Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Over and Out!

We tend to think of tortoises as slow. And subject to the laws of gravity. Sometimes we’re wrong.

This species (Manouria impressa) is pretty good at climbing. But they don’t always stick the landing.

What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

Nobody’s perfect, right?

Gratuitous belly button shot! Hatchling pancake tortoise. The umbilicus is the bright yellow patch. It is rapidly disappearing.

Gratuitous belly button shot! Hatchling pancake tortoise. The umbilicus is the bright yellow patch. It is rapidly disappearing.

Why You Don’t Want Me To Watch TV

Last night, I had a rare girls’ night with  my mom and my sister. We had a great time, but on my way home, I started to feel a little ill. I think the bacon-wrapped pork roulade was a little rich for me, and the venison was rather overdone. Chicken, okay? I ate chicken. With Lima beans and some dressing. Stove top stuffing, to be exact. Not guaciale seared scallops or cassoulet.

Our girls’ night consisted of back-to-back episodes of DVR’d episodes from the Food Network. Three hours of chefs sweating over what to do with the bizarre mystery ingredients unveiled to them in their baskets, and I felt like I had eaten my way across six continents. Television isn’t good for me.

I have a TV, of course. We paid $10 for it at a yard sale about six years ago. It works just fine. Okay, maybe everyone on the screen appears to be four inches tall and pink, and the sound quality is so bad that the television can be heard more clearly upstairs than in the room where it resides, but it’s good enough for me. And it’s obviously all that I can handle.

The set we watched last night was a little bigger than mine, the picture and sound clear as a bell. The people looked like people instead of Oompah Loompahs, and the food looked like food.  Well, most of it did. After a couple of hours, that line between entertainment and reality gets a little blurred, and I start to feel bloated from all that bacon. What is this obsession with bacon, anyway?  I don’t get it. Give me a pork bracioli and  broccoli rabe florets with a touch of raspberry truffle. That was actually not bad. Wait… Did I…? Chicken. That’s right. I ate chicken. I keep forgetting. The lines, how they blur! Maybe I just need new glasses…

I got so lost in my viewing pleasure that I know I will have to choose the shows I watch on a real television very carefully. I couldn’t watch The Bachelor without a divorce attorney present. I’d need to get my shots before I ever turned on The Amazing Race. I’m less worried about The Voice because I don’t even know what it is. Do they speak? Sing? Does the champion screamer win?

I’ve decided that television twice a month is probably all I can handle without gaining a lot of imaginary weight. I’m going back to books, I think. I’m better off with reading anyway. When I start The Hobbit for the millionth time, I don’t have to worry about those lines blurring because I already know it’s real.

 

Totally free-hand. If I were not a writer, I'd have to be an artist, right?

Totally free-hand. If I were not a writer, I’d have to be an artist, right?

 

What Just Happened Here?

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I know. Especially if it’s Phoebe because she’s a special case. She thinks she has puppies right now. She has collected all of her lovies into a pile on the couch, and she spends her day mothering them. And smothering them.  And chewing out their squeakers. That’s mothering, right?

Ah, sweet Phoebe. The Joan Crawford of dogdom.

Ah, sweet Phoebe. The Joan Crawford of dogdom. The good news is that she’s officially retired as a show dog, so I can spay her this spring. Can I get a hallelujah?!

 

But that adage (axiom? allegory? alliteration?) doesn’t necessarily apply to humans. This old dawg is learning. And doing. There is hope! This has been my week of learning new things, trying new things, accepting new things. It is good.

For the first time in 25 years, I have submitted a piece for publication. I won’t hear for a while if it was accepted, but I’m okay with that. If I get accepted, it’s a publishing credential. If I don’t I get a rejection letter for the spike and an opportunity to thicken my skin. It’s a win either way. The important part is that I learned I could push past my fear and just do it.

This week, I also learned that time marches on. Squish and I went to Kindergarten Roundup, which sounds like it should involve cattle and lassos, but instead involves text books and tears. Mine. He’s going to start school in the fall, ready or not. He’s ready, of course. It’s the parents who are blindsided.

And then there’s my newest venture. I just signed on as a contributor to a local blog, and today my first post went live. You can find it here. If you have kids (or even know kids), go ahead and click over there. Today I shared my favorite free educational website for kids. I teach computer classes to grades K-8, and I love, love, love the website for a whole lotta reasons.

And now it’s the time in our program where I teach you something, too! Impressed tortoises are pretty adept climbers when the situation presents itself. Who knew?

What? There's a Girl Scout cookie table outside of Target? Get my purse. I'm outta here!

