A fun way to learn the #calendar in #homeschool

A friend gave us this really amazing calendar (she found it at a garage sale, but it would probably be pretty easy to make one like it). It’s made with velcro so it’s easy for the kids to use.  As you see, it has the day, date, month, year, weather, and season.

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It has become our first-thing-in-the-morning ritual, and really helping my 6-year-old to understand how days, months, years, and seasons work. Plus, it’s fun.

Happy homeschooling!

Any day now. Finishing my #StainedGlass #window

This is the 6ft x 3ft (see my husband standing behind it to get a sense of the scale) stained glass window that I designed to fit in front of a particular window in my house. I’ve been working on it for… what year was my son born? That’s right. I started more than three years ago.

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It hasn’t taken so long because it was particularly tricky to make. It’s just hard to work on glass projects when you have a baby and a curious toddler in the house.

But the kids are getting older, and this is the year. (You hear me, Amy? We’re really doing it this year!) I’ve just got to finish the edging along the bottom, fit the two halves more permanently together, and install the darn thing.

Wish me luck!

Happy crafting.

Choose your own #romance adventure #writing

A while back, I answered an ad for a company that was starting a line of “choose your own adventure” style romance stories. While romance isn’t my forte, it seemed like a cool concept so I decided to take a stab at it. Though I sent in my entry in July of last year, I never heard back. I don’t know whether my writing wasn’t good enough, or if they just had filled their need before I entered, but I thought my first and only attempt at writing romance should get some air time, so I’ve reproduced it below.

The task was to write in second person (“you do this, you do that”), to stay under 2500 words, to make it to the first place where the reader would have to make a choice, and to get at least one paragraph in to each branch of the first choice.

Please enjoy — whether that means reading because you really like this type of story, or just laughing at my attempt.  🙂

Happy reading!

———————————————————————————————————-

You roll over, and his warm body is still there. Running your hands gently down his back, you feel him give a small shudder of awareness. Now that you know he’s awake, you gently kiss his shoulder, asking a question with silent lips. When he starts to turn, you feel your body warming up in anticipation, particularly when his hand slides down your thigh. Just as he is turning his face to yours, but before you can make out any distinct features, you are interrupted by a loud ringing.

You open your eyes and realize that you’ve just been dragged out of a very pleasant dream. If it weren’t for your phone ringing, you would have had a few more minutes of blissful sleep, and your body might not be aching so much for something that just isn’t going to happen this morning. Damn.

With no time to luxuriate in the afterimages of a hard body and soft eyes, you hardly have a moment to wonder who the mystery man in your dream was before you quickly check the screen and see that it’s your boss calling. As the Executive Admin to Shawn Whittington, the CEO of a small, but growing, international company, you have grown used to calls at strange hours. Shawn doesn’t call for personal reasons, so you know he probably needs you to do something before you get to the office. “Hello?” you say, trying to sound like you weren’t just pulled out of dreamland.

“Kelly. I hope I didn’t wake you?” His voice is deep, and you always find it soothing. You have to concentrate to not fall back to sleep.

“No, no. Of course not,” you lie, hoping that you don’t sound too tired. Or annoyed, given that you were just about to get intimate with your dream man. Scrubbing a weary hand over your face you ask, “what can I do for you?”

“I need you to pick up coffee on the way to the office for the board meeting this morning.” He sounds almost apologetic.

“Of course,” you say. You can’t understand why Shawn can’t just pick up coffee himself, but of course that’s why he pays you so well. “Any special orders?”

“The usual. It’s just the eight of us this morning,” he says.

Great. You were pulled out of your amazing dream to get eight specialized coffees because you work for a bunch of prima donnas, half of whom need half decaf, and the other half of whom will only take soy. “I’ll have those in the conference room by the time you’re in this morning,” you say, gritting your teeth to keep yourself from groaning in frustration. It’s lucky you keep a spreadsheet of the executive board’s current dietary habits.

“Thanks.” he says. It feels like he hesitates a moment. His voice softens as if he’s going to say something meant for your ears alone. He starts to say, “Kelly…” but before you can ask if there’s anything else he ends lamely with, “thanks a lot,” and hangs up.

What could he have been about to say? It was almost like he was going to ask you an intimate question, or confess a dark secret. But it’s just Shawn, who is both 10 years older than you and your boss, so that can’t possibly have been it. Can it?

You picture Shawn’s classically handsome face. His coal dark hair that’s tousled just enough to look like it wasn’t done on purpose, and chocolate brown eyes that you could melt in… Your dream must have affected you more than you thought if you’re thinking about Shawn this way. You’ve got to pull it together.

