Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Working on the Decade List - 40 Things to do Before I'm 40

I'm working through my list, and a friend asked me to share what exactly is on this list and update where I'm at. So here it is - go ahead and make your own! I try and include things that are simple things that I just don't always make time for (and should), as well as some stretch goals. So, take a peek and let me know what you think. And if you do the same, share your list with me. I'd love to see it!

40 Things to Do By the Day Im 40
1.      Take a dance class.
3.      Write a complete book. DONE May 2012
5.      Go to my first Bulls game ever.
6.      Visit Nancy in Idaho.
8.      Take the kids to a big show at the Rialto or Paramount (or somewhere like that)
10.  Go back to New Orleans with friends.
11.  Go on an anniversary trip with Jaime. Somewhere. Anywhere.
13.  Go to my first Blackhawks game ever.
14.  Learn how to make cake pops. (Attempted December 2013. Unsuccessful. Will try again, so I won't cross it off. Yet. Cake pops: 1, Allie: 0)
17.  Get Jaime’s artwork displayed at a gallery.
18.  Tip a good waiter $50 on a $10 bill.
19.  Create a really awesome photo display somewhere in the house.
21.  Fix something big in the house myself, with tools, without asking for help.
24.  Decorate one room in the house so that it looks like a showhouse!
25.  Go wine tasting with the girls in another state.
26.   Start writing each kiddo a book about my best memories of them growing up.
27.  Travel to 5 states. (so far: Wisconsin, August 2011, Kentucky and Tennessee, August 2012; Florida, September 2012)
28.  Fly in a small plane.
29.  Go to Italy or Ireland.
30.  Get a song I’ve written sung in a public venue.
31.  Take each kid to their first concert.
32.  See every major museum in Chicago in one summer.
33.  Take each kid on a ditch day from school and do something totally fun.
36.  Go ice skating on State street
37.  Take Alex and Pey on a rollercoaster (Half done. Alex rode one at Disney. I have a feeling Pey might be 40 herself before she goes on one).
38.  Go to a Cub’s game in Milwaukee.
39.  Own a Dodge Charger.
40.   Organize all the bins sitting in storage.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ride on the back of Jaime’s Harley. Decade Bucket List Goal #34

Seriously, did you expect photos of this? I'm all for excitement, but I need both hands to hold on until he gets a back for my seat. So until then (or until I purchase a helmet cam), you will have to settle for pictures of the beautiful motorcycle.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Be on television somehow (for something good, lol) Decade Bucket List Goal #35

So one late afternoon, I was perusing my social media feed when I noticed a post from a group I follow, which casts extras for Chicago Fire. They were looking for people to play teachers, and asked for a close up of my face and a full body shot, along with height, weight, and age.

Oh boy.

I am not a model. I am not a size two. I am not an actress. But, I am trying to stretch my comfort zone, so I figured why not? I plucked a couple photos and sent them in with the necessary info. I sat back and allowed myself a moment of pride in having had the courage to hit "send", and expected nothing else to happen. (P.S. The second pic there of me in the blue was in front of the house they were filming "Jupiter Ascending" in - we went to take a peek while they were filming.)

Ten minutes later (I kid you not, ten minutes), my phone rings, asking if I am able to be there the scheduled day, all day or all night (depending on shoot time). 

Um, yes please! I had vacation days from work to use, so this would be perfect!

Showed up to the designated parking lot at the allotted time and waited for the shuttle to take us to set, as all the actors walked past. So cool! (I know, I'm a geek.)

Arrived to the set at 6:30. They fed us some excellent food and the wardrobe people went through the outfits we brought (I had to change. Twice.).  We sat around with the other extras. They called us out (it was May, but 30 degrees out at night - brrrr!) I was a teacher, and we each had a handful of kids who escaped the boarding school fire who we had to keep an eye on between takes. Lots of time outside (no coats), doing a few times of each scene and then moving a little and doing it all over - interesting! Then in and out between scenes while they set up the next one. 

Seeing how they did the fire in the building was amazing. Very neat to see the behind the scenes.

And the coolest part: about 2 a.m., I'm outside on the sidewalk with four kids (3 boys, 1 girl) who are slightly restless, hopped up on Mountain Dew to stay awake. It's cold outside, and they were getting a little rowdy. So I offer the suggestion of dancing to keep warm. They do a dance move and I have to mimick it and vice versa. This goes on for a couple minutes until I'm doing the running man, and the kids start really laughing. When I ask what they are laughing at, they point to the fire truck 20 feet away.

