Tuesday, May 31, 2011

An Impulse Done Right

The sun was high in the sky, the schedule was free and clear and the bikes were free from their dangerous overhanging hooks in the backyard shed. We were in the living room, on the couch, still in our PJs and deciding what to have for breakfast. "Let's go bike riding to the park today," I suggested hoping that my husband's yes would be all my muscle-atrophied body would need to make the trip a reality.

"OK, if you want to..." he responded, I think realizing that this would be one request that would haunt him every weekend until he finally acquiesced.

In an hour or so, we were finally out on the road. My shins were burning, my butt was aching, I was already panting harder than my overweight beagle after a mid-day walk around the block, but I was riding my bike - something I hadn't done in nearly 10 years! It was awesome, and I just hoped I wouldn't kill myself in this short ride.

When we reached the park and I could bask in the serenity of the lake before me, I knew it was all worth it. I needed this. I needed to be free, to be outside, to be moving and to be with nature on this beautiful day.

Sometimes I find myself in the throws of impulse when in the grocery store and I wonder, when I get home, how I ended up with so much stuff. Other times I find myself impulsively following someone on twitter, only later to realize that the one brilliant tweet I read of theirs that led to the follow was the beginning and end of their readable tweets. It becomes such that impulsiveness starts to grow a negative reputation, and yet this bike ride - a completely impulsive act made my Memorial Day Weekend!

I'm not really a planner, so impulse is a big part of my day to day. It feels extra special when one goes so perfectly right.

Monday, May 30, 2011

My Stumble Buddies

Every single week I participate in a discussion in the Kludgy Mom BlogFrog community where bloggers get together, share posts they're proud of and help boost each other up using StumbleUpon. It has been an amazing experience. Since I started participating this past winter I have learned so much about blogging, social media, the Internet, myself, places around the world and my fellow Stumblers.

As each week passes, I keep thinking these bloggers are awesome - I want to share them with everyone! And, in little ways, I have - very often my Stumble Buddies are featured in the "Food Reads" or "Good Food (Recipes)" section of my Friday's Food Finds segment on my Searching for Sustenance blog, or I've linked to their blogs on a relevant post (like in How Darren Rowse Forever Changed my Life in 10 Days), but so far only one Stumble Buddy has received the type of spotlight treatment I would like to give to all those who have taught me so much, and that is Read Aloud Dad in a post I wrote entitled Are You Reading Read Aloud Dad?

It is time to spread the love. Each week another one of my Stumble Buddies will be featured here on Rivera Runs Through It. For now I will leave you with the links above to give you a taste of what's to come and an open invitation to our weekly StumbleUpon discussion that starts each Wednesday. It's open to all bloggers, it has a couple of rules, but if you are interested, come check it out at the Kludgy Mom BlogFrog Community this Wednesday, June 1, 2011 will mark the beginning of WEEK 37.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

3 More Lessons From Blog World Expo NY

Join me at the BlogWorld & New Media Expo in New York, May 24-26, 2011!
Click above to find out about their NEXT event!
After an educational and jammed-packed first day at the Blog World Expo in New York City, I ventured back for more lessons about building an online community, hosting companies and the WordPress experience, blogging about your passion, and, of course list building for bloggers. I knew so little about so much, so I grabbed my pen and my notebook and took diligent notes. Here's some highlights from the day's lessons, which I do plan to expand upon in the weeks to come:

Lesson 1: Your blog and your online community are not about YOU, they are about YOUR AUDIENCE.
This was reiterated in a number of sessions I went to during the day concerning all different topics from the community established on and around your site all the way to the e-mail list you create to maintain connections and spread the message of your blog.
"You are not your audience." ~Phil Hollows

Lesson 2: Beware of free.
While learning about all of the cool possibilities there are inherent in using WordPress, the discussion of the wide availability of free themes came up. In this session I learned that many of (not all) the free themes that pop up in a Google search contain Malware and Spam right within them! How annoying! Considering that WordPress has a repository of safe, "clean" free themes available, this is easily avoidable even if you don't have the money to spend.
"I will never download a free theme from Google." 
~the oath Mitch Canter had his audience recite while raising our right hands

