Friday, November 14, 2014

NaNoWriMo Is Eating My Soul and I Like It.

As I predicted, almost all of my time has been consumed with working on NaNoWriMo.  On one hand, it's a little crippling, because I've adjusted almost every part of my life to make this work: I've stopped running or doing a circut at the gym, because while I'm on the elliptical is my only chance to read.  I've stalled halfway through a big stack of adorable thank you cards I made after Milo's birthday.  We picked out a new dresser from Salvation Army a week ago, and I still have baskets of laundry surrounding empty furniture.  I think about reading and writing all the time.

Still, I'm loving this.  A big part of what makes it so exciting for me is how interested Ben is in the project, and how much he encourages me.  We were out to do some Christmas shopping and errands together last week, kid free, and we talked about my plot and characters and he gave me a tip that changed the structure of the story to something I felt much more comfortable bringing to life.  I remember sneaking his printed screenplays into class to reading during lectures in college and being so impressed with him.  I've always admired his writing style, especially his dialogue, so having him compliment me and talk about my story with true interest is super flattering.

I was thinking about how I'd like to do this every November from here on out (unless it gets torturous and painful near the end and I change my mind completely) and how lovely it is to add another tradition to month that's already full of it.  I'm into Thanksgiving.  My family doesn't travel, my sister always comes Black Friday shopping with me, and we get a tree that weekend.  But I also love some of the lower-profile happenings.  Small Business Saturday is a huge push for some of the holiday-season cash flow to get rerouted into smaller businesses in your community, and I love hunting down the best local places to pick up some gifts.  I'm also getting happy tingles about The National Day of Listening.  StoryCorps is one of my favorite things in existence, and I wish constantly that I asked more questions of people who are already gone.  Here is an instruction guide for recording your own interview, with some sample questions that are sure to get a deep convo going.

I'll leave you with some of my favorite pieces of writing from past Novembers:

This is the two part story of my first time hosting Thanksgiving at my house, when I ended up in the ER with poison ivy in my throat: Thanksgiving Nightmares, Part One & Part Two

Something I was grateful for every day in November 2011.  Milo was a month old and I was on maternity leave and it was a good time to be Ashlie.

Last year I did some more detailed notes about Small Business Saturday and The National Day of Listening.

This is some writing about my dad, who died in November 17 years ago.  Recently Milo has been asking lots of family tree questions ("Who is daddy's daddy?  Who is your mama?") and I'm trying to make Grandpa Kevin a big part of our conversations.  To All Who Said I'd Find Relief, You All Have Lied and Why Your Middle Name is Kevin

Lastly, here is a link to my homepage for National Novel Writing Month.  I have an excerpt of my story, with the working title The Family Historian.  I'm hoping to share much more very soon!

Thanks for being patient, lovelies!  Be your own lady!

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Coffee and Blogs No. 14

Hello there.  We're headed into the second weekend of November, and I'm beginning to see that this month is going to slay me.  I'm trying to go the gym regularly, get ready for parent teacher conferences at work, plan for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and complete National Novel Writing Month, all while keeping my house a tiny bit clean and paying some attention to Ben and the boys.  I'm not actually succeeding at any of these things, but it's strengthening my balance practice.  

I'm sorry that posting will be lighter during the month of November, and that you're going to have to hear me blather about writing and plots and characters more than usual.  Doing NaNoWriMo is one of the things on my birthday list, and writing is definitely one of the ways that I'm able to be my own lady.  I'll be back to normal soon.  My long term goal with this story is actually to clean it up and share it one chapter at a time, so hopefully you get to see the end product, because if there's anything more annoying than listening to someone talk about their 'writing process,' it's probably someone making you read it ;)

In the meantime, here are some links.  A lot of them are about writing.  I'm obsessed focused.  Here we go!

NaNoWriMo was featured on an hour of On Point earlier this week.  It was so awesome to hear different authors talk about their experiences with the month, and hear from people who have published because of it.

Amy Poehler's new book came out last week, so I feel like she's popping up everywhere.  These are some of the best answers from her Reddit Ask Me Anything.  My favorite is the birthday advice to the girl who was turning 18: "Oh!  Happy 18th Birthday!  Exercise your right to vote.  Whenever you feel drunk, stop, because 18-year-olds have a hard time figuring out how much they can drink.  Be with a good friend who can get you home safe, and try one new thing on your birthday every year.

I've seen these storytelling rules from Pixar a lot over the past few years.  My favorites are no. 4 & no. 19.  Neil Gaiman's writing advice is simpler, but his no. 5 is one I'm going to need in December.

