Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I love Halloween. It's my favorite holiday. I love dressing up—as you can see here and here. I used to go all out when my kids were little. We'd all dress up, make special treats and then go visit cousins and friends. Then we'd hit the neighborhood, often being the last ones out. Fun times, for sure.

As a result of all the years I spent making elaborate costumes and decorating the house and the yard and taking my children trick-or-treating in all kinds of weather, ALL of my children have grown up to love Halloween as well. They just can't wait to dress up and show off their clever costumes.

Not.


I do not understand how some of my children—children birthed by me in long hard hours of labor—do not love Halloween as much as I do. Must be a throwback to some recessive Halloween-hating gene.


Some of them do make a token effort to participate in the joy of the season . . .


This was McKenna's costume—a demon hand that eats and then regurgitates Hot Wheels cars. Baby Shrek thinks it's hilarious.

Oh well.


The highlight of the evening was when I got tricksy-treated by my grandbabies. Baby Shrek, who was going to be Bumblebee the Transformer, had a wardrobe malfunction. So he came as a lion.



Have you ever, ever in your life seen a cuter lion? I think not.

And here—a close-up on that sweet little face.


And here he is stealing more candy. He filled his bucket, then threw a fit when his mom put most of it back.




Baby Burrito was supposed to be a pirate. Aunt Suan sent him the cutest pirate costume.



As you can see, Baby Burrito had ideas of his own. Here he is as a cute little appendage growing out of his dad's side. That's where he stayed most of the time. He didn't care for all the costumes.


And since he refused to put on his pirate costume, Momma wore it.



Doesn't she look awesome?

Daddy is dressed as a Party Pooper. I think he got that one just right. (Love you, Kris.)




Christopher did me proud this year—dressing up with gusto and enthusiasm.




And here I am in all my glory.


I love my teeth. A lady at Wal-Mart thought they were real! But I have to admit that by the time this photo was taken, I was starting to wilt.




Here is Sandra...


...and Brandi.



They were my only trick-or-treaters of the night. (I hate Trunk or Treat.)

And now another Halloween is done. I have 364 more days to plan next year's costume . . .




Now playing on my iPod: I Can't Wait by Hillary Duff

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Am I Not a Man: The Dred Scott Story by Mark L. Shurtleff

I do a lot of work for a private school near me—editing and typesetting their textbooks. I especially love working on their history books. So the story of Dred Scott is not new to me.

What is new is this fictionalized account of Dred Scott's life, and the lives of those who helped and supported him. I've always been touched and inspired by this man and his fight for freedom. When Valor Publishing asked if I wanted to be part of their book tour, I gave them a very loud YES!

Written by Mark L. Shurtleff, who obviously researched this book very well, this is the only fictionalization of Scott of this scope and magnitude that I am aware of. (This is a big book at 534 pages!)

I want to say that I enjoyed this book but that might be a little misleading. In places, it's very hard to read because of the brutal mistreatment of Scott and his family, as well as the other slaves. Shurtleff doesn't sugar-coat it at all and it hurt my heart. But I was once again impressed and inspired by the people who faced all odds to do what was right and who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

If you're unfamiliar with the history, this book covers the story of Dred Scott and his fight for freedom.
An illiterate slave, Dred Scott trusted in an all-white, slave-owning jury to declare him free. But after briefly experiencing the glory of freedom and manhood, a new state Supreme Court ordered the cold steel of the shackles to be closed again around his wrists and ankles. Falling to his knees, Dred cried, "Ain't I a man?" Dred answered his own question by rising and taking his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dred ultimately lost his epic battle when the Chief Justice declared that a black man was so inferior that he had "no rights a white man was bound to respect."
Dred died not knowing that his undying courage led directly to the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Shurtleff's treatment the Dred Scott story jumps around a bit and it might be a little hard for some readers to follow. It starts with Scott as an adult, then goes back to his childhood, then back to adult, then back to another time in his past. It also follows the story of the white families who helped him and what led them to be the type of people they were—again jumping from the current story to history and back.

It's also a tad confusing because many of the characters were named after family members, which was common for that time in our history. There's not much the author could do about that, but I wish a timeline and family trees had been included at the back of the book to help us keep the characters and events straight. (Perhaps in a future printing?)

The writing itself varies from fascinating, when Shurtleff is actually telling the story and creating a scene, to a little long-winded when we're getting a review of history. Some scenes seemed to be inserted into the book simply to give us the history of the time, and these drag a bit. However, the scenes focusing on Dred are captivatingly wonderful and realistic, and the descriptive language is often quite beautiful and touching.

