Looking at ourselves and the world through the lens of the 21st century.

Monday, October 31, 2022

National Novel Writing Month

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope our readers have safe Halloween plans for this evening. Today, I dressed up as a literary character for my school’s spooky celebrations; I am dressed up as Elphaba from the book and musical Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. The novel is a reimagining of the Wicked Witch of the West character in Frank L. Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Speaking of novels, this week on the podcast we are talking about National Novel Writing Month, which begins on November first. As a writer, National Novel Writing Month is one of my favorite writing “holidays.” Sure, other cool things happen in November (such as Thanksgiving and my birthday), but this time of year always makes me inspired to sit down and write! Getting the motivation to do it is another story.

What is National Novel Writing Month? According to NaNoWriMo, a nonprofit dedicated to helping struggling writers and education programs, National Novel Writing Month started in 1999 as a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. As of last year, the writing event spans 671 regions and hosts 427, 653 participants. NaNoWriMo even has a Young Writer’s program for students and educators. 

Popular novels that have spawned from National Novel Writing Month:

This year, I hope to participate in the event myself. I try every year, but I never complete 50,000 words and sometimes I don’t complete one word. So, I’m going to start small and write a short story. That’s not hard, right? I think the biggest problem for me is getting started, the result, when I write, is always so satisfying. 

So, I am issuing a challenge to our readers and my co-hosts, and I will also be issuing this challenge in my classroom: start small and write one short story (at least a page in length) that has an element of Magical Realism. What is Magical Realism? It is a style of fiction that depicts a realistic view of the world but adds magical elements. Magical realism often crosses the lines between fantasy and reality.

I want to hear from our readers. Do you participate in National Novel Writing Month? Do you complete the challenge? What other writing challenges do you participate in? Let’s continue the conversation below.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Taking the Stress Out of Holiday Decorating

EEK! It’s that time of year when everything starts to get super busy! Although the pressure is on me to tackle lots of small projects, attend (and sometimes even plan) several events like holidays, birthdays, costume parties etc., I seem to thrive. I think that keeping busy helps me stay out of the slump of seasonal depression that we can all easily fall into. As the nights grow darker, we start to turn inward physically into our homes and mentally into our own thoughts. I think that is one of the reasons why I love to decorate for the fall and winter holidays. Having my space as festive and cozy as possible allows me to live in the moment, and celebrate whatever is coming my way. 

One of my favorite Halloween traditions is not just decorating though, but making the act of decorating an event of its own. In the past, Mom and I found that we would struggle to get our homes decorated to our liking. Either there was not enough available time, or not enough help. So, we devised a plan to help each other be more accountable by helping decorate each other’s houses. 

In order to maximize the time enjoying our decorations on display, we decided that we should put them up as early as possible, without being an annoyance to our neighbors, of course. This year, October 1st landed on a Saturday, so we chose that as our “decorating day,” and as you know, we are planner girls, so we planned that date about a month in advance and marked our calendars. It all starts with that planning ahead factor. We picked the date and time, then the rest fell into place accordingly, but not without a little extra effort to plan and be prepared. 

Prepping for holiday decorating doesn’t have to be a huge fiasco, but the better prepared you are, the quicker you can get your decorations up, and then you can move on to your scary movies or whatever activities you like to do in October. In September, I plan and schedule to do some fall house cleaning, sort of like spring cleaning but in the fall. I put away anything that is too summer-like and pack away any decorations that would be in the way. I have a huge Scentsy collection so I pack away my summer warmers and my summer scented wax. I give the house a good dusting, sweeping, and decluttering. I have my decorations packed up in the garage, so I will bring those into the living room as well. If there are any decorations that I want to buy, I go ahead and purchase those in advance so that they are in hand on the day we decorate. Get out any tools that you might need also. Be sure to have things like hammer and nails, adhesive hooks, tape, scissors, a step ladder, extension cords and batteries handy for those decorations that need it. I found myself making several trips out to the garage for tools and such, and I could have saved my energy by getting it all rounded up beforehand. 

