The Ultimate Mix CD Project 2014

Listening to MusicHey Peeps!

With Christmas just a month away, I’ve got to get cracking on my go to gift for my mum and sis.

The Ultimate Mix CD Project

Since 2007 I’ve given them each a Phenomenal Women’s Mix CD, a compilation of all female artists and the songs are usually upbeat and dance-worthy. A few years ago I added in what I call a Cafe’ Mix – mellow music for hanging at home and which allows male and female artists. Since 2012, I’ve enlisted YOUR help with creating those awesome playlists.

I need your brilliant ideas again now!

And to thank you, I’ll pick 2 commenters at random to win copies of the 2 cds!

I’m guessing no one wants my fake NaNo album – created in a black hole of stress rage. I called it Blames it On the Hormones.

Blames it on the Hormones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No takers? None? Ok.

Then here are some ideas to get you thinking about types of songs to suggest!

*****

For the Phenomenal Women Mix:

My Silver Lining ~ First Aid Kit

This is the song I keep playing on repeat. Lurve!

Hideaway ~ Kiesza

She did this music video in one take. One take!!!

Enough ~ The Mrs

The ladies behind the magic talking mirror. Had to be included!

For the Cafe’ Mix:

Paper Cup ~ The Shoe

Did you know actress Jena Malone has a band? And it’s awesome! This video is flippin’ weird, but I love this song, and every other song on their debut album I’m Okay.

Poison & Wine ~ The Civil Wars

Haunting and beautiful. Hurt and yet thankful. Haven’t we all felt this way at some point?

Stay With Me ~ Bernhoft

A great male addition to my mix. Love the song, and hadn’t heard much buzz about him before, but found this song via my Songza app.

*****

What do you think of these tunes so far?
What other songs should I add? Share your favorites!

A Time For Gratitude

Reblogged from Starting With Some Gratitude:

With Thanksgiving approaching, I thought I’d share one of my favorite blog posts from the past about gratitude and family.

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This holiday is always special to me and my family because we’ve tracked our ancestry back to two of the pilgrims that crossed over on the Mayflower. John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley. John Howland came from England as an indentured servant to John Carver, one of the Leiden Separatists (AKA: pilgrim). John Carver was Plymouth colony’s first Governor and the first person to sign the Mayflower Compact, which he wrote.

Me, standing in front of the Mayflower II - an exact replica of the original 1600's ship

But John Carver and his family did not survive the first winter in the new world. In fact, most of the original passengers on the Mayflower did not survive that first winter. My 17th Great Grandfather, John Howland, who was in his 20′s at the time, now found himself a land owner and became a prominent member of the community. He would later become quite a reputable fur trader, working with Native Americans along the coast of Maine, and ending his days as a farmer in Massachusetts.

Elizabeth was only a teenager when she made the voyage across the Atlantic with her parents. Her parents did not survive the first winter either.

Eventually, John and Elizabeth married in the new world, and over their life together, gave birth to 10 children! What is so remarkable about their story is that they all survived! The Howland line is the most common bloodline for pilgrim descendants to belong to because it was so rare that these people lived as long as they did. Elizabeth was in her 90′s when she passed!

Me standing in front of the Jabez Howland house in Plymouth, MA - one of only two houses still standing where a pilgrim (John and Elizabeth) actually lived.

I am fortunate in many ways. I’m fortunate that I know where my people come from. I know their story, or at least as much as I can know. And I know we are survivors. I’m also fortunate to have visited the land and place where they walked. The first time in 2010 with Joe, who was patient and understanding with me while I took photos of everything and felt like I was walking in a really good dream. The second time in 2013 when I took my parents to tour Plymouth and watched my mom have the same journey I did three years ago.

Mom and Pop outside Plimoth Plantation

So Thanksgiving is a meaningful holiday for me. It’s a reminder of who we are and what we’ve been through. What we can endure, with hard work and family, in order to achieve our dreams. It’s a reminder to change for the better by learning from others and seeking understanding more than being right.

This month, I’d like to focus on thanksgiving. I’ve kept a journal since I was 13, but for the last few years I’ve turned it into more of a gratitude journal. At the end of each entry, I write five specific things I’m grateful for.

