Sunday, December 25, 2011

Make Merry

Happy Christmas to all who celebrate! May today be full of blessings, big or small, and the new year for of the good things. Happy Chanuka! And a belated Merry Yule to everyone else! Be safe and I'll see you in the blogosphere in a couple of days. (I've elf projects to share! :-)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Catching Up

I really should have an exciting new post here...but I don't. National Novel Writing Month kicked off this past Tuesday and I'm woefully behind. Between getting ready for the kick-off (goodie bags!), getting ready for book fair, and covering for our school secretary, who was off with some health issues, all I did this past weekend was sleep. *grin* I did get the story started at our youth group's lock-in on Friday.

Tonight I'm heading in town to the Union Street Cafe for some serious working time. I think some of the other WriMos will be joining me there. Hopefully some serious words can be churned out and I can really get into the meat of the story, where the really fun stuff happens.

Oh, and I have a working title - Visions of Treasure Past. It's met with Drama Queen's approval, which is more than the other title's I've tossed out have done.

Okay, off to get some stuff done so I can get out of here!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Feelings of Loss

Saturday I slipped into my favorite, best fitting pair of jeans. I don't wear them often because they're getting a bit too far onto the threadbare side. They hung on my. The waist was still not a bad fit, but the rest just hung. They are so baggy in the seat now, as well as the front. I couldn't believe it. I didn't think I'd lost that much weight in the last couple of months, but wow!

So, I went in to have a health screening at OU today - part of their Healthy Ohio inititiave. Guess what? Not only was my blood pressure wonderful (113/64 - take THAT Monkey Girl!) but my weight was 198 and change. I've finally slipped below that danged threshold. The question now is, can I keep going? I don't ever expect to be 110 and a size 5 again - my body's changed as I got older AND had two kids - but it feels good to get some of that extra off. Size 18's fit better and don't look as sloppy on me. Heck, I'm almost in a size 16 now.

Being diabetic, with lower back issues, this is a great thing. Psychologically, since the smaller sizes now fit better, it's a great thing. Not everyone was meant to be tiny, but my smaller frame isn't quite so lost and my face has more definitly in it. Losing something never felt so good.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Scrapbooking Software Giveaway -- New Winner

Well, it's been over a week and unfortunately our announced winner hasn't gotten back in touch with me. Since that's a long time to wait AND my winner's code is only good until Halloween, we drew a new winner this morning. :-D Here are my lovely assistants, pulling the name:

So, who's name did they pull from the mug? Why Andrea Stern, of course! Fortunately, I know Andi, so I'm pretty sure she'll get in touch with me for her prize. It'll be really interesting to see what she creates with her prize! And once again, a big thanks to all of you who checked the contest out and a bigger thanks to those of you who entered!


Monday, October 17, 2011

New Blog

I promised that my next post would have to do with writing, and it does. I've started a separate blog just for Laurel Reufner, the name I tend to write under. You can follow along in my writerly adventures over at Laurel Reufner's Lair.

It just seemed like it was time to have a dedicated space just for those types of posts. I'll still write about whats going in with my writing here, but the Lair is just for Laurel Reufner and what I'm up to under the pen name. Please, pop over a check it out sometime.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

We Have A Winner!!!

While the turnout for my giveaway wasn't all that great - only 4 of you took the time to enter - I still had fun. And a lot of you stopped by to check out the blog. (Thanks!)

So, just minutes ago my youngest daughter drew the winner of the software package.

I nabbed her as she was coming in the door from OU's homecoming parade. Mr. Incredible and her had participated in one of the units.

Ah, but you really want to know if you won, right? So, without further ado, here's the winner:

Congrats, Missy! I'll be in touch with you by late afternoon tomorrow with the codes you'll need to download your goodies. I hope you have as much fun with the software as I've been having.

Next post will be about reading and or writing! Promise!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Scrapbooking Software Giveaway

We're coming down to the homestretch on the software giveaway. The wonderful prize package contains the download code for My Memories Scrapbooking Software PLUS a $10 gift certificate to their shop. Personally, having gotten to try it out, I think it's a pretty sweet deal. I mean, come on, it'll take you just a few minutes, there aren't a lot of hoops to jump through, and you get some cool FREE software if you win.

I've had so much fun with this software. Recently I made 13 personalized binder covers for my writing club at school. I'm thinking of doing a "book cover" for my NaNo novel this year as well. While the possibilites aren't limitless, they're pretty wide open.

To enter, you need to go to the original post, My First Giveaway, and leave me a message at the bottom of the review letting me know which scrapbooking kit you like the best. (Click here to go to their website.) That's it! Easy peasy!

I'll draw a winner before by noon on Saturday and send them a notification.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Memories Wednesday Challenge

The My Memories blog apparently has a weekle challenge. This week's test was to use at least one frame on your page. I thought, "What the heck. It's not like I'm going to do anything particularly constructive this afternoon." ;-) Also, I hadn't done anything with the photos from Monkey Girl's birthday party yet. Here's my offering:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Flash Fiction - Ripples

The truth is that I really wanted to do a post this weekend, but it's been crazy around here with an influx of fresh veggies. (Post, with pics, coming soon!) And since it's now after 12:30 and I need to be awake and at work in the morning, I'm posting this really, super short piece of fiction inspired by a contest that I want to say was being held by maybe GQ magazine? Anyway, the challenge was to write a short story in exactly 78 words. Here's my super short flash fiction piece, coming in at 79 words with the title...


