Friday, October 31, 2008

Midnight Ride on Superstition Mountain

I posted this story on my blog when I first started blogging. But it seems vaguely appropriate to this time of year, so I'm reposting this one. It's a story from my childhood--a story that my kids loved to hear. I hope you enjoy it. It was certainly a different world then.

The first ten years of my life, I mostly lived in Arizona. The last year we lived there, we lived in Globe, Arizona. Our grandparents lived down in the 'valley' in Chandler. Once when we went there for a visit, Mom and Dad decided to take the scenic route back home. They planned to stop for a picnic and then travel on home.

In 1959, the summer we traveled along the back side of Superstition Mountain, the road wasn't paved. Actually, there were few paved back roads at that time in Arizona, with most of them being graded dirt. Our route was graded gravel, which was considered a step up in the hierarchy of roads.

We had an old pick-up with a mattress in the back. My older two brothers, Jack and Tommie, sat back there with me. Amazing isn't it? No seat belts, no cover, just the three of us crouched up against the back of the truck cab to buffer us against the wind. Jack was seven and Tommie was five. Our baby brother, Danny was three so he sat in the cab with Mommy and Daddy.

We started for home in late afternoon. The first part of the trip, of course, was paved until we reached Apache Junction where we stopped for gas. It was the last gas station for a long way. Back then, the gas stations handed out premiums when you bought gas. The Apache Junction station handed out glassware with different kinds of cactus on them. Mommy collected the glassware, putting together different sets… ice tea glasses, juice glasses, etc. I still have one set that she saved for my hope chest.

After Daddy filled up our gas tank, we left the main road and started down the route around the back of Superstition Mountain. In fairly rapid succession, it went from narrow blacktop to gravel.

Perhaps a couple of hours later, Daddy spotted a nice little clearing at the side of the road and pulled off. There was a sparkling little brook there, several cottonwood trees and a bit of grass. Mommy spread out a quilt and set out the food. I don't have any idea what we ate. It doesn't even seem important, but I vividly remember Jack and Tommie racing up and down the side of the brook with me as we floated leaves and tossed small stones in the water, enjoying the splashing.

After we ate, Mommy let us take off our shoes and wade in the water. Danny meandered down to the brook and sat down in the water and that was the end of the playtime! Mommy dried him off and changed his clothes. Daddy packed up the quilt and food and we all piled back into the truck.

Just as darkness fell, there was a loud popping sound and Daddy stopped the truck. He got out and raised the hood while we leaned over the side of the truck, trying to 'see'. Mommy told us to sit down, but you know kids--we bounced around back there, sort of impatient to get moving. At last, Daddy slammed the hood down and climbed back in the truck. The fan belt was gone, we were in the middle of nowhere, and it was a long, long way home.

To conserve the power in the battery, Daddy alternately turned on the truck to drive up the hills and turned it off so we could coast down the hills. This was not only wearing, but time consuming. And when we coasted down with no headlights, it was dark.

Time passed and the moon came up, lighting the mountain with a soft golden glow. When I was just a kid, there were already ghost stories abounding about Superstition Mountain. There were stories about Indians and lost gold mines and disappearing prospectors. As a child, all of the stories sort of jumble together and reality isn't any part of them.

With the sun down, the temperatures dropped and Mommy gave us the quilt to cover up with. Huddled under the quilt, we just prayed for the truck to go faster. First Tommie and then Jack fell asleep, leaving me alone in my wary wakefulness.

Then the coyotes began to howl. Long mournful yodeling ululations floated down the dark mountain. I shivered and burrowed further down between my brothers. The truck went around a curve and a long finger of the mountain loomed above us.

Beginning high on the peak, rank upon rank of saguaro men marched down the mountainside, pursuing our truck. More eerie yips and barks poured over us. Ocotillo tepees spiked up through the moonlight. Ghostly aspen and cottonwood leaves whispered in the shadows.
I tightly closed my eyes and then slowly nudged the quilt until it over our heads, covering us completely. Somewhere, in my fervent prayers for safety, I slipped into sleep.

I remember briefly waking when we reached a dam with a small general store. And I remember listening to my father talk of this trip much later when I was older. Apparently, the owners of the store lived above it. Daddy woke them up and they came up with a suitable fan belt. We finally arrived home in the wee hours of the morning.

As an adult, of course, we simply view the terrible inconveniences of such an ordeal. But even now, forty-five years later, I haven't forgotten the delicious terror of that ride along Superstition Mountain.

Anny

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Unhappy Feet

I suppose it's that time of year... you know... when you have to pull out the woolies. The heavy socks. The flannel shirts and pj's. And the cocoa.

Now, maybe it's just me, but isn't it a tad early for winter? What happened to Indian summer? Did I miss it somewhere along the way?

It's coolish as I sit here in my shorts and tee-shirt. Oh, the thermometer across the room says 74 degrees, but the wind zipping through the cracks around the patio door say, "COLD!" That's the down side to having my desk located near the patio door.