This year we started off around 10 AM. It's really not a big ordeal; I didn’t have drinks and snacks ,or music like I would have for any other party, but I am not afraid to entertain that thought for next year. I think some spooky Halloween music would have been fun and inspiring, similar to how Christmas music gets you into the holiday spirit while decorating the Christmas tree. Even without the motivational soundtrack, we were able to work through four tubs of decorations in a timely manner. My fall and Halloween decorations were mixed in together, so it took a little bit of sorting. We used my dining room table as an unloading station and we determined which decorations were going out for Halloween, and what would stay in the box until November 1st. From there we could pick up one item and agree on what was going where. I think we had everything decorated inside and out in about an hour and a half. We took a lunch break and then drove to Cindy’s house to put up her decorations following the same method. 

I am really glad that we started decorating this way; it really takes some of the burden off, and removes some of the decision fatigue by having someone else provide their input and ideas. I also find that it is just another added bonus to get to spend quality time with my mom and Reyna and whoever else might be helping. 

Starting Two New Halloween Traditions

I hope you’ve enjoyed our week of Halloween traditions; I know we’ve enjoyed sharing our fun with you. Sometimes, I think just talking about how much we love the holidays makes us even more excited, as we are inspired to add more traditions when we hear about all the fun things that others do. I know I’m always inspired to do more because everything just adds to the fun!

On the podcast, we talked about our favorite "Halloween" movies, and I made no secret of the fact that I am not a fan of horror flicks. But, while we were talking about it, we started listing off a lot of non-scary movies, as well as some old horror favorites that I grew up with that may have been "scary" at the time, and it inspired me to make my own custom list of movies for Halloween. Do note, however, that some of these movies do lean toward the scary or at least disturbing, so watch at your own risk!

Download the PDF

Another fall tradition I’ve been inspired to try this year is a month-long “October” mini scrapbook album. I’m a huge fan of several social media influencers like Dearly Dee, Traci Reed, Krystal Iduñate, and Ashley Horton, who all do October/Halloween themed albums, so, when Ali Edwards announced a new Halloween-themed kit, I knew I had to give it a go.

Part of the Ali Edwards Halloween kit.

I’ll be the first to admit that I need another project like I need another hole in my head. I am already way behind on my Project Life album, and I still haven’t finished my little camping traveler’s notebook from last year, nor my 2020 planner journal, to name just a few. But, much like the draw of my beloved December Daily project each year, I just couldn’t resist taking on another “quick” album. So, here I am, with a handful of printed photos and a lot of scrappin’ supplies, trying to find some time to work on a project that I just know will be super cute if I can ever get it done. Hopefully, I can find some time this weekend.

In the meantime, here is what I’ve completed so far (not much!), and if you’re interested in a project like this, even if it’s just to look at the inspiring work of others, be sure to check out those influencers I mentioned above, and tell me what you think in the comments below.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Heard it on the Podcast - October 26, 2022

Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we'll do every Wednesday to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

S2E44: Halloween Traditions

  • NextDoor Halloween Candy Map: Go to Nextdoor.com and click "Discover" then "Treat" button
  • Cindy's Crafty Neighbor Halloween Costumes Blog: See it Here 
  • Halloween Shaking Ghost Decoration: On YouTube
  • Jell-o popcorn balls: Recipe
*The name of the Mel Brooks Frankenstein movie with Gene Wilder was actually "Young Frankenstein". 

*Oh, and if you find one of those Halloween Shaking Ghosts for sale somewhere, be sure to let Cindy know! 🤣


    Monday, October 24, 2022

    Halloween Traditions

    Hey everyone! It’s my favorite time of year! Spooky Season! This week on the podcast we are talking about Halloween traditions and the things we like to do every year on Halloween. I am in a transitional place in my life, but I want to talk about some of the new traditions I have started over the past few years as well as some of the traditions that I have kept from my childhood.