Randolph heard a thud before realizing he’d been struck. Lying there, he felt the last of his life draining away until the last drop was gone.

The speeding car never stopped. Never paused. The woman driving was too last in her own pain over a lover now gone.

Her little care plunged into the turn far too fast. It slid from the road, careened down the steep embankment, and smashed against a tree before stopping. She died smiling.

(The above image was lifted from National Geographic's Photo Of The Day site. Click the image to follow it home. :-) )

Monday, September 26, 2011

2007 Chris Baty Interview

For those of you not in the know, Chris Baty is the insane founder of National Novel Writing Month. Today I stumbled across this interview from 2007 that rather puts the silliness of OLL during NaNoWriMo into some perspective. I can really appreciate the man's vision and intelligence even more now.

The interview was conducted by Therese Walsh, on of the writers at Writer Unboxed.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Now, go get your equivalent of a magical Viking helmet of writing and come join us in November for one heck of a monthful of writerly abandon!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Banned Book Week

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” - Voltaire

What some consider to be nothing but hot air and hype, others see as a celebration of free speech and an awareness-raising of how that freedom is under constant assault. I tend to side with the later. Of course there are limits to what should be in our libraries, especially in children's libraries, but there are those who would protect them from thoughts and ideas that aren't even radical. Some of the reasons folks try to ban a book just boggles the mind. And so, we have Banned Book Week, which starts tomorrow!

I thought I'd put together a personal reading list for the week, trying to be all edgy and everything, but something funny happened. As I'm reading over the various lists ( here and here) of books that have been banned or challenged, I realized that I've actually read quite a few. Some I can understand the desire to ban (Brave New World, anyone?) and others just leave me scratching my head, especially if they're more recent works. (R. L. Stine's Goosebumps? Really?)

So, I thought it might be fun to make a list of the banned books I've got under my belt, just for fun. Have you read any of them?

Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - read my freshman year of college, under duress. (I still think it's boring.)

William Powell's The Anarchist's Cookbook - I actually used to have a copy of this from the internet. And I can totally see why folks would want it banned.

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World - pretty radical when written. Heck, it's still probably radical today. The entire sexual more of the book would have been extremely radical in 1932.

Stephen King's Christine - okay, technically I haven't read this one. I've tried twice and keep falling asleep by page 21...

Stephen King's Cujo - I don't understand the banning of this one, although it did scare the bejeesus out of me when I read it.

Stephen King's The Dead Zone - I read this one in high school, just like Cujo. It was...interesting. I remember being surprised by the sex scenes, what there were, but I think that was because the seemed a little forced, as though an editor had told him to sex it up and he wasn't sure how....

Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon - beautiful short story, not so great as a novel....On a side note, Dr. Keyes used to be an English/Creative Writing prof here at OU. I got him to autograph a copy of the book for my mom one year for Christmas.

V. C. Andrew's Flowers in the Attic - disturbing. And once again I can rather understand why some folks would want it banned, what with the incest and all...

Judy Blume's Forever - once again I can see why it might be banned. I remember reading it in high
school to find out what all the fuss was about. I appreciated her courage in writing the book.

Lois Lowry's The Giver - okay, the end left me going wtf? but the book itself was very thought-provoking and extremely well written. I cared about those characters. Drama Queen had to read it in 5th grade, which is how I came to read it as well.

R. L. Stine's Goosebumps series - honestly! It's been challenged, which is a shame. We can hardly keep the books on the shelves over at the school. They are probably the most popular and they get kids reading. Oh, and Mr. Stine is from Columbus, OH. He went to OSU back in the day.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby - excellent book!

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale - very distrubing and I hated it, but Mark had left it lying around so long that I felt compelled to read the dang thing. And back them, if I started it then I usually wound up finishing it.

Thomas Rockwell's How to Eat Fried Worms - again, really? It's classic. And probably the first banned book I ever read, way back in 6th grade. (Although I didn't know it was a banned book at the time.)

Harry Allard's The Stupids (series) - honestly, I've read one of these and if they'd just ignored it, maybe it would have gone away. Aptly named though...

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird - absolutely amazing book. I finally read it this summer after years of thinking it would be boring. Instead I was riveted. If you read only one book on this list, it should be this one.

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time - I can see why some would feel threatened by this book, but it's still an amazing book.

There you have it - my banned book list. I suspect there are quite a few more of Mark Twain's on lists floating around out there as well, especially Letters From the Earth, which I've read, as well as Extracts from Adam's Diary and Eve's Diary, both of which I plan to read this coming week. I'm also hoping to get my hands on Animal Farm, by Orwell. Monkey Girl read it in her 5th grade HOTS class and got a kick out of it.

So, what's on your list?

Monday, September 19, 2011


Avast, ye mateys! Today be talk like a pirate day! Get yer scurvy dog self over to th' webpage n' check it out. Smartly.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My First Giveaway - My Memories Scrapbooking Software

I want to tell you about this fabulous software I was given the opportunity to try out - and then I'm going to give you a chance to win a copy for yourself. This is my first every giveaway, so I'm a little excited. For the record, other than the exact same package I'm giving away, there has been no renumeration for the following review. They merely gave me the opportunity to play around with the software for awhile and then asked me to tell you all what I thought about it.

