Thursday, November 15, 2012

My desk during November (ahh, NaNoWriMo!)

The Anatomy of a Writer's Desk During NaNoWriMo




From left to right:
  1. Bulletin board with two calendars--one marking the days of November, the other tracking my word count each day towards the 50,000 end of month goal. I star the dates I make at least 1,667 words a day (so far looking at 8 of 14 days but overall still on track--the days I'm prolific make up for the days I stare at my computer for ten minutes at a time, wondering what the hell I'm doing). Kind of reminds me of the stickers I used to give my little one when she didn't pee the bed at night. I get REALLY EXCITED to put the star on my calendar at the end of my writing day. Pathetic, but true.
  2. Then you'll see the edges of some inspirational quotes--probably not coincidental that they're covered up by other shiz. The middle of NaNoWriMo is a dicey time for inspirational quotes. Mostly, I'm just looking for ways to bolt my a** to the chair.
  3. Ahh, my newest writer's tool: the Character Board. I have an annoying lack of a short-term memory, and have found myself on other novels changing character's eye color, mannerisms and (as in the case of my first novel, Despite the Ghosts) the gender of the cat. Luckily, I've caught the mistakes in edits before production, but this is my hope I can remain consistent.
  4. On my desk is where the chaos...erm, the magic happens!! My general plot notebook for my new series (I'm writing Book 1 of the Lipsticks and Lucifer series for NaNoWriMo this year) is open on the left, followed by a rather fantastic list of "Vivid Verbs" given to me by one of my Beta Readers, and finally taped together under my wireless mouse is my plot diagram. Although, as my four-year-old likes to remind me, it's my "scribble-scrabbles."
  5. Under all of this shiz--I think you might be able to see the ripped edge of an envelope just under my desk lamp--are the bills I'm late paying this month. They've been buried here for over a week. Thank God I decided to post a picture of my desk. Freaking ridiculous. 
  6. In the background is an antique desk calendar. It shows the day as the 22nd. It's not, of course. I haven't changed that thing in months. But it's fun to look at, and so is the ink well and ink pen holder right next to it. Maybe after NaNo is over, I'll learn calligraphy. But I doubt it.
  7. And finally, the lower quadrant of the photo shows you how decrepit I've become as a writer. I have to use one of those wrist-thingys by my keyboard. My carpal-tunnel is KILLING ME!! 
So, that's what National Novel Writing Month looks like in my house. I cannot wait until November ends, and my 50,000 words on "Makeovers and Minions" is complete.

Writing my way through to...
Happily My Ever After,
Dylan

Care to share the status of your writer's desk? Feel free to post below!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The price we pay for Dumb-A**-ery & Hurrican Sandy...



What is the price Americans pay for Dumb-A**-ery? 



We as Americans have the right to Dumb-A**-ery. Many of our rights revolve around the basic premise of, as my four-year-old would say, "I can do whatever I waaaaant to!"


But...what happens when other people's Dumb-A**-ery impacts our ability to achieve Happily Ever After? 


Check out a recent post from a friend of mine. Her husband is one of many that volunteer on New Jersey's Task Force of First Responders for Disasters...and he recently had to leave his family to save idiots from their own Dumb A**-ery.


And...here's the kicker...the Dumb-A** people he saved have no consequence. 


Just to put it in perspective, in the US, you can choose to not wear your seatbelt. But, if you're caught, you face a fine of up to $110. 


But what about the idiots whose Dumb-A**-ery leaves them in the Barrier Islands with a hurricane bearing down on them? And they had access to leave, but they exercised their American right to Dumb-A**ery, and stayed. Are they fined, or do they suffer consequences for their Dumb-A**ery?


Nope.


Read this letter, posted with permission. And let me know what you think! Better yet, like it on Facebook, Tweet it, shout it from your rooftop. I'd like to think that eventually, the phrase "Unsung Heroes" will be an oxymoron.


Until then....

Working Toward Happily My Ever After,

Dylan



The following is posted with permission:

An open letter to those that decided to "ride out Sandy" on the Barrier Islands.

Dear Jackasses,

While you were sitting deciding to stay in harms way and "ride out the storm of the century," my husband was packing his gear preparing to go save your sorry asses. As you were playing drinking games while watching The Weather Channel, taking a drink each time you heard, "hunkering down," my husband was kissing his kids goodbye for what could be the last time. Why? So he could go save your sorry asses. Now as you realize that perhaps you should have heeded the ORDER to evacuate, and are calling out to be rescued, my husband is risking his life along with other First Responders, for what?? To go save your sorry asses. As you sit nervously, in fear for your life, waiting for rescue, my kids are sitting at home, riding out the hurricane without their daddy. They are little, scared and don't understand why daddy has to help the people who would 
NOT follow orders instead of staying home and protecting them. Again, I say, "why?" To save your sorry asses...


As a wife of a First Responder of the NJ Task Force, I am extremely proud of the VOLUNTEER work that my husband does. He has a natural leadership about him and uses this skill to save those in need of rescue unselfishly. Let me be implicitly clear; I have no problem with my husband saving lives of those who legitimately need rescue. Those who COULD not evacuate--not those of you who CHOSE not too. 


As I sit and watch the news and interviews I become increasingly incensed by the interviews of those of you who decided to ride out the storm. Your casual replies that perhaps you shouldn't have attempted to ride out the storm, or worse, that it was "crazy" or "unbelievable." If you are interviewed you should be GRATEFUL that my husband decided to risk his life without a second thought so that you could live yours. You should be THANKFUL to all the First Responders who are risking their lives because YOU made a stupid, stupid choice.

To the media: I abhor how you interview these punks who ride out the storm and glorify their decision. Why not ignore their stupid decisions or better yet, call them on it. Ask them what the hell they were thinking and who do they think they are to risk someone else's life so they could experience a hurricane?? Interview the heroes...the ones who are out there unselfishly helping others. Notice, you won't see this--not because the media won't attempt to interview them--but rather the true heroes don't need the glory that the Jackasses that rode out the storm so desperately need.

Right now, while you Jackasses are safe, warm and with family members, my husband, along with many other First Responders are out risking their lives so they can save your brethren. So, Jackasses, kiss your family today and tell them that you love them. Simply because you can. Let's hope that my kids and I can do the same with my husband.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo 2012!

Today, I officially signed up for my month log flogging session... Also known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

I first participated in NaNoWriMo back in 2008, where I began my paranormal romance novel (then titled) "A Ghost of a Chance," which later was published by the Wild Rose Press (with a title change) as "DESPITE THE GHOSTS." So, given that my NaNo project resulted in my first publishing contract, I'm obviously a big fan of the project.

So, what is NaNoWriMo?
It's a FREE web challenge dedicated to getting writers in the habit of writing every single day of November, such that by month's end, you've written 50,000 words...or a small novel. For those of you non-Math majors, like me, that breaks down to writing around 1,667 words a day every single day of November.

Yep. Even Thanksgiving.

To help you along, the fantastic writers and guest 'speakers' of NaNoWriMo send you amazing pep-talk posts and you get to commiserate with other like-minded writers in local and regional forums.

Or you can be like me and just be miserable by yourself as you slog through November. Whatever works.

Not for the faint of heart, NaNo will push you to your writer-ly limits...but in a good way. The best thing I get as a "WriMo" every year is a re-dedication to the BIC rule.

