Thursday, November 10, 2011

Show and Tell

I am a big believer in continuing education. And with the plethora of classes available online, many free of charge, there’s plenty to choose from.

Sunday night I stumbled upon an impromptu creative writing lesson administered by a well know children’s author, and although kiddie lit is not my venue, the exercise reinforced Writing Rule #1:

Show don’t tell!

Here’s the exercise:

For 24hrs, answer all questions in “SHOW” format. I’ll give you a few of my examples. (Really, was there ever a doubt?)

Youngest son: “Can I have a friend sleep over?”
Tell: “No, your room is a mess!”
Show: “That depends; does your hyperactive cohort enjoy sleeping on a bed of Frito dusted LEGO and dirty underwear?”

Hubby: “What’s for dinner?”
Tell: “Chicken and green beans.”
Show: “A lovely medley of Sahara-like foul, crisped beyond recognition and accompanied by a delightful legume, hand selected by a freakishly statuesque green man, strangely adverse to pants, and his diminutive assistant.”

Oldest son: “Do I have to go to church with you?”
Tell: “Get in the flipping car!”
Show: “Faith is a choice. Ask yourself, will my alabaster complexion fare well in an inferno based afterlife, or do I prefer a more temperate climate?”

OK – these are extreme, wordy and exaggerated – but it was fun. Give it a shot!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lights out

There is a very good reason I was born in this century; I like electricity.

As many of you know, last Saturday the Northeast experienced a crazy – I’m talking 2AM-Tequila soaked-subway-guy-in-Streisand-drag-yelling-at-his-imaginary-armadillo-and-quoting-Glenn Beck-CRAZY winter storm. Meteorologists have dubbed Snowmagedon 11, Alfred - really? Batman’s gender neutral butler is a big, bad scary storm? Was Nigel taken?

Moving on.

Over a foot of snow, half a million power outages; SIX days in the dark with no end in sight.

Yes, there are far worse fates than a week sans electric: war, famine, GOP candidates – but let’s face it – after a few days kicking it Laura Ingalls style, the bloom is off the rose.

Channeling my inner Sophia Petrillo: picture it, Connecticut, October 2011.

Starbucks, Panera, McDonalds, any establishment fortunate to be on the grid now resemble yuppie refugee camps. Desperate latte, Big Mac, bagel wielding cyber surfers, encased in Patriots Snuggies and protective gear, un-showered soccer Moms' and CEOs', body blocking eager opponents battling for vacant outlets, scrambling to recharge there handheld links to the outside world. It is madness, plain and simple madness.

We are among the fortunate; the few, the warm, the fed, the stink-free, holed up at Grandmom and Pop’s House of Baby Boomers and Electrically Able. And although we appreciate the luxury of hot showers, flushing toilets and microwave popcorn, there is a downside to temporary housing within a predominantly over 60 community – children, especially those with rampant energy bursts, are not the norm.

At home, I bellow at the top of my lungs when the cherubs enter into hand to hand combat. In a shared, adult inhabited building, screech owl parenting is frowned upon.

At home, the breakables lay tucked away in bubble-wrap tombs, hibernating the time away between Nerf Gun phase and college years; here – so much to break, so little time.

At home – Maggie, our 70lb Labrador of Love – has a yard in which to run and romp. Here – hard to curb the romping.

I cannot complain, well, yes, I can, but I won’t - at least for now. Check back next week, if we are still here, there’s a good chance I’ll be looking for boarding school recommendations.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

10 Commandments of Trick or Treat

I do not like Halloween. There, I admit it – so sue me!

That said, I have kids - Trick or Treat participation is NOT optional. Hubby, God love him, is the Designated Chaperon, hanging the required 20 paces behind, Maglite in hand as the gaggle of sugar seekers beg our neighbors for repeat dental visits.

I oversee home distribution duties, and to offset the holiday hatred, I long ago developed a sliding scale for candy generosity; the time has come to share.

1. Thou shall wear a costume – A baseball hat does not make you Derek Jeter. Bite Size Baby Ruth.

2. Honor thy doorbell etiquette – Once, is enough. More than that, Bite Size Dots.

3. Thou shall be age appropriate – If you have facial hair, stay home. Raisins

4. Honor thy common sense – 6 yr. olds should not look like adult film stars. Smarties.

5. Thou shall be spooky – Be scary! Witches, zombies, vampires – Full Size Twix!

6. Honor thy safety – Carry a flashlight and wear bright clothes – Reese's!

7. Thou shall be polite – If you say "Trick or Treat" – Milky Way! (Thank you - extra!)

8. Thou shall TAKE ONE! – Reach into the Trough-o-Candy politely – Full Size Snickers.

9. Honor thy hour – After 9 (and that’s pushing) go home! Before 8 – Peppermint Patty!

10. Thou shall STOP Trick or Treating when treat bag requires forklift! You’re done, go home, count your loot, eat the permitted one piece and sneak 4 more when Mom is not looking - you know you will!  
Happy Halloween! (Bring on November 1st!)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Catcher on the Fly

During October, my assignment desk takes on an eerie, landfill quality; mounds of Harvest Fests, Halloween happenings and local sports all screeching for equal coverage. I’ve tried covering my ears, but they yell louder, offering tempting edible spiffs in hopes of enticing my interest.

