Tag Archives: ramblings

A proper post…..er, really…..

liebster-blog-award-2

Just before I started This Side….Over Yonder the wonderful Steve Green presented my former fiction blog, The Other Side of Deanna, with a Liebster award and the lovely Estrella Azul gave me both the Liebster and a Sunshine award. I was going through a Major Life Change at the time and neglected to post proper acceptance. Now the talented John Wiswell has graciously given me a Liebster award, a different one, and that prompted me to get with the program. Thank you so much Estrella, Steve, and John, not only for feeling I’m worthy of the blog awards but also for not forgetting about me when I was AWOL for a while there. That means more to me than I can tell you.

So, on with the acceptance. The “official rules” for the Liebster Award are:   

1. Link back to the person who nominated you. 
2. Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator. 
3. Nominate a few other bloggers who’d enjoy it. 
4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer. 

Of course since this is for three awards I have to shake things up a bit. Let’s answer John’s (thought-provoking) questions first.

1. What is the hardest you’ve laughed in the last year? It may be that I laughed harder at some point this past year but the one that’s fresh in my mind is when, about a week ago my youngest son, Noah was playing some game on his phone as I drove. He was making these maddening rackets – “arg! ah! Ack!” – so much that my oldest son, Jimmy, finally asked what the problem was. Noah was playing a game called Flappy Bird, he said, and he commenced to explaining how supposedly simple but truly hard it was. When Jimmy, who, at 16-years-old is developing his own software, held out his hand and asked if he could play, Noah, still playing the game, told Jimmy he wouldn’t like it and went on to tell him that the graphics were crummy and there was really no point and yada, yada, yada. Jimmy just looked at him and Noah said, “It’s just for fun, Jimmy, it’s not like a real game.” As if “real games” aren’t supposed to be fun. I cracked up it was so funny but truly it’s not funny at all because he’s right – the computer games kids play today are so advanced and so life-like that it becomes more, well, like life, to them and takes all the fun out of it……and, okay, now maybe you know a small reason why I’m a writer.  🙂

2. What theme do you wish more fiction tackled? I’m a literary fiction fan and a ghost story fan, so what I’d like to see is more supernatural themes crossing over into the literary genre. Maybe there is more like this out there than I’m aware of (because the stories are labeled so specifically I’m overlooking them – ?) simply because I wouldn’t pick up a book in the “aliens invade Earth” genre. One author who weaves ghost stories into literary fiction superbly is Joyce Carol Oates. Hmmm, maybe I just wish more authors wrote like JCO.

3. What was the last time you envied another writer’s work? First, let me state the obvious: there is a fine line between envy and admiration…..yet, when I got to the ending of A Fair Maiden, by Joyce Carol Oates, where there was twist after twist after twist, and within just a few pages mind you, I found myself thinking “Why can’t I do that?” Indeed, most all her work leaves me with this sort of reaction – the stories are exactly what I want [from reading] yet they also plant that little rotten worm of jealousy in my gut.

4. What’s the next book you’re planning to read and why? Right now I’m reading The Big Book of Ghost Stories, edited by Otto Penzler and I am loving it! There are tons of not only classic but also modern spine-tingling tales by some of the greats and some I’ve never heard of. Reading these has led to a couple of (thankfully inexpensive) Kindle purchases so I’ll be sticking with the ghost/horror kick for a while with my next read being Voodoo Tales: The Ghost Stories of Henry S. Whitehead. (Check out my bookshelf for short reviews of other recent reads).

5. Does anything in fiction routinely scare you or creep you out? Whether it’s werewolves or doctor visits. What gives me a great fright more than anything is when the writer describes the dark and gloomy atmosphere so perfectly that I can feel the absolute hush about the character who is walking through total darkness all alone just before we discover that he’s been watched for the last several pages. Great chills!

6. If you could spend an afternoon hanging out with any villain, who would it be? Definitely Count Olaf from Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, just because he’s so darn funny!

