Thursday, January 31, 2008

Unwelcome Surprises

Ello, you especially should appreciate this.

I was exhausted by bedtime last night. My homework for the writing class was progressing nicely and I was tired from a long day, so sleep came quickly. Normally I get up a couple of times a night to go to the bathroom – it’s an old person thing, something you can all look forward to. Last night my bladder held firm, however…..

About 2:30 this morning I awoke to the vilest, most vitriolic odor imaginable. It was so overwhelmingly disgusting I thought the enemy was using chemical warfare on me. In my dazed and confused state, I stumbled out of bed and headed for the stairs. As I got farther away from my bedroom, the odor abated noticeably. It didn’t go away, it just wasn’t stinging my lungs and making my eyes and nose water anymore.

Stupidly, I ventured back towards the bedroom only to be accosted by the foul stench again. It suddenly dawned on me that the source of this malodorous assault was staring at me from atop my covers with her tail wagging. Belle!

I have mentioned her room clearing farting ability in the past, but this one was like the nuclear bomb of all flatulence. I raced for the can of room deodorizer and sprayed it liberally throughout the house because the whole place reeked by then. I also opened some windows even though it was freezing outside.

In my partially awake state, I finally realized the stench was still there, sprayed another layer of deodorizer throughout the place and stuck my head out my sliding glass door gulping in the fresh, icy air.

A full fifteen minutes after my rude awakening, with the perpetrator constantly at my side as if we were on a big adventure, the house no longer smelled like sulfuric acid, methane and feces. Belle went outside and left a stink bomb on the lawn to scare away all the creatures of the night and I promptly gave her ½ a pepto-bismal tablet to tame whatever was happening inside her little gut.

It took another hour to return to sleep – partially because of all the cold air I inhaled and partially for fear of another surprise attack. Since she likes to sleep with her butt next to my face, this is a valid concern. Meanwhile, she slept soundly.

It’s a good thing I love my dog.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Writing class update

I enrolled in a class - a basic class in writing fiction . I was really waffling on which class to take when an e-mail arrived offering a $25 discount if I signed up before the end of the month. I decided that was a sign and immediately enrolled.

The class actually started last Thursday, but they allowed enrollment until tomorrow and since I purchased the textbook about a month ago, I'm ready to go. Each topic lasts 2 weeks, so I'll be a little behind but believe it will be possible to catch up quickly.

I like non-fiction and writing about life in general, but really don't have a good grasp on how to write fiction. I'm not even sure it's what I want to do and hope this class will help determine if fiction is right for me or if I should stick to non-fiction. Either way, it should help me become a better and more organized writer.

As the class progresses, I'll keep you updated. Wish me luck!


Electile Dysfunction : the inability to become aroused over any of the choices for president put forth by either party in an election year.

I had company over the weekend and haven't had time to be on the computer. Still don't know what to do about classes.

Dazed and confused.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Online writing classes

I've been researching some online writing classes and am ready to sign up for a good basic class. Although I pretend to write brilliantly and know the craft well, in truth I'm just a bumbling novice with scattered thoughts and methods. I need help.

So, I'm asking anyone out there who's taken an online class, or knows someone who has, to make some recommendations or give me some suggestions.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Explanations for my "foreign" readers

In the comments section of my last post, I found this:

Maddy said...
You worry me. For the benefit of your foreign readers would you be kind enough to consider translating 'grits' which sounds highly unpleasant especially if you're planning to eat it, as well as 'peeps' which sounds like 'people' and I wouldn't like any of your readers to leave with the impression that you are a cannibal.....are you?


Maddy is one of my favorite stops in blogland. She often leaves me laughing to the point of tears. She describes herself as, "Ex-pat from the UK. Middle aged, bifocaled and technically challenged. My Significant Other and I currently enjoy fragile custody of 3 minors and a major, two girls, two boys, two with blue eyes, two with brown eyes, two with autism, two without."

So at her request, and for all you other foreigners out there avidly reading my blog I shall translate grits and peeps.


According to Wikipedia, Grits is a type of corn porridge and a food common in the Southern United States consisting of coarsely ground corn. This is similar to many other thick maize-based porridges from around the world such as polenta It also has a lesser resemblance to farina, a thinner porridge.

When you grind corn, the coarse grind is grits and the fine grind is corn meal like that used for corn bread.

They are commonly eaten at breakfast - especially in the South. My mother was from North Carolina and we ate all things Southern growing up. To this day I never tire of grits and corn bread with tons of butter.


Wikipedia says:

PEEPS® Brand Candies are small marshmallow candies, sold in the United States, which are shaped into baby chickens, rabbits, and other animals. There are also different shapes used for various holidays. PEEPS® are primarily used to fill Easter baskets, although the Just Born company is trying to change that by introducing new shapes and advertising "PEEPS® - Always in Season". They are made from marshmallow, sugar, gelatin, and carnauba wax.

