Thursday, November 29, 2007

In which I realize I'm more busy on vacation than I was at home

I'm coming into the home stretch now - I'm less than a thousand words away from 50,000. In between writing we've been swimming, seeing the science center, a local aquarium, and today we're going back to the science center (a year membership was the same price as a day so we just got that). And we haven't even gotten to Disney yet! Not to mention I'm expected at the Enterprise Christmas party!

New Johnny Depp movie

It's no secret I'm a big fan of Johnny Depp. Specifically, I love the character of Jack Sparrow and everything he's done with it in the three Pirate films. If I had to pick my favorite Johnny Depp moment, I think it would be between two different Jack Sparrow scenes.

The first is the initial entrance of the character Jack Sparrow in The Curse of the Black Pearl. I love the look on his face as he sails into port on the mast of his little boat, and the camera pulls back to reveal the boat is almost completely underwater. Nonplussed, he walks off the mast onto the dock. You know that here's a guy who's not going to be easily bothered when things go wrong. It's possibly the best introduction to a character ever done in a film.

My other favorite scene is in Dead Man's Chest, when Jack and Elizabeth are discussing doing the right thing. She tries to convince him that a moment will come when he will have to decide whether or not to do the right thing. And he says, "I love those moments. I like to wave at them as they pass by." Again, a quintessential Jack Sparrow moment, and one that truly defines the character. Because you never know, is Jack going to do the right thing? Or is Jack going to do the right thing for him? Just like the scene in the first movie when Elizabeth asks, "Whose side is Jack on?" and Will responds, "At the moment?"

So I guess when it comes right down to it, the second one is my absolute favorite. It foreshadows a lot of the events to come in the second and third movies, and it clearly defines Jack Sparrow and what he's all about.

Now Johnny's in a new film. I had a chance to visit the official Sweeney Todd movie site and I think I'm really going to enjoy him in this role. It sounds like he's using the same accent again, which I love. And any time he gets together with Tim Burton, great things happen. If you get a chance to visit Sweeney Todd on MySpace, you can check out more about the movie there. I'm positive this is going to be another great, memorable role for Johnny Depp!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dancing in the dark

At 8:50 last night, the power went out. This was, of course, ten minutes before the finale of Dancing was supposed to come on. It did finally come back on a little after ten, so we got to see Helio and Julianne win! Hooray!

My five-year-old was wandering around the house with a flashlight, bemoaning the fact that he couldn't watch the movie he'd been watching. All of a sudden, he got this horrified look on his face. "Oh, no! We'll have to sleep in the dark!"

Is it wrong to laugh at your child's fears?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dancing with the 8s and 9s

I know I'm on vacation, but I couldn't miss last night's Dancing With the Stars. And naturally, I have my prediction for you. Unless things go horribly wrong, I'm predicting Helio and Julianne as the winners.

Last night, I have to say, was probably the worst finals I've seen on this show. It was great to see the judges wielding their paddles responsibly and not handing out 10s willy-nilly. And while sometimes I disagree with them (for example, back when Mario Lopez was on and they were judging him as if he were a professional), last night they were absolutely right. Helio's footwork was off on the jive, Marie's free-style was definitely not good (though points for lots of cool lifts), and Mel B could have done SOOOO much better on her freestyle.

The reason I'm picking Helio to win is that he came in second last night. I think there will be an outpouring of votes for him that will push him up to the top spot. I really felt bad for Mel B because, just like Laila Ali last season, she could have done so much better, and frankly, Max let her down with his routine. Marie, well, I never thought she had a chance, so if she wins, I will be shocked.

So, all in all, a disappointing final round. When was the last time there were NO 30s awarded for a freestyle? I'm thinking never. Wow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Poetic License

Mid-month Every Month at PENSIEVE
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As if I don't have enough to do with NaNo going on, I thought it would be fun to participate in Robin's Poetic License. So here is my limerick.

