Saturday, December 21, 2013

Label Shopper

The hubs shook his head when I told him I wanted a pair of Uggs for my birthday. He was diligent and went and even checked them out. I wanted the sweater kind, and he located them in the one store that carries them (Dick's Sporting Goods--can you believe it?). He wasn't sure that I really wanted them, because they seemed flimsy and impractical for our snowy winters here. He got me a gift card so I could get what I wanted, even though he didn't understand it. I ran to the store as soon as I could and purchased them. They were unbelievably on sale, and I ended up getting them for more than 40% off the retail price. All proud of the savings, I showed the hubs the boots. He just shook his head and said, "They just seem pricy."

Normally, I am not a big label shopper. There are some brands I like, and some that I consider luxuries. Ironically, the hubs prefers certain brands (like Brooks Brothers and J. Crew), but he buys so much less stuff than I do that he can justify the expense. I often look at the name brands and sometimes even salivate a little. For instance, there is part of me that really wants a Coach purse, but there is another part of me that thinks it is ridiculous to spend that amount.

For the kids, because they are growing, I'm even less likely to buy them name brand stuff. I cannot see paying $30 for one pair of sweatpants for Jake, just because they are Addidas. But on the other hand, I remember when I was a kid and how much I wanted all the name brand items like my friends had. I had a friend who had Sassoon jeans in nursery school. I was green with envy. My mother told me I could get designer jeans when she could find them at Filene's Bargain Basement. My first pair of "designer" jeans were Calvin Klein, and I bought them for myself after I was married. I bought them at Sam's Club. In grade school, I wanted the Reeboks in all the colors (I did have one pair of black and turquoise). I wanted the Swatch watches. When I got to high school, I wanted to shop at Express.

I've been waiting for this with my kids. I went to Catholic school, so I wore a uniform every day. I don't know if that made the clothing envy better or worse. I expected, especially with Sophia, that she would look at what her friends have and want the same thing. So far (fingers crossed), she likes what she likes. She likes sparkles and ruffles and animals. She pretty much likes what is in her closet that I have gotten for her. Some of her favorite outfits are hand-me-downs that came from who knows where. She likes to coordinate and look pretty and sparkly. Other than that, her requirements are slim. I have taken her to Justice to shop. I like the store because they have pants that fit her (she is super long and skinny). She likes the glitz. Actually, she likes all the crap in the store more than the clothes. She is just as content with the sparkly clothes from Target.

Jake likes sweat pants and t-shirts. As long as they are not too big, he is content. He is also an almost-10-year-old boy, so matching and coordination do not always come naturally, but he really tries. I have to bargain and barter with him to wear dress-up clothes. He HATES shirts with collars that button. He loves turtlenecks. He is occasionally tolerant of polo-style shirts. His motto is comfort.

So, here's the thing. Jake has a diagnosis of autism. It is mild, and pretty much everyone agrees that it doesn't really fit him, but nothing else does either. But it is his label, to help him get services. Somedays, I can see that he sort of fits. Somedays, not so much. He does have sensory issues, which is why he doesn't like the collared shirts. I think buttons were challenging for him for so long that he doesn't want to do them. He likes the snug feel of the turtlenecks and footie pajamas. He won't wear socks with a hole, and cannot stand if his clothes get even a little wet. These are all not uncommon with people with autism. So other than how the clothes FEEL, Jake has never cared about how he looked.

Until today.

He asked if I could get him a pair of Nike sneakers for Christmas. Frankly, his sneakers are his only pair of shoes, and they're pretty worn out since he wears them all day every day. He complained that I never get him Nike (which is true, because they're not really supportive, which he needs). He told me that EVERYONE in his class wears Nike and he feels that he looks like an "idiot" because he doesn't have the right brand of shoes. He did clarify that no one has called him that, but he just feels different because his sneakers are different.

Hold the phone. This is my kid who is not supposed to be tuned into that sort of thing. But he TOTALLY is. He wants Nike sneakers because his friends have them. It is just a regular kid thing to want.

So, even though I'm done shopping, I took him out today to get his sneakers. I made him try on other brands so he could feel the difference, and he still wanted the Nike. We found a decent pair (at only the second store). I didn't care the price. Ok, I did a little bit, but he needs something to wear on his feet right now. He is pleased as punch that he has his Nike sneakers and can't wait to bring them to school after break. He is happy that he has his name-brand shoes, just like all his friends.

This is just another reminder to me not to limit Jake based upon his label. No label fits him.

Well, other than super-awesome.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

By the Numbers

Age I turn today: 38

Height: 5'3"

Weight: Enough

Number of children: 2

Years of marriage: 12.25

Years in practice as a PT: 13.5

Number of cats: 2

Cups of coffee/day: 2

Days of the year that I eat chocolate: 325

Number of blog posts: 112

Number of Page Views on Biel Blather: 10,005

Number of copies of Good Intentions sold: 145

Number of brick and mortar bookstores that carry Good Intentions: 3

Number of 'Likes' on my Facebook author page: 126

Average review on Amazon: 4.6

Months until my second novel debuts: about 2 (yikes!)

Number of words in my current work: 52,007

Number of times I was up during the night thinking about this post: 3

Amount that I am grateful for my family, friends and the love in my life: Infinity

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Cinderella Myth, Part Two

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away ... oh, wait, wrong tale.

Yesterday, I blogged about the whole Cinderella thing being a myth, and how we, as women, can never magically transform into the beautiful princess without a lot of hard work. And perhaps a Pinterest mishap or two. This is more about why I have a problem with the idea of princesses, especially in terms of my young daughter.

When I was young and idealistic, I had the notion that I would not inundate my daughter with princess stuff. When my son was born, I was happy that I would not have to tell people, "No, we don't do princess stuff." The Disney princess machine was huge at this point, and I was happy with our Thomas the Train, and not having to ban princesses.

Then I had a daughter. And, by the age of two, she was naturally gravitating towards anything and everything princess.

Why, you might ask, would I have a problem with princesses?

There are two main things.

Actually three. Three main things.

1. I don't want my daughter thinking that she would need a man to swoop in and save her. She is a capable, smart, savvy person, and she can use her own brains and strengths (whether it is muscular strength or cunning and cleverness) to help herself. She does not need a dopey prince to slay any dragons for her. She can handle it herself.

2. I don't want my daughter thinking that it is as simple as "and they all lived happily ever after." It is not that simple. Marriage, and life in general, take a lot of hard work. There is no fairy tale ending. Even when people are happy together, it is because they have worked hard at it.

3. This is the big one. There are women who proclaim themselves "princesses." You see them on reality TV shows like Bridezillas, Real Housewives, Dance Moms and Say Yes to the Dress. There is a whole generation of women who feel that they should be treated as royalty at all times. These are horrible, horrible women. I do not EVER want my daughter prancing around with this sense of entitlement and attitude. Respect and good treatment are not givens. They are earned through good deeds, kindness and selflessness. I do not want my daughter thinking that she deserves some kind of special treatment just because she is.

I hope that through my behavior and actions, I am steering her on the right course. She, at the age of 6, has informed me that she is "soooo over princesses." However, at the age of 5, she was certainly happy to partake in the princess makeover at the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique in Disney World. It was her birthday surprise, and she did love it. She also loved that, for that day, every person we walked by wished her happy birthday. It was her birthday, and she certainly did feel special. She did not expect the same treatment afterwards (although I think her 6th birthday was a bit of a let down). I hope that she is well liked and respected, not because of her clothes or sparkles, but because of her sparking wit and clever ideas. Those gems are as rare as the crown jewels.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Cinderella Myth

From the time I was a little girl, I heard the stories about princesses. While I liked them, I didn't buy into them a whole lot. Somehow, they all seemed too good to be true. But nonetheless, I was fascinated by the fancy dresses, and wanted nothing more than to attend that fancy ball. Somehow, that fancy ball never really came along, and I realized that life doesn't happen the way it does in the stories. Now that I'm (sort of) grown up, I can tell my daughter will all certainty that these princess tales are a load of hooey.

Here's how I know.

This past weekend, the hubs and I got all gussied up and went to a formal event. And there was sure-as-heck no Fairy Godmother bippidi-boppidi-booing in and making me look my best. Oh, no. There was work that went into it. Lots of work.

