Friday, December 14, 2012

My Grandmother the Spy

Do you know where your creative roots stem from? I do! Click over to Candid Kathryn and check out...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Creepy Little Christmas

Do you have a less-than-pretty holiday decoration? In my's Creepy Dead Guy!
Click over to Candid Kathryn and share your story!


Friday, November 9, 2012

Pay It Forward Friday!

Hop on over to Candid Kathryn an see who I'm thanking for being fabulous!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Oh Boy!

I'm over at Candid Kathryn today - stop by and share my boy raising woes!

Oh Boy!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Moving Day!

I’m back!

Sort of. J

Life at Casa Babble has been littered with mayhem over the past several months, and all things considered, the rocky path has led me to some pretty spectacular places.

First – School: A bit ago I entered a little writing contest that earned me a series of free classes with a wonderful group of veteran authors and editors. The courses were intense, critical, and tougher than I ever imagined - but the education proved invaluable.

Second – Book: From school I put what I learned into practice, spending several weeks outlining, cutting, and editing my current MS. (Painful, just painful. Still hurts.)

Third – Blog: The number one suggestion each instructor shared was the need for a clean, concise blog. (Concise? Me?*giggle*) No clutter, no gimmicks, just good writing with a memorable, personal flare. I struggled finding my “flare”, but once I did I tackled the project with gusto
Don’t worry; Babble isn’t disappearing – just merging into a fresher format. All former posts will now be available at my new blog:

Thank you!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Change is Good!

Dear Babble Fans,

Just a quick check in to let you know Babble is going through a transformation and expected to resume on October 1st with a new address. (Shhh…don’t tell Blogger!)

Thanks for your patience!
How I spent my summer...



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Olympic Angst

 “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”

NBC Olympic broadcast? Speechless.

No, I’m not going to jump on the peacock bashing bandwagon - that’s been done, and done well.

Instead I’m taking the high road, pitching five ways NBC can yank their Decathlon of Disaster out of the toilet before the six remaining viewers switch to Matlock.


Mute Seacrest: He’s pretty, not prolific. Ironclad contracts REQUIRE his participation, but why not strip away the microphone and get interactive:  Spy Seacrest! A Where’sWaldo version of the Olympic Games – swap out the striped hat and turtleneck for a bathing cap and Speedo and pop Ryan in crowd shots for fans to find.  Imagine the closing ceremonies? Bonus points for the Royal box!


Lauer - Costas Cage Fight: Come on – you know you want to see it? Vegas bookies have been itching for this one for years!


Whack-a-Daggett:  Every time Tim Daggett says "crazy hard" - Schlegel clubs him with a foam mallet. The man needs a thesaurus.


Roker Relay: Exchange the shameless sitcom plugs with something we REALLY want to see! Al in a pair of slim-fit, kielbasa-like bike shorts puffing his way through London! You go Al!


Ryan Lochte: Shirtless. All Day. All Night. No exceptions. Enough said.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Break in the Babble

First – I’m alive.

Second – A brief explanation.

The initial weeks of summer at Casa Babble burst with activity. Once school lets out the Day Job takes a three month hiatus, but the free time does not last long, replaced almost instantly by a vortex of camp, lessons and family visits. But after those initial days of insanity wind down, something magical occurs, something I call…

GOYBAW - Get Off Your Butt And Write!

GOYBAW 2012 was made possible by the unyielding bravery of my Mom and Dad – who (sinister laugh) volunteered to accompany my spawn…Err…children on a two week vacation.  (I see a rest home upgrade in their future.) And at the end of that little adventure – Boy Scout Camp – yeah baby!

Wondering what GOYBAW is all about? (No? – Well I’m going to tell you anyway, so buckle up Buttercup!)

Last summer I completed my first full length manuscript. I liken the experience to the first pancake out of the batch – edible, but not pretty. And after multiple rounds of polishing, the MS grabbed the attention of a few respected literary agents, each gracious enough to offer personalized feedback. For those non-writers out there, let me explain the magnitude of this step on a publication journey, receiving one-to-one feedback from an agent is like the Pope offering to baptize your baby – RARE and a BIG deal for my little MS – to say I was grateful is a gross understatement.

After all the feedback, revisions, resubmissions and multiple rejections, I learned two vital things.

One – Depression cannot be offset by consuming your body weight in cheese.


Now here’s where GOYBAW comes in.

While MS #1 waits patiently in the the inboxes of the Publishing Gods, I’ve been hard at work on her sister, MS #2 – and aside from the dreadful  #2 connotation, she’s a decidedly more attractive first draft than her predecessor.

