Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Expiration Dates

Lots of things come with expiration dates: milk, eggs, medicine. But a lot of things that don't come with expiration dates should.

For examples, pillows. Yes, like the kind you sleep on. Pillows accumulate skin cells, fungi and dust mites. Gross, right? I agree, which is why I buy new pillows every so often. (How long have you been sleeping on that pillow? How many dust mites hear you snoring every night?)

And what about clothing? Why doesn't it come with an expiration date? We all know someone with an outfit that should have hit the goodwill bin a long time ago. An expiration date would have done the trick.

And lastly, boyfriends. Oh man, if only boyfriends had a Dump By date. Think of the heartache and boring dates that would have prevented.

What else should come with an expiration date?

Monday, June 29, 2009

holy icon, Batman!

Three icons from my childhood died last week and I'd be lying if I said it didn't freak me out a little bit. Not in a "Whoa I'm shedding tears and heaving in grief" kinda way. Just, "Whoa."

First, Ed McMahon.
Now his death was overshadowed by the other two, but he was definitely a household name growing up. Star Search was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid. I still remember watching Sinbad (I'm sure none of you know who the hell he is, but he rose to 80s/90s stardom from Star Search) and Rosie O'Donnell.

And after Star Search and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (yes, I know, I'm dating myself here) there was also the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Holy smokes! I can't tell you how badly I wanted to see Ed walking up my sidewalk carrying a load of balloons and congratulating me for winning the multi-million dollar jackpot just because I took a chance and ordered my Cosmo from the Sweepstakes mail out.

Then Farrah died. I blogged about her death on Friday over at my personal blog. Her death was the saddest for me. I wanted to be Jill Munro. I wanted to have Farrah's hair and smile. I stared at her poster every day for multiple years, trying to just soak up the essence of Farrah. I'm pretty sure I did not succeed at becoming Farrah by osmosis, but I tried. In her honor, I watched several of the original Charlie's Angels tv episodes this weekend. And I wore Farrah hair out Saturday night. (which promptly fell because it was A: humid and B: I danced and sweated like a glass of iced tea on a hot summer day.)

Last but not least, Michael Jackson. Now I'm a little sick of the media attention his death has gotten and I hated the person he became as he aged, but little Michael Jackson of the Jackson 5, and the Michael Jackson all the way through the album BAD, was the Michael Jackson that was huge in my life.

Thriller is probably one of the best albums ever. MJ was a gifted performer, he just had some personal (and probably mental) issues that overshadowed his talent and took over his life. Which is unfortunate.

So last week, I lost 3 people that I grew up with. Am I devastated? No. I didn't "know" these people, so I don't feel a real sense of loss. But it's still sad knowing that three icons of my childhood all died in just a matter of days. Freaky weird.

Hope they all find peace in their afterlife.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In Bed

This week my torme-- err-- doctors and other medical staff-- decided it would be best for me to spend as much time as possible in bed. So after schlepping home in a funk on Tuesday, I crawled into bed with Max. The last week of the month is the one Ahmed spends in Nova Scotia, so he was on the phone grow-- err-- gently urging me-- to stay put and keep out of the nasty weather. I have to say, it's astonishing how much you can get done from your bed.

For instance:

If your sheets say 1000 thread count, and you have a good magnifying glass and a pin, you can actually count the threads.

With baby wipes and cotton swabs you can thoroughly clean the wrinkles, ears, and nose cracks of one reluctant pug.

You can discover what they actually show on local access cable. I must say the kids at Marshfield High made me cry with the Senior Class video. Good luck, kids.

Were you aware that in 90 seconds you can reduce fine lines and wrinkles, taking ten years off your face? If that's not true you get your money back!

There's a pentagram in the street map of Washington, DC. It points directly at the White House. DUDE! Witches should totally be in there! Also the tops of the pentacle's points have three street intersections that, from the air, appear to be three 6's. Always been there. The crazy French guy who laid out the city destroyed the only copy of the plans, by the way.

Andrew Jackson was a pratt. I'm serious. Discovery says so, and I always had my suspicions.

I have 73 plots in my current plot book. Yeah, I keep a plot book. Whenever ideas for short stories or novels pop into my head I scribble them in there. 73.

My current YA WIP is getting better because I am adding a light romantic angle. I've also changed the title to SongSpell. I'll probably change it again.

You know why most fantasy books have maps in the front? They are a total blast to draw in bed.

Max hates chickens. Like... he barks at the TV a lot. He barks at horses, dogs, and cats with a great deal of vehemence. He barks at anything in a pinstripe baseball uniform (that's my fault). But OMG he completely wigs out if he sees a chicken. Also the Afflec Duck. Not a fan.

We have goldfinches outside my window again. I love them. They're good luck and are supposed to bring money, but I don't even care about that. I love the way they perch on the most absurdly tiny thing-- like one slender stalk of ribwort-- and sway in the wind. Plus I love bright yellow.

