Monday, May 24, 2010

Things that Suck

I wrote a long, happy, probably unenduringly boring blog post on my way home from Massachusetts yesterday, but "Things that Suck" is, unfortunately, much more apropos to today.

Things that Suck:

1. Driving 19.5 out of 51.5 hours.

2. Getting food poisoning.

3. Having to get up every hour through the night while someone else suffers food poisoning.

4. Staying up late after a 7-hour drive to do homework, then not getting to turn it in on time anyway because you have food poisoning.

5. Having your third and last EGS picnic, and having it rain for the 3rd $%^@#$ing time.

6. Getting the astronomical lab bills for ruling out appendicitis.

Things that Do Not Suck:

1. Spending approximately half of the remaining 32 hours holding the sweetest, most wonderful, cuddly babies who ever lived.

2. Not getting food poisoning yourself.

3. Not being the one with food poisoning.

4. Having the homework done.

5. Not having to skip the "inside" picnic because you only had fries, not fries AND chicken nuggets, so your food poisoning symptoms were mild and short-lived.

6. Ruling out appendicitis.

The Whole Story:

The drive to Massachusetts was not the worst one we've ever made, but 8 hours in the car after a full day of work/school, after getting up before 6:30 a.m., is hard. And then driving up and down I-495 seemed interminable, even though it was never all that long. I hate I-495.

Our family gathering included my grandfather and his wife, my aunt and one of her and my mother's best friends, me, my brother, my two cousins, and the combined children (two older kids—mine—two toddlers, and three infants).

There was much passing of the babies. They spent all day Saturday sleeping on various family members—especially Number One, who would never give one up if she could help it—and still slept through the night! We really hated saying goodbye to them, since we only get together every few years, and obviously they won't be babies anymore.

Even without the babies, it was a great visit with family I adore. Very much worth all the driving, especially now that it's done. :)

Travel Tip: Stay away from that Wendy's. No, not that one, the other one. The one about 2 hours and 15 minutes from Grafton, MA, in NY, off I-84, across from Taco Bell and just outside a Wal-Mart Plaza. If I could be more specific than that, I'd report them.

I don't like fast food very much, and definitely not on the road. I was going to skip eating, or maybe just get some fries. I am very grateful to my husband for insisting we find the Panera Bread that had been on the exit sign but was hiding behind trees and around a corner. He and I ate there. We're fine. Number One had fries and chicken nuggets, and as mentioned, is still paying for it (poor kid). Number Two had fries and a burger and a touch of reaction last night, but is also fine. The fried stuff from Wendy's is the ONLY thing all day yesterday that they had and we didn't, and the timing was right (four-six hours after eating). I watched Kitchen Nightmares after we came home, and all those images have been running through my head since Number One first started you-know-whating. I may never eat out again.

Number Two is totally bummed, I'm sure, despite not being sick. Her EGS class has had an end-of-year "picnic" for three years. The first two it rained, and they had to be inside. I checked the weather forecast last night at 11 p.m., and it was partly cloudy for today, no rain mentioned. But guess what? It's been drizzling since we got up. Was supposed to clear by now, and isn't giving any sign of it. I know this is a small thing compared to food poisoning, but it still sucks!

I don't want to talk about the lab bills. *sigh* But hey, she didn't have appendicitis!

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Best Laid Plans

In my day-to-day schedule, it's far more likely that my well-planned day will fall apart by 9:00 a.m. than not. But usually it's little things, I get derailed by circumstance or my own reshifting priorities, or work coming in from clients, etc.

Today started with this to-do list:

1. Download writing assignment from client and write it, send back to client via e-mail.

2. Download proofing job from client, proof, send back to client via e-mail.

3. Download other proofing job from client, proof, send back to client via e-mail.

4. Draft Supernatural Sisters blog post I forgot to do last night.

5. Draft list of questions for June class speakers and e-mail.

6. Do laundry.

7. Clean house, mostly vacuuming and mopping.

See a pattern there? I bet some of you might guess what happened as I launched into these tasks.

The power went out, accompanied by a giant boom from a block or two away.

It stayed out.