I'm using the beta version of Novlr to write my novel this month.  It's a very basic website that lets you add chapters as you go and helps you keep track of your word count.  My only worry is that I don't have a back up, because it's still on the website, but I think they're working on an export feature. They also have a great twitter account that has a lot of NaNoWriMo chatter this time of year.

I love all of Kelly's adulting advice (and her great book), and this little gem is one of my favorites.  It might a mantra for hard times, especially if you're a people pleaser. 

My friend Holly wrote a letter to the girl in the back of Zumba class, which is kind of like writing a letter to me.

A huge thank you to my cousin for pointing me in the direction of this Parks and Rec themed wedding.  If I had seen this before I was married, things may have been different.  I still want to have some sort of party just so I can use the phrase "apps and zerts."

That's all I've got for now.  I need to head back to my story, resist the urge to delete most of what I wrote last night, and keep pushing forward.  12,061 down, 37,939 left to go.  Wish me luck!

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tips for Lazy, Last Minute Voters (Like Me)

Happy Voting Day!  In Massachusetts, we have candidates and 4 ballot questions, and the polls open at 7am.  I was really disappointed in myself that I didn't take the time to research all the candidates like I thought I would.  We have a Governor's race, which I've been idly following, and I took the time to read the newsprint handout about our ballot questions that my state sent out.  I've been really convicted lately that I should know who is in charge of me and what they believe in, especially at a local level where it effects me most directly.  It's something I plan to work on.

As a human, voting seems a little futile sometimes, especially if you've ever watched an episode of House of Cards.  But as a lady, I have to do it anyway.  There was a time, not terribly long ago, when the right to vote was not mine, and fierce people fought so I would never have to ask someone else to be my voice.  I feel like I shouldn't waste that gift.

My local NPR station put together this infographic to help you understand what a yes or no vote would mean for each ballot question.  I'm going to pull it up when I'm voting this morning. I also Googled "Who is on the ballot in Leominster" and a little gadget appeared at the top of search results.  You could plug in your address and find out who was on the ballot in your area, and most of the names were hyper linked so you could do a quick scan of their web presence.  I imagine this works all over the country!

Ideally, I would have starting researching candidates and understanding the issues in my area awhile ago, but that simply didn't happen this year.  I'm not going to let it stop me from participating in this process, especially when the internet  gives you the ability to get some info on the walk from the parking lot to the voting booth.

What do you think?  Have you been following these midterm elections closely?  Did you just realize this was a voting day (I've been there, that's real)?  Are you going to vote today?  Love you, sister suffragettes! 

(image credit 1 and 2)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Unfolding November

We are big Halloween fans in this household, so the end of October is kind of chaotic.  We had three separate costumes for each boy this year: they went as a caterpillar and construction worker to a Halloween party last week, dressed up as Indiana Jones and Superman for daycare on Halloween, and then went trick or treating as Marty McFly and Doc Brown from Back to the Future.  Ben and I were George and Lorraine McFly (the 50s versions) and we trained Milo to tell people who he was after he said "Trick or treat!"  A lot of people got it! We ended up exhausted with a ton of candy.

I'm getting super excited for November.  I never realized how much I truly love this month.  I like all the grateful/thankful chatter on Facebook, hype for the parade and the delicious Thanksgiving meal, and the promise of Christmas hovering right around the corner.  This year I'm doing National Novel Writing Month (write a 50K novel in the month of November!) and I am challenging myself to interview my Papa (and possibly my stepdad's lovely mother) for The National Day of Listening, which takes place the day after Thanksgiving.  I also have the bittersweet joy of remembering my dad during November.  It used to be a really sad time, remembering the day he died and our first Thanksgiving without him.  I'm going to try to refocus it this year to remember him happily!

This chick popped up on the Pandora station I play at night for the boys, and I love love love her covers.  I've been seeking her out on YouTube and will probably download her album so I can make some more mix cds for the car.  She's also my writing playlist right now.  When I was in high school, I wrote a looonnng serial Harry Potter fanfiction and used to dash home after school and put on musical soundtracks and write for hours.  I had a COUCH balanced in front of my ancient desk top and I was so happy.  I'm feeling echos of that now, with a new writing spot in our new office, with songs making me think of my characters. A lot of times I hold back, because I want to write something LITERARY and deep but the truth is I mostly want to read about teenage girls falling in love and having advnetures, and I mostly want to write about it, too.  It's okay if everyone is doing it.

