Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Power of Positive Thinking....

Like many Americans my family is working on achieving a goal of debt-free financial freedom. There are a lot of important actions to take when a person, couple or family embarks on a journey to financial freedom. Included in those actions is the need to change ones psychological perspective about money and how they interact with it. A person's spiritual inclinations will often and should play an important role in the development of that psychological relationship. Personally, my spiritual journey includes a little bit of everything (the reasons for that choice are a topic for another blog on another day), but suffice it to say I take a little bit of everything from a lot of rich spiritual resources and apply it within my life. This works for me.

In relation to money I have found I am more successful with my family's financial planning and budgeting when I approach the tasks with a smile on my face and greet the work as an old friend. That can be REAALLY hard to do especially when there is a nagging feeling at the back of your heart that says, "What if we don't have enough this month?" When those fearful thoughts creep in I have no choice but to boot them out with a deluge of positive affirmations. As corny as it sounds it really works because in the end we always have enough and as we continue to make intelligent financial choices the budgeting gets easier and the relationship with money becomes less strained.

ANYWAY, the reasons for sharing my philosophy on keeping my sanity in rough financial weather is so that I can tell you a funny story about how signals in the universe can sometimes get a little mixed up.

Morning walks are a new part of my daily ritual and often provide me with an opportunity to reflect on my day and the tasks ahead. (I used to run, but apparently running isn't a recommended post surgical activity...so I walk...and currently very slowly...but again a topic for another discussion). As I walked on that particular day my thoughts were being consumed with some unexpected financial obligations that had recently shown up out of nowhere. I suspect that I am not alone in the recognition of that overwhelming anxiety when some unexpected bill shows up in the mailbox demanding payment in an obscenely short period of time, the question that surges through most of our mind's being, "Where did this come from?" "Why is this just coming now?" and "Where am I going to get the money to pay for that?"

But, it is what it is and it has to be dealt with, it can't be ignored and it can't be overlooked. So in the spirit of changing my attitude toward my financial obligations I sucked in a deep breath and began repeating in my head affirmations that ranged from, "All is well, I have the ability to pay this bill" to "Money comes to me easily and often." The latter being the one that I was saying to myself over and over again when I looked down and spotted an innocuous and beat up envelope lying face down under a rock next to the sidewalk. The envelope was soaking wet and had mud spattered accross the back of it. I had no reason to suspect that the envelope was anything more than someone's junk mail carelessly tossed to the side of the road, but something told me to take a closer look.

Taking a closer look at the envelope was harder than it might sound. As previously mentioned I have recently had back surgery and one of the things I am NOT supposed to do is bend over. I mustered all of my creative physical maneuvering and managed to nudge the rock that was on top of the envelope with my boot. I then squatted while still keeping my back upright so as not to go against doctor's orders and used the power of my go go gadget arms stretching them low enough to pick up the envelope without actually violating any of the rules for a successful recovery.

SUCCESS!

I looked ridiculous but I managed to pick up the envelope. Flipping the envelope revealed that there was DEFINITELY a check inside. Excited I tore up a corner of the envelope and peered inside and found a check for $100....but alas as you have probably already guessed, it was NOT in fact made out to one Amanda Harbin (me!) but was in fact made out to someone else entirely. The address of that someone was printed on the check and being the good neighbor that I am, I pulled out my phone and google mapped their address then delivered the almost lost money to the true owner's doorstep.

As I walked away from the house where the check belonged I was forced to laugh at the universe. Money had indeed come to me easily and with great speed....but apparently I forgot to positively affirm my name and address with the universe.

Moral of the story...You get what you ask for so...be specific! :)

Happy New Year Blog Readers and beyond may all of your happy thoughts and wishes be delivered to their proper address!! :)

~M

Friday, December 30, 2011

Oh that's so romantical...

If most women are honest with themselves (and we are always honest with ourselves, right ladies?) they would say that they have at some point (or more likely at many points) lost themselves in a daydream of a sweet, romantic, passionate, yet totally spontaneous interlude with their prince. We start having them at an early age and really they just never leave us. For some guys this creates an easy target to get from 1st to home base and for the more clueless dudes out there this just makes their dating life hell.

Spontaneous romantic moments between women and their leading men do sometimes happen just the way they happen in the movies. There will be beautiful scenes that develop that will have a woman thinking that everything that is happening is so perfectly scripted that JF Lawton and Garry Marshall (the writer and director of Pretty Woman) couldn't have made it any better if they tried. Well they start out that way anyway...

It was the evening of my fourth wedding anniversary. I had just had back surgery seven days prior so my husband and I made plans to quietly celebrate our anniversary at home after the kids were tucked away in their beds.

I had the warm glow of love, the giddy bubbles of my pain medications and a wonderful prince of a husband who had been waiting on me hand and foot since the surgery. The stage was set for a lovely evening with just my husband and I. the aroma of mulling spices wafted through the kitchen as we stood reminiscing about the ups and downs of our married life and the funny stories from our wedding day.

We were bantering back and forth recalling how my husband and his son had ultimately ended up having to get dressed in the bathroom of a coffee shop. And then how my new stepson who was three at the time got bored during the ceremony and started wandering toward the edge of the cliff that overlooked the ocean (he was saved by an attentive grandparent)! We walked slowly through our house admiring the life that we had built for ourselves. We stopped in front of the hutch where our wedding album is displayed and always open to page to the page on which our vows are written.

I am very proud of the vows that we wrote together and recited to one another on our wedding day. The moment was so sweet and my memory of the day was so potent that I felt inspired to read the vows aloud right then and there. When I had finished I gazed up at my husband fully anticipating that he would do the same back to me. I was disappointed that he didn't but the moment was kept alive when he pulled me up into his arms in what was sure to be an epic re-enactment of our wedding day kiss. My heartbeat quickened, my lips smiled softly and I closed my eyes and turned my face to meet his passionate kiss.....I waited, thinking that surely at any moment his lips would brush softly against mine, my breath caught in my chest just thinking of it...and then...my sweet, romantic, sentimental husband pulled me more tightly into his embrace, I felt his breath on my cheek...and then his tongue on my face. Oh yes, my romantic movie moment went the way of a Farrelly Brothers film. He mouthed my face like a teething infant so that by the time he was done I needed a hand towel to wipe up the slobber.

I wish that I could say that at the time I was the cool chick who laughs hysterically and thinks it's funny. Because it is funny, but in the moment I was a little humiliated and irritated that my perfect movie moment turned into a completely different movie. At the time I wanted to fire the script writer, but ultimately I just decided to change the soundtrack in my head. A few little tweaks and the movie is still pretty good. Good script writers are hard to find so instead of firing him, I just keep learning to appreciate that his style differs from mine sometimes...and that's what makes us so much fun to watch.

Happy Anniversary honey .... I love you.



photo courtesy of La Vida Creations Photography

NOW THAT'S ROMANTICAL :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Growing Pains

How did we get into October already?? SERIOUSLY!

Most of us have a Facebook page in which we share information in our day to day lives. Some of us know or are ourselves the over-sharing Facebookers. You know what I'm talking, about every minute of a persons day, every meal, every injury, shared with every friend, former classmate, co-worker and sometimes stranger across the internet. Don't misunderstand, I'm not judging, I've been and am about to be that cliche FaceBook over-sharer. Except I'm doing it across the blogoverse, which may or may not be a terrible idea. The events of my past several months have been eventful and I hope the ends of this blog justify the means, because all of the events have led me to some useful (to me anyway) conclusions about life in general. I also plan to use pictures to tell my story, so that I don't lose you all before we even start! :)

When we last chatted...or when I last chatted at you, I was finishing school. You will all be glad to know that I have since finished my coursework, and will no longer write long winded blogs about how much I hate doing homework, and I wish it were over....wish was granted, and it is over!!!

Witness Exhibit A:





I was going to post a picture of my diploma, but they haven't sent it to me yet. Maybe in the next blog.

So that was very exciting and in celebration I visited my wonderful family and enjoyed (and I really mean I enjoyed) the 107 degree heat in the Valley of the sun!

I got to visit my undergrad alma mater and show Josh around the campus. We told my niece that we were going to go to campus. And she was so confused after we left the campus, she kept saying, "we still have to visit, Camas. Are we going to see Camas now?" Apparently, she thought that campus was a person and she was very worried that we had not yet seen him/her. She's pretty much the cutest thing ever.

