Peter Jackson Didn’t Ruin My Birthday

I decided that I was going to have the best birthday ever. After the dog peed in the floor, and yet another Hallmark ornament broke the first time it was out of the box, I made my decision. I get one birthday a year, and I can either enjoy it, or let it be ruined by small things. I opted to make it the best birthday ever, and it was.

I subbed for middle school, and one of my friends there made me brownies and gave me a t-shirt with a stinkbug on it. I got cards, some of them handmade, and lots and lots of hugs. And then I went home to a giant death-by-chocolate birthday cake with whipped icing so thick that the flames the candles were flush with the icing, and four new CDs. Who could ask for more? And then my husband sprung it on me. He wanted to take me to a movie.

“Which one?” I asked hesitantly, knowing the answer.

The Hobbit. Or Thor. Or The Hobbit. I thought you might like to see The Hobbit.” Because I enjoyed the last one so much.

“What if we stay home and you throw rocks at me and tell me all the many and varied reasons reasons you hate my dog? It would make me feel about the same and cost less.”

“I thought you’d really want to go see The Hobbit! And if you do, I will find a theater that isn’t sold out.”

“What did I ever do to you?”

In the end, he was just so persistent cute that I caved. The theater we chose had two showings. We expected to have to go to the later one, but there were lots of tickets left. Everyone else was clearly as excited about this flick as I was. We couldn’t have asked for better seats, unless those seats were in a theater playing just about anything else. I was determined, though, to open my mind enjoy myself. And I did.

Nothing could ruin the night. Not Azog the Mostly Fabricated chasing down elves and hobbits in his vengeful rage over something that never happened. Azog, buddy. Let’s talk about this for a minute. If you really look deep inside, I bet you know who you’re really mad at. It’s not Thorin Oakenshield. It’s Peter Jackson. Why don’t you do me a giant favor and tell him how that metal thing jammed into your arm makes you feel? It might help to clear the air.

Photo credit: lotr.wikia.com

Photo credit: lotr.wikia.com             Caption blame: yeah, that’s all me.

The cinematography couldn’t dampen my spirits. Even though most of the film was shot by a caffeinated toddler whose head was too heavy and kept tipping backward and whose favorite hobby is spinning in the grass until they puke. Had I seen the movie in 3D, I would have. I’ll save that particular joy for the third installment. The sound editing wasn’t all that great, either, and I’m pretty sure I could hear the cameraman over the music.

“Look! Taaaalllll building!”

“Twirlie bird! Wheeeeeee!”

“Oooh! Slavering jaws! Can I touch them? I think that Warg just ate my Beanie Baby.”

“Let’s zoom in real close so Legolas’ head is twenty feet tall and everyone can tell he looks ten years older than he will sixty years from now in Lord of the Rings! Elves are magic.”

Actually, I think there was good reason for those tight shots. Tom Hooper did that with Les Miserables last year to prove that there was no overdubbing. Jackson does it to prove that his actors can say their crummy lines with a straight face. I was impressed.

The cinematography was evocative, and if what Jackson was trying to evoke was *carsick*, he nailed it. Nailed it. Good job, Pete, and pass the Dramamine.

I thought it was great that Jackson let students work on the visual effects? What? No, I’m pretty sure he did. And I’m also fairly certain that they were elementary school students. I couldn’t tell Beorn from a warg, and my pea brain kept screaming “Green screen!” Or maybe I actually screamed it. People did keep throwing their popcorn at me.

I thought Peter Jackson’s choices for this film made a lot of sense. I mean, why wouldn’t orcs trash Mirkwood, and then show up in Laketown? And why wouldn’t Thorin leave half his party behind when he finally set off for the Lonely Mountain? It’s not like Dwarves care much for their kinfolk. They’re kind of loners, really. And of course Tauriel the Completely Made Up would work her healing magic on Kili. With his head in a bowl of nuts. Tree nuts probably have healing properties. I’m just glad he wasn’t allergic.

photo credit: static2hypable.com

They are the victims here, not us. Well, not only us.    photo credit: static2hypable.com

My husband and I argued a bit about which part of the movie was the best. If you’ve already seen it, maybe you can help us decide. Which was the best part  - the previews or the end credits? I know. It’s a tough call.

The movie was awful, but I had an amazing night. I learned that my husband and I are truly of one mind. We snickered inappropriately in all the same places, mimed puking on one another’s shoes, rolled our eyes in unison when Bofur delivered the cheesiest line in the history of motion pictures. And his rant on the way home was like a beautiful Hallmark card telling me we were meant to be together. What Peter Jackson has brought together, no man can put asunder.