Don't know the BIC rule?
That's the most IMPORTANT rule as a writer: Keep your BIC--Butt in a Chair.

Yep. That's really all the writer-ly magic boils down to, right there. 
Applying butt glue and persevering. 

So join me, writers, and dedicate yourself to the BIC rule by signing up for National Novel Writing Month with me this November!! (We'll worry about our flattened rump in December.)

With my Butt in the Chair....I'll write my way to....
Happily My Ever After,

Dylan

Unless you didn't catch the multiple NaNoWriMo links in my above post, you can sign up for the November writing challenge by going here. It's free. And I guarantee if you complete the challenge, you'll be a better writer for it...not that my guarantee means a whole lot. That and $3.24 will get you a Dunkin' Donuts Chai Latte. Yummmm....

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mmmm...the Smell of New Books!

My shipment of books arrived from my publisher today--just in time for the busy round of author events and speaking engagements lined up for the fall!

Look....aren't they pretty??
I swear, there is nothing better than the smell of a box of new books.

Unless it is a box of your OWN books.

"Despite the Ghosts" has been out for two years now, and every time my publisher sends me a box of my novels--the covers so crisp and unblemished, the virginal pages--I get a thrill of excitement. It is still hard to believe, some days, that I wrote and got a contract for, the book.

But...I have not been resting on my laurels. Or laurel--only one book published, after all. While my blog went eerily silent the past few months, I've been working like a beast.

1. I've finished my second novel (title TBD, but it's a paranormal romance about female werewolf with a bad attitude and a Unibrow complex that gets rooked into a dangerous mission to track down this hottie's son and loses her heart in the process), and have sent it to my A-list of agents for consideration.

2. I am in the final stages of edits for my YA paranormal novel--preparing to send it out to my fabulous Beta Readers for edits and feedback.

3. And I resurrected a dark paranormal novella titled, "Any Witch Way." Not surprisingly, it features a witch, a cursed MBA student and the Wiccan holiday of Samhain (our Halloween, and the pagan New Year). That novella's query letter got me a full manuscript read at my publisher, and is currently in for consideration for next year's publishing schedule. (Yay!)

4. Started my brand new project--a three-book paranormal suspense series titled "Lipsticks and Lucifer." Intrigued? I hope so! The first novel of three I have planned is called, "Makeovers and Minions," and I'm thus far 13,000 words into it with an expected length of around 100,000. Think Stephanie Plum meets Mary Kay and they hunt demons--albeit not very effectively--and you've got the basis for my heroine, Haven Nieves. (Is that not the most killer heroine's name, or what?!?)

So....forgive my lapse in blogging. It's not 'cuz I don't LOVE you all! I promise to get here more often in the next few weeks and keep you updated on my four exciting projects above.

Lighting up the keyboard for my Happily Ever After....

Dylan


Curious to see how I do on the four projects above? Think I'll get a contract by year end...or end up with a face full of rejection letters? Only one way to find out! Hit "Follow Happily (my) Ever After" hyperlink above on the right and stay tuned!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Evil Is As Evil Does...Newtons Meet the Missionaries

I don't consider myself evil. I mean, I know I'm no saint. But evil? Nah. And my girls--well, they're closer to sainthood than I am. And that's when my kids' playdates with the neighbors changed.

Because nobody tells my girls they're going to burn in hell.

When our new neighbors moved in, we were thrilled. Given our neighbor history, we had right to be.

Our first couple of years here, our neighbors had a 20-yr old SAHS (stay-at-home-son) whose only occupation was to play X-box in his garage. In his underwear. With the garage door open. They finally built a home and moved out, and then the 'boat captain' moved in. He seemed nice...until a few months into his stay when the private investigators started a stake out down the street. He was under surveillance, and we never found out why. One day...POOF! He and his boat were gone. The house was vacant for a year when finally...

The Missionaries moved in next door.

No, I'm not name-calling. That's what they said they were the first day we met them. Missionaries. They'd lived all over the US...doing their Missionary thing, until moving in next to us.

I'm not sure of their religious denomination--I never can get a straight answer from the kids...but I think they might be Pentecostal holiness. Or maybe non-farming Amish?? Ma stays inside and cooks all day wearing long dresses, her hair in a coiled bun. She leaves the house only once a day to retrieve the mail, her legs swishing so fast under her ankle-length jumper, I worry she'll spark. Pa works as a plumber outside of the home, accompanied by their 17-yr old son. And their three youngest children (ages 9, 7 and 5) are home-schooled.

It's like living next to the Ingalls family.

At first, I thought the kids were charming. The two girls--we'll call them Laura and Carrie--had their hair in a long braid down their back and wore long sleeves and skirts to their ankles. The 9-yr-old boy--we'll call him Albert--wore pants and long-sleeved shirts. Every day. Even when it was freaking 90 degrees.

Showing skin was a sin. And so was watching television, listening to the radio, playing with most toys, and books outside of their home-school texts and the Bible.

Having friends of many religious backgrounds, I urged my girls to respect their beliefs--don't bring out the toys with the Disney Princesses on them. Don't ask them what costumes they're wearing for Halloween (because they already told us Halloween is a holiday for Satan).

However, all the tolerance ended with this conversation between the oldest Missionary girl, we'll call her Laura, and my daughter who was 11 at the time. It was a hot December afternoon, my daughter home from school in school-appropriate shorts and tee-shirt, and Laura sweating buckets in her long-sleeved shirt, her ankle-length dress, white stockings and sneakers.

Laura: "I'm really sad."

My Girl: "Why?"

Laura: "Because I really like you, and you're going to burn in hell for all eternity."

My Girl (taken aback): "Wh-why would you say something like that?"

Laura (with a knowing nod): "Because you show your skin. And God says showing your skin makes you a sinner. And sinners burn in hell. And that makes me sad that I won't see you in heaven."

My Girl (thinking hard about all of the Bible stories she knows): "Nothing in the Bible says you're not supposed to wear short-sleeved shirts. Does it?"

Laura (changing subject): "And you have a Santa thing in your lawn. That's evil. Santa is a tool of the devil. And people who have Santas are going to burn in hell."

My Girl: "Um, I've got to go inside now."

My daughter came inside--not weeping, exactly, but seriously distressed. After affirming for her that holy people in the Bible (same one used by the Missionaries) wore robes that did NOT cover the entire body--and presumably they weren't sinners--then us wearing appropriate summer-wear was not likely to land us in hell's eternal flames. And then we had another conversation about how we have to be respectful and tolerant of other's beliefs...even when they have no respect or tolerance for yours.

Inside, though, I was seething. Sure, I know they're only kids, but that's exactly the point. Kids are the world's best mimics--they learn by parroting back what's said to them from their first word of "Mama" to the "You're going to burn in hell because you show your skin" stage. They didn't come up with this all by themselves--they were repeating it.

Evil is as evil does. The gauntlet had been thrown.

Parroting kids work both ways. Next time the Missionary kids came over, every Disney Princess we owned was in the driveway to play with. We introduced them by name and by the end of that play session, supervised by 'Mama Sinner Newton', they not only knew the names of the Princesses, but their back stories as well. This is Belle, and she fell in love with a Beast. This is Snow White, and she lived with seven little men. Before marriage. And this....oh yes! This is Cinderella, who defied her family, snuck out to a ball, and hooked up with a Prince.