My daily routine is quite busy,
The children were making me dizzy
So now we have run
To the state of the sun
And next week we're going to Disney.

Okay, not prize-winning, but there it is.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Serve me with lemon and sugar

Someone told me today that I'm like a cup of chamomile tea - it calms her down just being around me. That just seems really bizarre to me. I certainly don't feel like the calm relaxed person who has everything under control! It's always interesting to see how other people perceive you, isn't it?

This was another mom of four boys, by the way. So she needs all the calm she can get.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Death by pole vaulting?

Yesterday, the main character in my novel got shot with a bow and arrow. I didn't plan it, it just came out that way in the writing. My first Nano novel had a character who got hit by a javelin. I'm beginning to sense I have some sort of deep-rooted fear of track and field events.

Next year I bet I could do a lot of damage with a shotput.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cultural Literacy

Years ago I got a book called Cultural Literacy by E.D.Hirsch. It contains all those little things you should have learned in school, but might not have, or that you learned and have now forgotten. The idea behind the book is that there are so many references in everyday life to events, people, places, artwork, and literature of world history that anyone not familiar with them ends up being culturally illiterate.

I remember at the time I read it thinking, "This is all well and good, but where's the entertainment category?" People reference popular entertainment of the past all the time without even thinking about it, but if you've never seen that movie or heard that song, it goes right over your head. I was reminded of this recently when my kids listened to a radio play which was a sort of parody of The Wizard of Oz. They had no idea. They had never seen it.

So yesterday, we sat down and watched The Wizard of Oz. They enjoyed it tremendously and we had fun seeing it together. Right after that, since we're heading to Disney in a couple of weeks, we watched Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. And guess what the kids say right after they get shrunk? "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto." Funny, huh?

What's your favorite expression that comes from a movie or television show of the past?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I watch too much TV, part 27

You've all probably been dying for my commentary on this season's television offerings, and I know I've been lax in this area. So sorry! Let's talk TV!

If you are watching Heroes this season, you know that, much like Lost, for every answer you get ten more questions. I think the Peter storyline this year is fantastic. He's the best one of all of them and he deserves the best story. The Hiro storyline totally made me fast-forward. SNORE! I honestly did not care what happened four hundred years ago, and I still don't understand why I should. Did they really need to spend all that time establishing that Adam is not to be trusted? The Nikki story is the same way. Oh, boo hoo, poor Nikki is too stupid to take her meds. Please. But the whole story about the older generation of heroes being killed off is great. More of that and more of Peter, please!

Then we have Journeyman. It has more than lived up to my expectations as a time travel show. I started out disliking Dan's wife, but now I love her, and I love how they've become a united front. True, neither of them is very happy with how he keeps disappearing into the past, but at least she has accepted it and they work together. And I am fascinated by the mysterious scientist who keeps showing up and hinting at reasons Dan might be traveling through time. I also love the Quantum Leap-like aspects of the show, how he never knows for sure what he's there to do, but he manages to change history for the better. I hope this show goes on for a long time.

Dancing with the Stars this season has been full of twists. I still can't believe Sabrina got kicked off so early on and Marie's still there. Of course, Marie has 20 million relatives voting for her. Now don't get me wrong, I love Marie Osmond, but I don't think she can win this thing. I think Jennie Garth is fantastic, too, and has improved SO tremendously, but again, I don't think she has what it takes to win. It's down to Helio and Mel B, and really, it's anybody's guess. I love them both and I can't pick a favorite. Hubby just likes Helio's partner, I think, but Helio is his pick for the winner.

And finally, I'm going to talk about Pushing Daisies. Here is a bizarre and clever show that had me hooked from the beginning. I love the characters, and the storybook quality of the narration. Visually, it looks very fairy tale-like, too. The mystery aspect of the show is fun. And then there's the horrible reality that Ned and Chuck (that's short for Charlotte Charles if you don't watch the show) can never touch or she will die. So bittersweet! This show is funny, beautifully done, and wickedly entertaining. If you liked Men In Black or the movie RV, this is the same director. Check it out!

