Monday Musings: Time to Experiment!

I have mentioned before that I write lessons for a youth Christian camp which I’ve been involved with for years.  In addition, I have worked in children’s ministry and taught numerous Bible classes.  Always looking for interesting ways to convey a story or principle, I have discovered the wonder of easy science experiments! 

Since I am at camp this week coordinating classes for 98 nine to eleven year olds, I thought I might share with you five of my favorites over the years.  Please note that I am not a science person.  I’m a writer, for heaven’s sake!  I once took a college class entitled The Search for Extraterrestrial Life in hopes of avoiding anything too science-y (by the way, total misnomer as apparently chemical equations are involved in the search). 

But if you’re looking for something fun to do with kids in a classroom or on a rainy afternoon, I have a few suggestions.  Most experiments that I do are combed from internet searches where the idea is listed in several places, so I don’t cite authors with those.  But if I have a definite source for an experiment below, I will list it. 

Fake Blood

Supplies:  Container of some kind, water, corn syrup, red food coloring, blue food coloring (optional).

Directions:  Mix 1 part water and 3 parts corn syrup.  Then add several drops of red food coloring.  You may wish to add a drop or two of blue food coloring for a more blood-like hue.  Then reach your fingers in and start imagining what you can do with it!  Store this recipe away for Halloween too. 

Poking through Water Bag

Supplies:  Baggies (like Ziploc) – sandwich or quart size, well-sharpened pencils, water.

Directions:  Fill a baggie almost to the top with water and seal it securely.  Carefully twist a pointy pencil little by little into the baggie and out through the other side.  This is much more fun over a friend’s head with the words “Do you trust me?” uttered before you begin.  First seen in Fun Science that Teaches God’s Word by Mary Grace Becker and Susan Martins Miller. 

Reignite It

Supplies:  Glass bottle (like a Coke bottle), long wooden skewer or match, lighter, hydrogen peroxide, dry yeast.

Directions:  Pour hydrogen peroxide into the bottle, and add the dry yeast.  Bubbles will begin to form.  Immediately light the skewer, let it burn briefly, and blow it out.  Then put the skewer into the glass bottle with the peroxide and yeast.  The skewer should reignite.  This little experiment drew oohs and ahs from a crowd of youngsters, and I was prevailed upon to repeat the experiment a couple more times.  Courtesy of a demonstration by the Houston Museum of Natural Science. 

Egg Suck

Supplies:  Two hard-boiled eggs, two coffee drink glass bottles (think Starbucks Frappuccino), wooden skewers, matches.

Directions:  Place a boiled egg into the opening of the first bottle and shove the egg into the bottle (as hard as possible).  It will break apart and be really messy.  Then put the second boiled egg on the second bottle.  Light a match, lift the egg, and quickly toss the match inside the bottle, replacing the egg.  The small flames will go out and, as the smoke subsides, the egg will be pulled into the bottle without breaking.  If you want the scientific explanation for this, apparently the air in the bottle cooling down causes lower pressure inside the bottle than outside, forcing the egg to be sucked in.  (The wooden skewers are to break apart the egg and get it out of the bottle.) 

Great Balls of Fire

Supplies:  2”x5”(ish) scrap of all-cotton fabric, long piece of cotton thread, needle, lighter fuel, match or butane lighter.

Directions:  Roll up the fabric into a ball.  Thread a needle and push it through the middle of the fabric ball once, then wrap the thread all around the fabric ball to secure it.  Push the needle back through the middle at the end to keep it from unraveling.  Then squirt lighter fuel all over the ball.  You want the ball to be wet, but not dripping.  Wash your hands if you got too much fuel on yourself during that step.  Then light that baby up!  Oh yeah . . . in your hand.  Believe it or not, you will be able to hold the ball in your hand without burning your skin.  I suggest tossing it back and forth between your hands because it does get hot.  But I have done this a few times and never gotten burned.

Good heavens, I just realized that three of these experiments involve fire!  I suppose I should add that all experiments with children should be done with adult supervision; in fact, you may wish to merely demonstrate.  For instance, I use the fire ball experiment as an object lesson with me at the front of the room doing the experiment and the kids watching the results.

If you’re looking for more, I recommend Steve Spangler Science, the PBS Zoom science website, and Exploratorium.

