Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 31st Challenge

Hi it’s Christina –

Good Morning! I can’t believe it is May 31st! Where is the year going??

Today I have to bring Dani and Bri over to the church for nine. This was supposed to be their Confirmation retreat weekend, but the house where all the prior Confirmation classes went for the retreat was just sold. It is now a private residence and no longer owned by the church. This came as a big surprise to our minister, when he called two weeks ago to confirm their reservation.

Initially they attempted to find another venue, but then Dani suggested a sleep in at the church. Everyone was on board, but then they found out there was a wedding scheduled at the church this weekend (our minister wasn’t doing the service, so he didn’t know about it). With the rehearsal Friday and then the wedding at four o’clock today, the last thing the bride needed was a bunch of teenagers camping out at the church. So, the Confirmation class is having a meeting from nine to one instead of a weekend retreat.

The retreat was a time for them to work on their Confirmation Creeds and to bond with the other kids in their class. The Creeds will be printed in the bulletin next Sunday, and the minister also gives each participant a framed copy of their Creed. It’s sad Dani won’t be able to have the same experience as her brother and sister. I really think the weekend away helped them focus on what being a Christian and what being Confirmed really meant to them personally. I’m sure they’ll do fine with the five hours, but…

Sharon invited me to drive down to Avalon tomorrow with her and Nan, but unfortunately, I have to have Lys at the airport in Philly right smack in the middle of the day. I have to leave here at one so she can arrive an hour early for her four o’clock flight. She is going down to NC to stay with Tyler as he recuperates from minor surgery.

Even though the surgery is really no big deal, when I found out he was going to be there all by himself recovering, I kind of insisted Lys go down and play nurse. It didn’t take much to persuade her to go – just one, “He shouldn’t be by himself. Why don’t you go and stay with him?” and she mentioned it to Tyler’s parents. They were all over it. They felt bad that commitments at work were preventing them from being with him, so they were thrilled Lys wanted to go. They even bought her the plane ticket, which I thought was really sweet, and very generous, of them.

Okay, I have to go and figure something out for these girls for breakfast, so I should run. I hope you have a fabulous day, and happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

It’s a mystery…

As you have probably come to realize, I am never quite satisfied by just visiting a historic site, I need to learn the history and the legends about the site. One such place was the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Legend has it, that when the chapel was built, there was no way for the nuns to get up to the choir loft. A conventional staircase would have taken up too much space in the chapel itself, so it wasn’t feasible, and therefore, if the sisters wanted to get up to the choir loft they would have to do so by using a ladder. For nine days, the sisters prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, to send someone to help them with their problem. On the ninth day, a stranger named Joad arrived at the chapel and began construction on the staircase. When it was completed, he left without saying goodbye or taking any payment for the work he had done.

Several mysteries surround the staircase other than the unknown and vanishing carpenter. First was the staircase appears to defy all laws of physics because it has no central support. Even though sources now debunk this by saying it does have a central support, I don’t think they are taking into consideration the railings were not added to the staircase until almost a decade after it had been built. (Picture what it looked like without all the black ironwork.)

Second, the wood used was not indigenous to the region. Although, it has been determined the wood is pine, since it cannot be tested, experts cannot confirm or deny this claim. The final mystery, is not really a mystery at all. The staircase was originally constructed without using any nails. Any carpenter worth a pound of salt can construct something without using nails.
The sisters believed the mysterious carpenter was St. Joseph who came to help them; and although there are many naysayers out there who want to disprove their claim, I think the nuns’ prayers were answered, even if it wasn’t St. Joseph himself.

I managed to get a whole lot of information down in the ten minutes because I was telling RV about this the other day.

Your Next Challenge is:

Either start or end your story with the following (random line from a random book off my bookshelf):

“She raced up the steps to the entrance of the church.”

You have ten minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count, and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Friday, May 30, 2014

May 30th Challenge

Hi it’s Christina –

A bungalow surrounded
 by McMansions
Good Morning! The initial plan for today was Lys and I were going to drive down to Avalon to pick up a load of stuff from Nan’s house, then turn around and come back home, but plans changed so we won’t be going down.