More tv talk to come!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How many years of college will he need first?

The five-year-old has a huge list of his future professions. He wants to be a firefighter, an astronaut and a professional dancer (he loves watching Dancing with the Stars), among other things. The other day, he added video game programmer to his list. But then he announced, "I don't want to be in the Army when I grow up."

"Okay," I said, "but why not?"

"You have to fight people, and I don't know how to fight people."

"Well, if you decided you really wanted to be in the Army, they would teach you how to fight people," I told him.

"Oh!" He contemplated that a moment. "I still don't want to be in the Army." And he walked away.

It's probably just as well. I'm not sure how he'd fit it in among all those other things he's planning to do!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why TV writers deserve more money

I can sympathize with the television writers. Writing is hard work sometimes. Other times it's no work at all, and waiting for the next residual check to come in. And let's face it, without the writers there's not much show. Just a bunch of attractive people standing around on an island staring at each other.

This line from last night's Heroes totally knocked me out. To whoever wrote it, thanks for the laugh. (Note: this is not word-for-word, just from my memory):

"...the shrinks locked me in here. They said I was a sociopath with paranoid delusions, but that's just because I wanted to kill them and they were out to get me."

Monday, November 12, 2007

So You Think You Can Pun?

I had this friend in college who used to challenge me to pun. It usually started by accident. One of us would take whatever subject the group had been discussing, and make a really bad pun. Then we would look at each other and the challenge was on. Back and forth we'd go, and the first of us to not think of one would lose. Once we went through something like 30 puns about cows. I don't remember who won, but in games like that you tend to remember the match and not the winner.

Yesterday when I was writing, I had a scene where the two main characters are playing off the names of television shows. He's a singer being stalked by a fan, so we had "CSI: Concert Scene Investigations," "Law and Order: Special Vocalists Unit," "How I Stalked Your Father," "Stalking With Celebrities," you get the idea. I had fun thinking of new ones. So here's your assignment: combine stalking, singing and t.v. show titles and give me your best shot! Alternatively, if you want to use cooking instead of singing, my other character's a chef.

Have fun!

Friday, November 09, 2007

NaNo Tips - really this time

Many of you know my background in writing, and specifically that I have a BA in creative writing from a college with a well-known writing program which has produced more Pulitzer Prize winners per capita than any other college in the country. While I am relatively certain I will not soon be added to that list, I do happen to know a thing or two about writing. So today, I'm going to offer some actual tips on getting through NaNoWriMo.

The problem I keep seeing all over the blogosphere is that people get stuck. You reach a point in your story and have no idea what should happen next. Assuming you didn't write an outline before beginning, the first thing you should do is sketch a quick outline showing where you want things to go. Skip the next step in the plot (since if you knew that, you'd be writing it!) and pick up the story somewhere down the line. Then brainstorm different ways to get your character over that gap in the plot to where he/she needs to be.

And while we're doing that, here's an essential tip that really helped me the first year: no one says you have to write these 50,000 words in order. If you already know how a particularly dramatic scene is going to happen, go ahead and write it. You can cut and paste later, but for now you're writing, and writing something that is presumably exciting is a great way to kick-start your novel again.

A fun thing to do if you can't figure out the next scene is to introduce your character to someone he/she has never met before and have him/her reveal his deepest secret, either on purpose or by accident. Then imagine what might happen because of it.

Another good way to get back in the groove is to figure out what your character's lowest point is going to be. When is he/she going to be closest to giving up? Then make a list of things he/she will need to get back out of that hole. Does he need to learn a lesson first? Will he need some vital piece of information? Is there a prop she's going to use to escape? Whatever it is, write the scene in which he gets it.

And finally, if you know where your novel is going to end, go ahead and write the ending. Sometimes your characters will surprise you and reveal their own stories, and then all you have to do is go back and write it. Happy writing!

