Aguas de Julho

I know what you’re thinking: this is a post about my drinking a great big cup of STFU. There you’d be wrong. It’s a post about my drinking in a great big cup of STFU.

Prepositions matter, people.

The children are at camp. Hubby’s at work. The cats are (understandably) asleep.

It is quiet.

I don’t know how to describe just how quiet it is. I can hear the rain on the roof (sorry kids, you’re at camp and it’s raining… I get it, you’re likely bored and miserable… but you’ll be building character, I assure you). I can hear myself think. I can hear the cat snore.

I know what you’re thinking now: this is a post about either a) how much I love it or b) how much I hate it. There you’d be wrong. This is a post about just how much (wrong) noise is in my life and it’s distracting. How do we function? Why aren’t we all deaf?

Oh wait, we ARE all going deaf. Physically and metaphysically.

How can we think? Or have we forgotten. If I read the news, I know we’ve forgotten. Don’t even start me on “news” noise. Notice I didn’t write “fake news” because that’s a whole nother can o’ worms and I just don’t need that bull ship in my life. Jeez I’m cranky.

Let’s talk, instead, about The Grinch.

The Grinch. The noise. He hated the noise. Only part of his problem was that his heart was three times too small. The rest of it was the noise.

The Grinch’s was suffering from claustrophobia. That’s why he lived where he lived. It was quiet. Mostly. He had Max (his dog)—we know now—because he wanted companionship and, frankly, he loved Max (and Max, being a pure and gentle soul, was always there for the Grinch, knowing in his little doggy way that one day, his beloved Grinch would be won over by love).

But the noise, the closing-in, it made The Grinch mad.

He wasn’t filled with hate, he was filled with social anxiety. I know this theory is nothing new but as I sit in my VERY quiet house I see the point: the noise, the enclosure on one’s self, it gets to you and the less you have of you, the more you try to sequester yourself. But this doesn’t help, does it? You’re isolated and you fester. You become bitter and hateful.

Now I don’t want to take this metaphor too far. Analogy is a bad way to carry a thesis. But I see know why sometimes I just get in the car so I can park somewhere and sit. Ok, sometimes I cry because I had epic Mom or Wife Fails…. but mostly I just sit for FIVE FLUGGING MINUTES SERIOUSLY PEOPLE IS IT SO MUCH TO ASK FOR FIVE EVER-LOVING MINUTES?

There. Fine now. I miss my kids (people ask if I’m glad they’re gone and the answer is no, not really. I miss them. They’re asking if I’m glad I have the week to MYSELF with hubs at work and the kids away. Yes and no. I miss my hubs too. He was off last week and we had a blast. Instagram tells the tale:

Me: Air-Guitaring at Mini Golf

Me: Air-Guitaring at Mini Golf

But do I love this quiet? Heck yeah.

I’ll tell you one thing I’m loving. I can listen to MY music without voiceover. And as necessary, sing at the top of my lungs (I like MY noise). But it’s quiet, it’s raining, and last night I heard Águas de Março on Jazz FM and thought I would YouTube it today and just wallow, play the same bits over and over and over (I could have written “repeatedly” but I think over and over and over carries the better image). Listen to the dulcet voice of Elis Regina who had such a tragic end, at the tender age of 36. She sings like the proverbial angels. A veritable siren.

And I cannot remember the last time I managed to listen to ANY tune without interruption. Maybe this is why the Grinch was so Grinchy (but oh, maybe the shoes…. his shoes were too tight. I have osteoarthritis in my feet so I get it).

So enjoy this. In the quiet, if you have it. And if not, find some quiet today.

oh, and listen to Jazz FM 🙂

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Menopausal Minutes

I know what you’re thinking. This is about my menopausal minutes, being many. My Many Menopausal Minutes is what I should have called this blog (4-M for short). But I am high on the brevity scale this week because I blew my neck nerves out again — so Menopausal Minutes this will be.

Normally I hashtag #menopausalmoments but the minutes are something else entirely.

After months of randomly torturing friends with video messages (to save me from typing, among other reasons), I’ve decided to keep the videos to my YouTube channel.

My what? My YouTube channel. You know, that one. The one I’ve had for two years that I never use. It saves me from typing, editing, and all the other things that go with writing a blog. Each blog takes about 3 hours. Each menopausal minute takes one minute. Curiously, reading my blog or watching my vlog, both take one minute.

There’s another reason I’ve been doing this: I think I am atrociously hideous. Really. I can barely stand to look at myself. I know we all dislike aspects of our appearances but for me, it’s visceral. I loathe myself. I loathe virtually everything about my physicality. My body, my voice, my face, my hands, my feet. Goodness knows my belly.

But don’t worry, I’m not writing all this today to make you say “aw, you look fine” because I know I look ok and frankly, something Ma Ingalls once said always sticks with me: “pretty is as pretty does.” Unless of course that’s Marmee from Little Women. Dang. I’ll have to Google that….  I know people are starving in the world, I know there’s violence everywhere. My crooked face is nothing. It’s symptomatic of other issues I have, mostly beyond my control. Things I’ve learned to manage because they can’t really be overcome. I’m wired for self-loathing so the best I can do is get on top of it and learn to make it work for me.

And so this praxis began. Learning to video myself, watch it, and not barf, cringe, and die. Part of the reason? I wanted to do podcasts with my friend Kelly and wasn’t sure how horrible I would sound. Another? Paula and I always talked about doing little chat videos. I shied away because I keep thinking I’m too ugly and all the trolls will get under my skin. Then Paula, in one of HER videos, reminded me of something very important:

Nobody cares about you

Paula Tiberius


And dadgum, she’s right.

I owe a lot of this video-shift to friends Marsha, Kelly, Paula, and always, Terri. Instagram played a big factor, too. Fourteen seconds here and there, dipping the toes. While I can’t say any of my videos — past, present, or future — are gold, they are certainly therapeutic. 

And they save me from the dreaded auto-correct

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Out of the Closet

I know what you’re thinking: I’m Tom Cruise.

Actually, I get that a lot (we’re the same height and somewhere in my unmentionables drawer I have the same tighty-whities he had in Risky Business… long story but thankfully it was before digital photography so I’m safe).

