Articles

Variety Pages – March 9, 2020

Weird ‘n Wacky

Pants on the Ground

It had been a particularly windy day when I came across these pants while walking to my car after work. I often pass discarded articles of clothing, but they’re normally gloves, hats, scarves, or the occasional shoe or coat. It’s not often I pass a pair of pants, and my immediate thought, of course, was, “Wow! You know the wind is blowing hard when someone loses their pants!”

And then of course I wondered what *really* happened…if they fell out of someone’s bag, or if there had been a “de-pantsing” incident there, or if they’d simply blown off of one of the balconies from the nearby apartment building. Assuming the latter was the most fun, and provided me story fodder for the ride home.

Where does your mind take you when you see a rogue pair of pants like this?

Puppy Pic of the Week

Athena & Murphy, practicing patience.

Off the Shelf

I’ve been making reading more of a priority this year, and at the moment, I have two books and several comic series in progress. In print, I am still working on Origin by Dan Brown. “Still” because I started it before Christmas last year, and then let it sit for far too long while I worked late instead of getting to bed early enough to have reading time. Now I spend about 15-20 minutes with it a night, and it’s moving quickly, both story-wise and page-wise! I’m enjoying it, and very curious as to what the ultimate reveal will be.

Digitally, I’m reading Blame it on the Frosting by Samantha Hunter. It’s cute, sweet, and funny, as you might expect. Also, I find the thought of pheromone-laced cookies a little disconcerting.

And my current comic series in play are Harly Quinn, The Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil, Deadpool, and I just finished Pearl. I’m a little behind (catching up quickly), but I’m exceedingly glad that the “Hunted” story line in Spider-man is over. It was getting a bit tedious, in my opinion. Definitely looking forward to what’s coming next.

I was also a bit bummed to come to the end of Pearl’s story…at least for now. I’m not normally interested in things with a gang subject, but I was drawn to this one by the tattooing and art style, and definitely got hooked on the Yakuza-centered story line. Fascinating.

Excerpt of the Week

How It Begins

“So this is how it ends.”

Nori locked gazes with the dull green eyes peering through a black mask at her over the barrel of a gun. She didn’t know what kind of gun it was, and didn’t care. She didn’t bother struggling against the zip-ties that bound her wrists, didn’t bother begging. She couldn’t see his face, but she knew him well enough.

“It won’t give you peace, you know.”

His nod was almost imperceptible. “I know. But I can’t let you leave.”


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Barriers, Sore Muscles, & Reflections at 45

This past weekend, the hubby and I installed a wire barrier in the Subaru between the back seat and the hatchback. Normally people do this to keep their dogs in the hatch, but my dogs ride in the backseat (I mean, that’s where the windows are, right?).

The thing is, just before Christmas, Athena-dog decided to eat a chocolate cookie while we were out grocery shopping. She climbed over the back seat and into the hatch to get to it while we were inside our last grocery store of the day.

Then the next week, I put most everything into a zip-top cooler, but left my bags from the bread store out (because it’s bread…not much of an enticing smell, or so you’d think). she ate an entire package of english muffins that day.

The week after that, I put everything into a sturdy zipper thermo-bag, and when I came out of the last store, I found a burly, tattooed guy in a big red truck towing a compressor sitting there in the parking lot, laughing at Athena as she ate her way through the top third of a beef liver container (it was half-frozen, thank goodness). He had a great time, she had a great time, and the dogs had slightly less liver in the batch of food I made that week.

So, we installed a barrier to keep the groceries safe from my little perpetually-hungry boxer. And it works great! The groceries are safe, Athena-dog only pouted a little bit, and I don’t have to worry about catching a dog before she can run as I open the hatch to put more groceries in. Win-win for me!

However. I am so, so very out of shape – something I didn’t realize until the day after kneeling/squatting in the back of the car for 30 minutes to install that wonderful piece of equipment. I tell you what – my butt, the backs of my thighs and my inner thighs were all in *so much pain*, they were just burning up. Walking hurt, sitting hurt, standing hurt…I haven’t been in that much pain in a long, long time. Even my back and knees got in on the “let’s remind Jamie she’s not getting any younger” bandwagon.

Ouch.

Yesterday was only slightly better. I did yoga, but it was the slowest I’ve ever done, and it hurt like hell stretching those poor, sore mustles out enough so I could make it back up the stairs. I tried not to sit for too long of time periods at work, but my inner thighs (abductors? Adductors? I can’t remember) are still painfully sore and hurt whenever I sit down or stand up. Or walk, to an extent.

