Monday, January 30, 2012

A-Z Sign-ups are OPEN!

Sign-up time is finally here! The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge was started two years ago by Arlee Bird of Tossing it Out. It grew by leaps and bounds to 1282 participants last year, and we are anticipating a lot more folks this year!

Rules are simple. On April 1st, post about something that starts with the letter A. On the 2nd, something on B, and so on. You get Sundays off, except for the 1st. Whatever style blog you have, this is a challenge you can do! Some freestyle it (like I did last year) some go with a theme (a lot of folks did that, and I've decided to go that way this year). Whatever your style, you'll fit in fine. So sign-up on the linky below, grab the badge from my side-bar, check out the other co-hosts (right over there under the badge) and start planning! April will be here before you know it!

One more thing, don't freak out about having to visit everyone. All we ask is that you visit five new blogs a day, starting with the one after yours on the list. Five! That's totally doable, and by the end of the month, you'll have met at least 150 new blogs!

If you still have questions, you can ask me in the comments or by email, or you can check out our official blog which has hints, survival tips, and general information. On the contact us tab you'll find our emails, and the general info email which is Lots of ways to find us, so ask away!

**The linky list can now be found by clicking the "Blogging A-Z April 2012 Challenge**

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Real Skinny (I Promise!)

Sure didn't mean to upset so many ;-) with yesterday's tease. I thought it was funny to lead you on like that...but many do not appreciate my sense of humor. Sigh. Today's story does involve actual nudity. And actual police. And is totally true. (My parents sometimes read my blog, but mostly not. I'm hoping this is one of the “not” times since it might shatter their image of me as “the compliant child.” Don't laugh! My mother actually STILL calls me that.)

In other tales of my high school life, I've talked about how I didn't fit in at all at my new, small, conservative, Dutch-Reformed Church based, Christian high school. We moved to CO just in time for my senior year. (I have forgiven my Dad. But it took several years. And weekly ski-trips (must admit, a pretty good bribe)). I had the choice of Fancy Neighborhood Large High School (population, oh thousands) or the school my Swissie was going to be attending, and could use a ride to. I complied.

I didn't fit in, and have many of those stories to tell, as I wasn't able to infiltrate the ONE clique of girls. Finally, about two months into school, I made friends with another outcast, a junior, who though she'd attended this school since kindergarden (well, there was an elementary, and then our school building which housed the middle school and the high school) but you know what I mean, around these people her whole life, still didn't have friends. That was mainly because she also didn't fit the required mold – skirts and dresses, hose and heels. Every day. In high school. As in your Sunday best. I've always been a beacon of fashion: jeans and a t-shirt. Mostly black t-shirts. (So that beacon is a warning beacon, as in “don't do this” if you want friends.) “Heather” wore jeans and shirts. And lots of make-up. Wouldn't surprise me if she were a make-up artist to the stars now, she was really quite good. We became friends.

I had somehow gotten the reputation of a party girl (probably because I'd never attended a Christian school, ergo I must be a major sinner). I decided that if I was going to have that rep, and the scarlet letter and shunning that came with it,then dammit, why not BE the party girl? Heather's older brother (by seven years) still lived at home, and gladly supplied us with alcohol. He also had a lot of friends who liked to, shall we say, take risks. You can probably see how the set-up for this story differs in many ways from yesterday's. I know you're feeling like, “Yes, I can see naked fitting in here.”

One night while drinking cheap, bad, sickly sweet wine, “Todd” and his friends invited us to go sneak into the city's popular recreation spot, a reservoir where people swam, jet skied, boated, etc. It was closed for the season, with chains across the entrances. Instead of cutting the chains and driving to the beach, he just left his car sorta near the entrance, but parked for a quick get-away, already turned around to just punch it and drive away. I have no idea why Todd and his friends decided to be gentlemen, but they waited in the car for a few minutes while Heather and I got naked, hid our clothes where no one would ever find them should that prank be on the agenda, and waded into the water. The temperature didn't bother me at all. I grew up in Sweden swimming in frigid lakes and a temperature like that was totally normal to me. (It's October in this story...) Heather, however, was a popsicle right away and as the boys came running, screaming, chasing each other and generally begging for a security guard to come find us, she was running naked towards them and her clothes. She asked them to close their eyes. They laughed as they headed into the water. More screaming, choice words about how cold the water was, and immediately they were hightailing it back to their own clothes.

