Archive for 2012

Six Christmases and it's finally over!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Remember that movie Four Christmases?  The one with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn?  Well, my family has them beat!  We have six Christmases and the last one ended today.

My kids are under the impression that Christmas begins around mid-December only to finally end around December 30th.  Now, I'm sure you're fully aware that with Christmas comes gifts.  A ludicrous amount of gifts.  Forget Jesus's birthday, the season for giving, and everything else that goes along with the holiday.  My Christmas is about attending six, count 'em, six different festive events!  Along with this comes six gluttonous meals, six loads of presents and six car trips.

Christmas number one was on December 16th this year at my father in law's.  The large meal was Subway sandwich platters because my step mother in law claims she has the oldest stove on record since moving into their new house.  (It's old, like circa 1985.  It could be older.) Next onto the gifts.  My father in law buys the toys and Jennifer (it's strange calling her my MiL) was in charge of the clothes.  She always hits the nail on the head with the clothes.  This year she even threatened to beat up an old lady in Kohl's over Diary of a Wimpy Kid pajamas.  My father in law, Mike, on the other hand buys the noisiest fucking toys around!  Multiple fire trucks complete with working sirens!  He also purchased a microphone that somehow got "misplaced" after a few minutes of use.  It's always great to see my in laws and this fiesta went out with a bang when my niece drove her remote control Dale Earnhardt Jr. car right into the nativity scene.  Take that Jesus!  What'd you think it was your birthday or something?

Parties number two, three and four are my side of the family.  My parents are still married and I have only one brother.  So you ask, "Why do you have three Christmas parties?"  One with my mom's family, one with my dad's family and one with just my nice, small family.  By now we had gifts coming out our ass. I was the lame-ass aunt and I bought my new little niecey nugget a car seat.  She's only four months old, so it's ok.  Luckily BJ and my boys came through and bought her a kick ass butterfly rocker.

Next comes Santa!  Now Santa did something he told me he would never do.  He brought my children a Power Wheels.  Damn him! I really dislike them.  Although it was quite comical when my oldest ran BJ's foot over multiple times.  Get out of the way you moron!  Even funnier was when I realized I could drive it.  That is until my neighbor began mocking me from his window.

Last but not least, Christmas with my mother in law and step father in law.  My mother in law always brings my kids books and pajamas.  Bless her. We had Panera, visited with them and all was quiet.

As our three week Christmas run comes to an end—I can't say I'll miss it.

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Dear Snow, I hate you!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The only thing missing from this
picture is me flipping the snow
off from inside my mitten

I have an irrational hatred of snow. As the first snowfall of the season looms over the Chicago area, I am once again inundating with feelings of utter hatred. It's not only the snow that I so deeply despise, it's the cold and the seemly never-ending darkness that comes with winter.

There are many factors that play into my distaste for snow.

1. The fact that Chicagoans suddenly lose all sense of driving ability as soon as that first effing flake appears. Now there are two types of snow drivers. The ones that go into panic mode and drive so freakin' slow that a grandma using a walker could pass them. The second being those assholes who are in such a hurry that they drive like an extra from the Fast and the Furious. Rarely do you find the in-between driver. The cautious, yet sensible one. But, I do get it, sometimes you need to take on the characteristics of the panicked driver, say like when there is 12 feet of snow. 

One of my favorite winter moments came two years ago when I encountered Vin Diesel in a Nissan Versa (aka: a roller skate with seats). This was during the Snowpocalypse. If you are unfamiliar with term, it was when winter made Chicago its bitch and dropped 24 inches of snow. I was on my way home from work and the snow was blowing so badly that 
I couldn't see a thing. There were cars spinning out and people stuck, streets were blocked and roads were left unplowed. It was quite a scene. I take a rarely traveled road to and from work that runs through a forest preserve most of the way. My quiet road was not plowed. Not surprised, so I proceeded with caution. Driving at a quick clip of 35 miles per hour. Thinking this was sensible since said road was covered with at least 6 inches of snow. Vin in his green Versa hauls up behind me. Throwing his arms around, swearing at me and just being an all around dick. He slams on the gas petal, flies around me and disappears into the white oblivion. I few minutes later I come across his trusty roller skate. It's wedged in a snow bank on the side of the road. Now, I would never wish anyone harm, so when I saw that Vin was all right I had to fist pump the air. Serves him right. (Not sure if this needs to be said but it obviously wasn't actually Vin Diesel.)

2. Another thing that pisses me off about snow is the predictions and the overreactions from the weather reporters and the public in general. Everyone panic! We are getting snow of epic proportions! Stock up on shovels, snow blowers, canned foods, drinking water! You may never leave your house again! News flash- It's fucking snow. It will melt. The first snowfall of the season usually elicits this response. This year is no different.

3. Snow days, yep I don't like them. Yes, I'm a teacher and I don't like snow days, especially this year. If you don't already understand how a snow day works let me enlighten you. If my school cancels classes due to snow we have to make up the day at the end of the school year. This school year my last day is Friday, May 24th. That would mean I would have to come back to work on a random Tuesday before beginning my summer break. (Monday is Memorial Day which would make a snow day even suckier)  So, snow days, you can suck it this year!

As the first snow is nearing the Chicago area I ask everyone to drive like assholes, but more importantly, stock up on canned food and drinking water booze.  God knows I'm gonna need it if I'm trapped inside my house with my two kids and a yard full of freezing cold frozen shit.

