Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Hampshire Loses Power; New Hampshire Writer Loses Mind

It’s been four days since an ice storm hit New Hampshire and what a crazy ride it’s been. President Bush even declared a state of emergency here in the Granite State. Trees and power lines are down, roads are blocked and electricity has been cut off. Many people still don’t have power. PSNH, our electric company, says that this storm has created the worst damage they’ve ever had to deal with in the history of the company.

Oh, lovely.

Day One: It’s Thursday. My husband and I left home at 2:00 in the afternoon for his appointment to receive laser eye surgery to control bleeding in his eye (he’s had diabetes since he was 14). We were blissfully unaware (at least I was) that a storm was approaching. On our way home, the roads seemed fine to me, probably because I drive like a turtle…until we reached the last road to our house, that is. It’s pretty much uphill all the way and every time I accelerated, the car slid on the pretty sheet of ice coating the black surface of our road. Even though I’m from Minnesota, I’m not a good winter driver (I never got to use the car much). When I was in graduate school, after an ice storm, I stepped on the brakes for a stop sign and ended up turning the car completely around (hmmm…maybe that’s why I didn’t get to use the car much). Fortunately, my husband knew what to do, calmly telling me shift into a lower gear before we died a horrible death. That helped a lot.

Happily, gratefully, we made it home in one piece. We discovered that school had let out early and that my middle child’s holiday concert had been canceled. No sarcastic comment from me about being glad about the cancellation - I was really looking forward to it. Really! But then, I have no life. Having nowhere to go, we settled in for a warm, safe evening.

It’s now midnight and the sound of my 4-year-old son crashing through the baby gate (lodged firmly in our bedroom doorway to keep our puppy from destroying the rest of our house) wakes us. My husband, dragged from his usual coma-like sleep, leaped out of bed and immediately went into commando mode, fists up, feet a-shifting back and forth, ready to take someone out. Luckily I had figured out what had happened and hissed at him to knock it off before he hurt himself. He eventually settled down and we soon determined, from the lack of a clock light, that the electricity had gone out. The absence of sound had awakened our little one, sending him hurtling down the stairs in the dark. Smart. I calmly explained to him what had happened and told him to go back to bed, so he climbed into ours. That’s not what I had in mind, but I tried to make the best of it (we only have a double bed). After about a half hour of getting squished he decided he’d had enough. I carried him back to his bed and he went right to sleep.

Morning dawned. It was dark and still sleeting out. Everything was coated in a silvery layer of ice. Our deck, the grass, the trees. Branches were drooping as though drained of life. Limbs were breaking. We climbed out of bed to a frigid bedroom. We quickly dressed like nobody’s business and fired up the wood stove. We closed off as much of the house as we could to keep at least one area warm. When that was done, my hubby and I headed outside to start cleaning up the slush/ice. It took a while because the ice is pretty thick and hard, plus it was still sleeting/raining out. We knew it was going to get cold later, however, and we can’t afford to let the driveway freeze. It’s on a hill and my minivan would never make it - not going out, which is downhill, nor coming back in, which is uphill with a drop-off on the other side. If you accelerate and then don’t slow down in time, you’ll shoot off the other side like the Dukes of Hazard. Daisy, I am not.

As we worked, the ominous sounds of snapping limbs and jarring crashes caught at our attention, reminding us of the power of ice and to stay out of the woods. Once in a while, a car drove by, some speeding as though the driver was needed in surgery, others crawled along, knuckles white. Otherwise, it was quiet. Later, when we did a tour of the yard, we found huge broken limbs scattered about, several landing on our woodpile, of course, and one big tree down, ripping out the roots as it toppled. No major damage, though, and we were thankful.

The cold front arrived that afternoon. Temperatures plummeted. We got a phone call - we happen to have a phone that works without electricity (having learned our lesson when I was pregnant and our electricity went out and it was a blizzard and I wasn’t all that far from my due date, and we had no phone). It was the guy who’s fixing our car door (Thursday morning my husband backed out of our garage while the car door was still open - our 6-year-old neglected to close it, after which it would neither open nor close). He had fixed it - lovely man - so that we could now open and close the door, but probably shouldn’t. More importantly, we could now open the front door, too (that’s the door I use - I am not crawling through the window. Remember? Not a Duke?). We decided to leave it as is - a much cheaper way to go, plus it didn’t look too bad. My husband calls the remaining dents his Persian Flaw. We just bought the car in August, of course, brand new and shiny, a rarity for us. So much for having one thing that our children haven’t ruined.

Anyway, as I was driving to go pick up the car, I encountered a downed power line and a snapped pole. The tracks of previous cars showed that they just blithely drove under the sagging line, though barely, so I thought I could, too. I made it, just barely, but farther down the road I spotted an orange diamond-shaped sign that said Road Closed. I read it in the rear view mirror as we continued merrily on our way. Hmmm…how interesting, I think. Now how are we going to get back home? The electric company had been starting work on the pole as we were passing it, so it looked like we would have to find an alternative way home. That was quite an adventure in itself, finding a way that wasn’t blocked by wires or trees, and in a new neighborhood. But we found a way, only because the weekend before I took my oldest to a birthday party. Strangely, at the time he wasn’t up to going and I didn’t particularly want to take him, but we had committed to it, so he had no choice. Our family keeps our commitments. He ended up having a really good time, I learned about some new back roads, and our conscientiousness later paid off. Good karma is a lovely thing.

We have a gas range so I made dinner quite easily that night. The ice cream was starting to melt, though, so I put it on the porch, resisting the temptation to eat it all right then (I was going into survival mode). It was 3 degrees outside. My hubby and I later dragged our mattress into the living room to sleep. It was very warm in there and, you’re going to want to kill me here, actually got too warm. Thankfully, we survived the heat and awoke to the dog dragging our quilt off the bed because she was trying to kill it. The fire was out and it was only 60 degrees in the room. Day Two had begun.

The ice on the trees was so beautiful, the smell of wood smoke in the air tantalizing, the lack of power freeing us up to do other things. This was all well and good, but my hair does not handle not being washed on a daily basis. It looked greasy and lank and strange ratty bunches were starting to form at the nape of my neck. My 4-year-old kept insisting that we’d lost our electricity because we’d been wasting it (I told him that was something that might happen in the future, but not today). My back hurt from shoveling ice and hauling wood, I wanted water in a bad way, and I missed my writing. Being a modern woman, I do my work on a computer. Jane Austen, I am not.

Still, we managed to enjoy the morning…until my husband went out for water and returned with the news that the earliest we’d get power was Wednesday (it wasSaturday). I **apped my pants. Okay, I didn’t, but it was disappointing news to hear, to say the least. I was starting to understand Jack Torrance in The Shining. Despite my growing demented state, I settled in for the long haul. I’m nothing, if not a survivor. I also sharpened my ax.

At supper we roasted hotdogs over the fire, followed by marshmallows. Later, while washing the dishes in an inch of water that I’d boiled on the wood stove, I noticed the flashing orange lights of an electric truck on the road. I’d seen a couple trucks stop at that same spot before and nothing had come of it, but this time I kept my eyes on that truck. I sensed electricity in the air. Time passed, nothing happened. I spotted the dark outline of our neighbor going down to talk to them - maybe to threaten them. Then a miracle occurred. The electricity came back on! We had lights, heat, and a return to civilization! We zipped out onto the deck and hooted and hollered and shouted, "thank you!" I hope they didn’t think they’d electrocuted us.

We were very lucky to get our power back so soon and still hope to share our good fortune. I’ve offered friends the use of our shower and hope they don’t have to take us up on the offer because that means they got their power back, too. Though I’ll be glad to help them if they need it. Our freezer is open, too, if anybody has food that requires it. Problem is, it’s hard to call anybody and check on them. We can call out on our phone, but those in need can’t get the call unless their cell phones have service (which doesn’t always happen when you’re at home in this wooded area of NH). Of course, we lost power again today, so that didn’t help matters, but we got it back again a little over an hour later. I think they were fixing other lines. I hope that’s all it was. It’s very windy today and wind does not bode well for power lines.

So, I admit that I didn’t actually lose my mind. Our family survived quite well. I discovered that I can make do without the amenities of hot water, computers, TV, and maybe even flourish. I discovered that I’m addicted to writing, but could make do with taking notes for new book ideas. I discovered that the old kerosene lamp I bought at a yard sale works really well. I discovered that the little stream running near the house provides good water for flushing the toilets. I discovered why people in the old days went to bed so dang early.

Power has been restored to our home and my mind has been restored to its former lucidity. But you know what? I wouldn’t mind losing it again, just not for a while. I have some writing to catch up on, and a hotel to run…

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why Can’t Life be Unfair in My Favor?

Nine-year-old Alex Greven gets a book deal. Have you heard this? Does it make you want to scream? If you are a struggling writer or author like myself, you probably know where I'm heading with this. Does it seem fair to you that a 9-year-old should get his 46-page book on "How to Talk to Girls" published, and by HarperCollins, no less, when the rest of us have invested our hearts and souls and worked our fingers to bloodied stumps writing fascinating and compelling 300-page novels that no one wants?