GOYBAW allows me the freedom to outline (GASP!) the storyline without distraction, a technique MS #1 (a seat-of-my-pants story), never received. 

My Beta Buddies (fellow writers’ who read my work, critique, and send chocolate when necessary) have commented on my sunny disposition during GOYBAW. In fact, I’ve recently been described as “less of a deadline phobic Howler Monkey.” Such love.
Bottom line – the next month is all about the writing – blog posts, freelance gigs, mind-sucking social media and all other distractions (with the exception of basic hygiene and cheese) will have to wait. I’ll be stopping by my favorite blog buddies for a quick check in – but until then – Babble is going dark – see you all in August!  
Happy Summer!
Going to miss me too much? Check out my blog roll on the left side of the page – some fabulous people to follow! 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Out On A Limb

My youngest son holds a black belt in opportunity seizure. I’m not sure how, but Master Carpe Diem possesses the uncanny knack of knowing the exact moment my common sense weakens, and before I can blink…KABLAM…we’re building a treehouse.

Plans for the Dutch Elm Alamo have been in the works for several years, but I prayed the phase would pass with the approaching teen years; yeah - no such luck.  In fact, the blueprints morphed from a few, random size 2X4’s and a box of nails into Swiss Family Elliott around the time of the last report card.

“Look, all A’s! Doesn’t that deserve a reward?” (I see a political future.)

But what put me over the edge? What drove me to the brink of backyard insanity?

Three little words; life is short.

We’ve all said it, but did you ever really think about it?

Unfortunately, I have. I can’t put my finger on the exact moment, but somewhere between losing my first friend to cancer and watching a fifth start chemo, my perspective shifted from someday to right away.

Thus – treehouse!

Now, for those of you who follow Babble regularly, you know Hubby and I are not – in any way, shape or form – construction savvy; our toolbox is duct tape, a glue gun and bandages – lots of bandages.
So, we called in the cavalry! And thanks to the phenomenal talents of our friend Rick – an extraordinary carpenter and very, very patient man – we now have a Fortress of Solitude for Master Carpe Diem and his Nerf Weapons of Doom.  Rick, God love him, did let Hubby take a shot with the nail gun – but after a near stigmata incident – Hubs was relegated back to wood hauling and refreshment refills.
Lesson today – life is short! Go out on a limb!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Soapbox Sunday

Last night, after the kiddos were asleep, I opened my unified inbox. For those unfamiliar – a unified inbox is an electronic version of your grandmother’s purse; equal parts vital necessities (emails, FB, Twitter) and junk (coupons, singles ads, SPAM-canned or virtual).

At first click I anticipated posts galore regarding the recent vote in North Carolina. I did not, however, expect 73 messages asking if I planned on writing about the outcome here; or in an editorial for the Day Job. Believe it or not – my managing editor made that last suggestion, but we quickly agreed my, umhealthy opinions would impede objectivity.

Like many, I was disappointed in the outcome in NC. I support same sex marriage, openly and without hesitation.  I’m also a Christian, and the vote tally did not anger me nearly as much as those individuals claiming it were a “victory for God.”

Ignorance at its worst.

A little backstory: I was raised in a loving and supportive Roman Catholic family. My parents, RC to the bone, blessed me with values, compassion and a deep respect for the faith. They scrimped and saved so I could attend 16 years of exemplary parochial school, and to this day - I count the friends from those plaid and knee sock wearing years among the greatest gifts in my life.  

But, (you saw this coming, right?) as I aged, my inner liberal emerged. (THUMP = Grandfather rolling in grave). Actually, I call myself LL – Liberal Light; a feminist with a Christian base and pinch of capitalist.  I wrestled with a host (pun intended) of the RC practices – the largest being the church’s stance on homosexuality. 

I use this example:  Once, I had a pair of comfy, old size 4 Levis (Catholicism) – a good, familiar fit. But somewhere along the road I blossomed into a size 10 (OK, 12), and the woman I became could no longer squeeze her values into the old pair without a certain level of discomfort.

Hubby, also raised RC, shared my dilemma, and unlike many of our friends we refused to abandon church altogether. We have kids -  kids with…adventurous spirits…they need God (and a good HMO), so over the course of a year we “auditioned” religions – landing in a welcoming faith community, similar to our RC roots, but on par with our progressive lifestyle. (And in the words of my 11 year old, – “The coffee hour donuts rock!”) I say this with a humor, but the decision to leave the RC church was extremely difficult; we struggled.

Where am I going with all this?

My family had a choice – and we chose to align our religious beliefs with our lifestyle – Freedom of Religion . 