And finally-- seriously-- these curtains have to go.

Friday, June 26, 2009

If the television ate you...

If you woke up trapped in a television show tomorrow--which one would you hope it was and why? And what kinds of trouble would you cause?

This was a tough one for me--partly because I don't watch TV much.
And partly because the shows I like would be really detrimental to my health. I love Joss Whedon's shows more than anything--but I do NOT want to live in Sunnydale. Ever. Especially as an adult because very few of them had a clue about the little things--like vampires and werewolves. And then Angel turned Los Angeles into an apocalypse. And Serenity is a great ship--but Reavers are a big, fat NO for me, thanks.

House MD? Are you kidding me? I love that show, but I don't want to be the first patient who really does have Lupus.

Bones? If I could just hang out with Agent Booth all day fine. If I have to look at corpses and sludgey insides of people that are now on the outsides of people, I'll pass.

Friends? Okay--but of course they've all moved now, so it would be pretty boring hanging out on the couch at Central Perk by myself all day.

Veronica Mars? She'd be fun to pal around with--and likely would smart enough to help me get back home. But I think she'd get tired of me trying to get her back together with Logan all the time. I know he's not perfect--but COME ON. Do you think anyone will ever love her more than he does?

But there is one show that I used to fantasize about. One show that is much a part of my childhood as mud pies and Garanimals. It was the one place that I could escape to, in my head, when there were things I didn't want to wrap my childhood mind around. When things got tough, I could sing....."Think I'll go for a walk outside now, the summer sun's callin my name...." and pretend I was a Brady.

Yes. I think if I HAD to get stuck in a tv show, chances are good that I'd still pick the Brady Bunch. It's a little sad. Especially considering the unfortunate amount of Polyester I would have to wear.

As an aside, I'd really like to have a little talk with Mike. Seriously--you are some bigwig architect, Mr. Brady. Did you ever think about designing a house with more bedrooms for your six kids and live-in maid?

So, now that I'm an honorary Silver Platter (sha na na na na na na na na, sha na na na na), what show will you end up on?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Weekend in Oregon

Greetings from Oregon! I'm on vacation, visiting for my brother's wedding.

We left yesterday morning to fly here. Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Brice and I rented a car and drove to Crater Lake National Park.

Crater Lake is located in Southern Oregon, 100 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. The lake is inside a caldera, or volcanic crater, created when the 12,000 foot high Mount Mazama collapsed 7,700 years ago. Crater Lake is the 7th deepest lake in the world, and the deepest in the US.

This morning, we drove back to Medford, home of the Harry & David Fruit Company. (Mmmm...fruit...) My soon-to-be sister-in-law grew up here. It's a really beautiful area.

Tonight, my mom, aunt, and I are going to see "Henry VIII" at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

I hope it doesn't rain, because our seats are outside at the Elizabethan Stage. The OSF is set up so that on any given night, there are two or three plays being performed at the same time. The Elizabethan Stage is the only one outdoors, and it's designed to actually look like Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London.

I'm hoping to take a Harry & David tour tomorrow.

We have the rehearsal dinner at night, but I've got no plans during the day, so I think seeing what 50 pounds of Moose Munch® looks like and taste-testing chocolate is an excellent idea.

And then Saturday is the wedding.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Fav YA Blogs

It may be a shocker to everyone here, but we're not the only YA blog in town (*gasp*!). LOL. Since I read a lot of blogs daily, especially YA-related ones, I figured I'd share some of my favs:

http://community.livejournal.com/debut2009/ -- I belong to this community of debuting authors. We're a cool group, and I highly recommend you check us out. We also have contests every month where you can win cool swag!

http://author2author.blogspot.com/ -- I love this group! It's several YA writers, all in different stages of their career/journey, and they always have such fun posts and helpful tips.

http://yawriters.blogspot.com/ -- Here's another group of authors, all from different publishers. They talk about...well, books, boys, and buzz. LOL

http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/ -- Cynthia has a HUUUUGE wealth of info on YA. You have to read this blog!

http://rhondastapleton.blogspot.com/ -- Geeeeee, how did this one sneak in here? ROFL

http://community.livejournal.com/enchantedinkpot/ -- This blog is a group of middle-grade and YA fantasy writers. Love their posts!

http://thenovelgirls.blogspot.com/ -- another group of YA authors, doin' their thang.

http://simonpulseromanticcomedies.blogspot.com/ -- a big group of the Simon Pulse romantic comedy line authors.

http://teenfictioncafe.blogspot.com/ -- a wonderful lineup of YA authors on here!

http://yathenaeum.blogspot.com/ -- they're a group of readers and writers and do great summaries of what's happening in YA, as well as news/info/reviews, etc.

http://thefiverandoms.livejournal.com/ -- a group of great YA authors blogging.

