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Recycling, Old School Style

December 9, 2011

Growing up in California pretty much ensured I was well educated in recycling and caring for our environment, however, my parents found a way to take it to a whole new level. Here are the rules of recycling.

1. Sandwich baggies, contrary to popular belief, are not one-use-only disposable plastic. They are to be saved, brought home, washed out and used again. Only when they cease to be airtight, or used for a substance that even dad won’t condone putting a sandwich in afterwards, may they be thrown away. It is not uncommon to find sandwich bags draped over various things like the soap dispenser or the faucet.

2. The box a bible comes in has many uses. Every year, someone in the family receives a NIV Bible for Christmas, that is until they open the box and find something completely different inside. I was the last to receive a new bible and that was over 25 years ago. All those celebrity conservationists have got NOTHING on my mom.

3. When the dryer belt burned in half and started the load of towels in the dryer on fire, nothing was wasted! The towels were salvaged and used as shop towels for the garage (although, no one but my dad would touch them due to the smell) and the dryer belt was used as a cat toy. Mom draped it over the ceiling fan and it provided hours of entertainment for us as the cats chased it in circles. What? You think any member of the household was saved from snark just because they had four legs and a tail?

4. Being the youngest, I was well acquainted with hand-me-downs, even when it came to underwear. But what to do when even I couldn’t wear it anymore. Underwear dustrags! There was an entire drawer full of holey underwear in mom’s closet for battling dust bunnies. Who knew they succumbed so quickly to Hanes?

5. Wrapping paper has more than one life. I know the rest of you are thinking of all the wrapping paper you’ve used as fire kindling, but such was not the fate in our house. When unwrapping presents, one did so with utter care–dad preferred you to use a knife to cut the tape since mom taped EVERYTHING. Christmas morning, after all of the presents were meticulously unwrapped, dad would straighten and smooth out every piece and then roll it all up into a tube to be used for the following year. Mom let us know beforehand which wrapping paper she was sick of so we could “accidentally” rip it. If you’re in the market for vintage 80’s wrapping paper, slightly used, don’t even bother with eBay.

6. Even vegetable gardens were a source of recycling. It wasn’t mulch, but something far more “green” oriented. One year, mom planted a single cherry tomato bush and a zucchini plant. We enjoyed the crop that summer, but it the true big picture genius wasn’t discovered until the following year when, unassisted, four cherry tomato plants sprung up where the original one had been and zucchini plants took over the rest of the backyard. We had so much zucchini, people several streets away would close and lock their doors when they saw us coming with our bags and bags of zucchini the size of Hulk Hogan’s arms. The cherry tomato plants grew taller than the back fence and dad finally offered the majority of them to the grocery store right behind our house. But, the story doesn’t end here. The plants came back EVERY YEAR even after my dad rototilled the soil. Now that’s not letting any seed go to waste! My sister and I finally rebelled when zucchini pancakes were served for breakfast one morning. NOT the tasty morsals you’re imagining. Think rather of shredded zucchini in your Bisquick.

7. Toilet paper. Stick with me on this one. My sister and I are only a few years apart, so we were both in high school at the same time for two years. Which meant our house was TP’d once or twice. On one such occasion, the perpetrators went so far as to hold the end of the roll, while tossing the rest of it OVER our two-story house. They were THOROUGH. Our entire roof was draped with the stuff, and dad was LIVID–like purple face, vein in the middle of the forehead bulging livid. He cleaned it all up … remember the wrapping paper? He rolled it all back up. Into giant, mushy, grimy rolls. Put it all in a large paper bag and stuck it in my sister and I’s bathroom. For us to use. I mean, the man was obviously dedicated to recycling. Mom, figuring she’d helped reduce half a valley’s worth of carbon emissions with her zucchini, took pity on us and gave us fresh rolls.

As Christmas season approaches, I realize how much more I can do to live up to my green potential and continue the legacy. Does anyone have a good pattern for a Target plastic bag crochet rug?


Why Dawn Metcalf Should Consider Witness Protection

December 6, 2011

I won the book Luminous in a blog contest several months ago. It sat on my to be read pile and I always seemed to find something else to read ahead of it. Not that it’s cover wasn’t gorgeous and inviting, I just wasn’t sure about it. So it sat on my shelf. I even took it along with me to a few of my recent doctor’s visits, but never cracked it open.

