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Sunday, March 31, 2013

New & Exciting!!

Well, it's been a while since I've talked about myself...okay, okay. I always talk about myself, but what I mean is, it's been a while since I've talked about my work. But since there are so many new things going on in my world right now, I'm going to take this opportunity to tell you about them, because, well...they're pretty awesome :) But if you bear with me, you'll see there's a prize at the end!!

First, I have to tell you all about my newest endeavor with the fantastic Ava Stone. We've started a weekly show called Romance Ramblings, where the two of us get together and dish about our personal lives and our writing lives in a short ten(ish)-minute episode. I know you're all itching to see it, so here it is for your viewing pleasure... ;)

But that's not all that's new these days...

Project #2 is Timeless Quills: Timeless Collection -- a fantastic compilation of full-length historical romance novels, including one by moi,  and also including ones by several other Lady Scribes! Oh, and did I mention you get all 6 full-length novels for just $0.99??? That's right! You kind of can't beat it :)

Visit the following retailers to get yours now:
Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Smashwords

And then...

For those who have been wondering what happens to poor Thomas Barclay, you don't have to wait much longer! The Stage Bride, book 3 in the Daring Debutantes series, will be out later this month! Pop over to my website, www.jerricasplace.com, to sign up for my newsletter so you know when it's hitting the shelves! And if you don't know who Thomas Barclay is at all, well, then, may I suggest you start at the beginning??

Alright, alright, enough about me! Let's talk about YOU! Share something new and exciting in your life these days and I'll choose THREE lucky commenters to get a free download of the Timeless Quills: Timeless Collection! Just leave your email address along with your comment so I can contact you should you win :) And THANK YOU, dear readers, for indulging me today!

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Comfort Zone

I love when I am surprised by a book. I tend to read in my comfort zone, or at least I have been lately. If it doesn't follow my strict parameters, then I usually put it back on the shelf and walk away. 

Which is awful

Since I recognize how limiting that is, I have recently joined a book club. I'm hoping since there are about ten of us, and each one gets to choose a book to read, that I will be forced to broaden my horizons. The first book we are reading is The Shoemaker's Wife. It's Edwardian/pre-WWI and I have high hopes for it, based on the raving of my friend.

Occasionally I will buy or borrow a book that is out of my comfort zone. I borrowed I Am Legand from the library last week, thinking it would do just that, since the movie can only be called post-apocalypse horror. I do not ever read that genre. It's so not my thing. I get nightmares very easily. So I was really surprised when I started reading and the book was mostly in the main character's head, and very existential. It wasn't at all what I was expecting. Oddly, I'm a little disappointed by that. I was bracing for the scary stuff and telling myself I was so, so brave

Another book that surprised me lately was Marko Kloos's debut novel Terms of Enlistment. I bought it because I like to be supportive of new authors who I am acquainted with (through Twitter) and because the blurb looked interesting. But it's science fiction, sort of futuristic military, and I didn't think I'd really enjoy it. 

But I did. I really, really did.

If you want an example of how to build a fiction world for your characters that sucks the reader in, and unloads massive amounts of vital info while making it sound like you guys are just shooting the bull while having a beer, go get this book. The sheer volume of detail was amazing, especially because I have no idea how Mr. Kloos kept it all straight. A notebook? A data base? A vault full of house elves filing his notes? 

And it was fascinating. By all rights, I should have been asleep by the the sixth chapter that described his experience in boot camp and the army, but I was glued to my Kindle. Seriously. I read the whole novel in two sittings.

Anyway, the book took me by surprise and made me a big fan. It reminded me of why I devoured Anne MacCaffery's Pern and Rowan/Damia novels. Relatable people in extraordinary situations. Not only am I eager for the next book in what I'm told by Mr. Kloos is to be a trilogy, but I've rediscovered my old love for science fiction and fantasy. I'm thinking about digging out my worn copy of The Rowan and rereading it. Maybe this weekend. 

