Merry Christmas in July!

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Pretty sure this will be my Christmas card this year.

It’s a family tradition we’ve had since I was a child, and I looked forward to it every year. We’d decorate the tree and have small gifts for each other.It’s something that I do with my kiddos now.

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This is Christmas week! We’re putting up the tree. We’re making snowflakes and taping them to the windows. It’s time for Christmas carols, holiday movies, and everything but hot chocolate. We’ll do chocolate ice cream instead, since it is about 110 degrees here.

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Gifts are small and handmade. Stockings are often made out of paper. It’s the simple, homespun Christmas most of us long for every December.

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Won’t you join us? If not for the entire Christmas in July shebang, perhaps you can have that holiday feeling in your heart. How about being extra kind this week, or perhaps write a letter to someone you love? Peace on earth, good will to men.

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I Crossed Something Off My Bucket List. And Backlash.

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I wear a bracelet that says “Be Brave.” My New Year’s Resolution has often been “Do things that scare me.” I’ve wanted to shave my head since I was about 15, but never had the courage. A few months ago I lost the black bangs and tried a blonde Mohawk, and it was a wonderful experience. This summer I made the healthy (yet difficult) decision to split with my publishers. Last week I ran Ragnar. These were all brave things, and I’m proud of myself.

After months of consideration, I decided to shave my head. I wanted to feel liberated. I wanted a clean slate. I haven’t seen my natural hair color in 12 years. I wanted to do something for myself instead of for everyone else.

I discussed it with my husband and he was nothing but supportive. I certainly don’t need his “permission” and he would never assume that I would, but I love him and respect his opinion. If it was going to be uncomfortable for him, I’d absolutely take that into consideration, but he only encouraged me.

My Angry Ginger and my children came with me. I couldn’t stop grinning. My daughter told me I was beautiful. My son rubbed his hands across my scalp, said we had the same hair, and kissed me. My youngest said my hair looked like a hamster and tried to feed it a cracker.

I especially liked that part.

My Angry Ginger told me the cut felt very familiar to her. Like she had known me like that before. Another friend told me my ME-NESS was shining through. It felt like washing my face and being painfully honest. This is me without the trappings. This is Mercedes. Look in my eyes and you’ll see my soul.

I shared one picture on Facebook. Honesty comes with vulnerability, and I was prepared for that. I’ve been stripped down as of late, and I’m learning that being vulnerable isn’t always a bad thing.

IMG_4520What I wasn’t prepared for were the messages that came pouring into my inbox. Messages from people I barely knew or outright strangers telling me that they hated what I had done. There was venom and emotion. Someone said I was “dyking it up.” Someone else said that I had disfigured myself. Another told me that I had made myself ugly and my husband would be ashamed and leave me.

On and on, more and more. I finally glanced at the beginning of the emails and then deleted the rest of them unread.

We’ve allowed social media to become a dangerous place. It’s unchecked. It’s constantly frothing. And, quite honestly? It’s stupid. I don’t use that word lightly.

Do you remember when female horror writers and my friend specifically were called hags? Remember when I wrote two lines on #YesAllWomen and received death threats? How is any of this acceptable?

These are my thoughts:

My appearance has no bearing on a stranger’s day. My body is not for their viewing pleasure. It has nothing to do with them.

The ones that love me support me. I’m still beautiful to them. And even if I’m not,it doesn’t concern anyone else.

Doesn’t the outrage weary them? Couldn’t they be putting their obvious free time to good use? They could change the world. Take that passion and do something useful with it. Protect what needs protecting. Use their voice in a positive way.

It’s selfishness and ego. I shaved my head to empower myself. It wasn’t for them; it was for me.

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I’m not ashamed.

 

Ragnar Was Everything I Feared. And I Survived.

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I had a lot of fear about Ragnar.

I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to run it.

I was afraid of being the weak link on the team.

I was afraid I’d have a sugar crash and not know where I was.

I was afraid I’d throw up during my run.