You glance at the clock. You’re tempted to close your eyes and try to conjure up the vision of dream man once more, but now that you have to stop and get coffees you need to get up right away. Taking just one more minute to wonder whose face you would have seen if he’d had time to turn around, you sigh and get up to head to the shower.

**********************

You rush into the office, late again. Stopping for all of the coffees for the executive team is a real chore, particularly since you’ve got to juggle your purse and the cardboard containers stacked on top of each other, all without spilling on your dress. Sherry, the receptionist, frowns at you as you try to sneak past. Given the look on her face, you’re surprised she hasn’t actually burst into flames. This thought is so funny, that you have to hold in a giggle until you make it past the harpy.

As you head to your desk and your grimace becomes the giggle you’ve been trying to suppress, you accidentally catch the eye of Jeremy, one of the newest additions to the company, heading the other direction down the hall. His look of confusion quickly turns into a twinkle in his eye as he realizes that you’re stifling a giggle.

Amazingly, he stops and says, “Kelly, right? May I help you carry those?”

For a moment, you’re totally flustered. First, you had no idea he knew your name. Second, he’s so incredibly handsome. You look directly into his dark blue eyes and you’re suddenly transported back to your dream. You realize you’re blushing furiously, and try to cover it by looking down at your full hands.

“Thank you, but I’ve got it,” you mumble.

“Really, it’s no trouble,” he says, taking the coffees out of your hands. “To the conference room?” he asks.

You nod and follow, your brain still reeling too much to say anything else. “Get it under control,” you think. And then, “stupid dream.” Walking behind him is a treat, though, as you get to see his amazing body. With those broad shoulders, narrow waist, and firm butt, he must work out. You almost ask out loud, but think better of it. Imagining what he’d say if he caught you staring makes you giggle again, but you hold it down, which causes you to burst into hiccups.

Arriving at the conference room, he asks, “right on the table?”

You really have to get control of your thoughts, because for a moment you think he’s asking whether you want to do something else on the table. By the time you realize he means the coffee, you are blushing again, and your hiccups are worse. “>hic< Yes, set them right on the >hic< table, please,” you say.

He leans down to set the coffee on the table, his golden-bronze hair glinting in the halogen lighting, giving you a heart-stopping view of the exact part of his anatomy you’d just been admiring. When he straightens up and turns to face you, the twinkle is back.

You feel completely stupid, and before you can stop yourself you snap, “what?! >hic<”

His grin widens and he says, “your hiccups are really cute.”

Before you can say another word, he’s headed back out to the hallway to continue whatever he’d been about to do before he stopped to act as your fetch boy. You start to wonder if you’ve had him pegged all wrong…

 *********************

At the end of the day, after taking meeting notes, planning lunch, and putting out all of the fires that come up in a normal day for an Executive Admin, you’re ready to crawl into bed with a good book. Just as you’re getting ready to go, Jeremy walks up.

“A bunch of us are going out for drinks around the corner after work. Interested?” He looks at you expectantly.

You can’t really believe he’s asking you to go out. Yes, it’s with a group, but you are still definitely interested. You look up into his dark blue eyes and say, “I’d love to go. Where do you want me?” Oops! “I mean, where do I meet everyone?” you say, hoping he didn’t notice your slip, but blushing furiously when his smile widens.

Too much of a gentleman to bring attention to your embarrassment, he merely gives you the details and says, “see you in a half hour.” He begins to turn away, but turns back to say, “we’d better exchange phone numbers in case something happens…?”

Is he asking for your phone number? Your heart is pounding as you give him your number, and he takes your phone to put his number in. He smiles again before heading back to his office, and your stomach feels fluttery.

You duck into your boss’s office to make sure he doesn’t need anything, but the smile on your face fades when you see his head down on his desk. Tentatively, you say, “sir?” And then, when that feels too formal, you walk right up to his desk and say, “Shawn?”

He lifts his head and you can see that his eyes are red. “A hard day.” He tries to smile, but it doesn’t reach his eyes.

“Is there anything I can do?” you ask, feeling helpless, but wanting to be supportive of a man who has been a great boss to you for many years, and who is obviously unhappy. Suddenly, you remember what day it is.

He obviously sees the realization cross your face, because he grimaces. If you thought he would have wanted you to, you’d have had flowers on his desk, but you know him well enough to know he isn’t the type to want to commemorate the first anniversary of his wife’s death. If anything, he’d be the kind to want to forget it.

