Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Back and Looking Forward

As far as years go, 2011 wasn't too bad. It started out pretty crappy since I rang in the year from a hospital bed. But there was some big highlights to the year.

2011 was the year that I became a writer for GeekMom and it was the year that I finished the first draft of my first novel. Todd and I got to go to WrestleMania for the first time ever and of course there was our yearly trek to Dragon*Con.

Mostly it was a good year but I'm hoping that 2012 will be even better. I don't really do resolutions but I do have some goals for 2012.

I'd like to get healthy and lose some weight. But my main goal is editing my novel and then querying to find an agent. I'm hoping to start querying in March or April so maybe I'll have an agent by the end of the year.

2012 will have me attending a wedding, going to several cons and being on a panel for the first time at a con. I also hope see more people interested in GeekMom as well as learning how to sew more so I can make Emily and I costumes for Dragon*Con.

My only regret of 2011 is that I didn't get to LARP at all. I hope that I'll get to go LARPing at least a few times in 2012.

Happy New Year to everyone who reads my blog. I hope that 2012 is a great year for all of you!

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Christmas Up North

Emily and Daddy on Christmas Eve
We had a whirlwind trip to Michigan for Christmas this year. There were a variety of reasons we decided to go up for Christmas instead of in July like we usually do.

The trip was a good one. We stayed at my in-law's house since they don't live too far from where my family lives in Bay City. We drove up on the 23th, stopping at Todd's cousin's house before we went to his parents. It's a 14 hour drive so it is a very long day.

All Ready for Santa!
On Christmas Eve, we visited with Todd's grandmother and just rested up. We went to Christmas Eve service with my in-laws. It was a lovely service, though Emily got tired. We went back and Emily got to open her Christmas Eve present, which was her Christmas footie pj's. We let her play a little before I put her to bed.

Santa wraps a little too well
She went to sleep pretty fast, so I was able to get up and play Santa before heading to bed myself. It wasn't long before it was Christmas morning and time to open presents. Emily got to open her presents from Santa, which were the only presents under the tree. It didn't take long and of course, she wanted all of her presents out of their boxes.

Emily and her cousin opening presents
We had a little while before people started showing up. Todd's brother and his wife came over along with their two kids. Todd's grandmother came over as well. And my in-law's had invited my dad and his wife over, which they accepted so they could spend a little extra time with Emily.

Pop-Pop helping with presents
There was a ton of food so we had our meal first and it was so good. Then it was time to bring out the presents. Because Emily had two sets of grandparents there, her pile was taller than she was. But her cousins didn't see to mind.

My best present was a doll that my dad's wife, Esther had found that was from when I was a little girl. There was some of the original clothes as well as the little wooden shoes that my parents got for the dolly when I was younger. I got teary eyed and then promptly spilled a glass of water all over me. I missed some of Emily's presents since I had to go change clothes.

We spent a little longer at the in-law's and then we headed off to my cousin's house. Her little boy is 16 months old, and I haven't gotten a chance to meet him. She is also very pregnant (she was nearly a week overdue at Christmas) so I had hoped that she would have the baby while we were in Michigan. Alas, she didn't and is still waiting. There were other members of the family there too, so we spent some time there. Emily had fun playing with the toys and my cousin's little boy was fascinated by Emily. She is good with younger kids so they had a good time.

After that, we went followed my dad to his side of the family's Christmas. We went so I could see my great-aunt Jackie and my great-aunt Dorothy, but I also got to see several members of my dad's family that I hadn't seen in years. There was a little girl Emily's age, so she had a great time there too. Even Todd found someone to talk football with. We didn't stay long because at this point, it was getting late.

Emily and her cousins
The next day we didn't go anywhere, but Todd's brother brought his kids over. Emily had a great time playing with her cousins. Though she did get a little rough with her cousin, Austin, though he got rough right back. Mostly they just had a good time together.

Todd's mom watched the kids, which let Todd and I get a chance to go to the movies. We saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie, which was very good. The rest of the evening was pretty low key and I went to bed early since we had an early start the next day.

We went back into Bay City on our way out of town to see my grandpa. We didn't stay very long because it had started to really snow and we wanted to get out of Michigan. The drive back was long but it was mostly just wet. We got back home just after midnight.

It was a good Christmas though I think we are going to go back to going during the summer. It was really a whirlwind trip and I'm still tired from all the traveling.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Writing Challenge - Delicate

The world just seemed gray to me as I made my way listlessly through my day. I worked a soul sucking job that had people screaming me at me all day because they weren't getting their woven blankets with the picture of their dog on it fast enough.

I had been walking to work because my car had broken down, so it seemed like I was walking through a really old black and white movie as I was surrounded by a sea of other unhappy people dressed in dark coats as the snow drifted softly down from the sky.

I stopped as I took this scene in. I felt so delicate, like I was going to break if anymore stress was piled on me. I just stood there as the snow gently dampened my dark hair. I thought about what I wanted out of my life and this surely wasn't it. I pulled out my cell phone and called my job, quitting on the spot.

As I walked away, I knew that I couldn't be delicate anymore. This was my life and I was going in control from now on.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, R.L.W. challenged me with "Listen to "Delicate" by Damien Rice and let it inspire your story:" and I challenged MRMacrum with "Rediscovering old loves".

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writing Challenge - Shelter From The Storm

Christmas Eve has never been a great day for me because bad things always seem to happen for some reason. This year was no different for me or at least that was how it seemed.

My job had been working me to death as the holiday approached so I had to do last minute shopping on Christmas Eve. The snow had started falling the night before so started my shopping early because I hadn't wanted to get stuck in the storm.

What I hadn't counted on was the snow starting to come down fast and furious at 9 am in the morning. The snow was wet and thick as it hit my windshield and I found that I was having a hard time seeing where I was going. I had been on the highway and I pulled to the side of the road to wait to see if the storm would let up.

