A Lot of Work for A Lot of Play

Memoir Mondays

This post is courtesy of a 642 Things to Write About prompt: “Your favorite piece of playground equipment”

I don’t like to sound like the cranky old person who says things like, “Back in my day…”, but the truth is that when I was a kid there were fewer high-tech distractions for children. We had television and video games of course, but we didn’t have cell-phones or tablets; we didn’t even really have computers until I was 8 or so. And so we tended to spend a heck of a lot more time outside than the current generation. Summers in particular were filled with days of bike riding, hiking, swimming, and of course, playing on whichever playground equipment was available.

There were several playgrounds near enough for me to walk to from my parents or grandparents’ houses. I had a swing set with a see-saw in my own backyard, and the elementary school – which was right down the road from my grandparents’ house – had a set of monkey bars and later a bigger playground with slides and lots of things to climb. When I got a little older the town erected a larger public playground down next to the ball field; it was the kind of huge structure that dozens of kids could be playing on at once, with rope bridges and bars to swing on, and lots of climbing areas that would give you a little thrill of feeling like you could fall to your doom at any moment.

My favorites were always the bars for swinging on. I was never the most terribly graceful person, but I loved to jump up on top of the bars and swing around them, hang upside-down from them, and act like I was some amazingly-talented gymnast. I always had a ton of fun if there were bars to swing around, and I’d often come home with hands polished raw from all the twisting and flipping.

My daughter, on the other hand, seems to have a strong propensity for all things playground. She loves the swings, the slides, the rock walls, the rope ladders…pretty much anything is game to her. Last summer she was ecstatic when some neighbors who were moving offered to leave their swing set with us. It was an old set that had been passed along from two or three different families over the years, but she didn’t see the age, only the fun. She got tons of use out of the swing itself, and was super-proud to climb the little ladders by herself. She practically beamed with pride when her father taught her how to climb to the top of the rope ladder without any help.

This summer, with her kindergarten “graduation” as an excuse, I decided that I wanted to replace the old swing set, which had definitely served its purpose but was getting old and starting to split in several places. To say that I went overboard is a bit of an understatement, but my daughter loves playing outside so much that I couldn’t quite help myself…I ended up getting a swing/playhouse/slide set. The one I picked up was deeply discounted because it was a discontinued model, so I felt I was getting a great deal. But my husband and I soon found out why this particular model was discontinued.

Two parents have scarcely worked so diligently, with so much biting frustration, to construct something for their child, I swear. The front page of the instructions claimed that it would take between 10 and 14 hours for two people to build the playground. Being tradespeople, both, I figured we could easily fall within that estimate, but I didn’t count on road blocks at every turn. My husband and I are the kinds of people who are perfectly capable of following instructions to completion, but the instructions for this kit mocked us from the very first step. The kit came in three boxes stuffed with cuts of wood, and while the instructions showed pictures with labels and measurements for each piece, none of the pieces of wood themselves were actually labeled. Aside from a very few pieces that had some kind of manufacturing number stamped on them, the only way to find the pieces needed for each step was to actually take out a measuring tape and painstakingly move through the pile until you found the piece with the proper dimensions. That was frustrating enough on its own, but when we came to actually bolting the first two pieces of wood together we came across the second problem. The instructions called for two “H8″ bolts, but in the bag marked “H8″ there was only one bolt. We searched through the mountainous pile of marked bags of screws, nuts, bolts, and washers, but couldn’t find another bolt of that particular size. So before even being able to complete the first step, I had to run to the store for parts.

This trend continued over the course of the next two days. A couple of steps later I was screwing two pieces of wood together and flabbergasted by the fact that the screws were going right through the other side of the wood. It was then that we discovered that many of the bags of screws and bolts were labeled wrong, so we had to actually start measuring everything to confirm which ones to use. Later we were certain that there were pieces of wood missing, but it turned out that the pieces in question were slightly longer than what the instructions claimed. Another scream-worthy moment came when we ran out of a certain length of bolt and found out that neither of the nearby stores carried a bolt that size, so we had to use ones that were almost an inch too long. By the time we found that one of the rungs of the ladder had only been machined on one side, we almost just had to laugh.

