Photo credit: RJS Photography

Photo credit: RJS Photography

It’s so much easier to get overloaded than to move stuff off my plate.  I don’t have that many commitments outside my home, so I’m never quite sure how I get so overloaded.  I’m sure that poor time management skills and having a lot of things I want to do are part of the problem.  I don’t watch much TV (though I’m currently watching Breaking Bad… more on that later), and I’ve been trying to read less.

I realize that saying I’m trying to read less is probably a little strange to most people, but I have a serious book addiction.  I really cannot put books down once I start them, even if I’ve read them before.  Its not unusual for me to read a book in two days, but during that time, I’ve accomplished virtually nothing else.  So I have to just read less because I do have other things I want to do.

Right now I’m in one of my overloaded states, but it’s just been a busy few weeks.  I already work a 4/ 40 hour week with an hour commute each way.  I’ve recently had some things I’ve had to do to help family, extra trainings for work, and all the normal stuff to keep a household running.  Plus, since I’m a whole foods vegetarian, I pretty much have to cook.  Add that up to one overloaded person.

On top of all that, I gained a bunch of weight back that I had previously lost.  While I’m trying not to judge myself for that, it’s just not easy.  With the weather getting marginally cooler here, I’m trying to recommit to walking daily.  Just a half hour a day, and if I can’t do that, 20 minutes, and if I can’t do that, 10 minutes.  I’m reminding myself that the goal is improvement, not all or nothing.  All or nothing is what overloads me in the first place.

To all of you out there who are in the same boat as I am, be kind to yourself today.  And if you’re not going to judge me for being too busy and making poor food choices, don’t judge yourself either.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

My horoscope sign is Leo, so my element is supposed to be fire, but I identify far more with water.  As a teenager, fire and water were two of my favorite things to write bad poetry about. I love the sounds of the ocean, the smell, the taste.  I love floating in it and swimming into the waves.

Inspired by this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge at the Daily Post.

Character Development and Miley Cyrus

Judgmental cat is judging you.

Judgmental cat is judging you.

This week’s writing challenge at the Daily Post was to blog about a divisive issue, namely the whole Miley Cyrus thing at the VMAs.  Normally, I wouldn’t bother with this issue, because I didn’t watch it and don’t care enough about Miley Cyrus to give her space in my head.  That being said, when I went about with my day after I read the topic, things started popping into my head about character development for stories, and how that applies to people in the media.

First off, this isn’t a new issue.  Elvis shook it and scandalized a nation, and millions were shocked when Madonna did “Like a Virgin.”  Okay, pretty much all of Madonna’s early career was shocking.  I’m sure they were called all sorts of names and blamed for the moral downfall of youth.  I saw some of Miley’s performance, and I thought it was pretty disgusting, done for shock value and lacking in artistry.  But it’s not new.  It’s almost a rite of passage.  When I was in my late teens/ early 20s, I did some dumb things because I was trying to grow up too fast and find myself.  I was just lucky enough that none of it was caught on camera.  Hopefully, she’ll grow up, leave this phase behind her.  There are plenty of other young men and women waiting to be “scandalous.”

How does all this link to character development?  Well, I remember reading a bit of advice a long time ago.  It reminded authors that characters were not the people who wrote them, and to be dynamic, they should have their own thoughts, feelings, actions, that may be in direct opposition to the writer.  Books would be pretty boring if they always acted as their author did.  Hearing about Miley Cyrus got me to thinking about the complex motivations of other people, and reminded me that when I’m writing about young adults, they see the world much differently than people twice their age, and I’m sure differently than people twice that age!  If ten people see one event, they will have ten different viewpoints and memories about the event.

Thanks for the reminder, Miley.

Blue is For Nightmares- A Review

UnknownI’ve read the first two of an apparent four part series, starting with Blue is for Nightmares and White is for Magic by Laurie Faria Stolarz.  It’s a young adult series centered around Stacey, who learned kitchen magic from her now deceased, but beloved grandmother.  Stacey is having nightmares about her best friend Drea, and she knows from experience that her nightmares come true.  Stacey needs to figure out the dream before something bad happens to her friend.

To be honest, I liked Stacey, but I didn’t like her “best friend” Drea.  Throughout book one and two, I kept thinking that Drea was mean and selfish, and it was hard for me to watch how Drea pushed her around and away.

