"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~Toni Morrison

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What I'm Reading This Week

I discovered this blog: The Perpetual Page-Turner and spent a lot of time reading reviews and top ten lists and adding books to my TBR list.  The blog's author has inspired me to try writing reviews of some of the books that I read.

I read this post about common grammar mistakes on the Huffington Post blog and realized that I may not be overusing commas like I thought I was.

Finally, Dan Savage's attempt to write a review of Sarah Palin's new book make me giggle.  

I am still working my way through The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and working on a review that will be posted here on my blog.

What are you reading this week?
Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season.

Monday, December 23, 2013

WOTW: Polysyndeton

Polysyndeton: noun, a literary device; the use of a conjunction before (almost) every item in a series.

I read some poetry books earlier this year and found this term.  I love to use polysyndeton and now I know what to call it :)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Writing Update: Did I Get My Groove Back?

I have been feeling inspired recently.  Last week a student entered my class and said, "Is it true that you're writing a book?  I just heard somewhere that you were."
I explained that I am writing a book, more than one actually.  I told him about NaNo and how I've never 'won' but how I keep trying and working on those books. 

Something about the whole conversation must have inspired something inside my brain because all of  a sudden, I am writing again. 

Did I get my groove back?  I sure hope so.  

Here's the update!

12/16/13:  438 words of ZF; about 150 words of a blog post

12/17/13:  91 words of ZF; 51 words of a blog post

12/18/13:  144 word blog post; typed up last 2 days of writing on ZF

Total = 874 words!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What I'm Reading This Week

image source:  amazon.com
I am currently reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, a very interesting book so far.  I don't often read nonfiction but I do enjoy it.  I have heard a lot about this book and decided to finally read it.

My favorite quote at this point is about a woman who worked with the HeLa cells every day in a lab.  When Henrietta died and the scientist was presented with her dead body, she had an interesting reaction:

"Then Mary's gaze fell on Henrietta's feet, and she gasped: Henrietta's toenails were covered in chipped bright red polish.
"When I saw those toenails," Mary told me years later, "I nearly fainted.  I thought, Oh jeez, she's a real person.  I started imagining her sitting in her bathroom painting those toenails, and it hit me for the first time that those cells we'd been working with all this time and sending all over the world, they came from a live woman.  I'd never thought of it that way." "   Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

It reminds me how we tend to depersonalize things; I guess it just makes some things easier to do.

Other Stuff I'm Reading:
I've decided to expand these Wednesday posts to include articles and other tidbits that I find interesting.  Today that's just one article.

As a woman who has chosen to be child-free, this appealed to me.

What are you reading?

Monday, December 16, 2013

WOTW: Affinity

Affinity:  noun, a spontaneous or natural liking or sympathy for someone or something

This morning I was bouncing some ideas around in my head for a blog post I am planning.  I wanted to use the word affinity, but the more I thought about it, the more wrong it sounded.  I had to grab a dictionary and look it up.  Luckily it means exactly what I thought it did but I like to double check before publishing something I am unsure of.  The blog post is still a work in progress, a review of a book I am reading.  Keep watching this space if you'd like to see the final product :)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

WOTW: Susurration

Susurration: noun, whispering, murmuring, or rustling

Seen in NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
"Vic lowered her head and listened to the susurration of the tires on wet asphalt, that sound that was so like white noise on the radio."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

WOTW: Panzer

Panzer: noun, a German armoredvehicle, especially a tank used in WWII

Seen in NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
"The car held the road like a panzer, never slipping, never wobbling, never slowing below sixty."

Monday, November 25, 2013

WOTW: Abattoir

Abattoir: (noun) a slaughterhouse

Found in NOS4A2 by Joe Hill:
"He began to scream incoherently--the sound of a cow in the abattoir, slipping in the blood of those who went before."

What a great image!

Monday, November 18, 2013

WOTW: Portentous

Portentous:  (adjective) Ominous

"I could be dead, she thought in a hollow, portentous voice"
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
It makes me think of the movie announcer voice :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Belated What I'm Reading Wednesday: Joe Hill

Recently I have been reading Joe Hill.  First I read Horns which has been made into a movie.

Horns is a strange story about a man who wakes up with a pair of horns growing from his forehead.

I really liked how Hill approached the flashback scenes about an important event from the past. He retold the same story from multiple characters' viewpoints, each time revealing new details.  It was a really interesting technique.

I'm really looking forward to seeing the movie.

Image source:  wikipedia.org

Next I read Heart-Shaped Box, the story of a man who buys a ghost.

Wow, this book could be a movie!  Hill wrote the scenes with such vivid description that I felt like I was watching a movie as I read.  The story captured me immediately and held my attention all the way to the end.


Image Source:  joehillfiction.com

Now I am reading NOS4A2.  I just started reading this morning and I don't want to put the book down.  It is already a captivating story.  I am really looking forward to seeing where this book will take me.

What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Visit other writers participating in IWSG at Alex Cavanaugh's blog.

NaNoWriMo.  This will be my fifth year participating, and I have yet to write 50,000 words in one month.  This year, I debated whether I actually wanted to try again for months.  Why bother trying to spew out all those words when they probably won't be any good and I most likely won't make my goal anyway?