Lesson 3: While new technology broadens our connections, older technology deepens them.
This idea makes more and more sense the more I hear it and think about it. A blog comment is more personal than a tweet, an e-mail is even more so, and snail mail or good old conversations TRUMP THEM ALL. This was a lesson learned about connectivity with readers, but also when networking among fellow bloggers. New tech is easier, but old tech is more meaningful - plain and simple, and pivotal to developing all relationships these days.
"This wasn't just about me learning new stuff, this was about me TALKING to other people."
~my thoughts on the express bus ride home

Luckily, I had a three day pass (even though I only had access to the exhibitor floor on the last day). I had one last day to not only learn from this blog conference, but also to learn about blog conferencs and what one truly had to gain from attending one!

Related Posts:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Green Dress

Another piece from the Writer's Toolbox archives. I used the sentence sticks for this one. The bold sentences are the ones I selected and then wrote until the timer ran out.
The Writer's Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the 'Write' Side of Your Brain 
February 16, 2009
He swore on his mother's grave, but then he swore on just about everything. Jon was only six and still thought that "swearing on" something was enough to make it all feasible. Rhonda, his older sister was exasperated by this behavior, "Enough Jon! Just tell mom what the hell you did to her dress!"
"RHONDA!" her mother yelled.
"Of course I would get in trouble now," thought Rhonda, "the little brat uses Mom's favorite dress as a prop in his latest battle fort and I get in trouble..."
"What?!" she yelled back at her mother.
"Stop cursing! You're a Lady!"
Ugh! How did Rhonda not see that one coming? Then the kicker - Mom changes from her reprimanding tone to parental, caretaker as she turned to Jon, "Now, Honey, what happened to my pretty green dress?"
"It was for the tent outside. It was camoflauge. I needed it. Otherwise the bad guys could see me," his sincerity was sickening to Rhonda, but seemed to ease their mother's increasing blood pressure.
Through gritted teeth, still maintaining some of the motherly sing-song required in conversations with a six-year-old, their mother continued, "Jon, why didn't you use the throw cloths I left you in the shed?"
"They weren't green. They were all the same, I decided."
Mom was just about at her breaking point with this one, "You decided?" Rhonda was pleased with her mother's increased aggravation.
"Yeah, the guys found me last time, and since they were all the same they would just find me again unless I got some camoflauge! You wanna see it?" his excitement was palpable. Jon truly did not understand the issue here. His smile was as wide as the time he caught a fly ball in his first tee-ball game. He was simply incorrigible!

They decided to see the fort as a family. It was easy to see where Jon's pride stemmed from - this was a six year old boy's dream. Which also meant, of course, it was his mother's nightmare. The dress was torn into pieces. The arms were fashioned into two separate camoflauged periscopes, one at either end of a hugely extensive tunnel system propped up by lawn chairs, a garbage pail and the beach umbrella. The skirt was torn into two long pieces and then separated from the inset slip to actually create four long panels of green roofing for the stronghold. The bust of the dress was also torn into two pieces, they were the doors taped to the fortress using duct tape.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

3 Quickie Lessons from My First Day at Blog World Expo New York 2011

Join me at the BlogWorld & New Media Expo in New York, May 24-26, 2011!
Click above to find out about their NEXT event!
I did it. I ventured forth and, on my own, with tickets given to me as a gift from my husband, I experienced the first full day of my very first Blogger's Convention. Needless to say, after a day on my own traveling back and forth to the big city after nearly one full year of being on medical leave and doing... well... nothing, I am exhausted. Therefore, this will be a quick run-down of some of the stand-out lessons for me with promises of more in-depth posts to come (I really hope I make sense here and don't babble too much)!

