (like calling out without raising his hand, laughing at other student's responses, etc.) I made a couple of suggestions (like, that maybe LM could play a little game in his head, where he could sit quietly and just LISTEN during class discussions and see how long it took until Mrs. B. said, "LM you are awfully quiet today, do you have anything to add to this discussion?") We talked about finding ways each day to lift up or compliment his peers (and I would, too) and we could talk about that during our highs and lows time each night. He wasn't at all aware that when his peers gave an answer that was incredibly off-base that they ACTUALLY thought it was right. He thought they were just being funny. Cause when you're too intelligent for the people around you, you just don't realize that they can be that far behind. Or so people tell me. But in general, we talked about how all of these things are showing a lack of respect for Mrs. B and for her classroom rules. That LM doesn't get to decide on the rules, he has to obey the rules.

So, that was conferences. A joy all around. LM is getting two B's because he is bored to tears, but I see nothing that will change that until middle school when he might be grouped with other bright students for all his subjects. For now, we will work on these little issues and try to continue to teach respect for those with lesser brains than ourselves (as if this applies to me) and we'll keep plugging away at being 10.

As a parenting note: I don't try to tell other people how to parent, but it seems logical to me that if your child cannot speak with a proper tone or with appropriate words, then they lose their privilege to speak (for a short while, it's not a life sentence). Or, if they cannot keep their hands to themselves, or hurt another child or sibling, then they have to sit with their hands folded and can not use them for some duration of time that makes a point. If we do not teach our children that their are appropriate consequences for their actions (good and bad) then we raise the sorts of people who will grow up and sue McDonald's because their coffee is too darn hot.

When LM was 4, he went to preschool for the first time. His teacher pulled me aside one day and said she was having trouble with LM because when she made the children stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance, LM would SCREAM it. It was hard not to chuckle at my child's ingenuity, but I told her that while she had 90% control (he was doing what he was told, after all) he was holding on to that 10% of defiance with all his might. And as long as he had 10%, he was winning. LM needed to learn, and continues to need to learn that elders and grown-ups deserve 100% of our respect. And as grown ups, we need to insist on having that 10% of power returned to us. If we don't, 10% becomes 12%, and 12% becomes 15% and before we know it, we have teenagers on our hands with 85% control and no sense of respect.

I, by no means, have raised a perfect child by way of perfect parenting, and I do not pretend to know all the answers (by a long shot!) I am extremely grateful to my family and friends for their suggestions and support at each challenge I face with LM. But when I see a child misbehaving (including my own) I do not blame the child, I blame the parents. It is our responsiblity to continue to teach and teach and teach these life lessons until they are so ingrained on our children's hearts that they live by them. Parenting is not about breaking their spirit, or forcing them into being little robots, but it is about raising Godly children who are a blessing to be around.

There are times when I wish I could put a sign on LM that says "We're working on it" but in the meantime, we keep facing these life lessons head on with conversation, examples, biblical support and if necessary, appropriate consequences. I guess if it doesn't work, he'll at least have one more thing to keep him in therapy for life.
What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West

The Inland North

North Central

Boston

The Northeast

Philadelphia

The South

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes



Okay, I found this over on Behind the Stove's site and it was fun (and right!) Try it out!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Blogger

K, so, for the html impaired (me!) I see that there is this new blogger version available and it'll copy everything over and blah da blahda blah, but once I do I have to sign in with my google account? Um, I have a blogger account...

do I have to go to google and sign up for an account and THEN make the big switch? Do I have to switch? Is it better to switch?

Oh, and by the way, if everyone could just do me a little tinsy wiensy favor - stop by Newlywife's blog and tell her you miss her. She hasn't been posting in awhile and I'm about ready to run across the border to New Jersey and hunt her down. Hopefully she'll come back to blogland soon (and hopefully all is well in Newly-land!)