“Please cover our Homecoming game! We’ll give you free coffee and hot dogs at half time!”

Gratis weenies and unlimited caffeine aside, there’s a problem – I’m ONE person.

Embroiled in an ongoing scheduling fracas between home and work, balance becomes a challenge. I do my best, but chaos happens, news breaks, kids vomit; I adapt, all parents do. And with the help of a handy-dandy e-gadget, life goes on.

Here’s a snippet.

(Dinner table – Casa Babbler)

Thing One: “Mom, are you working tonight?”
Me: “Yes.” (Soccer game, temp below 40, good times.)
Thing One: “Can I use your laptop while you’re gone?”
Me. “Yes, but no You Tube; it gave me a virus.” (Call tech support.)
Thing One: “And I need poster board for Monday.”
Me: “I’ll get one tomorrow morning.” (On route from dentist to work.)

Thing Two: “Can we get my costume soon?”
Me: “What do you want to be this year?” (Thing Two = only family member T-or-T age appropriate.)
Thing Two: “A scary guy with a gun and mustache who jumps out and grabs kids at the door.”
Me: (Thing Two’s Halloween aspirations: creepy guy Chris Hansen nabs on Dateline. Adjust schedule for less jail sentiency costume shop.) “Tell you what, we can go after school, before golf, and how about a Ninja costume?” (Does Chris Hansen bag Ninjas?)
Thing Two: “Sick!”

Me: (Review tomorrow on e-gadget: Tech support, dentist, poster board, 3 assignments in 3 towns, costume shop, golf practice, use restroom at least once, eat food not obtained at drive-thru, breathe and write 1000 words on WIP.)

Hubby: “Don’t we have the basement guy coming tomorrow?”
Me: (Crap!)
Hubby: (Smile) “Is your head going to explode?”
Me: (He knows me well.) “Not yet.”
Hubby: “That’s going to change.”
Me: (Panic) “Why?”
Hubby: (Bigger smile.) “Did I tell you I’m away on business all next week?”


Don’t get me wrong, I love my life, and I’m lucky to have a HWH (Hubby-Who-Helps). But there’s a reason the Halloween candy never quite makes it to the 31st in our house, I’m a stress eater!

Fess up cyber pals, who out there among you is on the verge of cerebellum wallpaper?
(Side Note: Steve, you owe me a buck! Fracas can be utilized in everyday language!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Keeping the Faith

Today, the chains of the Day Job keep me shackled to deadlines and layout meetings, preventing my attendance at a blessed event; a Bris. The guest of honor, a wonderful little bonus gift bequeathed from heaven, is fortunate to have a Mama with Solomon’s wisdom, Mother Teresa’s patience and the ability to recognize the critical role spa days play when rearing four boys. (Dad is a pretty good egg, too.)

As I sit waiting for my next assignment to upload, the thought of today’s celebration brings me back to a declaration by my youngest son few years back.

“Mom, I want to be Jewish.”


“Did you hear me?”

“Yes, I heard you. I’m just wondering if this has anything to do with Josh’s Bar mitzvah.”

(Imagine Disneyland/MTV mix with a pasta bar chaser. I say this with Josh’s Mom’s blessing. Two years later, she still gets shivers at the mention of a chocolate fountain.)

“No, I just don’t want to go to church school anymore. It’s soooo long and boring.”

Oh, well that made perfect sense! He’d only been to the post Bar mitzvah gathering, thus his exposure to Judaism consisted of a big party, kicking DJ, all you can eat candy and to further sweeten the deal, Jewish school holidays.

“Buddy, do you realize Josh went to his church school four hours every weekend, learned an entirely new language and had to sing in front of 100 people BEFORE the party?”

“Oh.” He debated the new information. “I guess my school is OK.”

Compared to Hebrew school, our power half hour of quickie Our Fathers, macaroni Jesus crafts and sprinkled donuts seemed like a dream.

I’m glad he’s interested in other faiths, and will support him on whatever religious path life leads him down, but the donuts-to-DJ meter still has some maturing to do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Someday My Chintz Will Come

Decorating is a marathon, not a sprint. And although I very much enjoy the creative nest-building process, I am rapidly discovering my definition of “quick-turnaround” is not the industry norm shared by the greater contracting public.

For those of you considering home remodel, repair or equal level of self-inflicted mayhem, allow me to provide a helpful glossary of terms critical in translating repair-person linguistics.

  • Estimate: A fraction of the money you will bleed. 
  • Foreman: Evil minion in charge. 
  • Sub-contractor: Assistant evil blood-sucking minion.  
  • Home inspector: Kid from elementary school requesting extra homework and subsequently getting the snot beat out of him by playground bully. (Bully – see Foreman) 
  • Certificate of Occupancy: Big, fat myth evil minions assure victims they can attain. 
  • Guarantee: (Coffee spew!) Sorry, cannot control maniacal laughter. Webster should delete this word entirely. 

