Friday, January 25, 2013

Week's Gone By



So... quick question. WHERE THE HELL DID THE WEEK GO?!?

I'm only asking because I am nowhere near accomplishing the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the week. I know you didn't ask and the last thing you want to read about is my goals but here I am, about to do it anyway.

A brief recap:

—I didn't take the Donate Pile to Goodwill because I forgot to put it in the car the day I went. Really, I'm smart in other ways. I just can't think of what those ways are.

—I didn't work out at all this week. I didn't work out at the beginning of the week because I was suffering from a rather painful right calf muscle injury. I didn't work out at the end of the week because I was struck by an extreme case of laziness. I did, however, manage to eat a couple of chocolate croissants. Of course, my goal was to not do that, not unless I completed the second draft of my book blurb.

—Which I didn't. I thought I had all the right words/phrases, just the wrong order so I printed a copy, cut it up into individual sentence strips and started playing a game of Jig Saw Puzzle. It looked like this:

Fat Cat standing guard. Watching, judging, scheming, plotting...


and later it looked like this:

...snacking

Usually this technique works wonders for me (not the cat eating the blurb part but the rest of it). I can see the whole thing laid out before me and it's much easier than cutting and pasting in a word document. This time, unfortunately, I did not experience the same success. And Fat Cat had nothing to do with it. It's me.

I need to cut stuff out of the beginning and write a transition paragraph leading to the end line, just as soon as I decide what that end line should be. Sad to say, I can't quite get a grasp on it. Somehow, I moved backwards this week. I am no longer convinced I have all the right words. Or any of the right words.

Hence the chocolate croissants. And the chocolate chip cookies. And the chocolate chip muffins. And the... Nevermind.

I know I must be overthinking it (at least I hope that's what it is) so my new strategy is to stop overthinking it. And I will. Just as soon as I figure out how...

So goal-wise, this week was truly terrible. But here are the (non pastry) highlights from my week:

—Our house guests:

Maximus the Mighty

and

Brewster the Bold

—The New Guy (aka the "Are you having fun yet" guy) quit The Store. And I didn't have anything to do with it. I did write this haiku, though, when I found out:

goodbye to New Guy
been swell working with you but
glad to see you go


It's not my best but I was pretty punch drunk when I heard the news. I know, it sounds mean but there are just so many times one can ask "Are you having fun yet?" before one starts to damage my calm (For future reference, that magic number is 2.) and I was really stressing the prospect of having to work an inventory with him.

—And last, but certainly not least, this conversation with my niece:

Her: Today my class got to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" over the loudspeakers at school.
Me: That's pretty awesome. I don't think I ever got to do that in third grade. Or any other grade, for that matter.
Her: Well, did you even have loudspeakers when you were in school?
Me: Yes, we had loudspeakers when I was in school. I doubt I'm as old as you think I am.
Her: Are you sure about that?
Me: No.

That's all from me today. Hope y'all have a fantastic (and warm) weekend! And I promise I won't blog about the blurb or any goals at all next week...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

YOU WILL LOVE TRAINS

The Conway Scenic Railroad
So some of you may know of my colorful history with a certain Railroading Enthusiast magazine.*

If you're not familiar with my history with Railroading Enthusiast magazine*, here's a brief recap: They've been stalking me since 2009.

Apparently, they really want me to love trains. And no matter how many times I request it, and how many times they claim they've done it, they just won't take me off their mailing list. They're like some kind of maniacal Avon lady determined to make quota.

And I can't scare them off with  my abnormally large German shepherd.

Yesterday marked the beginning of the latest "You've Got To Be Kidding Me!" mail cycle. So in honor of this event, I am re-posting the following letter (first posted in 2009):

Dear Railroading Enthusiast Magazine**,

Please, please, PLEASE, stop sending me renewal notices telling me that my subscription is in danger of running out. I do not care if my subscription is in danger of running out. Mostly because I DO NOT HAVE—nor never have hada subscription to your magazine. This, I realize, has not seemed to discourage you from sending me your magazine on a regular basis.

