Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Word Nerd Wednesday: Go for Launch!

Since the Word Nerd poll had an overwhelmingly positive response, I will be doing Word Nerd Wednesdays (although I'm making no promises about them being every week).

I'll be taking a blogcation for the rest of this week to enjoy Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd put up a fun Word Nerd activity until I get back.

How well do you know your homophones?

Take this test to find out.

Here's the deal: I've got a Utah Truffles bar to award!

To enter the drawing, take the quiz at the link above and then post your score in the comments. I won't be picking the highest score or anything like that. It'll be a random drawing from everyone who posts their score.

Being the ultimate word nerd, I feel like I should know it all, so I'm feeling a bit dumb that I didn't get all 43 correct. I missed one. Darn it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

(If you have an idea for a future Word Nerd Wednesday post, let me know!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Kid Is Going to Kill Me

A couple of weeks ago my son had a scary breathing (or, rather, lack thereof) episode at school. Long story short, while his diagnosis isn't clear yet, the doctor gave him orders to exercise to work his lungs.

It's November. It's cold. It's dark. Sure, I'll send my son out in the dark with a parka and make him ride his bike. Not happening.

But we do have a trusty treadmill.

How does one get a 13-year-old to work out on it?

I'm either brilliant or really stupid. I've got some extra baggage I'm trying to drop, so I thought that hey, why I don't the two of us have a little competition?

This is what we're doing: Whoever burns the most calories between now and the end of the year has to treat the other person to a movie of their choice, complete with popcorn and drinks. He's hoping he gets treated to some action/fantasy/boy movie, and he's sure that if I win, I'll make him pay for some girlie flick.

He got so excited about it that he immediately made a chart with dates and columns for counting up our calories and everything and hung it on the wall.

Ever since, he's been exercising his tail off, leaving my calorie numbers in the dust. But if this competition is going to be even remotely motivating for him, it has to be a real competition. If he's thousands of calories ahead of me, he'll stop exercising.

So I find myself huffing and puffing on that stupid treadmill in a vain effort to catch up. Every day I get out of bed with sore muscles in places where I forgot I had muscles. I've gotten lots of blisters. Sometimes after exercising, I hobble around the house for two hours, or I cough and hack because my lungs aren't used to the exertion. Oh, and housework has sort of fallen to the wayside.

But no matter how hard I exercise, the kid manages to outdo me. Which means I have to keep working to keep him motivated. I'm dying here.

I got a slight reprieve over the weekend when he (unfortunately) came down with a pretty bad 48-hour head cold.

He's better now, so we're both back on the treadmill. As of right this second, I'm up by about 175 calories (after busting it out for an hour this morning). But he's not home from school yet. He'll take one look at the chart, hop on the treadmill, and leave me in the dust again.

It's good for him, but dang, I'm getting too old for this . . .

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You Want to Read This One--Oh, Yes, You Do!

I have 3 fun things to announce today:

1) The Her Good Name contest is now closed. The winner of a free, autographed copy of this awesome Josi. S. Kilpack novel is Cathy J!

(I'll be sending a notice out to my newsletter subscribers soon in case she doesn't see her name here.)

Which leads me to:

2) A NEW contest is now up on my site. This time the winner will get the complete, unabridged audio book (on CD) of J. Scott Savage's new hit fantasy, Farworld.

(You know you want it! It's a great book!)

How to enter:

Go to the contest page on my website and read the instructions there. You'll need to find the answer to a trivia question on the Farworld website (you'll find a link to it from my contest page).

When you find the answer, type it into the contest form, click "submit," and you're entered!

One entry per person, and no one in far-off countries, please. My postage budget can't take it. :)

"Far-off" is defined as in another continent. Canada isn't "far-off" in my book, in case you're wondering.

Good luck!

3) Finally, THIS weekend, (Friday and Saturday, November 21-22) is the 5th Annual Utah Chocolate Show at the South Towne Expo Center. It's run by my older sister Mel, and in the first years of the show, I was her assistant director (until stuff like life as a writer got in the way).

The show is loads of fun for any chocolate lover. You want to go. Trust me on this one.

Find out more at the Utah Chocolate Show website.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dissing Dora

Thanks to a tip from a friend, I found out that today author Lynne Truss is speaking at the BYU Devotional.

Woo! Yes! Snoopy happy dance! News like that is akin to Word Nerd Crack.

Alas . . . I can't make it. (I know. That fact is about killing me.)

