Monday, July 25, 2011

School Starts...When?!

I got my homeschool packet from our local Board of Education yesterday.  Amongst the paperwork there was a regular county school schedule.  Apparently they are starting school on August 2nd this year.  Yep, August 2nd.  And there's a holiday almost immediately.  Can I just ask, what's up with that?

I'm a little lost here.  I don't understand why schools - who are having trouble with funding anyway - must open so darn early.  That's a full month and a few days before most homeschoolers I know start.  To be frank, we use what I suppose most would call an "old schedule"; which means we start the day after Labor Day, only take the main holidays off, and not two weeks at a time when we do have a break.  We also don't have Teachers' Days, so I suppose that helps, but ultimately we end up having more days that necessary by the time the end of the school year comes around.  And, yes, our school year ends when the brick and mortar schools' do.

August seems much too soon.  I know the argument that parents have to work, and this helps them with "babysitting".  However, I've also talked to plenty of working parents who are frustrated because they have to figure out what to do with their kids when the schools are out on holidays, which appears to be at least once a month.  I'm not even certain about the whole "quantity over quality" argument, either; we go the same amount of days and the children learn what the school system dictates they should know.  I'm confused as to why school must start so early.  Is there a benefit I'm not seeing?  Is it because of unions?  Do the children learn better, work faster, absorb more on this schedule?  I'm not being sarcastic here, because I honestly want to know.  It's been nearly three years since my children have been in the public school system, so I guess I'm a bit out of the loop.

I also want to make one important point: I'm not trying to be snooty or superior.  This is something I truly would like to have illuminated.  I homeschool, and we're happy with that; others prefer private schools (which usually follow the county schedule) and still others prefer the public school system.  I've got no problem with personal choice when it comes the education of children.  After all, we're still free enough to choose what's best for our kids.  However, I'd like to know the logic behind starting school before summer ends, then having a vacation day not even a week into the school year.  The repeating pattern of vacation days, a monthly occurrence, as well as three weeks for the Christmas Holidays, has me flummoxed.  If anyone can clear this up for me, I'd be appreciative.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

You Mean You Weren't Abducted by Aliens??

The title pretty much says it all.  No, I wasn't abducted, though that would have been a sweet excuse.  Nope, it's just been plain old day-to-day disasters which have kept me from updating like I should.  If I went down the list of everything, you'd run away screaming in the other direction.  Seriously.

So summer is here, and the family is on a...I don't want to call it diet, but more "proper eating habits".  I've actually lost more weight than I anticipated, plus feel lots healthier than I have in the past few months (one of those disasters I was speaking of).  The big payoff for it isn't just that I'm not so ill anymore, but my kids are also paying lots more attention to what they're putting in their mouths.  Huzzah!  My sweets addicted son started putting scoops of ice cream back.  My food loving daughter has been chomping down on more veggies than crackers.  Not surprisingly, it seems like their brains are just a little quicker, a little clearer, than they have been.  Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that I'll be able to keep up when we start school again.  Speaking of which...

I agreed to teach a Creative Writing class for our homeschool group.  I've been asked before, but was reluctant since this past school year was our first in the group.  This time around I really had no reasons not to, and plenty of kids who were interested.  I'm excited, but nervous, too.  I know how to teach my own kids, which can be nerve racking upon occasion, but other kids?  Yeah, that's nerve racking on a whole other level.

Now, on a completely different note, I've had some people ask me to start posting a few of my recipes.  Be warned, I am nowhere near a master chef, but I've figured out a few tricks to hiding good stuff in yummy food, plus I've learned how to stretch a penny until it cries.  I'll post some recipes periodically; I'll be sure to put up family favorites first.

I think that covers about everything to this point.  Well, about everything, other than another apology for the long lapse in posting.  Fingers crossed life has calmed down enough now for me to be able to hop on at least once a week.  Twice if something interesting happens!  Have a great week, all, and let me know if there's any particular food you'd like a recipe for.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mab to Mysterious Three Flash Fiction Challenge

I've been a little MIA the past week and a half, but you know, real life and kids and such.  On the up side, their plays were a hit!  And hey, no more scenery painting for yours truly - at least until next year.  But since I've been busy, I haven't had a chance to really do any of Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenges the past two Fridays.  I really wanted to, because they were very interesting, but I didn't have the time let alone the energy.  However, this weeks I'm definitely in for!

His challenge this time is all about interesting fables and fairy tales...of a sort.  We were asked to go to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the "M" section to be more precise, chose a phrase or name that struck our fancy, then write a Flash Fiction about it.  It took me a while to pick one, but I finally did, and of course it's Norse Mythology.  Gotta love those Vikings!  Don't forget to check out the other entries.  I intend to spend a few days this week enjoying the heck out of what they've come up with, because it's always entertaining.