No. What this is about is my struggling to come to terms with something I’ve denied for decades:

I’m an Extrovert.

There. I’ve said it. Finally. Feels good.

How did this happen? Was I born this way? Did I have a positive experience during “circle time” when I was a kid? Actually, that’s not even possible. I was born before the vomitous “circle time” was even conceived, thank goodness. Was my brief (there we go, undergarment references, again) sojourn with Brownies a gate-way socialization activity? Possibly, but my mother signed me out the moment she realized money and time (hers) would be involved (aka buying a uniform and driving me to the meetings).

All these decades, I’ve passed as an INTJ/P (depending on which job I was applying for, I adjusted my answers accordingly). I’ve felt INTJ/P. I wanted to be INTJ/P. Generally speaking, the broadcaster for which I worked wanted INTJ/Ps for the money jobs.

But somewhere out there in the ether, I either changed or have been forced to confront my (pardon my language) “extroverted” tendencies I had hitherto passed off as results of my ECT (Early Childhood Training). My parents entertained extensively (think Mad Men but with more booze and less–ew–sex because Ma & Pa were Catholic Brits …. I know, right??) and I spent chunks of my youth working-a-room being precocious and chatty, without coming across as smarmy…. dressed in gingham, wearing patent leather Mary Janes, saying noxious things only an 8 year-old in the early 70s can get away with: “Hello Mr. Smith, how’s your short game?

Truth be told: I do love working-a-room. I’ve often had jobs where all I do is knit connections and work-a-room. But I passed these joys off as fetish: a little bit of harmless strange (no, not strangeness from particle physics, I mean cheating on my introversion) that never hurt anyone. Let’s face it, my Introversion and I really never had The Talk (not to be confused with the show of the same name, which I’ve never seen… but I did see five minutes of The View once while I was in the gym, but I’m ok now). I think we (my Introversion and I) both assumed we were committed (or should be, pun intended) to each other.

Look Dave, I can’t put my finger on it but I sense something strange about him.

–Dr Frank Poole, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Looking back, it was always “little” things. Like the desire to try SnapChat. Yearnings for my own YouTube channel (I really should do something with this). These things don’t mean I’m an extrovert qua extrovert (I just wanted to write “qua“). We live in a new world order and extroversion must naturally (using term loosely) morph into Extrovert Nouveau.

By the way, extrovert should not be confused with extravert (look it up, I’m googled-out). That’s another blog for another day.

No, wait, I’m a N/Extrovert™

But Extrovert Nouveau (or Nouvelle, as I’m a cis-gendered chickie-poo) that’s a cumbersome term. So after a brief discussion with my Personal Results Whisperer (life coaches are for the banal), Kelly, I’m going with N/Extrovert™. The reason is three-fold:

  1. I retain the “n” from “introvert” and show that I continue to “present” with features of the introvert
  2. I have embedded the word “next” to show a continuum of “-version
  3. I made a typo, writing “an extrovert” and voila, a new genre of ontology was born. I threw in the slash for yuks.

Yes, in the Twenty-Teens, things can happen just like that.

Intro/Extro-version as binaries are limiting and do not celebrate the spectrum of cross-contiguous difference and random homogeneity. I’m only an extrovert, that is to say, in the case of my online-ontology. “Real” people give me the fantods. I use the term “real” loosely of course (so you non-nextroverts can have a common point-of-reference). At home, I’m an introvert for the most part, unless caffeine or a dare is involved.

Online, though, that’s another thing. I am closer to my IG peeps than I am to my own family. At least my online peeps “like” my photos of my tulips, dammit. I have two sibs on IG who never even acknowledged my new cunning hashtag: #geegarden2017. What’s going on with that? You can’t choose your family but… well, you get the idea.

The hashtag, my friends, is thicker than water.

The more I dwelt with the online world, the more I wanted some good ol’ Althusserian “hailing” because I realized it wasn’t enough for me to be an individual but what I really wanted, needed, was to be a concretized subject (I’m extrapolating wildly enough and gesturing… which means I really need to get back to that YouTube channel).

In other words, I found I did indeed crave the thumbs-up, stars, and hearts of my peers–perceived or actual. In fact, I wanted to pander to them, entertain them, receive their accolades (the sword-kind, not the praise and approval because that diminishes me as a human).

To wit: no longer was I content with solitudinous self-actualization. I needed the multitudinous nod of the “outside” world.

But hey, not too real.

My Personal Results Whisperer offers that I may suffer from Extroversion Introversion Spectrum  Disjunctivitis (EISD). She may have a point there. EIS-D is what we’ve been calling it. But was it always there, or did the turbulent but shallow waters of online social mores bring this out? 

Spiritual growth or physical carbuncle? Only my Personal Results Whisperer knows for sure. 

In the meantime, I better go fashion a cunning meme for this post so I can garner some external validation. And if you know someone who’s struggling with N/Extroversion™, give them a thumb’s up, a smiley face, a few stars. Let them know you’re kinda there for them. But hey, not too close. Better yet, share this post but just remember to mark it #TLDR.

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Look Up, Waaaaaaaaaaay Up

I know what you’re thinking. This is a blog about Bob Ross Day, which was observed last July (2016)  in my kitchen. And there you’d be right, which means all the action here takes place in July 2016 (or earlier, except for this writing here, right here, which is March 5, 2017).

Look Up, Waaaaaaaaaaay Up

(if you’re Canadian and over 50, you may get that reference).

Stardate: 160828.5

Whilst I’m recovering from miscellaneous injuries and ailments (both physical and metaphysical), I decided to take up something which doesn’t require my running my mouth or my clicking a mouse button or a keyboard (I’m dictating this, which believe-you-me is a bugger when you have kids). That was a tough one. I can run my mouth better than most people, in several languages, no less—some of which I can legitimately speak. And I click better than a cockroach (oh, look it up).