No worries: I've already set my TiVo to record the devotional. The one they broadcast on KBYU had better be the live one. (If not, I'll still dig around and find the video to watch. I just GOTTA. It's Lynne Truss, people!)

Last night when I set the TiVo up to record, I got the warning that Dora the Explorer and The Wonder Pets! overlap with the devotional and wouldn't be recorded if I proceeded.

I had to choose: A speech by a writer I think is hilarious and witty on one hand, and my sweet little kindergartner who loves Dora and Tuck and all the little Wonder Pets on the other.

Simple answer, really. I'm hoping to keep #4 distracted from the TV today. She'll forgive me, right?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thanksgiving with the Apes

Since hubby's family generally went up to Idaho to visit both sets of grandparents for Thanksgiving, and since Christmas tended to be a bigger deal for my family, that that's how we split up the two holidays the year we got married.

November, 1994: The day before Thanksgiving, we leave our little apartment (complete with puke green appliances, aqua sculpted carpet in the living room and rust-orange shag in the bedroom) and headed for Shelley, Idaho.

We spend the night at Grandma Lyon's house with the rest of my hubby's family. I wake up bright and early Thursday morning, determined to have a good Thanksgiving with my new in-laws and to not miss my own family too much.

Grandma has cable. In our little apartment back in Provo, we have rabbit ears letting us view a total of one channel (we watched a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation that year), and the rest of the family is pretty stoked about the cable too, so the TV is on a lot.

We end up watching Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall in Planet of the Apes. Odd show, but I'm always up for a classic, so I hunker down to watch.

When the movie ends, the next one in the series, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, comes on. Turns out the station is running an Apes movie marathon. (There are something like NINE of them . . . bet you didn't know that.)

Everyone's in the front room watching the movies. And I'm wondering, At what point will someone start with the Thanksgiving feast? I wait for a cue, like my mother-in-law going into the kitchen, whereon I'd follow and help her with the meal. But no one's been in the kitchen since breakfast. And I'm not smelling a turkey.

Hmm, I think. Maybe they eat the feast later in day than I'm used to?

The third (or maybe the fourth) movie comes on. I imagine my family eating their Thanksgiving meal several hours to the south of me. Still no turkey in the oven, no potatoes getting peeled. No stuffing or gravy or anything like that. Nothing.

Confused, I finally lean in to my new husband and ask the burning question. "Shouldn't we be getting the Thanksgiving meal ready? It's getting kinda late."

"Oh, no. Not today," he says, as if it's the most natural thing in the world. He returns to the movie. My mind is racing. Are my days off? Is it not Thursday? I determine that no, it is Thursday.

I lean back in. "But it's Thanksgiving."

"The Lyon Thanksgiving is on Friday," he says then returns to Roddy in his ape costume as if he'd just said something totally normal, while my brain was swirling. Um . . . what?

I probe further to get a full explanation.

Turns out that since both sets of grandparents lived on opposite sides of Shelley, my in-laws split up the Thanksgiving holiday. The Jensen meal was always on Thanksgiving Day, while the Lyon meal was always the day after.

That year the Jensens were spending the holiday in Boise with one of their other daughters. But since the Lyon meal is always on Friday, they kept it there. That way all the other Lyon cousins wouldn't have to be told to come earlier. It was just easier to keep up the tradition of holding Thanksgiving . . . not on Thanksgiving.

Everyone saw this as normal. No one saw any reason to explain this to the new daughter-in-law.

At the time, I sat there thinking, "Wait. You mean I could have been with my family today and come up here for your family's meal tomorrow too?!"

I felt like the only ape in the room, the one person not getting that it didn't matter when you ate the pumpkin pie as long as you ate it. To me, it did matter. It was either Thanksgiving or it wasn't. Celebrating on a different day would be like ringing in the New Year on January second. It didn't really count.

Years later, I get it: the point isn't so much the meal or the day as much as it is gathering as a family, feeling thanks, and all that comes with it.

So it's all rather funny to me now to remember how I sat there staring at hairy apes talking to one another, confused for hours on end and trying to figure out why there was no turkey in the oven.

To this day, no one in the Lyon family understands why I thought this was even little bit odd.

And to this day, I can't see or hear anything about Planet of the Apes without a chuckle.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Konnie's Secret

My first big memory of Konnie was becoming her roomie at drill camp the summer before my sophomore year. I recognized her from school, but had never talked to her.