I got this software offer mysteriously in my email inbox. Figuring it was a hoax or scam, I opened a new window, did a Yahoo! search and went to check out the company. They have freebies you can download. And they weren't just in their software format either. Most of them could also be downloaded as .pdfs and used in other types of projects, or printed out and used for regularly scrapbooking. This kinda impressed me. I mentioned the email to Mr. Incredible and told him that I thought I was going to do it. I'm so glad I did. I have had so much fun with the My Memories Scrapbooking Suite that it's unbelievable. Heck, I'm thinking of doing our school yearbook for this year using the software to put the books together. We were just going to sell inexpensive photo cds, instead of the regular yearbook because of the cost, but with this program I can also do wonderfully themed layouts to add to the fun.

("Morning Hush" - Possibly my favorite pack at the moment.)

The Good Stuffs:

1. Variety - There's a large variety of scrapbooking packs to browse through. I learned very quickly to take a good look at the embellishments in deciding if I really want a particular pack. Otherwise I'd just look at the pretty colors and go, "Oh, shiny!"

2. Freebies, Giveaways, and Cheapies - There is a nice variety of freebies, as well as a dollar store, and many packs are frequently marked down. I've also noticed that they highlight a different designer each week on their blog, complete with giveaways.

3. Easy Account - It's very easy to set up your account. I also like that your Wishlist shows up on the front page of your account area. (Yes, there's a Wishlist feature, which is VERY nice.) The checkout process is pretty smooth as well. It's also easy to download and install new scrapbooking packs. (For the record, I'm running Windows 7 with IE 9, which I don't necessarily recommend for reasons having nothing to do with My Memories.)

4. Software - The most important part, right? What the heck is the software like?  It seemed pretty straightforward and easy to use - to me. Your experience might vary, depending on how comfortable you are playing around with new software.I love how easy it is to resize, reposition, and move around the various elements on a page.

For those who don't intuitively seem to get it, there's also a user guide that you can download. It's bookmarked and hyperlinked to navigate fairly easily. Drama Queen seems to have caught on to how to use the software fairly easily and has been having fun playing around with it as well. (I also just discovered a "Getting Started Tutorial.")

(Our Chi Rho church campers - one of my first pages.)

5. Sharing Your Creations - There are several ways of doing this. My option of choice has been to simply export a page as a .jpeg - and you can do more than one at a time - and then either share them on here or print. I like printing as a .jpeg because it seems to fill more of the printed page than if I print straight from the program.

Of course, you can also print it from straight from the My Memories program. There are also options to create interactive digital albums, add music or sound, save it as a slide show, or even burn it to a dvd. Yet another option is to upload your scrapbook to the webstie and have it printed for you as a bound book. I haven't really explored any of these options yet, so I can't really speak for how well they work.

6. Terms of Use - I'm also impressed with their Terms of Use policy. Photographers can actually use their software to create scrapbooking pages which they then sell. Those pages have to include photographs taken by the photographer, but I still thank that's a really incredible policy.

The Bad Stuffs
1. Honestly, I think my biggest complaint about My Memories is searching the website for what I want. I can search by the name of a pack or the name of a designer, but I can't search for, say, "teddy bears". (Unless it happens to be worked into the name of a pack...) It's a little time consuming when looking for something in particular. 

2. Printing Area - I've discovered that if I print from within the program that the printed area doesn't nearly fill the page. If I export it as a .jpeg, I get much more coverage. It's a minor thing, but is still something to keep in mind.

The Verdict
Overall, I'm finding myself honestly recommending this software to folks I know who might be interested. It's a lot of fun, the kits aren't really all that expensive, and the finished layouts are beautiful. I've shared some of my pages on here and am planning on sharing more during the course of the contest. I'm also having fun trying to figure out interesting ways to use the software for things other than just traditional scrapbooking pages.

The Giveaway
So, you're now probably wondering how you can get your hands on the freebie I've got to giveaway. Or, at least I hope you're wondering something along those lines. I'm going to try and make it fairly easy since I hate giveaways on blogs that make you jump through half-a-dozen hoops and go like this or follow that.

All you need do is go to the My Memories site and browse through the packs for a wee bit. Then come back here and leave a comment telling me which one you really liked. Make sure to include some means for me to get in touch with you, be it your own blog or what have you.

I'm going to keep the contest open until October 15th, at which point I'll use one of the various random number generator's to pick the winner.

Oh, and the winner gets a code to download the My Memories v2 software for free (a $39.97 value) plus a $10 gift certificate to use on their website. Not a bad deal.

The random number generator will have the final say in who wins, promise. I'm sure whoever gets this will really enjoy it. And if you don't win the contest, I'm going to share a code later that I think gives you a discount on purchasing the software. But more on that later...(After I check it out a bit more.)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Couple of Layouts

Just something tossed up quik that I wanted to share. I think I'm going to start the giveaway come Monday, in honor of Monkey Girl's birthday, so please be looking for that. This software is maybe a little too much fun to play with. ;-) I did these two pages tonight while we were gaming. Ah yes, troll blood and sentimental scrapbook pages. Quite a mix!

