Friday, December 30, 2011

Are Social Network Friendships Real?

          The other day, I was tweeting away when Honey comes in and says “Why do you spend so much time on Twitter and Facebook with those fake friends when you have real people right in front of you?” Now, I know that was Honeyspeak for “I miss you. Get off the computer and come sit by me.” But that wasn’t the first time he alluded to people I talk to on social networks as “fake people” or “fake friends.” Honey doesn’t do social networking, so it would be easy to say that he just doesn’t get it, but he did have a point. Why would I spend so much time with people online when I am surrounded by “real” people?

          The truth is I love getting on Facebook and Twitter and finding out what people are up to. It is amazing to me that I can chat with people all over the world in real time. People from Japan and Russia have read my blog. How crazy is that? Social networking puts the world at your fingertips. I have connected with some of the most amazing people I never would have met otherwise.

          The question is: are they my friends? When I looked up “friend” online, I was amazed at all of the different definitions I found, and don’t even bother looking up social networking unless you want to be overwhelmed with information. They have tons of articles dedicated to social networking and friendship. “Friending” or being “Friended” has even been added to some dictionaries, but that doesn’t answer the question.

As I have said in previous blogs, I see Facebook and Twitter as different beasts. Facebook is a little more intimate mostly because my family uses it, so it is a great way for me to keep in touch with them and share family pics and information. Plus you aren’t limited to a certain number of characters like Twitter (although it is amazing what you can tell about people in 140 characters or less). People are able to say and share more there, and I don’t have as many people to keep track of.

Twitter on the other hand is crazy. It is a shotgun of personalities, advertisements, conversations, pictures, links, comments, etc. I have over 1500 followers now, and I find it really hard to keep up sometimes. Am I close to every one of them? No, but there are a handful of people I have really connected with and chat with on a regular basis. I care about them. We discuss personal issues. We talk about things that drive us crazy and our hopes and dreams about writing. We wish each other good luck for important events, talk about our families, and support each other with retweets, book reviews, joining/reading blogs, buying each others books - the kind of things that friends would do for each other. They send me tweets that make me smile, and I love to do the same for them.

So are people I meet on Facebook and Twitter my friends? I say yes. It may not be what people think of when you talk about traditional friendship, but I don’t think it makes those relationships any less meaningful. I get a cup of coffee in the morning and look forward to sitting down for awhile and chatting with people on Facebook and Twitter. I try to encourage people when they are down, celebrate when they post accomplishments, send prayers when they suffer loss or get sick, laugh at jokes, and appreciate kind words sent my way. I think about them when I am not online and wish them all the blessings life has to offer. If that isn’t friendship, I don’t know what is. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Book Giveaway Everyday in January 2012!

I am very excited to announce that the amazing author S.M. Boyce is going to be giving away a different paperback on her blog everyday in January 2012! My book, Where Will You Run?, has been one of the books chosen! You can check out all the details on how to enter and a calendar for all of the books listed in the giveaway here. Entries will be accepted for 7 days starting on the featured date for each book.

My book will be featured on January 26, 2012. You can see the specific page for my book here.

So check it out!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Traditions Revisited

When my husband and I got married I was unprepared for the first holiday season. I assumed my husband, being a dude, would not really care about holiday traditions. I was wrong.

Now we had always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve and then visited family on Christmas Day and had a big dinner. Even though we had moved away from our family, my mom still kept that tradition. She used to put the packages under the tree days in advance to drive me and brother crazy. Then, on Christmas Eve, we would have a big dinner on the finest china of course. She would further torture us by making us clean the kitchen before we could finally open our gifts.

My husband was okay with that tradition, but in his family, his parents had kept their gifts hidden and put them out on Christmas Eve, so he and his sisters always awoke to their gifts on Christmas morning. He then insisted we keep that tradition as something of ours. I compromised. We would go to my mom’s on Christmas Eve with my brother and his family; have our own Christmas morning thing (which I was still kind of grumpy about), and then go back to mom’s for Christmas dinner.