It was a painful ordeal that spiked our tempers more than once, but what really spurred us on was when the little missy finally realized what we were building. We hadn’t told her, but around the time that we were screwing the floorboards into the little playhouse area, she happened to pick up the instructions and flipped to the picture on the front page. She came running over to us then, with a cry of, “Mommy! Make it look like this!”

In the end, we spent about 18 hours (a few of them in the rain) trying to build this monstrosity. We weren’t able to complete the ladder, since the lumber store in town didn’t have the proper machine to fix that one rung, and we ended up having to purchase a couple of pieces of 2×4 to create a stable base for the swing set side, which kept wanting to sink into our mossy backyard. It was frustrating, and cost more than it should have, and technically it’s still not quite done, but in the end it was worth it because my little missy loves it to pieces, and watching her and her cousin play on it was like looking back into the past, to another little girl who used to love to climb and jump and slide and swing.

And what kid doesn't love "death-defying" rescues? XD
And what kid doesn’t love “death-defying” rescues? XD

What was your favorite piece of playground equipment?

Authors Answer 34 – Writing Software


Everybody has their methods and their tools. Today the authors and I are talking about what kinds of writing software we recommend.

Originally posted on I Read Encyclopedias for Fun:

Authors have to write, and how they write is usually on a computer these days.  Gone are the days of writing entire books with pen and paper or with typewriter (though some people still do these). There’s a lot of software out there for writing.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 34: What software do you recommend for writing books?

S. R. Carrillo

I don’t really use anything other than good old Microsoft Word and Adobe. All that fancy stuff – Calibre, Scrivener, (Scrivebre?) – just throws me off. The simpler the program, the more streamlined my thoughts can be when I’m trying to get everything down onto the page.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

There are so many options out there that, really, you just have to try a bunch of things out and see what works for you. One that I used to use was a free program called yWriter, and it worked for me…

View original 1,151 more words

The Vines

Flash Fiction FridaysThe vines would have to be removed.

That was the first thought that popped into Ashley’s head as he stared up at the house – his house, he reminded himself.

The second thought was, Wow, I can’t believe I’m really doing this.

The house was everything he’d expected and more, a surprise gift left to Ashley in the will of a great-grandfather he hadn’t even known was still alive. His friends had urged him to sell the house and the land, to use the cash to jump-start his art career, but Ashley had wanted to see the gift his predecessor had left him in person before he made any decisions.

And now he knew that he could never sell it.

The grounds were nothing special: an acre of land that was covered in untended landscaping and unruly underbrush in every direction. The house itself, however, was gorgeous, at least to Ashley’s eyes. No one had been able to tell him exactly when it had been built, but he was confident that it was no younger than a hundred years, possibly much older. It had two large towers whose roofs ended in sharp points – one in the back left corner that appeared to be five stories high, and one in the front right corner that was three. The main bulk of the house was a sprawling, two-story beauty with huge rectangular windows that spanned almost the entire length of the rooms within. Stone columns to either side of the double front door held aloft a twenty-foot-long balcony with glass doors leading out to it.

Only the chipping gray paint and the vines growing intrusively up the outer walls detracted from the loveliness of the aging treasure.

The vines would definitely have to be removed.

Nerd Block Unboxing and Review for June 2015

Though Loot Crate and Horror Block continue to frustrate me with this constant showing up while I’m on the other side of the country, Nerd Block was kind enough to show up before I left for this most recent shift. So, lucky you, you get an unboxing video today!

So you may have gotten the impression from the video that I was happy, but not overwhelmed. Does that make sense? In all honestly I was expecting to be a little more impressed with the box that was going to include Doctor Who and Sherlock items, but it was still quite enjoyable overall. Let’s have a look at the breakdown.

Sherlock “Bored” t-shirt
When I heard that there was going to be a Sherlock item in June’s Block, I guessed that it would probably be a shirt, but I can honestly say that I wasn’t expecting this kind of design. The pattern is, of course, the wallpaper from Baker Street, with “Bored” painted across it to represent Sherlock’s tendency to get bored when he’s not obsessing over a case. It’s an interesting – and different – design, and it grew on me the more I looked at it. My only complaint is that it’s in a medium unisex when I had requested to have my shirt size changed to a medium women’s, but that’s a frustration with Nerd Block itself, not the item in particular. As always, we’ll assign this item the standard $15 shirt value.