Do you have any favorite science experiments?  Do you ever do activities like this with kids?  What resources do you recommend?

Things I Did as a Child, But I’m Still Alive

I grew up in the 1970’s (well, 1980’s for high school).  As a mother, I have noticed that some things have changed since then – you know, besides the personal computer, internet, fashion, etc.  I’m thinking specifically about safety.  In addition to now locking our door every time we leave the house and talking to our children about a range of subjects that never occurred to our parents, we have a whole new set of safety rules for our kids. 

Come to think of it, by today’s standards, it’s a wonder I’m alive!  Because we did some stuff that I would never encourage my kids to do today.  Here are a few I recall: 

Played outside for hours without sunscreen.  I don’t even remember hearing the word “sunscreen” until high school.  And even then, we were far more likely to slather baby oil or Hawaiian Tropic on our bodies and lay out in our backyards, at the pool, or on the beach so we could have that sun-kissed tan.  We weren’t thinking skin cancer; we were thinking of that Bain de Soleil magazine model.  Remember her?  I couldn’t find a photo of that browned body, but check out this 1980 Coppertone tan commercial if you want to stroll down memory lane. 

Rode my bike without a helmet.  Helmets were for football, not bike-riding through the neighborhood!  By the time I became a mother, there were statistics about preventable head injuries, articles on how to choose a proper helmet for your child, and doctors encouraging helmet use.  Back in the 1970’s, though, not only did I ride with the wind whipping through my hair, but we happily careened down a slope at our local park we kids fondly called “Suicide Hill.”   I skinned knees, elbows, face, and more, but no skull fractures thankfully.

Drank from a water hose.  Now apparently this is a no-no.  But after all that bike-riding and hours without sunscreen, growing up in South Texas where temps could reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity was above 90% . . . well, thirsty!  The easiest way to quench that thirst was to head to the nearest friend’s house and grab the hose.  We’d take turns sucking down the warm water, thinking that we were health-conscious by not licking the spout.  After all, there were others in line behind you. 

Rode in a car without a seatbelt.  We had seatbelts in our car, but they were usually buried in the seat.  Moreover, these were not shoulder/lap belts, only lap.  And they were like airplane seatbelts, adjustable by pulling on a metal clasp.  In the winter, that wasn’t a problem.  But when the July heat reached the level of Hades, I was definitely willing to take my chances that we wouldn’t be hit by another vehicle over risking second-degree burns by yanking out that lap belt and strapping it over my hips. 

Ate deep-fried food.  Thanks, Mom!  Like many families in the South, we had a Fry Daddy, a Fry Baby, and a frying skillet.  A meal served relatively often was fried chicken, fried okra and squash, and buttered corn on the cob.  Or there was fried shrimp and fish, French fries, and hush puppies.  Oh, man, I’m drooling just thinking of it!  But I’m also imagining that my arteries were probably already clogging like rolls of toilet paper sent down the plumbing line.  Where’s the Drano?!  I still eat fried foods sometimes, but not nearly as often.  After all, I want to outlive my cat. 

Dined in restaurants filled with second-hand smoke.  Speaking of eating, I recall most dining out experiences involving my parents asking for the non-smoking section, which consisted of a few tables at the back with no barrier.  Smoke filled the restaurant and wafted all around.  It was common for people to finish their meals and light up back then.  There were no city ordinances, no stiff social mores against such behavior.  As a non-smoker myself, I think cigarettes smell bad and I don’t want my kids around a bunch of smoke.  But it was the way things were back then, and I didn’t question it much.

Bought candy cigarettes.  Now speaking of the smoking thing, did any of you buy candy cigarettes growing up?  My sister, a friend, and I took gymnastics classes for a little while.  (By the way, my sister was good at it; I stunk.)  After our class, we had a little time before we headed home, so we scurried over to the convenience store and purchased candy cigarettes.  We held them like mini Bette Davises, sucking on the sugary cylinders and then devouring them.  For some reason, I don’t think that ever made me want an actual cigarette.  And none of the three of us smoke now.  But do I buy my kids candy cigarettes?  No.  I don’t even think you can find them now anyway. 

