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!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Long in the Tooth

Aging makes me mad. I’m sure there are more eloquent and descriptive terms for adequately capturing the life cycle, but for now - mad it is.
I started the day believing I had a cavity, but after an afternoon trip to the dentist, a lovely – slightly skittish man, I’ve been informed cavities are more common in the young; a woman of MY AGE is likely suffering from maturing gums. (Good thing his hands were out of my mouth by that point or he’d be minus a few digits.)
Maturing gums? What the BLEEP is that about? 
So there I sat, a pink bibbed exam chair hostage, listening as Dr. Skittish extolled the virtues of fine bristle brushes and extra vitamins for my budding geriatric mouth,(did I mention I’m 42?), and I flashback to the scary oral hygiene posters hanging in my childhood dentist office. You know the ones I’m talking about, the Pirate-lost-at-sea-with-only-tar-and-rocks-for-food pictures? Hated those – gave me nightmares after every check-up!
Does Jack Sparrow syndrome start with maturing gums?
Wallowing in dental self-pity – my inner voice (IV) chimed in. “Listen you tool, have some perspective! You are healthy, happy and relatively sane. So what if your chompers need a little spa visit now and again; we’re talking gums, not cemetery plots! And believe me – your mouth is far from mature – did you hear yourself during that last Yankees/Sox game? There's better language in a prison yard! Now suck it up, listen to the nice doctor and be thankful all that’s falling apart are your gums. Have candy for dinner – you’ll feel better.”
IV had a point.
Post-lecture I took a calming breath, forced a smile (amazed my feeble gums could still support teeth), and accepted the sensitive gum toothpaste and extra soft brush with an open mind.
Tonight – I brush with the maturity of prescription toothpaste, and the youthfulness of a Sponge Bob toothbrush! (Hey –the bristles are soft!)

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Bucket Under the Bed

A large part of parenting involves gauging your child’s mood, habits and health. In the case of illness, one must realize the signs of impending ickyness and prepare accordingly. After a particularly vicious strain of stomach flu in 2008, we instituted the Under the Bed Bucket. (UBB)
I’ll spare you the graphic details, but everyone needs an UBB. Here’s how they work; take an old plastic bowl, we all have them – the Dollar Store specials which after a few melt-inducing spins in the dishwasher are no longer suited for public use. Tuck UBB’s under each bed in the home as a preemptive strike against vomit, they may not spare all late night linen changes, but at 3 AM when your child yells, “BUCKET!”, it’s much simpler to run and make the catch - kind of a maternal ESPN Top 10 Plays of the Week.
After this morning’s news I took the vacuum out for a quick spin under my son’s bed and knocked against his UBB – and a theory sprang to mind. What if UBB’s were part of a more wide-reaching purpose? In particular, Congress. (Yeah – you saw that coming!)
For the record, if I were the delegate seated next to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, oh boy, I’d be reaching under my mahogany seat for the UBB with each mention of his beloved pomegranate and fig trees. Really, he misses Nevada and his flipping fruit trees so much that expediting the debt ceiling debate seems a reasonable request? “BUCKET!”
Perhaps the so-called Super Congress could shuttle melancholy Harry back to Nevada on their magic Jet of Ridiculousness? Super Congress: oxymoron anyone? Big UBB gag trigger. What guidelines were used in selecting the Supers? Can they fly? X-Ray vision, become invisible? (That one I believe. Supers mysteriously disappear for controversial votes; strange how those coincide with election years?) “BUCKET!”
Ok – I could go on and on about the shortcomings of our elected officials, but there is only so much time I devote to frustration per day; one flip to CNN seems to hit the quota by 7AM. Happy Friday everyone – and remember, UBB’s are a parent’s friend and Congressional necessity!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Melons and miracles

I need ibuprofen – large quantities of ibuprofen. I’m talking kissing up to the recommended maximum dose with a healthy Pinot chaser. I’ve been in the garden all day – or as we have come to call it – Cucumberpalooza.
If you follow Babble, you may recall my early Sprouts post. A little recap – my son and I started a vegetable garden for the first time EVER.  A repeat offender in the seedy underworld of plant-homicide, I believed channeling Mr. Greenjeans was a far reaching possibility for my two left thumbs, but alas, the work has paid off and we now have enough veggies to rival even the most seasoned of farmers.
The garden began as a promise to a friend who lost her valiant battle with cancer. In one of our post-chemo chats she coached me in what to plant, (aka – what she knew I couldn’t kill), how to tend the newborn sprouts, and most importantly – how to disconnect from the trivial worries we all carry from day to day and just enjoy a little time in the dirt; nothing clears the mind like dirt.
So - there I was today, knee deep in soil, yanking weeds with a vengeance and feeling sorry for myself for a multitude of paltry reasons - and what do I see tangled among the gargantuan cucumbers; my very first watermelon!
Why are watermelons a big deal? They were the one plant my friend, um, advised may be beyond my planting skills. Knowing she was probably right, I sent up a Heavenward SOS as the seeds went into the ground, hoping for a wee bit of celestial support, and until today - I had not noticed the trailing vine hidden among the rest of the patch.
There you have it, an uplifting melon story for a Tuesday. Now I’m off to soak away the dirt and ache; if I don’t Babble by Friday, send reinforcements.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Paper vs Plastic

No – not the great Grocery Bag Debate; I’m talking currency – Visa vs. Cash.
Our credit card bill arrived Saturday, a little debt inducing gift waiting to be unwrapped post-vacation. In my warped mind I envision our Visa account representative as a black and white film villain, sinister grin beaming from beneath precisely curled ends of a handlebar mustache.  
“Did you enjoy the wine tasting, my pretty? The spa day? Bwa-ha-ha! (That’s how I spell evil laughter). Your financial soul is mine now, and no amount of bonus points will save you!” (Cue bad piano chase music.)
Short of being tied against railway tracks, the three page statement did leave me fairly sticker-shocked; but not in a time-to-sell-a-kidney way. I’ve adopted the ‘cash only’ policy for most purchases, but emergencies happen.
14 hour car ride with the kids = Spa emergency
New Hampshire Outlet Mall = Retail emergency (They need school clothes, right? Maybe not fabulous gray suede boots, so yummy!)
Lobster rolls and local wine = Nutrition emergency. After all, we were visitors in Maine, how could I possibly insult the locals by turning down their fine food and beverages. I was raised to be respectful!
So the moral of the story – plastic is for emergencies. But remember, the paper to back it up doesn’t grow on trees. Oh wait, it kind of does.