Day before yesterday, I treated the house hunk to a hamburger at our favorite joint. I had on sneaker clogs, jean capris, and a tee shirt with a light jacket. The first thing the clerk said to me as I walked in the door was, "Aren't you cold?"

The advantage to extra padding is that you don't get as cold. So, no, I wasn't cold. But when I go to bed at night, my feet are freezing. If I wear socks, they end up lost in the covers in the middle of the night. I'm thinking of inventing an electric blanket that only gets warm at the foot of the bed--kind of like an old fashioned foot warmer. I suppose I could heat up a brick... if I had a brick. Hey, H! Do you suppose that lady that's stealing bricks could send me one?

The weird thing is that my feet don't get cold during the day. I thought about getting a pair of those woolie crocs like Regina talked about on her blog. The trouble is that my feet would get too warm all day. And then I would end up kicking them off. And the doc says that I have to wear shoes all the time now. Apparently, diabetics are prone to infections in the feet.

Well, when I find a solution, I'll let y'all know--just in case somebody else out there has cold feet!

anny

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Things to Do

Things to do when you don't have internet access:

1) Write. You have to do it sometime. If you can't surf the web looking for esoteric facts, you might actually get some writing done.

2) Play solitaire. If you really don't want to write, then you can always play freecell or spider solitaire while you think about what you're going to write eventually.

3) Write a letter to your mother or father. They'll be shocked so make sure you know CPR.

4) Eat breakfast... or lunch. Multitask by eating while playing solitaire.

5) Read an e-book. Double points if you read your own book and it still keeps your interest.

Things to do when you don't have internet OR power.

1) Open the blinds. Yes, that's real daylight out there. Who knew that it was light during the day?

2) Take a shower. Quick before the hot water runs out because the thermostat doesn't work without electricity.

3) Get dressed. When the temperature drops because of the non-working heater thermostat, you'll be warm.

4) Outline all your works in progress. Before the computer and typewriter, writers actually wrote by hand using a pen or pencil and a pad of paper. Shockingly, this still works.

5) Call your friends to inform them that you don't have any power. Extra points if you wake them up to share the news.

Tomorrow is another day. Sigh.

anny

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Running on Empty

Heh. This pic reminds me of times in my marriage when we were both so tired nothing mattered except sleeping. Have you ever had one of those days? Days that you were almost asleep before your head hit the pillow?

Yeah, I've had more than a few. I remember one time when the househunk and I moved our two daughters from two separate apartments into our house...in thirty six hours. One apartment was on the third floor. One of them wasn't even packed. When we got home from returning the rental truck, I don't think we stopped for anything on the way to bed. We just stumbled into our room and dropped. I'm pretty sure that I couldn't bend my knees for a week.

Another time, I drove home from my grandmother's funeral... twenty seven hours straight in a Ford Fiesta with a wonky radiator. We had to stop every hour and put water in the radiator. It was cold, in late November and we were driving through the Pennsylvania mountains. There was no money so we couldn't rent a hotel room. The househunk was at home with a crushed ankle. And I was running on stale coffee and cheeseburgers.

Emergencies seldom arrive when we're prepared, you know. They always show up when things are not quite right. Then wham-mo! I wonder why that is? Running on empty leaves us so unprepared to deal with the disasters in life.

After all these years I try not to reach that point anymore. Regular sleep. Regular meals. Very boring stuff, but it beats the alternative. Someone asked me the other day how I functioned when I stay up all night. Well, I don't really stay up all night. But whatever hour I go to bed, I know that I'll not be waking up until at least seven hours later. That's my personal rule. That's rule number one.

Rule two is that I always have a snack before going to bed. What's that you say? You eat before going to bed? Well, yes. My insulin doesn't work well over a long period of time--particularly at night. So the snack helps keep the insulin levels good. Of course, it doesn't work if the snack is something like a bowl of chocolate ice cream!

Rule three is to always stop and eat my meals on time. That's hard for me because I get distracted. Then suddenly I have a raging headache or other annoyance to deal with. So eat on time.

Rule four is probably more important than all the other rules. Don't sit for longer than thirty minutes without getting up and walking around. I'm not talking about exercise though of course that is a necessary part of life. No, I'm talking about the danger of blood clots in the legs from sitting too long. So I get up. Not because I want to, but because I need to.

Rule five is one that I'm working on. Regular exercise every day. I admit that I'm falling down on that one, but for the moment I'm at least trying to take time everyday to clean up the apartment. Next will be the addition of a walk. All the changes are slow baby steps but I figure that I'll work on one thing at a time.

All of these things are designed to prevent me ever having to deal with that running on empty syndrome. Yep, life happens. Yep, we have to work and shop and do all that other real life stuff. But we don't have to do it while we're running on empty.

How about you? What's your plan?

anny

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dead Relatives Hunt

In my spare time, I'm the family historian. I've been working on it for a while--since I was eighteen. That's uh, well, it's a long time. There have been quite a few adventures in the dead relative's hunt.