Nan & Pop's
I have mixed feelings over this change of plans. The Avalon house has meant a lot to my family and me over the years, even though it wasn’t ours. I would have liked to have seen it one last time before it sold; but then again, I’m not so sure the emotional experience of knowing it was the last time I’d be seeing it would be a good thing.

Ice cream on the back porch
Me, Dani, Lys, Beth, Chris
A lifetime of wonderful memories were made in that tiny bungalow on 7th Street. Us sleeping on every available surface, and managing to survive with just one bathroom amongst eleven people. 

Coffee on the back porch before anyone else (except Pop) was up. Watching the otters raid the bait bucket, then dad cursing a blue streak. The kids running out to stand on the picnic table and wave to Miss Avalon. The gulls getting blown up by lightning. 

Adult beverages being consumed in large quantities. Chowing down on clams and crab, which we caught or dug ourselves. Subs from Moran's. Trips to Hoy’s for things we really didn’t need but had to have.
Dad thinking he was funny by spraying the ice-cold hose into the outdoor shower, while we were in there. Watching the guys fight the crazy current, and either banging up the boats or the jet skis, or them getting soaked in a torrential downpour. Kayaking around the creek and laughing so hard we couldn't coordinate the paddles to get back. 

Floaty thingy
Tim, Kyle, Chris
The kids hanging out on that floating thing, then ending up in the water when they tried getting back on the deck. Fishing off the dock. PJ sending Christopher into the drink. Making stepping stones. Bruto coming to visit and begging for cookies. Endless, hysterical games of I'll Buy That. I could go on and on.
The back dock

It's sad seeing that chapter of our lives end, but I wouldn't have traded it for the world. We were incredibly blessed that Sharon and her folks allowed us to share their little slice of heaven.
Train Pop made which ran
under the house

I hope you have a wonderful day, and happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

“It’s the only time in my life when I ever forgot what time it was or what day it was.”

(A quote from Martin Scorsese, in a biography by Peter Brunette. He was talking about a weekend getaway at a friend’s house which turned into a three week visit.)

It was the only time in my life when I ever forgot what time it was, or what day it was. Images flittered through my brain, fragmented, out of sequence. It would have been easier to catch smoke in my hands than to organize my mind.

The last thing I recalled with any certainty was riding my bike. The day was clear and sunny. The breeze through my hair was refreshing. I remembered the distinct smell of Lilacs, so I knew it was mid spring. I was happy and enjoying the ride. Though I was still unclear if the bike ride occurred moments, days, weeks, months or years before my brain became scrambled, it was my last clear memory and I held firmly to it, used it as a building block to reconstruct a timeline in my mind.

I have no idea where I was going with this – I still can’t seem to focus. Sorry.

Your Next Challenge is:

It’s a mystery…

You have ten minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count, and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 29th Challenge

Hi it’s Christina –

Good Morning! Today’s blog is going to be a little different again, because yesterday the world lost an amazing woman. So, the following is a tribute to her.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." (2012)

Dr. Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928, passed away yesterday, at her home in Winston-Salem, NC, at the age of 86.

In 1969, she published a book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which recounted the horrors of her young life. She was basically abandoned by her parents as a toddler, went to live with her grandmother, was raped at age eight, dropped out of school at age fourteen, became the first African-American street car conductor at age sixteen, went back to school, then had a baby three months after graduation. The book was a stark, not holds barred, snapshot of a black girl growing up in a racially tense time, and became an international best seller. Although the book has been banned numerous times, it remains a “must read” requirement for high school students across the country.

Before she was nominated for the National Book Award in 1970, she made a name for herself as a performer. In the mid-50s, she starred in Porgy and Bess. In 1957, she recorded her first album Miss Calypso, and in 1958, she became part of the Harlem Writer’s Guild.