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Here’s what I’m most grateful for today…

  1. My family. I’ve had a year with an immense high (my marriage) and an extreme low (the passing of my brother in law), and through both events my family rallied together and supported one another with love, patience, and grace.
  2. My spouse – because he lets me ignore him to focus on writing this month and supports my dream of being a published author.
  3. Tacos. Joe made them and they were delicious.
  4. Writing friends. For the many critique groups, write-ins, and classes I’ve been able to attend this month.
  5. Coffee. And blankets. (it’s cold outside)

What are you thankful for today?

and

for more Thanksgiving stories to impress your family at the dinner table,
check out my other Thanksgiving posts!

The First Thanksgiving: It Happened in 1863

The One That Fell Off the Boat

The Baby That Was Born on the Mayflower

Living Without a Backup Plan: Guest Posting at Ingrid Schaffenburg’s Blog

Life of a Writer

Happy November everyone!

Today I’m so excited to say that I’m guest posting at the fabulous Ingrid Schaffenburg’s Blog today!

Ingrid blogs about creativity and mindfulness, and going after your dreams. She is a spiritual globetrotter who knows it’s never too late to learn a lesson.

Ingrid asked me to share my story about how I made the bold decision to quit my job in retail management with NO BACKUP PLAN!

This time of year, with holidays looming ahead, can be so stressful. (I know that better than most.) I think this post is timely for all of us to remember to take risks, stay positive, and believe in ourselves.

I hope you’ll hang out with us today! CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE POST PLEASE. :)

*****

TEASER ~ Living Without a Backup Plan

“For six years I worked in retail for a large department store. It’s identity shall not be named in order to protect the damned. I started working there in college, and after graduation, I freaked about becoming an “adult.” So I took a full time position at the store and bragged to my dad that I finally had health insurance.

I was good at my job. I just wasn’t happy.”

*****

See you at Ingrid’s place!
Tell us about your dreams and big plans.

Do You Like Me? Yes or No: Love Notes from SEO

All writers and bloggers know that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a crucial part of establishing your online brand. Tags and Keywords are required in order for the Internet Gods to find you and connect you with readers. With tags, we have a say. We can edit our own tags to include the subject matter we blog about in hopes that interested readers will search those tags and find us. For example, I’ve tagged this post to come up in searches for my name, my blog’s name, SEO, blogging, and writers.

We can influence keywords as well, but the Internet Gods that be (on the seventh day they tweeted) will also pull things from our posts based on wording we’ve used and formatting.

Every now and then I like to take a peak at my blog stats to see what search terms led people to find my little hub in the great wide blogosphere. And the randomness of some of the search terms never ceases to amuse me.

In the past, you may have found my blog by searching one or all of the following phrases:

  • how to do the Peanuts dance
  • dino erotica
  • what defined the 80’s
  • things to blog about that start with ‘S’
  • vampire attacks
  • claimed vampire attacks in 2013
  • covered up vampire attacks

Why, YES I CAN instruct you how to do the Peanuts dance, why you SHOULDN’T buy dino erotica, what defined the 80’s (I’ll save you the read – it’s fanny packs), things to blog about that start with ‘S’ (you could also consult a dictionary, but I’ve got some ideas – Snuggies, sleep, sloths, the character Sloth from the movie The Goonies…). And I can tell you about ONE claimed vampire attack in 2013 that may in fact be a cover up by a moderately well known band.

Now, I like to imagine you, Dear Readers, opening your Google search engines and writing to me personally, like Dear Abby, all of your quizzical interweb wonderings. I think of your search terms as love notes. And I hope that I can answer your questions.

Yes I Can

My Campaign Slogan – just in time for election day!

But lately, I’m beginning to feel like we should see other people. Your requests have gotten out of hand. And I think it’s time we introduce a safe word. You know, something to say when one of us feels the other has the crossed the line.  How about ‘parakeet‘? I think it works because I dislike them too.

A week ago when I looked at the search terms that led you here, I was flummoxed. And more than a little uncomfortable.