Until last night.

And by the time I’d finished the first chapter, the only reason I put it down was to send the following text to my sister: “On Chapter 2 of Luminous by Dawn Metcalf and it is beautiful. Her writing is compelling, true and you feel the words.”

Once in a great while, you come upon a sentence or a phrase or a particular description that makes you cry because you weren’t the one who wrote it. I still remember a specific line from both Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver and Lisa Mantchev’s Eyes Like Stars. Dawn Metcalf’s Luminous had one on nearly EVERY PAGE! In the first 25 pages, I went from crying because I didn’t write this book to plotting where to stash Metcalf while stealing her identity. Her writing is sparse, yet her words are woven together so powerfully there is never a moment I couldn’t picture the exact setting, action and feel of her world. What would take me a paragraph to write, she conveys in a short sentence. Not only was I awed, I was completely sucked into the story.

“The world snapped open.”

“The world snapped shut.”

As reality slips and time stands still, Consuela finds herself thrust into the world of the Flow. Removed from all she loves into this shifting world overlapping our own, Consuela quickly discovers she has the power to step out of her earthly skin and cloak herself in new ones-skins made from the world around her, crafted from water, fire, air. She is joined by other teens with extraordinary abilities, bound together to safeguard a world they can affect, but where they no longer belong.

When murder threatens to undo the Flow, the Watcher charges Consuela and elusive, attractive V to stop the killer. But the psychopath who threatens her new world may also hold the only key to Consuela’s way home.

Luminous, surprisingly written in third person, opens with the main character, Consuela Louisa Aguilar Chavez battling the dreaded dressing room to find a decent pair of jeans. Right before her life turns utterly inside out. As she struggles to understand what is happening to her, the inner strength she has leads her, and subsequently the reader, through the beauty and the horrors of the Flow. Finding her way back home requires the stripping away of all former conceptions and revealing the core of who she is.

“Know thyself” is what V, her handsome and tortured new friend, keeps whispering to her. In a voice only she can hear. One he is not aware she is hearing. And while she treasures every moment, every accidental touch, she just wants to get home. And V is sure can save her. He must save her.

As more and more of their cohorts are murdered, Consuela must discover what she really believes and how to act without damning herself and the rest of the Flow. I would love to go on and on about the story and how incredible the plot is as well as all the subtle twists and turns, but I cannot bring myself to take those discoveries away from you. Each new revelation pulls you deeper and deeper inside, hurling down corridors one normally only navigates in a dream. All while moving closer and closer to the one danger that could end it all.

If you only buy one more book this year, make it Luminous by Dawn Metcalf. In fact, buy several copies and give them out as Christmas presents. Give one to your local and/or high school library. Chase kids down in Barnes & Noble and shove this book into their hands.

Powerful. Breathtaking. Horrific. Fantastic. Beautiful.

And, because I love this book THAT much, I’m going to give away a copy to one lucky commentator. No, you can’t have my signed copy. Back off.

The rules are simple:

Leave a comment: 1 entry

Subscribe (or be a current subscriber) to this blog: 2 entries

Tweet this review: 3 entries

Post this review on FaceBook: 3 entries

Blog about this review: 4 entries

Tally up all of your entries and leave me the links for Twitter, FB and your blog in your comment. I will use to select a winner. This giveaway is open until Saturday, December 10th at 11:59 pm.

And, Dawn, pay no attention to that black van with no windows circling your neighborhood. Or those ninjas with blow dart guns hanging from your trees. Or the hair and makeup artist working feverishly to capture your full look on me. None of that has anything to do with this post. Whatsoever.

Things I Learned From My Vacation

June 11, 2011

I recently spent a week in California at my parents’ house. CJ was there for the first half and I finally got to meet Baby J! I was a very proud and honored aunt when she reached for me to pick her up at the airport.