Lesson 1: This whole social media, blogging, Internet thing is not just about communication, it is about RELATIONSHIPS.
This was a theme reiterated by many of the speakers I saw today. In one way or another, the moral of the story is if you want more followers, if you are looking for your audience, if you want to have genuine, sincere comments and conversations with the people of the World Wide Web, then you had better be thinking first and foremost about how you are building your relationships with these people.
"Amazing things start to happen when you converse for the sake of conversing..."

Lesson 2: Nothing "sells" better than an authentic YOU and PASSION.
Again, words spoken by many, and not things I heard for the first time here either. Each of the speakers I saw today were blogging about things close to their heart, things they were passionate about and it showed.
"If you are not passionate about what you are doing - find something else to do!" 

Lesson 3: The Nerd Within Might Be Exactly What You Should be Proud Of.
Just hours after feeling ashamed for letting all of my geek-goo go all over the Twitterverse, I found out, that perhaps the persona I so proudly flaunted in my classroom should also have a place in my web space!
I am a nerd, to ignore such things, or leave out such telling details separates me from my readers because they do not know the authentic me without it. Your nerd within doesn't have to be so nerdy (I mean, honestly, could I be any more cliche? Comic books, math, calculators???) - you might be a grilling nerd or a knitting nerd, who knows? Only you know, until you let us in on your juicy secret!
"Tell me about your inner geek... You don't have to go open kimono!" 

Bonus Lesson from BEA: Free Books are Awesome, But Quickly Become Heavy!
As a bonus with the admission to BlogWorld, I also get access to the exhibitor floor of the Book Expo that is housed in Javits Center as well.  Considering I am a book lover I could not pass up this opportunity and hopped in during the lunch break between blogging panels. These people are just giving away books! In some cases, the authors are there to autograph them for me!! I was in heaven, until the weight of my decision became a reality when walking eleven city blocks to my express bus home. I have not yet come up with a better action plan for tomorrow... I will sleep on it.
"This was a bad idea." 
~my left knee, my foot, my right shoulder, my lower back, and, of course, my ACHING HEAD

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Writer's Toolbox Day 2: The Senses

This is another blog post imported from my old fiction blog. It is from the second day of using my new tool for writing inspiration called the Writer's Toolbox. I recommend it to anyone who is looking for some new writing challenges.
The Writer's Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the 'Write' Side of Your Brain
I believe the "tool" or game used to write this post was something to do with the senses. I picked out prompts dealing with a dirty microwave, Paris in August, the taste of toothpaste and bats circling in the sky. Here's what I wrote based on that:
February 16, 2009
Why can't anyone clean the damn microwave?! God damn bunch of animals. I can't even identify some of the gunk stuck up on the top of the microwave and forget about the smells. I have been working in this shit-hole for way too long. God knows I deserve better than this. I feel as though this microwave is representative of the life I find myself stuck with these days: smelly, dirty, uncared for, and just plain gross. I've got to find a way out of this. I can't believe I am having this epiphany because of a damn microwave. It is always the most mundane shit that makes us see reality.
I've been saving up for nothing it seems, but what the hell - I am going to Paris in August. I will give my son-of-bitch (and I mean that literally) boss his two weeks notice and then I am getting out of Dodge! I remember reading those Eloise books when I was little and always thinking Paris was the happiest place on Earth. This is it. This is a life-changer. Life begins in Paris. I could probably afford to stay a couple of weeks, maybe more. I hope I learned more French than I thought in Madame Renoi's class in high school. Why the hell did Jack have to be in that class, anyway? I might have paid attention more if I wasn't so busy trying to flirt with that stupid ass. Ah, but the smell of spring always brings back those memories of Jack... his curly black hair, his dark brown eyes, his ridiculous French accent. I wonder what he's up to these days.
I start thinking I'll look him up on facebook as I stare at myself in the mirror the next morning while brushing my teeth. I love the taste of toothpaste, only Colgate paste, of course, but I do love it. The minty clean and fresh taste makes me feel free to try anything, to taste anything. I imagine that the air of Paris smells and feel the way my toothpaste tastes: fresh and new. I can't wait, two weeks and counting. Today I am going to tell my boss.
I find him at his desk, of course - I've never seen that man move his lazy ass more than one foot radius around the desk at any point between nine and one and then again two through five. I walk right in, no knocking, no "excuse me"; not today, not now, this is going to be fucking monumental - I am quitting this shit. He barely notices me enter over his disgustingly sticky raspberry yogurt - are men supposed to eat that shit? That seems like such a feminine snack. He must be on, yet another quick-fix diet. They never work. He is a fat slob. I wouldn't be surprised if he is the asshole who dirties up the microwave and never cleans it up. I should ask him, right now, I've got nothing to lose.... I decide against it and just dive in. I make up some bullshit story that I got accepted into some study abroad program through the local community college. He eats my shit up. This is way too easy. He starts prattling on about some "fabulous" experience he had back in his college days and I quickly regret my tale. Was he just talking about bats? Bats circling in the sky? Where the fuck did this guy study abroad? Transylvania? Shit. Now I wish I was listening.

