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17 topics for this week?

I'm just posting some lj idol meta about the therealljidol competition. In one of the last weeks of the race, it has been decreed that the final 8 contestants will be having to write 17 idol entries this week.

That is an insane number of quality entries that need to be churned out in an insanely short amount of time.

Since I'm not competing, I don't have to do that, but you know what? I have no less than THREE of the final eight finalists on my friends list. That's right. I have some serious quality writers on my friends list, and they are so freaking awesome.

And to be fair, I really need to read everyone.

And what makes me really sad, is that at this point I don't have a hope in hell of reading 17 entries from everyone. I don't have a hope in reading 17 entries from just the three on my friends list. I could probably manage 17 total this week. It's been a gong-show.

So right now, I'm feel super duper sorry for my friends as well as the other contestants, who just about killed themselves writing 17 quality pieces EACH this week, and I am seriously concerned that they may not get the attention they deserve, because I highly suspect that there will be people like me, who just can't manage all that reading.

So if any of you have some time, and would like to lose yourself in another world for a while, I would really encourage you to read these contestant entries. They're still populating C, but I suspect that by the time you get there, it will be fully populated.

They are linked as comments at the bottom of each of the following posts - the 17 entries were posted in a three-part series:
Topic Links Week 36 Part A
Topic Links Week 36 Part B
Topic Links Week 36 Part C

Ahem. Pimpage here.

As you may have noticed/read, I am participating this week in lj idol as java_fiend's Champion! What does that mean? If I go in my poll, he goes in his... and since he's a damn good writer, and in the final ten of the competition, that would be a damn shame.

Please vote for us here!

Poll #1856060 LJ Idol, Season Eight, Week Thirty-Five: Champions
This poll is closed.

The Ballot:


Poll #1856061 LJ Idol, Season Eight, Week Thirty-Five: Contestants
This poll is closed.

The Ballot:


While you're voting, kittymichaels, joeymichaels, and pixiebelle would also like folks to stop by, read their entries, and vote! Also, if you're a fan of kittymichaels, then you'll probably want to check out and vote for porn_this_way's entry as well!

Question of the day - all about "fat"

What do you do when you and your offspring are out in public, and they make reference to someone in a derogatory way, not understanding that it was derogatory?

So here's an example, Alex was trying to show me something that was across the way, and referenced it by saying, "It's right over there, beside the fat lady."

The lady being referenced, was morbidly obese, and I'm pretty sure she heard Alex, but was pretending she didn't.

"Honey, we don't call people 'fat'. It's not a good word. It's not a nice word. We don't call people names."

"I wasn't calling her a name Mom, I said she was fat, because she is, like that guy over there is short and the other one is tall."


"But sweetheart, people get their feelings hurt when others say they are fat. We just don't use that word - it's not a nice word. We don't want to hurt people's feelings, and her feelings would be hurt if she heard you say she was fat."

"Ok Mommy, I won't use that word."

I debated making her go over and apologize to the lady, who was either doing a good job of ignoring the situation, or perhaps had genuinely not heard. I decided against it, because if she hadn't heard, I certainly didn't want her to hear about it now, and because I was concerned the apology would come out something like, "I'm sorry I called you fat even though you are." I felt pretty horrible for the lady, and pretty embarrassed about the situation.

This is approximately the fifth time I've had this conversion with one or both of the children. It doesn't seem to be sticking.

pixie117 is a lovely, kind hearted person who doesn't have a bad bone in her body.  Apologies if you've already had this plastered all over your LJ, but you just never know who hasn't seen this who might be willing to help.
Originally posted by pixiebelleat Project Save Annabelle (otherwise known as I need help)

The Story

On Sunday May 20th, I woke up and realized that my Great Dane, Annabelle, hadn't come in for her morning kisses like usual. As soon as my boyfriend and I start talking, we're usually joined by my giant dog with tail wagging and kisses to the face as she climbs in bed with us to snuggle for a few hours.

I went to check on her and she was on the floor, which is odd since she's a comfort creature who usually prefers the couch. I went up to her and barely got a response. I called Kevin in and normally she can't contain herself with excitement when he enters the room.

Nothing. Her eyes could barely even stay open and she looked uninterested in everything.

We got her to stand up and realized she was not putting her right foot down at all. We tried walking her; she couldn't walk. So we ran her to the emergency vet (since it was a Sunday). My boyfriend had to carry her because she couldn't walk.