UPDATE: I switched. I'll let you know if I notice anything different or remarkable.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Things That Disturb Me

1. When I log into my yahoo mail, when my little avatar chic starts to load, she comes in bald at first. I’m scared it’s some sort of a sign that I should get used to myself without hair.
2. I am actually taking notes with me to LM’s conferences tonight.
3. I think an alien has taken over my sister. It took her a month to tell me that her family didn’t have any interest in the sting-ray excursion (so we could go ahead and book it for ourselves) and she doesn’t know if or how much cash she is taking with her for the cruise. She is the eldest. She ALWAYS knows.
4. That my brother’s roommate is called “Stubs”. I don’t want to know why.
5. That my brother is now “seeing” (not yet dating, but I don’t know the difference) a girl who majored in psychology. I wonder if G is her thesis project for her Master’s degree?
6. That my complete lack of discipline and willpower have not yet taken over my NaNoWriMo project. We’re at the halfway point and I’m halfway to 50,000.
7. The salmon dinner I cooked last night. ‘Nuf said.
8. In a search for quotes from the movie “Ghostbusters” (don’t ask why) I learned that there was actually a line in the movie suggesting that if they just got Mr. Stay Puft laid, all would be well in N.Y.
9. That I haven’t heard from the job in Michigan in way too long for my normal comfort level, but as of yet, I haven’t completely freaked out.
10. Next week is Thanksgiving. I have no plans whatsoever. Not even a household project I want to tackle.
11. That for the first week that I have worn my pedometer (in an effort to work towards the 10,000 steps-a-day goal) I have averaged a measly 2500 steps a day.
12. There was some small, white, gelatin-ish substance in my balsamic vinaigrette dressing at lunch, but I ate it anyway.
13. Listening to my downstairs neighbor having sex with her boyfriend last night at 10:30 didn’t upset me (hey, it’s wasn’t 4am!)
14. One of my co-workers will actually change the plastic bindings I put on a report to one that’s an eight of an inch smaller because she thinks the ones I use are too big (and to think I went to college for this!).
15. That NBC actually thought of canceling Studio 60. What’s next? Brothers and Sisters?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Update

1. Gabe was returned to the breeder by the family in Indiana. The breeder thought he was wonderful and the very next day a gentleman that works on her farm asked if he could give Gabe to his brother whose dog had recently passed away. It would seem that Gabe and this man's brother are both very very happy with each other. I pray that it will stay that way.

2. LM was in more trouble last week. I did the unthinkable and revoked his right to read. He got teary eyed last night and said, "I haven't read a book in TWO DAYS" so I'm hopeful that it's making the point it was supposed to be making. I don't know how else to make the point when I cannot be there (in his classroom) at the moment that he says something inappropriate.

3. We took the loft down. It had to come down anyway, before the house goes on the market, and not knowing when/if that might occur we decided to take it down and get the paint touched up, etc. LM wasn't too sure about the new arrangement, but this morning he thought it was pretty cool. Sure makes his room look bigger, that's for sure!

4. Friday night: awake at 4am to DN (Downstairs Neighbor) and her boyfriend being, shall we say, "intimate". Was up for about an hour. Saturday night, I was up from 3:30-5, when I finally moved to the living room (I only waited that long because it meant I had to move my alarm clock and reset it and all). Got to sleep at 5:30am on the sofa to be awaken at 6 by her son's alarm clock right beneath me. She didn't seem to hear it to shut it off. Moved back to bed (moving and resetting the alarm clock AGAIN) only to get 15 minutes of sleep before I had to be up for church.

5. Played handbells in church at both services. Might be my one and only time to play as the woman I was filling in for will be back now. All went well, I'm glad I had a chance to play again.

6. Woke up this morning to DN yelling for her son to get up. If her condo weren't connected to mine, I think I would just set fire to the place. In lieu of that option, I'm hosting a 4am party next weekend (when she has her kids, not her boyfriend). Anyone want to come stomp on the floor with me?

7. Pats lost. I lost my fantasy football match up (I'll still be in third place, but I'll be tied with at least one other, maybe two.)

8. Do you know how hard it is to find food that doesn't contain enriched flour or hydrogenated oil? Oh.My. Oh, and I bought salmon. Even though I have no idea how to cook it.

9. I'm 5,000 words behind my goal for NaNoWriMo. I guess I know what I'll be doing at work today.

10. I have about 3 more CD's to rip (I used the term "burn" this morning and LM told me that to burn means to MAKE the copy ONTO the CD, but to "rip" means to put the CD onto the computer. Good to know.) before I can make my GME07 contribution. I'm wondering why we all submit a whole mess of songs, for P2 to choose just one? Shouldn't I just sent the ONE song that represents my year (or that I listened to the most or something?) I know, don't be critical, it's not my gig!!

11. LM has pimples on his nose. He's only 10. I bought him face wash and pimple stuff and we talked through how to use them. I wish he hadn't inherited those genes.