Despite the frenetic pace of my recent days, weeks, months, and years—somewhere out there Bob Ross (R.I.P.) was always lurking. His silky tones of “God bless” and “happy little trees” and my most beloved “beat the devil out of it” were music served to soothe my savage breast. Bless Netflix’s buns for bringing Bob Ross back into my life. The Bob Ross YouTube channel, it turns out, posts a new/old video daily. Keeping my paint-veins open and my days, each day, get a little brighter.

I have not painted since 1984.

This is true. I have carried paints and stretched canvases around, randomly, for a decade or two before finally bestowing them onto my semi-sister (we made that term up between the two of us, don’t ask) Caroline. Don’t mourn for me: I wasn’t ever really a painter. I didn’t have some tragedy befall me which emotionally prevented me from slapping some cadmium red gouache apples onto black gesso. I enjoyed mixing paint and fancied myself as having some vague promise of producing something reasonably ok, at best. My forté in the arts plastiques was more my ability to do very quick sketches. And frankly, I couldn’t commit to anything requiring more than 10 minutes. And let’s face it, cats rarely pose for more than ten minutes. Sure sure, they may sleep 20 hours a day but the kitty-code fine print says: until you wish to capture their image.

To a cat, the sound of a 2B hitting paper is like an air-raid siren. You gotta be fast.

In short (too late), don’t mourn. I haven’t painted since 1984 because I’m not really a painter qua painter.

My husband paints.

He paints for real. As in: he can paint and it is pleasing to the senses. I paint for pretend: I can put paint onto a surface ergo I paint. It is pleasing to the senses in a finger-painting mess kinda of way. That delightful explosion of Id you hear tell about. No, I’m not disparaging myself. My husband has real talent; he also works at it. I, like any cat, lose interest (some could say this is protectionist self-defeating behaviour) after ten minutes of anything. He’ll spend hours and days and weeks on a painting. He sees beauty everywhere (which is one of the many reasons I married him… because I see dead people… all the time….) and he’s inspired and when he isn’t, he actively looks for inspiration.

Opposites attract.

I’m hoping this rubs off on me (get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about his outlook on life).

I don’t work it. I don’t try to hone my painting… and surprise surprise I’m disatisfied with my results. There’s a discourse on results-based vs process-based joy, but let’s skip that for another blog.

Hubs sent me this photo so I could work my still life chops. I'm afraid. I'm not quite there.... yet. (ever.)

Hubs sent me this photo so I could work my still life chops. I’m afraid. I’m not quite there…. yet. (ever.)

Hence the appeal of Bob Ross.

I can paint for 30 minutes and that’s kinda it. What I didn’t factor in: that Bob Ross didn’t get up one day and go “ok, I’ll just poop a painting out in thirty minutes.” Apparently, he completed (what a concept, to someone like me) some 30,000 paintings. So his 30-minute painting technique took a while. I need to remember that.

My first effort is here:

My first painting in 22 years.

For those of you following me on IG, this is old news….

I won’t show you the painting my husband made because it’s so beautiful you will cry for three days, shave your head, and join an ashram. Chances are, your spouse(s) (singular, plural, I don’t judge) would be mad at me. Hard enough to get blog subscribers these days, without inspiring them all to turn their backs on the material world.

The more perspicacious of you will figure out DH’s painting is the one next to mine in this post’s featured image. Staggering what one can do in 30 minutes. I can’t even get a pizza in 30 minutes.

May I tell you I hate my painting? I tell everyone I’m pleased with it but I hate it. What was in my head definitely did NOT come out and land, elegantly, onto the board. Not even remotely.

Here’s my fourth painting. I like this one:

This is when I transcended the paint.

I stepped on my canvas board and made my first declaration of my artistic manifesto: Verily my feet hurt all the effing time, I cried out to the heavens (singular or plural, I don’t judge).

Get thee to a Podiatrist!

oh look it up, it’s Shakespeare (kinda)… and another post for another day is how much I always wanted to punch Hamlet (et ipsum) in the face. Yeah, I said it, whiny little doofus, coulda handled THAT better. Anyhoodle… 

I was inspired by my painting. I actually saw something in it. I wanted to paint trees and skies (still do). But what I was feeling was my feet (they suck). I wasn’t painting what I felt, I was painting what I thought I’d see if I actually had a bucolic setting (I’m suburban). My first painting was a lie (but a good experiment in getting past the blank canvas thing… and mixing acrylics and so on… all is not lost).

Bob painted what he saw, real or imagined. Memories. Hopes, perhaps. It’s your world, he’d say. I realized, in July 2016 (ok, now it’s March 2017), my world was starting to focus on my (now diagnosed, like I didn’t know…) osteoarthritis. I’ve only been ignoring my feet forever. All I had to do was get them x-rayed, get a report, get them fixed. Three easy steps (see what I did? Steps. Feet). Simple.

But no, like Hamlet, I whined around like a pathetic little doofus for a million years. Hamlet, though, didn’t have the benefit of Bob Ross. If it weren’t for Bob Ross Day, I’d still be trudging around on arthritic toes which ultimately need to be fused.

My kingdom for cartilage (Richard III. Poor guy really gets the shaft in this play). Unlike the fake Richard III, the real one turned down his chance for a horse (according to  Jones, Michael (2003). Bosworth 1485: Psychology of a Battle. London: John Murray. ISBN 978-1-84854-909-8.)

I was taking no such chances. If you don’t learn from history, you’re doomed to repeat it. While I got my Xray done the next week, it took me another six months to book the doctor (and they took me in the same week). So I’m getting there.

X-ray: August 2016

X-ray: August 2016

3D Scan: March 2017

3D Scan: March 2017

 

Next stop: orthopaedic surgeon. Mebbe. That’s soooo another blog.

Bob Ross. You give and you give.


 

Look Up, Waaaaaaaay Up

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Old Enough… these drafts, I mean…

 

Today I’m blog-hopping again with Romance Writers Weekly and the question on the blog hop today is from Leslie Hachtel:

What is the writing project you’re thinking about doing next and why.

