It has been a chilly spring around here… some days it feels like we skipped right past summer and looped around to fall again! But as June approaches, anticipation builds and I dream of warm nights, of sipping wine on the patio, and listening to the sounds of summer. After another cold spring day (it’s May, Mother Nature, MAY!) I decided to get my craft on and make a little something summer-y, a little something to light up those warm summer nights… if they ever get here.
The project was easy-peasy: less than $10 for supplies and definitely less than 10 minutes to assemble.
Mason Jars w/lid – you need the lid to secure the battery-case of the light string, and it will keep the inside of the jar and lights from getting grungy. You can pretty much pick these up anywhere, from the grocery store, to Wal-Mart, to Michael’s (that’s where I bought mine, half off plus another 20% off, plus I liked the vintage-feel to the lid).
Tape – plain old Scotch tape will do, or you can get fancy with some washi tape. I had some pretty patterned masking tape on hand, so that’s what I used.
So now comes the really hard part – you ready?
1 – Coil the copper string so it is a series of loose loops
2 – Cram the lights into the mason jar
3 – attach the battery case to the underside of the lid (secure with tape)
It’s been some time since my last #FridayFast5, but it’s a fresh month, so let’s dive right in!
1. With Love, Jordan
Recently in a conversation with other authors about how we first got into writing Romance the discussion turned to Fan Fiction, and how so many got their start there. I never thought of myself as a writer of Fan Fiction but as some of the others talked about the kind of FF they wrote I realized there was a period in my life when I had, indeed, wrote Fan Fiction…of a sort. In the sixth grade, a few of my best friends and I were obsessed with New Kids on the Block. I don’t know if we planned it or did it on purpose to avoid epic battles, but each of us had our favorite.
Mine was Jordan, J1 was Joey, and J2 was Donnie (I am calling them J1 and J2 – partly to protect their identity and partly because they both had the same first name – if you were a child of the 80’s I bet you can guess the name). One of the ways we got our Fan Girl on (aside from spending all our money on anyand everyteen magazinethat featured NKOTB on the cover) was to pretend that we were married to our fav New Kid. We’d write letters to each other from our respective husbands, who were off on tour, of course. So, for example, I would pretend to be Donnie, and write a letter to my wife J2, describing the various adventures I’d had that week while touring such and such city. The letters usually included stories of tour bus antics between the boys, and if I am remembering this correctly, there always seemed to be some disaster involving Danny. (oh, poor Danny)
When I was trying to explain this tween pastime to the group the phrase, “Epistolary Fan Fiction” popped in my head. And really, that’s exactly what it was. I *think* I may have some of those letters stashed away somewhere (unless I burned them in a bout of embarrassed disgust when I was a few years older). If I manage to dig them up one day, I will be sure to share.
2. Listify Life
It’s no secret I adore lists. So I was excited (ok, maybe a little too excited) when author Roni Loren announced a fun new social media project called #ListifyLife. Basically, she posted a series of topics/questions that participants will answer in list form, with a new topic each week. Pretty stationary and/or fun writing utensils is highly encouraged. This week’s topic was “Books I’d Want to Live in for a While” – and while my answers could probably easily reach double digits- I limited myself to six (that’s all the room I had on the paper).
Next came ripping out the wire shelving. Many of the screws on the drywall stud anchors had been stripped, so this was LOTS of fun…not.
This dark purple was sitting in my basement, a can of “Oops” paint you can buy at Home Depot for $5 (I’ve had this paint for quite some time, so I don’t know if HD sells Oops paint anymore…I hope so, I loved using it for projects!) Next up is shelving and seating – look for a Book Nook Update in a few weeks!
4. A House Divided
While not keen on closet doors, our entire household LOVES Harry Potter. The husband and I spent many pleasant hours together listening to the series on audiobook, Miss A, a bookworm after my own heart, has long adored the series and is a champ at Harry Potter Trivia. As the youngest, Lil’ G was the last to jump on the Hogwarts Express, but in the past few months she has immersed herself big time. She started reading the series on her own and watching the films, and loves playing Lego Harry Potter on the Wii. I also made the mistake of introducing her to the Harry Potter Puppet Pals series on YouTube.
