Friday, November 29, 2013

Funny Friday Photos

Funny Friday Photos almost didn't come to fruition today! Because of my dogs (we have four), my husband took my children to his parent's house for Thanksgiving while I stayed to take care of the animals (we also have two outside cats.) I've planned since we knew I was staying home to watch Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing and the Hollow Crown series while they were away. My husband doesn't care much for Shakespeare, and this way I could indulge my enjoyment of Shakespeare without causing marital strife. 

I watched Much Ado on Wednesday night, then ran the Hollow Crown all day on Thanksgiving, and totally got lost in it. I do wish I'd have watched Much Ado after the Hollow Crown. The performances were amazing and moving, and I was in tears several times throughout the day. The beauty of the language, especially delivered as conversationally as it is in the series, was like writer's crack to me. But now I need some comedy! It's a good thing I'm writing a funny photo post.

Two public service announcements first, though:

1.  Later today I am participating in #BookFriday on Twitter (2:00 pm EST). I will have my first "twitterview", along with a couple other authors of the scifi/fantasy genre. I don't really know what to expect, but if you are free at that time and would like to come and join me, I'd love to see you there!

2. Finding Meara is free through Saturday. If you haven't read it yet, and would like to get a copy with no risk to you, now is the time. If you feel like sharing the news, I'd be ever so grateful. :)

Below is my first effort at designing an ad. What do you think?

The eight votes from last week split into a four way tie, so we don't have a favorite this week. I guess we'll move on to the new photos!

If I catch myself being cranky, I'll ask for a hug from my boys and then tell them "See, that's why I was cranky. I didn't get my daily hugs. All better now." And I usually am. Hugs make the world go round.

It looks like a cartoon!

I feel worse now that the music is so old it isn't even played on the oldies station anymore.

Look for the...Bear Necessities...

Very like our pit bull/lab mix. She licks constantly - but only on skin.

The pun! 

Have a wonderful day and weekend!

I think my favorite this week is the dog with eyebrows.
What's yours?

Photos from I Can Has Cheezeburger?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

For the Writers: The Connection Between Acting and Writing

A little known fact about me is that I initially majored in Drama when I first attended college. As a senior in high school I got a part in the travelling children's show of the local college and garnered a scholarship. When I "stopped out" of college, I still enjoyed participating in community theatre - until I attended a workshop where any confidence I had of my acting abilities was stomped out by the cocky actor giving the workshop.

The artistry behind acting and putting on a production still awes me, though. My husband and I always love to watch the interviews and behind-the-scenes extras included on the DVDs of movies we buy. I am completely fascinated how actors talk about how they come to understand the character they're playing. I never was involved in theatre long enough to really learn how to dig into a character. For me it was always more intuitive and less thoughtful.

Something that has recently occurred to me is that, in order to gain that deep characterization in writing, to make our characters come alive, we need to be actors to all of the characters of our stories. Yes, the beginning is to understand their goals and motivations for the story. We need to know their backstory and values. But we need to go deeper than that.

How do our characters view other characters, in relationship to themselves - and how do the other characters view them. Most of life is cause and effect. Dialogue is a string of verbal reactions to what the other person is saying. Understanding the roles our characters play within their interactions with others can help us create more realistic dynamics.

For example, if character A is younger sister to character B, but has always been the protector because character A is bigger, or less shy, then how would character B react? Would character B feel relieved and go with it, or would character B feel marginalized and resent character A. How would character B demonstrate that resentment?

How does character A feel about being the protector. Does she wish character B would grow up and take responsibility for herself? If we can identify the story within the backstory (character A is younger sister to character B) we can have some real conflict within a very real dynamic.

