Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good Day!!!

It was Ken’s birthday today.  We don’t really do a lot for birthdays but he got a cake and lots of well wishes.  It was also a beautiful day today which means work was less stressful on him. 

I also got home last night to a package from Pillhill Press.  I’d ordered copies of the book where my short stories are published.  They arrived yesterday!!  Here is a picture of the cover.

Photo snapped on my cell phone...

Also my second posting on my new blog came out today.  The web address for it is here:  http://www.naturalhomeandgarden.com/green-gardening/gardening-with-a-black-thumb-landscaping-tips.aspx  The pictures in there turned out really good so go check it out.  There is a bit of advice and a bit of humor for my black thumb state.

My Fiction Writing class is going to be interesting next week.  I’m going to have my short story critiqued.  I can’t say anything.  I just have to sit there and take notes.  This should be interesting.  I don’t know if they are going to like the story as when we talk in class these people (yes I’m making a concerted effort to not call them kids) seem very idealistic and high brow.

We were having a discussion on happiness and whether you can successfully write about happiness.  The article we had to read was quite scathing and condescending.  I disagreed with him.  I think in poetry particularly you can write about happiness.  The professor said we can only see the happy moments in hind sight.  I was appalled at that – how can you not be aware enough to recognize those moments.  I raised my hand (sometimes I wish I had someone to restrain me in class and my damn hand going up) and disagreed with her.  She told me that perhaps being older makes it easier for me to recognize those moments. 

Now I’m not touching about my age.  I’ll soon be 48 and am quite proud of that.  But in this instance I wanted to say it has nothing to do with age but with an awareness of how rare and fragile happiness is.  I mean really can you name a lot of truly completely happy moments in your life?  If you are lucky you are nodding and saying hell yes! 

I think happiness is the carrot and life is the stick.  The problem is life is happiness if you let it be but people don’t recognize that even when you are fighting or struggling or just having a bad hair day – you can still find happy moments in your day.  It is the little things – really as much of a cliché as that is – that matter the most.  (This from the wise old age of 48!!!)

Anyways – I’m enjoying my classes and feel challenged by them.  This is a good thing in the second week of classes.  My professors are miles and miles better than the two I had last semester. 

Next week I’ll find out if I can reach the audience of college students with my short story.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Procrastination

I think I’ve earned a doctorate in this.  Yesterday I worked on organizing, cleaning, and clearing out some of my office.  It was completely a procrastination attempt for doing my paper.  It always takes me a bit to settle into homework but this weekend I was off the charts with procrastinating. 

The good thing about that is I got my office picked up and organized a bit more.  I sorted through paperwork.  I filed, created files, threw out, and took care of a large amount of paper.  It was a very productive morning.  I got a bunch of tax stuff organized (yup it is nearly that time of year again).  I even found more articles for my paper.

Finally I settled down to reading.  For a two page paper I have ten articles.  I discarded fifteen other articles.  I have six pages of notes.  I worked most of the day with the procrastinating cleaning and working on homework.  Still no paper yesterday.

I spent the evening (after 7) with Vicki watching stuff on the DVR and crocheting.  I’m currently working on Stephanie’s afghan.  It is star shaped and takes me an hour to do one round.  I’m also working on a wrap for Vicki.  It is made with a large hook and simple pattern so I get a lot of progress with little effort. 

At midnight I came back to my desk with the intention of reading the final article and starting to write.  That didn’t happen.  I played on the computer.  I’m loving Rummy 500 in the Hoyle games right now.  However, I did send my professor for Fiction Writing my short story.  I have no idea how she will take it.  It isn’t due for a while so this gives me a chance to change it if need be.

This morning I finally sat down and wrote my paper.  I had to stop at one point to email my professor because it ended up being just slightly longer than three pages.  Fortunately she was quick about the turn around and told me that was just fine. 