What? There’s a Girl Scout cookie table outside of Target? Get my purse. I’m outta here!

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Happy Sun Day!

I know. It’s Wednesday. But this weekend, we celebrated the sun! Because it came out, and it was warm.

Gimme some salad! And some vitamin D!

Gimme some salad! And some vitamin D! That tongue slays me.

And look at the newest zoo baby! It’s a pancake tortoise, one of my favorite species.

Maybe Spring will come again. There’s hope on the horizon!

Is Everything REALLY Awesome? A Lego Movie Review

I have mixed feelings about my kids’ addictions to Lego bricks. I do love their educational value. The Padawan saves his money to buy sets that he likes, the more complicated, the better. He learned the value of following directions, and also not to pour all thousand pieces out on the table at once. Those who accuse sets of stifling a child’s creativity have never seen a ten year old redesign a space ship to give it more playability and durability. We have loose bricks, too. Very loose, under foot, even. I don’t mind. The boys love them, and they’ll spend hours building and creating. And we’re all hooked on the Mystery Mini Figures.

I hate the rampant commercialism. We went to a Lego Discovery Center a couple of summers ago. We’ll never go back. I looked into purchasing the Minecraft sets at Christmas. 469 micro bricks for a mere $35. Micro bricks. For $35, I can purchase a Lego set that is all of 3x3x3. Inches. $35 and Squish could hold the whole thing in his hand. No. Thanks.

When the Lego Movie was first advertised, I knew I would be dragged to see it. It’s PG, and ever since “Horton Hears a Who” introduced Squish to some fabulous new words, I’ve had a strict policy of prescreening anything rated higher than G. Last Sunday, I got up a wild hair to treat the Padawan to a movie, sans little brother.

I didn’t tell him where we were going, just that we had an appointment at 1:30. My secret scheme was almost blown at lunch when he said “I want to go see the new Lego movie.” I played it off by asking him if the movie was even out yet. Clever me. He had no clue about our destination until we stepped up to the ticket window. Apparently, he thought I had found him a therapist (I don’t even…), or maybe we had an appointment for a massage. Yes, that sounds like me.

We went full works. Popcorn, sodas so big we’d be peeing Pepsi for a week, enough candy to guarantee illness. It was a perfect set up.

Long story short, I knew I would hate it. I was wrong. I left the theater thinking that Lego Group deserves every penny they make on this film. It was delightful. The cast is star-studded. George Takei, anyone? There’s action, there are celebrities bringing back beloved roles (no spoilers here, folks), there’s earworm that I am still singing.

There’s plot, there’s silliness, and best of all, the Padawan and I both loved it, but neither of us felt compelled to go out and purchase any of the affiliated items. The sets they’ve come out with to go with the movie tend to be a mish-mash of bricks with limited use, and even some pink Duplo style blocks. They’re in keeping with the plot of the movie, but they all look like something a kid could make themselves. We will collect some of the mini figures, but we do that anyway.

I recommend the movie for ages 7 and up. There’s (surprisingly) nothing inappropriate that I could see (and you’d better believe I was looking). There are no snarky kids, no graphic anything,although a few characters are mistreated, and an important plot point is the main character’s friendlessness. The one thing that would make me hesitant to show it to Squish is the plethora of “butt” jokes. I don’t like that word. But that was the only thing. The only thing.

The reason I don’t recommend the movie for younger children is because it is plot-driven, not so much action-driven. There is action, to be sure, but without understanding some intricacies of plot and dialog, there are not enough explosions and car chases to keep many younger children engaged. I know. The theater was full of them, and they got kind of wiggly. My suggestion for those whose little ones are dying to see it is to wait for the DVD. Then buy it. And watch it until your ears fall off. Because they will. Everything is awesome.

The Padawan hasn't had the best luck with Mystery figures. Most of the ones he got at Christmas were girls. But I covet that chihuahua, don't you?

The Padawan hasn’t had the best luck with Mystery figures. Most of the ones he got at Christmas were girls. But I covet that chihuahua, don’t you?

The Art of Working From Home

This past year has been a productive one for me. I’ve produced three completed first draft novels for grown-ups (sorry, I can’t say “adult novel” without thinking 50 Shades of Completely Inappropriate) and three first drafts of children’s books. Working at home does present challenges, and I wanted to share my formula for success.

I am currently working on a couple of short stories, one with a deadline that looms closer every day. I work well under pressure. Here’s how the magic happens.

7am – Send the Padawan off to school

8am – Take Girl-child and Squish to their respective schools.