Repeat that at the dinner table, kiddos. Tell my kids they're going to hell for wearing short sleeves, will you? Because there's more where the Disney Princesses came from...

Next time they came to play, I hauled out the Barbie dolls...in all their NAKED SPLENDOR. I even brought out that little singing tramp Barbie from High School Musical, and her neutered HSM Zac-mate. And the Missionary kids played in my driveway, merrily sinning away as they dressed, undressed and re-dressed the dolls in clothing that barely covered ANY of their parts.

You want SINNER? I can give you SINNER....

Even as I live my Happily Ever After,
Dylan


P.S. We gave them all a Christmas present this year...wrapped in SANTA paper, of course.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Goddess of Chaos: 1 ; Newton Family: 0


Ahhh, chaos! It reigns in my home so frequently, I wonder if Eris (Greek goddess of chaos), might have a summer home nearby. Every once and a while, she'll poke her goddess-head out of her window, raise one ethereal eyebrow at my Type-A ways, and bam! Here's how it began:

"Mom! Dad fell...and he's not getting up."

At first, I giggled. I know--real sensitive of me, right? But it sounded like that cliched commercial for those LifeAlert pendants. My humor evaporated when I saw my daughter's wide-eyed panic. Uh-oh.

Vaulting into action, I sprinted outside taking in the scene like a veteran cop: my kids: safe (although the youngest was running around screaming about Daddy's bloody knee). Neighbor kids: gawking from their side of the lawn, dressed in their full Laura-Ingalls regalia (They're Missionaries. More on them another day). My husband: laying on the intersection of lawn and driveway, and (from the look of him) the intersection of conscious and full-on faint.

Mike's hands clutched his ankle. "I was playing basketball with the girls. I went for a rebound and rolled my ankle. I heard a loud crack," he said, his lips the color of manuscript paper. He was in a cold sweat, pale and glassy-eyed.

My inner-EMT pursed her lips. Hell, no. He's not going into shock. Not on my watch.

Gently prying Mike's hands from his ankle, I exhaled in relief. No protruding bones. I gave him a reassuring smile. "It looks fine. We'll get you inside, get some ice, and see if we need x-rays."

Then, the Goddess of Chaos intervened. The *itch figured I was managing too well.

My toddler was the first to respond to Chaos' call. Peering at his unhurt (but bloody) knee, she managed to bang into the injured ankle. Mike hissed in pain, and my toddler gave him a chastising look. "S'okay, Daddy." She lowered her face to the abraded knee, flailing into his ankle once more. "It's just bwood, sweetieheart."

Mike's face got paler, and I (still calm) told my little one to watch out for Daddy's foot.

Meanwhile, my oldest began a screaming etiquette lecture for the gawking Missionary kids. "Go home! Don't you know how RUDE it is to stare? Go HOME!"

Wide-eyed, the neighbor kids hiked up their colonial-style garb and climbed a nearby tree, getting a better (and safer) view of the chaos.

Still trying for serene, I sent my oldest daughter to fetch ice, more to stop her yelling than anything else. Then, I helped Mike up, noting the cold sweat drenching him. God, let me get him into the house before he faints!

Blocking my toddler as she made another bee-line for the bloody knee (via the broken foot route), we took two gimping steps forward. My eldest raced back with an ice-filled towel, and promptly resumed her tirade at the now-arboreal (yet still staring) neighbor kids.

Before I could rein in my girls, Mike said, "I'm going down."

And he did. He didn't faint--it was more like a slow-motion swoon, except my husband is a muscled mass of a guy. Slowing his descent was like attempting to catch a falling freight elevator--I couldn't do much except use my body to break his fall. Sacrificing my left arm and leg, I crumpled gracelessly, half under him, to the hard concrete.

"Ice!" I barked, my pinned left side protesting.

My toddler snatched the towel-wrapped ice. "Lemme shake dis out." And with an expert flick of her tiny wrist, the ice scattered across the driveway in every direction.

The loss of her freshly-fetched ice provoked my eldest into another vein-popping screamfest. At the same time, my toddler--having shaken out the towel to her liking--used it to blot Mike's knee, laying across--what else?--the injured foot.

Mike gave a guttural groan, moving enough for me to finally wrench my arm out from under him. Grabbing up my youngest by the back of her shorts, I shoved her off his foot as gently as I could (one-handedly) but she fell and bloodied her knee. Her shrieks, combined with her sister's top-of-her-lungs lecturing to the treed neighbors, eroded the last of my calm.

Understand that I'm descended from a long line of loud, loud women. My daughters are mere acolytes in the art of bellowing. I am in full mastery of my vocal capacity. Pulling air into the lowest recesses of my diaphragm, I let loose.

"STOP IT RIGHT NOW!"

My yell bounced off the driveway, stole the breath from my screaming children, deafened my husband, and scared the Missionary kids so badly they fell from the tree in their haste to retreat to the sanctuary of their house.

Eris' ethereal lips curved in a smirk--she'd won. Goddess of Chaos: 1 ; Newton Family: 0

BUT...
This story does have a happy ending. While Mike did indeed break his fifth metatarsal, it was 3 cm up from having to have it in a cast. Thanks to that 3cm, he's in an ankle brace which--although painful--is a hell of a lot easier.

What a difference 3cm can make. (At least, that's what I always say, *wink-wink*).

So...in the end we all did live...
Happily Ever After,
Dylan

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Scrap Challenge Day 7--Completing the Layout for "Day in the Life of Mom"

If you've stuck with me, you already have a gorgeous two-page layout featuring YOU, the Mom, on Mother's Day. Finally, you've made a guest appearance in the scrapbooks you create!

Today's double-page layout is about a day in your life--just an average, everyday, day. As much as you think, "Oh, I'll remember my schedule," five years from now, you won't. It'll be different. And when you flip through the scrapbook containing this layout, feel free to email me and tell me how much you appreciate the challenge this week!


This may take a bit longer than the other challenges, depending on how fancy you want to get with it.

Supplies:
  • Pictures printed from Day 4 of the challenge
  • Ephemera gathered
  • Journaling pen
  • Adhesive
  • Trimmer
  • White gel pen, if desired
  • Pictures of a clock--this can be stamped, a big clock chipboard (like the one I used), or go to Google images, type in "clock face" and print one of the hundred or so there. I used a cut piece from a piece of patterned paper for the one on the right side of the layout.
  • Stickers, frames, clock hands, rub-ons, bling, etc.--amazingly, I didn't use any flowers on this one, but you could easily incorporate that.
Directions:
1.   I printed most of my pictures in wallet, which allowed me to fit more onto the page. But I did print two in 4x6 (punching bag pictures, and the one with my girls playing outside that I ended up trimming slightly to fit).
2.   Lay out your pictures and memorabilia in a ray pattern from the clock at the center. If you want to split the clock in two (half on the left side of the layout, and half on the right), that would work, as well. Basically, this will depend on how many pictures/ephemera you are including on the layout. Here is my layout before embellishments:
3.   I used number and letter stickers in each photo, and then journaled the rest of what was happening at that time of the day by hand. I hate my handwriting, but is is mine. And the layout is all about me, so I figured it was appropriate for once for me to write longhand.
4.   Find a title that works for your day. Since my layout is all about my favorite day of the week (Tuesday--the only day I don't have to take kids into school and have more time to write), my title was "I (heart) My Tuesdays."
5.   I tried to go through my stash of mismatched things to use on the layout. So I have a felt scroll-work embellishment that was a leftover from a past layout, clock hands from a broken clock, and miscellaneous bits and pieces I've held onto when the rest of the pack was gone. Use a mixture of number and letter sticker fonts--great way to use up letters and numbers you have leftover from previous layouts.

