30 November 2010

Made it

As in, I Made It Through NaNoWriMo.
I finished my 50,000 words this morning while Sam took a nap and Ryan was in class. My novel isn't finished, but let me tell you: It feels amazing to know that yes, I can conceive and execute an entire book.
Thanks for all the love and support, friends. I appreciated the encouragement and the writing dares! Ryan told me every day that I could make it, and I'm glad I didn't let him down.
I already have an idea kicking around for NaNoWriMo '11- can't wait!

27 November 2010

NaNoWriMo Dares

Let me just say, it is hard to write 50,000 words in a month. I've hit several slumps over the past 4 weeks. Last night was particularly bad, so I decided to cruise around the forums on nanowrimo.org to see if anyone could provide me with inspiration. One of the fun things to do during NaNoWriMo is to dare other writers to include crazy things in their novels. It's definitely a good creative exercise, and can help boost your word count. So I took some dares. Here's what I got:
-Have someone say "two lefts don't make a right" and have someone else say "but three do!" (it's a Relient K reference.) The whole scene was good for 306 words.
-Mention Albania. Bonus points if the character has no idea where Albania is. 76 words
-Use the phrase "And suddenly, lesbian vampires!" 112 words
-Have someone solve a Rubik's cube. Include their internal dialogue. 163 words
-Have a character buy something they saw on an infomercial. 97 words
-Include an argument over which is better, pirates or ninjas. 94 words
-Mention the Colorado Rockies baseball team. 193 words
-Have the main characters see my family at some point in the story. 58 words
-Include zombie pandas and blueberry elves. 204 words
-Feature crows and fighting cats. 188 words

I have a few more dares coming down the pike that I haven't used yet, but the total so far of how many words I owe to dares is 1,391. I will be accepting more dares on my Facebook page, but you only have until the 30th to get them in!

23 November 2010

Guest Post- Lindsay

Our last guest post for November is from Lindsay Caldwell. Lindsay's son is one of Sammy's best friends, and Lindsay is one of mine! Check out her blog: http://jcaldwellcrew.blogspot.com/

I can look upon my memories of Thanksgivings past with fondness: warmth, love, family and—what seems to take over the entire holiday itself—a bounty of delectable dishes. I remember cooking and baking with my mother for our Thanksgiving dinner. How much I helped and whether or not I stayed around to wash the dishes, I cannot say. I hope I was a good girl, but I have my suspicions that I could have been found on the couch post-supper. I am grateful that along with a great feast, my parents taught us that God is good and that all blessings stem from Him. We were greatly blessed to have plenty and I remember grocery shopping to provide a proper Thanksgiving feast for those who could not provide their own. My parents did not forget the important message of service that goes along with a thankful heart and for that I am grateful.

Life is so busy; one month bleeds into the next, and before we know it the holidays are upon us and we haven’t taken the time to reflect on the reason behind the celebration. That is what I want to avoid; thanksgiving is not just a dinner party. It is a time to reflect, pray, serve and spend with our loved ones. Jeff and I are so glad we live close enough to our families that we can eat our Thanksgiving meals (one with each family—lucky us!) with them. We know living close by will not be the case in a couple years, so we cherish it now.

One tradition Jeff and I have started this year to help us remember the reason for the season is our Thanksgiving Journal. Each member of the family writes down at least one thing he or she is grateful for each day for the month of November. This exercise has helped us to feel the spirit of thanksgiving and has opened our eyes to the small blessings that might have gone unnoticed had we not be watching for them.

21 November 2010

Excerpt #3

Once again, I am procrastinating instead of NaNoWriMo-ing. I have 1000 more words to write in the next 2 hours...

It’s starting to get late. Coy wants to go into the casino and try out his poker skills. I’m hesitant. I have no idea why I’m so uncomfortable all of a sudden, but it doesn’t really seem like I can just tell him no. Wordlessly I follow him into the casino. It looks fancier than the one at the Stratosphere. Coy joins a table, and I hover behind him. I hope no one thinks we’re trying to cheat. I make sure my eyes don’t wander. Coy’s first bet is pretty low, which I find reassuring. As the game progresses, I can see that he has a decent hand. Good enough to win, anyway. Coy gives me a kiss for luck. I smile at the other people at our table. A guy our age who is obviously drunk says “Can I kiss your girlfriend for luck, too, man?” I blush, embarrassed. Coy winks at the guy and says he can if he wins the next hand. I swat his shoulder playfully. Luckily for me, Coy wins again. He increases his starting bet on the next hand, but I see he’s got nothing. He tries to bluff, but the other players see right through him and keep raising the bet. He folds, and excuses himself from the table.