Tenth Doctor vinyl from Titan Merchandise
I much prefer Funko Pop vinyls to Titan vinyls, but not everything can be a Funko all the time, and this 4.5″ Tenth Doctor is pretty sweet, especially with his little sonic screwdriver. I’m definitely quite satisfied with their choice of Doctor Who item, and I’m glad it was the Tenth Doctor, since David Tennant is thus far my favorite version of the Doctor. I couldn’t find an exact price for this exact item, so you guys can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this size Titan figure goes for about $15.

Mr Bean’s Teddy-bear
While it’s a bit of a silly item that doesn’t really have much in the way of collector’s value, I am pretty amused by this little guy. I used to watch Mr Bean all the time with my parents when I was a kid, and the hubby and I watch the Christmas episode every year, so this is an adorable little collectible from one of the funniest shows of my childhood. Double-props for the fact that he really looks identical to the teddy in the show. This little guy can be purchased for about $8.

Mr Bean “Bendable”
And here’s where things get funny. I didn’t mention this in the video because I was in a bit of a rush to finish it and my brain didn’t formulate the story fast enough, but a while back my husband came across this product in a store down home. I was at work at the time, so he texted me a picture of it, and I told him it was creepy as hell (come on, look at it!) Later he lamented that he should have picked it up because it was funny, but he didn’t, and now here it is, in all its creepy glory. Okay, okay, it’s kind of funny, I’ll admit that, but in a creepy way. ^_~ This weirdo item can be found for around $10.

Monty’s Multiple Message Magnets
I have a few friends who have these types of magnets on their fridges; if you don’t know, you’re meant to create your own sentences with the words, as kind of a fridge-game. I never picked up any of these magnets myself, but now that I’ve got a set I’m super-amused that they’re Monty Python-related. This item seems to have been designed specifically for Nerd Block, so it’s difficult to put a value on it, but based on similar magnet sets I’m going to go with about $5

Doctor Who Foes poster
This is the most recent in a slew of mini-posters that I’ve received through subscription boxes, and I think it might be my favorite. It’s an interesting design that makes it seem like the three foes are being illuminated by The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, and though I may have made a fool out of myself by not knowing the name of the third foe, I definitely appreciate the poster as a whole. These are also notoriously difficult to put a value on; I’ve valued other mini-posters at $1, but since this one is a sturdier poster board type, I’ll grant it $2.

Total approximate value of box: $55
Total cost to me: $37

So, as usual, I have to mention that the overall value of the box bothers me because of the exorbitant cost of shipping to get the box to me in the first place. If I were only paying the $20 cost of the Block, it would absolutely be 100% worth it, but because it costs me almost that again in shipping, it makes it a little harder to swallow.

That said, I did rather enjoy this box. The two Mr Bean items I could have done without (even though the teddy is pretty cute), but the Doctor vinyl, poster, and magnets are pretty awesome, and the shirt has grown on me even if it’s not the size I wanted it in. All said and done, it was an enjoyable box, and I’m glad that I stuck it out for the “British Invasion”. But will I stick around any further? Well, you’ll just have to wait and find out!

What did you think? Did you receive a Nerd Block for June? What was your favorite item? Least favorite? Can you name all three Doctor Who foes in the poster? Please share!

Ipsy Unbagging and Review for June 2015

If you saw my Ipsy post for last month you know that there isn’t supposed to be an Ipsy post for this month because I cancelled the service. However, as I mention in the beginning of the following unbagging video, there was a mix-up and I hadn’t really cancelled. So let’s call this one a bonus (that I unfortunately had to pay for)! Check out the video:

Although i was annoyed that the cancellation system tripped me up and didn’t cancel properly, I’m actually happy that I got this last bag because there’s some pretty awesome stuff in it. Shall we look at the breakdown?

Vitamin C Facial Serum from ‘Jules and Ester’
In the video I mentioned that I actually have another facial serum that I haven’t tried yet, but I’m thinking I’ll try this one first because it’s supposed to be excellent for dry skin, which I have in spades while working out in the Alberta oil sands. The full-sized bottle is 1.7 oz and retails for $36, making my 0.5 oz bottle worth about $10.50.