As I pulled my grey VW Bug to a stop, the car shuddered. The lights blinked and the car shuddered again, and then turned off. I swore under my breath but I got out of the car and lifted the hood. I didn't know a lot about cars, but when I saw the smoke rolling off of my engine, I knew I was in trouble.

After grabbing my purse and wrapping a ratty old scarf around my neck, I started to walk. The highway had been lacking in traffic when I was driving but it no more than a couple of cars passed me by. And none of them stopped. I kept trying to us my cell phone to call for help, but I couldn't get a signal.

The white snow swirled around me and I knew I would have to find shelter from the storm. My feet, only clad in sneakers, were starting to be so cold that I couldn't feel them anymore. And I was finding it harder and harder to put one foot in front of another.

Out of the blinding whiteness, a bright, red truck came roaring up the highway. I waved my arms because I knew I wouldn't be able to walk much longer. The driver slowed down and pulled to the side of the road just in front of me.

I found new strength as I hurried towards my savior. A tall man who was very round had gotten out. He had a long white beard and was dressed in flannel. He gave me a gentle smile as he helped me into his truck. He didn't speak much and I found that I spent most of the journey dozing in and out.

The truck lurched to a stop and my eyes flew open. I looked out of the window and I saw that we were in the driveway of my house. I looked at the man, because I didn't remember telling him my address. He got out and went to my door, opening it for me.

"I don't know how to thank you," I said, as he helped me out of the truck. "No thanks is necessary," he replied, his voice deep with a hint of a laugh to it. "Just stay out of the snow, at least for the next couple of days."

He walked me to my door and gave me a smile as he left to go back to his truck. I watched him drive away, wondering about the man who had surely saved my life.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Michael challenged me with "Shelter From The Storm" and I challenged Amanda with "Silent Night, Undead Night".

Believing in Santa

When I was growing up in the late 1970's / early 1980's, believing in Santa was the thing to do. I didn't know anyone who didn't believe under a certain age. I believed and I don't remember being crushed when my parents told me otherwise. I was just excited to help keep the magic alive for my younger sister.

When my sister was told the truth, she just ignored the fact that my parents told her and continued believing for another year. It didn't damage either of us and both of us are big fans of the Christmas season.

I don't think that Todd or I had a discussion about if we would encourage a believe in Santa in Emily. It's just something we knew we would do. She didn't really get the whole Santa thing the first couple of years, but now she believes and it's really awesome to watch.

But apparently we are in the minority because it seems like many people are very against their kids believing in Santa because it's a LIE. Now, I'm a bit of a romantic and so is my husband so we are fans of Santa. And part of me still believes in Santa, so I don't really consider is a lie.

To see Emily just star struck to meet Santa and knowing how excited she is going to be on Christmas morning makes it worth it for us. I know not everyone celebrates Christmas so I understand that not everyone is going to do the whole Santa thing. But I've heard of a couple of stories of strangers telling people's children that Santa isn't real. What kind of person does that??

It's something that every parent has to decide if they want to do or not. I feel a little sad that there is such hostility out there towards Santa. Maybe it was always there but with social media and the internet is more easily seen. For us, Santa will be there for Emily as long as she believes.

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Why Not To Use Lot18 (Updated!)

I've been following some blogs that have coupons and deals for a little while now. One of those deals was a $20 credit for Lot18, which has a lot of wine as well as high end snacks. I kept watching to see if there was something I could afford, since money is tight. I did find something that sounded awesome - Creme Brulee Almonds. It didn't cost me very much, but it was what I wanted to give to Todd for Christmas, even though we don't exchange gifts.

So I ordered the almonds on December 8th, which I thought would be plenty of time for them to arrive before we left for Michigan. And it has been marked as shipped since December 12th via UPS Ground.

I kept waiting and waiting for my order to arrive, but I never received it and the tracking information never appeared on the UPS link. So finally I emailed their customer service to see the status of my order. And the waiting began again.

After four days of waiting for a return email, I called their customer service number and left a message. I must have sounded unhappy because I got an email back saying that the supplier ships orders in bulk and that I should receive my order on Friday.

The only problem is that we are leaving town on Friday, so my package will be sitting on my doorstep for nearly a week. It's been very wet here so I wouldn't be surprised if it is ruined by the time we get home. I emailed back and told them how displeased I was, but they have not answered back.

If I had known that it would have taken this long, I would have never ordered because I knew we were going out of town. But nothing on their website nor on my order did it say that I should expect it to be three weeks before I would receive my order. 

Now, I've worked customer service before and I've worked it during the holidays. And Lot18 has some of the worst customer service I've come across. If I had waited four days to email back for a simple order status question, I would have been fired.

I have no idea how good their products are but even before I receive my order, I'm so turned off by Lot18 that I will never be using them again.
UPDATE - Lot18 customer service did respond offering a refund or to re-ship my order. Which is nice but still doesn't get me the present for Christmas. I told them I'd rather that they would change the language on their website that orders could take over three weeks to ship (since they are still advertising for Christmas gifts!).

They also said that they didn't want to reply to my email until they had a solid answer. Which I replied that I wouldn't be so unhappy if they had taken a moment to email and say they were looking into it, instead of just letting it seem like they were ignoring my email.

I appreciate them trying to make things right but I still won't be shopping with them again.

ANOTHER UPDATE - So I got an email while we were traveling that my original order only had one can instead of two. This apparently wasn't just an issue with my order but with all of them. The 2nd can of the original order is due to arrive on the 30th. It just seems so ridiculous that there is another problem that it just is laughable.

As far as the product, the almonds are pretty yummy. I just wish they would have been here for Christmas.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Meeting Santa

Emily has been really into Santa this year. She loves going to see the blow up Santa in the Christmas department whenever we are in Walmart and loves seeing Santa in the holiday shows we have been watching.

