Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Things I Learned At Odyssey of the Mind World Finals

My son's Odyssey of the Mind team made it to the World Finals, held in Michigan on the Michigan State University campus. It was a HUGE honor to get there, especially given our somewhat sketchy start.

For anyone not familiar with Odyssey of the Mind (OM), let me explain a little about the program. Children are selected for their team based upon their creativity. Once the teams (made up of between 5-7 children) are selected, they begin working on their long-term problem. They are allowed absolutely NO outside assistance. Parents, teachers, coaches, classmates cannot help them. Not even to make a suggestion. They have to create everything themselves - skit, costumes, set, props.

Our problem this year was "Food Court". Each member portrayed a piece of food. One item accused another of being unhealthy. The argument was taken to a jury who decided whether or not the accused was guilty. The skit had to be comical in nature and the jury could not be portrayed by the team members (basically, they had to create a jury out of props and find a way to make the jury signal what their verdict was without touching said jury).

They also compete in a spontaneous problem where they are given a problem and 1-2 minutes to come up with a solution (or a list of solutions) on the spot.

The team went to our regional competition with a script that was barely a week old. The parents were skeptical that we would even make it to State Finals. The kids never gave up hope. They walked out for their performance and killed it, adding new hilarious parts that none of us had seen before. Later it was announced that we had placed 3rd, making us eligible for State. We went to State and once again the kids surprised us with a really funny, well thought-out script. We worried about their spontaneous problem though, our little team hasn't always done great at those.

Later at the awards ceremony, they announced that the top 2 teams from each division would be eligible for World Finals. Imagine our surprise when we were announced as the 2nd place team. Turns out, our kids got 100 out of 100 possible points in spontaneous! Who knew! (Here's their reaction to learning that they would be going to Worlds: Kids attack!)

So after 6 weeks of frantic fundraising, we boarded a charter bus with 3 other teams from our area and took off. Destination: East Lansing, MI.

These are some observations I made along the way:

1) When the GPS keeps saying, "Turn right, turn right...recalculating...turn right, turn right...redirecting...turn right, turn right...redirecting". It might be a good idea to tap your bus driver on the shoulder and point out that perhaps the GPS lady is correct. If not, you may end up on some dark, two-lane road on the outskirts of St. Louis.

2) There is no way to get comfortable enough to get a good night's sleep on a bus...unless you're a 10 year old child with a nice plush mommy to lie upon.

3) It is impossible to have a group of people number-off when the guy designated as #1 is always missing...always.

4) People from Michigan that say it doesn't get hot there are LIARS. All of them.

5) While people of the world will go to war over the stupidest things, kids of the world will find a reason to celebrate over the tiniest things. "Hey, you're wearing a red t-shirt, so am I! Yea! Let's be friends!"

6) Dorm showers haven't gotten any better.

7) Dorm food hasn't gotten a whole lot better either and reminded me why I spent a large portion of my college years as a vegetarian.

8) Kids 'round the world love banging incessantly on pianos.

9) Cotton/poly t-shirts are hot. Literally.

10) No matter how much you can't stand a song, once you attach an awesome memory to it, you'll find your disdain for that particular song ever decreasing. Closing ceremonies and the Black Eyed Peas

11) Even 10-year-olds from Poland know the "Thriller" dance.

12) A child properly trained in the art of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Bakugan trading will be a master at World Finals pin trading.

13) Not all teenagers are sled-stealing, hit-and-run driving turds.

14) NASA is just as cool to me now as it was when I was a kid.

15) My kid thinks the same about NASA.

16) Introducing a 10-year-old boy who dreams of being a scientist to an actual scientist from NASA is like introducing an 8-year-old girl to Justin Bieber.

17) Communal living is not as fun as an adult as it was as a teenager...unless there's a communal "mommy cooler" involved.

18) You can spend 4 days of your life sweating, walking, hiking up and down stairs repeatedly, and eating healthy and come home to a scale that says you've gained 2 pounds.

19) "Inappropriate" is my new favorite word.

20) Even though a team of 9 and 10-year-olds was not declared the World Champions, they will cheer fervently for the team that was.

21) People from Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, China, Poland, Germany, Russia, and Mexico may not know much English, but they know Flat Stanley.

22) People from Hong Kong think Michigan is hot too.

23) Once an Omer, always an Omer. My memories of competing in the "Camelot" problem in 1984 came back to me as I watched my son go through the process.

24) Don't give up. Ever. You just might find that your "little team that could" ended up in 9th place in the world. NINTH PLACE!!! WOOT!

25) Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned is that if the grown-ups of the world acted more like the kids of the world, we'd live in a much happier place filled with hot dogs, cotton candy, snow cones, flashy lighted necklaces, and airplanes that soar powered only by the fuel of imagination... and a couple of strategically placed rubber bands.