I was afraid I’d get lost.

I was afraid of heat exhaustion.

Runner's high is a lie. Go, Team Runner's Low!

Runner’s high is a lie! Meet our team, the Runner’s Low.

Every single fear I had was realized. I did far more walking than running. My sugars tanked and I ended up “following bunnies” (my words) to the finish line, where I apparently wasn’t able to recognize people or say my name until they popped my sugar back up. On my last leg I got lost, threw up about five times, and started shivering under the hot, hot sun.

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I didn’t choose the thug life…

I was slow. But I finished every last mile, all 11 of them. We ran 200 as a team. I faced every single fear I had about this race and came out the other side.

That’s my takeaway from this.

I lived through the things I thought would kill me. I pushed myself and walked away. And I’m so proud of myself and the team!

IMG_5422I ran through a dry dock while the sun rose. I slept in a hammock under the stars. I ate fresh blackberries that grew on one of my routes. I saw rabbits. I fell asleep to this.

IMG_5409(1)I learned that when I’m totally at my lowest and I’m helpless, my husband and friends will watch over me and strengthen me until I can get back on my feet. Literally. And more than anything, that’s what I needed to realize right now.

Here’s to doing things that scare us. :D

Feed The Birds: A Quick Craft for Kids

I wanted a few activities for the kids to do besides watching Godzilla: The Original Animated Series, so we made bird feeders this evening.

Cute. Sweet. Best of all? They were very, very easy.

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We took some small pine cones, birdseed, peanut butter, and yarn.

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Tiny Daughter spread peanut butter on the pine cones. I managed to pull her hair back so it didn’t fall in the peanut butter (too much). Points for Mom!

Then you roll the pine cones in the seed, and tie yarn around it. Voila!

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And hang them outside. Easy peasy, lemon squeasy.

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Really, it only took us about twenty minutes from start to finish. But the kiddos were so excited, and it didn’t overwhelm me.

Enjoy, my friends!

Miss Murder Runs Ragnar

“What?” You gasp. “You’re not a runner! You hate running!”

It’s true. I do. I’m a kickboxer, not a runner. But I adore my friends, and when one of my best friends from high school invited my husband and I to run with him and his family, I agreed. Also, we’ll be running in Seattle, my old stomping grounds. Also also, I like a challenge and I’m a glutton for punishment.

Obviously.

I set this post to go live just as I’m flying to the coast, most likely with my face pressed to the airplane window in misery and regret. Did I mention that I hate running?

What is Ragnar, you ask? Why, I’m delighted to tell you! It’s a 200 mile long relay race with 11 of your closest friends! You can read about it here. I’m Runner 10 and my husband is Runner 11, if you’d like to look up our legs and route. Three legs apiece. :)

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Do you see how long this route is? It’s a long route.

But oh, how I love Seattle! It’s the only place in the world that feels like home. Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy is based in Seattle, and much of it takes place in Pike Place Market. I’m hoping to visit there and just enjoy being back for a bit.

Take care, my friends! Wish us luck! I hope to come back to you in one piece. <3

Awkward Conversations with Geeky Writers Tonight!

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It’s the Ugly Little Haitus edition.

There are whispers in the shadows of Geeky Writer Central. They say Todd’s putting his series on hiatus to work on a novel. They say there won’t be any more Ugly Little Things—at least, not for a long while. They say his heart belongs in a place called the Monochrome.

The rumors are true, folks. Todd Keisling’s series of short horror stories will see its final release on July 14th, and to celebrate, the Geeky Writer Gang is throwing a launch party!

Join us on Monday, July 13th at 8 PM EST as we go live on YouTube to celebrate the launch of Todd’s latest story, talk about how disturbing his mind truly is, and to engage in our usual nightly shenanigans.

And yes, folks: there will be giveaways! Some of you Geeky Writer veterans already know the drill, but for the uninitiated, you have to show up and PARTICIPATE if you want to win.

You can get all of the information HERE.