The dress was easy. After combing e-bay, my friend and I went to a local consignment shop. This shop gets dresses from a bridal shop, so there are a lot of new dresses that were floor models. They carry a lot by one of my favorite designers. I found one (ok, two) that I liked and got it (them). One fit a little better than the other, so rather than have to worry about dropping a few pounds around Thanksgiving, I went with the more comfortable one. It needed to be shortened, and I was even able to do it myself. It involved taking the dress apart, which was a bit nerve wracking, as it is a designer dress. I have to say, I felt pretty proud that I was able to do that kind of sewing work.

But that is where the similarities to Cinderella end. While I was getting my hair done, I decided on a D-I-Y facial a few days before. I did what all the women I know do--I consulted Pinterest. That was my first mistake. I read the blogs about how to do the facial, a pore cleansing one. People talked about the smell, so I was prepared for it. I was not prepared for the absolute pain and agony as I removed the mask. It was supposed to be pore cleansing, but I believed it ripped out all of the fine hair off my face. Also, because I'm entering a more "mature" phase of life, the skin on my face is not as tight as it used to be. As I tried to peel off the mask, my skin was going with it. Tears formed in my eyes, and I was worried that I would not be able to continue, and that I would be forced to live out my days with half of my face frozen in milk and gelatin.

Pinterest fail.

Then, there is the getting the hair done, the make-up process, the pedicure. Okay, that stuff is pretty enjoyable. I've gotten pretty good at false eyelashes. There was a minor moment when I grabbed the nail glue instead of the eyelash glue. (At least they would not have fallen off. EVER.) I caught myself and let out a big sigh of relief.

Then there are the nails. My job, plus my awful habit of nail biting, leads me to have to use false nails. There are ones that go on very quickly (like, in 5 minutes or less). Doing the first hand was fine. But I am not used to having long nails, so I had a lot more trouble putting the nails on the second hand. Which led me to, at one point, use my mouth to reposition the nail that I had just tried to glue on. Which led to getting nail glue on my lips. Luckily, I did not glue my lips together, but it was mighty close. How would you explain that one?

So the nails lead me to another issue that I bet Cinderella never had to deal with. Do you know how hard it is to pull up Spanx with fake nails on? On a good day, you can get a decent cardio work out just trying to get into Spanx. Pulling them up with nails on, damn near impossible.

Of course, it snowed the night of our event. It was sleeting as we got there, and downright snowing by the time we left. I was happy to have open-toed shoes and bare arms. My husband just looked at me shivering and said, "Well, you're the one who didn't wear a coat." He didn't get that my fur wrap looked so much better. Never mind its complete and utter uselessness in the elements.

I'd like to think all the efforts and near disasters were worth it. We had a lot of fun, so I guess that is what counts (as well as the fact that we were supporting a very worthy cause).

Next year, I just want to be able to say, "Bippidi-Boppidi-Boo!"

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Little Like Christmas

Holy crap! It's December 1st. How did that happen?

Every year, at different points in the year, I have a dream that it is the week before Christmas or even Christmas Eve, and I haven't decorated or gotten presents for someone (like my parents) or something of the like. I wake up in a panic, only to realize that it is only May.

Except now, it really is December. I know that Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday in November, but it seemed late to me this year. Here it is December 1st, and I'm still gorging on turkey and stuffing (and trying not to think that my pants may not fit on Monday morning). I host Thanksgiving dinner, so for the past week or two, I have been tunnel-vision focused on that. I did start some shopping last week, but really only because there were some sales and coupons that would expire before Thanksgiving. I have a "No Christmas until after Thanksgiving policy" for the most part.

I was also doggedly determined to finish (or "win" as it is called) National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It did not seem so bad at the beginning. I was consistently a day or two ahead of schedule. Until last week, when I got totally engrossed in T-day preparations. I got to the point where I was on day 27 with 46,000 words and not sure if I'd be able to hit the 50 K mark. I hunkered down and hit 50,050 on Friday night, which was one day ahead of schedule. While I am pleased with completing that task, it added a pressure that I don't think I really needed. I write to relieve stress and make me feel better. If I had a contract and a deadline, it would be a different story. But for right now, it is recreation (although I wish it could be my full-time job).

So that brings me to December 1. The day was spent still visiting with family in town for the holidays. I did at some point realize that my children will want to wear pants to school tomorrow, so I had to squeeze in a bit of laundry as well. I had to clean up Thanksgiving so I could start Christmas. About two or three weeks ago, it was about 65 degrees on a Saturday. I considered putting up my lights (not plugging them in of course). Instead, I took a nap. So today, in the 30 degree weather, I put up my lights. Mental note to self: naps are overrated and can be done when it is cold out.

I started decorating in the house, but decided to do it one box at a time, rather than have the hubs bring all 600 boxes up and try to do it in one fell swoop. I got a little done and am pleased that the house is starting to look like Christmas-y. I am now allowing Christmas carols to be played as well (they were banned before this weekend).

Because of the presence of two annoying young felines, I have had to make the decision that some of my more valuable decorations will not go out this year. This includes the Manger set that was my grandmother's, and that I have been putting out for 15 years. However, when the kids were really little, we bought them the Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set so they could have that to play with (in hopes that they would leave mine alone--it worked). So today, in a stroke of brilliance (in my mind at least), I asked my daughter to set that up instead. This way, if the boys (the alias for the cats) get into it, it will be no big deal (the table where the Manger is set up is one that they like to sit on and look out the window. Putting something breakable/valuable there is just asking for it to be broken).

We looked at the calendar and have one free night this week. We will be putting the tree up then. I like to have my tree up for as long as possible. Ironically, as a child, my parents never put the tree up until a few days before Christmas, and it was all because of me. My birthday is December 18th. My parents did an excellent job of separating my birthday from the holiday, so the tree never went up until after my birthday (although the rest of the house was decorated). In my own house, I like the tree, so I put it up right after Thanksgiving.

Slowly but surely, it will get done. But I'm not concerned if it doesn't. Because the perfect lights or the wreath hung just so are not what matters. What matters is my son luring me under the mistletoe so I will kiss him. What matters is my daughter feeling so proud that she gets to set up the Manger and that she is contributing to the decorations. What matters is the night that we will all sit and watch 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' and laugh when Snoopy kisses Lucy. What matters is how my children will learn to give to others and that Christmas is about giving and doing, not receiving.

But bring on (a little) snow because in the Biel house, it's beginning to look a little like Christmas.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Hey all-

I'm still here! I bet you thought I'd deserted my blog. I haven't, I've just been a bit tied up lately.

I started NaNo on November 1st. No, it is not some new high-tech thing. NaNo is short for "National Novel Writing Month." I don't know how NaNo came about, but the gist is that you write 50,000 words in 30 days. Why they picked November, I have no idea. With the holidays and all, it seems like pretty poor timing to me, but alas, here it is, and November is NaNo. In the genre under which I currently write (women's fiction, chick lit), a typical novel is 80,000 to 100,000 words. So, banging out 50,000 words in 30 days is quite the jump start. The math breaks down to 1,667 words per day. It doesn't seem like that much. When I sit down to write on the weekends, I can usually pump out around 2,000 to 3,000 words in a day. It is the weekdays that kill me.

Of course, the NaNo site has all sorts of fancy graphs to measure your progress and tell you your averages, and, at your current rate, when you are going to finish. I geek out over that sort of information.

So, at this point, NaNo is a big focus.

I'm also continuing to edit my second novel, Hold Her Down to get it ready for publication. Still trying to work out cover art, so if anyone wants to volunteer services, I'd happily accept.

In addition, because I don't have enough going on, I'm beta reading a novel for a fellow author. That involves reading and critiquing the story before she sends it on to her editor.

Oh, and then there are the trivial things, like work, home, the kids, the hubs, PTA, dance, etc., etc., etc. Just kidding. Those are my first priorities and all the other stuff comes second.

Other brief exciting news, and then I have to get back to NaNo'ing before the day starts ... Good Intentions will be available for purchase in a brick and mortar book store! As of today, Good Intentions will be on the shelf in Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, NY. I also had professional head shots done for a small magazine feature, so hopefully I'll have those soon. Good things are happening.