Yes, I'm in a decidedly dark home repair hole at the moment, and yes, good contractors do exist. The trick is separating the genuine tool savvy from, well, the genuine tools.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

In a Word

Some homework assignments need slapping, word problems for instance. If a train leaves Cleveland at 10am carrying three tons of Lima beans – A) Who cares what time it gets to Sacramento? No one likes Lima beans! And B) Can’t the flipping train carry something interesting? Chocolate, pizza, hot firemen?

Anyway, back on topic. My eldest son had a creative writing assignment last night. (Yippee; no math!) He was asked to select one word, only one, to describe his personality. There was more to the assignment, but the arts and craft portion is superfluous. (Although, it did have a great impact on my new O Magazine – Oprah face confetti now blankets the kitchen table. Kind of disturbing.)

This was fun homework.

His top three choices: athletic, creative, inventive.

My top three: compassionate, empathetic, intuitive.

My youngest chimed in: booger-head, meatball, doofus. (Feel the brotherly love.)

After several more selections we hit a wall and quiet contemplation set in. An autumn birthday boy, my son seizes conversational lulls as perfect opportunities to shill for gifts.

“Did you and Dad talk about my iPhone?” (RIP Steve Jobs.)

“Not yet.”


Over two weeks, this was phone request number 73. In fact, if “Mom, Can I Have An iPhone?” were a drinking game, I'd be drunk before breakfast 6 of 7 days per week. (He sleeps late on Sunday.)

And then it hit me, his perfect word: Tenacious.

So, what’s your word?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pavlov and Prosciutto

Rainy Saturday’s require two things: Bisquick coffee cake and Ikea catalogues. Yes, there are mounds of laundry morphing into Jaba-the-Hut’s evil underpants based cousin, and yes, at the very least I should be editing – but I need cake and some page flipping therapy.

Ikea is my secret splurge, one I should have outgrown after college, transitioning to Big Girl, professionally assembled furniture, but I have an addiction to all things pre-drilled. There is something inexplicably alluring about a store brimming with outrageous pillow shams and jumbo Swedish meatballs.

A few years back a new Ikea cropped up within spitting distance to my most fabulous friend, Denise; this was bad. Why bad, you ask? (Ok – even if you didn’t ask, I’m going to tell you.) You see Denise comes from hearty, I-am-Italian-and-show-love-by-feeding-you-to-the-point-of-pain stock. Culinary wise, she rivals Cordon Bleu top graduates, friendship wise – well – *gush* - she’s top banana. (Which she will turn into muffins.)

You’re thinking this is good, right? I get to visit with my fantastic, feast-based buddy AND surf the Ikea isles in utter ecstasy? Both true, but let me explain what happens with the arrival of each new Ikea catalogue.

First, I salivate at both the potential trip to Casa Denise’s House of Antipasto and window treatments.

Second, the kids see the catalog. “Yeah baby! Aunt Neese food!” (All Mom food now fails muster.)

Third, after a wonderful visit and shop stop, I’m left with less money in the wallet, less room in the pants.

Fourth, the credit card bill arrives, (B-Movie disaster music here); the Ikea line item glares back ominously, and suddenly I crave girl gab, marinated vegetables and Tony Soprano’s favorite deli meats.

Fifth, the manic eat/shop circle continues.

Here’s hoping a Weight Watchers satellite office buys the property next to Ikea, quickly.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gone to the dogs

Hello Babble fans….a little surprise guest today, Maggie! As my writing buddy, Mag’s contributions often get overlooked, so I thought a little tribute was in order. We’re going to do this canine Barbara Walters style.

Me: Welcome to Babble, Maggie, so glad you could take time from your busy schedule to be with us today.

Maggie: You promised me a bone.

Me: Why don’t you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Maggie: I’m a Labrador; I hoard socks and sticks. Where’s the bone?

Me: Do you have a favorite book?

Maggie: Bobby Flay’s Grill It! There’s meat on the cover.

Me: How do you feel you inspire my work?

Maggie: When you run out of wine I let you rub my belly. How much longer is this going to take? I need to chase my tail.

Me: Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?

Maggie: I prefer BONES! What do I have to do, beg? You know I will.

Me: Do you have any career goals?

Maggie: I’m starting my Hospice training, but the nice trainer-lady with the treats thinks I may still be too young and exuberant. What does that mean? Does it mean I get treats?

Me: Any final thoughts for the nice people?

Maggie: Yeah, dogs rock! Adopt if you can, we’ll love you forever! Oh, one more thing, Mom is not nuts, she’s on deadline and its Weight Watchers weigh in day – makes her loopy.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Night Writer

There are tasks best accomplished in the full light of day; beauty treatments, book writing, husband selection. All these and many more require a clear head and full possession of ones faculties.

For instance, show of hands ladies, ever give Prince Charming your cell number somewhere in the vicinity of last call, only to stroll into Starbucks for the first date and find Prince Alarming - cologne drenched, latte-sucking toad? (No honey, not you – this was YEARS ago.)

