Wednesday, January 7, 2015

After by Anna Todd: A Warning.

In this post I'm going to give you the run down on Anna Todd's Wattpad experience, that ended up in her online writing hobby becoming a printed novel series.  But at the end I feel it necessary to give you a warning about her series and the uses of Wattpad.  I don't feel like I can be comfortable promoting this platform without telling you what I have come to realize about it.  I'm not saying that it shouldn't be used, but I feel there's an issue here that parents simply need to be aware of.  I'm not against Wattpad in any way, in fact I have half a mind to start toying with my own story, but I feel a bit of education needs to happen for those of us with teenagers who may be reading these things, for free, on this site, and have known nothing of the site ourselves.  

  

Twenty-five year-old Anna Todd wrote the majority of After from her mobile phone while in and out of appointments and running errands.  Her story had over 1 billion reads and more than 6 million comments (and counting).   

The After series tells the story of Tessa Young, an optimistic freshman at Washington State University, and the dark, troubled British bad boy who stole her heart. 

Since becoming one of the most talked about stories on the internet, the After series garnered attention from Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, who published the first installment of the novel, which went on sale on October 21, 2014.   

On Wattpad, After has over 1 billion reads, more than 6 million comments and the print edition is available in 26 countries.   

Wattpad is the world’s largest community of readers and writers. It has connected over 40 million people around the world who share a love of reading and writing.   

Wattpad is a new storytelling experience that’s mobile and social.   Wattpad stories are free.   

Mobile: With Wattpad you can read and share stories from your phone, tablet or computer. Whether you’re online or off, use the devices you already own to carry an entire library of stories wherever you go.   

Social: Wattpad creates direct connections between readers and writers. Everyone participates in storytelling on Wattpad. Some people may not identify with being a writer, but they can share plot suggestions via comments and messages or create original art/music to go along with the stories they’ve read.   

Anyone can share a story on Wattpad. Whether you’ve never written before, or published multiple books, Wattpad offers benefits for writers of all levels.   

One of the greatest benefits of Wattpad is a direct connection between readers and writers. Readers receive notifications whenever a new chapter of a story is posted. Many writers share their work serially: posting stories one chapter at a time, so readers keep coming back. As soon as a story is uploaded it can be accessed by millions of readers around the world. 

Wattpad by the numbers:
More than 40 million people have joined Wattpad
More than 80 million free stories are available on Wattpad
People spend 9 billion minutes a month on Wattpad
Stories available in over 50 languages - all for free
A new user joins Wattpad every second  
More than 24 hours of reading material is posted to Wattpad every minute
85% of all activity is on mobile

If you have never looked into Wattpad I would recommend it.  You can find some fun stuff being written on there.

That being said, I have something in particular that I want to say about the After series, and the realization it's brought to me about Wattpad.  After is a graphic harlequin romance book with strong language.  If you like harlequins, then this may be up your alley.  Though please be warned that it is also full of grammar mistakes and I wanted to take my red pen to it numerous times in the bit that I read.  It's poorly edited, which surprised me. What really concerns me, though, is the number of 11, 12, and 13 year olds who told me via social media that they had read the After series in its entirety and loved it.  It was their favorite series because, of course, it's based on One Direction.  And we all know how fangirls are about their bands (if you don't, I invite you to spend a day with my daughter, Casidee).

I'm concerned that this book is being marketed as One Direction fanfiction and is drawing the attention of tween and teen girls.  I'm concerned that they can read these graphic details, for free, through Wattpad.  They don't even have to buy the book.  And I'm concerned that parents don't know that their girls are reading these types of things.

While I can see that Wattpad can be a fun thing, it comes with a warning that anything can be written there and parents need to be aware of what their teens are reading. 

I put this out there simply as information and let you each make your own decision on the matter.  But I for one will not be allowing my girls to read this book.  I can not and do not recommend this book.

I participated in the After by Anna Todd blog program as a member of One2One Network. I received compensation but all opinions are my own.  Obviously.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Fresh Start.

31 December, 2014.

Happy 5 year anniversary to my man.

It's seems like it's been a life time together.  

I look forward to a lifetime more.


...

Lately I've come to enjoy the a.m. crunchwraps at Taco Bell.  It's a treat I let myself get every now and then on my way into work.