You can purchase Peeps everywhere - drugstores, supermarkets, Target, etc. When you first buy them they're all squooshy - like eating a marshmallow. They're okay that way, but I prefer to open the package and let them harden for a month or several. We're just finishing the last package from Easter right now and they are perfectly cured.

So Maddy, I hope that gives you enough explanation to ease your mind a bit. I am not now nor have I ever been a cannibal.

Any other American oddities you're wondering about?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I've been tagged!

I used to like Maya Reynolds, but then she tagged me to reveal six random things about myself, and then to tag six others.Here are the rules

Link to the person that tagged you
Post the rules on your blog
Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself
Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs
Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website

So, I followed rule one and linked to that Bad Girl.

I followed rule two and posted the rules.

To follow rule three, here are 6 random things about me:

1. I'm allergic to cats so inevitably if there are cats around when I go somewhere, they chase me around like catnip and rub themselves all over me. I always knew they were evil.

2. I love stale Peeps. The woman who sits in the cubicle across the aisle from me at work has the same passion. We buy mass quantities during prime Peeps buying seasons, open them up and let them "cure" until they're nice and hard. It's almost like eating pure sugar. By the way, did you know that if you put Peeps in the Microwave they expand incredibly?

3. One of my Master's degrees has an emphasis in statistics and research methodology. That's right - I'm a dork. My other one has an emphasis in psycholgy so I'm an analytical dork. I can figure out what's wrong with you and find an infinite number of ways to prove it.

4. I was born at 3:33 on 10/10 and I'm a Libra so I'm very well balanced - except when I'm not.

5. I love grits with butter, salt and pepper. People who eat them with sugar are just weird.

6. I've given speeches and sung in front of up to 1,500 people.

Okay, so I followed the first 3 rules, but here's another random thing about me - I like to break the rules. So I'm not tagging 6 people. Instead I'm challenging anyone who wants to to post a random fact about them in the comments, or to follow the rules and post them on your blog and let us know in the comments that you did.


What's the point?

A friend e-mailed this to me and it seemed like a good thing to share.

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read straight through, and you'll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of Miss America.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

None of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are not second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:
1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.


Did you get the point? Did you?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Evil Editors and Pitch Ideas – Round 2

Don't forget Church Lady is hosting an Evil Editor extravaganza on her blog this Thursday with an appearance by the curmudgeonly guy promised as bait to draw us in. Here's what I think he looks like.

Hey, I may need him someday!

What a weekend! After 5 serene, relaxing days at home, I spent the weekend on the go nonstop. My cult really kept me busy so I’m way behind in blogland.

Thank you to everyone who commented on the pitch ideas. Now I’m even more befuddled than before. Perhaps if I give you more information about the protagonist it will clarify the stories.

Meet Annie Powell – a 50ish woman. She’s practical and down to earth with a dry sense of humor and an innate ability to solve puzzles and find solutions to problems. She’s the person everyone turns to when they need assistance or advice which makes her the perfect executive assistant to the owner of the Active Seniors Retirement Corporation (ASRC).

She’s tall and average size (at least according to the latest fashion magazines), dresses well but never pays full price for anything. Exercise is important to her, but she’s not a fanatic and her diet frequently includes chocolate and hamburgers.

Annie belongs to a social organization she lovingly refers to as her cult. The members of Peony Chapter are dear to her and, since many of them are older, she has plenty of mothers to give her unwanted advice. There are men in her chapter, but the women rule the roost.

Though she had several opportunities, Annie never married and this is a source of constant worry for her friends and family. The happier Annie is alone, the unhappier everyone else is.

The offices of ASRC are on the top floor of huge, old high school that was converted several years ago to a senior retirement community. This provides Annie lots of opportunities to interact with the residents and staff.

So, knowing more about my protagonist, do either one of the pitch ideas stand out?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Pitch ideas

I have 2 ideas sketched out for my new manuscript. They both fall into the cozy mystery genre and the protaganist and many of the secondary characters are the same in each. I like both of them and can't decide which to work on first so I'm asking for opinions.

Here are the pitches:

1. The Case of the Offed Boss

Annie just discovered her boss dead on the floor in his office. She's one of 9 people with the motive, means and opportunity to kill him, but she's the only one without an airtight alibi. She has 48 hours to prove her innocence and find the real killer before being arrested for a crime she didn't commit.

2. The Case of the Altared Man

Just as they were about to open their meeting, a dead man fell through the ceiling and landed in front of the altar. Now the ladies of Peony Chapter must discover who he is, how he died and why he waited until Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. to drop in on them.