My back, ankles and knees still aren’t happy either. Part of the back/shoulder/neck issues is all the crocheting I’ve been doing to get that shawl done…but I should be able to do that without hurting. And I would be, if I were staying in shape in the first place. *sigh*

I used to recover from such things far more quickly, but alas, I think I still have a day or two to go until I can comfortably sit down/stand up. It was a stark reminder of how out-of-shape I’ve allowed myself to get, and also how much longer it takes to recover now that I’m right at my mid-forties.

Yes, I turn 45 on Friday, and I know people in their 60’s who are in better shape than I am. So…I really need to do something about that, especially since we’re headed back to Universal Studios and Disney World in Orlando this coming fall. I see new, more intense workouts in my immediate future. You know. After it doesn’t hurt to move again.

I’ve been thinking a lot as I approach what is probably close to the midpoint of my life, about the life I’ve lived so far, and the choices I’ve made. I don’t regret anything, really – I’ve found regrets are pointless for the most part. I do wish I could believe in reincarnation or some such philosphy of infinite do-overs. Not because I think I *should* have done things differently, but I so wish life could be like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure novels. I think it would be fun to be able to go through life, making the choices you make, and then at the end, be able to start over again from the beginning and make just a few different choices, to see what that life is like, and then do it over again to see what *that* reality is like…don’t you think that would be fascinating, especially if you could remember it all?

I like the life I’ve built, but I’m also constantly wondering “what if?”, and I think it would be fun to be able to explore all of those possibilities. Alas, it’s not to be, but perhaps that’s why I’m a writer, eh? To explore all sorts of different lives without getting into too much trouble, hurting too many people, or getting thrown into prison (*ahem*).

What’s one choice you made a long time ago that you’d like to know how it would have turned out if you’d chosen differently? Or do you already know how it would have turned out, and would just like to go back and…do that, for the experience? Inquiring minds…


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Introducing Athena & A New Keyboard

Wow. I’ve been trying to get a post written for nearly a month now, and things have just been so busy that every time I start working on it, it’s late and I’m tired and I just don’t have the energy to finish, much less post. Which really just goes to show you how routine-driven I am, and what happens when those routines are disrupted for an extended period of time, as they have been this summer. July and August have been busy months, and I’m just now (as in, for one whole week) getting back into my regular routines without random sidetracks and distractions throwing me off.

Although there’s another disruption coming, as we have to replace our shower surround this weekend. Hopefully it will only take one day though, and we can still have a “normal” weekend with Labor Day tacked onto the end.

The biggest news since my last post is that we adopted a boxer puppy (2-3 yrs old) named Athena. She’s adorable and spunky and was obviously mistreated at some point in her young life, but she’s brave and curious and has made herself right at home with us. She’s also white, and shedding like crazy at the moment – getting rid of an old, malnourished coat and growing in a much thicker, healthier one. So, we have little white hairs all over everything, including ourselves. I ordered lint rollers last night, along with a shedding glove, and am going to get some conditioning shampoo for dear Athena this weekend. I just can’t make myself buy lighter clothing. LOL

In any case, Athena is young and full of energy, and she’s already getting the Murph off the couch more often (I don’t think he necessarily appreciates that, but it’s good for him) and he’s walking a tad bit farther with her at his side. Of course she needs a much longer hike than he does, which means we go with him, take him home, and then Athena and I go for part two, which is a good half-mile to a mile at the moment, and we’ll work up to a couple miles most nights in moderate weather. So I’m getting more exercise too, which is perfect (and much needed). It’s always easier to walk with a buddy, IMO.

Writing has been hit or miss, a lot more “miss” unfortunately, but as the routines get back to normal and I don’t have to think so much about every little thing I do during the day, I have more energy and headspace available for creative endeavors. I have gotten a little lazy about using the Neo though – mostly because uploading to the laptop requires plugging the Neo in by cable and then transferring the keystrokes into my writing program (yWriter). I tried working directly on my laptop again, but between hating the keyboard and having distractions so readily available (I forgot to order this! I need to post that! Was that an important email that just came in?) it just doesn’t work for my flighty brain.

So last week, I ordered a bluetooth keyboard (full-sized, with scissor switches) to pair with my cell, and I can use that to write directly into yWriter from my lap. The size of the phone screen really doesn’t lend itself to switching apps often (so less distractions) and my yWriter files live in my Dropbox account, so I can get to them from both my phone and my laptop – no transfer needed.