When I don't ride Trax, that is.  And with this 3 degree weather, I'm not riding Trax.  I don't have enough dedication to stand at the bus stop in subfreezing temps.

So with this morning being my anniversary, and with it being New Year's Eve, and with the simple fact that I was already a half hour late to work (let's face it, no one else is even going to be there) I stopped in for a crunchwrap.

The thing about doing this is that the employee who is always there in the morning is super awkward.  I'm pretty sure she's trying to flirt with me and I am beyond uncomfortable with the advances.  Yes, I said "she".

After having it happen yet again this morning, I'm pretty sure I'm just going to have to find a different Taco Bell.  I can't take it anymore.

...

I've never been one to make New Year's resolutions because I feel like if I want to make a change, then I'm going to do it, I don't care if it's the 1st of January or the 21st of April.  But it just so happens that I want to make a change.  And it's New Year's.  So let's call this a resolution, shall we?

First of all, I want to love my body.  

I know that this is going to take some time getting to know my treadmill and my free weights again, but I also know that this a mental struggle and not purely a physical one.  

I'm going to figure out meals that I actually enjoy eating, but are clean.  No more crap.  And this is really hard for me, because I love my crap.  *ahem* a.m. crunchwraps and McD's Coke *ahem*

I also have two half marathons on my calendar this summer so I'm going to be training for those as well.  I'm thankful for my friends who ask me to run marathons with them.  

It holds me accountable for getting myself there.

But I'm also going to make sure that I'm putting my time into filling my mind with positive influences as well.  Which means significantly less social media.  I've already started following that rule of thumb, but I'm going to continue it in the coming year.  I feel I'm easier with myself when I don't have so much pressure to live up to everyone else.  Also, I don't tend to compare myself to anyone else when I stay off of social media.  

This also means that I'm going to increase my time spent studying my scriptures and the words of the prophets.  I tell my Young Women all the time, I never feel so pretty and sure of myself as I do when I'm reading my scriptures consistently.  Which I haven't been lately, so I know that it's problem.

This brings me to my second resolution: I'm going to study and read through all four of the standard works in one year.  I have my reading schedule set out for the entire year and plan on using study guides as I go.

I'm so excited.

And my third resolution is to get myself back in the habit of using my Flylady schedule. Because it works.  And it will relieve a lot of stress and mess if I just take the small amount of time required every day.

I know that these changes are actually big and will require a lot of determination and follow through on my part.  I know that changing habits aren't easy, especially when those habits are rooted from laziness.

I'll use my daily posts to keep myself invested in following through.  I'm too easy on myself and let myself slide from changes with a shrug of my shoulder and an "oh well."  I don't want to be like that right now.  I really want to make these changes.


2015 is going to be crazy.  Casidee gets her learner's permit for driving this year.  Jayme will go to high school in the fall.  Cali turns 10 which makes all my kids old enough to not have any single digit ages anymore.  This is the year we knock out some debt, and actually take a cruise for Christmas.  Hopefully.  I haven't made resolutions on those so we'll see how that works out.  I can't overhaul every aspect of my life in one year, but then again, why not?

For tonight I will simply celebrate my man and the simple fact that he loves me completely. Which is all that I could have ever hoped for.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Tree Of Life.

So  here's something that I've noticed:

my kids are a lot happier when I limit their use of social media.  Like, it was a night and day change in their attitude.

So basically, I'm fine with my kids not using social media ever again.  Or until they move out of my house.

I'm not sure why that is, but the evidence is plain to see with at least one of my children, so I'm going with it.

Last week for Young Women's we took the girls (and boys) to see the Tree of Life in Draper Park.  Have you heard of this yet?

It was awesome.

And it sparkled.  Which was even more awesome.

We started out at the church and did a thought on the Tree of Life.  Knowing that this a story that they should all be fairly familiar with, I just asked them to walk me through it while one of the young women drew it on the board.  (If this isn't a story you're familiar with you can read it in whole here.)

We started with the fountain, had the straight and narrow path with the iron rod.  There was the river of water, and the great and spacious building.  We covered part of the path with fog, and then at the end stood the Tree of Life.