That's it! My only other advice is to tell it like it is. One of my favorite parts of the day is when the kids go to bed, and my husband and I have time together. Not a great "Mommy" thing of me to say, but true nonetheless. We have so little time alone together that these few minutes are precious.

Good luck and thanks for sticking with me during this week of scrapping YOUR life as a Mom...

Happily Ever After,
Dylan



Are you just joining in? Here are the links to the previous Mother's Day challenges--you're not behind! We'll wait for you to catch up.
Day 6: Completing the Mother's Day Card Layout
Day 5: Journaling about YOU from Your Kids
Day 2: Journaling Pros and Cons of Motherhood
Day 1: Mother's Day Challenge

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rockin' Date Night

For Those About to Rock...Please Puke the Other Way

My husband and I love rock concerts. Heavy Metal, Hard Rock--we love music where the bass is so loud, it pumps your heart for you. Where mosh pits offer up more chipped teeth than an NHL hockey game, and the band will actually call you out if you happen to sit at any point during their face-melting onslaught.

Mike and I have attended rock concerts together for over two decades.  (Full list at the end of this blog.) Together, we've seen over 25 bands--some of them multiple times.

We have enough concert tees to make at one kick-*ss (and all black) tee-shirt quilt.

Recently, my husband bought us tickets to the 98 RockFest in Tampa, cleverly supporting my goal of injecting more fun into our date nights together. And because I want you to rock your  Happily  Ever After, I have compiled these concert rules from my years of attending rock concerts. You're welcome!

UNWRITTEN HARD ROCK CONCERT RULES:

1. Wardrobe: Wear black. Preferably a concert tee from the band to show you're a real fan. However, don't buy the tee-shirt there, and put it on over what you wore to the concert. Because then you look like you're trying too hard. And you're so not fooling anyone.
  • Stripper clothing is a rock concert staple. Seemingly for every body type. I've seen fishnet stockings restrain massive amounts of cellulite--it's like beholding a wondrous concert night miracle.
  • Only wimps wear ear protection. Part of the rock experience is partial deafness. If you don't have a few hours of tinnitus after the show, you didn't rock hard enough.
  •  If you have a tattoo or piercing (besides your ears), it is expected that you will wear something that reveals that body part. Just to show how bad-*ss you are. 
2. Smart Phone Musts: Bring your cell so you can take your picture at the concert and immediately post it to Facebook. Before you go, upload the flashlight app,too. That way you'll  find your freaking keys when you drop them trying to get your phone out so you can update your Facebook status.

3. Head-Banging: I've never been a very good head-banger. Some people thrash their heads around and look cool doing it. Me...not so much. Do it in front of a trusted, sober friend before trying this at a concert.

4. Being Groped &/or Cat-Called is part of the experience. Apparently. Happens to me every damn concert. You'll just be winding through a crowd of people and bam! Someone grabs your *ss. I used to get really offended. But now that I'm over 40, I try and take it as a compliment. Oh, I still turn around and try and catch the offender, my ninja hands up. But now I keep in mind that the alternative--when nobody wants to grope you because  you're too old and gnarly--might be worse. 

And finally, the most important rule of them all...

Age doesn't matter on this one. At 98RockFest, a 60 year old in front of us had 12 too many brewskis. He'd already broken so many rules, I should have known he'd make this last infraction something of a finale. He wore a plain, dark blue tee-shirt that covered up most of his faded upper arm tat, and jeans so crisp, you could smell "Eau de WalMart" rows away.

Clear infraction of Rule #1.

He had no cell, and his head-banging looked more like he was slowly agreeing with a silent conversation. Which, considering his state of intoxication, was probably the case.

Rule 2 & 3--broken.

I gotta give the guy credit for Rule #4, as he was ardently groping his girlfriend (gaggingly his younger by a good 15 years). But I could've misconstrued his lascivious intent. He may have been searching for a hand-hold as he swayed on his geriatric feet, and her *ss provided ample leverage.

And Rule #5. He waited until Shinedown's ballad, "45" for that one, the old romantic! Lucky for the  SweetTart he was with, he gave her one last butt-squeeze, and then leaned over the seat in front of him. Shinedown was loud enough to drown out the retching as he yarked his guts out.

His girlfriend turned to us, grinned and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, "It's a rock concert. Whaddya gonna do?"

Indeed.

The puke cascaded harmlessly down the two empty blue stadium seats in front of him--incidentally, the only two empty seats in that row. Another rock concert miracle! And the guy kept the most sacred of all rules:

5. For Those About to Rock...Please Puke the Other Way.

Rockin' my Happily Ever After,
Dylan

Want to see another amazing Date Night Idea? Click here for Date Night/Fight Night.

Curious to compare your rock concert attendance with my own? Click on the "more" below and check out previous date night concerts we've attended.

Scrap Challenge Day 6: Finish Mother's Day Card Layout

In Day 5 of our challenge to incorporate more of YOU into your own scrapbook, you had your children answer some questions about you as a mom. (Aren't the answers precious?!?)

Today, we're going to incorporate that into the second half of our Mother's Day Card layout we started on Day 3.

Here's what you'll need:
  • Cardstock and scrap of patterned paper you set aside from Day 3.
  • Corner rounder
  • Trimmer
  • Adhesive
  • Questions from your children (mounted on color cardstock if you prefer)
  • 2 or 3 photos of your children/you, if you prefer (otherwise, you can mount your kids' answers instead)
  • Embellishments (flowers, ribbons, brads, tags, bling), if desired
Directions:
  1. Using the large patterned piece leftover from the other half of the layout (@11"x9"), round all four corners with your corner rounder or scissors.
  2. Take the questions your children answered in Day 5. If they are small enough, adhere them in an artful way on top of the patterned paper.
  3. But, if they are too big (like mine), then find two or three photos of your kids and/or you, and arrange them on top of the patterned paper. If you use photos on top, simply make a pocket of the patterned paper by laying down a strip of adhesive on three sides, leaving the fourth open so that you can remove the best part of the layout--what your biggest fans have to say about you!
  4. That's it! I embellished with flowers in the corner, some ribbon, a bit of that accent paper leftover from the first layout, and some bling (gotta have bling!!), and voila!!
You now have a 2-page layout, all pretty and color-coordinated...and best of all, it features YOU! :)

Tomorrow, we're going to work with those pictures and memorabilia from the "Day in the Life of Mom"...
Thanks for joining me, as I scrap...

Happily My Ever After,
Dylan

Are you just joining in? Here are the links to the previous Mother's Day challenges--you're not behind! We'll wait for you to catch up.

Day 5: Journaling about YOU from Your Kids
Day 3: First Page of Mother's Day Card Layout

Day 2: Journaling Pros and Cons of Motherhood

Day 1: Mother's Day Challenge

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mom's Life Scrap Challenge: Day 5--Homework for your Kids

If you've followed all of my scrap challenges from Day 1, you've got one side of a two-page layout done, pictures taken for another two-page layout, and ephemera saved from your "Day in the Life of Mom" challenge on Day 4.