Trying another tack, you smile and say, “let me get you something to drink. I just restocked the break room fridge with the smoothies you like…”

He shakes his head as he says, “I could really go for something a little more…”

“There are some people going out for an after work drink…” you begin, but stop when you see the look on his face. He doesn’t want company right now, and a noisy bar is probably the last place he wants to be, but he also shouldn’t be alone.

“I’ll be fine, really,” he says. He smiles a real smile this time, and your heart clenches at the thought of this sweet man sitting by himself, thinking about a wife whom he loved, and whom he’ll never see again.

Before you give yourself time to think, you say, “I could stay.” He looks a little bit taken aback, but also a little bit hopeful.

“I wouldn’t want to impose,” he says firmly, but his brown, melted chocolate eyes seem to be saying something else.

Do you keep your date with Jeremy, even though it’s not really a date? He could definitely be your dream man, but you’re not sure that he thinks of you that way. He’s always been kind, and he did seem like he was flirting this morning…

Or do you stay and help your boss, who is certainly hurting for company and a shoulder to cry on. Yes, he’s your boss, but he is absolutely delicious to look at, smart, funny, and he needs someone. Could that be you?

Either way, your evening just got a lot more interesting.

*************************

[if you choose to go to the bar with Jeremy]

“You’re right sir,” you say. What were you even thinking a moment ago? A fifteen-year age difference, and he’s your boss. It’s a good thing you came to your senses.

“There’s probably someone better suited to…  Is there someone I could call?”

“No, Kelly,” he says, “I think it’s best if I just go home. Thanks for doing another great job today.”

“And you’re sure you won’t join us at the bar?” you ask, mostly to be kind. He knows as well as you do that no one really wants the boss to come along.

“I’m sure,” he says, smiling a genuine smile. “Go on. Have fun.”

You smile back, then head to the door, anticipating seeing Jeremy again.

*************************

[if you choose to stay with Shawn]

“Of course I’m going to stay,” you say.

With a look of relief that he can’t quite hide, Shawn reaches down and pulls a bottle of scotch and two glasses out of his bottom desk drawer. At your raised eyebrows, he looks a little bit sheepish and says, “care for a drink?”

Not really expecting an answer, you grin and say, “do you always keep that in there?” Then, remembering Jeremy, you say, “I’ll be right back,” and head out into the hall to make a quick call.

The key to #happiness. #inspiration #quote

“The great Western disease is, ‘I’ll be happy when… When I get the money. When I get a BMW. When I get this job.’ Well, the reality is, you never get to ‘when.’

“The only way to find happiness is to understand that happiness is not out there. It’s in here. And happiness is not next week. It’s now.” ~Marshall Goldsmith, American Author

Got this quote in my email the other day. I was struck by the idea: so, I just have to decide I’m happy, and I am happy?

I was enamored of the story of Pollyanna as a child and try to model my thinking after her when I can remember to. But seeing it laid out so simply really inspired me.

Of course, living it is a slightly trickier proposition. Sometimes the brain — be it from hormones, low blood sugar, or early training — just doesn’t want to understand that happiness is believing you’re happy. But that’s the beauty of this way of thinking. Even if you’re having a bad day and can’t see happiness, that doesn’t cause it to go away forever. It just means that when you’re back to yourself tomorrow, you again decide that you’re happy, and you are.

I’m posting this one on the bulletin board behind my desk so I can be inspired by it every day!

Happy day!

Unlocking the #brain for better #writing? #TEDx

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I just finished watching a TEDx Talk given by Bill Donius called “Unlocking Your Brain’s Hidden App.”

It’s 17 minutes long, but if you have a few minutes it’s definitely worth the watch. Find it here.

Now that you’ve seen it, did you write down the same animal or a different? What does it mean to you?

Unfortunately, I wrote the same one twice. I was overthinking it (if you know me, you know I overthink a lot of stuff). Plus, in college I used to practice writing the alphabet over and over with my left hand, so maybe that had an impact.*

However, even though it didn’t “work” for me the first time, I feel like there’s something here. I want to figure a way to surprise myself into not overthinking — maybe get my husband to shoot questions at me quick-fire style? — and see what happens.

My hope is that it can help me break through some of the writers’ block that’s been keeping me from understanding some of my characters. If I get a good result, I’ll certainly share…

Happy writing!

