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Thursday, October 31, 2013

How to Hold on to Your Chocolate at Halloween

Trick-or-treaters scope out neighborhoods. They know who is giving our Snickers minis and Reeses Cups. They spread the word about where to find M&Ms. They dodge the addresses where hard, peanut butter flavored blocks wrapped in orange wax paper are dropped in sacks. 

It's great to get word that your house is the "good" house, but it could be even better to hold on to some of that chocolate for yourself for later. This is quite a conundrum in which to find one's self. The goal is to be the "good" and still have some chocolatey treats to spare.

To that end, I offer these tips:

1) Make the entry to your yard of Halloween hopes and horrors obvious and foreboding.



 2) Point the way to the candy bowl, if the trick-or-treaters dare proceed.










 
3) Show them what happened to the last trick-or-treater brave enough to knock on the front door.










4) Reassure them that you take good care of trick-or-treaters.






5) Station a greeter to make the children feel welcome at your home.











6) Above all, be friendly. Say something like, "Hello children. I'm so glad you came. Mama's not feeling well tonight. Come a little closer so I can hear you screeeeeeeammmmmmmmm."

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday's Child Gets Things Done

You went to bed last night and put your head on your pillow and ruminated on the numerous Monday-to-do-list things you failed to accomplish. You agonized about adding them to your Tuesday to-do list. You tossed and turned, thinking you'll never get everything done this week.

Fear not, my friend. Tuesday is here to rescue you from your woes and restore restful slumber. Tuesday is the most productive day of the week. Tuesday knows you couldn't get it all done on Monday. After all, you needed a day to recover from sitting around on Sunday.

And Tuesday won't leave loose ends lingering for Wednesday, because Tuesday knows that Wednesdays are for celebrating camels. Who can get anything done when camels are wandering the halls and looking over your shoulder?

Tuesday will take on Thursday's load, too, since Thursday is practically the weekend. No one should work on the weekend. And Friday is just Friday and it's getting ready for Saturday. Friday can't focus on the to-do list because Friday's job is to plan ahead.

 Tonight, you will sleep. Getting a monumental week's worth of work done in one day wears a person out. But just think how Tuesday opens a can possibilities for the other six days of the week. What will you do with those?


Friday, October 25, 2013

Ghosts in the Garden

I spent the latter part of the afternoon protecting my peppers, butterbeans and cucumbers from the much hyped overnight freezing temperatures. I muttered to the cat, "It's not supposed to be like this in Georgia in October." The cat whined, "Feed me."

Her uncertain, unstable beginnings stunted her empathy. She seems not to remember that I snatched her from the teeth of death, just like I'm trying to do with my jalapeno plants. I doubt they appreciate my heroic efforts either.

My husband just walked in and said, "It's not supposed to get as cold tonight as the weathermen were saying." He and the forecasters care about my heroic deeds about as much as the peppers and the cat.

10 Things to Do in 6 Minutes

What can you accomplish is six short minutes? Six minutes doesn't seem long enough to do anything, does it? Think again:

10 Things YOU Can Do in 6 Minutes (with time to spare)

  1. Floss your teeth.
  2. Paint your nails (use the polish that dries in 60 seconds).
  3. Plan a menu.
  4. Write a grocery list.
  5. Compose a handwritten note and address it.
  6. Outline your next - or first - novel.
  7. Make your bed.
  8. Eat an apple (keeps the doctor away, you know).
  9. Turn off lights around your home to save money.
  10. Organize your silverware drawer.
The BIG question is, Where do you find 6 whole minutes?

Keep the kids busy with audiobooks. The Beast of Blue Mountain audiobook is available from Audible.com and it just so happens to be 6-minutes long. They'll be so entranced by the suspense, the surprise and the giggles you will probably have an extra minute to just breathe.

Keep them busy a little longer with the print version, too, and who knows what mountains you can climb!.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Exercise is Not a Waste of Time

One of my current freelance projects is an article on Hot Yoga, a trend that hit my area of the country in the past year. This is how a basic class works:
  •  20-50 people gather in a room with the door and windows closed.
  • The instructor jacks the thermostat up to 105-degrees and infuses the air with humidity up to 60-percent.
  • Everybody assumes downward dog while sweat drips off the tip of the nose.
  • The sauna posture is held for 60-90 minutes.

Essentially, it's the same workout I get from weeding my garden at noon in August, except that I have the benefit of doing it alone. And I don't have to look at my ghastly, frizzy-haired reflection in the mirror.

Activities like Hot Yoga, or any other event in which scads of people get together to sweat shoulder to shoulder, make me claustrophobic. Just thinking about it gives me an aerobic workout, making my heart race and my blood pressure rise. Setting the room temperature to summer-day-heat-index-warning doesn't put me in the mood to move my body. It makes me angry.