The day before she was her normal goofy self. Playing ball at the dog park, and even rough housing with a new Great Dane puppy. She came home and was fine that night. It all happened between when we went to bed and when we woke up.

At the emergency vet, her fever was 104.7. She was a very sick dog. They kept her all day on Sunday until her fever went down. He said her paw looked to be injured but that it likely caused an infection (she had elevated red blood cells). He sent her home with an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory medicine for the injured paw. Original bill was $900 which I didn't have. I burst into tears because she is my baby and the wonderful vet lowered it to $600.

Sunday night my boyfriend and I slept in the living room because she couldn't move and I didn't want her being too far from me. He slept on the floor and neither of us got much sleep.

I took Monday off and luckily I did because her paw did not stop gushing blood. I had never seen so much blood just gushing without stopping. Obviously, I couldn't let it continue so I took her to my regular vet. She thought it was foxtail that had weaved it's way into the paw, we scheduled Annabelle for surgery the next day and all should have been well.

This was how swollen her paw was before the bleeding even started. It has only gotten worse from here.

However, things turned ugly the next day. When they opened the bandage up, they found that the whole on her paw had grown to twice the original size and her flesh was rotting around it. The vet called and said she felt it was either a brown recluse bite or flesh-eating bacteria (such as MRSA).

I took her in for a second opinion with the emergency vet who saw her on Sunday and he said her tissue was liquefying. It was one of the worst cases he'd seen in a very long time. He was leaning more toward flesh-eating bacteria, but said a brown recluse bite could still be possible. He did say that with aggressive veterinary treatment, she would survive. She might lose part of her foot, but that she would be fine if we did everything the vet is asking of us.

Sadly, we still don't know what we are dealing with.

We just know that her skin and tissue is rotting at an alarming rate. She went from playing catch with us on Saturday to us looking at her dying within the week if we couldn't get this under control.

Today is Wednesday and from the massive amounts of a variety of antibiotics, she's doing better. The wound hadn't grown any larger for the first time since this whole ordeal. It's not reversed yet, no healing is present, but the fact that it stopped spreading the way it had is a good sign.

Her clotting tests came back normal showing that her body is healing the wound.

Everything is pointing to good signs if we keep up treatment.

The issue is cost. I have spent $2,000 since Sunday. That's over half my monthly salary. I pulled money from my IRA to pay for services and I am running low over there.

Today alone was $870. Tomorrow? Another $300. And until she shows healing, it could be $300 a day to hospitalize her. Then it will be regular vet visits with special bandage changes ($55 a day - I am hoping to negotiate or learn how to do this myself at home). Once she starts healing, she will need surgery to remove to dead tissue and to either stitch/graft or amputate as needed depending on the damage that is done. This could add up to a couple thousand more depending on the course of treatment.

She requires all of this to survive. Right now, it's looking more and more like a flesh-eating bacteria. A super bacteria of sorts that got into her injured paw and is killing the tissue. It's crazy how she can go from being fine on Saturday to having her foot rotting away on Tuesday. It's mind-blowing and terrifying.

How she is today (Wednesday)

For a dog with flesh-eating bacteria on her foot, she's almost back to normal personality wise. The antibiotics seem to be working on the internal infection, it's just the wound that needs to heal up. While at the vet this morning, she climbed up in the chair next to me like normal. When I came to pick her up this afternoon, she pulled the vet tech down the hall to get to me. She's now putting a little weight on the paw which means the pain is subsiding. She's happy to greet my roommate once again, and she even begged for food last night (which I spoiled her with two hot dogs because she's been through a lot).

She's on the mend, the treatments may be working. Though without knowing what the bacteria is immune to, it's going to mean a lot of trial and error to get this under control for good.

My Situation

I won't go into my sob story great length since this is about Annabelle. But I left a really bad relationship about 2 years ago, moved out to California for a job opportunity to be in my field... and Dang, it's expensive out here. Rent takes up half my monthly salary and I wish I was exaggerating. It's tough. I have barely been able to save up anything and I live very frugally to make ends meet. My pets always come before me, their needs get met before mine and I make sure they eat better than I do. They are my world.

