My Million Excuses

I sit here frozen at the keyboard. All the words that have been rattling around in my head for the last two hours have disappeared, flitting away like figments of my imagination. Wait. They were figments of my imagination, and they’ve left me, the little traitors.

My ailment isn’t a new one, nor is it undiagnosed. I am suffering from the dreaded Rewrite Paralysis. A few weeks ago, I got the bill for Girl-child’s first year of college tuition, and I came to the conclusion that, if I want to continue my day job, I am going to have to sell a book. If you’ve been around a while, you’ll know that leaving the zoo isn’t an option. I love it too much. If you’re a new reader, click the “turtles and tortoises” tab at the top. Yeah, I’m with the zoo forever. So, it’s time to pee or get off the pot.

Lampropeltis knoblochi, or Chihuahua Mountain Kingsnake. I don't talk about my snakes as much because they tend to squick some readers out, but isn't she beautiful? She's very sweet, too, and a contestant in the on-going "Longest Tongue competition over at Animal Couriers.

Lampropeltis knoblochi, or Chihuahua Mountain Kingsnake. I don’t talk about my snakes as much because they tend to squick some readers out, but isn’t she beautiful? She’s very sweet, too, and a contestant in the on-going “Longest Tongue” competition over at Animal Couriers.

I have a metric crap-ton** of excuses for not rewriting this novel sooner. Let’s get them out here in the open.

  1. That novel was just for fun.
  2. No one will really be interested in this character.
  3. It’s too hard to sell a book with a niche hobby like showing dogs. No one will be able to relate to it.
  4. It’s a damaged book, too far off the mark for redemption.
  5. I don’t have time.
  6. My kids are still young too young.
  7. My other hand hurts.
  8. Is it lunch time yet?

But if I’m really honest, there’s only one reason I haven’t delved head-first into rewrites.

I. Am. Scared.

The what-ifs are, quite frankly, eating me alive. What if I dedicate my whole world to this book only to discover that no one really DOES care? What if I do just fine with short little blog posts, but I’m not good enough to write a novel? What if I fail?

My answer to that last what-if is simple. I might fail, but I won’t die from it. Unless a potential agent reads it and finds it so horrible that they ouleave their big city office, come to my house, and bludgeon me to death with the e-file. I am still scared, but I am fairly certain this scenario won’t actually play out. I’m unlisted.

So this summer, I am stretching out of my comfort zone by joining Teachers Write, a four-week online camp for educators. If you’re a teacher, I recommend you join. It’s free. We get valuable feedback and a supportive community.

In keeping with the busting out of my wheelhouse, I will share the character sketch I wrote yesterday n response to this assignment. I am uncomfortable with this work because I am conflicted about writing in dialect. But it feels inauthentic not to. It won’t be for everybody, and I need to stop thinking that it will be. Not everyone loved Harry Potter, you know. Also, what is a wheelhouse?

She used to be skinny. She’s not no more, not since she come over to live at Grammy Sparks’. She likes Grammy’s cookin’, especially the hamburgers, fried in a pan. She likes those a lot.

She has brown eyes and blonde hair, but not same kind of hair as Sleeping Beauty\’s got, unless Sleeping Beauty slept a real, real long time and her hair got all dusty and kind of grey.

She don\’t like school. She done been to Principal\’s office so many times that they don’t bother with the teachin’ no more. Teacher puts the sum sheet on her desk but don’t say nothin’ when she crumples it up and drops it on the floor. Most people think she’s stupid. She’s not stupid. She knows better is all. Ain’t no reason to learn two and two when her Mamma done gone to jail for doin’ math.

Her front tooth is gone. It shoulda growed back two year ago when it first come out, but it didn’t. She didn’t even get nothin’ from the tooth fairy for it, neither. But she don’t believe in the tooth fairy, anyways. Except maybe she wishes she did.

She likes Grammy Sparks’ house good enough. Except for that cat. She hates that cat. He don’t like her much, neither. He squinted up his one good eye and scratched her good and proper the first day they met. He’s a mean old cat. He prowls outside her room at night and yowls. The same sound. Ra’o, ra’o, ra’o, over and over again, like he forgot he already said it.