Now my mom was a perfectionist. She worked for days preparing the Christmas Eve and Day food. She didn’t want anyone to help. Even after I got married and offered to bring food, she wouldn’t hear of it. My half-sister and I used to joke about how our moms were so much alike especially around the holidays, but we would never dare tell them that.

In the spring of 2004, my mom was diagnosed with pancreas cancer. A few months later, my step-mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. My mom still insisted we continue with our regular holiday traditions. Even towards the end, she would recline on the couch and order me around so that everything would be perfect that last Christmas. After a vicious fight, my mother lost her battle with cancer on Christmas Eve morning 2005. That night was a blur. My brother and I went to our mom’s house and made sure that Christmas Eve went as planned for our kids and our step-father.

On Christmas morning, the fact that my husband had insisted we start our own tradition that had nothing to do with my mom was a Godsend. I have never been more grateful for something different. It was normal, and I clung to it because it was different. It was ours.

The next year was awkward. We didn’t know what to do, so we did what mom would do. It just wasn’t the same, and it felt strange. My step-mother passed away that January and my half-sister and brother asked me how I had gotten through the holidays, and I didn’t really have an answer for them.

So the next year, we started trying some new things. We kept some of my mom’s traditions, but added a few things here, changed a few things there, and started to make our own Christmas traditions. We are even thinking about going to Seattle next year to spend the Christmas holiday with my half-sister and brother, so we can all be together and try some more new things. My sister-in-law even said she would like us all to spend Christmas in New York one year. Why not? Christmas can be anything we want it to be.

 I still love Christmas, and I want to share that joy with my children. I want them to enjoy our traditions, but to always be willing to embrace something new. Take the time this season to appreciate your family traditions, but don’t get caught up in them. Be sure to see passed all the gifts and food and chaos to those you hold dear, and take the time to tell them how much you love them.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Nose to Belly Button!

          Back in high school I was deeply involved with my church youth group. Our youth pastor, Matt, was a little on the crazy side, but always fun. He never failed to make every activity an adventure. It kept us all coming back for more.

          My friend Tammy was the rebel of the group. She was always bringing in her latest bad boy squeeze to parade in front of us. We tended to ignore her silly attempts at making us envious, but on this night, she had brought a serious hottie. She had outdone herself. He was perfect. I sat staring at him; mouth open like a fish sucking wind. I saw her satisfied smile when she spied the look on my face. He followed her gaze and looked over at me too and smiled. I immediately looked down, cheeks blazing.

I may be many things, but smooth was not one of them. When faced with a really attractive male, I tended to freeze up, unable to say anything intelligent or make eye contact (I’m speaking in past tense here, but that hasn’t really changed. I’m still not smooth). It bordered on creepy really (Ok, still does).

I kept my head down as Matt, in his usual hyper fashion described the new game (experiment) he wanted to try. He told everyone to pick a partner of the opposite sex. He did this often, so we grabbed our usual buddies, generally safe guys we had grown up with in church. My buddy was Dan. He was almost as competitive as I was, and we made a nearly unbeatable team. Everyone groaned when they saw me and Dan standing next to each other. Normally, I would have taunted them all by saying they could give up and save themselves the embarrassment of a beat down, but HE was looking and my throat felt tight and my cheeks still burned crimson. Thankfully, Dan had enough smack talk for both of us.

Matt’s great new game? He would turn off the lights and yell out two body parts. We had to find our partners in the dark and touch those two body parts together by the time he turned the lights back on. The team with the most matches would win. Hormonally charged teens running around in pitch dark touching random body parts together sounds like a great church youth group game, right? Sigh.

Matt turned off the lights and yelled out “Elbow to ear!” and the chaos began. As usual, Dan and I quickly pulled ahead. We were a machine. I started to feel some of my bravado coming back. Winning is what I do. It’s what I love. Matt announced that we would have one more round before moving on to a new game. Everyone groaned. Dan and I stared at each other across the room nodding silently. The night was ours. Darkness.

Matt yelled out “Nose to belly button.” I was momentarily stunned by that one, but I didn’t want to lose, so I started calling out Dan’s name and making my way across to his voice. I was so close. Not much further. I yelled his name one more time and got cut off by two large hands grabbing my head and shoving me downward. I fell to my knees and got a face full of sweater. Guess I was going to be the nose part. I tried to pull back a little but Dan had me in a vice grip. I made a mental note to punch him later.