Monday, May 16, 2011

3 Great Survival Stories for Kids (of All Ages)

Some people like romance novels, some go for the crime/court room drama, some fall into the world of fantasy, magic or sci-fi - while I do entertain all of these genres for a book or two, it goes without saying that the stories I am drawn to over and over again ever since I was first reading chapter books was that of the survivor(s).

These are the stories that took an ordinary person, thrust them into a complete paradigm shift about what is important and what is not, and redefined life for them, forcing them to unlearn all of the "luxuries" of their previous existence and appreciate whatever life had to offer them in the moment. These are stories that fascinate me. These are the stories that make me wonder - Could I handle it? Am I strong enough? And these are the stories that allow me to to truly appreciate all that I am blessed with.

I think these stories are valuable to children, or any of us in this world right now, as so many people move forward faster into the realm of convenience and others are finding themselves thrust into the role of survivor whether through a natural or financial disaster blind-siding them! These are great stories to help build an awareness of what could happen in extreme situations and to start up the discussions within families and friends asking questions like - Would we be prepared? Do we know how to contact family members in an emergency? What kinds of skills do we want to have?

While I have read many of these types of books over my lifetime, I would like to focus this post on those fresh on my mind because I read one this winter, finished one at two this morning and started the third when I woke up today. They are also examples of these stories that take place NOW, in this millennium, with all of the technology, conveniences and trappings of our days to day lives in them, so suddenly torn away. That, I believe, would be much more relevant to children today.

The books that inspired this post:

1. Life As We Knew It Susan Beth Pfeffer. An asteroid is heading toward the moon. Our young protagonist knows all about it the way many of us know about current events when we are school-aged - her teachers gave her all types of moon assignments in honor of this astronomically historical event. What no one predicts, however, is how truly historical the event turns out to be - the asteroid knocks the moon out of orbit, shifting it closer to Earth changing everything about life as we know it. The book is written in first person, as it is actually our sneak peek into Miranda's diary as she and her family (Mom and two brothers) learn to survive in this new world where societal structures have broken down, food is scarce, weather is unpredictable and disease is rampant.
Life As We Knew It

2. The Dead and The Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer. This is the second book in the series, although it is not a continuation. Instead, this book takes place in the same time period as Life As We Knew It, except it takes place in New York City - a symbol of vitality in the world before the asteroid, but now, just another island that could easily fall victim to the high tides and tsunamis filled with thousands of more people than Miranda's suburban town from the first book. The book is written in third person and is from the perspective of a 17 year old Puerto Rican boy, Alex, as he takes care of his two younger sisters during this crisis while trying to figure out the whereabouts of his parents. Alex is an excellent student with dreams of being the first Puerto Rican president of the United States who didn't think of too much past his catholic school responsibilities and job before the asteroid hit the moon.
The Dead and the Gone (The Last Survivors, Book 2) 

3. The World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer. This third book continues from the first book and takes us back to Miranda and her family. I just started this book this morning, so I do not have a full-scale synopsis yet, but what I have learned so far is that this new world has not stopped changing yet, and even one year after the asteroid hit the moon it would be foolish to claim life for this family has gotten any easier. The questions still in the back of my mind: Will Miranda make it? Will her family? ...Will the WORLD?
This World We Live In (The Last Survivors, Book 3) 

Susan Beth Pfeffer also has a blog of her own where she keeps readers of her latest writing adventures. I have not caught up with any of her books outside of this series yet, so you may want to check her blog out to see what they are all about.

