Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Katy Perry- incredibly inspiring

This weekend I watched a special on E about Katy Perry. Love her or hate her, she said the most fascinating quote, "You got to go on a journey to fulfill your dream."

Granted I paraphrased the quote a touch but the message is still the same. My friends, we are on a path to our dream. And each day we struggle to reach our goal. No matter what we are pursuing we often imagine the end result-be that publication, a finished art piece or etc. But the truth is-this moment, right here, leads us to our dream.

The tears, frustration and friendships that we form while pursuing our hearts desire is the journey. You can't have the end result without the journey.

There is something beautiful that awaits you. Your dream is going to help people. Keep going, keep climbing.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday. No Unnecessary Deaths, Please.

Anybody there?
Or are you all out shopping on (Dun, Dun, DUNNNNN!!!

Yeah. I pretty much don't get that. A few years ago I went out at 4:30 in the morning, braving 15 degree temperatures in a town whose wind-chill never makes it above 40-below, so I could get a screaming deal on a Playstation. Also some of those disturbing Anne Geddes dolls. You remember those, right? They were little animals with baby faces. Women at the Target I had lined up to get into were beating each other with umbrellas and snow gloves to get to the dolls. Knocking each other out of the way, tipping carts, screaming.

I remember standing there staring at the melĂ©e and thinking, Sweet Mary Francis on buttered toast! They're just DOLLS! And slightly weird ones at that. I ended up just grabbing a few that had been knocked to the side, throwing some money at the cashier, and running out of the store.

Something similar happened with the playstation. You have no idea how dangerous a Toys R Us can become at 4:30 in the freezing morning.

In both cases my kids were excited. For 8 minutes. The dolls were forgotten within the year. The Playstation started sprouting weeds until my youngest got old enough to play with it. Now it gets some exercise. But most of the games we got for it have actually started molding.

The other thing about Black Friday is this: I get that retailers need a little boost to get all the red ink out of their ledgers (hence the name: Black Friday). But seriously? I need better deals than the ones I see advertised to get me out the door that stinkin' early. Last year I wandered out a few hours after sunrise--like at 9:00 a.m.--and most of the stuff I wanted was still on the shelves. 

So, what's the deal? Why do we get so worked up that we are willing to hit the stores before roosters have unfrozen their little chicken-butts and waddled outside to crow, just to grab an item for a few bucks off? I don't think it's worth the loss of sleep. Or the loss of human kindness. I mean, it's just stuff, people! Nobody's worth as a human being is on the line here. We're not bad parents, friends, siblings, children, etc., if we don't get that special Black Friday deal.

I say we do this: Promise the retailers that we'll shop our guts out all day long if they give us those same deals at, say, 8:30 a.m., rather than 4:30. We need to maintain peace on earth. That's what this season is all about anyway, right?

This year I'm going to take my daughters out at around 10:00. Maybe 11:00. We'll spend the morning drinking cocoa, eating Grandma's muffins, and helping get her Christmas decorations up--listening to Harry Connick while we're at it. We'll mosey out whenever we mosey out. And we'll be thinking about all of you and hoping you're having a lovely, relaxed day-after-Thanksgiving as well.

We should call it Peace Friday from now on. All in favor?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Turkey Day

There are no words that could express the gratitude we have for our readers/friends.

So many of you return to read our words each week and we are in awe. We are lucky to have you in our lives. More than that, we are grateful for you!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Give yourself some time to recharge

Some people go shopping to refresh their minds and spirit, other people play video games or sports. Me? I have to get in touch with Mother Nature. And lemme tell you, Nature loathes me.

I swear every time I venture out into this wide world, something horrid happens. You, my dear friends, know about the recent skunk episode. If not, here you go, http://threegnomes.blogspot.com/2011/10/embarressing-moment-alert.html

Anyways, this weekend was a farm filled weekend. For three days I resided near a black barn that was nestled in the mountains. Not only did I milk a cow, I also made a farm hand seriously grossed out when I slipped in the goat dung.

