Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm a winner! Literally!

Around 7 pm I reached 50,000 words, thus making me a NaNoWriMo winner.  WOOT.

In celebration I did a very spontaneous but elaborate dance that involved lots of shimmying and jazz hands and fist pumps.

But here's the thing - 50,000 words is really just a long pamphlet.  It's about half the length of a regular size novel.  And my story isn't near finished.  But it's definitely on the way.  Also, boy is it garbage right now.  There are moments of greatness but for the most part it is a jumbled mess.  Which is to be expected.  I wrote fast and did zero editing.  I have not gone back to read any of it.  I am hoping when I do I won't be completely disappointed with it.  I don't think I will be.  There's a good base there.  We'll see how it plays out.

Things I've learned while spending November lashed to my laptop trying to convince myself to write:

1.)  The internet is my enemy
2.)  The more I complained about how hard writing was the less writing I did.  Once I changed my attitude and started saying, "This is a piece of cake.  Just a really time consuming piece of cake." my progress tripled. 
3.)  Cake is an excellent writing snack.
4.)  Do not start reading a hard-to-put-down novel with just three days left.
5.)  Writing without editing is incredibly freeing.  But it makes for really crappy writing.  I need to find a good balance.
6.)  Writing with a goal is the best.  Even when it was a daily goal.  There would be days when I would say, "Okay, I'm not going to stop until I hit 3000 words for today" and then I would get there and realize that I was only 1000 words away from hitting a milestone on my total word count and then I'd get there and realize that I was just 1000 words away from hitting a personal daily best.  I suppose this is what athletes do when they're pushing themselves.  Just for the record, I'm sticking with writing.
7.) I always do better when there is a prize at the end - even if that prize is allowing myself an episode of Psyche on Netflix.
8.) It turns out all those wealthy, famous, published authors are right:  sometimes all it takes is to just sit down and write. 
8.)  50,000 was not that hard.  Or rather, not as hard as I thought it would be. Relief!

Thanks to everyone who asked how the novel was coming along.  Feel free to keep it up because there's still plenty of opportunities left for me to think I'm a talentless hack before it is completed.  I need the accountability and encouragement.

And if you'd like - you may stop by and see my NaNoWriMo winner's certificate.  I think I will get one of those double frames so it can be side by side with my nun chuck certificate.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Handel at the Nixon

Just like most families, the Knechts start the Christmas season off with a trip to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.

(Note - it's been a few years since I've been through the place but I remember loving how they simply glossed over the whole Watergate business.  "Well, there was this thing with some tapes, but LOOK OVER THERE!  Is that the White House china??!)

We actually go for the Messiah Sing-along that is held there every year.  It is magical in many ways.

1.)  It's a sing along.  This blog is riddled with examples of my deep love for them.  People who like to sing along to things are just more fun.  We all know it's true.

2.)  People dress up in period clothing.  What period, you ask?  Oh, any period.  There were people in mid 18th century dresses - which is the period Messiah was written - with lots of bustles and ruffles and powdered wigs and tri-cornered hats, and then there were people dressed like Jane Austen.  And a few more dressed like they were from ye olde Dickens novel.  Basically any kind of Days of Yore attire is permitted.  Which makes me want to dress like a hippie next year.

3.)  The music is divine.  And I mean that in the literal sense of the word.   Every year the conductor tells the same story of how Handel was destitute and he came home one night and found several verses of scripture a friend left on his doorstep to give him comfort and within six weeks the entire thing was written and Handel tells everyone that all of Heaven was revealed to him as he wrote.  Then the conductor always says, "I wonder what he saw," and then we sing, "Behold the Lamb of God". And then I weep like a baby.

4.)  The clarinetist had the BEST toupee.  I mean, it was epic.  He was clear across the room from us when we first spotted him and even from that distance we all were like, "niiiice."

5.)  The orchestra and choir are all volunteers so there's always a few squeaky and out of tune violins.  Which I love because it just reminds me that people do this sort of thing because they love it.  My voice is also squeaky and out of tune most of the time.  There is no judging here.