In the meantime, I have a book I have to go finish, and I couldn't a more perfect rainy day to do that on! I hope you enjoy the Moon series, or if you have already read it, I hope you have already passed on the stories to those you love!

Happy reading!

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Geek Family Examines the Geek Zodiac

As my husband and I were driving around putting our final touches on our Mother's Day gift for my mother-in-law and getting ready for dinner later on, I quickly took a glance at my TweetDeck and found a tweet from Attack of the Show about the Geek Zodiac. As a self-proclaimed geek, obsessed with all types of signs, married to a comic book guy I was quite intrigued. I decided to give it a go:
attributed to geektyrant.com (click image to enlarge)
As I read off the various "signs" on this list, my husband and I just started laughing. This was turning out to be quite ridiculous. I was about to close the image when my husband said, "Well? Does it tell you what our signs are?"

It was then that things started to get a little creepy.

  • My Husband I started with my husband, who, as I stated above, is a life-long comic-book guy. He loves superheroes, he is a really good guy - this is not just coming from me, it is an undeniable truth stated by anyone that knows him - it can be sickening sometimes. His sign, as a baby of 1975? Superhero. We both decided that was a bit freaky.
  • Me I was born in 1976, I scanned over: Undead*. This was a bit of a let-down. My husband and I felt this was a bit off, UNTIL I read the description, the characters associated with "Undead": Dracula, Eric Northman (ok, ok, I had to admit I do have a thing for vampires...), Zombies, (then I screamed the next two), BUFFY, THE GHOSTBUSTERS. My husband actually took his eyes off the road, "You're joking!" You see, my dog's name is Buffy. I wear my Buffy the Vampire the Slayer T-shirts weekly, I own the entire series, I also own all of Angel and can't resist following Bones. Also, in terms of the rest of the description it was spot on. We were now a bit freaked out by this "silly" geek zodiac.
As we let it settle and my husband asked me to re-read the descriptions. We were "wow-ed." Then it occurred to me, "Who else do we know? My brother, your brother! Let's see!!"
  • My Little Brother The former Marine, currently re-enlisting. He's a cop. He's always wanted to get into "intelligence." He was on his way up when mom got sick and he chose family over moving forward. He was born in 1980 making his sign a spooky spot-on Spy
  • My Brother-in-Law is twelve years younger than his brother and was shown by him and his father the world of comics. He too, is a Superhero.
When we got to the restaurant for the Mother's Day dinner we were waiting for our table. I informed my brother-in-law of his status as Superhero which then sparked a conversation with everyone. We then continued exploring the people we know:
  • Mother-in-Law  She is a lover of sales, finding anything the family needs and a coupon or sale that will get it. She also loves and immerses herself in the family culture. I will be a lady, and not reveal her year of birth, but she is a Treasure Hunter!
  • Father-in-Law The man to go to with your questions. Many in the family come to him with questions about legal paperwork, financial decisions, directions to get places and he often, magically, provides all of us with beautiful prints and videos of any media. Not surprisingly (now that we were all converted believers in the Geek Zodiac), his sign is that of the Wizard.
After all of this I was a believer. My brother-in-law asked what the other signs were, when I got to "Daikaiju" I just said, "I have no idea what the heck that is. Then I read more closely as he explained to me (he has spent a lot of time in Japan) - it is those MegaMonsters like Godzilla and KingKong. I did a quick glance at the years to see if there was anyone I knew who fit the mold. I doubted it, but there was the year 1978. The year my cousin was born. He is a center of attention, larger-than-life kind of character. He just started his own business. Their name is T-REXX.