I'm also deep deep in reading another young adult series that has me hooked.  I held off for a long time because the author was actually a fanfiction writer before she was published professionally.  I used to follow HER serial series and was a huge fan, but also followed a lot of controversy about her writing and whether her lines were "borrowed" from other places.  The fact remained that I loved her story lines and her romance, and I love her series for the same reason.  It's The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.  I'm devouring them the way I did the Twilight Books- rolling my eyes at obvious plot points, feeling a little annoyed that all the characters constantly do huge and selfless things without ever hesitating or acting like humans (most of them aren't), but feeling desperate to see what happens next, to read the subtle flirtations, to see if they'll finally get together.  I've read the first three novels over the past two weeks, the second two each in a day.  I'm headed to Barnes and Noble for the fourth today.

I have to be very careful with my reading material during NaNoWriMo, because I have a feeling that what I read and listen to will really influence my novel.   I'm trying to balance the pleasure reading of The Mortal Instruments with some of favorite authors like Madeline L'Engle and Anita Shreve to keep it from becoming a full-on fangirl Mary Sue extravaganza.

At any rate, I'm so pumped to have this month unfolding in front of me, with so many projects I'm interested in and so many things to read and enjoy.  It's been a long time since I've felt so good about the ways I spend my spare time.  I guess you really do just have to find what you love and do it for the rest of your life.  (For me, it's going to Rushmore.)

Let me know what you are reading, what you're writing, and what you're grateful for.  I send wishes for a fabulous November.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Closer Look At My Birthday List: Ideas for a Happy Home

This year, I'm digging in to explain my birthday list choices.  I'll also update as I accomplish different goals.  Tips are WELCOME!

Ideas for a Happy Home

14. Create a nightly routine that involves reading every night.
I'm good at routines all day long- to get out the door in the morning, for learning centers and quiet times during the school day, to be ready to leave for the gym as soon as Ben gets home from work.  But I completely suck at getting ready for bed.  Almost every single night I fall asleep on the couch with my makeup still on.  I'm a heavy sleeper and Ben can't get me to move to the bed until I wake up on my own.  It's usually 12 or 1 by that time.

I want to wash my face and brush my teeth, change out of my sweaty clothes into cozy pjs, and curl up with whatever book I'm reading.  Almost every other part of my day is scheduled down to the minute, and it helps me thrive.  I want to make this a habit this year.

28. Adopt a skincare routine (face wash, moisturizer, foundation)

I pay no attention to how I take care of my skin (see the above habit of never washing my face at night) and it's finally catching up to me.  When I do act like a clean human, I use whatever products were appealing/on sale at Target.  I have no brand loyalty for skincare or makeup, and I have no idea what products would be best for my skin type.  I'm iffy on what kind of skin type I am.

When I got married, I had a make up trial done at the Clinique counter, and I used their face soap and moisturizer for awhile.  I was gorgeous and glowy, but I think that was the 21 talking, and less the products.  Before I'm 30, I want to have a set of products that I use, every morning and night, to take care of the only face I've got.  Side note: I'd also like to have a habit of using lotion or oil on my body every day, especially in the winter.

25. Create a weekly schedule with time allotted for writing tasks, exercise, and housekeeping.
I've started to flesh this out a little, and it's making me much more accountable to myself.  Those three things are all very important to me (housekeeping least so, but I'm a grown ass woman and I'd like my family to have a semi-clean space to exist in) and without careful planning, they slip through my fingers.  Right now I hold myself accountable to go to the gym Monday and Wed-Sat, and have Tuesday night as a writing night.  Ben and I both know about it, there is no expectation that we'll be watching movies or hanging out.  There is always at least one hiccup in the gym schedule, but I'm still going 2-3 times a week, which is a 100% more than this time last year.

For housekeeping, I need to commit to something like a few loads of laundry a week, and a task a day.  I can clean the bathroom while the boys are in the tub, can do the kitchen floor once a week while I chat with Ben about his day.  Also, folding.  I think no TV at night unless I'm folding.  This will also keep me from falling into comatose sleep on the couch.

24. Hang a picture ledge in the living room to showcase seasonal books.
I'm not a huge decorator, but I love collecting books.  Children's literature especially makes my heart beat faster.  The whole internet is throbbing with ways to use Ikea spice racks and ledges to show off the books.  We're in the process of taking out the "adult" art from our living room and making it a very kid friendly space- bright posters, shelves for games and puzzles, etc.  I want to put a few ledges over our train table and switch out the books for holidays and seasons. Instant art!

You can see the rest of the birthday list here.  If you have ideas about how I can accomplish these goals, or want to share your own list, PLEASE let me know!  I'm especially interested in skin care tips- I have no clue where to even start.  Thanks, lovelies!