My children grew up believing that everyone spent their vacations in cemeteries. The youngest one was shocked when her fourth grade class went on a field trip to a local historical cemetery and her classmates were afraid to get off the bus. She was the only one in her class who knew what a headstone rubbing was.

Cemeteries in the country are not in convenient places. Don't ask me why this is, but I can tell you that (at least in rural America) they're located on the narrowest road in the most out of the way spot possible. As a matter of fact... one of "our" cemeteries is located behind a rest area on a remote two lane road in Texas. Another one is in the poison ivy infested woods in rural Kentucky.

My family were farmers that moved on every generation. Most families had a bunch of kids. The girls married, but that still didn't leave much land to divvy up among the boys so usually the younger ones moved on in search of a little piece of land where they could farm. The earliest generations came into Maryland and Virginia in the 1600's and from then on, they were on the move. The Carolina's, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and finally my parents met in Arizona.

I suppose I come by my restless feet naturally. While my friends shudder at the thought of moving, I always look forward to new places and experiences.

In a couple of weeks I'll be heading out to visit my folks. They live across the country in Texas. On the way, we'll probably take a detour or two to check out a cemetery or library or town hall. We'll take pictures of the land and marvel at the tenacity and determination it required to move across the country with no roads in a wagon or on foot. And when I come home I'll have a renewed appreciation for my ancestors.

That's the real fascination of the dead relatives hunt.

anny

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Confidence

Probably the number one thing that writers struggle with is the question of confidence. Emotionally we carom from one level to another always vulnerable to bad reviews and criticism. Interestingly enough on any given day we could have five fabulous reviews and one poor one and the review we will focus on will be the bad one.

All writers receive bad reviews--and yet we take our own bad reviews far more seriously than we do the reviews for other writers' books. I wonder some days if I will ever reach a point when I have enough confidence in my writing to truly ignore the slings and arrows.

How do writers reach that point? Is it at book fifteen? Or book thirty? Is there a magical point that we reach where we will forever more have confidence in our work? I confess I don't know. In the meantime the best I can do is keep writing those things that entertain me and hope, really hope that they entertain someone else, too.

anny

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blessed

I wonder... Do we know how blessed we are? Really? We are surrounded by abundance in all things. Let us give thanks.

anny

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Comfort Zone

Over the last few weeks I've spent a lot of time surfing the internet and reading books. What am I so interested in? Plans for the future. Retirement is somewhere ahead for the house hunk. And if we plan to live a reasonable life, then we have to make informed decisions about how we will accomplish that.

There is the true minimalist life of living in a Tiny House. That would require some heavy duty downsizing on our part--especially since I'm the original packrat. The house hunk and I measured out the equivalent square space in the dining room. Tiny is definitely the correct word.

Or we could go the Cob Cottage route. It's a feasible choice financially, though it would likely require a move to a state that has more relaxed building codes as few states actually have codes for earthen buildings.

Then there's the ever-popular RV route. I kind of liked the Chalet RV until I checked out the prices. But they are attractive and easy to set up. Pricey, though.

Whatever we do--even if we stay right where we are and just move to a smaller apartment--it will mean major downsizing on our part. Over the last week we've just spent some time thinking about what we would need to pass on to our kids and friends, what we could/should put in storage, and what we would need to toss out.

It's funny. You spend your entire life accumulating stuff and then you reach retirement age and you have to get rid of it. On the other hand, I would rather get rid of it at sixty than at eighty. My folks are faced with exactly the same job. What to do with the stuff?

My children all live in other states. My siblings and parents live two or three days away. Frankly, they don't want any of my stuff because they have plenty of their own. It's only as I sit here looking at the accumulation of things around me that I realize I don't want most of it either!

Interesting epiphany to have at my age. For many years we did without things that we really wanted (notice I didn't say we needed them) and now when we could have almost anything we want because we're finally free of all the responsibilities we had in the past--now there isn't much that I can honestly say that I want.

Most of the things around me are still here for one reason. They're my safety blanket. When you grow up poor and live poor for most of your life, it's difficult to let loose of possessions even after they've lost their usefulness because somewhere in the back of your mind, you're sure that you might need them some day. That stack of twenty-seven legal pads and the eighty or ninety pens you have stashed are sure to come in handy sometime... even if you do most of your writing on a computer. That tiny Christmas tree that's been sitting on the credenza for two years is a treasured reminder of something, I'm sure. And that collection of cobalt glass from the dollar store that hasn't been dusted in... well, a long time, is terribly important. Right?

No, most of the stuff sitting around is simply that. Stuff. And it's mostly there because it's easier to let it sit around than move it. Moving it would require that I think about what to do with it. And anyone who grew up like I did has a very difficult time simply throwing things away. Throwing things away is wasteful. Never mind that there probably isn't anyone on the planet that needs cobalt glass from the dollar store.