As with all ventures in my family, this week brought about many learning experiences, the least of being the Great Pee Incident of 2011, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here are the things I learned from my vacation, in attempted chronological order which is pretty much impossible since the cough syrup with codeine has kicked in wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

1)  My dad, in an understandable attempt to be frugal, in no way grasps the fact that I work the evening shift and therefore must pull an all-nighter to be at the airport by 5 am. 

2)  My dear friend, Pauline (aka Aspiringmama), is not a cheap date. Nor does she, or will she EVER, make said 5 am trip out of the goodness of her heart.

3)  I had to bribe her with a baby blanket and 2 orders of grape leaf rolls.

4)  If you think that’s bad, you don’t want to know how many homemade, gluten-free pizzas I would charge her.

5)  Frontier airline sucks.

6)  Everyone loves Starbucks Dark Chocolate bars. EVERYONE.

7)  I’d rather sleep on the couch in the living room than in my grandma’s closet.

8)  My parents accidentally call one of their cats by my name. All the time.

9)  See the resemblance?

10) Everything is blooming in the Central Valley. And I am allergic to ALL of it.

11) Except the cat. She’s good.

12) Nothing can top the farting skunk my mom bought for my dad.

13) With the possible exception of the fart soundboard my boyfriend sent to my dad. Who laughed so hard he was begging me to stop playing it. My mom got him again that night when he got up for a drink of water.

14) Humor! We haz it.

15) California has drive thru ONLY Starbucks. A fact which escaped me until I was out of the mini-van, searching for the non-existent door.

16) They have plenty of windows though. Large, tinted, picture frame windows perfect for mocking the unwary souls lured in by the sudden realization that it is illegal to drive while talking on a cell phone in CA and need to make a caffeinated run for it.

17) Having no one around to affect the awkward parental do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do, my dad has thrown caution and reason to the wind and decided he no longer has to pay stop signs, speed limits, three-car length, cornering speeds safe in a mini-van, hello baby on board and any other standard rule of driving any mind. He is a one man tank safe in his captain’s chair. CJ and I left most of our nails imbedded in the arm rests.

18) My mom just likes to drag race from the stop light.

19) I haven’t seen her lose yet.

20) CJ and I share the same pen and notebook obsession.

21) Our dad couldn’t understand why we needed to go to Target for a notebook and pen when he had a perfectly nice standard notebook back at home. With a plain yellow cardboard cover. And a ballpoint pen.

22) Speaking of genetics, they’ve got nothing on what is destined to be. Baby J is a shoe fiend. Every morning, when she got up, she would shove her feet in my shoes as best possible and clomp around the house in them. My mom tried to give her a box to play with instead. Baby J was not to be deterred from the shoes.

23) I bought her a pair of shoes while we were out shopping. When I showed them to her, she promptly handed the toys in her arms to CJ and reached for the shoes.

24) Tell me she doesn’t belong in our family.

25) Hourglass, by Myra McEntire is made of PURE WIN! If you haven’t pre-ordered it, what are you waiting for?

26) You can’t have my special, autographed copy. Touch it and die.

27) I am the technological one in the family. A skill that in no way helped me change a diaper.

28) Hanging out with my parents is fun. Just don’t tell the teenage me.

29) Frontier airline sucks. When the fact that you need an actual airplane and flight crew for flight schedule months in advance escapes you–for no less than 5 flights–it’s time to hang up your wings. You’re done. Finished.

30) My satisfaction cannot be bought with a $50 voucher. Unless said voucher was for another airline. Like Southwest.

31) It is important to have a litter box in nearly every room when you leave your cats to go on vacation. Especially if they like to play behind the bedroom door and you’ve hired Pauline to cat-sit, but only every few days since cats are self-sufficient. And know how to open the door.

32) Or understand the bathroom rug is only $10 while the mattress is $1500 on a really good Memorial Day Sale.

33) Bonus? I now know how to get several day old cat pee out of a mattress.

34) Poop smell, however, does NOT come out of a comforter. No matter what you use.

35) The Great Pee Incident of 2011 is funny now that I am finally able to sleep in my own bed.

36) Pauline was wise enough to wait until I found it funny to laugh.

37) Gardens of Time on Facebook? Awesome to the power of WIN.

38) Baby J and I both fall asleep when riding in the back seats of cars.