Excuse me, have you seen my crown?

Some of you might remember a little thing called a root canal that I went through earlier this year. I'll never forget how it started. I bit down on something and suddenly a blinding pain shot through my jaw. I was sure I had broken a tooth, at the very least. But as quickly as it came, the pain was gone. The next few weeks, every now and then I would feel a twinge of pain, but knowing I had a dentist appointment coming up, I ignored it as best I could.

Unfortunately, the dentist didn't find anything wrong with an x-ray. I went through six more months of pain before finally seeing a different dentist and getting the root canal. I can't help but think that if I had possessed some manner of temporary dental repair, I could have avoided a lot of that pain. I mean, even not knowing for sure that I had a cracked filling (which is what it turned out to be), I think trying a little Dentemp OS on that tooth would have helped.

Now that I have a crown on that tooth, I have a new concern. What if the thing comes off? I like to eat crunchy foods like nuts and celery. What if I break another filling? Sometimes I'm almost sure I can feel the crown moving when I floss. I'm thinking I should keep a vial of Dentemp OS in my purse at all times. It can be used not only to replace lost fillings, but to temporarily cement loose crowns. There's no mixing required, and I could even eat on it in 30 minutes, thus avoiding a lot of pain and embarrassment, until I could get to the dentist.

I'll tell you one thing - I never want to go through that whole thing again!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Some NaNoWriMo tips

Stuck on your NaNo novel? Here are some tips for reaching 50,000 relatively painlessly.
  1. Do not use contractions. It is perfectly normal for people to speak without them, is it not?
  2. Give your characters four-part names. Think about it: every time Felicity Ann Holton-Smith talks to Garrison James St. Cloud, that's eight words just for the names!
  3. Likewise with place names - set your story in Littleton-on-the-St.-John, and have your characters go out of town a lot, so they can say they're returning and use the name again.
  4. Become well-acquainted with "well..." It's an all-purpose word you can use almost every time a character speaks. "Well, I don't know." "Well, she said she would be here." "Well, this is ridiculous." You can go back later and take them out, but they'll get you to 50,000.
  5. Um, people say "um" in real life, so they definitely should in your novel. Um, I think.
  6. Have your characters sing a lot. Inserting song lyrics will bump your word count nicely. And then you can remove them later to avoid any possible legal entanglements.
  7. Adjectives are your friends. Why just drink coffee when they can drink a hot, bitter cup of joe? It's not just a room, it's a small, cramped room. You get the general idea.
  8. If you really get stuck, you can always have your character go nuts, a la The Shining. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work...

I'm a little over 12,000 words right now. Going for the three-peat! (which, by the way, counts as two words)

There's something in The Mist!

I don't think anything freaks me out quite as much as the unknown. Walking into a dark room, opening a closed door, stepping into the fog and out of the safety of the house lights. Not being able to see what's in front of you or behind you, whether it's pitch blackness or heavy fog, can be scary. I think it's even scarier when it's silent. I enjoy thunderstorms, but silent fog can be terrifying. Sometimes, finding out what's actually there can be even more terrifying.

I suppose I read too many ghost stories as a kid, or watched too many scary movies. Any time I am in a situation where I can't see, especially when it involves fog, I just can't look. I close my eyes as tight as I can, because if my eyes are closed I can pretend everything is normal.

Watching the trailer for The Mist by Stephen King, though, I don't think closing their eyes is going to work for these people. They are stuck in one of my worst nightmares. Something is out there, but what? Some people think they're safe, other people freak out. No doubt I would be cowering in a corner somewhere, especially when those things start attacking the windows...

The school of Disney

As I may have mentioned, we're planning a trip to Disney next month. I love Disney World - it is one of my all-time favorite places. In fact, I think I've mentioned on more than one occasion that I would live there if I could. Anyway, it's been almost six years since our last visit and I am so excited for the younger boys who have never been, and even for the eight-year-old, who was too young to remember much.