I have a friend, (no names – she knows), who treated herself to a late night I-Need-A-Change hair coloring escapade; the end result, Ronald McDonald’s love child. Tears were shed, children were frightened.

During one of this week’s unfortunate visits to Insomniaville, I learned a late night lesson; I cannot write after midnight. Here’s what happens.

Verbs become optional around 1:00AM. I sound like a cave dweller.

Character names do not require vowels.

Correct punctuation, although appreciated by the reader, is not something I deem necessary.  “Do we have any muffins!” Apparently, my characters do not ask questions and are very excited about the oversight.

Around 2:00AM my participles become adult film stars, dangling to the point of indecent exposure.

Today’s Babble is a little shout-out to my online writing group. The ladies of cyber space kind enough to point out flaws with humor, errors with grace and above all else, the proper gin to tonic ratio key in strong character development.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The road less graveled

Don’t you just looooove unexpected home repairs; the kind that sneak right up and bite the vacation fund square in the time share? We’ve been having one of those months. No, that’s an understatement – one of those years.

At one point hubby and I were Emmy worthy cast members of the Young and the Debtless. Today, new roof, Everglade-like basement and 6 sprinkler head decapitations later we find ourselves making more and more cameo appearances on  Survivor: Line Of Credit Island.

I don’t like Line of Credit Island; it makes me twitchy.

And Suze Orman keeps scaring me. One, her teeth are alarmingly large, and two, (frustrated sigh) she’s always right. Burning the midnight WIP oil, Maggie and I channel surf. She whimpers a little when I breeze by Animal Planet, but she’s easily pacified with a quick belly rub. Somehow, my surfing routinely comes ashore with Suze. Wedged between Gilligan’s Island and Chuck Norris’s latest calorie burning gadget, there she is – chock full of Chiclets teeth and sound advice. I swear she knows when I’m debating one of Chuck’s gadgets; it’s like she’s speaking directly to me:

“Kathryn, do you NEED the Fatty-Blast-500, or do you WANT it? Assess your priorities.”

OK, she’s right. (Again.) I can ignore one of the other 12 exercise gadgets growing mold in my swampy basement and fore go the Fatty-Blast. Want and Need are always going to be at war in my home, I may want a vacation, but we need a new driveway. I wonder if the Fatty-Blast-500 can break up crumbling asphalt AND cellulite?

Disclaimer: Please forgive any typos or rambling today. The Babbler is loaded with allergy meds!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

WIP-ed into shape!

Today the diet begins. (*&@!*)

Like many of my blog-o-sphere friends, I spend a great deal of time sitting, strapped to the laptop, drinking coffee - and yes, snacking. I swear candy corn has addictive properties; it’s not my fault! I’m calling Dr. Oz; he’s all worked up about killer Apple Juice so maybe he can pin obesity on the candy corn gurus while he’s at it?

As of late my backside has crept to an un-Spanx manageable size. In an effort to curb the madness I’ve started exercising post Day Job and pre fun-for-me writing. Since the kiddos are both up and out of the house by 7:30 (happy dance here), I’ve devised a new, exercise encouraging writing schedule.

7:30: Coffee, water and egg whites (I need cheese.)
8:00: Day Job – Count Blessings. It pays the bills, I like to eat.
11:30: Coffee (fight urge for Candy Corn)
11:45: Edit Day Job articles before sending over to news desk. (AKA – TUMS Nation)
12:00: Exercise! (Explanation point not bolstering enthusiasm)
1:00: Inhale Motrin and groan like Grandmother.
1:30: WIP (Sorry, I forget non-writers, aka sane people follow Babble. WIP = Work in Progress, the book.)
3:00: Kids home. Referee duties begin.
3:30: More wrestling with Candy Corn addiction.
4:00 – 8:00: Homework, dinner, sports practice taxi, run-down tomorrow’s to do list with Hubby & possibly cuddle.
8:30 – Whenever I lose consciousness: Blog, research and WIP.

So there you have it, the chaos that is me! No W.I.P until my A.S.S gets moving! Should keep the creative juices flowing and the pant size shrinking!
(And don't I wish this scale were accurate!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On Golden Thong

I attract crazy. I’m not talking quirky with a penchant for eccentricity; I’m talking bona-fide 5 point restraint gonzo.

Monday is deadline day in Day Job Land, and after my stories are turned in and corresponding editors pacified, I like to take a little me time to decompress before the family gets home. Where better to unwind than the library, right; a quiet, peaceful and FREE place to simply enjoy a little solitude?

Um, no; not so much.

I’ve blogged about my love of all things library many times, but yesterday my appreciation for Dewey and his Decimals suffered a severe blow. It wasn’t the libraries fault, but more accurately the icky couple engaged in some serious senior citizen PDA in the reading room


Not age discrimination eww, just plain old eww. Really, smooching in the library? (And I’m talking smooching with a little second base action! And why did I KEEP watching! I have issues.) Aren’t they old enough to get a room somewhere?

Anyway, long story short, I said something to Mary, our pseudo-hippie and clearly Woodstock-impacted librarian and she informs me this is an ongoing issue. Apparently the lovebirds both live with their respective children and meet there on Monday for a romantic rendezvous.