Recent Search Terms That Led You to the Happiness Project:

  • inside LDS temples
  • scary ouija board conversations
  • what to wear in the tundra
  • what does it mean if you draw a swing
  • dragon hill spa placenta
  • i dreamed there was 5 little orphan baby bats all snuffling dreams
  • girls and boars
  • sideshow freak posters
  • queens drinking tea
  • Tia Carrere’s legs
  • Jonathan Crombie’s girlfriend
  • inflatable handcuffs hahaha
  • how to fix a box fan
  • ideas of how to dress like The Hulk
  • hippies, gypsies, no bras and no squares
  • absurdist quirky films
  • Willoughby “the slime”
  • German women in dirndls
  • absurdly romantic things to say to a woman
  • what causes super human hearing
  • sex free friendship with old Indian woman

Huh???

Who am I to you, SEO? Do you even know me? I thought we loved one another.

SEO love letter

I think it’s time we slow things down, SEO. NaNoWriMo is starting and I just don’t have time for this. Come talk to me when you’re not drunk. You’ve got my number.

*****

Follow up Request to the Internet Gods

Dear Internet Lords,

I just called for a break between me and my SEO. Lately I feel like he doesn’t get me anymore. And he’s always asking me for the strangest requests. I’m tired and I feel like he doesn’t respect me anymore. What should I do? Oh, and how do I change my blog relationship status to ‘It’s Complicated’?

Sincerely,

Baffled and Blogging

*****

What’s your SEO relationship like?
or Write me your best Dear Abby response!

When Murder and Mr. Darcy Mix: Top 5 Reasons to Watch Death Comes to Pemberley

Last night, like so many Jane Austen fans across the country, I tuned in to watch Masterpiece’s mini-series version of Death Comes to Pemberley.

Ok, I did a little more than “tune in.”

Death Comes to Pemberley

 

Yes. Yes, that is me watching the show, following the live tweet stream,
and texting my sister about it all at the same time. 

I need 2 more hands and maybe a Go Pro to capture the real magic of this moment. 

Anyway…

The PBS movie is based on the bestselling book, Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James. And it’s written as a sequel to the happily ever after ending in Pride and Prejudice by my girl, Jane Austen.

Lizzie Bennett is now married and mistress of Pemberley. She and Darcy have one son. And the day before they are to throw a grand ball, Lizzie’s compulsive little sister, Lydia, shows up screaming bloody murder. A search party finds the body of one former militia man, Denny, DEAD in the woods. And the leading suspect? None other than Derbyshire’s King cad, George Wickham.

Much to their disappointment, Lizzie and Darcy now find themselves pulled back into the reckless life of Wickham.

It’s murder and mayhem with a dash of Mr. Darcy! 

Matthew Rhys as Mr. Darcy and Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Darcy 

The Twitter feed following the first episode was alive with comparisons of P.D. James’s book and Jane Austen’s. Everything from the cast to the costumes was scrutinized, and for the most part applauded. I did laugh out loud when for a brief minute, the hashtag #FreeWickham started trending.

Five Reasons to Watch Death Comes to Pemberley

1) Reunite With All Your Favorite Characters

They’re all back. Lizzie. Mr. Darcy. Lizzie’s parents. Jane.

2) Reunite With All Your LEAST Favorite Characters

Lydia is a big part of this murder mystery, as it is her husband, the sleazy George Wickham who is suspected of committing the crime. Twitter fans raved over Jenna Coleman’s portrayal of the selfish, whiney Lydia. She is still selfish beyond compare. And Wickham is still deceitful and anything but a gentleman. But, is he a murderer?

3) Return to Pemberley 

The set of Pemberley and the rooms inside were well constructed to match that of the previous books and films we’ve come to adore. An English manor set in the countryside full of the finest china and most beautiful sunrooms. The costumes are exquisite. Darcy is still strapping as ever. Lizzie is handsome in egg shell blue gowns. Even Wickham, in his redcoat regimentals, has the ladies of Twitter still swooning – it helps that he’s played by Matthew Goode.

4) Experience the Gothic Version of Pride and Prejudice

The cinematography of the show is quite stunning. From wide open green spaces to haunted woods with scraggly trees, to mist covered mansions, and ghost stories! P.D. James’s version of Pemberley seems to be taking a nod from the Bronte sisters’ love for gothic literature. Or from Ms. Austen herself, with her earlier work, Northanger Abbey.