I hope he’s not mad. I look up at his face, searching for clues to his mood. He looks back at me and smiles as if he knows what I’m doing.

“Uncle Jack was right,” he tells me. “My poker face is hopeless.”

“At least you had two good hands,” I say soothingly. “How much did we win?”

“We?” he teases.

“Good luck charms are entitled to fifty percent of all winnings,” I inform him.

“Ah. Well, we lost the last hand, so I’m doubting your luckiness.” I think he is pretending to be disappointed.

“Okay, we’ll split it forty-sixty and call it even. Final offer.”

He laughs. “How about we get dessert and I use the rest to pay for the room?”


There is a small cafĂ© that sells gelato on the way outside, so we grab a treat to go and watch the fountains one last time before heading back to our hotel. The walk back is much more spectacular, as the dark has fully settled in. The lights are a sharper contrast, a rainbow of electric explosions. We walk more slowly than we did on the way down, stopping to point out our favorite displays. Even though it’s late in the evening, the air is still warm. It must be 90 degrees out here. We get back to the Stratosphere and head straight back to our room. Coy remarks that Uncle Jack probably managed to get in bed by himself, so we should be quiet in case he’s asleep. When we open the door to our room, the lights are on. No Uncle Jack in bed. Coy checks the bathroom. No Uncle Jack there, either. We face each other, and I can see that Coy looks frustrated.

“Maybe he went back to the buffet,” I suggest. “Or went to the shops.”

“Maybe he’s getting married in the Chapel in the Clouds,” Coy says, dripping sarcasm. “He’s at the casino. Of course.”

“But he said he wasn’t going to gamble!” I protest.

“No he didn’t. He told you to relax, he didn’t actually say he wouldn’t gamble.” Coy throws himself facedown on one of the beds and groans.

18 November 2010

Check me Out

To keep up the guest posting trend, Mary asked me to write a post for her blog after she wrote one for mine. You can read it here. After you read it, check out her photography website! You'll love it.

16 November 2010

Guest Post- Mary

Mary is a friend of mine from the Village. She is a fan of Utah football and is a talented photographer! Her blog contains updates on her life, neat photos she's taken, and various musings on the world. Check it out: www.maryplusvince.com
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. Actually, let me try that again: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year (tied with Utah’s Pioneer Day). Yes, I love it more than Halloween, the Fourth of July and even Christmas! Unusual, right? But I love it. The fact that it’s an autumn holiday, my favorite season for many reasons, adds to why I love it so much. Add in family + food, and it’s a no brainer for me! It’s true love.

I think my love for Thanksgiving truly began back when I was in high school. My sisters and I watched this show called “Everwood” and they had a Thanksgiving episode where their tradition was to make a “Family Thankful Book”. What a great idea, I thought! So – I attempted to get all 7 of my siblings and their spouses and kids and my parents to tell me a few things they were thankful for, so we could make a book too! I wasn’t overly successful, and I think we only got the book partially made. Bummer! But! A few years in a row, I tried again … still not getting everyone’s lists. In 2007, I was finally successful and our book was made! I love looking back at this book because it’s like a little time machine! We added photos and pretty paper, and voila! Family Heirloom! I hope to keep this tradition alive and will keep trying each year. I know some years I may not get it done, but that’s ok. Even if we only have one every couple years, I’ll count that as a success.

Behold, excerpts from the 2007 Cleverly Family Thankful Book:

Another favorite tradition of mine is that my family goes bowling every year on Thanksgiving morning. This traditional also started when I was in high school. One of my sisters was dating a guy, and this was a tradition in his family. So, that year we decided to do it too! And we’ve done that one every year since! It’s such a random tradition, but it is so much fun! You’d be surprised just how many people actually go bowling that morning, too! We always have to get there super early to ensure we get a few lanes for my big family!

To me, Thanksgiving is such a special holiday. It’s cozy and warm; it is filled with family and fun. It is also a wonderful time to remember all the beautiful things in your life, remember all your blessings. Plus -- the food is amazing! I don’t think you can get any better than that, in my opinion!

13 November 2010

Excerpt #2

I am big-time procrastinating tonight. I caught Sam's cold, feel like junk, don't wanna write. So here's another excerpt from my NaNoWriMo attempts.

