Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Whoa, PC gets philosophical today....

Trash day around here is Thursday. Except Thanksgiving was Thursday, so the trash didn't run. I did hear the trash men early Friday morning, racing through the neighborhood. I could tell by the noise that they were hauling butt, and I couldn't really bring myself to run outside in the cold in my PJs to try to make it.

But I was now awake, and unable to go back to sleep. I got up, since the Darling Geek had no problem sleeping through that, and I didn't see any reason to get him up too. Oddly enough, out my kitchen window, I see the neighbor's kid, home from college, in my driveway. Very close to my house. I find this strange and hard to process early in the morning. He sees me and waves, so I step out on to the porch to see what's going on.

Seems he'd been out for a jog as the garbage truck came by and noticed we didn't have our trash can down at the curb. So he came and got it. Then, after it was empty, he brought it back up to the house. Because he didn't want us to have to go a whole week with a full trash can.

There's a random act of kindness for you! (And I will be telling his parents what a good job they did raising this young man.)

This reminded me that I not only need to be aware of and thankful for the random acts of kindness I receive, but that I should really be looking for more ways to randomly be kind myself.

I think it's partly a matter of being observant. How many times have I missed the opportunity to do something kind for someone just because I was too busy checking my email on my phone to see them struggling with a small child and a large bag and a heavy door? Or just been too busy to go back and help?

That's sad.

So I made a decision to spend the holiday season -- a time rife with stressed and busy people and many opportunities to really hate our fellow man -- to consciously look for ways to be kind. *And* to be kind without the expectation of anything in return other than a good feeling in myself. That should be good for my mental health.

Now, it just so happens that Sunday was the first day of Advent, and in one of those "oooooh, weird" moments, shortly after I made this decision to look for ways to be kind to others, I happened upon a reflection for Advent that included the following:

We live in a world in which bigger and better define our expectations for much of life. We have become so enamored by super size, super stars, and high definition that we tend to view life through a lens that so magnifies what we expect out of the world that we tend not to see potential in small things. But as the prophet Zechariah reminds us (Zech 4:10), we should not "despise the day of small things," because God does some of his best work with small beginnings and impossible situations.

I think there's a good message there, regardless of your faith and religious leanings. Small things -- like random small acts of kindness -- have such potential to make a difference. Bigger isn't always better, and it's not always what someone needs at *this* moment in time.

So thanks, Joe-the-neighbor's-kid, for taking down my trash, reminding me to be thankful for little things, and reminding me to take time to be kind to others as well.

Have you been the recipient of any random acts of kindness recently? Care to join me in my quest to be randomly kind to others?


Monday, November 29, 2010

On The Road Again...

Ugh! The party is over. The family has returned home. The pie dish has one lone piece of fudge pie left inside. Dishes are everywhere and there’re blankets to wash.

I’m exhausted.

But today is return to school and work day. Up at 6 am to get everyone on the road and I already feel like a nap. And a diet. I don’t know why. After days of running, yesterday I did nothing. I slept, fed the kids, and read. Somehow it didn’t help me feel better. By 9:30pm I simply wanted to go to bed.

Hmmm…. Maybe not the best strategy. So tell me, how do you recover from the holidays?


Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankful for the Little Things

Continuing on with this week's theme, I'm going to focus on the little things. Of course, I'm thankful for my friends and family, my job, home and good health. I'm sure I agree with all the high points the other Playfriends have mentioned earlier this week. But I want to talk about the little stuff. I'm no philosopher, nor am I a therapist, but I do know that you'll go crazy in life if you can't appreciate and be thankful for the daily gifts you're given. Yes, it would be great if you got that raise or had that baby or sold the book. But what if you didn't? What in your life can make you happy without some earth shattering event? Here's my list:

The Little Things I'm Thankful For:

- For spellchecker on my email and word processor.
- When DB takes out the trash without being asked.
- For a warm cat curled up in my lap while I watch TV.
- When my boss stops for breakfast in the morning and brings me a biscuit just because.
- For Uni-ball Vision fine tip pens in a rainbow of colors.
- When I turn the key in the engine and my car starts without problems.
- For emails and Facebook posts from friends that remind me someone cares.
- When a silly movie or television show makes me laugh out loud.
- For a DVR that allows me to watch what I want, when I want, without commercials.
- When one of my puppies lays his head on my knee and looks up with big eyes I can't resist.
- For the History International channel that makes me feel smarter, almost daily.
- When I find a princess parking spot at a busy shopping center.
- For a well-insulated house that maintains a low power bill, regardless of weather.
- When I hear little kid giggles. I just love the sound of a child that's tickled to death.
- For having my own nifty nickname and logo without having to join a biker gang.
- When I try on something from last season and it still fits.
- For living in a connected day and age where I can research anything, anywhere, anytime.
- When I dig out an old coat, purse or pair of pants from the closet and find money in the pocket.
- For the inventor of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

It's just a few of many, but its the day after Thanksgiving and I'm sure you're either exhausted from shopping at 4am or still in a turkey coma. What about you? What little things in life are you thankful for?

PS. On the Playground, we're also thankful for Problem Child, who's celebrating her birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday PC!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Glitter Graphics

The Playfriends would like to wish you and yours

a very Happy Thanksgiving!

We'd love for you to share with us what you're thankful for today. But, I want to make this a little more difficult than usual. We're all thankful for our family, friends & health. What else are you thankful for?

We hope you have a wonderful day filled with

family, fun, food and football.

Thanksgiving Glitters

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When the going gets tough, the tough get thankful

This time last year I just wanted to find a big hole, crawl in it and emerge sometime after the new year had started. My whole life had been turned upside down and my future was filled with uncertainty and doubts. I'd never lived alone and there I was, in a new apartment and starting down a new life path.

Fast forward a year and a lot has changed. My divorce became final one week ago today. It's a bittersweet event -- something I really had no other choice but to do, but also something I'd never imagined and definitely not where I expected to be as I slid toward my 60th birthday. Yes, gentle and prodigious readers, I will be 60 years old next spring.