Romeo and Juliet knocked it down a few notches as I passed toward the exit, and out of pure curiosity I looked at the books on the table in front of them: American Heart Association Low Salt Cookbook, Die Broke.

Laughed all the way home.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where were you?

I remember September 11, 2001 as the day my rose colored glasses splintered into a million shards of disbelief. A day of crying souls, shattered families and sadness so consuming no words can describe its depth. We mourned the loss of lives, loves and our fundamental sense of safety. Thousands directed inconceivable rage toward the gentlest of faiths in desperate efforts to give evil a face, a name; when in fact the cowardly acts of few were solely to blame for the unimaginable tragedy.

Where was I that fateful day? En route home from minnow swim lessons, 1 & 4 year olds snugly strapped into their car seats, blissfully singing along with Barney; completely unaware of the horror unfolding with each passing second. I have never envied my children more.

Where were you?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Small minds, small change

 (This is a re-post in light of 50 Cent's recent ignorance.)

Persons of a certain genetic combination are destined for a lifetime of outspokenness, humor and potential trips to the pokey. For instance, an Irish temper and English frankness often result in a controlled, stinging wit. Not only do I fall from just such a fruitful and fabulous family tree; I think it’s safe to say I’m the plumpest peach on the branch. And today, my innately volatile genetics took a turn toward the dark side in a favorite Mommy haunt; Target.

Stupidity, my friends, is a wide spread epidemic. An ugly virus overtaking what appears at first glance to be rational adults, but upon closer examination reveals nothing more than a dim-witted juvenile wrapped in a 40 plus jiggly spray tanned body. (OK – that was mean, but you’ll see….)

I wish this conversation were fictional. I wish Jiggly Target Woman (JTW) was a figment of my over active and often frightening imagination, but no – she exists, and she needed a good smack of common sense - Babble style!

The Scene: NERF toy isle. (Another of Dante’s rings.)
Characters: JTW, JTW Child (no more than 3 yrs old) and little ole’ Me.

JTW: “Would you stop you’re crying! I am not getting you a toy! We’re here for your cousin!”

JTW Child: Escalated screaming and floor fist pummeling. Un-natural oozing amounts of mucus and saliva.

Me: Hidden smile – soooo past this age group, and loving it!

JTW: “Stop that right now! Do you want someone to come by and think you are one of those retards with Autism or something?”

Me: Jaw hits floor. Anger hits ceiling.

JTW Child: Louder, longer more in need of Super Nanny.

Me: (And here’s where it gets ugly.) “Excuse me JTW, I know you’ve got your hands full, (proof in the screaming Satan spawn), and God knows I remember that age, but as a mother of a child with a special needs I find that remark not only offensive but very hurtful.” (Yes, those exact words; go me! Truth? I wanted to grab the nearest Wiffle Bat and go PiƱata on her.)

JTW: Eye roll and smirk; no response, no remorse, no apology.

Me: “I’ll leave you alone, but I thought you should know how uneducated those remarks make you sound.”

JTW: “Go mind your own business; stupid (female dog - potty mouth version).”

Me: (Must keep Irish side on leash.) “Have you heard the expression an apple never falls far from the tree? (Blank, hateful stare.) Well, you may want to scoop up your spoiled little McIntosh before he smashes his skull into the tile enough to become as small minded as his mother.”

 And…I left, quickly. Kind of ran, actually. Yes, I know that was risky. JTW could have a hit the appliance isle for a sharp cheese grater and jumped me in the parking lot, but it felt good.

A personal plea, and one I’m sure those with an intelligent and compassionate soul already fully comprehend. Not all disabilities present with visual cues, not all struggles come with simple to follow definitions. Tolerance, education and a kind heart – that’s all it takes to rid the world of JTW’s. (And the occasional Wiffle bat.)

*Disclosure: JTW was not a Target employee or in any way linked to the store. Please do not sue me!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Twitter Thanks!

Hello Babble fans! Tonight I’ve got a little musical treat on tap. After my first official week of Tweeting, I’ve completely lost track of those followers I simply must thank, so I thought I’d take a minute and recognize their warm welcome in song. Keep in mind I have absolutely no musical training. (There was no need to mention that – you’ll see soon enough.)
It helps the song flow by singing along. Go ahead, belt it out - you know you want to!

Newbie Tweeter Anthem
(To the tune of God Bless America.)

Goooood bless my Twitter friends,
Aaaa - cross the globe,
I won’t stalk you,
Or mock you,
But I might mis-tweet now and again.

From the authors,
To the artists,
To the Mommies, drenched in drooooool,
Goooood bless my Twitter friends,
I think you’re all coooool.

Thaaaank God for cyber help,
Lost and confused,
What are hash tags?
Are they like trash bags?
I still don’t have even a clue.

Do I follow,
If I’m followed?
Is it considered, mean or ruuuuude?
Iiiiiii was raised Cath-O-Lic,
We obey allllll ruuuuules.

Gooooo away Twitter freaks,
Scammers with greed,
Don’t invite me,
To your site please,
I’m not buying crap that I’ll never need.