6.)  We sang the Hallelujah Chorus twice because it was so much fun.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lydia the Tattoed Lady

1.)  There are four more days left in NaNoWriMo and unless a freak finger accident is in my future it looks like I will finish.  That's right, I WILL FINISH!  I'm only 5000 words behind on my count, which, I have learned, is nothing.  I eat 5000 words for breakfast.

2.)  My toenails are a shiny gold right now and they make me feel very festive and also like a superhero.  It is my new favorite color.

3.) I saw The Muppets today and it was grand.  I mean, really.  And it got me thinking about one of my favorite clips from the old Muppet Show.  Enjoy

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Back

There is a lot to be thankful for.  I mean, really, a lot. And I'm not just talking about pie and stretchy pants here.  I am a very lucky girl.

One of the things I am most grateful for are unintentionally funny people.  To illustrate, here's a gem from tonight:

While sitting in a feast-induced coma my family ended up watching Wheel of Fortune and one of the contestants introduced himself thusly -

"Hi.  I'm Andrew from Chicago.  I have an adorable wife, an awesome cat named Squeemu, and I play the synthesizer."  He later went on to say his favorite movie was Godzilla vs. Mothra and when he made it to the final round it was revealed he was wearing red skinny jeans.

I must have worked off at least half of my mash potato calories from laughing.

Dear Andrew from Chicago, I am thankful for you.  Love, Rachel.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nick Lachey is a Robot

1.) Last night I watched my friend Heather's kids and we spent the whole two hours drawing, coloring and painting.  A while ago I told them about my ridiculously large collection of art supplies and they were eager to see them so I brought them along and they were sufficiently impressed.  I'm not going to lie, it's a pretty rad collection.  There are hundreds of crayons (in standard, neon, metallic, glitter and glow in the dark), colored pencils, pastels, watercolors, markers, and glitter paint.  It was kind of an awesome night.  I love Heather's kids (K said, "I think we should start an art society," as seven year olds do.) and I love to color and now I'm trying to figure out how to get other kids to color with me because it was so much fun.

2.)  I've done it.  I've made amazing rolls.  Year after year I try to make rolls and they always turn out sort of mediocre.  But I was trying out a new recipe for Thanksgiving and I wanted to give them a test run so I made some this afternoon and THEY ARE INCREDIBLE.  I feel victorious. (Fluffy Dinner Rolls from America's Test Kitchen baking cookbook.  ATK has never failed me.  I'm also making their sausage cornbread stuffing that I made last year and have been dreaming about ever since.)

3.)  Is anyone watching the Sing Off?  And is anyone else annoyed that Afro Blues was sent home?  And does anyone else think that Nick Lachey may be a robot?  He does not vary from his host mode at all.  From the inflection in his voice to his shiny shirt/black slacks combo to the way he stands with his hip a little out to the way he drops his arm when he's done talking, everything is exactly the same week to week.  It's creepy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I hope their turkey is dry too

Last night was rough.  I had to fight it out with Verizon for an hour and a half.

Me:  Do I need a new modem?
V: You may need a new modem.
Me:  So I need a new modem?
V: Maybe
Me: Can you just tell me?
V: I'm not saying you do, but you probably do.  Let me transfer you to someone who can sell you a new modem.
Me:  I hope the marshmallows on your candied yams burn on Thanksgiving.

All of this went on while I was having the Worst Cramps of my Life.  They were the full body kind that make you feel like someone took a meat tenderizer to your insides and then put on some brass knuckles and punched you a few times and then said mean things about your hair.  They were so painful that about an hour into the phone call I felt like I was about to black out, but then I willed myself to go on because so help me if all that back and forth was for not! It turns out that it was entirely for not as this morning Katie rearranged some of the wiring and ta-da we have internet again.

Which I am grateful for.  But I'm still hoping for disastrous yams.

Another thing I am grateful for...Los Angeles, and friends who want to have Adventures there.  Me, Katie, Heather and Andrea spent yesterday (before the Verizon/Cramp Summit of '011) cruising the city.  Andrea has lived here for several years but has never really seen anything so we took her all over the place.  Beverly Hills, the Farmers Market, the Biltmore, we rode Angels Flight (which is the cutest thing you can do in LA.  Best 25 cents you will ever spend.), and we capped it off with French dips at Philippe's.  I've lived here my whole life and you know how much I love it.  It's so much fun to show it off.  Maybe I should look into becoming a tour guide.  We saw a guy driving down Sunset in a van with no windows and the roof sawed off giving a tour to a family of red-heads.  I could totally do that.