But if I'm off the radar for a little while, just assume I'm NaNo'ing. Or eating turkey.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Story Rope

My daughter is hard at work. Reading, analyzing, diagramming her story. She is trying hard to gather her materials, to be precise, to be accurate. She is working all weekend on this project. It is not homework, just what was her "take home" lesson from school. Monday morning, she cannot wait to show her teacher what she has done. She is proud of her work. She should be. She did a good job. She read the book. She made a story rope with her custom illustrated version of the story, in detail right down to the colors she used. She identified the title and author, the setting, the characters, the problem and the solution. And I hate it. Because she is six, and the story is "The Three Little Kittens." She should be working on reading, and decoding her words. She should be absorbing the language, appreciating the verse and cadence of the words. Letting the phrases roll off her tongue in a melodious way, savoring the rhymes. Looking at the pictures, seeing how the illustrations support the words. But no, instead, she is breaking the story into little tiny bits, analyzing the setting (a house), the characters (the three little kittens), the problem (they lost their mittens) and the solution (they found them). She has had a wonderful time breaking apart her story into little tiny bits and drawing her pictures. She cut each one out and mounted it on tape so that it hangs like a mobile or wind chime. Ironically, she cannot read the story by herself, because it is too hard. She relies on the pictures to help her. It is not necessarily developmentally inappropriate (children become fluent readers between the ages of 7 and 9, regardless of what the curriculum says). She should be working on the basic skills, like vowel sounds and letter combinations (digraphs? dipthongs? when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking?). She should be building her tolerance for the written word. She should be listening to stories, letting the language flow around her and nourish her brain. But no, she is asking me how to spell the word "solution." But when she is doing her math homework and has a word problem (insert "WTF?" right here, because she is six, can barely read and has math word problems), she will tell me that she doesn't want to read because it is math and she shouldn't have to. She never wants to sit down and read. She gives a half-ass effort when she does have to read, on her scheduled 20 nights per month. She tells me that reading is boring and she hates it. This slices through my heart. I cannot remember a time when I didn't read. I was that child, reading in Kindergarten. I was abnormal. I always have a book with me. I like to read so much that I started writing my own books. And now my daughter does not like to read. Do we even wonder why? These Common Core Standards, so developmentally inappropriate and so poorly implemented by New York State, have sucked all of the fun out of learning. My daughter is a typically developing child. She can handle the rigor of the work that New York feels she should be doing, but she does not want to be doing it. Because she wants to be a child. She is six. Her brain is not yet fully developed. She is still a sensory motor learner. And we know this because she is telling us. Instead of sitting down with a book, she is drawing and cutting and taping. She is standing while she does this, and she is up and down, moving all about while she works on her project. She is talking, narrating what she does. She is mimicking her teacher, teaching us as she has been taught. The two-dimensional aspect of reading is not appealing to her. She has to make it tactile and the project itself has the movement which her body so needs. She does not have ADHD. She is simply six, and she is a motor leaner. Like all five and six year-olds should be. My daughter has a wonderful teacher, and is in a wonderfully supportive public school. But her skills are already splintering. She can dissect a story, but cannot read it. She writes stories, but cannot properly form her letters. She has a robust vocabulary, but cannot sound out the words to attempt to spell them. Without a solid foundation, her skills will remain splintered and I fear she will struggle for the rest of her life to build a house on sand rather than on a firm foundation. This is as a direct result of the Common Core Standards. She is six. It really should be as simple as, "Three little kittens have lost their mittens."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Calgon, Take Me Away

I am the victim of a war.

It is a war between my brain and my body.  Right now, my body is winning.

First of all, I'm not getting any younger here, although I refuse to accept that.  However, while I am not getting any younger, it means I am getting older.  As such, I have older-person (i.e. adult) responsibilities.   I have two kids who depend on me.  I need to be there for them, to be their mom.  To provide unconditional love and support, guidance and reassurance.  To give them a moral and ethical foundation that will make them decent human beings some day.  Kids these days are busy.  We don't even do that many activities in the grand scheme, but there is so much running.  I am out of the house every single day doing something or other that pertains to the kids.  It is tiring, but I know these times will be gone before I know it.  I am trying to find the joy and satisfaction in running Mom's Taxi Service.

I have a husband that needs me to support him in various ways.  Sometimes he realizes it, but sometimes he doesn't.

I have a job that is very draining on me right now.  It is emotionally depleting my reserves.  It is also physically demanding, with more work than I can physically, mentally and logistically handle.  I am defeated.

I am trying to begin a second career as a writer.  This takes so much energy and focus.  I want this to succeed.  I don't seem to have the time or energy to focus how I would like to.

In other words, I'm completely and totally burnt out.

And my body is going on strike.

About four years ago, I got the flu.  It was the typical flu, with the exception of the fact that it was in June.  After that, every time I got run down and a little sick, I end up getting very sick.  So, the little cold that I've been fighting turns into something so much more.  I get terrible, excruciating joint pain.  My ankles, knees, hips, elbows and hands are most affected.  Then, I spike a fever.  Like 103 fever.  The fatigue is crushing.  I get really, really sick and miserable.  I can barely get out of bed.  After my flu bout, I had about six episodes like that in a little over a year. I went to the doctor.  He listened, and we discussed possible options.  He felt it was most likely Epstein-Barr, and there is no way to treat it.  That test came back negative.  As did the one for Lyme Disease.

Blood test after blood test.  When I was sick, my blood work was very off.  I got sent to Rheumatologist.  I had, of course, researched what this could possibly be.  I felt certain that it was something auto-immune, as it always occurred with being sick and run down.  I was prepared for her to tell me it was Rheumatoid arthritis, or even Stills Disease (Adult-onset Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis).  I was not prepared for the Rheumatologist to tell me that she thought I had a malignancy (either lymphoma or multiple myeloma) or a severe form of vasculitis.  I was sent to an Oncologist. Based on my blood work, he ruled out cancer, but everyone has been left scratching their heads.

My primary and I have come to the conclusion that I do have some sort of auto-immune disease.  When my immune system is actively fighting an infection, whether it be a cold, a sinus infection or a bladder infection, if I am run down and do not have enough reserves, my body goes into hyperdrive and begins attacking everything, even my own joints.

Since figuring this out, I have avoided an episode by listening to my body.  I've had to at times leave work undone, and decline activities.  And this is what is going on right now.  I have a cold.  I have a terrible amount of stress from work.  And we're crazy busy.  This morning, I was supposed to take Jake to perform community service on the farm for the Northeast Regional Food Bank.  He didn't really want to go, but I feel it is important for him to help others who are not nearly as fortunate as we are.  But after being in pain all day yesterday, I just knew that 90 minutes of manual labor in the cold was probably not the best idea.

Thankfully, my husband stepped in and took Jake.  While I still need to go grocery shopping and work on Halloween costumes, I was able to come home from church (did I mention that we had to get up early to go to 7:30 mass to be able to do the Scouting project?) and rest.  Even with coffee at breakfast, I still came home and went back to sleep for a little while.  I had to force myself to rest, even though I know I have tons of stuff to do.

There is where the war is.  My brain won't slow down.  It wants to keep going and going and going.  Any my body is saying STOP!!!  I don't want to stop.  My life won't let me stop.

I just wish it could slow down.

Okay, rest and whining time over.  Time for some ibuprofen and then I'll get back to sewing.  I'll do the groceries later on in the day.  Thanks for listening.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bulleted Points

It is a gorgeous fall weekend, and I cannot get my head together to come up with a cohesive blog post.  So here is a non-cohesive one.  This is pretty much what my brain is like 90% of the time....

I'm even gonna make it a bulleted list, well, just because I'm being lazy about the whole thing.

  • Halloween costumes are underway.  We're going as a family of ninjas.  I'm going as a ninja disguised as a Geisha, so I'm even more stealth than the rest.  Sophia will be a hybrid ninja/geisha.  All is well and good, with the exception of my fabric choice.  I brought some beautiful brocade and costume satin to make the costumes out of.  I knew the satin might be difficult to work with, but I did not anticipate that the fabrics (both kinds) would immediately start to unravel and fall apart once cut.  I was quite resourceful, however, and discovered that running all cut ends through a flame will essentially melt the material, forming a seal.  The kids are fascinated by this process, although I think it distresses Sophia to have an open flame in the house.  I stopped burning candles a long time ago, and they are just not used to it.  

  • I had a mini-crisis this week, as my vacuum cleaner broke.  It was not sucking stuff up, the light was on and there was this burning smell.  The vacuum is over 9 years old, but still, I was pissed at having to replace it already.  With having cats and allergies, vacuuming is a must on a frequent basis.  So, I remembered a Facebook conversation someone had about getting a vacuum cleaner/carpet steamer, and thought that would be a really good idea.  I looked at the conversation and went and bought it.  It wasn't until I got the stupid thing home (and assembled) that I realized it was a steamer only, and that I was still in need of a vacuum.  Of, and they recommend that you vacuum before steaming, so I couldn't even take the steamer out for a test drive.

