October 31, 2013

Lack of Pinterest

A few weekends ago I had my first sighting of what can only be described as 'Pinterest Hair'. Two young girls with clear skin sat across from me in the bleachers at a college football game, their hair elaborately done in pins and swirls, clips and curls, partly up and partly down. They had this modern/gothic/romantic/medieval hair thing going. And they were wearing football jerseys. The overall look was interesting, and disconcerting.

Now that I'm paying more attention I can see that others are hopping on the Pinterest train too, wearing makeup, hairstyles, and fashion they couldn't have come up with by themselves; serving meals that would shame Martha Stewart, decorating for kids parties like it was a cotillion, and even changing up their home to look like the interior of a castle rather than the one bedroom studio apartment it really is. They plan their engagements, weddings and honeymoons according to what is fabulous on Pinterest. And heaven help the boy who doesn't play along in their Pinterest Fantasy. All in the name of keeping up with the Kardashians.

Pinterest has done what magazines and advertisers have tried to do for years and years. It has become life.

Pinterest boards remind me of the 1950's advertising campaigns aimed at women...if everyone else is doing it you need to also. What would the neighbors think? Women beat themselves up to create the 'perfect life', two beautiful kids, a well-mannered husband, and all the brand new kitchen appliances a girl could ask for. Isn't that all you need to make your life just swell?

But, like advertising days of old, trying to achieve the image that's on the screen will eventually wear you down, body and soul. Have you ever seen a 50's movie where the woman had her perfect life but still dropped two pills into her martini the second Bob wasn't looking?

 It's fun for a while, we have to remember that Pinterest, like commercials, is all smoke and mirrors. These pictures were put up by creative pros, not normal people.

I have nothing against Pinterest. I put my books and my blog entries on Pinterest. BUT I think it's important that we see it for what it really is, glimpses into a fantasy world. Real women don't walk around in fog all day, with a castle in the distance, perfectly braided hair, bare faced except for lipstick, wearing a golden cape and fabulous boots. It looks cool, but it just doesn't happen. At least, not in my neighborhood.

So I say stop the pinterest hair. Stop it now, before you get all tangled up in the fantasy and forget what real life is all about.

Got Pinterest Hair? How about Pinterest boobs?

October 30, 2013

Ten Tips for Surviving Nanowrimo

Do you have a book in your head that you’re going to write someday? Are you sure that the next best-seller could be yours if you could just get it all out of your head and down on paper? Then join thousands of other aspiring authors as they embark on Nanowrimo-a month long trek to start, and finish, a novel of at least 50,000 words.

Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Since its inception in 1999, its popularity has been steadily growing as people from around the world decide to take the challenge. The rules are simple: Begin writing your novel on November 1st and finish writing it by November 30th (or are at least get your 50,000 words done).

Want to give it a try? Here are ten tips that may help you survive the madness that is Nanowrimo.

1.       Register at https://nanowrimo.org. This is the official Nanowrimo site. There you will meet other Nanos and receive community support, feedback, and resources to help keep you on track. Though it’s perfectly acceptable to tackle Nanowrimo alone, it’s also nice to have some friends along for the ride. As the saying goes, ‘misery loves company’.

2.       Be frugal with what you share. Sure it’s fun to post your awesome opening sentence, a paragraph you are particularly proud of, or how you came up with protagonist’s background, but there will always be someone around(particularly in the online world) hell bent on tearing you down or offering you  unsolicited ‘constructive criticism’ This also goes for sharing your work with your family and friends. Even the most supportive loved ones can throw you for a loop when they attempt to ‘help’. So, until you are really comfortable with your story, think about keeping it to yourself.

3.       Budget your word count.  You have 30 days to write 50,000 words. That’s about 1666 words per day. Can you manage that? If not, how else can you budget your word count in order to hit your target?  I personally like to make a spreadsheet and tape it to the refrigerator. Every day I color in a cell corresponding to how many words I wrote (with my stepdaughter’s crayon). It’s a fun way to track my progress and it makes me feel like I’ve actually accomplished something.

4.       Take it scene by scene. Writing a novel is exhausting, both mentally and physically. It can take its toll on your health, your work, and your social life. One way to keep things in perspective is to focus on just one scene at a time. It can be 300 words or 3000 and you can make it as fun, interesting, and colorful as you want it to be. Eventually, you will put all these scenes together and like magic, you have your book.

5.       Stop comparing yourself to others. Some people are better writers than me. Some people can produce more words per day than I can. Some people will have a much easier time with the whole ‘writing thing’ than I do.  So what? I’m still me and I’m doing what I can do. That’s all anyone can ask of me, right? That goes for you too. And while we’re talking about this, please stop trying to copy the style of one of your favorite authors. If someone wants to read Tolkien, they will read Tolkien. If you’re not being true to yourself you’re depriving the world of getting to know you. Do you want that on your writer’s conscience?