All that’s left is editing it one more time.  I’ve read it through once and so has Vicki.  I will go through it one more time before I submit it.  My mini to do list is almost all done.  That is somewhat shocking.  I even added things to it as the weekend has progressed and most of those are done too.  I guess I did procrastinate but in a good productive way – if that is possible.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

First Full Week

I’ve had my first full week of classes.  I’m exhausted (and feel somewhat old), overwhelmed, and a bit excited. 

My fiction writing class seems like it will be a lot of fun.  I am looking forward to the critiques of my fellow students.  We will be turning in two short stories for the class and she wants literary rather than genre driven so that will be interesting.  I’m not sure what type of story that entails.  I’ve got tons of ideas for what I want to do so I have to narrow it down.

My book editing class I feel very overwhelmed in and yet at the same time I feel very intellectually stimulated by it.  I think that I’m going to learn a lot about the business end of the publishing field.  While I may not want to enter that field, I believe it will help me develop a better package if I opt to go with traditional publishing for my books. It will be a good reminder that publishing is a business and that means authors have to approach it as such.  Most authors I know are more artsy about this so it is the balance I’m going to have to work to maintain.

I’ve got a bunch of homework to do this weekend.  I’ve got 14 short stories to read (not all this weekend) and I need to decide on what I will submit for my first one or start writing a new one.  I’ve got a research project to get done, two page paper, and a bunch of articles to read.  Plus it is a pay week so there is a lot to do.  It will be jam packed and busy I’m sure.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Blog

When visiting with Laura and Karen recently, I told them about this new blog I was writing a blog about growing things.  They were appalled.  Now don’t be down on them their reaction was priceless and absolutely correct.  I cannot grow anything.  For me to write about plants seems ridiculous.  I have the blackest thumb in the universe. 

I love plants.  I love flowers and they bring me such peace and pleasure.  It makes me sad that I cannot grow anything.  Having a black thumb is going to be my focus.  I’m going to try to talk about ways to overcome this black thumb curse.  To that end – please come visit my new blog at:


For those of you who are good with plants and such you might want to check out the rest of the web site.  It has some really good stuff…

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Colds

Wednesday night my throat started to hurt.  It was scratchy and dry.  I actually lost my voice at one point during the evening.  Ice cream went a long way in easing these symptoms.  By the end of the evening my head was stuffed up and I had that clogged feeling as well in the back of my throat.  I was feeling pretty miserable. 

Thursday I got up and used eucalyptus in my shower.  I left the fan off so the steam would just linger even while I was drying off.  I was tired all day and just wanted to go home for a nap.  I made it all the way through work though.  When I got home Vicki had made a pasta dish so it would be easy on my throat.  She also made me hot cinnamon tea.  Now I’m not a tea or coffee drinker but this tea was pretty good.  It definitely helped with the throat.  She also pushed the fluids with me, got me water and an Izzie (best drink ever).  I spent the evening working on fleece blankets.  Oh and don’t forget the ice cream which again feels really good on my throat. 

Friday I took another eucalyptus shower.  I had the fan on this time so the steam didn’t linger which was probably a mistake.  I have a shorter day at work so will hopefully get to go home and finish the fleece blanket I have started.  I’m also hoping for more cinnamon tea and lots of relaxing. 

Yesterday and today I’ve been resting a lot, pushing the fluids, and staying out of the cold.  We had a hearty soup filled with good veggies especially onions and garlic.  Still the cold has settled into my head and throat.  Hopefully my preventative stuff will keep it from getting horrible.  I really don’t have time for a cold…

Coupons

I have become obsessed with coupons lately.  When I know I’m going to buy a particular product then I go to Google, type in the name, add the word coupon and see what is out there.  Vicki does most of our shopping and she has become an expert.  In two shopping trips she saved us over $35 just by using coupons.  That’s enough money to cover one of her prescriptions. 