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It's gonna cost how much to print it?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Now, I'm a spender. That's pretty much the reason I work. I can't stop spending money. On the other hand, BJ is not. We are polar opposites in this regard. He would much rather watch the money sit in our bank account and go unspent. Not me! I LOVE to spend it. I love vacations and new clothes, toys, books, eating out, new cars. You name it, I'm cool with spending money on it. The only problem I see with my spending habit is that occasionally I have buyer's remorse. When purchasing things like, clothes, shoes and toys, my hasty decisions can be rectified pretty easily. I just run my crazy purchase back to the store and get my money back. Just a note: This unfortunately doesn't work with cars or self published books.

So, last night after the 9 millionth edit to my book, I decided to upload it to FedEx Office and have it printed and bound. 

In college I was the copy girl at Staples. I understand that this was over a decade ago, but honestly, did the cost of paper really go up that much? Inflation, you suck! 

After the upload, the total appeared, now mind you, I'm not usually super concerned about the cost of things, especially if I think they're a necessity. (Think adorable glitter ballet flats from the Gap). I was certain the paper copy of my book was not only a necessity, it was a must. Yet after seeing the total that was more than half my car payment, I nearly fell out of my chair. 

$300!!! For what? Was it bound with diamond encrusted gold spiral bindings? Was it going to do my laundry? Would it bathe my children? Hell no!

BJ, who was on the couch trying to create a new territory for his super fun job, (turns out my geographical knowledge on the state of Michigan is pretty piss poor), also got the shock of his life when I announced the price.

BJ: Where is Flint, Michigan?
Me: Southern Michigan.
BJ: Nope, but you sounded certain. How about Traverse City?
Me: Oh, that's southern, too.
BJ: Wrong again, but you do really sound sure of yourself if that helps.
Me: At least I was in the right state.
BJ: I gave you the state.
Me: Don't make fun of me.
BJ: You had it coming.
Me: It's going to cost 300 bucks to print one copy of my book.
BJ: No.

Now, when he said, "no" I'm sure you're thinking he was saying it like, "No way. It can't be that expensive." But really what he was saying was, "No, you are not printing your book."

BJ joined me at the computer and in a few short seconds the price went from $300 for one copy to $100 for two copies.

In my days as the red shirt and khakis wearing copy girl, we only had three choices of paper. White in three different brands. Colored in three different brands. And card stock in two different brands. Nowadays there's 10,000 choices and FedEx Office, in a plan to turn a profit, selects the most expensive paper they have in stock as the default. Asses! 

Now, had BJ not been present, my printed copy might have cost me $300 and bypassed number one on my list of frivolous purchases. A non-returnable Toyota RAV4. (They will take it back, but not after they rob you blind and punch you in the stomach on the trade-in.)

I'm glad he's around even though he mocks my knowledge of the locations of cities in Michigan. I live in Illinois for craps sake!

Anyway, here it is in all its black and white glory!

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Smooshed-Faced Stories: Starring Beeker the Pug with Guest Appearances by Oscar the Cat— Part 3

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I once read that a dog will eat its owner if the owner dies in the home. Macabre, I know, but it got me thinking. 

So cute, yet somehow I think he
is planning my demise.

Beeker, literally eats everything. Just last week, Beeker pulled a diaper bag from the closet, dragged it into the hallway and tore through it. Consuming, two bags of fruit snacks (wrappers and all), an entire box of Annie's bunny cheese crackers and an unused disposable diaper. I'm sure you're thinking I should have rushed him to the vet. Hell no! The first few times he ate random shit from strange locations, we did but not anymore. Vets are obscenely expensive and ridiculously judgmental. "You have to be more responsible. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs. His nose wrinkle is filthy. You need to brush his teeth.  You owe us a thousand dollars for nose wrinkle cream." Blah, blah, blah. I totally should have gotten a cat. They're self cleaning. (But they have their own evil ways. I'll get to that later.)

After reading that dogs have no loyalty to anything but food, I kind of began to fear Beeker. I now sleep with my bedroom door closed because I have convinced myself that Beeker may eat me after a few hours of non-movement (i.e. in my sleep). I even wonder sometimes if he's plotting my death when his food is placed in his bowl a few minutes late.
The moral here is that Beeks only acts like he loves me and when he sleeps he dreams of eating me. (I used to think he dreamt of chasing squirrels and meeting other Pugs. So much for that.)

On to my thoughts about getting a sweet, biscuit making, sand pooping, self-cleaning cat. My friend, Kri has two cats. One is mildly normal and the other is the spawn of Satan. Not so much in that, "downright evil" way, but in a more conniving and "I'm gonna kill you secretly" way. I am pretty sure Oscar is plotting to kill her in her sleep. (Hopefully Oscar isn't cahoots with Beeker or she's definitely a goner.) Oscar wakes her at bizarre times, kneading her face (small paws make suffocation difficult), purring and meowing. He stares at her all hours of the day from weird locations in her house. She has even gone as far to refer to him as "the asshole", but like me, she loves that stupid little animal.

Only time will tell if Beeks will eat me or if Kri will be smothered by Oscar's paws. Either way, they're here to stay.  Coincidence that they both have smooshed faces?  I think not.

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Book Review: That Time of the Month by Emily Shaffer

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Have you ever picked a book up, read the first page and knew you were going to love it? That's how I felt about That Time of the Month by Emily Shaffer. This is one of the funniest books I have read in a while.

The book begins with Eleanor "Ellie" Bennett losing her job as a temp lawyer. Not the worst thing since she hates her job, but a near disaster, because she has no money and no real job prospects. In a moment of weakness she formulates a plan to write a novel in a month. She chooses a quaint little coffee shop as her quiet writing location, but it's anything but quiet. Ellie has multiple debacles throughout the book, including a broken foot and a mystery coffee shop regular that may or may not be the man of her dreams.

