Sunday, March 28, 2010

College Tours, Take II

I never got to choose my college. My father wanted me to attend BYU. He convinced everyone he knew to steer me toward BYU. The only school we visited was a trade school in San Francisco I had heard of, so he could show me how poorly it compared to BYU. So I ended up--where else?--BYU. And it was a good experience . . . but I've always felt I missed some vital experience by not participating more in the decision. Now I know I did.

Last year Mykell and I had a six hour drive to visit the University of Iowa. The car discussion revolved around her hopes and dreams for the future, her insecurities and fears, and imagining her life away from home. When we arrived in Iowa City, we walked through the vibrant downtown area like students, got T-shirts, toured the campus, and stayed up late eating sandwiches and ice-cream in our hotel room. As a result of that trip, she made UofI her runner-up school, but more importantly, she knew her parents cared for her and would help her through all life's difficult decisions. I missed that experience with my parents.

This year I've been driving Bryce to his top colleges. A few weeks ago we visited the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Friday we saw Purdue. Rose-Hulman comes in July. The long drives and conversations are much the same as last year's with Mykell. Plans are being made. Options are being weighed. And the pressure of such an important decision is crushing. I can see why my father stepped in. But I think I could have made an intelligent college decision myself. That thought was brought home to me as Bryce and I walked across the Purdue campus to tour the different dorm rooms. Some things just feel right.

"I'm realizing just how little time I have left at home with my parents," Bryce said. "And I think I need to take better advantage of your knowledge while I'm around."

"Okay," I said, just a little curious.

"So, what should I look for when I buy my first house?" he asked.

Now see, that's how easy the college decision should be. It looks like we have a future Boilermaker in our midst. Next major decision, please.

Friday, March 19, 2010

On Second Glance Prologue

Okay, Blogger is being unreasonable. It won't let me import my file for you to read, so if you really want to see this, you will have to go to my profile on Facebook and then access my Notes page. It's there. I promise. And lucky for you, the prologue is only about 3-4 pages long. Nice and short. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Unfinished Symphony

It's wrong, all wrong! I can't say what it is. I don't have a name for it. But every time I work on my novel I feel it in my soul. There's something majorly wrong with my book!

So that's it. After a full year of work, I'm throwing it to The Shelf . . . . along the boulevard of broken dreams. Yeah, I feel like a loser. But why let that stop me? Plenty of losers go on to write perfectly good top selling novels. So I've heard. After ten years or something. But I've already started my new project, a young adult romantic comedy called "Mood Ring". I'll tell you about it later.

For the time being, my loss could be your gain. For those who have always wanted to read something I've written but haven't had the chance, I'll be posting the first part of my novel "On Second Glance" tomorrow. It's an intense romantic suspense that's actually pretty good. It just lacks an ending because I didn't get that far. And, yes, I know how stupid that sounds. I know HOW it's supposed to end, it just never felt right trying to take it there. So, stay tuned, enjoy some down time, visit my fantasy world, and if you detect the magical missing ingredient, let me know so I can put a merciful end to this unfinished literary symphony.

Waiting for inspiration.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Taste of Tokyo

Over the weekend, Mykell and I went to Chicago on another mother/daughter outing. We can't seem to stay away from that town.

This time we went for a Japanese Language Speech Contest at the Consulate General of Japan offices. Maybe Chicago isn't our city of choice but it doesn't hurt that the offices are on Michigan Avenue at Watertower Plaza, with Neiman-Marcus on the main level of the building. Anyway, seven Japanese judges listened to Mykell's speech and graded her performance. Talk about pressure. There were 4 divisions: the elementary/middle school division, then the high school division (all less than 3 years experience), then the college/adult divisions.

A traditional kimono at the Japanese Information Center

As the judges finalized their decisions, we got to eat caviar and sushi, which might be great for high society gals, but I still gag at the thought. We also got to play with a robot prototype that looked like a baby harp seal. So cute. And then came the moment of anticipation.

Traditional dolls to celebrate Girls Day, March 3

As the prizes were awarded, each contestant accepted their gift bag and stepped off the stage. Mykell was downhearted when the English-Japanese/Japanese-English dictionaries were gone, and when the Barnes & Noble gift cards were all given out. But then they announced the awards for third place. Mykell and I looked at each other. Third place already? How could she make it so far? She and one other girl were tied for the least amount of language experience. Mykell couldn't be in the top three! And then they read off the winners in each division for second place. What? Mykell still wasn't called! At that point we were both stunned speechless. All we could do was laugh.