Exhibit B



I also got to meet my newest niece, go to a Diamondback's game and of course drink some beer...sometimes all at once (the picture isn't as bad as it looks I was holding the beer for my hubby who was in the little boys room):

Exhibit B-1



We came back from Arizona and I got to revisit one of my lifelong passions, the stage! I sang and danced in a production of, "A Chorus Line" as a part of a fund raising event for a local high school drama department. Not only did I sing and dance in the chorus, but I sang a solo....in front of people....for the first time in my entire life! It was exhilarating. Dancing 4 hours a night for many weeks also allowed me to wear the final number costume with confidence as I had lost a noticeable amount of my waistline.

Witness Exhibit C:



and C-1 (Most of the wonderful cast, plus the amazing A.H-A., who so kindly brought me into this wonderful mayhem!





Throughout all of this there was also some amazing road trips with the hunny....

Crater Lake


Mt. St. Helen's


I also had several awesome visits from friends and family. My step-babies were here for half of the summer, my parents came out to celebrate the youngest's birthday and most recently one of my long time, known me forever, knows all my secrets and still loves me BFF's came out to visit. She also brought the spirit of the third member of our triumvirate, since she could not make the trip herself. Rebecca, myself and Vacation Tiffy traipsed all over Western Washington.

And then just over a month ago, I bent over pain shot through my back after which I fell face first onto the floor. I couldn't move for about 15 minutes. I try not to be a wuss about pain, I tend to think that there isn't any pain that I can't get through or move through. This was like nothing I have ever been through, the pain was so excruciating that I it felt like if I even moved an inch I would shatter and die. It was scary, especially since I was home alone, my cell phone was out of reach and I was lying on the bathroom floor. When I was able to move again, I settled down to rest for a few hours and was feeling better, then out of nowhere, it happened again, and lasted for 30 minutes and again my cell phone was out of reach. Thanks to the smart thinking of a certain step-tween who called 911, I was in the hospital, which turned into another adventure, which included being taken out of one hospital and to the military hospital, 30 minutes face down on the floor of the hospital, waiting for someone, anyone to come and check on me, it wasn't until my husband arrived that he was able to call for help into the room to get me up. By then I was so upset and in so much pain they had to give me to two rounds of meds just to be able to get me up on the bed again. That sucked, but on the other hand I did a whole lot of deep sleeping for the next several days!

Since then I've been to the doctor, the acupuncturist, the physical therapist (who totally rocks), in an MRI machine and had several trips to the pharmacy. Diagnosis: I'm not really sure.

Why am I over-sharing this drama with the blogoverse? Because I learned something. I was pretty angry about all of this pain and limitation. I had pretty much recovered from the last injury I was dancing, walking hiking, traveling, just trying to enjoy a lot of things I hadn't been able to enjoy for several months. Then out of nowhere I just got cut back, relegated to the couch, barely able to walk or stand, I'm really not kidding when I say I pretty much had the mobility of an infant. I would wake up and there would a split second after I opened my eyes when I thought, I feel perfect, but it didn't last and before I knew it the pain would come spiking back and it was so disappointing I wanted to scream.

Where's the lesson?

It was a few weeks later when I was able to go into my garden and I noticed that several plants needed to be cut back so that they would be more abundant next summer that I had a light-bulb moment. I thought maybe I could be like my roses, maybe I just needed to be cut down a little so that I could blossom more fully in the future. Maybe all of this pain was keeping me down because I needed to come back to my roots, so that I could blossom with more color and branch in more directions. I don't know yet, I'm still limited in my mobility, but wonderful things have come out of this. One of my best friends has come to stay with me and help me out for the last several weeks and it's been so amazing to have her here. She came here on her own dime and she has been cook and maid to my family and super friend to me. Both Josh and I are so grateful to have had her here with us. He's mentioned several times, what are we going to do when Rebecca leaves?

I felt set back by the pain, but when I step back and see the situation from another angle, somehow I know that I am better and that I will be better as a result. It turns out growing pains don't end with puberty and sometimes they hurt a lot worse than you expect. Ultimately, they're necessary,neverending and somehow we're more beautiful, stronger and better rounded because of it!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pause for a brief interruption

Today, like so many days is shaping up to be a little wild, but I needed to stop and reflect on something for a minute. Reflect with me if you will.

I am wrapping up my graduate education in Public Health this summer. It's exciting and this field has surprised me consistently throughout my educational journey. I often read things that make me sad or angry about the current health status of groups of people or entire continents. Currently, we are discussing population, natural resources and environmental response. This is not a new topic and I've been happy to be able to utilize some of my old resources in the various assignments.

Every once in awhile a piece of information doesn't just surprise me it forces me to reflect on how much there is still left for me to learn. These moments are important moments in my humanity as well as my education. It reminds me that no matter how enlightened I think I am, not only is there more to learn, but to also not overlook information that I already have stored.

The piece that I read this morning wasn't anything shocking or particularly sensational, which I think further drives home the point. Awareness is essential to compassion, understanding and promoting a difference in the world.

You're probably all wondering what kind of information could instigate me to drop everything and wax poetic on the state of my mind. I will tell you, but be warned it will probably feel a little anticlimactic. In fact maybe you already know this information, or have inferred it through other readings. Anyway...

The article was a discussion on North Korea and the unprecedented experiences that two journalists from the west were given within that country. The article was interesting, but the part that made me stop and evaluate my knowledge of the world were the facts related to the populations per annum income and the need for food aid. The average per annum income in N. Korea is $1800 and 24 million people (1/4 of the population) rely on food aid to keep from going hungry.

I know that we have hunger in our own country, I know that we have extreme poverty in our own country, and I know that the socialist policy in N. Korea is an integral piece of the of the issues that they face. I think what gave me pause about this was that when I think of hunger and poverty as issues, it never occurred to me to think of a country like North Korea. Maybe it should have, I don't know. It's just that in that moment I was reminded of how big the world is, how beautiful my life is, and how easy it is to take the blessings of this life for granted.

I don't pity situations like the one in North Korea because I don't think that pity would be constructive, nor do I think that it would be welcome. I don't feel like I need to run out and save their country, my country or anyone elses for that matter. The profound emotion that I am feeling is, awareness. I'm aware and I think that that is powerful. Awareness means that when and if an opportunity presents itself I will be able to make a difference. Awareness means that I have expanded my world and the comprehension of that world. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that I will sit on the sidelines of life and wait for the opportunity to make a difference to appear. There will be times for feeling inspired to create the opportunity, today just isn't that day. Today is a day to become aware and to appreciate the importance of that awareness. Without awareness, how would we ever know that it was time to create an opportunity to make a difference?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Art and other things

So my 30 seconds of time turned into about 30 days of not blogging or writing anything at all. Sometimes writing is like going to the gym, I know that I want to, I know that I will feel good about doing it, I know that I will be energized by it...and yet...sometimes it just seems like it requires far too much effort. I'm trying to get my groove back in the gym and in the creative hemisphere of my brain. I hope that my break was temporary and not some deeper indication of my inner sloth.

With all of that out of the way...I have other business to attend to, such as following through on my promise to feature the artists that I was introduced to during my online art festival back in May.

Rexcrisanto Delson directed me to artist Renee Reyes (click here to view her blog). This artist has some really interesting watercolors that portray simple moments in the everyday life of many different cultures. I think that I have often taken watercolors as a medium for granted. I think that I have too often dismissed watercolors as elementary art projects meant for refrigerator doors. Looking at Renee's work I was struck by the way that the fluidity of the watercolor medium turned these everyday moments into soft focus memories. One particular painting called "Travail du sol" caught my attention.

(Artwork retrieved from Renee' Reyes blog, http://afroamerasian.blogspot.com/)

I like this painting because the artist captures the hard work of the moment, yet somehow the work is made beautiful by the simple fluidity of the watercolor medium. I thought it was interesting how the beauty of the painting did not diminish the effort of the work being done. I started reflecting on watercolor paintings of other artists and I found that artists using watercolors were often able to introduce an emotional gentility into their artwork that other mediums don't always allow.

I hope that you all will check out Renee' Reyes beautiful watercolors by clicking here. Thank you Rexcrisanto Delson for the suggestion!

I will feature the last artist that was recommended to me in the contest. His name is Josh Ashley and I will post some of his stuff up here in the coming weeks. If you want to check him out before then you can do so by clicking here. Stay tuned for that as well as some fun blogs about summer life with both steppies in the house. I am also going to have another giveaway, as a little apology for my lack of blogness in the previous weeks...I'm back and just as Wicked as ever!