What kind of personal style do they have, and why? When I was in high school I was a rebel, but also rule-bound. I had no desire to break laws, but I definitely didn't want to identify with the other students who demanded power over everyone else. How did I demonstrate to everyone that they had no power over me? Through my clothing. I was one of 2-3 students in my small, Nebraskan high school of 400 to own studded bracelets and parachute pants (Who remembers those? Really? Now I feel old.) Even today the clothing (casual), jewelry (minimal)- even sunglasses (anything that makes my feel glamorous) - I choose are a demonstration of who I am. 

Personal style goes beyond the outward appearance, though. What kind of mannerisms do they have? How do they move? Are there cultural issues that come into play? What kind of communication style do they have? 

I promise one day very soon I'll quit talking about Tom Hiddleston, but this is one instance he is a perfect example. Well, actually, it's his ability to play different characters believably that is a perfect example. It's not just the costumes and make-up that transform him from character to character. His face and mannerisms as Loki are very different than when he is Prince Hal (or any of the other characters he's played). He creates an identifiable personal style for each character. 

What is the character's public persona versus their private? We all act differently in different situations, because social rules differ depending on where you are. How does the character navigate these changes? Is how they react to things internally different than what they show on the outside? This is one area I love about Hazel in Finding Meara. She is constantly having a totally different dialogue in her head than what she actually says. It's one of the best things about writing in first-person point of view.

I hope this made sense. Even now, my understanding of character development is rather intuitive. I know what I mean, but I'm not sure I have a good enough grasp of it to verbalize it. It's all a learning process, but what an exciting process!

How do you deepen the characterization of your characters? Any tips you'd like to share?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Funny Friday Photos

Thank God it's Friday. I've been sick all week, work has been pretty intense, and I'm ready for the weekend. Anyone else ready for a couple days off?

With the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special coming up on Saturday, I've been enjoying the Doctor Who take-over on BBC America. It's been hard to do anything else but watch the show. I really think Steven Moffat and Russell T. Davies are geniuses. 

Last week's winner for funniest photos is:

Here are the new photos for this week!

And our pun of the week. I apologize in advance. I thought it was funny, though.

My favorite photo is either the heat vent cat or the barbecue dog. Those faces!

Do you like Doctor Who? Which photo is your favorite.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Funny Friday Photos

Wow! This week went by fast! I can't believe it was only last weekend that we saw Thor: The Dark World. That's right! We went, and I thought it was excellent.

I've read all over the internet that Loki stole the show. If you've been hanging around the blog for any length of time, you might have figured out I'm a Tom Hiddleston fan. And while I think he is an excellent actor, and adore how he plays Loki, I really think part of what makes Loki such a lovable villain is the relationship between him and Thor. If Chris Hemsworth didn't play Thor's emotions toward Loki as convincingly - or if it was a different actor, even - I don't think it would work as good. For me, at least, it's because of the relationship between them that I am the fool Loki always thought Thor was and keep hoping/believing that Loki is going to stop conniving and be the person we get glimpses of. I see Loki through Thor's eyes. I really think Chris Hemsworth deserves some praise, too.

Yeah, I've probably thought about this too much. So! Let's see some funny photos!

Last week's winner for funniest photo is:

And here are the new ones!

I don't know if it's particularly funny, but it's a running joke between my husband and I, so in it went.

The pun for the weekend:

I'm conflicted between the cow and the cat with the bearded dragon. I think I'll go with the cow, because they can be kind of scary, actually. The threat in the calf's eyes is probably very real!

Which is your favorite? Have you seen Thor 2 yet?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Something Bizarre Happened: The Cookie Monster Debacle

To be honest, the something bizarre wasn't exactly bizarre. It was more like horrifically traumatizing - for me and the kids in one of my second grade mindfulness groups. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but it was certainly worse than just bizarre.

I'll have to give you a little background information before I get to the horror, so please bear with me.

Neuroscience is uncovering amazing information about the brain, which is being used to inform mental health practice, education and learning. Mindfulness skills have been shown to increase focus, self-regulation, concentration and learning, and so this year I am using a curriculum (called the Mind Up Curriculum) in 13 of the 17 classrooms in my school.