The other night at dinner, Lil’ G decided she would play Sorting Hat and determine which house each of us belonged in, here are her results:
She actually did a darn good job and we all agreed she had chosen the house that best represented our strongest traits. (Dad is intelligent and logical, Mom is brave and gutsy, Sister is loyal and empathetic. As for Lil’ G, she has always been one for the villains. She enjoys a good bad guy…and frankly, certain aspects of Slytherin House (ambition, wants to always call the shots) are certainly trademark G. So, I guess if we actually were a magical family, we’d have a horse in each race. 🙂
And speaking of Fan Fiction, Lil’ G has informed me she is writing a Harry Potter story, where she is Harry (Harriet?) Potter. Considering her House preference, this makes for an interesting twist indeed. When the Sorting Hat is debating between putting Harry in Gryffindor or Slytherin, he may go the other way this time!
So that’s this Friday’s Fast 5! Happy April Fools to all you jerks who like to celebrate this holiday. Kidding…well, except to my carpool buddy who texted me this morning wondering why I hadn’t picked up her kids yet (when it was actually her turn). All jokes aside, I’m hoping to ramp up the consistency…see you next Friday.
It’s 2016, and a new season of The X-Files is about to start. Yes, you read that right. Look. I don’t care if this ends up being “The New Adventures of Old Mulder and Scully” I’m excited about this. So is the husband, who enjoyed watching The X-Files as much, possibly more, than I did. We were already married back when The X-Files was still on the air, so that gives you an idea of how long we’ve been together.
And, just as I shared my Top 5 Favorite X-Files episodes, in anticipation of the new season – the husband is making a guest appearance here to share his Top 5. He could have posted this on his own website, but whatever. He also could have listed the season and episode number, but he didn’t do that either. Luckily, I looked them up and added the links for you. The cool thing is, we did not compare notes before compiling our lists, so it is neat to see a few on our lists overlap. We tend to never agree on stuff like this, so it’s a rare moment.
#5 Monday:Anything resembling Groundhog Day will always be a major hit with me. Yeah, I know Groundhog Day is based off an episode of The Twilight Zone but that’s beside the point. The whole living the same day over theme works so well because I think it reminds people of their daily lives. We all think “I just got keeping doing the same day over and over until I get it right” each morning. Sorry, didn’t mean to get all depressing there.
#4 Field Trip: “It was all just a dream” is a bit of an overused trope but it’s acceptable once every 6 or so seasons.
#3 Humbug: I’m pretty sure this was the first episode that tried to be humorous and it accomplished that while still maintaining the creepy feel of the series.
#2 Bad Blood: I hoped for a couple seasons that The X-Files would do a vampire episode and I never expected they’d take the comical route with it. Vampires we’re overdone in the 90s so it would have been easy to do a “serious” episode about them. Instead they produced something that holds up today precisely because vampires stereotypes are overused. Instead of romantic figures they’re bumbling carnies.
#1 Jose Chung’s From Outer Space:OK, so obviously I like the comical episodes of the show. Laughs aside this has an interesting story that is never really resolved. The main theme is that none of the characters are really sure what happened and by the end neither is the viewer.
“Let’s see if I can guess my wife’s picks for her top 5 episodes:
5) The Goldberg Variation – I don’t think she’ll pick many episodes past season 5 but I think this was one she enjoyed. Maybe I just think she enjoys the “lovable loser” characters since she’s stayed with me for a while.
4) Humbug – This one she’s definitely said she likes so I assume it’ll make the list.
3) Small Potatoes – She does a great impression of fake Mulder doing the “F… B… I…” routine in the mirror.
2) Bad Blood – This is another one she’s mentioned liking more than once.
1) Elegy – I’m pretty sure she has a book that was at least partially inspired by this episode.”
Wow, he nailed it pretty close! And almost in perfect order. Not bad…almost psychic, one could say. And I do like The Goldberg Variation, which has a great premise and is set in Chicago, but I don’t think it would make my top 10.
5 Days from now, what once was fantasy shall become reality when a new (however brief) season of the X-Files airs.
To celebrate, I’m sharing my TOP 5 Favorite X-Files Episodes.
