Friday, July 18, 2014

Seven Days In Vegas

Seven Days In Vegas - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

I am untraveled. I have never owned a passport.  I am very happy at home but I do have a travel bucket list. Vegas is not on it. I want to see beauty - not hype. However, when opportunity knocks, should you not open the door?

My husband plays pool.  Every year the winning team is awarded a trip to Vegas. And this year his ship came in.  He gets a free flight and free hotel stay. For seven days in August. And I am going with him. Because Vegas. Because Sin City. Because we don't get enough time away together.

My ticket is purchased and my passport is on order. This will be our first real trip since our honeymoon in 1998.  We've had hotel stays here and there over the years but we've never really gone away, child-free, for honest-to-goodness grownup alone time.

For that I am excited.

For so many other reasons I am anxious...

1. This is a trip with other people.  Barf!  Not that I hate people - I don't - I love people.  But I view myself as a complete nerd traveler.  I want to go to museums and walk through nature and take photographs of the desert. I do not want to go to night clubs and hang out in casinos and SHARE A HOTEL ROOM WITH MY HUSBAND'S SINGLE MALE FRIEND!

2. Beggars can't be choosers.  If he wasn't getting this trip for free we would not be going anywhere farther than Niagara Falls. If we want a room to ourselves we have to pay for it and a seven-day hotel stay is not in our current budget.  {But we're going to try really hard to pay for our own room for at least one night or two.}

3. I'm trying but I can't think of one single thing that might make Vegas a romantic getaway.  I've seen The Hangover.  I know the truth.

4. This is a trip for a pool team. They are entered in a tournament. They will be playing pool. The better they do, the longer they play and the more time I'll have on my own.  This is good and bad.  How often do I get quiet time in which I have no obligations? I have full intentions of the using the pool tournament time to read and write and swim and NAP! But what if I'm lonely or resentful? I need to prepare myself right now, mentally and emotionally to get through it and enjoy it.

5. I have guilt regarding the children - not in leaving them behind for a week but in pawning them off on others because I worry that it's a huge inconvenience and that yeses were said out of duty and not a genuine desire to spend time with them.

6. I don't drink. Like not even a little bit. Not because I think it's evil or anything - it's just a choice I've made and I have no regrets surrounding it. I have gone into a bar and ordered a tea - I'm that weirdo {I also had to walk the bartender through how to make a cup of tea which was ridiculous and entertaining}.  Vegas is basically the party capital of the world.  But it's also probably the weirdo capital of the world so...

7. I don't gamble. Like not even a little bit. And I kind of think it's a bit evil - and sad - and annoying - and potentially destructive and the idea of hours among the whir and squeal of those machines makes me squirrely. 


I am a square. Not a prude but not the kind of girl who needs to say, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."  But I will vow to make the best of it in hopes that perhaps our next travel opportunity will not involve 8 of his party-hardy friends.

What about you? Have you ever traveled to Vegas? I'd love to hear some suggestions for sights to see and things to do!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Your Ultimate Guide To Drive-In Movie Fun

Ultimate Guide To Drive-In Movie Fun - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

Tires crunch against the gravel as you pull away from the old ticket kiosk. You drive around the barricade and it's a little like slipping through a time warp and you feel like Olivia Newton John when she was Sandy Olsson and the only thing more perfect would be if a group of greasers stood on their hoods and sang 'Grease Lightning'. The air hangs with exhaust as people vie for the perfect central space and children bounce in the backseat, already unbuckled, waiting for the moment the engine stops and they can rush from their automobile confines...

I never went to the drive-in as a child.  Mom and dad thought they were for necking, not for families. I was sixteen before I ever experienced that dusty air.  We pulled in, us a pile of too many kids in the back of Dan Jolly's pickup truck and {Mother, I promise} not one neck got nibbled! It was magic and immediately became a summertime staple in my activity arsenal.

pros for a drive in movie





  • It's cheaper! A double-feature costs less than one film at a regular theater and children are generally a reduced rate ($2 at our local drive-in) or free.
  • It's social! Unlike a theater, a drive-in makes it easy to carry on conversations and share your plot theories without bothering the people around you.
  • You can bring whatever snack strikes your fancy and save on the overpriced concession treats.
  • Children don't have to sit still and be quiet - they have room to move around, play and talk.
  • It's comfortable. Compare a theater seat {in which an usher will snap his fingers to get you to take your feet down off the seat in front} to a hatchback stuffed with pillows and blankets {on which you and your heart-partner can snuggle}.
  • You are the master of your own volume.  Is it too loud? Turn it down. Is it too quiet? Well then, turn it up!
  • Pajamas are a socially acceptable public clothing choice.  

cons for a drive in movie




 
Um...nevermind.