  • I was still in need of a vacuum.  About to go to Sears to purchase a newer model of exactly what I have, my husband (the engineer) decided to take a look.  Extensive diagnostics and the use of a wire hanger revealed the problem to be a sock wedged in the hose.  No need for a new vacuum cleaner at the moment.  Pat Biel saves the day.

  • Last week I hit the 100 mark for copies sold of Good Intentions.  In celebration, I lowered the price on e-copies (through KoboNook, and Kindle) to $1.00.  The price is going back up tonight, so get yours now, if you haven't already.

  • Red Sox are in the playoffs.  I cannot believe they lost last night.  I wish the games were on a bit earlier, as I had trouble staying awake.  Ok, I did actually fall asleep.  But I really, really need them to win this year.  Why?  Read this to understand why I need the Red Sox to win the World Series to prove that I am not responsible for all the losses.
  • The Common Core Curriculum continues to get me down.  It is so wrong on so many levels, the least of which is how developmentally inappropriate it is.  State Ed really needs to be held accountable.  And fast.  Read this article and take the time to watch the video to understand what is going on behind the scenes.  I refuse to accept that this is acceptable education.  I am thankful everyday that my children have quality teachers who continue to educate in spite of the Common Core.

  • Sophia unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher for my yesterday.  She was beaming with pride.  How can I keep her motivated to keep doing it with a smile on her face?

  • Jake is growing up way too fast.  It kind of breaks my heart when I think back to when he was a little kid.  Of course, he did pretty much give me a heart attack the other night.  I was in a sound sleep (which is not that common for me), when I hear Jake say "Mom."  I open my eyes, and his face was about 2 inches from mine.  I think he may have taken a year or two off then.  I told him from now on, what ever he needs, just do it.  I don't care.  Don't scare me like that again!

  • I know this is totally not PC, but I'm so happy for Columbus Day.  I don't care why we have the day off, I just know we all need one right about now.  Except for Pat.  He doesn't get the day off.  But if the government can't get its crap together, he's going to be furloughed, so that's lots of days off for him. 
For now, I'll leave you with this.  This is me.  All the time...

Funny Workplace Ecard: Men, if you ever wanna know what a woman's mind is like, imagine a browser with 3,241 tabs open. All.The.Time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Two Things Every Woman Needs

Every woman needs a best friend like the one I have.  Throughout my life, I have had many friends.  A few were very close friends that I have given the term "best" to.  As my life has changed and evolved, my relationships have as well.  Never in a million years would I ever have imagined that I would have the privilege of having a best friend like Michele.

Michele and I went to high school together.  We were aquantiences, but our school was pretty small.  We traveled in smaller circles that were part of a larger circle.  I didn't really know her, but didn't have a favorable opinion of her.  She felt similarly about me.  A few years back, a mutual friend "reunited" us.  I wasn't thrilled about seeing her again.  But the years had changed us, and we found ourselves talking frequently, with a lot in common.  We have similar views on parenting and marriage.  We have similar likes.  Our husbands get along well.  Our children are remarkably similar.

She was the first person (other than my husband) who I told about writing a book.  She actually read it as it was being finished, and did the first edits on it.  On July 19, 2011, Michele came to my house when I was having a family party.  Not only did she take fabulous pictures of my family (which would be our last, since my grandmother passed away three months later), but she brought a printed copy of Good Intentions.  It sat in my room in the binder from Michele for almost two years.  She listened to me agonize over it.  She read it again (and again) to help with edits.

And Michele has been my number one PR agent.  She talks up the book to everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) she knows.  I know she is personally responsible for not only buying my very first book when it was released on Nook, but was also responsible for a good percentage of the sales.  She even had a t-shirt made up for Good Intentions.

We joke that she is my agent/publicist/manager.  I tell her that she is going to get 10% of my royalties.  Of course, that currently adds up to a whopping sum of about $1.75 for her at the moment.  I keep telling her she can almost buy a cup of coffee.  She's holding out for a Starbucks though, and I'm not sure that will ever happen (but I can dream).  We joke (but secretly wish) about the day that I will go on a book tour and make public appearances, and she will travel with me to keep me in line.

I am humbled and honored to have a friend who does so much for me, just out of the goodness of her heart.  She does insist that I name a character 'Michele' in every book, and is currently displeased about the minimal and negative role 'Michele' plays in my second novel.  As I type this right now, she's reading (or at least supposed to be!) the very first version of my second novel.  I consider her my Alpha reader.  These books are like my children, and she is one of the few people I trust with my baby.

If you're lucky, you'll get a Michele in your life.  If I ever make it big, I know that I will owe a large part of it to Michele.

(We will need to come up with new poses for the publicity tour)


Oh, the second thing every woman needs is Spanx.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Is it only Monday?

You know you're in for it when your alarm doesn't go off first thing Monday morning and you oversleep.  Then, when you get to work, you promptly get a phone call because you were supposed to be at a meeting somewhere else.  Yep, one of those days...

I was very scattered this morning, which is not really like me.  But I have good reason to be scattered.  In the midst of a crazy busy weekend, I decided to sit down and try to finish reading what I have on my second book.  Since retrieving my hard drive, I've been re-reading my writing, trying to figure out where to go with the story.  I knew I was about to wrap it up, but wasn't sure exactly how I was going to do that.  I had gone into writing this story with a preconceived notion about where it was going.  But once I got there, I changed my mind.  Anyway, after I got the kiddos in bed last night, I decided to read what I had written.  I got to the end, and it was literally in the middle of the scene.  An idea jumped into my head and I just started writing.  And as I wrote the scene, I realized that this was it.  I was able to wrap up the story.  I was done.

I had finished my second novel.

I'm not sure about this one.  It's totally different than Good Intentions.  This one is told from the third person, rather than the first.  There is no humor in this one-- it is darker and heavier.  I felt like I was trying to expand my writing chops so to speak while working on this one.  Some of it is definitely stepping outside my comfort zone.

I learned that in this process, the people who read your book prior to release are called Beta readers.  Right now, my book is with my Alpha reader.  She is the first person to read anything I write, and if I ever make it big someday, she's going to be the person who keeps me in line and keeps me from missing meetings.  (Obviously, she slacked off this morning.)  Because this novel is so different from the last, I'm more nervous about the story line.  But now that it's done, I can revise and tweak and edit (and correct and correct and correct).  But that is all I want to do.  I want to get this one moving.

Now comes some big I try to get an agent and publishing deal, or do I stick with the Indie route?  What about a cover?  My last cover was one that I designed (using the CreateSpace program) with a photograph that I took.  In a perfect world, I would hire a photographer and model for this one.  I know what I would like the cover to look like, but I'm not sure I can make that happen.  I have a tentative working title, but I'm holding on to it for right now.

So, this is where my mind has been today.  Good thing I got dinner in the crock pot this morning and hopefully won't have to think too much for the rest of the day.  I can't believe it's only Monday.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

Hey, anyone wanna guess what this blog post is about?

This week, Yvonne at Fiction Books is featuring Good Intentions for Mailbox Monday.  What's pretty exciting about this is Yvonne is in the U.K., so this could be an international break for me.  Bloggers like Yvonne (and Naida at ...the bookworm..., Marlene at Book Mama Blog, Charlotte at A Novel Review and the gals at Chick Lit Central) are such a huge force in the literary world, especially for indie authors like myself.  These ladies have taken the time to read my work or promote it in someway to get the word out to more and more people.  I'm fairly certain that, if (when), I hit it big, it will be because of bloggers like this awesome group.

[That being said, there are a few more bloggers who have Good Intentions in their TBR piles.  Anxiously awaiting those reviews!]

Also, at the suggestion of my PR manager (a.k.a., my BFF who is working for free at this job), I've created a Facebook page.  This is a public page, so please invite everyone you know to check it out.  I've done this in order to separate my personal, private page from the word I'm trying to spread to the public.  Also, this way, I can stop bombarding friends and family who really don't care about my endeavors.  While I may still update occasionally about book stuff on my private FB page, all book related stuff will definitely be shared on the Kathryn R. Biel:  Author page.