I thought this would have been taken care of last November when I first received a subscription renewal notice. The November issue would be my last, you threatened, if I did not send in payment. I did not send in payment and yet—and yet!—another issue appeared in my mail the following month. And the month after that and the month after that.

I do not want your magazine. No offense. I think trains are nice. I think trains are swell. I wave to the weirdos on the Conway Scenic Railroad when they wave to me and I'm stuck waiting for them to pass. I even took a train to New York City once. It was fun.

But I am not a railroading enthusiast so I do not want your magazine. To answer the questions in your leaflet, I do not savor the glory days of steam railroading. I am not a die-hard fan of early diesels (but I am a fan of Die Hard). I am not interested in reading thrilling tales from real railroaders. Nor am I interested in the exciting pamphlet concerning great train stations.

Also, I do not want the special commemorative coin commemorating your magazine. Nor do I want the classic trains DVD series or the special commemorative coin commemorating the classic trains DVD series. I do not want the classic model trains magazine nor the classic model trains catalog. And if there's a special coin commemorating either the model trains or the catalog, I don't want that either.

I'm sure somewhere out there is a railroading enthusiast who would be genuinely enthusiastic about all of these things. It's just not me. It never has been me and never will be me.

So please stop the insanity. You're getting to be as bad as another magazine that shall remain nameless. They awarded me with a one year subscription back in 1994 that didn't run out for ten years. I do not want your magazine for the next ten years. I don't even want it for the next ten months or weeks or days. One issue was a fluke, the second was funny and now you're just stalking me.

Please stop it.

Yours Truly,

Me.

*— Not its real name.
**— Still not its real name. And, as far as I know, not the name of any magazine anywhere. But if there is a Railroading Enthusiast magazine out there and someone from that magazine is now reading this post and scratching your head wondering what the hell is going on, rest assured that I'm not talking about you. But please don't take that as an invitation to start sending me stuff, 'kay?

 

Monday, January 21, 2013

In Which I Cry Uncontrollably And Other Things

First things first. Here's me after yesterday's AFC Championship game:








Well, you get the idea. I'm obviously not an overly happy camper right now. My team lost. Boy, did they lose and they looked like crap doing it. Sigh. So I guess the "good news" is (please note that I'm saying this in an exasperated tone while rolling my eyes) is that I can be totally relaxed when I watch the Superbowl in two weeks because I Will. Not. Care. who wins. Instead, I can focus on the awesomeness of the game itself and beer and Doritos (I always have Doritos on Superbowl Sunday. I don't know why. Must be all those advertisements.) and it'll be great. Well, all right. It won't be great. But it'll be something. And if I have enough beer, I might not care what that something is.


But, seriously, congratulations to Ravens fans. And to 49ers fans. Your teams played well. Unfortunately for my team.

Now let's move on...

Last Monday, I set myself two incredibly ambitious goals. Well, maybe more mildly ambitious goals. They were...


1. Work out at least three times this week.

 
Accomplished. The second workout was kind of half hearted and probably didn't have very many actual health benefits (and not just because I followed it by eating two chocolate croissants followed by two chocolate chip muffins) but at least I did it. I added another eleven miles to my monthly total. 

2.  Take another pass at the book blurb to make it something less embarrassing.

I did this too. And I like to think it was successful. At the very least, it wasn't completely unsuccessful. I still don't feel confidant enough in it to actually share it with anyone but it's coming along. It certainly can't get much worse. 

Boy, I hope I didn't just jinx myself horribly.

Here are the goals for this week:


1. Work out at least three times this week. And then don't eat my weight in baked goods and pastries.

2. Take the Donate Pile to Goodwill. And then don't eat my weight in baked goods and pastries.


3. Complete a second draft of the less embarrassing book blurb. And then celebrate by eating my weight in baked goods and pastries.

That's gonna do it for me today. What do you have going on this week?
 
  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Which I Review Les Misérables...

...And probably cement my status as a Mean Old Biddy.

