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Monday Musings ~ February 8

February 8, 2016

Happy Monday!

candy hearts

1.February always seems like the shortest month. True, it is the shortest month with only has 28 days (29 this year). But with the President’s Day weekend coming up, it feels like the month is nearly over. And it’s not even Valentine’s Day yet! Speaking of the holiday of love, I may attempt to bake this cake for Valentine’s Day dessert. Doesn’t it look amazing?! I LOVE her blog and cookbook, by the way!

2. What time of day does your creative inspiration hit you? I am constantly inspired to write when I should be going to bed. Case in point: I am currently drafting this blog post at midnight. Before that, a scene for my novel popped into my head and I had to stop and write seven pages. And now the adrenaline is flowing and I have to be up and awake in less than seven hours. It’s really too bad my creative Muse doesn’t strike at 6 a.m. when it would be way more convenient. Hashtag: Night Owl problems!

3. Sophie is in the midst of selling Girl Scout cookies for the first time. I thought a modest goal would be 50 boxes (which she already hit). But apparently she felt inspired to sell 3,000 boxes to win a Nikon camera. I’d like to point out that was more than Troop Beverly Hills’ Wilderness Girls attempted to sell. Not sure if that pipe dream will happen, but I admire her determination to drag out the rusty Radio Flyer red wagon (from my childhood), fill it with boxes of Thin Mints, Trefoils and the like, and pound the pavement.

4. I want to print out all of these colorful photos and hang them on my walls. In fact, I just may do that.

5. I’m having a hard time finding a book that I really love reading. I’ve been trying to get through my huge TBR stack of books; and in doing so, I tend to start a book and when I find myself getting bored by it, I add it to the “donate” bag and start something new (because life’s too short to read a boring book). I just want to find a story I can get lost in reading. Part of this is complicated by the fact that I’m reading The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks for my novel writing class. This is a great novel, but I’m the type of person who can’t read more than one book at once. So maybe when I finish that novel, I’ll settle into something awesome. What are you reading these days?

6. Let’s talk about the elephant in the television room right now, which is the new season of The X Files. Those of you who know me and have been reading my blog for a while know that I’m not a big fan of SciFi or paranormal movies and television shows. But Bryan and I decided to watch the new episodes of The X Files because we watched the old ones together years ago. Let me say that we couldn’t get through the first few episodes. The dialogue between Mulder and Scully is SO forced and bad! And the plots and acting are campy and cheesy. It feels like such a disappointment, especially because David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are fantastic actors.

So having said that, here are my questions: Is it just me that feels this way? Was The X Files always like this? Or does it seem bad because we’re now used to a much higher caliber of television drama (The Killing, Homeland, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, etc.)? If you’re watching, please tell me your thoughts!

What’s going on in your life? Tell me what you’re musing about this week!

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Anne Frank, the Holocaust, History and Heritage: An Evening Conversation With Sophie

February 2, 2016

Every day at school, Sophie picks out a book from the classroom library. Lately she’s been interested in the “Who Was” biography series for kids. She’s gone through Harry Houdini, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Rosa Parks and several others. The other day she picked up the biography of Anne Frank.

“Mom, who was Anne Frank?” Sophie asked, later that evening.

Sophie is familiar with parts of history, including the two world wars. She knows that during that period — when her great grandparents were alive — the country of Germany was ruled by a cruel dictator that hated many groups of people. She knows that parts of the world treated her Jewish ancestors poorly. She knew about a man named Hitler who wanted Jews and other groups of people out of the country (thank you to the Who Was Albert Einstein? book for explaining that concept). But I’ve never before explained the Holocaust to Sophie.

Anne Frank Diary

Photo credit: Angie via Flickr Creative Commons

I went on to tell her the story of Anne Frank. She was a young girl who lived in Holland during World War II. She kept a diary and liked to write. She was Jewish. Her family tried to escape being taken prisoner by the Nazis by hiding in an attic. A kind and brave Catholic Dutch woman helped Anne and her family survive for two years. The diary is Anne’s words about her life before and during the attic. Years after the war ended, Anne’s father, Otto, published her diary.

Of course Sophie asked the inevitable question: What happened to Anne?

I explained that her family was discovered in the attic. They were taken to a concentration camp where prisoners were taken, and she died in the camp. We both cried as I talked about her fate. Although Anne died of typhus, I did not talk about the manner in which so many others were killed in concentration camps. I did not mention gas chambers and ovens. She’s still too young to comprehend that (I still have a hard time comprehending that).