Have you had a book take you by surprise? One that, even though it wasn't in your "comfort zone", you couldn't put it down? Do you have any recommendations for us?  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

When Reality TV Gets Too Real

I do not attempt to hide the fact that I'm a reality TV junkie. It's just part of who I am. I watch the competition shows like Project Runway and Top Chef (and please, can someone bring back Rock Star???), the adventure shows like The Amazing Race, and even the back-stabbing, conniving shows like Big Brother and Survivor.

In fact, it's that last grouping of shows that I am really drawn to. Why? They take real people (though there could be an argument made that many of them are real characters portraying real people) and place them into unreal circumstances, and then just sit and wait for the drama to take place. These kinds of shows give me great inspiration for characters to write, because they're over the top and they spark a reaction in the audience. It isn't always a good reaction...but they always get a reaction. For me, it's a great escape because it is all so very unreal that I can't help but forget about the troubles of my own life, at least for a bit.

One summer on Big Brother, a man came on named Dick Donato, aka Evel Dick. He looks like a tattooed biker, but underneath it all, he was trying to repair his relationship with his daughter. He had a soft side, and if you were watching the show at home you could see it, and feel for him...but if you were in the Big Brother house with him? All you knew was he was the crazy guy who was waking the whole house up by banging on pots and pans as loud as he could, trying to get all the attention on him so his daughter could slip under the radar. It worked. He and his daughter somehow got all the way to the final two, and he won the half million dollars at the end because his strategy of making everyone hate him was brilliant. I don't know that he made much headway with his daughter through it all though...

A few years ago, Survivor brought on one of the greatest characters ever to grace the island. Not great in a heroic sense. Great in an OMG-he-really-didn't-just-do-that-but-wait-no-he-really-did sense. Russell Hantz didn't care who he lied to, who he stabbed in the back, whose socks he burned, whose water he dumped out--despite the fact that he was just-this-side of certifiable, none of that mattered. All that mattered was getting to the end of the game, because he was sure that if he managed to get to the end after doing all those things, no one would be able to deny him the million dollar prize.

He was wrong.

Twice, in fact. He was so much fun to watch, waiting to see what devious trick would come to his mind next, that the show's producers brought him back for the very next season, where he did the same exact thing. His third time back, the other contestants had seen his antics, and they decided not to be fooled. They got rid of him early.

Those two guys make these shows fun to watch. No, they wouldn't be much fun to live with. But that's what is brilliant about reality TV. You live with them for an hour on your TV screen each week, and then they go away.

But sometimes, those people go a little too far.

The aforementioned sock-burning, water-dumping Russell Hantz had a brother named Willie who was cast on Big Brother. The producers, no doubt, were hoping to capitalize on the Hantz name. They surely hoped that Willie would also reside just-this-side of certifiably crazy, so he could wreak havoc in the Big Brother house like Evel Dick had done. Well, it turned out that Willie was on the other side of that line, and he assaulted another house guest, and he was forced to leave the show.

The reality TV folks didn't stop there, though. Russell and Willie have a nephew named Brandon Hantz. Brandon went on Survivor, and was determined to change the image of the Hantz family. He didn't. He only proved that most of the Hantzes belong on the other side of that line with his Uncle Willie. One minute, he was on top of the world. The next he was crying. Then he was fighting down his lust/anger/whatever strong emotion he was experiencing, barely holding on to reality. He had no business being put in that situation.

Brandon was so emotionally unstable while he was out on the island, I was shocked when I heard he was coming back for another season. How could the producers allow him to return? Was he psychologically capable of handling the pressure of the game? I didn't believe it.

But he supposedly passed their tests, and he was brought back to the show for the current season, and he seemed as emotionally imbalanced as he had been before. Maybe even more so.