Drive-In Movie Essentials - 10 things you don't want to leave at home - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

You can show up at the drive-in, just you and your car BUT there are things that can make your experience so much better...

1. Comfy clothes. Whether it's pajamas or yoga pants, you're going to want to be comfortable. Jeans are not conducive to a cozy drive-in experience.  

2. A warm sweater.  Even though it's summer, nights can still be damp and cold. Come prepared with a sweater for everyone.

3. Blankets & pillows.  Cozy is your goal! Quilts are great to wrap yourself up in and pillows will be helpful when the kids get tired and want to snuggle up in the back seat.  

4. Camp chairs. If it's more than two of you going, bring along some chairs so you can sit outside your car.  {Many bodies will fog up your car windows and no one will be able to see anything.}  With your windows down and the volume turned up you'll have no trouble hearing the movie and the kids will be happy to not be confined in a vehicle for hours.

5. Activities. To guarantee yourself a good parking spot you may want to show up as much as an hour early.  Bring along your ball gloves to play catch, a frisbee, a soccer ball or anything else that might fill the time and occupy the kids.  There's always room in front of the screen to toss a ball or play tag.

6. Bug spray.  There have been times that the mosquitos and blackflies are horrendous - especially if you're planning to sit outside - bring along some bug spray to keep those annoying critters at bay.

7. Window cleaner.  We generally spend the first movie outside on our chairs and then get in the car for the second {in hopes that the kids will fall asleep}. There is nothing more annoying that a giant bug-splat right at your eye level. Bring along some window wipes or glass cleaner and a rag to give the windshield a quick cleaning.

8. Snacks! No movie is complete without snacks! And the sky is the limit.  It can be as simple as a bag of candy or as awesome as a crockpot full of pulled pork.  Just remember to bring whatever necessary dinnerware you need.

9. Drinks! I always bring myself a coffee and for the kids either drinking boxes or a thermos of juice.

10. A sense of wonder.  Every experience is only as good as you make it.  The drive-in is the perfect place to approach with the eyes of a child.  Oooo and aaaahhhh through the movie.  Laugh out loud.  Search for new constellations.  Peak through the control room window and watch the reel spin.  Make shadow puppets on the screen during intermission.  Watch for shooting stars.  Cuddle.

And finally...






  • One car per spot.  Don't be a spot-hog and don't sprawl.
  • Know where your children are and don't let them run around unsupervised! Once the sun is down they should be at your vehicle with you.
  • Don't compete with the music. If you arrive early, be content with the drive-in station - don't try to drown it out with your own mix, that's just annoying to everyone around you.
  • Don't honk your horn - it's obnoxious.
  • Turn your headlights off and keep them off!
  • If you've backed in and plan to sit in the back of your minivan, be sure the rear lift-gate is not raised so high as to obstruct the view of the vehicle behind. 
  • While the drive-in is a social place and conversation is okay, please don't be too loud and please don't use profanity - there may be children all around you.
  • Don't peak in others windows {mom & dad weren't totally wrong}.
  • Pick up your garbage.
  • If you can avoid it, don't leave in the middle of a movie. Plan your departure during intermission so you're not disrupting others.
  • When you leave, drive slowly.

There you have it. Your ultimate guide to the drive-in. May your summer be rich with exciting movie-going experiences!

Do you have any advice to add? Share it in the comments! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Liamless Limits {And How To Pack For Summer Camp}

"and I want that chaos right here beside me...drowning me in a swelling dam of love-mayhem..." SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
I have them.  Liamless limits. 

They surprised me when I found myself missing him desperately last summer while he was away at his first summer camp experience. 

He's got this heart that spans the world I know and when it's out of reach it leaves a hole. 

But camp feeds a piece of a child's soul that I would be selfish to keep from him.

We sat over dinner one night a few months ago and he announced, "I don't want to go to camp this year."

"Yes you do," I argued.

"Nope."

"Liam, camp is important. You make friends. You learn independence. You have fun. You try new things."

"I don't want to go. I want to play baseball."

I'm not sure where he got the idea that it was one or the other.  "You can do both!" I told him.

"Oh. Okay, I want to go to camp then."

And now the time has come to pack for another year...

How To Pack For Summer Camp - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak - includes a complete packing list!