I touched a lily pad. Okay, that happened when a rock near the water wobbled under my foot and my sorry-butt went careening into the lake. But hey, I touched a lily pad and that's what matters. Plus, I got a nice shot with my camera, so all is good.

I walked in the rain and got chased by a ticked off goat named Louis.
Drama followed me around every corner and strangely, I feel rejuvinated. Which leads me to a novel idea, instead of pushing ourselves to exhaustion, let's all take a moment for ourselves.

Do what recharges you-doesn't matter what it is, just recharge your battery.

*And remember to check out Maegan's post (it's right below mine) to enter into our giveaway and read about the journey of a fascinating author.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Author Interview! Sarah Jamila Stevenson

I met Sarah a few years ago through our shared love of all things Welsh. I soon learned that her talents extend beyond that - she is a writer and visual artist as well! Sarah's first book, THE LATTE REBELLION, came out in January, and we are so excited to have her here on the blog today. Be sure to check out Sarah's website for more info on her many and varied creative endeavors. She also blogs at Finding Wonderland.

We love to see our writer friends get published! Y
ou may have noticed that we like to celebrate by giving books away, and this time is no different. Since it's cold outside and we're talking about a book that features a latte on its cover, leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite drink for staying warm and you'll be entered to win a copy of Sarah's book. I'll announce the winner next Monday.

And now, on to the interview! 

Tell us about your book, THE LATTE REBELLION

The Latte Rebellion is the story of a moneymaking scheme that spins hilariously—and disastrously—out of control, but it's also a story about growing into who you are as a person. The narrator, high school senior Asha Jamison, decides to form a fictitious "movement" for students of mixed race or mixed ethnicity, called the Latte Rebellion. Originally conceived as a fun way to sell t-shirts and raise money for a post-graduation trip, over time Asha realizes that the tongue-in-cheek ideals of the movement really mean something to her after all. But when she rushes headlong into the real rebellion, it takes a toll on her personal life and her academic future.

Where did the idea for this book come from? Why did you want to write it?

In some ways, of course, this book stems from personal experiences—my own, growing up as someone of mixed ethnicity, but also the experiences of various multicultural friends and family. But these were all simmering in the back of my mind: at first, I was focused on writing a sort of madcap "caper" novel, a funny book, and not long after that, the phrase "latte rebellion" popped into my head while I was on a long car trip.

With a couple hundred miles' drive to go, I started thinking about what a latte rebellion might be, and soon Asha's character popped into my head. She's named after a song by the band Cornershop, "Brimful of Asha," and I think of them as making sort of multi-ethnic, "hybrid" music, and that's one of the elements that started bringing the ideas together for me. And once I started thinking about the fact that there aren't very many books out there that talk about the experience of growing up with multiple cultural identities from a young person's viewpoint, I became very eager to write that book. I was just as eager to write the book in a way that was accessible and fun and funny, rather than taking the premise too seriously.

What made you want to become a writer? When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I've always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a kid and used my mom's old manual typewriter to make my own "magazines." But for most of my life I was focused on a different creative area—visual art. In fact, I was pretty sure I was going to end up illustrating the covers of books rather than writing their contents! But I had always written stories and poems, and I even had at least two ideas for novels that I had started and then abandoned (fortunately for everyone—trust me) about 30 or 40 pages in. So I guess the possibility was always lurking in the background.

But I didn't think about writing as a career until about 1999 or 2000, when I was working at the website IGN.com and doing a little freelance humor writing for them on the side. I realized how much I was enjoying it, and decided to take a fiction writing class online to see whether I might be interested in pursuing it further. As it turned out, I really wanted to keep at this writing gig, but I felt like I needed a lot more practice and guidance to know where I wanted to take it, so I applied to graduate school for creative writing. After finishing an MFA at Mills College in Oakland, I felt a lot more comfortable with my own skills and I started sending my work out into the world!

Could you tell us a little about your writing process?