Well, there are more I look at, of course (this list doesn't show any of the awesomesauce YA book review blogs I haunt every day--I'll do another post on those in the future), but right now I'm more interested in hearing from you. What are your favorite YA blogs, and why? I'm always looking to add to my blogroll! :D

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Have you ever?

Have you ever donated your time or talents for charity?

In high school, I participated in Jump Rope for Heart, which meant we jumped rope for 24 hours (tag team style) to raise money for the American Heart Association.

A few years ago, I was part of a Breast Cancer 3-Day team. We walked 20 miles a day for 3 days, raising a minimum of $2400 each. (That experience can best be described as hellacious.)

I've also baked cakes for charity cake auctions, donated writing critiques and some of my handmade jewelry. It's a good feeling to give back and I should do it more. Not sure what my next "event" will be thought.

How about you? What charity things have you participated in?

Monday, June 22, 2009

double dawg dare

I was 9 years old when I took my first dare. My cousin dared me to show my naughty bits to his neighbor. I lifted my shirt. Funny how my 'naughty bits' looked just like his chest. Sorry dude, the boobies were not fully formed.

I was always a bit of a risk taker--there were never too many dares that I wouldn't take. In high school, a friend of mine and I were dared to sneak over to the boys' gym and peek into the locker room while they were getting dressed after football. We did and then the kids who dared us, pushed us inside.

We ran laps for a week as punishment.

Totally worth it though.

What's the craziest dare you've ever taken or have you always been a little too afraid to act on a dare?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day

When I was very small my father would hold out one finger for me to grip when we walked together. His hands were huge, and somewhat legendary in my little town. To this day kids who were coached by Papa will bump into myself or my brothers and recall how "Mister O" would catch bumblebees or hornets and hold them by their wings. His fingers, big as sausages, were so calloused and tough the bee would struggle, trying to get its stinger through the outer husk of his thumb and forefinger to absolutely no avail. After freaking all the kids out he'd laugh and release it.

They loved him.

I loved him too, of course, and always will. I was a little bit jealous of the other children he coached. Even as a girl I knew that they got the cream off the top of him-- never having to face his anger or disappointment, always getting the praise and encouragement. By the time I was old enough to realize how those "bad" parts were most likely doing me some good I was also old enough to realize the jealousy was silly at best; petty at worst. And no matter how much of him those other children stole, that finger-- the same finger he'd point at me when I'd strayed-- was all mine.

There would be new children in his life, even more dear. When my brothers began to have kids I saw a glimmer of that magic-- an incredible swell of protective fierceness, a wonder of absolute and unconditional love. With these tiny hands I was willing to share that finger... and offer my own. Now as the two youngest grandchildren have gone off to school there are crosswalks and sidewalks to navigate, clammy digits curled around larger ones.

My father is retired now. He still has traces of his southern accent, Virginia smoke curling around the edges of his speech. When my nephew announced, just the other day, that Papa didn't work in "that place anymore cuz he's retarded," I knew he was just pronouncing the word the way his grandfather does.

My retar-- err-- retired father spends more time with these last two little ones-- the sons of his youngest son-- than anyone else.

This past week Papa tried to show off for one of the kids. He grabbed a bumblebee round and plump as a grape by the wings and showed it proudly to his grandson. It stung him almost immediately.

Not as tough as he used to be. The callouses have worn thin. But his finger is still just right for holding on. And these days, as I watch him struggle up a flight of stairs, or puff a good bit more than he used to lifting some vaguely domestic weight, I marvel at how anyone can change so much without losing the core of stone that has always defined him. When all is said and done he's really the same solid, honest, good man he was. A little softer, these days... but so are the smaller fingers reaching for his larger one.

Happy Father's Day, Papa.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Student Driver

Both our daughters (my progeny and my stepchild) took Driver's Ed this spring, much to our...um...enjoyment. . And I managed this without a single call to the pharmacy, so yes, please praise me lavishly.

I noticed the difference between the girls personalities and their driving styles on the first day. One daughter narrated the experience--I'm making a right hand turn, checking mirrors, blinker....now I'm turning the wheel. She also drove like a grandpa--under speed limit and with enough room to park the Starship Enterprise between us and the car in front of us.

The other daughter drove a little faster that what she was comfortable with. She veered a little to0 close to the fog line and didn't use enough pressure on the brakes quickly enough for me. She also really seemed exhilarated by the experience. Driving was fun! It was an adventure.

I won't tell you which girl did which, but if they are reading this--I've noticed that the way you drove that first day is very similar to the way you treat your hearts. One girl is slow to give it, mindful of her actions, and seems a little more untouchable. The other is more heedless but gives herself to it with the spirit of an explorer. Neither of them has, in my opinion, has found a boy worthy of them yet. But I'm supposed to say that, I'm their mom.