No free Botox,
No Viagra,
No investments, in your shaaaaams,
Goooooo away Twitter freaks,
I follow humaaaans.

Happy Labor Day Weekend! Let the grilling begin!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pride and Pretentiousness

Writers are like ice cream; flavorful, varied and the majority - full of nuts. As a proud member of the macadamia enhanced, I regard my critique partners as manna from Heaven, each more talented than the next - with one disturbing exception.

Oh, the shivers this man brings me. (And not in a shirtless, yummy Hugh Jackman way.) No, this particular member of my online writer’s group routinely feels the need to tout his publishing success, (translation: one article in The New Yorker circa 1986) as the benchmark we, the mere mortals of cyber-lit world can only hope to one day attain. For now, let’s refer to him as Tolstoy; pretty much sums up the ego.

Tolstoy claims to be a tenured English professor; although for all we know he could be Inmate #432 at Rikers Island. Profession aside, his condescending attitude defeats the group’s mission: offering insightful feedback and constructive criticism to aspiring writers in an encouraging environment. (We share snack ideas, too. Tolstoy hates that! And Writegirl221 – I made the Heath Bar Brownies – can I get an Amen! Thx!)

For instance, I started today’s post with a simile. Tolstoy would gag in admonishment at the obviously pedestrian lead approach. Gag away big guy; it’s the first week of school, you’re lucky I remember punctuation. (Sometimes I just want to grab his goofy ascot and twist, HARD. OK – no idea if he wears an ascot, but that’s how I picture him.)

Bottom line, if your support system offers more hurt than help – writer or real world – make a change. And if one bad apple spoils the pie – time to vote him or her off the island! Oh, and no worries, Tolstoy won’t read this. “Blogs are an outlet for undereducated, narcissistic type personalities craving attention.” (Admit it – you hate him now, too?!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Last Supper

Do you have back to school rituals? (Aside from uncontrolled dances of sheer joy? Or is that just me?) Here at Camp Elliott we have a final day of summer supper. It all started when my youngest entered pre-school.

“Mom, can we have breakfast for dinner? I’m going to be too tired to eat pancakes in the morning.”

First, there was never a chance of pancakes – at 6:00 am on the first day of school he’d be lucky if managed toast – butter would be pushing it. But through his simple request, a family fave was born.

BFD (breakfast for dinner) initially appeared to break all hard and fast post-5pm edibility rules – but hey – we should all live on the edge occasionally. And so began the BFD tradition; bacon, eggs, waffles – whatever the kids wanted, I whipped up. After all, in the AM they are doomed for nothing more than cereal and a smile! In my early morning haze, the kids get a brown bag lunch, backpack and a big sloppy smooch from Mom (rightfully administered behind tinted SUV windows and NEVER at the bus stop! Social suicide!)

Over the years BFD escalated to include other special requests; hot chocolate with whip cream (regardless of outdoor temperature), hand cut hash browns, pumpkin muffins and in one rare instance, egg rolls. (My eldest went through an Asian fusion phase – never completely grasped that one.)

The moral of the story, traditions don’t need to make perfect sense – just help make the last bits of summer perfect. Happy Back to School, everyone! (Let the manic dancing begin!)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Faking the Grade

Out of curiosity, how many of you have teenagers participating in High School sports? (I’m going to assume at least one person is raising a hand or nodding in parental camaraderie.) Help me out with something; what is your school’s academic eligibility GPA requirement? (Muttering to yourself does me no good – post a comment or fire an email to the Babble Box.)

Yesterday, I had an Ah-ha moment, and not the Oprah-gave-me-a-Volvo kind; more of a crap-someone-stole-my-car kind.

Sitting patiently through my son’s freshman year orientation, one of the glossy power point slides breezed quickly by; a sort of smoke and mirrors approach to the underside of high school athletics. Way, way, way down in the corner, under the happy-smiling field hockey players, on the very last and quickly vanishing slide was this little ditty:

“High School athletes in Our Town USA must maintain a 1.7 GPA in order to participate in team sports.”

1.7! (Curse word of your choice here – or several.) That’s barely a C-! Kissing a D+! Needless to say my son and I had a post-presentation talk about the town expectations versus those of his college tuition paying parents.

Long story short, (which is always a challenge for me), I’m doing a little digging with our Board of Ed, trying to decifer how such an abysmal number came to be, and what measures need to be taken in order for a more respectable GPA to become the new standard.

A little cyber-assistance from my Babble friends - I need comparisons, what is the GPA requirement in your neck of the woods?

UPDATE: 8/26 - Apparently I've poked the sleeping bear with this post! LOTS of feedback hitting the Babble Box! Keep it coming - follow up Babble coming soon!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Leap Blog

A little late night blog post, OK, it was meant to be a mid-afternoon post but the pesky day job and Mom duties prevailed. Darn kids and story deadlines! Don’t they know I have blogging to do? The nerve!