Last week, I went to see both Les Misérables and The Hobbit.  I've been meaning and wanting to see them since they came out in December but my severe upper respiratory infection had other ideas. So I know these reviews are very late but I'm posting them anyway. And I will include spoilers so please consider yourselves warned.

Today, I offer you my thoughts on Les Misérables...

At the risk of having rotten vegetables thrown at me, I didn't swoon over Hugh Jackman's performance. I'm dismayed that he won a Golden Globe and really hope he doesn't win an Oscar (but I'm pretty sure it'll go to Daniel Day Lewis anyway). I didn't hate Hugh's performance— I really didn't— but neither did it really move me. Jean Valjean has some big sweeping emotional songs and I thought Hugh was competent but not swoon-worthy. Give me Colm Wilkinson (who, coincidentaly played the part of the Bishop in the film) or Gary Morris anyday. Here's a clip of Colm Wilkinson brilliantly singing "Bring Him Home":



Anne Hathaway was swoon-worthy. (Side note: when I say 'swoon-worthy' here, I don't mean in a Stephen Amell with his shirt off kind of way. I mean in a punch-you-in-the-gut emotional kind of way. I want to be swept away in the song. I want to be awash in emotion. And if an artist can so move me, then it is swoon-worthy.) Her rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream" actually elicited tears from me. Lovely. And I shall worship at the alter of the divine Samantha Barks (Eponine) for all of eternity. Eponine has long been my favorite Les Mis character and performing that role is one of my secret life goals (well, not so secret now, I guess). Samantha Barks was glorious.



Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were great as the Thénardiers. "Master of the House" is such a fun song and I love to sing it, as everyone in the theater found out. I was sad that "Dog Eat Dog" was cut from the movie. Speaking of cut songs, I was dismayed to find that "Turning" had not been included in its entirety. That is such a pretty song and I wish it all had been included. And not just because I was still singing it when the movie had moved on to the next scene. Amanda Seyfried was fine as Cosette. Didn't really care one way or another because after "Castle In A Cloud", I kind of lose interest in the Cosette character. Not her fault. She was written that way. Marius was fine. Nice, I guess. His song "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" is one of my favorites and I thought he performed it well but I found his hair to be very distracting. I was especially impressed by how well his hair gel held up. Don't get me wrong... you're involved in the battle at the barricade, you're gonna want something with hold. (Name! That! Reference!

The kid who played Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone) was freaking adorable and awesome and I even though I knew it was coming, I got emotional when he died. Bravo, little Gavroche, you're the top of the class.

"One Day More" was brilliant except for one thing (more on that in a minute) and "Do You Hear The People Sing" made me actually want to jump up and down with excitement.

And then there was Javert (Russell Crowe). Javert did not make me want to jump up and down with excitement. Quite the opposite. At the risk of him tracking me down and beating the hell out of me, I did not enjoy Russell Crowe's performance. From the the very first note that escaped from his throat, I knew I wasn't going to like it. Maybe I've been spoiled by my beloved Broadway recordings that I've been listening to for longer than I care to admit, but I don't think he had the voice needed for this role. Javert's songs— in particular "Stars" and "Javert's Suicide"— are so freaking powerful and solid and need someone with a powerful, commanding voice to deliver them. Like so:



And Russell Crowe's voice was far too thin and weak. Please don't track me down and kick my ass, Russell. I think if it was a non-musical version of Les Mis, you'd be a great choice for Javert. You just kind of suck in the musical version. And by 'kind of', I mean 'a lot'.

So, overall, I liked the film but I did not love it. The miscasting of Russell Crowe has just really gotten under my skin. I didn't buy the soundtrack (Seriously, how do you NOT include "Do You Hear The People Sing" on a Les Mis highlights album??) and I won't be buying the movie when that's released on DVD.

That's gonna do it for me today. Be sure to tune in next time to find out if I'll be this cranky about The Hobbit...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Winning. Or Maybe Just Not Losing

Wes Welker, I love you!
First let me get this out of the way...

THE PATRIOTS WON!!!! THE PATRIOTS WON!!!!