Driver's Ed hasn't changed much since I took it 20 plus years ago. Well, except for the price.

I remember one day my instructor kept telling me "no brake, no brake" but there was clearly a man standing in the middle of the road up ahead. So, I pointed out the human obstacle and the teachers said, "Well, what's he doing there?" So I said....wait for it.....

"I don't know. Do you want me to ask him before or after I hit him."

So yeah, I really always have been this sarcastic.

Do you have any good driver's ed stories? Did you exemplify your personality your first time behind the wheel?

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Probably one of the worst feelings in the world is getting dumped. Sadly, though, unless you're one of the very lucky few, it's just a fact of life. Pretty much everyone has been dumped at some time in their life.

It can truly turn your life upside if you let it. You can experiences feelings of depression or anxiety. You'll probably cry and wonder what was wrong with you. And sticking with what seems to have been our impromptu Theme Week this week, you might gorge yourself on junk food. (I know I'm definitely guilty of that.)

Getting dumped can leave you with a weight in your chest, a hole in your life. You long for a time when life was eaiser. Maybe you think that if they don't come back, you'll never fill that gap in your life elsewhere.

So how can you get over the pain? The first step is to accept that your ex is gone and isn't coming back. Allow yourself to cry. Take time to grieve. It's OK. But remember that it will get better. Trust me on this.

The next thing I do is talk to my friends until I get bored of the topic myself. If I'm talked out, I'm probably starting to feel better. Communication is key.

Come up with an action plan. This might mean getitng some exercise, or starting a new hobby. Maybe it's as simple as taking some nice hot bubble baths. But you need to do something to make yourself feel better. And if you throw yourself into it, you're more likely to get better sooner.

So what about you? Have you ever been dumped? Or have you always been the dumpee? What have you done to make yourself feel better?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Honey, You're Fat

I was listening to a radio station this morning, and a guy had written in with a problem and was requesting advice. Apparently, his wife had had a baby just over a year ago, and he wanted to get advice on how to broach the subject of his wife's excess weight with her, without coming across as a jerk.

So, in the interest of being fair, I'm going to do my best to approach this topic carefully and from both sides, because it really is worth discussing.

Okay, for starters, it's one thing to be concerned with someone's health. If your spouse/partner/significant other has gained an unhealthy amount of weight lately, there may be a medical or psychological reason (e.g., a thyroid issues, depression, etc) that could need to be addressed. I can pretty much guarantee you, though, that your partner already knows he/she has gained extra weight. After all, those ever-tightening pants don't lie. *sigh*

This guy's problem, however, seemed to be that his wife was just too fat after having a baby, and even after a year hadn't gone back to her pre-baby size. His question didn't come across as if it was a health concern, so I naturally assume it's more of an issue of feeling attracted to her.

So, what would be your advice to this man--how should he handle the issue?

If you had a spouse/significant other who had gained what you think is too much weight, would you talk to them about it--and if so, how? If your attraction for your partner has reduced as a result of the excess weight, is that your partner's problem, or yours (or both of you)? Is it better to keep your mouth shut and not admit it, or should you be honest about your feelings?

What if it was a possible health/medical issue, or mental health problem--does it change anything then? Is it okay to talk to your partner in this case?

Honestly, my initial reaction after hearing his letter was anger, because DUDE, having a baby is rough on your body, and it takes time to bounce back...and sometimes, you never fully do! I have two kids, so I should know. haha. If I were in this wife's place, I'd be crushed. Mortified. Angry. Hurt.

But to be fair, a part of me can be honest with myself and see that attractiveness plays a part in a relationship, even if we don't like to admit it. After all, that could be perceived as shallow, because we're supposed to care about who people are, not just what they look like. But if you're not attracted to your partner anymore, that can sometimes lead to problems in a relationship--with chemistry, fidelity, etc., yes?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic! And in advance, thank you for playing nicely--this is kind of a sticky situation, so I appreciate your thoughtfulness and tactfulness.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Food Rocks

Mel's post yesterday got me thinking...

I make no bones about my love of food. I'm Italian and food is like another language to us. We celebrate with food, comfort with food, find our way into each other's hearts with food, pass recipes down through generations, teach techniques, spend time discussing food, even shopping for certain ingredients becomes an event.

Food is one of my greatest pleasures and my biggest downfalls. Because I love it too much. Which is why I'm adding yoga to my workout routine today. (If only food didn't love me back quite so well.)

If I were dying and only had one meal left, I know without a shadow of doubt what that meal would be: spaghetti and meatballs. What would yours be?

Monday, June 15, 2009

picky about food

Okay, so maybe I'm not exactly a picky eater, but I am very particular about the way some of my food is prepared.

The perfect hot dog is grilled until the majority of the skin is black. I love a good charred dog. But being cooked to perfection is just a small part of the perfect dog. I like my mustard to be on the bun, a half a slice of cheese, then the dog, then ketchup on top. THAT'S my perfect dog. Not ketchup and mustard squished together on the bottom. Not mustard only. Not relish or onion. Nope. Mustard, cheese, dog, ketchup.


For my cheeseburgers I like mustard on the bottom bun, then the meat, cheese, pickles, then mix mayonnaise and ketchup on top bun. Mmmmm. my mouth just watered.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? The PB must be on 1 slice of bread and the jelly on the other.

Are you picky about the way your food is prepared sometimes? Or is it just me?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What's in a Nickname?

My family name is pronounced like two words: owe linger, with the accent on the "owe." People have a tendency to make it AW, like what you say at a cute kitty. They also, for reasons I will never understand, make the "g" soft, turning it into a "j," and making my name Awlinjer. I don't understand why. I really don't understand why they do it after I have pronounced it for them. So my name came with awkward pronunciation and a built-in dipwad-o-meter. Cool.

It also-- like other names, including Sullivan, Smith, Jones, and many more-- came with a built-in nickname. Just as Bob Sullivan is destined to be Sully, and Mike Smith is destined to be Smitty, I was destined to be yet another Olie. I share the nickname with my brothers, who are also Olies. Or Oli, in the Latin.

When I was a college student, and later as a teacher, I got a reputation for being a bit of a trivia source. I was, like, your go-to-gal if you needed to phone a friend. If you were stuck in the Cash Cab, I was your shout out. Hence came the nickname Olie Wan Kanobe, after the Jedi of a similar tome. "Help us, Olie Wan Kanobe, you're our only hope." And in true jedi fashion I often did. Cuz I'm all made of the wisdom and stuff.

There were variations. My students called me Ms. Olinger, which became Ms. Olie, and later Mazola, Corn Goodness.

Shut up. They were kids and I let them so they'd like me.

Later, when I met Ahmed, a new nickname just for him was inevitable. He tried gaemil for a while, which means "jewel." It was funky to say and spell, and before long went away. But around the time we started to get serious he would, occasionally, call me "Badjia," which is both a place somewhere in Africa and a rare, infrequently used Kurdish word that means "exquisite," or more accurately "unattainable." Ahmed says it kind of slushy and soft... bahh zha, the "dj" sort of like Doctor Zhivago. It was explained to me that the word usually applied to a gem, or an artifact that was unique or incredibly rare, therefore precious. And yes... I am blushing as I type that.

Shut up, it wasn't my idea.

At this point in our relationship he only calls me Chrissy or Christine when he's speaking to somebody else. Usually it's Badjia, my Badjia, or DammitChristine, which I believe is actually my given name. Not sure. The birth certificate is blurry.

His family calls me Badjia, or Ahmed's Badjia, or Our Badjia... or, may heaven help me, The Badjia. I blame his father for that one. Yes, I am talking to YOU, Khalid. Deal with it.

On Romance Divas and a few other forums and chats I am known as Shanda Lear. I am always delighted to discover there are herds of people online who actually think that's my name. Sometimes when I meet them in person I get to see them say it out loud for the first time, make the little "O" of discovery, and laugh out loud as they figure it out.

It's pronounced Shanda rhymes with panda and Lear rhymes with spear.

*waiting quietly for a moment*

See, you got it!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009


According to Dictionary.com, the word "nickname" comes from the Old English "eke" meaning additional and "name" being....well name.

Now that you've learned something useful, I'll tell you why my nickname from 8th grade on is Bob.

The answer is: Nobody really knows.

Well, okay. That's a little dramatic. We kinda know. My best friend's niece was just learning to talk. She kept saying "Where's Bob? Where's Bob?" but nobody knew who Bob was. They just pat her little head and told her, "I don't know, sweetie." Until one day, I walked in the door and she said, "There's Bob!"

And thus I became Bob. Which was fine by me. I actually liked being "Bob". It gave me a sudden freedom, because I didn't have to be "me" anymore. I could reinvent who I was. And I became a little less angsty. Because let's face it, it's hard to take yourself seriously when you call yourself Bob. (Unless you really are a Bob, I mean.)

I had the same feeling when the Internet became popular. Who didn't create a new username and sort of "become" a new persona? Some people go to extremes--saying and doing things they wouldn't do if people on the other side of that monitor knew who they were--but most of us just get a little more ironic and let it go at that.

And then came my pen name. I get to reinvent myself again...kind of. Because there really isn't a lot of anonymity--especially if I manage to get published. So Wendy offline and Gwen online have to be similar enough to play nice in both playgrounds.

So, what about you? When you get a nickname, or an internet handle, or a pen name, does it give you a new lease on life?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is a Pen Name a Nickname?

Unlike the other Fictionistas, I've never really had a nickname.

Lots of people get nicknames as a diminutive of their first name. Not me. "Amanda Brice" is actually my pen name, Amanda being my real-life middle name. And my real first name (Heather) isn't really conducive to nicknames, either by shortening it or cuteseyfying it. (Yes, I made that word up. Deal with it.)

Others get their nicknames because they're involved in sports. I never was. Sure, I'm a diehard sports fan now, since college, but I was a total girly-girl in my earlier days. And dancers don't really give each other nicknames. *shrugs*

The closest thing I've ever had to a nickname was in junior high, when my friend Amy started jokingly calling me Swan. It was a reference to the fact that I was way into dance (ie, Swan Lake), but wasn't exactly complimentary. Rather, it came from the fact that she thought that sometimes I would get way too emotional, and throw a hissy fit like a little primadonna. She called that my "dying swan act."

Yeah, nice, huh? Fortunately, it didn't stick.

So I guess the only nickname I've really ever had is Amanda. This came about when I had traveled with my high school French class to France and Switzerland over Spring Break junior year. We were over there for 2 weeks, 6 days of which were spent living with families in Nice, in the south of France.

The family I lived with couldn't pronounce my real name to save their lives. So, fed up with the butchering of my name, eventually I gave up and suggested that they call me Amanda. Ah-mahn-dah was much nicer sounder than Ee-zair, so it just stuck.

Fast forward almost 4 years, to when I spent a semester in college studying at the Sorbonne. I just went straight to using my middle name that semester, and eventually got used to answering to it.

So when it came time to choose a pen name, Amanda was the obvious choice.

So I guess that's my nickname, if a pen name counts.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rhonda's Nicknames

Well, it's nicknames week at Fictionistas. I've had plenty o' nicknames in my time. In elementary school, they used to call me Ton of Staples (my last name is Stapleton. hah. very clever, guys). And of course, I was always asked if I did, indeed, HAVE a ton of staples. Yes, I actually carry a whole metric ton of staples in my backpack, just for this sort of occasion. Thanks for asking. Buh-bye.

Middle school and high school saw my nicknames changing slightly, but one still focused on my last name. I was called Stapletong for a while because of a typo in a yearbook. LOL fun. I was also Rho (with a line over the O) for a long time to my close friends in high school. Some friends also teasingly called me Rhoda, since my name was often misspelled. *sigh*

Nowadays, my nicknames are much more varied and unusual. The manpanion often calls me Mongo sometimes because of my freakish mutant strength that appears out of nowhere (e.g., I went to get a paper towel off the holder and somehow ripped the entire holder off the wall)--okay, I admit, that one makes me laugh. He also calls me Rhonda Loud (gee, how did I earn THAT one? ROFL). The kids, who think they are VERY funny, like to call me Gronda (a blend of "grandma" and "rhonda"--kids, you're grounded for that one, LOL), or Momda (a blend of "mom" and "rhonda").

Did you guys ever have nicknames that made fun of your name? Ever have a typo or misprint that earned you a nickname? Share!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

What did you call me? AKA Nicknames, take two.

Early on in my school career, I thought having a nickname would be cool. Don't we all think that at some point? Unfortunately, I ended up with an abbreviation of my last name: Bruno.

Yeah, I was in elementary school, already insecure about my height because I was the tallest one (boys included) in my class, self-conscious about my glasses and then I got saddled with that gem. Brilliant.

Fortunately, it didn't last.

Then one of my brother's girlfriends started calling me Krissy. Let me just say that no one, and I mean NO ONE calls me that. I won't answer to it. Refuse, actually. Probably because my brother used to torture me by repeating it over and over in a sing-song voice. But for her, it was somehow okay. Thankfully, he didn't date her that long.

Lately, Mel's dubbed me Kitteh, which probably suits me as I am slightly psycho in my love for all things feline. (No, I am not wearing a t-shirt with cats on it. I just love my furbabies in a way that comes close to unnatural.) Plus it starts with K. And I have to say, it's miles above Bruno.

Have you ever had a nickname you didn't want?

Monday, June 08, 2009

theme week: Nicknames

We here at Fictionistas thought we'd talk about nicknames this week. Weird ones, bad ones, unwanted ones...

I've had my share of nicknames over the years. Starting at a very young age my daddy called me Lissa Jane. (My middle name is not Jane, btw) Actually, I thought about using that name as a pen name for a long time.

In 6th grade, I ate french fries every day at lunch. That was pretty much all I ate...and the newest nickname was born. Every tshirt I owned had French Fry on the back.

I tried out Missy for about a half a second. That didn't stick and boy am I glad. I'm just not a Missy.

I was called McKenzie for the majority of my sports life. Or MelMac. When the tv show ALF hit the airwaves, MelMac took on a whole new meaning. That was the planet Alf came from. I didn't really want to be the alien planet, though I'm still called MelMac by some old friends to this day.

I was also called '33' a lot. It was my basketball and softball number. And yes, I still hear 33 on occasion.

But my real nickname is the one I still go by today. Mel. Most everyone calls me Mel except for my parents and Fishdog. Mel is the name I prefer but when I introduce myself as Mel Francis, I always have to let them know my name is Melissa--not Melanie or Melody.

My kids have nicknames. Goose is my oldest son and Monkey is the youngest. Goose's friends also call him Nemo. I'm guessing that's going to be the name that sticks for him--except for his parents. He'll always be our Goose. Monkey will be in 6th grade next year. I'm guessing he'll be getting his own nickname pretty soon. It's always fun to see what they decide on. I never would've guessed my oldest would become Nemo, but he has. And oddly enough, it fits.

What nicknames have you had over the years? Anything stick that you wish wouldn't have?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Finger Tips

The bionic Finn?

Look... nobody embraces his or her nerd-dom quite the way I do. Or so I thought. I mean, I'm a geek. I like being a geek. But I bow down, Wayne and Garth style, in the ultimate I'm-not-worthy genuflection to Jerry Jalava of Finland.

Jerry may be as close as we've gotten to nerdvana. According to this month's issue of Laptop Magazine (page 96), Jerry lost his left ring finger in a motorcycle accident.

Wait... that's not the weird part.

Rather than replace it with a regular prosthetic digit, the computer programmer decided to leap into the digital age by installing a 2GB usb drive. It has removable fake skin covering it, and detaches so he can plug it into his computer's USB port. (This allows him to type while connected.)

I'm not making this up.

If this guy is married and it turns out to be an elaborate way to "lose" his wedding ring... nah, nobody's that lame. They say the vein in the finger in question leads directly to the heart, hence it is used to display one's wedding ring. Jerry's gone way beyond that: his interfaces with his hard-drive.

File Under: taking the nerd thing to its absolute extreme.

It got me thinking. If I could mechanize any part of myself, what part would I mechanize? What would I install? The usb thing is certainly handy. But what if I could have radio transmitters plugged into my earlobes? Or switchblades embedded into my fingertips? Or retractable flippers on the tips of my feet for long distance swims?

Jerry may be a great story, but he's also a trail-blazer. He's sticking his finger into the future and challenging the world to follow. Weird at first glance, sure. But what if we could carry all our personal information-- passport, medical contacts, et cetera-- in the tip of our fingers? Convenient. Speedy.


Still... Jerry certainly did blaze a trail. We've already had organ replacements, even face transplants. We've been installing technology for some time: hearing aids, pacemakers, metal joints, fake valves. Why not take the next step and multi-task. Sorry about the loss of your arm, Mister Jones... but congratulations on your new attachment and have fun making julienne fries!

Before you know it we'll all be supplemented with handy dandy gadget attachments. Why fight progress? Resistance is... nope... not going there.

Friday, June 05, 2009

You never close your eyes anymore...

Today, I'm thinking about big gestures and romance in film. Specifically--the Big Serenade. You know--when the hero humiliates himself and throws down some not very good singing or lip syncing, but is endearing and wonderful anyway. Something about those make me all oogly inside. The songs are almost always classics and it's a timeless way into my heart.

Here are some of my favorites:

I mean--Tom Cruise was so...normal then.

And how about Derek and Sydney?

Jerry O'Connell, you are really pretty to look at. And while I wouldn't throw you out for singing in the shower--I probably wouldn't take you to Karaoke either. Just sayin'.

Something about the Duckman--

And lastly, my all time favorite...

And now that I am crying--do you have any favorites?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Remembering my Pen Pal

20 years ago, I was in sixth grade. My homeroom teacher was also my English teacher. She was a real b!tch, but on some level, I liked her anyway. Probably just because I liked English class.

But I digress.

Even though she was a real stickler and mean, she did have some good qualities. And she did arrange a really cool activity for us.

Her son was a recent college grad who was teaching English in Beijing. So one day, the two of them were talking and realized that they could collaborate. Her son's college-level Chinese students' English was about on par with the vocabulary and grammar of her sixth graders. (Sorry, any 6th graders out there.) So why not have the 20-somethigs and the 12-year-olds become pen pals?

Sure, it's not like we had many things in common. After all, there's a huge world of difference between these two ages. Many life experiences intervening. But still, I found it fascinating, and it gave Mai an opportunity to practice her English.

I was matched up with Mai, a 20-year-old who dreamed of being a teacher. I was thrilled when she sent me photographs of tourist locations in her homeland. I'm sure I bored her with my stories of dance competitions, but she was too polite to say so.

Our worlds were very far apart, but that's what made it so interesting. We couldn't get enough of hearing about each other's everyday life. Those letters went back and forth for more than six months. I eagerly awaited each letter.

I'm going to get all somber and depressing now. Sorry.

Anyway, today is June 4, 2009, which is the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Beginning on April 14, 1989, protests led by mainly students and intellectuals took place in and near Tiananmen Square in the Beijing, People's Republic of China. The spark that led to the protests was the death of Hu Yaobang, a pro-market, pro-democracy, and anti-corruption official. The protestors agitated for democratic reform of the oppressive regime.

The movement lasted seven weeks, until tanks cleared Tiananmen Square on June 4.

I never received another letter from Mai. Most of my friends' pen pal exchanges had dwindled by then, but those who were still writing faced the same situation.

We never learned what happened to our pen pals. Part of the problem is that just a couple of weeks later, I graduated from 6th grade and didn't look back. Had this been 5th grade, I still would have been in the same school the next year, so even if I didn't have her as a teacher, I still could have asked her if she'd heard from her son what had happened to our friends.

Were they jailed? Were they even living? Was the government censoring all mail from college-aged Chinese students sent to the US?

Did she just get bored of her little American friend?

I'd like to think it was the latter. Sure, that doesn't exactly shed a good light on my 12-year-old self's writing skills, but I like that outcome much better than any of the others.

Anyway, if you're out there Mai, I miss you.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Rhonda's High School Prom Madness!

So, we've talked about prom on here before, and I've shared my stories...but now, you guys will get the FULL experience--hair, makeup, dresses, background, the works. Ready to take a trip back in time? Put on your helmets, kiddies--you're in for a scary ride:

Here I am, in the spring of 1992 (I'm on the far right--sorry about the poor photo quality). I was a sophomore at the time, but I went with a friend to his junior prom. Yanno, I still don't know how I got my hair to stand out that far off my head...it had to be the devious works of Aqua Net, for sure. Also, OMG my eyebrows are quite bold in that picture, aren't they? I'm sure the "smoky" eyeshadow look I was going for didn't help that any. Thank God I finally discovered tweezers, though I'm sad to say it didn't happen until college. Anyway, this wasn't the official prom picture, which is why it's in front of a brick wall.

Here's another from spring of 1992--this time, I went with a friend to his senior prom. Frighteningly enough, my hair looks EXACTLY the same as the junior prom picture above. Doesn't the aluminum-foil starry background, the faux grecian pillar, and billowing smoke at our feet really make this picture pop?

Ah, spring of 1993--junior prom. Basically the same hair style as last year's two proms, but a little closer to my head since my hair was shorter. And the same dress as what I wore to the senior prom my sophomore year, but with all-new pantyhose and jewelry (those earrings are a bit much now that I look back on this, *sigh*). Hey, I wasn't swimming in money. LOL. So, check out the background--we have the mega-patterned Vegas-style carpeting, and are standing in front of what looks like a funeral parlor fireplace. Cheery!

Spring of 1994, my senior prom. I had my dress made from a cool pattern I found. I loved that dress so much! Notice my hair has finally evolved from being poofy all over my head to just being poofy on the sides. SO hot. I also like the accessories better than junior prom--more low-key and subtle, but effective. And I like the background with the delicately draped sheer cloth and flowers...the balloons give it just a little pinch of fun.

So, there ya go. Rhonda's prommity prom promness. Hope you enjoyed the flashback. What about you--did you like the way your prom photos came out? Was your hair as big as mine? I'd love to hear about it...and if you can link to photos, even better!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I Like Being A Girl

I'm glad I'm a girl, despite some of the inequalities that still exists in this world.

Some of my favorite things about being a girl are:

1. Not having to kill my own bugs.

2. Shopping. Why don't guys like that more?

3. Getting my nails done. My toes are currently painted "Limbo Bimbo" which makes me laugh.

4. Accessories. Guys have what? Watches, belts and shoes? And most of them don't do much with that combo, am I right? We have all kinds of things to change up our outfits with.

5. Not going bald. I would not look good with a shaved head. Just saying.

What are some things you like about being girl?

Monday, June 01, 2009

BITE ME! Playlist

In case you missed it, I launched my new book website last week. Please check it out when you get a chance. http://www.haveyoubeenbitten.com

I had fun putting together the content for the site, especially the Timesuckers page where I've posted the playlist for BITE ME! (coming soon: LOVE SUCKS! playlist as well as a book related quiz!)

Music is such an influence in my life. It can set the tone for the day, the mood for a date, and for me, it totally provides the atmosphere for a scene. You'll notice there is a huge variety on my playlist, from country to rock, to pop and each song fits the mood of at least one scene in the book.

When I read books, I often hear a song in my head for specific scenes. I see the story as a movie, and music really adds punch to the emotion a scene is evoking.

Do you do the same thing with music or is it a distraction for you when you read or write? When you read BITE ME! (and, ahem, you will read it, right?) will you download the playlist and listen as you read? Or do you like to pick your own songs?