Once we had our picture up, I asked them what does it all mean?  And they knew the general answers (you can read them in full here):
fountain is the word of Christ,
the straight and narrow path the way that we should go,
the iron rod is the word of God,
the dirty river is the word of Christ dirtied and muddied by the philosophies of men,
the great and spacious building are those who
the fog is temptations in our lives,
and finally, they said the tree of life is heaven.

Which is exactly the answer I was hoping they would give.

Because,  yes, it can be about the plan of salvation in that this is how we make it through this life to return to our Father in Heaven.

But it's more than that.  It's also about our daily lives.  The in and out pressures and temptations of school (for the youth) and work and just life are the fog that surround us.  Sometimes we feel like we're lost and can't quite figure out our way on our path.  So what do we need to do?  We need to hold on to the rod, which is the word of God, meaning pick up your scriptures.  Literally, hold on to the word of God.  And by so doing you will find the Tree of Life, which is the love of God.  Every day we can be doing this.  And what is the fruit that we can partake of from that love?  Peace, comfort, guidance, direction, tender mercies in our daily lives, answers to prayers.  The possibilities are endless, really.  And so, so personal.

So we talked about this.

And then we went to the Tree of Life.





Today: Riding Mass Transit And Freezing My Face Off. Don't Underestimate The Power Of A Kind Word. Youth Christmas Party.

I've taken to riding mass public transportation for my daily commute.

Mostly I think it's awesome.  I used to ride the bus a lot when I was a kid, so it's something that's familiar to me.  Saturday plans usually consisted of hopping onto the bus to go hang out at the local mall.

I'm not entirely sure how my parents were okay with this, but the said mall also held a dollar theater so I was pretty much set for the Saturday for less than five bucks.  I also rode the bus clear into downtown a few times when my mom worked there to meet her for a lunch date.

I was telling Brynn about this, and she thought it was pretty cool and started getting excited about the possibilities of trax/bus riding, but then I had to emphasize that this was before we had to worry so much about people kidnapping kids.  To which Brynn replied, "Kidnappers suck.  They ruin everything."

I would have to agree with that statement.

Normally if I catch a certain timed train, it arrives at my stop at the very time that the bus leaves.  So I hop off trax and get right onto the bus which takes me pretty much to the end of the street that my office building sits on.

Except today that bus decided to pull away right as the trax train came up to the station.

I watched it pull away through the window with a dropped jaw.

Over and over my co-workers have told me to call them and they'll come pick me up from the trax station.  But I don't feel like my decision to ride trax should become their problem.  Especially once I figured out that I can also take the bus and end up within a five minute walk from the office.

So I got of trax, pulled my coat close around me, and started walking.  It's only a 20-30 minute walk, and there's sidewalks the entire way so it's really not a big deal.  Except it was 30 degrees this morning.

Halfway through my walk my face lost all feeling.

I broke down and called a co-worker.  "Are you at work?"

"Yes..."

"Have you guys left on your morning drink run yet?"

"No.  Do you want one?"

"How about you leave right now for your drink run and pick me up while you're at it."

Done and done.

They chewed me out for not calling them earlier.  And then made fun of how red my ears were.

Stupid bus driver for not waiting a whole 3 minutes for the trax to stop so I could get on his bus.

Seriously.

I think this will be a smoother process in the summer when I won't mind if I end up walking, because it won't be cold enough to make my face fall off.

Also, today I sent out a round of cards and notes for the Snail Mail Society.


Honestly, I don't think we can ever underestimate the power of a kind word.

Do you need a kind word?  Do you know of someone else who needs a kind word?  Are you willing to send a kind word to someone who needs it?  Send an email to hellosnailmailsociety @ gmail.com for how you can get involved on either side of that project.

The stories that come in for why people would like letters sent are heart touching.

And to round out the day we held our Christmas party with the youth of my church.  We played this game with them,  but we're mean leaders so we made them start our a few rounds with gloves on, which was hilarious, and then did a round of white elephant gifts.


We gave a $1 limit so the gifts are usually pretty funny.  I've learned, though, that I need to start aiming for Caitlyn's gift.  Two years in a row now she's simply wrapped up a dollar.  It's genius.  That's a McD's Coke just waiting to happen.

Next year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Choir Battle. And Lights At City Hall.