Things have been a little crazy for us, so we just got around to taking her to see Santa today. She was really excited but she got really quiet when we finally saw him and got in in line to meet him.

I don't think she was scared, I think she was star struck. Here was Santa Claus and she got to be right next to him! She wanted her daddy there, so Todd ended up in the picture. She did tell him she wanted a baby doll (which is actually something Santa isn't getting her since it's something my MIL wanted to get her) and she wished him a very quiet 'Merry Christmas'.

Once we were away, she was all talk about how she met Santa and she was so excited that she got to meet her Santa Claus (since she is in that 'everything is mine' stage) and get a mini candy cane from him.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

A Caroling We'll Go

I love to sing but I've only been Christmas caroling a few times in my life. I've always loved it though. It's been literally years since I was last caroling so I was really excited when I saw that the church choir party was going to include caroling.

Thankfully the party was set on a Sunday so Todd could watch Emily since he has no interest in walking out in the cold and singing. The party included a progressive dinner with three courses of appetizers, dinner and dessert. After the first two courses, we went around the neighborhood and sang Christmas carols.

It was a very lovely time though I should have brought gloves and a hat. I got a little cold because it was probably 30 degrees outside last night. The food and fellowship was lovely too, but the caroling brought memories back to when I was younger and when caroling. Though the best part of caroling with a choir is that we could actually sing in parts so it was jut very lovely.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011


I took Emily to church alone today since my poor husband had work nearly 60 hours last week. Emily really enjoys church and she was glad to go.

As soon as we watched into the sanctuary, Emily kept telling me to 'shush' because you need to be quiet during church. She was really good during the service, spending the sermon, which was lovely, in the nursery.

After the offering, we were doing part of the service that has the pastor read a passage then the conversation saying 'Amen'. Well, Emily was a beat off of everyone else, so her loud 'AMEN' echoed through the church. It was really cute.

I'm really glad that she is enjoying church and it is a joy to see her growing faith. I'm a little bummed that we won't be home for Christmas because our church is asking the little kids to come to Christmas Eve service dressed up as a shepherd, angel or barn animal. That would have been a lot of fun.

But I'm still glad to be going back to Michigan for the holidays. And we'll still get to go to Christmas Eve service at Todd's parent's church.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Writing Challenge - A Man Who Eats Hearts

Stella's cloak whispered around her legs as she walked through the forest. Her blonde hair bounced on her shoulders due to a skip in her step and a smile on her lips that was brightening up her whole face.

The woods seemed to be empty as Stella gathered flowers and herbs into her basket. Her mind wasn't on her task and she spent several moments daydreaming about the proposal she had gotten earlier that afternoon. The love of her life had finally proposed and how she would be soon whisked from her dreary life to one of luxury.

She looked down at the herbs she was gathering, thinking how soon she would no longer have to do this dull task for her mother. But just then a shadow fell over her. She looked up and saw a man dressed in rags over standing her.

Stella hurried to her feet as her heart began to beat loudly in her chest. The man had stringy blonde hair that was falling over his gaunt face. He looked Stella up and down in a way that make all the blood rush to her cheeks in a blush.

"What a pretty young thing," he said, his voice gravely, "You look good enough to eat."

She looked at him in shock and he advanced on her. She screamed as he grabbed her arm and swung her basket at his face. He was stronger than her and just laughed as he pulled her closer.

Stella continued to scream and struggle, but the man continued to pulled her in closer. He drew a long knife out of his belt sheath once she was held down tight. He put the knife point to Stella's heart and began to slowly push it into her chest.

The screams became more frenzied as the blood began to pool up. The man was so into his work that he didn't even hear the sound of horses getting closer. Stella had fainted out of shock by the time her fiance and several of the men from the village came riding up to this horrible scene.

"Unhand her, villian," Stella's fiance cried as he vaulted out of the saddle after he saw the limp form of his love in the ragged man's grip. He let Stella fall to the ground with a thud and turned to the men while licking his fingers which were covered in her warm blood.

"You are the hermit who eats hearts," one of the men said with a hushed voice as the rest of the men drew their swords and dismounted from their horses.

The man chuckled. "The human heart is a rare treat but the hearts of animal tastes nearly as good," he replied. He tried to defend himself with his knife but he was no match against three men armed with swords. It wasn't long before his still form was lying next to Stella's.

They carried her back to the village, where her wounds were bound. She recovered, but her life was never the same after she nearly was devoured by the man who eats hearts.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Lilu challenged me with "A Man Who Eats Hearts" and I challenged Francis with "A teeny kitty as a God".

Friday, December 9, 2011

Accidents Happen

Emily's Current Favorite
We had something happen yesterday that gave me the opportunity to teach Emily a good lesson.

Emily's current favorite book is The Gingerbread Girl Goes Animal Crackers so we read it every night. Emily likes turning the pages when we read. But last night tragedy stuck last night when she ripped a page.

She was really upset and wanted to call daddy. Of course, she uses just about anything as an excuse to call her daddy but she was nearly crying because she ripped the page.

Todd told her he would fix the book and I told her it was just an accident so it was okay. We finished the book with me turning the pages, and I took it out so it could be repaired.

Todd did a great job fixing it the ripped page that it's hard to tell that it got ripped. But when we got to that page in the book for story time tonight she got really quiet. She patted the page and said really quietly, "I'm sorry."

She felt truly bad that she ripped the book. I told her that it was just an accident and accidents happen sometimes. I think it was a good lesson for her that she will make mistakes and that accidents happen.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I'll Be Home For Christmas

My husband and I haven't been home for Christmas since we moved down to North Carolina. Our families live in Michigan so we always opt visit in the summer when there is no snow. But this year we are going to attempt to drive up to spend Christmas in the land of snow.