The "convenience" of paperless billing reverses at moments like this, because I have nothing with the electric company's number on it. Though I confess I did put the battery in my laptop, reboot it, and try to go online to get the number before going DUH, my router runs on electricity.

I found a number (it was the Choice line, about changing electric generators, though) and went outside with my cell phone to see if I could back-door in to PPL's main switchboard, but no luck. While I was out two other neighbors came out to see if my power was out, too. One guy said he'd called and reported it, and the automated recording told him it would be back up in 3 hours.


I almost seized the moment and spent the time reading. Because none of those things on my to-do list could be done, or not done the way I wanted to do them, without electricity. But my client work really needed to be done, so I hauled myself to B&N and their free WiFi.

An hour later, my husband called me. He'd tried the house first and the answering machine came on, sans recording, which meant the power was already back. Cr** again. I checked the outage report and sure enough, it said our account had no outage. So I guess I should have stayed home anyway.

So five of the items on the to-do list are done, but I still have two big ones, Number One will be home in half an hour, and I won't have time to get to the book again before we go to the Main Event, an intro to middle school that lasts for two and a half hours.

Check back tomorrow for the next installment of Natalie's Excuse Week! *sigh*

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stupid Dreaming Thing

So you know how I said the other day that I was still dreaming heavily, despite writing going so well?

I was going to post (and forgot) that on Sunday I woke up blissful, because while I knew I'd been dreaming vividly and intensely, I was not exhausted and I couldn't remember a single detail of the dreams. I was quite happy!

But then I came home. And I didn't write yesterday. And the last two mornings, dragging myself out of bed after the very obnoxious alarm (I need to get a new one!) interrupted REM sleep, I've been cursing my brain.

Seriously, is it too much to ask for a few nights of solid, real sleep?
On the writing front...

I've been dying to get back to my books, but have let life interfere. Workmen at the house, grocery shopping, cleaning, and other obligations needed my attention after four days away. But I'm poised and ready and will try to get some done tonight.

In the meantime, I've discovered a drawback to having three WIPs (works in progress). Taking Action needs a lot cut and redone. No problem. I had an idea and was going to start over, then realized it would make a better sequel, so back to plan A for revision, but even though I knew what to do, it's hard. So hey, book 1 is going so well, I'm just going to work on that! Until, I supposed, I decide that's hard, too.

Oh, well. That's the way it goes!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Retreat: Final Report

I apologize for not blogging every day during the retreat, but I was so determined to do well this year! I tried really hard not to let myself get distracted.

I was going to post a few pictures, but my camera battery is dead and my card doesn't fit the reader of this computer. So maybe tomorrow.

I had no idea what to work on this weekend, so I started three different books. Here's my final breakdown:


Entanglement: 5067
Stealing Pain: 3597
Taking Action: 0


Entanglement: 400
Stealing Pain: 595
Taking Action: 4026


Entanglement: 5134
Stealing Pain: 4029
Taking Action: 2042


Entanglement: 0
Stealing Pain: 839
Taking Action: 0

Book Totals:

Entanglement: 10601
Stealing Pain: 8221
Taking Action: 6907

Grand Total: 25,729

I think you can tell which book has grabbed me the most. :) Entanglement's story and characters have a built-in impetus that's keeping me going. Stealing Pain hasn't gone where I expected, and it doesn't feel like I expected, and I think I need to let that one percolate a bit. Taking Action needs about half of it cut because it really sucks, but I know how to fix it (I think). So I'm going to try to keep working on all three, though Entanglement will probably get most of my attention.

The retreat was typically great. Even the ER trip led to much laughter. As always, there was tons of camaraderie and encouragement, relaxation and silliness. And, obviously, writing!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Random Thoughts on "Swan Song"

Watched the Supernatural finale after lunch. Loved it. Went back to find the comments of my friends who also loved it, but came across complaints. I hate when that happens. It's not that I think everyone should love it like me, or that no one can criticize. I just hate that I see it and it brings me down.

But that's okay, because *I* thought it was incredible. I LOVED LOVED LOVED the Impala story, which epitomized the role of Metallicar in both the show and the brothers' lives. I loved the flashbacks during the Impala story, which foreshadowed the flashbacks that gave Sam the strength to take over.

