Thursday, December 22, 2011

What am I afraid of?


Being laughed at.

Looking stupid.

Not being "good enough," whatever the hell that means.

So, what do you do when you're faced with any or all of the above possibilities?

I procrastinate.

I dawdle.

I make excuses.

I freeze up and do nothing.  Yeah, like that's going to help.

Where the hell did this come from?  Why are you talking about this crap?

Well, a very dear friend of mine gave me some really excellent and spot on feedback on my blog.  And I will be brutally honest:  it stung.  I did that blinking-really-fast thing and then my stomach got all twisty, like I ate too many burritos and then did a Pilates class followed up with a roller coaster ride.

And then I thought about what she wrote.  I realized that she was not only totally right, but also a totally awesome friend who wasn't trying to break my spirit but rather make me a better writer.

Okay.  I can deal with that.

And then I thought some more.  I realized that if I really want to write, I need to start (gulp) working harder.  I need to stop crapping out blog posts and start crafting entries.  And that kinda scared me.

Why?  Why does working hard at something that I actually enjoy strike fear in my heart?

Because I'm afraid:

That I will fail.

That people I know will laugh at me.

That they will think I will look stupid.

That they will think I am not a good writer.

So what are you going to do about it?

I am going to spend more than thirty minutes writing blog posts.

I am going to write out my mission statement for the blog, and make sure that each post reflects that.

I am still going to (sorry, can't quite think of a more... fitting... word) crap out my thoughts (just not online), but I also will spend time crafting them, making sure that I'm not just rehashing what I did that day, but what I think about it.  You know, make it a little more interesting and, dare I say it, compelling for the reader.  (I know, what a concept!)

So, once again I owe a BIG thanks to my friend for kicking me in the ass.

Sure, friends are supposed to be nice to you and tell you things that make you feel good about yourself.  But a real friend tells you the truth, knowing that it will sting at first, but that it will also make you a better person.

Guess which category I place my friend?

Working to become a better writer scares the crap out of me.  Having a friend who will be brutally honest to make me better at it makes it a little less scary.

Friday, December 16, 2011

How to write a YA dystopian novel

I've been reading A LOT of Young Adult, dystopian fiction lately.  

Along with watching Twilight movies and looking at pictures of Robert Pattinson on the Internet, reading YA dystopian fiction is my number one guilty pleasure.  I love love love it.  However, the Novels of Dystopia have been both amusing and frustrating me lately:  I've read so many of them that they are starting to blend together.  

And I've noticed many, many recurring themes.  So much so that I would like to write a quick cheat sheet for those of you who might like to dip your pen into the dystopian ink well:

Things to remember when writing a YA dystopian novel:
  • Your story will take place at some unnamed time in the future
  • Some (possibly unnamed) catastrophic event - disease, world war, excessive materialism - has forced The Powers That Be to severely restrict personal freedoms
  • Society is a small, self-contained unit that does not communicate with others outside its borders
  • Technology is even more pervasive than it is now, and it is used to track every aspect of its citizens from personal preferences, nutritional needs, and physical location
  • All inhabitants of Society must follow the rules and regulations in their entirety.  Failure to do so will result in punishment which may include public humiliation and/or banishment from Society.
  • The protagonist, usually a female, has willingly lived within the constraints of her society for all of her life, until she meets HIM
  • For some reason, HE lives on the fringes of society - by choice or due to some circumstance - and is attracted to protagonist.  As they get to know each other, HE explains that society's restrictions are just that, restrictions, and that life wasn't Always Like This
  • Protagonist is dating a "nice" boy, preferably an upstanding, model citizen who personifies the ideals valued by Society
  • Protagonist finds herself attracted to HIM and, as she spends time with HIM, begins to question her blind loyalty to Society
  • Love triangle somehow raises the suspicion of The Powers That Be, who must take some sort of punitive action against protagonist and/or HIM
  • Protagonist must make a choice between Society and True Love, which will result in Permanent Banishment from Society
  • Resolve some of the major plot points, but leave the readers (somewhat) hanging at the end.  Remember, you've signed a deal for a trilogy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gluten-Free Wonderland?

Don't know if I've mentioned this here or not, but I've been wheat-free for almost two years.

It is simultaneously great and sucky.

Great because I don't have that brain fog and pervasive nausea that I would get when eating wheat.

Sucky because I really miss a nice loaf of crusty bread, the texture of real semolina pasta, and - more than anything else - cookies and other baked goodies.