I think it’ll be a good solution…we’ll find out at the end of this week. The keyboard I really wanted with Cherry MX switches and a really nice “typewriter” look was two hundred bucks, the one I got was thirty. Maybe I’ll splurge on the nicer one if the solution works well enough to finish a novel by Christmas.

So, moving along. Getting back on track. Putting the things I can back on auto-pilot, so I can focus more on things like writing. It feels good. I hope things will stabilize for awhile now. My brain could use the rest.

Next week…a resolution check-in.


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Stress, Death, & Sleep

Good to rest after a nice walk in the rain…

It’s been a few weeks, hasn’t it? If I remember correctly, two weeks ago I was busy wallowing in writerly self-pity over not making/taking/finding the time to do all I want to do on the writing side. So then instead of writing a blog post, I tried to work on my fiction, and ended up coming up with a plan to work in some sort fiction, which failed miserably in the first week (keep reading).

Then last week, there was a problem at work that required quite a bit of extra troubleshooting hours, which pretty much tanked both the ultra-fun weekend I had planned and bled over into the week. Such is life, sometimes, and at those particular times, life sucks.

But not nearly as much as when you have to say goodbye to a furry friend, as I did last Wednesday afternoon. I had our vet come to the house and put my quirky Mica-dog to sleep after watching him decline rather quickly over the week or so before that. He was older, around 10 or 12 (hard to say for sure with a rescue), and had many tumors and some other health problems that finally made it so he couldn’t leave the property (not that he’d get in a car…he’d refused to do that for the past few years, but he loved to go for walks), and while I wrestled hard with the decision for three days after scheduling the appointment, I knew it was ultimately the right choice when I looked into his eyes that day.

Mica-dog…on guard!

I sat on the floor of our living room with the vet and the nurse, and held his head as he closed his eyes for the last time. It never gets easier (and it shouldn’t), but unlike a few of the other five times I’ve done this, I don’t think I’ll have any lasting guilt or agonizing over whether I made the choice either too soon or too late. This is one of the few times I’ve been at peace with the timing after the fact (it’s never going to be a peaceful process to get to that decision, and again, it shouldn’t be). So there’s that, I guess. I still miss him – he was loud and demanding and persnickety and sometimes really annoying, but he was also the best couch-cuddle-buddy and one of those dogs who just wanted to be with his people and keep his “pack” in eyesight.

*sigh*

So. Throughout all the pity-party and work stress and losing-a-best-buddy stress, one thing was very, very noticeable to me. I wasn’t sleeping much, and not only did that not help, it created even more problems, from digestive issues to being hungry all the time (and subsequently making poor food choices), and then also not performing as well as I sometimes can, and also not communicating as well as usual. Stress is a killer, and certainly no fun to deal with, but when you haven’t gotten a decent 6 hours of sleep in nearly two weeks…yeah. Things start to slip. The body starts expressing displeasure. And while sleep can’t fix everything, it sure can go a long way toward helping you deal with whatever’s stressing you out. Especially when it comes to making good food choices (what and how much to eat, specifically).

I’d always read that sleep was that important, but it was never so evident to me as during these last few weeks, mostly because I’ve just been hungry *all the damn time*. I was doing so well at maintaining a lower weight and even moving down on the scale here and there…and I’m on the cusp of being seriously derailed all because I didn’t go to bed (and this past Sunday night, just because I couldn’t sleep for some reason – nothing on my mind, even, just…no sleep).

In any case, I have one more night with less-than-optimal sleep to go (gotta be at work an hour earlier on Tuesdays), but after that, the only thing stopping me from a solid 6 hours is…me, choosing not to go to bed on time. So often I don’t make the right choice there, because I don’t want to lose any of my precious alone-time at the end of the night, but…sleep is important. Rest and mental rejuvenation is important. I need to make better choices when it comes to getting enough sleep.

Rest well if you can, dear readers. And for my Mica-dog…rest in peace, buddy.


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The Excess Vacation Hours Vacation

As of tomorrow, I’m on vacation until next Wednesday to burn the excess vacation hours that I’m not allowed to carry over into the new year. Why Weds to Weds, you might ask? Psychology, my dear Watson.

It seems like every time I take a traditional week off (Monday- Friday), I spend the better part of at least one day troubleshooting something for work via email or phone. When I only take a few days off in one week, I rarely get called on to help fix something (or if I do, it’s quick). So, I’m trying something new, and taking Weds – Fri off this week, and Mon – Tues off next week. That still gives me a full week off, but no full “work” weeks, so we’ll see if I end up troubleshooting or not (there is network maintenance going on this weekend, so the potential is there, but…). Call it an experiment.