Opinions please - and if you don't like either one, I do have some other ideas brewing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ignoring the obvious

I took the week off. It wasn’t scheduled – just necessary. Normally the week between Christmas and New Years is my time to decompress, take care of unfinished business and prepare for next year. It’s time to go through the drawers and closets and either reorganize or de-clutter. It’s quiet time.

Because of all the traveling I did in November and December I didn’t feel comfortable taking that week off this year, though most of the traveling was for business. I even dragged myself to work while I was sick.

I called in sick on Monday, but I wasn’t really sick. I was tired. I needed my quiet time. So I e-mailed my 2 bosses and asked for the rest of the week off and they both told me to relax and enjoy the time off. Yes, I’m lucky.

So I’m home this week – cleaning, organizing, de-cluttering and relaxing. I’m catching up with my life. Belle loves it. We go for long walks every day and she hasn’t had any accidents in several days. She needed some attention to get over Rosie’s death, so this has been really good for her.

My garage, closets, office and kitchen all look better with less clutter. Goodwill has lots of new stuff to sell and the garbage men hauled away very full cans this week. It’s not done but I already feel calmer. As the stress melts away my health is much improved and I feel my creativity returning. Things don’t seem so overwhelming anymore.

The signals were all there but I didn’t pay attention. How often do you ignore the obvious?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Silliness - mood buttons 6

In the spirit of silliness, here's another quick excerpt from my memoir to go along with the last of the mood buttons.

I’ve always loved the formality of what I describe as super organized religions, like Catholicism and the Episcopalians. There’s something about their beautiful ritualistic ceremonies that makes me feel very connected to a higher power. Several of my friends over the years have been Catholic and I was always intrigued by the concept of confession.

While living in Chicago, I actually snuck into the box and confessed once. Right before I hit rock bottom during my cancer, I was riding a bus home from work one day when we passed an enormous Catholic church. I have no idea what compelled me but I jumped off the bus at the next corner and went into the church. I’d never been to confession before, but I saw lots of people confess in the movies, so when I saw someone coming out of what resembled the confession booth in the movies, I scooted in.

The priest quickly observed that I didn’t know the mechanics of confession and was therefore probably not Catholic. I think I said something like, “Look, I’m not one of you, but I have a really big problem and I need someone to listen. Are you in?” I thought for certain he was going to throw me out, but instead he was very kind and allowed me to bare my soul for quite a while. Then he told me to do a few things I didn’t really understand, and told me to “go with God.” I didn’t quite know where I was supposed to go with him, but then I figured out that was just the priest’s way of getting rid of me.

When I left, I put a lot of money in the offering thingy hoping God wouldn’t strike me dead for attempting to impersonate a Catholic just to be absolved of my numerous sins. I didn’t get hit by a bus on the way home, but it did take a long time to resolve my problems. Maybe that was her punishment.

If hell freezes over and I ever get married, my ideal wedding would take place in a cathedral type church. They’re vast and awe inspiring, but they also feel very intimate and spiritual. I don’t envision hundreds of guests. In fact, if it’s just me, the groom, an official and a witness, that would be absolutely fine. And as soon as the official says “you may kiss the bride,” I would like for a choir or soloist to sing “Ave Maria”. I know the song is associated with all things Catholic, but it’s one of my favorites and always evokes such a sense of peace and serenity. Of course, my mother would lobby for a rousing rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus” but she doesn’t get a vote on this one.

Hope you enjoyed the buttons!

Silliness - mood buttons 5

This is the one my friends think is most like me. When I'm silent and smiling with my mouth closed (my Mona Lisa smile) - watch out.

Siliness - Mood Buttons 4, My ode, Thoughts on writing

I AM that ode!

Merry Monteleone wrote a fabulous ode for me. It's to the tune of "Stairway to Heaven". Make sure you check it out on her blog. She makes me sound wonderful - which of course I am.

Thoughts on Writing

When I wrote my memoir, the words flowed unrestrained. My fingers could barely type fast enough to keep up with my brain. The first draft was written in 2 weeks and had about 35,000 words. Then I went back and filled in all the details - ending with about 70,000 words in just over 6 weeks total. They were good words - great words in some cases with many interesting stories and lots of wisdom gathered from years of often totally screwing up my life.

Attendance at Backspace and frequent online visits to Miss Snark and other writing spots helped me through about 5 drafts before I figured out that it wasn't publishable as a book. There probably were several really good short stories or magazine articles in it, but that's beside the point which is, it was a really valuable learning experience.

Since then I've written periodically and quietly developed a story that's interesting to me and could be lots of fun. I put together story boards and outlined characters and places, working hard to implement all I've learned over the last year.

The problem is; when I sat down to write it the words didn't flow. Every time I wrote a few pages I had to go back and check for things like passive voice and adverbs and other nitpicky things that should best be left for the 2nd or 3rd draft. I asked for opinions too early from willing readers. It became an exercise in frustration and I hated it. '

Being sick always helps me put things in perspective. About 2/3 of the way through bronchitis, I reread my first 5 carefully crafted chapters and promptly deleted the whole thing. It sucked. It didn't have any of my personality or style. I was trying too hard to follow the damned rules and lost my voice in the process.