Preston and one of his new friends from Singapore

*stepping off my shoebox*

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I'm still alive!

Hello readers (if there are any of you left)!

Funny how life gets in the way sometimes, huh? I guess I don't really have any excuses since technically I'm not working right now, nor have I been since last January. I say "technically" because while I don't have a full-time job that I officially have to show up for every day, I am in fact writing full time. Just not on this blog, obviously.

My first novel came out a year-ago last month. My second novel came out in November. My third novel would be out now, but I'm in the running for a major publishing deal so I'm holding onto it until I know something for sure.

Since my first book came out, I've been inundated with friends, acquaintances, even strangers who have all given me the same, "I've always wanted to write a book. You did it, so I'm going to write one too." I don't even know how to respond to this. Part of me wants to be offended, and another part of me is flattered in that whole "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" way. My response made me question why I would take this negatively. Normally I try to think the best of people, and I always want to encourage people to follow their dreams. Then it hit me. Most of the people who have approached me with their oh-so-logical "well, you did it, so I know I can too" attitude haven't had the lifelong dream of writing a book. It's a whim. Nothing more. I guess that's what upset me. Because, trust me, it has been a lifelong dream of mine to become a writer. It's almost as if they're implying that my dream has little worth because it is so easy to achieve. (Yes, I know this is my overactive imagination hard at work. I don't think anyone really thinks this deep down.)

I started preparing for this in primary school. I decided I would make my own greeting cards. From there I started writing plays for my barbie dolls to act out. As I got older, I began writing short stories, skits, and such for school. At 12 I was making feature films with my parents' VHS recorder (you know the huge ones that have to rest on your shoulder). My sister and cousins played the starring roles, the supporting cast were our cabbage patch kids.

Once I made it to junior high and high school, there was no denying - I was a writer. Friends would commission short stories from me as keepsakes. My parents allowed me to attend a writing seminar at our local college. I was the youngest person in attendance and received a number of funny looks from my college-aged fellow attendees. I still managed to make a good impression on the author leading the seminar who told me to "keep it up." In high school, I was lucky enough to be included in a round-table discussion with none other than Maya Angelou. At the time I was too starstruck to form any intelligible questions, but the experience was worth so much to me.

My senior year of high school I was given a choice - take AP calculus and be assured to make it into the top 10 of my class, or take creative writing and be downgraded to top 25. I figured it's all just numbers (both calculus and my graduating position) so I signed up for creative writing. During the year I wrote and illustrated a children's book, wrote short stories on a weekly basis and learned the art of critiquing other writers. The lessons were invaluable. I also began entering essay-writing contests on top of my ever-growing mountains of homework.

When selecting my college, I took stock of all the universities that had so kindly offered me scholarships. A number even wanted me for their honors programs. The final decision wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. University of Arkansas had one of the top creative writing departments in the country. Decision made. (The fact that it was close to home also helped out too.)

I enrolled as an English and journalism double major with an emphasis on creative writing. Yes, the course work made it the equivalent of triple-majoring. I didn't care. I worked my ass off and learned so much from those most esteemed professors. I made the Dean's list during my hardest semester. I earned the only compliment one professor had ever been known to give during my fiction workshop. I wrote a play during another class which was produced and performed at the university theater. My journalism professors trusted me enough to refer me to any newspaper in the country. Too bad I had decided against the newspaper path. Creative writing was calling my name.

Since graduating I've never stopped writing. I've written film/literary/music reviews for an online newsgroup as well as my local paper. I wrote two sitcom pilots for Bravo. (Neither was produced, but I wrote them and am still proud of them.) I write two blogs. I've got at least 4 more novels planned for the near future and I belong to a group of fellow novelists who I can go to when I need help, motivation, critiquing, or just a good swift kick in the butt.

So, as you can see, I've done the leg work. I know writing. I understand it. Writing and me, we go way back. I'm never further than about ten feet from my Strunk & White. I'm not saying someone shouldn't write a book just because they didn't major in English. Some of our greatest works wouldn't exist if that were the case. Just know that when you approach me with the attitude that what I've accomplished in my life was easy, it hurts, and it's certainly not true. For my friends who have started down their own paths as writers and are taking it seriously, you know what I mean! It ain't easy!

And on a much happier note, I give you my dream shoe...I figure I achieved my dream of becoming a novelist, maybe someday I can achieve the dream of owning these babies.

Yes, the Manolo Blahnik Sedaraby D'Orsay in silver, with the 4" heel, not the 3 1/2".

Let's just take a moment to bask in its glory.



