Thursday, June 30, 2016

Resurrected

In early October of last year, I colored my hair black. (For all of you regular readers, I know you know this story already.) And when I say black, I mean all over black. I had, for all intents and purposes, a head of darkness, worthy of any villain you could imagine. (I'm including the picture to remind you of what it looked like, and for contrast with the second picture.)
 

At the time I placed the black into my hair, I was convinced that 28 washes and I'd be done with the new change. But apparently, my hair holds onto color the way Melina latched onto my nipple: with a fierce grip. By March of this year, I had tired of looking like Snow White or Bella Swan and asked for red highlights. They helped, but not nearly enough. I still felt like something wasn't quite right with respect to my hair.

So yesterday, I sought the help of Chrissy once again, and in true miracle worker style, look what she managed to do.


She lightened my hair more than I thought she would, and yet, I feel so much better. And by better, I mean that I feel like I've just taken off a too-small coat and now have some room to breathe.

How nuts is that? I had no idea I would feel this great, or I'd have resurrected that lighter hair shade a long time ago.

(Quick, weird, FYI. I have chameleon eyebrows. After I darkened my hair, I said to the kids, "Who knew my eyebrows were so dark!" A few minutes ago, I said to the kids, "Who knew my eyebrows were so light!")

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Waking Up, II

The powers that be say you should never start a story with the character waking up. I can't remember why. Maybe it's been overdone. Suzanne Collins did it and look at her...she got a three book deal and a four movie deal and is sitting pretty right about now, eh? But here's my beef with a rule like that: first off, it's a rule and rules are made to be broken. Secondly, how you wake up in the morning can really set the tone for the day, maybe even a few days.

Let's take a few Mondays ago now, for example, when I woke up at 4:59 a.m. with a feeling of something warm trickling down the back of my throat. It didn't take me long to understand that the heated liquid was blood. I placed a hand to my nose and stumbled to the bathroom. Large crimson droplets hit the sink and the counter as I flipped on the light with the unpainted hand. I'd missed getting my shirt dirty, but my feet, the bathroom floor, and the carpet in the bedroom had not fared as well. I had, quite simply, a gusher on my hands.


Now, I'm not prone to bloody noses, and I still have no idea what triggered that mess, but bleeding profusely from my nose set the standard for the week. For later that day, my period arrived. I was ready for it, as it was only a day early. But that cycle was one of my messiest yet (and I've been menstruating for a long time). Not to be crude or give you too much information, but again, I had a gusher.

So all week long, I stuck close to home, carried tissues in my pockets and extra tampons in my bag. I changed my habits slightly, to account for what I thought could happen. And that shows you that many actions are clearly influenced by how a person wakes up. The story can change, depending on how that person wakes up. And so I say to you, write what you want, how you want, and just be sure to write it well, my friend.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Making Things Happen

I wonder sometimes about our ability, as humans, to accomplish tasks. I'm certain I've spoken about this before, but the topic comes to light in my mind because I'm working on a project this summer. One that has deadlines imposed by me and a friend (we're working together). And while I know how difficult it is to get everything done at home and at work, I have to try each week to uphold my end of the bargain and get my work done. (As does my friend, and she's doing a great job.)

What I find, though, is that not everyone else works that way, and I'm not sure why. Sure, I know we're all different and motivated by different things, but if I have a date on my calendar circled in red, indicating that I need to be somewhere or something needs to be done by that date, you can bet your last dollar I'll do my best to get the task finished.

So I'm asking myself, and you, what motivates you to follow through with a task? Think carefully about that statement because if you figure out what it is that motivates you, it will help you accomplish all the items you want to in a day, and then (AND THEN!) that dream you're working on? It can become a reality.

You can find this photo here.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Into the Pensieve, VI

My cell phone rings when I'm at the hair salon, speaking to the stylist while Talia gets her hair cut. The readout says it's Dad calling, at 4 p.m. on a weekday. I better take the call.

"Hey Dad, can I call you back?"

"I bought fresh green beans at the store and I need to know how long to boil them."

"Oh, well I don't boil beans, I saute them. In a bit of olive oil and garlic." My comment is met with silence and I figure that he doesn't want to saute the beans. "If you don't want to do that, though, I'll have to get back to you in a few minutes."

"Okay. Would you do that?"

"All right. Bye."