But when November 1st arrived, there was no question in my mind.  I changed my Facebook cover photo to a NaNo participant graphic and instantly started planning what I would write this year.

I have realized that it doesn't really matter if I achieve the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days.  It doesn't matter if I complete a manuscript or not.  It doesn't really even matter if what I write is good or bad.  That's not the value of NaNo for me.

For me, NaNoWriMo is all about getting into the habit of writing daily.  Every November I begin a practice of writing every day.  Somewhere around summer break, I lose the habit and I have a really hard time getting back into my groove.  Then November rolls around, I join NaNo, and all of a sudden I am writing again.  That is why I love NaNoWriMo.

Are you participating in NaNo this year?  What do you love or hate about the project?

Monday, November 4, 2013

WOTW: Mandala

Mandala:  from the Sanskrit word meaning disk or circle, mandalas are a form of spiritual artwork that use a circular shape as their overall structure.

I have found recently that drawing mandalas can be very relaxing.  It has been a great stress-relieving activity.  I even found an app on my Ipad that allows me to draw pretty mandalas :)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Insurgent and Horns

I just finished reading Insurgent by Veronica Roth.  I liked the book.  It was an easy read and had some exciting moments, but I am not as impressed with this series as I am with other YA books that I have read.  That being said, I am still interested in reading the next installment in the story.
Tomorrow I will be starting Horns by Joe Hill.  This book was recommended by a friend.  He is Stephen King's son, so I have pretty high expectations for his writing.  I wonder if writing skill runs in families?

What are you reading?  Have you read either of these books?  What did you think?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

WOTW: Alienist

Alienist:  noun, a former term for a psychiatrist; a psychiatrist who assesses the competence of a defendant in a court of law.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

IWSG: Advice from Tom Clancy

Check out other writers on Alex Cavanaugh's blog.

From an NPR story remembering Tom Clancy:

Clancy didn't mince words when he talked to would-be writers. "If your objective is to write a book, get a computer and write the damn book," he told members of the military at a 2004 writing workshop. "Yes, you can do this if you try hard enough. It's a lot easier than you realize it is."

Seems like good advice to me.  I already have the computer.  Now I just need to "write the damn book."
RIP Tom Clancy.

Monday, September 30, 2013

WOTW: Chloroform

Chloroform:  (noun) a colorless, volatile, sweet-smelling liquid used as a solvent and formerly as a general anesthetic.

I am currently reading The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum.  According to the author, for fifty years after chloroform was discovered, "every drugstore stocked it.......It was mixed into cough syrups and liniments; it was dispensed as a sedative, a sleep aid, a painkiller, a treatment for alcoholic DTs, for hiccupping, seasickness, colic, vomiting, and diarrhea.  No one was entirely sure how it worked, just that it appeared to slow the body down and sedate the brain, sliding a patient into a much-desired stupor."

I am fascinated by the idea that doctors used to prescribe substances for so many ailments when they had no idea what the effect would be.  I guess it is a good reminder of how much we have learned about science and medicine.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

IWSG: Too Much Reading

Check out other writers on Alex Cavanaugh's blog.

Summer Break was amazing!  I read a lot of books, but the lack of a schedule really took me away from my writing routine.  I did not keep current on any of my blogs and I did not make any progress on my manuscripts :(

Also, reading a lot of books made me feel a little insecure about my own writing.  First I read Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind and learned what it looks like when someone tells without showing.  Later I read Offworld by Robin Parrish which taught me the importance of a good plot.  The book started out with a great premise- a group of astronauts return from Mars to find no one living on Earth -but the plot was so boring.  I almost gave up.  Towards the end of the story, the plot got so ridiculous that it held my attention, but only because I could not really believe what was happening.  Both books made me think about my own writing in a critical way.  Now I am afraid to look back at what I have written; I fear I have made some of the same mistakes :(

The most recent book I read was The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.  If you have not read it yet, drop everything and find that book!  It is amazing.  I want to read the rest of the series immediately, but I don't think it is even published yet.  Her writing style, subject, plot and characterization are awesome.  I could not put it down.... and I know that my writing is nowhere near her level.  I keep telling myself that she had editing time that I have not gotten to yet, that I am just working on laying down the first draft, but part of me doesn't believe it.  Part of me thinks I can never reach that high of a level.

I am nervous about picking up my manuscripts again.  Meanwhile another story is clamoring to get out of my head and onto paper.

Monday, June 10, 2013

WOTW: Mensch

Mensch:  (noun)  a person of integrity and honor.
New Oxford American Dictionary

I have heard this word often.  Most recently I read it in Michael J. Fox's book, Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Future, where the author uses the word to describe his brother.

In the past few weeks, I have been seeing this word a lot, since I have been relearning the German language with the help of Duolingo.com.  I recommend the site.  It is really fun.  Well, in German, Mensch means person, Menschen means people.  I have been familiar with this definition for many years, but I never really understood the meaning when used as part of the English language (as defined above).  It is interesting to me that a word can be borrowed from another language and then have more meaning added to it.