Even with the slower spots and the sometimes confusing timelines, I recommend this uniquely American story to everyone. It's an important leg of our journey toward equal rights for all men and women. I believe that everyone over the age of 14 should be very familiar with the Dred Scott case and Am I Not a Man is a good way to bring that history to life.

Am I Not a Man: The Dred Scott Story by Mark L. Shurtleff is available from Amazon.

You can download and read the first two chapters HERE.



*Free ARC copy of Am I Not a Man provided for review by Valor Publishing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Just in Time for Nano: The Complete Novel Plotting Workbook


Winner: Stephanie Humphreys!

I got a copy of The Complete Novel Plotting Workbook compiled by Weston Elliott some time ago. I did a swap-around trade with her and another party*, in exchange for two copies, actually. One for me to use and one for me to give away.

I fully intended to give it a review when I first got it but... well... whatever. Anyway, I'm reviewing it now.

It's awesome! I've started using it to plot out my YA novel that I'll be working on for NaNoWriMo and Weston's workbook has been such a huge help!

I've tried other workbooks a little like this, but here is why I think Weston's book is superior:
  • It's 5.5x8.5" so it fits easily into my purse.
  • It is held together with three locking rings—which means if I need to rearrange pages after getting started (like moving chapters around) I can easily do that.
  • It has sections for World Building (especially good for fantasy and sci-fi), Character Info, Plot and Conflict, and Chapter Outlines.
  • Price—at only $9.95, I can get one for every book. (I could make one myself for this price, but why go to all that trouble?)
  • It comes in lots of different colors—I kept the Olive Green for me; I'm giving away a Rustic Brown copy to one of my lucky blog readers (could be you).

So here's what you have to do to enter to win:
  1. Sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo with me and be my writing buddy.
  2. Come back here and post in the comments section what your NaNoWriMo user name is.

I'll randomly select a winner on Saturday, October 31st and announce the winner here on my blog.

*This means that while I did not pay money for the book, I did work for Party A, who paid me with Valuable Item B, which I then traded to Weston for two copies of her book. There, FTC!

Monday, October 26, 2009

NaNoWriMo


Okay, so yeh. I'm doing this. Even though I don't have time.

But sometimes you just need to do something fun, something you can look forward to each day.

If you want to write along with me, go to the NaNoWriMo site and sign up. Then search for me and become my writing buddy. My user name is Inksplasher.

I'm going to be working on my YA mystery novel that I started back, uhm, whenever. I have a little over 5,000 words on it and my goal is 70,000. I actually can write pretty fast, when I can get myself to sit down at the computer.

Every time I sign up to do one of these things, all heck breaks loose in my life. But since heck is already in full sway around here, I figure it can't get any worse (Knock on wood.) (Or my head.) So I'm just going to do what I always do—go in with the best of intentions and see what happens.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Note to Family and Close Friends

UPDATE BELOW

DH gets back surgery today.

We don't know what time. We're supposed to call the hospital at 8:30 a.m. for the schedule.

Instead of calling everyone individually, I'll be Twittering updates (far right column, just below the Twilight fragrance ad).

You can check that throughout the day.

Say a prayer, cross your fingers, wish us luck, and all that jazz.

1:00 p.m. NO SURGERY TODAY

So we get down to the hospital and all checked in. DH gets changed into the cute little gown and booties.

And we sit and wait in the pre-op room. And wait. And wait.

Then the surgeon comes in and explains that IHC has recently consolidated all their spinal surgeries to take place at the hospital we're in—but the hospital is new to him. And he was just informed that all the required paperwork giving him surgical rights to the hospital has not been filed correctly and they won't let him operate.

WHAT?!?

So. No surgery today. We don't have a new date yet but they said probably 10 days to two weeks.

I'm steaming mad. DH is hoping he's sedated and hallucinating and that he'll wake up in a few hours and tell me about this weird dream he had while under anesthesia.

I just hope he can last two weeks. He's in a lot of pain.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bumblebee Transformer Costume Idea

Halloween is approaching. Haven't decided what I'm going to be this year. I need something that screams, "This woman is NOT about to turn 50!" Any ideas?

So, Baby Shrek wants to be Bumblebee, the Transformer. Trouble is, they don't make this costume in size 2 T.

(And no, his parents didn't let him watch the whole movie—just a couple of scenes. Plus he's a car fanatic so he totally grooves on the whole Transformer thing.)

Since Halloween was always a big deal for me when my kids were little—(Okay, who are we kidding? It was a big deal for ME, and I forced my kids to dress up and have fun whether they wanted to or not.)—I went all out on the costumes. But rarely could I afford store bought ones. So I had to get creative. And let me tell you, you can be so creative with a basic colored sweat suit.