The man has an internet connection and scads of cook books, and he calls me. Maybe he just needed to hear a friendly voice, maybe he really thought I'd know and so he'd get a quicker answer than he could find with his computer. Who knows? What I do know is that it doesn't take long to search for the answer and get back to him. But I'm still talking to the stylist, so I have Zoe call him back.

I watch as Zoe speaks to him quietly for a minute or two and then ends the call and I wonder how his beans will turn out. I hate to say it, but Mom used to over cook vegetables when she made them. I should have told Zoe to tell Dad to keep watch on those beans.

What's interesting to me is that he has his heart set on boiled green beans. And my guess is that it's due to Mom. Most of the time, if Dad brought home fresh green beans, it was because company was involved. (Fresh vegetables weren't always a staple in our house because canned and frozen veggies were cheaper.) Mom would pull out the recipe that involved lemon and mushrooms and green beans, and by golly, we had ourselves a party. I have to be honest: I hate my green beans the way Mom cooked them. I like lemon. I like green beans. I like mushrooms. I don't like them together. But when I think of green beans, I think of that recipe, and I find myself smiling.

I'm not sure what cook book Mom took the recipe from, but I found a suitable substitute online over at The Little Kitchen That Could. You can find the recipe (and its notes) there, or follow this one that I've adapted. (I left the link--I think--that goes with blanching the beans in the event you're not sure how to blanch veggies.) I also took the following picture from the same site.


Green beans and lemon and mushrooms, oh my!

Ingredients
3/4 pound fresh green beans (washed and trimmed)
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces mushrooms, button or cremini, cleaned and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
salt and freshly ground pepper
zest and juice of one lemon

What to do:
Blanch the beans in boiling water and cook for 4 minutes or so until slightly tender and bright green. Run the beans under cold water, drain, and set aside.  Melt the butter in a medium pan (make sure it's large enough) over medium-low heat.  Add mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes or so. (Stirring not needed.) Season with salt and pepper and continue to cook for 2 minutes.  Add beans, lemon zest and juice to the mushrooms.  Cover the pan and cook for 3 minutes.  Serve immediately. 

If you try the recipe and like it, please let me know. Just understand that you won't be eating beans this way at my house, ever.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pest Control

No one likes to talk about--or admit to having--bugs in their house. But sometimes, it happens...

We came back home from a week's vacation to find an infestation of fruit flies. Anyone who has ever studied the small but mighty Drosophila melanogaster knows why they've been a staple of laboratories for years: the fly breeds quickly and lays many eggs (it also has only four pairs of chromosomes and is relatively easy as far as insect husbandry goes).

After Tim had killed 20 or so flies and I had smashed at least 10 (in addition to Aaron's harvest of 6), I decided that my hands would feel much better if I found a different solution than simply slamming my fingers against the kitchen cabinets.

And where did I find my handy dandy solution? The internet, of course.

A capful of red wine vinegar and a drop or two of liquid dish soap later, and I had myself a real trap for these flies!

I'm not usually into showing carcasses...
Which just goes to show you that you don't always catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Dear Agent, Part IV

Dear Agent,

I'm beginning to think that I should quit writing books and simply focus on letters. I find the act of writing them very satisfying, and I always feel better after I'm done. Much like the last time I wrote to you, I will try to be short. But again, I have a request. (I'm fully aware that this letter is actually the fifth in this installment, and that last time, I chose a more descriptive title. Just consider it part of my creative license, if you will. Sorry if I have confused you.)

I'm okay with the fact that you cannot respond to every query letter. And yes, since you specifically state on your site something akin to, Due to the number of submissions we receive on a daily basis, we are no longer able to send out personalized responses to queries unless we are interested in your story. Therefore, no response means that we aren't interested, you've covered your rump quite nicely. Well done, I say. Well done.

Why then, am I writing?

Because even though you state the disclaimer above on your site, you also use Submittable, which is a fantastic method to allow me and anyone else to submit a query and first chapters to you. The problem is that Submittable is also a tease! Why? See the photo I've included below.


Yes, when I logon to that lovely site and check my submissions, in the column labeled, "Status," I still read, "In-Progress." So while I know in my head that your lack of response to me means that you don't have zero in my work, your inattention to detail can give people the wrong impression. I'm guessing there are a few people out there still holding onto the sliver of hope that an "In-Progress" status is giving them.

On the other hand, the other realists like me are left wondering if you even bothered to read the query in the first place.