6.       Don’t look back! There will be times when you doubt what you’ve written or the direction your book has taken. But don’t go back to fix things. Now is the time to write, as fast and furiously as you can. When I need to make changes to my book during the first draft I jot down notes on a pad of paper I keep close to my computer, then when I’m rewriting (second draft) I refer to them. You can come up with your own system, but don’t stop moving forward or you will never make your 50,000 word goal.

7.       Stay the course. There may be times (especially in the middle of your novel) when that brilliant idea you had in the beginning now seems lackluster, trite, and dull. Then suddenly, you will get an idea that’s even more brilliant than the last. Don’t even think about it (write it on your notepad for later. When you are done with this novel you can start on your next).

Keep working on your original book. Your brain might be telling you to abandon ship but that’s because it’s mulled your story over too many times. Your brain, like an adolescent boy, is always looking for excitement. Be the grownup in the writing relationship and stay with it. If your novel is truly horrible when you’re done (and your brain was right), you can fix it. That’s what second, and third, and fourth drafts are for.

8.       Don’t edit when writing. That means leave spelling and grammatical errors alone, even when they are painful to look at. Don’t polish up sentences. Ignore goofs. You can fix it all later. In fact, if you wanted to, you could spend your whole life fixing it. As the saying goes, a project is never done, merely abandoned. I promise the errors will still be there when you return to them, and most likely you will find even more. By waiting you can see them with fresh eyes, and fix everything at once. (If you absolutely must for sanity’s sake, you can run a spell and grammar check each day, but that’s all).

9.       Make writing a priority. Life is going to happen. Kids get sick. The dog needs walking. And sadly, dinner doesn’t cook itself. But don’t use life as an excuse. Carve out the time to write and stick to it (see Tip #3). Tell others that you are serious about this. Your family and friends may joke about it or even tease you. They may be jealous that you are working on your own goals or not spending as much time with them as you used to.  They might not understand how important writing your novel is to you. Make them. When I first started writing I endured these sorts of distractions and ribbings. Now, those nearest and dearest to me, understand how important this is and they give me space, time, AND compliments for following my dreams. Whoa! What a turn around. But you must stand up for yourself. If you don’t take it seriously, no one else will.

10.   Be kind to yourself. Don’t hate your book. Remember, this is a first draft, and the first step towards a new dream. Shower yourself with support: take breaks, get exercise, eat well, chat with your pals, and give yourself a hug. Writing 50,000 words in one month is a big deal. Celebrate your accomplishment.  You’re in an elite group. And, like you, your novel is a work in progress.
April Aasheim is the author of The Witches of Dark Root (3.49) and The Universe is a Very Big Place (2.99). Both available on Amazon.

October 25, 2013

Candy Crush Your Soul

It started out as a simple game and now it's taken my soul: Candy Crush.

I avoided it for so long, poo-pooing it whenever a Facebook friend would send me a request. After all, if its that popular, it cant be good. Right?

But now, I've found myself addicted, playing during commercial breaks, at red lights, and whenever my husband isn't saying something interesting at dinner. But the game is insidious. You can only play for so long before it cuts you off.

Next life in 54 minutes it tells me.

I've created things to do while waiting for said next life: wash dishes, vacuum, clean the toilet. In Candy Crush's defense, my house has never looked so clean.

But last night I hit a new level on the game and I beat it. And Candy Crush didn't just cut me off for an hour, it cut me off for an entire day.

"Come back in 24 hours for your next quest."

Mother F...

Of course, the beauty of this 'free' app is that you can spam your social media friends with requests for tickets and extra lives and even things that will make winning easier. Then they can get infected by the bug. Its a never ending trap.

But I haven't resorted to that. Yet. In 8 more hours I get to play again. I can last that long. There's a yard that needs to be weeded and a cat I haven't fed in several days. I have things I can do. I can make it.

I have become a Crombie (a Candy Crush Zombie). And I have joined my tribe.

October 21, 2013

White Noise Apps I Wouldn't Want to Hear

I just got back from a long weekend with extended family. While it was fun I couldn't help but miss my own bed, and the fan that runs while I sleep, providing some white noise relief. I was told that you could get apps for your phone that would also work to give you that background noise. There were options for running water, gong chimes, and thunder, but sadly, these couldn't quite compete with my own fan. While contemplating these lesser noises, I came up with my own list I think they should make. While they might not provide a great night's sleep, they'd be pretty fricken funny.