That was it. The Geek Zodiac may be the most accurate zodiac signs I have seen in a long time. Brilliant work geektyrant 
What is YOUR geek sign? Does it fit?

If you want to follow me on twitter, my handle is @riverand.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Writer's Toolbox Day 1

This is another blog post imported from my old fiction blog. I had found a new tool for writing inspiration called the Writer's Toolbox which helped me write most of the posts for that blog that followed. I recommend it to anyone who is looking for some new writing challenges.
The Writer's Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the 'Write' Side of Your Brain
Writer's Toolbox tool/game of the day: Sentence sticks - each bold sentence represents a sentence stick I was given to write with. The only rules: the first stick had to be my starting sentence and every stick had to be used. I wrote for a set amount of time, so if it seems like there is more to this story - there is, but my time was up.
February 15, 2009
We were drinking champagne and losing our shirts. No big surprise; it was Friday night and the Ladies Book Club always turned into this cock-eyed poker game. Sherry swore that she wanted to make this a serious venture, but, if so, why serve champagne? I should have known better to carry any extra cash - I can't ante-up if I have no money on me. So here I am, staring down a pair of deuces as my only shot of redemption. I could tell by the looks on Mary and Linda's faces that they weren't doing much better than me and thinking that a conversation about the new Stephanie Meyers book would be much less painful than our current situation.
"Tell your husbands that the price of meat went up again!" Sherry explained after our pitiful losses, "It's not like they won't believe it in this economy!" I hated that she was right, but I also hating losing. I am not coming back next Friday. I don't really like this book anyway. And if she really wants me to enjoy this champagne she should invest in a better brand or at least bring some strawberries... Mary and I left after that last hand, of which Sherry took the pot, and left Linda to fend for herself. Sorry, Girl, you need to figure your own way out - get a backbone and get a-walking!!

"I don't need this," Mary started. She seemed a little more aggravated than the situation called for.
"Don't fret about it, Sherry's right, Dan won't even realize the lost money."
"It's not that, it's Charlotte, she is sick again and I can't control her anymore!" she explained.
"Is it really her fault that she is sick?" I couldn't believe she was this exasperated that her daughter was sick!
"Nicole, Charlotte ate green peppers all day long." I had no idea what she was talking about, so I asked her what she meant. " I mean that all day, while I went to work and cleaned around the house and worked on the garden my daughter was up in her room eating green peppers non-stop!" she shouted.
"Alright, Mary, I can see how that's weird and even a little off-putting, but did you ask her why?" I know Mary has a tendency to fly off the handle at the smallest of things without looking back.
Now she seemed to get angry with me, "You must be kidding me? Ask her why?... Why bother?! First it was the lemons, then the turnips, why the hell not eat green peppers all day?!"

Lemons? Turnips? What the hell is she talking about?, I thought, but didn't dare say. I think she read it on my face.
She stopped walking and looked me in the eyes, "Nicole, don't tell the others about this, okay?"

I stared silently for a moment. What the hell would I say? What was so bad about strange eating habits? If she didn't want me to say anything, I wouldn't, but I didn't understand why. "Okay..."

"Charlotte thinks she has magical powers. I have scheduled an evaluation for her next week and not even Dan knows about it yet. He won't even talk about her behavior with me. He thinks if we ignore it, it will go away, but he hasn't even talked to her since she started it," she started to cry. "My husband won't even talk to our only child! She needs our help and he won't even address her! This has been going on for three months!"
"Three months, Mary! Jesus! And you haven't told anyone about this?! We could help. I don't know how, but something..."

We talked for three hours that night before Dan called my house looking for Mary. We told him we were looking at pictures from that last barbecue and lost track of time. He bought it, this time. I caught a glimpse of Dan's attitude toward his daughter on the phone, "Tell Mary Charlotte is sick and needs her," he said. When I asked him how serious it was he said, "You know how it is, Nicole, she's a girl, I am her dad, I don't think it is any of my business." I wanted to scream at him right then, but I knew I had to play it down for Mary's sake. "Sure, Dan, you're probably right. I'll send her right over."

