Family Bonding & Life Skills

paintingAs a mom to four grown children, I found that there were a few tasks—important tasks– I neglected to teach them before sending them into the cold cruel world. Why is that, you ask?

Moms and dads are busy. It’s often easier and faster for parents to do a task ourselves than taking the time to teach our children. So for some real family bonding time, grab your kiddo and show them how to do all those little tasks that are required in the adult world.

Warning: Princes and princesses can skip this blog. These following tasks can be handled by one of your minions.

Useful everyday skills pre-adults should learn:

  • Cook something. Pasta, scrambled eggs, steak, their favorite meal, something! Fast food is expensive and most young adults struggle financially. My oldest three can cook almost anything, the youngest never learned.
  • Bake a cake. Either from box or scratch. One of my fondest mommy moments was when my daughter made me a birthday cake.
  • Clear a jammed or stuck garbage disposal. ( Goes with learning to cook ). One twist of that wee L-shaped doodad ( allen wrench) solves the problem.
  • Understand basic cooking terminology. Sear, caramelize, reduce, baste, marinate, saute, simmer, mince, knead, etc. Oh, can someone puleeze teach my hubby?
  • Wash clothes and remove basic stains ( like grease, grass, blood, or red wine). My children have been doing their own laundry since middle school. A real sanity saver. Of course, don’t forget to add the Full Load rule. “No, you cannot wash one pair of jeans unless you’re paying the water bill.”
  • Iron a shirt—spray starch optional.
  • Sew on a button.
  • Hem pants/skirt. Granted, some fabrics or styles require an expert but knowing the basics is a money-saving skill.
  • Write a thank you and condolence letter.
  • Locate the shut off valves both inside and outside the house. Knowing about the valve on the wall at the bottom of the toilet might help future overflow problems.
  • Replace the toilet flange and other parts. When the kids’ toilet broke, I bought a basic toilet repair kit, tossed it to my 16-yr old and said, “fix it.” An hour later, he had replaced all the tank’s insides and strode around the house saying, “I. Am. Plumber!”
  • Change the heating and air conditioning filter.
  • Pump gas, replace windshield wiper fluid /wiper blades, check tire pressure/oil.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Grow/plant something. Herbs, vegetables,flowers—no, not marijuana.
  • Prune a bush and tree.
  • Paint a room and all that goes with it. Brushes, rollers, taping, paint types, and clean-up.
  • Patch a wall. Because everyone like to get their renter’s deposit back!
  • Change a fuse.
  • Reset the circuit breaker.
  • Make an appointment on the phone.
  • Tip. Smart phones make it easy to calculate.
  • Assemble something—because ‘some assembly required’ demands patience and practice. Second son never had to assemble anything until 1st son moved out. After purchasing 2 pieces of ‘some assembly required’ furniture, I left the boxes with 2nd son and walked away. If you can read, you can follow directions, right? A few trips to the garage for tools and a “What if I have leftover parts?” question later, I had a bookcase and an end table. ( Yes, they are still standing.)
  • Clean an oven, sink, toilet.
  • Polish shoes. Two words: Job interview
  • Start/build a fire in the fireplace or fire pit.

I’m sure I left out a few tasks, so feel free to comment so I can include them!

Related Posts: Mom Musings & Hubby Funnies




CharacterizationCharacterization 101: Writers have quite an arsenal of ways for conveying a character’s personality. Whether overt or subtle, the savvy reader knows that characters are brought to life only if the writer has effectively done their job.

So how does a writer portray personality?