I know a lot of coupons are only pennies off but if you use them wisely you can save some big money.  Here are a few of the tips we follow:

1.      Don’t bother with coupons for items you aren’t going to use.  Unless you want to try something new it is just a waste of money to buy a product that will never get used.
2.      Watch for sales of items you use, add in the coupons savings and you are saving even more.  We just went to Walgreens where we buy most of our over the counter stuff and they were having a special on buy one get one half off or free.  Just by paying attention to this we were able to save over $100 in in-store specials and then another $7 in coupons.
3.      Ask friends and family if they get coupons in their papers or mail.  Trade with them for their unused coupons.  Hopefully you don’t all use the same products.
4.      Mine the flyers for the stores where you shop.  This will allow you to make the most of your coupons and stretch your money. 
5.      Go to the website for products you use regularly.  Sign up for their newsletters and offers.  This may get your coupons that aren’t published in the papers and other places.  You can sometimes even get free samples from them. 
6.      Google is your friend.  There are a ton of sites out there that offer coupons.  Go to Google and search the name of the product and add coupon.
7.      One site I’ve found (and I’m sure there are a ton more) is coupon.com. They seem to have a variety and all you have to do is wade through the listing to find what you need.  It is fairly easy to use.
8.      For non-perishable items, when they go on sale, stock up.  I buy a particular brand of juice.  I can’t ever find coupons for it but it doesn’t have to be refrigerated so when the store has a sale we buy extra.   

I’m not a coupon queen in any way but these few tips I hope will help people get started.  While 40 cents on dish soap may not seem like a lot of money, when you have 10 coupons for that or more it can add up pretty quickly.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Semester

Classes started this week.  I have one assignment of reading which I’ll tackle this weekend I think.  I also have a few other things I want to get done before the semester gets into full swing.  My to do list include finishing a few sewing projects, making fake blood to redo my cover shot for my book, and a few other things.  Well in reality there are about two dozen other things but I know I won’t get it all done.  I did spend some time organizing my desk.  I have things in piles.  I might have to actually write up a to-do list and see how it comes out. 

I enjoyed my Book Editing class.  My instructor is sarcastic and ironic.  I like that.  First impressions are good.  Now I’ll just have to see how the semester plays out.  I didn’t have my Monday night class yet because of course this last Monday was a holiday.  I’m looking forward to finding out about that class. 

The Fiction Writing class I hope will be a challenge so I end up with expanding my writing muscles.  I also hope I come out with product I can submit for publication.  I am most apprehensive about this class as my last writing class was such a debacle.  Time will tell I guess…

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter with a Vengence

Wouldn't you know that we had mild winter weather which I was enjoying even if other people weren't and then the new semester starts and we are slammed.  We've had rain, snow, and frigid weather.  The temps without windchill have been in the single digits mostly but the windchill has been well below zero. 

The problem with this is it makes it exceedingly difficult to clear snowy and icy surfaces.  When people do their oh-my-it-is-fucking-cold rush to their vehicles, they have to also do some sort of winter waddle to avoid slipping on the sidewalks and parking lots. 

The cold is like a hot knife slipping through butter.  It makes my lungs feel like they are going to shatter.  It steals my breath and slices through layers of clothing with complete disregard for the aches I'm already feeling.  The chill cuts through every layer as if I were standing naked. 

Today they are calling for another snow bombing.  They say up to 7 inches but who knows.  This is one field where you are allowed to be wrong frequently.  The sky is low and gray.  It weighs down the landscape like an anchor.  The cold clings to everything with a dampness that penetrates my joints making me feel 90 instead of 47. 

There is a beauty in this cycle.  I know there is a lot of grumbling over the weather.  I would rather be home by my fireplace during the bad weather but looking outside you sense the cycle of the seasons.  Yes it is cold and the roads will suck before noon unless I miss my guess.  However, the snow and the cold allow the plant and the earth to rejuvenate.  The snow will help replenish the water table.  The cold, as it is meant to, will keep people inside and slowing down literally and figuratively.  If the snow is chaotically blowing and making travel impossible you can’t go out in it without a somewhat serious risk.  When we aren’t scurrying around from place to place we are forced to do more insular things like reading, crafting, cleaning house, and just being inside.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Surprise!!!