5) Find out MORE about the Lizzie and Darcy love story!

Yes, there’s a happily ever after, but that isn’t the end of the tale. Both Lizzie and Mr. Darcy still struggle with their pride and prejudice. And there are secrets Darcy hasn’t yet told. Can Lizzie reconcile the damage her family has once again caused their social standing? So many new questions!

The second, and final, episode of Death Comes to Pemberley is set to air on November 2nd, 8pm CST. Join in to witness how Wickham’s trial for murder goes. If he’s found guilty, he will hang.

Did you tune in this week?

Hoodoo Halloween Party: What’s the Scariest Movie You’ve Ever Seen?

Hoodoo PartyThe fabulous Kirsten Weiss of ParaYourNormal is hosting a Hoodoo Halloween blog hop this weekend and you can join in!

Visit here to meet writers all over the country share their creepiest ghost stories and spookiest Halloween tales. We’re blogging about New Orleans history and ghost lore and Halloween!

I recently sat at a table where everyone was talking about the first movie that ever scared the crap out of them. And the answers were abundant.

There was Child’s Play, the Chucky movie, which scared one woman’s mother so much she turned all the dolls in her home to face backward.

*That would actually scare me MORE.

Psycho, the original Hitchcock version, made one woman terrified she’d be stabbed to death whenever she showered.

IT, that creepy clown movie/miniseries, was one we all nodded our head to. We were scared of clowns, public bathrooms, sink drains, sewer systems, you name it!

Then there’s my list. It’s a long one. Because I’m a chicken sh*t when it comes to scary movies.

When I was growing up, here are the things that scared me about…

Exhibit A: sausage fingers

E.T.Yah, not even a scary movie, but his fingers looked like sausages and they creeped me out and I was convinced he lived in our basement so I would only go down there if someone else was down there.

P.S. This movie is also frightening in Spanish. We watched it in my high school Spanish class and I had bad dreams with E.T. yelling “E.T. telefono a mi casa!!!” in them. It’s just scarier for some reason.

Scream (1, 2, & 3) – While this series is not very scary now, it was in middle school. And creepers wearing masks was all the rage. Not cool, bro. Not cool at all.

Sixth SenseWhat a mind f*ck this movie was. Creepiest scene? I think it’s when the little boy is sitting in his tent and all the walls start shaking and he’s looking up, then when he looks forward again – there’s a dead girl in front of him, and she pukes!

The Ring - This movie came out when I was in high school. It’s about a dead girl who kills people by crawling out of their television sets and their bodies are found all mutilated and twisted. Now, I had a TV in my bedroom at this time. So I behaved in a normal fashion and slept with it on for a week straight because I was more terrified of waking up in the middle of the night and hearing the click of the dial on my TV and see the dead girl coming after me.

P.P.S. My TV was SO OLD. It actually did have dials. Two of them. And I could only get two channels to come in, so I watched a lot of Antiques Roadshow and Ricki Lake talk shows.

Joy Ride - What? No! The fact that Paul Walker is coming to save me does not make this better? Don’t feckin mess with late night truck drivers, ok?!

HalloweenWho would agree to ever babysit again after this???

The ExorcistUm, that scene where the girl crab walks all crazy down the stairs. Niiiiiiiiiiiiiightmares!

Village of the DamnedWell hello angelic looking blonde child, please don’t kill me.

The Texas Chainsaw MassacreNO! No I will not go out to your grandpa’s cabin in the country! Just NO!

I Am LegendCircles of heaving zombies lurking in the dark? Nope. I’ma karate chop all the doors down in my house first.

The Exorcism of Emily RoseWell that’s just great. I’m now terrified whenever I wake up in the vicinity of 3:33 am.

Paranormal ActivityHell, even the previews for this were horrifying! I believe too much in ghosts and this movie made me think every house I ever lived in was haunted.

Evil DeadWaaaay too much self inflicted torture in this one for me. If anyone needs me I’ll be curled up in a fetal position, clutching my teddy bear for the next several hours.

 I could go on, but I think the ghosts are listening.
I need to go hide under the covers now.

What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?

 

 

 

Can You Really Like an Overly Likeable Character?