    Pumpkin Carvings by Jason and I

    Halloween Decorations

    Checking out the decorations at Michael's

    I know a lot of people like to decorate for Halloween, and I am no exception. It excites me when the first Halloween decorations hit the shelf at the end of July/beginning of August. I typically like to hit up the décor sections early in the season and I like to hit them up again the day after Halloween. This, of course, was a tradition that I shared with my mom in the past. She always liked to prepare for the coming holidays early. I, however, keep my house decorated in a spooky aesthetic all year round. So, I keep two types of Halloween decorations: the ones I only pull out in October, such as fake cobwebs and spooky lights, and the ones I keep up all year, like my collection of gothic literature decorations.

    31 Nights of Horror

    Every October, like many horror fans, I TRY to achieve the near impossible (for someone with very little time), and that is to watch 31 horror or spooky movies in October. There really are no rules to this challenge other than you have to watch 31 horror (or, spooky if you don’t like horror) movies in October. Some bloggers even go so far as to create a daily theme for this challenge. Like this one from Horror Hound.

    Every year, I fail miserably at this due to poor planning and not taking this challenge as seriously as other people do. I have only made it through ten movies this year. Aside from that, I like to go to the movies and watch at least one horror movie at the movies, and I have stuck to this tradition every year including in 2020 when most movie theaters were shut down and movies were going direct to streaming. This year, I saw Barbarian in the theater. The movie is about a woman, Tess, who books a remote home in Detroit to stay at while she attends a job interview only to find that it was double booked by an awkwardly creepy man named Keith. Tess ultimately decides to share the booking with Keith because the weather was horrible and there were no available hotels in the area.

    Local Fall/Halloween Festivals

    Pumpkin Nights with Jason

    This is a new tradition that Jason and I started last year and continued this year during October. Last year, we went to Frights’n Lights in Frisco, which is a fall festival held every weekend in October that displays hundreds of horror icon lanterns and movie character carved pumpkins. The festival also boasts the largest trick-or-treat trail in Texas. This year, we decided to take a similar route and attend Pumpkin Nights in Arlington. Pumpkin Nights is a fall festival held every weekend in October that displays a trail of events and photo opportunities made almost completely out of pumpkin lanterns. The event also hosts a variety of activities such as shopping, a food truck park, and a playground for kids and adults.

    Matching Pajamas

    New PJs with Christen

    This is also a new tradition that Christen and I mentioned on the podcast. Last year, I attended a slumber party that was thrown for Reyna at the beginning of October 2021 and I decided to stay the night to watch horror movies. Christen, the girls, and I went on a late-night run to Walmart for snacks and ended up in the pajama section. We bought matching nightshirts and wore them while we watched horror movies all night. We had so much fun shopping together, we decided we needed to do it again in the future. A couple of weeks ago, Reyna had her October slumber party and we ended up at Walmart in the pajama section again. We bought another set of matching nightshirts and ended the night watching horror movies, thus adding a new Halloween tradition.

    Whether it is a new tradition or an old tradition, Halloween will always be my favorite holiday. I want to hear from our readers. Do you have any fun Halloween traditions? How long have you kept these traditions? Are there any new things you’d like to try this year? Please comment below.

    A Dragon made of Pumpkins at Pumpkin Nights

    Wednesday, October 19, 2022

    Heard it on the Podcast - October 19, 2022

    Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we'll do every Wednesday to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

    S2E43: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

    You can read more about Cindy's story on Caring Bridge.


      Monday, October 17, 2022

      Think Pink and Save a Life!

      That's me on the right after our first 3-Day walk in 2011. Christen is squatting just below me.

      If you’ve noticed a lot of pink lately, that’s because October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. In October, many different organizations and individuals take on the task of bringing awareness to this terrible disease that affects 1 in 8 women at some point in their lifetime.  Many people don’t realize it can also affect around 2200 men each year, with an average of 410 of them dying. And while we’ve been working hard to get the information out there and help people make good choices about their health, many are still reluctant to do monthly self-examinations or annual mammograms.

      Cancer is scary; this I know. In 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a result, I endured two surgeries to remove the tumors, 6 long weeks of daily radiation treatments, and more than 5 years of taking a daily hormone-based chemotherapy pill – a nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor called Anastrazole, also known as Arimidex. The medication caused many side effects, including an intense worsening of my post-menopausal hot flashes, an acceleration in the development of arthritis in my joints, plus foggy brain and memory loss, among others. It wasn’t pleasant, and that was just the physical part of it.