Sincerely,

CMC



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Is This For You?

On this Father's Day, I thought I'd keep the post short and sweet. And no, I'm not posting a lovely poem or waxing poetic on my father or my husband as a father. Instead, I'm gleefully laughing at yet another trend. (Glitter beard, anyone?) But sadly, I'm a year behind on trends. (I'm sure you aren't surprised.) For in my quest to find something Father's Day related, I stumbled across this post from Bored Panda. On crochet shorts. For men (or women).

I borrowed a few photos from the article, but to get the full effect (and view the actual patterns) you really should jot on over there and check out the offerings.



Better yet, head over the Etsy shop that sells them, buy yourself a pair, and send me a photo!

(Happy Father's Day!)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Inspiration, VII






(I know a couple of people who could use these words in particular right now. Good luck to you, and please know that I'm here for you if you need me. I don't want to pester you.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

It Really is a Hoot

The last time I was up for critique at my writing group, I gave them a piece having to do with menstruation. The point of the piece is still out there somewhere--a little beyond my grasp at the moment--but I'm working on it because I think it has potential to find a home someday. But as I looked over the comments from my Plot Sisters, I was struck by one scrawl in the margin next to this sentence of mine, "My son knows what a tampon is and that someday, he might have to buy them for a friend or a spouse." "This is not normal," my friend had commented. "Your house must be a hoot!"

Well, in this house, it is normal. I know my friend didn't mean to offend me by the first half of that comment (and I wasn't offended). She's just informing me that in her experience, boys don't necessarily know what a tampon is and how it works. (I forgot to show her this masterpiece by that same son.) But many people don't grow up with an anatomy and physiology instructor mom who talks so openly about the body and how it works.

Which means that I agreed with the second half of her comment fully. Our house is a hoot sometimes. And if I were a fly on the wall, this is what I'd be laughing about right now:

1. The tampon microphone that rests in the console of my car. Yes, it's true. A few weeks ago, I found an open (but unused, of course) tampon in my purse. I didn't have the heart to throw it away, but realized that I could not use it for its intended purpose. I also recognized that its slim structure lent itself to a very comfortable microphone.

You might be wondering why we'd need a microphone in the car, especially one that can never work. Well, it's for our dance parties, of course. So picture this: a fantastic song begins on the radio, I look back at the kids, slip my hand into the console and pull out the purple microphone. We all sing and laugh and pass around the tampon. And when the song is done, that microphone goes back to it's home. Brilliant idea, if you ask me.

2. The sand sarcophagus my kids created a few days ago. After clearing out dead plants from the sand box, we dumped 12 bags of new sand in and the kids went to town. In short order, Melina ran into the house: "Mom! You need to come see how we covered Aaron!" I walked out the back door and stood at the edge of the box. Okay, I thought, You covered Aaron. And then, I noticed the place where his feet should be resembled something with which we're all too familiar around here. That this structure was not a simple sarcophagus, but a genitalia-shaped sarcophagus.

Don't know what that is? Follow the shape of the outline and you'll get it.
Yes, our house is a hoot. Feel free to come spend some time with us.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Ginger Snap Conundrum

The caller ID shows Dad's cell phone number. Ever since last summer, I pick up the phone when he calls because I'm never sure what he'll have to say. Thoughts move through my head: Is Mom okay? Has he fallen again? What does he need?

"Hey! Are you going to be headed up here with the kids anytime soon?"

No Hello? No How are you? I move toward the calendar and check the schedule. We have a vacation planned and then the girls have orchestra camp. The only time we'd consider being at their place is sometime over the 4th of July, when we're already scheduled to be in the state of Michigan.

"Uh...the kids might not be with us if we come see you. They're going camping with T. But we could possibly meet you for dinner or something in July."

"Okay! Well, when you come up, can you bring more of those Triple Ginger Snaps with you? I've eaten all the ones you gave me."


I wonder sometimes if Dad even knows how his conversations unfold. If he could step back and replay the dialogue, would he see how the interaction could be construed? If I were an easily offended person, I'd think that the only reason he wants to see me is for the ginger snaps. And that might actually be true.

But after last summer's shenanigans, I don't care. I'll buy two boxes of the cookies and bring them with me, meet the parents for dinner, and give him his cookies. After that, if he wants any more--or actually wants to see me or the kids--he can come to us.