The first year we moved down to North Carolina, I was  a little bummed we couldn't go home. But since then I've liked having our quiet, stress-free Christmas. This year we decided to go home because of aging grandparents who might not be here next Christmas.

While it is a bit stressful, I'm really looking forward to it. I'm excited to have my daughter be able to see her cousins at Christmas. I'm excited to meet my cousin's son who is 15 months old and maybe even her new baby who is due soon. I'm also hoping for snow.

Growing up in Michigan has lead me to hate snow, except for Christmas. We don't usually get a lot of snow before Christmas in North Carolina. Because of this, I'm looking forward to having my daughter experience a true Michigan Christmas, hopefully complete with a little snow.

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Never Underestimate A Public Shaming

I'm sure everyone has heard the story of how Paypal tried to be the grinch to Regretsy's efforts to buy toys and give money to needy families this Christmas. But thanks to a huge outcry from the public, they are acknowledging they were wrong and are working with Regretsy to make things write.

I enjoy reading Regretsy and I like them even more for wanting to do good works and help needy kids out. So I retweeted and talked about this injustice just like thousands of others did. I think the fact that people were blowing up Paypal's Facebook page and was covered by some big news organizations.

So Paypal is doing some serious backpedaling. I'm glad that they are going to make things right so that those families that Regretsy and their readers wanted to help will have a Merry Christmas. But I do think that if people didn't keep talking and commenting and blogging about this, they would have done nothing.

The moral of the story is never underestimate a public shaming. This is not the first time I've seen people rise up and complain about a situation until the ones in the wrong put things right.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing Challenge - A Hot, Buttered Soul

I had been lost in my thoughts when the car came sliding into the sidewalk. The man had been drunk and his Honda struck me head on. There was no pain as I felt the cracking of my ribs and the bones in my arms. I was dead before my body hit the ground.

My filmy spirit rose from my body and I looked down as blood oozed out of my lifeless form. "Try not to look," a soft voice said from behind me.

I whirled around and looked behind me to see a young woman all dressed in white. She gave me a gentle smile and reached her pale hand out to me. I took her hand, though I wasn't sure why I did. She led me away from the scene of the accident, gently tugging at my hand anytime I tried to look back.

We rounded a corner and she stopped. I turned but we were out of sight of the accident. I looked back to the woman and said, my voice shaking a little, "I'm dead, aren't I?"

She nodded, a single tear trailing down her pale cheek. "I'm your guide to your new life," she said, "I know you must have many questions."

I nodded and my eyes turned skyward. "Do we go to Heaven from here?" I asked, wondering if I would soon be seeing my grandparents who had died when I was a child.

A smile crossed the woman's lips but her bright blue eyes looked very sad. "That's not how it works," she said, "You need to earn your way into heaven. I've been waiting for nearly a century but I'm still working my way up there."

I looked shocked as I felt the pit of my stomach drop. The woman leaned in, putting her arm around me leading me away. "It's not that bad, Mary," she said, "It is amazing still to see the world from this side."

We faded away into the mist as I began a new chapter as I started my journey to Heaven.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Brad MacDonald challenged me with "A hot, buttered soul won't get you any closer to Heaven" and I challenged Hannah with "Faery Tale Romance".

Back To Church

I'm a Lutheran but I haven't been great at getting up every Sunday to go to church. The biggest reason is because I feel bad getting Todd up at 7 am on his only day off since he usually has to work six hours on Saturdays.

Todd had a really, really bad day on Saturday so I wasn't going to drag him off to church yesterday. But it was the first Sunday of the month so it was the Sunday that the choir I sing in was singing.

I love to sing. In college, I was a music major for the first year. Even after I changed majors, I continued with the choir for the majority of my college years. When I joined my church, I also joined the choir.

But after Emily was born, it was impossible for me to be a part of the Chancel Choir anymore because the rehearsals are at 7:30 at night on Wednesdays. Since Todd works 2nd shift, I can't do anything at night during the week.

There is a choir that does sing once a month on the first Sunday of the month. I can do this one because we just rehearse before the early service. But I wasn't sure how I'd be able to do this with Emily. But I decided I wanted to go so Emily and I got dressed as Todd went back to bed.

Emily was very good. She just stood by me while I rehearsed with the choir. I always take her to the nursery before the sermon since she gets antsy and it's hard to pay attention. So I just left her in the nursery until after the choir sang.

After church, usually they have Sunday school and adult learning classes. But those classes have ended until after the holidays so they are having some special things going on between the two services. Next week all the choirs are putting on a concert, but this past Sunday was a craft.

Since Emily was so good during church I gave her the option if she wanted to stay. She did so we found a table. The craft was making paper wreaths to help decorate the church for Christmas. It involved glitter and gluesticks. Emily had a great time so I'm glad we stayed.

So now I know that I can manage with Emily alone at church. While I would love it if Todd could come and while he doesn't mind coming, I'd rather let him sleep in if he works on Saturday. Hopefully at some point he'll be on a five day a week schedule but that's not likely right now. But at least Emily and I can go to church by ourselves.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

The Lie That Is Unemployment Stats

It always makes me a bit angry when I see a new article about unemployment percentages going down. These statistics are pretty much a lie because they only count the people who are currently drawing unemployment benefits.

Like so many people, I lost my job when the economy tanked a few years ago. I looked for a job and couldn't find one. This is when my husband and I decided that I should go back to school.

Thankfully my husband makes a decent amount so we were able to manage and let me go to school. I'm very close to graduating but I'm not sure if it was a good move or if I'll be able to find a job.

Nonetheless, I'll be back looking for a job next month. Hopefully, it won't take too long or me to find something. I wouldn't even mind working a menial job in a factory as long as it paid decent. We'll just have to see what happens.