It's a little different for every project, but this is what my process usually looks like: I get a bunch of random ideas over a period of time and write them on nearby scraps of paper, some of which get lost. I compile them into a Word document at some point when the random ideas are starting to take a coherent form in my brain. Usually at this stage, I have a list of ideas that are either uselessly vague ("I want to write a dystopian book") or tangentially detailed ("I should totally use the word 'luminaria' somewhere in this story"). When I look at them all together, though, connections start to form, and once the ideas start to flow, I usually don't have trouble coming up with a general storyline and main characters. I ask myself a lot of "what if" questions. Sometimes even before the bones of the piece are clear in my head, I can't stop myself from starting to write.

Once I've started writing, the details start to become clearer as I go. Often I don't know how exactly things will end when I start writing the story, but usually I've figured it out by the time I'm about a third of the way in. Then the problem is how to get from where I am to the ending! Once I've figured out the plot, though, I usually draw myself a little flow chart or diagram showing the different strands of the story and how they relate. This helps a lot with timing and figuring out the order of scenes. This all sounds very disorganized as I type it out...I guess it probably is.

The theme of this blog is challenging our "Gnomes" - those things that hold us back in writing and in life. Do you have any Gnomes of your own and would you mind telling us what you do to slap them upside the head?

Sometimes I suffer from a veritable plague of Gnomes! So I definitely relate to the theme of this blog. I'd say the most pernicious ones for me have to do with getting discouraged or disheartened, letting my self-confidence slip, and forgetting to enjoy what I'm doing. There's also a very annoying Gnome that I like to call "crippling what's-the-point-itis." Sometimes I just have to take a break from a project and think about something else for a while, letting my right brain rest and recuperate. When that doesn't help, one of my favorite ways to slap the Gnomes upside the head is to revisit books about the creative process that I've found inspiring and comforting: two of my all-time favorites are Art and Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I also really like What It Is by Lynda Barry. There's a great blog on the topic of staying inspired as a writer, called Wordswimmer (http://wordswimmer.blogspot.com/), which I also visit from time to time. And when I really need to just sit down and write, I'm not above bribing myself with treats.

I'm sure glad to hear I'm not the only one who suffers from crippling what's-the-point-itis when it comes to writing. Thanks for stopping by, Sarah!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sock it to Twilight. An Homage in Honor of Breaking Dawn. Brace Yourselves.

All right Twilight fans! In honor of Breaking Dawn, Part One: The Fade To Black -- which opens TODAY (I KNOW! SQUEE-CITY!) (except not really. i'm sort of the anti-squee, in this case), I give you the Twilight Sock Puppet Troupe.

Two young women, cousins, who have never read the books (but one of whom has a parent--I won't say whether it's the mother or the father, but he's a cop--who listens to the audio books in his cruiser, er, car) have created a marvelous homage to the series--with a focus on New Moon. It was recorded on an iPhone in the basement, using cast off socks for the main characters, and comes complete with paper scenery and narration. Sort of. Also, it has an alternate ending. Truly, it is an independent film of epic proportions whose volume you must strain to hear because, did I mention? it was filmed on an iPhone.

I have to say I was impressed with the insight into the series that my daughter and niece display in this clip. Especially having never read the books or seen the movies. Also, they're pretty hilarious and cute. You can see their little heads occasionally behind the stage, and hear them burst into giggles here and there as they make little mistakes. All of which adds to the charm, I think. I'm not biased.

Anyway, for you, on this momentous day, we present: TwiEclipsingMoonDawn.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Russo's horrid day

You know those day where nothing goes well? Yep, that would be today for me. I awoke early for an intense day of writing and this is what I see-

My best friend, Jameses lounging in his Snuggie and eating my Coco Pebbles-N-Lucky Charms together in one bowl. First off, EWW. Second off, sitting next to him is my foster cat, Lux. She has a smug look on her face as she has attacked my edits for the day. There's paper all over the floor and Jameses is just eating away and sobbing about some sad sap on the Dr. Phil show.

I shrugged my shoulders-just another day in my house? Wrong, it got collectively worse. In the late afternoon, I was dancing while doing the dishes. Not really the smartest idea but Kanye was blaring so I had to dance. Needless to say, I slipped on the floor.