I digress, tonight’s Babble is not about me; I know – SHOCKER! Instead I want to take a moment to thank my cyber-buddy Anita, an exceptionally talented blogger, poet and terrific wealth of encouragement. Anita’s debut young adult novel, SPLINTERED – an eerie and equally fabulous young adult spin off from Alice in Wonderland is set to grace (like that little play on words AGH?) bestseller lists worldwide in spring 2013. (Aim high girl!)

So, why the shout out for Anita; other than I can say I knew her before she blew Harry Potter sales to smithereens? Well, she gave me this nifty little blog award today, and it was just the push I needed to keep plugging at my MS, clicking and editing until my book-to-be shines like a new penny. (Some days, I plot ways to kill my laptop – he thanks you for sparing his life.)

A little encouragement goes a long way! And make sure to check out Anita’s blog.

Night all!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When in doubt, write it out!

Over lunch last week a friend asked me a simple question:

“Why do you write?”

Honest answer number one, income. Answers two through seven were more heartfelt; I’ll share.

Creativity: I cannot paint, dance or sing; self-expression must escape somewhere or I run the risk of artistic hemorrhage. (And for the sake of those in a 5 mile radius, singing is off the table.)

Sanity: My subconscious is like an over caffeinated Disney ride; boundless story ideas careening off in wild directions, screaming and shouting for a place to call home. This leaves two options; corral the rowdy ride into something worth reading, or admit I hear voices. (Stigmas abound.)

Anger Management: We all have moments of homicide contemplation. (Think family reunion or staff meeting.) Killing fictional characters carries no jail time.

Calm: When Mommy writes – no one is allowed to interrupt unless blood spills. If the laptop is a rockin – don’t come a knockin’. (Truth – I sometimes type up grocery lists just to be alone. Shhh.)

Growth: Creative writing challenges me to think beyond the confines of structural reporting; a little mental growth is a good thing.

Love of Words: On average, I devour two books a week. Everything from biographical non-fiction to the smuttiest of smut! (Variety is the spice of life, both on and off the pages.) I cannot imagine achieving success as a writer without a genuine love for reading. Find me an author bio not containing the phrase, “I have loved books since I was a small child.”

So, there you have it. I write to stay employed, creative, sane, out of jail, calm, challenged and informed.

Huh? Maybe more politicians should write autobiographies?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hitting the Sauce

There is something wrong with me; I can’t put my finger on it, but I’m pretty sure it’s one of three things: hormone imbalance, undiagnosed nervous disorder or demonic possession. Well – maybe not demonic; is it possible to be possessed by Martha Stewart? Obviously she’s still very much among the living, and living well, but perhaps her Chambray and khaki clad spirit makes spiritual house calls? A little celestial check-in with the most dire of domestically impaired souls?

As I’ve Babbled – we have a garden this year. A big, honking, thriving garden; good for me, right? Sure, until you have more flipping produce than one family and hordes of neighbors can eat.

My oldest son helped me pick tomatoes yesterday.

Me: “Where are the Joads’ when you need them?”
Him: “Country music blows.”
Me: ???
Him: “The ones with the crazy red hair.”
Me: Light dawns. “Those are the Judd’s; didn’t you read the Grapes of Wrath last year for English?”
Him: “Oh that, yeah – boring.”

If you can’t text it, forget it; my apologies Mr. Steinbeck.

Post veggie pluck, the Martha possession took hold; I gathered tomatoes, garlic, herbs and wine (some for the pot –some for me) and made sauce!

Oh, but wait…the madness did not stop there. After a quick check in with my buddy, I had recipes for pickles, pesto (for the ginormous man eating basil), and my personal favorite – homemade chicken stock: comprised of the multiplying rosemary, parsley and freezer burned chicken I’ve been meaning to toss. (Note: If you make chicken stock – (idiot proof) – be warned –  filled, the jars look eerily similar to doctor's office specimens, label appropriately.)

Happy canning! And if anyone has suggestions for spearmint – I’d love to hear it! How hard is it to make toothpaste?

Dear Lord: someone stop me!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cupcake Therapy

Once in a great while I allow myself a Pity Day; not a pity-party – that sounds too brief and cheerful, I’m talking a full 24 hours of whining , moaning and griping about anything and everything until my well of self-inflicted misery runs dry.  I like to think of it as some weird emotional colonic; flushing out the shame in one fell swoop, so to speak.
Mope-fest over, I start the new day with a positive attitude, big smile, and cupcakes.
Yes, cupcakes. What’s more positive and uplifting than a cupcake? OK – maybe Lotto wins, but winning cupcake percentages are much higher; I set realistic goals.
Now don’t go getting false illusions as to my culinary skills, but I bake my pity busting pastries from scratch. True, I’m less Mover and Shaker – more Hoover and Baker; but cupcakes are the Cliff Notes version of Betty Crocker baking.
Yesterday, my youngest son and I attempted homemade strawberry cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing. (Usually I’m a chocolate/vanilla icing chick – but I’m branching out.)
Here – I’ll post a pic.