"You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them." (2009)

During the course of her life, she has written numerous plays, television shows and movies, composed music and wrote songs, published seven autobiographies, and, probably what she was most known for, several books of poetry. Although she never attended college herself, she was a professor at Wake Forest University, and had received over thirty honorary degrees.

She was fluent in several languages, worked as an editor for two foreign newspapers, and was even a guest speaker at both President Clinton and President Obama’s inaugurations. After her upbringing, it should come as no surprise her passion lied in civil rights and racial reconciliation; and even though she was known to be difficult at times, she was loved by many. In 2011, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Obama.

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." (2011)

Well Dr. Angelou (as you insisted on being called), you succeeded in your mission; and through your words and example, you inspired countless others to do the same. This world was blessed to have you for eighty-six years, and your legacy will withstand the generations. May you forever entertain your new heavenly audience.

I hope you have a wonderful day, and happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

Friends teach you what you want to know. Enemies teach you what you need to know.

Ominous, yet so very true if you think about it. Who showed you to you were stronger than you thought you were? Probably a bully. Who taught you the depth of love? Probably the person or thing who threatened someone you loved.

If you evaluate who you are today, and look back over your life, you will see it was the various “enemies” you have encountered along the way, who have had the most profound influence. Enemies need not be in the literal sense and come in human form. Enemies could be a hardship, a loss, a disease, a stumbling block which you thought was insurmountable at the time.

Sorry, I guess the tribute took all my inspiration this morning, so ten minutes did not produce very much.

Your Next Challenge is (I’ll tell you tomorrow who the quote was from and what it was in reference to – and no, it was not Maya Angelou):

“It’s the only time in my life when I ever forgot what time it was or what day it was.”

You have ten minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count, and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May 28th Challenge

Hi it’s Christina –

Yeah, I wish my butt looked like that
Good Morning! By the time I finished my blog yesterday, I was so tired, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I did not get much sleep the night before because I couldn’t get comfortable. Somehow I managed to pull a muscle in my butt. Go ahead, get all the chuckles out, I know it’s ridiculous, I’d laugh too if it didn’t hurt so much. I had an hour and a half cushion, so I took advantage and went back to bed.

I got to work with five minutes to spare. We got everything accomplished that RV needed, which is a good thing. It is tough on Tuesdays, because I have to rush out of there so I can get whatever I need done at my house done and then get to my writing group.

In all honesty, I was debating about forgoing last night’s writers’ group, but then a new member, Mary Ellen, texted me and asked if she could hitch a ride. I was still exhausted, and still debating whether I would go or not, when my phone rang. It was Keith, my friend who runs the writing group. He had a
minor emergency, and asked if I was going. I said, “I guess I am now.”

All I wanted to do was go home and take another nap, but now I had to not only wake up enough to drive to and from Princeton, I needed to come up with several writing prompts, find what I did with my sign in sheet, get everything printed out, and then be coherent enough to make half way descent responses to the prompts. I cannot complain though, because this is only the second time, in almost a year, Keith has asked me to fill in for him.

I’ll be honest, I cheated a little. I recycled some of my prompts, as well as a few of my responses, from last year’s blog. I figured the blog was in its infantile stage at that point, so no one in the group would have remembered them, and they didn’t. Thank GOD! The only one I was truly concerned about was Joanne, because she is one of my most faithful blog followers.

We had a pretty good turnout for last night’s group. There were ten of us total, including a brand new person, Lisa. I think Keith is going to be a little bummed he wasn’t there when he sees her name on the roster, because she was one of his former students. She’s a lovely and talented woman, and I hope she continues to come to the group.

I have an early work day today as well as tomorrow, and then right after work today, I absolutely have to go to the grocery store. There is nothing to eat in my house – yup, and adult is saying this not a teenager. I just went shopping, $200 worth of shopping, and still there is nothing to eat in the house. How does this happen? Yes, we have one more resident with Lys being home, but the child eats like a bird, so she can’t be the cause. I don’t get it.