Mr. Incredible, who celebrated his birthday yesterday by running all over the place for school events. This layout was completed from an almost totally blank canvas. All I started with was a template with the photo spots already on it. Then I played around for a couple of hours (we were in combate part of that time. And before that we were dealing with some goblins, so I kept getting distracted.) with various embelishments and word art. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. The green and purple theme uses his favorite colors. The trick was to get greens and purples that worked well together since I was pulling elements from different products.

My grandmother (on the left) and her sister. It's just the two of them now. And they act like a couple of young girls on a regular basis, thank goodness! This layout was done using one of the quick pages that already has embelishments already on it. All I had to do was resize the photo for the opening and then I sent it to the back so it would lay behind the matting. Very quick and easy. The three flowers on the right, but the two leafy things peaking out from under them were added by me, as was the journaling bit at the bottom. I'm rather pleased with it.

Okay, that's it for tonight. I'm off to bed. Tomorrow we head up home for the Cline family reunion. Should be fun!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Quick Update

Sorry it's been quiet on here again, and just when I was starting to post a little more often too. However, I'm just plain tired. I've been touched by three deaths lately, and I know there have been several more. And I've been working extra, covering for folks who needed to be gone from work in the afternoon. Actually getting to walk out the door at 1 this afternoon was a nice novelty. ;-)

Okay, enough whining! And enough dying around here for now! I know the last two deaths weren't surprises and were more blessing than tragedy, but it's still more than enough for now.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Fun With My Software

I'm still messing around and learning what all you can do with this scrapbooking software that landed in my lap. I've been wanting to try out a card and while I'm extremely sorry for the loss of one of Monkey Girl's school friends over the weekend, it did give me an idea for making a card. I hate, hate, hate picking out sympathy cards. They're usually over religious, sentimental, or vague....or worse - all of three. So, I started playing around and created the following card. It's blank inside so I can write my own sentiment or maybe even a bit of poetry. I'm not sure this is one I'll print and use, but it's a start on what I can do to make cards I like. :-) And that makes me pleased. Oh, and it was very easy to make.

As an update to my last project - the Fearless Leader layout - she got a kick out of it. I wound up printing it a color printer and taping it to her door. It's now on the bulletin board in her office - goofy fake mugshot and all. Ah yes. I love my job. I mean, honestly how many are lucky enough to have bosses they poke some good humored fun at?

It's been crazy over at school this week as I've been filling in and covering for some folks for whatever reason. I've enjoyed it, but it'll also be nice to be on my actual regular schedule starting next week. It'll also be a little odd...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Something New To Play With

There is a digital scrapbooking software company out there handing out free copies of it's main title to bloggers and I was one of the lucky ones to be asked to give it a try. How this lovely opportunity came about, I'll never know, but I'm certainly enjoying playing around with it. I'm starting to really like the whole concept of digital scrapbooking. Tomorrow I'm going to try printing out a copy of this:

at the local RiteAid photo center. I'm planning on leaving it on my boss's door tomorrow morning IF I can get up early enough to accomplish my mission. And yes, I love my job and I really like my boss. I'm going to blame her for the corrupting influence of working in the office this year. ;-D (There's a story behind that bottom photo - she was helping out the fourth grade last spring as they played detective and searched for clues around the school...)

So, in the coming days I hope to play around with the software a little bit more and learn still more of what it can do so I can give you all an honest review. And guess what? I've got an extra copy of it to give away to one lucky reader. I can't wait. It'll be my first giveaway!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

True Sequence of Events

Okay, I realize that I'm tired, but still...

Monkey Girl's several trees worth of first day paperwork are awating me on the table. I get a good start wading through all the course outlines and info pages and turn her loose reading the one for math class, for which we both need to sign that we've read. While she's reading, I grab the pan from dinner and go to put it in to soak. (Step One.)

(Step Two.) Realizing that I've left the refrigeration bags from my medicine in the sink to thaw - I got a refill of my Byetta today and it always comes with cold packs - I decide to put them back in ther styrofoam cooler shipping container and send the lot to Goodwill.

(Step Three) Go to back porch to get cooler, bring it in a fill it from the cold packs in the sink. Take back out to back porch.

(Step Four) Realize that the laundry has piled up a little and maybe I should toss in a load to wash. Begin sorting out a load and doing just that. By this point I have forgotten the pan completely. Realize that I should check behind our bedroom door for what laundry is there.

(Step Five) Head into bedrooma nd realize that someone has scatter the load that Mr. I. put there this morning across half the bed. Go to interrogate children as to which one is responsible. They blame the dog, but it doesn't look like his work. Youngest thinks it might have been her, but she just moved some of it around.... I roll eyes and pray for patience.

(Step Six) Head back to bedroom to deal with the scattered laundry.

(Step Seven) Head back out to table to see where MG is with her part of paperwork - that she's complaining about having to do. (No sympathy here. Did she SEE my pile of stuff?) Remember I need to check for a three-ring binder for her and a folder to put in my "keep at home" stuffs.(1)

(Step Eight) Head back towards bedroom and see the pan sitting on the edge of the sink. I remember what I was doing originally. Set pan in sink and half fill with water to soak.

(Step Nine) Go in bedroom and get dirty laundry from behind door. Take to back porch and get the load started washing.

(Step Ten) Remember binder and folder. Head back to bedroom for them. MG approves folder. Tell her I'll dig out some 5-tab dividers (2) in a bit. Realize she's still got my pen for her paperwork, so I do it now. Sit down, again.