I wanted this episode to give Jared Padalecki his spotlight, and I thought he did a great job with his dual role, but I have to admit, Jensen still managed to overshadow him with just a few quick glimpses of his expression. The "oh shit" moment when Lucifer knew their plan. The tears in his eyes when his possessed brother left him. The voice when he said "I won't leave you, Sammy" even as he'd been beaten to a pulp.

Kudos to the makeup department for doing the impossible and making Jensen Ackles ugly. Kudos to Misha Collins for his attempt to lie to Sam, and the difference between his beaten, all-too-human defeat and his restored, better-than-ever serenity.

I liked Lucifer's attempt to avoid the fight and Michael's single-mindedness to make it play out. They were like what Sam and Dean COULD have been, if they hadn't broken patterns. Dean grew a mind of his own and stopped believing everything Dad did or said was right, while Sam abandoned the rebel-at-all-costs point of view, so that they could focus on their own partnership, doing things their own way.

I FINALLY get the "it always had to be you, Sam" line that has driven me nuts for, what, three seasons? It wasn't as much destiny as it was a long-term plan, tons of effort that had one acceptable outcome. (We'll ignore the little things, like Azazel accepting Jake as the winner when he'd planted all those demons through Sam's life.)

Misty was the one in our group who connected Chuck to God at the end, when he sizzled away, but it does leave us questioning if he was always God, or if he was just God at the end. Through the episode, Chuck was Chuck, with his mess and his ugly bathrobe and his geekiness. In the end, he was wearing an expensive shirt, his hair was combed, and he was drinking expensive Scotch. We could say he'd been putting it on until now, but for whom? He was alone in Chuck's living room. So that's a debate we might never actually get the answer to.

I thought it was a big twist when Sam pulled Michael into the cage with him. I definitely wasn't expecting that. Opens up tons of possibilities for the Big Bad next year.

I was thrilled that God brought Cas back, and that he in turn fixed Dean and brought back Bobby. I cover my ears and go "lalalalala" when anyone says that was too pat and easy. Come ON! After everything they all went through? After everything WE went through? I am SO not in favor of killing characters just for narrative. Entertainment is about entertaining, and I want my beloveds to live.

(Yeah, not happy with you, JK Rowling, re: Fred)

So that brings me to final shot. Sam, looking in at Dean at Lisa's with Ben. Is it Sam, somehow out of the cage by his or God's hand, infused with demonic power by virtue of the demon blood plus Lucifer's ride? Is it Lucifer, somehow escaped already? Or maybe Michael, who took over Sam's body to exact revenge on Dean for ruining the plan and being responsible for him going into the pit? I have a lot more to say on that, but I'll save it for my post next Wednesday at Supernatural Sisters.

So? What did you like about it?

Retreat Report, Day One Down

Got 8,638 words yesterday, interrupted by lunch, dinner, new people arriving, and general silliness. Talked about conflict issues with three different people. That must be this year's struggle theme!

My words were split between two manuscripts. First chapter of one, most of first chapter of the other. Today I'll finish the second first chapter and start the first chapter of the third book, then cycle between them with a goal of 10k.

BUT that will be interrupted by lunch and dinner and Supernatural. I have been studiously avoiding anywhere that could mention it, but still got word that it was awesome. I am DYING. The download is huge and therefore slow, and idiot me forgot to turn off my power saver so it stopped while we were at breakfast.

*jitters and bounces and tries to focus*

So I have this dreaming thing. I've mentioned it before, I'm sure. When I'm not writing for long stretches, my dreams get more and more vivid and detailed and I wake up exhausted, as if I've lived them. (I keep thinking, "There's a story there," and then I think, "Yeah, it's called Exit Light by Megan Hart, and it's available the week of June 7 at Carina Press. Also, a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio.")

So yesterday I wrote. A lot. And it's good stuff. I'm really proud of it. So you'd think my creative conscious would settle down a little and let me have a quiet night, or at least quiet dreams.

But no. Most of the night I dreamed about work, woke up, realized they weren't real projects and I could relax, and went back to sleep. That would be "normal" if, again, they weren't so detailed and vivid.