I took up running as my exercise outlet. It's autonomous and self-directed, and the only body odor I have to smell is my own.

Unfortunately, running is torture, too. I haven't kept at it. Every time I go out for a jog, I come home disappointed that I didn't achieve the runner's high. My husband says that I didn't because a bouncy walk is not the same as running. He's wrong. It is the same and it isn't why I couldn't get over the hump.

My problem is that the entire time I'm pounding the pavement a list of my daily tasks scrolls through my head. I agonize over the other things I could be doing. Do you know how many things a person cannot do while she's running?
  • She can't fold clothes.
  • She can't read a book.
  • She can't wash dishes.
  • She can't write a book.
  • She can't design a flower arrangement.
  • She can't clean out her car.
  • She can't return phone calls.
  • She can't take a shower.
  • She can't shop.
  • She can't eat a bowl of ice cream.
I felt confined by the condition of running. It was as claustrophobic as sweating shoulder to shoulder with a room full of strangers. Wasting time is not on my daily agenda.

Marathoner David Babcock shares my opinion. Twenty-six miles, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 27 seconds is a long way to go to get to the end and have nothing to show for it. So he knitted a 12-foot scarf while running the Kansas City Marathon. On top of that, he earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records (something I've always wanted for myself). I hope that as a gesture of gratitude and good sportsmanship he gifted that monstrous neck wrap to the world's tallest man. At 8-feet, 3-inches, I bet the guy has a hard time finding a scarf long enough to accommodate his height.

So, Babcock proved that running isn't a total waste of time. A person can knit while she runs.

Maybe so. I'm going to stick to doing Hot Gardening poses alone in the bean rows. It's working for me.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Don't be Shy - Write a Novel with Friends

November is right around the proverbial corner, which means that Thanksgiving, Christmas and 2014 aren't far behind. The year is petering out. Have you done it? Have you accomplished the goals you spelled out on New Year's Day 2013?

No? Not even the novel you committed to writing?

All is not lost. There's still a chance to mark at least that one thing off of your list so you can call 2013 a success. November is the home of Nanowrimo - National Novel Writing Month. Sign up and say that you'll compose a 50,000-word narrative in one month. The Nanowrimo crew will provide help, support and encouragement throughout the endeavor. And you won't be alone. Thousands of writers take to the keyboard for this annual event.

BUT, if cooking the turkey and shopping for Christmas gifts crowds your calendar and you're just too intimated by doing the whole project yourself, don't worry. There are ways around that. You can still get your novel written and do it with loads of support from other writers. The folks at Grammarly can make your dream come true with Grammowrimo. The 50,000-word novel they propose will be a collaborative effort. You'll only have to type about 800 words and they provide cliff notes so you won't miss your cue. Sign up and contribute to the collective effort.

Make no excuses. Make a decision! Whichever option you choose, you'll have that nagging novel under your belt in November by the time the turkey sandwiches come out.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Listen to that Southern Drawl

It's me, folks, and all my southern drawl. The Beast of Blue Mountain is available as an audio book from Audible, and the audio book version will soon be available from Amazon and iTunes. Children will enjoy listening as they turn the pages of the paperback book or while riding in the car, taking a bath, or giving Mom a few minutes to relax.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fan Mail!

The best kind of mail is fan mail, especially from a child. I believe this kid has a future in marketing, too!

Transcription:
I liked the Beast of Blue mountain. my class like it! our Librarian liked it to! I hope you keep makeing books! love, Douglas


The Beast of Blue Mountain is receiving five-star reviews on Amazon, too!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Just Move Carefully


WARNING: This post is sarcastic and controversial. If you believe you may be offended by obvious irony, please read no further.
 

For children who survive the womb, Michelle Obama has instituted the Just Move Campaign, which encourages kids to quit eating chips in front of the television and go outside for fresh air and exercise. It's her response to the childhood obesity epidemic in the U.S.

To get on the Obama bandwagon, the United States Post Office printed stamps depicting children participating in a variety of athletic activities. None of us will ever send the Just Move message in the mail, however, because the powers that be have sent the message that helicopter parents yearn to hear: Move, but be careful, because you could hurt yourself when you move. Now that the financially strapped post office has printed the stamps, the sheets are being destroyed. One might draw the conclusion that the current administration doesn't like children as much as they profess.

The story on the wire is that The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition alleged unsafe acts are depicted on three of the stamps. They have judged the cannonball dive, skateboarding without knee pads and a headstand without a helmet to be dangerous activities. The stamps may encourage young people to mimic these movements that threaten life and limb. 