What’s the plan for this vacation? Catch-up, mostly. I need to make dog food for the week, since I spent this past Sunday not feeling well (my own fault – too many days in a row last week of poor dietary choices…though I’ll admit, I enjoyed every last “choice” at the time). I need to take the Subaru in for some recall work if I can get it scheduled – wiper motors and airbag replacement. Murphy-dog is due for his rabies shot, which normally I wouldn’t redo in a dog his age (he’s around 9-10 now, best guess), but he’s a pitbull, and people are people, so…better law-abiding in his case (I can’t re-license him unless he gets the shot, even though they’ve been proven to be effective far past 3 yrs). Hopefully he won’t suffer any averse affects (I’ve seen more issues of the tumor-causing kind with vaccines in older dogs, unfortunately).

Aside from those things, I hope to do a lot of writing-related tasks I never seem to get to. Formatting, cover art, editing…and some new words too. My horror alter-ego has a short story in progress to add to the “Death by Veggies” line, and I’d like to get that finished, and I’d really like to make some good headway on a couple of other novels I have going. So, definitely writing, after I get the dogs walked so they’ll sleep and let me be.

The only other thing I really want to do (aside from some gaming, hopefully) is “spring cleaning”. I suck at cleaning. I find it incredibly boring, so I do the absolute minimum. Most adult women and a fair amount of adult men would run the other way at the state I keep my house in. I can’t tell you the last time my blinds have been dusted. Definitely not this year. Probably not last year either. Maybe not even the year before that…

That said, I do occasionally get the desire to “clean all the things”. It passes quickly, but I did buy a dust-mop for the kitchen floor (it’s laminate, and I hate it, and have ruined more of the finish every time I try to clean it), a new scrub brush for the bathroom, and I have plenty of microfiber cloths and rags on hand. The plan is to do one major thing in each room every day of my vacation…like cleaning all wide wooden blinds in the living/dining room. Or washing down all the kitchen cabinets/walls. And wiping down the bathroom walls/ceiling (don’t ask). And then I want to add hard floor cleaning to a monthly maintenance schedule.

Yes, I know people clean their floors more often. I vacuum once a week, even the hard floors. Baby steps. We don’t eat off my floors. Obviously.

So…that’s the plan for my “vacation”. Be all adult-like and do the stuff I keep putting off because I just don’t wanna (or in the case of writing, just want some focused time for). Seems like as good a use for the time as any, especially since they’re vacation hours I didn’t plan on using until later.

Next year, a trip, but for now…spring cleaning. Errands. Maybe a little Pokemon. Good times!


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Wishes & Talismans

Merry Christmas or Bah Humbug, whichever suits your mood better today…or Good Morning if neither of those quite fits.

Bet you didn’t think I’d post today, did you? And you’d probably be right, except I just gave one of the dogs (Mica) half of a probiotic treat in the hopes it would help his gassy stomach. With him, you pretty much never know what will help, and what will send him out to the backyard alternately throwing up and eating grass for the next twelve hours. I stopped taking him to the vet after the third time…and just accepted that he has an extremely sensitive stomach. Needless to say, we’re always very careful about what he eats, and apprehensive about letting him try new things. He can handle these probiotics, but not often and he’s never had one so far after his regular meal (he did just have a snack).

So, that’s why I’m still up on this very early Christmas morning (was the eve just 13 minutes ago). I was seriously considering bed, and then just knew that if I went now, Mica would need to go out about the time I was just falling asleep (and just as I wrote that, he had to go out…excellent timing). Now we’ll see how he does by the time I’m done with this post.

For those of you wondering, we managed to get a tiny bit of snow on Christmas Eve…and some really incredible fog to go with it as we were driving home. It doesn’t get foggy like that much here, so it’s kind of fun, especially with all the lights shining through the thick white cloud hanging low over everything. It’s still snowing a little, big, fluffy flakes that if they continue, could end up giving everything a slightly more white sheen, at least.

So, I got my Christmas wish, which is pretty amazing considering it’s not something that can be controlled.

We did Christmas Eve at the in-laws earlier – MIL likes to open presents early, rather than on Christmas Day. The gifts we gave went over well, and the ones we got were actually on point as well (and not so many, which is a nice change too). I only asked for one thing (MIL hounds us for a request), and she got me the cabinet I wanted for my spoon collection. There were a few other small things as well, but my favorite was a silver bracelet with many colored book spines all over it – like a bookshelf with books going every which way.