Before I begin, a caveat or two: while I am a long time fan of the series, I never could get into the myth-building storyline that involved government cover-ups , alien virus/goo, and Scully being abducted and implanted with something, etc. I know these episodes are the backbone of the series and serve as its canon, but I much preferred the “one-offs,” often referred to as “monster-of-the-week” episodes. Also – this list is simply my opinion, based on nothing more than what episodes affected me the most – whether they made me laugh or freaked me out, or simply intrigued me – these episodes really stuck with me, and are ones I’ll probably never say no to pulling up on the Netflix queue.
#5: Eve (Season 1, Episode 11): Aside from the fun fact that is possibly urban legend (but I really hope isn’t), about how 90’s band Eve 6 got their name, this episode is chillingly creepy and packed with suspense. The twins in Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining have nothing on the little girl clones who outwit and almost kill Mulder and Scully.
#4: Humbug (Season 2, Episode 20): This is a freak-of-the-week extravaganza, featuring an entire circus full of oddities. The episode is gloriously bizarre, with plenty of humor to balance the relatively high death toll. Also, if you’ve never had the misfortune to see the cheesy 80’s horror flick Basket Case, watch it before or after this episode for a double-dose of strange.
#2: Bad Blood (Season 5, Episode 12): No, this is not a Taylor Swift song (this episode first aired in 1998, when little Tay-tay would have only been 8 or 9 years old), but it does feature a young, as yet mostly unknown, Luke Wilson, who plays a hunky deputy (well, he’s hunky when Scully tells the story, anyway). Told and re-told from alternating viewpoints, this episode is campy and canny and has some of the best Scully/Mulder moments ever.
So there you have it, my top 5 favorites. Could I add a few more to this list? Easily. In fact, I’m going to add one more – consider it my holiday bonus episode: How the Ghosts Stole Christmas (Season 6, Episode 6). Yes, more ghosts – I like the ghost ones, ok? This episode is delightfully kooky and spooky, with stellar guest performances by Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner. It’s a fun one to re-play during the Christmas season.
Plenty of other sites have made their list of top episodes too, like this one from the Hollywood Reporter. What about you? Are you an X-Files fan? What’s your favorite episode? Were you able to identify which episode from my list had the vampires and which had Luke Skywalker’s baby?
ETA: My husband shares my love of X-Files, it’s one of the few shows we both enjoy. So he also made a Top 5 list, including his predictions for what episodes would be on my list – check it out, he came pretty close!
Soon I will be taking my first trip to New York City when I head to the national conference for Romance Writers of America. This will be my third time attending the conference, and to get pumped up I thought I’d share five things I love about conferences…some of which really don’t have *that* much to do with writing.
Attending workshops, listening to panels, chatting with other writers, DOING ALL THE THINGS. There is something wild and utterly exhilarating about conference time. Fresh ideas, tips and tricks, industry news – I absorb it all like a sponge until I’m ready to burst with excitement and feel like I can take on the world (or at the very least, finish my next manuscript). It’s also thrilling to applaud and celebrate the success of friends. When a fellow writer buddy achieves a milestone or scores an award, it is so inspiring and makes everything seem just a little more possible.
Dear friend and fellow Chicago-North member Erica O’Rourke was a 2013 RITA finalist.
I am currently serving my second term as President of the Chicago-North Romance Writers (a chapter of RWA). So I’ll spend a decent amount of my conference time wearing that hat. There is a leadership event, where chapter board members from across the country get together to share experiences, discuss current issues, and brainstorm solutions for challenges. There is the Annual General Meeting, which I will attend and take notes to pass on to my chapter when I get back home. There’s a chapter reception I am hosting with Savannah Reynard, President of “sister” chapter Windy City. And there will be general networking as I spread the word and encourage people to attend our upcoming regional conference, Spring Fling 2016. It’s not all fun and games, people!
With my sister Pres at the 2014 RITA/GH Award ceremony. We didn’t plan the red thing.
Well, it is mostly fun and games, because I enjoy meeting new people and connecting over our love of writing romance. I have been lucky enough to make some fabulous friends at the two conferences I’ve attended so far.
From Left to Right: Chicago-North 2012 President Ryann, me, and our new bestie Kari from Cali. Kari is wicked funny. I wanted to pack her in my suitcase and take her home with me.