My Next Project

My next project is the same next project I’ve had since the very last day my bosoms were perky. Two books: one a romantic comedy and the other? A cozy mystery. I started these back when I had abs and a sense of self-worth. Like me, the drafts are old and tired now. Over-worked in some areas, neglected in others. When necessary, flip and glib dialogue is hoping to distract from narrative falling arcs. (That’s an old-age falling-arches joke I tried on but I can tell as I re-read it…. well…. are we halfway to pathetic yet?) You get the idea. My next projects are ageing. Not like wine, like fish.

I’ve been writing the same two books: the eponymous Old Enough and Ugly Enough (chipping away at this for more than ten years) and The Paper Bag Party (a new wine into an old skin…. very bad for narrative, great for word count).

Old Enough and Ugly Enough

The OEUE book is my favourite of the many drafts hogging space in my mental life. It’s a love story. It’s funny. I wrote it while I was writing hideous (well, kinda ok, mostly hideous) novellas I was hoping to throw to then-budding Carina Press. They didn’t bite (rightly so) and I self-pubbed (regrets). Just for the record, though: I was the first to jump on the zombie romance train. I wove these semi-atrocities into the OEUE narrative eventually. Having a minor in Semiotics, I felt very meta and overweening self-reference seemed the way to go. Screw you fourth wall, I was going for footnotes and a YouTube study-guide. (Actually, I have indexed all my novellas and short-story collections so if you’re on the ‘Zon and buy some random self-published atrocity BUT it has footnotes and/or an index… I likely wrote it.)

In truth? I was tired of all romance heroines being 23-27, short, and either svelte or “curvy.” I wanted a 40+ love story and maybe a bit of sag. I’m not very curvy. I’m what happens when an athlete in her forties has large babies. I’m floopy.

The dude? Not pretty. I hate pretty. He’s handsome. No shaved chesticles. No tattoos (or maybe one or two old craggy ones). Just a real dude. Like the dude I married.

The story? Plausible and not suffering from bull-poopy tired “conflict” tropes which can usually be settled in a five minute conversation that could happen if one character just STFU for four of those five minutes and hear the other person out. No way man. I went for our story (plus some embellishments because, frankly, I am a bit dull). It’s a good one, I think (ignore previous aside LOL). It’s 44K but because I felt it was my “good” book (the one Richard Curtis will buy and make into a film) I focussed on the second book because it was easier to write (and shorter). I needed REAL writing time for OEUE. That’s not something I have just now.

The Paper Bag Party

This offshoot sprang from my experiences working in less glamorous (but more lucrative) places, having some technically unsavory clients (nothing I’d put on a CV) and published in some brown paper-packaged magazines. Totally legit, don’t get me wrong. We always say “I don’t judge” but you know what? We always do. I have a friend randomly wrapped up in some branches from this gig and I rolled it from some of her experiences. But by this point I was grokking cozy mysteries (ask me how much I love those first few authors Henery Press had… in alphabetical order): Gretchen Archer, Terri L Austin, Susan M Boyer, Larissa Reinhart, LynDee Walker. I met them all from their first books and decided, then and there, that this was my new favourite genre.

I’ve got the comedy part figured out. The romance figured out. I keep trying to bribe Terri to write the rest for me. No luck. (Terri, if you’re reading this, please finish my book for me.)

This year, as with every year, I vow that I will finish a draft. I have beta reader offers coming out my wazoo. I know a ton of people in “the industry” (play racquetball, people!) and am all set with readers, editors, branding, blah blah blah. What I don’t have, ultimately, is the concentrated time. Writing in ten-minute increments is good only for, well, writing blogs. I write about 100K+ worth of blogs every year (that’s word count, not $$) and at least half of that is for other people. I think I’m chickening out a bit (a lot).

So having said all that: my next two projects are as above. My real project is to stop writing blogs and just, to quote the exquisite Sarah Hegger who rides my tail when I whine thus: “finish the damn book.”

One last thing….

In a fit of pique, and recognizing that not all things started should be finished, I DESTROYED a manuscript for which I actually had an interested publisher (who sent notes on fixes they wanted to see). I hated the book. Everything about it. I just didn’t want to write that one anymore. It’s gone. I feel great.

Thank you super groovy muchissimo for joining me today. Next stop on le hop is A.S. Fenichel. Just keep hopping ’til you get back here then remember to subscribe to my blog. Now that my noggin is out of my keister, I’ll be writing more this fiscal. Lent’s coming which means it’s prolific time for my writing sphere.

 

 

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Would You Rather? | #lovechatwrite #bloghop

Today I’m blog-hopping again with Romance Writers Weekly and the question on the blog hop today is from Jenna Da Sie. We’re talkin’ a festive game of  Would You Rather…?

Would you rather?

1) Would you rather go way back in time and meet your ancestors pre-1800’s or go way into the future and meet your great grandchildren post-2200?

2) Would you rather have no internet or no cell phone?

3) Would you rather talk like Yoda or breathe like Darth Vader?

4) Would you rather have the ability to fly or read minds?

5) Would you rather have mermaids be real or unicorns be real?


Would You Rather? | #lovechatwrite #bloghop

This was almost too easy for me because, for a change, I had answers.

  1. Leap Forward? Fall Back? I would rather meet my great-great (and then some) grandchildren, post-2200. My ancestors are fairly well researched and I have various tidbits back to the 1600s for quite a few. What I’m curious about is the future. I’m trying to think how many generations 2200 will be and frankly, I want to see what the world will be like, anyway. So yes, I’d a definite go-forward kinda gal.
  2. Phone or Internet? This was rather easy because this year, I ditched my cellphone. Yes, you read correctly. I bumped it off. I programmed a soft phone onto my tablet (which I use off bluetooth) and that’s just about it. Internet is my life’s blood. I make my living off making websites and running my mouth social media (among other things) so internet is essential and has been since 1983, my first job doing online research (yes, it existed back then). Bye bye phone and thus bye bye literal pain in the neck.
  3. Vader/Yoda? I already breathe like Darth (my lungs are total bumcakes) so Yoda, I will speak like.
  4. Fly or Read? This was peasy squeezy because I’m sooo not into the heights thing. I wanna read minds.
  5. Mermaids or Unicorns? Mermaids are evil. I grew up before Disney collared Ariel. I’m all about unicorns. Actually that’s not true: I’m all about cats (like you didn’t know) but I’ll take the unicorns. Mermaids? Not so much. What I really want is for Pinkie Pie to be real. And Hello Kitty

Like you didn’t guess.