10. Did I mention it's Monday?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

In the Gypsy Classifieds

As part of LM's punishment this last week, he had to do a number of writting assignments for me (because writing of any kind to LM is punishment.) Since he had lied, forgotten, been lazy and sloppy with his schoolwork and shown disrespect to two teachers, he had to write several different repetitive sentences in his best cursive writing to instill in him the importance of remembering his trumpet and demonstrating respect. These assignments were in addition to his added chores and revoked privileges in an effort to create a compounded consequence that might drive the message(s) home.

I believe wholeheartedly, however, that it is important each and every time LM finds himself in trouble to reiterate that HE is not a bad kid, he just made bad CHOICES. I never want him to feel like he is stupid, or incompetent or bad. I want to make sure he still feels loved, valued, appreciated and smart. To that end, in addition to the boring, monotonous, repetitive and dreaded writing assignments that I gave him to complete, I also asked him to write an ad to the gypsies to sell himself. I reminded him that it needed to include his good qualities because I wanted to get the most money that I could for him. This is his ad:

Attention All Gypsies! Sale in Condo XYZ for a Kid With all 10 Good Qualities listed below!
(No caravan included. Bed sold separately.
Toys sold w/kid at higher price by $100)
Read fine print to determine if you need a pair of glasses!

• Plays the trumpet well
• Reads lots of books and understand big words
• Is off the PSSA scoring charts
• Has good technical knowledge of computers
• Can keep a secret
• Can help carry groceries up stairs
• Is funny
• Likes board games
• Is good poker player
• Is a good friend

First offer MUST be beyond $1500!
Ignore me! This is the fine print. If you can read me, pay no attention to what this is saying after the # 2. 2. If you cannot read this, don’t worry. You don’t have bad eye-sight; you just need a magnifying glass.

Will haggle Over Price for a MAXINUM time of 24 hours.


Ya gotta love the kid, don't ya?

Dear Alice

We all get them. Forwarded emails generated by someone with too much time on their hands and a soap box that isn't tall enough for their liking, disseminated by all their friends and relatives (including someone who has your address). For the most part, they're all the same. Whether political, religious, charitable or a poor attempt at humor, they clog our inboxes and rarely serve the purpose of educating, uplifting or enlightening any of us.

Most of my family and friends know better than to forward me every single piece of junk they receive. Most of them are as frustrated as I am that the only time you get an email from that one friend of yours is when it's a forwarded piece of junk.

In my family, however, there is one relative that sends out a political piece at least once a week. While I am certain that I have voted for the same party she supports on several occasions, I do not always agree with the messages that she seems to rally behind. Each email arrives with a message to "Pass it on!!" or "Spread the Word" or some other phrase bestowing upon me the immediate need for me to shower my own contact list with her political beliefs.

I thought and thought about how best to handle the situation, but when another message arrived yet again this morning, and I felt that familiar twinge when I see her address in my inbox, I knew I needed to do something.

I sent an email in reply asking that this particular relative please remove me from her blast email list. I refrained from sharing with her my differences in political opinion and my belief that we are all free to make our own choices without assumption or pressure from anyone else. But the thing that gets me the most about all of this, is that the relative at the heart of this matter....is my GREAT AUNT.

For A Moment

Last night, after another hurried and frustrating evening with LM, I sat down to compile all of my NaNoWriMo pages into one document. I have been writing some at home, some at work and I wanted to see where I was at with my word count. I titled the compilation my working title of, “The Trouble with Charlie” and then shut down the computer and headed to bed to read.

I haven’t been reading much lately. But I had picked up Mitch Albom’s “For One More Day” and was anxious to get into it. The book’s main character is Charley, and it’s about the time he tried to kill himself. A quarter of the way into the book his mother says to him, “that’s the trouble with you, Charley.”

I’m no Mitch Albom, and my novel is no New York Times Bestseller, but for a moment, I felt like I was a novelist reading another novelist who had written something at least similar in some primitive way to what I was writing.