Under Ordinary Circumstances

Give me the most ordinary extraordinary circumstances, and I shine. Need a program taught that hasn’t even been written yet? I’m your girl. Need it in five minutes? Even better. Have an event whose attendance matches the population of a mid-sized town? Call me. Need a substitute teacher for middle school the day after returning from a holiday? Bring it. I can rise to any challenge.

Until today. Today I am celebrating my birthday. It’s not my actual birthday. That comes soon. But husband couldn’t get off work that day, so today is the day. We were going to go hiking. It is currently pouring rain, with more predicted all day long, but that doesn’t bother me. Nor does the cold. I’m up for anything. Except for our shopping trip. We are going to look for Ugly Christmas Sweaters.

We’ve all seen them, the sweaters that leave us wondering what in the world the designers were thinking, or what hallucinogenics they were using at the time. We love to laugh at them, and now they are a thing to be celebrated. Everybody wants one. They’re iconic, classic in their absurdity. Here’s my greatest fear – that when I’m shopping, I won’t be able to tell if it’s an ugly sweater or not.

I’m not a girlie-girl.I know. A shocking statement.  I will pause to allow you to pick yourself up off the floor. Where was I? Oh, yeah. I grew up with two other persons of the female persuasion  in a house with only one bathroom. How in the world would three women get their primping done each morning without killing each other? I became a tomboy in self-defense. I wear makeup once or twice a year, or at least I did until one of my children absconded with my makeup bag and used all my stuff. Yes, I had a makeup bag. No, I didn’t buy it for myself. Someone gave it to me after the Padawan was born, packed with some fairly expensive bits and pieces, It was a thoughtful gift, and the message was clear.  “For heaven’s sake, woman! Cover that, won’t you?” “You’re the best, and I want you to feel pretty.” But I never learned to use the stuff, so I always looked felt awkward wearing it. 

I was never much into style, either. I am currently petitioning Garanimals to make clothing for adults, but I’d still be screwed. I could match hippo to hippo, but I’d never be able to accessorize. What kind of jewelry goes with giraffe? I couldn’t coordinate an ensemble if my life depended on it. I look at Vogue with an incredulous look on my face. People wear that? Okay, then. My idea of style is my Harry Potter Half Blood Prince jacket. It has all the characters. All of them.

So how am I supposed to pick out a sweater? How am I supposed to know the good from the bad from the downright ugly? What if I pick out something, and it’s actually high fashion. What if I wear my ugly sweater and no one knows it’s supposed to be ugly? Or they’re afraid to ask?

I do have one ugly sweater. This one:

Blitzen,_is_that_you_

Blitzen, is that you, buddy?

I know it’s ugly. There is no doubt there. I am sure it was the height of fashion in its day, but its day is not now. It seems like an easy out to wear it. Besides, it’s not Christmasy at all. Nothing about this sweater says Christmas Unless I can prove it was made from one of Santa’s actual reindeer, I need to find a new sweater. And not just one for me, one for my husband, too.

So now I go forth, trying to prove I have taste by showing a total lack of it. Where do I even start? It is, my friends, the ultimate challenge.

Have an ugly Christmas sweater to model? Please share a photo in the comments or email it to me. I’ll compile a post in a couple of weeks with your picture and a link back to your blog. Help a blogger out. Teach me what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s downright acceptably ugly.

What’s In It For Me?: Thoughts From a NaNoWriMo Veteran

becomingcliche:

Dying for a follow up on my NaNo experience? I knew you were.

Originally posted on Tipsy Lit:

The beginning of December is a little sad for me. Not because Black Friday has once again crushed all my faith in humanity, but because it means that NaNoWriMo is over for another year. This is my third year, my third December wondering what in the world just happened reflecting on a glorious month of writing.

I had never even heard of NaNoWriMo until October 2011. Two days before Halloween, someone mentioned it in my Twitter feed. Call me crazy spontaneous, but I signed up on two days’ notice. Never mind that I hadn’t written seriously in years. I wanted to write seriously again. What better way to jump start?  I threw myself face first off the deep end, and I belly-flopped. It was a little more difficult than I had imagined. 1,667 words a day didn’t sound like a lot when I was gleefully registering on Halloween, but the last major…

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Last Days

Many of you are probably already familiar with Emily over at The Waiting. Once a week, she does a blog hop. I’m not much of a hopper since I hurt my knee and all, but last week’s topic has gnawed on me like a toddler with biting habit. It won’t let me go. The topic was “last days.”