The point is though, that the unemployment rate is much higher than reported. I wish there was a way to be able to report more accurate numbers. I know I would be willing to do the check in with the unemployment agency even if I wasn't drawing money just so the world could see how messed up things are. But hopefully I will be in the ranks of the employed again sooner than later.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Netflix and Roku

I did a post about the Roku streaming player on GeekMom, but I wanted to talk a little about it here.

I never got on the Netflix train even back when it was just a DVD rental service. We have a tendency to buy movies instead of renting them so it didn't appeal to us.

When the streaming started, I did think about it. But we have issues with making our router work with our gaming systems, so we just stuck with our DirecTV. I did hear around the Qwikster debacle but it didn't really effect me since I didn't use this service.  

Then I got the chance to get a Roku 2 player to review. The Roku is pretty cool but we decided that we needed either Netflix or Hulu Plus to get the most out of this streaming player. Netflix offered a free month trial and Hulu Plus only offered a week, so we opted for Netflix.

It's been a few weeks now and I have to say that I love Netflix. We still have our DirecTV since my husband loves football so the latest shows that we watch get taped onto the DVR. But Netflix is great because it's got so many shows to choose from, especially for Emily.

While I don't think I would ever just go with Netflix, but as an addition to our DirecTV is great. We are saving money though because of Netflix we are getting rid of our movie channels.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Writing Challenge - Circus of the Illiterate

My mother always hated the circus and I never knew why. As a child, I would beg and beg to be allowed to go see the wonder that all my classmates were able to go to. But all she ever did was scowl and tell me that the circus was filled with hobos and illiterate freaks.

Because it was something denied to me as a child, I had always been fascinated by the circus. When I was 18, I realized that school wasn't something I was interested in continuing. The circus happened to be in town when I came to this conclusion so I had the great idea to run away with the circus.

I remember been so excited and nervous as I walked into the clearing where the circus had set up. I asked around and found myself in a tent with the ring master. He was an older man with graying hair and a long moustache that curled at the end.

"How old are you, girl?" he asked, as he looked me up and down. I told him I was 18 and gave him my driver's license as proof. He looked at for a long moment and then handed it back to me.

"It seems legit," he said as he rustled around his desk for some papers, "Now what skills can you offer my poor circus?"

I blinked trying to gather my thoughts because I hadn't actually thought the circus would take me. "I can sing and I'm a fairly good dancer," I said, quickly, "I'm a fast learner and I'm willing to do anything to become a part of the circus."

He looked up from his papers, a slow grin forming on his face. "Well then, Miss. I think we can find a spot for you."

I was whisked from the tent and taken to the clowns. They were, for the most part, a group of dirty, old men. They didn't seem to be able to read or write, but they were very good at falling down for laughs. As a young girl, it was a bit uncomfortable being around them. I think the ringmaster had meant to run me off but my resolve to make in the circus was still very strong.

Over the years, I learned nearly all the jobs in the circus. Much of the shine wore off over time, but I didn't know what else I could do. The work was interesting and for once in my life, I was the smartest person around as I had just about finished high school when I had joined. Most of the circus performers had joined the circus early, even being born into the life. So most did not have much of an education, many of the performers unable to read their names that were up in lights.

It wasn't the best career choice but it's not one that I regret. To this day, I live at the circus now as the ringmaster. The circus is a different kind of school and the roar of the crowds are the only incentive that the performers need.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Lilu challenged me with "Circus of the illiterate" and I challenged Carrie with "Do what you can to survive".

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Trimming the Tree

Emily has been really excited about Christmas this year. On Monday night, I decorated the house for the holidays but all Emily wanted to do was decorate the tree.

So we did that yesterday since I wanted Todd to be home for that. We got the lights and the garland on the tree while Emily just wanted to put the ornaments on. She was so excited when we let her have at it.

Like most kids her age, she tended to put all the ornaments on the same branches. But she had so much fun that we didn't stop her. I did move a few of them after she had gone to bed since they were all in one spot.

This year is turning out to be awesome because she is really understanding what Christmas is about. She keeps wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas" which is too cute. So now our tree is trimmed and we can bask in its glow.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Why I Say "Merry Christmas"

As the holiday season is upon us again, I have been seeing the age-old debate on social media on what to wish people when you see them.

Many people think that "Happy Holidays" is the way to go because that is the catch-all for all the winter holidays. I personally have no problem with "Happy Holidays" and I will say it, especially if someone says it first.

But if I'm going to give a holiday greeting to anyone, I'm apt to say "Merry Christmas". While I'm not insensitive to other people's feelings, I do think it should be okay to use the holiday that you celebrate. I'm a Christian so I celebrate Christmas.

If I were to say "Merry Christmas" and I got a greeting of "Happy Hanukkah" or "Happy Kwanzaa" or "Happy Yule" or anything else, I wouldn't feel offended. I know that not everyone celebrates Christmas and they should be able to use the greeting that works for their winter holiday

So Merry Christmas everyone! Try and not get caught up in semantics if you can and just enjoy this holiday season no matter what holiday (if any) that you celebrate.

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The Cat, The Toddler and The Tree

Emily with our tree last year
It's that time of year again that we get our tree. I prefer real trees so we have a great Christmas tree stand that we go to every year that it at the Biltmore Square Mall. They hadn't even put up our tree yet, to show it off. Todd saw how blue it was and we asked to see it standing up. It was lovely so that was the one we bought.

So we brought it home and Todd got it into the stand. Now there is a naked tree in our living room. Normally, I would want to decorate it right away, but we are waiting a couple of days to do so. The reason - Mr. Sam.

Sam is only a kitten so he's never seen a Christmas tree. So we wanted to give it a few days to make sure that our tree wouldn't be taking a dive as soon as Sam tried to climb up it. This is one of the reasons we get a real tree - they are much more sturdy and can take the abuse of a kitten or a toddler.