Not to me.

Am I jealous? You bet your booty. Little Alex writes a pamphlet to sell on the playground and ends up getting published...and Fox has acquired the film rights! If I tried to sell my book on the playground, I'd be hauled off to jail. Here I am working my little patootie off while he's raking in the money giving advice about how to get a girl (and maddeningly, he just might have some valid points). I'm saddened by this news, but not surprised.

How is this fair?

But heck, this is America. Land of the free and home of the brave. I should be glad that I am free and try harder to be brave. Good for Alex for doing something besides playing video games and torturing small animals. He is hope for future generations. Also, taking sneak peeks at the book, he's pretty funny, too. Dangit.

Alex, you just keep on keeping on and ignore embittered authors like myself. We're just jealous.

Terribly, horribly jealous.

So what's a person to do with this jealousy? Well, first fix yourself a bowl of ice cream and then devour it. After stewing and complaining about the unfairness of it all for a couple hours, take a deep breath and redirect all that energy into the positive. That means, get back to work. Tell yourself that someday your efforts will be acknowledged, someday they will pay off. Because, chances are, if you're that dedicated and motivated, things will work out...

Then life will finally be unfair in your favor, at the expense of someone just like you used to be. Won't that feel great?

Friday, December 5, 2008

NaNoWriMo Is Dead to Me

Did I say that? What I meant is that NaNoWriMo is finally over. Whew! I’m elated. I did not finish my novel, nor did I finish editing Anaedor, the Second. But I did manage to cut down four trees with my husband this last weekend.

That counts for something, doesn’t it?

I did make really good progress on my book, however. I now have about 155 pages (started at about 73) and have made it all the way through Anaedor and am now just cleaning a few things up. So, despite the added stress, I have to say that NaNoWriMo wasn’t all bad. I’m glad it’s over, though.

Now maybe I can do some leisure reading at night, catch up on my Ghost Hunters episodes, take a shower. You know, the essentials. Speaking of Ghost Hunters, the season finale takes place in Portsmouth, NH, one of my favorite little cities. And…my niece actually met Jason and some of the TAPS crew (or possibly the camera crew). Here’s the kicker…she had no idea who they were. She doesn’t watch Ghost Hunters. I’m not sure I can find that at all amusing. I watch Ghost Hunters, I would have recognized them. But did I meet them? Did I even know they were in town?

Nooooo!

Life goes on (not for her, though) and I am looking forward to seeing this last episode and getting my life back on track. Of course, with the holidays fast approaching and my four-year-old continually asking me how many days until Christmas (I tell him the number and the next day, he says, is it 49?), I might not make it to the New Year. Or my children won’t. We’ll see. We might be seeing survival of the fittest at its finest these next few weeks.

One final note for this stunningly uninformative and bland blog: I will be doing a book signing Saturday, December 6th, from 9-3, at the Strafford School in Strafford, NH. Come by and say hi!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is This the Twilight of My Life?

Before going to see a movie, I like to read other people’s reviews on it. Otherwise, if it’s something I’m really looking forward to, my expectations go through the roof and are bound to be dashed on the rocks of despair because nothing can be as good as how I’m imagining it (I also don’t like forming my own opinion if I can help it). As I was somewhat interested in seeing Twilight, though not as psyched as the Twihards, I’m sure, I thought I’d better make sure I wasn’t too hopeful about the outcome. Actually, my main objective was to see if the movie would be better than the book. Several reviewers expressed great disappointment with the film, preferring the book, though there were several who loved it (and not all of these were of the teenage persuasion).

I, myself, was somewhere in between…

I’d just read the book about a month ago, so the story was fresh in my mind. Like other reviewers, I found that the movie was reasonably true to the book, though there are a few things that I felt it did better. In my opinion (which I know I’m not alone in), the book could have used a bit more oomph in places, especially in the descriptive and action department. That was not a problem with the movie. The visuals, at least the backdrop of the story, were lovely - dark and dreary and mysterious. The action was better in the movie, as well. The book tended to lead you up to the action, then drop you off before anything really happened (I’m mainly referring to the fight scene), leaving you to fill in the gaping hole. It is a tension tease!

Contrary to some other reviewers, I also thought the actors did a decent job, and some were even quite good. A few predicted that being in this movie is going to kill certain of the actor’s careers, which I think is ridiculous. Sure, some of the scenes were a bit overblown…Bella being all frustrated and confused, for one, and the last hospital scene for another, but I thought Robert Pattinson as Edward and Kristen Stewart as Bella played their roles how they were meant to be played. The book does not provide a lot of insight into who they are or why they are the way they are, so I think they did the best they could with what they had.

My first impression of casting was that someone got it all wrong. Each time I’d see a new character, I had to do a mental race to figure out who they were meant to be. Especially the first time I saw Carlisle. Well, I knew right away who he was meant to be, but he looked terrible in his pancake-white makeup, like Casper all grown up. As the movie developed, however, I was happy to see less and less of the pancake. It was like the director realized the mistake and made changes as shooting went along, but didn’t feel like re-shooting those initial scenes. Also as the movie progressed, I was happy to find that the actors had developed their characters to a point that I was able to recognize them, and maybe even like them more than I did in the book. Case in point, I thought Anna Kendrick as Jessica, the friend, was great. In fact, I thought she even spiced up the character and made her more likeable. I also felt that Peter Facinelli worked well as Carlisle - I would have liked to have seen more of him (once the pancake faded).

There were a few scenes throughout the movie that especially caught my attention, either visually, or through the compelling factor. The one scene where Edward shows up in his car to rescue Bella - that was very Bond-like and quite cool. I also felt that the scene where Bella walked past Edward in the school parking lot and he turned to follow her up the hill and into the woods was very well done. Another scene I enjoyed was the tree scene, where they were perched high as an eagle in that enormous pine overlooking miles of breathtaking hills and trees and lakes, then later, becoming completely involved in the scenery of each other.

I think the main appeal of the Twilight series is not that the story revolves around vampires, it’s the unusual relationship between Bella and Edward. Anyone who has an ounce of romance in them must have felt some allure there. Who doesn’t want to be singled out - chosen - by someone with the power and mystique of Edward (and who hasn’t found anyone else good enough in almost a hundred years)? Who doesn’t wish to have someone who will protect you, take care of you, who cannot be harmed themselves? Edward is the quintessential mate. He has good morals, yet underneath possesses a secret, a burden he must struggle with - he is the lost soul that our hearts go out to. He is beautiful and alluring to all those around him, yet he chooses you just because of who you are. He has power and strength. He cannot die. Edward has it all. Sometimes I think we are all searching for someone like Edward - someone who is so darn amazing, yet finds us so darn amazing that they’re willing to sacrifice or suffer terribly just to be with us. Wow. It’s like he’s God personified (or vampirified).

Bella, on the other hand, is meant to be like the rest of us schmucks. She was obviously written to be very human, glaring flaws and all. She also feels undeserving of any kind of love or attention. Day to day, we look for acceptance, kindness, even a little interest shown in us. We want to seem special, to be more than just another number heading toward inevitable death without anyone noticing. We want to be that ugly duckling we feel ourselves to be, suddenly burgeoning into a swan. This must have happened to Bella (the name means beautiful, of course) and that’s why we can relate to her (well, more that we just want to be her). Having gone so long unnoticed, she is uncomfortable with the transformation, which gets a little old after a while. I wish she would accept herself so that she can actually relax a little. But that's just me.

In the end, the book and the movie are fantasies and that’s what I took them for. If you aren’t falling for certain things (some people hated the glittery skin idea), I recommend just letting it go. Fantasies have the power to do whatever they want, no matter how unrealistic. That’s why they’re called fantasies! Admittedly, I would have liked to see more of this and that in both the book and the movie (why is Bella so down on herself? What does she see in Edward beyond his beauty?), but I can’t deny the allure of them both. Stephenie Meyer happens to have caught that appeal. Her story gets at the heart of a basic human desire, and that is, we all want unconditional love.

Though I ask you (and Bella), what good is unconditional love if you don’t feel that you deserve it? Come on, Bella! You ARE good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like you! So just take it and enjoy your vampire love.

Twilight

Friday, November 21, 2008

When the Skies of November Turn Gloomy

Gordon Lightfoot is one of my favorite singers. Whenever November rolls around, I think about his song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," a moving homage he wrote about the ship, The Edmund Fitzgerald, which went down on Lake Superior, November 10, 1975. It’s a fitting tribute to this dangerous month, when the winds blow up trouble, the skies turn gloomy and winter thunders in.

It is particularly fitting this year…

That’s because I’m doing this challenge. I almost wrote stupid challenge, but I didn’t. Even though I desperately wanted to. I’m tired out. Not yet burned out, but getting there. This isn’t good, you know. I started out so positive and full of spirit at the beginning of the month. Now I just want to kick someone to the moon.