Meanwhile,Todd and I were in the water, about 20 feet apart, talking like normal people. Well, if swimming in October, naked, with your best friend's brother, while trespassing is normal. Then we see lights coming towards us. At first we think car, but as we huddle there in horror, we realize it's a flashlight. Belonging not to a security guard, but a police officer. I'm trying not to imagine what my parents would say if they were to have to bail me out of jail, as Todd tells me “the plan”. He's going to walk up to the cop and pretend he didn't know he was trespassing, thereby giving me the chance to move further down the beach, exit silently, and get my clothes.

All is working just fine, I'm almost to my clothes, when I hear Heather, and Todd's friends calling me in very loud whispers. They're leaving and if I want to come, I've got to hightail it to the car. I look down the beach where Todd is talking to the officer, and make the wimpy decision to leave him and try to make it to the car. So now I'm running, while crouching, dodging trees, stepping on who knows what, carrying my clothes. I'm really not able to not freak out anymore, and I just jump into the car. Naked. The guys push the car as far as they have energy for, then jump in and start the engine. We speed out of there, and off the property, and hide the car again.

Of course we're worried about Todd. Heather cooks up a plan. She and one of the friends are going to pretend that Todd is mentally challenged and that they've been looking all over for him. Is there any chance officer that you've seen him? He likes swimming. Their acting skills are never called upon, though, because as they're heading back, they meet him about half-way.

Now that the danger was over, we all start talking at once. Our stories are tumbling all over each other's, and pretty soon we're laughing hysterically. Turns out the officer was a fairly new cop, and Todd had him wishing he hadn't missed the naked girls, and they did the man-talk thing about boobs or whatever and the cop wished him luck getting some tonight and let him go.

Dumb luck. I'm glad we didn't get caught, but I probably would have been better off considering the other adventures Heather and I participated in with these guys. That night I experienced something I'd never experienced before. The adrenaline rush of being naughty. Little Miss Goody Two-Shoes had turned a corner, and it would take several more trespassing adventures until I learned my lesson and started flying right again. Years and years later.

Friday, January 27, 2012

All the Skinny

So I promised you a skinny-dipping story. I keep my promises. In case you missed that promise, it's on my new “about me” page, accessible from the “about me” tab right up there. While I have you checking out my tabs, I was wondering if anyone knows how to make them stand out a bit more, as in maybe have a box around them, or some such other thing besides just floating there in space. I've tried playing with the templates, but then I don't get my other elements looking the way I like.  I have been learning a lot of blogger stuff getting ready for the April A-Z challenge. Don't tell me you haven't heard? Skedaddle right over there (AFTER you're done reading this post) and get the scoop. Ok, let's get naked.

When I was a junior in high school, I dated a wonderful guy named George Glass. (Not his real name, obviously, and if you can tell me why George Glass sounds so familiar to those of us in our forties...I'll buy you a drink). I was what you might call a serial-dater. All my relationships lasted three months. I usually had someone waiting in the wings at that point, which made the whole breaking up thing easier. Well, for me at least. Of course I was the dumpee plenty of times too. The worst was when I had a broken arm, but that's a whole 'nother post someday. I think it just takes three months to really get to know somebody, for me at least.

So back to George. He and I had been friends several years, each dating other people, but always hanging out with each other, too. We were fellow band members, so yes, band-nerds. Lots of people thought we were dating, but it was truly one of those amazing opposite-sex friendships that Harry says don't exist. “Because the sex part always gets in the way.” Harry is probably right, because there came a time when we were both unattached and I was dropping him in front of his house after some band function. He stalled, talking to me, for about 45 minutes, then laid a big kiss on me. Totally shocked me. Not that I hadn't been thinking about it (OK, for a while) but because he was a very shy, conservative Jewish boy, and I didn't think he ever would actually do it.