In all honesty, she sort of scared me. She had a total of eleven piercings between her two ears, was a transfer student (rumors were rampant as to why), a foster child (ditto), and it seemed a foregone fact to everyone that she'd been involved with drugs.

I have no idea if the drugs part was true, but as the months went on and we became friends, I was never aware of her doing anything shady like that, although it wouldn't surprise me to find out it was true. We'd been in P.E. together our freshman year. She'd looked rather Goth back then and hung out with friends who were less than savory (the type that hung out at "Stoner Wall" and were very open about their drug use). Not that any of those things are guarantees, but it's a good possibility.

That first day as roomies when we changed clothes, I noticed a little sticker on her upper arm. "What's that for?" I asked. She shrugged, avoided the question, and finally mumbled something about liking stickers. Odd, I thought.

For the next three years, Konnie and I gradually became good friends. We ended up being a major part of the drill team leadership, so we choreographed routines, ran practices, and of course spent hours and hours together in the bus, at competitions, at games, and so on.

Because of the sticker incident, I kept an eye out and noticed that she always, always had her left arm covered. In the locker room, she kept her t-shirt draped over it as she got dressed until something else covered it. She never wore just a leotard on top for practices. She always wore a shirt, too.

Most of our costumes had sleeves. One didn't, but we did have a band worn on one arm, and our director insisted that we wear it on the left: the same arm Konnie always covered. While the rest of us used one another to help tie on the bands, our director was always the one who tied on Konnie's, as if there were some secret only the two of them shared.

No one else seemed aware of it, but by the time our senior year rolled around, I was desperate to know her secret. Did Konnie have some funky birth mark she was ashamed of? A scar? Maybe she came from an abusive family, and it was a cigarette burn.

I did my best to sneak a peek in the locker room and elsewhere, but man, she was good at hiding that thing. If I tried to ask about it, she'd change the subject. It took months and months of diligence on my part, but I finally caught a glimpse of her secret: a little green shield tattoo about the size of a dime.

That's it? A tiny little tattoo?

I couldn't figure out what the big deal was. At least, I couldn't until I sat back and thought through what I knew about Konnie. She'd let all but two or three of her ear piercings grow back in. She attended seminary. She stopped wearing freaky black makeup and immodest clothes. She no longer hung around the Stoner Wall kids. She went to church. She studied and did homework and didn't skip classes anymore.

In short, she was turning her life around and trying really hard to fit into a mold she hadn't ever put herself in before.

I think she was terrified that if the friends in her new world knew about the tattoo, that they'd judge her and turn away.

That made me sad. It also made me wonder if she was right. And that made me sad.

I don't think I ever told Konnie that I knew about her tattoo, and I kept her secret from the rest of the team. The tattoo didn't make a snit of difference in how I felt about her. While watching her cover it up make me sad, it also made me respect her. That act was a symbol of where she'd been and where she hoped to go.

Post Script:
The last time I saw Konnie was at my bridal shower. She was a new mom of a darling little tow-headed girl. I've tried looking her up since but without luck. I hope she's doing well.

Post-Post Script:
Josi's post here reminded me of Konnie's secret and made me want to write about her. Thanks, Josi.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yes, It's Brown. No, I Didn't Mean To.

It was an accident, and as soon as I can be sure that I won't fry my hair off, I'll be fixing it. (How is still somewhat up in the air . . .)

Until a couple of years ago, I'd never, ever colored my hair. Then I finally decided to join the rest of the adult female world and try to lighten up my darkening, used-to-be-blonde hair. I liked it, but I couldn't afford to keep it up at the salon, even at Fantastic Sam's prices.

Over the last while, I've been using a bottle at home. My first attempt went fine for the most part, but the color turned out slightly too reddish and light for my taste. I have nothing against natural red hair (I gave birth to three of the most adorable red heads EVER!), but dyed red hair doesn't usually look natural. And it didn't look that good; it looked kinda brassy on top of being too light.

Not wanting to risk a total disaster, I stuck with the color for awhile, but eventually tried another one. I went with a "neutral" version of the same color, having learned that on my hair, "warmer" translates to "brassy," "too light," and "funky reddish."

It still turned out too red/brassy and too blonde. (Neutral? Riiiiiiight . . .)

At this point, I was seriously annoyed, because the model's hair color on the front of the boxes and the sample colors on the back were always, always, way darker than my hair ever turned out.

Fine, I figured. I'll go "cooler" and a single shade darker than before. That should get rid of the red, brassy look, and get me a little less hyper blonde.