8:30 – Drop by Chic-fil-a for a biscuit and some wi-fi.

10:30 - Two large sodas and 47 emails later, it’s time to go to the bathroom home.

10:45 – Sit down at writing station, swearing loudly and on Twitter that I will not get up again until I have written 1000 words.

11:30 - Count stinkbugs on the windowsill. Forty-seven. Oh, did I mention I checked ALL the windowsills? For inspiration.

12:00 – Time for lunch. Word count > my age. Barely. Count it as a win.

12:30 – Let’s hammer out some words!

12:31 – Discover amazing Youtube video of cat that can say “NO!” Oh, my gosh! It’s a cat! And it can say “NO!”

1:45: Time to get some words written! Look at my own cat fast asleep on my Harry Potter blanket (don’t hate!). So cute! Have to blow some raspberries on her fuzzy little tummy.

5:15 – The doctor says the stitches can come out in two weeks and shouldn’t leave a scar. Time to pick up kids.

6:00- It’s dinner time. These ungrateful kids! I just fed them LAST night. Why do they need to eat every day? I could be writing right now. I should have stuck to snakes. Mammals are high maintenance. I wanted to get 3000 words in, and I’ve only written 100. I will never do this!

6:30 - Back at my writing station. It’s happening now!

6:35 – I’m stuck on a plot point. Distract myself by playing a game. How many Game of Thrones characters start with the letter “B?”

7:00- Give up and read a couple of chapters in Game of Thrones. Wow. The answer to my question seems to be “all of them.”

8:00- Husband wants what he wants every night. Downton Abbey. Fine. Whatever.

9:30 – My eyes are getting heavy, but I’m going to do this. I am. I’m a writer, by gum! A writer! And a writer writes!

9:45 – Bored. Resort to feeding cat stinkbugs.

10:00- Write a blog post on how to work from home.

Come a little closer...

Come a little closer…

Attitude of Gratitude

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Life gets completely crazy busy, and I lose sight of what’s good in my world. I’ve been teaching middle school literature classes for the last couple of weeks. I love what I’m doing, but I’m so tired at night that I’m unconscious by 9pm. I’m treading water. Tears have been shed, most of them mine. But it will be okay. Today, I will be grateful.

Our pipes froze and burst, soaking a lot of stuff in our garage. But it was all good. The repair was in the most accessible place possible and took only 20 minutes for the plumber to fix, and the bill was very affordable. The really good part is that this incident alerted us to potential problems that we should be able to prevent going forward. And the boxes of ruined things I carted to the curb were things we really didn’t need anyway.

Squish has no ability to sleep in. I’m tired, my husband is tired. On weekends, we’d like nothing more than to just sleep until we can’t sleep any more. Currently, Squish’s feet hit the ground at 6am, school or no school. There is no rest for the weary. But the kid is a total morning person, and he really is a delight. He’s at his most entertaining before the sun comes up.

I can wake up to this face. Couldn't you?

I can wake up to this face. Couldn’t you?

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I am too tired to write. But it’s times like this I know how much my husband loves and supports me. When my half-day at school turned into a full day, he took off work a little early to bring me lunch. And the next morning, he got up with Squish so I could sleep. After I took a shower, I came back to my room and found he had set up my writing station, complete with my cup of coffee. And he sent me out of the house to write today. Forget Valentine’s day. My whole life is Valentine’s Day right now.

I am frustrated at having no time to write. Which means I still enjoy it and need writing in my life. It would be sad if I didn’t care. I have so many opportunities that are presenting themselves. I’ve been invited to contribute to a site in my own city, which is exciting and may open some new doors, and I’m trying my hand at short stories for the first time since this one. Go ahead and click over, if not for my story then for the Severus Snape gif that makes me a little teary-eyed. Snape loves me, he really loves me. I’m going to have this new story whipped into shape by February 15.

I’m ready for winter to be over. I hate driving in the snow. My road is off-the-beaten path and is oft neglected by snowplow and salt truck. When school was dismissed early a couple of weeks ago due to unexpected snow, we almost didn’t make it home. Our neighborhood is hilly any way I go. I chose the most likely path, and it was the wrong one. I couldn’t get up the hill, and when I tried to back up, I lost control of my van on a narrow road with deep drop-offs on either side. I prayed harder than I’ve prayed in a long time. When I finally let up on the steering wheel, the skid righted itself and I eased in to a driveway so I could turn around. I felt God telling me “You’re holding on too tight.” And He was right. My whole life of late has consisted of fighting to control things that just aren’t meant for me. I’m letting go of the things I’m not the boss of. The Serenity Prayer is my mantra. And I feel free.