It took some convincing, but I got Mary to agree to come over with Charlotte on Saturday afternoon. I sent all the boys out of the house and thought it would be helpful if just the three of us could hang out, to see how Charlotte would act around me. The excuse was simple: I needed help baking. The plan was cookies, ice cream and a cake for Bobby's birthday party on Sunday. It was true, I did need help with all of it anyway, and so did Mary and Charlotte.

Mary walked in first, looking abashed. I wondered what had caused this look around me. No matter what was going on she had nothing be ashamed of in my presence! And then Charlotte came in behind her. I hadn't seen her in probably about a month and a half, maybe two, but the difference was striking. Charlotte is 13 years old, so I expect changes to be happening all of the time, but so much of her change seemed to be internal instead of external. Her eyes were sunken which made me wonder if she had been sleeping and her arms fell to her sides in a tension that can be best described as cat-like, waiting to pounce. She seemed to be ultra-aware of her surroundings and her smile was uneasy and forced. "Thanks, Aunt Nickie. I don't think I am much of a baker, but I'll watch out for the windie-flakes when we get to the cake-making."
Mary jumped, "Charlotte, 'NO! Don't get started with that again!!" and tears started to well up in her eyes, "Nicole, I am so sorry. This was a mistake. We will go."
Granted, I had no idea what "windie-flakes" were, but there was NO WAY I was about to endeavour to do all of this baking on my own. "Don't be ridiculous, Mary. I will take whatever help you can both offer!" I felt for both of them. This was going to be a strained afternoon, but the secrets in this family flowed deep.

I handed out aprons, head scarfs and reviewed the recipes for the day. We agreed we should started with the cookies. I gave Mary charge of the wet ingredients, Charlotte charge of the dry ingredients as I began to prepare the equipment. Mary came over to me at the counter, away from Charlotte, "Thank you," she whispered, "...and I'm sorry. It has been a bad week. The strange stuff she has been talking about has been increasing exponentially. I try to stop her the minute she gets started, but it is getting worse by the day." I swore she was going to start crying again.
"Mary, we'll figure this out. Let's give her some time today to just be and let's see what happens. I won't tell anybody, you won't tell anybody, she'll feel safe and you'll have more information by the time the evaluation comes up."

And then we heard Charlotte whisper into her mixing bowl, "'There you go, making up lies again.' That's what they told me. But I wasn't lying, Marcelo, I swear! I was just doing what I was told." Her eyes skirted toward us at the counter, where Mary tensed and I became extremely interested in the oven temperature. "Excuse me, Aunt Nickie, do you have any beets?"

"No, Honey, I'm sorry just sweets today, no beets. Why?" I had a feeling I already knew, but I figured I'd ask.

"No biggie, I was just looking for something to nosh on. I'll hold out." She continued sifting the flour into the bowl.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Flowers in the Front Yard

13 Ways I Deal With Insomnia

I waddle my way to my bedroom, lazily put on a pair of pajamas and shuffle into bed. I am exhausted. The day is done. I am ready for sleep.

On some nights, however, such as this one, sleep eludes me. Here are just some of the things I do when I can't sleep:

Things I Don't Recommend to Fellow Insomniacs
  • I grab my iPhone.
  • I check out the WebMD APP to try to figure out what is wrong with me. This never helps me sleep, it simply causes me to jump into the rabbit hole called "Google" on a quest to define the twenty or so ailments I have come up with based on the symptom checker.
  • I jump into the rabbit hole called "Google" to search something that is on my mind. This leads to another thing, then another, and so on. Then the sun rises and I wonder what happened. I decide, of course, to google "What happened?" and then I am slammed with the most recent news stories which engulf me.
  • I get out of bed and start blogging.
  • I go on Twitter.
  • I go on Facebook (discovery: all my Facebook friends go quiet from 4:30am to 5:00am, like clockwork, but my Twitter never sleeps).
  • I think about all the spiders that just woke up and may be planning to build a web over my head in the darkness.
  • I get a drink of water. This only leads to a need to go to the bathroom just when I am about to fall asleep again.
Things That Kind-of Work
  • I read a book. I just remembered that I have one to read right now. (Wow, I might rest yet!)
  • I go on StumbleUpon. While this probably does keep me up a bit later than it should, I tend to exhaust myself with SU.
  • I watch an episode of something I never saw before on NetFlix. (I stick to half hour shows and watch no more than two per night.) I have now seen all of the Arrested Developments this way and I am working my way through Better Off Ted. Both shows are hilarious.
  • I listen to a book. This is awesome because my eyes get to rest, however, I do tend to fall asleep and have no idea where to pick up the book the next time I am listening.
  • I have a cup of Sleepytime tea or Calming tea. These both tend to knock me out.
 Well, so it goes, perhaps getting out of bed to start blogging is not such a bad idea after all - it seems I have lulled myself into quiet a sleepy state. I only hope I've done th same for you if you need to sleep as desperately as I do!
How do you deal with insomnia?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Teaching Appreciation Day

I loved more deeply than I ever thought possible. I gave my everything - my heart, my soul, my free time, my thoughts, my money, my dreams, my creativity; my best. Every day I showed up ready to share all that I knew and I prayed that they could understand. This is what I mean when I say I was a teacher.

My students weren't my biological children, but they were all my kids. I cried for them and with them, I fought for them and against them, I cheered for them and supported them and I held their hands as we walked through the dangerous valleys and peaks of high school mathematics.

It was my calling. It was what I was put on this Earth to do. I know this because it was amazing,  I was amazing. Not every semester, of course, or with every class, but when the chemistry was right I simply could not deny that I was walking the path God had set out before me. It was beautiful, it was euphoric.

No one could stop me from pouring my entire soul into every lesson, every question, every activity and every child on my path. I would walk around the hallways with hand-written math problems hanging around my neck, I would invent fictitious civilizations that we would have to save with our math, I would stay up all night answering e-mails, updating blogs or websites and printing full-color worksheets, homework calendars and "goodies" for my kids and I would wear every ridiculous, nerdy math t-shirt I could get my hands on (or create!). My goal was to shred the fear and anxiety surrounding the subject I had come to love and to build a community of shared learning where we could all discover new techniques in problem solving. 

There were connections outside of the classroom as well. I tutored after school, chaperoned the prom, played paintball, bingo and dodgeball with students on their Senior trip, and spent countless days of my life at all types of sporting events (including the wildly popular Thanksgiving Eve Basketball game) and supported our theater and music program each season. And then there were the clubs... of course I advised the Math Tam/Math Club for years, but then there were others - Asian American Awareness Club, Karma Club, Anime Club, Animal Rights Club and the funniest one of all: Video Game Club.
At the end of the year, when the state tests came, I would call every single house of every single student I had to tell them their grade - good news or bad news - and have our last conversation before summer. It was the last of many, because I had the annoying habit of calling up the houses of my kids (especially the forgetful ones) for all types of things, "Hey, how's that homework going?" or "Any questions about tomorrow's test... Yeeeess, the test is TOMORROW," or, my favorite, "Hi Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandpa, did your child tell you how awesome he/she was in class today?"

Teaching is the single most rewarding profession on this planet. The only thing that I can imagine holding a candle to it is parenthood. I am proud I was a teacher. No, let me rephrase that: I am proud that I AM a teacher ~ whether I am ever healthy enough to be able to re-enter the classroom, or achieve the greatest I once so mindlessly lived in, I don't believe anything can take away the teacher's soul within.

This post was written for a RemembeRED Prompt.
"Tell the story (without any trivialization or modesty) of something in your life that you are proud of."

Look easy? I'm guessing it will be a bit tougher than you think.

We are so used to downplaying ourselves, of apologizing for pointing out our own accomplishments. And? We'll have none of that here!

Your word limit is 700 words.