7. If you could delete any character from all of fiction, such that no one would remember it had ever existed, what character would it be? Easy one – Edgar Sawtelle. Never have I had a more violent reaction to a book than I did to The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I had heard so many great things about it that I felt, even though I was bored to tears with the painful turn of each page, I had to finish it. When I finally became halfway interested, (about 95% in), the ending was horrible; in fact it was the ending that made me throw the heavy tome against the wall.

8. What’s your favorite nickname you’ve ever been given? Slim – as a child I was so skinny if I turned sideways I disappeared. My dad called me Slim from the cradle until I was about six months pregnant with my first son. He still calls me Slim now and then but, unfortunately, it’s more out of habit than anything that defines my physical attributes.

9. Do the last ten books you read have anything in common? At least eight of the last books I read had something to do with the supernatural. [See question #4].

10. By a unique snafu of publishing, you are legally obligated to write a crossover between two popular franchises of your choosing. Which two are they? Batman (with the Joker) and Toy Story, hands down.

I’m so late in accepting the awards that I dare say these folks may have already received them, but I want them to know I think they’re terrific anyway:

The Liebster Award goes to:

Eric J. Krause 

Sonia Lai

Adam Byatt 

I’m shaking things up with the questions for Eric and Adam by incorporating (okay, stealing), some of Steve and Estrella’s original questions. My questions for you, Eric and Adam, (and don’t worry if it takes months to post acceptance, I’ll be in good company):

  1. What year should you have been born? Why?
  2. What will you be doing in seven years?
  3. Does the description of your astrological sun sign match your personality? If not, what sun sign should you have been born under?
  4. What odd fact about you would people be most surprised to learn?
  5. If you could come back in another life as an animal, which one would you choose to be?
  6. Where is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?
  7. Which do you prefer, the quiet of the countryside, or the hustle-bustle of the city?
  8. If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
  9. Have you ever had an experience with ghosts/spirits? (We’d love to hear about it!)
  10. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Join in the fun! Anyone who’d like to answer the questions in a comment please do – we’d love to hear it! (Do all writers say that or is it just me?)

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Surviving New Year’s Eve with teenage sons = ONE resolution

Have you made your 2014 resolutions or have you been procrastinating as I have? At least I was…until last night….Now I have defined my one resolution for this glorious new year: on December 31, 2014, I will either sleep through the day and go out that night or I will sleep through the entire day and night, period.

Oh yea, I may miss the first twenty-seven seconds of 2015, unlike the first twenty-seven seconds of 1997 – 2013 when I roamed between rooms trying to find something less painful than toothpicks to hold my eyes open with while my sons cranked up the music and bounced wall-to-wall between those same rooms. But – it will be worth it.

Yesterday, (after an hour of scraping the remains of what was supposed to be my infamous butter-pecan cake for Christmas from my oven), I spent approximately eighteen hours in my [small] kitchen creating glorious dips and appetizers, slicing veggies, fruit, cheese, and, eventually, my finger, while my 14-and-16-year old sons seemed to be waiting patiently to consume all these heavenly dishes, the youngest battling with his friends on his PS3 while the oldest downloaded seventeen editing programs, and quite probably a virus, to my computer in order to slow it further down than it already was.

After loading the dining room table up with this beautiful food and giving the signal for them to dig in, they didn’t move. Not an inch. Okay, fine. “I’ll eat it all myself,” I told them, and proceeded to load my plate up.

When the youngest finally did glance up and saw that I was eating his favorite food, (that he specifically asked me to make) – sausage and pepperoni Stromboli – he said “Oh,” and grabbed a plate and placed two slices on it. I was happy. Then he sat his plate on the coffee table and picked his game controller back up and commenced to slaughter zombies with his buds. The Stromboli sat unloved on his plate for hours while my oldest swore, when I asked him every ten minutes if he’d eaten anything, that yes, he’d been grabbing stuff here and there. But I could see he was not telling the truth – the fruit and veggies and Stromboli, even the banana pound cake, was wilting on the table.

But I let it pass. They both normally eat like the teenage boys they are and I figured that when they finally did get hungry they’d eat.