She got first place!! Way to go, Mykell!

I still can't believe it, but it was a wonderful experience seeing her up on the stand accepting her award, knowing all the hours she has put in to get this far. You see, Mykell started Japanese a semester late (Erik and I thought Chinese would be a better language to learn, from a global perspective, but Mykell hated it and quit). Because she started Japanese winter semester, she had to take Japanese 101 as an independent study course, only meeting with the instructor once a week for pronunciation/culture instruction. Japanese 102 was also taken independent study, over her summer break, with no instructor assistance at all. Upon her return to campus in the fall she had to take the Japanese 102 final to see if she could continue Japanese 201 with the rest of the class. It was a very stressful time, but her perseverance paid off and she passed with a high score. So, with all that said, Japanese 201 is actually the only semester Mykell has had to speak the language with other students. And now Japanese 202. It is amazing that her instructor would nominate her to compete in this competition at all. And then for her to be a finalist? Wow. It says something of Mykell's tenacity.

All the contestants and judges
She doesn't stand out, does she?

Mykell and her instructor, Fumiko Chiuini, have worked so hard and put in so many hours to translate Mykell's speech to Japanese (It was titled, "The Importance of Motherhood"), get the speech memorized, intonation exact, etc. etc. Congratulations to them both. It is an award well deserved.

Now we'll have to wait and hear about nationals . . . .

Thursday, March 4, 2010

From Me To You

Okay, I've been "awarded" the opportunity to share 7 things about myself with all of you. Bear with me and I'll try to make them interesting.

1. I love to schedule. Whether planning a trip itinerary, making goals for the year, or putting together a class schedule, I love to block out the sections of time, the activities, and get the details arranged so that everything comes together like a puzzle. It has to be the most efficient, cost-effective, smallest span of time imaginable. Family vacation? Done! My daughter's college schedule? Done! Heck, I've already taken care of her next four years. Crazy, huh? If you only knew how long it took to organize all those details in the perfect precise order, though.

2. I am a hermit. I work alone. I don't like to leave home unless absolutely necessary. I return calls, but hardly ever call anyone myself. I love silence. And I like it that way. Blame it on my past, dealing with disgruntled parents (at work, not my parents), disgruntled customers, previous jobs as an operator, kids kids kids, and relying on others only to have things fall through. This doesn't make me unsociable. I could hang out in a Starbucks anyday and be happy, but I'd be sipping hot cocoa in the quietest corner with my laptop.

3. I whistle while I work. Maybe that makes me a dwarf, I don't know, but I've had decades of practice and am REALLY good mimicking songs. It's one of the first things my husband noticed about me. He came from another room to see who was whistling Oingo Boingo without missing a note. Yep, I can hold a note while breathing in or out. I do classical, instrumentals, pop/rock, anything I've heard really. My favorite? The saxophone solo in Foreigner's "Urgent".

4. Don't even ask for any of my colored candies! You'll mess up my system. Candies like Skittles, M&Ms, Smarties, etc. have to be eaten by twos. You take two of the same colored candies and pop them in your mouth at the same time. And then you eat two more until you're done with that color, so the flavors don't get messed up in your mouth. You finish one color, you move on to the next. And if there are odd numbers, you eat them in pairs at the end. One left over? Get another handful.

5. I start out sleeping on my side, end up on my stomach. Unless I have a cold. Then I end up on my back snoring with a dry throat.
6. I have a mild form of Reynaud's disease, which means my body reacts to cold like yours does to snakes: all the blood in my extremities shoots the wrong way on contact. Okay, not exactly, but I do wear socks continuously (sometimes socks with my slippers), can't slice up one half-thawed chicken breast without needing to scald my hands back to life, get shivery from a ceiling fan, and never completely disrobe. No, I lied about that last part. How would I ever take a shower, people? I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

7. One word: Bellydancing. Just started. And, no, this is NOT like stripping. Clean up your minds. But it is fun to wear my jingley hip scarf while I sweep the kitchen. Maybe if I could hear it over the vaccuum, I'd do more of that. Yeah, right.

Feel free to post your own 7 Interesting Things.