I've become very involved in a divorce and grief recovery program called Beginning Experience (or BE), and one thing I am very thankful for is my therapist who was an absolute lifeline for me in the early days of the divorce process. She also referred me to BE, and it's been one of the best things I've done for myself. Through reading, journaling and discussion groups, I've begun the process of working my way through the stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

And now I'm in the 6th stage, which is reaching out and helping others. I'm so grateful to the facilitators who've helped me along the way (and I'm by no means finished with the grieving process) and I'm glad I've been able to reach out and help others cope with the death of their marriages and the end of their dreams for the future.

So included in my list of things I'm thankful for are the Playfriends who've stood right beside me and even gave up a Saturday to help me move last fall, my family members who never once faltered in their support, my wonderful therapist who has patiently listened to me rant and rave and who helped me get through the holidays last year instead of crawling in a hole, the new church I began attending last fall when I felt I needed to fill a missing spiritual aspect in my life, the BE gang both in Huntsville and Birmingham and my new BFF who I met through BE. When I had to have surgery on my foot a few months ago, she took me to the outpatient surgery center, brought me home, fed me and stayed the night to make sure I was okay. Oddly enough her daughter and my son were in the same high school graduating class, but until we met during the divorce process, our paths had never crossed.

A very good friend gave me a card recently and on the front it says "Now when people ask you 'What's new?' you have an answer... 'My life!'"

I have a new and hopefully wonderful life aheadd of me now, and every day is another step in the process of learning who I am now. For 37 years I've been someone's wife or someone's mother and grandmother. I'm still Mom and Grammy, but now I get to figure out who I am.

I'll leave you with two sayings I think sum up the past year's journey.

Do you have any favorite sayings or pearls of wisdom that have helped you along life's way?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grumble, Grumble, Gobble, Gobble!

So, I'm supposed to write a blog about gratitude and what I'm thankful for because it's Thanksgiving.

But I don't want to. I can't think of anything unique to talk about. *Everyone* is talking about what they're thankful for -- it's the whole purpose of Thanksgiving, I know that -- but every blog in the sphere is listing their blessings and asking you, "What are you thankful for?" It's like Christmas carols -- "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" is great the first twenty times I hear it, but by Christmas, I'm totally sick of it. (Oh, dear dog, I just realized Christmas carols start this week. Sigh.)

Yes, I am the grumpy Problem Child today. One must always live up to one's nickname, after all.

So, instead of a list about all the things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving, I give you this:A Hand Turkey.

I love hand turkeys. I remember making them in school. I remember the first time AC brought home a hand turkey; she was thrilled to pieces with the sheer awesomeness of it. "Mom, did you know you could trace your hand and make a turkey out of it? Look!"

I'm sorry, it's impossible to be grumpy while making a hand turkey. Even for me.

(And should you not be able to figure out how to make a hand turkey just by looking at the picture, handy instructions are here.)

Someone got a little carried away with the feathers on this one:

And if hand turkeys are just too cliched, here's a foot turkey:

This one is a little more effort -- the body is the child's feet!:

And this one seems like a cool family project:

Hand turkey cookies! Awesome!

So, I guess I will be thankful for Hand Turkeys, because they make me smile. And though I haven't made one in a long time, I think I will make one (or two) this year. I may even attempt those cookies!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Monday, November 22, 2010

The Grace of Helping Hands

Regulars on the Playground will attest that I’m one of the resident pessimists around here, typically a glass half empty kind of person. And I have to agree with that sentiment. I whine, moan, and complain about all the bad, frustrating things that happen. So while I might live in Angel’s house, excuse me when I say that things have been a bit rough in these halls the last few months – hectic, stressful, chaotic, full of change. But being a pessimist doesn’t mean that I don’t see any good in my life, and each day of the past few months has shown me some very special blessings.

Unlike me, there are people in my life who are true Angels – lending a helping hand to a woman who has been desperately in need of them (even though it embarrasses this wonder-woman-wanna-be to admit that I need help with anything.) This week, just about every blog you visit, every commercial you see, every Facebook post, will be asking the same thing – what are you thankful for? The more appropriate question for me this morning is WHO am I thankful for?

Babysitters – With my husband working really long hours, 6 days a week now, I have lots of full time kid responsibilities going on. But sometimes I can’t do what I need to do with 2 kids tagging along, and several people in my life have been more than willing to keep my kids when needed. I don’t even have to ask! Most times, they simply offer. My mother-in-law has picked them up from school at a moment’s notice when I can’t make it back in time. My sister and sister-in-law have both let them come over to play with their kids while I run errands, meet with clients, and sometimes simply have a few hours to myself. My husband has even taken them to work with him a few times while I meet with clients!!! Knowing my children are not just in good hands, but with people who truly love them and enjoy having them around means a lot to me.

Cleaning Fairies – As if my mother-in-law doesn’t do enough for me already, I’ve come home several times to find that not only has she watched my kids, she’s done some chores around the house too! Its like having a cleaning fairy visit. Poof! The dishes are washed. Poof! The trash is gone. Poof! The counters are wiped down. And since I hate dishes, the fact that she would do them for me without asking is a double blessing!

Computer Gurus – Recently my computer got a virus, this time a bad one, and my entire system shut down. In stepped Super Geek (AKA, PC’s Darling Geek), who ended up spending days trying to retrieve my data, wipe the computer clean, and reinstall everything. Then Smarty Pants came by to re-set-up my email accounts and help me fix some installation problems. I would have been totally lost without their help! They each took time from their busy lives to come to the aid of the computer-inept. How’s that for friendship?

Clothier – Money’s been a little tight recently and wouldn’t you know it? Both Drama Queen and Little Man grew out of all their previous winter clothes, so they both had to have wardrobes in new sizes this year. On top of that, DQ finally decided she likes jeans (before she would only wear cotton pants). Do you know how much jeans cost? Especially when you have to buy enough for a kid to get from one weekend to the next without washing! One day, a friend from my writing group mentioned her daughter had outgrown some clothes, would I like them? Heck, yeah! Bless her heart, there were 5 pairs of jeans in that bag that fit. Not only did they fit, but DQ actually LIKED HOW they fit. (Needless to say, I was ecstatic!)