I inherited a large amount of ornaments from my mom that my dad gave me several years back. The majority of those ornaments stay safe in their wrapping every year because I don't want them to get broken. Thankfully I also have a lot of wooden and plastic ornaments that can withstand the abuse.

Already today, Sam has tried to climb up the tree. An act I discouraged by using a spray bottle of water on him. I'm sure he'll be more interested once the tree is all lit up, but hopefully it won't cause the death of any ornaments.

Hopefully someday we will be able to put our lovely but fragile ornaments on the tree again. But for now, our Christmas tree will be as kitty and toddler proofed as possible.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thoughts On Thanksgiving

I was pretty sick a couple of days ago. I thought it might be just food poisoning but we decided not to take any chances in infecting any relatives and just stay home.

Staying home for Thanksgiving is actually something that is very familiar to me. After my family moved to Holland (the city in Michigan, not the country), we would spend Thanksgiving at home and would go to Bay City, where most of our extended family lived, for Christmas.

After Todd and I moved to North Carolina, we usually still spend Thanksgiving at home. We also spent Christmas at home because we usually went home during the summer to avoid the snow. But after we had Emily, we started driving down to GA for the day to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas at my aunt and uncle's house with them and my cousins along with their kids, several of whom are Emily's age. That was where we were suppose to be today but I didn't want to spread germs.

This year we are having the holidays of my childhood. We are spending Thanksgiving at home and we are going home to Michigan for Christmas. It will be interesting to have Christmas up there instead of the really low key holidays we've had since we moved down here.

Since it's Thanksgiving, I should probably say what I'm thankful for. My husband, my daughter, my best friend Dolli, my family, my friends both online and off, GeekMom and my fellow GeekMom writers, my cats, my house and more I'm probably forgetting.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Writing Challenge - When She Looked Up

My evening walks with my dog, Lucky, were one of my favorite parts of  the day. After being cramped in an office all day, listening to angry customers yell at me because there is something wrong with their order, it was nice to reconnect with nature.

I let me mind wander as we walked the familiar roads in my subdivision. My eyes looked down at my feet as I thought about buying a new pair of sneakers. But suddenly the leash tightened in my hand as Lucky tried to run away.

I tugged on the leash to keep hold of it and then I looked up. I dropped Lucky's leash as I took in the sight before me. In my very normal neighborhood there was a huge animal. It was ten feet tall, covered in green scales and there was smoke coming out of its scaly nose.

The only word that came to mind was dragon, but I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around that as it stomped on a car that was sitting on the road. I found that I couldn't move and my eyes just widened as the dragon moved closer, a spurt of flame coming from its open mouth catching my neighbor's detached garage on fire.

I thought this scene couldn't get any weirder, but it did as a man dressed in armor rode into the neighborhood on a horse. He came charging towards me and lifted up his visor. He looked at me with bright blue eyes and said, "Come with me if you want to live."

I reached up and took his extended hand. I clamored up behind him and we rode away. I looked back, feeling badly about Lucky and my neighbors but feeling like this was my best hope to survive.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Bewildered Bug challenged me with "When she looked up, a sight that she would never have imagined greeted her" and I challenged Dafeenah with "When to choose between family and friends".

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

R.I.P Anne McCaffrey and Why I Never Got Into the Pern Books

The news has come out that author Anne McCaffrey has passed away. I know many people who are big fans of hers and adored the Dragons of Pern books. For a tribute from one of her fans, you can read this post at GeekMom.

Me, I wasn't ever a big fan of Anne McCaffrey. I like exactly one of her books, Dragonsdawn, which I do admit is one of my favorites. I just re-read it a few months ago. The whole reason I didn't get into the Pern books because they don't seem to go in any order and that annoyed the crap out of me.

When I was younger, I would read books from my dad's extensive library of sci-fi / fantasy books. Some of these books, I love to this day. Most notably of these are the books by David Eddings. I love the vast world that Eddings created and the fact that he numbered his books so I would know what order to read them in.

I picked up one of the Dragons of Pern books (I don't remember which one right now), read it and liked. I wanted to read the next one which is when I realized that there wasn't a specific order that these books went and that caused me to give up on them.

This was in a time when the internet wasn't in every home - I didn't get on the internet until I was in college. So I couldn't just go onto the wikipedia page to find out what the chronological order of the books were. Yes, it's very anal of me, but I don't like reading things that aren't in order.

Now that I can find the chronological order, I had been considering giving the Dragons of Pern another try. I love Dragonsdawn because it's the origin story so it's first in my mind. But I don't think I will ever love these books as much as other people because I didn't grow up with them.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

A Well-Needed Break

I love being a mommy, but being a work at home / stay at home mom can be wearing after a while. Emily has been a holy terror this week and I really needed a break away from her.

Last time Todd had gone to the movies he had gotten a free ticket through the movie theater's rewards program. I used that ticket to spend a few hours away from home to watch Tower Heist, which was very funny.

I felt so much better when I got home. I really needed that break after the week I had just had. Even a few hours was just what I needed to cheer up and feel better.

Now it's Thanksgiving week and Todd only has to work three days before having a four day weekend. It should be a good one!

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Emily and the Kitty

I love my cats and when we brought Emily home we were careful to make sure she was gentle with them. Even though Willow wanted nothing to do with her, Star was willing to be the guinea pig who helped us teach to pet nice.

Star kept trying to get out of the house this summer, being successful several times which involved us trying to lure him back. He's back now, but Willow really missed him when he was gone so we had been talking about getting another kitty in case Star took off for good.

So we adopted Sam a couple of weeks ago. He's a sweet boy who is only 6 months old. At first, Emily was just happy to pet him, but then she started wanting to pick him up and carry him around the house.

I've been yelling myself hoarse to get her to stop. Sam still likes her and has only swiped at her a couple of times - and never hurt her. It's just been a hell of a learning curve trying to get her to realize that even though Sam is her kitty, it is also a living animal who doesn't want to be her living toy. I keep having to put her in kitty time out where she can't be by the kitty for a set amount of time.