(Step Eleven) Remember that I also needed a sticky note to attach to one of the forms. Can't read what they don't send and I'm trying to teach MG that if she's signing a form saying that she's read something, then she should have read whatever it was. After all, she's claiming responsibility for having done so. *sigh and roll eyes - at myself this time* Head back to bedroom for blank sticky note.

(Step Twelve) Polite note written and attached to form. Go to continue with paperwork and remember that I need her SS number for one of the forms. Head back to bedroom.

(Step Thirteen) Sit down to share this before I forget any of it, because it's too pathetic and funny not to let others laugh at.

(Step Fourteen) Get SS card and hope I haven't forgotten/get sidetracked by anything else till the danged paperwork is done.

1. We have an open, walk-in closet in our bedroom where I have a small office space set up.
2. I've collected a ridiculous amount of office supplies. It's an illness really.

A Quickie

One more quick little post. Guess what I finished last night? Yep, my full-length, complete edit of Glimmer of Sight, written two years ago during NaNo. It was very exciting. Now I just need to do a wee bit more polishing, add more info in a couple of spots, check one possible continuity problem, swallow hard, put on my big girl pants, and send it off to some potential agent. Why do I think the hard part is just starting?

Boris kept me company while I finished.
He was very excited to have his story told.

A Little Show and Tell

It's that time of year - Back To School!!!! Yes, I get a little excited this time of year. I almost always have, except for when I wasn't in school and didn't have kids to send to school. This is like my personal new year, full of new opportunites and new beginnings. I love it! And this year I had my own first day of school, thanks to the wonderful principal at Chauncey who pestered me into taking a job there. I started back today and was seriously giddy about it. It was really quiet ridiculous, but there ya go. I'm such a nerd.

Anyhoo, Monkey Girl sets off for her first day of middle school tomorrow (7th grade) and she'll be riding the bus. A big adventure all around. Mr. Incredible has the task of getting her up and out the door this year, since he's already up and she needs to be at the bus stop even before he leaves for work.

My wonderful sister, Amber, gave her some money to spend for clothes and such for back to school, on top of what we'd already gotten for her. So, she decided she wanted her hair cut before school started and she wanted a special outfit. You can check both out just below:

Yes, she really is that silly. And don't the pink socks just make the whole outfit?

A better view of the new shoes, with new, colorful laces, and the cute new haircut. Honestly, these pics aren't doing the cuteness justice. I may need to haul my butt out of bed in the morning in time to do more than just give her a good-luck hug...

Oh, and she needed earrings to go with this lovely ensemble. Mom to the rescue! (I mean, come one, what's the fun of having parents who can make jewelry if you can't take advantage of it on occassion?) I made myself make do with what I already had on hand, but I think they turned out pretty fun. And more importantly, Monkey Girl approved of them. I'll try to remember to stick up a quick tutorial how-to later this week, but I'm not promising anything with this being the first week of school. I'm bad enough about things like that normally...

Aren't they cute?

Being modeled. You get a lovely view of the side of my neck...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wedding Pics

I recently had some very dear friends take the offical plunge into married life and I couldn't be happier for them. If the crowd at their wedding and reception were any indication, there isn't anyone who knows them who couldn't be happier at their marriage. :-) It was so much fun helping them celebrate and enjoying how happy they obviously were. Here are a few photos, mainly so my family, who aren't on Facebook, can enjoy it as well.

The VERY happy couple. They smiled like this the entire time!
Zack and Levi. If you know anything about Zack, then you know he had to have a suit for Perry's wedding - he used to wear them to gaming nights because they were comfortable. So, we had to outfit him somehow with a suit. to Goodwill. About $15 later and he's this sharp dressed young man you see in the pic.

Monkey Girl and Drama Queen, looking frightenly grown up.

Christian, Zack, The Kate, Levi, and Graham
He looked amazing in the purple shirt and tie!
Levi gettin' his groove on. I think that's Perry on the far right.

Don't ya just love that "Oops! I've been caught!" look on Zack's face?
I absolutely LOVE this pic of good friends Paul and Vicki. I'd forgotten how much Paul liked to dance. (Mr. Incredible even danced with me a couple of times as well. :-)
Christian, Graham, Perry, Miriam, Levi, and Zack. Sometime tells me that Miriam just gained a bunch of new brothers. :-) Best of luck you two!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Coloring Mandalas Around the Web

The girls in my spiritual journaling workshop at Phyo CYF this year really got into coloring the mandalas I'd printed out for them. There was even a request for ways to get more. And since I Phyo love the kids from Phyo, I feel compelled to comply. :-) Therefore, forthwith, here's a small gathering from Shala at Don't Eat the Paste. She is just wonderfully creative and talented and I love snagging stuff from her blog. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a link to this post today...Yep, mandalas. And they are gorgeous!

And here are some more from Shala:

With snails!

Stars and Strips:

A couple of Valentine-themed ones:

Okay, that's it for now. I'm sure there are more floating around on her blog, but my computer decided to get all security-paranoid on me when I kept clicking to new links. Grrrrrrr..... I'll get to it again later. In the meantime, enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Off to Camp

I’m at PHYO Christian Youth Fellowship Conference this week, where I’m teaching a daily class called the Will of God AND leading a workshop on spiritual journaling. CYF Conference is essentially the teen camp for youth in the Disciples of Christ denomination. So far it’s been a great week and I have every reason o believe that it will continue to be so. I mean, that’s pretty much how it’s been the past two years. (Last year was horrifically hot.)