Anyway, it's hard to get the boys to concentrate on school right now with all the excitement about Disney World, so I came up with this great idea: I'm making up my own Disney curriculum. I printed out lists of the attractions in the four parks, and I'm giving the boys a little bit of information on a lot of different subjects. It will give them a baseline for learning once we get there, plus I won't have to try to do all my "teaching" while we're in the parks. So many things there, especially in Epcot, present almost endless learning opportunities. Who knows, we might even continue our special Disney units when we get home!

I'm thinking I'll post some of my lesson plans here so if anyone else wants to do the same thing, they can. The boys are really enjoying it, and I think it's going to make our trip even better than it normally would be!

Alzheimer's awareness

I was thinking about memory the other night while watching Heroes. There's a character called The Haitian who can extract any memory from someone's head, making it is as if that event never happened. Another character was being threatened to reveal information he knew, or The Haitian would take away the day he met his wife. Then he would remove the memory of their wedding. And then, he would take all the memories of his daughter, who had passed away. And the thought of losing everything he had left of her made him reveal what he knew.

That's all science fiction, of course, but it got me thinking about a real-life enemy that can take away your memory just like The Haitian: Alzheimer's. November is National Alzheimer's Awareness Month, and in conjunction with this, memory screenings will be held around the country. Perhaps you have a family history of Alzheimer's, dementia, or other similar affliction, and want to know your risks for them. But even if you don't have a family history, a memory screening now is a good way to establish a baseline in case your doctor needs it later in your life. Memory screening can help with the early detection of diseases like Alzheimer's, and the earlier it's detected, the sooner you can get help. Take a look at the list of locations, and take time to go or take a loved one for a screening.

If you can't make it to one of the free memory screenings on November 13, take time to peruse the Alzheimer's Foundation website, where you will find lots of helpful information. And remember, it's just as important to care for those who have the disease as it is to look for a cure. Maybe you could consider including the Alzheimer's Foundation in your holiday gift list this year.

Memories are precious to everyone. Do what you can to protect the memories of you and your loved ones.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oh yeah, well I'm going to give 111%!!

Does this bother anyone else - "I'm going to give 110%." Do people realize you can't give more than all? And if you're going to give 110, why not 111, or 120? I've actually heard people lately saying they're going to give 120%. Inflation, I suppose.

Look, people, any way you slice it - 50+50, 60+40, 10+90 - you can't give more than 100%.

And if you think this bugs me, you should hear Hubby the engineer on the subject.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

When technology is too smart

We have a really nice DVD recorder. Hubby got it for me as an anniversary present and it's fantastic. The really nice thing about it is the the hard drive. It works very much like a DVR; I can watch shows while they're recording, skip commercials, pause, etc. and I can save them until later or record them onto DVDs to keep.

Naturally, being the television addict I am, I have the hard drive set up to record all of my favorite shows from week to week. It's never given me a problem. Until now. Now, apparently, it has decided that mere humans are not to be trusted with timekeeping. And it has chosen, in its machinated wisdom, to ignore the time change. I cannot convince it to go back an hour. And because of the way it's programmed, it is supposed to find the time automatically and will not let me set it. The option isn't even there - it's grayed out.

Now, seriously, when did we get so stupid as a nation that we cannot even trust ourselves to set clocks? Are there other people out there with this same problem? All my programs are now off by an hour, and I can't change it. I can change all the programs, but I bet as soon as I do, the thing will figure out the right time and then I'll have to change them all back. And it's a pain to change every single recording time.

I'm going to outsmart this thing. I will not be defeated by a machine.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Marriage Monday - Submission

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This month's Marriage Monday theme, hosted by e-Mom, is submission in marriage. For those of you unfamiliar with the Bible verses often referred to when people speak of submission, here they are.