I was a little concerned because, going into last night's game, I hadn't picked one single winner in any of the playoff games. I rooted for the Bengals and then the Vikings. I rooted for the Redskins. I even rooted for the Colts, a fact that made my father-in-law proud but caused my stomach to hurt.  I then rooted for the Broncos (because I really dislike the Ravens, despite their literary based name)  and the Packers.

But I put on my lucky tee shirt (seriously, the Pats haven't lost a game this season when I've been wearing that shirt) and paced around. I swore at the refs (a lot) and didn't truly relax until the time ran out and my boys in blue were the victors.

And next weekend, I get to do it all over again. (somewhere The Man is groaning and plotting a trip to anywhere) Woo Hoo!

Moving on...

Last Monday I posted a list of four goals that I meant to accomplish during the week. And here's the funny thing... I actually did it. Early even. I finished the fourth and final goal on Thursday afternoon. I really didn't know what to do with myself then. Sad, I know, but true.


1.  Work out at least three times this week.


I ran/walked a total of 10.5 miles last week. Not a lot, I know, but last year I only ran/walked a total of 10 miles the entire month of January. This would be more.

2. Write a workable draft of a book blurb.

I am now the proud-ish owner of a book blurb draft. It's quite possibly the worst thing I've ever written but it's a jumping off point, right? I thought briefly about sharing said blurb draft with you so y'all could tear it apart and tell me how to make it better, but it's so bad it's embarrassing so maybe I'll just take another crack at it first.
 
3. Clear out the jeans I no longer wear and put them in the 'donate' pile.


Six pairs of jeans, three pairs of corduroy pants into the pile and all of a sudden, I no longer look like I hoard denim. Just novels.

4. Get a freaking haircut.

I was concerned this would be the goal I would fail at because that would truly be ridiculous but I went to a salon in town and begged them for a walk-in appointment. I'm pretty sure the hairdresser took one look at me and figured it was her civic duty to help the helpless so she squeezed me in. Fortunately, she has German shepherds so we had something to talk about. I don't know if you know this about me but I kind of suck at small talk.

But I survived the social interaction (all fifteen minutes of it) and decided to celebrate by taking a couple of days off. I went to the movies, as I promised myself I would, and saw both Les Miserables and The Hobbit. I'm tempted to post a mini review of each but that'll have to wait until another day.

Because right now, it's time to talk about this week's goals...

1. Work out at least three times this week.

It worked out (haha...) so well last week so why not, right?

2. Take another pass at the book blurb to make it something less embarrassing. 

It's really bad, y'all. I am not kidding.

And I also think that's all for goals. For this week at least. I'm sure I'll think of something to add to it later.

What are your goals for the week? 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Band Beginnings

Today is the Beginnings Blogfest hosted by L.G. Keltner, celebrating the one year anniversary of her blog. Participants (click on the picture to the left for a complete list) are asked to write about a beginning that is important to them. The rest is up to us.

I was going to write about my beginnings as a writer but I already did that here.  I thought I could post the poem I wrote in elementary school that was published in the local paper (technically the first thing I ever published. And also the only thing. But whatever) but as I was looking through the photo album in which the news clipping lives, I came across a photo of my high school band.  It was a photo op with our senator at the time, George Mitchell, during our trip to Washington D.C.. We're sitting on the Capitol steps in our god-awful uniforms (thankfully sans hats), all of us smiling (well, most of us smiling), all young and full of potential.

Had I the ability to share this photo with you, I would. But as I am currently without scanner technology, I cannot. And my haircut has nothing to do with it. I actually look kind of cute in the picture. Despite the band uniform.

But anyway, this picture has inspired me to tell you the story of how I came to join the high school band.

The opportunity to learn musical instruments through the school system started in the fifth grade. It was an optional thing. If one was interested, they could rent (to own) an instrument and join either the band or the orchestra. Percussion, the saxophone and the violin were the most popular and while I had a little spark of interest, I ultimately joined neither. I'm not sure it ever occurred to any of my siblings or me that we could really do such a thing. So we didn't.

My best friends did. One of them, a girl named MJ, played the flute. Another girl, Heidi, played the trombone. Jamie played percussion.