Have you tried Duolingo yet? 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

IWSG: Handwritten Letters

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

In February, I participated in the Month of Letters Challenge.  At the time I had just finished reading Jane Austen's Emma and was in love with the idea of handwriting letters as communication.  I instantly picked up paper and pen and wrote a letter to my sister.  Back in the days before email became the norm, I loved writing letters.  I had a German penpal throughout high school, I wrote to friends I had left behind in Ireland and even stayed in contact with some friends I met during my student exchange to Chile.  I received and sent seven-page letters on a regular basis.  Then email took over, and I stopped writing letters.

It turns out that my sister loves the whole letter-writing idea as much as I do.  We have started a much more regular communication now that we write each other.  For some reason, we have never been able to keep up regular communication by phone or email, but suddenly we are writing letters and cards to each other.  There is something so personal and special about receiving a handwritten letter in the mail.

I did not complete the Month of Letters Challenge.  I liked the challenge so much that I decided to make it a year-long project :)  I plan to continue sending letters to my friends and family throughout the year.  I have had such positive feedback from the people who received letters.  It really made their day to receive a handwritten note in the mail.  I even included handmade items with some of my letters.  

I like that writing letters allows me to practice my writing in a different format than usual.  It is more personal, like a journal, but still published in a way.  I find that I go through a different process when I write a letter.  I find it to be an inspiring experience in its own way.

Do you ever handwrite letters?  

Monday, June 3, 2013

WOTW: Autodidact

Autodidact (noun):  a self-taught person
New Oxford American Dictionary

Found in Michael J. Fox's book, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future:
"I used to tell people that I was an autodidact, then smile smugly when I could tell, by the look on their face, that I was so autodidactic that I had taught myself a word they didn't even know."

Sounds like something I would have done when I was younger :)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday: So Many Books!

This week, I finished two books and started a third.

First, I completed reading Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.  I was mesmerized.  Wharton's writing style was really enjoyable.  Easy to read and full of description.  It is difficult to believe that the whole book is about a man who is thinking about cheating on or leaving his wife.  The plot can be summed up so succinctly, but the book is so much more than that.  Remember this book was recommended by both my sister and a good friend.  I have always trusted my sister's recommendations.  She has led me to many great books and authors, and now I have someone else I can go to for recommendations :)

My second book this week was Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Future by Michael J. Fox. This was an interesting memoir about how Michael received his "college education" in the real world.  There were some interesting anecdotes about his life, and overall it was an enjoyable read.

Finally I have started reading Terry Goodkind's Stone of Tears, the second book in the Sword of Truth series.  I read the first book in this series a number of years ago.  Now that I am returning to the series, I find that Goodkind's writing style is no longer very appealing to me.  It seems stiff and contrived at times.  Hopefully I'm just making an adjustment between this and my last fiction book.  I'm not sure if I will make it through this one.

What are you reading this week?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

WOTW: Mien

mien (noun):  a person's look or manner, especially one of a particular kind indicating their character or mood.
Source: New Oxford American Dictionary

Found in Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
"Every one in Starkfield knew him and gave him a greeting tempered to his own grave mien."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday (a Day Late)

I have been having a very hard time getting back to my regular posting since the end of the A to Z Challenge, but I think I have worked up a writing schedule that I can work with.

Currently I am reading Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.
Image Source:  readinginthegarden.blogspot.com
This book comes highly recommended by two separate people: my sister and one of my best friends.  I couldn't resist.  I've just started, so I can't really say how I feel about the book yet, but I do love the language.

Before that, I read A Dance With Dragons by George RR Martin
Image Source:  oregonlive.com
This book is book number five in the Song of Fire and Ice Series, and I am still hooked.

In this book readers get to reconnect with Tyrion Lannister, quite possibly my favorite character.  I have enjoyed his antics since the very beginning of this series.  He's a smart-ass and he always manages to get out of every scrape and difficult situation somehow.  It was good to read about his adventures again.

Daenerys is also a big part of this book.  Her story has always interested me too.  However, in this book, her story was less fascinating, in my opinion.  I got tired of her life in Meereen and the whole slavery problem.  I almost wished the author had just skipped the whole thing.  I am glad that she finally got to ride a dragon, although I still can't decide if it was a good thing or a bad thing.

There were some very surprising deaths at the end of the book.  At one point I almost cried.  I was reading on a break at work, so I managed to hold back my tears :)  It's difficult to imagine the series without this character, but that seems to be a theme since book number one when Ned Stark was killed.

I already cannot wait for the next installment!

What are you reading right now?  Have you read either of these books?  
What did you think of them?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zed

Zee, zed, however you say it, it's the last letter of the alphabet. That makes this the last day of the challenge. And it has truly been a challenge! I participated on two of my blogs this year. I had no idea how that would take over my life. Some of my posts were a little bit late, but they were all completed, and I had a ton of fun.

Thank you for everyone who followed along with me. Welcome to all my new followers. I will be visiting all of your blogs as soon as I find the time :). I hope everyone was successful in completing the challenge.

Y is for Youth

Youth. What defines youth?

Obviously, youth is the time of our lives when we are considered to be young.

But how do we define youth on a personal level? Does our schooling define our youth? Shared experiences? The games we played? Our individual experiences?