Thanks for stopping by. This is a blog hop so keep on going to Leslie Hachtel’s site to see how she’d play these cards.

 

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Kitty Condo Update (and some Plants vs Zombies)

This was originally written in July of 2013 under another pseudo whom I killed off. This was also written before I had a decent camera on my phone… and these pix just didn’t merit analog (at the time, or ever). Sorry. I originally wrote How to Bring a Man to His Knees when my pseudo had a syndicated weekly blog, so this post is the second part of that first blog. I’m sad to say that both cats mentioned here have since passed onto to the Great Big Catnip Party in the Sky. This is the last of a collection of old blogs which have been sitting on my desktop. My New Year’s Resolution for last year was to get them off said desktop. One week late to finish that task but I’m nonetheless proud. 

Kitty Condo Update (and some Plants vs Zombies)

lucy-pie

Lucy. 16 pounds of love

 

It’s truly shameful what one will do for  cat. Doubly shameful what one and one’s husband will do for two rescue cats. Throw an exuberant 6 year-old and toddler into the fray and you get a kitty condo which took three weeks to make.

But man was it fun.

First: the cats. As some of you know, my two fur babies passed away within two weeks of each other, leaving our family heartbroken. My wonderful vet found us two cats whose owners had, essentially, bailed on them. Lucy and Waffles.  Both are tabbies. Lucy is definitely at least part Maine Coon. She’s the size of an adolescent yak (Google it). Both are adorable sweet kitties. Waffles, though, was abused and is very shy still. She currently has moved from behind the boiler to the living room, under the sofa.

So we have made them a little scratching post/kitty condo. You saw the beginnings of it. Well, a lot has changed.

sophie-crop

Waffles (yes yes yes, I didn’t name her.. hubby calls her Sophie) and my honkin’ huge hand stroking her little cheek.

Here’s the report:

  • It took us three weeks and 11 bucks to make the cat tree.
  • I had slight plans which grew as the project wore on and I changed a few items as I found them. I’m a big fan of Surrealists and “found objects”. What can I say? With the except of rope, I made this from what my self-indulgent neighbours pitched. Love my neighbours. I don’t exaggerate when I say I furnished our entire living room from their recently purchased castoffs. Except the piano. That’s ours.
  • Power drills are fun. Do not underestimate the joy of a good power drill. Ditto a compressor and staple gun.
  • CaulkING gun. Do not go to Home Depot and ask for a caulk gun. Yes, I did this. I knew better and kept saying to myself as I talked to the dude at HD do not say caulk do not say caulk. I said it. There. I said it.

kittycondo-finished

Warts and all, here it is. Yes, we could have bought one. And we may still. But we did it. And the cats have looked at us strangely ever since. Ungrateful flea bags.

This was an insanely fun project for a family. My little guy (not the littlest guy) really contributed. He’s pretty good with a pair of scissors. Learned some fractions, the proper way to measure. And he had a sense of pride in building something which took more than five seconds to build. And build. Nice to do something with tangible, palpable results. I don’t want my kids growing up with nothing but ephemeral Zombie vs Plants accomplishments (see, I told you I wrote this three years ago….).

 

Plants vs Zombies

If you’ve played to the end, you know that this is from the Zen Garden. Yeah baby yeah we got there. (Remember, three years ago this was cool).

…And now, my last 2016 New Year’s Resolution is done. Except for the lose 25 pounds one. That’s still ongoing.

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How to Bring a Man to His Knees

This was originally written in June of 2013 under another pseudo whom I killed off. This was also written before I had a decent camera on my phone… and these pix just didn’t merit analog (at the time, or ever). Sorry. I originally wrote How to Bring a Man to His Knees when my pseudo had a syndicated weekly blog, so this post is in two parts. 

How to Bring a Man to His Knees


It’s not what you’re thinking. No metaphors running amok here. I’m talking about touching my husband’s tools.

drillFor starters: his power drill. Or as I call it: his battery drill thingie. Yes, I really do talk like that. Sorry. I forget words all the time unless I’m writing them.

My Mission

… and yes, I chose to accept it.

I wanted to build a cat condo. And until the day power tools got fancy, I could have made one. In fact, I have. Already. But it was sooo 2002 and the condo was destroyed (well, exposed onto the curb for the gleaners to dismantle and wheesh away) three moves ago. Although we move about every two years, that condo I built using a staple gun and old-fashioned screws (yes, all by hand) stood the test of time until 2010. By then I was pregnant at 45 and not really feeling like building much more than a Nutella salad. So my cats were bereft of condo and had to sleep on the piano, laptops, and rads.

Shift ahead a few years and I had two new kitties (both, at this edit three years later, are now deceased but they lived beautifully pampered lives, let me tell you): Lucy and Waffles.

They hated each other. 

Actually, my husband called Waffles “Sophie” (and a very few of you reading this will laugh because you’ll get the reference).

New kitties. No condo. But I was intrepid and finally back in town from far afield in the Great White North, so decided this was the day.

Or so I thought.

You see, in this marriage, my tools ended up being appropriated by my sons. My husband’s good stuff (and it’s all good stuff, apparently) is his. Mine is theirs, his is his. But I want to build a new condo but realized in the old days I’d just hammer and tong it manually. Now there’s some lithium battery packed thingie looking scarier than grandma’s hair-dryer .

 

cat-condo-cropped

The original condo, sporting Bing, Bob, and Gregory Twinklebear

I had to call him. It went badly.

Me: “Hi Sweetie. Just curious. How do I load your drill thingie?” I don’t waste time. I need to build and clean up before he comes home and sees what devastation I can create–or worse AND more likely–before I get distracted or lose interest.

He: “What? My drill? Why are you using my drill?”

Me: “Not using your drill sweetie. I need to know for a story.”

He: “Where does a power drill fit into the story?”

Me: “Uh, the heroine has a thing for her carpenter.” (I am truly the world’s worst liar and besides, back then, I was only writing historical).