Fictional names act subliminally on readers. Is the name:
  • symbolic?
  • metaphoric?
  • ironic?
  • androgynous? Why does an author assign a name like Lee, Pat, Kelly, or Chris ?
  • cliché or stereotype?
  • See character names for examples and an in-depth explanation.
Physical descriptions may convey personality as well.
  • Exposition style biographical summaries—aka “telling”— are found in older fiction.
  • Body type, hair, and eye color can be conveyed gradually by “telling” or with action and/or dialog. “I’m not fooled by her baby blues.”
  • Modern authors use synecdoche— one part standing in for the whole. For example nails that are chewed may indicate a nervous personality
  • Clothes are often indicators of character, class, & lifestyle. Your character’s driving a dented, rusty economy car while dressed in knock-off Christian Louboutins and holding a fake Louis Vuitton handbag may indicate a female with high aspirations and/or a  concern with appearances. Flashy jewels and clothes usually indicate an attention-seeking personality.
  • See character descriptions for more.
A character’s dialog conveys personality. It often reveals:
  • level of education
  • ethnicity
  • geographic location
  • predominant attitudes
  • maturity level
  • biases and/pr prejudices
  • relationship status
  • respect or disrespect for other characters
  • their need for understanding. For example, are they overly wordy or pithy?
  • cognitive level. Do they ask a lot of open-ended questions?
  • What, why, and how the other character’s respond ( or not) is also relevant.
  • Let’s not forget internal dialog–-those thoughts not spoken but which are frequent in a 1st person or limited 3rd person point of view
Actions often speak louder than words. The saying “it’s not what you say but what you do” is just as important in literature. Actions reveal:
  • feelings
  • intentions
  • gut reactions
  • or they may also disguise feelings and intentions

Writers may enlist all these character builders or employ only one or two. For example, Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird never speaks and his physical description is given at the end of the novel, and yet Boo is made real from other’s dialog and his heroic actions.

Have fun creating your characters!

Related links: Readin’ & Writin‘, Rock Your Writing


Mel Brooks Writing Academy

mel brooksMel Brooks taught me everything I know about writing. Nah, not really, BUT his films do provide writers with great tips.

And here they are:

1. There are more synonyms for words than are listed in the thesaurus. I counted 29 for worst dregs. Think outside the thesaurus box.


2. Work with the research or information you have. Improvise!

3. Allusions add depth and complexity—or fun. In this scene from SpaceBalls ( which is a parody of StarWars), we see shades of Alien mixed with the Looney Tunes singing frog cartoon.

4. Study the greats! Learn from them.

5. “Walk this way!” Mel Brooks shows us–so must writers. How a character walks indicates their mood and/or personality.The website Daily Writing Tips provides 60 synonyms.

6. Sometimes ‘very’ works very well.

High Anxiety3, the Institute






7. Motifs ( a word, statement, object, action repeated 3 times or more ) can reveal character, theme, or plot.

madeline kahn






8. Past. Past Perfect. Present. Then. Now. It’s easy for writers to lose their way in the Tense Jungle. Note: This is one of my favorite Mel Brooks scenes.

9. Opening lines and pages are important. They reveal tone and mood. Craft them for maximum impact.

10. You needn’t be so literal all the time.

11. Dialog can be tricky.

My apologies if this post makes you want to take a break from writing to watch your favorite Mel Brooks movie.

Related links: Readin’ & Writin’




The Sight of Typos

sight of typosChanneling Weird Al Yankovic!  

A few blogs ago, I posted Tunefully Yours, a collection of writer-modified opening lines to a few famous songs.

So in the spirit of that blog, here are the complete lyrics to the ol’ writing favorite  “Sight of Typos.” Sing this to Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”

Hello typos, my old friend,
I’ve come to correct you once again,
Because the words softly creeping,
Left a plot across the page sleeping,
But the story vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
despite the sight of typos.

In restless revisions I edit alone
Tighten grammar set in stone,
in front of the halo of LCD,
I tapped my fingers on the plastic keys
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a misused word
That split the prose
And revealed the sight of typos.

And in the twitter light I saw
Ten thousand writers, maybe more.
Writers talking without speaking,
Writers hearing without listening,
Writers typing novels that bookworms never read
and never shall
because of the plethora of typos.