So, what exactly does a CYF counselor take to camp for a week? You should have seen my van after we packed for my drive up. As you can see, there’s quite a bit on my list and not everything is actually written down – if you can believe it.  Fortunately I didn’t have any kids with me on the ride up and I’ll only have one on the way home. The kids totally need to make sure they put a good dent in all those snacks I brought so I can back stuff in those spaces on the way home. ;-)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Wow! The beginning of the year was some ride. I'm trying to remember the last time I was that busy for that long and nothing comes to mind. It wasn't even adjusting to the new job - which I absolutely love - but to everything going on as soon as I got off work. Most afternoons had at least one apointment I had to rush off to, if not multiples of things going on. I was in physical therapy for my lower back (and then I hurt my knee on top of that!), Monkey Girl started therapy to strengthen her back, Drama Queen started counseling therapy, both girls started orthodontics, and then there were regular doctors appointments. I think there were a couple of weeks where I was in our doctor's office three times in one week! (Her husband was our physical therapist.) I really like the Rettos's, but was starting to feel a little like I was living there, at least part of the time. And getting lunch was always an interesting prospect.  Fortunately, we got through it. The only currently ongoing office visits are the orthodontist and DQ's therapist.

So, I've survived my first end of the school year as an employee. Yeah!  Those last two weeks are insane, what with everyone knowing that the end is in sight and itching for it to get there. Teachers have far to much to do as the end approaches. They need to finish getting papers back to the kids, fill out grade cards before the last day, prepare awards certificates ( as well as fill them in and sign them), deal with students eager for summer break, pack their classrooms, for cleaning at the very least. All of those end of the year picnics, field trips, and movie days actually are sanity savers for everyone. Trust me - about three weeks from the end, the amount of learning you can get done starts to drastically diminish, in spite of how hard the teachers may try.

This week the girls are at church camp. We had a total of FIVE kids from the Hocking Valley Parish attending Chi Rho (middle school-age) camp this week. It is so wonderfully quiet in the house - just what this frazzled mom needed right now. I'll be very happy to see them come Saturday, though. And I hope Drama Queen naps on the way home, since she and I will be going to a cookout and ghost hunt with the Mid-Ohio Valley Ghosthunters that night. *grin* We are so looking forward to it.

I also spent some time redesigning the layout of the blog this week. I hope you like it. When I find a few extra minutes, I'll redo the banner as well. I've also got a few more topic-specific posts that I want to write, including one for the Oak and Olive blog.

Till I can grab some more time,

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Easter Fun at Mom's House

These are mainly for my sisters to enjoy. :-) And for those of who aren't my sisters, we headed up to Monroe County on Saturday, going to my mother's to visit and enjoy the beautiful countryside. Amber and my sister Snort were there as well. (We missed you Aunt Hug and I think I need to come up with an online nickname for Amber. Hmmm....) That evening we headed over the Grandma's for the night. Sunday is always an extended family get-together at someone's house - it rotates every year. And it was VERY soggy this year.

Mom made a pair of round carrot cakes. Cutting the second cake to make ears and a bow tie, she turned the boring round cakes into a cool, if crumbly looking, bunny. And then, she turned the girls loose with plenty of  cream cheese icing.
That's Mom, on the right, checking out their handiwork. Drama Queen likes to make and ice cakes, so she was going at it like an old pro. Monkey Girl, on the other hand, took a little bit to get the hang of it. Of course, when you have that much icing, you just keep piling it on to hide your mistakes. ;-)

Add some red food coloring to the ising for ears, the center of the bow tie, and his whiskers. And then turn your grandchildren loose with pastel peanut M&Ms. A masterpiece in the making...
And the final product! Isn't he a beautiful bunny? He was pretty tasty too!

Next up we have Mr. Incredible changing the batter in Mom's car. I love watching him do "guy work". (Actually, Mom asked him to do it because the battery was too heavy for her to lift...)
Just so those of you reading this who aren't my sisters, working on Mom's car is definitly an honor. A pic of the car might help explain a little bit better...
Yep, that's the backend of a 1964 Ford Mustang. Isn't she pretty?  She's been sitting for awhile in the garage, waiting on some major repair work, but it looks like she's finally ready to go out on the road again.

A lot of time was also spent wearing out Mom's new dog Lady, as in Lady Taz. She's a two-year-old black lab who's spent much of her life loved, but on a leash. Monkey Girl wore out Lady and Lady wore out Monkey Girl. It was a match made in heaven. (And Chip, Little Brother, I promise to get some pics of you next time as well, okay?)

Monkey Girl's Easter "basket". (Guess who forgot the baskets at home...) The big thing was the polymer clay sculpture in the middle there, with the penguins. A local young artist made it just for her. Thanks, Izzy. It was a big hit!

Here's Drama Queen's pile of goodies. I need to get a better pic of her sculpture, which had crows fighting over a piece of meat in a cemetary. I know it seems morbid for Easter, but it was actually absolutely perfect for DQ - she was absolutely delighted with it. Izzy did another great job.