I often wonder how much of my youth I missed due to my medical problems. I was not allowed to participate in PE classes from 5th grade on. I never participated in an organized sport. By the time I got to college, my doctor didn't even want me climbing stairs.

Of course I didn't always listen to my doctor because stairs are often more convenient than elevators :)

My youth was punctuated by pain.

I tried to not let it hold me back, but sometimes it did. Instead of sports, I participated in drama. My physical problems still limited me, but not too much. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything.

I guess everyone's youth had its ups and downs. I try not to live my life with regrets. I am happy with my life right now and hopeful for the future. I have dreams that may still come true.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

X is for Xrays

I have had a lot of xrays in my life.  At first I worried that they would damage my body or cause cancer.  Now I don't even think about it anymore.  I do wish that I could keep some of my xrays though.  I have been able to borrow them occasionally, but the doctors always want them back.  I think they should be considered my property, since I paid for them and they are images of my bones, but apparently they are not.

Some of the images are so neat, especially the post-surgery xrays.  It looks like there is a knife in my leg!  The ones from before the surgery are weird, but a good reminder of how far I have come.  I really hate dental xrays because I am reminded of all my fillings :)

W is for Waterboys

The Waterboys - a great band
Fisherman's Blues

V is for Verbose

I have never been verbose.  In fact I would say that I am the exact opposite of verbose, especially when I write.  Sometimes I worry about my ability to meet the necessary word count for a novel.  I tend to write things succinctly, without many words or details.  Maybe once I have edited and added all the necessary details, the word count will be perfect?  We'll just have to wait and see :)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Unwritten

So much of my life is unwritten, yet to come, yet to be experienced.  So many stories in my head remain unwritten, fighting to come out and live on paper.  I continue to find inspiration in this song.

T is for Total Hip Replacement

On April 1st, I wrote about my Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis but that was just the beginning of the story.  As the arthritis settled into my joints, it became obvious that there was something really wrong with my right hip.

Xrays showed that the bone had not grown fully.  The ball and socket joint was fine, but the part of the bone connecting the hip area to the thigh area did not grow properly.  I had a significant leg length difference.  My parents had noticed it all my life but could never find a doctor who would agree with them.

Reacting to the arthritis, my right hip naturally fused itself in one position.  All of a sudden my movement was severely limited.  As the arthritic symptoms disappeared from the rest of my joints, my hip remained painful, stiff and fused.  I walked with a limp.  I hated wearing shorts or short skirts because I could see the crooked hemline caused by my leg length difference.  I was no longer allowed to participate in any sports.  A doctor's note excused me from participating in any PE classes.  When I started college, I had to be placed in a dorm with an elevator because my doctor didn't want me climbing stairs.

The only real solution to this problem was a total hip replacement.  Unfortunately I was too young and so was the technology.  At the time, hip replacements wore out quickly and each consecutive replacement lasted less time than the one before.  The doctors said that I would be in a wheelchair  by 40.

I can remember the day I met my surgeon and he gave me that message.  He had these beautiful steel blue eyes.  They were mesmerizing.  I knew he was the man who could help me.  Then he told me that he would not perform the surgery.  I cried.

A few years later my pelvic bone was so thin and worn away that he agreed to perform the surgery.  In 1999, at 22 years of age, I got my dream, a total hip replacement.  I remember in pre-op, the nurses marked my right hip with a sharpie.  I had a momentary panic as I wondered if the right hip was the one that needed surgery.  It was, of course :)

I am now the proud owner of a titanium-cobalt hip.  It has changed my life.  I now live without pain.  I can do things that I had not done for eleven years. I gain more movement all the time.  My only restriction is that I cannot run, and that's ok with me :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney is another of my favorite Irish poets. No matter how many times I read this poem, it always brings me close to tears.

Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney

I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o'clock our neighbors drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying--
He had always taken funerals in his stride--
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were 'sorry for my trouble,'
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Ride On and Rare Old TImes

Some of my favorite Irish music:

Q is for Quentin Tarantino

I recently saw Django Unchained.  Wow!  Quentin, you have wowed me again!  I loved this movie.  The story line was compelling.  The actors were amazing.  I kept turning to my husband and saying, "This was a great role for ___________."  Each scene seemed to be planned, down to the last detail.  It was awesome!

I always feel this way when I watch a Tarantino movie.  He seems to have a clear vision before starting each movie, and every scene is built to feed into that vision perfectly.  I envy him.  I think every author can learn something form Quentin Tarantino.  If you have that perfect vision ahead of time, you can make every scene fit the vision perfectly.  Wow!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Pádraic Pearse

Pádraic Pearse is one of my favorite Irish poets.  
He was involved in the Easter Rising of 1916 and was executed as a rebel.
Here is my favorite poem by Pádraic.  I used to have it memorized, many years ago.

