Saturday, May 29, 2010

Someone already wrote it...

I've been thinking about writing about #5 on my list of things to do before I turn 40--lose 40 pounds. I had some fantastic things to say, but lo and behold, someone beat me to it! You should read this amazing post at  The Simple Dollar.

This is my favorite part:
"Major changes to how we behave are almost impossible to perfectly implement. Going from spending thousands a month on unnecessary stuff to spending nothing at all will rarely work for more than a week or two. Why? Because whenever you make a major change like that, you’re derailing a lot of tiny routines and habits, not just one. Humans are creatures of habit, and derailing even the simplest routine can be hard. Derailing lots of simple routines all at once can be incredibly hard. Make small changes, observe small victories, and be patient. It’s far better than yo-yoing, where you make a radical change, see some great success immediately, then fall off the horse and find yourself back where you started."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Mom

Tomorrow is the 2 year anniversary of my mom's death. I find I miss her more than ever as time goes by. She had a special gift of helping people see themselves the way God must see them--loved, valued and infinitely important.

But that's not what I want to talk about today. My mom also loved food. We had a special drink that we made in our house. We called it a "Lemon Juice Drink." (Wow. Weren't we creative?) We squeezed the juice out of a lemon, added water, sugar and salt and stirred it up. Those of us who liked this drink had a sixth sense about when someone was getting a lemon out of the fridge, and we'd hurry into the kitchen to say, "Will you make me one too?" Often I'd get stuck squeezing the lemons while my mom made the actual drink. There was no set recipe to follow, so making the drinks was the best job because the maker would have to sip from each glass until it tasted just right. One time we bought a whole bunch of lemons and sat around the kitchen drinking pitcher after pitcher full. It didn't seem that special at the time, but now that I'm a mom myself, I realize that moments of abundance like that don't come naturally to me. Lemons are expensive, and squeezing them takes time. Sometimes I find myself sneaking lemons out of the fridge when the kids are asleep so that I don't have to share. How sad it would be if this bizarre family drink died with me because I was too selfish to share it with my children.

My mom loved cream cheese wrapped up in pastrami. She said it was almost the only food she ate when she was pregnant with me. She also loved baked potatoes slathered with cheese, sour cream and lemon juice. Perhaps you're noticing a trend here. She liberally seasoned nearly every food she made with lemon pepper. I used to tease her about that mercilessly, but now I'm the same way with garlic.

She never did things in a small way. When I was a kid, we used to make bread--but she always tripled the recipe. She was big on letting us sneak tastes too. We'd take a small bit of dough and dip it in melted butter and then dip it in cinnamon and sugar. Yum. With that bread dough we might make bread, or we might make cinnamon rolls, or maybe even scones (not the British kind--the fried bread dough kind.) But whatever we made, some of it went to a neighbor or two.

My mom hated breakfast. If she was trying to be a good example she could force down a few frosted mini-wheats, but I don't think that was her daily routine. Her favorite breakfast food was Pepsi. She was a Pepsi connoisseur who swore there was a difference between the stuff in the can and the stuff that came out of a soda fountain. It was one of the few things she hated about Maine--there are no soda fountains in the gas stations. A whole state full of deprived people!

I remember how excited she was to eat a lobster in Maine. But when it came, she could hardly eat it because the eyes were staring at her. Still, every time she came to visit, she would say, "We've got to go to the Weathervane restaurant." Restaurants are places to return to--places to get into a routine with. That's the way to make a memory. Whenever we went to the Weathervane, she'd have to stop at the cute little shop next door, and then we'd have to walk down the wharf and look for star fish. I think she had similar routines with all her favorite restaurants.

She always ordered her big macs with extra sauce. She saved the ketchup/mayonnaise packets from Arctic Circle until she learned how to make her own. She would often stop at Su Casa to pick up an order of freshly made chips and salsa and bring it home to snack on as we made dinner.

I'm stopping now, not because I'm out of memories, but because this is already too long. I haven't even mentioned the Green Mint Cookies (we really weren't very good at making up names for our foods, were we?) or the fondue dinners yet. I hope people will share some of their food memories of my mom, because she used food as a tool to do her favorite thing--making memories with the people she loved.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Serendipity Challenge for June

 I'm too excited to wait until June to give you your challenge. Besides, you might need a week to find and get a copy of your books.

Task #1: Read a book that has your name in the title or the author's name. For example, my name is JD or Jessica so I could read a book by JD Salinger or I could read the fantabulous book Jessica by Kevin Henkes.