Equally, NC residents voting in accordance with their faith have every right to do so. 

Citizens of the US, (Straight, Gay, Christian, Atheist, Democrat, Republican, Vegan, Carnivore) will NEVER agree on the “big issues”  - we are so multi-faceted the Hope Diamond looks like a chunk of glass, and that’s OK! (See US Constitution) We have the right to disagree, but my hope, as Pollyanna as it sounds, is that somewhere along the way we lose the ignorance, extinguish the hatred and somehow, somewhere realize equality is more than a word -  it’s a right.

And…I’m off the soapbox! Happy Mother’s Day!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Unblocking a Gem

In my freshmen year of college I took a creative writing course. The professor, a woman I would describe as Woodstock Affected, opened the class with this phrase: “Creativity cannot be taught.”

My first thought:  "There’s a credit down the crapper."
My second thought:  "Should I really listen to a woman wearing Birkies and tube socks?"
Fashion calamity aside, Professor X knew her stuff. Her method was a tad unorthodox, and I shudder at the memory of the pop-writing prompts:  “You are Joan of Arc, fire engulfs your flesh, describe the smell?" (My “bacon with a hint of released bowels” received a C.)
From Professor X I took away two valuable lessons. First, creative is a highly subjective term - one person’s storytelling skill is another’s cry for psychiatric help. Second, no matter where your writing path meanders, a sure way to spark creative juices is through a side trip outside your comfort zone.
Huh? Here’s what I mean.
I’m blocked, (not in a needs more fiber way), every writer’s worst nightmare, right? I’ve researched, re-written, revised, revamped and reconsidered careers – and still, nuthin’ -  but last week something sparked a memory of Professor X and her suggestion to channel creative juices AWAY from writing during a block to rejuvenate the muse.
After a few days of puttering around the house, re-arranging furniture, planting a few flowers, attempting (and failing) recipes – still – the juices - NOT flowing. I was maple syrup in the Arctic. Desperate, I decided to go for a hike (I’m not a hiker – I’m directionally inept and hate bugs.) So, I dig under my bed for the hiking boots I bought years back in a “really, I’ll do this” moment and stumbled upon a long forgotten box of costume jewelry from my Great Aunt Ruth.
Ruth was…hmmm, what’s the term….lovingly eccentric. I adore all the eclectic scarves, jewelry and utterly outrageous knickknacks I inherited after her passing. A few seconds into the box of treasures…
BAM! (Was that too Emeril?) Creativity hit!
Rummaging through the countless odd beads and bangles – I began stringing together strand after strand of re-purposed jewels; both physical and mental. With each new bauble - a plot twist surfaced. With each new design - character motive went from murky to perky. (OK – that’s silly – but it’s all I got!)
Moral of the story – find your hidden gem and the muse will find you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Art of Argument

After two grueling weeks of insane deadlines I found myself without a blog topic today. Three mugs of caffeinated creativity later - inspiration hit. Well, not quite inspiration – more like 2 heated emails, a battle with my beloved offspring regarding his wardrobe choice and a call from a reader, irate over her daughter’s picture on the front page. (“She looks chunky!” God help me.)

From all that - I got this: I enjoy a good debate.

Merriam-Webster’s defines debate: 1) A discussion involving opposing claims; an argument. (2) A regulated contest in which two opposing sides defend and attack a proposition.

I define debate: 1) I’m right – you’re wrong. 2) Accept it or buckle up!

Yes, at first blush this sounds *gasp* stubborn. But as long as I maintain an even temper, listen to the opponent’s points and argue my case sans profanity and/or bloodshed, what’s the problem? Here’s my method:

Babble’s Top 10 Debate Strategies

10. Compliment: Whether confronting a family member, co-worker or political rival – lead with warmth. (The kill comes later.)

9. Smile: This visual cue says 1 of 2 things; “I am kind” or “I am deranged” - let them guess.

8. Eye Contact: Maintain to the point of discomfort. (This method sways above mentioned Smile into deranged category, thus instilling a false sense of mental superiority and/or fear within opponent.)

7. Know Your Facts: For the love of all that’s Holy - know what the *BLEEP* you are talking about! Flying by the seat of your pants only leads to an unexpected load of whites and heaps of Stain Stick.

6. Be Humble: Nobody likes a bragger! If your wife owns two Cadillacs, keep that factoid parked in the garage between the Bentleys!

5. Establish Common Ground: “You like ice cream, Mr. Opponent? I like ice cream, too! I should friend you on Facebook!”

4. Mull: Before contradicting – contemplate. This works well with spouses. (“Will harping on the dirty socks blanketing the bedroom floor help my case?”)