As writers we want our main character to be likeable. But we also want them to be real. That means they have to have flaws.

Have you ever read a book where the main character didn’t have any flaws?

I recently finished Mansfield Park by Jane Austen as part of my To Be Read Pile Challenge. It’s a goal of mine to finish reading all of Jane Austen’s works because I want to live in a Jane Austen movie admire her work’s critique on social classism and gender inequality.

With that said, I’m just gonna set this here for a minute…

(I have a whole Pinterest board for this.)

Mansfield Park has never been one of my favorite Austen storylines, although some critics argue it’s her greatest work. The novel tells the story of Fanny Price, a gentle-hearted, kind girl who goes to live with her wealthy aunt, uncle and cousins. She is obedient, grateful, and never says an ill word about anyone even though she is often mistreated by her aunt, uncle, female cousins, and neighbors.

And let’s face it, she falls in love with her cousin, Edmund. I know that’s how things were done back then, but ew.

mansfield parkYou know else does that? Karen from Mean Girls.

The happily ever after in the book depends on all the other characters screwing up in order to fulfill Fanny’s dream – marrying her cousin, Edmund.

I did enjoy the novel. And, I really liked re-watching two of the film versions to see where they adapted the storyline. But I don’t know if I ever really liked Fanny. She’s too good.

One could argue that Fanny’s flaw is being too nice. While other characters do point that out, there is no change in Fanny’s character. She remains constant in her loyalty to family, service for others, and everyone else achieving happiness over herself.

I would argue that’s the reason the 1999 film adaptation was quite liberal with their side stories including slavery and an extra-marital affair, which though it could be insinuated happened in Jane Austen’s novel, it is never said outright. In the movie, Fanny (played by Frances O’Conner) is a cheeky little thing and also hopes to become a published authoress. None of her quips, nor challenging statements to her uncle, or the notion of writing her own novels are in the book.

So I ask again, can an audience bond with a character that is too likeable?

What examples can you think of?
Have you read a book with an overly likeable character? How did you feel about them?

Sh*t My Husband Says While Sleeping

Set your coffee down, folks! It’s time for another round of “Sh*t My Husband Says While Sleeping,” the reoccurring blog series that pops up…whenever I remember to write down the batsh*t things comin’ outa his mouth!

First, meet my husband.

photo(4)

This is Joe.
He likes short walks through the grocery store, old school Keanu Reeves movies,
and growing facial hair.

***

Now, Joe talks in his sleep. When that happens, he occasionally refers to me as “his little pear juice.”

It isn’t all the time, and he can’t control it, but he says the WEIRDEST things when he sleep talks.

Here are a few of his latest sleep disturbances…

Example No. 1

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Joe: Did you wanna take the bear?

Me: What bear? What’s his name?

Joe: Holia.

Me: Where’d you meet him?

*silence*

Me:

Example No. 2

***

Joe: Mmmm Mmmm good! That’s what it is.

Me: What’s good?

Joe: Crackers… And email…. Just kidding about the email. *giggles*

Me:

And this is what I deal with on a somewhat regular basis.

On the flip side, if his REM antics become popular, I might consider switching the tag line of this blog to “Mmmm Mmmm good. That’s what it is.” How do you think that’ll look on a business card?

Do you know someone who talks in their sleep?
Where do YOU think Joe met the bear?

My Reigning Days as Miss Midwest Afro Queen

When talking about a girl’s body image, you have to go back. Waaaaaay back. All the way to the early years. Because a child will remember if people noticed her and whether they said nice things or a plethora of backhanded compliments. You know the ones.

Oh she’s as skinny as a beanpole!”

WHAT THE HELL IS A BEANPOLE???

She eats just like a bird!”

THAT’S CAUSE YOUR EGG SALAD HAS SHELLS IN IT, LADY!

Thankfully what I remember hearing is comments about my hair. I had long strawberry blonde hair and strangers would often comment to me or my mother how beautiful it was. They also commented occasionally on my freckles, which when you’re 6 are adorable. I can’t say the same at 28 because now I only have them on my arms and they’re called moles.