Then on the episode that aired two weeks ago, I knew that he should never have been allowed back. He got upset, which wasn't unexpected. Because he was upset, he dumped out all the rice and beans that his entire tribe had to eat, throwing the containers viciously away from him. It was like he was trying to channel his uncle Russell, but when Russell dumped the water or burned the socks, it wasn't in anger or frustration--it was a planned, strategic move.

It didn't end there, though. When they went to their next challenge, there was a huge confrontation between him and his tribe. Thank goodness the show's host separated Brandon from the others, because the look in Brandon's eyes, the rapid breathing, the inability to hold still...I've seen all of things before. The host kept Brandon away and calmed him down before he became physically violent. But he was right on the edge. I know. I've been on the receiving end of that sort of anger--not from Brandon Hantz, but from people I care deeply about.

That moment on a silly little reality TV show left me shaking, my pulse sky high, for hours after watching it. It got too real, delving away from the delightful unreality that they normally provide and taking me (and I'm sure others) back to unpleasant moments from my past. It's made me think hard about whether I want to continue watching, because the show that was supposed to provide me with my escape did anything but. Not only that, but it felt exploitative of Brandon Hantz. If he was so unstable the first time, why would they ever ask him to return?

Just writing about it makes me feel like I need to go watch a happy Disney movie again.

Are there certain TV shows or types of shows you avoid because of how close they come to the real world? Do you avoid certain movies/books/etc. for the same reason? Any suggestions on a new reality TV show I can watch that won't send my heart into palpitations?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Goodbye Hello

I’m sure you’re familiar with the adage that you shouldn’t compare your children, or what about comparing your house to your neighbors, or your wealth to your best friends. The point is comparisons more often than not leave you wanting or pining for something you don’t have or maybe did have at one time but no longer do.

Last summer, our beloved family cat Gandalf died. If you are a close friend of mine, or a relative then you will know I had an adore/dislike relationship with my cat. I loved him many times, but he irritated me when he would do things like claw my furniture, or claw under the beds, or get stuck inside of a massive stereo speaker that my husband refused to get rid of.

Toward the end of Gandalf’s life he was very sick and his sickness was messy. I’ll say no more because really it would turn your stomach. I thought, mistakenly, that I would be glad when he finally departed. After all, I would no longer have to chase him off tables, bars, away from breakfast, lunch and dinner plates, and the hair would no longer have to be swept up on a daily basis. I swore, near the end of his life, that I would never get another animal again.

I was wrong about so many things.

When Gandalf died I cried like a baby. I was profoundly struck by just how much of a part of our family he was. He was that annoying relative who you love to complain about but would really miss if he was gone. I was even more surprised by how upset my kids were over the cat’s death. Sometimes, months later, they would just start crying and say how much they missed Gandalf.

Yet I didn’t really appreciate what a fine cat he was until my kids finally broke me down and talked me into getting another cat. Several weeks ago, we came home from the Rescue Society with a beautiful, three year old cat named Cupcake. Don’t let the sugary name fool you.

To our surprise, we learned rather quickly that not all cats will let you pet them whenever you want to. Not all cats like to be held like a baby. Not all cats don’t mind two young children charging around the house, playing drums, guitars, and the piano and shooting Nerf guns with their friends.

I have found myself over the last several weeks comparing Cupcake to Gandalf quite a few times, and I realized that Gandalf was really a super chill cat and Cupcake is not chill. She’s skittish and is not afraid to swat at you if she doesn’t like the way you approach her to pet her. Cupcake is playful for the allotted time of one hour a day that she feels like playing, instead of frisky all the time like Gandalf was. And Cupcake will hide the minute the noise level gets too loud.

However, because I remembered the adage of not comparing children or making sure if you do to see the unique things both kids bring to the table, I started thinking about all the ways Cupcake is different that are great. Cupcake never bolts! What a miracle. You had to shimmy out of our door when Gandalf was alive to make sure he didn’t try and escape his human prison.