 

*This is a true story. It was during a particularly boring lecture class where the prof tended to repeat himself a good deal. He was an amazing man and had a multitude of experience to share, but he was in his 80s and often forgot which stories he’d already shared. Anyone who took a Cultural Anthropology class at Kent State during the time I was there, you know who I mean. (RIP Dr. P)  Upon realizing I was hearing the same stories for a second time, I got to thinking that if I ever hurt my right hand maybe I should know how to write with my left, so I literally filled notebook pages with left-handed alphabets. That way I’d still get my A for attendance (yes, that’s how easy that particular class was), and I’d look like I was taking notes.

Key for #character development? Need advice. #writing #amwriting

Who_is_it

I recently saw a suggestion on Twitter to cast your novel — that is, to think of which actors (or characters from another story) you’d cast if your novel was a movie.

Wow. Mind blown.

Yes, the bulk of character work still has to come from my own head — my character can’t be exactly like someone else’s or else I’m going to end up writing someone else’s story. However, character development is my weaker area. I’m a very plot-driven writer, and prefer to read plot-driven stories with some character development, rather than stories that focus mostly on character and not so much on plot. Therefore, it was a complete revelation that I could get a jump start on character building by gaining inspiration from a character I already know.

Now that I’ve started researching it I realize that there are MANY people and groups who advocate doing this. I don’t know the original source of the idea, but good for whomever had it first, and for everyone who uses it.

Anyone out there who has already been doing this, what do you like about it? What are your hints and tips for doing it well?

Anyone tried it and didn’t like it? Why not?

Thanks, and happy writing!

#Writing. It’s what I do.

In my (limited) free time, I’m working on a novel. However, unlike those accountants or dentists who do their job every day and go home to work on their novel to escape work, I actually also get to write for my job.

I am blessed to be part of an amazing team over at Branditarians. We get to do what we love, working for great clients. Some might ask why, when I do what I love every day, I’d want to spend my free time also writing? That’s actually a subject for another post, but in short it’s because these two types of writing exercise different parts of my brain, and satisfy my creative needs in different ways.

No matter what I’m writing, though — whether it’s a marketing document, an ad, a set of brand guidelines, or a YA Fantasy story — I get to do what I love. Every day.

People keep telling me not to… #homeschool

Remember when you were expecting a child, and you learned the first set of questions that every single person would ask you? They were something like this:

“How far along are you?”

“What’s your due date?”

“Is it a boy or girl?”

You came to expect those questions, and in fact you were almost disappointed if someone congratulated you without asking them.

Similarly, I’ve discovered that when I tell people I’m homeschooling my kids there’s a set of regular questions that almost always come out:

“Have you thought about their socialization needs?”

“How is that going?”

And most commonly, “Why?”

I recognize that the people asking are usually either genuinely curious, or sometimes genuinely concerned. However, it does get a little bit old answering them over and over again. In case you were thinking of asking me any of these questions, in order to save some time, here are the answers.

1) First of all, thanks for asking.  😉  Yes. I’ve thought about it a lot, just as I thought long and hard before embarking on this journey. I do have a plan in place that involves classes outside of the home and regular trips to the library. No need for you to worry about it on my behalf.

2) First of all, thanks for asking.  😉  It’s going fine so far. If you know me well, you know I love teaching, and I love my kids, and it turns out that the combination of the two has been fine so far. Is there a chance it won’t always be? Sure. That’s why I’m open to considering other schooling methods if need be. But for now, we’re very happy.

3) First of all, thanks for asking.  😉  Like you, I live in a century and decade where I can be fulfilled working from home (I’m a proud WAHM — that’s Work At Home Mother for the uninitiated) and also take advantage of the golden opportunity to spend time with my kids. They will only be small once, and this is a key time when their ideas, opinions, fears, and hopes are being formed. I want to be a big part of that. I have the opportunity to give them this gift — the gift of my time and help — and I want to give it.

Some of the benefits: We get to take field trips whenever we want without having to sign permission slips. We can study anything my kids are interested in without worrying about whether the rest of the class is caught up. We can use every day to learn something new, rather than restricting the bulk of our learning to a traditional school year.

I totally recognize that this is not a viable choice for everyone. And the public schools in my area ARE great schools. My choice isn’t a condemnation of anyone else’s choices, it’s just the best choice I can make for my family at this time.

When it comes right down to it, I’m excited to be living in a time and country where there are so many available resources to make sure that my kids — and yours — get a great education. Thus, I wish you well in whatever educational choices you make for your family, and I hope you wish me well in mine.

Happy learning!

GREAT site for #Kumihimo designs!