And it has to be mentioned:  we started the morning off with breakfast at the Avocado House - Home of the Life Altering Cinnamon Swirl French Toast with Caramel Sauce.  I would not be surprised if that stuff could cure cancer.  At the very least it balanced out a night of cramps and a soul-crushing phone call with my internet provider.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kwik, someone get me a sedative

I'm putting Utah on notice for a gross misuse of the letter K.  Over the weekend I saw the following:
(none of the above were even at a KOA (which is also on notice) by the way)
I get it, these people want to make their business stand out.  They think they're being clever and cute and original.  So I just have a few gentle words for them. YOU'RE NOT BEING CLEVER!!!!  YOU'RE BEING DUMB!!!!  PEOPLE THINK YOU CAN'T SPELL AND THAT MEANS THEY WON'T COME TO YOUR SHOP BECAUSE ONLY A MORON WOULD MISSPELL QUANTUM TO GET ATTENTION AND WHO WANTS TO SUPPORT A MORON???!!????!!!!!!! 
Or maybe I just want people to not shop at places with intentionally misspelled words.  Maybe I think we should boycott those shops.  WHO'S WITH ME?!  (Note to self:  gather torches and pitchforks.)

Okay. Sorry about that.  It's a touchy subject for me.  A part of me dies when I realize grown ups do this sort of thing - as opposed to 13 year old girls, who are the only demographic who can legitimately get away with this as long as it's written in pink ink from a Hello Kitty pen. 

And I'm serious about the boycott.  We shall overcome!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Let is snow...somewhere else.

Thursday night was a little busy for me and Katie.  Our friend Andrea and her husband were in town and we had been invited over for dinner at her parent's house.  And we were hosting book club afterwards.  And sometime during those activities we decided that Gina needed some quality Sister Time.  Now throw in packing and weekend-plans-and-responsibilities-adjusting and that made the night a late one.  By 5:30 the next morning we were on the road to Utah.  Adventure!

(Side note:  Growing up with my dad meant we always left on trips for Utah before the sun came up.  I think this hearkens back to the days when he was a kid and it used to take 20 hours to drive to Utah and you had to do it in an un-air conditioned car and you wanted to beat the heat of the desert.  Or he just likes getting up early and getting miles behind him.  Either way, it has been ingrained in us.  If you ever drive to Utah with me, I'm sorry, but we're leaving early.  I promise to bring good snacks and mixed CDs.) 

So I spent the weekend in Utah, doing things like: going to the BYU Singers concert which was good but long, more good than long, but still, long; making homemade Butterfingers, (it will freak you out how close these get to the real thing); taking naps while watching White Christmas; going to Five Guys for dinner (1st timer here.  I'm convinced.); visiting the other sibs and nephews and niece, who is, and I'm not even kidding here, the Cutest Sweetest Most Kissable Baby on the Planet; and going up to the Olympic Park in Park City where we were supposed to catch some bobsled races but missed it by like 10 minutes because the weather got too bad but we still got to see the athletes in their spandex man-pri uniforms.  The Swiss looked a little snooty.

Speaking of weather, maybe you don't know this but I think cold weather is for chumps.  And snow if for chumps with bad hair cuts.  When we got out of the car at Park City I very nearly rushed back in.  The wind.  Oh, the wind.  It was making the snow go all sideways.  And it wasn't pretty fluffy snow.  It was mini cannon balls of snow.  Ice pellets of mass destruction.

Guess what I'm saying in this picture as I'm standing in the snow and the cold and the wind:

Here, I'll help you.  I believe I was quoting Georgia, "WHAT IN THE NAME OF PANTS AM I DOING HERE?!?!?!"

This was me about 5 minutes later as we started marching into the wind towards the bobsled track:

10 seconds later I finally got smart and closed that top snap, making me all but invisible to the snow.