Ellie's disasters are not only funny, but totally relatable. If you are at all clumsy or have ever felt like you've made the wrong choice a few too many times, then you'll emphasize with Ellie. Her neurotic, list-making tendencies are by far some of the funniest parts of the book. A personal favorite of mine is her New Year's resolution list.
"Resolution #152: Try to understand America's fascination with Nickelback."

Emily Shaffer's comedic timing is perfect and the jokes just keep on coming. That Time of the Month was well written, but could still benefit from the help of a good editor. Overall, I recommend picking up That Time of the Month, you won't regret it. And the best part— it's cheap, especially if you chose the kindle edition like I did!

That Time of the Month- Nook Edition
That Time of the Month- Kindle Edition
That Time of the Month- Paperback

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Who needs a publicist when I have Tracy?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tracy is a friend of mine from work. I met her a few years ago and she's one of those people that everyone listens matter what. She's hard to avoid. If she has something to say there is not a chance you're getting away without hearing it. She's loud, opinionated and all around vocal about anything and everything. Now, I mean all of these things in the best possible way. The delivery of her bossiness usually comes with a barrage of swear words coupled with humor.

All of her bossiness is currently working to my advantage. Yesterday another friend from work threw a house warming. Tracy, a bunch of other people from work and some random people I don't know were in attendance.

In comes Tracy and the first thing she says is, "I gotta take these boots off!" She's wearing a pair of knee-high boots and like me, her calves are slightly too big for knee-high boots. If anyone else has encountered this issue, you know this problem makes it difficult to get the boots on, but even more difficult to get them off. It's like a twenty pound sausage in a ten pound casing.

Tracy flops down in a chair and in her commanding voice, requests that someone pull her boots off. I grab the ankle of her boot and pull. To tell you the truth, I only helped her because I knew she would only get louder if no one came to her aid. Plus she'd never turn me down if I asked her for help.

This brings me to why Tracy is better than a publicist. 
1. She's my friend
2. She firmly believes my in my ability to write a great book.
3. I don't have to pay her.
4. Finally, her big-ass mouth!

Last night at our friend's house warming party, she sold the shit out of my book. I told her that when my book is done and published that I am bringing her everywhere with me. I'm going to have her pitch my book because I am still really struggling with this whole self-promotion thing. I'm also sure that if I asked her to stand on a street corner with a sign promoting my book, she'd do it. Not only would she do it, she'd hunt down every person that passed her to make sure they actually bought it. She's the best!

Now if I only had as much faith in myself as Tracy has in me, I'd be set.

Thanks Tracy for being my biggest fan! XOXO

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Blurbs, furries and procrastination town

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Here I am boarding the train at procrastination station once again. I pretty much procrastinate on everything. The list goes on and on, finishing anything before a deadline during 4 years of high school, 4+ years of college, graduate school, I also avoid cleaning my house, loading the dishwasher, doing laundry. I pretty much will find anything to do besides what I actually should be doing. This blog post is no exception, but I'll get to my blurb story after this great one from my high school days.

The absolute, hands down best procrastination story has to be my twenty-four hours of assigned community service. Now, I didn't do anything that warranted the forced act of kindness. It was thrust upon me as a requirement for graduating from high school. I guess it was supposed to make me feel like I was giving back to my community or to make me a well rounded person. Who knows? I'm not sure its outcome was on par with what my high school was hoping for.

Set to graduate in June of '96, I started receiving death threat letters from the community service counselor somewhere around November of '95. I wasn't alone in this. Leah, my high school bestie, who still holds the title today, was right there with me. We loved the procrastination train. We rode it regularly. We couldn't hide from the community service police forever, so we eventually gave in and agreed to assist with the Holiday Magic festivities at Bookfield Zoo. We roped in her sister, Kri to join us and off we went one Saturday morning.

The three of us, sort of thrilled and a little intrigued, reported to the designated area where we were handed animal costumes. You know what I'm talking about, a big-ass head, mesh eyes, furry shoe covers and mittens. Think Disney World but far less classy in regards to the costumes. 

Now this is not us, but you get my point.
You needed to work in teams of three, two characters and one guide person. Before Kri or I could speak, Leah said, "I'm the guide. I can't wear that. I'm claustrophobic." We pick our battles with Leah. So Kri and I stepped into our B.O. stinktastic costumes and began to navigate the zoo with Leah as our guide.

During this 3 hour stint as the Christmas-scarf-wearing tiger, I unintentionally terrified children, tripped over a giant planter, tormented the snow leopard, took my head off in public and was sweating so profusely I thought I wet my pants. 

Kri didn't fair much better. The warmer her costume got the smellier it became. She hid behind bushes, lifting her head up so she could breathe. She too, tripped over the planter and while posing for pictures with children who weren't running in fear, we smiled inside that stupid head every time someone said, "Say cheese". We're dipshits. No could see us smiling!

In the end, I should have learned something profound. But I didn't. I still procrastinate to no end and right now I'd even consider donning that tiger costume again instead of writing a summary for the back cover of my book.

Now, I originally wrote a 150,000 word book, scaled it back and cut it down even more, but for the life of me I can't condense my book into a less than two hundred word summary.  I suck at it.  I avoided it for months.  The trouble is, this is what sells your book.  People read the back cover or the online description and decide whether they want to buy your book or not.  It needs to grab the reader's attention and if it sucks then, well, your book sucks by association.