Briefly, what mindfulness skills are is the ability to use the pre-frontal cortex (our thinking center) to control our amygdala (the brain's center for emotion) which is tasked with keeping us safe. The way I explain it to the kids at school is the amygdala is like the Dad in the Croods and the pre-frontal cortex is like Guy. When we are able to think, we are able to learn, and children who live in poverty or highly stressful conditions don't necessarily get these skills taught to them, for many reasons I won't go into.

Within the last month, I found a You Tube video of Tom Hiddleston teaching Cookie Monster about delayed gratification. It is adorable, and I use it with Chapter Two of the curriculum, where we talk about what mindfulness is and what mindfulness isn't. Cookie Monster's reactions show both extremes, and the kids really relate. Even the fifth graders want to see the video.

In order to understand the rest of the story, you need to watch the video, so here it is. It only takes a couple of minutes, so I'll wait.

Cute, right? So very innocent and sweet.

All right, so here is where it gets bad. I am already cringing inside.

My second grade groups are the last of the afternoon, and one of the teachers is my friend, which means I feel totally comfortable being myself in her classroom. This particular day we started late, I showed the video, did the little game I came up with the integrate the video into the lesson, and then still had a little time.

I didn't want to move on to the next activity, because we wouldn't have enough time to really do it right. One of the video previews said (cringing right now) Cookie Monster Bloopers.

Okay, in my defense, if you have children (or even if you just watch animated movies) the latest thing has been to create bloopers. The Toy Story movies have them, and I've seen them on other animated movies, I just can't remember which ones right now.

The kids wanted to see the bloopers. I thought, "Why not?" I didn't really have anything that fit into the time left, and we were having fun.

So, I put on the video. And it was very like the actual video. Right when I started to think I'd put on the wrong video, Cookie Monster went crazy, little arms flailing and shouted, "Give me the mother f**king cookie! I said give me the f**king cookie!"

Now, I may be wrong on what exactly was said, because - quite honestly - after the first "f**k", my amygdala totally freaked out and I didn't really hear much after it. I am repeating to you what my teacher friend told me Cookie Monster said.

I began shouting "Don't listen! Don't listen!" to try to drown out any further expletives, and jumped in front of the screen, arms outstretched, trying vainly to block the view of the 18 second graders, while simultaneously trying to hit the stop button (a one inch square) on the SMART Board.

While it felt like forever, I think I got lucky and turned it off relatively quickly. I looked around the classroom, and eighteen pairs of shocked eyes stared back at me. And all I could say was, "Well, that was bad."

Then the incredibility of what had just happened hit me, and I had to laugh, which made all the kids laugh too. I finished off the group by having a discussion on how swearing is not necessary or useful, even though lots of people use those words. I was relieved that when I asked if the kids had heard that word before, pretty much all of them had, and many of them said their dads use the word "a lot." 

The class is slow to forget. The last time I went in for group, one of the kids gave me a suspicious look and said "You aren't going to show us that video again, are you?" I guess I can't blame him. I can only imagine how traumatizing it would be to a seven year old to see Cookie Monster attack someone and swear like a sailor.

Just to make sure it's understood, the video was not done by anyone connected with PBS or Tom Hiddleston. Some mean human being created the parody and uploaded it. If I would have noticed the different name, I might have gotten a clue, but I didn't, much to my shame.

I noticed on the You Tube preview picture of the bad video there are now words added to the cover picture, including the f-word. When I played the video at school, there were no words that would give a warning that it was inappropriate. I'm glad the person added the words. I can only imagine how many people stumbled over the video with small children present.

Lesson learned. Always, always preview a video before you show it to anyone.

Sooo, have you ever had a nasty surprise? 
How did you handle it?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Funny Friday Photos

It's Friday, the weekend is upon us, and Thor 2 is in theatres. Life is good. It's true, it doesn't take much to make me happy. At least, not this weekend!