“Fools,” said I, “You do not know –
Typos in a manuscript grow.
Hear my words that I might teach you.
Read my blog that I might show you.”
But my warnings like homonyms sound
And echoed in the manuscript rife with typos.

And the writers rewrote and prayed
To the publishing gods they made.
And the red squiggles flashed out its warning
In the sentences that they were forming.
And the sign said, the novels of authors are written in Microsoft Word
And Scrivener
And  obsessively corrected during the sight of typos.

Hope it doesn’t get stuck in your head!

Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’ 


Book Nooks

Fragonard,_The_ReaderWhere is YOUR favorite place to read? Most of us have a preferred place—a comfy couch or chair—where we hunker down with a good book. How does your book nook compare to other readers’ favorite spots?

An informal and thoroughly unscientific survey conducted on twitter, Facebook, and while attending a big party netted interesting responses. Using sophisticated tabulation methods (cough-cough)…

the results are in!

Book Nooks

Bed: #1 place to read: The is the perfect read-until-your-eyes-are-blurry location, but do these readers only read at night? A few bookworms stated it was the one place to escape  the household hubbub.

Sofa: Great for getting comfy. A drink nearby (see Beverage & Book Pairings) and pillows are optional.

Comfy chair: Whether inside or outside, recliner or Adirondack, the reading chair is a temple to the written word. Almost a throne…which leads to the next location.

The Throne: Only a few brave souls admitted to this. Hey, some people like to take advantage of every moment of ‘down time’ possible.

Chaise lounge on the beach: Can we hear a resounding YEAH! The soothing sounds of the surf along with the inspiring sight of sea and horizon makes it an intoxicating place to read and ponder.

Hammock: Had the pleasure of reading my first Sookie Stackhouse novel while swaying in a hammock on an Ecuadorian beach. Heaven. If only I could convince my hubby to install one in the backyard.

Mile high reading club: If you’re a reader—and you must be if you’re reading this post—the invention of the e-reader was a godsend. No longer did you need to lug multiple paperbacks in your carry-on. Some SERIOUS reading gets done on an airplane. ( Unless, of course, you sit next to someone who loves to read the genre you write & then you can make a new friend and talk books & authors! Confession: Several seatmates have downloaded my novels.

Dining room/kitchen chair: Reading and eating is so much safer to do at the table. With the proper space between book and food, there is little chance of crumbs or spills soiling your book or e-reader. The downside: Do you remember what you ate?

Train/Bus/Car/ Vanpool: Reading for those immune from motion sickness. Reading while speeding down the freeway is do-able. Stop-n-go traffic, not so much. My son assures me that one day cars will be self-driving ( like in the movie i-Robot ) Imagine how much reading we might do!!!

Floating pool chaise: So decadent! The sun’s heat, the chlorinated cool splash, the soothing motion—great for the glam novel. Floating loungers with a handy-dandy beverage holder and/or retractable shade is reading BLISS. The ONE problem: If your e-reader decides to go for a swim. Hey Kindle or e-reader folks—make a waterproof version ( or case )! Observation: We sent a robot to Mars and yet our techno devices are not designed to be waterproof.

Treadmill/Exercise equipment: Several people swear by this location. It’s VERY multi-tasking fitness minded! Confession: My leg muscles and reading brain don’t sync. I forget to walk or pedal.

Floor: This might be fun for the young ‘uns. All I can say  is “ouch.”

Bathtub: This was surprising. My bath water gets cold in about 5 minutes. Maybe there’s a secret the bath-readers aren’t divulging.

Outside vs Inside: Many readers prefer reading outside! There’s nothin’ like reading a book on a nice day while surrounded by nature.

Plot + Nature + Comfy Chair = Readtopia.

Several respondents said they will read ANYWHERE.

Where is YOUR favorite book nook?

Many thanks to all those who put in their 2 reading cents.

Related links: Readin’ & Writin’