For once, the box told the truth, and my hair is now the exact brown on the box.

Crap and oops. People, ONE shade darker doesn't equal ten shades. Right? One would think.

#3 has been rubbing it in. "It's brown! It's brown! It's brown!" she cries. I've had neighbors give me funny looks, tilt their heads, and go, "I thought it was the light, but . . ."

Yes, I know I look weird. I know it's brown. Enough of the commentary. Please?

(No, I won't be posting a picture, in case you were wondering. I'm not that masochistic.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Heart Heat

Very early Sunday morning (or, rather, really late Saturday night), we woke up to the delightful smell of burning plastic wafting through the heat vents. As an added bonus, the house was freezing.

Yep. Our furnace is on the fritz.

I'm trying to put a good spin on the situation:
  • It's November, not January.
  • Getting it fixed might not cost an arm and a leg. It'll still probably cost a few toes or fingers, and that stinks, since the furnace is all of 4 1/2 years old, but hey, I'm all for paying less. Even if I'm getting used to paying for broken stuff (like our transmission that died in August. That was fun.)
  • Our gas fireplace pumps out heat pretty well.
  • Baking rolls when your furnace is out helps heat up the kitchen.
  • I have that nifty mini fireplace for my office that I'm blaring all day long.
  • Recently, hubby got a space heater for the master bedroom (which is always the coldest place in the house even when the furnace is functioning). It, too, runs all the time now.

I never thought I'd be so grateful for three little heater thingys.

But they aren't quite enough. The basement feels remarkably like the arctic tundra right now. You walk down the stairs, and the change in temperature hits you like a wall.

Problem: That's where all the kids sleep.

So last night we threw an impromptu slumber party for them in the great room by the fireplace. With the noise and necessary light on for the girls, my son couldn't sleep and headed to his frigid cave of a room anyway. Somehow he survived the night without frostbite.

It was lovely, truly, when he had to get up to practice piano extra early because he has his lesson on Monday mornings. Yeah. The girls loved waking up to that.

In other news, I'm toying with the idea of doing a word nerd-type post on some semi-regular basis, something along the lines of the whole luff-tenant thing I went over recently. I've even thought of calling it, "Word Nerd Wednesday" or something like that.

I've gotten other questions here and there (like, "Why is Dick a nickname for Richard?") that would make for some interesting (to me, anyway) posts. But I won't inflict them on my readers if those posts would bore the rest of blogdom to tears. Vote in the poll at the right! (Be honest.)

Also, don't forget to visit (and bid at!) the Whitney Auction. New items are up all the time. Click on the Whitney Auction button at the top of this page and you'll go to the store front (where you can put some items into your cart and just buy them) or use the handy-dandy link below that to view all of the auction items at eBay at the same time.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Boring Skin Pallettes

A good friend of mine served her LDS mission in Georgia, and when she came back to Utah (where she'd grown up), she complained that holy cow, the people here are so boring to look at. They all look the same!

Yep. I live in a very single-hued part of the world. Most people around here are of European descent (including yours truly), so you walk around seeing lots and lots of pasty white faces. Not much variation.

However, I never thought much about it until I became a mom. Sure, there was that one black kid in my class at high school. He stood out, but everyone adored him because he was a football star.

The first time the whiteness of our area became a concern for me was after the birth of my second child. (A lot of things suddenly become a concern when you're a parent, don't they?)

She had a bright shock of red hair. From the moment she was born, anywhere we went, people stopped to notice her and her adorable red hair. She was used to this. The first thing she learned in life was that she had pretty hair.

I was pushing her in a stroller one day when she was four or five months old. A woman who stopped us on the sidewalk, and bent down to coo at her, looked different. The woman was absolutely beautiful . . . and very black. Dark, dark black.

My daughter's eyes popped open, her mouth shuddered, and she burst into a wail. She'd never seen anyone like that before, and it scared her. I was a bit embarrassed, but I doubt the woman had any idea that this wasn't a regular case of stranger fear. I knew, because, as I said, my daughter was constantly approached and fawned over by perfect strangers, and she loved it.

It was a relief, then, when my daughter was about two and a half and saw a black woman on television and gasped, "Oh, Mommy! Isn't she beautiful?!"

A couple of months later, for her third birthday, she asked for a black Barbie. (Not in so many words, but she pointed out which one she wanted and made it quite clear that she would have nothing to do with the white, blond one.)