*longer sigh*

*touches the screen longingly*

Their story:
If shoes were a religion, these would be the Holy Spirit. They're enigmatic. They inspire. They shine. Oh, look at how they shine.

So, if any of you, my loyal, beautiful, lovely, terribly intelligent readers has an extra...oh...$800 laying around, I accept paypal, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Diner's Club, cashier's check, regular check, money orders, cash, pennies... I thank you in advance.

Stepping off my shoebox,

Thursday, October 22, 2009

website design

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Roller Coaster

Sorry it's been awhile.

The holidays were quite the roller coaster this year.
Of course as you know I decided to enter NaNoWriMo this year. I'm so very glad I did. I ended up actually starting on November 3rd, so I was already behind right out of the gate. However, by the 25th I had written over 53,000 words to win! Yes, that's right, I'm a NaNo winner. *does pageant wave*

I decided I really like the novel I wrote. No, it's not the next Great Gatsby that I've always hoped to someday write, but it is a nice little piece of chic lit. Of course, I'm totally biased. You know, the funny thing is, it's exactly the type of thing I always swore I'd never write, but alas once I put pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard - that's what came out of my head. I guess deep down, I'm a romantic after all.

After I finished my novel, we had family in town for Thanksgiving, then came Christmas and all that excitement. We had a really nice Christmas and I hope all of you did as well.
After Christmas came New Year's and my sister and her daughter came up to visit. It was good to see them, but I always try to do too much when we have company and once they left I was exhausted. I also found out that a close loved one had passed away on New Year's Day. It was something that was expected, she had been battling cancer for quite some time, but it doesn't make the pill any less bitter. She was my cousin's sister-in-law, but I always considered her part of our family. In fact our families always did so much together, so I think I was a teenager before I even realized that we weren't technically related. All of her family and a large group of my family came up for her funeral. It's rare that I get to see them anymore, so it was really nice to get to spend some quality time with them, despite the terrible circumstances and the fact that the mood was rather somber.

The day of her funeral I had to meet with my boss. He wanted to let me know that due to the economy our area of the company was shutting down, so I was being laid off. Part of me knew it was coming, the other part didn't want to believe it though. Alas, it's true.

When I told Joe of my misfortunes, I asked him what he thought I should do and without even stopping to think about it, he said, "Publish your novel." He's actually read the novel, so I'll take that as a compliment. I know it was probably torture for a male sci-fi fan to read through my very woman-oriented prose, but he did. And I love him for it. So, I'm working on editing the novel right now so I can begin the process of submitting it to various publishers. Hopefully I'll find one that likes it. In the meantime, I will probably self-publish it on createspace.com just so I can get it out there. Once it's available, trust me, you'll be the first to know...well, maybe second after my family...or third after my facebook friends...okay, so you'll be no less than sixth to know!
I think that catches you all up on my two-month roller coaster ride. I know people who complain about the ups and downs of life, but to me, it just keeps the ride interesting.

Here's to a wonderful 2009! Cheers to you all! *clinks glasses*

And a fun shoe to get the new year started off on the right foot, so to speak...

These are what I call my amusement park shoes, simply because they are so comfy I could wear them to Six Flags and not regret it at the end of the day!

Their story:
They caught my eye simply for their resemblance to every pair of shoes my Barbie wore, and because they're red, my favorite color!
These shoes marked my return to singledom many years ago after leaving a less than savory boyfriend who preferred his women to wear running shoes and flip-flops.
With this pair of shoes, I began to reclaim my femininity and sense of style. They were symbolic of my new beginning, and thus I felt it fitting that they be my first shoe of the day for this year. For anyone hoping to make big changes this year, just remember this line from Rent, "No day, but today!"

*stepping off my shoebox*

Monday, November 3, 2008

NaNoWriMo Takes Over...

So, for 5 years I have thought about doing NaNoWriMo. It always sounded WAY too scary for me though. For anyone not familiar - NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It takes place each November and participants are given 30 days to write a 50,000 word novel.
This year, in an effort to not let myself down, I signed up. A day late of course, so I started the race already 1200 words behind...Today I am sitting at 1528 words, but I've gotten my chapters lined out and feel really good about it.

So in an effort to get my 50,000 in I may be absent from the blog for a bit. Not that I've exactly been a daily blogger. I just didn't want my long-distance friends to think I had fallen off the face of the earth!

And so before I head back to my skeleton of a novel, I give you today's shoe...
These are my black and white polka-dotted ankle-buckle Mary Janes. If a shoe can be creative, these are my most creative shoes.