What do you recall doing as a child that you couldn’t imagine letting your kids do?  Or doing now yourself?  Do you think we are overly protective or just about right with today’s children?  What are you amazed that you did and are still alive?  (I refrained from telling about any super-crazy stunts from my past.  Hi, Mom!  Hi, Dad!  But you are welcome to share here.)  Chime in!

80 Days, 4 Goals, 5 Questions, and 116 Years

80 Days

I first joined up with the Round of Words in 80 Days Challenge back in April and set specific goals for my writing career. I met all my goals in about half the time. So in one sense, the endeavor was a huge success for me!

However, I fizzled on reporting my progress, did a poor job of cheerleading others once I had met my own goals, and didn’t set new ones to keep myself on track. So in that sense, I kind of, sort of, well . . . blew it. I could have gotten more out of the experience and been a blessing to others along the way! 

When the Round of Words in 80 Days Round 3 was announced, I thought, “I’ll pass.”  After all, it begins right smack in the middle of summer (July 4) when my kids are home and wanting to have fun and I am busy preparing lessons for a Christian youth camp (Camp Bandina near Bandera, Texas). How am I supposed to set writing goals and meet them? And how will I do in encouraging others when I’m merely trying to keep my children from watching video games 12 hours a day and maintain my blogging? 

Go ahead and say it:  Wuss. 

I mean, really, am I that big a wimp that I can’t set a goal and meet it – even if it is smaller than I might achieve during the school year? Can I not spend a few minutes a day saying “Way to Go!” to other authors who indeed impress me with their persistence and talent? Can I not follow through on a challenge that lasts a mere 80 days? 

4 Goals

Yes, I can!  With a little positive peer pressure from Tiffany A White (ROW80 cheerleader) and Kait Nolan (ROW80 Sponsor), I am jumping in again!  So here are my ROW80 goals for Round 3:

  • Send out three queries a week for my completed mystery novel, Grace & Fire (working title).
  • Edit my middle grade novel, The First Time (working title), incorporating suggestions from beta readers.
  • Blog three times a week – Mondays Musings, Wednesday Words, and Friday Fiction.
  • Read at least two writing craft books.

That’s all for now.  But I will check in regularly, note progress, and change the goals as needed.  If you want to help me cheer on fellow ROW80 participants, check out this great group HERE. 

5 Questions

Marji Laine, fellow Texan and mystery writer, has tagged me to complete the following questions. Check out her blog! Here are my answers: 

Do you think you’re hot?  I know what this is asking, but my family reads my blog!Still, I live in Southeast Texas, and it’s been blazing hot – breaking triple digits many days. So yeah, I’m hot – every time I walk out the door into the sweat-inducing heat. 

Upload a picture of the wallpaper you are using.

How do I even do this? It’s a wallpaper that came with my computer – mauve pink. I know, boring.

When was the last time you ate chicken?

I had a southwestern chicken enchilada and a chicken flauta on Saturday from Café Adobe. Yum!

What song or songs have you listened to recently?

Here are my most recent downloads to a Walkman MP3 player.  This list shows my ridiculously eclectic musical taste.

All Shook Up by Elvis Presley

Istanbul Not Constantinople by They Might Be Giants

Rock Steady by God Rocks

Rolling in the Deep by Adele

Do you have any nicknames? If so what are they?
Jules. That’s the nickname used at times by my husband and college friends in particular.  I like it, although I slightly prefer Julie. One of my sisters also calls me Pickle, but there’s a back story to that one and it’s only between the two of us. 

Tag 5 bloggers:  Frankly, having already tagged bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award, the Stylish Blogger Award, and the Writing is Like Meme Challenge, I am concerned that my writer friends may begin to hide behind sprawling trees, parked semi-trucks, and flimsy sheets of journal paper so as not to be tagged again. So if you want to participate, leave a comment and your blog link. The first five to respond with the “I’m in!” are IT! 

Thanks again, Marji!  And please check out Marji Laine’s blog! 

116 Years

One last note: Today, my son is participating with his Boy Scout troop in our town’s July 4th Parade. It is one of the oldest consecutively running Independence Day parades, having been in existence for 116 years! This is a great hometown experience for my family, and I’m thankful that many of us will be celebrating the United States of America and its principles today. Happy 4th to you all!

Monday Musings: Happy without a Housekeeper

As I got crouched down and scrubbed the bottom of my toilet bowl, I thought about how a lot of people hate to clean stuff.  We like having things clean . . . but cleaning them ourselves is altogether different.