I was happy to oblige; having her play with a black doll was about as far as I could take race relations in our area, since, as far as I knew, she'd still never seen more than a handful of black people in her three years.

When my next daughter was about the same age, I took her to the grocery store. At the check-out line, she sat in the in cart and caught sight of a sophisticated black man in line ahead of us. He wore a suit and looked for all the world like Bryant Gumble's little brother.

My little girl stared. She pointed. "Mom! Look at that man!"

I knew exactly what she meant, but I wasn't about to go into a discussion about race right then and there. So I just said, "Isn't he nice? Can you wave at the nice man and say hi?"

"But his skin, Mom! Look!"

"Yes, I know," I said, face going red. "He's a nice man, isn't he?"

"But Mom!"

"I know. Wave at the nice man."

He waved at my daughter and smiled at me knowingly. I was glad he understood, but I still felt a bit silly.

My oldest child never paid that much attention to these things as a toddler, being too caught up in his own imagination at that age to give the rest of the world much thought. But he did have a sweet black boy in his first grade class, and I loved finding out how my son defended him (apparently he had a learning disability) and felt bad when some kids didn't play with him.

As for my youngest, I haven't had any experiences like this with her . . . yet. She seems to be more aware of differences and takes them in stride. Maybe I'm finally learning a thing or two about this parenting thing.

This is a long way of saying that regardless of your political leanings, I think it'll be a good thing for children who don't see a lot of racial diversity to see a black man leading the United States. There are some things that, as a parent, you can't really teach without help, and this is one of them.

In other news, my dear husband (and techno-genius) heard my complaints about my stupid e-mail issues as soon as he walked in the door last night. After a brief dinner, I ran out to my critique group. He, meanwhile, spent two hours on the phone and on e-mail trying to sort out the problem with our server. By the time I came home, it was fixed! I could sing! He pretty much rocks.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Housekeeping Notice

Looks like one of my e-mail addresses is having a blip, so I can send from it but not receive messages at it.

I'm a compulsive e-mail checker, so if you've e-mailed me recently and I haven't responded, that's why: I haven't gotten your message.

(In case you're wondering.)

I have no idea where the gremlin is or what is causing the problem, but I hope it'll be fixed soon. If you need to reach me in the meantime, leave a comment or try annette at lyfe dot com

Carry on!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

ABBA. Not the Election

Thought I'd say that upfront. Yes, go vote. Yes, I already did. (I got to last week in early voting. Duty done.)

With that out of the way, I thought I'd post something a bit more fun.

Shortly after high school graduation, I was invited to what was called a "Better Sounds" party. I had a very . . . interesting . . . group of friends at the time.

The focus of this particular party was the Mamas and the Papas . . . and ABBA. (Light bulbs going off in anyone's heads about now?)

We were encouraged to show up in 60s clothing. At the risk of Sam killing me, I'll post this:

Weren't we adorable? I'm wearing clothes Mom actually wore in the 60s. She even gave me the beehive. Scary glasses, no? (I just did the math on how many years it's been since that picture was taken. Holy freak, it was almost half my life ago. I'm not old . . . I'm not old . . .)

Will, our host, gave us an education on both musical groups, and then we listened to their music while having food and fun and I don't remember what else.

And thus began my love of ABBA. From that point on, whenever we cruised around at night in Sam's white convertible Mustang (oh, the stories I could tell about that!), nine times out of ten ABBA Gold was playing, and we girls belted out the tunes right along with them.

A few years after we got married, my husband and I were wandering through a music store and came across a book of piano music for ABBA Gold. Even though I hadn't touched a piano in years and couldn't play all that well, we bought it anyway. It would be fun to have around.

That piano book gathered dust until this past June, when my son's piano teacher asked for me to send some "fun" music for him to play over the summer. Because 1) he's getting darn good on the piano and 2) I sort of forgot to go to the music store before his next lesson hit, I sent along the ABBA Gold book.

Ever since, he's been working his way through and loves it. He's almost done with it now. He practices before school, and it's been a ball to have "Waterloo," "Gimme" and all the other greats reverberating through the house in the early morning. (Right now it's "Does Your Mother Know.")

He insists I keep my ABBA Gold CD in the car so he can listen to whatever song he's working on as I drive him to school each morning. And as he listens, he air plays on his lap, head bobbing to the rhythm.

I've carried the ABBA legacy on to the next generation. Will would be so proud.


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