      The radiation machine. I did this 5 days a week for 6 weeks.

      Super blurry, but this is me going into radiation.

      It really came as no shock to me when I was diagnosed. I had spent the past 5 years fundraising for the Susan G. Komen Foundation through the 3-Day Walk for the Cure they sponsor each year. I knew many women with breast cancer, some who survived, and some who did not. I knew the statistics. I knew it was bound to happen to me or to someone I knew. What I didn’t know was what my mother never told me…that I had a higher than usual risk due to multiple family members who had breast and ovarian cancer. I was shocked and dismayed that this was never discussed…like it was some sort of dark secret we couldn’t talk about. It was strange because we often talked about diabetes and heart disease that ran through the family, so why not breast cancer? 

      I decided that had to end. I took it upon myself to make it my mission to spread my story to anyone who would listen. I survived breast cancer, and others can, too, if we share our stories and we share our histories. We need to encourage our friends and family (male and female) to do those monthly self-checks andshare our family histories and cancer risks with our children and grandchildren. There is no reason to keep this disease a secret. It is not shameful, embarrassing, or improper to bring up at the dinner table, but it is life-threatening, and if you love your friends and family, you owe it to them to bring breast cancer out of the closet.

      I was part of the opening ceremony of the 2017 3-Day

      To that end, I encourage you to get your mammogram if you haven’t done so this year. It may be uncomfortable for some, but it is not painful, and it could save your life. And while you’re at it, ask your family about your medical history. Do the research; ask the questions. Then share it with the others. You might save their life, too.

      In the spirit of sharing, I have linked my own story on a website called Caring Bridge that I used to update my friends and family on my breast cancer journey. I hope it will inspire you to get involved, learn your risks, and get those mammograms!

      Breast cancer doesn’t just affect the person who has cancer. In previous essays and articles, I have often stated that I don’t know a single person who hasn’t been affected by it – whether it is themself, a loved one, or a friend or neighbor. It touches all of our lives. We need to share those stories.  Please share your breast cancer stories with us in the comments below, or on our Facebook Chat Group “MMC Chat.” Sharing is caring!

      Here are some more breast cancer links:

      My Cancer Story at CaringBridge.com


      My SGK 3-Day “Walkers, Texas Rangers” team Facebook Page:  


      My Think Pink Crop for the Cure Event:


      The National Breast Cancer Foundation:


      The Susan G. Komen 3-Day:


      The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure:


      Race for the Cure:


      MammaJamma Ride:


      Saturday, October 15, 2022

      Listing, an Obsession

      This week on the podcast, we talked about list making and the different types of lists that we make. Have you ever wondered why people make lists? To me, nothing is more satisfying than making a list and checking things off it. It is the ultimate calming activity (aside from putting things in alphabetical order) for my Obsessive-Compulsive mind.

      I can remember being obsessed with lists even as young as elementary school. One constant activity I did to calm myself down was to make a list. The lists were different every time. For example, I showed rabbits (I owned over 100 of them), and every single one had a name. I would sit and write down the name of every single one of my rabbits. In high school, I started keeping an APN (all-purpose notebook) and I would keep all my lists contained in that. At the beginning of 2021, I bought my first bullet journal and I started putting my lists in that journal, dubbing it my “List Journal.” But, why do I do this? There must be some psychological explanation for why I make so many lists.

      • People make lists to remember things, which is something I do as well. I will make a weekly list of things I need to do in my classroom or at home. I keep them, on my phone and in my planner. Those are essential lists I make, but as I mentioned above, I also compulsively (and maybe even obsessively) list sometimes. 
      • As I have mentioned before, I have Bipolar Disorder and I also have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which can be symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. A common, OCD compulsion is called “glazomania.” Glazomania is an unusual obsession, passion, or fascination with making lists, which I have.