This brings me to blurbs.  Blurbs are those little lines on the back cover of a book that say things like, "Sally Smith of Reader World said, 'POS book is amazing.  A must read.'"  A blurb is on pretty much every book you read that is published by a big-time publisher.  Usually some hot shot book reviewer or website reads the book, reviews it, and the publishing company uses it to sell the book.  This is where I run into a problem.  I don't have a big-time publishing agency and I also don't know any hot shot book reviewers.  I don't plan on using a blurb on the back cover of my book for this reason.  What would I say anyway? School social worker from the south suburbs says, "Nikki Young is really funny." or "Read Nikki Young's debut novel.  It's a great story.  I loved it," says her neighbor.  

I'm leaving a blurb off my back cover, because I am having a hard enough time selling myself in general.  I'm pretty sure all my shameless FB posts have caused me to be blocked by at least a third of my friends.  Sorry, guys!  Being an indie author doesn't exactly lend to a fabulous blurb. I don't know if blurbs sell books.  But I am hoping my book is wildly popular and sells a shit ton of copies, that way I can say I kicked ass without a blurb.  The downside is when it tanks, I'll be wallowing and crying about how I should have written a fake blurb.

On a bright note:  Here is the working back cover/summary!
Book title changed to- A Life More Complete (because I was told by BJ that Lou Reed was gonna sue someone's ass if I used my original title.)


"Can you ever really outrun your past?

Krissy Mullins, an overworked, obsessive-compulsive publicist, has been giving it her best shot for the past ten years.  Throwing herself into her work and devoting all her time to her teenage starlet client.  Krissy finds little time for anything else.  But as fate would have it, her world is turned upside down when she falls in love with laid-back California native, Ben Torres. Unfortunately, her only frame of reference on love and marriage was her parents and they were both deeply disturbed.

As Krissy attempts to navigate the precarious world of love, acceptance and compromise, her past comes flooding back like she never expected.  An ex-boyfriend returns from a life she has tried to forget.  He stirs up feelings in Krissy that she thought were gone.  Pulled in opposite directions as her past and present collide, Krissy makes a rash decision that will forever change her life.

Can Krissy find love and happiness amidst her dysfunctional past or will she continue to run?  Only time will tell."

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Book Review: One Pink Line by Dina Silver

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm going to start this review by saying I might be a little biased, but oh well. Dina Silver, the author of One Pink Line is my hero. She managed to publish two books and land a publishing contract all on her own. She didn't sell her soul to the devil (at least I don't think she did). Her efforts did not go unnoticed and her writing speaks for itself. Congratulations to Dina and a big thanks to her, too for answering all my ridiculous self publishing questions. I'm forever grateful. But, now...on to my review of One Pink Line.

One Pink Line follows Sydney and her daughter Grace as they navigate the world of self discovery, acceptance and love. Told through both girls' point of view, Sydney's through flashbacks and Grace's during the present.

Sydney, your typical college senior spends her days preparing for finals, seeking employment after her upcoming graduation and drinking with friends. After a few too many drinks, a roll in the sack with her friend Kevin, she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant only weeks before her graduation. After coming clean to Kevin and finding him uninterested in fatherhood and her in general, she turns to her family and friends, including her ex-boyfriend Ethan for support. Although, things seem to fall into place rather easily for this single mother, she still faces your typical struggles. Money woes, finding love and self doubt about being a young mother follow Sydney throughout the book.

The book transitions to Grace's POV and how she discovers that her father isn't actually her father. Grace, being a self absorbed teenager, can't find anything good in her situation. Although she has two loving parents and a great home life. You follow Grace as she comes to understand her mother's choices and meets her birth father.

One Pink Line is a touching story of self discovery, love and the struggles faced by mothers and daughters alike. Even though the storyline is predictable, it keeps you rooting for Sydney and hoping for the best. If you love a happy endings, which I do, this one doesn't disappoint.

Dina's writing style is very conversational and flows nicely. There were times I laughed out loud and times I cried tears of joy for Sydney and Grace. The characters are real and relatable. As a self published author, Dina created a polished and in my opinion, near flawless novel. I urge you to check out One Pink Line by Dina Silver. It's your typical contemporary chick lit and I loved it!

Keep an eye out for my review of Kat Fight also by Dina Silver!

One Pink Line- Kindle Edition
One Pink Line- Paperback
One Pink Line- Nook Edition

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Smooshed-Faced Stories: Starring Beeker the Pug— Part 2

Monday, November 26, 2012

Part 2: Beeker vs. The Roomba

If you don't know what a Roomba is I'll give you brief summary. A Roomba is that vacuum that cleans your house when you're not home. When it works correctly it's amazing. When it doesn't, that's a whole 'nother story.

I got my Roomba as a Christmas gift from my mom and dad. My mom is always worried that I work too hard, so her solution, albeit minor, was to get me a Roomba. She said, "Look it will vacuum while you're at work. That way when you get home there won't be dog hair tumble weeds rolling around." (Insert her semi-grossed out face). 

Whatever, dog hair tumble weeds or not, the Roomba was pretty bad ass. I watched multiple videos on YouTube as it slid around sucking up all kinds of crap, avoiding the stairs and navigating kitchen chairs. There was even one video of a cat riding on top of it. Hilarious!

I was sold. So when I opened my Roomba on Christmas Eve, I was beyond excited. It was like opening Western Skipper on Christmas morning circa 1983. Even better was that my mom and dad (not really my dad, he just footed the bill.) had bought the high end model. It had a rotating brush that cleaned the baseboards, little laser towers that kept it from going into unwanted rooms. It was awesome!