Yum, right? Nothing shatters disappointment faster than frosting!  
Of course consuming 3 cakes prior to 9:00 AM today will undoubtedly hasten a second, massive diet blowing Pity-Day; but to heck with it FROST ON! Life is short – eat cake!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Write on

Babble has been up and running, OK, trotting along at a slow, measured pace – for approximately 4 months now. I know what you’re thinking:

“Four months? I’ve been following this clearly delusional and obviously under-medicated woman that long? Dear Lord, I need a hobby!”

Yes, my dear virtual friends – four months of Babble, and still going, um, stable.

First, a big thank you to those who follow, feed, forward, comment and/or email regularly. Some days clicking the Babble Box - reading your hilarious messages – well – let’s just say it reinforces my belief child rearing takes more than a village – think greater Tri-State area.

Second, to the wonderful, talented and motivational writers out there navigating the murky literary waters alongside me; your words of encouragement, advice, and equally twisted minds have been pivotal in keeping me on course.  I look forward to listing your bestsellers in Page Turners, accompanied with the humble line note, “I knew her when…” J (Check out some of their blogs at the bottom of Babble’s homepage!)

Today I thought I would answer some of your questions: the good, the bad and the amusing.

“How long do you work on your posts?” Shirley S.

Well Shirley, I would love to tell you I take careful steps to weigh the validity, social relevance and informative nature of each finely tuned entry – in truth – I’m a fly by the seat of my well-worn sweat pants kind of gal; if I had to guess – no more than a half hour, or as long as I can hide from my kids. Rushing tends to leave my punctuation lacking and dangling participles in need a linguistic sports bra, but hey – there’s only so much time in the day; I squeeze in creativity where I can. The most important lesson for writers; keep writing – edit later.

“Is blogging just for fun or are you building a platform? And have you had any publishing success?” Jamey R. (A fellow - and very talented - writer! You go girl!)

Hi Jamey! That answer depends on your definition of both fun and publishing. J Everyone holds different criteria when measuring professional success. Some choose to write as a form of artistic therapy – a painting with prose on the simplest of creative canvases; others write to eat – I do both. I’m a newspaper reporter by day, so yes, I publish on a small scale in addition to Babble, however I have aspirations to complete a full length women’s fiction WIP; right now I’m in the editing, drinking, editing, drinking phase…you know the drill. (I toss in chocolate, often!)

“Do you have a favorite author or reading recommendations?” Dan B.

Big shout out to Dan a man follower! Yippee!  The short answer is many; I read to breathe! In my profile you’ll see a list of some of my faves, but at the moment I’m devouring With or Without You by Brian Farrey. (I’m hyperlinking – fingers crossed!) And thanks, Dan – your follow tipped the heavily estrogen balanced Babble scale slightly into testosterone territory!

“What inspires you?” Wendy F.

Geez – that’s tough, Wendy. Inspiration comes to me in so many forms; family, friends, ridiculously inept politicians. The best answer I can give is this – an open mind always has room for inspiration. When we, as writers as well as humans close ourselves off to all the differences that make life interesting – our work, values and opinions tend to become very one dimensional. Even in my most Irish moments, (translation – emotional rants), I try and see both sides. I may not like the view – but my personal inspiration often stems from taking on an unfamiliar perspective.

OK – That’s it today gang! See you Monday – and again, my sincere and heartfelt thanks to all for the warm welcome to cyber world!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Debut Do's and Don'ts

When trying anything for the first time, say..writing a  book, (wink, wink), the term debut is often substituted for more freshman terminology. While I have no aversion to the word’s core definition; a first appearance, there are certain instances in which I shy away from the debut-maker.
For example, pilots.
“Welcome aboard flight 732, folks. I’m your captain, John Newbie; this is my debut flight and I’m wicked excited!”
I’m out – rip open the overhead bin, grab the duty free Rum and run like Flo Jo for the emergency exit before Captain Newbie flips on the fasten seat belt sign.  Yes, I’m a blatant violator of any and all age discrimination practices – but it’s my bum in that seat, and Captain Newbie may be the King of Halo in his parent’s basement, but when my life is on the line, I’m seeking a more vintage – Patton-esque commander.
Same goes with doctors. It’s cliche, but be honest, Doogie Howser was a fluke! (And for the record, he rocks Broadway! Love my NPH!) I had knee surgery 5 years ago and as they prepped me for the OR I overheard my anesthesiologist in the hall chatting up a buddy. (Could not make this up if I tried!)  
“So, you think I should call her?”
“Yeah, man. She’s into you.”
“I don’t know, she was pretty lit when she gave me her number.”
Oh. My. God.  
Dr. Knock-Me-Out is more focused on hooking up than patching up! Tear off the paper PJ’s and get me the heck off this table! Debut doctor can pass his boozing bimbo a note during gym class – and keep his hands off my meniscus!
Not all debuts are disaster. Here’s a few I personally seek out:
Debut Ice Cream Store Employee = Heavy hand with the scoop. Yum!
Debut Cab Drivers = It takes three months to develop enough road rage to spark a death wish.
Debut DMV Worker = They don’t hate people, yet.
Pick your debuts wisely – and remember, we all wore the Newbie shoes at some point! Be kind to the new kid – unless your life is endangered, in that case, RUN!