Task #2: Be a spy. Go to a public place and find someone reading a book. Without them noticing you, figure out what their book is and get a copy of it. Read it.

Task #3: "(This one comes from the seasonal reading challenge, and is in honor of my brand new blog). Blogs have an important role in the world of books and reading today...they've even been the inspiration for books themselves. For this task read a book that has been featured on your favorite book/reading related blog. When you post this task include a link to the blog and a review of the book."

Note: You don't have to do all 3 tasks. Heck, you don't even have to do one of them, but I hope you will. Do as many as you have time for, but if you do all 3 I'll think you're really cool! Make sure and tell us which books you've chosen.

Here are my books:

For task 1: Confessions of Super Mom by Melanie Hauser OR Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn. I've ordered them both from the library and we'll see which one gets here in time. There aren't many writers named Melanie, so I feel lucky to have found these.

For task 2: Haven't been anywhere public yet. Stay posted!

Task 3: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford from the blog PubRants and because he's a classy guy.

 If you want to join the challenge, go to The Serendipity Challenge. See you there!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Serendipity Challenge

After long hours of debate and pouring over the many great ideas, the overwhelming pick for our book group's name is:
The Serendipity Challenge. 

Go check it out! This is going to be so much fun!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Name That Book Club

There are a few days left in the Spring Seasonal Book Challenge at Goodreads. I've only earned 5 points so far. Not so great in a contest where everyone else seems to be in the hundreds. So I'm leaving the 5 point challenges behind and jumping straight to the 15 pointers. If you're doing this with me, you need a goodreads account and at least a goodreads friend or two.

Here's the task:

15.6 - Friends and Friends of Friends
A.For the first part of this task read a book that is popular among the lists of your Goodreads friends that you have never see a list of these books click on this link Popular Books
B.For the second part of this task click on this link (Friends Of Friends) and select the first person on this list and read a 5 star book from their list.

I picked Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow  by Jessica Day George for the first part of this task. I've ordered it from the library and hope it will get here in time.
I got Catering to Nobody (Goldy, Book 1) from a friend of one of my friends. I picked this up at my little library here in town and read it yesterday. I've been meaning to read a mystery for quite a long time. This one was better than I expected, but I'm not rushing out to get the next one.

Next month, I'll be starting a book group for people like me who are up for one or two reading challenges a month, but aren't interested in wading through the mountains of e-mails this popular group gets. We'll pick one or two challenges from their list each month.

All I need before I start the book group is a name. Some play on Seasonal Reading Challenge--something that says that we are trying to build diversity into our reading.

Monday, May 17, 2010

20 Things To Do Before I Turn 40

1. Start a blog.
2. Get published.
3. Get a passport
4. Use it.
5. Lose 40 pounds.
6. Try water skiing
7. Spend 40 hours working in the temple
8. Take a college class
9. Attend 10 free community events.
10. Get passionate about a cause and spend time helping it
11.  Memorize an amazing song on the piano
12. Go horseback riding.
13. Climb Mt. Katadhin
14. Volunteer at the school for 40 hours
15. Write another book
16. Walk, bike, horseback ride or take a carriage through all 45 miles of carriage trails in Acadia National Park. (extra credit if I do the 10 miles outside the park!)
17.  Donate blood
18. Find a farmer's market and start using it.
19. Play 25 different card/board games
20. Read 500 pages with each of my children

Friday, May 14, 2010

Life, the Universe and Everything

I was bummed that someone had already taken the blog name Life, the Universe and Everything, because I didn't want to find a niche market, I wanted to be able to talk about everything! And I still do, but I'm beginning to find my focus. This list. It could take over my life. I read a book a month or two ago, and I wish I could recommend it, because it was a fun read. But the language was too trashy, and I've got high standards about what I'll recommend here. It was about a woman who was trying to complete a 20 Things To Do Before I Turn 25 list, and it inspired me to create my own. Unfortunately, I turned 25 a long time ago, so I had to revamp the title.

Starting this blog was one of the things on my list. Look at that. I haven't even finished making the list yet, and I already accomplished one thing on it. I'm on fire! I'll post my list in the next day or two. 