He’s always there, that cat, always bein’ mean. Sometimes he takes the food straight off her plate, just plops up in a chair and snakes out that stripey paw, and next thing you know, he’s got her french fry. No one knows where he come from, but she surewishes he’d go.

Auntie June says Grammy Sparks is good at dragging in strays.

Am I alone? Anyone else ever let fear stand in their way? How did you conquer it?

 

** Little known fact: the official system for measuring excuses is metric.

The DIY Tip That Home Depot Didn’t Tell You

A garden hose is one of the tools I use daily. I have a tip you may not have heard from Lowe’s or The Home Depot.

A hose will work better and have greater water pressure if there is not a 523lb giant tortoise standing on it.

 

He looks pleased with himself, doesn't he? It took 15 minutes of scratching his neck to get him to finally move. Every week, Al? Really?

He looks pleased with himself, doesn’t he? It took 15 minutes of scratching his neck to get him to finally move. Every week, Al? Really?

You heard it here first.

 

Love tortoise and turtles and want to aid in their conservation? Enjoy a glass of wine? Shop here! Each bottle sold raises money for the Turtle Survival Alliance, an organization committed to zero turtle and tortoise extinctions in the 21st century.

The Things I Didn’t Know

It’s my anniversary. It’s a big one, too. Twenty years ago, I stumbled, blinded by tears waltzed gracefully down the aisle and attached myself, for better or for worse, to the man I had been dating for three years. I thought I knew everything. There were so many things I didn’t know.

I didn’t know:

How difficult it would be to learn to share a bed with someone else. Is there ever a mattress big enough?

That the man I married is a cover-hog.

That neither of us is perfect. I’m not sure which came as a bigger shock – that I had flaws, or that he did.

That he knows swear words. Even if he never uses them.

How quickly a tiny, insignificant spark can spawn a devastating blaze. The War of the Roses has nothing on the Dishwasher War of ’99.  Seriously, premarital counseling should have a chapter in Dishwasher Loading. And don’t get me started on wet clothes in the hamper.

That doing the laundry can be an incredibly romantic gesture.

That I would learn how to speak an entirely different language. Washing dishes is Husband for “I love you.”

How fast I would switch from always saving the last chocolate cupcake for him to hiding treats in an empty tampon box.

What a minimalist he is. He’d be content to own only a pair of running shoes and a decent pillow.

That his biggest competition for my affection would be a hook-nosed professor from Hogwarts.

sj found this gif for me ages ago. It still makes me weep.

sj found this gif for me ages ago. It still makes me weep.

How he would have to compete for living space with my collection of snakes and lizards.

How tolerant he is of snakes and lizards. Even when said lizards keep him awake at night with their noisy breeding activities.

How big a hole would be left in our hearts when we lost the cat we adopted when we got married.

My old friend

My old friend

How healing it would be to watch him parent our children. I never knew what it meant to have a dad in the house. Now I do.

How balding and predominantly grey could be so deliciously sexy. Sorry kids. Forget Mommy said this.

The sheer number and size of the storms we would have to weather.

That if I had the power to change the past and skip over some of the rough patches, I wouldn’t do it. Each and every trial has taught us something – about ourselves, about each other,about our faith. Skipping the hard parts would be like jumping to multiplication problems before ever learning to count. Without the foundation, there’s nothing solid on which to build. If you’re going to construct an earthquake-proof residence, you must first learn what an earthquake can do.

How the quirks I found endearing back then would become irritating. And how those irritations become endearing once again. They’re part of who he is.

How quickly 20 years would pass.

Happy anniversary to my beloved. I’m pretty sure that according to Hallmark, the 20th is the chameleon anniversary. Twenty-fifth is silver, 40th is ruby. Yes, I’m certain that the 20th is Oustalet’s chameleon. There’s a perfect spot in the living room…

I'd do it all over again.

I’d do it all over again.