I’m late to the game. I should have linked up a couple of days ago. I should be writing about “back in the day,” but this is my day. I hope Emily won’t mind me bending the rules a little. I wanted to at least credit her for the idea because it’s a big one, and I thank her for it. I think.

I’m currently living my last days. Not most literal sense, although last week I lost someone dear very suddenly, and I can’t ignore the fact that any day could be my last. I’m living my last days with a little kid.

There has been a little kid in my house for the last sixteen years. When one reaches the stage of official Big Kid, there has been another right behind them to fill the role of baby. That’s not true here anymore. Squish marks The End.  As parents, we get all excited about firsts; first smiles, first steps, first Christmas. I was always too busy to notice the milestones marking the lasts.

Indeed, some of those Last Days come as a relief. You won’t find me counting diapers among my painful losses. I was more than happy to see the end of those years days when Squish was too shy to let anyone hold him but me. And I’m definitely not weeping over gaining a little freedom and getting to have date nights again. Having a life is a beautiful thing, but it’s bittersweet.

A week ago, I set Squish’s car seat on the curb. ***  He’s used it for almost five years. It was one of those convertible numbers that takes them from birth to big boy booster seat, and it did. We brought him home from the birthing center in this seat, and since then we’ve put thousands of road miles on it. And now he’s too big. Too big. All grown up. He has graduated to a booster seat. Our big and bulky car seat has seen its last days with our family.

On Friday, our preschool did a Thanksgiving lunch for parents. On Friday, I watched Squish parade around the gym with his classmates, shaking a maraca (and his bum-bum, but we won’t talk about that) and singing “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.” His joy brought tears to my eyes. He is changing every day. For how much longer will he wave in frenetic delight when he sees me in the audience? How many more concerts will he perform at the top of his lungs before confidence melts away into self-consciousness? Childhood is a paradox. It drags on forever and is gone before you know it.

I’m living in my Last Days as a stay-at-home mom, as well. I’m looking for a job, an income, a new part of my identity, a career that will help fill in the blanks that I feel at the moment.

It’s not all bad. This time of transition has presented some marvelous opportunities for messing with my husband. Since I haven’t landed The Job yet, I told him I thought we should have another baby. He’s pretty sure I’m kidding, but that 1% of doubt is giving me such delight. And he skims longer blog posts, so there’s a good chance he’ll miss this paragraph entirely. I hope he does. I need a little more mileage. I’ll let him off the hook in a week or so.

Don’t worry about me. I’ll be alright. Where there are lasts, there will also be new firsts, and I’m looking forward to them. I’m ready.

Squish

I can still see the baby in him.

 

*** Don’t yell at me. I didn’t want to send it to a landfill, either, but it’s illegal to resell them here, even in thrift stores. I set it on the curb in the hopes that another family might adopt it. It was gone when I got home.

Send Help!

No, I’m not dead. I’ve just been busy. And right now I have to type really fast because I’m writing from my mom’s hospital room, and their internet policy is no personal websites. Although Facebook and Twitter are okay? I don’t know. Medicine doesn’t make much sense to me in general.

Remember when I went hiking a few weeks ago? It was an eleven mile adventure, and it was fabulous. Unfortunately, I slipped a couple of times and did a little damage to my knee. One slip sent me tumbling onto my back, holding onto the cable embedded in the rock for dear life. Actually, probably literally for dear life, or at the very least dear not-broken-into-a-thousand-pieces. I hurt my knee, but it was cool.

I had my hiking poles, so I managed to drag my sad, sorry carcass off the mountain complete the hike. I was a little sore the next day, but nothing unexpected. The muscles were tight, but I stretched them out. No biggie.

Of course, a couple of days later, I noticed that I could no longer go down hills without my knee locking up. Or stairs. Or get out of bed. It hurt a little. I just kept a little heat on it via my rice sock, and I stayed limber enough to keep from screaming every time I stood up get around okay.

Turns out, my threshold of stubborn is about two weeks. On day thirteen of the countdown, I was sitting on a high stool in a local restaurant getting a little wi-fi and breakfast. When I tried to get down, I nearly dropped the “f” bomb in the middle of Chic-Fil-A had a little more trouble than expected. I decided at that moment that if I could ever bend my leg again, I would head to the doctor’s office immediately. Considering that my only other option was to stay on that stool for the rest of my natural life, I limped my way to my car to get it checked out.