We had a great relationship. He was a true gentleman, and very generous, and we just plain had fun together, since the whole friendship thing was so firmly cemented before we dated. Many of our dates were group ones, which I didn't mind at all. We had the same circle of friends, so this wasn't really all that different from life before, except the kisses at the end of the day.

OK! Yes! I'm getting to the skinny-dipping part. Sheesh. Patience! A good story is told with lots of build-up. Or so I've been told. George volunteered at the Boys' Club. He was a tennis ace, our high school's #1 ranked player, and taught younger boys tennis. One night, on a whim, we decided to see if we could sneak into the pool for a late night swim. It was me and George and 2 buddies of ours, and it was probably ½ hour from my curfew. No problem, it was cold, so it was more of a polar bear club sorta thing, and I lived ten minutes away. Plenty of time. A chain link fence surrounded the pool, and there was a padlock on the gate. No problem. I was still a gymnast at the time, so I was up and over the 8' foot fence in a jiffy. Not so much the boys. Their larger feet didn't slide into the holes between the links like mine did, and they were quite hysterical as they tried over and over again, and also tried to pretend that there wasn't a problem. I mean, they were not about to let a GIRL beat them at fence climbing. “Wow, that's a sharp spot there. I'll try over here.” “Man, my shoelace caught. Let me fix it.”

All of a sudden, the motion-sensor lights came on and put the gentlemen in full spotlight. A dog barked. They ran. I snuck to the other side of the pool and climbed back over the fence in the dark, back corner and hid behind a pine tree. I don't see the scattered guys, I don't see a security guard, so I start looking for them. They're all behind the utility shed in the parking lot. I'm laughing.

I try to convince them that there's no danger, no one is coming, and let's get ON with this. But responsible George checks the time and insists on driving me home by curfew. I was actually pretty mad. As far as teenage pranks, this was a harmless one. No drugs. No sex. No violence. No graffiti. He worked there. But alas, there is a reason band-nerds are band-NERDS. All talk. No swim. Sigh. However, when I moved to Colorado, I did meet some not so nerdy folks. And almost got arrested. Naked. But you'll have to wait for that story, because it's time for this forty-something mother of two to make dinner. But it's with a grin, remembering.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Did You Say?

I used to have a great memory. Poetry, phone numbers, names with faces, song lyrics, equations, definitions, Bible verses, addresses. Lots and lots of useful and some useless stuff rattled around in my brain, within easy reach for when I needed something. Then I had kids, sleep deprivation, serious illnesses, injury, chronic pain, depression, stress, and then the inevitable entrance into my 40s. The stuff was still there, but the files were dusty, and some of the drawers were hard to open, and some of the file cabinets had been moved. But there. Today? Not so much.

I first noticed the change when I started working as an office manager. I had a lot of new stuff to learn. Procedures, definitions, operating various office machines I had never used before, more phone numbers and FAX numbers, account numbers and part numbers. An entire vocabulary of words related to the industry of measuring flow through pipes for industrial processes. Our products had names that consisted of a string of code descriptors, ten in a name, many choices for each category. I'll spare you a detailed example, but it was understanding that whole string that made the bookwork much easier, and I got it. It made me feel incredibly empowered. After a short while, I no longer had to look up part numbers, or wonder why the customer hadn't chosen a diameter size. He had ordered an insertion meter, rather than one integrated into the line, and I didn't need to know the size. I was good at my job.

My memory now? Shot to hell. When I first was fired, I held onto that info like it was a life-raft and soon someone would recognize the hideous mistake they'd made and would rescue me and say, “You're the only one who has all that memorized. No one can replace you. We're so sorry. We have to have you back.” This wasn't a realistic fantasy, mind you, but since when are fantasies realistic? Kinda ruins the whole “fantasy” part of it, right?