*le sigh*

Back to my hair. On nights before big school days, my mom would often braid my hair in two pigtails. Then one or both of my older brothers would grab hold of the braids, making motorcycle noises as they “drove” me screaming around the house.

The next morning, my mother would help me get dressed in some sort of skort or jumper, as that is all my closet consisted of. Then she would take out the braids and begin brushing my hair.

Then she would brush even more…

and brush just a little bit more…

until my hair was the equivalent of one of those static electricity balls you see at science fairs.

And that is why I held the title of Miss Midwest Afro Queen, circa 1991.

Exhibit A:

Afro Hair 1Exhibit B:

Afro Hair 2Exhibit C:

Afro Hair 3Exhibit Holy Friggin D:

Afro Hair 4Thank god there was no such thing as selfies then! My hair wouldn’t even fit in the shot!

 Afro Hair - close upI used Xpro II to make me look tan.
What do you think?

 Tell me your thoughts! What comments did you hear growing up?
What fashion choices make you happy instagram wasn’t around then?

Should my mother be allowed to touch anyone else’s hair?

I’m Sorry, You Want My Dunce Number?

It began as one of those mornings. Nothing was going to be easy. Still, I mistakenly started my workday by making what I thought was a simple phone call.

Me: “Hello, I’m calling about completing our SAM registration.”

Woman on Phone: “Certainly, first may I have your name – first and last – your email, and phone number in case we get disconnected?”

I spell out and listen to her repeat all my information back to me.

Woman on Phone: “And do you go by Mr. Witkins?”

Me: *silence* … “Um, I’ll respond to MS. Witkins.”

Really?? I know it’s early in the morning, but my voice isn’t that low?
Have you listened to my vlog? I sound like a Jim Henson muppet!

Woman on Phone: *loud laughter* … *no apology given* … “And how can I help you today?”

Me: “I need to complete our SAM registration.”

Woman on Phone: “Alright ma’am, and what’s your dunce number?

Me: “My DUNCE number?”

This lady is not making friends with me this morning.

Woman on Phone: “Yes, ma’am. Every organization has their own Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number.”

Me: “Oh, DUNS number. I have no idea.”

Shit. Maybe I should have a DUNCE number.

Woman on Phone: “No problem, I can give you the number to look up your DUNS number and you can call back here when you have it.”

Me: “So, I look up my DUNS number and then I can call back here to complete our SAM registration?”

Woman on Phone: “Yes, ma’am.”

Lies! She told me lies!

The next half of my morning was spent taking a variety of background checks and chatting on the phone with more women assuring me this was how I register our SAM account.

FYI, a SAM account is used for any agency that receives federal funding. It’s the registry that proves you are who you say you are, and funds are sent through that registry. My nonprofit employer needed to update our account, but the problem it seems is that our registry was logged under an employee who is no longer with our agency. So I was trying to access our account and update the necessary info.

These are the faces I made during the following process.

Dealing With Customer Service Reps

First step: Call 2nd phone number and ask for agency’s DUNS number. Get told they don’t give DUNS numbers out over the phone, but they’ll email me the website link to look it up online.

Second step: Go to the website which forced me to complete an online background check in which I was asked a series of multiple choice questions about my identity – not my agency – MY identity. What are the first two digits of my social security number? What county was I born in?

Third step: Now answer 4 more random security questions.

Fourth step: Pass the background check! Acquire DUNS number! Find out DUNS number was in original email requesting SAM registration all along.

Fifth step: Hit head on desk.

Sixth step: Call back to original SAM registration line. Give them DUNS number.

Seventh step: Become informed that I must create an account on the SAM registration website.

Eighth step: Do that.

Ninth step: Become informed I must submit a notarized letter signed by the head of my agency confirming I am who I say I am in order to be approved as the new agency account administrator.

Tenth step: Hit head on desk more.

Eleventh step: Write letter to be notarized. Get boss to sign it.

Twelfth step: Get letter notarized by a lady at the bank.

Thirteenth step: Discover the bank lady uses an embossed notary seal, not an inked one. So this will never show up when I scan it and send it to the federal government.

Fourteenth step: Scan letter anyway and email to government. Become informed I must create an account on a third website for that day.

Fifteenth step: Go home. The federal government hates me.

How was YOUR morning?

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