It turns out there’s nothing too serious. I strained my lateral/collateral ligament. A few weeks of rest should get me on the road to recovery. Rest. Wait. I think I know that word. It involves walking my son to school every day and standing up in front of a class and teaching, doesn’t it? No, wait. It doesn’t.

My activities have been sharply curtailed, so I’ve thrown myself headlong into my NaNoWriMo project, and I’m having the time of my life. My book this go-round can best be summed up as a splash of personal narrative that has spent time in a hyperbolic chamber. It’s not a memoir. I’m not sure there’s a verifiable fact in the whole thing, but it has been great fun putting a creative spin on some memories. Wait. There is one fact. I did use my real name, and my sister’s. I’ll post a little excerpt here sometime, maybe.

I knew I had more words to say than just 50K this time, so I set my goal for 80K for the month. I turned out a 50K project last year in only 12 days, so I thought I could make it to 80 in a month. Leg propped up in bed, I made it to 80K this afternoon.

Hello, my name is Heather, and I’m a bar graph addict. On my page, it shows me a little graph with a bar that indicates how close I’m getting to my next goal. The goals are set in increments of 20K, and I am completely addicted to seeing my little word count bar climbing. Someone needs to stage an intervention. I’m not sure my kids have seen me for three days, and the only one who still loves me is my cat. Because I’m her heat source.

Someone send help.

Anyone else doing NaNo this month? How’s it going? It’s the most fun I have all year, and I think I’m going to do it again in January!

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Best Friend, And a Giveaway is Coming!

I made a new friend at the zoo the other day. Meet Yorrick:

His name is Yorrick. I knew him well.

His name is Yorrick. I knew him well. Okay, not that well, but he’s kind of hard to get to know. Mostly because he’s dead.

He’s a limited edition design in one of our Mold-A-Matics, and he is amazing. I never buy anything when I go places, but I bought three of him. He’s my new travel companion.

Yorrick gets up to all kinds of mischief:

Keep an eye out for Yorrick here and on Twitter under the hashtag #adventureswithyorrick. Shenanigans are in the air. Soon I’ll be running a giveaway, and some lucky winner will get a Yorrick of their very own. If you’re local, run over to the Zoo as fast as you can to pick up one (or twelve!) for yourself. I don’t know how quickly they’ll change the mold back to an otter.

Let the games begin!

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Take That, Pinterest!

You may remember that I’m not on Pinterest. I have my reasons, and the rest of civilized society has theirs for not wanting me there. I’m about to give you another one.

Recently, I flew the friendly skies. “Friendly” is a bit of a stretch; more like a-little-TOO-friendly-and-with-very-poor-personal-boundaries skies. Other than a quick pat-down and an agent freak-out over the rice sock I brought to soothe my sore knee, my travels were uneventful. I even managed to fit a souvenir for the kids into my carry-on.

Imagine their delight when they were each presented with their very own airsickness bag. The Padawan was so overcome with emotion that he had to leave the room. Or maybe he went to play the Wii. He was gone for a long time. I’m pretty sure it was emotion, though.

Motion discomfort bags (or as Squish calls them, “barf bags”) are the perfect gift for any child, prompting hours of dramatic play. Squish walked around all afternoon pretending to throw up in his. Think of how well-prepared he will be for a life of travel, and as an added bonus, when he moves to the top bunk, I can just hand him a bag and he’ll already have his aim down pat. Or he could learn to pack his own lunch. Barf bags are waxed on the inside to prevent spillage. So many possibilities in one small bag.

Our favorite use, though, is for craft time. There’s something for everyone. Look what one small motion-discomfort bag can do for you and your family.  Click to embiggenate.

How do you put a price on creativity?

Airline ticket: $400

Barf bag: free

Quality time with family: $400 + $100 food costs + $20 gas to airport + $36 long-term parking

The Best Present Is My Past

My bags are packed. I’m ready to go. Insert Peter, Paul and Mary here because I am, in fact, leaving on a jet plane, and I don’t know when I’ll be back again. I have a general idea because a return date is printed on my ticket, but it snows in Wisconsin. If it snows, I’ll be delayed.

I like to travel, especially when I don’t have to drive. The possibilities are endless. I’m bringing about 150 books (e-readers are the best!), music, snacks. The kid in me is wired up and fired up. Not because of the books, though, or the secret stash of Cliff bars, or the Lunchable my husband bought me for the flight (Shut up. I’m really eight.). That kid is tickled pink over the brand new legal pad stashed in my backpack.