Choking back tears, Sophie said perhaps she shouldn’t read Who Was Anne Frank? because it sounded too sad. But I encouraged her to read it and learn about Anne’s story because it’s an important part of history – especially our history – and her story needs to be told. This is how people and circumstances are remembered, I said (and hopefully not happen again). And despite her capture and death, I explained that Anne was very much a brave soul and she believed in the good in the world.

I then pulled from the bookshelf my tattered old copy of Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. My parents gave me my copy of this book when I was a few years older than Sophie. I gave the diary to Sophie who looked as if she was holding a treasure.

She had a million questions:

Is this her writing? Did she speak another language? If she spoke Dutch, how is this written in English? Is this what she looked like? How old was she when she wrote this? How many copies of her book were made? Where did her dad find the diary?

Sophie then asked about my intention in giving her the diary.

“Are you passing this book along to me?” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

“And then I’ll pass it along to my daughter,” she said. “I hope when I have a daughter, she will want to be Jewish too.”

“It’s what you share with her that will help her decide what to believe and how she will want to live her life,” I said.

I then watched Sophie stare at the book and glide her hands slowly across the cover. Our conversation that evening about Anne Frank reminded me why we tell these stories, share books, and talk about the pieces of our heritage — no matter how painful they are.

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Monday Musings ~ January 25

January 25, 2016

Happy Monday!

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1. The photo is intended to illustrate that I’m keeping up with one of my 2016 goals of working on my novel. I’m going into week three of a novel-writing class with Amy Wallen. The curriculum includes bringing in eight pages of my novel for read-and-critique, and the end goal is writing the book’s final chapter. This will keep me particularly challenged seeing as I only have the novel’s concept and two pages actually written. But hey, I need a deadline to drive me, so bring it on (I think)!

2. Only a few months ago did I start listening to Spotify, which I realize makes me incredibly late to this music game. I’m particularly loving the Spotify Coffeehouse Blend. What are your favorite playlists on Spotify?

3. These 31 rare photos of world history are INCREDIBLE! Look at #10 to see the original voice cast of the Peanuts. Numbers 29, 30 and 31 = haunting!

4. In an interview with NPR, Andrew Keen, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author of The Internet is Not the Answer, essentially says the Interwebs is pretty much ruining the middle class, artists and small businesses. He makes some really great points. But I must admit that when I decided to include this blurb in my Musings, I had to Google  “NPR interview on Friday morning about Internet” because I had no idea his name or that of his book. So, score one for the Internet.

5. I’ve said before that I’m not a big keeper of things. Yet even though I don’t have an issue with clutter, this list of 200 things to throw away has items that hadn’t even crossed my mind. My plan is to go through the list, taking one item each day, and tossing (or donating) it. Who’s with me?

6. Further evidence to suggest many couples sleep better when they’re not next to each other (especially when you have a lark-owl situation going on). This particular article explains the origins of sleeping together in a single bed.

7. What are you watching on television these days? I started season two of Broadchurch, which I think is even more compelling than season one. We’re also liking Billions (despite my dislike of Brody). And of course, I’m happy Law & Order: SVU is back with new episodes.

8. Last, but not least, I learned so much about how personality impacts writing from this Writer Unboxed piece on tension vs. energy. Fascinating:

What is more comfortable for you to write, feelings or action? … The answer predicts what we’ll mostly find on your pages but also what we mostly won’t. …  Human beings can be broken into two broad psychological categories: those who store tension and those who store energy. Those things may sound the same but they’re not. People who store tension turn inward. Those who store energy turn outward. The first group ponders, reflects, thinks and feels. The latter group acts.

I am definitely a storer of tension, and tend toward writing feelings. Super helpful to remind me to keep my stories action-focused as well.

What’s going on in your life? Tell me what you’re musing about this week!

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The Day the Apple Computer Changed My Life

January 19, 2016

“Mom, who exactly is Steve Jobs?” Sophie asked as we were watching the Golden Globe Awards.

“He’s the man who invented Apple,” I said. “All the computers, the iPhone, iPad … Steve Jobs came up with the first Apple computer and everything else followed.”

This month marks 33 years since the Apple IIe home computer made its debut. I was Sophie’s age – 8 years old – and like her, I’d never heard of the name Steve Jobs either. While it would be years – decades, really – until I knew there even existed a man named Steve Jobs, not long after did learn of a device named the Apple computer.