I will say this, snow is beautiful and this particular brand was perfect for snow balls, of which I made several.  But I am a delicate flower and could only handle about 20 minutes out in the elements.  The rest of our time was spent in the Olympic museum, where we watched highlights of the Salt Lake Games and I got totally pumped for the London Olympics (I want to start planning my Opening Ceremonies Party right this minute.)  We stopped off for some lunch when we got down the mountain, where it wasn't snowy but still cold and I noticed several people wandering around in shorts and flip flops, like they were in Maui or something.  I was aghast.  Particularly when a gust of wind came by that was so chilling it almost made me burst into tears.  When I asked Gina why people were dressed for the beach she said, "It's only 50 degrees."  I didn't want to hurt her feelings by insinuating she had lost her California roots but around these parts 50 degrees means you had better find your can opener and head down to the bunker because the end is nigh.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No novel, but nicely trimmed nails

The continuing list of things I've done instead of NaNoWriMo includes:  trimming and filing my nails (I cannot be expected to type with long nails); searching every inch of my kitchen for an appropriate snack for writing (I thought it was popcorn but I was wrong); going to a friend's baby shower where I got to visit with the girls and snuggle a newborn; visiting another friend afterwards where I got to snuggle with her newborn (Oh boy, newborns.  They're kind of the best thing ever.); making paper Christmas ribbons

Ack!  I'm addicted.  And for what purpose.  It's not like I ever go out of my way to decorate presents.  And it's not like people are going to keep those forever if I do.  And yet, I can't stop.

For those of you interested I am officially 6051 words behind on my count.  But I have a plot.  A PLOT!  That I'm pretty sure I have stolen from every single book I love.  But at least I'm heading in some direction, right?

Do you know what else I have been up to instead of NaNoWriMo?  Going to my writing group.  I now belong to one with 3 friends.  We all have similar goals in regards to writing and recognized the need to be brave in order to achieve those goals so we got together for the first time last night to critique.  It was TERRIFYING!!!!  Because you may not know this but 99.5% of every single thing I write I think it garbage.  Oh, it's just so bad.  And I have learned that every other writer on the planet feels the exact same way.  So imagine how we all were feeling last night as we huddled around our little bits of work, anticipating confirmation that our fears are justified - we cannot write.  And then it turned out to be just the opposite - we found out that we could.  It was actually a really amazing experience for me.  We were all kind and helpful in our critique and no one left in tears.  And I came home inspired and ready to write.  And what did I do this morning?  Trimmed my nails and watched Gilmore Girls.  But I'm getting there.


In other news:  I'm a little annoyed at my Jehovah's Witness best friend Jason who occasionally stops by to give me pamphlets and invite me to conventions because while I was visiting my friend her own JWBFF came by and gave her a present for the baby.  What?!  Jason is totally slacking on this.  I was busy snuggling so I didn't get a chance to see them but had I been at the door I would have told them to pass it on to Jason that he can stop by anytime with a present.  At least wrap the Watchtower magazine in a bow.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Kids are Alright

I think you all need to give me a stirring round of applause.  Why?  Because I was released as the Primary President yesterday and I didn't cry church.  At home - different story.  Marvel at my self control!!! I've known it was coming for a few weeks now - which made last week's primary program even more of a tear-fest, and I actually have felt for some time now that it was imminent - I'm still the stake girls camp director and I made it clear that it was only through many, many miracles that I was able to do both this past year and that, while I was willing to do it again, maybe we shouldn't tax heaven so much the next time around.  So I was prepared.

But do you know what I wasn't prepared for?  How much I would love working in the Primary.  Before I got in I would hear people say, "I love being in Primary.  It's the best job in the whole church," and I was certain they were saying that just to make themselves feel better about the whole thing.  Because who wants to spend 2 hours of every Sunday with 40 kids making sure they don't poke someones eye out when you could be having deep doctrinal discussions with adults? 

Um, I do.  Because those kids are awesome.  They made me laugh every single week.  And they sometimes said the most profound and really sweet things.  And we got to sing a lot.  Remember how freaked out I was about the whole thing?  As all the kids were filing in on Sunday, giving me hugs and high fives, I felt like a total pro.

Next church adventure:  Nursery Assistant.  That's right - I'll be hanging with the toddler set, eating gold fish crackers and playing with bubbles.  I'm thinking of instituting nap time. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Confetti Gun!