There are various factors as to why I feel this way, one of them having much to do with the temperature. It is 29 degrees outside. Since moving to New England eleven years ago, I have never seen it this cold this early in the season (though maybe I’m repressing it so don’t go looking it up, Anal-Retentive Guy). Of course, when I first moved here, the weather forecasters would say things like, "It’s going to be frigid tonight, folks. Down to eighteen overnight, I’m afraid." Silly me, being a native of Minnesota, automatically thought eighteen below (zero, that is). Nope. Just eighteen. These New Englanders are a bit wimpy, I thought.

Well, I’m singing a different tune now. Eighteen is frigid and that’s all there is to it.

Anyway, I was talking about the challenge. It’s going slowly. I’m on page 140 as I write this. I have definitely made progress and also only have 40 pages left to edit for Anaedor 2. Still, it seems to be going so slowww. Really, though, I should just be happy that in the midst of preparing for a craft show, for Thanksgiving, for the holidays (I like to get all my shopping done by the end of November because I like torturing myself), and for death, that I’m making any progress at all.

Part of the problem might be all the time I put into these blogs. I slave over them, I pull my hair out over them, I weep over them. I’m sure that it shows.

Ha.

Anyway, I plan on doing something relaxing soon, which should help with this blah feeling. I’m going to see the movie, Twilight. Being as it’s a book about a female heroine and mysterious creatures (kind of like Anaedor), I thought I should read the book, which I did, and see the movie, which I will, then review it. So stay tuned for my definitive blog on the movie.

I bet you’re all-aflutter!

Friday, November 14, 2008

NaNoWriMo Is Hard to Say

I think NaNoWriMo is hard to say, probably because I say it wrong. I say the Wri part like ree instead of the correct way, rye, which makes a certain sort of sense, but is much less fun to roll off the tongue.

Do you even care?

I hope not. Okay, so the challenge continues. This week has definitely been slower on the writing/editing front, but I’m still making forward progress. Why are things slow? Because there have been a few distractions along the way, like hospital visits, allergy attacks and reading other people’s blogs - dang them for being so tantalizingly intriguing! During my bloghopping, I came across an audio commentary that you should take a listen to. It definitely has an alternative, perhaps less supportive, view of NaNoWriMo, that I think you should be aware of. Here’s the link. Come back when you’re done.

So did you listen to it? I think Jeff DeRego makes some valid points, although I can’t say he’s completely right about everything because I’m taking the challenge, and agreeing with him would make me look like an idiot. I do agree with his take on the process of writing. Writing isn’t simply about producing, it’s about making sure that what you’re producing isn’t complete crapola. On the other hand, before starting the Anaedor series, I wrote four novels that were complete crapola and I wasn’t even in a hurry.

Okay, so here’s the deal. Whether or not you agree with either of us, if you’re going to take the challenge, do it with a big grain of salt. It’s nothing, if not motivation, to get yourself seated on your hiney and putting in some time. People are their own worst obstacles. I think that if you sit down and write a lot of pages, maybe even complete something, you’ve shown yourself that you can do it - that writing a book is achievable. In the beginning stages of becoming a writer, I don’t think it matters what you’ve written. What’s important is getting over that hurdle of starting and then finishing what you started. Keep in mind, as well, that editing was invented for the main reason that most of us don’t get it right the first time.

As Jeff maintains, you certainly don’t have to write every day to be a writer, but it also doesn’t hurt to write as much as you can for the simple fact that more practice means better writing (and it also becomes easier over time). However, if you don’t write every day, if you don’t complete the challenge, I truly believe that somehow you will survive and maybe even flourish. The main point is that you need to find what works for you and then try to stick to it.

In the end, books don’t write themselves. Sad - shocking even - but true. If you want to be a writer and someday, hopefully, a published author, then you’ve got to write. It’s that simple.

So far this challenge has forced me to be productive at a time when I kept putting off writing to do other things. I am sincerely thankful for this push because while I was missing my writing, I was not carving out the time to do it. Whether or not I meet my goal of completing my book this month is not important to me, but getting back on track is.

So thank you Jeff DeRego for putting this challenge into perspective and thank you NaNoWriMo for kicking me in the butt!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Momma Done Called the Cops on Me!


Yes, you read that right. My mom called the cops on me, and I didn’t even do anything wrong. Loyal readers, you know I can’t go too long without something strange happening in my life. This is the latest.

It all started on a wet and wild day…

It was around 4:00 in the afternoon and I decided to take the kids and our puppy out for a walk. I needed the exercise, as did the dog, so I decided we’d all head out in rain gear, with umbrellas clutched firmly in hand. Having discovered a lovely stream a couple weeks ago that was about a 20-minute walk away, we headed for that. It was slow going in rainboots, but we still made good time, enough for the kids to muck about and make leaf boats when we arrived at the stream.

We couldn’t stay long, though. It was daylight saving’s now, losing us an hour’s daylight, and overcast from the rain, to boot, so I decided we’d better head home - it was starting to get dark. So we tromped and trudged along on the journey back, not thinking about much of anything but getting home. We weren’t too far from the house when my mom scared us by calling out my name. When I finally figured out that it was her and not the fairies I’d been discussing with my four-year-old, I answered back that we were coming.

She met us at the garage and told us she’d been worried because it was dark (it looks much more so on the inside looking out). I assured her that we’d been able to see the whole way home and then asked her what time it was (not too long after 5:00). We’d only been gone a little over an hour. I thought she was overreacting a bit, but, oh well. Little did I know.

So we get inside the house and the kids are stripping down and toweling off, when my oldest son says, "What’s that big truck in the driveway?" Well, it turned out to be a fire truck, lights a-flashing, along with several other trucks. I gaped. Two of my sons are in their underwear, I’m wet and trying to dry off a sopping puppy whose only goal in life is to eat the towel I’m using and my mom says, "Oh, I know what that is. But I canceled that." Well, apparently they didn’t get the message and showed up in force to track down the missing lady and her kids who, might I remind you, had only been gone a little over an hour. Needless to say, I was feeling very embarrassed by this turn of events. Having come from a strong Norwegian background, asking for help was like asking someone to stick a pencil in your eye, God forbid you get noticed for anything, even good stuff, and looking foolish is as good as getting a death sentence. I can just imagine the conversation at the fire station now…Remember that idiot lady who took her kids for a walk in the woods in the rain and dark and nearly gave her poor mother a stroke from the worry? What a neglectful mother and daughter she was.

Egad.

I eventually forgave my mother for jumping the gun…she’d made soup for our supper, along with excellent homemade crescent rolls so I told her she was off the hook, though she could still bet her booty that I was going to be blogging about her boo-boo. That’s what she gets for being a worried mother. Sigh. It’s nice to be cared about, but I hate that kind of attention. It did help that all the guys who came out were really good about it. Said they were just glad they didn’t have to go trekking through the woods. As they were leaving, Dorrie tried to go with them and I had to pick her up in her little towel and carry her back inside, mumbling about how I was going to kill my mother. Luckily they didn’t hear me or I’d really have been in trouble.

By now I have kind of recovered, and am glad we’re new to the town so I shouldn’t get teased about being lost in the woods for an hour. Just in case, though, I think I’ll wear sunglasses and a scarf for the next few weeks.

Anyhoo, I wasn’t going to blog about any of that, but it came up so I thought I’d better get it down while I was still mad.

Now…back to my regularly scheduled blog. Remember that I’m attempting to finish a novel in the month of November without going mad? Well, on November 1st I started with about 73 pages with the hope of completing the rest of the novel in 30 days. So far, I am rocking the house! Somehow I am managing to write 5+ pages a day and enjoying it. Working around kids, a puppy, storytime at the library, the election, a baby shower, and getting ready for a craft fair (I ordered 1000 bookmarks and have to trim them all because the stupid company didn’t cut them right), not to mention the whole cop trauma, I am still managing to write.

Of course, getting enough sleep is another matter.

Relaxation time has gone out the window, as well. But here’s what’s helping. Both my husband and I are taking the challenge. He’s not writing a book, but he’s making a new website and wants to finish it this month. It always helps to have a partner who is working as hard as you do. If he were sitting on the couch watching Ghost Hunters and eating Cheezits all evening while I was trying to keep my eyes from closing for a little snooze, I would be tempted to join him. Instead, he’s in here with me, working just as hard. Misery sure does love company, doesn’t it?

The strange thing is, I’m not actually miserable. While I trim bookmark after bleepin’ bookmark (and permanently cripple my back), we catch up on our day, discuss world events, wonder what to do about the puppy who keeps chewing on our computer cords, and sing along to Dido. It’s actually been kind of nice.

So far, I have written 32 pages. Of course, that’s 32 pages with lots of dialogue, which really can make a book fly by. Yeah, dialogue! I’m sure I’ll slow down as the days pass, but it’s definitely an awesome start. I’m shocked by it, actually. What also helps is knowing that the Thanksgiving holiday is coming up. I want to get most of the book written before then so I can actually enjoy the vacation. Which I do think is achievable.