Cupcake does claw, but she actually stops the minute you say ‘no Cupcake’. Cupcake has the loudest, most soothing purr on earth. You needed a microphone to hear Gandalf’s purr. Yet the best thing about Cupcake is what she has reminded me about―not all animals or humans are alike, and it is up to each of us to find the good and likeable things in them. And as a bonus, Cupcake is really helping to teach my kids about earning trust and patience. They’ve had to work to get her to let them pet her, and they have to work to keep her trust. What a great lesson to learn that trust takes work and continuous effort and is not always just given.
So I have officially said goodbye to Gandalf, though he will always have a place in my heart as the worst mouse catcher ever! And hello to Cupcake―the cat with capital S sass.

Have you ever gotten a new pet that you ended up comparing with an old one?

Have a great day!
Julie, The Marchioness of Mayhem

*Image credit belongs to: photo credit: Tjflex2 via photopin cc

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kids Today

Last Saturday, my almost 9 year old daughter had a birthday party (her real birthday is actually on Easter this year, hence the "almost 9"). And let me tell you: Oh what a difference a year makes!

For her eighth birthday, she wanted everything that was Pink! Sparkly! Girlie!. Easy-peasy, right? Well, this year, mai babeh has decided that pink is no longer her favorite color, One Direction is her most favorite band evah and she wants iTunes money to buy songs for her iPod.

And that sweet child o' mine had the nerve to tell she wouldn't like Mumford&Sons, until she was in college or 35!  Seriously, people, how can you not like M&S?


Deep down I knew this day was coming. After all I had major crushes on these guys:

And later on, when I wasn't in elementary school, these guys were IT:

WiT (woman-in-training) turned her nose up at these two groups, but at least (thank GOD) she asks me to sing along with her to this:

That means she's still my baby, right?

So, what are the kids in your life into when it comes to music?

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's Idol Time Again

I’ve blogged about American Idol before and it’s that time of year again.  This season I didn’t watch any of the audition shows as they traveled from city to city and didn’t start recording until they got to “Hollywood Week”.  Those earlier shows no longer hold my interest like they used to and frankly, I don’t have time.  This year there are also new judges, though Randy Jackson is still at the table.  I don’t think the show would be the same without Randy, but he is now joined by Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey.
The top ten were finally chosen and at the writing of this blog, they are down to 8 performers. Last week was my favorite so far because the contestants performed Beatles songs.  When I heard this I was torn between being excited, and afraid someone would screw up some of the greatest songs ever written. At the end of the night I had two favorites: Candice and Angie.  This isn’t a surprise (to me at least) because they have always been in my top favorites. My third favorite of the night was a surprise – Devin.  He hasn’t been at the top of my list before.  However, his performance of The Long and Winding Road tapped into something.  He made me feel what I want a current hero to feel (of course it could simply be that the lyrics are amazing).  Now, if I could only express those emotions in the writing. I may have to download the iTune so I can listen when I need to write those scenes.

I don’t watch any show live because I can never manage my time that well so anything I don’t want to miss is recorded.  I already had six shows waiting before I started playing catch up, which I managed to do this weekend.  But truthfully, I am not into Idol as much this year. I don’t know if it is because it isn’t as interesting, there isn’t that “wow” contestant I can’t get enough of, or I simply have other interests that have become more important.  Yet, I will still watch the full season and the real reason: Keith Urban.  Enough said J.

Idol isn’t the only reality show I enjoy.  Not long ago I watched the last episode of Next Great Baker.  I am always amazed at the cakes. I am lucky if I can manage to frost a cupcake and I certainly wouldn’t dream of taking on any of those challenges.  I also watched the last episode of Top Chef, having been glued to both shows for their entire run.  I was disappointed in that my favorite didn’t win. I really liked Brooke but the drawback of watching a cooking show on TV is you don’t get to actually taste what the contestants made.  

I am also currently watching Face Off.  This is of particular interest to me because I do enjoy learning various aspect of makeup since when I am not writing I am at the theatre doing hair and makeup. I just finished working on Wizard of Oz and in design mode for The Little Mermaid

Then there is also Project Runway and I love how they have made everything about teams this season.  Tim Gunn will always be my favorite on that show and the inspiration behind a favorite secondary character of mine.  