I played softball. Badly.

Then came the seventh grade. I walked into the junior high that first day, went to my homeroom and received my schedule. Imagine my surprise when the first class I was scheduled to attend was band.

"But I don't play an instrument," I told my homeroom teacher. I think his name was Mr. Leighton.

"I don't know what to tell you," Mr. Leighton said. "You'll have to talk to the guidance office."

So I talked to the guidance office. Apparently, they had gotten me confused with MJ.  It happened a lot during our high school years because we shared the same last name and a very similar first name. It came in handy later on in our high school careers when one of us wanted to skip a class. (not that we ever did that...) So the guidance office agreed to take me out of band. However, the guidance office told me I would have to attend band rehearsals until they figured out what to do with my schedule.

So I went to band and I explained to the teacher, Mrs. MacIntyre, that my enrollment was a mistake. That I didn't play an instrument. Any instrument. Nor could I read music. I was currently the most useless member of the entire band.  So Mrs. MacIntyre sent me to the back of the room where I spent a week sitting on the heater and listening to the band learn whatever songs they were learning.

By the end of the week, the guidance office had finally figured out what to do with me but there was one small hitch: I'd been bitten by the music bug and I wanted to learn an instrument and be a part of the band for real.

I ended up learning the clarinet because my aunt had one from her student days that I could use. Mrs. MacIntyre spent so much of her spare time teaching me. I didn't even know how to read music. I didn't know anything and I was two years behind the rest of her students. But she got me there and by the time I graduated from high school, I was first chair clarinet. I also learned to play the flute, oboe, trombone, trumpet and piano. I learned to conduct (poorly) and even composed my own music. I even played in college for a while until the schedule conflicted with my ability to earn a degree.

But my life was completely changed that seventh grade year. And all because of a clerical error and the dedication of one teacher.

§§§

Thanks for L.G. Keltner for creating and hosting a very cool blogfest. Be sure to check out her blog and the tales of the other participants!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Goals of the Week

As you may have guessed from the oh-so-clever title of today's post, I'm talking about my weekly goals. I really need to come up with a more creative way to say I'm talking about my weekly goals. Maybe that should be one of my goals. I Googled "song titles containing the word goal"  and got nothing. Then I looked up Goal Songs, as in songs that are played when a certain team scores a goal. But that didn't really help. It did make me reminisce about my Alma Mater's school song, The Maine Stein Song (Drink, Drink, Drink!) because we sang that song a lot when our hockey team scored. Or the football team scored or whatever. Or, if you were a member of the University Singers, you sang it three times a day on tour. Plus at every other freaking concert you gave. Not that this has anything to do with anything else. It's just one of those happy, strange little detours that frequent my mind. 

Anyway, with that detour out of the way, let's get down to business. I talked last week about my goals for the year. Those goals then get broken up into monthly and weekly goals. But I won't blog about them all the time. Probably.

Here's what I'm going to accomplish this week:

1.  Work out at least three times this week. Each work out is to include 15 minutes of yoga, 15 minutes of strength training and a 30 minute run/walk.

2. Write a working draft of a back of the book blurb. No more jokey fake blurbs because "Buy this book; it'll make you cool!" is not going to cut it anymore.

3.  My closet is overflowing with jeans, many of which I no longer wear. Time to clear those out and put them into the "donate" pile.

4.  Get a freaking haircut. It's been put off long enough and it's time to do something about it.

And when I finish these four goals, I shall then treat myself to a delicious chocolate croissant and perhaps even a movie because I still have yet to see The Hobbit or Les Miserables. Shameful, I know, but I've been sick. Well, I'm still sick but I have given all the time over to being sick that I'm willing to give. I've got things to do and being isn't one of them.

This may work better in theory. But we'll find out.

One last thing before I sign off for the day... today is my sister's birthday. I was negligent and didn't get a card or anything else in the mail to her so I'm posting the following video in her honor... 