I wasn't just forgetting stuff that I could look up if I couldn't remember. I was forgetting whole conversations. Stuff I'd promised my kids I'd do. “But MOOO-om, you promised us Dairy Queen!” I was, shall we say, frighteningly forgetful. Until the day I came to terms with the fact that even IF they offered me my wonderful job back, I was not going to take it. My kids needed me at home. They are my life priority. I had (painfully) realized that while I was chasing the dream job that would give The Engineer HIS dream job, our boys had been left in the dust. To fend for themselves. Not literally, we were there, they were only alone about an hour a day due to flex time, but in reality. I was too tired to patiently listen to YellowBoy explain how he'd finally beaten the 4th boss on the really high level and Jake hadn't. I was spent, and didn't have patience to help with homework. I dropped into bed the minute I'd put them to bed.

I don't remember (ha, now that's funny!) exactly how long I'd been home when I decided to purge {name of company}'s entire existence from my iPhone. I think it must have asked me ten times if I really wanted to actually delete 85% of my contacts, two email accounts, half my notes, and the ability to connect with their wi-fi. Yes. I. Do. Pushed the button. My phone moaned and groaned as all that data was ripped out, then lay quietly waiting for me. I lifted my glass of chardonnay in salute, and told my brain to do the same dump. Just forget it all.

It actually worked. Me dumping those files from my brain. The Engineer had (seriously) thought I was having mental problems with all the forgetting, and was worried. Suddenly, I was back to being a walking rolodex, managing the family affairs without gaffes, or, “Did I really say that?” I wasn't losing my mind. My job had just taken up all the bandwidth.

So you're great now, you ask. Well. No. I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm glad my precious iPhone remembers so much for me, and has alarms and alerts and a calendar that syncs with my mac. I do remember conversations, just not always all the content. Saw my doctor, who assured me that I was normal. Well, normal for a person with my level of stress. My age. Raising teenagers. And taking on too much. But that's OK with me. I just dumped data. Not willing to dump my personality.

Monday, January 23, 2012

About Me Tab

I've been visiting a lot of new places lately as more and more bloggers join the April A-Z Challenge. Many of those blogs have “about me” tabs, with a bit more about themselves than in their profile page. Since I'm competitive, I want one too! So I figured out how to do tabs! Go me! (Yeah, not just competitive, also rather prone to brag about any accomplishment when it comes to technological tricks.)
So look up there, do you see the tab? Click it. Then you can leave your comment there, OR come back here and comment. What? You weren't going to comment? Don't you like me?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Are You Game?

Happy Sunday to you all! My Sunday would be better if my Broncos hadn't just been forced to realize that though we have Mile High Magic, and an unpredictable, exciting quarterback, we still have a long ways to go until we can stop The Patriots. We've proved that twice this season. Sigh.

Did your team make it to the playoffs? Are they still in the running? Regardless, I've got something to distract you from you blues, or from the agony of waiting for the next game, if you're lucky enough to be moving on. It's a challenge. And you know how competitive I without further ado, I hereby invite you to stop by at the official Blogging from A to Z April Challenge Blog for the details.

We are asking participants, future and past, to contribute posts there until April. The thirteen member team has first-come, first-serve status, because we do have some issues and guidelines to address, as well as ideas to get your creativity jump-started. If you haven't decided whether or not you'll be participating in April, then this is the blog (well, I mean the A-Z blog, but yes, mine, too...) to visit daily. So sign up to follow the A-Z blog!  (Of course, I'd appreciate you following me, as well).  Before you go, if you haven't met this year's co-host, they're all in A-Z blog's sidebar, so check them out and follow them, too.  Yes, that's a lot to follow, but it's no blogging secret that the more you follow, the higher your own traffic and followers.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Self-Esteem, Anyone?

What makes you feel good about yourself? Is it when you've worked out hard, and have that satisfied feeling of sore-but-well-used muscles? Is it when you finish a project at work? When your house is un-cluttered and clean? When you finally lost those last ten pounds? For me, it can be any of the above. Though I'm just recovering enough orthopedically to do stairs, that by itself is not really a workout. I lost my job a while back. My house, though less cluttered than before, is still cluttered, and I can't lose weight because I destroyed my metabolism in college (see Careless Words if you're curious).   I have to look elsewhere for that feeling. I found it today.

The Engineer's mother and I do share some common traits, though we are very, very different people. Right now she's recovering from a devastating injury (and is a very private person so that's all I'll say about it). This event has her limited in mobility and stamina. I'm taking care of her in a way that I'm probably the only family member with the time (and experience) to do so.