"The Wayfarer"

The beauty of the world hath made me sad, 

This beauty that will pass; 
Sometimes my heart hath shaken with great joy 
To see a leaping squirrel in a tree 
Or a red lady-bird upon a stalk, 
Or little rabbits in a field at evening, 
Lit by a slanting sun, 
Or some green hill where shadows drifted by 
Some quiet hill where mountainy man hath sown 
And soon would reap; near to the gate of Heaven; 
Or children with bare feet upon the sands 
Of some ebbed sea, or playing on the streets 
Of little towns in Connacht, 
Things young and happy. 
And then my heart hath told me: 
These will pass, 
Will pass and change, will die and be no more, 
Things bright and green, things young and happy; 
And I have gone upon my way 

For more information about Pádraic Pearse, visit http://www.eirefirst.com/archive/pearse2.htm

O is for Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde is one of my favorite Irish authors.
Picture from Wikipedia.org

I remember reading The Portrait of Dorian Gray for the first time.  I was instantly interested.  Then I saw pictures, and I think I fell in love :)  

And he said some great things:

"It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But... it is better to be good than to be ugly."

"When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is."

"I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying."

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."
"Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for Nest

I have always found it interesting how birds return to the same nest or nesting area year after year.  A couple of years ago, we had a green heron pair nesting in our back yard.  They are cute birds, but they make a weird barking sound and they poop a lot!  Here's a pic.
The following year, the herons returned and nested on our block again, although not in our backyard.  This time, there were more adult birds because the two juveniles from the year before returned too.

We also have bald eagles that return to nearby nests every year.  There are some rural areas around here, and the eagles love the little lambs.  Today we went for a bike ride, and I noticed that the eagles have returned again.  I heard a lot of chirping.  They may have some chicks.  I couldn't find the pictures of our local nesting eagles, but I did find this picture of one we saw eating a little lamb on our way to work two years ago.
They love the little lambs.

So, do birds value their homes as much as we humans do?
What makes a nest special?

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Me Time

I love my me time.  I guess that's part of the reason that my husband and I like to have lots of room in our living space.  We both want to be able to escape and have me-time every so often.  Recently I have been having a hard time getting the me-time I feel I deserve.

I have a craft room, all to myself.  The big problem was that I did not have a good work surface in the room.   But that all changed this weekend.   We moved a little furniture around yesterday.  The small, ineffective desk that I had in my craft room is not residing in our office area.  The dining table that acted as storage in the office area is not happily sitting in my craft room.

I have spent a lot of time in my craft room over the last two days.  I even started a new jewelry project.  My me-time has been returned, and I couldn't be happier :)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Laughing Rats?

I heard about this on Radio Lab on NPR.  Love that show!

So cute!

K is for Kill

Kill is the name of the village where I grew up.

Kill is actually an Anglicization of the Irish language name for the village. 

An Chill, the Irish name for the town, means the church.

Ironic, huh?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Jokes

What is red and smells like blue paint?

     A:  Red paint.

Here's a few of my childhood favorites.....

What goes ha ha ha ha bonk?

     A:  A man laughing his head off.

What goes 99 bonk?

     A:  A centipede with a wooden leg.

What goes black white black white black white?

     A:  A nun rolling down a hill.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for "I am From"

This is a draft of a poem that I started writing some time ago.  I first saw the "I am From" format in a Language Arts class at the school where I worked.  I always wanted to try my own version, so here it is.  I know it needs some revision, and I think I would like to add some more stanzas in the future.  The poetry bug has been calling me recently :)

"The Journey Home"

I am from Christmases in Clonroche,
Pulling crackers, singing songs,
Party hats and too much food,
And "What do you get if you cross a sheep and a kangaroo?"
A woolly jumper, of course.

I am from driving up the mountains to Ballindaggin,
Curvy roads and "Hold onto your knickers!"
Road blocks of sheep and cows
All the way to Granny's house.

I am from Irish roads at night,
Speeding through the darkness,
Chattering about the family soap opera,
A sky full of stars,
And the lights of Clonroche in the distance.

I am from 63 The Gables,
Kick the can and tennis on the street,
Bursting tar bubbles on sunny days,
Giant trees ripping up footpaths,
And warming clothes on the radiator.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Home

What makes a home?
I often ask myself this question and I have used it as a journal prompt many times in the past.  There are so many ways to define a home.  

There is the house where I grew up.  I lived there with my parents and my sister until I was thirteen years old.  I have many memories associated with that house, yard, street, village.  It felt like home at one time.  Now when I visit, I feel like a stranger; everything has changed so much.

I often talk about Ireland as my home.  I lived in Ireland for the first thirteen years of my life.  I can still visit my granddad's house and feel like nothing has changed.  It still feels like a home.  When I visit I feel like I am going home, but when I leave I am also going home.  Confusing.

Then there is the house where my parents live.  I never lived there.  I had already moved out before they bought it, but there is something about the house where your parents live that feels like home.  Everything feels so familiar, so homey.

Now I have my own home.  My husband and I bought a beautiful historic house, and we have filled it with our familiar, homey stuff.  I can't imagine ever living anywhere else, although it is entirely possible that my life will take me somewhere else.  

So, what makes a home?  What is a home to you?

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for Gables

I spent my childhood in a housing estate called The Gables.  My side of the street was lined with two-story houses.  Each house had the exact same layout, same postage stamp yard, same white fence and short stone pillars.  Between the houses and the street, large trees tore up the sidewalks.  The street was lined with tar which bubbled in the summer sun, creating a new plaything.  The tar lines also served as a tennis court on those summer days.  The opposite side of the street was lined with one story houses.