But only if I don’t end up on COPS for being in the toilet too long.

Thanks, Mom!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Scariest Challenge Ever!

For the last of my Halloween blogs this year, I am actually going to write about something happening in November, and I'm not talking All Saints Day. I am talking about a challenge. This challenge is so scary that I'm not sure I'm up to it myself.

What is it, you ask? Well read on, oh intrepid ones!

Okay, here's the challenge. I didn't invent it myself, but I am going to try and do it anyway (other people's challenges are always risky). According to the website, NaNoWriMo, which is short-hand for National Novel Writing Month, November is the month to finally write that novel you've always wanted to write. Here's the catch. The creators of this website challenge you to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Off the top of my head, I figure that's approximately 1666.66 words a day (4 1/2 to 5 typewritten pages, give or take). Why? Because they are sadists. And because issuing such a challenge, with a deadline, will give you motivation like you've never had before.

Personally, being somewhat of a rebel, I'm going to take on a modified version of the challenge. I have already started a novel, about 70 pages in, and my challenge is to finish it by the end of November. Doing it this way, I won't qualify for the website's contest, but I'm okay with that. This is a personal thing.

But I'm too busy, Kristina! you cry. I'll write my book when I'm ________ (fill in the blank - retired, done with having kids, recovered from malaria). Well, I'm busy, too. At the same time that I'll be writing this novel in one month, I will be editing another novel, potty training a puppy, raising three boys, running a household and taming a wild Rhinoceros.

Beat that.

This will probably be the death of us, but what do we have to lose (other than our lives?). Mostly sleep, I suppose. And any possible relaxation time. But what will we gain? A book. An entire novel filled with words we put together all by ourselves. It may not make any sense, it may be a pile of crap, but it will be ours.

To prove that I'm not making this up, visit nanowrimo yourself to see what I'm talking about. It's a neat website and the creators seem like fun, albeit sadistic, people (although the two may go hand in hand for you). Also, stay tuned for weekly updates on my progress and feel free to comment on your own. Remember, united we stand, divided we fall. So don't let me down. Also, just so you know, if I fall, I'm taking you all down with me.

Good luck and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Graveyard Madness!


I like graveyards. More than I should, some would say. I’ve read book after book on these strange and mysterious places, I visit them whenever I can (one more reason why New England is such a great place to live), and I always slow down when I see them near the road, much to the annoyance of the drivers behind me. Sometimes I think I’m more at home in a graveyard than a mall full of people.

But maybe that’s because the dead are easier to talk to.

Over the years, I’ve seen countless graves, some elaborate, some just the facts, ma’am, some are only a stone without words. I think these blank faces sadden me more than the ones with words. Someone cared enough to mark the passing of a loved one, but could not afford to pay for a gravestone. Most likely it’s the grave of an infant or young chil who did not survive long enough to warrant the expense of a gravestone. That sounds coldhearted, I suppose, but when it comes down to buying a stone or feeding your remaining children, I think it’s only right to choose the living. The stone, unmarked, is still a memorial, whether it is fancy, or not. Someone cared. At least that’s what I like to think.

There are so many graves in this world. Children’s graves, mother’s who’ve died in childbirth, young men sent off to war, only to return home in a pine box. There are those who have lived decades beyond many of their peers, though such a long life was not necessarily a blessing. You can just tell by their gravestones that they were miserable old codgers. Mean in life, mean in death.

Others have a sense of humor about passing into the great beyond. Here are some funny epitaphs (I told you I was sick!)…

~~~

Here lies the body

Of Margaret Bent

She kicked up her heels

And away she went.

~and~

Jedediah Goodwin

Auctioneer

Born 1828

Going!

Going!!

Gone!!!

1876

~and~

Here lies Barnard Lightfoot

Who was accidentally killed

in the 45th year of his age.

This monument was erected

by his grateful family.

~and lastly…

Ann Mann

Here lies Ann Mann,

Who lived an old maid

But died an old Mann.

December 8, 1767

~~~

Over the centuries, countless gravestones have been knocked over, broken, or stolen. Others have simply sunk into the ground, slowly disappearing beneath a mound of thick moss. A fitting blanket for the resting soul. Perhaps the stone survives, but the writing has faded into non-existence, courtesy of the wind and rain. We may never know who lies beneath the grass. But then, there are a lot of dead who have been lost and forgotten.

Along with our new house, we acquired a graveyard. It’s a family one, with about seventeen gravestones. We managed to find one stone buried beneath the moss and leaves, nearly forgotten. Why were we the ones to find it when the previous owners, who had lived here for seventeen years, did not? Is there a story developing here? I wonder. Or is it simply a footstone, nothing special? Whatever the answer, it’s up to us to find out. Whoever it belonged to won’t be forgotten. Not on my watch!

One of the occupants died young - age twenty. Her tombstone is the most ornate of the bunch; she was obviously much loved. There are many tombstones here with the same name, or initials - a line followed, though sometimes broken. A few are children. How painful to consign a once warm, living being to the cold earth. I can understand the desire to lie down next to your beloved to keep them warm. Macabre, you think? Or human? On the other side of the coin, I have a relative who bought up twelve plots because she doesn’t want anyone to be buried by her. She will be the lone tombstone. Sounds lonely to me. No beloved will warm her plot.

There is no joy in a graveyard, yet they are not especially sorrowful, either. These idyllic spots always seem such peaceful places to me. That is, until a hand reaches up out of the ground and grabs my leg. But typically that’s no big deal. You just shake it off. They don’t mind. When my husband hides in our graveyard at night, while playing hide-and-seek with the kids, he swears he feels someone tugging on his leg. I tell him to stop being such a wimp, it’s only the spirits wanting to play.

My youngest son is glad that we bought this house because, "If somebody dies, then we have some place to bury them!" He’s a strange child - I don’t know where he gets it from. Okay, he gets it from his dad. Maybe a little from me. I do like graveyards, after all. Though here’s the funny thing. Even though I like them, I’m not sure I want to end up in one. I hate the idea of putting a lead-lined coffin into the ground - it’s so poisonous and unnecessary. I recently read about places that are eco-friendly, returning to the simple pine box of old. Hmmm… I like the idea, but I’m not sure I’d want to be buried someplace I’ve never been to. I’m also not sure I like the idea of being buried, and possibly still alive. There was a brief time when they would bury a person with a string attached to both the supposedly deceased’s hand and to a bell above ground - just in case they were still alive and needed to let somebody (who was hopefully paying attention) know. Of course, being incinerated, which is my other option, doesn’t leave much room for error, either.

Perhaps I will, like a wild animal, just crawl into the woods one day and die (provided, of course, that I live to a ripe old age and am allowed to die naturally). Under the shelter of a grand, old tree, my body will rejoin the earth, my flesh will become food, my bones, play toys for coy dogs.

It seems the ultimate way to give back and certainly better than being stuck in the ground or burned up. But that’s just my opinion. I might feel differently when I’m dead.

I’ll be sure to let you know…

Monday, October 20, 2008

Who You Gonna Call? Ghost Hunters!

As part of my October blogging funfest, I couldn’t possibly leave out a review of one of my new favorite shows…Ghost Hunters. I got hooked on the show last season because of my mom. She needed someone to share her addiction so she taped a bunch of episodes for my husband and myself (at the time we didn’t get the Sci-Fi station because we’re frugal). That means we were able to watch several episodes, one right after the other. We got hooked.

And now we have Sci-Fi.

I blame my mother for our decision to get the extended cable package, just so we can watch Sci-Fi. It’s not something I would do for myself. It costs more money and I really don’t want the kids watching TV all day, or myself, for that matter. But since she’s living with us now, I figured we’d better keep her happy by making sure she had her favorite channels to watch. I did this all for her. It had nothing to do with my wants or desires.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, Ghost Hunters centers around TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), a paranormal research group that travels around the U.S. gathering evidence to either confirm or debunk a purported haunting. Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson run TAPS out of Rhode Island. Surprisingly, they are about as normal as you probably could get for being ghost hunters. They seem to love what they do, but they are always happy to head home to their families at the end of the day. If they look tired to you, it’s because they are. They do all their investigations at night (natch), after working all day as plumbers for Roto Rooter.

Compared to a good portion of those working in the paranormal field, TAPS takes an unusual approach to their investigations. Their first priority is to debunk a haunting. That means they want to try and prove that what is happening is not paranormal. They appear to be very serious and dedicated to finding other explanations and are slow to call a place haunted. While they have both had their own paranormal experiences (which they won’t talk about), they are healthily skeptical and prefer to take a scientific approach to their investigations. I don’t know about you, but this makes me enjoy the show all the more. I guess it’s because when they do find something they think is a haunting, you feel like you can really believe them.