Thanks for bearing with me on another shameless plug for Good Intentions.  If you haven't read it yet, please check it out!  If you have read it (and thank you so much!), please write a review for it.  You can write one review and post it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, as well as Goodreads.  The more reviews, the more people will talk and the more likely people will take notice.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Scripted Play

My son is on the autism spectrum.  He's not the typical "autistic" kid, although that is the diagnosis that seems to fit closest (although not best).  One of the interesting things about him has always been his scripted play.  From a very early age (about two years old), Jake could recite things, and that is how he played.  We would find him with his toys, narrating an episode of Blue's Clues, but changing the names to "Jake" and "Mom," or something like that.  Not even really understanding what it was at the time, we all thought it was really neat.  He was never one for spontaneous play, where he set up elaborate scenes.  Even to this day, his play is not very verbal.

When Jake started school, we used to laugh at his play.  He would come home and play school.  We would overhear him, even if he was in his room by himself, talking.  Reciting, verbatim, scenes from the school day.  We could tell exactly what went on in the classroom, or the library, or on the bus.  Thanks to his excellent memory, and despite the fact that he did not often tell us about his day, we had good insight as to how he was being treated in school.

Now, Jake's sister is the total opposite.  She disappears into her room or the playroom, and sets up elaborate scenes.  Her toys act out complex dynamic relationships, complete with sound effects.  She loves animals, and has a whole set of animal "action figures."  The noises they "make" are hysterical.  She very verbal.  Excessively so.  What Jake struggles with pragmatically, she has in spades.

Sophia is in first grade.  She is the reluctant student.  Although curious by nature, she has bucked against learning to read.  She could careless about how she forms her letters, and doesn't take the time to sound out her words to attempt to spell them correctly.  She has trouble with how she holds her pencil (and crayons and markers).  Although bright, she only seems invested in school for the social aspect.  However, her teacher (who is the same one who had Jake) must be working wonders.  Sophia is getting praised for her effort and hard work.

Tonight, Sophia brought me her supplies (paper, pencil with grip, crayons and markers) and said, "I want to write a book.  Will you help me check my words for spelling?" So, she's sitting here next to me, writing and illustrating her book (which will be a gift for her teacher).  We're working on the grip.  She's attempting to spell the words first, and writing carefully.  Her first page was about art class.  She drew a detailed picture.  While drawing the picture, I realize that she is explaining to me how art class works, just as it had been explained to her.  Tonight, she's engaging in scripted play.

I feel like we've come full circle.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Eleventh of September

For my generation, September 11, 2001 is that pivotal day when everyone remembers exactly where they were when they heard the news of the devastating terror attacks.  My story is no different.  However, if you follow the blog and read my post last week, then you could have figured out that I was on my honeymoon when the events of that day went down.  And for the rest of my life, when people talk about "that morning," to me it will always be "that afternoon," as Pat and I were six hours ahead in France.  Being such a world-changing event, I obviously included the day in my honeymoon scrapbook, although we took no pictures that day.  I wrote a long narrative and have included the Time Magazine that covered the story, as well as a copy of 'Le Monde,' which is the main Parisian newspaper, from 9/12/01 in my scrapbook.

Here is my narrative from my scrapbook, describing the day from my perspective:

***We spent our last night in Nice in the Comfort Inn.  Unable to fall asleep, despite our early, impending arousal, I watched a Bosnian movie subtitled in French.  I had gotten fed up with CNN (the only English-speaking channel) and their stories of Michael Jordan's return to the NBA.  My sleep that night was repeatedly interrupted by dreams of fire.  I awoke several times, planning how to flee the hotel with our important belongings.  The alarm went off around 4:45 a.m.  We checked out and walked through the dark streets to the train station.  The desk clerk had told us the train station was 2 blocks away-- it was a bit further.  [More like 6 or 8, from what I remember]  Our train ride was uneventful.  I slept most of the way.  After retrieving our extra bags, we got a taxi.  Unfortunately, the driver spoke neither English nor French.  He had never heard of Rue de le Bouteaux, but he knew Rue de le Pouteaux, so he figured it was a typo.  After a 45 minute taxi ride, we arrived at the street.  There was no hotel, but the taxi driver unloaded all eight bags and demanded 160 franc.  We were stranded.  We started to walk to the nearest taxi stand, but couldn't make it.  Finally, Pat left me with the bags and went ahead to the taxi stand.  It began to rain.  Feeling the lowest of low, I was about to give up when I saw a mini-van taxi pull up with Pat in the back, smiling like a knight in shining armor.  We were successfully delivered to our hotel, Hotel Villiers, but we were angry at being taken advantage of.  The concierge did not have our reservation, but we were finally able to get a room.  We got to our room just before 3 p.m.  On CNN, we saw that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.  Our first reaction was disbelief-- I mean, who couldn't see the big building in front of you! At this time, we thought it was a small CENSA. Our second reaction was relief--the odds of second plane crashing in the same week was good prognosis for our return trip.  At that point, Pat left to go survey the area (we thought we were in the ghetto).  I sat on the bed watching CNN as they interviewed eyewitnesses.  I saw the 2nd plane and initially thought it was the media.  Then, there was the 2nd explosion.  I thought the top of the North Tower was going to topple then.  Then, it was learned that one of the planes was a Boeing 767 from American Airlines, which was what we were supposed to fly out on, on that Saturday.  We watched in horror as the events unfolded and the South Tower collapsed.  We left briefly to get something to eat, but all the radios were broadcasting in French.  We returned to our hotel to find the World Trade Center gone and part of the Pentagon destroyed.  We then began the frantic phone calls homes.  The phone lines to NY were a mess, so the panic continued for a few hours.  We did recognize that life had changed forever, and that the world would never be the same.***

At the time, I had two cousins who worked in NYC.  One actually worked in the World Trade Center.  Both of those cousins are the same age as I am, and had attended our wedding just a week before.  We were very lucky that both were safe that day.  My brother was stationed in England at the time, so we had a contingency plan to go to England, in the event that we could not fly back to JFK.  This brother lost co-workers and colleagues in the Pentagon that day.  My college roommate lost her cousin.

The next day, Pat and I actually had one of our favorite days of the whole trip.  We went to Sacre-Coeur, where I lit candles for the unfortunate victims and their families.

Just four days after the attacks, Pat and I had to fly home.  Air travel was at a virtual standstill, with many flights still being grounded.  No one from American Airlines could tell us if we would be able to fly back.  JFK was scheduled to open up that day, but it was unsure.  We went to Charles de Gaulle 6 hours early, and just waited all day.  We boarded the plane virtually on time, but then sat anxiously on the plane for about an hour while they did background checks on the entire passenger manifest.  At one point, some sort of special agent (in a suit, and with a holstered gun) came onto the plane, escorted by two American Airline employees and ran to the back of the plane.  Everyone was on edge and nervous, literally holding their breath.  A moment later, the captain came on and said, "You may have noticed an Air Marshall and American Airlines employees board the plane.  There is no problem; they merely wanted to say 'hi' to the crew before take-off."  There was a collective sigh of relief.  The flight was a long eight hours, with everyone nervous about making it to our destination.  When we touched down, at about 1 a.m., EST, there was a collective round of applause for the captain and crew.  I know I felt like I wanted to kiss the American soil.  My dad and brother were waiting for us, so we quickly loaded our bags and were off, headed back to Albany.  Driving around NYC that night, the smoke from what would soon be known as Ground Zero was still billowing as if there were fire present.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bed-side Manner

Although I'm sort of having a small career identity crisis at the moment, very rarely have I second-guessed my decision to become a physical therapist.  Occasionally, I think that I should have gone to medical school, but that thought is often fleeting.  With the imminent danger of Obama-care looming, I'm often comfortable in my decision.

In fact, I often marvel that I was fortunate enough to figure out, at the age of 18, what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I went to a top-tier program and did fairly well there (once I figured out that attending class was actually necessary for passing said class).  While the economy was bad when I graduated, it took me less than a year to find employment, and I have been steadily employed since.  Often, I even have two or three part-time jobs in my field.

Sometimes, working in the school is thankless.  Just like any job, there are people who make your days more challenging.  And just like any rewarding job, there are the intangibles that you cannot put a price tag on.  The joy of a child's first steps.  The relief of new equipment.  The comforting words and care when there are no other options.  And in outpatient, there is often the immediate pain relief or return of function.

One of the aspects I enjoy most about being a physical therapist is the educational aspect.  Educating patients about their bodies and how their body is supposed to work (as opposed to how it is currently working), and how that relates to their pain and dysfunction.  Healing and re-learning skills and movement patterns takes time.  Being able to arm the patient with knowledge helps them to understand how and why quick fixes may not always be possible.  It gives me the time to help them heal.