Thanks for sticking with me!
~M

Monday, May 16, 2011

30 Seconds

I'm taking a deep breath as I start to write, as if increasing oxygen to my brain will make me feel like less of a basket case and more in sync with the chaos around me. Then I wonder, will being in sync with the chaos actually make me feel more or less overwhelmed? Does being in sync with the chaos mean that I accept it and am dealing with it appropriately? Or does it mean that I have given up and I am just surrendering myself to the swirling uncertainty and disorganization of the moment? I am unsure of which choice is the better option, because neither option really makes me feel like I am in control of the moment, and I so desperately want to feel in control of something. Before you go thinking I've got some massive drama going on in my life, let me assure you that in the great scheme of life I am well off, overwhelmed, distracted and frustrated, yet somehow blessed and well off.

I'm just in this hectic insane place where I feel like I am SO busy, and my to-do list is SO long, and everything feels like a priority. Yet somehow for as busy as I feel and I feel like I am ALWAYS doing something, I feel like I have and am accomplishing absolutely nothing. I am constantly running around and doing 'things' but somehow I feel inept and ineffective. That is such a frustrating feeling. So I try to take a moment, I take a breath, I close my eyes and I tell myself that I'm not failing to meet the demands of life. This works...sometimes. Sometimes, I am so wrapped up in my chaos that I don't even feel like I have those 30 seconds to give myself to breathe. I feel like those 30 seconds belong to everyone else around me and I feel guilty for taking them. The truth is 30 seconds just isn't enough.

Where am I going with this?

I. Don't. Know.

Wait.

I know.

This is where I am going. I sat down to write this blog because I was feeling overwhelmed with things that need to get done, things that I am falling behind on getting done, things that feel even more pressing and overwhelming because they are NOT getting done. They are relatively mundane things like; cleaning my house, organizing my office (it currently looks like Dunder-Mifflin upchucked their inventory in here), writing a research paper for school as well as 3 other essays (all due this week), going grocery shopping (haven't been in 2 weeks), my room hasn't been vacuumed in an amount of time I am ashamed to divulge, my blog posts are becoming more sparse (and I still owe artists posts), my novel is collecting dust, my printer is BROKEN again (remember the "suck-it-suck" blog? That suck came back), I haven't been to the gym, done yoga or had a quiet thought free moment since the wheel was invented...

I think I illustrated my point so well that I forgot what it was...

Ah yes, so at first I thought that I needed to write this blog to vent all of the things that were starting to make me crazy. There is more to it than that however. I needed to write this blog because I needed my 30 seconds.

I need more than 30 seconds.

I needed to write this blog because I feel good when I write, it is 100% me time. We all need 'me' time. It's important to everyone, but it seems like many mom's, step-moms and some of those dad's out there too, forget that we deserve our time as much as our family deserves our time. It's not a new concept by any means, I'm sure it's been covered by Oprah, Dr. Phil and all sorts of mental health professionals. And yet those of us who know it, still forget it, and maybe we even forget it more than others.

My present situation is almost comical. I am sitting in my office surrounded by a mess and disorganization that is setting my teeth on edge as I write. A huge OCD part of me wants to, almost to the point of needing to, stop typing and start cleaning and organizing. It is really really hard to sit here and take my own advice. Yet, the act of writing and forcing myself to take this time is starting to have a countering effect, it's almost soothing. Maybe it's because I can cross "post new blog" off of my list of things to do, but I think it goes deeper than that. I know that I need this time, I know that this time will only make me better for my family, I know that by taking this time I am likely to keep my grip on my sanity just a little while longer. It's still hard to force myself to take my time with this, in the back of my mind there is a time clock ticking away and reminding me of all of the things that I am not getting done while I sit here quietly contemplating these issues. I want to get back to the chores, because I want them done, but if I don't quiet the voices and the anxiety before I check out of my head, I will have wasted this time. I don't want to waste this time.

So, I take another deep breath. I'm going to close my eyes and go to that still place deep inside and let myself have as many sets of 30 seconds as it takes to bolster my confidence and change my outlook. I will NOT count how many sets of 30 seconds I take, I will just take as many as I need. I accept that the to-do list may never be completely crossed off, and that is perfectly okay. I am capable of prioritizing and the things that need to get done will be done on time. These things will get done because I took this time, not in spite of me taking this time.

Clarity and comfort come slowly, but they do come. Soon enough I come to realize that the chaos and disorganization that was once swallowing me whole, is now only as overwhelming as I allow. I am my own windstorm and I can shut the breeze down if I choose. I can allow the pieces to settle, I can pick up the pieces, I can lay them out, I can put them together and I can create a masterpiece.

Thanks for listening, I really needed this,

~M

Friday, May 6, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

And the WINNER is...

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who participated. I am looking forward to hosting more giveaways in the future so I hope that more people will continue to participate! Second, I apologize for the delay in reporting the winner, this weekend was eventful personally and globally so I hope you will all forgive me and not hold it against me. I am going to feature the artists that I learned about over the next several blogs starting with the winners artist picks. Speaking of winners....

 
This is my steppie using our highly scientfic method for choosing contest winner...

TIFFANY BURGESS!

Congratulations Tiffany!! Please make sure to send me your address so that I can get the prize pack out to you ASAP! I hope you enjoy your artwork, reading and music. I can't wait to hear your thoughts of everything!

Tiffany led us to a couple of indie bands including Soul Switch and Free Lance Whales.

Soul Switch is a local Orlando, FL band and if you are into rock and in the Orlando area I think they would be worth checking out. I really like the guitar riffs and melodies from Soul Switch. The music is more reminiscent of something that my husband totally digs. I haven't had the chance to play it for him yet, but I have a feeling that when he hears this band he is going to really dig them and they will likely end up on a workout playlist. They remind me a bit of something between the band Atreyu and something a little less edgy though I can't think of anyone to draw a comparison to at this moment.

The Freelance Whales I have to say are much more my speed as a band. They have a lovely sound that is both smooth and for lack of a better word, frolicky. It sounds like something I would expect to hear on the Juno soundtrack. I like this band because their music has a delicate quality that does not detract from the music's depth. It makes me feel both sad and giddy at the same time. I can see myself listening to this band on a regular basis. I am really excited about this band and were it not for my Online festival I might never have heard of them! Contest SUCCESS!!

I am going to add one more band to this list because I just discovered them. I heard them giving an interview on one of the Seattle radio show's and I liked their interview so much I looked them up and I think they have great style and sound. The band is called Scars on 45. They are a British band and they have a smooth melodic sound, but the lead singer's voice has a rough sexiness to it that is alluring and masculine. Scars on 45 will appeal to a broad audience. When I played them for my hubby he immediately liked them and downloaded a few of their songs.

I am going to write up some of my thoughts about the other artists that were recommended by the people who participated in my little online art festival. I think I would like to do something like this again in the future and I can't wait to share some of the other artists that were mentioned.

I am off to pay attention to my homework now. Thank you again to all who participated. Also, thank you for your patience in my delay with announcing the winner. It felt good to pull this off and I am already working on my next giveaway.

Listening to songs that make the whole world sing,
~M
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Friday, April 29, 2011

S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-ZZZZZZZZZ

So I'm
Totally late
Uploading
Very useful
Words and
Xeric
Yelps
Zingers....

or if I want to stick with my themes next year I might find myself in:

Scotland where I might get a
Tattoo to celebrate the
Uber
Victorious
Writing and
Xerography of my recent creative
Zenith!

This Silliness is probably going too far. I think I only need to write to Y, but since I probably won't be able to write tomorrow I was trying to get ahead of myself. I feel like I kind of failed at the A-Z Blog challenge. School, Work, Step-momming, Wifing, House re-modeling...just kind of overwhelmed me and unfortunately my commitment to my blog had to take a backseat to other things. Only one more quarter of school and then I will be able to spend more time with my more enjoyable endeavors. Until then I just have to do the best I can with what I've got.

I also wanted to remind everyone to check out Mandi's Online Art Festivaland enter for a chance to win a fabulous prize pack that includes music, art and a novel by some great artists.

Thanks all for playing with me this April month!!

~M

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My p's & q's and an R or 2

I got another AWARD! What are the chances? Hooray! I'm a stylish blogger! YAY!



Thank you Lisa at Inspired By Lisa for giving me this award! I feel all sparkly. The award instructions are at the end of this blog as well as the names of those blogs to whom I intend to pay it forward.



P is for Portland.

I love Portland.

Interesting Portland fact, it was almost named Boston!

You can check out other cool things about Portland here!

There are numerous reasons to love Portland, architecture, friendly citizens, excellent running trails, great food, great art scene...but you know why I REALLY love Portland? It's home to Powells Bookstore, if there is heaven on earth this store just might be it for me! Powells Bookstore mixes new and used books and boasts over ONE MILLION books!! I mean can you imagine?! The reading, the fantasy, the endless worlds that are housed within that wonderful store. Let's just take a minute to close our eyes and imagine one million wonderful books.....can you smell the crisp paper, feel the crack of the paperback binding, hear the quiet floosh of a million pages to turn....sigh...I heart Powell's.