Recently I looked at a picture of that street on Google Street View.  The houses no longer have garages.  They have all been replaced by sun rooms.  The large, destructive trees have all been replaced by thin saplings.  Some of the old gang still live there; many have moved away.  Those streets are filled with memories of long days spent playing Kick the Can and Hide and Seek.  

Maybe today, a new group of kids is forming new memories on that same street.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

F is for Failte

Failte (pronounced fall-cha, kind of) is the Irish word for welcome.  I want to take this opportunity to welcome all the new followers of this blog.  Thank you for your support.  I love the A to Z challenge because it brings us bloggers together.  We spend a month cheering each other on and supporting each and every post.  I love it!
Fáinne is another Irish word.  It means ring.  In Ireland, you receive a pin called a fáinne that shows your fluency level with the Irish language.  I studied Irish from the beginning of my schooling through what would be called seventh grade in the United States.  At the end of my seventh grade year, called First Year of Secondary School in Ireland, I received a silver fáinne to show that I was conversational in Irish.  It is one of my biggest regrets that I am no longer at a conversational level.  Without constant practice, I have lost a lot of my knowledge of the language.  I remember random words and phrases, but nothing close to what my ability used to be.  I still have my silver fáinne.  Maybe someday I will feel confident wearing it again.
Anyway, welcome to all my new followers.  I hope you continue to enjoy the blog
Céad mile failte.
One hundred thousand welcomes.

E is for English

English!  What a fascinating language.  Even though I spoke the language, when I moved from Ireland to the United States, I had a lot to learn.
The most frustrating one was chips.  In Ireland, chips are what we call french fries in the United States.  Imagine my surprise when I ordered a hamburger and chips.  My plate arrived with potato chips, or crisps as we call them in Ireland.
The parts of the car were all wrong too.  The boot of the car in Ireland is the trunk in the United States, and the bonnet was now called the hood.
The first time I said something about a press, my husband was completely confused.  He didn't realize that I was talking about a cupboard.  What we call suspenders in the United States are braces in Ireland.
But the one that would have been most embarrassing was the word rubber; in Ireland, it's an eraser.  In the United States, of course, it is a condom.  Thank you YM for warning me about that one!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Dancing

This month I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. I will be writing about memories from my life and all my different homes.

Today my Spanish class started a project where they write about what they were like as children.  When I looked at my sample, I noticed it was covered with pictures of me dancing and dressed in my ballet clothes.

When I was a kid, I loved dancing.  I took ballet lessons and Irish dancing lessons.  I dreamed of the day when I would join the older girls, dancing on point and doing the hornpipe.  I never got there.  When I got sick in the fifth grade, all the dancing stopped.

I'm not sure that I really ever had much coordination or balance (I assume that I did), but now I can't dance to save my life!  I have thought about taking some lessons again, like ballroom dancing.  When it comes to musical endeavors, I seem to do best with detailed instructions and steps.  I could probably memorize some dance steps and maybe reproduce them on a dancefloor somewhere.  Maybe :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

IWSG: Courage

Time for another post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

I think I need some courage.  I have reached the almost end of two separate manuscripts, and I cannot find the courage to complete them.  I don't know how to do it.  

I know how each story ends.  I am prepared for the actual writing of the stories.  I can set aside time to sit down and write.  I just can't make the words appear on the screen or the paper.

I need to find the courage to finish the two projects.  I wonder if it is my fear of the next steps that keeps me from finishing.  I mean, what are the next steps?  How do I even approach publishing?  What if I never get published?

C is for Ceol agus Craic

This month I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. I will be writing about memories from my life and all my different homes.

Ceol(pronounced key-ole) is the Irish word for music.

Agus(pronounced like August without the t) is the Irish word for and.

Craic(pronounced crack) is the Irish word for fun.

This phrase reminds me of my family in Ireland.  Both sides of my family like to sing and play music.  We had sing-songs every time we got together for an event, especially at Christmas.  After Christmas dinner with my mom's family, we would pull out a guitar and sing for hours.  Then we would go visit my dad's side of the family and sing for a few more hours.  A night full of craic.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for Banshee

This month I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. I will be writing about memories from my life and all my different homes.

Growing up in Ireland, I was surrounded by myths and stories. One of the stories that scared me the most was the banshee. The word banshee comes from the Irish words bean sídhe, meaning fairy woman. If you hear her scream, the legend says that someone close to you will die. She is often depicted washing clothes at a river. There are similar figures in other cultures, like la llorona.

Of all the weird and creepy myths and legends I heard growing up, this was the one that always stuck with me. I was always nervous about being outside after dark. Somehow I had gotten it into my head that she only screamed at night.

Now I am using her as the inspiration for one of my writing projects. It's exciting to take something I feared as a child and transform it into something new.

Have you ever found inspiration in something you fear?

Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for Arthritis

This month I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. I will be writing about memories from my life and all my different homes.

When I was in fifth grade, I got very sick. I came home from a bike ride one day to find red spots all over my body. The local doctor thought it was Scarlet Fever and told us to go to the hospital immediately. My younger sister was left with the neighbors while my parents drove me to Harcourt Street Children's Hospital in Dublin.