Since I don’t currently have (actually, have never had) a housekeeper, all the lovely chores are left to Yours Truly, with mixed results.  I’m terrible with clutter (see my post on Where Is My Stuff?), but great about cleaning underneath.  So how does cleaning relate to writing?  Here are few things I’ve thought of:

1.  Some chores you hate; others you don’t mind.  A friend of mine despises doing laundry, while I don’t particularly dislike it.  But if I could go the rest of my life without ever getting on my knees, leaning over the porcelain, and scrubbing the yellowish ring off the bathtub, I would do her laundry and mine.  If someone would dust thoroughly all the flat surfaces and window blinds, I would scoop their litter boxes and mine until our cats cross over to feline heaven.

The same with writing.  There are some parts of this process that are enjoyable (like, for instance, the writing), and others that are less palatable – perhaps editing, proofreading, queries, etc.  For both housekeeping and writing, you can delegate some things, but not all.

2.  You have to use some elbow grease.  Like it or not, the best way to have a clean floor is not a mop, a Swiffer, a Shark, or whatever.  If you want to know that you know that you know that your floor is clean, get down on your hands and knees and scrub it yourself.  When you clean sinks, toilets, or bathtubs, it isn’t sufficient to swish a little soap and water around in there (as I have explained several times to my boys); you have to put a little pressure into it.  Get the stains off and the shine on!

So it is with writing.  The only way to write a novel is one word at a time.  The only way to write one word at a time is to plant your derriere in a chair and start typing.  The only way to start typing is to think about what you want to say and then say it.  There are no shortcuts to a complete manuscript.  It takes work.  It is the most fun work I’ve ever done!  But it is work.  Put mental elbow grease into your writing.

3.  When you’re finished, stand back and enjoy the view.  My sister has told me that when she gets the house completely clean, she has been known to send the children outside to play for an hour.  It’s just one hour, mind you, but she walks around with a grin of satisfaction at her job well done.  That is, until she lets the little mess-makers back in and the process starts all over again.  But there should be a period of self-congratulation.

When your first draft or your final draft is done, there is an “Aaaah” moment.  You stare at the word or page count or the crisp pages in your hand and think, “I wrote that. I am a writer.”  You deserve a celebrity-studded party with a champagne-flowing fountain, live music, a dance floor with a disco ball, and you as the guest of honor because a completed manuscript is a big stinkin’ deal!  But whether anybody sings Jolly Good Fellow to you or not, take some pleasure in a job well done.  Your moment won’t last long because now you have to sell that book or start the next one that keeps poking the back side of your brain and wants to be written.

Okay, my moment of being happy that I could learn some lessons from being without a housekeeper is done.  As I reflect more, I think I’ll take the best-selling author career with the multi-book contract, the big house, the sports car, and the cleaning staff.  Hey, I’ve already learned these lessons anyway.  Maybe I could learn some new ones from unbridled success and fame!  I’m willing to give it a shot.

Monday Musings: Where Is My Stuff?

I love an opening scene from the sitcom The King of Queens where wife Carrie is berating husband Doug for not having any idea whatsoever where things are in their own home.  Boy, can I relate!

By default, I have become the calendar keeper, the stuff finder, the task reminder, and the overall dumpsite of trivial knowledge required to make our family function.  It certainly wasn’t going to be my husband, whom I affectionately call The Absent-Minded Professor.  If he had his own personal Lost & Found, it would be piled as high as my ceiling, or make that St. Peter’s Cathedral ceiling.  That pile would hold leather jackets, umbrellas, books, two wedding rings, and much more.

And my kids are . . . well, kids.  “Where’s my       ?” is a common question in our house, as I’m sure it is in many households.  The response of “It’s where you left it!” doesn’t seem to absolve me of the duty to crawl around on the floor looking under furniture, books, and loose laundry for whatever my children desperately need in the next five minutes.  In fact, my son commented the other day, “I think you’re the only one who knows where everything goes.”

But I’m a clutter hound myself.  I spend way too much time searching for the right pair of glasses (distance, reading, sunglasses – take your pick), my Walkman MP3 player or headphones, and various forms that I was supposed to complete  for my kids’ school as if I’m the  one who has homework instead of them!  I try to sort and organize, but there is simply too much stuff!