So, without further adieu, here is my entry for Terriblemind's From Mab to the Mysterious Three Flash Fiction Challenge:


* Muninn Memory; one of the two ravens that sit perched on the shoulders of Odin; the other is Hugin (thought). *

He sat on the hard, rounded shoulder, claws dug into giving flesh.  Golden hair rolled in the unseen wind, wrapping thick tendrils around his dark wings.  His master gave him an absent stroke, dislodging the blond strands and focusing his attention on the small lake.  The ripples of water cleared, slowly calming to reveal the sights which he, Muninn, had so recently witnessed.

“These were the warriors,” his master wanted to know.  “These men cried out for me?”

Muninn’s caw rumbled in his throat, mixing with the expanded magic in his chest, until it emerged as a human voice.  “They cried gloriously for Odin.  They battled for the land, and asked for your favor.”

Odin nodded, his brow furrowed with the weight of the truth.  “You bring me their memories, Muninn.”

With that, his master laid a gentle forefinger on his head, and Muninn felt the sudden rush as all the images were pulled from him.  It only took a few moments for Odin to absorb all that the bird had seen.

“I worried for you, my friend.  More than for your brother.”

Muninn tilted his head and eyed the god.  “Hugin has not the nerve.”

Odin smiled, an amused grin of beauty.  “I have given you that curse, Muninn.  Bravery is too akin to stupidity if not used with caution.”

“What caution when they kill themselves?”  Muninn blinked, puzzled by his master’s concern.

“Yes, indeed.”  Another stroke of his feathers, then a long sigh.  “They must fight, or be wiped from the earth.  Strength is what I have given them, cunning is what they have learned, bravery is what they have fashioned.  All these dead will have a place at my table.”

“Then will fight again.”  He momentarily spread is wings, indignant.  “They have blood lust that is never curbed.”

His master laughed, deep and sure.  “Not all, my friend, but without it they would never survive.  What you see has made you too cynical.  Think you of the women, strong in their own way, of the children, pure of heart, of the joyous feasts and passionate songs.”

“They make poetry and then make war.  Killing and pillaging what they praise.”  A shake of his dark head showed disapproval.

“Perhaps I shall give you the soul of a human.  Mayhap I shall conjure you into a great warrior.”

“Rather to be roasted over a fire.”

Odin’s laugh this time was a boom that rolled like thunder.  “Then I shall send you to my table, and you shall feed the hungry horde.”

Muninn cawed, annoyed, understanding the god was teasing, but still perturbed by the idea.  “You would only have my brother, Hugin, for company, and then only thought and not memory.  You would see but forget.”

Odin plucked him from his shoulder, cradling him delicately in his monstrous hands.  “You are too wise, my friend.  Much too wise…or much too brave.”

A sound erupted from below, the call of a horn, the cry of crazed men, the clashing of steel.  It was too loud to be a small skirmish; another bloody battle had begun.  When the god slowly opened his hands, the bird readily stretched his great black wings for flight.

“Bring me their memories, Muninn.”

The reply was a rumbled screech as the bird glided toward the conflict, the sun of Asgard glinted on the tips of his dark feathers.  Behind him the riotous sounds of Valhalla turned to roars of delight as the fallen warriors tumbled out of the doors of the great hall.  More would join them today, and Muninn would gather their memories for his master.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Word Monogamy

So, I've been writing like a crazed woman.  Head bent over laptop, warning sign posted on my door, eyes glazed over and brain in book world.  I tend to write for hours, without going back, without pausing to breathe (okay, maybe I breathe, but I do forget to eat).  But before every writing session, I go back to read what's come before, not necessarily to edit myself, but to get back into the feel of the story so the continuity will continue to flow.

Here's where I found the problem.  I've been falling in love with one particular word every writing session.  What I mean is, I use a word over and over, until you'd think I was married to it.  It's in every second or third paragraph.  It's like I can't let the word go.  But then I get all fickle - which is actually a good thing with this problem - and find a new word to be monogamous with in the next writing jag.  I just can't figure out why.

It's not like I have a limited vocabulary.  Okay, maybe it's that I like to think I don't have a limited vocabulary.  Whatever.  The fact is, I know at least four different variations of the word blue.  I can recite them right now.  So why do I become obsessed with the word blue?  Other, more complicated and less complicated words, like independent, or secrecy, or, heck, even hard, have been subjected to my constant keyboard abuse.  There are other ways to say it, but my brain just latches on like a rat terrier and won't ease off the jugular.