I don't remember much from that night. Apparently I puked. I remember my dad carrying me through the. Emergency Room doors. I remember the first night in the hospital ward. The only other child in my ward was a small boy with a cast on one arm and a drip hanging from the other. He tossed and turned in his sleep, and I kept imagining the drip ripping from his arm during one of his violent turns.

The next day the doctors began the huge task of figuring out what was wrong with me. I had so many blood tests that I lost count. One morning I was rolled away to a surgery room for a blood marrow test. That was a painful one. My joints were swollen and stiff. I woke up every morning in pain and fear. Lyme Disease. Leukemia. Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. They were all scary possibilities.

A month of visitor's hours brought homework and awkward moments spent crouched on tiny chairs talking with friends and family. I learned to play Solitaire and Gin Rummy. My mom brought food for me because I hated the hospital food. Painkillers, anti-inflammatories, even Steroids, were prescribed and taken. No test ever came back positive. No one ever solved the mystery. My condition was labeled Arthritis.

I have long since outgrown the painful swollen joints. My crooked fingers and warped knuckles remain as a constant reminder of those years, but nothing else is the same. My life has changed completely, and for the better. Maybe one of these days, I'll write about it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Top 10 Movie Blogfest

Today I am participating in the Top Ten Movie Blogfest hosted by Alex Cavanaugh.

I love to watch movies! and my favorites are always changing.  So these are some movies that I would sit and watch right now, if I had a lot of free time :)

Princess Bride
This movie has been a favorite for a long time.  So quoteable.  So fun.  And I love Cary Elwes.

Romancing the Stone
I had to put this one on the list, because recently I have been feeling like the main character, Joan Wilder.  I have a brown puffy coat, and every time I wear it I think of her.  Now if I could just become a published author, like her :)

The Craft
I love movies about witches.  The fact that one witch is crazy just makes it all the better.

Practical Magic
Another witch movie. 

Last of the Mohicans
Daniel Day Lewis.  A classic love story.

In the Name of the Father
Based on the true story of the Guilford Four who were falsely accused of being IRA.  Great movie.  Great book.  And Daniel Day Lewis is in it :)

Grandma's Boy
Video game testers and stoned grandmas.  Need I say more?  Another very quoteable movie.  I find myself saying lines from this movie all the time.

Across the Universe
A movie based on The Beatles' music.  I love it!

Original Star Wars Trilogy
Anytime I see these movies on the tv, I have to stop and watch.  Such a classic.  I was so disappointed when the first three episodes were made.  They did not live up to the standard set by episodes 4-6.

Bram Stoker's Dracula
I fell in love with Gary Oldman's young Dracula after watching this movie. 

Are you participating in the blogfest?  What are your favorite movies?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

ROW 80: Check in #6

My goals:
1.  Write 250 words a day.
2.  Blog frequently.
3.  Complete 2012's NaNo(ZF), then complete my earlier attempt(DoVH)

My Progress this week:
Tuesday:  624 words in ZF
Thursday:  209 word blog post
Sunday: 173 word blog post
              200 word letter
Monday: 200 word letter

I am back!  I am writing again.  I am behind on the Month of Letters, but I am going to continue writing until I get to my goal.  My sister and I have decided to become penpals  :)  It's really fun.  We can't keep up with regular phone calls or emails, but handwritten letters might just work.  So far the people who have received letters from me have been so touched and surprised; I think I want to do this all year long.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Are you A-to-Zing this April?

I am so looking forward to the A to Z challenge this April.  Last year, my husband and I participated in the challenge with our Project 365 blog, so we posted a picture for each day's letter.  It was a great way to increase traffic to our blog, and we gained a lot of followers.  I met so many great bloggers through the challenge and I hope to meet even more this year.

  This year we will participate on that blog again, but I will also be attempting to write every day in April on this blog.  I have been thinking a lot about a theme for the challenge and have thrown a few ideas around in my head.  So far I am thinking about an A to Z of myth and legend or an A to Z of Ireland.  Both themes would be interesting to me, and I think I could make it through the whole month of writing.

Are you participating in the challenge this year?  Do you have a theme? 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Late IWSG Post

Yesterday was another Insecure Writer's Support Group hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

I am posting late for IWSG, and that really describes how my writing and blogging have been going recently. A few weeks ago, my back went out, and I spent a week lying on the floor to help my back heal and feel better.  This made it really difficult to use a computer, so I allowed my writing and blogging to fall to the side.    

This wouldn't worry me if it had been a temporary change, but I have been neglecting my writing for at least three weeks now.  This year I had been working so hard to post on my blogs regularly and finish my manuscript, and I just let it all fall apart.  It was easier to continue not writing than to find the motivation to start again. I even ignored social media for a week!

Finally, last night I opened my manuscript and started writing again.  I wrote over 600 words.  Today I updated all my blogs. I feel my motivation coming back.  I even checked out a book about poetry writing.  I used to write a lot of poetry in high school and recently I have been thinking about trying it again.  It feels good to be back, and I hope I don't falter again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ROW 80: Check in #3

My goals:
1.  Write 250 words a day.
2.  Blog frequently (these posts will count towards my daily word count)
3.  Complete 2012's NaNo (ZF), then complete my earlier attempt (DoVH)

My Progress this week:
I did not work on my manuscripts this week.