The firetruck in which Taylor Kinney, Charlie Barnett, and Randy Flagler are sitting in (with others). Oh boy. I couldn't see who, but apparently someone in there was amused by my dancing skills! So I instead suggest the more mild rock, paper, scissors until again, the kids are laughing - and Randy Flagler is in the fire truck doing rock, paper, scissors! He motioned to me to do it, so one round of rock, paper, scissors went down. I can't remember who won, but it was the highlight of my night!

So anywho, if you watch the season 2 finale of Chicago Fire, I'm around the 6:38 mark, walking behind Taylor Kinney as he exits the fire truck. I know, it's two seconds of blurriness, but that's my claim to fame. I got on TV for a couple seconds.

Now I'll retire on top, lol.

 One of the awesome extras I met, Heather. (Like our smoke smudge makeup?)

Oh, look, there's me in the background on the left!

There's me again - this is actually from b-roll on YouTube of behind the scenes filming.

Me again.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Take Alex (well, the kids) Sledding - Decade Bucket List Goal #16

I know, seems like a simple goal, right? But I hate snow. And cold. So cold+snow meant I was very unlikely to go sledding. Alex has wanted to go for awhile, so for my birthday that is what I requested we do for the day. It was a blast! We didn't last long because it was super cold, but we had so much fun. Can't wait to do more things like this ;)

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Evolution of Dreams

When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer.

I loved journalism and dreamt of becoming a reporter. I would interview my neighbors and write up my own little newspapers, pretending to be a journalist with the feather in my cap.

I wrote my first book at seven using the computer at school. It was titled "Poison Ivy," all about a little girl who gets poison ivy. Six pages of emotional and riveting storytelling, I tell you.

When I hit my early teens, I fell in love with poetry thanks to my grandmother. I loved reading the works of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, picturing in my mind the visions they saw in their thoughts as they transcribed that emotion to paper. I wrote hundreds of poems (yes, when I should have been paying attention or studying), and started building on my dream of writing.

Then I toyed with the idea of being a teacher during my senior year of high school. I selected that as my major upon entering college. Within a semester I changed my major from education to mass communications. I adore teachers and think that they have one of the most difficult and fulfilling jobs on the planet; however, my heart just wasn't in it. I wanted to write. I wanted to change the world.

In mass comm, I fell in love again with broadcasting. During my time as president of our college television station, I delved into this newfound love of portraying the written word on-screen. I became part of our radio station rotation, hosting a show with two of my good friends.

Then I tried out for the play one semester. I loved performing in my very tiny, debut-and-only role; but moreso, I loved the idea of writing those roles.

And that's when my dream - the vision of what I wanted to do with my life - came alive. I knew, finally, what I wanted to do.

I wanted to write books and movies. And maybe books that became movies.

My plan was simple. I'd move to California, try my hand at getting some experience until I could find something that would give me the opportunity to pursue my dream.

Then my heart was broken by my college boyfriend and my mom was diagnosed with (and cured of) early-stage Paget's Disease (a form of breast cancer). I put my plans on hold, but became more determined to achieve my dreams. In the meantime, I found a job I adored and people I liked working with and began learning the PR and marketing ropes.

The day J walked into my life, though, my heart couldn't help but skip a beat. People scoff at the idea of love at first sight but for me, it was. I knew. I knew the moment we were introduced that we'd be married someday. I adored him, and while we remained just friends for a year, we eventually did date.

At 22, I knew I had plenty of time to make my dreams come true. Even better, with any luck, I would have the love of my life with me wherever I ended up, working on the arts he loved so much.

Then at 24, the path made another fork. My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer and given a few months to a year to live. That, however, is a story for another day (you can read about it here). When the end to her journey drew near, my heart was broken. I held on to the dreams I had because they gave me a focus on the future so that I hopefully would not fall apart when she left.

J and I talked about moving in together in Chicago, where I could get my foot in the door somewhere. Two months before my mother passed away - and a week after looking at apartments in the city - two little lines on a stick diverged into yet another fork in life's road: I was pregnant.

When mom died, I focused on work and pregnancy. When my little man was born, I tried to learn the ropes of motherhood without my own mother to lead the way. I thought, okay, I have a few years before he starts school and I won't want to move him away from his school friends. I still held out on that hope! After all, I was only 26.