My brain is a clutter collector as well.  It’s full of ideas constantly!  A sliver of an idea for a next novel, a blog topic that I would like to cover, plans to research something that has flummoxed me in my current Work in Progress, and a list of household, parenting, and writing to-do’s as long as a stretch of West Texas highway.

by Mike R. Baker

How do I keep track, find what I need to find, and make sense of the clutter in my life and my head?  I’m learning as I go.

Where I have routines in my life (clean clothes immediately go on dressers, scissors in junk drawer every time), I can find stuff.  Where I use consistent organizers, like file folders and calendars, I can find stuff.  Where I rely on my brain to juggle items and activities like a circus entertainer, I will inevitably throw three apples in the air and then catch the machete with its sharp end.  Ouch!

How do you sort and organize your life?  What tools or routines have you found helpful?  Can you consistently find things, get places on time, finish works in progress?  Tell me how you do it!

Monday Musings: Facing Forty

Logan's Run - yes, with Farrah Faucet

I can’t remember how I spent birthday number 10, but for my 20th I threw my own birthday party at a local Abilene restaurant and invited my friends, after which we went to a classic movie at the refurbished Paramount Theatre. Year 30 was spent with a newborn in our home watching Logan’s Run and feeling happy that I was neither in that sci-fi world nor relegated to the 1970’s hairstyles sported in that movie. And year 40 was spent realizing that I am – oh my goodness! How did this happen? – FORTY!

I don’t lie about my age or particularly dread the aging process (unless I watch a Depends commercial or catch myself noticing a nice-looking guy half my age). However, age 40 hit me like a buffalo stampede. I was left bewildered and wondering what had happened to so much of my life. Where did it all go? Some days seemed to drag, but the years revved by.

I fell into a contemplative state worthy of a monk or a philosophy student. I figured that I was about midway through this game we call Life, and I needed to regroup and figure out how I was going to play the second half.

So I started a bucket list. But I hate calling it that. I’m nowhere near kicking the bucket! Forty isn’t one foot in the grave! It’s just a few steps closer to the cemetery – you know, where you can kind of see the headstones now but not yet read them (especially not without my glasses). So I counted up my to-do list and found that I had over 30 items. I numbered down to 40 and titled my list “40 Things to Do after 40.”

It’s now merely my “40 After 40” list.  Here are a few of the items:

  • Write a novel
  • Learn to tap dance
  • Sing at a karaoke bar
  • Host a costume party
  • See Shakespeare in the Park
  • Write a blog
  • Ride in a small private plane (open cockpit would be great)
  • Attend the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York (tennis)
  • Read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Own a gazebo

I’ve researched tap dance lessons in my area, need to check the upcoming Shakespeare in the Park schedule, and have to wait for a while on the gazebo (they cost $$). Others are in the works as well.  Of course, if anyone has tickets they want to give away to the next U.S. Open, I’d be happy to take those off your hands!)

I’m proud to have crossed some things off my list – including that first novel, starting this blog, and delving into another Tolstoy book with more characters to track than all the roles from the recently cancelled All My Children.

By the way, if you looked at my list and wondered why at past-40 I have never been to a karaoke bar, I can’t explain it. In fact, I’ve been told I sing well enough, so it’s not fear of utter humiliation that prevents me from going. I simply haven’t gotten around to it. Perhaps at the next writers’ conference I attend, I can find some brave people to scout out a nearby karaoke place and help me check yet another item off my 40 After 40 list. I’ll start working on my rendition of “I Will Survive” now. (Am I allowed to ad lib lyrics, such as, “I will survive . . . the book pitch”? That might be a crowd-pleaser!)

Do you have a similar list? How’s it going? What are some of your must-do items for your lifetime?

Monday Musings: Research & Reconnaissance

My friend (call her Susie Q) and I walk into the Houston International Boat Show to see all kinds of marine vessels displayed around the large convention hall.  One of the first things I notice is that these events are primarily attended by those of the xY chromosomal persuasion.  They are also usually visited by people who actually know something about boats.

Growing up in a coastal town, I’d been around boats plenty, but I’d never driven one or owned one or thought about buying one.  But I wasn’t there to purchase.  I was there for reconnaissance. 