If my child wanted to be Bumblebee for Halloween, and I were still into sewing, I'd buy a yellow and a black sweat suit. Pre-wash/shrink them. Then I'd cut them up and piece them back together in a pattern similar to the photo above. I wouldn't do all the detailing, but put the wider black pieces onto the yellow sweats.

If I wasn't into sewing, I'd buy the yellow sweatsuit and use black duct tape or electrical tape to make the black parts.

Then I'd find that red chest patch somewhere on the Internet or I'd find a Transformer logo image in a large dpi (like here or here) and print it onto an iron-on label (you can get them at office supply stores). Trim it and iron it on.

Then complete the outfit with a yellow beanie and black tennis shoes.

If you sew the outfit (as opposed to using the tape), you've got really cool winter pajamas after Halloween.

P.S.—If you can't find a yellow sweatsuit or beanie, buy white ones and dye them.


Now playing on my iPod: Transformers Theme Song

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Am Not a Wimp!


So I've started taking this new liquid iron supplement so that I can avoid going in for more IV iron treatments.

(I still have a 2" bruise on my right forearm from a failed IV stab I got THREE weeks ago.)

This stuff is supposed to be for old people, infants, and others with digestive difficulties. (I'm not telling you which category I fall into.) It's easily tolerated (no tummy aches) and non-constipating (I can affirm that).

It's also supposed to be strawberry flavored and taste good, thereby creating "enhanced compliance"—meaning, it tastes good so people will keep taking it.


Ya wanna know what I have to say about that?



It actually tastes heavily medicinal—like nasty cherry cough syrup. I have to use an orange juice chaser and bribe myself with generous quantities of chocolate to get myself to take it.* But take it I do, because I don't want to go back for those stupid, stupid IVs.

So anyway, I went in to talk to my bishop the other day and asked him if I would get in trouble with the Church if I got a tattoo. He said he didn't think so, but he would check on it for me. When I told my sister about it, she just about fell off her chair laughing at me. She says that if I can't even take an iron supplement, there's no way I could handle the pain of a tattoo.

She's probably right, and I don't know if I'll ever really get a tattoo—but it sort of makes me want to do it just to show her that I'm not a wimp. Seriously.

Now playing on my iPod: If You Don't Know Me By Now by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes


*Some people have commented that I'm a tad sensitive to tastes, so perhaps others would like it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Baking with Grandma

Yesterday Baby Shrek and Baby Burrito decided they wanted to do something Halloweeny.

Baby Shrek said, "Grandma, can we make some of those frightfully delicious Halloween cookies using your oh-so secret family recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation?"

And Baby Burrito said, "Yes, the ones with the delightfully, delectable orange frosting that you make totally from scratch?"

So, of course, I obliged.

Baby Burrito putting eyes on his pumpkin cookie.


Baby Shrek with Uncle Chris helping him with a mouth.


And the results? Both boys said they were the most delicious cookies they've ever had. But only Baby Shrek would let me take his photo.





And the secret family recipe? Well, I'll tell you if you promise not to pass it along.

First you go buy Pillsbury Ready to Bake Sugar Cookies. These are the ones that are pre-sliced and formed. All you do is take them out of the package and put them on a cookie sheet. (Don't buy the Create 'n Bake dough in the tubes (also called Slice 'n Bake)—that's way too much work.)

Follow the baking directions on the package. Don't overbake or they'll be too hard for toddler teeth to bite.

Then you buy the Duncan Hines Classic Vanilla Frosting in a can. (Do not let yourself be enchanted by the Fluffy White or the Butter Cream; do not tempted to go store brand or Betty Crocker.)

Add a little orange food coloring—any brand of food coloring will do. (5 yellow plus 1 red makes a very nice orange.)

Frost the cookies. Don't be stingy. Put a nice THICK layer on those cookies!

Then you buy candy corn for the eyes. You can go hog wild because they have all sorts of colors and flavors now. (But I still can't find any that are sugar free.)

And you get string licorice for the mouths. (I prefer red, but black works too.)

And voilá—you have a homemade toddler-sized pumpkin cookie treat.

Now playing on my iPod: Monster Mash

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Over the Top Awards

I was going to just complain again today—about the 1 1/2 hour wait at the doctor's office for the 10 minute visit with the surgeon; the arthritis that is killing my joints right now; the fact that my Mac suddenly decided it can't talk to the printer. . .

But instead, I went over to Sandra's blog first and she'd given me a bloggy award!



Thanks, Sandra. You made my day!