Mechanic – About a month ago, my mother and step-father came to visit for a nearby family reunion. Not only did they fill up my gas tank, but after hearing my baffled ramblings about the intermittent workings of my back blinker, my step-father spent some time looking at it one evening. He found a bent connector, which he fixed, and it has worked ever since. No more changing the light bulb every 2 weeks. Men can be SO handy!!!

Chauffeur – All of you moms out there know that we spend a lot of time in our cars. Sometimes I think I live in mine! And though it may not seem like much, that 40 minute trip twice a day to the school really adds up. Fortunately, I’ve got 2 chauffeurs to ease the burden. My mother-in-law volunteered to take the kids to school most mornings so she could spend some time with them (did I mention she’s a saint? No? Well, I should have…). And the hubby picks them up every time he has a weekday off. You don’t know what a relief it is to have something done by somebody else, until it magically gets done without me having to make the arrangements or ask someone to do it. Double relief, right there!

I could go on and on and on. This thanksgiving, I’m felled with gratitude for those who have reached out and gifted me with their time, talents, and grace just when I truly needed it. The very thought lightens this pessimist’s heart like nothing else could. I'm learning that even if you don't always voice your needs, somehow they make their way into the universe, only to be found by the very person able to fulfill them.

So I’m asking you today… who are you grateful for this year, and why?


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Birthday Blog Winners!

The Playfriends want to thank all of the readers and friends who joined us in celebrating our birthday earlier this week! It was so fun to walk down memory lane with you!

The winners of our birthday gifties are:

Linda Henderson
Jennifer Mathis

Please contact Angel at angel@writingplayground.com with your snail mail address to claim your prize. Prizes not claimed within 7 days will be forfeited.

Again, thank y'all for making this a happy and fun Playground!!!


Friday, November 19, 2010

These Overpriced Sneakers are Made for Walkin'

Last spring - no, the spring before last... time has slipped away from me, I went on an exercise bender. Gym 4 days a week, alternating between 45 to 60 minutes on the elliptical or walk/jogging a 5k on the treadmill and weight training. I went to a fancy running shoe store and dropped serious money on a pair of sneakers of running. I'd whiddled my way down to a 43 minute 5k (3.2 miles, if you're wondering), which although not great, was a marked improvement for me. I don't run as a general rule. I had all these fantasies about becoming a 'runner' and hitting some of the local trails. Ha!

As with most exercise spurts of mine, I fizzled out. Couldn't do a 43 minute 5k now if a tiger was chasing me. So naturally it is now, when I'm probably at a low point in my personal fitness, that I've signed up to do a 5k for work.

This Sunday, they're having the Jingle Bell Walk/Run for Arthritis. Our company is a major sponsor and as a result, we were encouraged heavily to participate. I figured it couldn't hurt, so I signed up to walk. My team is the Code-Hearted Snowmen (sorry for the programming pun, I am responsible for the name). So far, I've raised $125 and helped with a chili lunch today that raised another $540. Now all that's left for me to do is actually walk. I have no illusions of running. I did, however, consider taking the husky with me so he'd drag me to the finish line in record time. :)

Right now the forecast is for clear skies and highs in the low 70s. I'm hopeful. I really don't want to sludge through this in cold, wet, weather. But either way, I'll be tying on my overpriced running shoes and taking a stab at it.

Have you done any charity walks/runs before? Any plans to give back or volunteer in some way this holiday season? I'm not sure I can face gift wrapping at the mall again this year. Scary stuff.


Thursday, November 18, 2010


I've come to a conclusion over the last few days. I've gotten anal in my old age.

We're getting ready to go on vacation. I remember a time in my life when I could decide to take a trip and one hour later be on the road with everything I needed in one bag. Oh, that time is gone and gone forever. I've been sitting here trying to pinpoint when my spontaneity disappeared. Like many things in my life, I'm thinking it was around the time I had kids.

Something about traveling with children changes everything. I could no longer shove everything I needed to survive for a week into a backpack. It now required paraphernalia - bouncy seats and high chairs and special food and diapers and toys and favorite blankies and clothes for every possible weather event.

My problem is that my kids are well out of the baby stage. You'd think that without all that crap that maybe I could go back to the way things used to be, but life doesn't exactly move backwards. Instead of baby stuff, I've discovered that my luggage is now filled with electronics. I can't travel anywhere without cell phone, laptop, nook, alpha smart and all the separate power cords, connectors and tidbits that go with all of these things. Even on vacation I must stay connected...even if my people are sitting right beside me.

I do normally have an excuse. My job allows me to work no matter where I am and I often find myself wanting to take advantage of the slower pace of vacation time to squeeze a few hours of creativity into my day. When inspiration strikes I want to be ready!

The problem is that all of this stuff must have a specific place in the luggage so that I know when we pull out of the driveway I have everything I need. And so that when we repack to come home I know I'm not leaving anything behind. This is where the anal part comes in. I've gotten picky and cranky over the years. I didn't realize quite how much until I told Zilla that he couldn't help me pack because I wanted to make sure everything got where it was supposed to be. Like it really matters if Baby Girl's tennies end up in the bottom of the suitcase instead of the top.

I know we're going to have so much fun on our vacation. My family really needs to get away and spend some quality time together...that is if I can make it out the door without my brain exploding. Wish me luck! Are you a planner when it comes to vacations? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and just enjoy the ride?


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Weston, we have a problem

If you give a mouse a cookie,
He’s going to ask for a glass of milk.
When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask you for a straw.
When he’s finished, he’ll ask for a napkin.
Then he will want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache.

Thus begins a favorite book by Laura Joffe Numeroff. I used to read this to #2 son and we'd always laugh at the ending.

Last week, however, I wasn't laughing. Late Thursday afternoon, I opened my pantry for some reason and saw something move. I had some items stacked precariously on one shelf and thought something had slid out of place. However, upon closer examination, I found myself face to face with this:

I was not amused. I had no mouse traps. I didn't have any problems last fall. So I called the office here at Weston Ranch and asked if mouse trapping was provided by maintenance or was I responsible for that. Maintenance Guy was soon at my door with a new-fangled plastic, disposable trap that we baited with peanut butter (Earth Fare brand with no high fructose corn syrup) and left on the pantry floor. An hour or so later, I saw something scurry along the outside wall of my living room and was concerned I had more than one rodent.

