Thursday, November 24, 2011

The 21 and Over Holiday Sanity Survival Guide

Feeling overwhelmed with the pressure cooker of all the holiday fun resting on your shoulders, threatening to pop your brain cells one by one…?  Chill out. It’s only Thanksgiving. The real fun hasn’t even begun, after all, the holiday's are not just about this day or that. They are a collection of gatherings, shopping, house cleaning, cooking, family, friends, panicking and…

I’m not helping?

Well maybe this will…

In the spirit of fun, I thought I would share some useful secrets on how I breeze through the holidays unscathed and even manage to enjoy myself.

Scenario #1. Your husband has invited co-workers over for some holiday cheer. Translation: there’s going to be a house full of loud men yelling at a TV because some other loud man is rooting for the other team and they stand to lose [Lose: a four letter word capable of destroying a man’s ego in two seconds flat. Warning: man does not recover well from loss and may sulk or pout for days following].

Solution #1.  Hot Totty. Offer to fix the fragile men something to eat and take a moment alone to regain your focus of all that is truly important…

Servings: 1
Coat the bottom of your favorite mug with honey.
Add brandy and lemon juice.
On the side, boil water add tea bag,
Pour the tea into honey/lemon/brandy goodness.
And viola ~ stress…gone. Repeat as needed.

Scenario #2. The families are coming. His. Yours. The whole damn lot, together under one roof, yours.  Do I really need to explain the neurosis that comes with this one? I didn’t think so.

Solution #2. Christmas Wassail. This is a warm fruity drink that makes your whole house smell delicious and the alcohol burns off (mostly, so be sure to add a shot to your mug). Great to offer particularly difficult family members (like the kids or grandma).  

2 qt. cider
1 pt. cranberry juice
3/4 c. sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tsp. whole allspice
1 orange
Whole cloves
1 c. rum [The rest of the bottle is for you] (Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum is best)
Side note:  I make mine with pineapple added to the mixture, it should equal 1/3 of other juices combined, but I'll let you do math - you know me. 

Stud orange with whole cloves. Put all ingredients into crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour and then on low for 4-8 hours. Serve warm from crock pot. Makes 12 cups.

 Scenario #3. Shopping (self explanatory). 
Solution #3. Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur [Irish Coffee] This one is a little trickier, but don’t worry I’ve got you covered. You’ll need a designated driver. If your husband is the only one available, plan to distract him once in the store with tools or electronics, works every time. Grab your snowflake covered to-go coffee mug and let’s get started.

1 3/4 c. your favorite liquor (Irish Whiskey, brandy, rum, bourbon, scotch,
or rye whiskey)
1 (14 oz.) can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1 c. (1/2 pt.) whipping or light cream
4 eggs
2 tbsp. chocolate flavored syrup
2 tsp. instant coffee
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract

In 6-cup blender, at low speed, combine all ingredients; blend until smooth. Serve over ice if desired. Store tightly covered in refrigerator up to one month. Stir before serving.
Note: Public intoxication is not legal, so I recommend sticking to the recipe on this one. 
Scenario #4. You’re hosting the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party (I’m not even going to ask why; we all do dumb things sometimes). 

Solution #4. Gluehwein (German Hot Wine Punch) This is where you're allowed to let loose! Hell, look at what you're wearing, how much worse can it get? Go ahead, drink, live a little!

Mix everything together in a large saucepan and heat until hot, but NOT boiling. Boiling it will ruin the Gluehwein, so be careful to not set your heat too high. You can pour this into a Crockpot on LOW heat and serve warm. []

And, there you have you it, my survival kit for just about any occasion that may arise during this holiday season.

Do you have a family recipe handed down from past generations that you would be willing to share with me? I’d love to hear how you de-stress during this chaotic – yet oh-so-wonderful – time of year.

Cheers if you’re crazy like me and heading out to Black Friday this evening. I hope you find everything on your list, safely. 

Note: This blog is only intended for fun and NOT to be taken seriously, unless you really want to…it’s your life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Writer's Maze: Ripping Off the Labels

Hi, I'm Dumb Lazy Genius, who are you?

When I started this blog, I wanted to share my struggle as a writer to get published. But I haven’t been completely honest… or rather I haven’t told you my whole story. I started out by telling you about the first novel I wrote, but that’s not where my writing journey truly began.

Please forgive me if this sounds self indulgent - believe me IT"S NOT. It is my only intention to tell this very private story in the hopes it might help someone else by doing so.

I was always different from other people in my family. I didn’t speak until I was two years old. My parents were worried that something was wrong, as the youngest of seven, they found it very strange that I didn’t use the typical baby-babble of mamma, dada, baba etc. though doctors reassured them that I could speak and I would, in my own time.

Finally, something bothered me enough to verbalize my feelings out loud. I was watching Mr. Rogers on TV and the rabbit ears (yes, I’m that old) were directed improperly and the picture was rolling up and up and up until finally I marched into the other room where my parents were playing spoons with a large group of friends, I put my hands on my hips and said, “What is wrong with the horizontal lines on the television?”