I haven’t worn bracelets in awhile, though I do like them quite a lot. This one feels like more of a talisman though. Something that when I look at it and feel it, I’m reminded of how much I love books, both reading and writing them. I think perhaps that’s the one gift I needed this year to send me into the next one with more focus.

Last year, a friend gave me a small, smooth stone with the word “Possibilities” (or Possibility – I can’t read it anymore – the color in the word has worn off) stamped into one side. I’ve carried that in my pocket nearly every day this past year, and whenever I feel it in my pocket, it reminds me to look for the possibilities in whatever situation I happen to be dealing with. So I suspect it will be with the bracelet this year. A wearable reminder of just how much “story” means to me, and a reminder to keep writing, daily.

I think perhaps next year I’ll look toward the small but ultra-meaningful gifts rather than the larger ones. Not everyone will appreciate that approach, but perhaps I’ll be able to find some things that speak to others the way these two tiny gifts have spoken to me.

Mica has gone to bed, and considering I have two more obligatory Christmas meals to attend tomorrow, I believe I’ll do so as well. Merry, happy or humbug, may this Tuesday be as mellow and carefree as you want it to be.

Beauty, Patience, & Dog Food

This past weekend as I was working in the yard and exposing my oh-so-pasty legs to the sun for the first time since last summer, I thought about beauty, and the patience it often requires. Effort too, to a certain extent, but while I trimmed the rose bushes and maple saplings and cleared away last year’s weeds, it occurred to me that while in that moment it felt like a lot of effort to facilitate growth and eventual beauty, the effort on my part wasn’t actually necessary.

The thing is, despite the dead leaves and weeds and dead grasses, the roses were budding out (and in one case, growing new canes under the weeds), the trees were budding out, and geraniums were pushing up through the dead leaves. Nature really does “find a way”, no matter what we do for (or to) it. And even weeds can be beautiful if we’re not trying to keep them from strangling our favorite “domestic” plant or tree.

Beauty is a very subjective thing, of course. We used to have an apple tree in the backyard that I absolutely adored. Every spring, it would bloom with these huge clusters of single pink flowers that filled the yard with a divine scent – especially at night. It provided shade and privacy for the yard, and the apples it produced were small and tart and perfect for just eating or making all sorts of fun treats with. I found great joy in just watching the flowers in spring, picking the apples in the fall, and having shade from the hot afternoon sun.

My husband, on the other hand, hated that tree. The sprawling branches that I found intriguing and interesting just got in his way while he was trying to mow, the fallen apples made a mess all over the lawn and attracted yellow jackets, and the leaves were just one more thing that had to be cleaned up in the fall (along with any leftover apples).

Needless to say, the tree needed to be trimmed, and when we decided to replace the back fence it was growing by, hubby happily said the tree had to go. They could have worked around it, I think, but I knew hubby would never be happy with that tree in the yard, so I agreed to let it go.

Yes, I miss it. One day hopefully our maple trees will be as tall and provide their own kind of beauty to the back yard (without annoying the hubby). Will we put effort into supporting them with water and nutrients and pruning? Absolutely. But they’re tough, and I’m fairly certain that without any interference from us, they’d still leaf out and be beautiful every summer. It’s just the destiny of a tree. Or a rose bush, as it were.

In other, completely different news, I’m on the hunt for new dog food again. For the second time, a favorite dog food brand made in Canada has set up a plant somewhere in the southern US, and I hate to say this, but even though the ingredients list doesn’t change, the quality of the food goes way, way down when that happens. Murphy and Mica are both having problems with the food they’ve been on for several years now, so it’s time to find new foods for them both.

This sounds like it should be an easy task, but my dogs are never *that* easy. Murphy needs fish, and lots of it for the anti-inflammatory properties of the omega-3 oils. Too little omega-3’s, and he’s gimping around like he’s 80yrs old, due to the self-inflicted damage and resulting arthritis on his right front foreleg. Good omega-3’s, and he’s hopping around like a puppy. Magic.

Yes, we can supplement, but it’s a tough balance without a predominantly fish-based food to start with (too much fat alone is just as bad as not enough). There are few foods out there based solely on fish, and none raw that I could tell, so we’re going to try a dehydrated human-grade food instead. Hopefully that will work, otherwise it’ll be back to reading a million dog food labels again. Oh goodie! Said no one ever.