Now it's my turn to make someone's day. I need to pass this along to 5 bloggers (how do I pick only five?) and then answer the questions below.
  1. McKenna, because when she posts it's usually gut-busting hilarious.

  2. Candace, because she is so committed to her cause.

  3. Julie Q, because I love her posts on art and her view of life

  4. Sue, who doesn't post so much anymore because she's pregnant, but who is snort my drink out my nose funny when she does post.

  5. Cindy Beck, because she never fails to make me laugh.

Now, for the questions:

  1. Where is your cell phone? In it's cute little cell phone holder on the shelf above my computer. (I have the orange one.)

  2. Your hair? No longer looks this good. It's a mess.

  3. Your mother? Is an angel.

  4. Your father? Is wonderful.

  5. Your favorite food? Five Cheese Ziti at Olive Garden.

  6. Your dream last night? I was at this house, that had been turned into a church and I was trying to draw the floor plan and take photos to show my DH because I wanted to buy it and turn it back into a house and live in it. Only it was so confusing, there were secret rooms and staircases that would suddenly appear, and it went on and on and twisted and turned. It was wonderful, and mysterious, and full of personality, but I kept getting lost in it. (Wonder what that means?)

  7. Your favorite drink? SoBe Lean Cranberry Grapefruit

  8. Your dream/goal? My problem is there are too many things I want to do in life! It's very hard to narrow it down and stay focused. But I guess if I had to pick one, I'd like to be a publisher again.

  9. What room are you in? My upstairs office.

  10. Your hobby? Reading. Blogging. Spider Solitaire.

  11. Your fear? My children taking me on Oprah to tell the world what a bad mother I was.

  12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Publishing again; published novel that I've written; my house fixed up.

  13. Where were you last night? At home watching TV with DH and #1 Son.

  14. Something you aren't? Patient (the adjective).

  15. Muffins? Can't eat 'em. They have too much sugar. But if I could eat them, I loved the double chocolate chip and the poppyseed. I also used to make a honey muffin that was so moist and yummy.

  16. Wish list item? A computer network that always works the way it is supposed to.

  17. Where did you grow up? Lexington, KY

  18. Last thing you did? Read Sandra's blog.

  19. What are you wearing? Green shirt, blue pants, socks.

  20. Your TV? Yeh? What about it?

  21. Your pets? 1 dog, 3 cats, and a wild raccoon that keeps eating all our cat food.

  22. Your friends? There for me, always.

  23. Your life? A little complicated right now.

  24. Your mood? Trying to be positive.

  25. Missing someone? Me.

  26. Vehicle? Cordelia.

  27. Something you're not wearing? Shoes.

  28. Your favorite store? Barnes and Noble.

  29. Your favorite color? Dark red.

  30. When was the last time you laughed? Yesterday. I watched The Simpson's with #1 Son.

  31. Last time you cried? After my Yard Sale, when I was totally exhausted.

  32. Your best friend? Although I have several really, really good friends, if I have to pick my very best, the one who is always there for me and helps me through everything, who knows the real me, blah, blah, blah—it would have to be my sister, Suan. (I would have picked my DH, but he's a guy.)

  33. One place that I go over and over? Fantasy in my mind where I somehow get $350 million dollars and become a philanthropist.

  34. One person who emails me regularly? Myself, because I cc all my emails.

  35. Favorite place to eat? Olive Garden or Marie Callendar's or that sandwich place in AF that I can't ever remember the name of.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I'm going to STRANGLE my DH!


Yes, that's right. Strangle him! Or beat him with a rolling pin. Or something.

And I'm going to blog about it now while I'm so hoppin' mad I could bite nails in half. And not those teeny little nails I use to hang pictures on the wall that don't make a big hole. No, those ginormous 3" nails that will hold up to 100 lbs!

Because if I don't blog it right this minute, I'll calm down and forgive him because he's so dang sweet and cute. . .

No! I will not go there. I am mad and intend to stay mad for at least another hour or two.

So, remember when I took him to the ER back in July? Well, what I failed to mention was that in addition to the ulcers (which is what that turned out to be), he's been having some back trouble and it's been getting increasingly worse. He hasn't walked upright for two months. He's seen several doctors, had MRIs and other tests. Turns out he has a ruptured disk that has got a nerve root in a strangle-hold and he hurts from his bum cheek down to the bottom of his foot.

He had an epidural, used a TENS machine, done back exercises and is taking a handful of drugs. None of it worked. Yesterday, the back doc sent him straight for another epidural—a bit different from the one that didn't work, different medicine, different placement. Well, they nicked his spinal membrane and he got one of those killer headaches. It was awful! The doctor said 24 hours flat on his back.