The book is another great one by Mr. Albom. As if there could be any doubt. It’s an easy, quick read, but one that will stick to you much like “Tuesdays with Morrie” and “The Five People You’ll Meet in Heaven” did. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Me, On a Diet

I watched the show on the latest diet plan (while snacking on popcorn with a glass of wine). The “new diet” sounds remarkably like all the “old diets” only without the fad-element. Anyway you try to disguise it, it’s still eat right, exercise more. While watching, one of my problems became immediately evident. The diet “creators” (“reworders”? “remarketers”?) said that you had to go through your kitchen and eliminate anything with the “bad things” in the first five ingredients. They applied this method to four people they had selected and went through cabinets and the fridge and removed anything that might shockingly include “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “enriched flour” etc. AND THEN THEY THREW IT AWAY. Or maybe they gave it away, (I’m not sure we’re concerned about the cholesterol counts of our homeless population), but either way, the food left the house. As I poured a second glass of wine, I contemplated this approach. Perhaps this is where I have gone wrong. I’ve always told myself that WHEN the bad food is consumed, I will simply not replace it, so that, in a matter of a few days, I will have rid my home of all bad foods and will be on track to eating “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil-FREE” foods. But that day never comes. When you run out of spaghetti sauce, you still have noodles, so you buy more sauce to use up the noodles, but then you have no noodles and too much sauce. Or you buy salsa to finish up all the chips. But then you run out of chips and you still have salsa.

I could actually be throwing this stuff away?! I had no idea.

All kidding aside, the one woman said something that has actually stuck with me for the last several days. She said, “I used to put food between me and my emotions. Now there is nothing there to serve as a buffer and I’m forced to confront my own feelings.” Wow. I think that’s me. I have always seemed to revel in that sort of “numbness” that comes from eating, the lethargy that takes over after a big meal has been a welcome friend. Those people who say, "Let's go for a walk and burn off some of the dinner!" I thought were crazy. "Let's sit on the couch, turn on the game and fall asleep!" always sounded more inviting to me.

I ordered the book. I ordered the pedometer. I make no promises, but I think I might actually go through my kitchen and box up the non-perishable, “enriched” foods.

If only I could give my negative emotions to the food bank, too. This, is not going to be easy.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Write What You Know

Last night I was talking with LM about his project that we’ve been working on and he commented on how nice it felt to be ahead of schedule instead of leaving it all for the last minute. Mrs. B, his teacher, had even used the timeline he and I had put together as an example for his class and LM was proud that he was doing the right thing (“for once”). I told him that I preferred to always be ahead of schedule and tried to give myself extra time before something was due so that I didn’t have added pressure causing me to turn in a product that wasn’t my best. As the words came tumbling out, I found myself chuckling a bit, which LM quickly picked up on. “What?” he asked.

“Well, I decided to participate in the National Novel Writing Month this year where I have 30 days (the month of November) to write 50,000 words.” “Holy smokes!” LM exclaimed, “50,000 words?!? Are you crazy?!” “Apparently,” I said. “Right now I only have 7,500 words. I’m behind schedule and it’s only day 6!” “What’s the novel about?” LM inquired. “It’s about a boy named Charlie. The working title would be something like “The Trouble With Charlie” or something like that. Each chapter is about some sort of trouble that Charlie gets into.”

LM thought for a moment and then laughed a knowing laugh, “Hmm…is it about anyone I know?!”

“You could say that.”

Monday, November 06, 2006

About that Thing I Said I'd Do

By the way, I'm about 7,000 words into the most boring, unintelligent, lame, plot-less, rambing assembly of words ever created. Yep. I'm so proud of my NaNoWriMo efforts!! (See, I told you you would be glad I wasn't publishing it on my blog!)

Oops

Bear was away in Chicago this weekend, so my sister was home with the kids. I didn’t hear from her, so I decided she must have her hands full and I’d wait until Bear got back to check in with them. I talked with my dad and my brother on Saturday and felt like I had gotten caught up on family news.

This morning I receive an email from Jules. “Are you okay? Are you mad at me? I called you twice and you haven’t returned either or my calls.”

Wha?!?!

Um,…(quick check of my cell phone)…

“Jules. So sorry. I turned my phone off when I went to church on Sunday and never turned it back on.”

I.am.such.a.dork.

Sorry, Sis.

The Solution

I spoke with animal behaviorists from the University of Pennsylvania. I spoke with a clinician at a vet clinic nearby. I spoke with a trainer I had worked with previously. I spoke with several dog owners and friends. I spoke with my dad and my sister and my brother.

I cried.

I got up Saturday morning and emailed the breeder and asked for her help. I told her I was concerned that this family would put Gabe down if they couldn’t find an immediate solution and as much as I wanted to be that immediate solution I wasn’t in a good position to be helpful. I would take him if we had no other option, but I needed to be the last resort. By Saturday evening she emailed me back and said she would gladly take him back and would retrain and re-home him. I passed along the contact information for this family and then sent an email to the family so they could contact her directly.