There are other reality shows that I watch through the year, and may currently be watching but I can’t think of them right now.  However, I don’t watch The Bachelor, The Amazing Race, or Survivor.  I was just never able to get into those shows and I realize I am in the minority because they are watched by thousands. 

Do you have a favorite Reality television show?  Which one and why do you like it so much?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Make 'em Laugh, Make 'em Laugh, Make 'em Laugh!

I love to laugh. In fact, it’s one of my most favorite things to do. I have actually said on more than one occasion that I won’t pay good money for something that will make me cry. “If I’m paying for entertainment, it needs to be funny. I can sit at home and cry for free.” Several of you have probably even heard me say this, live and in person. More than once. I mean, it is a mantra. With all the ups and downs that happen in real life, laughing is important! It may be the only thing that keeps you sane.

No matter how much I love to laugh, however, I’m fairly subdued when it comes to making other people laugh. Oh, I like to think that I have a biting wit (no matter what the males in my life think). But I’ve always been the sort who likes to sit in the back of the class, notice what’s going on around me and make snarky (read: hilarious) comments under my breath to whoever is lucky enough to be sitting next to me.

I’m sort of funny on a one-to-one basis. Maybe one-to-two, depending on the two.

That’s why I truly enjoy those who are able to be funny on a global level, those who put themselves out there on a grand scale to “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh.”

Over the last few months, I have become an avid follower of the TruTV show Impractical Jokers. Without a doubt it is THE funniest show on TV.  From time to time it can be crude (it’s not all good, clean fun) BUT it is always hilarious. If you’ve seen it before, you know what I mean. If you haven’t seen it before, you are totally missing out.

The gist of the show is this… Four men who grew up together in New York (and who apparently have spent most of their formative years daring each other to do ridiculous things) have turned practical jokes into a competition and perhaps an art form.

All four men – Sal Vulcano, Joe Gatto, Brian “Q” Quinn, and James “Murr” Murray compete against each other to not be the LOSER of each individual episode. A hidden camera follows each member of this group as they perform their tasks, usually with an ear bud in their ears, while the other three jokers tell them what to say/do. If they don’t do or say what they’re told, they lose.  You do NOT want to be the loser of any particular episode or you’ll get punished – in a most embarrassing way. (One time they hooked one of the jokers up to a lie detector machine in front of the current student body of their old Catholic high school and teachers, asking embarrassing questions that only your best friends would know the answers too.) Repeat after me – you don’t want to be a loser and get punished.

I’ve seen these four work a cash register at White Castle, be awful checkout emloyees at Costco, and work as free fortune tellers on the boardwalk. I’ve seen them decipher handwriting, try to teach a foreign language (one they didn’t speak) and steal food off people’s plates at a buffet. Here are some snippets at YouTube, if you'd like to see what I mean. (Though you MAY need to watch a full episode to understand the true genius of the show.

Their hijinks aside, the laughter of these four men as they watch each other compete is more than infectious. Their bond, camaraderie and long time friendship is heartwarming. When you finish watching an episode, you’ll find yourself wishing for more and wishing for friends like these guys. (As long as it’s not YOU they’re embarrassing in public.)

Even though I am not a practical joker in ANY way, shape, or form, I cannot help but get sucked in to each and every episode of this amazingly hilarious show.  If you are in the mood for a good laugh, and I mean a laugh that knocks you off the couch, you should find an episode of Impractical Jokers and experience the merriment for yourself. After all, I could never explain properly how funny they are… you have to see it for yourself.

Are you a practical joker? Have you seen this show? What makes you laugh more than anything?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

To you, My Son

When I was trying to conceive, then miraculously pregnant, and eventually on bed-rest, I journaled. The journal wasn't for anyone other than my son and his future family. I wanted him to understand his story and also our conception struggles to aid him in his own future family planning.