The doctor said that around 4:00 p.m. yesterday.

I got up at 6:30 this morning and DH is nowhere to be found.

HE WENT TO WORK!!

WHAT?!!?

I KNOW!!!

That was my reaction too!?! And that's why I'm spitting nails.

Just so you know, this is what I expect in your comments—commiseration, vindication, and ideas for how long I should stay mad and how I should appropriately express that madness. (I was thinking a swift kick in the buttocks, but he wouldn't feel it because the epidural did seem to numb him up a bit there.)

Now playing on my iPod: What? You mean the one I threw across the room because I was so mad?

FYI—at the end of the angry phone call I just delivered to him, I did say that I loved him and hoped he had a good day.

But I'm still mad.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Where Would We Be Without Fall TV?

The fall TV season is in full swing now. I've had time to check out most of the new shows and here's my opinion on them.


New and Gotta See:
Castle (ABC, Monday)—This is my favorite new show (which really isn't new because it started as a mid-season replacement in March 2009). I love Nathan Fillion (Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Firefly/Serenity), who plays famous mystery novelist, Richard Castle. I've been a fan of his since Buffy, but I really, really think this is the best I've ever seen him.

Stana Katic, who plays Det. Kate Beckett and inspiration for Castle's new mystery series, was a little stiff at first, but I'm loving her now. Molly Quinn plays Castle's 15-year-old daughter, and Susan Sullivan plays his mother. I love the interplay between the characters—they're funny and witty. The mysteries are pretty good (although sometimes there's a bit too much gore). This is one that should be around for awhile and I'll be watching every episode!


Flash Forward (ABC, Thursday)—This one is pretty cool. One day, everyone on earth blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. During this time, they have visions of themselves approximately six months into the future. Some of the visions are good, some not so good. Some people see nothing at all (because they're dead? asleep?).

This show has some really awesome possibilities and it's well acted. Sonya Walger (who showed up as Penny on Lost) is great, playing a doctor who may have seen herself in a relationship with a man other than her current husband, played by Joseph Fiennes. I look forward to seeing how this plays out. It could be really good.


Vampire Diaries (CW, Thursday)—Set in Mystic Falls, two vampire brothers—Stefan (good; on the right) and Damon (evil; on the left) fight for the heart of Elena Gilbert (center).

I haven't read the books so I don't know how closely the show follows the original story but I've heard it uses a lot of creative license. This is a teen show, the main characters are in high school, but they drink and have intimate relationships. There is also a lot of violence and gore. Overall, the acting is mediocre—but Ian Somerhalder who plays the evil vampire brother, Damon, is awesome in his vile evilness. I'm giving it a few more episodes before I decide to drop it, just because I find the various vampire lore fascinating. But it's probably not going to be a long-term love of mine.


The Forgotten (ABC, Tuesday)—Sort of a cross between CSI and Cold Case. Has some potential but I wasn't loving it. Part of it is I'm not a Christian Slater fan. I might watch it a few more times before giving up on it.


That's pretty sad when I only have four new shows that I am watching, and two I'll probably drop. Last season was much better. And speaking of last season, here are my follow-ups on those that are back for more.


Returning Favs:
Leverage, starring Timothy Hutton, Christian Kane, et al, shaped up very nicely. It just finished it's second season, running through the summer rather than in the fall. It's right up there with Castle in my book. I love it. Although I am disappointed that apparently they're replacing Sophie on the team. Anyone know why?


Bones—Brennan and Booth are still in my top five, although I'm a little irked at the way they did the whole brain tumor/rewind thing. I think that's a cop-out. I also don't like what they've done with Angela and Hodgins. They are meant to be together.


Fringe is great. I bumped it down below Castle because sometimes it's just too hard to follow. I'm thinking I'll rent last season and watch it again. Like my old-time fav, Lost, I'm thinking I'll pick up on a lot more when I watch it all in a row.


The Mentalist —Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) is a cutie and endearingly annoying. I still look forward to this one. I'm glad they're giving Red John a bit of a rest.


Joss Whedon's Doll House is good, but not quite as good as I was hoping it would be. It's a little too convoluted, out there, hard to follow and at the same time, a little predictable. But I still watch it.


House—Still a guilty pleasure. As are Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice (but they're going to have to raise their game to keep me watching much longer). And of course, there's always CSI: Miami, but if they don't get Calleigh and Eric together for good soon, I'm going to have to send them a nasty e-mail.


Dropped from my viewing schedule:
Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles (got too weird) and Heroes (just couldn't keep up; I might rent them when the entire show is done).