Yay, you!

So today, it's time to assign work to someone else for a change. Namely, your kids. Today, you're going to get your children to answer some easy questions about you. If they are old enough, have them write the answers themselves (no coaching--they should be from your kids). If you have little ones, you have license to make up their answers yourself! :)

This one came from my youngest daughter's preschool. (And for the record, I'm not 10, and I rarely make soup. But she was right. I do look the best with my hair done, and I'm always harping about cleaning up your own mess. Out of the mouth of babes, eh?)

Feel free to copy these questions, and ask your kids, or come up with four or five of your own. Here are some ideas:
  • What are four words you would use to describe me?
  • What's your favorite thing we do together?
  • You're the best Mom because....?
That's it! Make sure you print your pictures from yesterday. We'll be making our second page to the Mother's Day card layout tomorrow, and this weekend, we'll be doing the "Day in the Life of Mom" double page layout.

Thanks for joining me as I scrap...

Happily My Ever After,
Dylan

Are you just joining in? Here are the links to the previous Mother's Day challenges--you're not behind! We'll wait for you to catch up.

Day 3: First Page of Mother's Day Card Layout

Day 2: Journaling Pros and Cons of Motherhood

Day 1: Mother's Day Challenge

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Scrap Challenge Day 4: Document one Day in Your Life

Of all of the photo albums I've seen over the years, the one most precious to me was done by my mother when she was 16 and hospitalized after a car accident. Some relative gave her a scrapbook to help ease the tedium of 33 days in the hospital, and she recently gave it to me to act as caretaker to the now-disintegrating book.  When I opened the front cover, I was transported back to 1966.

Recovering from two surgeries, the teen version of my Mom used her scrapbook to chronicle her experience. She taped up remembrances of the good days, like when a boy from school brought a flower when he visited her in the hospital. And she taped up the bad, like Christmas cards from relatives she wouldn't see that holiday, because she wasn't yet released. In between the good and the bad are remembrances of her life--hall passes from school, her hospital wrist band, the front cover of the TV guide (featuring her teen crush, Ben Gazzara).
Paging through my mom's scrapbook from those harrowing weeks, you see the optimistic, vivacious, sometimes introspective teen--the girl she was before. Before children, before marriage, before she began the 'work-make dinner-work-drive kids-work' cycle that would define the next four decades of her life. I never knew that 'before' girl...but in paging through that scrapbook, I feel like I do.

That's my challenge for you: Document your day--the good, the bad, the ugly. Years from now, your kids will page through and laugh, or grimace, or just think, "How in the hell did she do all that?"

(Or maybe they'll say, "Oh, no wonder she was such a crabby-*ss *itch all the time.")

Either way, it'll be your moment in time, in all it's multi-faceted glory.


It's easy. Here's what you need to do:
  • Take pictures of your day. From when you get up to when you go to bed, document the high and low-lights of a typical day in the life of YOU. We'll be scrapping many of them, so take enough pictures that you can pick and choose what you want to represent. Try to include at least one of yourself! This page is about YOU, after all!
  • Grab the ephemera of this one day--receipts, labels, the tiny flower your daughter picked for you--the flotsam of your everyday that might normally be trashed. We will scrap these, as well.
  • Finally, document your day. What time did you wake up? What did you make for dinner, or did you order out? What's something funny your kids or husband said when you told them what you were doing today? Songs on the radio? What book are you reading? You get the drift.
At the end of the day, gather it all into a pile. Print your pictures, or send them out for next-day printing. We're going to use it all when we begin our next 2-page layout.

Thanks for joining me as I scrap...

Happily My Ever After,
Dylan

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day Scrap Challenge: Day 3--Begin 1st Layout

Today, in only 15 minutes, you're going to start creating your first of two double-page layouts in our seven day challenge. And you'll finally be in your own scrapbooks. Woo-Hoo!

First, print out your picture from the Day 1 challenge in 4x6 format. Gather any cards or ephemera you have from Mother's Day (tags from clothes, receipts from something you did that day, etc.), and grab your journaling list from the Day 2 challenge.


 
Other Supplies:
  • 2 pieces of 12x12 cardstock to match your picture or card (you can easily convert to 8.5x11)
  • 1 piece of 12x12 patterned paper to match
  • 1 large scrap of another pattern of paper to match (about 6 x 8)
  • Corner rounder, or scissors
  • Paper trimmer
  • Embellishments (flowers, bling, tags, whatever you have that matches)
 Directions:
1. Take your patterned piece of 12x12 paper and cut a strip 12 x 3" from it, then trim 1" so that you have two strips (one is 11 x 3" and one is 1 x 3"). Put the rest (12 x 9") aside, as we will use this later in the week to do the other half of the page.
2. Using a corner rounder, round all four edges of the 12 x 3" strip, and adhere about a half inch from the left side of the page.
3. Take your picture from Mother's Day, and adhere this to the inside of your Mother's Day card. Don't cover up any precious artwork or signatures, though!
4. Take your large scrap (about 6x8"), and trim it to frame and fit around your Mother's Day card, leaving a little extra frame at the bottom to allow room for embellishments. Round the bottom edge, if desired, and adhere to the long patterned piece on your page, about 1" from the edge.
5. Run an adhesive line along the top, folding edge, and bottom of the back of your Mother's Day card to create a pocket on the right hand side. Stick this to the large patterned scrap.
6. Insert your journaling list from the Day 2 Challenge in this pocket so that the edge hangs out.
7. Take the 1" strip, and adhere it to the bottom right side of the page, about .5" from the bottom edge. Here is what the page looks like before embellishments:
8. Embellish with ribbons, flowers, bling, stickers, etc.

There! Now your Mother's Day card, and your thoughts about being a mother are preserved for your kids...and you finally appear in your family's scrapbook! Keep the scraps, as we will use these later in the week to finish the other side of the two-page layout.

Tonight, charge up your digital camera and set it out where you'll remember it in the morning. Because tomorrow, you're going to photographically document a typical "Day in the Life" of Mom. Tomorrow's post will be ready for you bright and early!

Thanks for joining me as I scrap...
Happily My Ever After,
Dylan

 
Forgot to do your Day 2 journaling? It won't take you long. Click here for directions.

Did you miss Day 1 of the Challenge? Don't sweat it--you're not behind. Just click here for that Challenge. We'll wait!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Scrap Challenge Day 2: Pros and Cons of Motherhood

 Now that you have a picture from yesterday (click here to go to Mother's Day 1 Challenge), today's challenge will be to journal about your feelings as a Mother.

Wait, don't close this window yet!!

I know you're thinking, "Ugh. I hate journaling,"  but this is easy, and I even have a handy-dandy template to kick your journaling muse in her whiny, little *ss. I may be a writer by profession, but journaling in my family's scrapbook often finds me with my pen in hand and my mind an absolute blank.

That's why I cheat--I use lists in my scrapbooks.

For this page, we're borrowing from the king of list-makers himself: Ben Franklin. Franklin would take a piece of paper, fold it in the center and list the pros on one side, cons on the other and after careful, intelligent introspection, would decide on the problem based on which list was larger.