I had to get Annabelle spayed last August, and because she is a Dane, I also had her stomach tacked to help prevent bloat (You can Google it. It's a Great Dane issue). I used Care Credit to fund that. She had sickness associated with the surgery which required a lot of vet visits, and Care Credit came into play again. Then my cat got sick a few times... and my Care Credit is maxed out. They can possibly raise my limit, but I will know in 7-10 days.

I don't have 7-10 days. I am running out of money and the vets I have found don't take payment plans because they push you to Care Credit. They require money up front, which I don't have anymore of. I've dug into my IRA and will deal with penalties later. The $1000 I pulled out yesterday is already gone to the vet, I am broke once more.

My family is poor, I can't get it from them. My savings are burnt up from this. I really don't know where else to go. I am so ashamed to be asking for help, and hope no one thinks poorly of me for it.

Help Needed

I hate asking for any help, but this girl is my baby. Anyone who knows me knows that this dog is my world. I talk about her nonstop, I take her everywhere I go. I make sure she has the best possible life I can give her, and I go without in order to give it to her.

I have had a rough few years and she's been able to bring me so much joy. I seriously can't imagine life without my giant beast of a dog. She's a cuddle buddy who loves nothing more than being loved on by a human. She doesn't have a mean bone in her body and adores everyone she meets.

(This is a photo from a month or so ago. She's snuggling in bed with Kevin on a Sunday like we do every Sunday until this last one shook us all up.)

If you know of any charities that would donate to the vet on behalf of Annabelle to get her the services we need, please let me know. I am researching it a bit, and doing my best to find help that I can get right away. This all happened so fast and needs to be treated fast. If you know of a vet in the Orange County, CA area that would take payments or help me out, that would work great too. I just need it quick.

Knowing I can save her if I just had the money... I have to at least try. I have to at least ask.

Don't feel any obligation whatsoever, especially if you have helped me in the past with anything whatsoever. I don't want to be greedy or pushy. Several people have asked to help me with the vet bills and I am passing this along because I can't deny that I need help. If you can't help financially, but want to help out somehow, then feel free to pass this along. Pass it along anywhere you can think of, I don't mind.

Anything. Any little bit will help here. Even your thoughts and prayers mean the world to me since I believe in the power of positive energy. So keep those coming as well. Or just pass it on even. Maybe someone out there can help me in a way I never would have thought of on my own. You just never know.

Thanks everyone. I will try to make sure everyone gets at least a personalized "thank you" card if I get your address (so please consider leaving that. I may include a photo of Annabelle once she's healthy once more). I am more than willing to repay the favor in any way I possibly can. Never hesitate to ask.

For more about Annabelle, here's a video and a public post I wrote up about her. You can see that she really is a terrific dog and I love her so much.


(PS: The donate button doesn't seem to work unless you go to the button on the original post.  You can also simply log in to PayPal and send money to kristenrericha@gmail.com.  Thanks!)

It has been my pleasure to be one of the Gatekeepers for therealljidol competition, Season 8, Week 20.

For those of you on my list who don't know, the competition is a reality lj-writing competition, with many twists and turns. The public votes for the people they want to see move on to the next round. Approximately once a season, there is a vote where a small number of people who are not currently involved in the competition, are the only votes that count for that round. Those people are called Gatekeepers, and this week I was asked to be one of them. There were 17 in total.

(ETA: The reveal of the identity of the Gatekeepers is here and the results can be found here.)

People involved in the game are usually at least a little bit curious about any particular person's voting criteria, and they are typically a little more interested in the voting criteria of a Gatekeeper, so that's what I'm going to try to explain here.

First, my process:
All of the entries can be found here: http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/547602.html

I read each entry and assigned it a gut-feel, "yes," "no," or "meh" vote, based on my own personal reaction to the piece. After I recorded my original gut feeling, I assigned a score to the entry based on some criteria that was maybe slightly more objective than my gut feeling. I gave them each a score of 1-5, with 5 = Totally Awesome, 4 = Really Good, 3 = Good etc. I found I had to break out the 0.5's. No one scored lower than a 3. Fourteen people scored a 5, and their entries blew me away with their awesomeness.

After I finished all of them, I noted the ones for which I had indicated either "no" or "meh" and re-read them the next day. Since the instinct on whether or not to vote for an entry was part of a gut feeling, I wanted to be sure I hadn't just been in a pissy mood when I read those entries. Originally there had been 13 entries which received a "no" or "meh", but after re-reading them, I revised my scoring/votes. When I submitted my votes, there were only five entries for which I did not feel comfortable voting.

