Children

So tomorrow Little Boy Blue heads out to college. I am REALLY happy and excited for him. I absolutely loved college. I still have friends from both colleges I attended and that was alot of  too many to mention more than a couple of years ago. Anyway, we’ve been packing up his clothes and reorganizing his room and since this is the third I didn’t think it would bother me too much. But I’m finding I’m getting more than a little sentimental about him going off. So this week I’m offering up a little advice I found on the internet for incoming college freshmen by Dr. Randall S. Hansen. Of course I had to add my own advice along with the experts. Hope you enjoy …

1. Go to all Orientations (And don’t forget the ones at the fraternities require you bring your own cup. Just saying …)

2. Get Organized (You’ll find there are a lot of social obligations. You know the important things, football games, pickup basketball, pizza at the den … make sure you have them all clearly marked in your day planner … wouldn’t want to miss out on that college experience.) 

3. Go to Class (Okay, this is a serious one. I understand the engineering department is filled with some cute grad student teaching assistants.)

4. Seek a Balance (Studying hard means you can play hard without any guilt … the last part is key.)

5. Make friends with your roommate and others in your Residence Hall (Everyone needs a wingman and since you’ll be living in a co-ed dorm the second part is especially important.)

6. Know your course requirements and Due Dates (Your play time is much more fun when all those pesky assignments are finished.)

7. Strive to do your Best (Everything takes a little time. No one is good at “pong” the first night playing … a little practice perfects the wrist technique.)

8. Take advantage of resources on Campus (Students who work in the library know where the Cliff Notes are filed and upper classmen can tell you which professors to avoid. Really, I’m just saying …)

9. Don’t feel pressured to make a hasty decision about Majors or Careers (Look at me. I still haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up! Do I look stressed about it?)

10. Make connections with other students in your Classes (Study groups are great places to meet new people and find out where the best “socials” are being held.)

11. Don’t procrastinate–Prioritize your Social Life (Refer back to numbers 1, 2, 4, and 6)

12. Stay Healthy and Eat Right (This means walking to frat row instead of taking the car. Keep in mind that a loaded pizza has carbs, protein and veggies which really is much more balanced than nachos slathered in cheese.)

13. Kisses heal Booboos. Hugs soothe Anxiety. And words of love and encouragement are only a Phone Call Away. (And remember … the distance to the moon and back is a reeeeeeally big amount.)

I just couldn’t let the milestone of Little Boy Blue’s high school graduation go by without showing some of the pictures. This week I’ve got some words of wisdom I knew an 18 year old male could really appreciate. (And no, these aren’t mine, I found them from some anonymous person on the internet.)

1. If you’re too open minded … your brains fall out.

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2. If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip.

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3. No man has been shot while doing dishes.

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4. Someone who thinks logically provides a nice contrast to the real world.

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5. Opportunities always look bigger going than coming.

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6. Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves for they shall never cease to be amused.

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7. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

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8. If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you’ve never tried before.

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9. A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.

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10. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a mechanic.

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11. You’ll love deadlines…especially the ‘whooshing’ sound they make as they fly by.

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12. Junk is something you’ve kept for years and throw away three weeks before you need it.

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13. By the time you can make ends meet, they move the ends.

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Last weekend we celebrated Beautiful Girl’s college graduation. It was tiring and amazing and long and wonderful. So this week I thought I’d share thirteen things about graduation.

1. Getting to the football stadium 2 hours early guarantees you both good seats and a wicked sore butt!

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2. Beautiful Girl should have stood on the OTHER side of her veeeerrry tall friend.

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3. Teenage boys really have only three wants. a) A refrigerator. b) A toilet. c) Space of their own. None of which Little Boy Blue had allllll weekend.

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4. Pictures don’t really tell the whole story of how edgy six people get in a hotel room. Just saying …

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5. Friends are the best part of college.

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6. Receiving the college insignia medal isn’t the same as getting a signed diploma (which we haven’t seen yet).

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7. Graduating from college doesn’t guarantee you can follow the directions “1 … 2 … 3 … jump”, no matter how many times you try.

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8. There really is nothing to do in a hotel room for three days.

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9. College Education – $80,000
    Family trip to graduation – $1,000
    Meeting the families of your daughter’s best friends – Priceless

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10. My kids really do love each other. (Though the position of Baby Girl’s arm is a little questionable.)

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11. School mascots don’t have to watch their hands. (Your right hand is where Mr. Minuteman?)

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12. 2009 is a very good year.

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13. Even at college graduations there’s eye candy. (Okay so he wasn’t there, but it was really hot …)

Sorry about the lack of blogging over the weekend. You’d think I could find 15 minutes to jot a little something down. I mean yesterday I was remiss in not giving a shout out to my mothers! I love them both.

My own mom is amazing. She raised 5 kids, ( I really wanted to say “wonderful”, but that seemd pushing the boundaries just a little. 🙂 ) she survived a divorce from my dad, which wasn’t very pretty, but in the end our family stayed strong, loving and close and then the death of her second husband. She takes care of her mom-in-law who also happened to be her mother’s best friend. Yeah, she’s amazing and I love her with all my heart.

My mother-in-law is just as amazing and I feel so fortunate that the man I married comes from such a loving family. We’ve been together 33 years this fall (and yes, we were just kids when we got together) and his mom is just like my own. I love her dearly.

Two amazing female role-models in my life. And I am so blessed to call them “mom”.

On to other news. I didn’t blog this weekend because this was the ONLY weekend in 8 that the DH and I were/will be home together. Yeah, that sucks the Big Kahuna! I totally depend on him to help me with the shopping and cleaning … he’s amazing that way. So between Little Boy Blue’s track meet, dinner theater and spring cleaning the family room, I really didn’t have a spare minute.

No, I haven’t seen Wolverine. No, I didn’t get to see Star Trek this weekend. I don’t want to talk about it. Although I can’t name the serial numbers of the Enterprise and I don’t know how many Romulans it takes to change a light bulb. I am a HUGE Star Trek fan from a young age. I can watch about 5 secs of an episode from the original series and tell you which story it is. So yeah, I’m bummed … and I REALLY don’t want to talk about the fact that Little Boy Blue went and didn’t drag his mom along. (Who cares if I had another obligation, he still didn’t ask … just sayin’)

And marketing … oh, I’d like to go on about marketing and selling books, but it’s just not a good idea. I’m in one of those “between story” funks where I really should avoid talking about all things writing. It’s just not going to be productive. LOL!

This weekend I’m off to see my homegirls at a writing conference for the Maine chapter of RWA. Wonderful group of ladies and gent. Very supportive. I totally wouldn’t be where I am today without them. And I just need to know think about everything that needs to get done before Friday. I mean, it is only Monday!

Have a great day!

There is no denying my head has been faaarrrr away from all things writing. I’ve ignored my blog, turned my nose up at marketing, and writing new words? Puh-leeeease. Gifts needed wrapping and holiday parties needed to be attended! A girl has to have priorities.

But contracts can’t be signed without finished novels. And novels can’t be finished without dragging my muse by the scruff of the neck (she still thinks she’s on vacation), setting her up with a cabana boy and some latte and settling down to work. I read a great quote recently …

“I hate writing, but I love having written.”

That is so me.  

So I’ve set a personal deadline and I’m going to stick to it. Poor ‘ole Zane is not going to be left hanging. Right now he’s working his shifter magic on the heroine and I left him ready to move in for the first kiss. I know, it was wrong to do that to him, but with all three children home and seeking my attention, it’s been hard to focus on love stories.

But, Beautiful girl is headed back to MA to visit with some friends for the week, and Baby Girl is on vacation from college but never home (new boyfriend), and Little Boy Blue headed out the door and back to school. Soooo …. I really have no excuses not to buckle down.

Away from the blog. No twittering (which I just started). And NO hanging out on forums lamenting about the cold weather. I’m off to work on that story. (And if you’re wondering the regular Monday interviews should be back by next week. I’m lining up some awesome authors and other guest surprises!) Later …

This week’s thirteen is compliments of Little Boy Blue who works at a local (sorta fast food) restaurant. It’s this cafeteria type place where you order and pay for your food and then it’s delivered to your table and there’s self-service drinks and salad bar.

In the three years he’s been there he’s worked himself up from dishwasher to grill-guy. (It’s a steak restaurant.) Though he often still has to fill in as the salad bar guy or take orders.

Anyway … here are thirteen things that annoy restaurant employees (umm … teenagers).

1. People who break plates or kids who spill soda. Then you have to clean it up with a bucket and mop and it’s just annoying.

2. When customers arrive 5 minutes before closing and order “the all you can eat” special.

3. Ordering steak tips at the end of the night when you’ve already cleaned both the pan and the grill.

4. Getting paid crap to do crap. (Umm … that’s a quote!)

5. Inability for customers to do anything on their own, like asking for a glass when they’re stacked next to the soda machine.

6. Nasty people who are angry at you … even when you’re not doing anything more than breathing in their direction.

7. People who leave money on the table as if they’re going to leave a tip, but then take it with them when they leave.

8. When you’re dumping the trash and the barrel bows and bounces back, pouring rotten food all over you.

9. When other people park in your “employee of the month” space (next to the door) because you work part time in the winter.

10. When you have no idea how to use the cash register, but you’re the only one near it when someone’s ready to cash out and you have to apologize and walk away.

11. When your manager asks you to do complex simple math in your head (like 4 X 343) and you do it because he can’t. (It’s just annoying.)

12. When you’re ready to punch out and they ask you to refill the tarter sauce (or the butter or whatever).

13. Dropping a plate in front of a loud group of older gentlemen who harangue and joke for the next hour while you work the dining area.

Today’s blog has nothing to do with writing, but everything to do with where I live. Aroostook County, Maine … potato country.

This is the time of year when everyone’s focus is on the weather and the fields. Months ago, the potatoes were growing in the sun. The scenery was beautiful.

But a few weeks ago the farmers began killing off the top plant of the potato (since it’s a tuber grown in the dirt) which allowed the skin of the potatoes to harden. (In days before chemicals they let nature and a hard frost do this job for them.)

On Friday all high schools in Aroostook County will close for three weeks allowing the students the opportunity to help harvest the potato crop. Really.

I didn’t grow up here and I hear stories of the years before automation that nearly every business closed and families went into the fields to harvest potatoes by hand. (Check out the picture below) Diggers tilled the potatoes to the surface. Then workers would pick them by hand, filling up the basket with a handle and transferring the load to the larger barrel. A card with a number was shoved into the slats to identify the picker who filled the barrel. Each barrel earned a person $.50. Yes, that decimal point is in the right place. Barrels were collected on flatbed trucks and hauled to the potato house for storage.

It was long hours of back-breaking labor. Now there are havesters.

The potatoes are dug out of the ground and transported on conveyors to the body of the harvester where young people stand and cull out rocks, dirt, and plant material. Then the conveyor deposits the potatoes directly into the bed of potato trucks that haul them to the potato house.

With the automation of the harvest, children can no longer help with the harvest. Workers need to be at least 16 to be on a harvester. And this is where my children come in. We have a dear friend who is a potato farmer. (I worked for him one season yeeeeaars ago when my children were young. It was a wonderful experience. Of course I didn’t grow up with it so I found it fascinating. Hard work, but educational. Sorry, I digress…) Anyhoodles … they work on the harvester from 6 am to 7 pm. A veeeery loooong day indeed. 

But it’s only for three weeks. I figure you can do anything for three weeks. And they get paid very well for their labor. So all my children have worked throughout their high school years. I am proud that Little Boy Blue will once again be one of a handful of students from his high school actually working the harvest. The tradition of students working for farmers is waning. With so few teenagers working, I suspect within the next decade there will no longer be a harvest break at the schools.

This will be our last time dealing with the harvest in our house. Early hours, praying for rain (to take a day off), praying for sun (so you don’t freeze your butt off on the harvester all day), cleaning Wally World out of Little Debbie snacks and work gloves, doing laundry every night so the potato dirt covering four layers of clothing doesn’t spread further than the back door to the shower, reheating dinners for exhausted children, and all the other stuff that goes with the season.

I’m pleased my kids have had this experience to take with them into their work years. I suspect there will be few jobs they will work that will be as labor intensive as harvesting potatoes. I hope the lessons they learn from their years in the field will be carried with them for a long time to come.

So now, I have to ask you. What have you done, either that  you loved or hated … that when it was over was a life lesson you’ve kept with you? 

So school started today. If you have children you know that means … back to the routine of lunch money and homework; soccer practice and PTA meetings; school dances and fund raisers. There’s a nice rhthym (okay, and sometimes … insane scheduling) that ebbs and flows through the house when the kids are in school.

But this year is just a little different …

Little Boy Blue is a senior. *sigh*

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those moms who followed the school bus to the elementary school in tears. On the contrary, when Little Boy Blue stepped foot on that yellow bus with his two older sisters I grabbed my purse and headed to the nearest Starbucks for an hour or two of sipping lattes and enjoying the knowledge that I had a few blessed hours to myself. (Okay, not quite like that … we don’t have Starbucks and I worked fulltime, but you get the idea. 😉 )

So my reaction to the youngest child heading out for the first day of school surprised me. The last first day of school … ever. We did the whole picture taking thing, because that’s a tradition in our house. But no more children will stand next to the tree, backpack in hand (because I want visual evidence for their chiropractors) and fidget while I work to get the camera focused and the picture framed just so.

Yep, there’s going to be a lot more lasts this year.
– last time filling out registration paperwork
– last open house
– last parent/teacher conferences
– last Christmas/Spring band concerts
– last of each sporting season
– last senior year events
– last … well you get the idea

I’m happy for Little Boy Blue. He knows already what he’d like to study in college and even where he’d like to go. It’s the way it should be. Children gaining their independence and making their own way in the world. And I’m happy he’s moving in that direction … really.

It’s just that the last two senior years didn’t quite affect me this way. There was someone coming up behind. But this is making me a little sad.

To think I’m closing the book on a HUGE chapter of my life. It’s just a little odd. And I’m not sure my heart’s ready for it.

I don’t know how many people are swinging by to check out my short story, Test Drive. It’s nearly finished … and I don’t mean to disappoint, but this week my “test drive” is going to Massachusetts to see Pretty Girl!

If you’re reading this on Saturday, DH and I are winding our way through western Massachusetts enjoying the mountains and a wonderful (and impromptu) visit with our eldest daughter. (See, we figured out this is the last available summer weekend before she goes back to her RA job at the University in August … that’s soooo sad our summer is that booked!)

It’s so hard when they move out. Seems we always have to go to her. She rarely finds time to make it home to northern Maine. (And if you’re wondering how I’m still posting my blog when I’m not near a computer … well that’s advanced magic … and you’re security clearance isn’t high enough for me to share it with you! LOL!)

If you’re reading this on Sunday, I’m spending the day at a butterfly garden and tonight we’re staying at a wonderful bed and breakfast! I love road trips! (I’m ignoring the gas bills …)

Next week should bring the conclusion of Test Drive and save poor Margo from the wretched predicament she’s found herself in!

Stop by the beginning of the week … when the magic posting continues. Mwahahahaha …

Are the holidays really over? The drooping branches and growing pile of pine needles beneath my poor Christmas tree claim that its glory has come and gone. Of course the lights, still on a timer, happily twinkle on beginning at 3:37 pm and click off promptly at 10:12 pm. 

The stockings that hung with care are now strewn hap-hazardly about the couch, their contents half in and half out. *sigh* So today I will be pulling out the whip and megaphone and putting those slaves children of mine to work. Despite their vehement protestations and complaints we will pack up those ceramic angels and stuffed Santas, beg them not to multiply over the dull months ahead (as they always seem to do) and tuck them neatly back into the dark corner of my basement. Be gone you harbingers of time-sucking activities!

You see, the holiday season ate chunks of my writing time, nibbling away bit by bit until my productivity dipped lower than the Maine temps. But no more. I’m putting my foot down!

As 2008 rears its head and proclaims that another blank page of a year lies before me, available to fill as I choose, I have decided it’s time to take back my house–from the forlorn Christmas ornaments and the bored college students still on holiday. I will boldly forge ahead and stake my claim on the family room which is also my writing sanctuary and declare that it is once again off-limits during writing hours!

Yes, today I will pack up Christmas, dust off the keyboard and jump back into my writing schedule that has been tilted off its axis.

Oh, that feels better already! I am so happy the holidays are over and I can get back on track. I am ready to reclaim my home and my writing time… right after I put another load of laundry in the washer, do up the sink full of dishes, cheer at a swim meet, join dear hubby on a snowmobile ride, restock teenager devasted cupboards, and…

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