You don't need any intelligent introspection for this one.

But you will need:
  • A piece of paper roughly 5.5" square. You can use cardstock, lined paper, a page ripped from your day planner (that's what I used)--whatever you want.
  • Black journaling pen (or color of your choice--use a pen if you want), and a highlighter.
Directions:
  1. Fold your paper in half, then use a black journaling pen to trace over that line (or just use a ruler to draw a straight line--rulers and I don't get along, so folding works for me).
  2. Write a title at the top, or borrow mine: "Pros and Cons of Motherhood", and write the Pros on one side, Cons on the other. Be creative, be serious, be silly. Hell, be intelligently introspective if you can manage it (and then post what you wrote so I can borrow it for mine!!). Doesn't matter what you write, just spend five minutes writing from the heart.
  3. Make sure your 'Pros' list is longer than your 'Cons' list. :) You might have to think a little longer, but I know you'll manage. (See below for inspiration).
  4. Take a highlighter (any color) and circle the 'Pros' side of your list.
There! Challenge completed!! Tomorrow, we're going to take our 'journaling' list, our photo from Day 1, any Mother's Day cards or ephemera we have and begin our first scrapbook layout.

Here's to scrapping our Happily Ever After,
Dylan

Need inspiration for your Pros and Cons list? There's a cute article on Prevention.com .

Did you miss Day 1 of the Challenge? Don't sweat it--you're not behind. Just click here for that Challenge. We'll wait! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Scrap Challenge : YOU as a Mom...Day 1 Assignment

In my quest to document my family and our life together, our scrapbooks are filled with layouts I've done documenting major holidays, kid's activities, etc. but I notice that I rarely focus on the simple things. Like Mother's Day, and little details about living my life as a mother (and wife, friend, writer, chronic list maker, etc.) that are my every day.

This week I'm changing that. And you're welcome to join me.

For the next seven days, I'm going to help put a little of YOU into your scrapbook.

The assignments are easy (taking only 15 minutes/day), and by the end of the week, you'll have what you need for four scrapbook pages of YOU, with detailed instructions of how to duplicate these pages that focus more on content, less on scrap technique.

I promise you--and your family--will love to read these pages when you're done.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT:

Take a picture of what you received today--whether it was gifts, a homemade card, breakfast in bed, or maybe it was the gift of time alone or with your kids, mother, husband, etc. Whatever it was that made your day memorable, take a picture. Mine is above.

And hang onto any Mother's Day cards you received. We're using those later!!

Tune in tomorrow for your next easy (and fun!) assignment...

Thanks for joining me as I scrap...
Happily My Ever After,
Dylan


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Unwanted Shower Guest

In the first scene of my novel, Despite the Ghosts, my heroine Nola has an unwanted guest join her in the shower--the ghost of a man who was thought to have committed suicide. Having a spirit materialize in the shower's steam would send the rest of us over the edge, but lucky for Nola, she's a medium. She's used to seeing ghosts, and her reaction was a mix of startled and annoyed.

Look who decided to join me in the shower this morning.

Just looking at it gives me a full-on body shudder. My reaction was a bit more over-the-top than my psychic heroine's.

It was mid-shower when I finally noticed my unwanted guest--who happened to be hiding on the back-side of the shower step. Performing a convulsive jumping jack, I scrambled into the far corner of the shower from the beast, shrieking like a banshee.

But spiders don't have ears. The beast was unfazed by my reaction.

It's brown, slightly hairy body was roughly the size and shape of a large almond, and with his splayed legs gripping the shower tile (*shudder*) the thing looked freaking horrifying. I screamed louder, which did me no good, as I was the only one home.

"Yeah. Got you cornered, *itch," the spider seemed to be saying, his multiple myopic eyes narrowing. "Watcha gonna do now??" 

Shampoo ran into my face. I flipped the water off, debating my alternatives. I couldn't kill it. Not naked anyway. What if I missed and he ran up my leg (**shudder **)? I could shower with him, and kill him when I was dressed and mentally ready. That was the mature thing to do, I reasoned with my inner arachnophobic. I was much bigger, and he was unlikely to rush me while I finished my shower.

He'd just be staring at me with all those eyes...planning his next spidey move.

Two seconds later, I karate-chopped the door open and performed an Olympic-sized long jump, hurtling over the spider, over the lip of the shower, over the bath mat until landing with wet feet on the tiles. I would have gone *ss over tea kettle, but my flailing arms caught the towel bar. I slammed the glass door closed, praying the eight-legged monstrosity couldn't climb the shower-wet walls and get out.

Streaking through my empty house, I finished my shower--on extra-hot to combat the residual spider-induced tremors. Then, like a medieval woman--when there was no knight to come and save her--I dressed, and prepared for battle.

NOTE: If you're one of those that prefers to "capture and release" the creatures that inadvertently enter your house, DON'T READ ANY FURTHER. 'Cause I don't roll that way. I leave dead carcasses outside my door as a warning --Abandon all hope, ye bugs who enter here!!

First, I grabbed my camera. Had to snap a picture of the thing for all of you. And let me tell you, zooming in on that thing will give me nightmares for a month (**shudder**). It took eight pictures before my hands stopped shaking and the picture was in focus. The lengths I will go to for my writing.

Then, I grabbed my weapon, and sprayed.

Death by Scrubbing Bubbles is not the most effective way to kill household pests. There was a lot more shrieking, foaming bubbles, and chaos before the beast finally succumbed. He was still. I had vanquished the interloper.

Plus, my shower tiles got a little extra sparkle. Dontcha love it when you can multi-task?!?

I had a moment of silence, respecting my dead foe. (Why, oh why couldn't he just have stayed outside where he belonged?) Then, I quietly closed the shower door, leaving the dead in peace. My husband would be home soon. He'd take care of it.

You didn't actually think that I would pick that thing up, did you???

And now I forge ever onward. One more obstacle removed as I quest for my...
Happily Ever After,
Dylan


Want to read an excerpt from my novel, whose heroine is braver than I in the shower? Click here for my website, or just go ahead and buy the book (and read my 5 star reviews) on Amazon.com.



Monday, April 30, 2012

Scrapbooking Your Kid's Artwork with Crayons

OK, I know I'll never be caught up on my scrapbooking. While I try and resign my Type-A personality to that fact, I still can't help but feel overwhelmed by the amount of pictures I have plans to scrapbook, vs. the time I have to do it in.

The ratio is incredibly lopsided.

But one of my goals was to create a layout each week capturing our life. This week's contribution: a layout for those cute Crayola pictures drawn by your little one (and who doesn't have a million of those!), or a layout as I've done showing your child creating crayon art.

The 'flower' in the corner is made from broken crayons. Here's the detail picture:
Below are the basic supplies and directions, if you'd like to duplicate it. It took me about an hour total. Of course, that's not consecutive time--that's total time the whole week, between Mommy interruptions, writing, and so on. I created the page for my 12x12 book, but you could easily adjust for 8.5x11.