I’m going to try a dehydrated food for Mica too, though he’s hard to find food for too, because he’s allergic to pretty much any grain and…yes, he’s allergic to fish, too. Trying to find a kibble without added fish oil is next to impossible. The food he’s on right now used to be fish-free, but they added herring oil awhile back. He can tolerate it, but it’s pretty obviously not optimal for him. He’s an odd dog in that he doesn’t do well with raw feeding either (tried that back when I was making Lucy’s food from scratch), so raw is out too. I’ve considered cooking for him, but it’s a big time commitment (which is why I stopped making raw food…though I regret that, which is another story for another time).

I have to order the fish-based food in specially…our local pet shop carries The Honest Kitchen dehydrated line, but not that particular food. She’ll order it if I ask her too, but I want to have Murphy try it first, to make sure he’ll do okay with it. I got a box of a limited beef-based/grain free version for Mica to try, and gave some to both dogs last night with no ill effects, so I’m optimistic, but you just never know.

It’s expensive, but health always is, it seems. I haven’t always been able to afford specialized diets, and I did the best I could (especially with Lucy’s very specialized needs). That’s all any of us can really do. But I do feel like I need to make the best choice I can at the time, which generally involves a lot of label-reading and googling and gnashing of teeth until I find something that “might” work. And then there’s testing, and trying again, and maybe trying something different….

Crazy process, that, but if I’m patient *and* put in a lot of effort, I should be rewarded with beautiful dogs in good health for however many years they have left (too few, at this point).

Except they’re already beautiful, without any effort *or* patience on my part. Which is exactly as it should be.

What kind of beauty have you noticed recently? Did you put any effort into it, or was it just…there?

Feathers, Fur, & Other Things

Last week I watched a flock of blue jays flutter through our yard on their way to who knows where. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a blue jay, much less several of them. They reminded me of our finches, always moving, always bobbing, always looking around and flitting somewhere else. Very busy little birds, and oh-so-pretty. I think they know it, too.

I also watched squirrels playing in the neighbor’s trees (mostly making sure Murphy didn’t get too energetic and decide to jump the fence while they taunted him from above). They’re so cute, scurrying around the branches, stopping for a quick wrestling match, chasing each other around and then practically flying to the next tree. Cheeky little things love to sit up in the trees or on the power lines and chatter at the dogs, lecturing them for barking and holding their ground (so to speak) against the big, apparently not-so-scary monsters below.

Another bushy-tailed dude was hiding wares in the front yard, digging holes and covering them back up, most likely to forget what he put where over the winter. And a large, well-insulated bunny was mocking the tiny yapper-dogs in one of the neighbor’s yards, sitting there under the lilac bushes not 10 feet away from pups that are smaller than he is. I can’t imagine he was enjoying the noise he created (I know I sure wasn’t), but he did seem kind of proud of the ruckus, and completely unwilling to give up his cozy spot.

I haven’t seen our wild turkeys around lately, but that probably makes sense given the season. Not that you could legally shoot one in the city limits (I don’t think, anyways), but still…probably best to stay hidden this time of year.

All this was an entertaining and, contradictory as it seems, almost relaxing backdrop for a busy and very “people-filled” work week. It was also the week in which my grandpa was hospitalized and died after a two year (or so) decline in both physical and mental capabilities. He lived a long life (he was in his late eighties) – a good, simple, rural life, and while it’s never fun to say goodbye to someone like that, I’m glad the end was relatively quick and that he didn’t suffer. The funeral is next Saturday, and after that, I’ll share a little more about his life and how it affected mine. I’m certainly a better person for having had him in my life, especially during my younger, more formative years.

Coincidentally, the day my mom called to tell me Gramps was in the hospital on end-of-life care was the day I sent the first cookbook I ever had home with a co-worker for his daughter. She wants to learn how to cook, and neither of her parents like cooking all that much, but they are always very supportive of their girls. That cookbook was a Christmas present to me in 1983 (I was 8yrs old) from my grandparents, so underneath their signature to me, I added my own wishes and the date for my co-worker’s daughter. Hopefully someday she’ll pass it along as well, either to her own kids or some other youngster who wants to learn to cook.