I remember this well, because a dozen or so spoons fell to the table with a crash and startled me, I thought I was in trouble. Of course for a two year old who’d never said so much as boo, this must have been a shock. I was deemed the baby genius.

A year after that I was kicked out of my Montessori School… for not being socially ready to attend. I managed to survive kindergarten and first grade. Frustrated that I wasn’t learning anything in the public education system, my parents enrolled me in a private school where I was promptly held back to repeat first grade. 

After a year of [very expensive] private school my parents decided it [I] wasn’t worth it and tossed me back into public school where my friends had moved onto third grade and I was headed to second. This was the year my struggle really began.

My teacher, Mr. Webber, was kind and patient with me as I tried to learn to spell and read, though I could barely read the word the. And then came IQ testing. I remember the tests, I devoured the puzzles and questions – because I didn’t have to read them, they were given verbally – I was actually able to answer the questions. I felt smart. A few weeks later my parents got a phone call from the school, telling them I’d won a national award for my “above genius IQ” and Mensa wanted to meet me and test me again.

My parent’s response, “She’s not that smart, she’s been held back and kicked out of schools. She can’t even read.” 

I was in the hall when they told the principal they weren’t interested in Mensa testing me, “but thank you for the award…” they said. I was not allowed to know my score; they thought it would go to my head. They didn’t want me to think I was smart, when clearly… I wasn’t.

And so it went. Third grade, couldn’t read, couldn’t write [well I could, it was just mirror image backwards] while the rest of the class was learning cursive. I also couldn’t do math, couldn’t remember my multiplication tables, and I couldn’t follow the steps to do long division. But somewhere along the line the teacher realized if she asked me a math question, I could answer. And still I failed every test. Conference after conference for the next two years, teacher’s told my parents I was lazy and dumb even though I clearly wasn’t because I could intelligently communicate verbally. I was labeled obstinate and disobedient, difficult and unfocused. My fourth grade teacher took me in the supply room to slap me after a spelling test because I misspelled my own last name, an offense she saw as a sign of me being deliberately stupid.

During this time in my life, I lived in an imaginary world. I retreated inside myself and made up characters that played with me in the woods behind my house. I was tomboyish and I broke almost every bone in my body… I didn’t understand why a tree house thirty feet above ground wasn’t a good idea; my imaginary friends thought it sounded great. 

Sometime during my fifth grade year, my mother found some Winnie the Pooh record/book combos and thought I might enjoy listening to the stories since I couldn’t read them. I don’t know how she figured it out, but after I listened to those records a gazillion times while following along in the book, I could not only read the books, but I knew the words. My mother rushed to tell my teacher and through their collaborative efforts the school had me tested for dyslexia. 

“Ah ha! She’s not dumb, she’s handicapped.” 

The term “learning disability” didn’t come along until way later.

Seriously, people just didn’t know enough about dyslexia to help. But at least now I had a label, which unfortunately only gave my teachers an excuse for no longer bothering to teach me. But in their ignorance, came my literary salvation and the keys to freedom from dyslexia. While the rest of my class was learning as a group, I sat in the corner of the room – alone – on a beanbag chair with my head phones and a book. I must’ve listened to a thousand books that year. 

Side note: People still ask me how I learned to read with dyslexia on my own. I have to answer the best way I can, I tell them words are like a puzzle to me. I don’t see the picture as individual pieces, but rather as a collective whole. If you ask me how to spell something for you, I will have to write it down first because only my hands know what letters go in each word. My brain doesn’t have a clue. The unexpected bonus to this is that I can read from long distances because I don’t need to see the letters to recognize a word. I see it as a series of high and low shapes, each word has its own look. 

And viola! I could read. 

Albeit, very slowly. 

It didn’t matter to me. I wanted to read, anything! The first book I read completely on my own, was Are You There God? It’s Me Margret by Judy Bloom. It took me about five months. Then I read Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey, it didn’t get any easier or faster, I had to fight for every story, but it didn’t matter, reading was worth it. Inside each word I learned something… something about the world, something about me and something about other people who didn’t grow up like me.

Although school was a little a better after that, it certainly didn’t fix everything. Math and I still didn’t get along and I still couldn’t spell. Teachers in junior high saw that obnoxious award in my file and wondered why I didn’t have incredible grades and why my paper’s looked like a two year old had written them. I did excel in music though, my first A! I played multiple instruments, despite not being able to read a single note, I never told anyone. 

And then somewhere along the line, a teacher told me I was good at creative writing and that I had a “big imagination.” Then another told me that my vocabulary and comprehension were very high for my age, that if I could just work on my grammar, punctuation and spelling I would have a good paper.

That seed laid and festered for years before sprouting up in college seventeen years later. 

Three weeks into High School, I realized I was in way over my head. I dropped out my freshman year.

I do not recommend this. 

I don’t blame my parents or teachers for their lack of support or understanding. There just weren’t enough resources for anyone to help me.

This is why I’m sharing my sad, shameful secret now. I say shameful, because that’s how I’ve treated it.

I have carried this around with me my whole life, even though I’ve been to college and hold two degrees and I’m working on a third. I’ve made the Dean’s list, the President’s list and my GPA is 3.78. 