Supplies:
  • 1-- Dark Green Cardstock (12x12) for the background
  • 1--Kelly Green Cardstock (12x12) for the Crayola stripes
  • 1--Goldenrod Yellow Cardstock (12x12)
  • Red Cardstock (use up some scraps!)
  • Red ink to ink edges of journaling strips, if desired
  • 11 broken crayons
  • Chunky glass glitter (optional)
  • Button/Brad or Embellishment for center of Crayon ring
  • 4 photos, or scanned artwork cut to grid pattern
  • Font: I used 'Porky's' font, as it looked the most like the Crayola box. I found the font for free here.
Directions:
  1. Trim the goldenrod yellow cardstock on a diagonal to almost half. Mine is about 10.5" from corner to corner. Adhere this to the bottom left of your Dark Green cardstock background.
  2. Cut the Kelly Green cardstock on a diagonal 1" wide by about 14.5" long. I turned the paper in my trimmer to cut the 12x12 sheet from corner to corner to get the longer 1" strip. Adhere this strip to the edge of your goldenrod carstock so it forms the border between the goldenrod and the dark green background. Trim off edges, if necessary.
  3. Trim two more skinny strips from the Kelly Green diagonal, again with your paper turned to cut the 12x12 from corner to corner. Mine are about 1/8th inch wide and about 12.5" long. Adhere these two strips so that 1/8th inch of the goldenrod shows between the strips. You're mimicking the green stripes on the box of Crayola crayons (grab your kid's box for reference).
  4. Pick out a group of 3-4 pictures or scanned artwork, and arrange them so that the right sides line up about 1/4" from the right edge of the dark green background. Trim so they make a pleasing pattern.
  5. Cut a large arrow shape from the red cardstock. Position it to point at your favorite picture, and adhere.
  6. Using the Porky's font, type out your title. I used a combination of capital and lower case letters in "BiG", and then used a smaller Porky's font to type my sub-heading "girl crayons". I used the highlight feature in Word to put a white highlight around the letters. Print out your title, and fussy cut around the words.
  7. Using Porky's font in smaller, red letters, type out your journaling. Be sure to hit enter a few times between lines so that you can cut out your journaling and adhere in strips across the goldenrod portion of the page. I like mine off-kilter, and I ink the edges with red ink to give it some dimension on the page.
  8. For the crayon 'flower', find a bunch of broken crayons, roughly the same size. I used some that still had the paper, and some that didn't. Using Zots, stick the crayons in a petal shape, leaving about a 1" circle in the center.
  9. Using dimensional glue, apply glue to the center of your crayon flower. Sprinkle chunky glass glitter onto the glue (I used Silver Glass Glitter from Stampin' Up) and allow a day to dry.
  10. Using a 3-D glue dot, adhere a button, or round embellishment in the center of your glitter circle.
Voila! You've captured your child's crayon art, preserving his/her Happily Ever After memories for years to come.

Feel free to scraplift!
Dylan

P.S. Want more "Scrappily" Ever After ideas for your scrapbook? Subscribe to my blog via email or RSS feed above for one layout a week to help you get your scrap on! Or share this post on Facebook or Twitter by using the buttons below.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Date Night Challenge: Kickboxing

Fist Fight and Date Night: two phrases that aren't typically synonymous when my husband and I go out. Until now.

If you've read my goals for this year (click here for that post), then you know I'm ditching the normal 'dinner and a movie' date routine with my husband to give us opportunity to inject more Happily into our Ever After.

There's nothing like a good fist fight to take the normal out of a routine.

A year ago, I joined a kickboxing class to help me shed some of the "baby weight" (and as said 'baby' was almost four it was long overdue).
The class was tough. I puked in my mouth a few times.

But over the course of the year, I became adept at roundhouse kicks, jabs, and the like. I was particularly proud of my hook. I could hit the living hell out of the bag with it, and took perverse pleasure in the resounding smack when the bag connected with my pink-gloved fists of fury.

When my husband suggested we go to a night class together for a mini-date, I was all for it. I had an alterior motive.

See, Mike's better at sports than I am. He was the jock in school. I was the bookworm. His dribbling was with a basketball. Mine was after two drinks. But I'd had a full year of kickboxing classes. He'd had none. I was bound to be better for once. He'd get a taste of my hook. In a nice, loving-couple-working-out-together sort of way, of course. {**cue evil laughter**}

Surreptitiously, I watched him as the workout began. Although he's a heavy weights workout guy, he hung with the cardio, dropping to the floor, matching me push-up for push-up. While I struggled through my last few, he looked over at me with a boyish grin.

Grinning? There's no grinning in kickboxing!

I bared my teeth, focusing on the mats beneath my shaking arms where drips of sweat falling from my eyelashes and nose formed a blot-like Rorschach pattern. Focus pads were next. I couldn't wait.

Toweling off, Mike indicated I could punch first. Ever the gentleman. The timer dinged for the three-minute round. Oh, I so had him. My pink gloves flew in the jab-jab-cross-cross pattern and I reveled in the staccato "tip-tip-smack-SMACK" beat of my fists on Mike's focus pads.

He wasn't grinning any more.

The buzzer sounded, ending the round, and I switched my gloves for the focus mitts, confident I'd done well. His turn. I widened my stance, nodding my readiness. The buzzer rang. 

WHACK! 

The strength of his jab caught me off-guard, smacking the focus pad backward into my mouth. Before I could recover, the other jab was coming at me. Whack! The focus pad drove into my face again. I stumbled out of range of his cross, muttering a curse.

"I'm sorry, honey," Mike panted, dropping his gloves and looking contrite. "You okay? I won't hit as hard next time."

"I just wasn't ready," I growled through punch-numb lips. 

My eyes narrowed. My stance widened. It was on.

His three minute round felt like an eternity, my forearm muscles cramped from gripping the focus pads. He hit hard. My turn. I hit harder. His turn. He hit harder still. On my final round, I was swinging from my heels, determined to keep pace, ramping up my workout to an unprecedented level. Until, blessedly, the last buzzer sounded. Class was over.

Bent at the waist, forearms on knees, we both gasped for breath. Wiping sweat from my eyes, I conceded. "You kept up like a champ."

"Had to," he gasped back, "You're one tough lady."

We grinned at each other like loons.

"That," Mike tapped my shoulder with his boxing glove, "was the best date night. Ever."

And it was. We have another 'kickboxing date' tomorrow.

Goal #3 for my 2012 goals--check for this month! :)

Dylan

Monday, April 23, 2012

Life Goals for 2012...Better Late than Never

New Year's Resolutions. Bah. Who has the time on Jan. 1? With the kids out of school, and still decompressing from the holiday whirlwind, I barely have the mental fortitude to make a grocery list, let alone list out my life goals for the coming year.

You didn't make any either? Don't worry....

According to a New York Times article, a third of the people that made New Year's Resolutions will break them by February, and by July more than half will have abandoned that hangover-induced list.

I prefer Mid-Year Resolutions. Better known as goals.