And I was right. About an hour later the oldest says to me, “Can I make Ramen noodles?”

Are you kidding me?! “Absolutely not,” I said, and continued with a tirade of “after I spent all dang day in the kitchen cooking for you guys” and “If you’re hungry you’ll eat what I cooked for you,” and yadayadayada…..But of course I gave in, though he did have to make the noodles himself.

At twenty-seven-after-midnight, I had no energy at all to clean up, so this morning my kitchen and dining room were loaded down with all manner of dishes, (how the boys can seemingly not eat a thing but dirty every plate, bowl and glass in the house is beyond me), and I sit here writing while my home begs for attention.

I’ve heard tell that whatever you do on New Year’s Day is what you’ll do every day for the rest of the year. In that case, for the remaining 364 days of 2014, I will ignore my poor neglected home, and I will write, write, write! Sounds like a good resolution to me!

So how’s your year thus far?

Deanna on New Year's Eve 2014 image via wallcg.com
Deanna on New Year’s Eve 2014
image via wallcg.com

P.S. The truth: I would frankly be lost without having my sons to cook for and I’m fairly certain that this one small resolution will be shattered. I am beyond grateful that God has given me such kind, loving gentlemen to share my life with. I am blessed.

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Keep the blues away with an observation a day #smallstone

Many thanks to Estrella Azul for introducing me to small stones. Small stones is a “mindful writing challenge created by Fiona Robyn of Writing our way home and it has been a tremendously positive influence in my life these past few weeks.

All you have to do is take a moment, each day, to notice your environment, to truly open your eyes, ears, nose, mouth and feel what’s happening around you rather than just glancing over it as we so often do in this busy, busy thing called life. Then simply write a line or two, (or seventeen if you want), showing that observation. Many people participating in the challenge post their small stones on their blog sites each day, (and they are beautiful).

One of the main reasons for writing small stones is to learn to take yourself out of the observation, to see the world around you rather than yourself in it. Although I immediately began writing small stones as soon as I read Estrella’s post, I was a bit reluctant to share them. Because of the Major Life Change I’m experiencing right now, I’m having some difficulty removing myself from the equation (as you will see when you visit my small stones page). While small stones may be intended as a writing exercise, helping us not only to write great description but also to edit, I am currently leaving mine “as is”. In a year or so I want to look back on the raw emotions I’m feeling now and [hopefully] marvel at how far I’ve come.

As I write a small stone each day, I can feel that I am indeed paying more attention to the world around me, rather than the struggles I’m facing inside my own world. In other words, writing the small stones is helping me to heal. And for that, Fiona and Estrella, I Thank You Very Much!

I hope you’ll join the challenge and feel the same healing power that small stones is giving me.

Click here to read my small stones.

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Pour it on chef!

Image via cliparttoday.com
Image via cliparttoday.com

“And here’s your gift,” my boss said, setting a large shaker of salt on my desk. He’d just returned from a trip to San Francisco. Co-workers who’d received t-shirts and coffee mugs were trying hard not to crack up, stupid grins plastered on their faces as if painted there.

I didn’t get it. I looked at my boss cross-eyed. “Salt,” that look asked, “Why do I, the woman who makes sure your work life is smooth as a baby’s bottom, get the cheapest gift?”

He looked like I’d just smacked his hand and sent him to the corner. Apparently a shaker of salt was a lot more important to him than it was to me. He let out a big Uh. “Because you love salt so much!” he said, incredulous that I wasn’t more grateful.

“Oh!” I smiled, picking the glass container up and holding it with both hands as if it were the most precious diamond I’d ever received. “Thank you so much!” I deserved an Oscar for that performance.

I sat the gift on my desk and thought no more of it until, a few weeks later, I picked it up to pour some salt on my fries and realized it was nearly half empty. “Wow,” I thought, “I guess I really do like salt.” I was touched then, truly grateful my boss had taken the time to notice such a seemingly small habit. But my next thought was frightening: should I be eating so much salt? Probably not. But did I try to cut back? No, I liked to be able to see the snow on my food.