These books are a good, entertaining read, but I probably wouldn’t bother to buy them full price.  Get them used, borrow them from the library or a friend.  I read them on vacation, and they were perfect for that.  They were a nice, light read, but not so engrossing that I had trouble pulling away from them to go to my vacation activities.

Atlas Shrugged- Movie Review

by The TV Guy

UnknownAtlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, finally became a film after decades of inability to come up with a deal the author could agree with. The movie was in two parts, and at times felt like one of those after school specials funded by some sort of ultra right wing group. This is a book and movie that has been embraced by conservatives as a justification for greed and selfishness. The book was originally panned as an angry mean book that had no place in America thought when it was first written.

I support some of the basic ideas of allowing people to meet their own greatness. The problem with Rand is that her life experience has thoroughly distorted her sense of reality. She believed that by doing for others we hurt everyone. She has allowed for a generation of super rich to justify their greed and encourage them to have general disgust for those who have nothing.

Watch this, don’t watch this; it’s your call. The movie was so poorly put together that actors in part 1 and part 2 were different. I have to think that those who did part 1 had some sort of regret and became unable to part 2.

If you want a laugh, check this movie out. If you enjoy incongruent thought and average Joe bashing you will enjoy this one.

Hiking Makes Me Feel Old

San Tan Mountains, Photo Credit: Doree Weller

San Tan Mountains, Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I love to hike, and my friend and I have been hiking pretty consistently for the past 4 years. When we started, we only did 2 miles. These days, we do 5 miles in the summer and 7 miles when temperatures drop into the 80s or 90s. I love hiking as it makes me feel powerful, strong, and connected with what little nature we have out here.

Getting in my car after a hike is difficult, and getting out of my car is even more difficult. I swear I can hear my bones creak!  The morning after a hike, I’m usually more sore than I like to admit, and I can feel every muscle I’ve used.  But I do it again, week after week.  Why?  I just plain love it.

I love walking through the desert.  We’ve seen coyotes, rabbits, lots of lizards, birds, scorpions, weird prehistoric bugs.  I even saw a snake once.  We also found a skull of some type of animal, which was pretty cool.

The desert is a harsh place to live, and sometimes I regret moving here.  I miss the green that was everywhere in Pennsylvania.  In the grass we never bothered to water, the trees everywhere, flowers that didn’t really need special care.  We had to water the tomatoes, but if we missed a day, it was no great tragedy.

There are pockets of beauty here, and I’m constantly reminded of them when I hike.  I know when the growing seasons in the desert are, and I know that many things make their homes here, despite how hard life must be.

So even though my bones ache, that’s why I hike.  It’s not bad exercise either!

My 10 Favorite Books

UnknownIt’s no secret that I love to read, and in fact, I’m a re-reader.  I know that not everyone does that, but for me, it’s like visiting an old friend.  I have a shelf of books that I read at least once (or twice) a year.  Some of these books I’ve read upwards of 50 times.

10.  Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen- I read this one the first time because it was a classic, and I was trying to read more of the classics, but I absolutely adored it, and I even have pages post-it noted with my favorite parts, so that if I don’t feel like reading the whole thing, I can read a page here and a page there.

9.  Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte- I really have no idea what possessed me to read this book.  I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t a school thing.  I read it the first time somewhere in my teenage years.  When I re-read it, I usually skip over the parts with young Jane at the school and go straight to her time at Thornfield Hall

8.  Beautiful Disaster, by Jamie McGuire- This is a fairly recent addition to the favorites list. It’s a romance novel with all the turmoil and drama of young love, with two dysfunctional characters who don’t pretend to be anything but who they are. Travis and Abby are friends first, then lovers, then friends again before they get it right.

7.  Watership Down, by Richard Adams- Yes, it’s a book about rabbits. No, I’ve never seen the movie, so I have no idea how it compares. While the main characters are rabbits, it’s not a kids’ book. Fiver has a premonition that their home is about to be destroyed, and with the help of his brother, Hazel, they and a small group of rabbits set off to find a new home. On their way, they encounter deceit, a megalomaniac, superstition, and fear, and must learn to trust themselves and one another.