Coy’s face lights up when we come out. He is wearing a shirt and tie and… his tie has purple stripes like my shirt! He waggles the tie in my direction. “What are the odds?” he quips. Parked in our driveway is a bright blue van. It reminds me of the Mystery Machine, from Scooby Doo. Coy laughs when I tell him this, and informs me that this shade of blue is Uncle Jack’s favorite, so he had the van custom painted. My dad sits in front next to Coy, who is driving. I crawl in the back to sit by Uncle Jack.

He shakes my hand. “Are you ready for your next show?” he asks me. Auditions for our fall play, Dracula, will be held at the end of August.

I am definitely ready for a break from the theater, so I roll my eyes and make Uncle Jack chuckle by exaggerating my response of “Absolutely not!” My dad entertains us for the rest of the ride by retelling a story about two little kids destroying the children’s section of the library while their mom read a magazine with her headphones in. I make a mental note to up my childbearing age to 32.

We have dinner at my dad’s favorite steakhouse. I don’t like steak, but I think my dad chose it for Coy and Uncle Jack. I stick to a loaded baked potato and a salad. My head still hurts a little, so I try to drink as much water as I can. Uncle Jack eats his potato with a look of rapture on his face.

“I love potatoes,” he declares. “I mean, really, is there anything as delicious as a classic, Idaho-grown potato?”

“Steak,” Coy jokes. I decline to respond to that, sucking down another quarter of my glass of water.

My dad looks thoughtful. “How do you know,” he asks, “if the potato really came from Idaho?”

Uncle Jack peers at the menu. “It says so on here.” He points at the description of the various side dishes the restaurant offers.

“Yeah, but how much do you trust what it says on those menus?” Dad counters. “How is some copywriter in Texas going to know if the potatoes actually came from Idaho?” Uncle Jack and Coy have both stopped eating, and both sets of blue eyes are staring at my dad as if he is trying to answer one of the great mysteries of the universe. Dad keeps going. “It seems to me like the only way to guarantee that you are eating an Idaho potato is to drive to Idaho, go to a potato farm, and ask the farmer for a potato. Demand the genuine article.” I want to demand that we talk about something else, but I decide not to be rude. Instead I gnaw on a crouton from my salad and look around at the other diners.

Uncle Jack gets a wistful look on his face. His tone of voice is dreamy. He says, “I’ve always loved Idaho potatoes. Maybe I should actually drive to Idaho and eat one.”

Coy laughs. “You can call the Make-a-Wish foundation. Don’t they help people like you achieve their dreams?” Uncle Jack smiles.

“I think they help kids. Besides, I could do it myself. Boise is only, what, 9 hours from here?” The couple at the table across from us are feeding French fries to each other. I frown, thinking that I have never fed Bryce a French fry. Or anything else, actually.

Coy leans back in his chair. “So let’s do it. Let’s go get you your genuine, guaranteed Idaho potato.” Uncle Jack and my dad both look skeptical. I start to pay attention to their conversation again. Coy continues. “Seriously. I don’t have to be back in Chicago until the middle of August. That’s plenty of time to go to Boise and come back.”

Uncle Jack slaps his hand on the table, startling the French fry couple. “Why not?” he exclaims. “Let’s do it! Let’s go this week!” He and Coy share an excited high-five.

“Can I come?” I surprise myself by asking this. My dad also looks surprised. Uncle Jack stretches his arms out wide. “Of course!” he cries, still excited by the prospect of the trip. “Of course!” Coy grins at me.

I have no idea why I want to do this. I do love potatoes, but I’ve been content not knowing their origin for the past 22 years. I do enjoy spending time with Uncle Jack and Coy, but I can see them when they get back. I think I’ve never done anything as spontaneous as drive to Idaho simply for the fun of it, and right now I feel a little reckless.