Melanie from Texas. I met this fellow Mel at my 1st conference in 2013. C-N sort of adopted her during the conference in Atlanta, and she returned the favor when she and her chapter-mates adopted me at the 2014 conference in San Antonio.
Mel Jolly of Author’s Atlas at the RWA14 award ceremony. Isn’t that dress adorable? I got to know Mel via Spring Fling and since she’s just so cool (all us Mel J’s are) we’ve kept in touch via social media.
Socializing + booze. An important part of any conference experience.
Silly staches with SB Sarah at the bash she hosted in Atlanta. She is 100% Grade A awesomesauce.
More mustache mischief with Windy City President Savannah. It has been a blast being sister-prezzies with Sav!
Yes. Those are ritas in the hotel bathtub. Texas girls know how to throw a party.
There are hundreds of writers at these conferences. When I spot a fav author, it is so much fun to say hi and let her know how much I love her work. I’m totally professional about it, of course. Ahem. I do my squeeing on the inside.
With Susanna Kearsley. I love her time-slip novels and was thrilled when she won the RITA in 2014 for The Firebird.
With Kristan Higgins. I first met Kristan when she headlined Spring Fling the year I was a coordinator, and just love her to pieces. She is genuinely as wonderful and sweet as she seems.
Traveling to conference is like a mini-vacation. Cities I’ve never been to before, and the chance to explore, even for a few hours, is such a treat.
View of Atlanta from my hotel room.
Mandatory stop at the official Coke HQ in Atlanta for my daughter. I already know exactly what store in NYC is a must for me to shop at this year!
Sunset in San Antonio (view from hotel room).
The Alamo. I took a walking ghost tour…scariest part of the evening was how damn hot San Antonio still is at 11 o’clock at night.
So there you go. Five things I love about conference time!
Are you heading to Nationals? If you are, and you happen to see someone with a cloud of red curls, I hope you stop me and say hi. Safe travels!
So, the husband, I may have mentioned, is an epic nerd (it’s ok, I love this about him). His passion is video games, namely of the “old-school” variety. One way he indulges in this passion is as the co-host of a weekly podcast called The Retro League, where they review and discuss all things video games from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Kind of sounds like a radio station, right? I thought so too. Especially this week, when the topic of favorite movies and soundtracks of 1995 came up.
Yes, 1995 was 20 years ago…shed a few tears and move on.
On a recent car ride, in between bouts of shouting from our two redheads in the backseat (“You’re breathing my air!”), the husband and I discussed our favorites from 1995 and I realized 3 things: 1) while our taste in music rarely intersects, 1995 had several soundtracks the husband and I both enjoy, 2) looking back at the awesome and horrible (uh, Showgirls, anyone?) movies that came out in 1995, it was a really good AND bad year for film, and 3) it was an even better year for soundtracks – in fact, I am going to go ahead and say 1995 may be THE YEAR of movie soundtracks (for me, personally).
Top 10 FAVORITE SOUNDTRACKS (or at least songs) FROM THE MOVIES OF 1995
Well…it turns out I couldn’t come up with 10 soundtracks total, so instead here are 5 movies and 5 soundtracks/songs:
FAVORITE MOVIES FROM 1995
12 MONKEYS – When you realize Brad Pitt is more than just a pretty face. Holy hell, the man can act. This movie is equal parts effed up and brilliant and a wild ride.
TOY STORY – I actually like Toy Story 2 better than the first, but this tale of Woody and Buzz is still wonderful and heartwarming with plenty of hilarious moments that make it a keeper.
BABE – the little pig who could. I adore this darling story of non-conformity, trusting your instincts, and going for it.
SENSE & SENSIBILTY – the clothes, the setting, the romance. *sigh* I girl crushed hard on Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, and good lord, who in their right mind would say no to Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon?
USUAL SUSPECTS – a puzzle that envelops you, the characters, the plot, the subtle details. An amazing film. If you have not seen it, go watch it now. I’ll wait.