Um, I seriously can't think of anything funny or interesting to say, so I'm going to move on to the photos.

Last week's winner for funniest photo was:

Here are this week's new photos!

It took me a while to see the rabbit, but when I did... Definitely messed with my head.

I'm so embarrassed for the dog. I bet all his pack mates laughed at him back at the kennels.

Iron Caterpillar?

One stressed cat.

Snowman zombies! What kind of genius makes snowman zombies!

Okay. I don't know why, but the bear at the end keeps cracking me up.

Freaky. Just freaky. But, I always think of cats when I hear CAT scan, so...

A fun little experiment for you to try out. 

Well, what happened? My foot isn't smart. How about yours?

My favorite photo is the Loki bear. I can't tell you why, but I just laugh, so it gets my vote. Maybe it's because I'm so psyched about the movie. 

What is your favorite photo? Are you going to see Thor: The Dark World this weekend? (Or, if you're one of those lucky people where it's been released for weeks already, did you go see it? What did you think?)

Monday, November 04, 2013

Theme Park: Child Protection

All of my earlier excuses shrank away. Meara couldn’t protect herself, and didn’t have anyone to keep her safe from her own father. Lucian was supposed to take care of her, and he was going to kill her.

If we didn’t help her, if I didn’t help her, who would?

“I’ll go,” I said.

Four pairs of eyes swiveled to me.

I cleared my throat. “I’m going to get her back.” ~ Finding Meara

Child protection is the main theme of Finding Meara. It is the place where I started when I began brainstorming ideas for my first novel.

Working with children in a therapeutic capacity has given me quite a view of the horrors adults can perpetrate on children. Prior to my current job as a school social worker, I worked in a residential treatment facility for elementary aged children. Although the damage to children was greater, there also was the relief that the children in the facility had been removed from the abusive situations and people who hurt them. Still, my anger at the injustice and hurt these children had endured solely because they were children--sometimes (often) by the very people who were supposed to protect them and love them--began there.

Now I work in an environment where I may not see as severe of behaviors from abused children, but the children who are being hurt or abused remain with their abuser. It's up to the adults surrounding those children to step in and help them, and I don't mean just the teachers or school staff.

My first year in an elementary school I felt very insecure about calling the Department of Family services. I knew I would do it, because I am a mandatory reporter, but I still had some of those reservations about butting into other people's lives, worry that I'd call and create a mess (we've all heard the stories about DFS going into people's homes after false accusations were made and parents losing their children for an extended period of time), or that I'd make it worse for the kids.

Then two things happened. The first was that a five year old boy's parents were drinking, and getting
Photo from
into serious physical fights in front of him, forgetting to pick him up from school, all kinds of things that no kid should have to go through. The second was that my cat had kittens, and around the same time as all this was happening, she abandoned one of them in the little house we had for them and it froze to death.

It might be hard to understand, but my heart broke when I found that kitten, alone in the house, it's eyes not even open. It still makes me want to cry. It had obviously been trying to find its mom or siblings, because of how I found it. While I know that animals will often abandon sickly babies, it didn't matter. All of the helplessness surrounding the child at school transferred to that little kitten, and I grieved for it.

I also made a decision. I hadn't been able to help the kitten, but I could do my best to help children if I see something that makes me stop and think "that's not right."

Last year I called DFS more than I ever had before, unfortunately for very real, very serious issues. (Sadly, this year hasn't started off so good, either.) On one of the visits, I noticed the DFS worker had a pen that said "It's everyone's job to protect children." And I thought, "This. Exactly."

That one statement sums up the point I wanted to make in Finding Meara. We all have a responsibility to help children who are being hurt, whether that be sexually, physically, emotionally, by neglect, because of poverty, are starving or even just mistreated. We have to be concerned with all children's well-being, whether they live in our communities or in third-world countries. They are children. They hold the innocence and beauty of the world in tiny, fragile bodies. If we don't help them, then who will?

What are your thoughts?


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