While ghost hunting, they use an array of technological devices to help them track down spirits (a.k.a. entities, full body apparitions, shadow figures, but rarely called ghosts). A few of my favorites: the thermal-imaging digital camera, which is used to record images often created by heat signatures that humans cannot see with the naked - or partly dressed - eye; a recorder that tapes EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), capturing voices or sounds ordinarily not picked up by the human ear; and K-2 meters, which measure magnetic fields. Oftentimes, the researchers use the K-2 meter to communicate with intelligent hauntings. I like watching it light up in response to questions, and not just because it’s pretty. You really feel like they’re having a conversation with the entity, or whatever it is. One time they asked a spirit, which was supposedly a 9-year-old boy, are you lonely? And he responded with a fervent, "Yes." How did they know the spirit was a boy and nine years old? They asked him.

One of my favorite episodes happened right here in my own backyard at the Mt. Washington Hotel. A princess is purported to haunt the premises (I believe it is the Princess Clarigny de Lucinge). While doing EVP work, Grant and Jason captured her replying to one of Jay’s questions. He said something like, "Where are you?" and she replied, "I’m in my room. Where are you?" At the time, he couldn’t hear her, but later when they played the EVP recording, it was very clear - I could hear her perfectly.

The Princess is what you would call an intelligent haunting because she can interact with you. A residual haunting has no sense that you are there, just keeps repeating whatever it does over an over again. I once read up on a theory that postulates that we are not actually seeing or interacting with a ghost (the spirit of a dead person), but are crossing a time-space continuum. So the princess might actually have been alive, but in her time, while Jay and Grant were doing their ghost search in their own time. It kind of makes sense to me, in a weird, fascinating sort of way.

I feel bad for the people who want ghosts and no evidence is found and vice versa, those who don’t want ghosts and several are found. Service places (restaurants, bed and breakfasts, bars) tend to like having stories to tell about hauntings. Having evidence to back up their stories always makes them that much more alluring. It’s kind of sad when TAPS does research (at the library, town hall, or on the internet), which actually shows that the stories behind the hauntings aren’t even close to being true. I think we all like a good story, and we all want to believe in that story. Their job is to debunk, which is good, but sometimes I’d rather be fooled.

One of my favorite parts about Ghost Hunters is the interaction amongst the crew. Things seem to be more tame this season, but in previous seasons there were a lot problems to work out. As an unapologetic voyeur (though not the creepy type), I like watching conflict. Jay and Grant are funny guys, and Steve, the tech guy is a smart aleck if I’ve ever seen one. He likes to poke people and his current favorite target is Tango. Tango is such a sweet guy and probably a bit naive, but he is learning to stick up for himself. Interesting fact: Steve is scared of just about everything (heights, spiders), but he’s a ghost hunter. Go figure. Kris (the main female) serves as their liason to the customers and also goes on investigations. I like her, which is too bad. No conflict there. Sigh…

This sounds morbid (which I am), but I always like when they visit asylums, prisons, and places of that sort. Tons of activity is always happening in these buildings, most likely because there’s been a lot of suffering and death inside them. On Friday, October 31st, starting at 7:00E, a special Halloween TAPS takes place at Fort Delware, a very active site. It’s supposed to be an awesome episode and you can participate in live feeds and all that fun stuff while watching. Plus, it’s hosted by Josh Gates, host of Destination Truth and one of my favorite television personalities. If you have trick-or-treating duties, you’ll have to Tivo it. We don’t have Tivo (we’re frugal, remember?) so we’ll probably have to tape it. Or go T-o-T’ing very early, which sounds better. Poor kids.

So, if you ever encounter a spirit, entity or things that go bump in the night, tell me, who you gonna call?

Ghost Hunters!

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Captured Me A Castle!

Well, not really. Wishful thinking on my part. But I did visit one this weekend, named…wait for it…Hammond Castle (cue thunder and lightning now!). As part of my October blogging spooky funfest, I thought I’d share my experience with you so that for once you’ll have to live vicariously through me instead of the other way around, which is what usually happens. Not only is this castle awesome, it’s located in the U.S., which means most of you Americans reading this won’t have to cross an ocean to see it. To add flavor to my blog (just a pinch of spice), I also want to share a couple of the strange things that happened to us while we were there.

Paranormal stuff, that is…(cue thunder and lightning now!).

First off, I’ll tell you a little bit about the history of Hammond Castle. It’s located in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a beautiful town stretched out along the Atlantic Ocean. It was built by John Hays Hammond, Jr. (the guy on the right) between the years 1926 and 1929. A world traveler and inventor, he built this home for his new bride and also to accommodate both his artifacts gathered while traveling and his laboratories for inventing all his hundreds of inventions. Thanks to Mr. Hammond, we have the remote control. It if weren’t for him (and a few others) I might actually have to get up off the couch to change the channel, and that’s just wrong! You da bomb, John!

John Hammond was, at least in my (always) humble opinion, a very unique and interesting man. I think you’ll agree when you see what he did and what he created. Inside the castle, you will find one of my favorite places - a conservatory made to look like a town square. The main feature of this glass-ceilinged room is the gorgeous, plant-lined pool that can be filled with tap water or switched to seawater with just the pull of a lever. There is also an optical illusion in the pool that I’ll leave for you to discover when you visit. Fun fact: Back in the day, Mr. Hammond used to jump into the pool from one of the windows overlooking it, which would have been quite a leap from what I can see. If I had lived there, I might have tried it myself. Admit it, you would have, too.

The kids especially liked seeing all the weapons and the suit of armor, sneaking up the spiral staircases that led to the turrets, and staring at the pool, wishing they could swim in it for just a ‘little’ bit. I was of the same opinion as my wee ones, plus I enjoyed visiting the rounded library, walking through the great hall and imagining this was mine, all mine!, studying all the old artifacts (including a skull, which I’m in the market for myself), and taking in the views overlooking the ocean.

I’m thinking of putting in a bid for the place.

Now comes the paranormal part…While we were there, my husband decided to take a picture of the two younger boys in front of the suit of armor. It was my middle child’s turn. While he was patiently trying to maintain his he-man pose, my husband was fiddling with the camera, which was not cooperating. Suddenly, my hubby looks up at us.

"That’s weird," he mutters. "The words (or something close to this), ‘You are not authorized to proceed as it is not deemed to be a public photograph’ just came up on the camera screen." We looked at him strangely, as we so often do, and he shrugs. "That’s what it says." We don’t know what to tell him. Too bad it disappeared before I had a chance to confirm his report. At any rate, he finally got the camera to work and was able to take the pictures in front of the suit of armor without consequence (i.e., the ghost of John Hammond did not strike us down). Not long after that, I tried to take some pictures of my oldest son and the dang camera wouldn’t work. I kept pushing the button and finally had to turn it off and back on before it would work again. Now I know this can be put down to a mechanical problem with the camera (I’ll mention here that when we left the house, our camera was fully charged and working well), but those words coming up are hard to explain away. If this is something that can be debunked (yes, I watch Ghost Hunters), please let me know. It’s a Kodak, Easy Share DX6490. The strange thing is that I feel like I’ve heard about this before.

So what had happened here? Was it a ghost? Maybe. The camera malfunctioning? Possibly. Was it spooky? Most definitely. Good thing I like spooky.

As you can see, we always enjoy our visits to Hammond Castle. Every time I go I feel like I learn something new. For more information on the castle, click here. Keep in mind that they put on a Halloween extravaganza (which I’ve never been to and would like to try out) in the middle of October, closing the castle to regular tours during those few weeks. I advise that you call ahead. For more photos of Hammond Castle, go to my photo page. Also know that there is a nearby park (you pass it on the way to the castle) for rock climbing, playing, beach combing and picknicking. We typically visit the castle, then have lunch at the park. Though we’ve also hit a couple of the restaurants for yummy chowder, like we did this last time (since it was raining).

I’ll leave you with John Hammond’s words, written in a letter to his father in 1924:

"My ambition is to leave a modest, but beautiful, museum. I want only an authentic atmosphere, some furniture, and genuine architectural pieces — doors, windows, etc. In cold restrained New England, a place with the romantic beauty of the Italian and French past may prove the inspiration of many poor artists and students to come. It will give them something that I have been fortunate enough to know and enjoy. It also gives me satisfaction to think that I may be able to produce something of lasting worth."

I believe he certainly accomplished that.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Where in the World is Harry Potter?

Imagine my dismay when I went to look up the date for the next Harry Potter movie (HP and the Half-Blood Prince), knowing it was going to be in November and getting excited, only to find that it’s been moved to July of 2009! My reaction…?

You’ve got to bleepin’ be kidding me!