1. Be intentional about the laundry. Begin early and have a clear picture of what exactly is needed so you're not digging through the hamper hours before you have to leave, searching for that lucky t-shirt he has to have. {see the list at the bottom of this post}

2. When the laundry is all done and folded {because you're amazing and focused} sort everything he needs into piles. DO NOT just throw things into the suitcase haphazardly - this will undoubtedly lead to you digging through that nicely packed luggage because you'll be sure to second guess yourself before it's all over.  Find a clean surface {I used my bed} and makes your piles: t-shirts, shorts, underwear, etc. That way, you can see and count everything before packing it, and know that you have what you need.

3. Label everything.  Once my piles were complete, I went through item by item and made sure everything had a RUSNAK label.

4. Explain items to your child.  "Liam, this is a drawstring bag. It's for your dirty laundry. You're not going to put dirty socks into your suitcase with your clean clothes - you're going to put them in this bag. Okay? Okay."  *mime putting stinky socks into the bag and sealing it up while child rolls their eyes* 

5. Pack the suitcase so that the less important things are on the bottom - things like rain-wear that may not even be needed.  I packed by item but some children may benefit from packing by outfit {because Liam is going to an all boys camp and the whole intention is really just to get dirty, matching outfits were a little high maintenance and unnecessary}.

6. Don't forget a special quiet time item. Most camps have an afternoon quiet time {those poor counselors need a break!} and most kids aren't really interested in taking a nap. I told Liam to find whatever he wanted to take for that time and put it on my bed with all the other packing stuff.

This is what he chose:

Books to read and a notebook to journal in, already titled with 'Second Year of Newlif Champ' {translation: Second Year of New Life Camp}

He's ready!

And now he's so excited he can't sleep.  It's 10:30 at night and he's been up four times.

"Is this harder than Christmas Eve?" I asked him.

"I don't know," he said. "I just can't get to sleep."

And to double his anticipation, tomorrow morning - before we leave for camp - is his debut performance with my worship band and he is over the moon that I'm letting him play the djembe with us for one song.

So it's a big day.  And he's going to be exhausted.

But he's going to love it. All of it.

And I'm going to miss him.

Terribly.

Packing List For One Week Of Boys Camp
  • 6 t-shirts
  • 4 shorts
  • 2 pants
  • 2 sweaters
  • 1 raincoat
  • 2 pairs of pajamas {one for warm nights, one for cool nights}
  • 6 pairs of underwear
  • 10 pairs of socks
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 1 hat
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 2 towels {one for showering, one for swimming}
  • pillow
  • sleeping bag
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • shampoo {an all-in-one children's product that works as soap too}
  • sunscreen
  • bug spray
  • quiet-time activity
  • flashlight {with fresh batteries}
  • $10 for tuck shop

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Missing Computer Gave Me Phantom Limb Syndrome

When you've been together long enough you become that beautiful kind of union that people write songs about. You may be a full entity on your own but when you find yourself without the other you suddenly recognize your dependence and think, for a moment, that perhaps Tom Cruise really had it right when he stood before his love with his heart leaking out his eyes and said, "you complete me."

My Missing Computer Gave Me Phantom Limb Syndrome - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

My computer and I, we've been through some hard times. I've known the benefit of her therapeutic keys while she sat and listened and spell-checked and never grew too tired.

Until she got too tired.

And J K and L just gave up like somebody poured coffee on them though {hand to God} that never happened.

I wanted the best care for her.  I took her to the best doctor. 

It was going to take one week.  She needed a whole new keyboard.

ONE WEEK!???!

For seven long days I was without her.  I would reach for her and she would be gone.  I sat at the basement kids computer, trying to force some creativity through those sticky keys. I tried typing on the iPad but that was just frustrating.  I answered emails from my phone - yuck!

I've read about phantom limb syndrome. About how a dog-sledder might lose their foot to frostbite and still reach to scratch the itchy ankle that isn't there. That was me - searching for the piece that was missing when I reached out to scratch.

How very sad - this dependence. 

How desperate.

How typical of the world we now live in.

I remember fifth grade and how the school had ONE computer - a grey beast tucked away in the smelly E.A. office at the top of the gymnasium bleachers - and how the days when it was my turn to type something were like a giant cherry on top of a bulging banana split with sprinkles and how I thought 'someday I will have a computer of my very own and I won't have to finish cursive writing drills to be able to use it!'

And I remember the typewriter and the chip-chip-chip and the ding and how very heavy it was and how hard you had to hit those keys and how I'd feed the paper slowly to get it perfectly straight only to have it come out perfectly crooked and how my dad would say, 'use all your fingers when you type!'

And while my computer friend was gone I thought about all these things but all I wanted was to have her back in my possession {because the moment she was gone I was awash with inspiration for new tales to tell}!

When my phone finally sounded with the email saying she was ready for pick up I gathered the children and left the dirty dishes where they were and drove the hour and twenty minutes to where she waited down the leg of a mall just off the highway.