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Here We Go Again: An IWSG Post

 Today is the first Wednesday of the month which means it's time for another installment of Alex J. Cavanaugh's increasingly popular Insecure Writer's Support Group where writers all over the blogosphere shout out (or whatever) their insecurities and receive back words of understanding and support from those who have been there and survived that.  Click on the link for more information or for a complete list of participants.

So, last year at this time, I was writing a post about my new endeavor to self publish my novel.  I was going to publish that novel by April June September October November December 2012.  I even won a giveaway and had little 'promotional' stickers made up:



that are now delightfully incorrect, like a newspaper declaring Dewey the winner over Truman. You know, only without all the significance to the actual world.

But then I didn't.

(I know. You're all like "Really? Why didn't you say something? I mean, it didn't really sink in the first 500 times you mentioned it but now I get it!")

So I'm kind of starting over this year. 2012 turned out to be a learning year. A building year, like when a baseball team loses all its starters and has to start from scratch.  I fortunately don't have to start from scratch so 2013 will be the year my team wins the World Series.  Or, since it's football season and my team's in the playoffs, 2013 will be the year my team wins the Super Bowl.  Or, at least makes the Super Bowl.

And I am slowly starting to be okay with that. Slowly. I don't want to dwell. I know I have been and I don't mean to dwell and be hard on myself and kick myself when I'm down. I want to jump up and knock this thing out of the park. I want to split the uprights and... whatever the equivalent of a home run is in football. And I think I can do it. I like to think I'm smarter and wiser and closer to the finish line than before.  I like to think that come January 2014, I won't be writing this post over again. You all have been a wonderful group and I feel bad— really bad— about my broken record-ness.

So it ends now.

And if it's not too much to ask you for a favor... If you're a self published author and there's something you found out about the experience that you wish someone had told you before you started wading in these waters, I'd love to hear about it.

Here's the inspiration behind today's post's title:




ONE LAST THING OF NOTE: Author Christa Desir has come up with a great idea: The Jan Plan.  You may have seen it on other blogs or on Twitter but the idea is starting the year off right by actually finishing something.  The something is up to you. Maybe it's a NaNoWriMo project. Maybe it's your laundry (or is that just at my house?). Whatever it is, it doesn't matter. But it's a great thing for writers in which to consider taking part. If you're interested, be sure to head over to her site to check it out...



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Year Of Doing Better

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope you all had a safe and happy holiday.

I had an evening of trying to get my anxiety ridden dog through the town's firework festivities (we haven't yet found anything that works on a consistent basis), followed by scrubbing vomit out of the rug when all our efforts failed.

Have I mentioned how much I love fireworks?

But it's all over now, the dog's still alive and my rug is clean again, as is my slate. A slightly convoluted segue but what else would you expect from the mind behind this blog?

As I mentioned yesterday, today I shall reveal the five major goals I am setting myself for the year 2013.  And boy, are they going to look familiar.  Here's hoping for a very productive 2013 if for no other reason than I'll get to write all brand new goals come 2014...

1.  Publish Effigy

Every year I get a little bit closer. And I have every reason to believe that this year will be the year I actually make it happen.

2.  Participate in NaNoWriMo 2013

This is, interestingly enough, the goal about which I am the least sure. But November just wouldn't seem like November to me anymore without this challenge so I'm going to sign up and see where the fates take me.

3.  Be a better blogger

Last year, I ignored this blog quite a lot. This year I shall endeavor to do better. I resolve to post more regularly and to visit other blogs more regularly. I keep missing out on awesome stuff and I'm looking to stop that.

4.  Walk, run or bike at least 500 miles

This goal is designed to make sure I at least make an attempt to be healthy and active.

5.  De-clutter

It really needs to be done. And every year I get a little bit closer to being able to see the back of my closets. How in the world did I accumulate such... stuff?  The bonus is, if I get rid of it, I'll have more room for books.

THAT'S GOING TO do it for me on this fine holiday. Did you set any goals/resolutions? Did you set a resolution and have already broken it? Did I ever tell you about that one year when I made a goal to eat more donuts? That was the one year when I accomplished every goal I set for myself. Maybe I should set that goal again...

Until next time...