Okay, I still want to straighten up the kitchen before I have to hop in the shower, so I need to get going. I hope you have a great day, and happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

Reluctantly, you agree to a blind date. You meet the person at the restaurant. When you are seated, the waiter makes eye contact with you while he hands you the menu. Pasted inside your menu is a note…

SHOW NO REACTION TO THIS NOTE. Smile and appear to be perusing the menu. You do not know me and have no reason to trust me, but you seriously need to heed my advice. Do not give this man any personal information. Tell him as little about you as possible. Misleading yet believable information would be beneficial. Either make an excuse to end your dinner early, or just make sure he cannot contact you ever again. Do not let him handle anything you eat or drink. If you leave the table, do not eat or drink anything when you return. He is not who he appears to be, and he is extremely dangerous.

Charlene swallowed hard, then pasted a smile on her face and peaked over her menu, “It all looks so good. Can you recommend anything?”

“Both the steak and the seafood are exceptional, and their wine list is beyond reproach.  I am particularly fond of their Chianti.”
Charlene let out a nervous chuckle, “As long as you’re not paring it with fava beans, I guess I’m safe.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Your Next Challenge is (one from last night, but there was a choice of three different prompts, and I didn’t choose this one):

Friends teach you what you want to know. Enemies teach you what you need to know.

You have ten minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count, and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 27th Challenge

Hi it’s Christina –

Sunscreen burn on
Dani's knee
Good Morning! So, did everyone have a nice Memorial Day weekend? We did, and we couldn’t have asked for a better one weather wise either! Saturday we had clouds and showers on and off all day, but Sunday and Monday were absolutely perfect; a little too perfect for Dani though.

She spent Sunday and Monday out at her friend Courtney’s pool, and she’s a bit of a lobster at the moment. She did try using sunscreen, but she’s allergic to some, not all. The one they had at Courtney’s caused a reaction, so she couldn’t use it. She sent me a text, but I had left my phone in the car, so I didn’t see it or I would have run some over to her.

I wish we could figure out what it is in sunscreen that causes the reaction, so we could avoid it. It’s not like we can just find a brand that works and stick to it either, because they all seem to change their formulas slightly; so one that was fine last season, may react this season. It’s funny, well not for Dani but, the reaction she gets from sunscreen mimics a sunburn. Wherever she applies the lotion or spray, it gets red and has a burning sensation within a few minutes. Now we have to trial and error until we find one that will work for her this year.

Lys & Tyler going to
Tyler's birthday dinner
Remember I told you we were going to my girlfriend Sharon’s house on Sunday? Well, we did. I got the beans and the macaroni salad finished, but I, well, I should say Lys – she’s back from her visit to Tyler’s, didn’t get the cream cheese brownies done until yesterday. It wasn’t a big deal because Sunday night’s dessert was s’mores cooked around this season’s first bonfire.

It was a crystal clear night, with a ton of stars – well, as much of a “ton” as we can get in Jersey, which is nothing like what you folks in the Midwest get. Why couldn’t Friday night have been like that, so we could have seen the meteor shower?

Sharon had two friends from Pennsylvania, Wendy and Brian, visiting for the weekend, and the three of them tackled various projects which needed to be done around Sharon’s house. Maybe “needed” isn’t the correct word, “liked” is probably better, because check out this project they worked on.

How cool is that? Wendy saw it on Pintrest, and made one for herself and for her mother-in-law. Then she showed the photo to Sharon, and Sharon fell in love with the idea. Wendy explained how it was done, and I’m thinking I may be making one or two of my own. My house is red with white shutters, so, although adorable, the blue and yellow combination won’t work for me; but I was thinking maybe red, white and blue would. Since one of my shepherd’s hooks mysteriously disappeared so I couldn’t hang my matching pots by the front door, I thought one of these on each side of my porch would look nice. Stay tuned, it may or may not get done for this season.