Later that year, my father took me on an important errand. We were buying our family’s first home computer.

“Is it like a typewriter?” I asked my dad, barely even sure what a computer was as an 8-year-old kid growing up in the early 1980s.

It’s so much more than a typewriter, dad said. If you made a mistake typing, the paper was ruined saved for correct tape or white out. But with a computer – ah! – You can draft everything on a screen and correct as you go. Then you print it all out later when it’s perfect. I should point out this is the explanation from the man who (until several years ago) drafted every email, letter and document by hand before the words even made their way to a keyboard and computer. But dad recognized innovation when he saw it, and he knew the personal computer was the future.

apple iieDad and I made our way to a computers equipment store and picked out our Apple IIe, the top of the line in home computing back in 1983. The next stop was Egghead Software where we would pick out a few floppy disc programs and games to play on said computer.

Soon the mysterious machine was set up and ready to use (although none of us really knew what we were supposed to do with it). Dad also decided that day was the opportune time for me to watch War Games, the movie that left him in awe in the theater. Like dad, I love the movie too, and it inspired me to use the new computer even more. War Games is still a favorite of mine to this day.

Over the years that followed, my sisters and I took turns playing games on it. Our favorite was the old-school version of Oregon Trail, where we’d speculate who would die of dysentery first. There was also Math Blaster and Gertrude’s Secrets. (Anyone remember that goose?). Later came a typing wizard program that dad bought to help me master my typing skills. I hated that game, but I suppose I should thank him for making me use it.

Once the dot-matrix printer came home, PrintMaster and PrintShop became a staple in our house. Every day a new banner or sign would line the inside of the house. I of course had very important reasons for using PrintShop, such as my soon-to-be-formed Summer Sticker Club and other such important projects.

Eventually we traded up for the IIc and the Macintosh, and the color printer that was like nothing I ever imagined. Soon middle and high school papers were typed and saved on the computer. And when I went to college, I was one of the fortunate few who had a computer so I could write term papers in the comfort of my dorm room rather than the library (also making my room a popular spot among friends).

It’s interesting to reflect back to the first time I met the little Apple icon and personal technology entered my life as an 8-year-old. Such a stark contrast to the Apple being in Sophie’s world for as long as she can remember. Today, of course, technology is a part of everything. Sophie will never experience the excitement of bringing home the first family computer because multiple machines have been in the house her entire life.

It’s a strange feeling, realizing that for kids and young adults today, there’s an absence of wonder with respect to technology. But such is the way the world changes. And while I certainly don’t want to stop technology from evolving, I’ll always remember with fondness the day my dad took me on an errand that –  quite literally – changed my life.

What was your first experience with technology?

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Monday Musings ~ January 11

January 11, 2016

Happy Monday! Here’s a snap of a post-El Niño rain day. I love the feeling right after the rain stops … the crisp smell, feeling of the cold air, water on the ground, the calm and quiet.

after the rain

1. Who watched the Golden Globe Awards last night? As usual, the only award-winning movie I saw last year was “Inside Out.” But at least now I have a list of movies to soon watch on Amazon Video. I do have one burning question: How is it that “The Martian” receives multiple wins in the musical/comedy category? Also, has anyone seen “Joy” — is it good? It looks promising, but I can’t tell if that’s just because of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

2. Let’s talk about Oprah and this Weight Watchers deal. Anyone else feel like she’s being a bit hypocritical saying that our happiness is hiding in a thin body? I’m not knocking Weight Watchers or the desire to lose weight. It just seems like a total 180 from what she’s preached all these years about living your best life and self empowerment.

3. I mentioned last week we finished watching “Making a Murder.” This article on the series — best one yet! It’s like Mean Tweets meets “Making a Murderer.”  You’re welcome!

4. I took the Definitive 25 Question Introvert Type Test. I’m the Champion, which apparently is 3% of the population. What are you?

5. Interesting read about the lack of female characters in children’s books. A few years ago, I wrote a children’s picture book with a young girl as the main character. I queried it to several agents and it was never accepted. And in a writing class I took about children’s book success, the instructor told me I should make the protagonist an animal because animal characters are “gender neutral.” I understand that, but I wasn’t about to rewrite my story in order to market to the masses and commercial success. So I’m glad to see this issue written about in a publication like The Washington Post.

6. Why is everyone obsessed with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? Is this the sort of book that will never resonate with me because I have no problem throwing away and donating countless items in my house?

What’s going on in your life? Tell me what you’re musing about this week!

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