I recently stumbled on a site that allows you to create your own patterns for kumihimo round braids. The general site is http://friendship-bracelets.net. With just a little bit of searching, I discovered a number of kumihimo patterns that others have created at http://friendship-bracelets.net/kumihimos.php.

The patterns have anywhere up to 40 strands, but the braiding process for all of these patterns is exactly the same as for an 8-strand round braid (right down, left up, turn; right down, left up, turn; etc). I was able to quickly and easily make this flowered bracelet with a pattern I found:

Flower Bracelet

On the kumihimo page, there is a place to click that takes you to a page where you can make your own pattern:

kumihimo generator

It took me a little while playing around with it to figure out the most effective way to use it, but once I did it became very fun to try different patterns and see what would happen.

I found the easiest for me was to clear out the default pattern before I started creating:

Step 1) click in the “fill color” box and a color chart will pop up

Step 2) select the color “white” by dragging the little color indicator circle all the way to the top left corner, or by typing “ffffff”

Step 3) start clicking on the circles in the flowered pattern until everything is white

Now you’ve got a blank canvas to start designing!

My first pattern looked like this:

original yylb

I had already determined that trying to make do with a 32-space disc for more than about 16 strands wasn’t going to work. Luckily the site has a “wheel designer” section (http://friendship-bracelets.net/wheeldesigner.php) where you can tell it how many strands your braid requires and how big you want your wheel diameter to be, and it creates a template that looks like this (I’ve made this smaller for the purposes of the post; the actual template will be the actual size you asked for in terms of diameter):

wheel designer

I then proceeded to make a cardboard template because that was a relatively stiff material that I had handy.

Cardboard template

I don’t recommend this. Though stiff, it was not as stiff as the foam disc I usually use, and thus the strands wouldn’t stay as taut as I wanted them to. That made it very frustrating to use, and the braid came out lumpy.

finished yylb braid

The lumpy braid was only one reason I ended up ditching the pattern. The other, as you see, was that with so many strands, and given that the pattern wraps around, in bracelet form it didn’t end up looking like yin yangs as much as it had done on paper.

I still haven’t figured out the disc problem for making patterns with more strands, but if I do I’ll be sure to share. Or if anyone else has done this and has suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

A few hints about using the website:

1)   If you don’t create a user name you can’t save your patterns. I didn’t want yet another log-in, so I worked around this by just taking a screenshot of my pattern and saving it to my desktop.

2)   There are tons of great patterns that others have made, but it’s hard to search through them. I suggest, if you’re looking for something particular, to use the filter function on the left side of the patterns page to help weed through what you don’t want.

3)   The pattern maker was frustrating at first, but can really be fun once you figure it out. Play around with it for a while and you’ll see.

Happy kumihimo-ing!

Things that go bump… #weepingangels #doctorwho

Another night where I have work that needs doing, and it’s very difficult to do during the day when I don’t have any childcare help, but I’m thinking about everything else.

Here’s how the internal struggle has been going:

1) I’m not hungry, but suddenly decide I need a snack. There are salty dry roasted almonds and sweet dried pineapple downstairs in the pantry… a perfect match.

2) My house is a mess. It’s like a toy farm where toys are growing everywhere, and most especially on the carpet. If I go downstairs there’s a high percentage chance I will trip on one of these highly sustainable toy crops and possibly break something (me or the toy).

3) But I really do want a snack. Don’t need one, just want one. I should brave it.

4) In the hallway, looking down the stairs into darkness. What if there’s a Weeping Angel down there?*

weepingangles

5) I’m the mom now. I’m the adult in the house. It’s high time to stop worrying about silly things and just go get my snack!

6) But I don’t really need a snack. Though I do want one….

7) For goodness sakes woman!

8) Okay, down the stairs, flipping lights on as I go (harder for a Weeping Angel to sneak up on you when it’s light). And it’s snack time!

9) Maybe a quick game of Candy Crush while I’m near where I keep my cell phone docked….

10) Oh no! Has it already been almost an hour? I have GOT to get that work done!

11) What if there’s a Weeping Angel at the top of the stairs?

12) Back to the office. Now that the struggle is over, and I’m still avoiding work by writing a blog post about it, I feel that the snack was definitely justified. However, I’m starting to get really thirsty…

 

*while I realize Weeping Angels are fictional and therefore highly unlikely to be in my house, ever since I saw the Doctor Who episode called Blink I have been convinced that I’m going to find a seemingly innocent statue perched in my house in a place where it shouldn’t be, and as soon as I turn my back… BAM!