Photo Finish Foundation Primer by ‘Smashbox Cosmetics’
This clear primer is said to diffuse the light that hits your skin to blur imperfections, thus making you “picture perfect” for photos. I haven’t tried it yet so I can’t tell you if it lives up to the hype or not, but I’ll definitely give it a fair trial. 1 fluid oz of this product retails for $36, therefore my 0.25 fluid oz sample is worth $9.

Sheet Mask Trio from ‘BioRepublic SkinCare’
I love face makes of both the sheet and spread varieties, and these masks are no exception. I used one a few nights ago and it was heavenly – it felt so clean and refreshing, and was an excellent way to help relax after a long day of work. These masks also added quite a value to the bag; they usually go for approximately $5.25 each, and Ipsy gave us three, making the value $15.75.

Power Source nail color by ‘Formula X’
Nowhere on the packaging did it say what this shade of nail color is, and it was nowhere on the Ipsy site either, but I can tell you that it’s a very cute shade. On the nail it is almost a hot pink with peachy undertones – a perfect shade for summer. A full-sized bottle of Formula X goes for $16 per 0.4 oz, making my 0.13 oz worth about $5.20.

Mini Shadow Crayon by ‘tre’StiQue’ in “venitian gold”
This is my first ever shadow crayon, and I’m happy to report to you that I rather enjoy it. The formula goes on smooth and creamy, stays for quite a long time, and the color is soft and beautiful. A set of three of these mini’s retails for $32, therefore my single one is worth about $10.60.

Total approximate value of bag: $51
Total cost to me: $15

So of course the first thing I have to mention is that this is the highest value Glam Bag I’ve ever gotten, by a wide margin. Usually the average value for a bag is about $32, but June’s bag tacks on an extra almost $20, which is pretty amazing and makes me sad that I won’t be getting this service anymore. I absolutely love the masks and the shadow crayon, and although I think the nail color is overpriced I can’t really argue with the beautiful color. I haven’t tried the facial serum or the foundation primer yet, but I have high hopes for them since they both have excellent reviews. And everything came in a super-cute bag that may actually be my favorite Glam Bag yet.

All in all, I’m very happy with this, my last Glam Bag. It was full of fun, high-quality items, and at a total value that blows previous bags out of the water. Plus this bag introduced me to one of my new favorite things – the BioRepublic masks – which are totally worth the pricing after a stressful day.

What did you think? Did you receive an Ipsy Glam Bag for the month of June? What was in yours? What was  your favorite item? Have you tried everything out yet? Please share!

Anxiety, Explained

A while back, a coworker of mine asked me what “anxiety” really is. As a happy-go-lucky young fella without a care in the world he just couldn’t fathom the idea and seemed genuinely curious. So I gave him the best answer I could come up with, and I thought I’d share a more detailed version of that answer with you today, so those of you who have friends or family with anxiety might understand a little better.

An excellent visual to start off with from Mr Munch

Imagine that you’re driving across a bridge in grid-locked traffic. Everything is fine and dandy until, from the opposite end of the bridge you start to see cars seeming to vanish. You realize that the bridge is collapsing, and this disaster is slowly making its way toward you. You start to panic. You try to back up, but there is a wall of vehicles behind you and their owners have abandoned them to run from the bridge. You try to abandon yours as well, but something strange has happened and none of the doors will open. You try kicking the doors and windows as hard as you can, but no matter how much strength and energy you put into it you can’t get anything to break. You’re trapped in your car with no way out, and the bridge is about to collapse beneath you. From the windows you can see that some of the people who fell in the water are alive and swimming to shore, but others are also trapped in their cars and are slowly sinking to the bottom of the water to drown or suffocate. You’re pretty confident of which people you’ll be joining. You’re terrified. Your heart is racing so hard you can feel it in your throat. You feel dizzy and lightheaded, and your stomach is in horrible knots. You might throw up. You might burst into tears. All you know is that this is the end of the world, and you can’t fathom any kind of positive outcome for yourself.

Now imagine all those horrible, twisted up feelings…but you have them as a result of mundane things like speaking to a crowd, or eating at a new restaurant, or riding on a public bus. You know it’s ridiculous, you know it’s not REALLY the “end of the world”, but you can’t stop your body from having the reaction, and now you feel even worse because you know how foolish you’re being.