Apparently there's a mouse epidemic because one home improvement store just down the way was fresh out of regular traps. I didn't want the more expensive disposable ones, especially if this was going to be an ongoing problem (ohdeardogpleaseno!). The other store, which is right in front of my apartment complex, had plenty and I also bought a two-pack of plug-in ultrasonic pest repellent units. Hey, I'll do whatever it takes to keep the mice away.

I baited two more traps, put them in strategic spots, plugged the repellents in and then waited.

I woke up the next morning with traps still set. Rats! I mean, mice!

I had to leave for a while for lunch with a friend who was here from out of town, and when I got back, the traps I'd put out were still set, HFCS-free peanut butter untouched.

But when I opened the pantry to throw away my junk mail, BINGO! The beady-eyed little varmint had nibbled and let's just say he didn't return home because he got caught up in something else. I have a photo but I'll spare you the details. I did post it on Facebook since my friends there were following my great mouse adventure. One guy commented "First corpus delicti photo I've seen on facebook!"

To be sure I'd eradicated the mouse population, I re-baited two traps and placed them on the pantry floor. And ever since all I've been doing is feeding the mice very expensive peanut butter. Somehow they're eating the peanut butter and not springing the traps. Upon the advice of a Facebook friend, last night I tossed the trap that had already caught a mouse and used another from the pack of four I bought. She said sometimes the triggering mechanism loses it's sensitivity and an elephant couldn't set it off.

So my mouse tale has spared you from more trivia as I continue to work toward 50,000 words and that ever-desirable "You're a Winner!" screen on the NaNoWriMo website. I'm at the halfway point!

Had any animal adventures lately? (And Smarty Pants, Problem Child and Instigator are excused from this exercise because we all know they've had animal adventures galore. ~grin~)

NaNo Word Count
26684 / 50000

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A video.

Big party yesterday, so easy day today. That's my rule.

It just so happens, though, that I have something really cool to share today: A video interview with me and Lynn Raye Harris filmed at the RT Booklover's Convention in April. It was our first time on camera, so we were very nervous, but I think we did okay.

I think my favorite part is where Lynn and I say "Nooo!" in perfect (and unrehearsed) unison.

Morgan -- the RT web guru -- was an absolute genius in getting us to not feel nervous, and she very nicely edited out the worst of the stutters and stammers. The next day, we went to Morgan's workshop on being on camera, and found out we weren't supposed to wear black or patterns on camera. (Lynn and I used this as an excuse to go shopping for camera-appropriate clothing.)

So, was the black and/or the patterns too distracting for you? How do you think we did?


Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy Birthday to Us!!!


Five years ago, a small group of writers stepped out in faith. We wanted to share a few things with the world – hope, encouragement, our journey, and the little bits of wisdom that work for us as we navigate the waters of writing, publication, and life. Along the way, I hope we’ve done those few things, but we’ve done one other very important thing – created some wonderful, lasting memories between ourselves and with our readers. This year, we wanted to share some of our favorite memories of the past 5 years with you.



Two months into our blogging experience, the Playfriends took our first road trip. It wasn’t far – just seventy miles. But we were free of husbands and children and the rest of the world for overnight. Angel’s Suburban had not yet been dubbed “The Playmobile,” complete with an airbrushed tag on the front. Instigator was still a Krispy Kreme virgin (though we solved that on the trip). Problem Child had to sleep on the floor on Amazing Child’s inflatable mattress designed for a small (in other words, short) child. I still remember AC’s tear-stained face as Darling Geek held her in his arms and she called out and waved, “Bye-bye, inflatable mattress.” Smarty Pants was our computer guru who got us hooked to the internet at the motel room (she had a cat5 cable since this was before the days of widespread wifi). And I was still trying to figure out this whole writing business. Still am, actually. We blogged that first night and called it “Playfriends Gone Wild, Volume 1.”

Day and night #1 went smoothly (see reference to Instigator’s initiation to Krispy Kreme) and we all tried to settle in for a good night’s sleep (well, all except PC on the inflatable mattress but she was a trooper to take one for the team). The following morning we were surprised by a call from one of the Mavens who’d been called by another Maven who’d seen on TV that the police department in our get-away town had busted a meth lab in operation in a motel that was part of the same chain where we were staying. A quick view of the morning news revealed not only had the meth lab been operating in the same motel where we were, it was in THE ROOM RIGHT BEHIND US! We shared a bathroom wall.

Had we known this might portend a general disposition toward Playfriend travel disasters, we’d never have given PC that Leatherman tool in Atlanta.

We did have a bit of plotting fun with the incident though. Here’s what Angel wrote in our follow-up blog titled “But Not That Wild!”

“But in true creative fashion (after getting over the shock), we began to brainstorm how this could work in a book. We entertained ourselves throwing together a hokey plot with a single female alone in her hotel room, the undercover DEA agent next door whose scraggly appearance weirds her out when she meets him, and the meth lab that explodes one night, taking out the wall of her room and forcing them on the run.”

And here’s our scraggly DEA agent after the explosion. ::grin::


What’s my favorite Playground memory? Without a doubt, it’s any one of the conferences we’ve all gone to together. Four or five of us sharing one bathroom must be hilarious to anyone from the outside looking in. Honestly, you don’t really know someone until you’ve watched them put on Spanx. And you just have to be friends with anyone who will hook your strapless bra for you.


Sharing rooms. Staying up until two o’clock in the morning talking about writing, family, kids and life. Eating peanut butter-covered brownie bites because someone was smart enough to pack the important things. Working on pitches because someone *cough* didn’t come prepared. Sharing jewelry. Sharing clothes.

Blown knees and cut fingers, we’ve been through it all. You’d think that after five days of forced togetherness we’d get tired of each other. We don’t. You’d think we might fight. We don’t. In fact, most of the time I should be concentrating more on the conference and less on having a good time with my friends...but I know I won’t. Part of what I love about conferences is spending it with Angel, PC, SP & PM. It wouldn’t be the same without them.