We mosey up and down the aisles, checking out everything from streamlined bass boats to luxurious yachts.  We strike up conversations with boat shoppers and salespeople.  Most of them are pretty smooth, up until the time Susie Q or I ask something like, “Now what’s the best way to set one of these babies on fire?”  That gets you some strange looks!

But that’s one of the fun things about being a fiction writer – researching what you’re writing about!  To figure out how to describe boat arson in mystery novel, I attended the boat show, read several books on arson and firefighting, and watched I-don’t-know-how-many videos on and other sites showing video of boat fires.  I can’t remember which ones I viewed, but here’s a sample.

For other projects, I’ve researched bed carving, blood science, languages, legends, journaling, piracy, and trees.  Once I get interested in a topic, I can spend hours on the internet or speaking with others to enhance my body of knowledge.  In fact, there is no end to the number of topics one can research, and there is always some obscure expert somewhere who has been there before you and discovered fascinating things.

Twitter has also provided another great place for book research.  I recently asked what swim meet event a not-so-terrific 12 year old swimmer might participate in.  Within a couple of minutes, I received two responses from Twitter friends (with the same answer, so my girl character is in the 100 meter freestyle!).  How nice of these ladies to save me the trouble of researching that one by simply sharing their knowledge.

What have you researched?  How do you go about gathering information?  Do you have favorite resources?

Bonus: Stylish Blogger Award

First, I’d like to thank the Academy . . .  Oh, it’s not THAT award.  Still, I’m so excited that my Twitter and blog friend Tiffany A. White has given me the award, The Stylish Blogger!  (See, I can be stylish even if I do shop at Target.)

In addition to being an excellent writer, Tiffany is a TV guru with loads of information on what to watch, so be sure to check out her blog.  In fact, every time anyone clicks on the Stylish Blogger Award icon on my website, they will experience Tiffany’s blog.

The Stylish Blogger award does come with rules. (Don’t all awards?)

1.       Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
2.       Share seven random facts about yourself.
3.       Pass the award along to 5 new-found blogging buddies.
4.       Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

Since I recently gave seven random facts about myself and five blogging buddies for the Versatile Blogger award, I refer you to that post and my recommendations of blogs to check out.

Versatile and Stylish. I bet my sisters are wondering how I ever managed that.

Thanks again, Tiffany!

Monday Musings: Writing is Like . . .

On Friday, the brilliant Tracey Hansen tagged me in a “new bloggy project exercise thingy” called Writing Is Not Like a Box of Chocolates: A Meme.

THE RULES:  Take the phrase “Writing is like . . .” and finish it. Post it on your blog. Tag three others to do the same. That is all.

Can it really be that easy?  Yes, it can.  So here I go:

Writing is like . . . that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana and Marion are stuck in the tomb, and she walks into a corridor where cobwebbed skeletons reach out for her from all sides.  (1000-year-old skeletons = fictional characters that won’t leave you alone.)

Okay, maybe I didn’t put enough effort into that.

Actually, after telling people that I write books, some have responded, “So I guess it’s easy for you to write.”  I want to respond, “No, it’s REALLY HARD trying to squeeze words out of your head and your fingers and type them onto a page in an orderly fashion that conveys the story that you want to tell.”  But it is also wonderful!  Time disappears when I am writing.

So what is writing like?  Maybe because I have lived much of my life on the Texas Gulf Coast, I think I will compare it to an ocean.

Writing is like wading into the sea, watching the waves break against the shore and tumble into the sand.  You stride out confidently, ready to leap across the waves and feel the tide and foam splash against your skin.  It’s a thing of rhythm – making sure you bounce at the right time and the right height.  You feel like you’re in control as you gracefully ride the waves.  And then, the waves grow larger and unwieldy, and you realize that they will have their say as well.  But as tempted as you might be to sink your toes down into the ocean’s bottom, you throw yourself forward and allow the salty rush of water to sweep you in with the tide.  When the wave passes and you look back to the shore, you see that you have drifted. You are still in the same ocean, still the same swimmer, but the sea has moved you.

And now (drumroll, please), my three tags:

Tiffany A. White: Tiffany is a fabulous Twitter and wordmongering friend and a great blogger with loads of information on the TV scene.  Follow her now.