11 November 2010

Guest Post- Andrew

For our first guest post on our blog, we're featuring Andrew Newcomb, husband of one of my grad school classmates. Andrew maintains his personal/family blog with help and input from his wife, Tara. Check out his blog: www.absolutelyandrew.com
When Kara approached me about doing a guest post on the topic of Thanksgiving, I was honored. I did have my reservations about the topic, however. I’m not anti-holiday by any means--I just tend not to blog about them. Simply put, my blog is the result of a one night stand between Dooce and Hacker News, adopted by mommy bloggers, and kidnapped by Perez Hilton before escaping with Alexander Supertramp. OK, so maybe I had a little too much fun with that description, and to be clear, I am not a bastard child. On the contrary, I come from a wonderful family rich with holiday tradition.
When my wife, Tara, and I were married a little over a year ago, there was one detail that I had not fully realized. (Actually, there were a lot of things, but for the emphasis of this piece, we’ll pretend that there was just one) That was the opportunity to start new traditions. In the beginnings of our marriage, people kept asking us if we had started any traditions. Finally it dawned on me: the book is ours to write! We can celebrate the holidays however we feel like. I love the family traditions that I grew up with, and I know Tara feels just as fondly about hers, but the freedom to mix, match, and most of all, create new traditions for our family is incredibly exhilarating for me.
Last Thanksgiving came just months after our
wedding and a big move from Omaha, NE to Salt Lake City. Needless to say, we had been through a lot in that short time. A doctor told me that getting married, switching jobs, and moving are some of the three biggest stressors a person can face. Fortunately, that Thanksgiving, we had a lot to be thankful for. All of our prayers had been answered.
Far from family and closest friends, we endeavored to celebrate a holiday that typically calls for digging the leaf out of the closet and cramming tons of family and friends around the table, quietly, just the two of us. It was amazing. Although we may have felt slightly ashamed when telling others of our plans, quick to explain financial logistics keeping us home for the holiday, privately, we were excited about it.
The feast, in particular, was the object of our awe. This is something that we had taken for granted for our entire lives. Although we may have played helping rolls from time to time (haha, get it?), that turkey, and the meal in general, had always been someone else’s responsibility. The concept of taking it on ourselves was daunting and exhilarating.
We went all out--turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, veggies, and of course, pie. It was by no means easy. I think we spent half an hour alone wrestling that metal clamp from the turkey legs so we could remove the gizzards, and ended up eating at least two hours after the planned time. But none of this mattered! There was no one to impress, no one expecting to eat right at 2. And the food turned out amazing, and so much more rewarding to eat knowing that we had made it together. The next day, the food was still amazing. 3 days later, it was pretty good, and 5 days later it was decent. 2 weeks past, when we were still pulling turkey out of the freezer, it was OK, but I could have gone for a burger.
Now the big question: Did we start any traditions on our first Thanksgiving together? It’s hard to say specifically. Traditions are not always objective. I guess I may struggle with that stupid turkey clamp year after year, but I’d like to say that that won’t become a tradition. We did turn the “I’m thankful for...” activity into a drinking game. I think it’s safe to say that has solidified itself as a Newcomb family tradition, although, when we have kids, we may have to change drinking to eating brussel sprouts or something. Also, Husker football is, by default, a Thanksgiving tradition.
In conclusion to my conclusion, I’ve had many memorable Thanksgivings in my life, but last year's spent with my wonderful wife has by far been my favorite. It will be a story we tell our kids year after year until long after they’re sick of it.

Did you know that there is another
Reynolds Tribe? Completely unrelated. So I think.

09 November 2010

Thanksgiving Memory #1

To celebrate November, a lot of my friends are using Facebook to share one thing they are grateful for each day. I love how November is a month of remembering things we are thankful for, spending time with our families, and eating good food (love that part). I wanted to get into the spirit of Thanksgiving on my blog, and asked some of my friends to write a guest post for me sharing some of the things they appreciate about this season. Be on the lookout! It will be nice to "hear" some other voices for a change.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is from a family trip to Hawaii. I don't remember how old I was, probably in the 12-14 range. We took some time off of school and had a fantastic vacation. However, my sister and I were a little grumpy about not having a big Thanksgiving dinner that year. On Thanksgiving morning, my parents joked that they were going to take us to Denny's for our Thanksgiving meal. Cassi and I were horrified.
Now, grown-up Kara laughs at pre-teen Kara for even thinking that my dad might set foot in a Denny's. Really, it's laughable. But my parents can play the straight man comedy-wise when it really matters, and play it they did. As we pulled into the parking lot at Denny's, Cassi and I shared a look of despair. And then my parents steered us into a nice restaurant next-door. Psych!
Now, as I recall, the food wasn't that great. However, our family was together, we were on a gorgeous island having the time of our lives, and my parents pulled a really great prank. It is a Thanksgiving I'll always fondly remember.

06 November 2010

Excerpt #1

This is a "snippet" from my novel, approximately 5,500 words past the snippet on my NaNoWriMo page.