Other stamps in the collection feature a batter without a batting helmet, a girl balancing on a slippery rock, and a soccer player without shin guards, but these are not cited as offending pictures. Which shows us just how much our decision makers know. I've never heard of a kid incurring a brain injury from a headstand, but I have known kids not wearing batting helmets to suffer terrible blows to the head from bats and balls projected in their direction at high speeds. Broken legs and busted shins have resulted from playing soccer without shin guards, but what terrible injury has resulted from a cannonball other than a big splash that soaks a bystander?

It's good that this collection is being eliminated. A child inspired to jump rope might sprain an ankle or, worse, trip on the rope and break out her front teeth. The child running isn't wearing proper foot apparel for sure. That's a no-no that will lead to fallen arches. The basketball player isn't wearing knee pads, the girl turning a cartwheel isn't wearing protective head gear, and the child in the swing is going way too high for her own good, not to mention that the juggler risks splitting his head open by throwing more than one ball into the air at a time.

Moving is incredibly dangerous for kids. They could get hurt. Busted lips, bruised knees, skinned hands, and stitches could result. Children will cry. Parents will be heartbroken over their offspring's pain. And Michelle Obama and the U.S. Postal Service will be to blame for encouraging raucous, out-of-control behavior. For shame! Lucky for the American public, and especially the darling children, The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition stepped in to ensure no one gets hurt.

Boys and girls, if you must move, just move carefully. Better than that, though, unless you are fully clothed in bubble wrap, don't move at all. Stay on your sofa, eat chips, and watch TV.

(Food for thought: Three thousand babies each day are killed by medical professionals. The Federal government sanctions this brutal practice that threatens the lives of infants in the womb, who are unable to cry out and beg for mercy, unable to ask for a chance to prove themselves "wanted" and worthy of living. The Affordable Health Care Act includes provisions that mandate all insurance policies to pay for the murder of a baby in the womb at the mother's request. Shouldn't we be more worried about that than a kid doing a benign canon ball?)

Friday, October 11, 2013

House of Fire and Confusion

This is one of the fire trucks that arrived at my house on Sunday evening. I was away at a soccer game with my oldest son. My husband was at home in charge. This made me happy. The last time the fire department - every man on duty - showed up at my house, I was the adult in charge. 

When my husband saw the emergency lights panning the interior of our house through the porch windows, he ran to the front  door. Flinging it open, he rushed outside, expecting to see a neighbor's home swallowed in flames. 

Three fire trucks lined up on the curb. Men in all stages of fireman dress stood in the grass and on the sidewalk. The whiz of hoses unrolling had a sentimental twang. One hero called to another, "Hey, we've been to this house before!" 

"Yep," his partner answered. My husband, blinded by the red flashing lights and struggling to find his way out of the smoke boiling from our screened porch, stepped onto the front walk. "What's the emergency y'all?" he asked.

"Looks like you've got yourself a fire," the Chief answered, an axe in his hand.

"No," my husband said. He looked back our house smothered in smoke. He laughed. "No, everything is fine here. It's alright."

The Chief was not convinced. Men continued to suit up. Hoses buzzed. My beloved held up both hands, showing his palms to the crew to convince them to stand down.

"It's okay," he said. "I'm just cooking."

His escapade made the Wednesday paper: 


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Silent Lunch Treatment

The silent lunch is the school child's most dreaded punishment. He'd rather stand against the wall at recess than miss chatting up his table mates in the cafeteria.

School teachers have a predilection for silent lunches. While students want to hear themselves talk, school teachers say they want to hear themselves think. It isn't clear whether the teaching profession attracts people with mental illness or if the voices in teacher's heads arrive after years of wrangling kids into reading, writing and arithmetic.

The established existence of imaginary friends in the minds of teachers is affirming, however, for every person ever called down unjustly, for every student who ever whined, "But I wasn't talking." No matter how or when the thinking out loud started, silent lunches make it a heap easier to hear what the voices have to say.

A New York City restauranteur is taking diners back to the school cafeteria of their childhoods. Nicholas Nauman is enforcing the silent lunch philosophy, an idea which he claims he derived from an interaction with Buddhist monks. At Eat restaurant in Brooklyn, patrons are required to sit quietly - probably with their hands in their laps, another teacher favorite - throughout the serving of a four course meal.

The chef instituted this "fine dining experience" after observing that Buddhist monks in India eat breakfast without exchanging words. Why he needed to go all the way to India to see a.m. abstention from verbal interaction, I don't know. Some people just like to make life hard.

It's not only Buddhist monks who refuse conversation first thing in the morning. No one speaks at breakfast! It would be regrettable to start the day with eggs, bacon, grits and severe words one couldn't take back. It's best to sip coffee and let the caffeine settle on the brain before uttering anything other than grunts. One doesn't have to be a Buddhist monk to know that.