The Worst White Noise App Sounds Ever:

  • Cat fight
  • Sneakers in the dryer
  • Audience of the Jerry Springer Show
  • Bluetooth man at the grocery store
  • Crazy old woman on the bus
  • Bawling babies
  • Smoke detector with low batteries
  • Young mother giving her child to the count of 14 to behave
  • Grandpa regaling youngsters with his 'Tales from Nam'
  • Pudding hour at the Sunny Dales home for retirees
  • Any Miley Cyrus television interview

October 12, 2013

If Jesus Had a Facebook Page

Status Update
God, I hate Mondays!

Status Update
Considering growing a beard. What do you think?

Jesus is now following:
  • The Bethlehem Wine Company
  • Galilee Sandals and Robes
  • Donkeys and Things

Status Update:
Going on a team building retreat with The Big Guy. 40 days of training. See you guys in a month!

Jesus is now at: The Judean Desert

Jesus liked this:

Status Update:
I'm back from a life-changing experience. I learned a few tricks, grew a beard, and lost 72 pounds. Can now fit in my 'good' robe.
BTW Satan is a real asshole. Just sayin'.

Jesus posted a new photo to his timeline:

Friend Requests Sent:
James the Son of Zebedee
John of Nazareth
John the Baptist

People You May Know:

Status Update:
Shout out to John the Baptist! Thanks for friending me man. My mother, Mary wife of Joseph, thought we'd hit it off. I'm going to be out in the wilderness in a few days. I'll look you up.

People You May Know:
Matthew, the Tax Collector
Mary Magdalene

Friend Request Sent:
Mary Magdalene

Sup Mary?

Jesus liked this:

Friend Requests Sent:
Simon the Zealot
Judas Iscariot

Status Update:
Having dinner with Simon/Peter. The fish is delicious!

Jesus is now in a relationship with: Mary Magdalene

God Poked You!

Jesus' relationship status has changed to: It's Complicated.

Status Update:
My page has nearly 2000 likes. When I hit 5000 I'm hosting a raffle-copter Eternal Salvation Giveaway. Please like and keep sharing. (*All entrants are winners. Some rules apply)

Jesus has updated his profile:
  • Born: Manger
  • Skills: Inventor of the bottomless bread basket
  • Skills: Turning water into wine
  • Skills: Growing the world's most awesome beard

Status Update:
In one word describe how we met, then copy and paste this into your own update and I will do the same. One word. No cheating.
-Dudes! WTH? One word!
-taxcollecting (LOL)
-you guys suck

Judas has tagged you in a photo.

Message Sent:
Hey Judas. Posting that pic of us from a decade ago was not cool. You know I'm self-conscious about my weight back then. Crop me out of the next one.

Jesus posted on John the Baptist's Timeline.
Had fun meeting you IRL. Let's do it again real soon.

Jesus shared a link:
The Mediterranean Diet

Judas has tagged you in a photo.
Me and my buddy JC at the Dead Sea during Spring Break. Good times!

Message Sent:
Not funny, Judas! That last one wasn't even of me. Cut it out!

Status Update:
It is National Leprosy Awareness Week. If you or someone you know has leprosy please post this as your status for one hour. Unless you have no fingers. Then see if someone else will post for you.

Jesus has updated his profile:
  • Went to school in: Nazareth
  • Worked at: Joseph's Bench Emporium
  • Son of: God

Suggested Post:
A Course in Miracles

Status Update:
It was a good day. I walked twelve miles (got in all my steps for the day), gave a man sight, and raised the dead. Trying hard not to regain my pre-desert weight. It's hard with all the fish!

Jesus shared a video:
What if God was One of Us

Judas has invited you to play Candy Crush.

Status Update:
Got a job interview tomorrow at Bethlehem Wine Company. Wish me luck!

People You May Know:
Pontius Pilate

Status Update:
Bummed! Did not get the job. They said I was over-qualified. What does that even mean? Thinking I'm going to take a nap and think about life for a while.

Suggested Post:
Author God
Read my thrilling new book: The Old Testament. Based on the life and times of ME!
At select scroll stores throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.

Jesus uploaded a photo:
Me as a baby. Wasn't I cute?

Status Update:
Traffic was terrible today. Had to take the donkey. Hope tomorrow's better. Goodnight world.

Judas tagged you in a photo
My man JC working miracles with the ladies!

Mary Magdalene has poked you!
God poked you!

Message Sent:
Mary! That guy in the picture doesn't even look like me. C'mon!

Jesus has changed his relationship status to: single.

Are you sure you want to unfriend Judas Iscariot?