Maybe I should open my own internet garage sale... post two or three items each week and see if I have any takers. I could start my own retirement fund out of the proceeds. Hmmmm. Anyone want some cobalt glass from the dollar store?

anny

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sex or Not?

A couple weeks ago I put up two polls for readers to answer two questions. The totals were interesting in that they confirmed what I have been thinking on my own. As a writer, it's always difficult to gauge who our audience is and what they really want.

The feedback that reviewers give us is somewhat skewed as by definition, they are looking for certain things. Their expectations are based on genre and heat level so they comment on those things. But what exactly do the readers want?

In the industry, writers in particular are told two conflicting facts. 1) Readers want more sex in the books. 2) Readers want more story in the books. I wanted to find out what the readers had to say about that.

So here are the overall conclusions: Poll #1 Story vs. Sex--56 voters. From this sampling, one person voted for no sex. Three people wanted more sex than story. The remaining fifty two were fairly evenly split between some sex and half 'n half. Based on the numbers, the majority of the readers definitely want story over sex.

Interesting. In this case, it looks to me like the sex is marginally secondary to the story. So let's look at the second poll.

In this poll the question was not about the quantity of sex, but the heat level. Again, one person voted for no sex. Zero people voted for kisses. Three people voted for closed bedroom door. After that, the numbers really picked up. Fourteen voted for open bedroom door. Thirteen voted for explicit sex (Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, etc.) And twenty three voted for explicit sex and language. This poll was clearly weighted toward explicit sex.

What do the two polls tell us? Actually, they pretty much demonstrate that old saw, "Quality over quantity." Readers are not much interested in our characters jumping in and out of bed every third page as though they're working their way through a sex manual. However, when our characters do make it to bed (or against the wall or in the hot tub), our readers want that scene to be hot with realistic adult action. Our readers are adults, not youngsters dreaming about their princes. Been there, did that.

Clearly, whatever the heat level, our readers want a story--a story that will keep them nailed to the chair, flipping the pages until they reach the end. I want to thank all the people who took time to vote in the poll. I appreciate your input.

If you peek over to the right, you'll notice two new polls. I hope you'll take time to vote in them. They'll be up until midnight on Halloween. I wonder what we'll find out from them?

anny

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My what big teeth...

One of the hallmarks of the vampire is his fangs. And of course most shifters have those canine/feline teeth. And then there are the odds and ends like my blue valley people that have fangs.

Fangs present a special problem for the romance writer. How do you deal with them during... intimate moments? Some writers ignore them, acting as though they aren't there except when it's convenient. It they're short dainty little fangs, that's probably all right.

But if the writer has described them as fangs like a lion--well then, it's going to be hard to ignore them. Another problem is the location of the fangs. Top? Bottom? Both? Anyone ever tried biting down with a set of fangs? You puncture your lips or anything else you're biting. And you have to have your mouth open wide to begin with--like you were going to take a bite out of an apple.

Many writers get around the fang problem by having them only appear under certain circumstances, such as when the vampire is ready to feed, or when the shifter is ready to mate or fight. That seems reasonable to me as long as the writer decides the rules at the beginning of their story--and then they stick to them.

But I have read stories that don't deal with the problem in a sane manner, and those stories leave me wondering how the heck the character worked it all out. Does the heroine spend her entire life with the hero poking holes in her lips when he kisses her? How do they manage other intimacies without major damage? Am I the only one with an inquiring mind?

Also, I wonder how many writers realize how much pressure is required to actually puncture skin. Skin is pretty tough. And while teeth are sharp, they're not exactly needle sharp. Unlike the puppy in the picture, human teeth are a little blunter. So imagine trying to bite an orange--with the peel on it. Our mouths are not exactly shaped for leverage.

Huh. Just wondering. What do you think? Anyone have a theory?

anny

Monday, October 20, 2008

By the numbers...

Do you have too many numbers? Do you have trouble remembering all the passwords and logins and account numbers for every blessed thing out there? Insurance, drivers license, social security, e-mail, bills, checking account, prescriptions... everything has a number.

If you have a problem that you need to discuss with someone, the service rep doesn't want to know your name--they want to know your number. Everything stops if you don't know your number. They're not equipped to find your records any other way.

I wonder what will happen on the day that all the computers stop? Imagine. No records. You could be anyone in the world without your numbers. Maybe they'll start tattooing the numbers on at birth so you can't lose them. Didn't they do that once before?

There are other numbers they expect you to keep track of now. Blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar, thyroid levels and weight. And of course women have those monthly numbers to keep up. Doctors want to know your numbers whenever you drop in for a visit.

What do you suppose the world would be like if the alphabet had never been invented? Would we only have numbers then? Maybe we would all have little glyphs with our group type and then a number. So say that your group type was Orange Butterfly and then the number was 875346. Would that be more cumbersome to deal with than all the other stuff? Just think, you would be completely unique because though there might be other Orange Butterfly's and there might be other 875346's, there wouldn't ever be another Orange Butterfly 875346.