I'm beginning to suspect it's because I become so focused on all those other words that I have this word monogamy problem.  My mind says, "Hey, if I gotta work so darn hard on all this other stuff, then you've got to let me glitch and burp on something."  And without conscious thought, it randomly chooses a word and that's that, at least for the few hours I'm hunkered down over the bright glow of the monitor.  I suppose it could be worse.  At least I have a thesaurus handy.  Plus I can probably tell you the origins of the word extraordinary, not to mention spout out several synonyms.  Does that make me a grammar geek?  I thought so.

Anybody else have this word monogamy issue?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And I'm Still Alive

Yeah, if you've played Portal you're cursing me about now.  That song will be in your head all night.  You're welcome.  Anyway, I'm not just posting to torture you.  I'm actually on to say hello, and to wish all of you a happy belated Easter or Passover or Non-Denominational Spring Holiday!  Don't you love P.C.?

This week, Chuck over at Terribleminds has a very interesting challenge going on, though I'm not 100% certain I'll be doing it this week.  Lots going on, including being head first in a writing jag (yay, writing jags!).  Not to mention, guess whose daughter will be waking her at 4 am on Friday to watch a little wedding going on in England?  Ah, well, I suppose I did the same thing to my poor mom when I was my little girl's age, but for Charles and Diana.  It'll be a strange circle around to an odd closure...sort of...maybe.  We'll see.

Speaking of Portal (you're still singing it, aren't you?), Portal 2 is out.  I'm actually looking forward to it, especially since I'm a big supporter of little-things-that-could.  Portal was only meant to be a little "crash course" type of game, stuck to a bigger game, in order to show off the very cool graphics and abilities that the creators had discovered/made.  And look what happened.  A sleeper hit!  I would say cult classic, but it's pretty much permeated popular culture, so not so much cult but more classic.  Hopefully I'll be out of the pool of 65k words (that's my goal) soon so I can play the game, before everyone and their mothers and aunts leak out spoilers.  Yeah, it could take me a while to surface.  Lucky for my kids and hubby I know how to set alarms, so no one starves and mini-us'es are (surprisingly) educated by yours truly.

Um, yeah, so that's it.  Just a little tag to say hi, and see how everyone is doing.  Maybe I'll actually try that Three Sentence Challenge over at Terribleminds.  It would indeed be a challenge for someone who doesn't just talk way too much, but writes too many words, as well.  Oh, you should go over and check it out.  Brilliant, I tell you.  These people are brilliant.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Random Word Flash Fiction

It's time again, boys and girls, for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction!  This time it was a little different.  Seems he found an interesting word generator and decided to use it for this week's challenge.  We had five random words to use in our story: Figure, Dusk, Flirt, Mobile Phone, and Wig.  We can use them any way we want to, whether slang or actual definition, and we can use a form of the word, like cell phone for mobile phone.  This one took me a little while to formulate, but I've posted the image that really kick-started the short story I wrote.  It's much fluffier than my last one, so don't expect anything heavy.  Still, I hope you enjoy it.

Here's my entry for the Random Five Word Flash Fiction Challenge, in 1,000 words or less (it's actually 941).
Caroline stared down at her cell phone and cursed.  Ben had said he would be here, right in front of the brick wall with the vintage hand painted Coca-Cola advertisement.  He was almost forty minutes late, and dusk was beginning to set in.  How long was she supposed to wait for him?

She heard a moan come from behind her and sighed.  Either someone was getting lucky in the parking lot, or the zombie apocalypse had begun.  In her current mood, she couldn’t decide which she’d prefer.

She checked her cell again, saw another minute had passed, and tried not to be irritated.  Ben was notoriously late, but his other qualities tended to balance that out.  Sure, he would probably be late to his own funeral, but he was funny, smart, had amazing eyes, and even more amazing rear, liked Simon Pegg, and wasn’t put off by her affinity for vintage advertising art, like the Coke sign.  But his tardiness did get old at times.  Especially those times when she started to wig out because she was afraid something had happened to him.  Like now.  Because her imagination was way too vivid, it flirted with wild ideas like car accidents, muggings, holes opening up to swallow him down to the world of dinosaurs in the center of the earth.

Caroline shook her head.  She wasn’t going to think like that.  It only made her feel like an idiot when he showed up, usually racing around a corner, mostly out of breath, full of apologies.

She was about to call him when she heard a sharp whistle.  A sharp whistle that sounded remarkably like Ben’s.  Wrinkling her brow, she turned to look first right, then left, nearly looked behind before she remembered the moaning couple.  The sound came again, as if floating down from the roof tops.  But that wasn’t possible…unless….