My criteria and other points of note
  1. Your entry has to grab my attention. I don't have a set place at where I have to be "grabbed", but it should be near the beginning, and I shouldn't get to the point of wondering when I was going to "get it". If my mind starts wandering in an entry, it's not a good sign. I try to give the entries the benefit of the doubt - I try to assume it's me being unfocused rather than the entry being poorly written, and so I try reading it through again a few times to assess whether or not the problem is me, or the entry. Often it's the entry, and it's a problem that some editing could fix.

  2. This is THE major criteria (but it happens after I've been "grabbed" so I'm listing it second) - I have to connect with it. It doesn't have to be brilliantly written, it really just has to keep me reading and make me feel something. If that's because I'm curious as to how it will end, or because you're making me laugh, or because you're expressing an opinion that I strongly agree or strongly disagree with, I just have to connect with it - I have to feel something. In a slice-of-life piece, I have to find myself being interested in YOU as a person. Since I'm naturally curious about people, that's usually not a problem. Usually.

  3. Length is not an issue for me, unless you've managed to avoid capturing my attention. Then I was irritated with longer entries. That's not a good sign either. If I'm captivated by an entry, I'll happily read it forever, and I'll be sad when it's done.

  4. Spelling and punctuation are not so much of an issue for me, unless I'm distracted by their egregious nature. If I'm reading your entry out loud, and I can't figure out when I'm supposed to take breaths/pauses, etc. then it's a problem. I read out loud a lot. It helps me to place myself in the scene, or give your narrative a voice. It helps block out the sound of my children destroying my house playing. It also gives me an indication of a weaker entry, without having to over-think it.

  5. I have no preference of fiction versus non-fiction. I used to prefer non-fiction lj entries years ago, but that was before I started to read really good fiction entries ;) Right now, my preference is to read really good entries. :)

  6. I don't necessarily subscribe to the opinion that a poem entry is committing idol suicide. It just has to be a well-done poem to get my vote.

  7. My vote was not in any way based on my opinions of your abilities or previous entries. It was based entirely on this week's entry only.

I hope that gives you an idea of my criteria. I wanted to comment on the entries, but because this season I've not been a frequent commenter, it seemed more prudent to be silent since I was supposed to be a secret.

For those of you who were wanting some kind of more personal feedback, please let me know. I can provide it either in a comment, or reply to an lj-message in private if you prefer. Please link your entry though, so I can click right to it and refresh myself on what you wrote.

Thank you all for providing me with such wonderful entertainment this season, but particularly over the last few evenings!

Many thanks to clauderainsrm for extending the invitation - I'm honoured to have been asked, and proud to have been able to help out.

A shout out to the entries I felt were this week's best:

(For those of you who were not on this list, I still liked your entries - I just really, REALLY liked these ones)

Let's talk about books for a second

What makes you like some books more than others?

For me, it's all about the emotions that are evoked, and whether or not my imagination can allow me to jump into the book.

If 1) the book involves me feeling like crap because I could put myself in the character's shoes and it was an unpleasant place to be, chances are, I didn't like the book. It doesn't mean it wasn't well-written, it just means I probably wouldn't ever read it again. It could be a literary work of art, and I probably wouldn't read it again.

If 2) the book doesn't allow me to literally jump into the story (either because of plot implausibilities or maybe the language is even too advanced for my little mind to wrap itself around, or maybe because it just wasn't written well enough) then I'm also less likely to enjoy it, or at least read it once and never again. Again, it could be a work of art, but if I couldn't get into it, I won't like it.

Does this mean I only read crap? No. I actually read and enjoy non-drivel. Does it mean I only read good stuff? No. If I can get connect with the story, then I can also get into stuff that is generally considered crap (aka Harlequin Romances, Twilight, etc.).

It wasn't always this way, but I've noticed that since I've had kids (which also corresponds to the time when my dad started to fall ill), I've not been able to enjoy either tv, or books, or movies that make me cry, and/or that don't have a satisfying resolution that doesn't involve sadness. I just can't.

So what about you guys? What makes you like a book?


Hmm... another competition season beings

Season 8 of therealljidol is here. I don't really have the time to enter, yet I'm seriously considering it. I may not be able to play the game like I ought to if I were playing to win, but maybe I could put in enough time to play the game and improve my writing skills.