Want to join me in putting more Happily in your Ever After? It's simple--follow these 3 steps:

  1. Pick five areas of your life to improve.  More than that, you lose focus. Check out this bit on Oprah's website. I structured my goals around the "Absolute YES list" which has made it easier for me to say NO to all the things that don't relate to my goals.
  2. Use S.M.A.R.T. goals--
    • Specific: Don't just put "Lose Weight", but put "Lose Twenty Pounds", or better yet, "Lose 3 Pounds a Month." Studies show the more specific your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them.
    • Measurable: Break your goal down into measurable steps. For example, one of my goals is to achieve PAN status with RWA. As my publisher puts out the royalty reports each quarter, I can track how my promotional events are working for me in my efforts to sell my book. Then, I can adjust (or sob over a glass of wine) accordingly. 
    • Attainable: Pretty obvious, but worth repeating. Make goals that stretch your limits, but are achievable with solid effort.
    • Relevant/Resonate: This is where most goals fall flat. Visualizing that goal should give you a tingle of excitement. Three years ago, my goal was to get a publishing contract. I visualized my book-signing party, where I was swanning around in a designer gown, champagne glass in hand, as I greeted my guests on the front lawn of the Pink House (a historic, reportedly haunted Victorian in my hometown, which you can see here) . Well, I did get that contract and champagne (yay!) but no designer gown and Victorian landmark signing party. Maybe when I hit my five-year goal: appearing on the NYTimes Bestseller's List. Someday I'll have that drink on the Pink House lawn!
    • Time-Bound: Have an end-time for your goal. This helps you avoid goals like "Exercise More Often," as this is a life-style change, not a goal. A fitness goal would be "Get Fit Enough to Run the Disney Marathon by January."
  3.  Post Your Goals for Accountability! Publish them on Facebook, on your fridge, bulletin board, bathroom mirror. Everywhere. Even your blog. ;)

Without further ado, here are my goals...

By the end of 2012, I do solemnly resolve to:

  1. Achieve RWA PAN level through royalty earnings by increasing my online presence (see goal #2), speaking engagements, and marketing efforts.
  2. Establish online brand (Website, Facebook, Pinterest, Blog, GoodReads) and have tools in place (Smart phone, iPad) to ensure weekly updates that further my writing and life's goals.
  3. Inject more fun into life by doing at least one activity with my daughters and/or husband that is different from the normal routine on a weekly (and when larger--monthly) basis.
  4. Scrapbook one page per week that captures our crazy, beautiful, blessed life so my family has a tangible way to reflect on all that makes us perfect and flawed. 
  5. Get an agent or publishing contract for paranormal romance "Despite the Fangs", or my young adult paranormal novel, "Cassandra's Awakening" by submitting to two agents/publishers per week, as well as attending seminars/conferences/groups that will further my publishing goals.  

Subscribe to my blog. Keep me honest to my goals. Post yours below!

Together, we can put the Happily in our Ever After!
Dylan


Monday, April 16, 2012

Tax Refund Irresponsibility!

Sometimes I'm too responsible for my own good. Or at least, my own happiness.

 Every year, I take our tax return refund and use it to....pay bills. Usually, it's used to pay down debt (credit card, home equity). Whoopie. I've had sneezes more satisfying than writing that check. Last year, we used it to buy a new air conditioning unit.

The fun never stops in the Newton house.

Being responsible, while financially sound, sucks eggs. Since I'm now all about injecting more Happily into my Ever After, I decided to do something different with our tax refund. Something--less responsible. Gasp!!

DISCLOSURE: OK, before you actuarial types freak out, I realize getting a refund means we don't claim enough dependents. And yes, I know I should invest that money myself, instead of letting Uncle Sam use it for the year. Rolling Stones said it best--Get off my Cloud. You're ruining my mojo. We've had years where we've had to pay and it wasn't fun, so we arrange things to ensure a return every year. Deal with it.

Back to my tiny break from being the Newton Family Fun Vacuum--I title I never sought, but one that came pre-packaged with my Type A personality. 'Cause left to his own devices, my husband would find something waaaay more fun to do with our yearly windfall than pay bills.

Imagine his surprise when this year, I took our entire tax return and blew it on...(*drumroll*)...new bedroom furniture!

Quit laughing. I could have put a new roof on the house. But I threw off the Mantle of Responsibility! I forged ahead, valiant in my Quest for Happily Ever After. I didn't just buy the bed, but all FIVE matching pieces! Okay, I know they're all in white--but still! (Seriously, stop laughing.)

Even my husband did a fist pump when I told him about how WE used our tax return (that would be the Royal WE, defined as "Me." Mike's been married to me long enough to know where the We stops and the Me begins). Oh, he could've cared about the furniture. He was thrilled because the furniture deal his intrepid wife brokered came with...a new flat screen television. For the bedroom. Because we've never had a television in the bedroom. Ever.

It's not hooked up to cable yet. That's another post for another day.

Today, I heartily advocate Tax Refund Irresponsibility!! Go forth! Be audacious--buy something outlandish and crazy! (Psst--it's Rooms To Go that has the TV with the furniture deal, so go nuts!!).

How are you spending your return money? Can you top this?

Thanks for tuning in as I slave over ways to inject Happily into my Ever After,

Dylan

Friday, April 13, 2012

Smart Phone…Smart Challenged User

I never jump right in the pool. I prefer to ease a toe in, then a leg, inching my body in until finally submersed. Until recently, that's how I handled new technology--I stayed on the edge of the tech pool, watching as my friends tested out the waters first--waiting to jump in.

My cell phone upgrade stemmed from a running date with my friends as we trained for a half marathon. As I sauntered to the end of the block where they were waiting, my friend asked, "What's all that you're wearing?" 

I told her each gadget strapped to me, trying to withhold a smile of satisfaction. I had:

1) GPS tracker, charged and strapped to my wrist to log distance, pace and runner stats
2) iPod Touch, strapped to my bicep, in case we split up and I needed some tunes
3) cell phone in my yellow fanny pack, strapped around my middle, in case my teen needed to reach me when I was out on my run.
4) water bottle in its carrier that slung over my palm.

"Oh," she said. Then she flicked on her Smart Phone, opening an app called "Run Log". This would track our miles. With an expert swipe of her finger, she turned on "Pandora" for a streaming playlist, and finally, she checked her email, updated her pre-run status on Facebook and sent a text. I think the last two were just overkill. I got the point. It was time to Smarten up my world.

Eight hours later, my husband and I spent our entire date night at the store, walking out triumphant with our two new Driods. Now...to figure out what to put on them.
Turns out, you have to have a certain level of Smarts to use the Smart phone.
Fast forward two weeks when I finally had enough. I’d watched all the Droid Dummy videos (designed for the Smart Phone Challenged User), and still couldn’t figure out the most basic use of the phone. I couldn’t dial a phone number.

Oh, sure. Laugh it up. But for the first week I didn’t notice, placing calls only from my ported over contact list. Then, I had to call for pizza...and couldn’t find the damn key pad. I called my husband, and made him call for pizza, citing bad cell reception and kept my tech-struggle to myself.

It was Droid vs.  Dylan. Machine vs. Mom. No smart phone was going to outsmart me! For a week, I watched every Droid for Dummies video they had (they sweetly call them ‘Guided Tours’), but nowhere did it mention how to get the dialer thingy to appear on your screen.

Finally, admitting defeat, I handed my Driod to my 7th grader. Within three minutes, she’d added a dialer app thingy (I swore I looked there!), showed me how to download the cool flashlight app I wanted, and named and tagged all the pictures in my phone.

Well.

Now, I'm happy to say I'm in the technology pool. Maybe still hanging on to the edge, but swimming. So....throw me a buoy here, and let me know what apps are a MUST have on a Smart phone? Obviously, I need all the help I can get!

Let me know what apps are your favs, and together we can put some Smart into our Happily Ever After!

Dylan