We bought a house because we needed more space. We had plans to fix it up and sell it, moving on to something new. While California now seemed a little out of reach for me, I hoped that Chicago would present me with something close to home and still on the path of the dream I held: writing scripts and books.

Then the housing market tanked. (If I drew a picture at this point of all the forks in the road, it would look like the giant elm tree in my yard during the winter.) There would be no selling without taking a giant loss on the house, and I couldn't do that to us. Five years passed and we found ourselves married and parents to a little boy and a new little girl.

Then our son started school. And soccer. And Cub Scouts. And baseball. Our daughter started dance. Since the day they were born I saw my dreams started to shift from those I wanted for myself, to those I wanted for them. That doesn't mean I lost my dreams; they just became secondary to those of the beautiful little boy and girl I helped create.

Recently I was speaking with a friend and said something along the lines of, "Well, I will never be able to just pick up and move somewhere to give this writing thing a shot. Those days are past. I'm resigned to typing away in the comforts of my living room."

My son (the old-souled second grader), overheard me. (I should really know by now that even when his attention is buried in a book or a video game, he selectively hears everything I wish he wouldn't while ignoring everything I wish he would!)

He asked me later, "Mom, are you sad?" Surprised, I said no and asked why he thought that. He replied, "You said you always wanted to move somewhere and be a writer and you didn't get to do it because of everything you have to do here. Does that make you sad?"

Big learning moment for this mama. First, I need to watch what I say and how I say it around the wee ones, because I never want my kids to feel like I didn't get to do something because of them - they are the most important people in my life. Second, I needed to explain to him everything I just said up above, in terms a seven-year-old can understand. I believe it's important to hold onto your dreams, and set the example for your children to never stop striving for something better. To show them that life weaves a road for us and our dreams change or shift from time to time, but they still remain out there for us to achieve. But I also believe that sometimes, better dreams come our way even if we don't see them as such at first.

I sat with him and said that once upon a time, I did have some different dreams. I told him what they were and why I had them. And then I told him the very thought I think about every time I start to wonder what life would have been like if I'd have flown out to California upon graduation: he and his sister are my new, improved dream.

See? Aren't they cute?

It's true. There are moments where I wonder what if. When I wonder if I actually could have made it. When I wonder if I have any talent or skill. When I wonder if I could have made a difference in the world somehow by writing compelling and moving storylines for the big screen.

And then my thoughts shift to those two, beautiful, sweet, charming - and sometimes irritating when they fight with each other - kids that I get to love. I cannot imagine life without them. Not without children, but without those two specifically. My funny and loving son, who emptied an entire bottle of baby powder in the living room; who grosses me out with wiggly teeth; who laughs so hard he hiccups and burps at the same time. And the cute and cuddly daughter who plays dress up daily; who has such a strong will I've given up fighting her on school outfits; and who poses like she's the next top model in every photo I've taken of her since she was old enough to pose.

Okay, maybe she doesn't pose like a model every time I take a photo.

As we were wrapping up our little chat, he asked me if I thought I failed - "like when you fail a spelling test, mom" - because I didn't get to do what I wanted to do.

I said that no, I didn't feel like I failed. I felt like I found a path that led me to a better dream. I asked him if he thought it meant I failed that I wasn't writing primetime television episodes and wasn't famous. He responded by telling me, "Mom, everyone in my whole class knows you write books. You're famous in the second grade."

It might not be Hollywood, but it feels pretty good. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

"A writer mom. Like you. And an artist and a drummer."

Sounds good, kid. Whatever your dreams are and however they change, may you have a little kid just like you to remind you that you have succeeded in life. Just maybe different than how you'd first imagined.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Reading Giveaway!

Does anyone like to read? I'd like to do a little giveaway - the first two books in my Healer Series!

And the bonus? You can pick paperback or Kindle edition, since I know some people enjoy the smell and feel of an actual book in hand, while others relish in the technological advances that have made all books a quarter inch thick ;)


All you have to do to enter is stop by my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HealersAndGrims and "like" the page, and leave me a comment about where you heard about the contest from! That's all! Then you are entered to win the two books. You have until September 20 to enter!

The Touch has been out since August 2012, and book two, The Vengeance, was just released this past August. Check out the reviews, read the descriptions below, and if they jive with something you'd like you read, please take a moment to enter!

Have a great Monday!