39) Returning to a state rife with wildfires and wind gusts equals instant allergic reaction strong enough to turn into bronchitis. Again.

40) But at least Pauline, her mom and Buttercup are taking me to go get pedicures and our nails done tomorrow. I’m sure she’s thinking she’ll be cashing in on her grape leaves. I’m holding onto the pee card to play at the right exact moment.

A Light Not Bright Enough

June 5, 2011

I hated Jr. High School. I hated High School even more.

Sure, some of it was your normal teen angst stuff, but the majority had to do with being raped and abused by my paternal grandfather when I was young. I didn’t know how to deal with it, nor did anyone around me. So I fell apart. Exploded is probably a better term.

I’ve been picking up the pieces ever since.

My story is a very common one, though. In 2007 alone, there were at least 5.8 million children involved in some kind of child abuse. ( And in 1993, before Law & Order: SVU and while rape and abuse was even more underreported than it is today, there was estimated to be 60 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse. ( This is just within America.

So when I read articles like The Wall Street Journal’s “Darkness Too Visible” by Meghan Cox Gurdon, I understandably get angry.

Make that downright pissed.

Mrs. Gurdon takes the experience of one flustered mother and lambasts YA Lit. She spits such venomous opinions like:

Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. (

I’m sorry, did you just state that a book about a teenager who cuts will lead teens to cut themselves because they’ll think it’s IN STYLE? Have you ever read anything about the psychosis of cutting?

She goes on to discuss Cheryl Rainfield’s SCARS, upset about the subject matter of the protagonist’s rape at the hands of her own father. Her opinion is that this kind of material should be kept out of the hands of teens. That such depraved stories are merely the publishing industry’s push for freedom of speech. That parents should rise up and refuse to let such “coarseness or misery” into the lives of children.

Let me see if I’m clear. Reading stories about teens dealing with real life situations, especially the not-so-shiny parts, will destroy children? Last time I checked, it was molesters, rapists, bullies and hormones making teens miserable. I never had a book induce me to attempt suicide, but real life certainly did. If I’d known I wasn’t alone by reading some of the very books Mrs. Gurdon is so quick to offer an unprofessional and one-sided judgment of, I might have been spared some of my pain.

Mrs. Gurdon states:

There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds. (

So, instead of dealing with what is really out there facing young adults, we should write about skipping through the dandelions with the Von Trapps? Where is the truth in that? When did it become the norm to not teach people, especially children, to think for themselves? There is plenty of depravity already facing the majority of young adults. But, for the sake of sensibilities, we should take away a powerful outlet for them to cope?

Browne & Finkelhor, in their groundbreaking 1986 article “Impact of Child Sexual Abuse: A Review of the Research”, uncover the long-term effects that child abuse can have.

Long term effects of child abuse include fear, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor self esteem, tendency toward substance abuse and difficulty with close relationships (

That sounds pretty dark to me. In fact, that sounds like something we need to be shining a giant spotlight on. Bring it to the forefront and enable conversations. Help children understand what they are going through. Do you think all victims have reported their abuse to someone and are getting the help they need and deserve?

Can I borrow your rose-colored contacts and utopian society?

What Mrs. Gurdon did with her article, even with the title, is suggest that these topics should be shoved back into the recesses of the minds of the victims and not discussed. After all, if we don’t talk about it and don’t see it, then it didn’t happen, right? Ugliness only exists because YA authors and publishers are too interested in pushing the envelope?

How DARE she belittle the experiences of millions! I write YA because I love the voice, and you’d better believe that my characters don’t have perfect lives or live in perfect worlds. I’m not suggesting that every YA book needs to contain a harsh storyline, but there should be plenty of options out there.

I am so sick of people who can’t deal with reality insisting that those of us who have lived the wretchedness of the dark just shut up and go away. Guess what, Mrs. Gurdon. I’m not shutting up, nor am I going away. And shame on you for trying to make me. People who insist that the darkness isn’t made visible are just as culpable as the perpetrators of said darkness.

Next time, before you offer your opinion, why don’t you do some research.

I’m Being Productive, I Swear

May 14, 2011

I may have been extremely ill the past month or so, but I was being productive.