Actually... that might work. From one Orange Butterfly to the others...

anny

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

What's for dinner?

I need a chef. There are two things in life that I would hire somebody to do if I had the money. One is the laundry. The other is cooking. Except for making bread, I'm not really interested in cooking. Period. Ever.

I know how to cook. I just don't like it. So it's especially irritating when I hit a point in my life where I have to plan meals. Eat veggies. Cook breakfast. Ick.

I have a friend who plans her meals by the week. She keeps track of every meal on a calendar. She could tell you what she ate last year on March 19th. I can't tell you what we had for dinner three days ago. Organized I am not.

My idea of a great dinner is something I can cook in one pot. Stew. Chili. Spaghetti comes close because that takes two pots. Dishes aren't my favorite chore either so anything I can cook in one pot is better than anything that takes two pots.

The other problem with cooking is that you have to shop for food. I'm not real big on shopping--especially grocery shopping. First you have to make a list. Then you have to run around the store collecting stuff, stand in line, and finally, haul everything up the stairs and put it away. I never was very big on grocery shopping even back when I used to take the kids.

I had a huge English pram a friend found at a garage sale for me. I had three kids under three. I plopped them all in the pram, dragged the little folding metal cart behind me and off we went. The store was about six blocks away. By the time I shopped, walked home, carted kids and groceries into the apartment and put everything away, it was time for a nap.

So what's for dinner? I don't have a clue. But I do know that we'll have to run to the grocery store before I start to cook. The househunk told me so.

anny

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Good Morning!

Yep. That's exactly what my cat does. Only she does it in the middle of the night. She plants her front paws on my arm, gets up nose-to-nose with me and purrssssss. Sigh.

She's a pretty good cat.

I am not a morning person. For many years--far more than I want to discuss--I had to be up at 4:30 AM to take my husband to the bus. He had a two hour commute each way every day for nineteen years. And I was the family taxi at each end of that commute.

There is nothing like getting up at 4:30 AM to drive someone through six inches of snow in the dark. Except possibly the ice storms. Anyway, I am retired now. And I no longer have to get up at weird hours.

If I wish I can sit up all night reading. Or writing. Or chatting. Because once I go to bed, I get up seven to eight hours later. There are people who don't need that much sleep, but I do. So the going to bed time isn't the important time. It's the getting up time. And that has to at least seven hours or I'm like a zombie for the rest of the day.

I used to feel guilty about sleeping late. But I've decided that there are a host of things to feel guilty about. Sleeping late isn't one of them. This is just pay back for all the years I functioned on three hours of sleep.

So what wakes you up in the morning? An alarm clock? Your kids or spouse? Are you a morning person or are you a night person?

anny

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Heroes

Back in the dinosaur ages... there were some pretty creative television shows. One of the favorites at our house was the one with KITT the talking car. My kids would sit glued to the television set, barely breathing while that show was on. The car didn't just talk--it did all sorts of cool stunts.

Of course, there was MacGyver. That show introduced the concept of adaptation--use what you have to fix your problem. Week after week after week, kids watch Mac demonstrate creative problem solving. Did he stand around wringing his hands, hoping for someone to rescue him? Heck, no! He hauled out the duct tape and chocolate bars and made it work... whatever it was.

Nickelodean had a wonderful series called the Tomorrow People. It was about a group of kids that had all sorts of psychic powers. They lived a secret life, always on the run from the government that wanted to use them for bad things. The series explored all sorts of concepts like time travel, personal responsibility, consequences and loyalty. Recently, my son located a site that had several old episodes on the internet. It was interesting to watch them nearly thirty years later.

Of course there was the Six Million Dollar Man--and Woman. And even to a lesser extent, Wonder Woman. What did all of these shows have in common? There was no doubt about who the good guys were. There was no ambivalence about who the kids were supposed to root for. And whatever temptations were trailed in front of them, the good guys never fell for them, never gave in, never took that short cut. Sure, they were smart, good looking, could do nifty tricks but underneath all the whiz-bangery there were clear values. For the most part they solved their problems without firearms or even major violence. Sexual connotations were almost nil. The heroes and heroines were frequently involved in situations that demonstrated compassion and humanity.

I suppose that's why I'm really not interested in watching television anymore. There are already too many bogeymen in my life without watching a few more on TV. There are already enough cheap jokes and careless jibes in the world around us. Why watch more on the box?

I do miss the real deal. Especially the talking car.

anny

Monday, October 13, 2008

Solutions

Actually, I'm kinda past it, but in the last few weeks I've developed some strategies to deal with it.

1) Go for a walk. Now I'm not crazy about walking. My hip joints protest and I breathe like a steam whistle but according to all sorts of people who believe that they know more than I do, walking is supposed to be good for you. So go for a walk. When you get back you'll be too tired to write so it won't matter whether you have writer's block or not.

2) Take a nap. See number one. After your walk, you'll be tired so it's completely logical for you to then take a nap. Also, if you're sleeping it won't matter if you have writer's block. You'll be sleeping so you won't care.