I cried.

I promised to keep in touch with the breeder in case our situation would change and Gabe were still available.

I know it was the right thing to do, but I can’t help but feel nothing but heartache for my dog. I feel like the worst kind of dog owner ever for not being able to provide him with what he needs. And for leaving him in a place where he is so clearly unhappy.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Gabe

I didn’t realize that a quarter of my plate was apparently NOT filled, as God just handed me my latest challenge.

The family that took in Gabe just contacted me. He has been doing well, for the most part but has taken to nipping and biting dog owners who try to pet him. The family is going to be getting rid of Gabe (I had requested they contact me first), and may have to put him down if they can’t find him a home.

I NEVER not one time had a problem with Gabe nipping or biting anyone. We spent a couple days a week at the dog park where he was surrounded by other dogs and other dog owners (who would pet him all the time). Never did I suspect he would have responded in this manner.

Our environment has not changed since we gave him away, in that we still don’t have our own yard and would still be faced with leash issues, but I have to wonder if he is reacting this way because he became an outside dog, because he isn’t getting the attention he once had, because he’s unhappy with the change in his environment, or what. I have a call in to the dog trainer we had used to find out her thoughts on his behavior and I have a friend tracking down the number of a trainer she has worked with for further insight. I don’t want to take back a dog that is going to have a barrel of new problems, but I don’t want Gabe put down, either.

Any advice? Anything? HELP?!

LM

Oh, my dear LM. What a week. We’ve been focusing for several weeks on making sure homework is a) complete and b) legible. I’ve tried various tactics to encourage him to double check his work before handing it over to me and none have been all that successful (even charging him a quarter just made him broke, but not reformed!) Wednesdays are rather crazy at our house as I have 20 minutes from the time I walk in the door until we need to leave for church, which leaves us little time to eat dinner, go over homework or make corrections until 9pm. Last Wednesday was no exception. I reminded LM before I arrived home to do homework before trumpet, just in case homework took longer than usual. When I arrived home, he hadn’t practiced trumpet at all, because he thought I said to skip it. When I looked over his homework it was sloppier than anything he’d done in the last month and wasn’t finished. He also had a project assignment handed out that was due in two weeks. Over dinner, I helped him map out a timeline for working on the project, showing him how to work backwards and give himself extra time. I wrote the time line, saving us a much heated battle and the opportunity to write and eat at the same time. Before we headed out the door, I had LM grab extra lined paper so he would have it handy whenever he worked on the project.

While I was practicing with the handbell choir, LM worked on re-writing and finishing his math homework and then was set to work on his project. At 7, when choir is done, LM heads off to church youth group and I usually run errands and then head home before picking him up at 8:30. When I arrived home and looked over his homework it was still unbelievably sloppy and he still hadn’t done the last question on the page. I looked to the project notes and saw that despite step one stating “On a separate piece of paper,” LM had written his notes on the copy that we needed for the final draft. Steam came out my ears. When he arrived back home, at nearly 9pm, I had him sit down and re-do the math and we talked AGAIN about the steps for the project, including using the separate paper that we had included.

Thursday LM forgot his trumpet at school, so instead of being able to practice extra for Wednesday, he was now two days of practice behind for the week.

On Friday I received an email from his teacher saying it had been a rough week with LM. He had been speaking out without raising his hand (something we’re working on) and had been disrespectful to her and to other students to the point where she had finally on Friday made him stay in at recess and write her an apology. I didn’t say anything to LM when I called to check in on him after school, but it was then that he informed me he had forgotten his trumpet at school AGAIN. With the weekend upon us, and the trumpet (which I already have $500 invested in) sitting outside his classroom, in the school hallway, I decided I’d better try to get my hands on it so that it might not be stolen over the weekend. I left work early to race to school before they closed the doors and picked up his trumpet.

I arrived home about ten minutes earlier than I normally do and heard a whole scurry of activity as I came up the stairs. LM met me at the top of the stairs, out of breath and looking surprised. He said, “You’re home early” with a tone that told me all a mother needed to know. I told him to have a seat and to skip over the “lying to Mom” part of the conversation and just cut to the truth. He sat down, dropped his head and said, “I’ve been watching TV.” Television is completely off limits after school. LM has homework, trumpet and one chore every night to keep him busy and responsible until I get home. He has never been allowed to watch much TV at all at my house, but NEVER has he been allowed to have it on after school. Not even when all his jobs are done. I calmly inquired, “How long has this been going on?” “About a week” was the reply.