Oh, was she beautiful! {And God bless Apple Care because the cost was exactly $0 and a great big grin from the Genius Bar guy.}

you have filled my heart with greater joy psalm 4:7


Reunion is a beautiful thing. A new keyboard is a beautiful thing. And I can only hope beautiful things come out of our continued relationship as I seal my fingerprints into each of her shiny-fresh keys and continue on in the narrative of my stories because {heaven only knows why} people like to read them.

{This post is dedicated to my baby sister who seemed most perturbed by my lack of posting due to my lack of computer. My apologies, dear one - I will strive to regularly ease your boredom with my witty repartee!}

Put a little JOY in your morning! Get a happy mug like mine by clicking one of the photos below!


{these photos contain affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on them} 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

When You Have Fear In Your Chicken Places

Eleanor Roosevelt quote, fear, do one thing that scares you
"Do one thing everyday that scares you."   Eleanor Roosevelt

This is the advice I carried in my pocket when I attended the writer's conference.

The great paradox of the modern introverted writer is that you can't be the hide-away, introspective soul that your spirit craves to be - you must be visible, aggressively pursuing your dream, waving your arms like an eccentric wild-woman screaming "look at me, read me, LOVE ME!"

"Do one thing everyday that scares you."  Notice how it doesn't say "Do one thing everyday that scars you."

Do you see the difference?

It took me a while to comprehend the power of that 'E'. 

Fear can be a hindering force. It can tuck you up safe and warm away from the world and the possibility of goodness-knows-what. It can make your living anything but living. It can be your prison. BUT fear can also be a propelling force, an invitation to self-awareness, a chance to overcome, and a ticket to new strengths.

My chicken places house hateful words like: boring, ordinary, not-good-enough, unimportant, uneducated...

My chicken places are ugly.

"What are your plans tonight?" one of my conference roommates asked me.

"Night Owl," I told her.  "I hate it."

"Then why are you going?"

"Because I think it's good for me," I said.  Because I am afraid of it.

Night Owl is a room full of writers sitting around a conference table in a basement boardroom at 11:00 pm, taking turns reading their work aloud. {I imagine they call it Night Owl because the feeling invoked by that room must be something akin to that of a field mouse darting frantically through the grass in a desperate attempt to avoid the talons of a hooting predator.}

I am so bad at it. Somehow, the moment I begin reading, the level of oxygen depletes in the room and I can't gather enough breath to make it through a full sentence without stopping for another.  I shake. I don't make eye contact. I stumble over words I've read in my head a thousand times. I sweat.

But I get through it.  Without scars.

And it's good for me.

Because I have this dream...I see myself holding a fresh-pressed copy of some newly published novel with my name on it and I'm in front of a crowd and I'm reading to them from the pages I wrote from my heart and I'm smooth as silk because by then I am well practiced by those tortuous moments around a basement table... 

Anything is possible if you step out of your own way.

What fears stop you from really pursuing your dream?  Can you step beyond them and stare your dragon in the face?

Go and be the master of your fears.  Lord over it with daring confidence.  Because fear can rule you unless you choose to rule it. Sucker-punch it straight in the throat.  Trade in your chicken places for a ten pack of McNuggets. Be your own hero.

Do one thing everyday that scares you!

Monday, June 16, 2014

How I Met Ted Dekker Without Dropping Dead

How I Met Ted Dekker Without Dropping Dead - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna RusnakHe smelled like soap.

I don't know why this surprised me because one of the golden conference rules was 'be scent free!'

I think I wanted him to smell like the mountains.

When the press-release stated that he would be at this years writer's conference it no longer became a question of 'should I go?' but 'when I go'. How often does the chance come along to meet your idol?

There's this strange phenomenon that happens when you build up a person in your mind - this budding perfection that makes you giddy like a schoolgirl and foolish like a killdeer - and they become this ideal monument that you appreciate and revel in from afar.  But the chance to meet them? What if? What if they're not what you've built them up to be? What if they're a huge disappointment? What if they're a puffed up celebrity-boasting-rock-star drunk on their own literary fame? 

What if you don't even have a chance to figure it out because you're so overwhelmed in their presence that you burst into tears and can't carry on a conversation?

What if?

From the moment he walked onto the stage on Friday night for his keynote address my 'what if's' were buried and I was enrapt.  He's got this cowboy swagger and Duchovney smile and he spoke with the same raw emotion he pours into every book he writes and I felt his eye contact all the way to my toes {because, of course, I was sitting in the second row dead on center} as he spoke directly to me and all of us and told us that we are all beauty and we are all story and all of our creations are in our own images and they are perfect because we are perfect in our 'right here, right now' because our here and now is beautiful. It was astounding. And moving. And I felt the lump of his words in my throat and wanted to set fire to all of my if only's.