3) Scrub the toilets. According to the people who really get all het up about housekeeping, this is supposed to be done every century or so. Since you're not doing more important things (like writing) you may as well get this job done for the next, oh, lifetime. Then you won't have to worry about it when you decide that writing is more fun.

4) Do the laundry. No one can explain to me why we have to wear clothing, but eh, if you occasionally dress there will eventually be a load of laundry. So on those odd days when you have nothing better to do (like writing) gather it all up and toddle off to the laundromat. While there you can watch Judge Judy or Oprah or Dr. Phil and that will be enough to depress you so much that you can go directly to number two when you get home, thus alleviating depression because you're sleeping.

5) Bake some cookies. Everybody knows that the primary cause of writer's block is malnourishment, mainly because of lack of chocolate and sugar. Chocolate chip cookies are excellent sources of chocolate and sugar. Actually Tim-Tams would be better but the Aussies tend to be a bit peckish about us taking their cookies so... chocolate chips are a good second choice.

6) Read a book. There are two schools of thought on what type of book to read. You could read a bad book--no not a naughty book--a bad book. A wall banger book. That kind that is sooooo bad that you stomp around belly achin' that you could do better. So go do so. ORRRRR, you read a wonderful book... the kind that inspires you so that you say, "I want to write a book like that!" And you do so.

7) Watch the grass grow. This will fill many, many hours. It also is sometimes boring, so boring that people go directly to number two. Or even better, they are forced to work on number five. However, if you persevere, you will eventually have to mow the lawn which is also a good form of excercise. Almost as good as number one.

8) Do the dishes. Now I'm of the personal opinion that doing dishes is a dead-end job. You never, ever finish. Never. Somewhere in the apartment or house, there is another dirty dish. Who came up with the bright idea of having dishes, anyway? If we still ate out of the communal pot all we would have to wash is our hands. What's up with all these pots, pans, dishes and silverware? Oh yeah. I have heard through the grapevine that some people think while they do dishes. I don't believe that--it's just a nasty rumor.

9) Call your mother. Or a reasonable substitute (great aunt, second cousin...) When she demands to know what is wrong (because of course you never call) immediately begin sobbing and confess that you're having a mad passionate affair with... the bagger at your grocery store. It won't help your writer's block, but after listening to your mother chew you out for two or three hours, you won't care. Likely, you'll go directly to number two or number five. That's okay, too.

10) Buy a gallon of double chocolate ice cream, cherries, whipped cream, and bananas. Oh yeah, don't forget the nuts. Invite your neighbor over for banana splits--even if you don't know the neighbor! After your gesture of good will, you'll be on a first name basis with the neighbor. If he's a hunky male, make sure that you inform him that it's his turn to provide the ice cream.

None of the above will help writer's block, but you won't care anymore.

anny

Friday, October 10, 2008

Are we done?

Oh, goodness! I'm at the point in my current work in progress where I want to tear my hair out and scream, "Are we done yet???"

Every writer has a point that they find difficult. For some it's the beginning. For some it's the middle. But for me, it's always the end. The last few chapters seem endless. Never-ending. They go on forever. I'm not sure why, but that's the way it is with me.

In the current wip, I've reached the point where I've done most of the story building. Now I have to gather up all the loose ends and tie them up in a pretty bow. I detest stories that do that all in the last three paragraphs. I like to sort of string them out. So... I'm stringing. And trying not to reveal too many answers too quickly.

In the meantime, I'm working on a couple other wips. Shorter, less complicated stories. And there are days that I feel like the guy in that commercial with all the spinning plates up in the air.

Are we there yet? No, not quite. But we're getting there. Thank you to all who have offered input. I appreciate it very much.

anny

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Intervention

There is no person so annoying as the person who tries to manage your diet, whether that person is a friend, enemy, spouse, child, or even a company.

I believe in good health. I wish I had been more vigilant with my own. But that doesn't mean that I want the diet police at my home or job or in a restaurant.

You know that ones I'm talking about, right? They're the ones that give you that sorrowful look and and ask, "Is that cracker/ice cream/cheesecake/chocolate on your diet?" or "Are you supposed to be eating that piece of toast?"

As the individual on the restricted diet, I'm the most likely to know whether the answer to the questions above are "yes" or "no". As I found out over the last few weeks there are a host of incorrect perceptions about what I can eat--or not eat. And I'm also the person who knows what the consequences are if I eat something I'm not supposed to eat.

It's pretty much the same thing as those people who smoke or drink or pour salt on everything they eat. Yep. Almost everyone does something they shouldn't do. We all pay the price when we do. And when paying the price we learn a valuable lesson. "Just say NO!"

The thing is... there really are a minimal number of things I cannot eat. Chicken--violently allergic. Corn--shoots my sugar into the stratosphere. Decaf anything--sets off an allergic reaction that cuts off my air supply. Other than that I can eat ANYTHING.