This was a weekend of surprises for some people.  Virginia and Stephanie flew home from Georgia to surprise Vicki for her birthday.  We also planned to surprise mom because she didn’t get to see them the last time they were home.  The girls got a fabulous deal on the tickets and it all went smoothly.  Mom knew once they hit the airport for pick up that one of the girls was coming in but not both of them. 

Vicki on the other hand knew something was up.  There were just too many factors sticking out – like extra food bought, questions about what she was going to do and so on.  What can I say – we just aren’t good at keeping secrets. 

Saturday morning the girls show up and mom was surprised to see both of them.  Vicki wasn’t surprised but was very pleased.  We had a great time with a few family members and friends who stopped by but mostly it has been just our core family hanging out and doing stuff.  There has definitely been little sleep, lots of laughter, and just a joy in being together. 

Unfortunately it is another quick visit and tomorrow is our last day together.  I’ve gotten quiet time with both girls which is nice so we can have mom / daughter conversation.  This has been a great bonus for me just before the craziness of my semester starts and I’ve loved every moment of it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

End of the Work Week

Today is my last day of work for the week.  I’m going to have a four day weekend.  It promises to be a very full weekend.  Then next week starts the new semester.  I’m very excited to start classes.  This time around I’m taking Fiction Writing and Book Editing.  I can’t wait to see how they turn out – hopefully better than last semester.

While I got my books (thanks Alicia) for school, I need to get my bag ready as everything is scattered in my office.  My netbook which I love has been used all over the place but now it needs to go in my bag so I can have it for school.  I have to get binders ready for each class.  I cleared out last semesters stuff.  I didn’t keep any of the work. 

I may or may not try to get some of the work printed from the Creative writing class.  I was so disappointed with the class I have a hard time adding any of the work to my works list and marketing it.  I need a bit of distance before I decide.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Took the Plunge

We bought a minivan.  We found a really good deal and I like it a lot.  We signed the paperwork and got the insurance set up Monday.  We turned over a large check and got the van. 

Ken cleaned out the garage so I can still park it in the garage.  There is a garage door opener right in the van so we programmed that first thing.  I like that feature. 

The best thing about the van is that it has stow and go seats.  I am able to put the seats up and down on my own.  I don’t have to wait for Ken to take out a seat.  We don’t have to figure out where we are storing a seat.  Also when the seats are set up it gives me more cargo space.  I like that because the next time we drive to Georgia it will give us the room to take the scooter with us and still have room for luggage.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Buying a Car

I hate car shopping.  It is complicated and has more impact on the budget than most people consider.  Not only do you have to think about what you are paying for the car, how much it is worth, and what your payments will be but you also have to think about how much your insurance will cost.  Other things to consider is how old the car is, how many miles it has on it, and how soon will you have to replace it?  

For me, I have to look at how it fits.  I’m a large woman with a handicap so I have to fit comfortably and be able to drive without it hurting my bad ankle, knees and so on.  Also I now have a folding scooter that needs to fit in the vehicle.  The scooter allows me to go places I can’t without it.  Many stores provide scooters but they aren’t always charged properly or are available. 

We’ve been shopping.  We have a budget according to what our lender is willing to loan us and what is within our price range for keeping the monthly payments manageable.  I’ve looked at a lot of vehicles.  I’ve done research online for vehicles and vehicle values.

You know what is truly astounding to me?  That salesmen and dealers are more conscious of the tools available to buyers.  Maybe I’m just really anal about this stuff but I don’t want to pay more for a vehicle than Kelly Blue Book or NADA (this is what a lot of financial institutions use to look up car value) says a vehicle is worth.  Also with the research tools available online dealers have to know they aren’t just competing with the dealer down the road but with those 50 – 100 miles away. 