True Confessions: My Biggest Parenting Fail

I have no doubt that if you know me in real life, you’re scratching your head and saying “Yeah, are you sure this is your biggest parenting fail?” To which I say, “Go do the dishes.” Because if we know each other in real life and you’re reading my blog, I probably married you or gave birth to you, and I’m sure you have a list of the wrong turns I’ve made along the way.

I was a kid once, and as a former child I am a big fan of the various mythical creatures that populate most childhoods. I enjoy passing down those traditions to my own children. Not to toot my own horn, but I rock the Santa gig. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not Mom #4. (Click the link, thank me later. That blog’s hilarious.) I don’t go nuts, but I am really good at choosing a cool gift for each of my kids. We do Easter baskets and all, but we don’t do the Easter bunny bit, mostly because the Girl-child was totally creeped out by the whole bunny idea by the time she was in preschool. I get a pass on that one. But one creature is my magical Achilles heel. I suck at tooth-fairying.

My tooth fairy with his little bag of teeth. He disappointed me.

I didn’t have the best example to follow. When I lost my first tooth, I put it under my pillow. The next morning, there was no money, only a note. It read “I’m sorry. I had too many teeth to carry, and I’ll come back for yours tonight. Love, Timothy.” The note rocked my world, and I wept as only a heartbroken child can weep. I don’t know which was more upsetting – that I had no quarter, or that my Tinkerbell tooth-fairy friend was a dude.

When Girl-child was little, I was all over the tooth-fairy gig. She was our first baby, and such rites of passage as cash from a fairy were like crack to me. For about two years. By the time she was seven, the shine had rubbed off that particular coin, and I had lost interest. More often than not, the kid woke up the morning after losing a tooth, shoved her hand under her pillow, then wandered into the kitchen to inform us that while she appreciated that the tooth-fairy had let her keep the tooth, she couldn’t find any money.

In my defense, some of the time we hadn’t forgotten; our wallets were just empty. Something told me a second grader would not be satisfied with a ticket stub for “Fellowship of the Rings” and a car wash coupon. It wasn’t my fault Tinkerbell doesn’t accept debit cards. The rest of the time, the blame was all on us, and we’d shoot each other a look of sheer panic, whispering “It was your turn this time!” Then one of us would secretly unearth a dollar from her piggy bank and insist she hadn’t looked for her money properly, and we’d help her find her pay out. Which she would promptly put in her piggy bank for next time. We’re awesome parents.

Um, what do you mean that dollar looks familiar? Don’t be silly. All money looks alike. It has the same red smiley face on the back? What a coincidence.

The Padawan began losing his teeth right about the time Girl-child stopped believing in the tooth fairy. I’d like to say I got better at tooth-fairying, but that would be lying. I got worse. How much worse? The Padawan doesn’t even bother with the pillow ritual anymore; he just leaves the teeth where we can find them. At the moment, we have two molars sitting on the coffee maker.

When we planned our kids, we did so with the intention that we not have two in college at the same time. It sounds good on paper until you look at the fine print. It means fifteen straight years of deciduous teeth. Fifteen straight years of crushing childhood dreams, one premolar at a time.What were we thinking?

I may be off the hook with Squish. He lost his first tooth on Friday, and he insists that the tooth-fairy does not exist. I’m torn; On the one hand, I want the kid to experience the same magic of childhood that I did. On the other hand, no tooth-fairy.

I don’t think I have to tell you which way I am leaning.  If it’s childhood magic I want, I can always read him Harry Potter.

Am I alone here? Do you have a least favorite magical being?

Ending the Debate

I don’t usually address hot-button topics on my blog. I’m a fiery and passionate individual, and I’m learning that my knee-jerk reactions make me prone to put my foot right in my mouth. When I get really fired up about something, I wait before I address it. When the smoke clears, I don’t want to discover that I have totally embarrassed myself by not thinking things through properly.  Today I don’t care anymore. I can’t keep my mouth shut any longer or hide how I really feel. I’m speaking out. I don’t care about making people mad or fights in the comment section. I can’t keep silent anymore. You want to know my stance? The correct one. Under. The issue is question is, of course, toilet paper.