I was so focused on winning that it took me a second to realize that Dan wasn’t wearing a sweater. Before I could fully process that, the lights snapped on. I slowly looked up to see that I was kneeling with my face in the very taunt abdomen of Tammy’s hottie boyfriend. He had a wicked smile on his face. My eyes bugged out, and I think I made some kind of garble sound as I back peddled across the room on my butt. Face so hot I was sure I singed his sweater. Smooth. Tammy was giving me some serious stink eye. Dan was looking at me like it was my fault we didn’t win the last round.

Matt announced that Dan and I had won and herded us on to the next activity like my high alert hormones were not just buried in some hot guy’s six pack. Prayer would not save me from my thoughts. I knew I just had to make it through the night, and I wouldn’t have to see him again. I could tell by the look on Tammy’s face that bad boy would not be returning, much to my relief.

The next day at school, I was telling my friends about my horrible ordeal when I heard someone yell my name from across the quad. It was bad boy hottie. I desperately looked behind me, hoping it wasn’t me he was smiling and waving at. I smiled weakly and waved back; proud of myself for managing that. I heard his friends ask who I was. He said “That’s that girl I told you stuck her nose in my belly button.” Sigh. This was going to be a long year.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Banged-up Kiss - Guest Post by Maureen Hovermale @zencherry

I am absolutely overjoyed to announce my first guest post by Maureen Hovermale @zencherry! She is an amazingly generous and kind person who is deeply involved in the writing community. She has that cool ability to take an everyday moment and turn it into a magical story full of humor and wit. I love her blog, The Zen Corner. It's a great place to go when you need a smile. I was very excited when she agreed to do this guest post, so get your favorite beverage, get comfy, and enjoy :)

Banged-up Kiss

I was twelve-years-old and in the seventh grade when I decided that the really cute guy was worth being naughty about.

Oh but his bangs made his expressions sooo mysterious and I wondered secretly what it would feel like to ACTUALLY kiss a boy.

I imagined all sorts of things happening like the Harlequin Romance novel had in its pages. I'd managed to sneak one from my mom's stash one day and had it hidden in the darkest recesses of my closet in the safest place: Under the stinky tennis shoes.

He'd made goo goo eyes at me and I was astonished and thought he must have lost a contact lens or something. No one had ever looked my way since I carried my books like armor. He finagled my home phone number from my friend Theresa across the street and she came over after school gushing about the news. We exchanged paper dolls and had fun with some glitter talking about the love that would inevitably bloom. Theresa gave me some tips having already had a 'relationship' that went sour at camp the previous summer. I was thankful to have such a knowing, worldly friend and took her tips to pinky-swear heart.

After her mom called her home, I sat there backing. I couldn't believe it! He was going to call ME? I practiced holding an imaginary phone up to my ear and laughted in different octaves to see what sounded sincere and, (shh)

Every time the phone rang I raced to answer it and even got into a glare match with my older sister who deduced the reasoning behind my sudden athleticism. She declared that I was in a tree and was k-i-s-s-ing. I slammed my bedroom door shut and locked it. I took a deep breath and patted down my hedge-hair trying to calm myself. I had work to do! I put Theresa's advice into action and practiced my kisses up against the mirror, one eye peeking open to see if I looked like the glamorous movie stars. I even tried the hand test to see if my lips were too firm or too soft. I was ready. All except the tongue part but Theresa had assured me that tongues were never part of a first kiss and not to worry, only sixteen-year-olds went that far. I left my room and stuck my nose up in the air when my sister echoed her song after me.

"Hello, Maureen?"

I managed to grab the downstairs phone and tiptoed up the stairs snicking the door shut; locking it before my sister could figure out where I was at. I then went back down and sat on the bottom step. I tried not to pant from the exertion of racing around and calmly whispered in my most alto voice; "Yes...this is Maureen."

"Um yeah, well uh...I guess you know who this is."

"Well I don't know, I get so many calls in a day."