Our dress rehearsal is terrible. Ellie has run out of base and lipstick, which means a hurried rush to restock so Phil can see how the actors look under the lights. The high school band sounds great, but plays so loudly that Steve constantly has to readjust Maria’s microphone volume. Gretl von Trapp has a sore throat, and I’m pretty sure Rolf tried to grab my butt as we crossed paths in the tunnel. Phil claims that all these calamities (except the possible groping, I’d rather die than mention that to Phil) foretell a smash hit on opening night, so we all cross our fingers that he is right. On opening night, Dad and Uncle Jack sit together in the row with a big open spot for Uncle Jack’s wheelchair. I can see them through the small gap in the curtain on Stage Left. Coy and I are dressed all in black- black shoes, socks, pants, long-sleeved tees. We don’t wear black caps because we both have such dark hair it would be pointless. In a moment of giddiness an hour before the curtain goes up, Coy writes “Backstage Goddess” on the back of my shirt with a black Sharpie marker. With 10 minutes to go, I pull my hair back into a ponytail, and send Coy through the tunnel to Stage Right. Phil leads the actors in a “shake out” where they all stand in the green room and shake wildly to release the nerves. Even Captain von Trapp participates, and this is his 5th show with us. Everyone is full of energy.

And of course, Phil’s prediction comes true. Opening night is amazing. Coy, Rolf, and Captain von Trapp manage to change the sets in less than 3 minutes. The band doesn’t drown out Maria. No one tries to cop a feel before they are herded onstage. After the show, my dad gives me pink carnations, as he does every opening night. Uncle Jack shakes my hand and tells me he can’t wait to see it again tomorrow night. Coy and I exchange high-fives that turn into hugs. The whole cast is on fire.

Hope it made you laugh!

05 November 2010

National Novel Writing Month

In November 2007, I worked for an independent bookstore (the Reader's Cove). I was in charge of setting up special events. One of the things I was asked to schedule was a "write-in" for NaNoWriMo. We gave free coffee to a bunch of people who hung out in our cafe all afternoon working on this mysterious NaNoWriMo. My interest was piqued.
National Novel Writing Month is about literary production. It's about taking a story and sticking it through. It's not about writing the next Harry Potter, or making money. You spend the entire month of November being creative- 50,000 words worth of creativity. To write 50,000 words in a month, you have to write about 1,667 a day. This means that every day you just write and write and write. No time is spent on editing. To win, all you have to do is finish your quota of 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th.
This is the first November since I heard about NaNoWriMo that I haven't been in school. My friend Ian is participating, and it is thanks to him that I am a NaNoWriMo this year. A chance glance at his Facebook profile reminded me (on October 31st) about NaNoWriMo, and I made a split-second decision to participate this year.
I took a story idea that I've been kicking around for a year, and decided to expand it. So far I have written over 10,000 words, putting me ahead of the game. If I complete all 50,000 words in time, this is the shirt Ryan will let me buy as a reward. I'm pretty dang excited. At least for now. Some days it is really hard to write. That's why you are supposed to tell as many people as possible about it so they encourage you! Consider yourselves my official encouragers.
You can learn more about NaNoWriMo at their website: www.nanowrimo.org
Check my progress and read an excerpt of my potential novel on my author profile page.
I will blog about my progress periodically, and I may even step way out of my comfort zone and post more excerpts. Keep in mind that this is unedited work, written in a frenzy while Sam naps. Be kind.

04 November 2010

New Mexico Trip

Sam and I visited my parents last month in our first lengthy separation from Ryan: 9 days! We had a great time sightseeing around their new home, eating yummy food, and generally being spoiled.
White Sands National Monument is about an hour away from their house, and it is definitely worth the drive. It features huge gypsum sand dunes that look like snow from far away because they are so white. We climbed around in the sand, and borrowed sleds from 2 guys to take a few trips down the hill.
My parents' next-door neighbors have 2 English bulldogs. Sam hasn't really spent time with any dogs since he was 6 months old, so they were like a whole new experience to him. He LOVED the dogs and kept making these really cute snuffling noises at them.
We also visited a corn maze, which had lots of other activities like slides and hayrides. We took a hayride to the "U-Pick" pumpkin patch. Sam enjoyed touching all the pumpkins. He even carried a little white gourd around with him, so of course we had to get it for him (luckily it was free).
It was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to take Ryan there for Christmas. I want to go sledding again!