The rules are helpful and having an outline helps move me along the path, but too much structure and too many restrictions stifle me. I don't work well under those circumstances. I smothered myself.

The idea is still good, but I'm not going to censor myself when I start writing again. I'll write to the story but won't be concerned with occasional deviations or worry about typos or misspellings or passive voice or adverbs or any other grammatical mistakes as long as the words are flowing. I'll save all that for the 2nd or 3rd draft.

Sometimes a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. It can rob you of your creativity.

Here are some more of those silly buttons you can't wear to work :).

Silliness - mood buttons 3

Some things are just too good not to share. For some reason, this poem really speaks to me right now. Hmmmmmm!!!

author unknown
Twas the month after Christmas, and all through the house
Nothing would fit me, not even a blouse.
The cookies I'd nibbled, the eggnog I would taste
At the holiday parties had gone to my waist.
When I got on the scales there arose such a number!
When I walked to the store it was less a walk than a lumber.
I remembered the marvelous meals I'd prepared;
The gravies and sauces and beef nicely rare.
The wine and the rum balls, the bread and the cheese
And the way I'd never said, "None for me, please."
As I dressed myself in my biggest old shirt
And prepared once again to do battle with dirt.
I said to myself, as only I can,
"You can't spend another winter disguised as a man!"
So -- away with the last of the sour cream dip,
Get rid of the fruit cake, every cracker and chip.
Every last bit of food that I like must be banished
Till all the additional ounces have vanished.
I won't have a cookie -- not even a lick.
I'll chew only on long celery sticks.
I won't have hot biscuits, or corn bread, or pie,
I'll munch on a carrot and quietly cry.
I'm hungry, I'm lonesome, and life is a bore
But isn't that what January is for?
Unable to giggle, life's no longer a riot.
Happy New Year to all
and to all a good diet.

Just setting the mood for the next round of buttons!

The rest tomorrow!

Silliness - mood buttons 2 and thank you notes.

I would like to issue a public thank you to all the people in the airports and on the planes for being certain to spread their germs around by hacking, coughing, sneezing and then walking through the plane and putting their germy paws on the seats with no regard for any other passengers. I realize using soap and tissues or covering your mouth during your outbursts is very inconvenient and wanted to let you know how grateful I was to end up with bronchitis because of your generosity.

I would also like to thank Dallas for having the world's largest and most inconvenient airport. I would have taken that train thingy had I known it existed, but one of your very intelligent employees assured me that Gates D 12 and A 17 were easy walking distance. After walking through at least 3 states his lies became apparent. I realize my vacation was filled with overeating, but exercising under the stress of a short connection was not my plan.

I would also like to thank American Airlines for making sure my luggage did not accompany me on the trip from Dallas to Seattle. It was wonderful to arrive at the airport and watch everyone else take their luggage off the carousel then stand in line for 15 minutes with the rest of the bagless people only to be told my bag was still in Dallas. Well, DUH! I also really appreciated receiving it at 4:30 the next day at work just as I was getting ready to go home. I do apologize for yelling at and threatening to sue the delivery person who called me at 9 a.m. and informed me he didn't think he could make it the 5 miles from the airport to my office before 5 p.m.

Thank you all so much for waiting until the end of my trip to materialize.

As promised, here's the next round of buttons.

Silliness - mood buttons 1

Bronchitis can really wear you down. I've been sick and in the dumps for a couple of weeks now and am finally starting to feel better. As usual, when I start to feel better my silly side kicks in. A friend sent me pictures of 30 mood buttons you can't wear to work and they are just too good not to be shared. Since blogger only allows 5 at a time, this may require a few posts.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Last pictures - I promise!

The ship had Vegas type shows.
The adult pool and spas.
Then there was DisneyWorld!
And Mickey Mouse!!!!!!!!
Who says you can't find the man of your dreams on vacation!

Even more pictures!

The view from my stateroom balcony! Those aren't ants - they're people!
Did I mention the ship was HUGE!
Welcome to Cozumel, Mexico.
They gave me a puppy!
Ice sculpting by 2 of the pools.

More pictures!

AHHHHH! The Spa!
AHHHH! The food!
Aargh! The rock climbing wall.
Miniature golf or basketball anyone?
They even had an ice skating rink with a full ice dancing show.

Pictures - then words!

The ship was HUGE!
I learned water safety techniques and wore flattering outfits.
This was one of several meals I ate per day.
The shopping atrium is 4 stories high and the interior cabins have views of the atrium.
The dining room was 3 stories high and the waiters entertained us almost every night.