I know, I know, there are a kajillion websites with recipes for gluten-free treats, and gluten-free cookies and other snacks can be found at any Target or grocery store.  But have you actually tried any of those store-bought gluten-free foods?  And not just foods that aren't normally wheat-free.  I mean things like cookies, pasta, or bread.  Seriously - have you tried any of them?

Yes, they are much better than they were even a year ago, but let's be brutally honest:  most store bought gluten-free foods are pale substitutes for the original.

Sure, I could make my own bread, cakes, and cookies (I happen to have an excellent recipe for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies that is pretty easy to make), but I am a full-time mom to three young and very active boys.  I don't have the time to sort through the bazillion recipes, make test batches, and figure out which ones taste the best and are easiest to make (not to mention which recipes will pass the non-GF taste test).

But, I may have found a solution.  I just found out that there is a magazine called Gluten-Free Living.  I haven't had the opportunity to get my grubby little paws on a copy (yet), but I would imagine that it includes things like recipes, tips on finding hidden sources of gluten in restaurant menus and food labels, and that sort of thing.  I would really like to have a subscription to GFL.  I can, and if I am lucky, it won't cost me a cent.  See, this blog called Gluten Free Frenzy is giving away 25 free subscriptions to Gluten-Free Living.  I want one!  Please, please pick me!!!

Any gluten-free success stories (meaning they passed the Hubster/boys taste test) will be posted.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gone Too Soon

Feeling emotionally exhausted today.

Mom called me this morning; my aunt called her last night.  Her boyfriend had an aneurysm, and brain scans showed no function.  He had called and asked her to come down (they live in the same apartment building) because he was having awful headaches, and shortly after she got there he collapsed in her arms.  Mom and Dad drove down to be with her today, and shortly after they arrived he was removed from life support.

Later this morning I learned that a classmate from one of the high schools I attended (my family moved a lot; I went to three high schools) also passed away today.  He was 41 and had a young daughter.

As much as I enjoy the festivities that this time of year brings, this part of it really sucks.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Nothing says "Christmas" like a port-a-potty on your lawn

That's right.  And it bears repeating:

Nothing says "Christmas" like a port-a-potty on your front lawn.

You're probably all like, "What the what?"  I know.  I was too, when I first saw it.  Let me explain...

As I am sure you remember (because I that you care about every detail of my life), we have been doing some home improvement.  Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and tile guys have been traipsing in and out of our home for the past twenty-one weeks what feels like forever.  And since paving a driveway is part of the project, these guys have been tromping through dirt to get into our house.  Yeah, my vacuum cleaner and I have been quite hot and heavy lately.  And the dust.  Oh, the dust!  It is going to take me years to get rid of all of the freaking dust in my house.

The bright side of this is that the workers are not using my bathrooms.  (Workers using my bathroom...  Mind bleach.  Somebody please pass the mind bleach)  Instead, these lucky guys have their own personal portable john.  Initially, it was located on our side lawn, where it was visible but not in your face.

Now that our driveway is ready to be paved, the port-a-pot had to be moved, since its original location will be paved.  Where did they move it?

Front and center.

Oh yes, pull up to my house and you can't miss it:  the port-a-potty on our lawn.  Fan-freaking-tastic.

I think I'm gonna put a wreath and some lights on it, make it look festive.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Really? That was it?

Karate mom is back with an update.

Turns out that she was all worked up over nothing (No!  All of that angst and worry turned out to be for nothing?  Say it isn't so!).

See, I thought that, during a belt test, the student was required to perform the form(s) individually, under the watch of a black belt, and said black belt would determine whether or not the student has demonstrated a certain (unbeknownst to me, Karate mom) level of mastery.

Boy, was I wrong.

I had no idea that a belt test was basically another class, including the black belts walking around the room except instead of offering instruction, they are observing and grading the students.

And I was all worked up, wondering if I needed to whip out the old "As Long As You Tried Your Best" speech or not.

It turns out that I was all worried for nothing.  On one hand, I was relieved that I didn't have a disappointed child who didn't achieve a much desired goal; but on the other hand, I was annoyed that I was all worked up over what was basically a given.  However, I can deal with my annoyance.  Especially after seeing J's face when he got his orange belt.  That was worth all of the worry, the angst, the wondering.

Yes, my son is a level 9 orange belt in Tang Soo Do.  I am so proud of that boy.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Title Goes Here

Yeah, it was one of those days.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened.

The oldest went to school.  I took the two little ones to the Y.  We had lunch.  Somehow, the afternoon passed with nothing major accomplished.  J returned from school.  I made dinner.  We ate.  We all went to the Y (yes, again) for J's karate class.  Hubster showed up five minutes before class ended.  I took the little ones home.  Got them ready for bed.