Okay, okay. I know this news broke in August, but I’ve been a bit behind on things these days. Still, I was really looking forward to seeing the H-B Prince this fall. It’s been a long summer with moving and all and this movie was serving as my perfect escape to look forward to. I don’t know what the big wigs were thinking, pulling such a stunt. All the reasons they provided seemed pretty silly to me and explained nothing. Here’s two of them:

Alan Horn, President of the WB, said, "Our reasons for shifting ‘Half-Blood Prince’ to summer are twofold: we know the summer season is an ideal window for a family tent pole release, as proven by the success of our last Harry Potter film, which is the second-highest grossing film in the franchise, behind only the first installment. Additionally, like every other studio, we are still feeling the repercussions of the writers’ strike, which impacted the readiness of scripts for other films–changing the competitive landscape for 2009 and offering new windows of opportunity that we wanted to take advantage of. We agreed the best strategy was to move ‘Half-Blood Prince’ to July, where it perfectly fills the gap for a major tent pole release for mid-summer."

First of all, what’s a tent pole release? Sounds a bit naughty. Second, making such a move makes people feel bitter, especially as this stunt seemed to be all about money (and making headlines). It makes people not want to go see the movie just to prove a point. I’m still going to go (I don’t like cutting off my nose to spite my face - I’m the only who loses on that one), but I won’t like it. And that really takes away from the whole idea of Harry Potter. Magic, Fantasy, Heroism, Flying on Brooms. Harry Potter should be bigger than just the bottom line. Fans don’t want excuses about why they’re being disappointed, they want their movie when it was promised to them. I really don’t care that it puts the date closer to the release of the final movie (which is being split into 2 movies - oh, and what’s up with that?). I want my Harry Potter now!

I vote that we should get a discount on the movie price that the head honchos take out of their own pockets. That might go some ways toward making me feel better. At the very least they should pay for my popcorn and jujubees.

What do you think? Can we get them to do it? We’ll go see your movie, Mr. Horn, but first we have some demands. We pay your salary, show us how you earn it. We might even make him dance.

I think Harry Potter and the gang would approve. Now who’s with me?!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Destination Truth...Or Bust!


My friends, I have discovered a new show on that wacky machine we call the television. I don’t normally watch too much TV, preferring to…yes, read. However, my mother got me hooked on Ghost Hunters (which I will be blogging about some time during October - my month dedicated to Halloween topics, i.e., anything to do with the spooky) so naturally I began to catch glimpses of the Truth. Having seen the teasers, I ‘accidentally’ left the TV on just to see what the heck all this hype was about and got sucked into the fascinating world of Josh, Ryder, Casey and the rest of the Truth Crew.

Let me tell you something…those kids are crazy!

Seriously, they do things and go places I can’t even imagine fantasizing about doing or going to. At the beginning of the show, Josh, the show’s host and most intrepid of the bunch, says to us, "In my travels I’ve seen some unexplainable things and I’ve done some things I can’t quite explain." He means it. I sincerely believe he would walk a tightrope over the Grand Canyon while fending off hungry buzzards just to find a monster that may (or most likely doesn’t) exist. Oh, yeah, that’s what this show is about…chasing monsters (and yes, there is an uncanny resemblance to Scooby-Doo). On Wednesday’s episode, Josh joked that the rest of his crew was having trouble getting through customs because the officials weren’t buying their reason for being in the country…"Um, yes, we’re here to chase monsters." Can’t say I blame them.

The monsters the crew has chased after are pretty awesome - though some are kind of funny (like the three-foot tall monkey man). Just recently the crew chased after the Ahool - a giant flying bat with the face of a monkey and a 12-foot wingspan. I also saw an episode where they searched for angry spirits ‘living’ in a haunted cave in the middle of the jungle (which the crew could only visit after securing, for protection, a bottle of sacred water obtainable at the bottom of a sheer cliff - even with that great protection, their native guides abandoned them after only a short time in the cave). There was the Yowie to track - a bigfoot-like monster (I swear every country has their own version) and a wicked looking dinosaur in Australia. Two different episodes explored claims of giant water monsters - neither of them Nessie - one of which lived in mercury-infested waters (a mutant in mercury-poisoned waters? what a surprise!) in a lake in Indonesia. I’m not sure if I admire the crew’s decision to dive in deadly waters to search out the monster that was scaring the fisherfolk, or amazed at their lack of intelligence. Okay, they weren’t being stupid…they knew the risks they were taking, but wow, they went ahead and did the dive anyway because they wanted to reassure the frightened people. I hope they don’t end up growing another head from their exposure…great, another mouth to feed! Talk about no good deed going unpunished.

Ryder is the only female member of the crew (that I’ve seen so far). She’s an interesting study in contrasts. Here she is on this show choosing to do all these dangerous things, but she doesn’t seem all that thrilled to be doing them. I like this contradiction. Something else I’ve noticed: they often put this camera on her shoulder so that you get this close-up of her face (typically in the dark), which is always very expressive, especially in the green glow of night vision. If something is going to happen, you’ll see it on her face. She always looks ready to bolt at the first sound, yet she continues to go out on these adventures again and again. Why? I’m not sure. Still, I am impressed with her gumption. Though maybe she does these crazy things because she’s in love with one of the crew members. I have my guesses as to who.

After doing a little research, I just found out that Ryder has a first name…Erin. I thought it was Ryder. And Casey grew up on a farm. And Josh has a degree in Archeology and Drama (go figure). They take a medic along with them named Jarrod, who is just as involved in the adventures as everyone else. He is trained in deep sea diving and saving lives. They seem to use his services a lot. I think they also need to add a mechanic (and/or a mechanical engineer) to the crew. Things are always breaking on them.

During one episode, while in Australia, the crew drives by a sign that says, "Don’t risk your life" and Josh turns to the camera with this this querying look on his face, like what’s that all about? But does it stop him? No. Not jeeps that break down, day-long train rides, spider bites, cliffs, or lack of evidence. He is unstoppable, like a superhero, or something.

At any rate, I can’t wait to see where Josh and the Truth Crew are heading next. I haven’t even seen that many episodes yet but I’m already a convert.

But maybe that’s because I can handle the truth! Can you?

The Truth

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's So Hard to be Good

At the beginning of the summer I issued forth a challenge…the Push-Reel Mower Challenge. Remember that? I was going to try to mow our yard all summer using only a push-reel mower. It was a good and worthy challenge, some might even say a tantalizing one (okay, just me because I have no life). Unfortunately for the environment, I was not up to it. I only managed to use the push-reel three times this summer. I’m giving myself a grade of suck minus for this one, folks.

That’s the lowest grade I’ve ever gotten, and I gave it to myself.

Okay, so here’s the deal (get ready for the excuses). After I issued the challenge we found a house we wanted to buy and had to quickly put our house up on the market. We desperately needed to make the yard look more presentable so we wouldn’t be dealing with two mortgages. I think our push-reel does a good job mowing, but it’s not the tidiest way to go about getting the job done. Second, we went on vacation for two weeks. When we returned, we found a jungle awaiting us. Our dandelions were actually roaring. Out came the gas mowers once again. Third, the house we bought came with a lot of grass. Horror of horrors, we actually had to buy a riding lawn mower (well, we didn’t have to, but I would still be mowing today if we hadn’t). Before we took this drastic step, I tried mowing with the push-reel mower, hoping to use it in some areas - it didn’t work. The grass was too long. So I tried the push-gas mowers. Tragically, after an hour and a half I died (at least that’s what I told my husband), with most of the yard left to do.

I’d really wanted to be good to the earth, to conserve and nurture, but this was too much for me to handle! So what’s a girl to do? Granted, I kind of like whipping around on my riding mower now, though the hills are a bit daunting (that whole tipping over thing, you know), but I don’t want to keep this up. The rider mower (Bubba) uses a lot of gas. We needed a better solution, which I soon provided. It was an answer to all our problems and inspired by a genius that stunned even me. I said to my husband, "We must buy a goat."

He laughed at me.

So we didn’t buy a goat, but what we are going to do is create a huge vegetable garden, reduce the size of the yard where practical, plant a giant flower garden in a large space by the house, and fill in smaller areas around the yard with any plants we can find (preferably big ones). Plus, there’s one area we will probably only mow every other time. I’ll have my oldest boy do some of the mowing with the push-reel once the grass is down to a manageable length. We’re also composting like crazy to reduce our waste and to help us do all this gardening we’re planning to do. I even set up a clothesline of sorts in our laundry room so I can continue to hang clothes to dry instead of using the drier.

Can’t you see I’m trying! I’m really trying!

So how did your challenge go this summer? Hopefully better than mine. Did I disappoint you? I kind of disappointed myself. But all I can do now is move on and try to improve.

Or better yet, buy a goat.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Michelangelo, I Ain't...

These last several days, I’ve been spending my time painting the innards of our house, and I have to tell you that it’s been a real pain in my behind. It seems to be a neverending process that never ends (oh, yes, the writer in me just exploded with description there!). I have paint in my hair, under my fingernails, on my clothes and on various body parts that don’t normally sport green paint (except on St. Patty’s day). My hand hurts from gripping my little paint container and I think I pulled a tendon standing on my tiptoes. The funny part? Everyone keeps asking me when I’m going to paint the ceiling. Har dee har har. I’m not going to paint the ceiling, people! Okay, I’ll admit there are a few green marks on the clean, white expanse that might have led them to believe I was going to paint the ceiling. But those had nothing to do with the fact that I can’t steer an elephant! That insane implement, that steam roller, just kept on rolling even when I didn’t want it to. Worst of all, at the end of this humbling experience, I have been forced to admit something that I never wanted to admit.