"Oh? Uh, you do? Well, Really?"

(So much for being coy) "No, I'm just playing. OF COURSE I know who this is. Um...what's up?"

"I was wondering if you'd like, I don't me outside around nine. I'll"

(I'm thinking in my head...what? Why would he need bodyguards?) "Uh...sure." (I'd never snuck out before. Should I? But it was so dark outside at nine! I pinched my arm and called myself a sissy.)

"Really? LeAnn said to call you so I uh..."

(LeAnn? She hated me!)

"...well I'll be outside at nine."

"You know where I live?"

"Yeah, you're over by my buddy."

"You're buddy?"

"Tom. It doesn't matter. Nine?"

(Tom...Tom the police chief's boy? The one who purposefully squeaked flatulence on his desk seat like some sort of musical instrument? He hated me too since I suggested a cork for his problem last month.)


He hung up the phone and I sat there thinking wow. This really didn't go the way I thought it would. I immediately rushed over to Theresa's house. We discussed every detail and then I remembered he'd said something about protection and mentioned it too.

Theresa's jaw dropped. "Do you know what he meant Maureen?"

"Well yeah, duh."

"Oh. Okay,"

Mom and dad were busy watching the television, the flickering lights making their shadows crawl up on the wall scaring me in mid-sneak. I froze and stood stock still, mentally shaking my fist at the wood floor which had just issued a squeak. I make it outside! Unbelievable! I must be better at this naughty stuff that I thought!

I see cool bangs and walk over in his direction making sure to sway the way I've seen the curvaceous girls do. (And just when would I finally fill my bra?)



He wraps his arm around my shoulders and I feel all high school about it and nuzzle in. Oh this is good. He's warm and he has a masculine scent. I take a deep breath trying not to be overly obvious about it.

He leans down...and KISSES me. Oh. My. GOSH. I'm in heaven. He pulls away and then reaches in his pocket with one hand and then grabs my hand with his other. He starts pulling me towards the bushes and I put the brakes on. "Where you going?"

He flashes the packet in front of my face and says something like, "You know."

It finally hit me. LeAnn's and Tom's idea of a joke. I punched him in the stomach. "I WASTED my first kiss on YOU?" I stomped his foot and went back in the house banging all the doors along the way. My mom and dad were shocked I'd been outside and asked me what I'd been doing out there.

I was so mad that 'Taking out the trash', was all I could manage.

You'll be happy to note that not many years after my stellar entrance onto the dating scene, I married a bald man. He's the sexiest thing alive in my book and as a bonus, he's a pretty good bodyguard too.

*Thank you, my friend, for sharing your smiles and talent! ~ Michelle

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Who Kind of Christmas

          Two days before Thanksgiving, Honey calls to tell me he has been injured at work and will meet me at the doctor’s. The fact that he was going to see a doctor let me know that it must be serious. Honey is no stranger to getting injured near the holidays. A few years ago he was coming down the stairs on Christmas morning and blew out his knee. Then the next year he hurt it again and had to have surgery right before Thanksgiving. The surgery didn’t go well and we spent the night before Thanksgiving in the emergency room. This year, it was his arm, but they postponed his surgery until after Thanksgiving which was nice.

It was nice until I remembered that all of our Christmas decorations are packed in storage. Now I won’t say Honey is a Grinch, but he can take or leave the holidays. Despite my pleading, he packed all of our Christmas stuff in the back of our storage unit. His reasoning is that we only use it once a year which still didn’t make any sense to me since we never use the other stuff. Because there are so many heavy items and things are stacked high (and somewhat precariously), Honey is the only one who can get them out safely. With his arm out of commission, we are out of luck. I could be crazy and try to get the stuff out on my own, but I figured we can only have one of us at a time on injured reserve.

I was so disappointed. Christmas is my favorite holiday and now I wouldn’t have any of the decorations I love. I broke the news to the kids. They were as disappointed as I was. They said “We aren’t going to have a tree?” Of course we will! I told them we were going to get a real tree and hit the Dollar Store for some decorations. My daughter and I got some tinsel and ornaments at the Dollar Store the next day, but they didn’t have any trees at the grocery store next door. Later that night, I had to go to Lowe’s for some home repair stuff, so I took my 11 year old son to help pick a tree. He has more Christmas spirit than one of Santa’s elves and I really needed the morale boost.

