Taking on the #AtoZChallenge

Taking on the #AtoZChallenge

Now that I’m settling into my blogging career, I’m noticing something – bloggers love challenges.

There are all kinds of them out there: the Daily Blog Challenge, the 30-day Blog Challenge, NaBloPoMo, the Photo Blogging Challenge, the Student Blogging Challenge, the Ultimate Blog Challenge. (The more I type the word “challenge” the more it looks like its spelled wrong.)

Although I’ve never done one, I can see the appeal. Writing is tough. Seriously. Most days, I sit down with my laptop, stare out the window and think, “…. oh look, a squirrel …” I’m amazed I’ve only written about squirrels once given how often I contemplate their daily activities.

In an effort to push myself a little harder, I’m going to jump in and do my first blogging challenge. I think I picked a fun one. It’s the April A to Z Challenge.

My mission is to blog every day in April (except Sundays) and use each letter of the alphabet as a prompt – so April 1 is “A,” April 2 is “B,” and so on. You’re smart people, you get it.

I have a theme of sorts. I’ll give you two guesses. No, it’s not squirrels. No, it’s not my kids. Although squirrels and kids combined could be interesting…Nope, too late. I’ve already chosen a theme: song titles.

Music is a big part of my life. I listen to it as much as I can, wherever I can. Sometimes I even listen to it in the can. So, song titles seem like a natural fit for this challenge.

In most cases, I won’t be writing about the songs themselves so much as how they fit into certain times and places in my life.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks coming up with posts ideas and jotting down notes, and I have to say, this challenge is a lot harder than I originally thought. My memories aren’t cross-referenced with an alphabetical list of songs. I’ve had to reach deep down in some cases. Like the letter J. I’m really struggling with that one. M is also a little sketchy at this point.

What this challenge means to you is you will be getting a lot more of me; roughly five times more. I apologize in advance if this is more of me than you signed up for.

It also means you get to zig-zag with me through some of the best and worst music the 80s and 90s had to offer. I hope you liked Amy Grant as much as I did. If not, I apologize in advance for “Baby Baby.”

Advertisements
Branson Kind of Fun

Branson Kind of Fun

Click. Click. Click.

It is 10:30 p.m. on our last night of vacation. We are in Branson, Missouri, for spring break and I am desperately trying to fall asleep.

I have learned the hard way that if you want a waffle at the free breakfast bar you have to haul your cookies down to the hotel lobby before 7:45 a.m. The senior set will have had their fill of the mini chocolate muffins and chewy bagels by that time, and it’s early enough to beat the other hungry families who will claw their way to the front of the line if you show a second’s hesitation. I have missed my waffle the last two days. Tomorrow will be my reckoning day.

I can’t sleep, though. My youngest daughter is in the bed beside mine biting her nails.

I didn’t know she chewed her nails in bed before this trip. It’s the kind of information you learn only after spending 72 hours in constant contact with the fruit of your loins. This trip has broken down all barriers of personal space. Our room is so small we can hear each other pee.

Click. Click. Click.

The trip has been fun, but it’s been a Branson kind of fun.

If you don’t know what Branson is, its a tiny city in the Ozark Mountains. It claims to be the “live show music capital of the universe” – a label which is true if your idea of live music is limited to gospel, country, and  songs written before 1985.

Before I poke too much fun at the place, it’s important to point out that we chose Branson. Willingly. We wanted to take a trip, and our destination had to meet the following requirements: it needed to be a place we had never been to; it needed to be within driving distance; and the whole trip needed to come in under $800. That left Branson.

There was a Hollywood wax museum with figures that didn’t look so much like celebrities as they did celebrity cousins. The eyes were right, but the cheekbones were off.

And if we wanted real, live celebrity cousins, Jerry Presley  – “Elvis’ Cousin!” the billboard reassured us every time we drove up and down the main strip –  was performing at the God and Country Theater.

It wasn’t all bad. We filled up our days with overpriced museums, goofy golf and candy shops where our daughters bought bags of mango-flavored gummy bears and banana Runts that I am convinced were laced with cocaine.

We taught our youngest daughter how to play poker. Our oldest daughter adopted the towel swan that was on one of the beds and named him Ralph. We couldn’t call it “Towel Swan” or “Ralph the Towel Swan.” We could only call him Ralph.

We were making the best of it. But that was kind  of the problem. The trip was just ok. We were in our room by 6 p.m. almost every night. We would swim for a while, play some cards, watch some Simpsons and go to bed.

At home, we crave this kind of family time, but instead of giving us a feeling of warmth and togetherness, it was just giving us ample opportunity to get on each other’s nerves.

Click. Click. Click.

It wasn’t lost on me that in the morning – the final day of our trip – we would be traveling to the tiny farmhouse where Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the Little House books.

Wilder was a woman who made a successful career out of writing about living in one-room cabins. She wrote almost an entire book about living in a dirt dugout.

For the last couple of years I have been fantasizing about living in a  cabin in the woods like Laura and her family did. It would be ideal. We would live off the land. I would have ample time to write. I would be inspired.

Yet there I was, stuck in a room that smelled like chlorine, mac and cheese cups and three days’ worth of farts. My daughter was biting her nails. My husband was pooping within hearing range of where I lay sleeping. And just down the road, a wax Nicholas Cage was preparing to haunt my dreams.

I idolized Wilder and her pioneer lifestyle but couldn’t last three days in a room with free breakfast, cable TV and access to a hot tub and pool. Maybe it was time to rethink things.

Click. Click. Click.

I’m trying my hardest to ignore the nail biting.

Her big sister is not about to let that shit slide, though. Oh no. She has had to share a bed with her for three days. Heads are gonna roll.

“Can you knock it off?”

“What?” my youngest snaps.

“You’re biting your nails!”

“I am NOT!”

She totally was.

“You totally are.” I chime in. Because taking sides always helps the situation.

“I AM NOT!!!”

She starts to cry the fake tears of someone who has been rightly accused but is not about to give up the charade now that she’s this far into it. It’s a performance worthy of a wax Oscar.

Even though we  know and she knows she’s biting her nails, we let it go. Sleep is more important than trying to argue with an irrational nine-year-old cannibal. Besides, its dark. We can’t prove anything.

Click. Click. Click.

Seriously? Now she’s just fucking with us.
Blogger Recognition Award

Blogger Recognition Award

Thanks to Niki over at A Texan’s View of Upstate New York for nominating me for this award! She runs a sweet little blog about her life as an army wife and shows off some cute crafts to boot. I will try to do you proud.

But first, there are a few rules.

blogger-recognition-award-2

——-

The Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you and give a link to their blog. Done
  • Display the award on your post and write about it. Done
  • Give a brief history on your blog itself. See below
  • Offer a piece of advice to new and upcoming bloggers. See below below
  • Select 10 other bloggers you wish to nominate. See all the way below

 

The Beginnings

I started blogging a year ago. I had been writing fiction for a  while, but in all honesty I was just revising the same three chapters on an endless loop.  To get myself out of the rut, I switched gears and wrote a personal essay about my love for Dirty Dancing for my writing group. That essay made me realize all of my fiction was just a poorly disguised memoir. It seemed more efficient to just write a blog.  A couple of months later, I started Mixtapes and Cupcakes.
A Little Advice

I’m not an expert at this blogging thing. Before starting my own, I barely knew what a blog was. I thought they were places to write fan fiction and bash celebrities.

While I may not be the world’s leading authority on blogging,  these are the pieces of advice I give myself every day. Most of the time I ignore it. But some days, it does help.

First, don’t chase stats. It’s usually just depressing, especially in the beginning. They will make you want to ditch the whole effort, and that would be a shame considering how long it took you just to pick out a name.

When you do look at your stats and realize only five people are reading your blog, remind yourself that people are very busy and there is a lot competing for their attention. The fact that five people took the time out of their day to read your words is a gift. Be grateful for that.

Secondly, write the kinds of things you want to read. That’s the only way you will be satisfied with your work. I try to write with humor because that’s what I like to read. If I had a fashion blog, it would be unreadable. It would be post after post about how great sweatpants are.

And, lastly, write honestly. Unless your mom is one of your readers. Then you might want to filter out some of the dirty stuff.

 

Nominees

Every day I read great blogs and think to myself, “How is it possible these people aren’t published?” I honestly don’t know. But I’m glad I found them.

(P.S. If any of you nominees don’t want to do the award thing, that’s totally fine. I understand it’s not everyone’s bag.)

My Ball of Wax

Rainy Day Writing

The DRAGONE Files

JJ Jibberjabber

Did You Dress Up For This

Adulthood…If I Must

Ben’s Bitter Blog

Jill Veldhouse

Mommy & Everything

Second Rate Mom

 

Why I’m Awesome

Why I’m Awesome

I was sort of asking for it.

One of the downsides of having your kids in activities is the people running those activities need funds to do the things you are asking them to do with your kids – make crafts, teach them a sport, just plain teach them.

These things cost money, so they ask the parents to sell wrapping paper and frozen pizzas to help them finance all the wonderful things they are doing with our children.

I sometimes wonder if my time would be better spent making crafts and playing soccer with my kids instead of selling stuff to people who don’t want it so my kids can do these things with other adults.

But, my youngest daughter loves her Camp Fire club. And we love it, too. It’s an awesome organization. So, every winter we lug home boxes of chocolate praying we can pawn them off on friends and family members who have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions to eat better. I feel really guilty selling them to my diabetic mother.

This year, my daughter came home with the goal of selling four cases. That didn’t seem too daunting until I realized they had changed the system and there were 30 chocolate bars in each case. How were we going to sell 120 chocolate bars? We don’t know that many people.

There were two options: one, hold each member of our four-person household responsible for eating an entire case of chocolate (which initially had its benefits but on further reflection seemed like it would put one of us in the hospital); or two, sell some at work.

I went with option number two. Like a good salesperson, I waited until my marks were primed for my product: 3 p.m. on a payday Friday. I sold a whole case in less than two hours. God bless the food-loving maniacs I work with!

My daughter was very appreciative and wanted to write me a “book” as a thank you. She asked what I wanted a book about and I said I wanted one about how awesome I am. So, in a way, I was begging to be complimented.

When I got home, there was a page and a half of hand-written reasons why I’m awesome. They fell into four categories.

What she thought she should say

These are the lines most mothers have seen written in a construction paper card at some point. I like to call them “Zoe’s Greatest Hits” because she brings them out on a pretty consistent basis.

“She is awesome because she cares for me.”

“She’s awesome because she provides food and shelter for me.”

“She’s awesome because she buys me clothes.”

“She’s awesome because she goes to my recitles.” (Her spelling, not mine)

“She’s awesome because she reads to me.”

 

Pure Flattery

“She’s awesome because she has a good sense of style.”

“She’s awesome because she has good taste in music.”

“She’s awesome because she is crafty.”

“She is awesome because she is very, very, very, very, very, very nice.” (The overuse of “very” is a dead give-away here. I’m nice, but not that nice.)

“She’s awesome because she is funny.”

“She’s awesome because she’s really good at coloring.”

 

Stuff that seems a bit more factual

“She’s awesome when she lets me use her library card to check out books when I leave my library card at home.”

“She’s awesome because she sometimes buys us pizza.”

“She’s awesome because she bought me my very own desk.”

“She’s awesome because she buys me treats.”

“She’s awesome because she is clean.” (Ummm…what?)

 

Then there were the things that made me cry. Legitimately sob. Hard.

“She’s awesome because she pays attention to me when I’m talking.”

“She’s awesome because she appreciates me for my drawings.”

“She’s awesome because she makes me feel important.”

 

I bring this up not to brag about how awesome I am, because honestly, I’m not. Most of this list was padding.

But as parents we do a lot of things for our kids that go unnoticed. And that’s fine. It’s part of what we sign up for.

When we get the rare opportunity to see ourselves through their eyes and that image is one that is attentive, funny and clean … well, it makes it all the more worthwhile.

And all I had to do was sell a case of chocolate to get it.

 

Reruns

Reruns

Now this is a story all about how my life got twist-turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there…

I’m sorry, what’s that? You’ve heard this one before? It’s the theme song to a beloved TV show? That’s ludicrous! Why I never…

Ok, fine, you caught me. Was I hoping to pass the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air off as a blog post? Yes. Did I think it would work? I don’t know. Jury’s out. But, if by the end of this post you believe my mom sent me to live with rich relatives in California due to some trouble I got into playing b-ball, I will have succeeded.

fresh prince

Here’s the thing. Last week marked the one-year annivesary of this blog, and to celebrate, I wanted the week off. I thought a good way around this would be to post some of my favorites from the last year. Reruns, if you will.

I figured I should at least write an intro to throw you off the scent that I’m essentially doing the blog version of a clip show. Then I realized I had just tricked myself into writing something anyway. Not only am I lazy, I’m also a little stupid.

So, I thought I would just plagarize The Fresh Prince. Why? Well, a) he’s a lot funnier than me, and b) I really didn’t want to have to write anything.

Ye here I am…still writing….

Maybe I should have gone with something a little less famous. Would you have believed I once worked in a bridal shop in Flushing, Queens and ended up a nanny?

All right. I’m done. Let’s get to the list.

Here are my personal top five favorite blog posts from the past year:

Wilder Child

Rick Steve’s European Sex Romp

Cherry Bombed: My Misadventures in Karaoke

Dial “D” For Dummy

The Summer I Went to Kellerman’s

It’s been a fun year! Thanks for reading! It truly means the world to me!