So, there it is - the photos from our Easter Weekend in Monroe.

And now for the shameless, enthusiastic plug about Izzy's artwork. Izzy is about the same age as Monkey Girl, just so you know. He's been working with polymer clay for several years and everything he's done recently has topped whatever just came before it. I have a lovely little sculpture of a pair of manatees in my office area. I love manatees. Izzy and I discussed the what I was willing to pay and I turned him loose. He made a mama with one flipper protectively over the back of a calf. There's even some seaweed and a small crab on it! Oh, and sand! It's fabulous.

MG meant to spend some of her Christmas money on a penguin sculpture, but forgot and spent it on other things. So....Mom saw an opportunity for a really cool Easter gift. Izzy and I talked it over a few weeks before the deadline. I told him what critters I wanted and pretty much turned him loose. I mean, we brainstormed a wee bit, but the final products were all his idea and creation. I love how he made MG's penguins so colorful. And crows in a cemetary was absolutely spot-on for DQ. And the detail in them are just wonderful. I'll post again as soon as I get some good pics taken.

In the meantime, if you'd like to talk to Izzy, commission your own work (the prices are beyond reasonable), or see what his mom creates (she's a wonderful fiber artist), check out AndreaSternArt or her Etsy shop - The Multimedia Art of Andrea Stern. Your eyes will enjoy the sight!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mr. Increcible vs. Dandelions

All superheroes have them - that weakness that can stop them in their tracks, bring them to their knees, and sap their super powers. Superman has his kryptonite. And Mr. Incredible? He has these...

He sneezed for at least 10 minutes this morning....Ah, Spring!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gettysburg Ghost Hunt

Tuesday evening, after a less than stellar dinner, we headed off for our first, real ghost hunt.Gettysburg Paranormal Association, which operates out of the same space as Gettysburg Ghost Tours (look for the black cat on the sign), offers a few different options for ghost hunts. You get to play with the same equipment as the pros, which is really a lot of fun. Not being sure how Monkey Girl would react to a full-out ghost hunt, and not being quite sure what to expect, we opted for the family friendly hunt. (It's also one of the only ghost hunts in Gettysburg that someone under 13 can participate in.)

Soon we were outside at a nearby stream called Plum Run. Some of you may recognize Plum Run by it's newer name Bloody Run. They are indeed one and the same. The creek meanders through Gettysburg and down through the battlefield's Valley of Death. Apparently our location was where Union forces had gathered soldiers who were too wounded to be mobile but not in need of immediate medical attention. Unfortunately it rained a lot during those days of the battle, as well as during the aftermath. Plum Run overrunneth its banks and well...did I mention that these soldiers weren't mobile? Another terrible tragedy on top of all those that had already happened, making it a good site to try talking to the spirits.

Once we got creek-side, our guide, Bobby, told us the history of the site, letting us know why we were there. He then explained the equipment in his portable ghost hunting kit - brass dowsing rods, digital voice recorder, K2 EMF detector, green laser grid, ghost detector, an instrument that detected changes in temperature, and one other EMF detector that was kinda pricy (but I can't remember which one it was).

After our quick education in the various instruments and how they work, we set to work. The girls were hesitant to use the dowsing rods. In retrospect, it might have been interesting for Mr. I. to give them ago, which was something we would have done had we gone on a second evening of spook hunting. As it was, I was the one who mainly got to walk around talking to the empty (or not) air and wait for some energy to move the rods about. Surprisingly, I didn't feel all that self-conscious, which I think was part of the girls' problem. It can feel a little silly.

(Monkey Girl and my orb. :-) It's that circular light spot on the log just in front of her.)

(Mr. Incredible with the 'spensive EMF detector. Those are background lights in the distance.)

Whatever spirit(s) we talked to by Plum Creek were in a Mess-With-The-Mortals mood that evening, because they kept pointing us in entirely opposite directions when asked where they were. It was a nice way to get used to handling the equipment, though. And as you can see, I actually got a pic of what I think is an orb. Yeah, it might be a speck of dust or some moisture, but there really wasn't any of either happening that evening. Some of the other shots I took had lights in the background, so I really can't rully at out in place of some orbs in other photos, but that's not the case for this one.I was pretty excited when I finally noticed it.

We decided that spirits really didn't want to talk over by Plum Run that night, so our guide suggested we go to "The General's Death House" where the body of Major General Reynolds was taken after he died on the battlefield. Bobbie said he usually got good results there and that the General and his fiance, Kate, usually liked to chat. Off we went.

(Major General John Fulton Reynolds)

I won't bore you with a mini-lecture on General Reynold's, although he was, from what I can tell, a "soldier's soldier," who was shot while rallying the troops on the first day of the battle. His death came at a bad time, as he was a trusted adviser - and former superior office - to Major General George Meade. However, being the first causalty of the battle, his death also helped give the men something to fight for that day. His decision to help back up Brig. General's troops on the northwest side of Gettysburg gave the incoming Union troops the opportunity to claim that higher ground that made such a difference in the battle. (I came across a small bio of the general at a local gift shop the day after our ghost hunt and read it with great interest. I would have been prepared with intelligent questions had we gotten to go back.)

(Waiting until we can get the keys for the General's Death House.)