Still, in the back of my mind, I am still the Dumb, Lazy Genius

Today, that changes!

I have decided I’m not going to wear those labels anymore. 

I’m done hiding. I’m done being too afraid someone will find out that I have dyslexia, that no one will want to publish me or read my books because of it.

If all of these brilliant people can achieve what they’ve achieved, then so can I.

If you know someone that struggles with learning, please help them break free from the labels. Dyslexia doesn’t have to be a prison.

If you think you’re a Dumb, Lazy Genius too, check out Mensa.

Thanks for reading this nobody’s fight to overcome the walls of dyslexia.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fighting the Funk of Failing NaNo

Happy November!

I'm pickled, mushed up, chewed up and stomped on, wasted and blown away like fall's leaves... writer-wise.

This is a new kind of writerly forbidden territory for me and I'm in need of reassurance that my muse is just on idea overload and not in a permanent state of flux.

So it all started when... that's a terrible opening, let me start again.

This is November, National Write a Novel Month, see my button over there? No, not there, over there...left, down, that's the one.

I did it, I signed up for NaNo or WriMo [or whatever loving nickname you've given the insanity of writing fifty-thousand words in a month], I set aside writing my book about aliens - that I was really enjoying writing - simply for the sake of participating in NaNo. I started out strong, blazed through the first six or seven chapters, I conversed with other NaNoers, I went to write-in's and then... I got a phone call from - we'll call her a "fan" - her words sent my brain into overload and I can't get my NaNo back. I can't even go back to my cool alien novel... now I'm writing something brand new. And the worst part is, this new project is book two for the book I'm currently querying.

I know.

Believe me, I know.

All the blogs and how-to-become-an-author books warn against writing sequels to books, unless the first book has been sold.

Little voice inside my head "But I'm unpublished, does it really matter how I spend my writing time? Is there some imaginary finish line I'm supposed to be writing towards?"

I'm not sure how to recover from this funk, I don't know how to fight what's in my head or the itch in my fingers to continue my previous character's journey [thanks crazed crit-partner for freakin' out about my manuscript, really, I'm so happy you love it] but, but... what now? Now that you've filled my head with this burning need to satisfy all the things the characters are are going to do...

I'm broken.

Book two is now the only story I can hear, because its screaming volumes louder than my aliens and deafeningly louder than my NaNo project.

For one week I've been stuck in this three way tug-of-war and I've managed to accomplish almost nothing, except...

My daughter (white shirt) says I'm too old to wear red pants. Maybe she's right.
...of course I had a Breaking Dawn Part 1 release party. Have you seen Rob Pattinson?

And so that's it. I'm too busy fighting with myself about self imposed deadlines and responsibilities to fictional characters, I've hardly written three-thousand words in seven days.   

Am I the only one with this dilemma? Is it just totally stupid to toss aside two other projects, that could be right for today's market and write a continuation of a book that's making its rounds through slush piles?

Thanks for reading my rant. As always, I love advice.

I'm really glad you stopped by.

If you're winning NaNo... WAY TO GO! You deserve a brownie... and a button.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thanks and Giving and Believing in the Magic…

Thanks and Giving and Believing in the Magic…
… Even when those voices tell you not to.

I believe in humanity.

It’s about reaching for that inner child, the one the world is choking. It’s about having the courage to believe, even when it seems there is nothing left to believe in.

I believe in compassion.

It’s about keeping the magic real for one more generation, and then for another, and another. It’s digging into ones soul for that most painful fear and replacing it with one simple word that sparks all other words into being…

I believe in peace.

It’s the basis of religion, it’s the basis of science, it’s behind every child that grows up to be successful, and it’s the fundamental building block of freedom and equality. 

I believe in believing.

It is the one word that if taken from our vocabulary, the world would stop existing. It’s the one word that made man discover the world is round, or that man could fly like the birds, the word that moves all things into action, from dream… to reality…

…It is imagination. And I believe.

This Thanksgiving, I’m giving and I’m saying thanks. And I’m going to pay you to say thanks too… 

…well sort of.

Thank YOU for reading this blog and for coming back again. Thank you for taking the time to read my words before I’m even published and thank you, for paying it forward.

Here’s the deal, I’m going to donate $1.00 (Up to $200 total) for each comment below to the Golden Harvest Food Bank. For every dollar donated, Golden Harvest can provide $7.00 worth of food.

On December 1st 2011, I will take a picture of the donation, as it happens, and post it  here. 

But that’s not all, in honor of the release of Breaking Dawn Part 1, you also have the chance to win Stephanie Meyer’s The Host AND a $20 Visa gift card.

So what the heck are waiting for?

 Here are the rules:

1.)    Be a follower of this blog.
2.)    Leave a comment with 3 things (minimum) you are thankful for.
3.)    Tell everyone about this blog and brag about it here.
4.)     Leave your email address before you go.

 Contest ends November 30th, 2011.

If you should be inspired to join this effort and have a similar give away on your blog, please remember to post your link here, so we can keep this momentum moving forward.

Have a wonderful November and Happy Thanksgiving!