Today was a little better. Emily would toss her little bouncy ball and Sam would chase after it. Emily would also chase after the ball and then they would repeat. Sam also snuggled with her on the chair, so I'm hoping things will get better.

The glamorous life of a mom - keeping your toddler from abusing your new kitty!

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Writing Challenge - Two Roads Diverged...

My feet crunched on the fallen leaves as I ran through the wood. I kept looking back to see if there was anyone back there, but so far, I had been lucky. I ran my hand through my curly, blonde hair as I slowed my pace a little.

Moving my hand over my eyes, I choked back a sob. I had always tried to be a good person and did all the right things. I obeyed my father and married a man whom was chosen for me. I took it when he beat me, thinking it was a good wife's duty to submit to her husband.

I remembered how angry he was when I birthed daughter after daughter and how he blamed me for the lack of sons I produced. I continued to take the beatings but when he raised his hand to hit my oldest daughter, something in me snapped.

The blow his head met from my frying pan was lethal. I was glad to be rid of him but I knew that I would be brought up on charges and killed. I had made sure my daughters were well taken care of and I ran before the King's men could find me.

Now I was standing in a cold wood as the tears began to stream down my face. My girls were out of my hands now but I wasn't sure what to do with my life. I looked at my feet seeing the two paths that were in front of me.

The one that was more well traveled lead to the capital city, a place of hustle and bustle. There I would probably have to beg for a living and may have to resort to other, unsavory professions. The other road was barely viable and I didn't know where it went to.

After weighing my options, I decided on the less traveled road. I didn't know where it lead, but it was better than the more traveled road or going back. I sighed, looking back and sending good thoughts back to my daughters. Then I began my journey to my new life.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Britania challenged me with "Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood" and I challenged Cedar with "1% of Elves".

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's Looking A Lot Like Christmas

I always had this rule that I couldn't watch any Christmas show until I saw it snow or until it was after Thanksgiving. That worked out great when I lived in Michigan since it often snowed before Thanksgiving. But NC is a lot more devoid of snow - sometimes it doesn't snow until after Christmas. This year it did snow a few weeks ago but I didn't see any of it.

Even though I haven't seen a snowflake this season, I turned on the Phineas and Ferb Christmas special this afternoon. We just got this thing called a Roku and it lets you stream stuff to your TV. We also got Netflix so we now have access to all of Phineas and Ferb (with a lot of other shiny stuff). Emily wanted to watch Phineas and Ferb and that is the episode I picked.

I'm feeling a little uneasy about the holiday season but I'm also ready to get into the spirit. I'm going to be doing a ton of cleaning this weekend so the house will be all ready so we can bring home our Christmas tree over the weekend.

So it's beginning to look at lot like Christmas for me!

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Cochran, Survivor and Bullying

I've been a Survivor fan for several years now, though I have skipped a few seasons here and there since I started watching it. I have rarely picked a favorite at the beginning but this season I did. I'm rooting for Cochran for a variety of reasons.

He is a nerd and geek, plus he is the smallest man on either tribe. I didn't think he would last long, but thankfully he is still alive in the game.

But he has had to endure all kinds of bullying because he is small and geeky. He's been on the chopping block several times and gotten nothing but disdain and abuse from his tribe. So last episode he had the chance to change the game and not throw things into the hand's of chance. And now he is being painted as someone who is without honor and integrity.

GeekMom Jules wrote a post that went up this morning that expresses how I feel about this situation pretty well. I was bullied a lot when I was in middle school and even younger. I was bullied because I was a geek, because I was short and because I had a funny sounding last name. It wasn't just name calling either. I was physically bullied by a girl who decided she didn't like me so she would bash my head with brushes in shop class and pushed me into doors. It got to the point that the only place I felt safe was band class because she couldn't hurt me in front of so many people. So as Cochran was bullied by Ozzy and the other members of his tribe, I felt more and more empathy for him.

So when he made his big move, I thought it was brilliant. I can understand his reasoning for not wanting the vote to go to rocks. I wouldn't want to leave my fate up to chance either and honestly his tribe hadn't given him a lot of incentive to stay loyal.

Now he is getting a lot of heat from this on the internet and as a Cochran supporter I got a little bit of that heat myself. I was told that Cochran was giving geeks a bad name and that he lacked integrity and honor. So apparently, he should have just taken the abuse, been voted off and just kept his head down?

As someone who was bullied, I'm so proud that Cochran stood up for himself. And he's playing a game that the goal is to stay in the game. If he hadn't made his big move, he could have gone to Redemption Island if the Rocks deemed so. And even if he had survived through the rocks, things weren't looking good for him.

While I doubt he'll make it to the end, I think he made the only choice that made sense in his situation. And after been so mistreated by his old tribe, I can understand the desire to want to change. So I'm still firmly Team Cochran. I hope that he'll make it to the end and I feel badly that he is having to endure so much flak for a great Survivor move.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Writing Challenge - The Best Revenge is Living Hell

John groaned as he opened his eyes and tried to sit up. He poked gently at his ribs and winced, feeling the pain shooting through his body. He gave a little cry as he got to his feet and looked around him, a feeling of horror cascading over him.

He was standing on a beach and it looked to be just around dawn. He had no idea where he was because there were no beaches near where he lived. He looked around wildly for a boat or something, but there was nothing.

When he looked down, he did see a suitcase near his feet. He quickly bent down and opened it up. There was a fishing line, flint and tinder as well as an iPad. He fired up the last one up to find a video saved on it.

John started the video up and a growl came out of his throat as he saw the bully who had been making his life a living hell for the past two years. "Hello John," the bully said, his voice full of laughter, "I hope you are enjoying your island getaway. I'm sure you will be rescued since there has to be someone who cares about you. For now, this is what you get when you try to get revenge on me. If you fight back again, the punishment will be worse."