Later in the day I broke my decorative dish in half. And I wonder, is it is bad sign that I broke a dish with the following saying:

Yep, it's official. I am jinxxed because not but 5 minutes letter I trip down the stairs. My new potted plant tips over and fall on my knee-brilliant.

My friends, some day's just aren't going to go in our favor. And that's okay because usually the day after a sucky day rocks-so, bring on the fun, I say, because tomorrow will be be much better.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Expectations. Death to their Expectatiousness!

You know where fairy tales come from? Hopes and dreams, that's where. Desires. Wishes for happily ever afters and handsome princes and long-haired princesses in towers, and eternal bliss being just a horse-ride-into-the-horizon away. All in the face of reality. In the face of how incredibly tough life can be at times. We do that. We dream for something better. Long for it.

And that's why they're called fairy tales. Because they aren't reality . . . unless we make them reality. By doing the work. And being flexible. And being willing to be content.

Ah, there's the catch: being willing to be content with what we've got. With what we can get. Finding in what we already have, the prince/princess/castle/magical powers/blonde locks/sword of Gryffindor, and being happy with it.

When I was a kid I had serious imaginings of what my life was going to be like once I slipped the family ties and headed out on my own. Imaginings I counted on. I haven't met a lot of people who felt like they had an ideal childhood; there's always one thing or another getting in and mucking things up. And mine was no different: parents who divorced, stressed-out siblings and self, a serious bout of anorexia that could have taken me out, resulting health issues, feelings of loneliness--you most likely know the drill. Whether it's health or finances, family or friends, something or someone somewhere is going to disappoint us in life. The trick is not to avoid those things--we can't--but to deal with them in such a way that we still have joy and enjoyment in life. That we still see all the lovelies that are there. And that life is deeper for the experience.

I will tell you that my complete dependance on what I thought life was going to be like  nearly sank me. I had decided what type of wife I would be, what type of mother, what type of husband and kids I would have, and what I would contribute to the world--but none of them happened. At least not how I planned.

My visions of the Martha Stewart/Donna Reed-esque home I would create? BWA hahahaha! I mean, it ain't a pigsty, all right? But if dinner is on the table by 5:00 everyone knows the aliens have landed and something is inhabiting my body. If the clean laundry pile has magically moved from its permanent spot next to my jewelry armoir (which is filled with thread, scarves, iPod chargers and earbuds, gloves, and a bazillion earrings left over from the 1980's) into neatly folded piles for my children to retrieve and put away (those who aren't old enough to do their own laundry, thank you very much), people run outside, filled with embarrassment at having walked into the neighbor's house.

And motherhood? This is not what I planned on looking like to my kids:

But I do. We'll just leave it at that.

And finally, there's marriage. Did you know that two perfectly good, normal, kind people can "Expectation" each other to death? They can. It's so easy to disappoint one another in marriage: "This isn't what I thought you'd be like! You have to change!" Yep. And that's death. Can't go there. Run away from that sentiment, RUUUUUNN FOREST!

So, after twenty-blinkin'-five years of marriage, and work, and kids, and life changes, and moving, and job losses, and disappointments, and joys, and laughing our guts out, and anger, and bad parenting, and good parenting, and brilliant moments, and awful moments, and sadness, and happiness, and general "Wha?"when nothing turned out like I imagined--what have I learned?

Be content.

Look at what you have, not at what you don't have. Change what you can. Look for the good in what you can't. Expect the best, even when you don't get what you thought was the best. In that case, find out what the best is in that situation. And be. Happy. Because in this world, we need happy. There is sunlight. There are flowers. There is central air. There are indoor toilets. There is food. There is love. There are friends. There is creativity. There is genius. There is medicine. There is chocolate. There are movies. There are nice people. There are cars. There are trees. There is jam. There is family. There are kisses. There are books. There are good qualities in everyone. And there is funny, funny stuff. We can be content.