Michelangelo, I ain’t…

Painting is a chore to me, and a senseless one at that. It’s like doing laundry or cooking meals - mind numbing and seemingly futile (just like resistance against the Borg). All right, it isn’t completely the same as these daily/weekly chores. Once you’re done painting, you’re done. Plus you have a lovely result at the end of it all that won’t need to be repeated for several years. When I was painting, though, I didn’t care about any of that because I didn’t believe it. This task felt like something I’d be doing over and over for the rest of my life. The Groundhog Day of chores! It’s hard to believe, but when I first started thinking of painting (I really needed to put to rest the rumor that I was afraid of color), I was going to paint almost the entire house. But I kept chickening out, until there was only one small area left that I was willing to do (or couldn’t talk my way out of since I’d told people I was going to paint). And that small part took me three days to do.

I simply can’t believe people choose to do this for a living.

But then, there are people who can’t believe people actually choose to write for a living. For them, writing is an agonizing process best left to the monkeys. I have never found writing to be agonizing, but I have found it to be hard. Especially when I started out writing novels. It seemed like getting a page down on paper was an Olympic event comparable to water ballet (you may scoff but try doing what they do - you’ll sink like the Titanic). But like every effort, practice does make your task easier. Of course, some of us can practice and practice and never be a Michelangelo. I, for one, fall into that category. I shall never be a Shakespeare.

So why bother doing it at all, you ask? Because I’m a masochist. That’s why.

So here’s my plan. I shall keep on writing and drop the painting. I’ll leave that to the painters of the world. Now, if I could just find a way to drop the cooking and laundry, I’d be all set. Any volunteers? It’s really very fun. Fabulous, exciting, in fact! I’ll even let you do it for free!

Just drop me an email and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What the @*%& ?!

My husband always has a way of making life interesting. We finally closed on our new house, signed all the papers, gave away a lot of money, and were leaving the building when it happened.

My husband started to choke...

Yes, that's what I said. He started to choke. We were in the parking lot at Re/Max and he began making weird noises (okay, that's not the unusual part). He could not talk, nor could he breathe. All signs of imminent death, I believe, resulting from a blockage of the windus pipius (sorry to get so technical on you).

This is how it happened. My hubby has Type I diabetes and during the closing he started to get low blood sugar (I could tell because he was actually trying to read what he was signing). To raise his blood sugar, he takes glucose (fast acting sugar tablets that are about the size of a 50-cent piece - they kind of look like giant Smarties and yes, my children covet them). While we were in the parking lot he decided to take one more for good measure. A moment after he popped the glucose tab into his mouth, he saw a bumper sticker with a picture of George W. Bush on it looking rather goofy, accompanied by the letters WTF? My husband started to laugh, sucked back the glucose tablet and essentially blocked his windpipe. Once I ascertained that he was choking, I had to do something. So I did the Heimlich on him.

Now, I don't know if any of you have ever had to perform the Heimlich, but I imagine it's not something most people think about doing. Unless you have kids. They choke on things all the time - at least my part human, part vacuum cleaners do (I'm still not sure if they actually chew). The point is that I've visualized doing the 'maneuver' many times and partially had to do it a few times on my little rugrats (after back slapping, which is the recommended method for alleviating choking, didn't work). Plus, it didn't hurt that I'd taken a CPR class, too, so I knew where not to Heimlich. Maybe because of these efforts on my part, the attempt to dislodge the foreign object was very successful, with no internal damage as a result. I must say I'm awfully glad. We still had a lot of heavy lifting yet to do.

So we are now in our new home...alive and kicking. The first week and a half were a tad stressful. I was about ready to drop kick everyone I met (I didn't care who you were) into next week. But now things are starting to settle down. I can actually check my email, write a blog, sleep. Life is good here on the farm. We have lots of fruit to eat, vegies, too, and lots of space for the kids to play. Though I still have to cook and clean toilets. I was hoping all that would change when we moved.

No such luck.

Despite this hurdle, I am thankful for my life, for this wonderful new home we have, and for Mr. Henry Heimlich. Say hurray!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Like Batman!

Yes, it's true. I went to see the new Batman movie: The Dark Knight. This type of movie is not really my cup of tea, but it was my night out for my birthday and I wanted to see a movie. Being that there was nothing else I wanted to see and since I'd heard that lots of people (including my niece) liked the movie, I thought we should give it a try. Plus, it had the words, dark and knight in the title, both concepts which are my cup of tea.

Drum roll, please...

I liked it. I really did. At first, when it started out, I thought, "Uh, oh. I've gone in with too high of expectations. This is really hokey." But that feeling didn't last long. I had to laugh when Batman's car in the opening scene told him to, "Loiter," a version of "wait for it, wait for it!" Then the computer screen switched to, "Intimidate," which is what he went on to do (though that part was some of the hokey part). Still, even though I ended up liking the movie, I'm surprised that I did. At the end of it I felt like I'd gone through a blender. In my opinion, the movie was a giant mess. The action scenes, characters, and dialogue seemed to be all over the place. Luckily, at the time, I decided to just go with it. That turned out to be the right decision. It's quite possible that I should have seen some of the other Batman movies first, but I didn't, which might explain why I got a bit lost. It didn't matter, though, because the movie just grew and grew on me. I got really caught up in it - until one particular scene when I thought the movie was going to be over soon - but it wasn't. But that was okay, too. I quickly adjusted and settled in for some more action...and popcorn.

I particularly liked Batman's motorcycle, especially when it comes out of the car. There was just something very powerful about that scene - kind of like a birth. I don't recommend trying the stunt at home, though. You'll ruin your car, not to mention parts of your body.

Heath Ledger as the Joker did not disappoint. The hype that's been going around really has substance this time - he was good. Very good. Creepily good. It's almost too bad that he was so good. Besides the fact that our world has lost another young person to an unnecessary death, as well as a great actor, we have lost a good Joker. No actor that I've ever heard of will be able to follow up Heath Ledger's performance. He is the Joker. It seems an ironic twist that of all the great performances he's done, this is how we may best remember him. Maybe he'd like that, though. I think I might, if it were me.

I didn't have a problem with Christian Bale's altered voice as Batman...maybe because I'd heard so many people complain about it, so I was prepared. The only time it struck me as funny was that he sometimes sounded like he had a lisp. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having a lisp, I'm just not sure Batman should have one. That would be for another story.

The ending fascinated me, as well. I won't tell you what happened, of course, but I must say that it made me think. I hadn't expected a Batman movie to make me think. Concentrate on what Commissioner Gordon say about the whole 'hero' idea. Learn it, live it, love it. I'm planning to.

And now, to the Bat cave!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Egad, We're Homeless!

We have officially sold our house. We are homeless! Well, not exactly…we are living with my sister for the next three weeks. It’s me and my husband, our 3 boys, my sister, her daughter, the new renter, 6 cats, one little dog, and my mom.

Yeeha!

Life is going to be interesting, I think. But that’s what life is all about…suffering.

Anyway, in my last blog, I started chronicling about my trip back to Minnesota. To be honest, I’m kind of getting bored with that so I’ll only spend time commenting on our visit to Howe’s Caverns in New York, which we saw on the way back home. Having written about a world that takes place in caves, it only seems right that I should research these underground worlds. So, whenever I can, I visit any caves I can find. As proof, I plan to purchase a t-shirt for those caves I have visited (though on a few I will have to backtrack since I just came up with this idea). In any case, it should be rip-roaring fun.

Okay…so back to Howe’s Caverns. Like Niagara Falls, finding the caverns wasn’t as easy as I thought it should be. On the way to Minnesota, we took I-90. On the way home, we took I-80 through Pennsylvania and then cut upwards into NY…It’s cheaper that way (no tolls). On I-90 there were several signs for the caverns, but when we took the other way, there was nothing. When we were really close to the exit, we found one or two small signs for it. Again, to all you tourist traps, I need big signs - at least one telling me I’m close! When you’re driving 70 mph, you need something big and easy to read. Of course, I’m also not a big fan of giant billboards, so really, there’s just no pleasing me.

Can you just get to the caves part, Kristina? I can hear you saying that, you know, but the thing is, I wasn’t all that impressed with them. They weren’t very wild or majestic, simply underground. The walkways were nice and neat; there were even some stalagmites they let you touch. You can take a boat ride on a stream, too, all the way up to waterfalls, which, unfortunately, you can’t see. The best part of the tour was at the very end when we passed through this winding passageway. That was very cool. You can also pay more money and do real caving in parts of the cave, but only at certain times. I would probably have liked that more. The kids liked it, however, and they got caving helmets, so the side trip wasn’t a total washout.