But then came the later dreams, the ones in the last few hours of sleep. I can't describe all of it, but man. I can instantly call up images and details. If you've seen Iron Man 2, you remember the scene with the car, how it got sliced? There was a car like that in my dream. Gabriel Tigerman (Andy from Supernatural, and the guy ordering the cowboy burger in that current restaurant commercial) was in the car, and fell out, while it was on an overhead rail hundreds of feet above the city. I didn't see what happened. I apparently had TiVo in my head, because, shocked, I stopped, rewound, noticed he hit an antenna of a vehicle, apparently decided that saved him, and moved on.

There were gangs, and I was house-sitting or working in someone's house or something. My husband was in the dream for a while—apparently, I miss him. Then, at the end of the dream, everything was about to fall apart. Someone was making a speech that, at the end, would set the world on fire. The gang lord was helping people, and I was a cop, running through the streets in size 12 steel-toed boots (not easy, especially when you're short), abandoning my post with my only goal getting to my teenage daughter. I ripped off my gun and badge because they were hindering my running (but I kept them because they'd be needed). It was a great movie ending, with the bad guy doing good and the good guy turning her back on need. But as the speech was coming to an end, my alarm went off. And I woke up exhausted.

So now I'm all WTF? Writing is supposed to ease this stuff! Hopefully, my brain just needs a couple of days to catch up. Which means I'd better get to writing, stat!

Luckily, Supernatural still needs three hours to download. *sigh*

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We're Here!

Well, four six of us are, anyway. The other 13 seven will trickle in today, with a couple coming tomorrow. But retreat has BEGUN!

All of the welcome items are organized and ready to hand out. I squee'd over my *-***** and my ***** *** from Misty and my **** and **** [all redacted to protect the late arrivals] and the super-secret gift made by retreat chair Vicki Smith and CPRW president Misty Simon (no links, I'm on retreat, too lazy!).

We have a full house this year, and a different conference room, which is farther away but super-big and actually away from the rooms so our Saturday night game, which is always raucous, will not disturb. Not that we disturb anyone, anyway. The other group that's always here, a quilting gang, stays up even later than we do, some of them. :) And we give them free books, so they love us.


I am unpacked and put away and ready to go!

My laptop is set up and plugged in!

*taps fingers*

*trims nails*

*checks empty e-mail inbox*

*smooths wrinkle in super-secret gift*

*ponders opening book file*

Is it lunchtime yet?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Fitness Trainer is Kicking My...

Before I forget! I'm guest blogger at Tracy Madison's blog today, about why I write paranormal romance. Go over, skim the post, and comment for a chance to win cool stuff! :)

A few weeks ago, while shopping for Number Two's birthday, I picked up My Fitness Trainer 2 for the Wii. The kids were maxed out on Wii Fit Plus, and something only works as long as you'll use it. Number One wanted kickboxing, Number Two step, and this seemed to have both. (I'm taking suggestions if anyone has tried another kickboxing or step aerobics Wii "game.")

So about 2 weeks ago we finally had time to break it out. It's a pretty cool setup. You input your data and select goals (mine are weight loss and looking good, the latter of which translates into overall improvement). It structures a daily workout for you, and adjusts it depending on how you do.

Both kids are more active than I am, with soccer and PE at school, even though I try to work out fairly regularly. So their workouts are longer and more intense. By "longer" I mean maybe 20 minutes instead of my 11-15. The sensitivity of the system is frustrating. It always tells me I didn't march in place or do the plank the full number of seconds, and occasionally doesn't register a squat. Number Two got VERY frustrated with the jogging for three minutes because she can't jog as slowly as it wants her to, and it therefore keeps thinking it's losing her, when she's losing it.

So we've all decided to ignore the stats it gives us for each exercise, because the important thing is that we're actually doing it, not that we're not doing it perfectly a machine's standards.

Anyway, I've been surprised by its effectiveness. Eleven minutes is too short, and the Wii Fit scale is more accurate (you get to subtract your clothes, and it does fractions, not just whole pounds), so I often end up doing some Wii Fit in addition to my MFT2 workout. But the other stuff isn't as intense, so I give full credit for my entire week of pain to MFT2.