Yet I’m looking at cars and seeing prices that are 3-5K higher than the value of the vehicle.  To me this is a rip off and I question whether they are reputable.  I spoke with our lender and he said by buying a vehicle that overpriced you are instantly underwater on the vehicle.  This means you have an asset that you owe more than it is worth on.  That is not a good financial decision. 

I am struggling with whether to buy a vehicle we can just pay for which will in reality only last us a year or two which will have little impact on our monthly budget.  The other option is to buy a vehicle which will hopefully last us three to six years but will impact our monthly budget significantly.  My third option is to just wait to buy a car until later in the year.  My car does have 193,000 miles on it though. 

Stay tuned to see what we end up doing

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rockhead

Growing up on a farm, the spring ritual was to pick rocks.  Mostly the rocks we picked were generic looking and unremarkable.  We spent hours walking up and down every field keeping a sharp eye out for rocks big enough to wreak havoc on the machinery that would follow our tasks.  Every now and again though there would be something beautiful that just had to find its way home.  Considering my family’s obsession with rocks, I’m surprised that more didn’t find their way home. 

One rock looked like a bus and my sister painted it that way.  Another rock was a Wisconsin jade that was beautiful – I don’t know what happened to that one.  Yet another was so unique in form that my second oldest sister took it to a geology professor and had it tested.  My mom still has the rock in her house with a note about what was discovered.

Some of the larger stones were put on the edge of our yard as a decoration.  When my folks moved to Missouri they took those bits (large bits) of Wisconsin with them. 

We no longer farm and those hours walking the fields picking stones are gone.  Our obsession with stones has not gone away though.  Every member of my family has a love for stones.  I know mine are everywhere.  My house has stones in every room much to the dismay of my husband.  I have some in my car, at work, and in my purse.  

When I find a rock that I have to have, it is like an old friend coming home to me.  The rocks offer a comfort and beauty I don’t get elsewhere.  When I buy a new stone, I usually sit with it on my chest while I crochet or read.  I’m imbuing it with my own energy and absorbing its energy.   

Sometimes during the spring I miss those walks, the dirt between my toes, the smell of fresh soil, and discovering pieces of our foundation.  I guess you can take the girl off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Back at Work

I can’t say it was an awful day back at work.  I got back into the swing of things quite quickly.  Napping was certainly something I wanted by about mid day but I got caught up on emails and other things. 

I have to say I am impressed with all the work my student workers got done while I was gone.  They assembled furniture and rearranged furniture.  They did a variety of tasks which cleared up a number of tasks for the department. 

For only being off eleven days, I struggled a bit with the schedule again.  I just hate mornings.  I would rather start at noon.  I know the world doesn’t revolve around my sleep schedule but really 5:30 was too early this morning.  I was so out of it that I forgot to take utensils with me so I could eat my lunch. 

I’m sure it will take me a few days to get back into the swing of things.  I’m hoping that I will get back to it quickly because I have new classes to tackle in two weeks.

Vicki and I spent a nice quiet evening listening to music and reading.  I actually managed to say at the end of this chapter I’m quitting and did it.  This rarely happens for me – I usually read three more chapters.  I’m going to attempt to do the nearly impossible and go to bed earlier than 11:30 tonight…

Monday, January 2, 2012

Published in 2012

One of my poems is published in the current issue of CC&D.  You can view it at http://scars.tv/ccd-new-issue.htm and if you want a hard copy of it you can buy it at http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/ccd-v228-%280112%29/18792726?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/1

It is very reasonably priced and hopefully you will enjoy what I have in there and what all the other authors did as well.  I’ve ordered my copy and am looking forward to seeing it in print.

Surgery and Other Updates

Last Wednesday I had sinus surgery.  It was a day surgery where they cleaned out my sinuses, straightened a deviated septum, narrowed some b...