And maybe someday, when Dad is sitting in my living room, I'll just come out and ask him what he meant. No better solution than to attack the problem head-on.

Monday, June 6, 2016

I'm Gonna Miss These Days

We haven't had a good old laugh around here in a while, especially when it comes to Melinaisms, because you know, as kids get older, they get less funny. (Don't believe me, just wait until your kids are beyond the age of 11.) Well, the other day, despite the fact that the kids have been out of school since May 19 (I know, can you believe that?), Melina decided to tell me about a story she heard at school.
Melina:  Ava told me--
Me: Ava your cousin?
Melina: No, Ava at school. She told me that Lauren wasn't at school one day because her brother tooted on her pillow and she slept on it and she didn't know and so the gases got into her eye and she got pink eye.
Me: Oh. Pink eye from the gas?
Melina: Yes.
She recounted that story with a completely straight face, as if she believed it. And I really think she did.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Stick a Fork in Me

A time arrives in everyone's life where they feel the need to utter, "That's enough." Or maybe, they have the compulsion to yell those words at the top of their lungs but they've been trained throughout their lives to act like a lady or gentleman so they don't yell anything out but instead, they sit down to the computer and place their fingers onto the letters and what comes out is not "That's enough," but something similar to a very bad expletive...

As in, F%^* it, I'm done.

That's where I am today.

DONE, DONE, DONE.

Done with our so-called ups and downs of weather. (It is technically late spring now, you know, practically summer, and I'm ready for sun to stick with us. In the sun's defense, it has been out all week.) Done with the viruses. Done with the kids who must stay home on the couch (Melina has a cold. I can't tell you how many viruses she's had this year alone). Done with the vomit bug that gripped our house a few months ago. Done with the little germs that think it's funny to knock us out when we'd already been knocked down. Done with the folks who continually tell me how great their children are. Done with politics (yes, I mean you, Mr. Trump). (You know already I want to be done with teaching.) Done with acquaintances who can't seem to bother and answer my texts or emails. Done with "friends" who never follow up on possible dates. Done with spacey editors and agents who give no response.

DONE, DONE, DONE.

Sadly, I've let this attitude of doneness get to me in a way that hasn't in a very long time and I really have to wonder about myself. What else am I done with?

Am I done with writing?
Am I done with reading?
Am I done with White Collar? (I made it through two full seasons while I was sick in May.)
Am I done being me?

Please don't take this post as a litany of complaints akin to whining. That's not something I'm doing, because I am relatively healthy and happy and I have a fantastic family. I'm just stating where I am at the moment, and usually, when I do that, I can find my creative energy and push that angst (as my twins would call it), into a more positive place.

And so, I shall try.

Right after I give myself a swift kick in the bum, and post an inspirational picture. (I like to mix the positive with the negative, you know.)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Tank

I sat with Dottie at the round table, listening to her justification of why Janie should have the job.

"She's a whiz," Dottie said. "Just brilliant, really. Janie's just..."

I turned my ears off for a moment and instead watched Dottie as her hands flew in the air and her eyes grew wide. A blush tinged her cheeks and she seemed to sparkle. And why? Because she was talking about Janie? What was that all about?

"...it's amazing how much she notices things, and I think her ability to juggle tasks will be so fortuitous for us." Dottie sat back against her chair and folded her hands on the table top. No further words needed. That was that. Janie should have the job.

I hadn't come to discuss Janie, though. I had come to Dottie's office to talk about a project we had in the works and to show her how much progress we'd made. I had spreadsheets and documents and tables and graphs. I held evidence in my hands that what we were doing--all the things that Janie supposedly could do--were being done. So why ask Janie to join the group?

"Well, my friend. That'd be great. Just great." The lack of enthusiasm I heard in my own voice surprised me.

"I know!" she said as she leaned over to retrieve a pen. Dottie hadn't even noticed my reference to her favorite movie, Office Space.

And that's when I knew she was in too deep. She'd hung around Janie and listened to her gilded spiel for so long that she'd placed her up on a pedestal so high it would be tough to reach her. Shoot, maybe it wasn't a pedestal so much as a throne. Queen Janie, indeed, with Dottie as her faithful servant, ready to bow down at any opportunity.

How sad, I thought. Someone should really take that Janie down and show Dottie her true colors. Did I have the guts to take on the job of tank? I at least had to try.