Facebook Account Deactivated

Facebook Account Reactivated

Status Update:
(April Aasheim is the author of The Witches of Dark Root and The Universe is a Very Big Place)

October 10, 2013

Chin Up!

Nothing screams peri-menopausal married woman like a shopping cart full of root dye, cat food, and a Ladies Home Journal.

I was reminded of how old I had become when I unloaded my cart, and the smiling young cashier made small talk with me. At first I thought he was flirting, and I flipped back my hair and shot him a dimple, but as he scanned the last can of Friskies and said, "my mom buys this for our cat too," I realized I had become my mother. And his.

I'm not sure when I started 'acting old'. It might have been on my last birthday (and for those of you who follow my blog you know how I feel about birthdays! http://aprilaasheim.blogspot.com/2012/02/five-stagesof-aging-grief-as-another.html)

 I was actually feeling pretty good about myself shortly before that fateful day. I was working out, eating better, and had a pretty active social life. On the day of I decided to treat myself to a microdermabrasion as the last aesthetician I had seen assured me that I didn't need any kind of fillers for my smile lines, just a good scrubbing (God I miss Andre!). But now, as the lady ran the micro-crystal over my skin I asked her what she thought.

From my vantage point, lying on the table, I could see her Botoxed brow attempt to wrinkle. "I think it's gonna take more than a micro. Let me send you to Lucy after."

Lucy ended up being a 27-year-old, thigh-high-boot wearing gal who swore she could make me look ten years younger.

"With a filler?" I asked, chagrined. I was hoping I could wait on those another few years.

"No. You see, the lines are caused by your chin, which is starting to fall. Haven't you noticed that?"

No! I hadn't noticed it. Lucy said for a mere 2000 dollars I could get three full laser treatment that would zap my chin back in place. "It will feel like the worst sunburn of your life but it's totally worth it. Do it while you're still young. My mom did it and she looks great."

There were so many things wrong with that paragraph, but I slunk home, taking the cost analysis worksheet back to my husband who informed me that Lucy was a salesperson and that was her way of making money. And no, we weren't going to shell out 2k for me to get a new chin.

Still. The seed had been planted. I spent the next two months catching my reflection in the mirror, looking for turkey neck. I read magazines, looking for celebrities who were my age and older, checking to see if their jowls had set in. And I looked to peers around me, seeing who had avoided the face plague and who was still fairing well. It was a war, I realized. And according to Lucy, I was losing.

Since then I think I fell into old woman mode, dressing comfortably, making soups, subscribing to Oprah. Who knew that one comment, out of the blue, would change my perspective so dramatically? I went from feeling like a curvy cutie to a has-been jowl frau, with no ramp up time.

A few months have passed and I've come to grips with things. Lucy said my chin was 'falling' but it hadn't fallen yet. And even if it had, was that horrible? I was still me, no matter what my neck said. I had even started believing that cute guys could find me attractive again, if I lived in an alternate single Universe.

"What are you going to do today?" The cute cashier asked, bagging up my last can of Friskies.

"I'm going roller blading," I said, smiling.

"No way! I love roller blading."

"So do I," I said, and I meant it.

And that afternoon, after feeding my cat, leafing through my Ladies Home Journal, and covering up the gray hairs that had sprouted around my ears, I strapped on the skates and did some circuits around the neighborhood.

There were a million Lucy's out there, telling me that my only salvation lay in their costy and sometimes painful treatments.

But my time hasn't passed, nor will it, as long as I continue to live and embrace my life.

Maybe next time I send my husband for the cat food.

October 9, 2013

For Halloween: My Top Ten Witches in TV and Movies

Recently, I asked a large sampling of my friends to list their favorite TV shows and movies featuring witches. I collected their data (and added mine in too). See if you agree with the following list:

(Note: I realize that many were left out but I could only include ten. I chose the ones that were repeated the most often).
The Top Ten Movies and TV Shows Featuring Witches
10. H.R.Pufnstuf - If you were a kid in the 1970’s you probably remember watching H.R.Pufinstuff (and if you were an adult in the early 1970’s you probably remember tripping out while watching H.R. Pufnstuf). H.R.Pufnstuf was a live-action puppet show that featured a giant talking cheeseburger with a heart of gold and his arch nemesis, the evil
Witchiepoo. A green meanie, Witchiepoo lures innocent Jimmy and his talking flute Freddie to the crazy Living Island in order to get her hands on Jimmy’s instrument (His flute! It’s a family show!). Unfortunately, she is thwarted at every turn. Witchiepoo was the embodiment of the bumbling, broomstick-flying, nasty witches we all learned to fear as children. Although it only ran for 17 episodes it was very popular in its day, freaking out an entire generation of kids.
9. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - One of Disney’s first, full-length animated classics, this movie features an evil queen who wields dark, magical powers. When the queen learns from her magic mirror that she is in danger of losing her title as ‘the fairest in the land’ she goes to great lengths to ensure that this doesn’t happen. No one who has ever seen this film will forget the image of the evil queen in the guise of an old woman, handing Snow White a red poisoned apple. For this reason it made my list.
8. Sabrina the Teenaged Witch - Originally a comic book in the 60’s and 70’s, Sabrina was resurrected in the mid 90’s as a television series. The plot was simple, Sabrina, a half-witch living with her two witchy aunts, discovers on her 16th birthday that she too has magical powers. Of course, being new to the world of witchcraft, her spells don’t always turn out like she planned. Sabrina made my list because she was fun and fashionable and her heart was always in the right place even when her spells were not.
7. Hocus Pocus - This early 90’s flick didn't do well with critics but gained a big following once it was released on VHS and aired on cable channels. The story chronicles three naughty witches, the Sanderson sisters, who are resurrected from the dead and must use their witchcraft to siphon the life force from children in order to stay alive. The film has a dark theme but thanks to Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker, has many fun and zany moments that lend to its charm. Besides, good eventually prevails in the movie, but it’s very entertaining to see how it plays out.
6. Charmed - In the late 90’s and into the mid 2000’s we got to know Piper, Phoebe, Prue (and later Paige) Halliwell, otherwise known as the Charmed Ones. These gals had some awe-inspiring magic and with help from their Book of Shadows, continued to grow in power. What I loved about the show was that it focused on the three sisters trying to maintain a normal life including dating and family dramas while protecting the innocent from things that go bump in the night.

5. Bell, Book and Candle - No witchy list is complete without this 1958 classic. The film focuses on witchy Gillian who falls in love (of course) with a mortal man and, because of this, is in danger of losing her magical powers. I loved this movie because the chemistry between free-spirited Gillian (Kim Novak) and Shep (James Stewart) is as bubbly and delicious as a fine glass of witches brew. Plus, it’s a classic and one of the first witchy movies my mother introduced me to. You can never go wrong with a classic.
4. Practical Magic - So, confession here. This is probably my all-time favorite witchy movie. BUT, not everyone I queried agreed. The plot follows two sisters, Sally and Gillian Owens, who live with their eccentric witchy aunts on Maria’s Island. The family has been cursed and no man can ever love an Owens woman without dying at a young age. The plot sounds tragic, and at times it, but it’s also sweet, and poignant, and hilarious. And very romantic. Don’t wait for Halloween to watch this movie. It’s great any time of the year.
3. The Harry Potter Series - I originally forgot to include Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter films. When I think Harry Potter, I think wizards, but as I’ve been thoroughly reprimanded and reminded by all my Hogwarts loving friends, Hermione Granger is a witch, and a powerful one at that. I don’t have to list all the great things about this series. It’s a fantastic, magical world that you can get lost in for hours. The characters are interesting and well-developed, and they grow up in many ways along their journey. Though Harry is the star of the show our little witch Hermione holds her own with a quick wit and a quick wand. Plus, she’s super cute and someone we want to root for.
2.The Wizard of Oz - We all know the story: small town girl gets tossed by a tornado into the magical world of Oz. There, she meets Glinda the Good Witch and The Wicked Witch of the West. She also inadvertently knocks off the Wicked Witch of the East in the process. The movie is great in so many ways: amazing song and dances sequences, brilliant use of Technicolor, and unforgettable characters. The real charm of the movie, however, lies in it’s simple storyline: the pure heart of one little girl is more powerful than any magic a witch can do.
1. Bewitched - Every person I asked mentioned the 1960’s sitcom, Bewitched. Samantha Stephens is a lovely young witch who loves her dull husband so much that she is willing to give up her magical powers in order to please him. This includes doing her housework like (egads!) a normal woman.(Ladies, it’s not worth it! The only thing cowing to a man ever got poor Samantha was an even duller doppelganger version of her husband who appeared in the sixth season). Of course, Samantha’s nosy neighbor, her disapproving mother, and her practical joke playing uncle add drama and hilarity to the mix. This is one of the most beloved witchy shows ever made and in 2002 was listed in TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. To this day, whenever I catch an old rerun on TV, I have to revisit Samantha and her zany family. It just feels like home.
(Originally written by me and posted in creatively green mom . com)

Meditations on The Shadows of Dark Root

I may have gotten a bit metaphysical during the creation of The Shadows of Dark Root. I always knew I wanted Maggie and her companions to j...