My favorite memories aren't really specific, but they always involve the five of us, sitting around, just talking. Those nights sometimes run together - maybe we're on a porch, or in a hotel room somewhere, or in someone's hot tub or living room, but we're laughing and talking. The subjects will vary greatly from moment to moment - we'll be discussing a point one minute, something one of us read on the internet a minute later, and shortly thereafter, our kids or our parents or our weight loss.

Lather, rinse, repeat - and pay attention, because the conversation can hang a sharp left with no warning whatsoever. (Like the time we were plotting Kira's book, and the conversation meandered away from the plot for a moment, so I left the room. A couple of minutes later, I come back, and the book that used to be set at a nudist resort is now set on a peach farm and there's dead people in it.)

So I guess my favorite Playfriend memories involve laughing until we cry and crying until we laugh.


Or, on a less sentimental note, the look on SP's face when she realized I brought silverware to the Dixie Stampede. ~grin~


Like PC, there have been a lot of great moments over the last five years, but my favorites usually involve us sitting around and talking about anything and everything. There's usually food, occasionally screaming at children is also involved, but always fabulous conversation and laughter. To me, it’s really not a Playground gathering if I don't get the chance to make PC's mascara run. Earlier this year, we got a chance to take our gathering to a whole new level - to the hot tub. When we go to the mountains, rarely does a night go by that we don't climb into the Jacuzzi. We even went out in the snow. There's no stopping us.


It’s the one time I can put on a swimsuit without feeling fat, grab a bottle of hard lemonade or a glass of wine and spend time with my peeps until we turn all pruney. A lot of time we plot and brainstorm. Instigator gets very inspired by steamy water, so that works for her. When we're on a roll, we can do two books a night (although note taking is difficult with water and alcohol, so the morning after usually includes some re-caps). Sometimes we lament our personal drama and tell funny stories about our lives pre-Playground. It's just nice to sit around and relax for once.

You know how much excitement can usually result from one of our trips, so given that no one has injured themselves or had a wardrobe malfunction in the hot tub makes it a banner event on its own. We actually like it so much that when PC sent us the link to a house she was thinking of buying and it had a Jacuzzi, I was sold, sight unseen. :) This is a Playground tradition in the making and one of my favorite memories.



I had promised I would pick one memory, and I had: dancing at the Harlequin Party at every conference. I chose this memory because its fun, out of the ordinary, and a fabulous bonding experience. I also chose it because it is unique for me. You see, I’ve never danced in public before. In high school and college, I never went to dances or clubs. My husband has never taken me dancing. So when we were invited to this party, I have to admit I freaked. I mean, me, dancing in public? I’m not slim, smooth, or sexy. I was sure I’d be the person talked about the next morning by everyone there… and not for a good reason.


But let me tell you, there is nothing like boogeying with your best friends in the midst of pounding music, belting out your favorite lyrics, and smiling until your face hurts. If anyone talked about me the next morning, well, at least I didn’t know it. But I’ll never forget these moments of freedom and fun with my favorite friends.

Unfortunately, when trying to choose the pictures that went with this post, I had a difficult time limiting myself to just one memory. Each photo was accompanied by a smile and an “ah, I remember…”. Our first group pictures. First sale celebrations. Lunch with our Mavens. Sightseeing. My Golden Heart final. Phone calls. Late night talks. Tears. Hugs. Squees.


We’ve done it all. In the past 5 years, these women have gone from being my best friends to being my sisters. We can be as different as night and day, but we all have a similar drive, similar work ethic, passion for our writing, our families, our lives. You, our readers, have been there with us to celebrate, commiserate, brainstorm, and dream. We’ve gotten to know far too few of you through your comments, precious in-person meetings, and email exchanges. Today, we hope you will once again celebrate with us.

And in joyful birthday tradition, we’ll be giving away birthday gifties! Our appreciation of lovely alcoholic beverages (and their rightful role in all celebrations) has led us to put together a proper present including 2 martini glasses, a mini-shaker, Cocktails for Dummies, two mini-mixer bottles, and books, including ones from our own Kimberly Lang and Kira Sinclair.


And who knows what other prizes might be given away today?!?! To enter, simply comment about your own favorite memories – what’s the best thing that’s happened in your life over the last 5 years?

Thank you so very much for your comments, advice, humor, and encouragement here on the Playground. It wouldn’t be nearly as fun a ride without our dear friends!


Friday, November 12, 2010

The Time Had Come

I've been driving the same car for about ten years - a 2000 Ford Focus. Actually, it would be ten years on December 15, 2010, so just a little short. I bought that car after my new one was rearended and totalled out by a stolen car with no insurance on October 28, 2000. Funny that I would remember the date, even a decade later.

Cause when I left work on Thursday (October 28, 2010) and went out to start my car, something interesting happened. To me, it made an attrocious noise and wouldn't start. That = bad. To anyone with car knowledge the sound was my engine coming apart. The tow truck guy said I had a hole in my oil pan about the size of an engine rod. A rod that should be inside my engine case and never come near my oil pan, much less puncture it. That = bad. It got towed to the dealership, but as I watched my car disappear, I knew that was it for her. My $600 car was not going to get a new $4400 engine.

So I took off work Friday and took a field trip to Decatur to a car dealership. I've been shopping and thinking and worrying about buying a new car for a while. It was having problems - not sure if the problems caused the engine blow out or of the engine problems were the source of the other issues I was having but either way, moot point now. Everyone kept asking when I was going to do it, but I was having trouble pulling the trigger. My paid for car was still running. When it stopped running, it was very easy to walk into the dealership and sign my life away.

But, drama aside, I have a new SUV!
Isn't she pretty? She's a sparkly dark blue with silver pinstriping and gray interior. She doesn't have any bells and whistles, but she has everything I wanted and didn't have in my other car - power windows, cruise control, more horsepower, more cargo room, and an auxillary jack for my iPhone. Now that I've finally done it, I'm very relieved to have reliable transportation. At least until the first payment is due...