About a foot and a half from the left front door, the EMF meters that both girls were holding went off. Needless to say, they were pretty excited, since they had barely budged at the Run. Unfortunately, we didn't have a key to the house. One of the other guides was carrying it. We had a little rest in the back of the house until our guide thought the other group was close enough to go hassle for the key, which we did. Once inside the house, it was pretty neat. Servant's Olde Tyme Photography is one of those places where you can get an old-looking photo taken, complete with costumes and props, so there were lots of Battle-era looking things around, helping set the ambiance.

General Reynolds was actually willing to talk to us, although we were limited to yes and no questions with the dowsing rods. I just wish I'd known more intelligent sounding questions to ask and that we'd had more time. Mr. I. got some temperature fluctuations coming from the back room. We completely forgot to take any photos, so it was a good thing Bobbie was on the ball. I'm not sure what all he got shots of, but one of the last one's was of me sitting on a stool with the rods and this lovely orb floating just behind my head. I'm eager for them to get our hunt evidence up on their website so I can get a copy of it.

The hunt came to a close far too soon. We made sorta plans to have another one with Bobbie on the walk back to our car, but time and weather kept it from happening. However, I'd definitly love to go on another hunt with him sometime, especially back at Servant's. I've read bios of both Kate and Reynolds by this point and can think of some interesting things to talk about. :-)

Would I recommend a ghost hunt? Yes. I went in as an open-minded skeptic, which is how I approach much of the paranormal. And I had a great time and a lovely experience. It's nice to step out of your comfort zone every-so-often. Our guide was wonderful, knowledge in both how to go about a hunt as well as in enough of the history of the area to add some extra interest. He was also a lot of fun, taking to calling Monkey Girl "Monkey" pretty quickly on in the hunt. And he tried to keep track of where she was when we were crossing roads and such. As a parent I have to apreciate that. (He was a parent to a couple of young sons, himself, and coached peewee baseball.)

Definitely a fun point in the trip!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Gettysburg - Day Two

[This, and subsequent posts about our week in Gettysburg, are being made after we returned home due to connectivity issues at our motel. :-( I simply couldn't stay connected to the internet long enough to finish a post.]

We have survived our first full day in Gettysburg, although my legs may disagree a bit come tomorrow morning. Thanks to my back, I haven't been able to walk all that much until lately. And boy did we walk. I even climbed the stairs inside the Pennsylvania memorial - did you know you can go all the way up to the top in that thing? The view is spectacular and there are arrows along the upper wall pointing to major battlefield sites, complete with how far away they are located.

Perhaps I should back up and start at the beginning of our day. We did indeed go back and watch the diorama show, which covered the entire three days of fighting. It was nice to see it all played out on a field where you could watch it all without having to drive around to the different sites on the battlefield. I think it will help when we take the actual driving tour of the battlefield later in the week. After that we walked around a little bit, had lunch at the Avenue Restaurant and the went next door to a hat shop that Drama Queen wanted to visit. I'm not sure I'd recommend the restaurant unless you have plenty of time - the service is that slow. I think it was that bad last year as well.

The hat shop was a nice find. Mr. Incredible thought the prices compared favorably to the ones he's been seeing online. If they would have had the fedora that he wanted in a dark grey, he would have gone for it. Drama Queen snagged a couple of pairs of driving gloves - the kind with the fingers cut out. Monkey Girl found a beautiful little "dream pouch" leather bag and went for a silver ring depicting a peace sign in a heart. It's very much her.

We had been going to do the driving tour this afternoon, but worried about being rushed and running out of time. Our ghost hunt started at 7, but we needed to be there a little early to pick up our tickets. So instead
we opted to just drive around and stop at any monuments or sites that we thought were cool. We meant to head for Little Round Top and Devil's Den, but I turned too soon. With all of the one-way roads, I needed to loop back up around to head the right way. And that's when Drama Queen spotted the Pennsylvania Memorial. Well, actually, she'd already spotted it since there's no easy way to miss it. It's huge. Add in the statue on the top and you'd have to work not to see it.

It's a beautiful monument, erected just before the 50th anniversary of the battle. Drama Queen was completely fascinated by the Goddess of Victory and Peace located on the very tip top of the memorial. She thought it looked like an angel. One of the coolest parts of it all is that the statue is made of cannons from the battlefield that were melted down.

We walked around there for a bit and then drove on, stopping next at the area known as the High Water Mark, which is the farthest the Confederates got during the battle. It's also known as a turning point in the Civil War because it was pretty much downhill for the South from there on out in the war.

We walked around a good bit at both sites. Combine that in with the walking from the morning and we were all kinda beat, so it was back to the motel for a bit of a cool down and a rest. (The weather was beautiful today!) After a bit, we walked to a nearby Chinese buffet, which I will not name. (I guess we're just spoiled for Asian food in Athens.) I got to hit the gift shop at the wax museum next door (YES!) and have some great books to help me work up the background story for my novel.

And then, oh yes, we were off for our ghost hunting experience. But I think I'll leave that for another post. ;-)

Overall, we're having a great time and are really enjoying ourselves. It's nice to run into folks here in town who don't mind talking a little bit about history and their experiences. It makes it all so much richer. The hardest part for me is imagining the horror of those three days in July 150 years ago. The battlefield seems so rested and peaceful that I have to work at remembering why this place is so famous and why it is sacred ground.