Besides, if Squish slept late, and if it were summer, would I have ever seen this?

Besides, if Squish slept late, and if it were summer, would I have ever seen this?

What are you grateful for this day?

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Second Chances

If I have said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Life is too short to read bad books. But sometimes the parting of the ways comes not through any fault of the book itself. This year I decided to give A Game of Thrones another go.

I started reading it a couple of years ago, I guess. It was the first library loan on my brand new Kindle Fire. If you look at my top pages and posts on any given day, you will likely see how that particular relationship ended. Long story short, I sent back the device before I finished the book.

I was content to live Throneless for the rest of my days, but the universe has ways of changing our minds. It started with discovering A Clash of Kings at the Friends of the Library book sale. Hard cover, good used condition, $2. Then over the course of the year, I found three others in the series at thrift stores. A near-complete series cost me just over three bucks. The universe wins again. I found a copy of book one (at the used bookstore, and guess who had trade credit?) and a few days ago, I sat down to read.

My original thought was that the world Martin built is more memorable than the characters themselves. My second thought was that A Game of Thrones is possibly the worst book to read during the polar vortex. I’m cold. So cold. Winter is coming? Whatever, Starks. I’ve got news. Winter is already here. I hate Catelyn already, what with her nice hot water steaming through the walls, and all I’ve got is this stupid rice sock. The snow is going to pile deeper still, and we’ll never get out, and I’m almost out of milk! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! Wait. Where was I?

In the first ten pages, I was drawn into the story. I could not remember why I was able to put this book aside so easily. Oh, yeah! There it is! Now I remember! In a world with thirty main characters, it makes sense to give some of them the same name. And how’s about we toss in a nickname or three? Eddard? Sometimes we’ll call him Ned, even when the chapter header refers to him by his formal name.How about Robert and Robert and Robb. And let’s toss in a Brandon, a Bran or two and maybe some oats for fiber. I’m waiting for a Jehoshaphat to pop up somewhere. I’m just gonna call him Steve.

I’m struggling as well with the line between fantasy and reality. Newborn dire wolf pup that licks someone’s face? I’m not overly familiar with the species since they went extinct about 10,000 years ago, so maybe it was possible. No, it’s not. I’m more ready to believe that fossilized dragon eggs come to life than I am that five spoiled children have the ability to train pet wolves to advanced levels. I’ve actually trained a dog or five. There’s only so much reality I can suspend. Fantasy I can deal with; schoolgirl fantasy I cannot.

I’m hung up in the nitpicky things. Because it’s cold, and I’m grouchy, and it’s cold. But I’ll keep reading. The universe says I must. I still have hopes for it. Maybe. Except for the fact that Martin hates both his readers and his characters.

Have you ever given a book a second chance? Did it end well? I’m pretty sure this one’s not going to end well. I’ve read the jokes. “Why isn’t George R.R. Martin on Twitter? He’s already killed all 140 characters.” But I’m in, at least for now. Worst case scenario, I hate the series and resell them at the used bookstore to buy Harry Potter action figures with my windfall. Best case scenario, I find a new favorite series and languish in agony until the 6th book comes out. I’m hoping for the latter. I never pick up a book without hoping it will become my new best friend.

Morning Commute

I left for work early yesterday because sometimes the traffic is unpredictable. Yesterday was one of those times.

I got to the main road, and traffic was backed up bumper-to-bumper as far as the eye could see. I knew something was up. Sure enough, I saw a sign.

*Sigh* But it's okay. I needed to be in that lane, anyway.

*Sigh* But it’s okay. I needed to be in that lane, anyway.

So I, along with many other cars, patiently merged into the left lane. Because we’re obedient like that. A tenth of a mile later, we saw another sign.

You have GOT to be kidding me.

You have GOT to be kidding me.

Fine. Whatever. We all merged back into the right lane. Because that’s what you do when the sign tells you to. I drove another 1/10 of a mile and saw this:

For those who can't read my line-drawings, let me interpret. "Dear Bozo who has now changed lanes twice, time to get back where you started from. Love, Public Works."

For those who can’t read my line-drawings, let me interpret. “Dear Bozo who has now changed lanes twice, time to get back where you started from. Love, Public Works.”

Yep. Right lane closed. So I changed lanes. For the third time in 3/10 of a mile. Now, I don’t blame Public Works. At 7am on a frosty polar vortex January morning, I’m not sure I would know my left from my right. But I do know one thing. Next time, I’ll be looking for this sign before I pull a lane change:

I saw the sign