When my son was just an infant, I went back to school for my doctorate.  The PT profession was moving towards a doctoral level profession in an attempt to gain professional autonomy (so that patients may directly access physical therapy services without first having to go through the rigmarole of physicians and specialists).  I agreed with the thinking, and pursued my degree.  I have a clinical doctorate (Doctorate in Physical Therapy, or DPT).  It earns me the title "Doctor" as long as I follow with the PT credentials.  It is a comparable degree to a Doctor of Dental Science (DDS), a Doctor of Optometry (OD), a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), or a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD).  Although my doctorate has not been financially worthwhile, I value the education that I received, and I hope that my patients benefit from my additional schooling, in addition to my 14 years of practice.

So, this morning, I found myself at an "Immediate Care" medical facility.  An urgent care.  A doc-in-a-box.  I try NEVER to utilize these types of places.  I feel the care is not only substandard, but can, at times, be detrimental.  I have an excellent relationship with my physician, but alas, my body LOVES to become in need of medical attention on the weekends.  My physician  understands me and my medical background, and most often defers to my judgement.  He knows that if I'm seeking help, then it is a valid problem.  He also knows that I know what I'm talking about, and that I do my research. I very rarely see the doctor for myself, trying to treat myself with preventative and over the counter remedies when possible.   Alas, I have an infection that requires antibiotic treatment.  Being Saturday morning, I am forced into going to the doc-in-a-box.

The parking situation is not ideal.  The front desk staff is rude.  I put up with it, knowing that I need that antibiotic.  And as much as I hate to have to take an antibiotic, I know my condition needs one.  I also know that I am allergic to the three most common antibiotics used to treat my condition, and I know I'm going to get flack for requesting the specific antibiotic that I am able to tolerate and that has been successful in treating me in the past.  But what I did not expect was this ...

The nurse taking my medical history, on her last question, asked me my profession.  I responded, "Physical therapist."  She then asked me if I had my PhD.  I did not want to correct her and get into the whole clinical doctorate discussion, so I just replied, "Yes."  To which she replied, "Well, that's dumb."  I was taken aback and calmly said, "While it has not had the financial benefit that I had hoped, I don't regret the schooling I've had.  I can read my patient's MRI's when they bring them in, and explain them to them.  I can discuss with my patients how their medications may be effecting them."

She nodded, and said, "Yeah, I guess. My friend's boyfriend is just completing the PT program at ______ College.  He's been working so hard, and I'm like, 'That's so dumb, why don't you just be a real doctor!'"

I again calmly explained to her why being a PT was a valid career choice, including being able to balance family and career, and getting to see patients for more than 4 minutes, which is the average length of time an orthopedic physician spends with a patient.  I explained and validated myself way too much to this ignorant woman.  She left, and I stewed for a moment.

When the physician came in, after his lackluster exam, I asked him who the woman was who took my history.  He told me that she was an LPN and was working towards her BSN.  I told him what she said.  And, professional "real doctor" that he was, laughed.  He kept laughing, even though I told him that I was highly offended at her comments.  He tried to justify it, saying she was young and that she and her friends are in the frustrating position of having degrees, but are unable to find work.  He finally said, "Oh, I'm sure you are very successful at what you do" in a patronizing voice.

I guess, when you're in school to be a "real doctor," they don't teach you how not to be an asshole.

So, local readers, avoid the Urgent Care on Troy-Schenectady Road.  Unless you feel like being insulted.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Blahs

I hope this post doesn't come off sounding too whiney or complain-y.  I'm just in a bit of a weird spot right now, and want to process through writing.  Take this as an expression of my thoughts and feelings, but please give me good advice if you have it.

I'm stuck.  I don't know what to do or how to proceed.

I have my book.  I'm happy that I published it.  Now, I need to figure out how to sell it.  I spent two years trying to get agents to look at it, but to no avail, which is why I went the indie route in the first place.  As I told someone yesterday, publishing is easy.  Selling is hard.  This is why there is big bucks in marketing.  But now what do I do?  I'm sure all of my family and friends are tired of hearing me talk about my book.  I've sent it out for reviews.  Two have come back very favorable, but I only sold a handful of books from it (although any is better than none!).  I'm waiting on a few more reviews.  One, I think may never happen.  The other will happen, but it may take up to a year.  However, that blog has over 22,000 followers, so that could literally make or break me.  But now, I sit and wait.  But I'm not so patient, you see.  I want the instant, overnight success that Colleen Hoover (who is totally awesome, BTW) and E.L. James have had.  I want to wake up one morning and have sold hundreds of books in a day.  I want to be invited to author events and hold book signings.  I want to be an author.

I don't know how to get there, though.  I get emails from various sites who will market my book.  Are they legit?  How do I know what is a worthwhile expenditure?  How do I know if I'm just getting ripped off?  Should I pay for a Kirkus review?  Should I send to agents again?  Do I drop the price of my e-books in hopes of selling lots more?  Why are there terrible books out there that have sold thousands of copies but I've only sold 89?

And then, there is the second book.  As I may have mentioned, I was about 65,000 words in (more than 75% from my goal) when my computer died.  I have about 75% of it backed up, but haven't tried re-creating it, because I'm hoping my hard drive can be recovered. The hubs ordered something to do that (insert computer-geek-speak here), so hopefully I will know soon.  I just got my new computer three days ago, so writing was seriously derailed for most of August.

Even without that roadblock, I'm a little stuck.  This new book is totally different.  It is darker and heavier, and lacks the humor that Good Intentions has.  It is a departure for me, partially reflecting my mood and partially me wanting to stretch and grow as a writer.  Since I have no formal training as a writer, I pretty much write by the seat of my pants (which makes me a "pantser" rather than a "plotter").  With Good Intentions, I didn't know where the story was going.  I didn't know who she was going to end up with.  Once I figured it out, I went back and manipulated the story to better support the outcome.  With the new book, I have a better idea about where it is going, but I'm at a point that I don't know how to get there.

A lot of times, while writing, I go back, review what I've written, edit and change things and then am able to continue writing the story.  Right now, I don't have the last 4+ chapters that I wrote, so I don't really know where I was.  I finally started writing again today, and when I get the rest of my material back, I'll bridge it together if it doesn't already fit.

I think the difficulty with writing has deterred me from writing more, if that makes any sense.  I worked a lot more this summer than I had planned, so I didn't have as much free time (or energy) to spend on this project as I had hoped.  For a while, I was very excited about what I was writing, feeling that it was stronger than my first novel, but that energy has somewhat waned.

Thanks to a warped sense of humor and a very good friend, I was inspired last night for my next novel.  And then, when talking about it today, ideas kept flying at me.  And I got excited again.

My excitement was short-lived however.  Still looming over me is how to sell Good Intentions, and how to remain inspired over work #2.  I jotted down my ideas for #3 so I don't forget them.  But I want to work on that project.  However, I've come too far with #2 to abandon it though.  I need to push forward.

I need to remain optimistic, and not let myself become dejected.  Originally, I had hoped to sell 100 books.  I'm 11 away from that goal.  I think it will happen. That goal is within reach. But now that I'm that close, I want to sell 1,000 or 10,000.  I need to keep focused and be patient.  Easier said than done.

Thanks all for listening, and letting me have my outlet.  Writing is my therapy, whether it is novel or blog form.  Any advice would be appreciated, if anyone out there has it.

And for my local peeps, you can check out two of my friends who have made it, Eric Devine and Dennis Mahoney at Troy Author Day on October 9, 2013.  I was lucky to know both of these guys in high school, and am utterly impressed at what wonderful writers they have become.  My goal is to one day be considered in the same breath, and maybe, just maybe, have a signing with them as well.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A dozen...

A dozen eggs does not go very far.  A dozen doughnuts travels even less far.  But today, I'm reflecting on another dozen that seemed to fly away in the blink of an eye.

A dozen years of marriage.

Twelve years ago today, I left Kate Kopach behind and became Kathryn Biel.  I was so very sure of my decision.  Well, except for those brief moments the day before when Pat almost missed the rehearsal.  Then I questioned everything.  By the wedding day, I was nervous, anxious even, but sure of my decision.

I can't picture my life any differently.  Sure, sometimes I try.  Sometimes, like when I hear music from my college days, I wax nostalgically upon days gone by and wish for another chance.  But when I am honest with myself, I know that this is all I've ever wanted.

Sure, there are days (or nights, depending on what we're going through), that I play the "If only" game.  There are times when I want to hit my husband in the head with a frying pan.  There are days when I want to pull my hair out.  There are moments when I want to run away.  But all those moments are fleeting, and are often a result of my own shortcomings in being able to deal with this thing called life.