I watched the first 3-and-a-half seasons of Charmed. Who knew Shannen Doherty leaving a series could make it suck? And what was with those rhymes and graphics? And Alyssa Milano’s blonde hair and chopped bangs?

Oh, right, REAL productivity.

When I started getting my strength back, I ordered the last bit of yarn off the internet (thus saving me an ill-advised trip to Wal-Mart) and finished Baby J’s blanket.

Now, to talk myself out of opening an Etsy shop…

How NOT to Avoid Getting Arrested

May 4, 2011

I have always struggled with keeping my mouth shut. In fact, the time I realize I probably shouldn’t say something is about 0.25 seconds AFTER it’s out of my mouth. Hanging there. In the air. For everyone to hear.

I spent a lot of time in detention … or I would have, if I wasn’t so good at talking my way out of trouble. However, there are times when I should have the foresight to not rely on this ability and simply stop talking.

Like when I’m at the courthouse, surrounded on all sides by armed guards.

The day started with me having to wake up early to drive 45 minutes a doctor’s appointment and receiving the news that I may be dealing with The Return of Larry (a sinus obstruction that I had to have surgically removed 2 years ago…I had a contest to name it because life is too short to not make everything funny). However, my doc was hopeful that we’ve caught it in time and she’s sending me to a very good ENT specialist. Whom we both agreed we will call The Dude.

I requested to not return to my previous ENT specialist who did the surgery due to the amount of blood I sneezed all over his white lab coat during one of my post-surgical followup appointments. I’m sure he will feel the same relief as we didn’t really get along too well … and the fact that I told him I wasn’t sorry for the sneezing.

In any case, I left the doctor’s and headed downtown to the courthouse so I could file for divorce. I soon realized there’s no such thing as free parking, and I don’t carry cash due to it’s propensity to find it’s way out of my wallet and into everyone else’s–especially if there are shoes involved. Finally finding a suitable parking garage after hitting an ATM, (which included shooting down the guy trying to sell his 14k gold chain for $20 to everyone in line), I walked the small city block to my destination.

By the time I reached the entrance, I was downright slightly giddy. In a mere 60 days, I would be totally free of the ex, unless Karma finally kicked in and hit him with a bus in the meantime. No? Okay, fine. 60 days then. With this goal firmly set in my mind, I sailed through the doors and came face to face with an x-ray machine for my stuff and a metal detector for me.  No problem, I’d conquered these with no fuss at the airport and I was carrying far less baggage.

Dropping my purse on the scanner, I stepped forward to metal detector and managed to catch the eye of the guard working the x-ray.

Me: “Do I need to take my lighter out of my pocket before I walk through there?”

Female guard: “No, you should be fine.”

Male guard: “Yes, you need to take it out, here I’ll hold it.”

Me: *hands lighter over* “Okay, but I’m watching you so don’t jack my lighter.” *puts two fingers up to eyes and then points them at guard as I’m stepping through the metal detector* “I’ll know if you pocket it.”

Other guard: “Ma’am I need you to step over here.”

Male guard: “Wait, do you have a string on your key chain?”

Me: “No. Sorry, that went out with the 80’s.”

Male guard: “Do you have something in your purse, like a string, that pulls out and retracts.”

Me: “Wait, are you talking about my badge?”

We both dig through my purse and I pull out my work badge attached to a belt clip pulley.

Me: “Is this what you’re looking for?”

Male guard: “Can you please pull that all the way out for me?”

Me: “Sure!” *grasp both ends and yank to expose the string with my eyebrow raised* Now that I understand his reasoning and the weapon he thought I might possess, I was sure I’d have to surrender my badge and collect it on the way out. Kind of like when the teacher takes away your hat and sits in on her desk the entirety of class.

Male guard: “Okay, just needed to make sure it wasn’t metal.”

Me: *snorts* If only I had brought the one that was made with a wire, which my coworkers all lamented that the company had just given me such a weapon. “So you’re not going to confiscate it?”

Male guard: “No, that’s okay.”

Me:  “You’re just going to let me walk into the courthouse with a string garrote?”

Male guard: *laughs and waves me over to get wanded since I apparently had set the metal detector off*

Female guard with wand: “Stand over here please ma’am.”