Highlights from the Chino High School Band Review and Field Show Competition (which my sisters and I go to every year even though none of us were ever in band - we're just really big dorks and live for opportunities to cheer for people and eat snack bar food.)

1.)  During the parade one of the bands shot off confetti guns, instantly making them The Greatest Band There.  Those guns went off and every single person, young and old, shrieked in delight.  I wonder if they have little personal use sized confetti guns.  I think that would be fun to take into the bank.

2.)  We ate multiple things covered in nacho cheese.  WIN!

3.)  We always sit right in front of where the flag girls line up just before marching for the Rose Parade judges.  It is a joy to hear some of the things their coaches say to them, the best so far being, "Hands on hips, smiles on lips, ladies."  Which, of course, is my personal motto.  Also, we like to chat with the girls.  Well, not so much chat as say things like, "You look super sparkly,"  or "I love your hair extensions," or "We want to see some big smiles out there," as they're waiting to step off.  I like to believe it gives them that extra boost of confidence.

4.)  As usual we became best friends with everyone around us.  It's because we spread good cheer and crack jokes about flag girl costumes.  And we're loud.  We will not be ignored!  Anyway, we made friends with everyone around us including Charlene the 53 year old flight attendant who came by herself even though she didn't know anyone in the competition (or have a deep rooted family tradition of going) and started off the conversation by saying, "You girls are so funny.  I just came from a stand up class in Burbank and I've been listening to you and you're hilarious.  I came here to meet men but you can never have too many girlfriends."  She then spent the rest of the evening telling me about her glory days as a majorette and trying to convince us to come to another band competition in two weeks.  I told her that if she brought her baton and stormed the field I'd consider it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The pinata, the pinata

Camille just messaged me to say that they're having a pinata at work today.  She's the secretary at an Institute of Religion* and Mormon college kids are notoriously goofy, so it's not surprising.  In fact, the only job I've had where that sort of thing could potentially happen was my student job at BYU in the Alumni House.  We had treats every Friday and sloppy joe parties and Wear Your Overalls to Work Day (this applied mostly to our bosses (as it was the 90s and overalls were big with the kids) who were of an age that believed overalls were only worn on the farm.) On the first day of Spring every year we would all run down to the front lawn and frolic for 15 minutes.  I cannot believe I didn't take advantage of the high caliber of fun that group possessed and suggest a pinata.

But now I know.  Any job interview I go to from here on out I will ask, "What's your company's policy on pinatas?"  A girl has got to have standards.

*Place where religious classes are taught for college-age kids.  Known for their pool tables, abundance of snacks, and loitering youth.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My mantra for this month is: If Tyra can do it, so can I!

I'm doing NaNoWriMo this month.  That's right, folks, it's time I got around to writing a novel.  By the end of November I should have at least 50,000 words and an ulcer because the truth is, I've never written that much in my life.  Well, that much of one thing.  I do better writing short things like blog posts and thank you notes.  Every time I have attempted a novel I've gotten about 30 pages in and decided that 1.)  I'm a talentless hack, 2.)  I have no imagination, and 3.)  I'm going to give it all up and learn how to do something that will actually make me money like cosmetology.

But can you think of a better time to do it than right now?  I'm a woman of elegant leisure.  I have all the time in the world.  So what if I don't have an imagination.  Or a plot.  Or realistic and interesting characters.  They say that all you really need is a deadline and November 30th is pretty firm.

But take a look at my list of activities this morning and see how this could play out:

Turned on my computer, all set to write
Checked my email
Checked Google Reader
Read a few articles in the LA Times
Read up on Kim Kardashian getting a divorce (I'm pretty ashamed about that one)
Fixed myself some breakfast
Talked myself out of playing a round of online Scrabble
Wrote this blog post instead

David Franzen (who writes big books) said he removed all games from and physically disabled the Net portal on the computer he writes on.  I totally get why.  Distractions are the death knell of my creativity.

But I'm determined.  So feel free to ask me how the writing is coming along.  Check in to make sure I'm keeping up with my daily word count goal (2000/day).  Ask me if I have finally come up with a plot line that involves the characters doing more than just sitting and watching TV for 100 pages.

Tyra did it (sort of)(I mean, she wrote a lot of words).  Surely I can too.