He: “What are you building?”

Me: “Nothing. But as long as we’re talking hardware, how do I cut a sonotube? Will, say, a jigsaw do it? Or just a carpet knife? Do we have a jigsaw?”

He: “You are scaring me.”

Me: “I’m building a cat condo.”

katkondo

He: “You don’t say.” He sounds frightened unsurprised. “Do you have plans?”

Me: “Of course I have plans.”

He: “Drawn in crayon?” He’s not being rude. He knows I use the Crayola Planner for Pantser Builders. I built a shelf under the kitchen sink once (before the world changed and we photographed our every move or I’d share it here… it was awesome) plotted out with dry eraser markers on two sheets of paper towel.

Me: “Maybe. I have an ingredient list.”

He: “How did you get the sonotube into your car?” Two kids, small car. 

Me: “It wasn’t pretty. Have we maxed out the chiro?” Don’t ask. I had to get the neighbour to pull me out because I pinched a nerve in my neck driving with the seat pushed forward so I could have the seat pushed forward and lay the sonotube on the diagonal. I’m talking about Satan’s Chiro, of whom you’ve heard.

To be continued…

Sorry about the drill bit, Sweetie. I didn’t know they could shatter like that. 

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Bulk Barn and Other Writing Resources

Romance Writers Weekly Blog Hop: December 13, 2016

Today I’m blog-hopping again with Romance Writers Weekly and the question on the bloghop today is from Jenne Da Sie who’s asked us: “What are some helpful tools and resources that you use for writing” Thanks for joining us today from Brenda Margriet’s downlow on this, (or if I’m your first stop, follow the hop til you’ve come full-circle).


My first thought phrased in the following question to our FB group:

I wish I were kidding. I’m not a stress-eater really. I’m a writer-eater. Ok that didn’t come out right. I’m a writing-eater. Is the Bulk Barn considered a helpful tool or resource I use for writing?

Sadly, yes.

For my not-in-Canada friends reading: the Bulk Barn is a place which sells, among other things, candy by the gram. You name it, they have it. Ask me how I know.

A recent discussion we had on our group was all about software. I confess I have a penchant for Scrivener and I’ll show you why:

My favourite thing in the whole wide world when it comes to Scrivener is the corkboard.

My second favourite thing is that I can move sections of my writing around by dragging items from the sidebar. Sure, you can do this in Word; I find it easier in Scrivener. And unlike Word, you don’t have to buy Scrivener every 12 months.

All those little corkboard recipe cards will come-with and you can no longer fret about missing something in a highlight-copy-cut-paste manoeuvre.

Yeah, I had to spell-check manoeuvre.

I would have to say Scrivener (and the Bulk Barn) is my favourite writing tool.

My next (because threes are so nice) is something I never get to use anymore because the kids talk more than I do: Dragon Naturally Speaking. I dictate almost everything until my youngest hit 4 and started to appropriate my headset. Sigh. Now I’m back to, ew, typing.

Now for resources? 

I pick on my friends (the ones who haven’t blocked me on WhatsApp). Anyone who’s read any of my non-blog creative writing will know that I don’t need a lot of research, beyond anecdotal. Generally speaking, I pick on my friends for information. I suppose I wallow in Wikipedia more than I should but beyond that, it’s all about finding my human-resource.

Now if only I can source someone to actually write my book. 

Head on over to Jenna Da Sie’s site and see what a (real) writer uses for resources and tools. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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Zombies, Zippos, A.S. Fenichel

Zombies, Zippos, A.S. Fenichel

I have a series of unpublished blogs based on my dreams, each blog in various states of un/edit, pending graphics and screen grabs. One I’ve promised Bueller is about a dream I had of my wearing English muffins for slippers whilst walking to Montréal with a quick stop at Toronto’s own Sneaky Dees. Yes, that old chestnut. But it was a great dream and two years later, I finally finished that blog. 

A Bic Lighter Commercial? You say.

You’ll find out in a mo’. Just enjoy.

1212

Today’s blog (ok, this is actually from 18 months ago) just came to me because I had an epiphany and epiphanies made me think of light bulbs which made me think of tealights well, there you go. Yes, synecdoche is alive and well on this blog.

zombie-zippo-01

My long-suffering friend Terri gets to receive my wee-hours texts. This was a doozy. A metaphor (as opposed to metonymy) for my pathetic writer-wannabe existence. Like bringing a knife to a gun fight or in my case, a tealight and a Bic lighter to the Zombie Apocalypse.

zombie-zippo-02

Ok, now see that last line: “I should have been carrying..” Aye, there’s the rub. The problem? I didn’t remember to save the next screen so not only have I forgotten what I should have been carrying in the dream, but I have also forgotten what I should have been carrying — here and now — in the reportage of the dream.

If you read my Früit Löps blog, you’ll know how distressing this was/is/ever shall be to me. I have meta-forgotten. And what’s worse: I spent the better part of a semi-caffeinated morning pondering what I should have been carrying. A machete? Gun? Jug of acid? Strong language? A bold and enterprising attitude? Some snark? A whole bucket of snark? 

My friend Terri would have had the answer. She likely would have said “a portable food dehydrator and a Sig P226.” See that connection I just made? Lighter? Cigarette? Sig Sauer? Dang. Terri’s good (and hopefully doesn’t mind my putting words into her mouth). A.S. Fenichel would have been armed with Victorian Kung-fu and an Hattori Hanzo sword. These are women of action, people!


My pitiful wannabe writing life takes the focus

This blog looks like I’m plugging A.S. Fenichel or Terri L Austin but the fact is, that’s the blog’s by-product but not its purpose. My pitiful wannabe writing life takes the focus. This ain’t no advertorial, cowboy bovine-herding-non-binary-specific-humanoid.

A.S. Fenichel writes a wicked good vs evil romance. I guess the correct term is “paranormal romance” but for her, I think more of a “good vs evil” moniker. Her heroines kick some serious tush. I’m pretty sure I’ve read all her books (she’s not all paranormal: some are historical, others are contemporary) and for those wanting snippets and reviews, tootle to Amazon. Pretty sure if you want a compadre for the zombie End of Days, it’d be she.