Now if I can just apply this philosophy to my life on a daily basis, I'll be good to go. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

Peace-out, dudes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life is a mash-up of joy, sorrow and serenity

The past few weeks have been filled with tragedy. Someone very dear to me is losing their eyesight at a very young age. This person is my rock, they have been through so much already and the thought of them losing their sight makes me pause and reflect.

I write this blog post not for pity or condolences, I am merely trying to to figure out why life can be so beautiful and yet so cruel.

My friends, there is no escaping the truth-life is a complete mash-up of joy, sorrow and serenity. You have not really lived until you face something that is frightening. The trick in surviving is not in the cliche quotes-'it's always darkest before the dawn,' or 'stiff upper lip.'

No, the trick in really living is to look a frightening situation in the eyes and realize-you are stronger than any obstacle that is thrown in your way. Never forget that truth.

The pic was taken during one of my weekend exursions-so peaceful.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Maegan Flies Home Today . . .

 . . . which is why there's no witty, succinct, pithy, incisive, quietly adorable November Challenge of the Month post from her today. Nope. We'll have to wait until next Monday for that. Along with pictures of her singing with the Welsh choir. And touring the glow worm caves. AND KISSING RICHARD ARMITAGE. Quite positive she did that.

But we won't know for sure until she gets back. So sit tight until then. And in the meantime feel free to check out Maegan's other posts here.  Or Janiel's other posts here. Or Russo's other posts here. Or Janiel's other posts here. Did we mention Janiel's other posts here? Because they're here.

Anyway. We'll be happy to get her back. Maegan. Not Janiel. Maegan's the one coming home. Yay!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My family is dysfunctional and more

Challenge of the Month: Crazy Turkey Day adventure

Most Thanksgivings are filled with food, family and sometimes, fighting. For me, its not a Holiday if the cops aren't called. As my brother says, "We put the fun in dysfunctional."

Let me give you the dirt. A Holiday usually starts with a 10 minute prayer given by my father, who rambles on and on. And just when my eyelids are as heavy as an anvil, my Aunt interrupts him and says, "Oh, just shut up already."

And thus the chaos starts.

I usually plop down in the best seat in the living room-a purple plushy chair near the fire place. I can watch the madness perfectly from my cozy perch as I nibble on my Southern cornbread.

My Uncle, who has one singed eyebrow from deep frying the turkey, carves into the hunk of meat. Okay, normal enough but did I mention he carves the turkey with brand new scissors? Yep, he's on probation and can't use a knife. I smile at his persistence. He knows Thanksgiving is important to my Aunt (his wife) so he focuses on making each slice of meat look beautiful on the plastic red plates.

My other uncle, who is a recovering addict, helps my lil cousin put green olives on his toes. My cousin giggles repeatedly at the frog toes.

All the while, my Aunts and Uncles try to get the other riled up by calling each other majorly dirty words. I mean, words I wouldn't even call my worst enemy.

My Auntie opens a can of beer and burps, while my triplet cousins yammer on and on about some Disney Channel movie. Normal as normal can be until the neighbor-guest begins to pontificate about something that doesn't even matter at the moment, which really riles up my Auntie.

The neighbor and my Auntie get into a heated argument and the neighbor has no idea what tornado he has walked into-Sure, my relatives may seem cruel to other but that's because they are family. They can diss each other but if any outsider disrespects my family, they get eaten alive.

Needless to say, the neighbor gets thrown out of the house, which pissed my dad off. And then all I hear is a slew of cuss words flowing out of the mouth of my Aunts and Uncles. They all combat each other with words as the turkey is passed down a long table.

To me, the madness is calming because underneath all the angst is an understanding-these crazy, dysfunctional relatives would have back in any situation that would scare most people.

Sure, I had a ridiculous upbringing. At age 8, I learned how to pickpocket. When I was a gawky teenager, I could pick a lock with 2 bobby pins. But there has also been goodness, through my dear fam I have also learned how to battle my nasty lil demons. Most importantly, I have learned loyalty, which is the best gift. I'll take the dysfunction any day.