FAVORITE SOUNDTRACKS/SONGS FROM 1995 MOVIES
POCAHONTAS – Yes, it’s Disney, and yes Disney “disney-fied” history. See this article from the Smithsonian for a more factual version. But I admit it, yes, Vanessa Williams, former Miss USA, I want to paint with all The Colors of the Wind. I confess I like that song, I even cop to the fact I like the movie, and even though I know it’s completely bogus, I like the love story between pre-creep Mel Gibson, er, John Smith and Pocahontas. Did you know Disney had to turn down the heat on these two, and cut a scene? (Actually, they claimed kids in test audiences were bored by the song, which I can totally see, it does go on for a while). The song, If I Ever Knew You, is actually not so bad (when NOT being sung by Mel). Another fun fact, for Pocahontas 2, the character of John Smith was voiced by Mel’s brother.
BRAVEHEART – Yes, there was a time when some of us were not aware Mel Gibson was an asshat. Like Disney’s Pocahontas, this movie blatantly ignores fact for the sake of fiction. And I still don’t care. I love this movie. And I love the soundtrack. It’s great for background music when I’m writing. Usually, I am totally fine listening to music with lyrics while writing, but sometimes my brain needs a pinch more focus and this soundtrack fits the bill (Last of the Mohicans works too, but that movie came out in ’92).
TANK GIRL – full disclosure, I never saw this movie. The soundtrack, however, is a roll call of alterna-cool including L7, Portishead, Bush, Belly, and Veruca Salt. I enjoy most of the songs, from the instrumental Ripper’s Sole by Stomp, to the moody Roads by Portishead. My unexpected favorite is Mockingbird Girl by The Magnificent Bastards. Though not too surprising, when you realize the lead singer is Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots fame – train wreck he unfortunately might be, I love this guy’s voice.
MORTAL KOMBAT – very early in our relationship, I spent hours upon hours hanging out in smoky arcades (you could still smoke in a building back then) while my husband-then-boyfriend kicked virtual ass and took names playing Mortal Kombat. He was awesome as any character, but his weapon of choice tended to be Scorpion or Sub-Zero. (Which is why, when I recently heard “Get over here!” in a commercial I knew INSTANTLY who it was.) Kind of inevitable I would play the game a few times, and the character I preferred was Raiden. Yes it was because he could be a weenie and teleport behind someone to uppercut the crap out of them, or fly across the room, knock an opponent over and fry ’em with electricity…Raiden had all the cool easy tricks. I won a decent number of rounds, though that was probably just dudes being nice to the one chick in the room.
Anyway, the 1995 movie was comically bad, but I love many of the songs off the soundtrack. The intro track, A Taste of Things to Come, is an instrumental song and a great mood booster while going for a run (the same can be said for Control by Traci Lords). I love Juke-Joint Jezebel by KMFDM, and if you enjoy techy-tunes of the 90s from the likes of NIN, The Chemical Brothers, and Crystal Method, you’ll love it too. But my absolute favorite song on the album is Halcyon + On + On by Orbital. Love this song so much it’s going to appear twice on this list. Watch for it.
5. HACKERS – #1 on this list because I LOVE the movie AND the soundtrack. I love almost every song on the album. I can listen to it while working out, cleaning the house, writing…doing other, er, stuff. So, so good. Some of my favorites: Voodoo People and One Love, both by Prodigy, The Joker by Josh G Abrahams, Communicate by Plastico, Cowgirl by Underworld… basically I could keep going and list every song, I adore pretty much all of them. Especially Halcyon + On + On by Orbital, I told you you’d see this song again. Here it is. I LOVE this song. And the husband does too. Which is why we chose this song to be the track played at our wedding reception when the doors bust open and the wedding party makes their entrance. Sound awesome? It totally was.
So there they are, my favorite soundtracks/songs from movies of 1995. Do you have any to share? Tweet @RetroLeague and let them know.
The concept of ideal beauty as perpetuated and promoted by our society is full of infuriating contradictions from “natural beauty” as created via artfully applied make-up, plastic surgery, and masterful photo manipulation to models and actresses who are praised for the “healthy” lifestyle that grants them their svelte physique–a lifestyle that often involves smoking, starvation, crash diets, and dangerous “supplements.” But worst among the contradictions is the closely held belief I see reinforced time and time again with heart-breaking, spirit-crushing regularity: the higher the number on your scale, the lower your value to society. In other words, the more you weigh, the less you are worth.