Back in the days before laptops and desktops and the little electronic typewriter and the gigantic IBM typewriter circa 1944 that shook the walls every time I hit “return,” there were legal pads, bought with my own money. They were impractical and unconventional, so no legal pad ever appeared on my school supply list. When I ventured to the store to buy them, they had a purpose all their own. No mundane notebook filler, legal pads were intended for greatness. As a seventh grader,  I wrote my first novel on a series of them. Those battered yellow tablets are stashed in the garage somewhere. Not somewhere. I know exactly where they are. I leave them there. It’s better to let sleeping dogs lie.

For over a year I carried those tablets everywhere, writing anywhere I could, squeezing in a few sentences here, a paragraph there. They were my best teachers. Through my work on yellow legal pads, I learned about hyperbole (mostly how to do it badly), and that sleep can be lost over sticky plot points. I learned that no one ever died over torn pages, although they might feel like it at the time. I learned that there are critics everywhere and that sometimes when kids see you spending more time with a pad of paper than with actual humans, they think you’re a little weird. And that weird can be good.

I let an adult read my book once. At the time, I was cocky and full of my own self-importance. I was thirteen and had written a book. I was golden. I had not learned that first drafts are word-vomit or that every writer needs an editor. I now try to imagine that teacher’s impression of my work. And I cringe. My writing then was so raw, the very essence of my burgeoning teenage self. I didn’t wear a mask back then. My hopes, my dreams, my insecurities are contained in those pages, bared to the world. Now I could no more let someone else read that early work than I could walk naked across the town square. They are essentially the same, you know. I can’t even bear to reread them myself. I’m not ready for that level of exposure

My husband bought me a new tablet tonight. I added it to the shopping list, and when I came home it was there on the counter. It’s yellow, and it’s new, and it’s waiting for me. I have plans for this pad, oh yes, I do. First and foremost, NaNoWriMo is coming. I signed up again this year, and I’m getting ready. On the pages of this legal pad, I will meet my characters for the first time. I will learn their names and their history. We will plan their story; what was, and what I hope will be. It’s the best present.

If you are signing up for NaNo, too, and leave your user name, I’ll add you as a buddy. I’ll meet you at the corner store to buy a box of Runts, and we can stay up all night plotting and planning whole new worlds. I can’t wait.

Conquering My Fear

By the time you read this, I’ll be gone. At about 4am, I left for Wisconsin. For the first time in nine years, I am taking to the air, and I am conquering my fear.

I am not afraid of Wisconsin. Cows, cheese, Green Bay Packers, all good. It’s not the state.

It’s my first professional conference in about 15 years. I’ll learn some things and get free pens. I’m not afraid of conferences.

I’ll be off-line for three days. I’m not taking any electronic devices except for my e-reader. No email, no Twitter, no WordPress. No pressure. I’m not afraid to unplug.

I’m not afraid to fly. There is nothing better than taxiing down the runway and feeling the earth fall out from beneath my feet. There is no fear, only exhilaration.

I’m afraid of TSA. I don’t like being told what to do, especially by an organization drunk on its own power. I don’t know all of the regulations, and I know from an experience last year that sometimes airlines make stuff up as they go along. The airline itself charges $25 to check a bag. That’s $50 round trip. To check a bag.

I am allowed one carry-on, but if I put the wrong thing in it, I’ll have to check it. Guess who doesn’t want to spend the next two days shopping for shampoos and conditioners in exacting three ounce containers? In the interests of time, I will forgo personal hygiene altogether.

Hairbrush is okay, right? What about a cup of coffee? Is toothpaste considered a liquid? I’d like to have clean teeth and minty fresh breath, but I can skip if necessary. I hate all these rules. I don’t like the total loss of control. Anyone at any given time can choose to do a pat-and-probe or search my things, and there’s not a thing I can do about it. It doesn’t seem quite fair.

What if they go through my bag and steal my stuff? I’d kill over my Severus Snape t-shirt, you know. What if I have to kill over my Severus Snape t-shirt and I go to jail forever and without my guidance my children become pole-dancers? What if my imagination runs away with me and never comes back?

But the real issue is this:  I didn’t lose enough weight to be happy about passing through the nekkid scan. Ten pounds lighter, and they’d have to beg me to leave. And to please, for heaven’s sake, stop that dancing. But for now, I must do the suck-in-and-run.

Flying friendly skies? As if.