I work out at the club occasionally, and I always felt like weight training was more effective than basic exercise, but OMG was I wrong! Leg pressing 190+ pounds SOUNDS like it would do more than a 20-second floor bridge, but my glutes were screaming by Friday. I ached from my shoulders to my ankles (partly because I have some weird Achilles/calf problem, but mostly from the workout).

I took a break over the weekend, trying to stop cramping with every step I took. Then I went back to it on Monday, and I'm not sore anymore. Plus, today, I actually noticed a difference! I didn't have the full-body shakes during the plank until I'd hit 23 seconds. My legs feel stronger. So now I'm motivated to keep going.

Of course, that motivation comes as I get ready to leave for four days! But I think I'll do some of it on my own. Locked in my room, of course. :) We also walk a lot on retreat, and eat healthy meals. So hopefully I won't regress and be in pain again next week! LOL

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Circle of Bunnitude

Number One and her father—and, to a lesser extent, Number Two—are obsessed with "boonies." That's bunnies with an oon sound instead of an un sound. They search for them every time we pull onto our street, and squeal when one is spotted in our yard.

Several weeks ago, we saw a boonie preparing a nest smack in the middle of the back yard.

She packed dry grass and fur into it and went to the other side of the yard. A few days later, the grass and fur had been scattered. We haven't seen much activity since, but in the interest of being on the safe side, they created the Circle of Bunnitude (pronounced "Boon-i-tood").

That was taken a couple of weeks ago. The grass is taller now. Around that time, the neighbor's old dog came exploring and I caught her nosing in the nest. I think her owner got her before she really did more than nose, and we haven't seen any signs of trauma. Nor have we seen baby boonies. Though we didn't know we had them before, not until Dolly started playing with one.

A younger-looking but full-grown boonie was hopping the perimeter of the Circle of Bunnitude last night, but I have no idea how long it takes boonies to grow to full size (probably longer than it's been) and the neighborhood is rife with them, so it could have been any boonie.

So now we have to decide: let the Circle of Bunnitude get out of control, or risk running over something with the lawn mower? Number One usually does the mowing nowadays, and last year she almost ran over a nest in a different part of the yard, so I know what her vote is going to be.

I guess I should invest in a machete.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day and My Week

I'm too late to wish everyone a Happy Mother's Day, but I hope it was for all of you. Mine was, as usual. I have a fantastic husband and kids who totally adhere to my philosophy that on "our" days, we are in full control.

This year, that meant pancakes and bacon for a late breakfast, then I just hung out while they cleaned the house, after which we played Scrabble and I scraped a win. J and I went to see Iron Man 2 and came back in time to meet up with his parents and sister for dinner at Texas Roadhouse. After the kids were in bed, I topped off the whole lovely day with a private screening of The Losers.

How was yours?

Iron Man 2 was very good. Not as awesome as the first one was, but that's always the case. When the first movie surprises you, the sequel(s) can't have the same impact. Even the Lord of the Rings suffered from that infliction.

Regardless, Robert Downey Jr. was awesome, and that's really all the movie needed. :) I totally disagree with everything the Entertainment Weekly review said, and frankly, I had to wonder if they actually saw it. Complaining about the protracted and frequent battle sequences? There were, like, 3. I was half expecting Transformers level chaos and hammering, but they were very short, as battle sequences go. In any case, it was worth the matinee price.

I really liked The Losers, too. There was a je ne sais quois missing, but I loved every character, every performance, especially Chris Evans as Jensen. He was really different than he was in the Fantastic Four movies. Some will disagree, because the characters have the same happy-go-lucky charm, but Jensen had an edge, a hardness, that wasn't present in FF. I don't know that I'd have recognized him if I hadn't known who he was.

IM2 had a ton of trailers before it, and most were movies I can't wait to see. They teased a movie for 2011 from Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams called Super 8 that had me drooling. The Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz and the Ashton Kutcher/Katherine Heigl movies look amusingly fun, albeit similar, and the latter reminds me too much of True Lies. It's okay, I loved True Lies. :)

This week will be prep week, culminating in the CPRW Annual Retreat from Thursday to Sunday! I can't believe it's almost here!

Now I just have to figure out what to write...