I sat very still on the couch for a few minutes, thinking over the past few days. I realized that the reason his homework had been so sloppy was that he was either a) doing it in front of the television or b) rushing through it in the few minutes left before I got home. I remembered Thursday night when I had arrived home to find him still working on homework that should have taken only 10 minutes to complete. I must have commented four different times that I wasn’t sure why it had taken him well over an hour to get his homework done that night.

I waited a few minutes before I looked him in the eye and said, “and is there anything else you want to tell me about today?” hoping he’d talk about the troubles in class with his teacher. “None that I can think of,” he said. “Really. Would Mrs. B. have something to tell me about today?” His head sunk even lower. “I got in trouble in school today for talking back to Mrs. B.” I told LM he needed to go to his room and just sit (not read) because I was far too mad to discuss anything at the moment. He headed to his room in tears and I left him there for over an hour while I stewed.

I alerted his father through email what was going on, as he was to pick LM up at 7 for the night. When he arrived we all sat together and talked through the issues, discussed what changes needed to happen and made sure we emphasized that LM wasn’t a bad kid, he just wasn’t making good choices. He left with his dad and I breathed a huge sigh.

LM returned home on Sunday for church and all seemed to go well. He worked on his project and practiced his trumpet and tried to kiss up by doing extra chores around the house at every opportunity.

Monday came along and we had to re-do homework again because it was too sloppy to read. He hadn’t written down his assignments, so I had no idea what he was even supposed to do. I wanted to bang my head on the counter, but I tried to remain calm and yet stern when I talked with him about how this still seemed to be a problem. Tuesday night was a Dad night, so I didn’t see LM after school.

Wednesday night was crazy again. When I arrived home, LM informed me that he couldn’t find his math worksheet that he was supposed to do for homework. He must have left it at school. I was screaming inside, I swear. I told him that was his problem, he’d have to talk with his teacher in the morning and stay in at recess to get it done. We headed off to bells and youth group, having a discussion in the car about how he needs to behave at church, that he needs to avoid one particular child at youth group who gets LM caught up in bad behavior and how he needs to demonstrate respect for his teachers. We talked about HOW to demonstrate respect, including attitude, tone of voice, saying “Yes, Mr. S” etc.

When I picked LM up from church, he climbed in the car and said, “I should really learn to avoid K (the kid we had talked about before church).” With steam already forming in my head, I said, “What happened with you and K tonight?” Oh, as it turns out, they chose to SCREAM the songs instead of sing them, and they were running around the classroom like “crazy squirrels” instead of paying attention, etc. I just didn’t know what to say. I reminded him that we had talked about all of this Right.Before.Church. He said he knew, he just forgot. When we arrived home, I sent him to bed. I was too angry to even have a conversation with him.

We talked it over in the morning, discussing how he had already gotten himself grounded for disrespecting his teacher, how he had lost his TV privileges because he had lied to me for over a week (and it came out that it MIGHT have been more like two weeks) and that he was still not giving his best with his schoolwork. I told him that I didn’t know what else to DO to make the point clear to him. I had allowed him to go to youth group on Wednesday because I felt like he needed lessons from God even more so, but now I wasn’t ready to let him go next week if he’s going to give his VOLUNTEER teachers such a hard time. I told him he’d have to earn the right to go back.

Yesterday was Thursday. As LM was getting his coat and backpack on to head to the car before school, I debated about whether or not I was going to remind him that it was band day and he needed his trumpet. I decided I’d better remind him, I didn’t want to waste a trumpet lesson just because he wouldn’t remember on his own. “LM, don’t forget your trumpet this morning,” “Yes, Mom.” No less than 30 seconds later, LM was running down the stairs, slipping his shoes on as I stood at the top of the staircase just staring through the back of his head trying to see if he was actually going to go out the door without the trumpet. With his hand reaching for the doorknob, I said, “Um, TRUMPET?” “Oh, yeah.” Back up the stairs he came to grab his trumpet.