What have you been procrastinating about? Ever had fate push you to finally make a decision?


PS. Be sure to stop in Monday because we're having the Playground's 5th birthday celebration! Come party with us!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You

Today is Veteran's Day.

We'd all like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms.

It doesn't matter your age, occupation, political preferences or religion, these people give up so much - not to mention risk their lives every day - so that we can stay safe at home. All of them deserve our respect and support. If there's a Veteran in your life please tell them how much you appreciate what they've done for us.

Thank you to all of our soldiers, past and present!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNoWriMo Trivia Time - Volume 2

It's week two of NaNoWriMo, and last week I promised if you'd bear with me through four weeks of trivia, I'd reward you in December with books and chocolate. So far, I'm on task, and actually 182 words ahead. Our local library had a write-in for us Monday night, complete with coffee and cookies. I went and wrote 1557 words (and felt like I was everyone's mother, but age is just a number, right?). I have yoga class tonight and will follow that (barring something interfering) with a write-in at Atlanta Bread Company. Oddly enough, after finally getting to the point where I can write on the computer again, I'm back to writing longhand. The 1557 tonight was longhand. But I ain't complaining.

So... here's your trivia for today.

Uses for baby oil:

Remove latex paint from your skin by scrubbing with a cotton ball dipped in baby oil.

Untangles necklace chains. Put a dab of oil on the tangle, then use straight pins to pull apart the knot.

Rub baby oil over and around a Band-Aid to help pull if off less painfully.

Slather your finger in baby oil to remove a stuck ring.

Uses for dental floss:

Unstick a photograph from an album by sliding tightly stretched floss between the photo and the page.

If you need to hang a lightweight work of art and don't have picture wire, use dental floss.

String popcorn for the Christmas tree on dental floss.

Slice a cake using a length of taughtly pulled dental floss.

Uses for antacid tablets:

Put two fizzy antacid tablets in the toilet. Wait twenty minutes and then brush clean.

Drop a fizzy antacid tablet in a stained vase and let it sit for several minutes. This will remove stains.

Put one in your mouth, drink a little water and pretend to foam at the mouth. This works great at murder mystery parties when you are the intended victim. (Just ask Smarty Pants)

Uses for cotton swabs:

Use as a "paint brush" to touch up paint on walls. Or use to apply stain to scratches on furniture or floors.

Use a swab dipped in alcohol to clean battery contacts on cell phones, cordless phones or laptops. This helps keep good connections so the device can hold a charge longer.

Use the same thing to clean the heads on your ink jet printer.

Use to polish intricately designed silver pieces.

Uses for toothpaste:

Use nongel toothpaste as a jewelry polish. Rub on with a soft cloth or your fingers, let dry and buff with a soft cloth.

Clean dirty computer keyboard keys with a baking-soda based white toothpaste. Rub it on, let dry and wipe with a damp cloth.

Coat both sides of swim goggles with nongel toothpaste and rinse. This helps prevent fogging.

Rub some toothpaste on your hands after peeling onions or garlic to get rid of the smell.

Massage whitening toothpaste onto your fingernails to remove stains and yellowing.

Put a dab of plain, white toothpaste on a pimple to dry it up.

Have you ever used any of these tips? If so, let us know how they worked. I've used a lot of the alcohol and cotton swab tips and used toothpaste to polish silver jewelry. And just a few weeks ago I used toothpaste on an emerging pimple. Worked like a charm! I need to look into using fizzy antacid in the toilet bowl. Sounds easy and quick.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Home again, home again...

Oh, happy day. First draft of the book is done and I'm getting caught up on a lot of things that have just been sliding by the last week or so. It's a sad state of affairs (or maybe it tells you something about the sad state of my house) when the thought of being able to tidy things up fills you with relief. (I've also scheduled a massage for this morning, so that fills me with relief as well)!

I've spent the last two weekends at book signings (spending six hours in a car with Lynn Raye Harris at the same time), and the cool thing about book signings is that even when you don't get the lines of people just dying to get your autograph, you always have at least one really cool moment you'll take away.

Case in point, the book signing I went to in McCalla, Alabama. The bookstore owner made a whole-day long event, with crafters set up at tables, a band playing all day, catered lunches, raffles and yes, some writers on hand. (My friend Paula Graves has a full report here.) When I posted on Facebook (and here) about the event, one of our regular readers, robertsonreads, said she'd come see us! I love meeting readers in general, but meeting someone who comes to the blog every day and plays with us is just awesome!

That's me and Lynn with Ginger (aka robertsonreads) and a little guy who's name totally escapes me at the moment. (Sorry, little cutie! You were a doll!) The weather was gorgeous, as you can see, and even an indoor cat like me enjoyed being outside. And I was totally flattered that Ginger would come see us!

This past Saturday was the Southern Magic Readers' Luncheon in Birmingham, keynoted by the fab and funny Peggy Webb. Lynn and I made the trek down I-65 again and had nice lunch with local readers. One of my oldest and dearest friends -- the one I talked about a couple of weeks ago in fact here -- came by quickly to give me a hug and be impressed by the "big, famous, author." (~snort~) Kira, Lynn and I were looking mighty cute, if I do say so myself.

After all the traveling I've been doing the last two months, I'm glad to know I'll be sticking pretty close to home for the rest of the year. But it also means that the cute clothes and makeup get put away, and I go back to being "But, Mmmooommmm" and "Um, Honey?"

But I like that, too. ~smile~

So, how was your weekend?


Oh, and by the way, I've finally gotten my official page up on Facebook. I'd love it if you "liked" me there!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Process of Simplification

They say life is about change, and I’ve had all the life I can handle in the last four months. In that time, my husband has changed careers and I’ve finally had to go back to work full time. I now clean houses 3 times a week, on top of my resume writing business. My husband’s new job keeps him out to really late hours, so on top of my new work I now have the morning and evening responsibilities for the kids alone on most days (can you say -- homework hell?).

Anyone reading this blog on a regular basis can probably guess that I don’t adapt very well. :) This has taken a lot of getting used to, and I spend a lot of days wishing I could go to bed and leave everything behind. There’s nothing like being overwhelmed already, then having children fight until bedtime, and refuse to stay in the bed without spankings, to leave you harried at the end of the day.