This patent proves nothing. This is a DESIGN patent, not a utility patent. It shows how it's made, NOT how it is used. So take that, all you hung-over people. Welcome to the Under-world.

This patent proves nothing. This is a DESIGN patent, not a utility patent. It shows how it’s made, NOT how it is used. So take that, all you hung-over people. Welcome to the Under-world.

 

It is simple science. It’s a little-known fact that Sir Isaac Newton was one of the earliest proponents of “under,” about 150 years before TP ever had a patent. Remember high school physics? Me, neither. But I do remember his first law of motion. An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. At first, I thought he was talking about Squish. He used to run into walls a lot. But then I gleaned the deeper meaning.

Clearly Newton was talking about the proper way to hang the bog roll. Give a tug to a hungover roll of Charmin (or any brand at all. I’m not picking on you, Charmin. Please don’t sue me for insinuating you are less aerodynamically sound than your counterparts), and it goes on forever. There is no outside force to act upon said object, and therefore no way to control how much comes off the roll. A rear-hanger, however, provides its own outside force. A mere yank to the left or right (no preferences here!), and the proper amount needed to complete the paperwork tears right off.

Under is more practical for kids and pets. Cats, dogs, and kids have a habit of playing with the toilet paper.  A curious hand or paw bats the paper, and it rolls off into the floor in an ever-increasing pile, and the next thing you know, the living room looks like the morning after a Halloween frat party. A rear-orientation, however, means that a kid or critter can paw to its heart’s content without causing any damage. ***

Less ick-factor. If the toilet paper doesn’t unroll wildly, there’s less chance that the end of it will come into contact with floor-cooties. Floor-cooties are real, and they are disgusting.

It is avant garde. Over is so easy to support. It’s too easy. It looks all fancy when you fold the outside piece into a little triangle. Whatever. Under is subtle. You have to look closer to appreciate. Over is the Starbucks coffee of toilet paper orientation. Just because a lot of people use it doesn’t mean it’s right. Under is the hipster, fair-trade coffee shop. It just tastes better. Wait…

Cooler people go under. Guess who’s a hung-over girl? Tori Spelling. Because “it’s chic.” Don’t get me started. Guess who’s an under-guy? Gerhard Richter. You know. The dude who painted this? I know it looks blurry. It’s supposed to. It’s an oil-painting of toilet paper.

Kolorolle. Yes, it's art. IT'S ART.

Kolorolle. Yes, it’s art. IT’S ART. It sold at Sotheby’s for about $180,00, so that makes it art, and therefore RIGHT.

Know who else is “over?” My husband. I found that out tonight. Wow. 20 years of marriage, and you think you know someone. I’m considering asking for an annulment. He misrepresented himself.

Want the other side of the debate? Visit Rae at Peas and Cougars. She thinks she knows something on this topic. I think we all know that she does not. Visit her anyway. It’s bound to be funny.

So, join in the brouhaha. Are you an over-achiever or an under-dog?

*** Except for my old dog, Magic. She ate the paper straight from the roll in big chunks so we were cleaning ourselves with what looked like an endless roll of Swiss cheese. But she doesn’t count. She wasn’t an average dog. I’ve had houseplants that could outperform her on IQ tests.

Consent: Not actually that complicated

becomingcliche:

I rarely reblog. This is worth a read. Share it with your friends, your family. A brilliant analogy of consent.

Originally posted on rockstar dinosaur pirate princess:

http://kaffysmaffy.tumblr.com/post/780535517 http://kaffysmaffy.tumblr.com/post/780535517

A short one today as my life is currently very complicated and conspiring against my preference to spend all of my days working out what to blog. But do you know what isn’t complicated?

Consent.