Q - is for Quiet.

I thought about looking for a cool place to go that started with the letter Q, but you know what? The only place I really want to be is somewhere quiet. I search fruitlessly for some quiet corner of my house where a kid or a husband can't find me, or even better that I could block out the sound of my name being repeated over and over again because the yeller refuses to acknowledge that I am refusing to be acknowledged. This is why so many mom's have the same idea of a perfect evening. We want to spend one night by ourself in a hotel room, with no TV, no access to phone, access to 24 hour room service and a deep bathtub. Just one night, that's all. Quiet. Silence. Rest.

R- is for reciprocate and rest.

In order to accept this award
To accept the award, you have to do the following

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Award 10-15 blogs who you think deserve this award.
4. Contact these bloggers and let them know about the award.

7 Things about Moi~

a.) I'm the oldest and shortest sibling in my family. What's up with that?
b.) I'm for SCUBA.
c.) Since I was about 12 I thought the most romantic thing I could possibly do with my life was to travel across the country in a POS truck with my faithful canine companion, experiencing life in different cities and leaving a trail of broken hearts, but never settling down in one place. I know, it's kind of twisted...stop judging me.
d.) I also used to imagine that I would live in San Diego, work with dolphins and drive a mustang. I actually did that.
e.) I used to have a major crush on Orlando Bloom. He's less dreamy now that he's not an elf all the time.
f.) I can play the piano.
g.) I heard the word resilient when I was about 14 and decided that the word was so beautiful that I wanted people to think of me as resilient so I used to repeat the word over and over again to myself.

Paying it forward:

Sheila Scribbles
Dar Writes
Read My Books Lose 10 Pounds
Bat Country
Just Left of Imagnination Avenue
Rotten Mom
Ang Bouma
Palace of 12 Pillars
That's Tarable
My Next 20 Years

And finally R is for resting!

I would like to be somewhere resting. In fact, that's exactly what I am going to do...RIGHT NOW!

Yawn, Stretch... and I'm out...
~M

Monday, April 18, 2011

N-O ... but not NO.

Writing everyday is apparently too complicated for me. Either that or I just prefer doing two letters at once! So first things first...hey guess what?! I won a blog award!! WOo Hoo! First I break 50, then I go onto win an award...big things in store for this wicked woman!! :) Before I get down to the A-Z Business, I want to show off my award..Look Look ..here it is!


Let me just throw another WOO HOO out there...WOO HOO! :) Thank you Deirdra for bestowing this lovely award on my humble blog!

I have been debating what to do about the letters N and O...they work together to form such a wonderful Mom word don't they?... N-O...NO..NO you can't go to bed without brushing your teeth!

No, you can't skip your chores and just watch T.V.
No, we are not having dessert.
No, that is not appropriate for school.
No, we can't just order pizza instead.
No, I don't want to watch Wizards of Waverly Place for family time.
No, No, No, NO! Sometimes I wonder if becoming a mom somehow limits your vocabulary. I get so used to saying no, that sometimes I catch myself saying no, just because it's easier to say no, than to deal with the logistics of yes. Is that just a wicked stepmother thing? I try to say yes to things too, but sometimes it just seems like the questions I get asked have an obvious No answer, and yet the kids ask them anyway. I wish I had been smart enough as a kid to figure out this kid strategy, ask for stupid things for which the answer will always be, no, and then spring a maybe question in there and then the parent will feel guilty about all of the previous no's, and answer yes! Tricky tricky!

Just so you know no (ha ha...know no..get it...)wasn't going to be topic of today's blog, it just came out so nicely. Which actually reminds me of what or where I had originally intended to ramble about. I'll just make it quick so that I can still feel like I stuck to my A-Z Blog Theme.

Next year it would be awful nice to be in Nice. I've never been to Nice but I hear the weather is nice. Nice is nice by the ocean. I'd like to be by the ocean next year, preferably in nice Nice, France, but I'll take whatever ocean I can get.

N is for Nice.
O is for ocean.

Wicked Step-parenting since 2007
~M

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Mill Avenue

My mind is a mad jumble of a myriad of marvelous ideas! OH YES! I am totally fired up! I might as well be wearing a pleated mini skirt, letterman's sweater and shaking some pom poms! Are you excited yet?

*Deep BREATH*

I am feeling inspired by the letter 'M' today and I want to tell you all about it! Are you ready?

Here WE GOOOOOOOOO!

One of my absolute favorite places to go/things to do in Arizona is the Mill Avenue Arts Festival. It comes around twice a year and it takes place in downtown Tempe. I have been going to this festival for about as long as I can remember. Sadly, due to my constantly changing state residence, my visits have been less frequent over the years. When I was in my early 20's I landed a job with the non-profit organization that plans the event, and even though I was a lowly administrative assistant it was one of my favorite places to work. I got to be front and center during the planning and the reviewing of the various artists who had applied for booth space at the event. Over the years the festival has gotten very large and features artists, musicians, fabulous culinary vendors and all kinds of other amazingly talented individuals.

I discovered one of my favorite artists at the festival. Her name is Ora Tamir and over the years I have collected quite a few pieces of her art. I have also given the prints as gifts to family and friends. Here is an example of one of my favorites:

(from Ora's Art website)

I love the fluidity of her work and the colors are so full and rich I feel like I could walk right into her fantasy world.


I was thinking about all the million or more things that I could tell you about the Mill Avenue Arts Festival...and then I thought about a post I wrote a few letters back, which featured a giveaway of an independent folk musician that I enjoy listening to, Michael Salazar. And then it dawned on me, supporting independent artists isn't just about supporting the artists I like, it's about learning about the artists that move you, as well.

You all learn about me on a daily basis, but what opportunity have I made to learn more about you? Not enough I think. Not only will learning about your favorite artists help me to write better for you, but it will increase the audiences of the artists that you support. I have said before we are a community of writers, but we are also a community of readers, listeners, watchers and thinkers. As members of this community we network through each other to get our "stuff" or the "stuff" (highly scientific terminology) of those we admire supported.

And then my brain really started revving up. I thought about my blog friend Sheila at Sheila Scribbles and how she had hosted a "Blog Yard Sale". A brilliant and fun idea! And isn't the A-Z Blog Challenge all about supporting our fellow bloggers and diversifying our experiences? I think yes! How many of my now 50+ followers (still get excited about that) found me through A-Z and how many have I found? The answer is, A-LOT!

And then I had my own stroke of brilliance...what if...I could create my own online Mill Avenue Arts Festival?! And in doing so I could support some of my favorite artists AND yours.

You're still with me right? Because here's where it gets really good!

Here's what it all boils down to, I am changing all of the giveaway rules and beefing up the now named, "Indie Artist Prize Pack"!
What on earth could be in this new brilliant new prize pack you may be asking yourself? Well, that's the beauty of this new game, my hope is that the more people that participate the bigger the prize pack will get! These things are guaranteed to be in the prize pack however;

-Signed copy of 'stories in my head' by Michael Salazar.


-A copy of one of my all time favorite books, The Book of Joby by Mark Ferrari. This book was published by Tor, so it's not "Indie", however, this was Ferrari's first novel and it's such a beautiful story that I think more people should read it!



-A 6.5 X 7.5 lithograph of Aquarius by Ora Tamir.

I have a few other ideas for some bonus prizes and if you would like to promote your own or someone elses work by adding it to the prize pack let me know and we can make the prize pack even more fabulous.


This is how it's going to work:

First, the contest is going to last through the end of April, the last day of the A-Z Blog Challenge will also be the last day to participate in the Mandi's Online Art Festival

Second, you don't have to follow the links of the artists I've mentioned here, that would be nice, and I hope you do, but it's not a giveaway requirement. Since this is about me getting to know you and spreading the word about your favorite artists, authors, bloggers, musicians etc., I want to hear about your faves!


So how do you participate to win this fabulous prize pack?


-Leave me a comment with the name and if you can a link to one of your favorite artists, doesn't matter if they are a musician, author, culinary artist, blogger...whatever, and yes you can promote your own work as well.

That's it.

At the end of the A-Z Challenge I will hold a random drawing of all of the participants Wicked Stepmom style, ie I will make my little steppie draw the name out of a hat. In the blog where the winner is announced I will also compile a list of all of the artists and links to their sites that are mentioned as part of the contest.

And remember...You can't win if you don't play! So leave a comment, and spread the word about Mandi's Online Art Festival and help me give some fun stuff away.