However as with just about all the other people in the good old USA, it's all about portion control. Nasty words. Nope most of us really don't need a ten ounce steak. Most of us don't need a potato the size of Idaho. Most of us don't really need to supersize anything. See? That was easy.

If I want to eat 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes as one of my carb choices, well, okay. Personally, I would rather have a bowl of broccoli, but hey, that's just me. If I want 1/2 cup of ice cream for dessert... that's okay, too. That's pretty much the way life is.

Now 1/2 cup is not much. But it's my "not much." So for the diet police out there--bug off. My joys might be small, but I still want them. If I'm good this week I can even have 1/2 cup of cheesecake!

anny

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Soapbox Part 2

Ah, service... I wonder what happened to service?

Last week I went to my bank to order an electronic funds transfer to my daughter's bank. Thursday was the day. Since it was after three p.m. the clerk informed me that the transfer would be taken care of first thing Friday morning. All right.

Friday late afternoon my daughter called to tell me the money never arrived. I called the bank and asked for the same clerk I worked with the day before. They informed me that she was not working that day and asked what the problem was. After explaining the problem, the woman on the phone informed me that the transfer had been done. According to her, it sometimes took as long as 48 hours.

On Sunday my daughter called again. No money. So I called my bank again (yes, they're open on Saturday and Sunday!) The original clerk would be back to work on Monday. In the meantime the new clerk on the phone checked her computer and informed me that she didn't see any sign of a transfer in the works. However, she would leave an urgent note for the original clerk.

On Monday I called the bank. My clerk was there, working on the transfer. She would call me back. Never heard from her. At noon I began calling every half hour. At two thirty I informed her that my daughter would have no heat that night if the money was not transferred in time for her to pay the bill.

Fifteen minutes later the transfer was complete.

So here's my thought. Move the rest of my money to some other bank! Preferably one that actually is interested in providing service.

Everyone has a bad day sometimes. But that wasn't an acceptable excuse this time.

Okay, I'll get down off my soapbox. Seems like I'm spending a lot of time up there lately.

anny

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Troubles...

Ain't it the truth? There are a bunch of blogs out there about life on the down and dirty. I won't even mention the economy. My son-in-law hasn't had a job in the last year. The other one works intermittently because his job depended on the housing boom--you know, the one that went bust?

People everywhere have to make choices between eating or meds or gas. Winter's on the way. Heating costs are rising. The hottest item in NY is a kerosene heater because people can't afford the cost of heating fuel.

Food? What's that? It's too late in the year to start a garden. The squirrels are starting to look good, aren't they? It's amazing how perspective can change when your basic needs are not met. Things you would never imagine doing suddenly seem normal.

People who never had to worry about their next meal are now lining up at food pantries. And the food pantries are collapsing under the weight. Generic and store brand staples are the new popular brands. With credit lines shutting down, people are rediscovering cash. Who knows? Perhaps some will learn that skill that's in such short supply--counting!

An acquaintance of mine never moved his mindset out of the past. He doesn't understand why people need more than twenty thousand a year to live on. We haven't figured out a way to tell him that hasn't been possible for a while...at least in suburbia America.

People who live on credit are in for an especially hard jolt. Credit cards plus loss of job equals catastrophe. Depression is at an all time high in our country with the predictable results or suicide, murder, child abuse, and all those other problems.

I bet about now that you're wishing you hadn't read this blog. Stick with me. We have some good things that can come from this mess. We can start working together. We can begin bartering for the things we need--skills for skills. We can learn about old-fashioned virtues that we've forgotten like delayed gratification, saving, and thrift. I bet there are some people who have no idea what that word means.

I grew up in the sixties in a household that was below the poverty level. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that we were "poor". We didn't go without. We had food--balanced meals--on the table for every meal. Mom bought day-old bread (it tasted just like the other bread!) for half price. She walked the extra blocks to shop for the corn or green beans where it was three cents less a can. Meat portions weren't enough to feed a small country; they were enough to feed our family. Clothes were hand me downs, but they were in good shape with no holes or tears.

Perhaps as a nation we've grown arrogant and wasteful. We believe we're entitled to everything we desire. I just haven't figured out where that attitude came from. The vast majority of people in this country actually own very little. Most of their belongings are the property of the failed mortgage companies and the failing credit card companies.

If you had to walk away tomorrow with what you actually owned, what could you take with you? I meant that "walk" literally because most of us don't own our cars.

Fear can be a good thing if it makes us stop and really take a hard look at our lives. If we look, learn, and make some life changing decisions it could be the making of us and our country. I hope so.

anny

Monday, October 6, 2008

Stuffed

As many of you know, I attend a diabetic clinic every other week. It's been an interesting learning experience. This last meeting we discussed making wise choices while eating out. Of course, part of that discussion revolved around portion size.

When our facilitator pointed out that a ten ounce steak was about twice as much as the guys should be eating and three times what the women should eat, the women just nodded and went on with the program, but the fellows... well, they were not happy.