But though I don’t adapt quickly, I do eventually face things with a “might as well learn to cope” attitude. (Note I said: eventually) I’ve finally reached this stage with my new phase of life. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch my breath long enough to see the best strategies for dealing with the chaos. Catch 22? So I came to a decision last week that my life had to slow down. If it wasn’t absolutely necessary, it wasn’t getting done. This was especially true for being on the road.

You see, I’m a goer. I practically live out of my car (as many soccer moms do, I’m sure, except my kids don’t play sports). But I’m always on the road to something. School, groceries, lunch, errands, writing stuff… there’s always some place to be. But in the midst of all that stuff, I’d lost the space to think, to breathe, to create. Something had to be done. I had to learn to say, gulp, NO.

Now, I make myself think twice before going anywhere. I’m even giving up my beloved “Write Out” for the time being. I’m limiting the amount of clients I take on to the ones I can comfortably fit in, and scheduling the rest into the next week if they want to wait. Right now, my focus has to be on working (to bring income to my family) and writing (to preserve my sanity and the one thing that is MINE). And by that I mean the actual writing, not writing-group related activities. The only exception is our local chapter meetings. Those days are my "treat", when I get to spend time with the Playfriends and lots of other friends and refresh my spirit and determination.

So tell me, have you figured out how to simplify? To create time in your life, rather than always spending it? If so, I’d love some advice. Otherwise, let’s discuss. :) I'm sure we could all use some "breathing" with the hectic holidays upon us.


Coming Soon!
The Playground has a birthday coming up! Next Monday, November 15, will be the Playground’s 5th birthday party. Join us for lots of fun and gifties, right here on the blog!

Blog Winner!
FBF winner is Tonya Renee Callihan! Please email your snail mail address to Smarty Pants to claim your prize. smartypants@writingplayground.com

Saturday, November 06, 2010

November Website Updates

Greetings, Honorary Playfriends!

It's November! Why do I put an exclamation point after that? Because
November means it's the Playground's birthday, and would you believe the
Playground is FIVE years old?

That's half a decade. I can't even keep a plant alive that long, but look at
the Playground still going strong! Be sure to join us on the blog on
November 15th for a big celebration. (And remember when we throw a party,
we give y'all the gifts!)

Other than our birthday plans, want to hear what else is going on around

The Writing Playground now has an official fan page on Facebook. We'd love
it if you'd come like us!

We welcome multi-Rita finalist Carolyn Jewel to the Sandbox this month!

Our Book of the Month is Roxanne St. Claire's EDGE OF SIGHT:

Trying to write with that Internal Editor griping at you all the time? PM
gives you some strategies to Shut 'er Up in School:

There's no big contest running for November and December, but we'll be back
with that in January. (Wow. Next year. I'm so not ready for next year.)

Smarty Pants has also been doing some housekeeping on the site, updating
covers and pictures and things, so take a wander around when you get a

And now, though the weather is just about perfect, I must return to my cave
and write like the wind. Y'all can use my swing until I get done.

Have a wonderful November (and a very Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. Playfriends!)

I remain,


The Problem Child

Friday, November 05, 2010

Free Book Friday (Halloween Hangover Edition)

Halloween has come and gone (with much hoopla at my house, but that's next week's blog) but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to give away a couple fun paranormal books for Free Book Friday! Halloween is my favorite holiday. I just love the little kids in their costumes, too freaked out to say Trick or Treat. The Great Pumpkin on television. Normally I would say 'the candy' but I went out of my way this year to avoid gaining five pounds and gave out Halloween pretzel packs and mini popcorn bags. But today I'm giving away something for the big kids!

Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole

Neomi Laress, a famous ballerina from a past century, became a phantom the night she was murdered. Imbued with otherworldly powers but invisible to the living, she haunts her beloved home, scaring away trespassers -- until she encounters a ruthless immortal even more terrifying than Neomi herself.

To prevent him from harming others, Conrad Wroth's brothers imprison him in an abandoned manor. But there, a female only he can see seems determined to drive him further into madness. The exquisite creature torments him with desire, leaving his body racked with lust and his soul torn as he finds himself coveting her for his own.

Yet even if Conrad can win Neomi, evil still surrounds her. Once he returns to the brutality of his past to protect her, will he succumb to the dark needs seething inside him?

Dayhunter by Jocelynn Drake
A new day dawns blood red
A master of fire, Mira is the last hope for the world. For centuries she has secretly enforced the history-altering edicts of the Triad. Now she and her unlikely ally--the human vampire hunter, Danaus--have come to Venice, home of the nightwalker rulers. But there is no safety in the ancient city, for the threat of conflict is in the wind . . . with unholy alliances and earth-shattering betrayals taking hideous form in the shadows.

Banished for eons beyond the world's boundaries, the malevolent "naturi" prepare to feed once again upon a vulnerable earth--and treachery is opening wide the portal that will enable their dread re-emergence. The great battle that has always been Mira's destiny is looming, and she must remain powerful in the face of a shocking revelation: that Danaus, the only creature she dares to trust, is something more than the man he claims to be . . .

To win these two great books, comment with the phrase "trick or treat." What's your favorite thing about Halloween?


Thursday, November 04, 2010

It's Finally Over

When we started the Playground the five of us decided that there were a few topics we weren't going to touch on our blog. Politics was one of them. We just didn't want our blog to turn into a free for all debate over issues that couldn't be solved in 500 words or less. So let me just say, this post is not exactly about politics. It's more about my relief that the elections are over. Finally.

No more phone calls from candidates asking for my vote. No more people bugging me for my opinion or asking me how I intend to vote. But mostly, I'm so happy the political ads have stopped.

I think it gets worse every single election. I don't care which party you belong to, which candidate you support or which race you thought was the most important...the ads this year were never ending. It got to the point where I didn't want to vote for any of them because I was so tired of hearing their names. I was watching NBC Tuesday night and I think one of the quotes their shared sums up my thoughts exactly. On gentleman came out of the polling place and said he voted for anyone whose name he didn't recognize. It's an interesting philosophy I might have to consider next election.