~Hip HIP HOORAY~

~M

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kathmandu and Laughter

I'm starting to have a habit of being always one day behind in my letters. I'm sure this wouldn't be such a problem if I would just keep my blogs short like the A-Z Blog Challenge suggests. And yet...I continue to do it my way, I like my way. What's that saying?

"The definition of stupid is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"

And still, I see no future changes. I like to refer to myself as adorably stubborn rather than stupid. But then again referring to myself as adorable kind of negates the adorable and just leaves me with stubborn. Here's to stubborn!

I asked my Facebook and Twitter friends for places that started with the letter K yesterday because I was having a hard time deciding what K place I would like to visit. Ironically, it was the very first reply that I got that reminded me of someplace that I have had a fascination with since...well a long time.

My fascination with Kathmandu was propagated by the watching of a very cheesy but totally endearing movie called, "The Night Train to Kathmandu". Haven't heard of it? That's not all that surprising although Milla Jovavich was in it. The movie is very sweet and full of all sorts of adventure that as a tween seemed entirely plausible and not the least bit corny. The movie involves a prince, an invisible city and a whole bunch of other stuff I don't remember. It was kind of like Brigadoon (another one of my absolute favorites) without the singing and dancing and set in Nepal instead of Scotland. Oh and filled with teenage angst instead of adult angst. I don't think they offer this movie on DVD or I would totally subject my little step-tween to watching it with me! I have to give the little one credit here, she is really good about watching old movies with me. I love Hayley Mills Disney movies and she patiently sat through every single one of them with me, and made me feel good by telling me how great they were. So kudos to the little one for having good taste in movies.

So to wrap up the letter 'K' - Kathmandu, I would like to go there based solely on the memory of a movie that I watched as a 12 year old. Just between you and me, I'd probably spend half of my time there looking for the invisible city...or at least making one up in my head!

And L - Next year whether I'm in Disneyland, Jamaica or Kathmandu I hope I am laughing. And in honor of laughter I would like to share this very funny story with you.

I went to the gym today. It was the first time in 3 months. I was excited to get back and to feel strong enough to get in a good cardio workout. I was going to a writing group at the Starbucks next door after my workout so I showered at the gym and this is where the fun begins.

I get a little weird about bacteria and germs, I'm fairly certain that this is a result of one too many Microbiology classes in my 7 years as an undergrad (that's right I said 7, and nope not a Dr.). So anyway, I have a habit of checking out a couple of shower stalls before choosing one, because I want to have the cleanest stall you know!? I pick my shower stall, it looked pretty good (not that any of them looked bad..it's just I like to have the best). I turned on the water and let it run to warm up while I set up my stuff.

Everything was going fine and then I got into the shower. I hadn't been in the shower for more than a minute and a half when the trouble started. I had shampoo in my hair and then out of nowhere the water turned FRIGID, not mildly cooler, not a little cold, like shards of ice flying out of the shower head at my body. I immediately grabbed the shower head to direct it away from me when it POPPED OFF and flew at my head before landing in my hands. SO now the water is jetting out directly at my face in a solid stream of ice, I've got shampoo running down my face into my eyes, I'm holding the shower head in my hands and blindly trying to turn the shower off, while trying not to scream in pain and frustration.

I finally get the water off, I put the shower head back on grabbed my towel and immediately turned on and jumped into the next shower stall without checking it first. As soon as I got into the shower I was in more trouble, the water which had started to warm up was cooling down and forming a small lake at my feet. SO GROSS! I hate standing water, but I'm trying not to be freaked out I just want to get clean, but the water was getting colder and the pool at my feet was getting deeper and all I could think about what the kinds of things that are attracted to standing water. What do I do? I of course turn off the shower jump out and immediately jump into the next stall where wouldn't you know it the hot water works great, the drain is draining and me...I've got no soap, no conditioner, nope not a drop of cleaning solution within 3 shower stalls of me. On the other hand I had hot water, hot water and clean hair. I guess it could have been worse!

Happy Thursday my wonderful readers ~ May your showers be warm, you soap dish be full and your cities full of invisible wonder!

~M

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I am Juggling (A.K.A. - I & J)

Okay so I and J are not really for I am Juggling, it's just what I feel like I am doing right now. I don't think that I am doing a particularly fabulous job of it either. I'm dropping balls right and left...OY...could I get an extra clown out here for the juggling act please??

I feel better with that out of the way.

I is for the current and future support of independent artists. I love that just about anywhere you turn you can find some unknown brilliant artists just singing, writing, painting or drawing their hearts out. Maybe that's just because I'm one of them (maybe not quite the brilliant part, but I'm working up to it), but I definitely like to support those independent artists. In honor of that and in honor of the fact that I broke 50 followers this weekend...

*brief pause for the party noises in my head*
woo hoo WOO HOO woo hoo!


I am going to give away a signed CD by an independent musician that I have had the great pleasure of getting to know. His name is Michael Salazar and like me he is from Arizona. He currently lives and works in San Diego. He is a folk/acoustic artist with a great deal of talent and soul. My favorite song on his most recent album is "Goodnight Elizabeth", it's one of those songs that has an emotion for every note and every lyric. Listening to it I found myself getting lost in the musician's thoughts and feelings. I like it when a song does that for me.

**If you followed the link previously it took you to Michael's CD site, the new link will take you to his homepage where you can listen to full versions of songs and learn a little bit more about Michael**

The rules of the giveaway will be posted at the end of the blog...right after a word from the letter J.

J is for many things, but for me mostly J is for JAMAICA Mon! Wait I should rewind...mostly J is for Josh because I love him and he is my one and only for ever and ever. And THEN J is for JAMAICA MON! We recently took a fantabulous albeit late honeymoon to Jamaica and ever since we came home I've been looking for opportunities to go back. Jamaica, Sandals, indulgence, Honeymoon suite, towel art, SUNSHINE, ocean....I don't know if you really really understand just how much I loved being in Jamaica.

Conversations in Jamaica
M: Would it be okay if I got a second dessert?
Server: No Problem Mon!

M: Umm...would you mind if I had an extra appetizer?
Server: No problem mon!

M: Will you open this coconut?
Server: Mon, I will climb up in that tree and get you a fresh coconut!
M: Really? Thank you!
Server: No problem Mon.

M: I can't decide between a cosmopolitan or the white wine, can I have both?
Server: No problem mon!

Ookay...you get the idea...oh Jamaica...you make me smile (incidentally, a Jamaican Smile was a delicious icy beverage, one of my favorites).

sigh....but enough of that, on with the giveaway!

The Contest and the Rules have changed, to participate in the bigger/better version follow me here!

That's all for now~
Thank you to all of you for taking the time to read my blog, I love all of your comments and encouragement, it always brightens my day!

No Problem Mon!
~M

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H - is for...

So far I have mentioned a whole lot of things/places that I will/want/could/should be doing/going. But today I would like to give homage to something I will absolutely NOT be doing next year.

That's right...

HOMEWORK.

I will not be doing homework next year. And next time I get some wild hair up my rear to better myself through education I hope someone will remind me how difficult I was to live with while I pursued my Masters degree. Because lets face it, this time around I made an attempt to stay on a timely course (7 years for a bachelors degree is apparently an inordinately long amount of time) and I managed to live up to my brainy roots and maintained a 4.0 gpa (yes I'm bragging...but I'm just so stinkin' proud of myself I can't help it). Those two things have made me a little more than a pain to live with and every time I say to Josh, "I can't wait til this is over"! He says back to me, "yeah, you and me BOTH"!

Here's to 15 more weeks of what feels like an educational beating and the light at the end of the tunnel and that heavenly, homework-less place! Hallelujah!

Counting the homework assignments til I'm done,
~M

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Gardening

I got a treat today.

Not the chocolate covered kind.

Not the kind that's alcoholic and comes in a box.

Not the kind that fills up my bank account (speaking of which...cross your fingers and toes that all in D.C. goes well tonight or my bank account will have no presents going into it on the 15th)

Nope, I got the wonderful shiny gift of sunshiny shininess.

I took my happy little errr...big butt outside and I gardened and pulled weeds like it was going out of style. It wasn't particularly warm, but every so often I would sit in the same place long enough that the sun's warmth would build up to a nice little kiss on my cheek or my back. I felt the earth between my fingers and inhaled all the wonderful scents that only come from being close to the earth. It reminded me that there are good things in Washington (aside from great friends and super Starbucks dates).

I've rambled about the wonders of Arizona, but there is one thing that sometimes feels impossible to do in AZ, and that's grow something!! OH don't get me wrong things will start to grow, but halfway through a beating summer all of the leaves on the plants have pretty much fried. It doesn't really seem to matter how often you water, it's just never enough. Here in Washington however, EVERYTHING grows. I can't stop things from growing! And for the most part it's pretty awesome. I love watching the leaves of plants push themselves out of the ground or unfurl on the long branch of my blueberry bush. I love the way the air gets so fragrant with blossoms that I could just sit outside and breathe deeply getting lost in the colors of everything I smell.