      Is it wrong to be obsessed with lists? Absolutely not! Lists are a wonderful way to stay organized in a disorganized world. The problem (according to the article “Five Manias and Obsessions You Might Not Know About”)  lies when you are obsessively making lists, but the lists aren’t helping you in the way that they should, or if the only thing you do is make lists. However, making lists can also help stop compulsions related to OCD.

      You decide. Is an obsession with lists a good thing or a bad thing? I want to hear from our readers. What kind of lists do you make? Do you obsessively make lists as I do? Comment below or continue the conversation on our Facebook Group: MMC Chat.

      Thursday, October 13, 2022

      My Big Fat Excel List


      If you listened to yesterday’s podcast, you probably realized we are very nerdy (like you didn’t know that already). How many people do you know that get so excited over making lists? I know a few, but then, I also know a lot of people who give me some side-eye when I talk about it. So yeah, I agree, it’s not for everyone, but then, neither is budgeting, cleaning house, or a whole lot of other things that are “good for us”. And yes, I really do think making lists is good for us. It’s good for the mind, it’s good for the soul. We can use lists to help us make decisions (pros vs. cons), brainstorm ideas, clear our mind (brain dump), and even remind us to be grateful.

      The other day, I was reminded of how helpful lists are when I started my weekly planning routine.  If you watched our “Plan with Us” live stream back in May, you may recall that I mentioned using a Brain Dump worksheet and an Eisenhower Matrix to help me remember and prioritize all the tasks I have to keep up with for my home, family, and work life. Those two tools work very well, but I often felt like things were still falling through the cracks. For instance, if you look at the Eisenhower Matrix, you’ll see that there are only nine lines in each of the four quadrants. I look at that and think it might be enough lines for all the things I have to do today, but it certainly won’t be enough space to list out everything that needs to be done for the whole week, much less the month or long-term goals. I have similar problems making lists and laying out goals in my planners and using the PowerSheets® Tending Lists. So what’s a goal-setting, planner girl to do? 

      Create a spreadsheet, of course!

      After fussing about with my growing list of tasks that I had jotted down here, there and everywhere, I decided to compile all of my to-do lists and tasks into one comprehensive list that I could refer to every week while I’m laying out my planner. The list includes everything from daily work routines to step-by-step actions for each of my major goals for the year, along with several long-term pipe dreams. For each task, I have estimated the amount of time it would take to complete, the frequency if it is a repeating task, the date I would like to complete it (which updates every time I open the file for those daily tasks), and a rating system based on the Eisenhower Matrix. Thus, when I sort the list by date and rank, I wind up with the most urgent and important items at the top, ranked in order by urgency and importance. No more do I have to spend half my Sunday figuring out which tasks need to be done in what order throughout the week because the spreadsheet decides all that for me! Of course, I can choose to reorder the list in any way I choose, changing the ranking of items I feel are more important at the time. And if a new task or project comes up, I just add it to the list, assign the appropriate ranking levels, and sort…voila! 

      This is a peak at my very long list I created in Excel.

      I know this sort of nerdy spreadsheet automation is not for everyone, and it did take a little bit of time to set up, but I was so excited to discover how much time this little spreadsheet shaved off my planning time, and how accurately it helped me prioritize my tasks and allocate my time. I was also shocked at how many things I had on that list and realized it was no wonder that I am so overworked and overwhelmed at times. Having it all laid out on paper (because, of course, I printed it out) helped me look realistically at all the things I had committed myself to and to see that there’s no way I could do them all…or at least not right now. But having the list is also a reminder of the things I want to do…the things I am working towards and all that I want to accomplish. In creating this list and working from it diligently, I’m hoping to tick more tasks off of it than I add, and if I keep whittling it down, eventually I can get it to a manageable and reasonable size.

      Oh, who am I kidding…we all know I’m already thinking of more things I want to add to it!

      *There are several great spreadsheet applications available to make a list of your own. I made mine in Microsoft Excel, but you could also use Apple’s Numbers, or even Google Sheets, which is a cloud-based spreadsheet application that you can use from just about any device – and the bonus is, it’s free!

      5 Ways to Manifest Your Best Life

      Hi there, and welcome back! Since we have been heavily focusing on goals and planning, I thought we should discuss manifesting. I love this ...