This week will be another busy, disjointed one, with work Mon – Weds, and Thanksgiving with my in-laws on Thursday, and then one more undoubtedly very calm day at work before the funeral on Saturday. I’ve always liked working the Friday after Thanksgiving. I’m not a shopper, and I like being in the office when things are quiet, most everyone else is gone and I can just focus and work at my own pace without being interrupted every half hour or less. In my younger years, it was also a good excuse to escape the family for awhile – my introverted self needed the time alone to recharge between the large family gatherings that holidays tend to require (some years multiple families on the same day – we’ve since put a stop to that, for the most part). That will be the case this year too, it would seem.

Whether you’re celebrating here in the states or just heading into another normal week everywhere else – here’s to thankful hearts, good memories, lasting legacies, and peaceful endings.

Old Stuff, Basketballs & Book-Moving Report

Last week was kind of crazy, and this past weekend even moreso. My tattoo touch-up on Thursday initiated a thrift store stop that I normally wouldn’t have made and a dog-walk at a non-normal time, both of which ended up with odd outcomes. Funny how small decisions can make such a big impact, isn’t it?

At the thrift shop, I bought some clothes to rough-up for the skeleton bride in our 13th Anniversary Halloween display (which is why I stopped in, so mission accomplished). I also bought a few pieces of clothing for myself, and then looked around the shop as one does. One thing I saw was an older sewing machine – like, much older. I was curious at the time, but I don’t sew, and couldn’t really get to the cabinet for a good view, and figured I didn’t have room for something like that anyway. So I left.

Later that afternoon, I took the dogs for an early walk (since I was home early), and we walked by a couple sitting out on the curb enjoying the fall day. They had a leather basketball with them (one belonging to one of their kids, playing nearby), and Murphy decided to start playing with it. I warned them that he’d ruin it, but they kept rolling it back to him, because they found his antics most entertaining. They couldn’t believe it when he punctured the outside leather and was able to pick it up and carry it…

We chatted for a bit, and since the ball was all slobbery by that time, they told me he should just take it home. I really didn’t have a good way to carry it, but Murphy would not leave it at that point, so I tucked it under my recently tattooed arm, and prayed we didn’t run into any loose dogs on the way back, since I couldn’t easily control both leashes with one hand (we didn’t, thank goodness).

So, Murphy got himself a basketball simply by amusing a couple while we were out walking. Silly dog.

That night, I thought about that sewing machine I’d seen earlier. I have sort of a “thing” with manual machinery…I am fascinated by it. I love that it requires no electricity to work, and that ultimately, one can figure out how it works and repair it to keep running indefinitely given enough time. Understand, I love electricity and how much it enriches our lives, but there’s just something about a hand/foot driven machine that is incredibly cool and inspiring to me.

In any case, while searching images for a machine like the one I’d seen in the thrift shop, I fell down the internet rabbit hole of vintage sewing machines – treadle machines, to be specific. And while I couldn’t remember the one I’d seen having a hand wheel of any sort, I became completely entranced with the history of sewing machines and treadle machine restoration and use. I read and watched videos and learned everything I could in a small amount of time about them.

I mentioned to my husband the next night that I’d become fascinated with them, and not half an hour later, he showed me an ad on Craigslist for an old treadle sewing machine that someone locally was selling. Taking that as implied approval of the purchase, I emailed the lady to see if it was still available, and then proceeded to look up that particular sewing machine and read everything I could find about it, including a scan of the original instruction manual.

This is probably as good a place as any to mention that while he was looking through the antiques section on Craigslist, he also found and pointed out to me an old LC typewriter that was available for sale. I love antique typewriters, and emailed that guy to see if it was available too.

After that, my husband quit telling me about cool stuff on Craigslist. 🙂

In any case, long story shorter, that treadle sewing machine (a “Free No 5” model) is now in my living room waiting to be restored with some sewing machine oil and elbow grease, and yes, it does work. The typewriter is also in my living room (the counterpart to my old portable Royal typewriter) where I can stare lovingly at it every day (it works too, but the spacebar is cracked/needs replacing, and it could use a new ribbon).

Then there are new bookshelves, too. Saturday morning, I started cleaning off the bookshelves in my office and piled all the books in stacks on my living room floor. All except my antique/vintage books, which went on the dining room table, and my stamp collection, which got piled in my writing chair.

Sunday I took the bookcases out of the office and put them in the driveway, and hubby installed the new bookcases he built in the office. They are big and bold and amazing…I love them so much. They still need trim, which will happen next weekend, and also drawers for the bottom cabinets, which will happen as he has time. But I put most of the books back Sunday night, and just need to move the antiques/vintage volumes back sometime this week. No, I didn’t inventory anything. No time! Will that project ever get done? Maybe, maybe not. Not in the near future, for sure.