There is a very real possibility (assuming the government wheels can manage to keep themselves turning...which I know they will) that next year I won't be living in Washington anymore. I don't know where I will be, but wherever it is, I hope I can still find a patch of earth to grow things!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Editland and Final Draft Land

I'm late for E and I've been so distracted that I haven't even decided what to say about F. I'm having Blog failure. :(

I'm just going to start and see where things go.

I talked about the wonderful and magical place called Disneyland, a place that I very much hope to be visiting next year. Now it seems like I should talk about a place maybe a little less happiest place on earthish and a little more, this is the reality of being a writerish. A year from now I hope that I am in that dark and scary writer land known as "editland". (Hope to be there you say...why would you hope to be in such a tumultuous and exhausting place?)As a newbie I have not spent very much time in this most legendary of places. Having not ventured to deeply into this place I have only cautionary tales about writers who went in but never came out. I have developed my own theories about Editland.

I think of Editland like the Jedi training that Luke Skywalker had to undergo before he could be a true Jedi. He had to face challenges and fears and go up against his worst enemies in order to get stronger and come out as a Jedi. Now granted he didn't complete his Jedi training, and maybe this is why he ultimately got his hand lobbed off, which is a cautionary tale in and of itself. Anyway, the point is that Editland is a necessary mastering ground where writers are able to turn their raw talent into jedi bad ass-kicking reading material. Or something like that. Of course everything isn't always rosy after Editland, there are still the challenges of Critiqueland...Queryland...But I'm choosing to think of Editland as the training ground to produce a warrior of Jedi caliber capable of navigating the exhausting trials and tribulations still to come.

I'm skipping some of the in between lands and going right to my F-topic...Final Draft land. I haven't gotten there yet, and the only theory that I have about it is that there will be champagne. I like champagne...therefore I think I will like Final Draft Land.

Whew...all caught up!

May the Force be with you

~Padawan Mandi

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D = The Happiest Place on Earth

*Sigh*

First things first:

I would like to wish everyone a very happy "City of Fallen Angels" Day! The book is now in my hands and I would please like to go unbothered for the next ohh 10-12 hours oughtta do it. :)

Seriously.

Alas, that probably won't happen, which really just means I that I won't be sleeping tonight. Thankfully the hubby is currently waist deep in book 2 of the Hunger Games series, so he might be preoccupied as well!

Right now, I am flustered beyond belief with one of my professors, I won't go into detail, but this is the perfect time to talk about being in the Happiest Place on Earth, one year from now. Heck if I could go there now, I'd sprinkle myself with pixie-dust, sprout some fairy wings and fly into the impossible to see through the cloud cover, Washington sunset.

I WANT TO BE IN DISNEY...(land/world take your pick)

Aside from the obvious reasons to go to a Disney theme park I have a few of my own more unique reasons for wanting to go.

My reasons include but are hardly limited to:

Rebecca. Tiffany, Mickey Mouse, Rainier, a really cute little spade fish, Tanya, Crush, Jackie, the Rockin Roller Coaster, Fantasmic, The Main Street Bakery, Wishes, Illuminations, drinking around the world, and last but not least my former flame Tarzan (your show may have been cancelled but you, your loin cloth and all your goofy roller-blading monkeys will live on forever in my heart....)

I had the fabulous privilege of being employed by a mouse for a several years of my life. My jobs ranged from working in the Main Street Bakery, to operating the Rockin Roller Coaster (and by the way if I tell you your kid is too short to ride the ride it really is for his/her own safety so please don't argue), to SCUBA diving in the 6 million gallon aquarium at the Living Seas EPCOT.

During my tenure I met a wonderful former Navy dolphin named 'Rainier' (he was named after the Mountain in whose shadow I now live), I helped Steven Tyler onto his own ride, and I even made friends with a little spade fish who had lost its tail and rarely ever ventured out of his little hiding place in the aquarium.

I also lived with one of Mickey's very best friends, and fell in love with Tarzan at his show about once a week. And of course there are some of my very best of besties still living and working with and for the mouse.

Going to Disney is a lot like a homecoming for me, so the fact that it's been over 3 years since I have set foot into a park makes me very sad. Maybe one year from now, or maybe even sooner I will find myself back in those familiar magical lands surrounded by some of my most favorite people and characters.

It's funny, I always knew I would go back to my fairy tale kingdom, but I kind of expected to do it as the Princess, not the Wicked Stepmother. Then again I'm also starting to learn that the role of the Wicked Stepmother just might be more interesting than that of the princess! :)

Faith, Trust & Pixidust

~M

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Community

Today I am going to follow the assignment directions. I've been up since 5AM and my brain has been bouncing off the darn walls with creativity for my characters (maybe those should have been my C words today)!

C-O-M-M-U-N-I-T-Y

You might be asking how does community have anything to do with where the Wicked Stepmother might/could/should/will be a year from now?

You might be wondering the following:

1. Will she have finally fallen off the fence and joined up with the forces of evil?

2. Is there a Wicked Stepmother Community Help Program that she plans to start or join? (Now there's an idea)!

3. Will she have transformed herself into a Good Witch who always does and says the exact right thing?

The answers to those questions are

1. Tempting...but unlikely.

2. Again I say....tempting...but no that's not the community I'm looking at.

3. The Witch part might be true in a year...but then again depending on who you ask it might already be true...Which kind of (remember I said 'kind of') brings me to my point.

I've been thinking a lot about this whole this time next year thing and I keep coming back to the same thought. Anywhere, that I might want to be in a year really starts with where I am right now. In terms of community, I want to continue developing friendships within the writing community. I feel like over the past several months I have discovered a precious treasure trove of writer friends both online and in real life.

When I first made the real deal commitment to myself to fulfill my dream of writing, I really thought that I was going to be on my own. Writing always seemed to be a lone wolf effort. It was something that those of us with overactive imaginations did to keep from driving everyone around us crazy (or that might just have been me). Writing also seemed so big that it was hard to imagine going through the process alone. It was a scary thought. I wondered who would tell me if I wrote crap other than agents? Who would help me to fine tune and sharpen my story ideas? Who would help my with my terrible use of punctuation? It always seemed like such a big effort to take on single handedly.

Until recently, I had no idea that so many of you were out there, sharing so many of the thoughts and feelings that I was also having. And now suddenly, I find myself settling into a community, both online and off and it feels like the right place to be. It is astonishing to me how kind and supportive everyone has been since I introduced myself to the world as a writer. I expected to be laughed out of the blogosphere, I really did. I suppose there is still time for that though.

So that's my C-word, Community. Today, one year from now or ten I hope to always be a member of the writing community and I look forward to building great relationships and hopefully making some future scared newbie writer feel at home in this community.

With many grateful thanks,
~M

P.S. Guess it wasn't as short as I promised...sorry! :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Basking in Brilliance...

Did you ever have one of those "I think I misunderstood the assignment" moments? (Kudos and extra points of you can name that movie)

I totally had an A-Z Blog Challenge, assignment misunderstanding.

I was cruising through some A-Z Blogs and I came across one of the host's blogs and it said something along the lines of:

"Keep it short"

hmm..

Well I wrote a short blog yesterday, but it was most definitely not my Blog Challenge Blog...oops.

I have a tendency to ramble and once I get on a topic I like I just go go go...it's hard to stop. so now I know that I misunderstood the assignment, but I can't guarantee you that I will follow the directions. I have just never been much good at direction following. So I apologize in advance for almost following the directions, but I just can't help myself....

So...on with B...

B is for basking in sunshine. I'm into about the 14th day of rain and oppression in Washington, and this Arizonan is definitely not throwing her hands up in the air in jubilant gratitude. So I devote today's letter B blog to all of the places I could be basking in sunshine next year...

Bermuda
Bahama
*Starts humming 'come on pretty mama'*...(Don't judge...you know you did too)
Bali
Boston (not always guaranteed sunshine, but it's gotta be better than WA)
Barcelona
Belize
Barbados
Brazil

The traveling to these places will of course be sponsored by the massive advance given me by a major publishing company after they fall head over heels in love with my novel and can't wait to get my work out into the mainstream for all to read. (Hey, a girl can dream...can't she?!)

Happy B-day, as in Blogging about B, Day! Or maybe B is for Blogging in which case it would be happy Blogday! Either way have a happy day!