It's come to my attention that I'm probably not a very good mom.

And I should probably clarify that nobody actually told me that I'm not a good mom.  It's just something I've picked up on a lot recently.

Most recently this morning.

The story goes something like this:

Every year some odd number of my children decide they want to join the choir at the elementary school.  It's a big commitment since the practices are held early in the morning, before school, and with my work and school schedule, chances are pretty good that they're going to have to walk there in the early morning cold temps of November and December.

Honestly, I've been impressed with their willingness to get up and get it done.

As Cali is now our only child in elementary school, it fell upon the neighbor boy whom she walks to school with to also join choir so Cali wouldn't have to walk alone.

I'm pretty sure that neighbor boy made it to practice more often than Cali did.

Half way through Cali asks me, in her most pouty voice, "Do I have to take choir next year?"

To which I laughed, literally out loud, because, Chica, I didn't even make you take it this year, that was a choice you made all on your own.

She's not a morning person and the practices became something she dreaded simply because she didn't want to get out of bed early to go to them.  My schedule was more flexible this year than in previous years (yay online classes) so I started giving her rides most mornings and that seemed to help her attitude.

This year is also the first year that Cali is old enough to join the elementary orchestra.  She begged to take violin, and being as Casidee decided not to take violin this year, I told Cali she could use it.

I signed her up and paid the fees.

Practice is once a week, after school.

She hates it.

But frankly, it's paid for, and she's going to have to see the year out with it.

So most of my week has had a battle in it with getting that girl to choir and orchestra.  She certainly doesn't have to sign up for these things again, but she needs to fulfill her obligation and finish out this year, even if there wasn't a fee for choir and it was strictly on a volunteer basis.  And I explained that to her.  It's okay if she doesn't like it, but she can't bail when she's given her word to be there.  She can finish it out and then not sign up again.

Every year the choir sings at the lighting of the Christmas lights at our City Hall.  The kids sing, the lights across the property light up, and Santa, that jolly ol' elf himself, is there.

Cali never gave me the note with the information and time.

Luckily her orchestra teacher doesn't send notes.  She emails.  So I received the email stating when the orchestra kids needed to be at City Hall, and knowing that she also needed to be there for choir, because they've done so every other year, we raced to City Hall to get her there on time.

We made it just in time for her to join the choir performance.


Normally at concerts I take videos, but I never did that at the City Hall event because I knew the bigger concert was coming up, and I planned on taking video then.

After choir it was the orchestra's turn.


And she did well.  Even though I know she doesn't like doing it, I still had fun watching her show off her new skill.

As a reward we got in line for Santa Claus.  We checked him out from our place in line and I asked her, "Do you think he's the real one?"

She peered at him in contemplation.

"His beard looks real so I think he's the real one."

It only confirmed her thoughts when we overheard the people behind us having the same exact conversation, and coming to the same conclusion.



After Santa we checked out the lights, and went home.



 Two days later Cali had her orchestra concert where I was able to get my video of her playing the violin.  I'll post about that tomorrow.

This morning the alarm went off, and off, and off, and off... I finally went in to drag her out of bed.

"Come on, girl, you've got choir this morning."

"No I don't."

"What do you mean no you don't?"

Tayler interjects, "She forgot about the concert and didn't go."

This concert was the concert.  The whole reason for the choir and the practices.  It's done now, no more choir. I know good and well that Cali didn't forget about that concert.  I'm quite certain that she simply didn't give me the note that had the information on it, and just didn't go.

But there isn't much I can do with it at this point except sigh.

And tell her to put her violin on her backpack so she remembers it, because I paid way too much money for her to "forget" about orchestra.

I've determined that I'm not a good enough mom to be on top of this stuff, and I probably should be.

But then again, maybe I should give myself a break because what chance do I have against the nine year old who doesn't want to go to choir?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Swedish Pancakes

Every family has it's traditional recipes, and mine is no different.

Every holiday morning (and let's face it, any given Saturday morning, or Tuesday night for that matter) calls for a round of Swedish Pancakes.

This recipe has been handed down in my family for generations.  I know it to come from my Great Grandma Johnson who barely spoke a lick of English.  She brought this recipe with her when she immigrated from Sweden.