Croquet - Nan, Wendy and me in the
Yesterday, we went back to Sharon’s. Her mom, “Nan”, her brother Kenny, and his wife Daryl were there as well, and we had a traditional Memorial Day picnic with hamburgers, hot dogs, potato, macaroni and pasta salads, deviled eggs and beans. After lunch we had a rousing game of croquet. Nan, the reigning croquet shark, came in dead last, which was unprecedented. Lys, who has only played once before, won the game. It was a relatively tame game, as no one sent anyone else’s ball.

After Kenny, Daryl, Wendy and Brian left, the remaining six of us sat down to a game of “I’ll buy that” (sort of similar to Florida or Liverpool Rummy, or Toonerville Rook), a favorite card game whenever we get together. I am happy to report, I finished in the middle of the pack for that game as well. Lys won and my husband lost. Yesterday was Lys’ day for winning.

Well, I now need to be at work two hours earlier than I was originally supposed to be, so I should get going. I hope you have a marvelous Monday, and happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

Icy fingers grabbed my wrist in the darkness…

My friend Annemarie has been on my case forever about getting back into shape. I have put on a few pounds, and my sedentary job has caused me to go rather flabby, but I hated to exercise. I would rather poke needles into my eyes then step foot in a gym. So, Annemarie is always trying to come up with fun creative ways to get my butt into gear.

We’ve gone for numerous strolls on the beach, a flower scavenger hunt through the preserve, a dance flash mob appearance in the mall, a Zumba class at the local library, and this evening, an energetic game of Frisbee in the park.
We’d been at it for almost an hour, and it was starting to get dark, but Annemarie insisted on ten more minutes. Reluctantly, I agreed. Her very next throw went a bit wild, and even though I jumped, the Frisbee soared over my head and landed in the wood twenty feet behind me.

I yell to Annemarie, “Lord help you if I get poison ivy,” and then I trudged into the woods to retrieve our Frisbee. The light was already dim, and under the canopy of trees, it was almost completely dark. Thankfully the Frisbee was neon orange, or I would never have been able to spot it for it was partially obscured by a bush. As I bent down and reached under the shrub to retrieve my errant toy, icy fingers grabbed my wrist.

Your Next Challenge is:

Reluctantly, you agree to a blind date. You meet the person at the restaurant. When you are seated, the waiter makes eye contact with you while he hands you the menu. Pasted inside your menu is a note…

You have ten minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count, and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Monday, May 26, 2014

May 26th Challenge

Hi it’s Christina –

Good Morning! Today is Monday, May 26th, 2014, Memorial Day in America. A day we have set aside to honor the men and woman who gave all for their country, the men and women whose sacrifices enable us to live the lives we lead. We celebrate with parades and memorial services, proudly displayed flags, and family barbeques. Memorial Day also signals the unofficial start of summer. Because of my inclination toward writing historical fiction, I decided to do a little research on the origins of Memorial Day here, and as to how other countries commemorate their fallen

In this country, Memorial Day started as a way to remember the fallen from the Civil War, a bloody war fought between 1861 – 1865, which pitted friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor, and even brother against brother. It was a war which divided our nation, the North against the South, over the issue of slavery. In the end, roughly three quarters of a million men lost their lives. Unfortunately, war did not end in 1865, and Memorial Day was expanded to
honor those who died in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, The Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq, and all other military conflicts over the past 150 years which resulted in loss of life.

In Great Britain, France and Canada they celebrate Armistice Day (we call it Veteran’s Day), in November. They call it Remembrance Sunday, and it is celebrated on Sunday closest to November 11th, the day the Germans signed the armistice ending WWI. (Canadians celebrate on the 11th, not the
nearest Sunday.)

Italy’s Memorial Day is also celebrated in November. Nigeria did as well, but they changed it to January. South Korea celebrates on June 6th, the month the Korean War began. Australia and New Zealand have April 25th set aside, and all of these countries call it a variation of “Armed Forces Day”. In Turkey, March 18th is dubbed Martyr’s Day, which is the anniversary date for victory against the Allied troups during the Gallipoli Campaign. February 23rd is Protector of the Motherland Day in Russia.