B is for Ba-Bye!
~M

Friday, April 1, 2011

Win Fabulous Prizes

Want to win a book..actually a pair of books? Check out Diana Paz's Blog and fill out the little form. You get your choice of two books in a series. Wake & Fade by Lisa McMann or Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr! Go on ...head over there...what's better than books...except FREE books. Eventually I'm going to do some giveaways on my blog too so it will be good practice...now go.. :)

I'm going...I'm clicking here...I'm headed out to win a book or TWO!

A is for Almost Arizona

Welcome to day number one of the A-Z Blog Challenge. I was beginning to wonder if my day one blog would get off of the ground. I almost wrote this in advance, but I almost to do a lot of things. It actually works out better because I have so much more to say than what I had originally had planned. My original plan was to start something like this...

A is for Arizona, my home state, my touchstone, my security blanket. I hope in one year from now I am sitting in my parents living room giggling with my nieces and being scolded by my mother for putting to much strain on my gimpy shoulder.

That was how it was going to start. I was then going to throw in something about how A is for 'Almost' on of the most popular excuses in my household. As in:

M: Did you do your chores?
R: Almost.
M: So you started your chores?
R: Almost.
M: Hmm..What have you almost been doing for the last 45 minutes?
R: I don't know.

Yeah, you know how it goes. Here's an almost conversation with my hubby...

J: Are you asleep?
M: Almost.
J: I wanted to talk to you about something.
M: .....

And just because it isn't fair to pick on everyone else and not give one of my 'Almost' moments:

J: Honey, I know you hate the dentist, but have you made your dentist appointment yet?
M: Almost.

A week later.

J: Did you make your dentist appointment?
M: Almost.
J: Almost won't keep anaerobic bacteria from growing.
M: Eww.
J: Don't you have a degree in Biology? So you didn't do it then?
M: I almost did it yesterday, but I got sidetracked.
J: Promise me you will make the appointment?
M: Okay

A Week later.

J: Did you make your appointment?
M: Almost.
J: You promised.
M: It's on my 'To Do' list!

I really hate the dentist, and it always takes me a good 6 weeks to muster up the courage to make my appointment and then go. I think I must have been almost tortured by a dentist in a former lifetime.

I've derailed, haven't I?

So I wanted to say a little about why I thought I would be in Arizona. It seems like a rather innocuous place to want/could/should/would be in a year. But as I have already told you it's my home. I used to think that Arizona was this miserable barren desert where nothing really interesting ever happened (I was a teenager, isn't that pretty much what we are all supposed to think of our hometown?). It's taken traveling all over the country to realize just how desperately beautiful my home state truly is. Driving through the desert I experience a kind of exquisite loneliness.

It's true that the desert is barren, and that inspires the lonely feeling. But somehow I always feel protected. Surrounded on all sides by mountain chains, I am sealed and comforted. The stoic exterior of the mountains makes me feel like I am enveloped in protective strength. In the middle of the barren desert surrounded by mountains for protection I think that this is where I can fall apart, this is the place where all of my vulnerabilities can be safely exposed. I am alone, but protected, I am safe, I am certain. The mountains are my fortress and everything I need is safe within the valley.

The night is darkest in the desert, but those of you who grew up in a desert know that the desert at night is as unique as anything. My favorite scent for as long as I have been able to remember is the smell of the desert at night. The scent is quiet. If you didn't know to look for it you might miss it. It is the delicate lilting wisp of the desert flowers. They blossom at night protected from the fierce daytime sun. When the sun sinks beyond the mountains they find the courage to blossom and they reveal themselves and all of their beauty to those who are paying attention.

A true Arizonan can smell the rain in the desert before the first drop has hit the thirsty desert floor. We are all thirsty and we know the scent of rain better than anyone else, because we don't take it for granted. The rain makes us dance. Before the first thunderbolt has clapped across the sky we are outside throwing our hands in the air in jubilant gratitude. Rainy days are meant to be exalted in the desert, in that lonely thirsty place where I am, where the deepest parts of my soul will always live and always return.

Arizona is the alpha and omega of who I am. That is why it is the perfect place for me to start my exploration of all of the places I could/should/will be a year from now. Arizona, my family, it's the place that I can always return. It's the place that I know will always be a fountain of courage and my creative resource when I'm parched. The sands of the desert wind through me like veins of gold in a mine. The desert and I are inextricably connected. I would start where my heart started, where it goes for strength and where it will ultimately return.

A is for, while writing this I was Almost in Arizona.

~M

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'd swim better if I didn't feel like I was drowning...

Did you ever have one of those days? That's a silly question, of course you have. I'm having one of those days right now. Not one those good days, but one of those days! One those kinds of days where even the fact that I have to breathe seems to be an obstacle to accomplishing a task. These kinds of days hide inconspicuously among all of the other days in my life. I tend to think that they have minds and personalities of their own. They have devious minds, they wait patiently among all of the other good days and then spring themselves on you just when you've let your guard down.

These insidious days start out like every other day. The meanest ones will let you start the day up beat and thinking that although you have tons to get done, you will have plenty of time to do it. And everything has been going so smoothly up to this point that instead of waking up in a panic about all of the things that you need to get done you wake up hopeful and cheerful even. Your husband makes you coffee as soon you present your sleepy eyes, wacky hair and gawd awful morning breath, and you smile because as far as you can tell, this day is going to turn out alright.

And then...

You check the status of the text book that you ordered 3 weeks ago, for a class that you started 2 weeks ago, only to learn that the seller, with whom you have been emailing for several days, has not received or resent the errant text book. You try to take in stride, you have homework due that requires the text, but you were creative last week, you might be able to pull off another week of creativity. You tell yourself that you won't stress out, because everything is going to be okay, you'll deal.

It's okay the day is not over. There are still plenty of other goals that you can reach things that you can accomplish. You go to change the ink in the printer, which has worked perfectly except for the lack of ink, until today. You change the ink in the printer and suddenly the printer can't/won't/doesn't properly print...at all. Well, that sucks, but we can trouble shoot from the internet right?

So then you log onto the internet. Scratch that, you TRY to log onto the internet, only to find that your internet is haywire and the router has also decided that today is a good day to drop a signal...repeatedly. The modem feels the need to operate at sluggish speeds so that just when the webpage you want has loaded up, the router stops working. It's about this point that the ends of your hair begin to stand up on their own from the tension.

So then you remind yourself to breathe. You take several deep breaths and decide there are still things that I can do. So then you go to work on the printer. Which is a mistake because 3 hours and several ink smudges on your face later. You still have a useless printer with a brand new ink cartridge.

And then the implosion begins, all of the things that weren't wrong are suddenly wrong, your house is a mess, there is laundry to be done, the bathrooms need cleaning, your office needs organizing, the budget needs balancing, the bills need paying, the yard needs tending, the dog needs walking, homework deadlines are squashing up against the back of your eyes, your manuscript is getting dusty, you still need a shower, dinner needs making.....

CCRRAAAAAAK...

That's the sound of your sanity, your resolve, your courage giving under the weight of the stress.

Glug...glug..glug...

You're in the middle of a chaotic ocean and you've suddenly forgotten how to swim...heck you've forgotten how to tread water.

Sinking...

You know what's interesting about sinking slowly beneath water? It's quiet. All the noises of the world are muffled, the pressure of the water makes it impossible to hear what anyone is saying. As you sink through the water the silent chaos is a welcomed change over the noise. You start to think that maybe you don't want to come up for air, the silence is like a blanket and it doesn't matter that you can't breathe because breathing was starting to be cumbersome too.

And then sense and then a little bit of clarity and suddenly your clawing your way out of the water. Yes, you want to breathe and yes you hate this day, but this is your day, it and all of its suck belong to you, and despite all appearances there is something good in owning even the worst of days. By the time you've pulled yourself to the surface the world looks a little newer, it's still full of suck, but since its your suck you can dress it up however you want to.

I will dress my suck in laughter, because it's almost impossible to create this kind of perfect comedic timing. I will tell my suck to "SUCK IT". This devious day may still have some surprising suck to throw at me, but this is what I will say to it,

"I'm rubber you're glue, whatever you do bounces off of me and sticks to you!"

And then I will do the only thing any sane and responsible adult would do after saying something like that, I'll stick my tongue out, put my thumb to my nose and wiggle my fingers.

It's my day!

neener-neener

~M

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A-Z Oh the Places I Might/Should/Could/Will Go!

I spent a great deal of time at the airport yesterday. This is a reality of having kids with parents in separate states. Kid exchanges are overcomplicated and expensives. Yesterday we sent one kiddo to visit grandparents in the A.M., then had to leave because the next kiddo didn't come into town from their mom's house until four hours later. We could have wandered around the airport for 4 hours, but the parking fees are atrocious.