And here I am.

Yay for predictability!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Counting Down

There are eighteen days left until Christmas.

I have this personal policy that I won't wish away my life, but lately I have been really looking forward to Christmas.

You might think that it's because I love the joy that Christmas brings.  That I look forward to eating, drinking, and being merry with friends.  Because even though I can't enjoy them myself, I still love baking batch after batch of Christmas cookies.  That I can't wait to bring home the things T makes on Ornament Day and hang them on the Christmas tree.  Because I get to spend time with my brother, who lives across the country and hasn't been back East since last Christmas.  Or that I look forward to showing off the new kitchen and family room while enjoying the company of my extended family.  That, more than anything else, I so look forward to seeing the excitement on the boys' faces when they see what Santa brought them.

Well, I do.  But that's not why I'm looking forward to Christmas this year.  Oh, no.  No, no no no no no.

I'm looking forward to Christmas because after all of the hype, the class parties, chocolates from their Advent calendars, the never ending Christmas lists, and the cookies and milk left out for Santa, IT WILL FINALLY BE CHRISTMAS.

Look, I love my kids.  And I love Christmas (but not as much as I love my kids).  But my kids awaiting Christmas will try the patience of the most sainted of adults.  That is why I look forward to the Big Day.  Because all of the antsy-ness of waiting will be OVER.  And then when they drive me crazy, I can blame it on something else, like the weather.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

More Fodder for Therapy

Yeah.  Poor T had a rough weekend.

Well, not exactly, but there was an incident that will probably leave a mark on his psyche.

Yesterday, I took all three boys to J's first basketball game.  I was sitting in the (three-row-high) bleachers with T and S and J was on the court practicing with his team when the fire alarm began to sound.  I thought T was going to have a nervous breakdown.  As soon as the alarm started going, T stood up and booked down the bleachers and towards the door, turning only to scream at me that we had to GET OUT NOW BECAUSE THERE IS A FIRE!  That nobody else felt any sense of urgency to evacuate only made T even more apoplectic.  The poor kid was nearly hyperventilating, tears streaming down his cheeks.  It broke my heart to see him so sincerely upset.  Some parents must have felt the same way, because a few went out of their way to explain to T that somebody must have bumped into the alarm, accidentally setting it off.

Once we got outside, T noticed that we were right next to the playground.  That perked him up, despite the continuing alarm.  And a new noise, sirens from the fire chief, arriving to evaluate the scene.  Still, T's moods were giving me whiplash, alternating between happily climbing up the playground structure and fretting and worrying that the school was on fire.

Fortunately, happy T won out, since once we were given the all clear to resume basketball, it took some wrangling to get T off of the playground structure and back into the gym.

Something tells me that T is going to be like I was when I was a kid -- panic-stricken every time there was a fire drill at school.

As I said, it'll be one more thing to discuss in therapy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

That Mom, at karate

Yeah, I was That Mom tonight.

J has been taking karate (Teng Soo, actually, not that I would know the difference between that and any other type of martial arts) since September and is loving it.  Next week is his first belt test.

Tonight, they were going over form one (don't ask me to explain beyond "it's a series of moves" because I that's all I've got).  J was doing really well for the most part, but there were a couple of times when he would turn in the opposite direction from the rest of the kids.  And the black belts were either watching other kids or not concerned about it.

So... oh look, here comes That Mom.  Going to talk to one of the Masters.  Yup, I went there.  I asked him how strict the judging was for the best tests and if, say, turning in the wrong direction was something that might prevent J from advancing.  Have I ever mentioned that I am somewhat of a perfectionist?  And an overachiever?  And slightly anal-retentive?  Not to mention a teensy tinesy bit protective of my kids?

Well, I got the distinct impression that as a seven-year-old just starting out, turning in the wrong direction will likely not be a problem, provided that the focus and effort is there.

If I'm feeling like I might need a drink next Friday, I can't begin to imagine how J will feel.  Mom's going to have to do some Oscar-caliber acting next week lest my nervousness rub off on him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Yeah, I'm overthinking.  Again.  It's something I'm really good at, because I get so much practice.

I've spent the last two hours agonizing over which faucet to order for my master bath.  I know, life changing stuff here.  I was going to go middle of the road, stylewise, but now I'm thinking going more modern.

I am driving myself crazy.

Did I mention that I need to get the rough-in valve by Tuesday morning?  So while I may not need to know the exact style, I should really know which manufacturer I'm going to go with.

I said Argh already, didn't I?

It must be said again: