Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Need a new backpack or luggage? Back to school or vacation?

CSN has graciously offered a $50 gift card to give away.

And I've been thinking of all the vacations I wish I could go on. I'm finally reading EAT PRAY LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert. Great book- but it's at least PG-13 with its swearing and loose moral standards.

If you haven't already read it or seen the movie (is it out yet?), I'll give you the basic idea. Single lady takes a year and spends time in Italy, India and Indonesia searching for her true self.

For a stay-at-home mom with five kids and limited resources, I have an impossible time relating to what it would feel like to put life on hold for a year and travel. That said, it did send me into my memory banks to find those few moments in life that I did spend alone, in sheer bliss somewhere far away from my home.

Maybe I wouldn't choose the same countries as Elizabeth, but traveling is one of my loves. I've had a list of places I wish to go for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I've been lucky enough to get there, but many places are still on the list. Some places I've been to and have made the list of places I will return.

So as long as I'm living in a fantasy world in my head, here ten places I want to see either for the first time, or again.

1. Ireland
2. East coast (and many states therein)
3. West coast
4. Hawaii
5 Australia
6. New Zealand
7. Europe (there are so many countries so close together, just let me loose for a while so I can wander)
8. Jerusalem
9. UK
10. Iceland

It's not that I missed the whole point of her story, but that I've taken out of it things that I CAN relate to. -Enjoying, Listening, Learning, Living. Those are the things I need to make a bigger part of my life. I'm not going to get a year abroad to find it, but somewhere amidst the craziness of life, I have to figure out how to incorporate more of that.

Now, for the contest. If you want to win a $50 gift card to CSN (which is actually a code e-mailed to you) please include the following in a comment....

1) tell me somewhere you want to go
2) tell me something you want to learn (they don't have to be related)
3) include your e-mail

A qualifying winner will be selected August 10 using random.org.

Hmmm, and if you want to win my already-been-read copy of EAT PRAY LOVE, tell me. I'll choose a separate winner for that, too.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The end of July

At the beginning of the summer I was actually looking forward to having some time off. No book tours, signings, traveling and conferences. Nope, I was just going to be a regular person this summer.

It turns out that we've somehow filled up all that extra time. Instead of my husband filling in when I'm gone, I've been filling in while he's gone. Give and take.

I'm finding out that I do go a bit stir-crazy when I don't have something to gear up for. It's weird. I like working.

I'm still anxiously waiting for a book contract or two.

But in the meantime, I've been, well, being mom. I need a magic wand that makes me enjoy doing housework. Better yet, one that will get it done for me. Or is that Mary Poppins?

But, here's a picture of my latest highlights. My life.

*Spent 8 hours soaking my fingers in acetone. But, I finally removed every toxic particle of those stupid MMA acrylic nails, which, I learned will dissolve your nail beds if left on too long. And, since I refused to rip my nails off, they will hopefully recover.

*My kids found a baby-almost-adult bird yesterday that is all but ready to fly. They made a nest with a box and have been feeding it worms. I don't know if our tiny bird will survive, but the kids give it round-the-clock care.

*Spent a couple hours with some out-of-town family. My niece had her bridal shower on Saturday. I wish they didn't live so far away. I miss them all so much.

*Drum roll please... I've almost finished finding what I need for my twin's 6th birthday. The only thing I've failed completely at is finding a little stuffed animal snake. I've been to nearly every store in Boise. At Barnes and Noble they told me he was disturbed. Who would even want a stuffed animal snake?

*Oh yeah, and writing. Ever writing. Last week I sat down for a few hours and mapped out chapters of the book I am writing so that I would know specifically where it was going and that it did indeed have a good story to keep it going. And now I love the story again. It's been emotionally hard to write. The contemporary side of it is dealing with a very real and very hard problem. One that can't ever have a really good ending, but has to in my story.

*We're still remodeling the ceiling in our living room. Half of my house is a construction disaster.

Well, that's about it for today. You can all look forward to another gift card giveaway in the coming week or so. Yay!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A lesson on Acrylic Nails

I am not a fashionista. I am more like a science geek.

So when my thumb nail continued to break and chip to the point where my thumb was in pain everyday, I decided it was time to do something about it.

Last summer my nephew had acrylics put on over his nails so he could play the classical guitar. Two of my sisters have acrylic nails.

I asked questions.

Then I did my research.

And when I got done, I decided that gel nails were what I really wanted. Something I could paint over my defective thumb so it could finally grow out. I even considered just doing my thumb nail, and maybe even my big toe so it could withstand dancing better.

My sister came to town and swore she loved this nail shop. They said they offered gel nails. I made an appointment.

Here are some interesting facts about acrylic nails:

*there is more than one kind of acrylic. The good kind- EMA and the bad, MMA

MMA (Methyl Methacrylate) is a liquid monomer deemed poisonous and dangerous by the FDA and is now being used improperly in the beauty industry for artificial nail applications in some salons.

Indications that MMA has been used on you:

  • Operators Most Often Wear Masks (FDA has deemed this substance poisonous)
  • Drill Use should never be damaging or painful. Drills are always used with MMA.
  • Operators/Owners/Management are secretive about product brand names
  • Distinctly different odor from regular nail acrylic
  • Usually low service pricing (MMA Liquid costs $20 a gallon. Industry approved Acrylic Liquid cost $200 a gallon)
  • Artificial Surface will not release under extreme pressure (MMA nails rarely lift or break and will take the nail plate off the nail bed if enough pressure is applied to break it.
What are the health risks associated with MMA products?
MMA-related complaints range from skin allergies to permanent loss of the nail plate. Here are the most common complaints that prompted the FDA to take action:

Nail Infections
The surface bond of the MMA acrylic is so strong to the soft tissue that even a slight trauma to the nail can cause the nail to break and lift off the nail bed. This can result in serious nail breaks, infection and loss of the nail plate. Ironically, it is the strength of the acrylic that attracts some users of the product. While MMA used in the medical and dental industries provides superior adhesion to bone, it is not appropriate or safe for use on the softer nail tissue.

Respiratory problems and eye, nose and throat irritation.
MMA vapors are toxic even in small doses and can cause lung, liver and heart valve damage, especially with long term exposure. This has been documented in laboratory animals as well as in lab technicians from dental labs where crowns and dentures are made. Wearing a mask does nothing to prevent inhalation of MMA fumes. Masks only reduce the inhalation of acrylic dust.

Permanent Nail Deformities
The small molecular structure of MMA makes it possible for it to be absorbed through even unbroken skin. It can also actually do permanent damage to the matrix of the nail and further absorb into the body. While MMA will not store in the tissue, it is stored as methanol in the blood and urine.

Severe Allergic Reactions
Repeated exposure to products containing MMA can result in severe allergic reactions. Redness, swelling and itching are common symptoms which can lead to the development of tiny blisters around the cuticles and fingertips. These blisters can develop into open sores, and the fingertips may become numb or feel itchy under the nail.

The problem with MMA is that its atoms are so small that they easily penetrate the skin and nail plate. MMA is a Asensitizer@ that can cause irritation and allergic reactions once it is in contact with the skin. EMA is much safer, larger in atomic size, and doesn’t damage nail plates. It is also hundreds of times less likely to cause allergic reactions.

Salons using large or oversize brushes in order to save time, make beads of acrylic that are far too wet! The belly of a large brush can carry enough liquid for 4 medium wet beads (or three nails)! This means the product, which may appear to be hardened, does not set up in the correct amount of time and the harmful chemical MMA leeches through the nail plate, into the nail bed and then directly into the blood stream. In short, brushes that are too large don’t save time, they can lead to serious allergic reactions.

HAZARD SUMMARY from the Materials Data Safety Sheet

  • MMA has a strong, sharp, fruity odour and can affect you when breathed in.

  • It may damage the developing fetus.

  • Exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, and throat.

  • MMA can cause a skin allergy.

  • Exposure could damage the nervous system. Symptoms may include Apins and needles@, numbness, weakness, and changes in the ability to remember and concentrate.

  • Severe side effects may include abnormal liver or kidney function, nervous system damage and reproductive problems.

  • Nail services should NOT be painful. If the technician is causing you ANY pain, seek out another more qualified technician immediately, DO NOT allow the technician to continue the service. Seek out the state's complaint form and submit it promptly with photos if possible. Many states will only act upon receiving complaints from consumers.

I went to my scheduled appointment. Things went downhill fast from there. Here's a quick run-through.
* I clarified that I wanted gels.
* She answered the phone and spent 15 minutes talking to a magazine rep while she clipped my nails to stubs and super glued tips on and drills my nails!!!! AAAHHHH! You don't drill nails for gels.
*When she pulled out the unmarked bowl of liquid and separate powder, I interceded.
"There's no such thing as a powder gel."
Her eyes popped open. "No, this is a stronger gel. It powder. Stronger."
Yeap, Asian with a really strong accent.
*I'm screwed. I have super glued tips on and filed nail beds- all while she was on the phone. Now what?
*I sit back and freak. Should have walked out. But, you know, my sisters and other people I know have acrylics. How bad could it be, right?
*At the end- after "curing my gels" under a UV light for 20 minutes I asked how much my acrylic nails would cost. (gels only take 3 minutes to cure)
"No. This powder gel. It more flexible and clear. It gel, not acrylic."

Liar. And so I walked out of there with not only acrylic nails, but five bleeding fingers. Yeah, bleeding. And the non-flexible nails are too big on my fingers so they put pressure on the skin around my nails. She applied the acrylic so liberally that it was constantly in contact with my skin. Not a good sign.

And then I did even more research. If you live in Boise, watch out for Asian nail shops. They are notorious for using MMA. No one around here seems to know what it is. I hadn't heard of it.

As long as I don't bump my fingernail super hard, I will hopefully last long enough to get my nails fixed.

It's been two days now. My fingers are still sore. But that one thumb nail tip doesn't hurt anymore. I had no idea I would be trading a thumb for all ten fingers.

If you like doing nails, make sure the salon is only using EMA. Or go with gels, like I tried to. If I haven't permanently damaged my nails for life, I'm going to try gels to get them back to normal.

And, here's the rest of the story....

I went to another nail salon and had them show me their products. Then I got a signed statement saying that I in fact had acrylics and NOT gels. I took this statement, along with my MMA reports to the original nail shop. The lady wasn't there, so they were going to have me wait for her. While I was waiting, I talked to another worker there. He admitted that they used MMA.

Five minutes later, the lady calls the store. She tells me she will only give me my money back if she can clip my nails off.

I said she wouldn't be touching my nails and that $35 wasn't very much compared to losing her business. Bait and switch is against the law in Idaho.

Five seconds later, the man handed me my money back.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cool Widgets and other Randomness

I found a cool spooky forest with lights bouncing around and had to add it. It reminds me of Alvor. Too bad the neo counter isn't retroactive. The visitor count started yesterday.

Last week held some strangeness. Thought I'd compile a list of all the random things.

*got to see my sister who surprised me that she was in town. She's headed to the Himalayas next (she thinks). And, my brother took us out to lunch besides. First time for everything.

*my sister wandered into a bookstore downtown and accidentally found my book. They were using it as a backdrop for a sculpture she was admiring. She was so amazed by the experience that she took a picture AND took me to the store to see it.

*where randomness #3 happened. My brother bought a "reading" for me. Found out I am unconditionally loving as well as passionate. Oh, and that my books are my "other kids".

*got a super nice rejection letter followed by a super mean one from another publisher.

*went camping. The only mosquito bite I got was on my eyelid. Good thing that mosquito was killed before it could finish the job.

*writers group... and hours of editing after. Can't decide if I should keep working on the story I'm writing or just can it. Still deciding.

*found out that my niece's bridal shower this coming Saturday- Very excited to see everyone!!!!

*still can't believe I get to present at the SCBWI writers conference here in Boise. Very cool. And, as Murphy's Law would have it, it's the same day as our National Guard performance for the Boise Cloggers. Yes, I will be doing both.

*Personal triumph for the day.... my kids' bus stop has officially been moved to my house!!! Yeah!!! They're never going to miss the bus again. It has been down the street where my son has been seen racing the bus to the stop, and sometimes losing. When he loses the race, even though the bus drives right past him running, he still misses the bus. I'm truly pumped about this new development, and school doesn't even start for another month.

That's it for today. Hoping this week's randomness has lots of happiness sprinkled in.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Status Update

I'll admit it. I don't know who all of you are. Some of you, definitely, but many I haven't had the pleasure to be better acquainted with.

That said, I'll tell you a few things about why I blog.

First reason- meaning literally, the first reason that made me want to try this out....
I was writing and knew that I knew nothing about the business. To learn, I searched the internet and soon discovered that the best resources were blogs. Weird, but true. On blogs things are more real-world and less censored. They have the facts about the hard world of writing and publishing.

In other words, authors who were strangers to me gave me the incentive to follow in their footsteps. I'm happy to say that now many of those authors are no longer strangers.

A little blip while we're on the subject- blogs are a great way to get information about agents too.

Second reason- I wanted to be able to tell the world about my book(s) and let people get to know me better. I love learning about writers and what makes them tick.

Third reason- this one is completely selfish. Having a blog meant that I would be able to keep up with friends and family better. Some people read the newspaper, I read the blogs. If I didn't have one, I really doubt I would keep up with everyone as well.

And fourth- I can think about random things out loud here and sometimes hear what you have to say about it. It's like having a conversation.

That said, here's my status update. In a nutshell.... I'm waiting to hear about the second book in the Alvor series, my newest novel is on submission via my agent and I'm currently writing a contemporary YA book. I call it contemporary, but it is going to have some twists in there that aren't the normal. Kind of like an urban cutting edge of technology now thing.

Whether that made any sense to you, it's turning out to be a story that grips the edge and runs headlong into real problems and real dreams. The kind of dream that gives you a reason to keep getting out of bed and making it through another day.

I can't wait for the day when I can finally say there's another book on the horizon for the world to read, but I promise to let you know if good news ever trickles in my direction.

Other than that, the next thing coming up is the SCBWI writers conference here in Boise, September 11. I feel lucky to have been invited to present there. If you live around the area, or not too far away, this is a great conference. They have manuscript critiques and other great things. The annual day-long conference in Boise will feature Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine Books and Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency.

Okay, there you have it. My writing life in one post.

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Hobby

I read another author's words claiming he needed a new hobby. At first I thought "Why?".

I'll admit. I'm not that multi-talented. I am okay at a handful of things. And when I say handful, I mean about three.

Everything else is just survival. Necessary tasks in life to get through.

I've always said that I failed as a girl because I lack the ability to enjoy/do any crafts. Crafts are part of our culture. You know, interior design, throw a picture on the wall. Cooking, if you can eat it, you'll make it through another day. I can sew, but I'm a lot more interested in the final product than the journey. And all that artsy stuff, painting, floral arrangements, etc. I fail at.

If you find something adorable on my wall that looks homemade, I can assure you someone gave it to me.

But then, after a domino effect that I can't figure out, a new hobby emerged this week. I'm sure it will be another phase, but hey, I'm going to enjoy the ride. I discovered the art of making beaded watchbands. Part of the draw is how it completely lacks any serious art talent. But there is something soothing about stringing beads, uhm, not that I've made more than two.

So for this craftless girl, I'm creeping into a new horizon. Barely. If nothing else, I'll be able to give you the time in several different colors.

Oh, and writing. Loving writing. But I don't think that counts as a hobby anymore.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

For the Birds

I miss the hummingbirds.

Last year we had resident hummingbirds that visited our feeder outside my kitchen window. If you've never watched one, you're missing out. Kind of like I am right now.

Early in the season we had several species come. As the summer progressed, we thinned out to just one.

Often I would be in the kitchen doing some of my least favorite chores, and a hummingbird would come. I nearly always stopped and watched for the few seconds it was there. Magic out my window. It was like smelling the roses, but watching instead. For a few moments scattered throughout the day, I was reminded of how miraculous our world really is.

The kids would stop all their noises and watch the hummingbirds too. It's incredible the power of one tiny little animal.

This year I was ready. I put up our hummingbird feeder and filled it with nectar. I looked forward to the tiny wings beating so fast they were a blur. But none came.

Instead, we've had a tree full of other things. Bright yellow birds. Some with red heads, some with yellow. Once during a rain spell, the tree outside our window had more than thirty of these colorful birds in it. For a few minutes, it looked like we lived in a tropical rain forest.

The other day I looked out my window and my heart sped up. Was it a hummingbird? And then a small pale yellow bird that looked like a canary landed on the top of my feeder.

Not a hummingbird, but maybe even more significant.

I did look up some of the species of hummingbirds to know that last year I had three different kinds here. I went to Petsmart and checked out the canaries. It looked like a match to me.

Maybe the weather patterns have changed just enough that the hummingbirds aren't coming. Maybe they're hanging out at someone else's house.

Either way, I can't help but appreciate the fact that in the absence of one miracle, another takes its place. A significant lesson, if I can but learn it from the birds.