He just stared at the video that had finished playing but still had the image of the bully lingering on the screen. John had tried to stand up to the bully by fighting back. Even though he was thin and gangly, he found that he had a certain skill with karate as he trained several times a week at a local dojo.

So when the bully had dragged him to the back of the school, John was able to fight back and win. He had been walking home, feeling high with his victory when he had been jumped from behind. He had taken a blow to the head, and must have been taken to this place while he was out.

Looking around, he decided that he was going to use this time to get even stronger. He knew that his parents would be looking for him and he had told them all about the bully, so he hoped that questioning him would be the first thing they would try to do.

When he got back, he would make that bully's life a living hell just like he had done to John. That would be the best revenge of all.


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Lance challenged me with "The Best Revenge is Living Hell" and I challenged alyssagoesbang with "The Candy Will Kill You".

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NaNoWriMo And Finishing My First Novel

NaNoWriMo Logo
I've been an avid writer since I was in middle school. My first story was a blatant Star Wars rip-off. Since then I've written thousands of pages of stories, but I've never actually written a novel with a solid beginning, middle and end. That is, I hadn't until this weekend.

I started the novel that I had started years ago for NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that you try to write a 50k word novel in the month of November. If you get to 50k, you win. I've only won one year, my first in 2005.

After Emily was born, it was harder to try and write a novel in November. But I still gave it a try every year. The novel I just finished was different in a lot of ways. The biggest is that I outlined what was going to happen before I wrote it. Before then, I was firmly a pantser - a writer who just writes from the seat of his or her pants. I had wondered if my pantsing was hindering me finishing a novel, since even the year I won NaNo I didn't actually finish the book.

The story has been sitting there for years with me working on it some as time goes by. I've always wanted to be a published author, but I wasn't too serious about doing anything about it. Then last Christmas, as you know if you are an avid reader of my blog, I got very sick. I think that was the kick in the pants I needed to actually get serious about becoming published.

So, I've been working on finishing the first book in a trilogy which I finished last Friday. I admit that I cried after I had written those last few words, but they were happy tears. I took a couple days off from writing and outlined the next book since that method seems to work well for me.

I had hoped to finish the first book before November started, but I didn't manage it. So I'm a NaNoWriMo cheater since I'm counting the words I wrote in the first book and the outline for the 2nd book towards my NaNo goal. Even with cheating, I'm behind on my word counts.

While I hope to get caught up and win at NaNo, it's just important to keep writing. I'm not going to stop writing after November ends. Though I will probably put the 2nd novel aside so I can start editing the first.

I feel that finishing my first novel is a huge achievement and the first step to becoming a published author. I still have a far way to go since the book is going to need a lot of work as well as being edited at least twice before I start querying for an agent.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thoughts On Christmas

I know it's not even Thanksgiving, but I've been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving ever since Halloween was over.

Christmas used to be my favorite holiday, until my mom passed away. Christmas was her favorite as well, so it was rough those first few years. Even though being able to experience the magic of Christmas through Emily's eyes has increased my enjoyment of Christmas, I still like Halloween better.

This year we are going home to Michigan for Christmas. Usually we don't because of the snow, but there are a variety of reasons we decided to go home. I'm excited to have Emily be able to spend Christmas with her cousins as well as a snowy, Michigan Christmas.

But I'm starting to feel uneasy as the calender inches towards December. This is because it will have been a year since I got so sick. I think I want this Christmas to be the best ever to make up for the fact that I didn't get a Christmas last year. Thinking about last Christmas makes me feel weepy and sad.

So, here is hoping I have the best Christmas ever!

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Why Not To Reserve The Pavilion at Avery's Little Corner Park

We love Avery's Little Corner Park in Woodfin so much that it was the site of Emily's birthday party for the last two years. Though we had an incident that we will never have her birthday party there again.

Last year the cost to rent the pavilion at the park was free, which I thought was a great deal since all the other parks I had called charged varying amounts. When I called to reserve the pavilion this year, I was told that there was now a charge of $25. I happily paid it since it was the best park in the area and Emily loved it.

The trouble started when we got to the park for her party because there was another party in full swing. I pointed told the other people that I had reserved the pavilion and they were shocked to hear that you had to pay to use the pavilion.

It took them over a half hour to move their party as they continued to do presents while I muttered angrily as Emily played happily. The people were rude, with my husband overhearing that the reason I was being bitchy was because I was jealous that their party had so many more people.

While hardly anyone I invited showed up for Emily's party, I was more angry that I had paid $25 for a pavilion that I didn't get to use for 1/4 of the time that I had paid for. I tried to make the best of it and we had a decent party.

I was still irked, so I called up the Town of Woodfin office the Monday after the party. I was asking for at least a partial refund and it to be better marked that the pavilion was reserved. The woman I talked to was rude from the beginning, telling me that my name had bee on the pavilion showing I had reserved it. It must have been in a very small space since I didn't see it, and when I asked my best friend, she said she hadn't see it either.

And when I brought up a refund, she was even ruder to me saying I would have to come to a town meeting to ask for one. And those were in the evenings, which is impossible for me to attend because my husband works 2nd shift. She ended up hanging up on me, which is the height of bad customer service.

So I emailed the Town Administrator, Jason Young, to complain about the entire situation but especially because I had been so rudely treated by the lady on the phone. I've been waiting to write this blog post because I wanted to give him time to get back to me, but he never did.

I will not be having Emily's birthday party at the best park in the Asheville area again because of the way I was treated. I didn't really expect a refund, but I also didn't expect to be treated so rudely. This is why I would discourage anyone from paying the pavilion fee because there is no guarantee that you will get to use that space you have paid for.

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