Marriage is tough work.  No doubt about it.  But I cannot picture my life with anyone but Pat in it  (Ok, maybe Henry Cavill, if you really pressed me for an answer).  Some days are easy.  Some are so unbelievably hard that I don't think we'll survive.  But we do, and we come out stronger for it.

When we laugh together, everything cements together, stronger for the next time something tries to shake us.  Our children further provide the glue that binds our family together.  We, Pat and I, created this life together.  We built the people, we designed the house.  We sculpt the roles so that each of us becomes a better person.  I often get irritated when upon hearing that we have a boy and a girl, people will say, "Oh you have the perfect family!"  Having a boy and a girl does not make us perfect.  Our four personalities together, the dynamics we have created, that is what makes us perfect and complete.

Here I was a dozen years ago:

I totally smashed the cake on Pat's face, but only after he did it to me first.  I had warned him not to do it.  In hindsight, I wish I hadn't done that, but we were having fun.  That is one of the things that makes Pat and I work--our senses of humor mesh well.  Not everyone else finds me so amusing.

Here is a good shot of our wedding party.  Now, between all of us, there are FIFTEEN children!  The ring bearer is starting his freshman year at St. John's (Good luck, Tony!) and the Jr. Bridesmaid is on a semester abroad in Italy (Divertirsi, Genny!).  We had good friends and family who stood by us and made our day special.
Oh, see the bridesmaid directly behind me?  We got married on her birthday.  Happy Birthday Christine!
 So, as I type this from my new computer (which was my anniversary present--he's getting a weed wacker, which is not nearly as fun), I just want to say, I can't wait to see what the next dozen hold for us.

Happy Anniversary!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This is totally an opinion piece, which means it's MY opinion.  Feel free to disagree, but keep it respectable.

The media this week is ablaze with Miley Cyrus critiques, criticism, and other bashing due to her over-the-top performance at the VMA's.  I haven't watched the VMA's in about 15 years, but I had to see what all the fuss was about.  So, I went onto You Tube and watched the video.  And, like 99% of the world, I was horrified and disgusted.  Here it is, if you haven't had a chance to see it yet:

 Yep, pretty disgusting. No doubt about it.  I read some articles about it here and there, including one that talked about MTV bleeping out "molly" in the song, due to it's frank reference to drug use.  I watched the video for Miley's song, "We Can't Stop" and then watched the VMA clip again. (The video for "We Can't Stop is highly reminiscent of Fiona Apple's "Criminal.")

Ok, so I was still disgusted, but for a different reason.  One of the main critiques of Miley's performance was her "twerking."  Frankly, I had to google what twerking was.  I still wasn't sure from reading the description, so I had to google videos, which explained it pretty well.

This kind of dance move has been around for years.  Hello, Rump Shaker anyone?  But back to Miley.  Why is everyone criticizing her twerking all over the place, when her back up dancers were doing EXACTLY the same thing?  No one seems to mention the dozens of other women up there shaking their money makers in scarcely any clothing.  Frankly, much of the performance was a hybrid of the "We Can't Stop" and "Give It 2 U" videos.

Directly.  So, it's fine for a man to sing with mostly naked women twerking around him, but it's not alright for a woman to sing while twerking semi-dressed.  Huh?

The VMA's has a long history of artist's pushing the envelope.  Why is this so different?  Madonna's "Like a Virgin?"  Brittney's "Slave for You?"  Lady Gaga's whatever performance.  Lady Gaga ended up clothed in even less than Miley did by the end of the night, but no one (besides the Will Smith family) seemed to take offense.

Are people offended because Miley was once a Disney darling and now she's gone over the edge?  Brittney, Christina (who can forget their kisses with Madonna or her video for "Dirrrrty"), Linsday Lohan, Amanda Bynes.  Yep, all sweet and innocent still.  Right.

People need to get over the face that Miley Cyrus is now a woman.  A young woman, but she is no longer a child.  She has a right to try to expand her market and her style.  If nameless backup dancers can grind up on Robin Thicke, then why is it wrong for Miley to do so?

That being said, do I think she is in desperate need of some style guidance?  Oh definitely.  She is beautiful and has a good singing voice.  I'd kill for her body.  I think it's pretty obvious that she isn't a strong dancer, hence the gyrating.  But she needs to wear pants when out in public.  Her hair looked terrible.  It looked terrible on Gwen Steffani 10 years ago as well.  On stage, her outfit, though ugly, was no less revealing that anything Pink, Katy Perry, Rihanna, or Lady Gaga wears.  However, that does not mean that it was flattering.  It was not.  Not at all.

Someone needs to sit her down and explain the difference between being sexy and simulating sex acts.  She would be a whole lot more sexy if she stopped rubbing herself with a giant foam finger.  And please, for the love of God, tell her to keep her tongue in her mouth.  Unless you're at the doctor and they're trying to look at your tonsils, there is no excuse for your tongue to be out like that.  I'm not saying needs to be prim and proper, but there's a fine line and Miley crossed it about a mile ago.

And to all the people who say that she's a bad role model.  Yep, she is.  So are lots of singers (Rihanna anyone?).  Her songs are not necessarily appropriate for my children.  Which means we don't listen to them while my kids are in the car.  I change the station.  Just like I do when "Whistle,"  "S&M," "Last Friday Night," or "Same Love" are on.  My children are 6 & 9, and there are some things they do not need to be listening to.  Frankly, even the history of the VMA's dictates that it is not a child-friendly show.  I don't know why kids would be watching it to begin with.  Plus, my kids are heading to bed when it even starts.  I don't leave it to some random celebrity to be a role model for my children.  I surround them with people in their every day lives who provide good examples of how to be a decent human being.  My children have not and will not see the video, but if they did, then a discussion about what was inappropriate would follow.

And I think it is pretty clear that Miley should not be considered a role model, but desperately needs a few herself to help her figure things out.

At this point, I just feel sorry for her.  Miley Cyrus has a lot going for her.  I wish she could surround herself with people who would help her bring out the best, rather than just going for shock value to make more money.  Tell her to cover up a little, and stop defacing her body.  Make her look in a mirror before leaving the house.  Tell her, help her see that drugs will destroy her, not make her better.  And please, just please, keep your tongue in your mouth.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Many Thanks

I'd say the ride started on May 31, 2013, when I hit the 'Publish' button, but in reality, it began a long time before that.  But now, I can really say that I'm an official author.

I got my first royalty payments.

They're not much.  In fact, I'm still a long way from breaking even on the whole process.  But, at 9:00 last night, when I checked my e-mail and had received the notices from Amazon that the money had been deposited in my account, it was a milestone.

I didn't know that I wanted to be a writer.  I still don't really consider myself one.  It was an accidental discovery, fueled by an overactive imagination and insomnia.  I love to read, and I think it was a natural progression.  I don't think I'll ever be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer, but I'm quite alright with that (Although, it would be nice.  There is some real estate I'd like to invest in, and that's not going to happen without me hitting the lottery or hitting the best seller list).

The book is selling, albeit slowly.  Every day (ok, several times a day--I'm a little lot OCD), I go in and check my sites to see if I've sold any.  Most of the time, the numbers haven't changed.  Sometimes, when my book is featured on a blog, or when a review is posted, I see a small spike in sales.  And I'm excited for every single one.  Each one makes me nervous that the reader is not going to enjoy it.  That they're not going to like me.  It is hard, putting yourself out there, just waiting for the next review.  It's like walking into the cafeteria as the new kid every single day. But that's the risk you take for putting yourself out there.

So, now that I can officially check 'become a writer' off my bucket list, I need to stop and send a shout out to all the people who have helped with that check mark.  From my friends who read the book and listen to me talk endlessly about it, to my husband who works really hard at being supportive, to the people who have given reviews or let me crash on their blog, a huge THANK YOU!!  I know I wouldn't have gotten this far without your help.

And please, keep up the good work!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I'm Still Here...

...But reporting from a different location.

Last week, my computer died.  I think I'm still in shock, because I haven't even cried.  But that's mostly, because, after my hubby took it apart, and diagnosed it with a "blown mother board," he promised me that he can retrieve all my stuff off the hard drive.  (Why is it the mother board that fails?  I take this personally.  Why can't it be a failed father board?  Just sayin'...)

I'm trusting in that.

'Cause if it's not true, I may just totally loose it.