Catie Rhodes: Catie has a knack for quirky and curious stories – like the curse of James Dean’s car.  Check out her blog.

Amy Thomas:  Young Adult author and organizer of the YASB Facebook group and Twitter hashtag. She also recently won the Backwards Contest on

I wish to also add that Memorial Day is a day to honor those who have served and sacrificed. God bless them and their families.

Monday Musings: The Versatile Blogger Award

My sincerest thanks to the talented Tracey Hansen who nominated me for The Versatile Blogger Award. I strongly encourage you to visit her at her blog, Tracey Hansen Will Write for Food. Tracy’s razor-sharp wit is either the stuff of brilliance or a masked cry for help. I totally vote the former! Check her out.

The rules for this award are as follows:

1.       Thank and link to the person who nominated you. 
2.       Share seven random facts about yourself.
3.       Pass the award along to 5 new-found blogging buddies.
4.       Contact the winners to congratulate them.

Seven random facts about me:

1.   My eclectic music taste means that I have songs from Dean Martin, Nirvana, TobyMac, Martina McBride, ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, John Mellencamp, Christina Aguilera, Van Halen, and Doris Day on my MP3 player. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

2.   I have narrow feet, making it particularly hard to buy trendy shoes.

3.   The only bone I’ve ever broken is my pinkie toe.  I did have some trendy flip-flops after that incident.

4.   I’m a preacher’s daughter – along with Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Pearl S. Buck, Aretha Franklin, Jessica Simpson, Condoleezza Rice, Tori Amos, and Katy Perry.

5.   I have started a young adult novel about vampires . . . as if the world needs my offering to this genre.

6.   My children have designated me “Grammar Freak.”  I think that’s hyperbole.

7.   I have two, three, okay, four cats.  We selected two cats and brought them home, and apparently if you feed them, name them, and groom them, the two strays become yours.

Here are my 5 nominations for The Versatile Blogger Award:

Amanda Bozeman

Erin Brambilla

Keli Gwyn

Melanie Bacom

Xandra James

Monday Musings: What Does Your Car Say?

I recently noticed that a Twitter friend of mine (William G. Jones) mentioned in his brief bio: “I drive a ’57 Chevy.”   On Twitter, you only get 160 characters to describe yourself, so you have to think hard about what summarizes your purpose in life, your personality, or generally why people should care one bit about your 140-character posts.  And I can tell you right now, it would have never crossed my mind to mention my car.

I have owned three cars in my life.  I currently drive a 10-year-old Honda Civic with over 120K miles on it.  Not nearly as cool as a ’57 Chevy, huh?

But I realize that I make assumptions about people based on what they drive.  And you might correctly presume a few things about me based on my car (pictured below).

1.  I am petite.  If I were a 6’2” 250-pounder, I wouldn’t be squeezing myself into that little car.  Instead, I stand on my tippy toes to get things off the top shelf at the grocery store and can still fit into the McDonald’s playroom tubes without too much difficulty.  So slipping myself into a compact car isn’t a stretch for me.  In fact, it’s reasonably roomy.

2.  I am frugal.  Well, at least about my car.  I don’t drive luxury, I don’t pay a lot for gasoline, and I clearly don’t replace my vehicle very often.   I would rather drive a reliable but relatively boring automobile and splurge in other areas – like eating out, pedicures, and books!

3.  I like green.  It’s my favorite color.  Maybe you couldn’t conclude that automatically, but most people choose a color that they like for their vehicle.  I’m good with any shade of green.

4. I have a family.  Admittedly, a lot of people who drive Civics do not have families, but one peek into my car and you would immediately see the evidence – drive-through cups, library books, a pair of dirty socks, school papers, and more.  And it’s a four-door sedan, meaning everyone gets his/her own door and window.  I have, however, avoided the purchase of a mini-van; although people tell me how convenient they are, a mini-van screams, “I drive a kid taxi!”

What I wish my car said about me (but it doesn’t) could be better communicated with this baby:

Yes, that’s Diana Riggs as Emma Peel from The Avengers, next to her powder blue Lotus Elan S3.  It says everything that I wish I could say about myself.  You fill in the blanks.

What do you think I wish my car said about me?  What does your car say about you?  What would you like to drive?  What do you wish your car said about you?