I was off work on winter break, but I still used it a few times. Here is where Roomba disappointed me. First, it does not recognize my stairs and plummets down them. Stupid Roomba! Insert quote from my mom, "It committed suicide when it saw the amount of dog hair." Oh, she's a funny one. 

Second it gets trapped under my kitchen table. It's going all ape shit, crashing into the table legs and the chairs. It's all very reminiscent of that three point turn scene in Austin Powers. Again, Roomba, why are you so dumb? 

Third time, is definitely not the charm. It eats my freakin' Christmas tree skirt. I shoved it in the closet and thought, maybe I'll have more respect for it when I come home to a well vacuumed house after a long days work.

This is where Roomba heads to the top of my shit list. Literally, my SHIT list.

With a smile on my face and a renewed sense of hope, I start my little vacuum machine and leave for work on my first day back from break. 

Mill around at work, tie some shoes, count to 100, take a bathroom break, read a few stories, what rhymes with duck? (These are kindergarteners, mind yourself!). Ta-dah! Day is done and off to evaluate Roomba's progress.

I walk in, on the phone with my mom, baby on my hip and HOLY SHIT! Again, literally, shit.

My lovely baby, before I had a baby, Beeker, had pooped in the house and as you can de"duce" (pun intended), Roomba, that stupid robot, ran it over!

My high end, fancy baseboard sweeping Roomba ran over Beeker's shit and not only dragged it throughout my house, but also managed to smear it all over the baseboards, too.

Now mind you I am on the phone with my mom who quips, "Oh, stop being so dramatic!" Dramatic? She can't be serious? There is dog shit on every surface of my home. The only upside to this scenario is that I live in a 1500 square foot house. The one I complain is too small at least once a day, but on poop day, it was far too big!

Needless to say, the carpets got shampooed that night, all the baseboards scrubbed down and a valuable lesson was learned by all...animals, especially Beeker are terrified of Roomba. It scared the shit out of him.

Coming soon: Part 3 -Beeker loves diaper bags with guest appearances from Oscar the Cat.

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Smooshed-Faced Stories: Starring Beeker the Pug— Part 1

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Beeker is my seven year old Pug and pretty much a great source of hilarity. Because he is so funny I thought I'd dedicate a blog post (Ok, it's going to be several blog posts) solely to him and all his smoosh-faced glory.

Harmless, right? Think again.

We (I say "we" like my husband gives a shit about the dog) got Beeker seven years ago from a lady who had seven Pugs and a wheelchair bound Dachshund. If you know anything about Pugs, this scenario is ridiculous. The shedding alone was obscene, not to mention the snorting and the smell. Even after witnessing (and smelling) what multiple Pugs can do to your home, I had a hard time leaving with just one. Now see, my old, fat, stinky Pug, Buddy, had just passed away, so I was left heartbroken. But after a glimpse at BJ and his "you've got to be effing kidding me face" I picked only one dog. Beeker! (His name was Luke. Lame.)

We brought him home and let him sleep in our bed, lay on the couch, we fed him from the table. We pretty much let him do whatever he wanted. In hind sight, this was a huge mistake.

Beeker now eats everything. He's obsessed with food, rotten, old, stale, out of a trash can, from the kitchen table, out of my kids hands, it doesn't matter. Here is a running list of things he's eaten:
Half a dozen donuts, the contents of a Christmas stocking, a dozen fully decorated sugar cookies, a bag of Hostess powdered donettes, a box of mint melt-aways, a large cheese pizza, a bag of 30 gumballs with wrappers, all the tomatoes from my garden, a box of Ritz crackers, underpants, dirty diapers, two dozen foil wrapped chocolate coins, the list is ENDLESS!

Now I know what you're thinking, "Why does she leave food all over house?" I don't. Beeker is beyond talented, actually his ability to snag food is unreal. He has Go-Go Gadget paws or something. He just gets on his hind legs and slaps his paw around on the counter, kitchen table or whatever until he finds something. 90% of the time he finds the food on his own. The other 10% he snags from my poor unsuspecting children.

On to my first Beeker story. 

This year, a few weeks before Halloween, my kids and my husband sat down at the kitchen table and carved a pretty rockin' Greg Heffley (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) pumpkin. Now, where we live, there is an extreme amount of squirrels and raccoons. They, like Beeker, eat everything. So instead of putting the pumpkin on display on our front porch, we felt it wise to keep it in the house. This way the little critters wouldn't have a chance to gnaw the shit out of it before Halloween. I'm sure you can see where I am heading with this.

So, BJ put the pumpkin on a buffet in our living room. Set back fairly far, but still able to be seen by our kids. It sat in this same position for a few days without any disturbance.

While I was at work shaping the minds of young children, BJ was conquering the world of lab supplies in his plush home office. (I say plush, because I am sure he was folding fluffy bath towels while negotiating contract pricing.) But back to the story...BJ hears a bonk come from upstairs. He quickly does a mental check: Big kid at school-check. Babysitter and little kid at park-check. Wifey at work-check. That leaves one suspect. Beeker.

As BJ comes up the stairs he hears the tell-tale snuffling of a Pug eating. There is Beeker eating Greg Heffley! Before BJ could stop him he had eaten the entire carved portion of the pumpkin. Now, you'd think Beeker would back off or run, but no. He actually chased BJ into the kitchen and then cried at the counter where BJ set the half-eaten pumpkin.

Thankfully, my kids are used to Beeker's stupidity so the devastation was minimal. So much for being worried about the squirrels.

Here is one last picture of Beeker in all his glory.  Enjoy!

And be on the lookout for Part 2: Beeker vs. the Roomba.