It all started last week.  On Tuesday, the kids were due to go to a make-up session of camp.  When they go to this camp, I usually pack up my computer and go to a coffee shop and write while the kids are at camp.  But I wasn't feeling it.  I had a post-birthday party hangover from Sophia's weekend/Monday festivities.  Oh, and I'm totally stuck with my story.  So, Tuesday dawned dark and rainy, and the kids didn't want to go to camp, and it was fine with me. We rescheduled for Thursday, and I was sure I'd totally be in the writing mood by then.

Thursday comes, and I deposit the kids at camp.  I make it to the coffee shop and am determined to get some school work done first.  So, I turn on my computer.  And...nothing.  Well, not nothing, it has power, but the screen remains black and it starts beeping these horrible beeps at me.  Like it's yelling at me for being an irresponsible computer user or something. I call my husband and try not to freak out.  Because I'm an idiot.

You see, I'm stuck on my book.  But it's also about 75% of the way done (first, very rough draft).  And it's not backed up.  I'm an idiot.

Yes, I have a flash drive.

Yes, I have an external hard drive.

But they only work when you use them.

I have been emailing my work to a friend for review, but I had not sent her the last four chapters.  I guess I could re-create those, but I may have to bang my head upon something hard, if it comes to that.  It would not be a total loss, but certainly a setback.

I also store pictures on my computer.  I do try to back those up regularly, and had just uploaded a bunch to Snapfish, so there might be some loss there, but it would not be catastrophic.

We went away on Friday morning, and just got back last night, so we haven't had time to try to retrieve my data.  I'm totally going with the whole, "it will all be fine" mantra.

I do have to get a new computer.  I'm using my hubs right now, and that will be okay in the interim, but I'll need something for long term solution.  Plus, his keys have a little space in between each one, and it's really throwing me off.  I make a lot of typos anyway, but this is making it ten-times worse.

I'm trying to use this time to figure out what to do in my book.  I know where I want to go, but not sure of how to get there.  Of course, I want to be able to read what I had already written.  

In the meantime, lots of unpacking, laundry, and getting ready for school to do around here.  Gonna try to keep going on the book, one way or another.  I'd like to finish it before I go back to school, but that may not happen at this point.

Oh, and keep your fingers crossed for an intact hard drive.   Otherwise, please don't comment when you see me and I have great big bumps on my head from banging my head against the wall.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Another Guest Appearance...

Ask any indie author, and they will tell you that Bloggers play a huge role in the success of a self-published book.  Book review blogs are a lifeform in and of themselves.  As an avid reader, I have come to appreciate them highly.  I'm always looking for a good book to read.  I'm always looking for a good deal. These sites help me find both.

Naida from ...the bookworm... is one of these awesome bloggers.  So awesome, in fact, that she let me crash on her site and write a guest blog post today.  Not only is there some information about Good Intentions, but you can also read a sample of the first chapter (in case you're still indecisive about whether the book is for you), and find out some background info about me and the book as well.

Head over to ... the bookworm... to check out my guest post!

Thanks Naida!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ahhh, the relaxing days of summer.

So, I often allude to the fact that my house is not clean.  When people ask me how I found time to write a book, I tell them I wrote instead of cleaning.  I'm not really kidding.  Now, here's the thing.  I clean all the time.  I mean everyday, I do something.  However, in a family of four (plus two cats), the something that I do is not nearly enough.  I am constantly vacuuming the kitchen, dining room and downstairs hallway/bathroom (where the litter box is).  I am always wiping the counters (well, the small portions of the counters that are not covered in stuff).  I am doing dishes and wiping up spills.  I'll let you in on a little secret, but promise not to tell anyone.  Ready...I hate cleaning.  If I never had to dust or vacuum again, I'd be happy.

But this all came back to haunt me, as these things often do.  My daughter's birthday is coming up.  And she wants a party.  I love having the kids' birthday parties at a venue, where all I have to do is show up with the cake (which I make).  It's great.  But my daughter wanted a party at home, with a few friends, where they could do a craft and use the bouncy house.  Sounds ideal, right?

I looked around the house, and felt terrible.  Even though I had three weeks, I knew there was no way that I could pull this off.  We're (still) in the middle of finishing the walkway in the front of the house.  My husband has all he can do to get the lawn mowed in between work, baseball games and rain.  I've been trying to help him out front with landscaping.

Then, there's the inside of the house.  It was a disaster.  Everywhere I looked there was dust and clutter.  There were cobwebs.  I just can;t keep up with it anymore.  This summer, I'm working at summer school, per diem in a clinic, playing chauffeur to the kids with their various camps and activities.  Plus, I'm trying to promote my book, write the new one, and help out some other people with their promotions.

I did the obvious mom thing, and I bribed my daughter into having her birthday party out somewhere.  And then I wallowed in guilt at what a failure of a mother I am.  But, I tried not to wallow for too long, and resolved to do better.  Sunday, while the kids were with my parents, I cleaned the living room.  I mean changed curtains, washed windows and really cleaned. Like 3-4 hours worth of cleaning.  And then I threatened all family members with bodily harm if they messed up the room.

However, that pride was short lived, as I realized that the house has about 12 rooms.  If I did one room per week, then the whole house would be cleaned in 12 weeks.  Wait, somehow, that doesn't work.  Despite a full (both jobs, plus grocery shopping) day on Monday, I plugged on.  Tuesday, I was off work, so the kids and I spent all day (and I mean ALL) cleaning their rooms.  Changing beds, washing all their blankets.  About 10:30 a.m. or so, I found a pedometer in Sophia's room, so I put it on.  Even with taking an afternoon nap, and with only a short trip to Wal-mart, I took 8500 steps yesterday (but that doesn't include the first 2+ hours of my day).  I'm at 2300 by 10 am this morning, and I still have to go to work.

The good news.  The living room is still clean, along with the downstairs bathroom, both kids' rooms and the hallways (both up and down).  The playroom has been picked up and vacuumed, and is passably clean, although could use a little more work.  I even vacuumed and mopped the hardwood stairs and part of the dining room floor this morning.  My house is solidly 1/3 clean.  And that's before I run more errands and go to work for the day.  Not too shabby.

The boys are headed to Cub Scout camp tomorrow morning, so I'm busy packing them up too.  Which included not only finding the uniform shirt, but remembering that I needed to sew a patch on, locate the patch and actually sew it.  Somehow, I'm a little confused about the Boy Scout motto.  I didn't realize that "Be Prepared" applied to the moms who were not actually participating...

All this, and I'm working on book promoting as well.  Good Intentions is featured this week on the book shelf at Chic Lit Central.  It's only featured until August 4, 2013, so if you're visiting after that, it will simply be in list form there.  Also on August 4th, I'll be guest blogging at ...the bookworm..., so stop by there to see what I have to say.  My Goodreads giveaway also ends on Sunday as well.  Busy weekend coming up.

I took part in a Blog Blast for Eric Devine's new book, Dare Me.  It looks very interesting.  Check it out.

We booked our Disney trip for next winter, but are still trying to squeeze in one more Jersey shore trip this summer.  Need to get on that one!

Oh, and I have to get Sophia's party in there too.

Huh, no wonder I'm tired.  Gosh I love summer.  Gotta run.  Have to run some errands before work!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dare Me

In this day and age of YouTube and instant fame...

"There is no doubt that one of us will die."

Okay, do I have your attention now?

One year, three kids, ten dares and YouTube.  What could possibly go wrong?

Find out in the latest novel by Eric Devine:

Available 10/8/2013.  If you cannot wait, you can pre-order here:

I know you may be confused.  Usually I'm discussing my epic housekeeping/parenting failures or pressuring you to buy my book.  Today, Biel Blather is taking part in a Blog Blast, sponsored by Book Nerd Tours.  I could say that I volunteered to participate because I went to high school with Eric Devine.  

But that would not be the full reason.  The full reason is that Eric is a damn talented writer, and you, the reader, will be missing out if you don't read this book.  

To read an excerpt, you can visit Eric Devine's blog.  All of his fancy contact information is there, including his Facebook and Twitter links, so you can follow him that way as well. (If I had ever been able to figure out the whole Twitter thing, I would have linked you directly.  Sorry.)

Obviously, the powers that be are so confident in the power of this book that it has its own t-shirt.  

Eric is also the author of Tap Out and This Side of Normal.  In addition to being the author of fearless teen fiction, he is a high school English teacher and father of two beautiful daughters.  To find out more, visit here.

Remember, Dare Me is on sale October 8, 2013.  Read it...I dare you.