In an interview, the chef said that eating a fine meal in silence is a different way to enjoy the food. Forks clattering on plates and dishes clinking in the kitchen creates whimsical background music. He said that he senses great energy in the restaurant when noise is subdued. He attests that requiring his clientele to shut their traps improves their enjoyment of his fare.

Obviously, what's really going on here is that the chef has voices in his head. They have a lot to say and he needs to hear himself think. The energy he feels is due to diners who also have a lot to say, much as they did in the cafeteria in second grade. They will burst any second and negotiate standing against the restaurant wall in exchange for being able to tete-a-tete with others at table.

In his school days, Chef Nauman was was among the few children who looked forward to the silent lunch treatment instituted by teachers on bad days when the voices were particularly talkative. He cites Buddhist monks as the inspiration for his restaurant's institutional atmosphere because that explanation seems more enlightened than admitting his surly first grade teacher, Mrs. Sundwretchen, taught him everything he knows.

There is no other explanation, because the chef's testimony that food tastes better when the only sound in the room is other people's chewing and slurping is hogwash. Anyone who ever ate in a school cafeteria will witness to the fact that silence didn't make the mystery meat any more appetizing (or less of a mystery).

Monday, October 7, 2013

Football Infarction

Have you heard of the Holiday Heart Attack? Research data quantify an approximate 5% increase in cardiac events in the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years. The highest number is recorded on December 25, with December 26 a close second and January 1 coming in third. 

University of Georgia's Sanford Stadium
Since I hail from a long line of people who love to die during the holidays, I'm well-versed in the Christmas Cardiac. I dated a boy in high school, however, who came from a genetic heritage that didn't have the heart for college football season, the hap-happiest time of the year. It got so that they turned down the radio blaring the voice of Larry Munson during heated games between the University of Georgia's Sanford Stadium hedges and around the SEC.

I wonder who died in his family this past Saturday when Georgia beat Tennessee in overtime and the Saturday before when Georgia pulled out a narrow win against LSU in the last minutes of the game. If I could find that old boyfriend, I'd ask him about the funeral arrangements. I suspect that heart specialists and grave diggers all have job security this week.

Being a college football fan is hard work. Selecting the right shirt to put the team in the good graces of the guardian angel of the gridiron, waving the spirit towel, shaking the shakers, maintaining the energy on the sidelines, high-fiving, reprimanding referees and generally following through with assigned responsibilities is exhausting. But the exertion is downright dangerous, too. We're losing our fan base to the Football Infarction.

ERs are filling up every Saturday across the State of Georgia and I wager across the nation. I implore college coaches - Mark Richt - speak with your teams. Football Infarction is preventable. Save lives. Win assertively. Your fans can make the difference between a W or an L. You and the team can be the difference between the twelfth man being in the stands, in the hospital or in the ground.

***Crunch, crunch. Swish, swish. What was that noise in the night? Find out in The Beast of Blue Mountain. Save 15% using coupon code 4ZVQDJ79 at check out here.***

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Grace Unplugged Soundtrack Winner

Hear ye! Hear ye! As promised, the winner of the Grace Unplugged soundtrack will be announced today, October 3, 2013. Thank you to all who entered the drawing by leaving a comment on the Grace Unplugged Movie Review post. The winner was selected from the entrants by random drawing.

(Drawing details will be supplied upon request, but it should satisfy the inquisitive to know that I wrote the name of each entrant on a slip of paper, folded each slip in half twice, mixed the folded slips, then pulled one from the pile while averting my gaze. Despite what anyone tells you, this is how random drawings are done.)

And the winner is . . . drum rollllllll . . . SHERRY SCHERMBECK! When I messaged her in regard to her good fortune she replied, "Wow! I never win anything! Thank you so much. How kind. Have a wonderful day, Lucy." Other than saying what they all say - I never win anything - she was speechless (mostly because she won a prize and not an award, thus she was not required to give an acceptance speech).

Grace Unplugged opens in theaters tomorrow night, October 4. It's a movie for the whole family. For a complete summary and review I refer you again to my post. Grace Unplugged Movie Review.

***October is the month of suspense, surprises and thrills. Give your preschool to elementary age child the gift of literature that gives them all of that. It will stimulate their imaginations without rotting their teeth. Use Coupon Code 4ZVQDJ79 to receive a 15% discount on my new children's book, The Beast of Blue Mountain, at checkout. Order here.***

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October First is Discount Day

 
It's October. Your ghosts and goblins are hungry for treats and can hardly wait until Halloween Night. In the meantime, give them a treat that won't rot their teeth. Get a 15% discount on my new children's book, The Beast of Blue Mountain, through the month of October. Order here. At checkout, enter coupon code 4ZVQDJ79 (case sensitive) for a 15% discount on your total order, excluding shipping & handling.
Crunch, crunch. Swish, swish. What was that noise in the night? Discover the answer in this tale of suspense and surprise.

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