She looked up, directly across the street, and saw a figure standing on top of the three story granite building.  She craned her neck, squinted her eyes, and saw the outline of a familiar man.

“What are you doing?” she called, completely baffled, slightly miffed, and very amused.

Ben waved to her and yelled back in a voice that betrayed his smile.  “Wait right there!”

She cocked an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest, but did as he’d asked.  This, she decide, ought to be good.

She heard the sound of material unraveling, and a split second later saw a giant image on canvas flutter down the wall where Ben had been standing.  She immediately recognized the advertisement; it was a 1940’s magazine ad for Chesterfield Cigarettes, but it was slightly altered.

Instead of the fresh face of the model, Caroline’s face had been drawn in.  She was holding a cigarette case; the wording above read “ – and it’s Always Ben and Caroline for keeps”, with their names substituted for the simple “ABC” Chesterfield had used.  The cigarette case itself had the requisite “ABC” carved in the top, but the small cigarette packets were replaced with images of wedding bands peeking out of velvet boxes. 

The boldest part of the ad, the words printed brightly across the bottom, had her blinking, her mouth hanging open, closing, opening again.  What should have said “Always Buy Chesterfields” had been replaced with “Marry Me Caroline”.  The tilted card again read “Always Ben and Caroline”, completely ignoring what was originally printed there.  And finally, the smaller script across the very bottom had been replaced by “The Right Combination of the World’s Best Love…Marry Me”.

She put her hand to her throat, felt hysterical giggles and breath taking excitement mix.  Her eyes filled with tears as she gasped for air.  Behind her, the moaning couple finally emerged.  The woman, a leggy redhead, paused to read the sign.  She turned to the brutish man standing beside her and elbowed him in the gut.

“Now that’s how you propose to a lady.”

“Figures some other guy would find a better way,” the man sighed.  “Don’t get your wig all twisted, sweetheart.  You know I love you.”

“Yeah, yeah.”  But the redhead linked her arm through his and the couple strolled away, her stilettos clicking along the sidewalk as they went.

By the time she was left alone, Caroline had managed to gulp in enough oxygen to keep from fainting.  Then she saw Ben’s figure appear across the way, watched as he jogged to her, the purple light of dusk a halo around his dark blond hair.

He was grinning like a maniac when he reached her.  “Forgive me for being a little late?”

“Ben, when did you…how did you…”  How was she supposed to form a sentence?

He laughed and pulled her into his arms.  “I wanted to surprise you.  I love you, Caroline.  Have since the night I tried to flirt with you at that modern art exhibit.”

“It was a terrible show.  Except for you.”  She snuggled closer, smiled.  “Your pick-up lines were terrible.”

“Yeah, they were, but I made you laugh, which was the whole purpose.”  He pulled back, rested his hands on her shoulders, and stared down at her.  “Marry me, Caroline?”

“Will you be late to the wedding?”

He shrugged.  “Of course.”

Caroline smiled and shook her head at his honesty.  “In that case, I’ll be sure to tell you the wedding is an hour earlier than it actually is.  That way you’ll be on time.”

Ben whooped and scooped her up, spinning her around as she threw her head back and laughed.  He might be habitually late, she thought, but the man sure knew how to make up for it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Who's Down In Whoville

I love Dr. Who.  I watched the series when I was a kid, thanks to PBS, and I was addicted from the first episode.  Okay, I can't quote the dialogue.  But I refuse to believe that makes me any less a Whovian.  And, yeah, I actually know that's what Dr. Who fans are called.  I'm such a geek.

All over the world, we're counting down to the Easter start of Dr. Who.  New baddies, old baddies revisited, new places, people, and time.  I can't wait!  It's like torture waiting for the new episodes, especially when you consider the last one was the Christmas special, and before that it ended in June.  That's practically a year!  Okay, more like ten months, if we don't count the December episode (what a tease!), and the waiting is so hard.  Think excruciating.

So, in celebration of the upcoming Dr. Who series (as they call seasons in Britain), we started watching Dr. Who (the new ones) from the first episode.  What's so great about the show is we can watch it with our kids.  It's just scary enough to satisfy the "yikes!" factor one likes, and sci-fi/fantasy enough to satisfy the other.  It's a great compromise for my family, since our kids are old enough to watch more adult style shows, but are still too young for a majority of prime time television.

Anyway, I'll stop sounding like a reviewer and go back to fan girl.  Dr. Who is coming!!!!  Just thirteen days until we get to see The Doctor, Amy Pond, Rory, and the Tardis, and River Song!  Yippee!!!