It’s been much discussed recently; what with college campuses bringing in Affirmative Consent rules, and with the film of the book that managed to make lack of consent look sexy raking it in at the box office. You may not know this, but in the UK we more or less have something similar to ‘affirmative consent’ already. It’s how Ched Evans was convicted while his co-defendant was not – and is along the lines of whether the defendant had a reasonable belief that the alleged victim consented. From the court documents it appears that while the jury felt that it was reasonable to believe that the victim had consented to intercourse with the co-defendant, it…

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The One In Which I Realize We are Doomed as a Society

The Girl-child and I went to the movies last week. We bought our tickets for Pass the Light. Given the movie’s premise, we expected to leave the theater full of hope and with spirits lifted. How wrong we were.

I don’t mind shelling out for a quality picture, and therein lies the rub. Hollywood and I don’t often see eye-to-eye on what constitutes quality. The Imitation Game? High quality. Noah? Not. So. Much. And of course now producers are really into remakes because they’re all out of ideas. If they’re going to make imitations of great movies, I should be able to print my own imitation money to pay for the ticket, right?

If I'm going to make my own money, I'm going to put my own image on it. Still rockin' the track suit.

If I’m going to make my own money, I’m going to put my own image on it. Still rockin’ the track suit.

I know. I’m not turning into my mom. That ship has sailed. I’m turning straight into my grandma. Let me just seal that particular deal by saying “Movies today? They’re all sex, sex, sex, and blowing people up! In MY day, producers knew how to make good movies, movies that make you think!”

After our movie trip, I firmly believe that society as a whole is going to hell in a handbasket. Producers will show anything to make a quick buck. There is no modesty anymore. The most intimate moments are broadcast for everyone to see. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, is left to the imagination. I cannot believe people want to see this stuff! We are quickly becoming desensitized, and the definition of what is appropriate is being rewritten at frightening speed. I left the theater horrified, uncomfortable, disillusioned. Because of the pre-move commercials.

I do not want to live in a world that thinks it is even a little bit okay to advertise something like this *** (click to enlarge):

Here's a hint. If it's sold at Skymall, it probably needs to be kept a secret.

Here’s a hint. If it’s sold at Skymall, it probably needs to be kept a secret.

I know that *ahem* personal products like this exist, just like I know things like tax auditors and  boy bands exist. That doesn’t mean I want them shoved in my face. Some things are best kept to ourselves.

I was okay with the product itself. It was the demonstration that gave me the screaming willies. Beautiful model? Check. Pumice sander? Check. Closeup of the bits of beautiful model’s feel sanded off in a floating cloud of skin particles? CHECK!

MY EYES! MY POOR, POOR EYES! Why did anyone think it was advisable to be so graphic? It didn’t used to be that way. Anybody remember the good old days, back when commercials promoting maxi pads were careful to use only blue liquid in their demos? Can we not leave something to the imagination? I believe I speak for everyone when I say “Get off my lawn, you darned kids!”

I have comprised a list of things that should never be demonstrated. Ever. This list is in no way comprehensive.

  • any product that trims hair from anywhere on the human body
  • pooper scoopers
  • bogie removers
  • nail clippers
  • adult diapers
  • toilet plungers
  • bikini wax systems
  • cat litter
  • Cabbage Patch dolls (Just me, then? Fine. Whatever.)

Where does the over-sharing stop? Some things are just meant to be kept private.

***this was not the exact product. Sadly, there are more than a few out there. I cannot remember the name of the one advertised, which indicates an advertising fail on a whole different level, doesn’t it?

What gives you the heebie-jeebies?

Last Will and Testament, You know, Just in Case

By the time you’re reading this, surgery will be over and done with. That’s good.

My brain is getting the best of me. On the outside, I look like this:

I'm cool. Rockin' the track suit.

I’m cool. Rockin’ the track suit.

But on the inside, I think I kind of feel like this:

Not so cool. But still rockin' the track suit.

Not so cool. But still rockin’ the track suit.

How do I know? Maybe because I feel the anxiety sneaking up on me. And sometimes with no warning I screamed out expletives. And squawked like a chicken. Or maybe because it’s almost midnight and I’m working on a blog post with a pile of medical forms sitting next to me that I have yet to fill out.  As the nice lady at the surgical center reminded me today, anything could happen, and I should be prepared.  I realized there are things I need to say in case things go wrong.