The house hunk and I regularly order one entree plus two extra vegetables and split the entree. We've done that for several years now. A nice little seven ounce steak is perfect. One baked potato cut in half. Two salads and a side order of broccoli or green beans for me. If we decide to indulge in dessert, we choose on that we both like. Of course, we rarely choose dessert and when we do, we seldom finish it, but sometimes you just want a little taste of something sweet.

When we leave the restaurant, we aren't hungry! As a matter of fact we often time it so that we will be doing some chore afterward that requires some walking (like grocery shopping!)

I've spent considerable thought on the super-sizing of America. When did that happen? When did more become the norm? And why are we so shy about speaking up? I don't have a problem asking the wait person to bring me a take-out container with my meal. Box up half before beginning to eat. Then I won't need to cook the next night, either.

I asked one of my favorite hamburger places why they didn't have a small french fry order. The fellow pointed to the menu and said, "We do!" A small order of fries in this joint fills a brown paper bag (lunch size). When we eat there, I count out fifteen fries. The house hunk counts out his fries. Then we toss a bag of perfectly good food in the trash. Yes, I know that hurts my friend Kelly, but damaging my own health by eating it will not feed starving people anywhere in the world. It won't. By tossing it in the trash, it makes a point with the restaurant, though. Less is sometimes more.

Calories and fat aside, we all eat too much. When we eat at buffets I'm convinced that there is some psychological reason for us to fill four or five plates with food and eat it when we would never do that at home. Have you ever watched people eat at a buffet? They act as though they haven't eaten in months.

Why is it so hard to buy a small meal in our country? Of course we could order from the children's menu, but quite frankly, their menus are far unhealthier than the adult menus. Really. Check it out.

I suspect that things won't change until attitudes change. And attitudes won't change as long as men (in particular) associate eating a lot with being manly. Masculinity is not determined by how much you can stuff in your face. Femininity is not determined by how much we stuff in our kids.

'nuff said. I'll get off my soapbox now.

anny

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I love you

"Faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love." St. Paul to the Corinthians

I deal with the subject of love everyday. It's my stock in trade. Without love, romance doesn't mean much. Gigolo's stock in trade is romance. They have it down pat... flowers, candlelight, great sex. But without love, it's all ashes in the mouth.

Love is one of the great mysteries in life. Why do we love one person and not another? Why does one speak to our heart when another would be more suitable or logical?

How does a parent's love work? All children are precious so why do our children touch us so much? Is it really all about genetics or biology? And if it is, then what about children/parents of adoption?

What about that friend we make that becomes the sister/brother of our heart? Where does that love come from? How marvelous that we have the capacity to love--to share our heart with another person.

Are we losing that capacity in the modern day rush for survival and success? Can we still reach out and touch the lives of others around us--not for gain, but for love?

"Love doesn't make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile."~~Franklin P. Jones

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Paint Your... Cat

My daughter sent me an e-mail with about a dozen painted cats.
Some of the paint jobs cost $15,000 and had to be repeated

every 3 months as the cat's hair grows out. Must be nice to

have $60,000 a year just to keep your cat painted!!


Now, I figure in this day and age when there are millions of children, cats, and dogs... not to mention human adults who are literally starving, I would be very darned embarrassed to publicly exhibit the proof that I had nothing better to do with my money than paint my poor cat.
Maybe some people really have no shame.

anny

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Truth

Truth is in the mind of the speaker. My truth may not be your truth. And yours may not be mine. It mostly depends on our experience and cultural background.

When you ask another person to tell you the truth, it is likely that you will not be happy with their version. And yet, sometimes another person's version of the truth is something that we need to hear. As my friend Janet would say, its another opinion. Everyone has one.

The difficulty begins when we take another individual's truth as our own. Sometimes this happens because we are easily influenced. Sometimes it happens because the other person is charismatic. But the worst is when we take that truth as ours because that person is our friend. That's when truth and trust get mixed up and combined.

Trust is our dependence on the other person to tell us their version of the truth--whether we agree with it or not. But we must never swap out that trust in place of the truth. Our truth is what we know in our heart. If we discard our truth for another, then we betray ourselves.

For the last several weeks, I have been seeking the truth on many levels. Personal, professional, and even in the outer world. It is a difficult commodity to locate, isn't it? Everywhere we turn there is a new truth for us to face.

In the public arena sound-bites are posed as the truth. And yet... are they? I wonder how many people track down the story behind the sound-bites? A few years ago, there was a movie about a politician who needed a war... (I confess that I've forgotten exactly why)...anyway, he hired a famous director to produce his war. The entire war was fake, but the press was manipulated in such a way that the public truly believed that we were at war. After all, they had pictures, didn't they?

The economy is doing the tango. Everyone has a plan. Everyone has a truth to explain why we're all dancing. Who's truth is the right one? When will we stop dancing long enough to find out?

Oh yeah... if you thought this blog was about you--it's not! And that's the truth!

anny