The night I was placed on bed-rest, I wrote the following words to my son:

"I want you to know how much we love you. How we cannot wait to meet you. (Well, we can wait because we want you to be healthy). You are our special miracle and love you for who you are now and for who you will be 10, 20, 30 years from now. We will try our best to keep all hurt from you, but know the world is not without challenges. We love you so much and we tell you this every day. It is essential to always say those words, baby. I love you. We love you.

I love to celebrate birthdays and holidays. How many times have I wished Christmas came more than once a year? Or my birthday. Well, I used to wish for multiple birthdays but at some point after I’d exited my 20s, then I wasn’t too keen to celebrate any more than the requisite one. When I gave birth, I learned to celebrate life in different ways, to create celebrations. Today is, for my family, a celebratory day. In recognition of the 3 copies of the 21st chromosome, March 21st marks World Down Syndrome Day. My family has taken it as a day that is not just a day of awareness and education, but a day of celebration. Last year, our little prince chose his cake. Smart boy picked a lovely custard fruit tart. Win-win.

 So on this day, in honor of World Down Syndrome Day, I’m blogging a letter to my son.


To My Little Greek Prince, who is neither Greek nor real royalty,

I’m nobody’s perfect heroine—not by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not ashamed to say I needed saving, and I couldn’t do it myself. I couldn’t do it myself because I didn’t realize I needed saving. You, saved me.  Not on a white steed or in a car. You saved me just by being born.

The day you entered this world, I realized how little I knew about life, how weak I was, how ignorant. You made me a better person. You changed me in all the ways I needed to be changed, and made me wish that I’d been a better person, not because of you but before you.

Until you, I didn’t know what Down syndrome was. It was a term in a book and it didn’t apply to my life. It was ‘something’ that ‘happened to other people’. Not me. Not us. Not you.

I had your life mapped out before you’d even entered the world. You were going to be the President of the United States. You were going to replace Derek Jeter, the great shortstop for the New Yankees, and play professional golf as a member of the PGA like Rory McIlroy, your namesake. Imagine that; the president of the United States, an MLB shortstop, and a professional golfer all rolled into one.

I had a vision of perfect.

You showed me that there is no one type of perfect.

You taught me to celebrate life in a way that I probably never would have. I would have continued on through life not knowing I was shallow and not knowing I was ignorant. You challenged the person I never realized I’d become; someone who failed to appreciate life, someone who had become superficially focused on objects and things that didn’t matter.

You showed me that everything would be not just okay, but better than that.

And you showed me that Down syndrome does not define you. It is something you carry that makes you stronger. That’s no cliché. That’s a fact. You do not know the meaning of quit. Or no. or can’t.

So my brave, beautiful boy, continue to stand strong and brave in the face of the nays, because they are out there and they always will. Somedays they will try and plant whispers in your ear that say you can’t but you and I, we shall always look at each other and smile, knowing that you are indomitable, mightier than kings of old. And no one will put out your spirit.

I love you.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day, my little Greek prince!

Your Mommy

Are there any unconventional days of the year that you celebrate? And how do you celebrate?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A little late and a little short...

So what do you do when you realize that you’ve missed your blog date?  Um… when you’re running out the door to be supermom for the day, there’s not too much that can be done!  Well, other than maybe share a bit of a short story I’ve been working on. I felt it might even be appropriate considering that the title, Lady of the Dance, fits so perfectly in with our lady scribes theme here.  It’s not the full short (I promise to have that up on my website soon!) but I hope you’ll enjoy this first scene.