Last time my children ran me off, but I’m going to count on being there for an hour or maybe an hour and a half this go-round. That’s their limit. If you have any questions about my work, life in general, or anything else, try to hit me near the beginning before I’m forced to flee. :P

Here’s a Chance to Help Sweet Wes With His Kidney Transplant

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Sweet Wes is very dear to me. He has Williams Syndrome like my son, and is in desperate need of a transplant. I applied to be a donor myself, but was unable to be considered because I’m diabetic. There were many, many bitter tears that night. However, they just found a match (YAY!) but need to raise some funds very quickly in order to help him. Any little bit helps. Also, would you mind sharing the link? Thank you so much!

You can read about Wes (his given name is Wade) and donate here.

Wade’s Story

Wade Edward Sparrowhawk Smith, known by family and friends as Wes, is a wonderful, happy little eight year old boy.  Wes was born in April 2007 with the genetic disorder Williams Syndrome and without his right hand.  At the age of three months, Wes had open heart surgery to enlarge his pulmonary arteries and repair a valve in his heart.   Over the years Wes has struggled with various developmental delays and did not walk until just before his fourth birthday.  Despite all of his challenges he has remained a shining light of joy to everyone who knows him.  His upbeat personality, ready smile and infectious laugh have captivated all who know him.

In November of 2011, after a weekend visiting friends and horseback riding during Thanksgiving break, Wes was struck down by sudden onset kidney disease—Focal Segmented Glomerular Nephritis (FSGS), collapsing form.  After seven months of treatments and despite repeated hospitalizations as well as outpatient treatments, Wes’ kidneys have all but stopped functioning. Now, Wes needs a live-saving kidney transplant. Research has found that with FSGS there is a better chance of survival if a transplant can be done before needing to start dialysis.  Wes must receive a transplant we hope that match can quickly be found!

UPDATE:  April 2015 – Wes was hospitalized March 30th and has gone into complete kidney failure.  After two surgeries, Wes was given a temporary hemodialysis port and a peritoneal dialysis port.  While waiting for the peritoneal dialysis port to heal, he was started on hemodialysis.  With the exception of one weekend break to home, Wes spent three weeks in the hospital transitioning from hemodialysis to peritoneal dialysis.  He is now home receiving daily peritoneal dialysis treatments.  Wade, our son Wes, cannot live without dialysis and without a kidney transplant, he may never have the opportunity to live a normal life, or to even live.

Even with insurance, Wes’ transplant and care is going to be extremely expensive. He has undergone the transplant evaluation at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Along with the travel and relocation to be near the transplant center, there are also co-pays, deductibles, doctor visits, and the costly anti-rejection medications he will have to take for the rest of his life. All of this presents a challenge we cannot meet without your help.

In order to ease the financial burden, a fundraising campaign in Wes’ honor has been established with HelpHOPELive (formerly NTAF), a nonprofit organization that has been assisting the transplant community for nearly 30 years. All donations are tax deductible, are held by HelpHOPELive in the Mid-Atlantic Liver Transplant Fund, and are administered by HelpHOPELive for transplant-related expenses only. Please consider making a contribution.Thank you for your generosity and support.

Sincerely,

Mel Charlton-Smith (Wes’ mom)

Pimp A Friend Friday: Brian Kirk’s WE ARE MONSTERS

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The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum.

He’s the hospital’s newest, and most notorious, patient—a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity’s dark side.

Luckily he’s in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls. And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenia, a drug that returns patients to their former selves. But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge. Forcing prior traumas to the surface. Setting inner demons free.

Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum. They don’t have fangs or claws. They look just like you or me.

So. I read this book a few months ago and it seriously rocks. It’s psychological, dark, well-written, ambitious, and has this thread of compassion that wound straight through. This is Brian Kirk’s first novel and he hit it out of the ball park. Preorders are available now on Amazon.

Also, a blurb by little ole me is supposedly on the cover. Rock on.

It’s a good book. Pick it up. :)