As a side note, we went to the mall and after reevaluating the financial damage from those 4 hours, it might have been less costly just to stay at the airport.

So anyway, back to the point. Aside from the outrageous parking fees, I actually love the airport. I love the feeling of people moving all around me, everyone is going somewhere. Most of the time if I am at the airport I am going somewhere that I want to go to do something that I want to do. There are a lot of great memories at airports picking up loved ones, being picked up by loved ones, landing in Jamaica for a fabulous week of sun, food and drinks. You get the idea.

I have been thinking a lot about what I should write about during the A-Z blog challenge and I was having so much trouble finding and idea that really fit with me. I even asked for ideas in an earlier blog. BTW - Thank you Sheila Siler for your ideas! Bottom line I felt like a sinking ship before I had even gotten the ship into the water. BUT...the airport, my shining beacon of happy thoughts got me thinking....Just where might I be in one year. Where could I be, where do I want to be, what might I be doing a year from now? And voila! My A-Z Blog was born, a list of places I could be, things I could be doing, events that might be happening one year from now.

I am super excited to get started and I have already started listing some of the ideas in my head. I need to get started on them before they escape and leave me forever. Ms. Shirley gave me some great ideas and one of them I actually really liked and had already come up with some ideas for, I am going to pepper my A-Z with "Excuses from my kids and husband", because really those are just to priceless not to commit to paper err...digital media.

Looking forward to a month long celebration of blogging with abandon! If you haven't already check out the A-Z monthlong blog challenge here!

M

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Hole in the Story

Today's thoughts and babble are brought to you by the logic of an 11 year old.

We have a routine for every day of the week, it involves a usual order of things on most days except for Wednesday's, which are early dismissal days and things get changed up a bit. We have arranged for an after school activity and transportation every Wednesday. Today as far as I knew was just like any other day. That is until my stepdaughter showed up at home much earlier than she should have been. I was going to try and recreate the conversation that I had with her while trying to figure out exactly why she didn't go to her after school activity, but it was so convoluted, I'm still not sure what happened. I am going to attempt to paraphrase:

M: What are you doing home so early, was your activity cancelled?
R: Well, no I was confused.
M: What do you mean you were confused?
R: Well, the teacher said something about Monday, but I didn't know about Monday and today doesn't start till 12:50.
M: Wait, so there is no activity today?
R: No, there is, I was just confused.
M: I'm sorry now I'm confused...So there is an activity you just decided not to go?
R: NO ... (BIG SIGH) Last week she said Monday that we wouldn't start til 12:50, and I thought they wouldn't let me stay in the office.
M: Hold on, but your group doesn't start til 12:50 anyway, that's the normal time. What do you usually do until your start time?
R: I wait in the office with the others.
M: Ummmm, so why are you home again.
R: Because I was confused.
M: Confused about what?
R: It doesn't start until 12:50.
M: But that's the same as every Wednesday.
R: Yes.
M: .....

That believe it or not is the short of it. There is obviously a critical piece of the story that she is leaving out, a piece that I have as of yet to uncover. Right now I feel like I just read a story with a major plot hole. It's unsatisfying and now I have to play detective. But I guess parenting is sometimes like attempting to fill in plot holes. Sometimes they are gaping and virtually impossible to fill in without more information, and sometimes they are small and easy to smooth over with a little inference.

Speaking of plot holes...I have been reading more book reviews lately. They help me for a number of reasons. First they allow me to find new books to read so that I can avoid reading my textbooks. Second, ideally they will help me craft a better novel. Ideally. Lately, they are starting to scare me. You know how they always tell you "Don't look down" before you jump off of the high dive? Inevitably you do look down, and then your suddenly frozen by the sight of just how far away the water looks. Reading book reviews is like looking down before you jump off of the high dive. It may be better just to close my eyes, plug my nose and jump for now. I'll work on mastering my graceful swan dive once my knees stop trembling from the height.

M

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reading, writing and homework - Oh My!

A few weeks ago I posted a blog indicating that I was planning on participating in the A-Z Blogger Challenge. I still plan to do that, but I am coming to realize that I am probably going to need some kind of plan if I intend to participate successfully. A blog a day for every letter of the alphabet seems kind of like a no-brainer, but I'm starting to think that I might at least want to have some idea of the things that I would like to write about. Since I now have 17 followers (WOO HOO...moving up in the world!) I thought I could maybe enlist your help in brainstorming ideas for each letter. So throw me some letters and some topics and I will see what I can do with them.

I just finished reading a YA book by Lauren Oliver entitled, "Before I Fall". It was a pretty good read over all. It didn't hold my interest as intensely as I expected it to, but I liked the writing enough to pick up another book by the same author "Delirium". The story revolves around a female character who re-experiences the last day of her death over a period of a week. During that time she learns a great deal about herself and the world around her. I liked the evolution of the character and how she responds to the people around her as she changes. The book was smartly written and delivers a nice message that was sometimes a little bit suffocating but I think the ends still justified the means.

My own writing process is picking up again. I seriously think that blogging about all the other stuff in my head helps me to be a better writer of fiction. On the downside, school has started up again and I have a BAD case of senioritis. The last time I got a bad case of senioritis, I ended up as a 7 year undergrad student. I'm much more interested in writing about my world than I am in writing about various politically charged public health issues. I need to make myself a schedule that will allow me to keep writing the things I want without neglecting my homework, this schedule also needs to include working, yoga, swimming, meditation, house keeping and paying attention to my family. Are there even enough hours in the day for all of that? I guess one thing is for certain, I'll be getting my gold level Starbucks reward card in no time flat!

Just keep swimming...and don't forget to lend me your alphabet ideas!! :)

Mandi

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Quiet and All That Follows

Don't you hate it when you have some really profound and interesting thoughts, but then you don't write them down and when you try to remember them, they're just gone. POOF - No more brilliant thoughts - they are all just gone and no amount of racking your brain can bring them back in their former glory. I am suffering from this affliction now my friends. I'm trying to just get the slightest inkling of the brilliant allegory that I had created which somehow linked my mom's lasagna with my emotional state. I've been grappling for it since the day after my house suddenly went still and silent because the last of my family packed up and went back to their home. Alas, it's gone. Suffice it to say my mom's lasagna is awesome, but I wasn't feeling so awesome and somehow even the leftover lasagna wasn't comfort food enough to make me feel less lonely.

I'm now trying to get back into my old patterns, well the good ones anyway. The bad patterns never really just go away unless you choose them away. I don't feel particularly creative recently and I'm not sure why that is. It seems to me with all the sad lonely feelings I have swirling around since my family went back to their respective states I would have lots of emotional ammunition to spit out. But I don't. I kind of feel like a stone.

I'm not really sure where I am going with this, which isn't exactly unusual, but I usually have at least a shadowy idea of a plan. I'm just trying to get the thinking/writing/creating ball rolling. I guess that makes all of my readers my guinea pigs! :) Lucky you guys!

I miss my family, and the missing of them seems to have swallowed up a whole lot of other things. It might seem like I don't appreciate my husband and my step daughter as my family and I assure you that that is far from the case. I think sometimes the depth of the bond that I feel between myself and my parents and siblings is what makes me so keenly aware of all of the ways that I don't share the same bond that my husband and stepdaughter share. It's very hard to learn my relationship with them individually and as a pair when I don't share the same kind of bond that they share between each other and with my step daughter's biological mother. I realize that dwelling on this thing that feels like a bridgeless rift is not the way to overcome it, but I cannot ignore the feelings either. So I find myself observing a lot. I don't know where it's getting me yet, but I guess I just feel like if I observe it then it will continue to help me understand my own role in this family.

So I guess I found something to say. I'm sure I could say more, but I think I'm just going to marinate in this for a little while.

Just Keep Swimming....

Mandi

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Loss

We all experience loss. Sometimes the loss is quiet and sometimes the loss is suffocating. The quiet losses usually happen when we lose someone that we knew and cared about in one of our former lives. The suffocating losses seem to suck all of the light out our lives and make it nearly impossible to feel able to find our way through the dark. The quiet losses cause us to pause in our busy lives and reflect on the fact that someone we knew, someone who had played a role in our lives is no longer with us. We remind ourselves that our quiet loss is someone elses suffocating loss and we send our thoughts and our love to them. We do this in the hope that these little things will provide some air to breathe and some light to follow in the stifling grieving process. Tonight I send my love and my thoughts to my former classmates' family as they grieve for his loss. I send them a smile on a memory of when he held my hand walking home from school and I was over the moon. These are small gifts at the alter of enormous grief. I hope that they play some role in helping his closest family and friends to find some measure of peace. You are loved and you are missed rest in peace Mike Rolle.