3. Words: Pick carefully! Once they leave your mouth – they leave an impression. Avoid shore-leave language.

2. Concise – Cannot believe I’m typing this – don’t babble. Make your point – make an exit.

1. Respect: Bottom line – you’re right and you know it, but the other side may never see it that way. Call a truce before things get ugly. Hitting below the belt never works – stay above the waist. (Egad – I’m flashing back to Catholic school slow dance rules.)

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Gone to the Dogs - Volume 2

Hi there Babble fans! It’s me, Maggie!

Mom can’t come to the laptop right now; she’s tied up in Deadline Land. It happens every year about this time, tournament basketball and politics heat up and her assignment sheet goes from manageable to “shoot me now.” So – while stressed Mom snarfs down sleeve after sleeve of Thin Mints like a manners deficient buzz saw, I thought you might like to hear a few things I’ve learned about my humans.

First, the big guy – Dad, is a complete pushover. He likes to pretend he’s all “alpha male”, pah-leez, he’s not fooling anyone. In fact, he’s my “mark” at the dinner table. Sure, I sit like a good girl beneath the table, but I’ve got a system – give Dad’s ankle a quick lick and break out the “poor, starving me” eyes –and it’s HELLO, POT ROAST!

Mom, well she’s a different story. She doesn’t cave easy and it takes a bit more finesse and planning. Late at night I watch her struggle with her WIP, she gets this “why the BLANK bother” expression. (Depending on fatigue, the BLANKS get pretty colorful.) That’s when I move in for the kill. A little whimper, an affectionate head nudge, top it off with an “I believe in you, Mom!” expression, and BAM – cookie for me, wine for Mom. Everybody wins.

My Big Brother is the silent type. (Yes, my mother is one of those dorks who refers to me as one of her kids – but if you ask me, until one of the human kiddos poop on the lawn or sprout a tail - I think she’s bonkers!) After a tough day, it takes a KGB Interrogation Team to pull the details out of BB, but one round of our infamous “tackle basketball” and his disposition infinitely improves. The best part - when he thinks no one’s around, BB leans in, squishes my floppy face in his hands and tells me he loves me. (Melts Mom’s heart.)

Little Brother, oh Little Brother is far more complicated than can be contained in one blog. LB and I have a Timmy and Lassie type relationship; he’s what you might call a Consequence Impaired Adventurer. I’ve yanked his teetering, Levis clad behind down from the edge of the well WAY too many times to mention, and truth be told, I’m exhausted. But there’s no one a Lab loves more than a messy eater with hyperactivity issues. A match made in Heaven!

And there you have it – my life in Babble Land, but before I sign off I’m going to ask a little favor. It is my 2nd birthday on March 17th, yep, St. Pats - an Irish girl to the core! And the best gift you could give me is to find room in your heart and home for a four legged family member – there are plenty of us out there waiting for our forever homes – maybe it’s yours?

Thinking of adopting a pet? Click here!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Priceless Gifts

This was a good holiday; a record low two returns and one ingested Nerf dart. No worries, it - um, resurfaced a short time later. (The four legged child has an unquenchable taste for orange foam.)

Under the tree, gifts were few but full of meaning. For the first time my oldest son bought me a book! Yes folks, a book! My non-reader made the trip to the bookstore and contrary to his long held belief, did NOT burst into flames. Without help, he selected Janet Evanovich’s Explosive Eighteen; I plowed through it in 24 hrs. Happy Mommy.

The kids’ both received their most pleaded for gift– a bike & XBOX, and as a result Hubby and I unwrapped a week of blissful silence. The dreaded “I’m bored” was met with “Go ride your bike or blow something up.” Yes, I realize this knocks me out of the running for Parent of the Year – but they can keep the plaque; I had calm.

Hubby and I did not exchange gifts this year. (Thank you October Snowmagedon and subsequent wallet bleeding home repairs.) No, wait, that’s not completely true. I gave him a hair brush, (he steals mine when he travels) and he cleaned our bedroom from ceiling fan to hardwood. That may not sound like a big deal, but here’s a visual – think Sanford and Son meets Occupy Wall Street. Cram in a king size bed under Himalayan piles of laundry and you’ve got the picture.

The best gift came from Grandpa Bill. A wildlife artist, we see far too little of Grandpa. He and Nana Carol live in sunny FL and although their gifts are always special, this year was spectacular!

Yep, that’s our Maggie, in all her Nerf eating glory, hand drawn by Grandpa and now proudly hung in the family room. Just goes to show, the most priceless gifts come without price tags.

Happy New Year!