So…crazy busy four days or so, but filled with so much groovy-ness that I don’t even mind being way behind on pretty much everything. I’ll catch up next weekend. And then start on the Halloween decorations…

Back with a New Groove

I have to say…last week was one of the best “staycations” I’ve ever had. I didn’t over-schedule myself, but I structured my days and the week as a whole, got a lot done, never felt any real “pressure” as far as time/deadlines go, and at the end I was relaxed and had a new, much better perspective on life in general.

I did a lot of thinking, planning and preparations for working on and sticking to my resolutions for the year. I did some cleaning that I never have time to do all at once on the weekends, which feels good because now I have a good chance at being able to maintain those areas of the house in less time. Without that extra prep time, it would have taken me quite a bit longer on the weekends for awhile just to catch up to a place where I could maintain, so I’m really glad I could get that done.

I also finished a project that’s been on my dining room table since October – a miniature haunted dollhouse that comes in 5 mailings with each mailing having not only pieces to the dollhouse, but also more clues to the mystery. That was a wonderful way to spend my birthday, even though I did give myself a serious kink in the neck working on it all day (still not healed, but worth the discomfort). It’s still on the table in need of finish work and a permanent home, but I have that all worked out too, I just need to take a Saturday afternoon and get it done.

I had several really good writing sessions, after the dogs had been walked (thank goodness for warmer weather!) and the house was completely still. By that time, I’d been away from work long enough that my head was clear and creative again, underscoring just how much of a drain my job is on my mental energy. It’s a good job, don’t get me wrong, and I love doing it, but it does seriously limit my creativity. I started thinking about some ways I could deal with that and make sure that I have time to rest mentally between the time I get off work, and the time I need to write. I have some things to try this week, so we’ll see how that goes.

Motivation has been an issue for me lately too, with the writing, I mean. So when several good book sales payments hit my account, I splurged and bought access to a “Motivation” lecture by Dean Wesley Smith. I’d watched the first video on YouTube (it’s free there), and decided that whenever I had a hard time sitting down and writing last week, I’d watch one of the videos in that lecture series to hopefully “motivate me”.

The first time I decided to watch, I got as far as video number three, and had an epiphany that forced me to stop right there and re-evaluate my writing time. For the curious, you can read about how I did that on my writing blog later this week. Suffice it to say, it involves some important realizations on my part, and some serious routine/chore shuffling. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the videos.

The BSB site rebuild is pretty well finished, the two February releases formatted and nearly ready to go, and a new blog posting schedule started over there on Mondays. My Friday night “office hours” are still going swimmingly. Hooray for that!

In other news, yes, I will finally be posting to the dog blog again next week. It’s the pictures that get me. That blog kind of needs them, and it’s extra time/effort to get pics, and then edit/upload them along with the post. But I think I’ve finally got that sorted out. Hopefully.

I’m kind of mystified at the fact that since January 1, a bunch of people have “liked” the Nail Art Tuesday Facebook page. Where did they all come from? Did they not notice that before last week, I hadn’t posted there for a couple of years? Is there a serious nail art trend happening right now that I’m just not aware of?

Regardless, it made me consider whether it might be worth posting to my Nail Art blog again. Not full “this is what I did and how I did it” tutorials like I used to do, but quick, weekly pics of my manicures wouldn’t kill me. Nor would bi-weekly pics of my pedicures, and occasional photos of my other body mods. Of course that would require changing the name of the blog to Nail & Body Art Tuesdays, I suppose. Doesn’t really have the same “ring” does it? But I have been getting more interested in expanding my jewelry collection since getting those new piercings last month, and there are two more piercings I’d like to get next weekend, if possible, which will give me even more jewelry options. It would be fun to have a spot to share those with people interested in that sort of thing…

I haven’t decided one way or another on that yet. No hurry, really. This week’s manicure went a little sideways anyways, so nothing postworthy just yet. People are still “liking” my Tea on Tap page too, but I don’t drink enough of a variety anymore to bring that back, and while I would love to do some gong-fu brewing, I’d have to really schedule that into a weekend slot, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Bummer, but until I retire, I have limited hours to work with. Such is life.

I tell you what…I already have so much to do in my retirement years that I’d probably better plan on not dying until I hit at least 100. It’s gonna take me that long to get through my “to do” list! 🙂

So…great vacation, new perspective, and I’m ready to get back into the normal swing of things.

And away we go…