Our first conversation was ridiculous. Not because I was an idiot but because it was late and everybody wanted him to sign their books.

"Green?" he asked as I handed it to him, surprised because it's older than everything everyone else was bringing to him.

"I brought it from home," I told him as he turned to the cover page.

"Is it your favorite?"

"Of the The Circle Series," I told him.  "It was fascinating. I don't understand how you pulled it all together."

He just grinned that grin. "Two N's?" he asked - to spell my name right.

"Could you sign this one for my son?" I took back Green and handed him the The Lost Books series.  "His name is Zander."

Ted sat with his pen poised above the page.  "Zander," he said.

"Zed-A-N-D-E-R," I spelled.

His pen didn't move.

"Zed-A-N," I said again.

"Zed?" he asked, giving his head a little shake.  "Zed? My brain can't get past that! Zed? Like Ted."

{I told you - a ridiculous conversation!}

I laughed because his brain had forgotten he was Canadian.  "Zee-A-N," I clarified.

"Great name!" he said after I'd spelled it out one final time.

"Thank you for what you shared tonight," I told him.  "It was so so great!"

Answering without words, he made prayer hands and dipped his head before taking a book from the next person in line.

And I was still in one piece. My heart was beating at a normal rate. And I was suddenly the owner of a book signed by my favorite novelist!

The next day found me absorbed in his three-hour class, soaking in the kind of wisdom worth much more than the price of the conference. And then the most extraordinary thing happened - in my hands, I held an advance copy of his newest book, not set for release until October 2014!

He read to us from it's pages - the only time he actually seemed even a little bit uncomfortable. "Reading is not my strength," he told us. When he finished I had already written A.D. 30 - October on the top corner of my notebook to make sure I remembered when I'd be able to get it.

He held the book up.  "So, I don't need this any more.  How should I...?" and he looked to the ceiling while that little grin snuck out.  "Who here has read one of my novels?"

Most hands went into the air.

"Who has read five?"

Some hands went down.

"Ten?"

More hands.

"Who has read more than fifteen?"

All that remained were my own and two others.

He made us stand. 

And pick a number between 1 and 20. Seriously.

The others picked 17 and 18. I picked 7.

He threw the book to me, straight down the center and straight into my hands {which I quickly had signed as soon as we took a break}!

How I Met Ted Dekker Without Dropping Dead - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
" If you bleed on the page, people will drink it. Everyone is a vampire. "
Ted Dekker on pouring yourself into your writing


How I Met Ted Dekker Without Dropping Dead - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak

How I Met Ted Dekker Without Dropping Dead - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak{Oh, just look at how I gaze on him with unabashed adoration. I don't even care how big of a book nerd this makes me}

So for now let me say, {in the way of my favorite movie, Love Actually} without hope or agenda, to me he is perfect and my wasted heart will love him for all the great beauty he unleashes on this dark, dark world.

Sigh.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

How To Come Home After A Writer's Conference

How To Come Home After A Writer's Conference - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna RusnakExhausted. Happy. Inspired.

That's how you come home from a Writer's Conference.

I arrived home yesterday feeling like every part of my body was aching - from brain to toes - and I had no capacity to do anything but prep my photos for a few conference posts.

When I crawled into bed, I couldn't even make it through a chapter of one of my {many} newly purchased books before I was dead to the world - not waking until almost 1 pm today with drool down the side of my face.

I have such a list facing me now and so much information to sort through.





You see, a writer's conference empties you of empty space and pours in an overwhelming amount of do this and this and this and this...which is why we go - to be fed and pushed back out into our own spaces with a better understanding of why we do what we do - why we write {and how to accomplish it}.

How To Come Home After A Writer's Conference - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak


I came away with a promising line on a job - a paid writing job - and will be in conversations with the editor in the next few weeks!

I had a beautiful editing experience with a beautiful writer who oozes the kind of grace we should all strive for!

I took a marketing class with one of the most genuine women I've come in contact with and came away with countless amazing tips for getting my work noticed.

I met my favorite novelist and did not make an entire fool of myself - but that's a whole post in itself. {stay tuned!}

I did two public readings of my work and I did not die!

I took a meeting with a literary agent and he did not think I was stupid!

I handed out a pile of business cards without feeling like an idiot.

I reconnected with old friends and made some new ones.

I drank bad coffee and ate good food.

 I slept poorly but learned much!

I am so very tired but so very excited to dig in and make everything I learned matter!


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