1/2 C Sugar
1/2 - 1 1/2 C Flour*
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 C milk

*These pancakes are meant to be thin, but I find they're extremely hard to flip.  Making them a little thicker helps with the ability to flip them.  Hence the range of possible flour.  Find your comfort zone with it.  I, personally, use 1 cup of flour.

Combine the dry ingredients and then blend in the eggs. After blended slowly add milk as you mix.


There are two very important tips to making Swedish pancakes.  The first being the temperature of your pan.  You don't want it too hot or it will burn you pancake before it's ready to flip.  I usually start warming my pan up on level 6 and mid-way through turn it down to a 5.

The second tip is cooking spray.  I have no idea how they kept these from sticking to the pan before cooking spray was invented, but they will stick badly so make sure you coat your frying with cooking spray before every single pancake.

After your pan is warmed up and you've applied the cooking spray, just poor the batter in to fill the bottom of your pan with thin layer of batter.



Let it sit until it bubbles and appears to be cooked through, at least on the edges.


Flipping can be difficult because of the thinness of the pancake.  It's going to take some practice, but even if you end up "scrambling" the pancake, it still tastes really good so don't worry about it.  Just keep practicing.

I shimmy my spatula under the edge and flip fast.



Because the pancake is already mostly cooked through at this point, it only needs to sit on the second side for a few seconds before it's done.

Use your spatula to roll it up and put it on a plate.


You can top your pancakes, or unroll them and put your toppings on the inside, and the roll them back up again.

We tend to use butter and powder sugar, and sometimes fruit (fresh or canned) on ours.  Jam and syrup are also good toppings.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Holiday Wishes: Idina Menzel

I remember sitting on my couch in my rented house in Vernal with my four young kids running here and there around me.  We had been relaxing to some PBS cartoon of some sort, I can't remember which one now, and at the end of the show the spell had been broken and my girls were running crazytown again.

I know you've been there.

But the TV had captured my attention.  After the cartoon finished a documentary of sorts came on, talking about a new Broadway musical coming out very soon about the Wicked Witch of the West.  I watched as they proceeded to tell a bit about the story line and introduced the singers who would be preforming in this new Broadway.

I was captivated.

It's not that I've ever really had a thing for Broadway, or even the Wizard of Oz, but of all things I always love a good villain (the wicked queen in Snow White, Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, and of course, the Wicked Witch of the West) and to see a spin on the Wicked Witch's side of the story caught my attention completely.

(I'll insert here that I was as equally excited about Maleficent when it came out)

Going to New York to see a new Broadway show wasn't in the books for me.  But I bought and read the book it was based on, and I bought the soundtrack and memorized every song, trying to fill in the missing details that might be played out on stage in between the clues I was receiving through song.

At my divorce Idina Menzel's "Defying Gravity" resonated in my soul with the lines:
"So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
Ev'ryone deserves the chance to fly!
And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
Defying gravity
I'm flying high
Defying gravity
And soon I'll match them in renown!
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!"

I was able to see Wicked in Salt Lake City and it was every bit as magnificent as I had hoped it would be.  I was on the edge of my seat, hanging on every word, drawn into every song.  And though it wasn't Idina Menzel in the production, I loved her even more after watching that song come to life in front of me.

Idina Menzel's voice has become a favorite of mine.

Enter Frozen.

Need I say more?

Actually, yes, I do.


Because she now has a holiday album called Holiday Wishes.  It's my new favorite "go to" holiday CD.  Sorry, Collin Raye Christmas, we had a good run, but it's time for something new.

Holiday Wishes is out now on Warner Bros. Records.

The album was produced by Grammy Award-winner Walter Afanasieff (Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey) and features such classic favorites as “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” as well as Joni Mitchell’s Christmas-themed “River,” one of Menzel’s favorites.

Another highlight is a duet with international superstar Michael BublĂ© on “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” An exclusive Target edition of Holiday Wishes features two bonus tracks, including “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”.

Can I just say that duet with Michael BublĂ© is on repeat in my car right now?

Spot on.



You can find the album on iTunes HERE or on Amazon HERE.

Also, Idina's official social media:
Website
Twitter
Facebook
YouTube

I participated in the Idina Menzel Holiday Wishes album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.
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