That evening, I had expected to have a rushed night so I could do some consulting work, but that was canceled, so we just had our usual routine. When I called home to let LM know that I wouldn’t be taking him to his dad’s office as planned (his dad would just pick him up as usual at 7), he informed me that he had FORGOTTEN HIS TRUMPET AT SCHOOL. I said, “it’s time you figured out a new place to leave it after band so that you might actually remember to bring it home.” If I had left my mouth open any longer I would have screamed for the gypsies to come right.that.minute. I told him to do his homework and chore, and that I wanted his chore to be cleaning his room because it was a disaster. When I arrived home, I was immediately overwhelmed by the smell of Pledge dusting spray. I tried to keep my mind from jumping to conclusions, hoping that he hadn’t ignored my statement to clean his room, and had chosen to dust the house instead. When I got into the kitchen I just stood for a moment trying to get a grip on how suffocating the smell of Pledge was. I hate the smell of dusting spray and have often had to comment to LM when he dusts the house that he only needs to spray the rag once or twice, he doesn’t need to spray every single surface that he dusts. Trying not to lose my cool, I said, “What chore did you do today?” He said, “I cleaned my room.” I said, “Why does it smell like Pledge in here?” He said, “I dusted my room.” I said, “This smell is just from the dusting spray you used to dust your room?!?” He replied, “No, I kinda sprayed it around the house to freshen it up a little.” It was at that moment that I lost it. The whole week just came down upon us and I said, with a bit of volume and tone, “Does it say AIR FRESHNER on the can?!” “No,” he said, dropping his head. I had him light some candles to try to help alleviate the smell and save us all.

Today is Friday again. I am hoping that somewhere between Dad’s house, school and my house, LM will FIND HIS MISSING BRAIN and will get it reattached before the weekend. If you happen to see a 10 year old boy’s brain lying about, could you send it over? Or if you happen to have an extra one, I’d love to borrow it until we can find his again.

Also, if you know where the gypsies have been, could you PLEASE send them my way? I’m afraid by the time they get here, LM won’t bring me much in way of a selling price.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Blast.

Blast. I told Texas that I'd do this thing. And I forgot that I'd do this thing and now, I have to do this thing. So, yeah, just cause I don't have anything else going on in my life at the moment, I'll just do this thing.

(Okay, I can't get the icon to load. It's all about NaNoWriMo. If you don't know visit, www.nanowrimo.org )

Blast.

Dear Downstairs Neighbor (Part II):

Despite having been a single mother for nearly 6 years now, I am always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to cut expenses, simplify my life and use the resources I have. This morning I was thanking God that he put us in such close proximity so that I might glean ideas from you, the model of single parenting.

I was raised in a family that believed in alarm clocks and until this morning, I had never questioned their usefulness or necessity. I am ashamed now, to admit that I have been raising my son as a believer of alarm clocks, too. I did not know there was an alternative and it is with much shame that I admit it had never occurred to me that it was an unnecessary appliance.

When you first yelled for Kyle at 6:45 this morning I thought at first that it was just to get his attention. I know that sometimes children go through phases where they are temporarily hard of hearing and I thought that perhaps Kyle, at 14 was going through such a phase. It wasn’t until you yelled for him again, and again, saying “Kyle, GET UP!” that I was struck. Get up? Did I hear you correctly? No, I must have misunderstood. His alarm clock will tell him to get up, I must not have realized what you said, despite the volume coming through my floor.

At the fifth or perhaps sixth time the lightning bolt hit me. You were waking him up with your yelling!! It was as if I were seeing the light of day for the very first time! How could I have been so ignorant all this time? Here I was, buying $10 alarm clocks that have lasted us for well over 10 years, plugging them into the wall and sucking up valuable earth resources just to wake up my son each morning. It wasn’t until this morning, when I listened to you again and again yell, “KYLE!! GET UP!! NOW!!” that I realized I’ve been living a shameful existence. I have been wasting my own precious resources. God gave me a voice and he gave me lungs to create volume. I should have been using those all this time instead of the alarm clock.

Again, DN, you have taught me so much. I am reconsidering so many aspects of our daily life when I might use my voice instead of a more “mainstream” method. I could call LM to dinner with my vocal chords. We may only live in 1300 sq. ft. of space, but that doesn’t mean that an announcement before meals wouldn’t make it feel like more of an occasion! I think I might yell “I’m home!” upon my return from work, too. That would surely get LM’s attention and create a special moment each day at 5:30! Thank you so much for waking me this morning with this precious lesson. I cannot believe that I have been so ignorant and wasteful for all this time. Thank you for your creative approaches to guiding me in the ways of becoming a better single mom. You are a blessing to behold.

Best regards,

Eliza Jane