As catch up for new followers, (Hi!! I tried to make it around to all of you! What an exciting weekend!) I worked as an office manager at a very small manufacturing firm where there were eleven employees, and I was the only female. It was heaven. However, all good things (at least this is what I've found in my life) soon come to an end and they kicked me out the door. (If you'd like that story, see  Abrupt U-Turn)  After three years there, I'd learned some serious accounting skills, how to multi-task even further than what's required for being a mom, and the pleasure of all the ducks in a row, everything accounted for, and no mistakes. Ha. But at least some of those skills are now showing themselves to quite helpful.

The Boss has done the books for The Advocate's law firm for 26 years. Right now it's not just month end, and quarter end, it's also year-end. Lots of paperwork, lots of accounting to catch up on. She needs help. My help. I'm finally using what I learned, and for something so satisfying. So it's grinning ear to ear that I push publish and head off to accounting land again.

I'll repeat my original question: What makes you feel good about yourself?

Friday, January 6, 2012

OFFICIAL Blogging from A to Z April Challenge Blog Announcement

Hello dear bloggy friends! Today is a special day in Blogland. Today is the first OFFICIAL announcement of the Blogging A-Z Challenge co-hosts! Who will it be? To whom will we turn with questions? What's all this about anyway? No worries. You haven't missed the boat. You haven't lost your invite. You haven't been dropped from my Christmas card list (I just no longer send them). In fact, THIS is your official invitation to the official challenge which I am officially co-hosting.

Your other co-hosts for this adventure are:

Arlee Bird     Tossing It Out                 

Alex J. Cavanaugh   Alex J. Cavanaugh  

Stephen Tremp   Break Through Blogs   

Tina Downey (that's me!)  Life is Good    

D.L. Hammons       Cruising Altitude 2.O         

Jeremy  Hawkins        Retro-Zombie             

Shannon Lawrence  The Warrior Muse  

Matthew MacNish (Rush)     The QQQE     

Elizabeth Mueller    Author Elizabeth Mueller          

Jenny Pearson      Pearson Report     

Konstanz Silverbow    No Thought 2 Small    
Damyanti   Writing on Writing: Amlokiblogs

We are going to be working tirelessly to get you ready for this challenge.  Not quite ready to do an ironman triathlon?  Not sure if you can swim the English Channel?  Never climbed a 14-er? (For you non-Colorado types, that means hiking to the top of a mountain that measures more than 14,000 feet) Not a even a marathon runner? This challenge is for you. The only requirement is that you TRY to post once a day, on the letter of the alphabet for the day, throughout April. That's it. No penalties if you don't finish, but take a look at the benefits, if you participate:

Your blog will have more traffic
You'll learn from your fellow challenge mates
You'll find new blogs that entertain and encourage you
I can't guarantee more followers, but last year, at final count at the end of April, I'd gained 27.  When all the post-challenge Challenge visiting was done, I'd gained  a total of 72.  SEVENTY-TWO!  That's not a dyslexic number thing.  It's true!

If you're a seasoned blogger, there are benefits for you, too. You'll have the golden chance to encourage others and help them navigate their blogging career by sharing your triumphs (and tragedies, if you dare).

Sound good to you? The linky list opens on January 30th at the OFFICIAL (that's the word of the day, by the way) Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Blog.

Through the coming months, we'll be sharing tips and ideas and working hard to get you all excited for April. Feel free to contact any of us with questions or concerns. That's what we're getting paid the big bucks for. Well, not really, I'm exaggerating as I tend to do. Hyperbole is a favorite literary device of mine...
 I'm excited to be a co-host on this adventure.  Never promised that I was a blogging expert.  I'm just a girl who likes to write.

P.S Got a good question in the comments: Is it OK to join if you're not a writer?  Of course!  One part of what made last year so much fun was that when I was out visiting, I never knew what kind of blog I was headed to!  If you blog, you can join this challenge.  So to the artists, musicians, table-scapers, scrapbookers, as well as you whose blog defies categorization -  hop aboard!  We're an equal opportunity bunch.