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Book Review: Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I came across Jessica Park's Flat-Out Love purely by accident. Over the summer I try to read as many books as possible before I have to head back to work. While downloading a slew of books from Amazon, Flat-Out Love popped up after I paid under the section that said, "Other customers who purchased Blah, Blah, Blah also bought..." You get my point. 

I downloaded Flat-Out Love, plus a few more books, because in all honesty, they were cheap. I LOVE cheap (so does my husband, even more than me). 

Unfortunately, summer ended too quickly and my reading halted until Thanksgiving break.

This is when I finally sat down and read Flat-Out Love.

I normally don't enjoy the young adult genre as much as I do other genres, but this book was definitely the exception.

Flat-Out Love begins with a young girl named Julie Steagle standing on a Boston street where her newly rented apartment should be. But instead of a three bedroom apartment with roommates, she finds a burrito joint in a single story building.

Set to start at Whitney College in the fall, being homeless couldn't come at a worse time. Feeling slightly defeated and a little snarky, she calls her mom. Luckily, her mother's old college roommate lives in the area and agrees to take Julie in until she can secure a more permanent living arrangement.

Moving into the Watkinses' home changes Julie's life. As she navigates through her first year of college, she finds herself trying to help this dysfunctional, failing family. Matt, an MIT geek with an obsessive nature and an overwhelming school schedule, slowly opens up and allows Julie a glimpse into his family. His absentee, workaholic parents, his brother Finn who is lost somewhere in the world and Celeste, the youngest of the three Watkins children, who seems to be suffering from some type of separation anxiety and proceeds to carry around a life-sized cardboard cut-out of her non-existent brother, Finn.

Julie slowly forms a bond with everyone in the family, including the elusive, Finn via Facebook. But the more she gets to know the family, she realizes they are far more broken than she thought.

Flat-Out Love is a great story of love, loss and families. I am one of those people who enjoys a good love story and this book did not disappoint. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me believe in true love. 

Jessica's writing is superb and so is her quick wit and her spot on sense of humor. This is a fine example of a self published book done right.

If you get a chance check out Jessica Park's, Flat-Out Love. It's a sweet, quick read and it will make you smile.

Flat-Out Love- Kindle Edition
Flat-Out Love- Paperback Edition

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Support the indie author

Friday, November 23, 2012

When I started this process I really never gave much thought to what I would do when I finally finished my book. After a few months of work, I began to research literary agents and query letters. But I also had heard some musings about self publishing.

I started by researching literary agents. The online description was relatively simple. Write a book, type a query letter (This is a letter you send to agents describing your book and all its fabulousness), send said letter off to agents, land a wonderful agent, in turn landing you a big-time publishing contract and write for the rest of your life, while the big bucks roll in.

But the more I researched this the more I found that this process wasn't as easy as it sounded. There was never a guarantee that a literary agent would pick you up, let alone ever read your query letter. If you were lucky enough to find an agent to read your letter, you'd probably get more rejection letters than hopeful ones. The economy hit everything hard, including the publishing industry. Scaling back was something every business needed to do to keep thriving. So, agents took on less writers, and publishing companies, big and small signed less authors.

The self publishing world became a wonderful way for indie authors to be heard. With Amazon Direct Publishing, B&N's PubIt, Smashwords and CreateSpace available and fairly simple to use, a shift took place. Indie authors could now get their work to the masses that might have otherwise gone unread in the past. 

Now, I know that everything written by self published authors aren't always the next New York Times Bestseller, but at least they now had an outlet to share their work.

This is why sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Good Reads exist. 

This brings me to reviews, which are a great way to support an indie author. If you liked a book, write a review. If you LOVED a book, write a review, brag about it on Good Reads, post it on Facebook, tell everyone you know. Word of mouth for a self published author is the best free publicity ever! If you didn't like a book, write a review, too. Maybe you didn't like the story line, the characters or maybe the book was too long for your liking. Those are all personal opinions and it might not have appealed to you, so write about it. A negative review might also be warranted if the author did not take the time to use an editor and their book contained multiple grammatical errors, misspelled words and plot holes. Reviews are a great way to tell the author how you feel. My only advise is, tread lightly when it comes to negative reviews. Remember this is someone's labor of love.

Because I have a ton of respect and admiration for self published authors, I have decided to add an area to my blog where I will review books I have read by indie authors. I hope someday, when my book is finally published, someone will do the same for me. 

Please take the time to read my upcoming review of the book, Flat Out Love by Jessica Park.

On a side note...I respect all authors, the ones with big-time publishing contracts, the ones who chose to sign with small agencies and those stand alone indie authors. Every last one of them stomped the pavement, worked late hours and groveled to get their books out to the public. Each path is honorable and requires a ton of hard work. Much love to all of them! 

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Caramel Apple Cake = Epic Fail

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I love to bake.  Every holiday that comes around gives me an opportunity to bake with reckless abandon.  This Thanksgiving was no different.  After a LONG night of parent teacher conference at work on Tuesday, I woke up Wednesday morning ready to research my latest baking journey or should I say shit show?

I pride myself on my baking ability.  I'm not one to toot my own horn, but I am damn fine baker. 

Cupcakes for my sister in law's baby shower, my youngest's garbage truck cake, Oreo balls for Christmas, all awesome examples of my awesomeness.  I could go on but I'll spare you the expense, since I had my worst baking disaster in history.  (Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic, yet somehow totally necessary.)

After a little research I came across this beautiful cake called a Caramel Apple Cake.  It had an ingredients list at least a mile long, but I fell in love with the picture, so I didn't care.  I made a list, sent BJ to the store; $50 and five hours later the cake was done...but not really.  