Lowe’s had some trees for $19.99, so you know where I was headed. My son wanted to stop and look at all the Christmas decorations of course. He loves the animated ones and has to turn all of them on at the same time. When we got to the trees, the $19.99 ones had been picked over, but I found a pretty decent one. I spun it around. It didn’t have major holes or defects. I turned to show my son, who smiled and said “That one’s nice, but I really had my heart set on this one.” He pointed to a gnarly, funky little tree that reminded me of a Charlie Brown Christmas. I was afraid it would fall apart if we put tinsel on it.

“Son, this one is a little bigger and fuller.” He looked at me with his big blue eyes and said “You don’t like the one I picked?” Sigh. “Ok, buddy. Pick it up and let’s go.”

We got home and Honey and my daughter looked at the tree with identical frowns. I gave them the stink eye warning to keep their mouths shut saying “Isn’t this a nice tree?”

That night we laughed and decorated our little tree and set up the few decorations we were able to find at the Dollar Store. I sat back and counted my blessings. We were all together and healthy, and Honey’s arm is going to be ok in a few months. I thought about the end of the Grinch story when all the Whos hold hands and sing even though all of their Christmas stuff is gone. I get it. I look at my funky little tree with its twinkling lights and Dollar Store ornaments and smile. It’s the best tree ever.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Please Pass the Ice Cream

            The first year of marriage is a challenge for everyone. My Honey and I were no different. We still giggle when we remember back to that crazy first year. One of favorite stories is the “Ice Cream Incident” that happened a few months after we got married and moved in together.

Honey had been married before and was an old pro in his mind. He had married very young while he worked to put himself through school and start his career. Me? I had a different plan. I was completely independent and didn’t really care about getting married. I also worked to put myself through college and started on the career track. I hadn’t had any significant relationships before we met. I had plenty of friends and hated dating, so why bother? I didn’t have to worry about making anyone happy. I was responsible only to myself, and I liked it that way. It was perfect.

Then I met Honey and my world got turned upside down. We were married in less than a year. He was used to the whole “we” thing which was pretty foreign to me. Oftentimes I would stop by after work and grab a soda or something only to come home to a “Where’s mine?” to which I would reply “You’re a grown man. You can’t buy a soda if you want one?”  I know. I had a lot to learn.

One night, I had a craving for ice cream, so I stopped by the store on the way home. I even remembered to get Honey a little container of his favorite ice cream too. I was pretty proud of myself for being a good wife and thinking of him. I can learn. I got to our apartment and put his ice cream in the freezer. I took mine to the couch not wanting to wait until he got home late.

I was happily munching away when he came home earlier than expected. I was excited, but I had a mouthful of ice cream, so I couldn’t tell him his was in the freezer. He spied me with my mouth full of chocolaty creamy goodness and his eyes squinted. Before I could say a word, he said “Ice cream? You’re eating ice cream? That’s a small container, so I guess you aren’t going to share.”

At this point, I was going to tell him to check the freezer, but I could tell by the look on his face that I was in for a good, long, sarcastic outburst. Since I had a comfy seat and refreshments, I decided to keep my mouth shut and settle in for the show.

“I know you got some for me too. Since you are such a good wife and always thinking of me, I know that if I open the freezer right now there will be some ice cream for me.” (I will interject here to say that he should have known what was coming by the look on my face, but he was too far gone to notice.) “I know there’s some ice cream in here for me because my wife would never buy ice cream without getting some for me too. She would never be that selfish.” He moved dramatically towards the refrigerator. “I know when I open this freezer there will be ice cream for me.”

Unfortunately, he had to turn his back to me to open the freezer because I would have loved to see his face when he saw his favorite ice cream sitting there. He stood staring into the freezer for some time before saying “I’m a big fat jackass.”

“Yep.” I said giggling with glee.

“You could have stopped me at any time you know.”

“What and miss the show? Nah!”