Terri is my go-to for panic-mode. Seriously, there ain’t no cliff from which she cannot talk me down. She would have reminded me of my Zippo, then showed me how to store food for the apocalypse (think I’m joking? This is one of our major topics of discussion on any given week). She may write as a pantser but she lives as a plotter.

I’ve “known” both women since their first books and have been honoured to follow them through their careers thus far. I may only have THOUGHT I had a Bic lighter but in reality, I DO have a Zippo. I just need to remember to check my pockets. 

Long have I pondered what I would have brought to the Zombie Apocalypse then realised something: I’d be eaten while I figured it out. 


Oh, and A.S. cooks a treat, too. I guess I should have been carrying some Lagostina. Weapons and vittles. What more could I want in the Zombie Apocalypse? Actually, Lagostina COULD be a weapon. Bonk bonk Trafalgars!

Terri and I don’t cook. Surely among the three of us, at least one of us would survive to write the post-scriptum to the blog. Stay tuned.


At a loss what to get people for Christmas? How about donating to the Heart & Stroke Foundation in their name?

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Failed Recipe #3: Raisin Bread

Failed Recipes: Raisin Bread... mebbe

I’ve been clearing out blogs which have been in “drafts”for the last three millennia. Here’s one from 2013. I may have posted this under one of my killed-off pseudos but fortunately, none of you will (ok, a couple of you) remember/know/care. I wrote this back when someone had given me a bottle of Bailey’s for Christmas. Generally speaking, I’m not a drinker. But give me 1/8 of an ounce and it’s Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!
.

Failed Recipe #3: Raisin Bread

I know what you’re wondering: WHAT ON EARTH IS THAT? Surely not raisin bread.

Raisin Bread ExplosionClearly, a raisined-product of sorts.

If CSI were here, they’d run that diagnostic pretty quickly and observe there’s some C6H10O5 involved. That’s the incomplete formula for flour; but they will be looking for more. The lab will run more tests and find some lipids (fats & oils), maybe a pinch of NaCl. All this modern-day hokey-pokey science will tell them NOTHING. The ingredients are as they should be.

This failed recipe is for a 1.5 pound bread. Really. That was the plan.

Equipment

1 bread maker OR

1 oven

Mixer

Mixing bowl for mixer

Spatulas etc.

Measuring cups, spoons OR

Digital food scale

Ingredients

Yeah, you’re wondering now. I am all metric-European measuring until it comes to the little stuff so I’ll put both deets in.

1 1/4 cups of warm milk or water (306 grams if using milk)

1 1/2 TB melted lard or vegetable shortening (22.5 grams) (who am I kidding? I used butter)

2 tsp yeast

1 cup raisins (I go crazy on the raisins though)

3 cups all-purpose flour (or whatever makes you happy) (360 grams)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp of cinnamon (or to taste)

How To

Bread Machine

If you are using a bread machine, like I did, it’s easy-peasy squeeze a lemon. Unless you happen to be me, which you aren’t. Unlike making mixer drinkie-poos, the rule for bread machines is liquids before solids.

1. Warm your milk or water first. This will help the yeast. Use the microwave or heat over the stove top or right from the *shudder* tap. Throw the shortening, lard, (or oil if you prefer) on top while you do this. Time-deepening I call it.

2. Liquid into bread machine.

3. Into a bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, and salt together. I think this helps the distribution.

4. Solids into machine atop the liquid.

5. Make  little well in the flour mixture and spoon in the yeast.

6. Turn on your bread machine to whichever setting is, essentially, 1.5 pound loaf, basic.

7. Watch the magic appear in two hours.

Oven

This collateral damage won’t happen if you use your oven. I say bake around 350 or 400 for some 22 minutes or so. I dunno. I bake til I remember that I forgot to turn on the timer or I smell the carbon charring.

🙂

Failed Recipes: Raisin Bread... mebbe

Failed Recipes: Raisin Bread… mebbe

So What Went Wrong

Did you catch it? I didn’t tell you to put the paddle INTO the machine. You should have known to do it, as I should have as well. But I forgot. I was nipping an Irish Creme Yogurt Smoothie and wasn’t quite what I should have been:

A – L – E – R – T

There should be a warning on the Irish Creme bottle:

Do not use your bread machine while slurping contents of this bottle.

So what happens when you put the bread machine on and there’s no paddle? Nothing mixes. The mixture heats up, ferments, and bakes without being swirled and combined. And you end up with that hardened lump shown above.

The squirrels were ecstatic, by the way. Yeah, I feed the rodentia in my yard. Cat? Not so pleased.

Best Bet Going Forward

Put the paddle in.

Trivia

Bread is yummy. Man may not live on bread alone, but I could.

Like Oprah, I have bread every day

Like Oprah, I have bread every day


What I’m Reading….

Gretchen Archer and Larissa Reinhart had books published recently (update: I started writing this blog in 2013… so Gretchen and Larissa STILL have books published recently.. but not these ones. These are both like #2 in their respective series and I think both series are now into Book 5 for Gretchen and or Book 6 for Larissa). Nonetheless, go get them, eh?

Double Whammy by Gretchen Archer.

Still Life in Brunswick Stew by Larissa Reinhart.

 

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Mule Muffins! (and a Recipe)

I know what you’re thinking. I’m using an epithet generally reserved for people like Col. Potter. But what I’m really talking about are mules made from muffins. So today’s post is called: Mule Muffins! (and a Recipe).

I know what you’re thinking now. Mules. No. Not this mule (who’s super cute and wants to live in my backyard, if I had one).

 (c) Can Stock Photo

How pretty are mules anyway? Seriously, they are under-rated.
(c) Can Stock Photo Heck yeah I pay for stock photography.

These mules. You got it. The ones that gave me osteo-arthritis. Now you’re talkin’.mules-marabou

This story is not really about the best kind of footwear: soft, comfy spongy happy shoes.

But shoes made from muffins. Aye, there’s the rub. These muffins, not those.

Let’s step back a moment. This is a dream I had about my wearing English muffins. It’s a metaphor, pretty sure. What else could it be?