That’s what anxiety feels like. It feels like any tiny thing that makes you uncomfortable is the worst possible thing that could be happening to you, even as you’re conciously telling yourself that you’re being an idiot. It’s like a bad drug that you can’t shake off the effects of no matter how much you tell yourself that what you’re feeling isn’t logical. It’s like your body and mind are broken and you don’t possess the tools to be able to fix them.

And all the while the people around you say things like, “Just calm down,” and “Geez, it’s not a big deal,” and, “Come on, what’s the worst that could happen?” And you can’t even answer because you know they’re right, but it does nothing to change the way you feel.

So there you go. I think I’ve about covered it, and I hope this helps anyone who has wondered, because it’s entirely unhelpful – and very hurtful – for people suffering from anxiety to be told things like, “Just get over it,” by their closest friends and family members.

Do you suffer from anxiety? Or maybe you have a friend or family member who does? What do you think of my explaination? What does anxiety feel like for you? Please share!

Memoir Mondays: Gimme!

So on Friday I explained that I’m going to begin posting “Flash Fiction Fridays” as a way to take the blog back to what it’s supposed to be: a writer’s blog. Well this is the second feature I’m adding to aid in this endeavor.

More than anything I’ve always wanted to write fiction – speculative fiction, to be exact – but just as a child must eat her veggies before she can have candy, a good writer must spend time honing skills in a variety of areas other than just the ones she enjoys most. Thus I am reserving future Mondays (which you may recognize as the crappiest day of the week) to hone my non-fiction skills by way of writing about my own life. These posts will often come with the help of prompts like the ones shared by the Daily Post, but they may also come from whatever interesting life moments may come my way.

Future posts may be a little longer and more involved, but for today I’m going to go with a quick prompt from the Daily Post that caught my eye:

Was there a special gift or toy you wanted as a child but never received? What was it?

I like to believe that I was the kind of kid who was happy with whatever she got, but that didn’t stop me from trying to get as much as I could. Once I was old enough to understand how things really worked I would anticipate the arrival of the Sears Wish Book on our front step at the end of the summer. For the months that followed that magical catalog’s arrival I would regularly scrutinize every page, carefully considering every toy and game, and circling the stuff that I really wanted. At first I’d be very careful, circling only the things that I felt I absolutely couldn’t live without, but by the time Christmas rolled around I’d have half the catalog circled because everything seemed awesome.

Of course I never got everything that I circled, but I almost always got the stuff that I really, really wanted, and even when I didn’t I got other awesome stuff that I was more than happy with.

But there was one thing that I wanted for many years in a row that I never got. I didn’t ask for it often, because I was a strange, strange child who was actually cognizant of how expensive some things were, but I did ask for it a few times and never got it… That special toy was a dollhouse; the kind that twice as tall as the kid who gets it and comes with massive amounts of furniture and accessories.

As an adult with a child of my own, I understand why my parents probably decided not to get me one of these dollhouses. For one thing, the cost of them is outrageous, even by usual toy standards. For another thing they tend to be enormous; one such dollhouse would never have fit in my childhood bedroom, and my parents were not the kind of people to allow their living area to be overrun with kid stuff. But of course, at the time, that logic meant nothing to me, and it meant even less when my best friend and her sister got a wicked dollhouse and I had to deal with the seething jealousy.

Eventually, when I was way too old to still be pining for a dollhouse, I took matters into my own hands. My friends and I had gotten into Sailor Moon and had collected some of the dolls, and I decided that my two dolls were damn-well going to have a dollhouse. I had a closet in my bedroom that wasn’t the wardrobe type, but was actually four large shelves. I took everything out of that closet, cramming it into wherever else in my room I could, and I made that closet into a doll house. I used cardboard, craft supplies, and whatever else I could find, and constructed a dollhouse, making each shelf a different floor, and I even “built” tons of stuff for the dolls to use, like books and magazines, a TV with screens to change what was playing, and pets to make the house a home.

I won’t tell you how old I was when I built this dollhouse, but I’ll tell you that I was old enough to known damn well how childish I was being. But for a while, that homemade dollhouse made me super-happy, because I’d taken matters into my own hands and given myself something I’d been longing for for a long time, and sometimes that’s just what you’ve got to do!