Sign up is here.
I should mention that we're Catholic, but I haven't taken the kids to very many masses. Like maybe two in total. But I want them to be raised with the same spiritual beliefs in which I was raised, so I'm sending them to school through the Catholic school division.

Alex (who just started Kindergarten): Guess what!
Me: What!?
Alex: Today, we went to Church, and we saw God there!
Me: You saw God? Do you mean the priest?
Alex: Yes!
Me: Really! That's exciting!
Alex: Yes! And the big kids, they got to have special God chips!
Me (trying to figure out what she was talking about): God chips?
Alex: Yes! Yummy chips! From God!
Me (trying not to laugh): Oh! Yes! We call that the Holy Communion.

I think I like God chips better :)

I owe a couple of you some emails... I haven't forgotten, just dreadfully behind.

My goodness time has been flying!

Brief update in no particular order:

1) Work - I am working from home today, and posting on my lunch hour. It is awkward to work from home but not impossible.

2) Condo Board - I feel So Much Better since resigning from the Condo Board. Seriously. I can't believe what a difference it's been.

3) My Kindle - It came and one of the reasons why I've not been on lj as much is because I've been using it! *Squee* I've come to the conclusion that I like both the Kindle app on my android phone, as well as the Kindle itself. I seem to generally prefer reading from the Kindle, but I'd rather search for books on the phone, since the app tells me the price of the book beside the name of it, while in the Kindle store on the Kindle, you have to actually click on the book to find out the price. Many thanks to bertine for putting me on her "Free Kindle Books" Circle on G+.

4) School - Alexandra starts Kindergarten this week. We had registration on Monday, and it was a bit of a disaster. Not a disaster because she was scared/clingy/etc. Oh no. A disaster because she was mad as hell that it was only a 15 minute process and she didn't get to stay.

5) Parenting - Current parenting challenges (with both kids, although more so with Alex) include figuring out how to handle situations where she says, in anger, "I don't like you! I don't want you to be my mommy any more! Go away!" We've spoken about this, and I've tried to refocus her on, "Is that really what you want? Do you really not want mommy to love you and kiss you goodnight and take you to the zoo and do fun things? Or do you just need some space?" But man is she a tough nut to crack, and boy oh boy does she get stuck on things. Not really sure where to go from here.

6) Current adorable thing from Stephen -
Alex: Mommy, last night I had a dream about the stock car races!
Stephen: Oh yeah! Stock cars!
Alex (surprised at his enthusiasm): Wow Stephen, you really do like the stock cars, don't you?"
Stephen: Yeah, I like stock cars. I don't like to walk.

7) Swimming - Both kids are in swimming right now - we got them into a two-week swimming program where they have it every single day. It's right on campus next to our work, and at 6pm (we got off work at 5pm) so it's just perfect for picking them up and taking them to swimming, and we get free parking. It's working so well, I think we're going to do swimming in the fall too, although not every day. The kids love it, but both are terrified of getting their nose/eyes/ears wet. Both are in Sea Otter right now - I'm hoping Alex will be able to move into Salamander by the end of the week, but Stephen I'm sure will stay in Sea Otter. What's really awesome about it right now, is that they are the only two in the class, so it's basically like they're getting private instruction.

8) Fall Activities - Registration for fall activities has been happening over the last week. It's been insane. Having said that, I managed to get them both in Gymnastics at the same time (different classes), Dance (back to back classes), and we're keeping our fingers crossed that we'll be able to put them into a Group Swimming class, where they'll have their swimming lessons together. Keeping all the fall activities together at roughly the same time and location, will seriously ease the burden, and will definitely make it more tolerable! Now I just have to think about whether or not I can incorporate some pilates in there for myself.

Life had a funny way of racing away on me

Long and crazy week. Passed on all the condo stuff. Working hard to catch up at work. Found out I'm changing offices at work.

On one hand I'll get an office with two windows instead of one, but on the other hand, it will be an office without air conditioning in an old building with radiant heat (which means there's no way to turn off the heat even in the midst of summer). Considering I'm not supposed to move into it until September, that probably won't be so bad - it won't be that hot in Sept. I'm trying to stay positive. I don't do well in heat.

I am slowly but surely organizing my life. It's taking a while, but it will get there. I hope everyone's doing all right - I'm really behind on my reading.

In happier news, my Kindle came, and I've been completely enjoying reading from it. So far, good purchase!


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