I am very disappointed to say that I did no writing this week. I got caught up in exercising, knitting, crocheting and all the other things that life threw at me.  That's why NaNoWriMo never works well for me.  That's why I am participating in ROW 80, though, isn't it?  It's the writing project that understands I have a life :)  Maybe next week I will focus more on writing.  We'll see.

What I'm Reading Wednesday: El amor en los tiempos del cólera

Well, I finally finished reading Emma by Jane Austen.  I had a difficult time getting used to the language at first.  It has been a long time since I have read any Austen.  The character of Emma really bothered me.  She is such a snot and a snob.  I almost didn't want her to have a happy ending.  I wanted her to end up sad and alone at the end of the book.
Now I am reading El amor en los tiempos del cólera by Gabriel García Márquez.  I love Latin American literature, especially Márquez and Isabel Allende, and I love reading their books in the original Spanish.  I am already so in love with the main characters!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

IWSG: Spread too Thin?

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group which was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh and allows writers to vent about their insecurities or lend encouragement to each other.  Go to the link to see what other writers are talking about this month.

This month finds me in the middle of a number of different writing projects.  I am participating in ROW80, which is a writing challenge that understands that you have a life.  You set a goal for each 80 day round and track your progress through blogposts.    My goal for this round is to write 250 words a day.  Blog-writing and work on my two unfinished manuscripts count towards the goal.  The amazing thing is that every day that I have put aside time to write, I end up writing more than 250 words.  Unfortunately, I am only setting aside writing time four days a week.  The weekends are too distracting.  It's hard to keep my focus.

I also signed up for NiNoWriMo, a monthly challenge where you set your own writing goal and track your progress.  I am using the same goal that I have chosen for ROW80; I just like the extra accountability.  I am already in the home stretch with one of my manuscripts and getting ready to tackle the next.

Another project I have signed up for is A Month of Letters.  I will be sending something in the snail mail each day that the US mail runs in February.  It's fun to write real letters again.  I started writing a letter to my sister, expecting to write maybe a page, and ended up writing 6 pages.  My hand actually hurt by the end of the letter.  I am planning all kinds of creative goodies to send through the mail this month.

Am I spread too thin?  Trying too many projects at once?  I don't think so.  I love the accountability and support of writing challenges.  Also, I love all the inspiration I find on the web in these unique challenges.   All in all I am feeling super inspired and motivated this month.

Monday, February 4, 2013

ROW 80: Check in #2

My goals:
1.  Write 250 words a day.
2.  Blog frequently (these posts will count towards my daily word count)
3.  Complete 2012's NaNo (ZF), then complete my earlier attempt (DoVH)

My progress for week #2:

Tuesday: 360 words in ZF
Wednesday:  WOTW blogpost 454 words
Thursday:  254 words in ZF
Monday:  apx. 800 words in a letter

The weekend is difficult for me.  No excuses this week.  I was just unmotivated.  But I did write more than planned every day I wrote.  Writing over 1,000 words in one week is good for me.  I hope I can keep it up.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

WOTW: Diabetes

Diabetes: noun, a disease that causes high blood glucose levels

About a year ago, my aging cat was diagnosed with diabetes.  It all began when we took her to the vet for a flea allergy.  Every time that our cat happened to get a flea, which happens often here in the Pacific Northwest where fleas live year-round, she would end up covered in scabs and open wounds.  We took her to the vet.  Yes, it was definitely a flea allergy, and the best solution was a shot of cortisone.  The shot was amazing.  It definitely worked, and soon our little kitty was scratching less and her scabs were healing.

No one can say if the diabetes was already in her system or if the shot caused the disease.    Cortisone can raise blood glucose levels and trigger diabetes in cats. Our kitty had always been small, but she became absolutely scrawny.

Then came the morning that changed all our lives.  Kitty could not control her bladder.  When I fed her, she took  one bite, then sat back and urinated.  She urinated on every blanket and chair that normally brought her comfort.  She was obviously in pain and could not stop, even though she wanted to.  My husband and I had to go to work, so we locked her in the bathroom with all her necessities and headed out the door.

I had my official evaluation and observation at work that day, so I had to be there for the morning.  I scheduled a vet appointment for the afternoon and put in a sub request for a half day, then continued with my planned observation, all the while thinking that my cat was sitting at home dying alone.

Both my husband and I took a half day to take her to the vet.  Neither of us truly believed she would survive the experience.  The vet took a urine sample, something that no cat will ever enjoy, and reported back that she had a bladder infection.  He added that based on the high sugar levels in her urine, she probably was diabetic.

And so began our new life:  daily shots of insulin, occasional blood glucose tests which involve pricking the cat's ear to get a blood sample, new expensive food, and infections anytime we miss more that one insulin shot.  With treatment, our kitty has gained weight, acts like a kitten again and seems like she may live a few more years.  We had a recent scare when her blood glucose level fell to 59 (normally it should be around 180), but we got it back to normal with a little corn syrup and some food.  The rest of her life will involve more work than we expected, but we do love her, so it's worth it.