All my best!
Lady Hellion

Lady of the Dance

The lights flicker. There is a collective holding of breath from business class down through coach as everyone momentarily freezes. It’s the third time in the last hour, which is only one less time than every other hour in this six hour flight. These random power fluctuations seem to be the norm for this journey though no one, not the stewardesses, not the flight crew, nor the passengers can figure out the cause. I could have told them, but I am both uninterested and too miserable to care. Besides, I don’t really want to deal with their reactions. People tend to not want to believe such things like “there’s a gremlin on board” or, if they do, it tends to freak them out.
And that’s just what I don’t need, having to listen to a hysterical old-woman screaming prophesies of death.
The brief power dip evens out and the lights steady. There is a chuckle or two, embarrassment for their nervousness, then the gentle murmur of conversation resumes as if nothing unusual had happened.
I shake my head snapping back open my magazine. Humans. So resilient, so…blind. It’s a wonder they’ve survived as long as they have. Of course, I’m not much better. Whatever possessed me to challenge the status of my immortality by hurtling across the Atlantic in one of these flying deathtraps is beyond me.
The man sitting next to me leans in closer, his broad shoulder brushing my arm as he cups his hand around his mouth and announces in a low, tinny voice, “That was a test of our emergency crash system, in the event of a true crisis, the stewardess would be running in circles, oxygen masks would fall, and emergency lighting would illuminate the exits to lead the screaming passengers to their deaths via door number two.” He holds a crumpled package of salted nuts before me, speaking now in his normal dreamy tenor tone. “Peanuts? They’re good for all that ails you, unless you’re allergic, of course.”
Contrary to my rising anxiety levels, I smile, taking the offered cure-all. I do, however, resist the urge to look over at my in-flight physician/physiologist. Despite the massive amount of metal surrounding me, despite the long stretches of boredom that are only punctuated by the heart-pounding moments of gremlin induced terror, I’ve actually enjoyed this one and only time adventure. No small part of that is due to one Mr. McCormick’s charming smile and dry-witted humor.
Who would have thought a human could still amuse me. But he has. And because of this I will not disrupt the balance of our casual interactions. Which means I have to resist the urge to strike up a real conversation with him.
Resilient, yes, but not to the power of the fae. We smile at them, they smile back. We talk to them and they start to follow us around like puppy dogs. And a dance? Well, maybe it’s not all fae that have power in their dance, but I’ve seen how a simple jig can turn the grumpiest pessimist among them into Happy from Snow White.
I sigh, focusing back on my National Geographic magazine, even if it does promise to bore me to tears. Stunning photography aside, nothing can beat worldly experience and there isn’t a place between its pages that I haven’t been to. And eventually wanted to leave behind.
Five minutes of companionable silence later, the engines change their tune, dialing back to something short of sonic-speed. Soon after the captain comes on and announces that we are fifteen minutes out from our destination. We’ll be landing soon under sunny skies and with a warm breeze at our backs to push us in.
Might be a good thing, I think, as the lights flicker again. Doesn’t hurt to have a little bit of fate fighting the gremlins antics.
I turn to look out the window, watching the meld of violent ocean and rolling countryside grow closer, the details emerging, making the earth below look less like a diorama. Our flight is almost over, my journey just begun. In another hour I’ll be in a rattling steel box instead of a vibrating aluminum tube. Once upon a time I would have merely sifted across the distance, but time and technology has rendered that impossible.
This Here is not the Garden of Eden I thought it was when I disobeyed the queen’s orders to leave Underhill.  The honeymoon is over. These blinders-on humans and their seemingly intense destruction of their own world are not going to be my concern for much longer.
I’ve found it. The way home.
Or, at least, I hope I have.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Taking the Disney World Plunge

So we finally decided to have a proper summer vacation this year. At long last, we are in a position where we have enough money and enough time to make a real vacation happen. At first, as a family, we considered going back to visit North Carolina. We lived there for two years, in New Bern, and seeing all of our old haunts and our old friends would be a lot of fun. I personally would love to have crab cakes at the Channel Marker in Morehead City just one more time.

But after a lot of thought, and much input from my daughter, we came around to the idea of Disney World.

Whoa. Disney World! Now that's a proper vacation.