The cake part was fine.  I poured the batter into three 8 inch round pans, baked it according to the ridiculous specifications, cooled it for the specified amount of time and removed them from the pans without any of the cake getting stuck.  I nearly high-fived myself.  Success!  But again...not really.  I didn't know it at the time, but it was about to turn ugly.

The directions for the frosting were a little sketchy, but I went with it.  Now, I've made buttercream frosting more times than I can count and I have never come across a recipe that was this complicated.  After spending another two hours on this damn recipe; the frosting was like soup.  I used all my baking knowledge to thicken it.  All my attempts were failures.  Instead of dumping the frosting and starting over, I decided to try and make it work.  "Try" being the operative word here.

As I began to slather on the sludge, I mean, frosting I knew it was not going to work.  It just wasn't thick enough.  Before tossing it into the garbage, I called BJ upstairs and surprisingly, even though he was in the middle of watching TV, he came.

Here's how the conversation went:

Me: I'm throwing it out.  It sucks.

BJ: Before you toss it, cut me a piece.

Me: Okay. (Grab knife, slice into cake and sloppily toss it onto a plate.)

BJ: (Taking a bite)  This is really good.  Too bad it looks like that. (Indicating toward the sludgy mess on the counter.)

Me: Well, I'm throwing it out.

BJ: (Slightly appalled.)  No, don't!  

Me: Where am I going to put it?

BJ: I don't care.  Just put it in a bucket.  I'll eat it.

Just as BJ was saying that I should put the cake in a bucket, a large chunk of it slides off the counter, bounces off the dishwasher handle, and lands with a satisfying "plop" on the ground.

Hilarity ensures.  

Me: I'm throwing it out.

BJ: Go ahead, but cut me another piece before you do.

This is why I love him.  His unconditional support even when I suck!

Here is a picture of what the cake should have looked like:
Yummy, right?

Here is what my cake looked like:

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  And I hope my family is cool with only one dessert this year because I am done!

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Hoarders: The Book Version

Monday, November 19, 2012

When I began writing my novel I wasn't entirely sure what I planned to do with it. It wasn't like I had some big mapped out plan for the future. In reality, I never actually thought I'd finish it. (Yep, I'm that doubtful of my ability to follow through.)

In the end, I obviously finished, but I had no idea what to do with it. For one thing it was 500 PAGES! Holy shit! That's a lot! 

This is when I turned it over to my husband and my good friend, Jason. Jason will read anything. BJ isn't as easy to please. So both of them read the unedited, extremely long, and in my opinion, pretty craptacular version of my book.

Everyone has seen the television show Hoarders or at least some version of it. If not, here it is in condensed form: Grown ass adults stash as much shit in their homes as possible until it nearly bursts. 

This is what happened with my novel. I was so focused on getting my thoughts down that I failed to sensor or edit anything I typed. I was like a machine—dead set on getting every small idea down in my novel. Even if these ideas scarcely related to my writing. 

What happened next was even worse. BJ kindly informed me that I needed to cut it down. It was ridiculously long.  (I knew this, but admitting I had a problem was hard.)  In my mind it came out more like this, "You suck!  Who is going to read your 500 page novel?"  How dare he? Doesn't he know how hard I worked on this? Doesn't he understand the effort? All those nights I spent slaving away at the computer with a bag of York Peppermint Patties!

After I got over it and realized how right he was, I sat down to eliminate all my hard work.  Yet  I couldn't do it.  I couldn't delete a single word.

News Flash:  I had become a hoarder.  Not literally a hoarder, but a word hoarder.  My novel had become like the house of a hoarder.  It was filled with twenty year old news papers, moldy milk cartons, puffy yogurt containers and possibly a dead cat buried somewhere under the rubble.  At least 200 pages of my book were like the things I listed.  Useless.  But I had a connection to them and I couldn't just go all willy nilly deleting at random.  I loved these words.  I gave birth to them.

I came to my senses and slowly began to edit down my nonsensical gibberish.  (You want to know a secret?  I still couldn't just straight up delete them, so I used the track changes on MS Word and saved everything I deleted.  Soon I will break up with all those pointless sentences.  But until then, they will sit quietly in the margins of my book.)

Even after a full edit of at least 30,000 words, my book, in my opinion, is still too long.  This is where my beta readers come in.  Hopefully they will have some insight to all the useless, random thoughts that still linger within my book.  Let's hope I take their criticism better than I took BJ's.

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Carrabba's, where is the effing bread?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Last night I went to dinner with my two best friends.  We do this at least once a month, sometimes more and we always go to Carrabba's.  The service isn't the best, but we're never in a hurry and they have the best bread.  Ever.  

In a recent turn of events, Kri got off work early, since her life isn't consumed with selling safes anymore.  Leah hauled here (after too many demanding text messages from Kri) and we left for the restaurant far earlier than usual.  Due to our early arrival, we ended up eating with all the blue-hairs and had the best service we have ever had.  

The downside to great service at Carrabba's is that we missed out on the two five loaves of bread we usually inhale.  After too much food, including two desserts we headed back to my house for an impromptu book club meeting and a screening of Magic Mike.

See, Leah is one of my beta readers and I know what you're thinking, "You picked your best friend to read your book?  Obviously she isn't going to be honest."  This is where you are wrong.  Way wrong.