Plenty of people might clamor to say, “No! That’s not true at all!” But even if the naysayers have never thought this way about themselves or others (and I’m pessimistic about that possibility), I would bet they’ve witnessed this mindset in action. Why does that number on the scale have so much power? Why do so many of us let that number control our lives?
Personally, I know this contradiction runs even deeper. My own thoughts about myself as compared to the way I view others is a study in contradiction. I have never looked at another woman and thought her size made her less of a person. But any time – every time – I look in the mirror the rude comments, negative thoughts, and insults fill my brain in an endless litany of shame and disgust. Sometimes, I avoid the mirror altogether. My soul just isn’t up for the beating that day.
Which brings me back to the why. Why do I do this to myself? Why can’t I stop? I have a husband who tells me every single day that he loves me – that he finds me beautiful, attractive, and yes, even sexy. But all I can ever think is that someday he’s going to look at me and see what I see…someday he’s going to finally realize I’m revolting. I try and hide these thoughts and feelings from him but occasionally they surface, and I become even more ashamed – not only do I feel bad about my body, but I feel bad about the fact that I feel bad.
I love the recent trend of women fighting back, of females taking back their right to feel good about themselves and not let the scale – or society – dictate their worth. Moms who go to the beach in their swimsuit and spend the day laughing with their kids, not obsessing about the dimples on their thighs. I admire them, but I can’t seem to be one of them. Instead, it becomes one more thing I feel bad about – one more layer added to my guilt cake (and yes, I see the irony of using a cake metaphor in a discussion about weight). I go to the pool with my daughters and feel double the insecurity: I envy the skinny moms confidently displaying their taut tummies and I envy the smiling chubby moms refusing to hide their less taut ones. I feel like a failure on both sides.
Why? Despite the picture above, the scale didn’t take control of my self-confidence until years later. I can remember it clearly, it was sixth grade…f*cking sixth grade. Gym class. We all had to line up in front of a scale to – you guessed it – get weighed…in front of everyone. I remember the number on that scale when it was my turn. I remember the name and face of the boy who commented on it later, snickering. His snickering stabbed me, his mocking smile made my insides curdle. Looking back, I realize if I hadn’t let his comments affect me so deeply, if I had ignored him, then what happened next may have never happened at all. I wasn’t the heaviest kid in my class, and I definitely was not obese. But tweens are vampires who feed on the insecurities of others, and I gave my fellow students a feast that day. Soon others joined him, adding their giggles and comments and insults. It wrecked me…in ways I am still trying to deal with. I own that. I own that I let this affect me. But it sure would have been nice if the school hadn’t made this opportunity for public humiliation so conveniently available.
The pain of that day came rushing back when I read the recent HuffPost article about a girl who refused to let her school weigh her. Sure, one may argue that we should all be more confident and not let others’ opinions of us affect our opinions of ourselves. And while that’s an optimistic goal, it’s hardly realistic. If students were to all take an IQ test, would that number be posted publicly for all the class to see? No. That kind of information is considered private and zealously guarded by administration…why not a student’s weight?
It goes back to that contradiction. No one ever argues that individual student IQs should be public knowledge. No one ever stands up and says it is acceptable to ridicule someone’s intelligence…but weight? As evidenced by some of the comments on the article mentioned above, and on the Facebook post where I first saw this article linked, there are those who feel it is the school’s right – even their duty – to weigh students. And if other kids see that number and mock a student for it? Well then maybe it will force a chubby kid to lose some damn weight, right? Right?
The woman who looks in the mirror and still sees that embarrassed and ashamed 6th grade girl says NO.
I hope I figure out how to work through my issues. I’m trying. For the sake of my own daughters (one who is currently in sixth grade herself), I hope not just to preach body acceptance but to one day truly believe it about myself too…after all, as long as this contradiction lives inside me, inside any of us, how can we hope to correct the contradictions of our society?
It was very difficult to hit “publish” on this post. Talking about my weight/mental issues makes me squirmy and scared – the conversation is one that usually takes place only in the privacy of my own mind but I decided that letting those thoughts out of my head might be the first step in keeping them out.