The Touch
AJ McCallister can cure any illness with a single touch. Sometimes, however, the laws of his secret world forbid it - and sometimes good people must die. In a search for normalcy, the Healer finds more than a new home down south in Lee as the hard to resist Addie steals his heart. He faces a momentous decision between abiding by his ancient clan’s laws and upholding history, or allowing an enemy to kill Addie and her daughter. With either choice he will end up alone. AJ must decide which is harder: living next to Addie without her love, or not having her around at all? Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HealersAndGrims for more news and events.

The Vengeance
Come on! I can't post the description! It would spoil the suspense of book ! However, you can read it here if you're like me and sometimes read the last chapter of a book first ;)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Featured Author - Serena Smithe (P.S. She's only 14!)

Today I have to introduce a pretty amazing author, my cousin's daughter, Serena Smithe - just a little note to start off this write-up: she's 14.

That's right - 14!

I think any 14 year old that can write an entire book is pretty talented.

Serena Smith The Witch Games
She's published her very first book, The Witch Game. Here's the synopsis: Sarah Johnson is just a ordinary girl. Straight A student. Doesn't get into drama, doesn't break the rules. That all changed when her and her best friend Crystal Anderson, get invited to the party of the year. James Marcob is the host, and even Sarah has to admit her attraction. When the party takes the turn for the worst, Sarah, James and Crystal hide in the underground maze. Where they find a old ouija board. They set it up and start to play. Ignoring the rules they accidentally set something free that would be better off dead. It has been lurking in their small, desolate town for centuries. The hometown legend. The witch. With things spinning out of control, they need to escape the maze, but what then? They can't leave a witch wandering around there town forever! Can they?

So head on over to Amazon and pick it up, and be sure to leave Serena a review when you're done! For more on Serena and other authors, visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HealersAndGrims.

And now, a little more about Serena in her own words:

My Pen name is Serena Smithe, it's a bit of a inside joke between me and my friends! Well Smithe is but the first name... That's all me!!!

Background in writing
The only background in writing I have is what I've learned in school. In elementry school I never really had any inclination towards writing until 5th grade, where my teacher made writing fun and I realized what I really wanted to do. And now I've done it!

Books Written, Most recent book
So far I only have one book written. It is The Witch Game, which can be bought now on Kindle.

What you love most about writing
What I love the most about writing is the ability to transport someone from their life into a world where some things may be similar, but you are put through the adventure, the excitement, the love, the hurt, and the sadness of the main character. I would love if I were able to do that for someone, even if it is only one person.

The best book you've read
The best book I have ever read? This one I will have a problem answering! I have always been a reader. Even when I didn't truly appreciate writing. But at this point in time I would have to say the best book I have read is the Divergent series. I love how the author uses her words to make us feel. I just love that. My second favorite book series is the Wake Trilogy by Lisa McMann. I don't think I will ever get tired of reading about Janie. :)

What types of books you normally read
I honestly read almost every type of writing. Except for historical fiction and non-fiction. I've tried and I've realized that I just don't find much enjoyment in reading those books.

What or who inspires your writing?
Anything and everything inspires my writing. I use aspects of beauty and horror i see in the world and try and incorporate it into what I write. I feel that if I have only one source of inspiration... It will run dry and what will i write about then?! :)

Where do you come up with the ideas for your books?
My ideas just come to me at random times. The Idea for The Witch Game came after I had a conversation with my best friend, about our dream guy. I had brought up the trials of a 'Perfect Guy' and then the idea just came to me.

The genres you write and why.
I write fiction, fantasy, romance, adventure, etc. I really enjoy not having to make things 100% realistic. People have secrets, and I like how they can come back to haunt them. I just write what I enjoy to read.

What does a book need to be considered great?
It needs to be able to make someone laugh out loud, not be able to fight back tears, even when surrounded by others, makes you hate one character SO much you want to scream. Put you in another persons shoes. I just love those books and they're what you would call great.

Who are some of your favorite authors (Indie and otherwise)?
I know I will forget some but I'll try to name as many as I can
1. Cassandra Clare
2. Veronica Roth
3. Simon Holt
4. Lisa McMann
5. Stephen King
6. Suzanne Collins
7. Anne Rice
8. P. C. Cast
And that's all I can remember off the top of my head! Though I'm sure there are a LOT more. :)

What will be your next project?
My next project will be the second book in The Witch Game series. I can't wait to finish this book and move onto the next. I have a couple other books I'm working on, but the next book is my main project at this point in time!


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