My two best friends are sisters.  I met Leah over twenty years ago when we were running on the Carl Sandburg High School track for our swim team tryout.  This was when she broke my heart and informed me that my parents definitely did not send my cat to "live at a farm" when they got rid of him.  See what I mean?  She'll be honest.  (I was only thirteen and obviously a moron.)  I ended up friends with Kri by proximity.  Since she lived with Leah and was always around there really wasn't any other option than to be friends with her, too.  I love them both equally but for totally different reasons.  Leah is brutally honest (hence why I chose her as one of my beta readers) and brilliantly snarky, in a good way.  Kri is hilarious, adorably clueless and far to nice to ever insult anyone, including me.  This is why I didn't chose her as a beta reader.  The best thing about both of them is that they are crazy smart, but you'd never know it.  They are not the kind of smart people who go around touting their smarts to anyone who will listen.  They are the kind that sit back and watch shit unfold and then step in with a witty remark.

So, as Kri sat on my couch watching Channing Tatum do his anger strip dance in what can only be described as a corset for a man, Leah and I sorta discussed my book.

I say sorta because she isn't done reading yet, but she's close enough to have a discussion about it.  Also, because I am completely terrified of her opinion.   Her opinion of my work means a great deal to me.  I need her honesty, but it's still hard to take.  In the end it wasn't as awful as I envisioned in my head, but in actuality I did stop her and tell her to just email what we hadn't talked about yet.  This way I can read it and cry in private.   Just kidding...maybe.

All in all, I hope she enjoys my book.  And I truly am looking forward to her feedback.  On a happy note:

My top ten favorite Leah and Kri moments:

10.  Staple gunning a real disco ball to a wood beam in their parent's house during one our many "theme parties".  Disco ball = 70's theme.

9.  Eating enough Twizzlers and butter soaked popcorn to give the average person a heart attack.

8.  Watching Kri wedge her Buick Skyhawk into the side of a snowbank.  (I think the village is missing their idiot.)

7.  Leah and I rocking out to the Partridge Family in her blue conversion van, while drinking Slurpees and wearing a rice picker hat.

6.  Passing mono around during the '96-'97 school year.

5.  My wedding where we all got so drunk off tequila shots. (There was a lot of vomit.)

4.  Watching Leah lose it when Kri's "boyfriend" stole her car. (In Leah's defense she had mono and was exhausted.)

3.  Buying all the Sunkist fruit roll ups Dominick's had for sale and eating them in one night.

2.  Anything that occurred at our summer job as lifeguards.

1.  Letting Kri write "bitch" on my arm in permanent marker after a few too many beverages and the next morning scrubbing at it on my way to teach swim lessons to a group of three and four year olds.

*Collecting money for Kri's consumption ticket at a party where we were in fact consuming more beverages.

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Serious rage and The Googlemeister.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

When I started this blog I debated whether to use a blogspot address or a custom one. After much back and forth and many huffs from BJ, I decided to just go with the basic. Well, a few days into this I changed my mind. I do this kind of thing frequently. I'm impulsive. I buy things and return them later. I eat too much and regret it. I say things and then I can't take them back. Blogging is nice because my big mouth has a filter. 

Anyway...I decided to change my option. 

Instead of my blog being called: 

It would now be: 

Turns out some asshat already snagged that up, but the site sits unused. Google, who I love, offered me some other options:— okay, I get it. Hahaha!— okay, now this was getting personal. 

I stopped after reading the "nikki old" and went back to the drawing board.  

I have also been debating about publishing my book under my maiden name, which was Long. I considered this only because I am a teacher and I'm not sure how I feel about my students parents' knowing I wrote a book. I had pretty much scraped that idea because in all honesty, the Internet makes everyone super Googlable anyway. Not a chance in hell they wouldn't figure out it was me. (I didn't write a Fifty Shades of Grey or anything like that. It's just hard when you're a teacher. Parents and students view you as some kind of perfect creature who doesn't do or say anything inappropriate.) 

After considering that someone robbed me of my domain name I went back to the thought of using my maiden name. So I typed and found this too was already taken. WTF! So I typed it into Google and found that the site belonged to a realtor in North Carolina, who was selling a double wide on her main page. Awesome. What was even more shocking was the fact the name Nikki Long also belongs to a porn star from the 90's.  

Obviously, I went back to using my married name. Finally after several hours of setup time, my custom domain was done. Or so I thought. 

 Super excited to use the new, I quickly typed it into the URL bar and this was what I found:

Dear Google, 
You are rapidly rising to the top of my shit list. 
Nikki Young (Not Nikki Long, she's a porn star)

Sad, busted up robot and no custom domain.  

So, turning to BJ I began to rant about my situation.  Only half listening because he was in the middle of watching Fast N' Loud or Pit Bulls and Parolees or some other shit.  In addition to the fact that he can only focus on one thing at a time and the restoration of a shit box car was far more important.  But in his defense, I pretty much came off like a ranting lunatic.  (He's used to this.) He finally turned his attention to me and told me, "I'll look at it this weekend."  He always comes through, but I couldn't wait until this weekend.  Instant gratification.  

Back to Google.  When I typed into the search box, how to fix my error message, I got a series of directions that were so lengthy and obscene I couldn't even fathom how to fix my problem!  It contained information regarding things like, a CNAME and an A-Record and series of letters and numbers so long that it took up two lines!  Beaten but not broken I gave up for the day.  But before going to bed I remembered I know someone who LOVES Google even more than me!

My friend Kristin, who I work with is a Google genius, in fact we call her The Googlemeister!  So I texted her that night and the next day at work she fixed it in under ten minutes.  Kristin, I love you!

So, check out the new location for my blog at!!!

Keep reading for more updates on my book.  I'll be posting my book cover, excerpts from the first few chapters and even more on my process of writing, editing, and publishing in the months to come! 

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