A lot of people who are unfamiliar with this passage mistakenly think that submission means unquestioning obedience. Well, I don't know about you, but I don't know of a single marriage that would work that way. This passage in Ephesians talks about a two-way road. Yes, wives are to submit to their husbands, but husbands are also to care for their wives like they care for themselves. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. And what did Christ do for the church? He sacrificed himself for it.

Now let me give you an example from my own marriage. When I was overweight, my husband would have been perfectly right to call me fat. I was. But he never did. First of all, he understood that I wanted to be attractive for him and that I was planning on losing weight as soon as I finished nursing my youngest son. But more than that, he knew it would be counterproductive. Think about the verse that says "After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it..." If he were to look at himself in the mirror and call himself fat, disgusting, and overweight, would that be the best self-motivator?

Instead, on a regular basis, my husband told me I was beautiful and sexy, and I never doubted he meant it. And that made me want to be the woman he saw. What would I have done if he'd ordered me to lose weight? I probably would have fallen into depression, eaten more, and had a really hard time feeling good about myself. Do you see where I'm going with this? The husband and wife's roles go hand in hand. If both partners don't do their parts, it's not going to work.

So what does submission mean? It means trusting your husband, letting him be the head of the house, not undermining his authority, but it also means letting him care for you as the most precious person in his life. It's the way marriage was meant to be.

Friday, November 02, 2007

We finally know!

After all those years of watching that annoying owl eat that poor little boy's lollipop, we finally have an answer to the age-old question, "How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?"

The answer is 700, as tested by my oldest son. Thanks, son, for answering one of the great mysteries of the universe.

Besides the obvious, things change

Before my oldest son was born, I remember being eight months pregnant and looking at my husband and saying, "Everything is going to be different." I'm not sure if he knew exactly what I meant at the time, and I'm sure I didn't fully comprehend the depth of that statement. Obvious things would change, but over the years, it's the subtle changes in who I am that have surprised me.

Things that changed when I became Mommy:
  • There are never enough hours in the day. It seemed like that before, but it didn't actually become true until I had kids.
  • There is no such thing as a sound night's sleep. I'm not sure when the last time I slept all the way through the night was, but it's been a while.
  • I worried about my kids' safety before they were born, and then that increased infinitely after they arrived. When they're not right there, being carried inside me, how can I protect them?
  • I stopped going around in bare feet in the house. I'm serious - you never know what you're going to step in with kids around.
  • I have become extremely jealous of "me" time. I am not a selfish person, but my brain demands a certain amount of time completely alone every day and when I don't get it, I get cranky.
  • I learned I am not a patient person. I'm working on that.
  • I have come to realize there is always room for one more (And no, I am not pregnant, nor do I plan to be).
  • There can never be enough pictures of the kids growing up (This is one I know my Dad knows).
  • Perhaps the most surprising thing to me is that there is no formula, no set of things that always work. What works like a charm for one child just makes the other one angry. The only set rule is to try everything until something works.
What surprising change happened to you when you became a parent?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

On your mark, get set, write!

Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. The other day at co-op, I saw one of the teenagers in the common area wearing a homemade NaNoWriMo shirt, so I went over to talk to her. She hasn't participated before, but she has a friend who did last year. Her friend is going to be her partner and help her stay on track.

So I asked her if she had a plot idea, and she told me this wonderful tale of a female outlaw in the old west and her search for justice. My jaw just dropped. It sounds like a great book. And then she asked about mine. "Well, it's a romance. Sort of a romantic suspense thing. With a kidnapping." Man, how lame. "It's sort of a sequel to the one I did last year." Okay, she doesn't care, stop talking. "There's a music group with six guys in it, and last year's was about one of them, so this one is about another one of them."

Now I'm rethinking. There are so many stories to be told. Is this really the one I want to spend a month with?

But you know what? I really love this character. I once met a writer who told me he had to fall in love with his female characters to write them really well. I think this character wants me to write about him. And if there's one thing I've learned as a writer, it's to let the people in my head talk when they want to.