Do you like my new background? I spent a long time picking it out, and then realized that it's the exact same background as one of my favorite author blogs... I guess I know what I like, and hopefully she can forgive my unintentional copycatting.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I'm reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver for the Seasonal Book Challenge on Goodreads. Well, I'm still reading it. It might be the only book I read for the challenge this spring, which is a pretty pathetic showing. I'm reading it for one of the 5 point tasks, which is the smallest number of points you can earn at one time.
It's a life changing book though. Her premise is relatively simple--we should buy food from local sources. Then she tells us about the year her family strove to do only that while explaining why in great detail. There are so many reasons--better flavor and nutrition, a smaller carbon footprint, economics, our health...the list goes on and on, and it sounds so boring when I tell it to you, but she makes it come alive. I read the section about turkeys out loud to my whole family. We laughed until we cried and then we had a very serious discussion about the implications of eating mass produced turkeys. I'm still not sure what we're going to do about it, but we'll never look at turkeys the same way again.

I completely recommend this book. Yes, it does have some strong opinions, and you may not agree with all of them, but isn't that the beauty of a book that makes you think? It's one of those books that I find myself constantly inserting into conversations.

Still, it's not the kind of book I would usually choose to read on my own, which is the whole point of the Seasonal Book Challenge--to get people out of their comfort zones, expanding our horizons. Which is a great idea, but the Seasonal Book Challenge is a massive project, and I mean that in more ways than one. Although they specifically say that there is no minimum commitment for the challenge, most of the people in it earn a lot more than 5 points--I'm talking numbers in the hundreds. The number of people participating is the other huge factor in the Seasonal Reading Challenge. It's become a national phenomenon, and I don't feel a sense of connection with these women.

Which is why I'm considering starting my own group--both here on my blog and on goodreads. It would probably involve doing only one challenge a month instead of dozens. I hope you'll get involved--starting right now with any suggestions about how to get started!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

November 2008? Let Me Introduce You To May 2010

Every November since 2007, I embark on a crazy adventure, right in my own living room. Nanowrimo promises me 30 days and 30 nights of literary abandon, and it delivers. The goal is to squeeze writing 50,000 words into an already busy month. I pull more all nighters in November than I ever did in college. Truthfully, until I went insane, I knew the value of a good night's sleep.

I'm currently looking for a home for my 2007 novel, Earth's Gate. You might ask if it's really worth it to write so recklessly if it's going to take three long years to clean up the mess. The answer is YES. The beautiful manuscript wouldn't even exist without Nanowrimo, even if it looks nothing like the original. It's kind of like a baby in that way.

In 2008, I wrote the sequel to Earth's Gate. Well, not the whole sequel, just the love story part. I fell in love with a brand new character who didn't even exist in Earth's Gate, and he took over the whole story. In Earth's Gate, Jenny falls in love with Arram. In the 2008 sequel I forgot to mention them. It was all about Drew. It was a problem of such epic proportions that I squirreled the whole story away and waited til the opportune moment to dig it back out.

Now Karen, I ask you--is May 2010 really the opportune moment? We're trying to get our house ready to put on the market, it's the last month my youngest son will ever be in preschool, and therefore home during most of the day with his mom and I started a blog last week. Oh yeah--and everyone knows a writer should never write the sequel before she's even sold the first one.

But apparently it is the opportune moment. Karen challenged me to write a book before summer vacation started. I've had several ideas swimming around in my head for novels, but this is the one I feel passionate about. My goal is to write a one sentence summary of each of the chapters, just so I can make sure I have a real story arc. This time my main character will be a real main character. That's not the point of Nanowrimo though. Cohesive story lines are just a lucky bonus. The word count is what matters. So in addition to creating a real story arc, my goal is to write 5000 words a week, and share the process on my blog. It wouldn't win at Nanowrimo, but not even I am crazy enough to try that twice in a year.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Glitzy Side of Writing

I haven't gotten much accomplished since I started this blog. I've fiddled with it for hours, adding cool little gadgets and then taking them back off, visiting other blogs so I can figure out what I like about each one. Important research. If this is going to be the best blog ever, it needs to be done.

I'm not sure what happened to all my fantastic ideas for blog posts. Ran away with my list of vital things that had to get done today, I guess. Unfortunately, I'm sure I'll figure out what was on the to-do list, but the other list might be gone for good.

I went to the LDStorymaker's Conference last week, and heard an off-the-cuff statistic that intrigues me. Writers need their own blog, these presenters said. They need to be active on Facebook and Twitter as well. But they should only spend about 10 percent of their writing time on these sites. Assuming that this statistic is accurate, I'd say that in the past week I've used up my blog time for the rest of 2010. So I'll be back with a fresh and funny post in early 2011--maybe this time I'll write down all those brilliant ideas before they can fly away.