To my husband: My years with you have been something else. We  married so young. At 23 I didn’t always make the best decisions, but man, I really nailed that one.  No regrets, babe. I’d say yes again in a skinny minute. As we discussed, my wish is to be cremated and the ashes made into a diamond, which you will then wear someplace very tender so that I can continue to be a constant irritation to you. It will be almost like I’m still with you, except you’ll have to make your own coffee. Don’t eat my MoonPies until you’re sure I’m really dead. Poke me with a stick a few times if you have to.

To my Girl-child: You are growing into a remarkable young woman. May your college years be filled with wonder. You can have my iPod if you promise not to delete Minecraft. You can imagine me hanging in the Nether. And take care when choosing guys and tattoos. They’re a lot the same – choose the wrong one, and they hang around forever and are a real and expensive pain  to get rid of.

To the Padawan: I look with pride at how you are growing up, the choices you’re making for yourself, the responsibility you are taking. You can have my Harry Potter Legos. You just can’t actually open them. You’re welcome.

To Squish: Look at you, big kid! You’re learning to read! You can have ALL my Mercer Mayer books. We like Little Monster the best, don’t we? My wish for you is that you grow up to be like your dad, but with less of a fascination for looking over your left shoulder when you drive.

To the guys in the Herpetology department: thanks for making me one of the guys. It was even better than I could have imagined. If we hatch any Angolan pythons this year, I’m taking all the credit. Don’t screw it up.

So there. Hopefully in a few hours, I’ll be safely tucked back into my own bed with a cat at each corner. Until then, friends, peace.

 

Pet Peeves Du Jour, Volume 743

I do not know why I am crabby today. It’s raining? I have a million things to do, but I’m completely uninspired? My Ricky Martin CD has a giant scratch on it? All my readers dumped me because I like “Living La Vida Loca?” Take your pick.

Preschoolers with squeakers in their shoes. When a baby begins to take those first wobbly steps, little squeaker-shoes are kind of cute. When the kid has the speed and coordination to train for the Boston Marathon, it’s time to give us all a break. Mom and Dad, you realize that the other people around you have ears, too, right?

Politicians who write off any concern for the environment as a strictly liberal agenda. The Lord gave man dominion over the animals in Genesis 1:26. Dominion is not equal to BDSM. Just because God put is in charge doesn’t mean we have the right to go all Christian Grey on the planet and screw it over every which way from Sunday, dumping poisons into the sky and water and killing our forests. Besides, I thought the notion of not pooping where we eat was more common sense than political.

Radio stations that play the same ten songs. Over and over and over. Hey, DJs! I have a secret to share! New music is released every Tuesday. And did you also know that each new album consists of more than one song? I know DJs gotta promote what they gotta promote, but those truncated playlists drive me to turn off the radio and put in a CD of my own choosing. That I will listen to over and over and over. So there.

Changes in website interface that interferes with functionality. WordPress, I’m looking at you, here. The old interface was easier for someone with my vision issues to read. The new stats page is an endless scroll in a predominately light-blue. I didn’t use my stats page a great deal before. I certainly use it less now. And let’s not even talk about the “new and improved” editor where some of the old options are either gone or so well-hidden I can’t find them. This peeve isn’t the least bit funny, actually. I spend many hours on WordPress. Functionality lost  = time wasted.

Labeling things as “artisanal.” Stop it right now! If you’ve carved a jewelry box out of a chunk of cherry wood, you’re an artisan. If you made a popsicle, you are not. Same goes for “handcrafted.”

Homophones. Why, Y, wye?!

What’s on your nerves today?

 

Recently I announced the winners of the Mixed Feelings giveaway. The grand prize winner never claimed her prize, so we went back to Rafflecopter to choose another e-book winner. Congrats to A. Burdick on winning the e-book. Of course, choosing a new grand prize winner meant turning once again to Pixel, who has the work ethic of, well, a cat. 2 bows, and a pound of catnip later, let’s see how she did.