In the twelve years since my cholesterol numbers have always been idea and my blood pressure only increases when I’m having a fibromyalgia flare. Yes, now and then I’ve felt I probably should cut back on my salt intake, despite those “good” numbers, but it’s such a hard habit to break!

Then I found this article: Salt, healthy? Why it might no longer be Public Enemy Number 1 on Reader’s Digest, and felt I’d been handed a clean bill of health. The article, written by Gary Taubes, argues that government recommendations for sodium intake are not only low, they’re most likely too low, and that we should all be consuming more salt than we are:

“…the evidence from studies published over the past two years actually suggests that restricting salt can increase our likelihood of dying prematurely.”

Because of the USDA’s and the CDC’s counsel, the average person takes in too little sodium to flush out the necessary amount of renin, (stored by our kidneys), which increases our risk of heart disease.

Huh……Of course the article ends with an editor’s note to talk to your doctor before either increasing or decreasing your salt intake, (which we should do when considering any change in diet), but because of all the evidence – or lack thereof in this case – I believe I’ll stop worrying about whether or not I should cut back on the salt. After all, it’s proven that worry in itself can increase our blood pressure, so I’m already taking a positive step, right?

The man who gave me the salt shaker has moved on to another company, but I still keep the salt on my desk, and think of him every time I pour it on my lunch.

I encourage you to read Mr. Taube’s article in full (its short) and tell us what you think. Will you too stop worrying so much about your salt intake?

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Change: small word, BIG meaning

Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Change – Such a small word for such a big meaning. We all experience change every day, mostly in small ways that we barely, if ever, even notice. For instance, I use a stapler for work so rarely, (everyone on my team knows it’s a Big Sin to use staples instead of paper clips), that the first time I ran out, a full three years after I started working at the company, it surprised me. The other day, as I was washing dishes, I noticed my hands were much more wrinkled than I’d have sworn they were the day before, yet of course they’d been gradually aging with the rest of my body.

Then there are the sudden Major Life Changes that seem to happen in a split second: after twenty years of loyal service we learn we’re among a hoard of others laid off from work, suddenly finding ourselves without a job; we learn of a close family members’ death; the bank tells us our grace period for our mortgage is up and we’re suddenly homeless…..though there are but a handful of Major Life Changes, there’s a reason they’re called “Major”.

I have always believed things happen for a reason, even though it could be years before we know what that reason is (sometimes we never know). But now I’m a little closer to understanding, or maybe I should say believing, that these changes – both small and large – are not coincidental, that instead they’re ingrained into our “Life Plan” before we ever take our first breath.

Sure, we all see those wrinkles now and then and are mostly unconcerned because we know that aging is inevitable. But how often must we face a Major Life Change? I Googled that, certain there would be an average number per lifespan, but the only results were mainly lists of how often we change careers in our lives, (approximately seven). Apparently Major Life Changes vary from person to person so much there simply isn’t an average number. However, I did find an interesting site on the subject – Manifest Your Potential, which includes articles such as finding your bliss, how to discover yourself, making sense of wisdom, etc. I perused a few of the articles and look forward to learning more.

This is where I am right now: at 43-years-old I’m essentially starting my life all over again and attempting to learn not only what I enjoy about life, (aside from spending time with my sons and writing), but also who I truly am. Although the idea of starting over in general is a bit overwhelming, (to say the least), I am doing my best to view this Major Life Change as an opportunity to “grow into myself”, and I pray I teach my children, through example, that exploring what we enjoy doing, discovering who we really are, can be as exciting as it is frightening, hopefully more so.

If you’re comfortable with sharing, I’d love to know what you feel has been the greatest Major Life Change for you thus far. Whether or not you share specifically what that change was, did it feel like the end of the world only to end up being a blessing in disguise? How do you feel you handled the change: with negativity or as an opportunity to improve your life? Your words of wisdom are encouraged – they may very well help someone who happens to stumble upon this post.

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