6.  Where The Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls- I cry every time I read this book, and I’ve been reading it once or twice a year (or more) since I was in elementary school. Twelve year old Billy wants hunting dogs more than anything, so he saves money for two years to buy the dogs. It’s a beautiful story of friendship, family, and enduring love.

5.  Lightning, by Dean Koontz- On the night Laura Shane is born, a stranger shows up at the doctor’s home, preventing him from leaving and forcing another doctor to attend the birth. The stranger continues to show up at critical points in her life as she ages, matures, and lives her life. As with all Dean Koontz books, there’s action, adventure, romance, and paranormal overtones.

4.  Harry Potter series, by JK Rowling- It’s a series, so it counts as one book. This is one of the best series ever, no matter what age. The series is about good and evil, friendship, family, and growing up. I love re-reading them from start to finish.

3.  Pollyanna, by Eleanor M. Porter- Pollyanna is an orphan who goes to live with her cranky Aunt Polly. No matter what, Pollyanna always finds a reason to be glad, and she teaches others to look at the bright side with her sunny disposition and show that of you look for the best in people, they’ll eventually prove you right.

2.  The Circle Trilogy, by Nora Roberts- Six people have been chosen to make a stand against evil. They discover that each one of them is stronger than they imagined, and that together, they’re stronger than any one of them is separately.

1.  Watchers, by Dean Koontz- This has been my favorite book since I read it in 1988.  Einstein is a genetically engineered, super-intelligent dog.  He meets Travis, a good man without any real reason to live.  Travis dedicates himself to keeping Einstein free, and along the way, finds the meaning that was missing, and a family.

While it was difficult to come up with only 10 books for the list, I did it by asking myself what books I’d want if I were stranded on a desert island and could only have these 10 for the rest of my life. Luckily, that’s not the case. 🙂

What’s your favorite book or books?


IMG_1236I recently rediscovered my love of printed pictures. Back in the days of film cameras, I used to take pictures in to be developed all the time. After I got my first digital camera in 2001, I just stored my pictures on my computer, which was nice, but not the same as putting albums together.

A few weeks ago, I was in Walmart and had an inspiration… Places still developed (printed out) pictures. I did some research, and found that Snapfish had a good reputation and was pretty inexpensive. I lucked out; when I started loading pictures onto Snapfish, there was a sale going on: 99 pictures for 99 cents. With shipping, I paid $7.50, which I still thought was a good price.

The pictures arrived in my mailbox in just a few days, and they looked pretty good to me. They’re not the crappy pictures I’ve tried printing at home. My only caution is that when you checkout, they ask if you want your pictures resized to 4×6, or if you want the original digital sizing. I chose it both ways, and I recommend keeping the digital sizing, as some of my 4×6’s came back with heads cropped off.

Overall, it was a great experience. I haven’t tried any other photo services, but I’m happy with Snapfish and they always seem to have something on sale, so I’m going to stick with them. Give them a try if you’re tired of only having digital photo albums.


Catching up with Breaking Bad

Guest post by The TV’s Guy’s Stepmother

Unknown-1After my nephew urged me to watch his favorite show, the TV Guy’s father and I watched the first episode of Breaking Bad. Five weeks later, we have somehow managed to watch 40 episodes (way more TV than I like to watch in such a short span of time…)  Needless to say, we are hooked!
The show has far exceeded our expectations, as former high school chemistry teacher turned crystal meth cooker, Walter White, has undergone an amazing transformation. By now, some of the characters are in so deep that their lives are forever changed, and there is no turning back.  It’s as if they were swept up in a wave.
Irony is everywhere, especially as Skylar, Walt’s sometimes estranged and perpetually conflicted wife, goes about finding a way to launder the drug money that her husband continues to amass.  The camera finds the face of their infant daughter and juxtaposes her innocence against her parent’s turmoil.
And we can’t forget Hank, Walt’s DEA agent brother-in-law, hot on the trail of Walt’s elusive alter-ego, Heisenberg.
Don’t plan on reading a magazine or checking Facebook while you’re watching this show… the plot twists demand-and deserve all of your attention.
Fourteen episodes to go for us until August 11th, when the first of the final eight installments airs.  I hate to see it end, but at the same time, can’t wait to find out
what the writers have in store for Walt and Skylar.