Their story:
I was invited to a swanky cocktail party at one of the oil company headquarters in Houston, TX and I was almost broke. So I searched vintage shops in my area for a great dress. I found a black mini dress with white collar and cuffs and large white buttons down the front. It was adorable in a very 60's Twiggy sort of way. I knew I would be able to wear it to the party and not blend in with the rest of the crowd (very important to me at the time). I searched high and low for the perfect shoes to go with the dress and came across these. With the money I saved buying the vintage dress, I splurged a bit on these, knowing that I may not wear them as often as I'd like. It's been 12 years since then and I still love them! (After writing this, I may have to bring the dress out of the back row of the closet and let it make an appearance this holiday season!)

*stepping off my shoebox*

Monday, October 13, 2008

Just a quick note before hitting the campaign trail...

I'm not sure how this happened, but I am humbled...

Gotta run! Got lots to do! :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Some words from the man who SHOULD be running for President...

Many of my buddies are staunch Liberals. Most wouldn't understand why I've been more conservative for most of my adult life. Here I have some words from Mike Huckabee which will show you why I love this guy, and why I'm saddened that I won't be able to place a vote for him in just a few short weeks. People like The Huck are what I believe the Republican party SHOULD be about. The following is from his show "Huckabee" on Fox News Network:

"Members of Congress are busy congratulating themselves for the passage of the massive and staggering bailout of Wall Street, but the only cheers from most Americans is the Bronx cheer for the bodacious Beltway Bailers.

"On behalf of the hard working American people, here’s my message to Congress:

"We recognize that you felt compelled to “do something” but you wonder why we aren’t breaking our hands applauding you for it. Let me explain: Even the people who supported your $700 bailout did so only because they felt there was no other choice. Any congratulations you get will have to come from those really smart guys on Wall Street because outside your rarefied bubble of high priced air, the whole thing stinks.

"For the most part, your bosses are not happy—I’m talking about your REAL bosses—the ones who struggle to pay for groceries and gasoline each week and the ones you ought to spend more time with. These folks are in fact, not just unhappy, but livid, furious, raging, and seething with contempt. The problem, we’re told, is with the regulators. Actually, that’s not true. The problem is that you failed to regulate the regulators….that was supposed to be your job, but you guys instead filled your campaign coffers with ready cash from the nice people at the big Wall Street houses and looked the other way while these starched collar crooks put hundreds of millions in their pockets and walked away obscenely rich and left the tab to the taxpayers.

"I don’t resent that people make money. God bless those who do, as long as they do it honestly. But Franklin Raines piloted Fannie Mae right into the ground and walked away from the crash with $90 million cash. Nice work when you can get it…. Some retired teacher’s pension fund in Kansas went from comfortable to comical… You saved Freddie, but taxpayers are going to take it in the Fannie.

"People are really, really mad, and I hope the anger carries to the ballot box. It’s time to make real changes in this country-- real restructuring of the systems that have led us to this economic free-fall.

"Congress, the crisis is not in the credit market—it’s in the credibility market. And it’s YOUR credibility that’s in crisis… 47 million people are uninsured, but you haven’t fixed it because you are insured. Millions of Americans have seen their pension values drop to nothing, but you haven’t stopped it because your extraordinary pension is protected.

"Instead of asking my future grandchildren to co-sign a $700 Billion note so you could convince yourselves that you had “fixed” this, you should have made some really bold decisions that might have actually addressed the root causes. Getting rid of capital gains taxes, changing the mark to market accounting rules that created some of the artificial devaluation of assets, and insuring bad loans instead of actually buying them are all ways that the situation would be addressed without such a huge risk. Instead we just are being asked to write a big fat check.

"The high flying Wall Street wizards who wanted to make big profits in a hurry without assuming the responsibility of the risks are not unlike the teenager who gets addicted to drugs, but knows that his ever gullible parents will always be there to rescue him. They have become “bail-a-holics” and the government has become the ultimate co-dependents, enabling and empowering the recklessly irresponsible with the credit card you borrowed from us.

"Well, this time, Americans are mad. Really mad. They might actually figure out that they DO have the power to do something. They can do what would happen to them if they simply didn’t do the job they were hired to do—they would be fired.

"Maybe it’s time for some of you to experience what many Americans will experience because of you. Maybe some of you should lose your jobs in Congress and come home to live with the rest of us. Just don’t expect a big party to welcome you home. Neighbors can’t afford it. They’re just trying to pay off that big bailout you proudly voted for."

And for today's shoe:
These are the shoes I reach for when someone needs an ass-kicking (pardon my language). And right now that's what Congress needs. A major kick in the ass.
Their story:
I was strolling through my favorite vintage/resale shop and spotted these. I thought, "They're not pink, they don't have a spike heel, there are FLAMES on them, but yet I am still drawn to them." So I bought them. (Along with a cute pair of pink, kitten-heeled mules - just to make sure some balance was kept in the universe.)

*stepping off my shoebox*