When I was a kid, my family visited Crystal Caves in South Dakota and I remember loving it there. Here in NH, there’s a great place called Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves. It’s not one big cave, but a series of smaller ones you can inch your way through at your own pace. In one, you have to crawl on your stomach to get through. I totally loved that one and want to head back this fall and do it again, though I might have to cut back on the donuts. It’s a narrow space.

So, can I recommend Howe’s Caverns? Not wholeheartedly. I think it would be all right if you don’t like to get dirty or like your experiences well-organized and choreographed. There were several interesting and elaborate signs, however, along the way to the caverns that spouted an even better experience than Howe’s Caverns nearby called the Secret Caverns. You might try that instead…I think you might actually get to see the falls.

Try both, spelunkers, and let me know how it goes!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Niagara Falls - This Way!

We are packing to move. Well, more accurately, I am packing. My husband is working and my kids are annoying the heck out of me. Anyway, today is supposed to be my birthday. I keep forgetting. We aren’t doing anything special - I’m saving that for a day when things are less hectic. It’s raining and I’m tired.

So glad I was born.

Actually, I am. Just feeling a wee bit sorry for myself. Getting older, getting podgier, and I can’t seem to acquire enough boxes.

Okay, here’s Trip Update #1: On day one we drove to a small town close to Niagara, New York. That was our first mistake. The first town we hit, there wasn’t a hotel room to be found. We checked several places only to find that the prices were outrageous. Though it didn’t matter because the inn was full (it was Saturday night, some kind of Canadian holiday, and we were close to a major tourist spot- what did I expect?). On to town two…Here we managed to snag the last room at a decent hotel (that means it had walls and a roof). They were hosting guests for two or three weddings on that very day. As you can imagine, we were thrilled to have it, plus there was a Denny’s right across the street - I kid you not!

The next morning we set off in high spirits to see Niagara Falls. Have you ever been? We haven’t. It’s not all that easy to find, at least, not from the direction we came from (and this was after we tried to follow the hotel’s directions, which were typed up, and which led us in a circle, the sneaky buggers). Once in the actual town, I kept looking for a big sign saying, Niagara Falls - This Way! along with flashing lights and a giant arrow. Maybe one of those airport guys with the orange batons waving us in the right direction. No such luck. We ended up in a part of town that looked rather seedy, so we got out of there quickly. Hopefully heading in the right direction now, we passed a couple moving along the sidewalk, one of whom was in a wheelchair. We joked that they were probably going to make it there before we did. I don’t think we were far off on that calculation since we made yet another error in direction and they got way ahead of us (the wheelchair wasn’t even motorized, either).

Finally, after some hysterical laughter and a few smart remarks aimed at each other, we got into the downtown area. My mom tells my husband, turn right! Well, he did. But too soon. She wasn’t expecting him to go two-wheeling it. I’m crying, "Not this way! This is the bridge that goes to Canada!" Now, I don’t think you need passports yet (2009, I believe), but I didn’t want to take the chance. Any day now those Canadians are going to start cracking down on us Americans - payback, I’m sure. Who knows what kind of search they’d put us through…something involving body cavities? Egad. Luckily, the guy at the booth told us we could back up. So we did, though we ended up going out the wrong way and nearly hit a car in the intersection that wasn’t expecting us to be there.

Anyhoo…As it turned out, the next right was the right right. Shaky, but alive, we emerged from the car only to discover that my husband had lost his insulin (possibly at the last hotel). Luckily he had extra and we continued on our way into the welcome center where we were welcomed…until the guy at the counter realized we weren’t going to pay $50 a person to do the grand tour, or whatever it was he was talking about. We wanted to walk - which is free - and only pay for the Cave of the Winds. I asked him which way to go and he waved his hand in the general direction of "I don’t care where you go, just leave my presence." So we decided to use the bathroom (which could also be called the Cave of the Winds depending upon what you had to eat the night before) and regroup. Parked outside the women’s bathroom was a man hawking his wares. I don’t even know what it was he was selling, but I do know it was rather creepy seeing him there. On the plus side, the bathroom had some toilet paper, though the area itself was not the cleanest. Surrounded by all that water, but none to spare for the bathroom, I guess. At any rate, we regrouped and got better directions from a nicer gentleman who pointed toward the Falls rather than waving in its general direction.

Finally, we found the Falls. I have to say that Mother Nature did not disappoint. They are certainly fabulous and worthy of a visit - I’m a writer, but I’m not going to attempt to describe their majesty. The kids had a great time on the Cave of the Winds tour. We wrapped up in yellow ponchos and cheap rubber sandals and braved the mists. There wasn’t actually a cave - I believe it collapsed some time ago - but that was okay. The views were gorgeous from every angle and the kids liked getting really wet. My mom decided not to do the steps because her knee was bothering her, so she went back to the car. While she was trying to communicate this to me over the roar of the waterfall and down a set of stairs, my husband got really low blood sugar. So they’re gesturing to me and I, of course, have no idea what they’re talking about. Finally, she just left and my husband joined me and we had to wait until he got his sugar back up to normal levels before he passed out. After that, we somehow managed to have fun without falling in. I highly recommend standing on the Hurricane Deck. But be prepared to get wet.

So that was our trip to Niagara Falls. Loved the Falls, didn’t like the service center, or whatever it’s called. I’d recommend going to see the Falls, but pack a lunch in case you get lost like we did. No need for cannibalism.

Oh, by the way, the wheelchair couple made it there before us…

Friday, July 18, 2008

Take A Drive on the Wild Side

For those of you who might have noticed, I took a brief hiatus from my blogs. Why? Well, my family and I were busy driving back to mine and my husband’s home state of Minnesota. It took us three days to get there. Three days in a minivan with three boys, three adults and a little dog, plus all our stuff (which tripled on the way home). Somehow we managed to make it there and back safely…

Without anyone having to be put to death.

Several people asked us if we had a DVD player for the kids. I said no and they looked at me like I’d just told them I liked eating brains. I was telling the truth, however. We went on a family vacaction the old-fashioned way. We played games (how many different states can we find - we did pretty awesome on that one), sang songs ("Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree. Merry, merry king of the bush is he. Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra. Gay your life must be…" over and over), the kids drew a lot of pictures and studied the landscape. My youngest slept a lot. They entertained themselves for the most part, which made life a lot easier on us adults.

Really, they were just great. I couldn’t believe how well-behaved they were, both on the way there and back. I am feeling quite proud of my boys. In fact, they seemed to just enjoy the trip, the driving, the time with Grandma playing games. Of course, now that we’re home, they’re making up for all that lost time arguing by putting extra energy and effort into their fighting. But that’s a price I’m willing to pay not to have to deal with their bickering while my husband is navigating Chicago traffic or I’m trying to find the way in to Niagara Falls without accidentally crossing the border.

Anyhoo, we did a lot of stuff that I’ll blog about over the next few weeks…things involving black powder guns, hunting for artifacts and caves (yes, caves!).

So stay tuned!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I Have A Vision!

This post is going to be messy and most likely discombobulated. My life is crazy right now (I think I’ve said this before). We are moving! We have found a new house - not a castle, not yet, anyway - but a farm that even has a cemetery on the property. And we are also selling our old house (which, in this market, is amazing in itself). The problem is…the new buyers want our house by the end of July. We can’t move into our new house until late August. That means we are moving twice.

I’m feeling faint.

We will be living with my sister, her daughter, my mother, her little dog, their three cats, our three cats, my three boys, my husband and myself…during the lovely month of August. Pray for us.

To add to this rollercoaster ride that I’m on, I have changed to a new publisher, Variance (Breakneck Books is merging with it). I was a little worried that my book wouldn’t make it through the first round (a small release, which if it went well, would turn into a big release). Anaedor is not really the same kind of book as what the other authors do, so I thought I’d be the first to go. That was until I received an email a couple weeks ago from my publisher saying he wants to do a re-release of Anaedor. I think that means we’re skipping over the small release entirely. That’s what I’m hoping anyway!

Here’s the kicker…He’s going to have an artist draw little pictures above the chapter headings and do a new cover (although I love the old one - kudos to Breakneck on that one). He wanted to be sure to get my take on the whole process and see that the artist captures my vision. My first reaction was, "That is so awesome!" My second was, "I have a vision?" Later, I realized that I didn’t really believe this was happening - I’m still not sure that I do. Knowing that things can go wrong, I am being pessimistically optimistic about it all. If it actually goes through - hurray! If not, well, I was expecting it not to, anyway. Now I have all my bases covered.

The cool thing is that it’s typically nearly unheard of for a publishing company to get the author’s feedback on the process. I feel so blessed to be consulted! The artist called me a few days ago and she was so nice. I’m really looking forward to working with her and seeing her take on my ‘vision’! Plus, she liked my book, so she can’t do anything wrong in my eyes.

So a lot is going on in my life, but it’s all good. And as I’ve said before…It will get done; it always does. I’m just wondering who’s going to do it.