Circumstances are conspiring to make this the perfect plan. Olivia is finally old enough to walk around long distances on her own. She's not tall enough to ride all the rides, but she is quite in love with the Disney princesses. So, as far as she is concerned, this is a dream vacation come true.

I went to Disney Land when I was thirteen--but I was a bit too old to fully enjoy the experience and we were a bit too broke as a family to do the trip up right. I do remember being exhausted by the walking we did, miles and miles of walking. and my husband has never been to any Disney theme park, so...this would be a new experience for him.

So...how and where do we begin?

We've spent hours on the Disney Go website, building different vacations with different budgets. And here's what we've decided so far:

  • We want to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Olivia is obsessed with safari animals so this resort, for her, would offer the most extraordinary experiences of the trip.
  • We want to buy into the eating plan, and also using the Magic Express luggage service.
  • We want to spend time at the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom parks. Not so sure about the other parks.

But a lot of questions remain. Should we stay at club level? Should we buy a park pass for the whole week? Is it too much walking for a six year old?

So, we are Disney newbies, and I need advice. What are some of the tips some of you seasoned Disney travelers can offer? Share your wisdom with me--we definitely need the help!

Friday, March 15, 2013

A New Chapter

....by Olivia Kelly

 There was a big change in my life recently. My husband and I just sold our house, the first one we ever bought. It's been a bittersweet experience. 

The Little Blue House

Bitter, in that it's been a real pain in the butt to update our little old cottage and keep it clean enough for showings while running around after two little boys. Bitter, in that we love the individuality that made this house special, the fun nooks and odd crannies. Bitter, in that my second son was born into this house and it's the only home my older son can remember.

It's where they learned to walk, to run, to talk, to argue, to laugh, to tell a joke and to make scrambled eggs. That house is where they learned the importance of weeding and watering a garden, the first time they ever saw a plant grown from seed to fruition. 

In that yard they learned the difference between thyme and rosemary and lavender, and that mulberries are sweetest when they are plump and almost black. 

The first time my older son realized he could propel his own swing with the power of his body and gravity was on the playset in our backyard.

If that driveway could speak, it would tell the tale of countless spills and tumbles, as my sons learned to balance on their first bikes, skateboards, scooters, and occasionally just their own two feet. I'm sure it would stay mum on the time I ran over my younger son's tricycle while backing out of the driveway, however. (It wasn't my fault! I told them to put away their toys.)

It was here that I finally managed to coax a tiny lilac bush into blooming, even though it only produced a measly smattering of flowers each spring for two weeks. But I had my lilacs!


That house has borne the brunt of two little boys growing, learning, making mistakes and winning small victories. There are juice stains on the carpet, bloodstains on the ceiling fan (don't even ask), bumps and scrapes and scratches galore adorn the walls, floors and windowsills; each one is its own story. 

I'll miss the fireplace made of river rock where we spent many winter nights watching the fire crackle and hiss.

I'll miss the window over the kitchen sink where I could see the boys shrieking with giggles as they played in the sprinkler.

I'll miss my little soft yellow and white office at the top of the stairs, with its pretty view of pine trees and the weather-worn brick of the chimney. 

I won't miss the dearth of friendly neighbors, sidewalks and families with small children. Despite the good times we had in the Little Blue House, my sons are growing older and the lack of other kids their age in our neighborhood is starting to become an issue.

My husband and I began to feel guilty that they couldn't just run down the street to a buddy's house and ask him or her to come out and play. It was something that both of us loved about our own childhoods, and wish for our boys. So it was time to make a move.

We've decided to build in a new community only minutes away from the Little Blue House. The boys will stay in their school, we can keep our household close to my parents (who live nearby) and the new community has a large percentage of young families. We're excited, full of hope and pride and butterflies in the stomach. Pretty soon they will break ground on the new house and I can't wait. 

It feels good.
It feels right.
A new chapter.

How about you? When's the last time you broke out of your routine and opened a new chapter in your life?