So, was I the only one ready for it all to end? Again, we're not opening the comments section for a discussion of politics...just your relief that the hoopla is finally over. :-)


P.S. For anyone in the Birmingham area, PC, Lynn Raye Harris and I will be at the Southern Magic Readers' luncheon this Saturday. I'm not sure if they still have spots available but there is a book signing open to the public. Check out their website at www.southernmagic.org if you're interested.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

NaNoWriMo Trivia Time

And since the words I write here don't count toward my required 1667 per day that's necessary to meet my NaNoWriMo goal, you're going to get a month's worth of useful trivia gleaned from the internet. It's good stuff, really. And as a reward for putting up with it during November, I'll be doing a contest every week in December and offering up some books and chocolate.

So what's on tap for today? Why, it's how to use vinegar for your health and beauty needs. I use vinegar when a recipe calls for it but beyond that, it just sits in my pantry. Now I know all sorts of things I can use it for AND save myself some dollars because vinegar is pretty cheap. Here goes:

Mix one-half cup or vinegar and two cups of warm water and apply to your head after shampooing to help with dandruff. A mixture of half water and half vinegar will help with oily hair. Mix one tablespoon of vinegar into a gallon of warm water and work into your hair after the final rinse. It'll help cover gray hair.

Add two or three cups of vinegar to your bath as a soak to relieve aching muscles.

Wipe age or liver spots every day with a mixture of two teaspoons of vinegar and one teaspoon of onion juice. This will fade them. This combination is supposed to work for corns too, only you take a piece of onion, soak it in vinegar and bind it overnight to the corn.

Mix one teaspoon of vinegar with eight ounces of water, add a little honey for flavor and drink as an appetite suppressant.

Sunburned? Rub vinegar on your skin to soothe the burn.

Soak smelly feet for ten minutes nightly in a gallon of water with an ounce of vinegar added. You can also wipe your armpits with a vinegar as a natural (and inexpensive) deodorant.

You can help avoid bladder infections by drinking a small amount of vinegar daily. I've heard cranberry juice works for this too, and I have to admit the cranberry juice is a lot tastier than vinegar.

Got hiccups? Slowly sip a glass of warm water with a teaspoon of vinegar. For faster relief, drink from the far side of the glass. (I've done this with just plain water and it seems to work.)

Dab vinegar on a cold sore to help relieve the pain and dry it up.

Clean your nails with vinegar before applying nail polish. This helps the polish last longer.

Apply full strength vinegar to a jellyfish sting to soothe it. And in case you don't have a jelly fish problem in your area, you can use it for bee stings too. A fifty-fifty mix of vinegar and water will help dry up a poison ivy rash too. And if, God forbid, you should get ringworm, apply vinegar five to six times a day to the affected area.

Vinegar can be used to prevent and get rid of facial blemishes. Add a quarter cup of vinegar to a quart of water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, drape a towel over your head and hold your face over the steaming pan of liquid. BE CAREFUL since steam can cause bad burns. This will open your pores. Then wipe your skin with a cotton ball soaked in vinegar to remove dirt and oil loosened by the steam. End this routine by splashing your face with a mix of cold water and vinegar. to close your pores.

Mix one tablespoon each of honey and vinegar into a glass of warm water and drink to settle an upset stomach and/or relieve gas. This may also help with nighttime leg cramping.

All this sounds cheap and environmentally friendly too. But I just wonder how it's going to smell when you go to bed with your feet wrapped in vinegar-soaked onions and your hair, body and armpits rinsed with vinegar?

Has anyone tried any of these? If so, tell us how they worked. I'm very interested in the part about covering up gray hair.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Tusday laughs (just not too loud, okay?)

I had a great post planned -- with pictures -- about the book signing this weekend and how great it was to see one of our Honorary Playfriends there, but the camera isn't downloading properly and I have a migraine, so I've kinda given up on that now. That will have to be next week's blog.

Today, it hurts to open my eyes, so I'm making this quick by posting a couple of commercials that Lynn Raye Harris sent me yesterday to make me laugh.

The HP baby:

I love Geico commercials in general, but...

And this one I just love:

I must admit I'm not watching many commercials lately because I'm letting the DVR record everything then skipping the commercials. Any other funny ones I'm missing?


Monday, November 01, 2010

MOANday: Halloween Edition


I know it’s a day late, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay homage to some of the hottest guys from horror films. Often these films are ensemble casts and rarely have the traditional Hollywood hottie, but there are a few that provide welcome respite from all the blood and gore. I hope you enjoy, even if you aren’t a horror movie fan.

I’m very excited by last night’s premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC. This is a mini-series based on, you guessed it, Zombie Invasion!!!! But at the center of the story is a policeman played by Andrew Lincoln. You got to love a hottie in uniform, especially when his dearest wish is to find and protect his family.


The Saw movies were never my favorites. I’m a bigger fan of true mystery than gore, but Cary Elwes was a pleasant surprise when I finally gave in to watching the first one. I remember him from funnier movies like the Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and though he spends most of this movie shackled to a wall, he plays the serious roles just as well.


I’m a huge fan of numerous Stephen King made-for-television mini-series and movies, as my next two choices will avow. The first is a remake of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, starring Rob Lowe, who attempts to save a small town from the evil vampire that has made his home in the mansion where Rob Lowe’s character was frightened as a child.


The other is Rose Red (my all-time favorite!) with actor Julian Sands playing a telepath with mind-bending abilities. I cried the first time I watched it, because I didn’t want him to die. :)


And last, but not least, actor Taye Diggs, for his role as a (former) baseball player who ends up at a mysterious birthday party and gets locked up in a possessed house. Lucky for him, he is adopted, or else the house would have eaten him. I have to confess that there are parts of this movie where I still have to close my eyes. And Geoffrey Rush revising Vincent Price's character as the murderous husband? Creepy!!!


I know I’m one of the few horror fan buffs around here, but I hope viewing these hunky heroes helped you overlook my Halloween indulgence. Until next month…