Mule Muffins! (and a Recipe)

Here’s some background

When I was younger, I worked in downtown Toronto. My friends were still in high school but I had a weird job doing online research and building databases, back in 1983. Not a lot online research back then, but enough to keep me gainfully employed (and out of school because I had left home early and REALLY needed the job).

So downtown Toronto was where I was wandering in this dream: barefoot, in a sundress. But think: Commerce Court or the TD Centre.

I was trying to walk from downtown Toronto to Montreal, by way of Aurora.

Perhaps not a great idea, looking back.

Here’s the map (Toronto-Aurora-Montreal) by foot

Only 118 hours? Imagine that! And I was going to take the train. 

Toronto-Dees-Montreal

Sneaky Dee’s

In my dream, I stopped by Sneaky Dee’s first. Have you been? It’s a great place; but as someone who likely didn’t belong there said to me once: don’t order the port.

I don’t want to appropriate anyone’s photography so here’s a quick collage (and the search I used to pull up the collage).

SneakyDeesCollage

Sneaky Dee’s, how I loved thee.

I used to live within crawling (believe me, I know) distance of  Sneaky Dee’s waaaaay back when the sun could still shine between my thighs.


By the way, Sneaky Dee’s is not a place to go pee-pees if you’re mysophobic. 🙂 Fortunately, this doesn’t bother me.


I kinda miss this part of my life (and the dress size which went with it).

Dee’s does a wicked breakfast (hangover helper we called it) and when they moved south to College & Bathurst, I swear I did too, just to keep my sanity.

Right. My dream. It’s a long walk and the business district is nothing but concrete. And in my dream, like in freals, my feet hurt (did I mention I now have arthritis?). Then I remembered (in my dream):

I had English muffins in my pockets

This is how I began to realise I was dreaming: usable pockets in women’s clothing. Right after THEY cure the common cold, THEY will design sundresses with useful pockets.

Have you worn English muffins? They are the epitome of bready footwear. Keep a few in your pocket and you can go anywhere. Climb every mountain. Eschew the streams though. Your shoes will degrade like a teenager’s language after their first martini.

So what’s the point of all this?

Glad you asked.  I didn’t get to Aurora or Montreal, really. I think I woke up after Sneaky Dee’s, when I bumped into an ex-boyfriend’s parents (from the late 80s) and offered to give them a lift home in the car I suddenly had (1967 Mustang, I thank you). I started some strange journey, wearing English muffins on my feet, and never got anywhere.

And I started this blog on December 26, 2014 (now it’s January 9, 2015 and I just posted Flipping My Lids) (no wait, it’s now December 6, 2016 and I just posted My First Kiss) then I started to load content for a client’s two websites and I was swamped. I spent the entire holiday loading underwhelming websites (thankfully I didn’t design them) and working like a dog and never EVER getting to finish this blog and I forgot the rest of the dream.

Between 2014 and now I’ve been overworked, fired, hired, injured, had pneumonia (twice) H1N1, broke a couple of bones, pinched several nerves in my neck, and played laser tag. I’ve written at least 200 blogs and yet never finished this off. Til now. 

So what’s the point again?

Well for one thing: English muffins suck monkey bums for walking. They seem like a good idea at the time; but when your feet hurt like a motherscratcher, any port in a storm… to mix metaphors.

Ok, so what about Montreal and Aurora?

Right. I forgot. Montreal is where I did my MA in English(Creative Writing). Aurora is where I lived (post-Toronto) til I ran away. The devils’ in the details.

My dream was telling me I was about to embark on a long strange journey (a lot of which was any port in a storm, is my thinking) that hopefully allowed me to transcend my corporate yet rock-and-roll past, as well as my working behind-the-scenes doing everyone else’s blogs, sites, consulting, five-year-plans, and you get the idea. Constantly sublimating my creative need for someone else’s vision.

I think I’m done, finally. It was funny, yesterday on Facebook, to see a blog I wrote two years ago for a client being reposted  on their FB page, being passed off as someone else’s work (it’s ok, I signed those rights away to them). The odd thing was, the blog was written on a semi-personal level. The company forgot to actually re-read the blog and remove my personal asides. Snicker. Rather gratifying, really.

I clicked “like” and moved on. 


Right, the Recipe.

This is from my old but still existing recipe blog (circa 2011) Like I Need Another Hole in my Head which needs a serious update. I’ve pasted this, verbatim. I really need to fix that thing.

Carrot Bran Muffins (can be low-fat, if you wish)

I know I said this isn’t a low-fat healthy site, but sometimes you just gotta have something good for you. Apologies to all who may be offended. I promise to type up my cinnamon bun recipe shortly.

But dang these are good and moist and have very little fat to them if you use applesauce (makes muffin a bit denser though) instead of oil.

Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes

Baking time: 20 minutes (making LARGE muffins… adjust time accordingly for regular size)

Regular muffins have 185 calories and 4.5 grams of fibre and a few grams of fat, nothing like muffins from franchised coffee shops!

Makes 12 regular muffins or 6 large muffins

1 1/4 cup flour (150 grams)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups raisin bran cereal (110 grams, add more if you wish!)
1 1/4 cup milk (306 grams for skim)
1/4 cup of either unsweetened applesauce or vegetable oil
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg or 2 egg whites
1 cup (more or less) of shredded carrot
1/2 cup additional raisins or chopped dates (mostly for moisture)

Preheat oven to 400. Either use muffin liners or spray tin with cooking spray or butter and flour your tins.

1. Add cereal and milk together in a large bowl and let the cereal soften about five minutes.

2. Add oil (or applesauce), molasses, egg and beat. Beat or stir in dry ingredients.

3. Add carrot (and additional fruit if using) and stir.

4. Glop into tins. Personally I make larger muffins. So what they have nearly 400 calories? You need energy mid-day right? These will do it with low-fat and as you can see, low-sugar. Live a little.

5. Bake approx 20 minutes. I use a convection oven so adjust your time accordingly. May take longer.

These keep very well. Extremely moist muffins.

 



At a loss what to get people for Christmas? How about donating to the Heart & Stroke Foundation in their name?

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