I’m sure every country across the globe has a day set aside to honor their fallen warriors. Even though we may not agree on the ideology of other countries, paying respect to those who defended their country, is right. (Please do not think I am not saying I hold a US Marine on the same pedestal as another country holds their suicide bombers; just that we should all honor those who served.)

I am still nowhere near finished with my editing. I’m not exactly sure why, but this one is taking an inordinate amount of time. I can’t seem to focus, and end up rereading over and over again. I think I took the project on too soon after the last one, and I still haven’t recovered. I feel bad because I was so looking forward to this edit because I read, and loved, the prequel.

Oh well, time to put my nose to the grindstone. I hope you have a blessed day, and happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

Who says you’re too old for…

Who says you’re too old for…well, just about anything? Is there a specific age I’m supposed to give up the teddy bear my husband gave me when I was seventeen, or my love for Tigg’r? Has there been a proclamation that, because I am now forty eight years old, I should no longer enjoy roller coasters or running through a sprinkler on a hot day?

Now, I fully admit, for me personally, I am too old to be turning cartwheels, but that is purely due to back problems and not a lack of desire. If you are seventy years old, and can still do a cartwheel, well then, God bless you! Remember the story I told you about my great aunt who taught me how to double Dutch when she was in her late eighties? I doubt anyone would have had the nerve to tell Aunt Eddie she was too old to do anything.

What gives someone else the right to say you are too old for something? Do you think anyone is telling septuagenarian Raquel Welch she’s too old to wear a bikini? I think not. Here’s the skinny folks, only you should determine what you are too old for, and no one else. So go enjoy some cotton candy or a lollipop, go bicycle along the boardwalk, go enjoy a puppet show; life is too short to worry about what others think you should or shouldn’t be doing at your age.

Your Next Challenge is:

Icy fingers grabbed my wrist in the darkness…

You have ten minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count, and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 25th Challenge

Hi it’s Christina –

Good Morning! Even though I slept in, I have been up for four hours now, and have managed to get little accomplished. I did do a grocery run, so that’s something at least. We are going over to my friend Sharon’s today, and she asked if I would make baked beans. Sure, no problem, it’s just I didn’t have anything in the house to make baked beans.

No big deal, off to the store; but then I think, since we’re going back on Monday as well, I should probably do more than make baked beans, so I picked up the stuff to make macaroni salad, and the stuff to make cream cheese brownies.

Then I noticed soda was on sale for $1 per two liter bottle. Well, with two big parties coming up, I thought it would be smart to pick it up now, while it was on sale.

I figure if I get the stuff slowly over the next twelve days, it won’t be so stressful. Folks should be getting their invites on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I’m sure some of them will offer to bring something, so by next weekend, I should be able to get my brain around everything, and be able to figure out which blanks I’ll need to fill in for both parties.

Okay, the house won’t be quiet for much longer, so I should get some more editing done. I hope you have a super day, and happy writing!

Your Last Challenge was:

Cassiopeia was an odd duck; but then again, who wouldn’t be, saddle with a name like that, in this day and age.

Good grief. Well, I guess there’s a first for everything. I am drawing a total blank for this prompt. I thought it would be a good one, but I’ve got nothing. Well, maybe not nothing. Random thoughts of a mousy, quiet, bookish girl, without many friends, but other than that, it’s a total blank. The name I chose was a character from a show I LOVED from the late seventies, early eighties – Battlestar Galactica. Cassiopeia was the sister of Apollo, played by Richard Hatch, who I had a serious teen crush on. All of my other friends were in lust with Starbuck, played by Dirk Benedict, but not me. I fell for the hunky brunette.

Oh well. Hopefully tomorrow’s challenge will yield better results.

Your Next Challenge is:

Who says you’re too old for…

You have ten minutes (be honest). There is no right or wrong, just write. Spelling and punctuation don’t count, and NO ONE is allowed to criticize what someone else has written. Go.