I go to stand dutifully on the mat in the foyer and watch as she starts to wand me. She bends over to run the wand over my legs, which is where the problem is from in the first place since I’m wearing my ankle corset brace. As she looks up, she tells me to put my arms out. Eager to seem that I am actually trying to comply with all state and federal laws I throw my arms up and out to the side.

And punch a passerby. In. The. Face.

I don’t think you quite understand. Not only did I throw my hands out, she was walking into my arm space unknowingly. It was a head on collision and I staggered her. The poor woman had no chance.

Me: “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”

Hapless victim: *holds face with both hands, nods and walks away somewhat not in a straight line*

Me: *turns to female guard with wand* “You made me punch that woman in the face! Are you trying to get me arrested? First you guys jack my lighter, then you let me in with a string garrote and finally you coerce me into hitting a passerby!”

All guards at this point have gathered around me and, for the sake of some kind of good Karma I really should have coming my way at this point, they are all laughing. The lady with the wand is kneeling on her mat in tears and the would-be lighter thief is slapping the metal detector guard on the back.

I grabbed my purse and ran.

Funny thing is, when I returned 60 days later for the actual divorce hearing, I wasn’t allowed in that door. They escorted me halfway around the building to go in a different door. And had me go through the metal detector a good arms length away from everyone else.

I can’t wait for my next Juror Summons. Perhaps you should all be setting aside your pennies for bail money.

5 Little Known Facts About CJ Redwine

January 8, 2011

It’s my sister’s birthday today. I wracked my brain for the perfect gift to send her, then remembered the reason I couldn’t think clearly was due to the splitting headache I still had from going through the exact same process for her Christmas present. And, since I outdid myself with that one, I had to switch tactics and go for the old stand-by, home-made present. I heard macaroni art doesn’t ship well and my bubble wrap has all mysteriously lost its bubbles, so I’m going to have to do something radical.

Here is my present to my sister: (drum roll please … preferably using something loud and obnoxious so everyone knows you’re about to read something of dire direness)

5 Little Know Facts About CJ Redwine

1) When CJ was 8, she started and ran her own small business out of our house. She was not only the CEO, but also the artist, writer and procurement manager and file clerk. She produced and owned the copyright on all product. Me? I was her brain storming partner and door-to-door salesman. On very rare occasion, I was allowed to draw the circle and mark the price within on the back of the product.  We would walk the neighborhood, basket in hand, knock on doors and pitch our product. We asked our clients what sort of events they had coming up and then showed them the perfect card for their occasion. Smaller cards with writing only were 5 cents, while larger cards with drawings were 10 cents. CJ sometimes took special orders for 15 cents.

CJ used to have the first dollar she ever made in a plaque on her wall, but I believe her husband, in a mistaken frenzy while wrapping items around the house for Christmas gifts, gave it to the neighbors. Hopefully, they’ll save it and spend it on Princess J’s revamp of the family business.

2) CJ is a master playwright, and has been since a very young age. Utilizing the characters in her arsenal box and the canopy bed as her stage, she put on hours upon hours of extravagant puppet shows that would make Andrew Lloyd Weber himself weep. With her use of Miss Piggy as her MC and the brown bear as the protagonist, she broke racial and societal boundaries in her world-renown adaptation of “Guess Who’s Becoming Dinner.”

3) CJ’s choice of vehicle in high school reflected her quest for world domination all while avoiding the upcoming Zombie Goat Apocalypse. She had a bomb shelter modified to include an engine and wheels. Back seats were optional. Periodic bursts of black plumes out the tailpipe took out the secret services attempting to foil her plans–eliminating the need for high speed chases.

4) Blessed with a sharper tongue than her pen could ever hope to capture, CJ once went toe to toe with the high school principal over a perceived dress code infraction committed by yours truly. They still haven’t found all his pieces and parts.

5) CJ is a trained zap assassin. Since birth. Woe to the man who does not notice her approach in feety pajamas. Trained. Assassin. Sparks of death from her fingertips.

Now that I have revealed more than I ever should have dared, I will be going into hiding. Preferably the Canadian Witness Protection Plan. Navigating ice seems to be CJ’s one weakness, especially in those stilettos.