NaNoWriMo and "The High Bridge"

Well, I’m back to the blog after a very hectic NaNoWriMo whirlwind project.

As I mentioned before, I’ve never written a novel in a month before. I’ve spent a month (many, actually) doing straight writing, but to have a set goal within a specific timeframe is an entirely new subject to me.

I’m happy to say that I was successful! On November 20th, I hit the 50,000 wordcount required to “win” the National Novel Writing Month ‘contest’, and on November 25th, I wrote my last line of the project bringing it to a count of 61,000+. There are drafts and then there are ROUGH drafts, and anything coming out of a NaNoWriMo wordrace is going to be very rough indeed. It should be. The point is to write, write, write and write some more, right? Well, since writing that last line, I’ve been doing a lot of editing and at the moment, the manuscript is up to ~ 68,000. Unless I come up with some genius idea, I don’t think I’ll get far beyond 70K.

And that’s fine.

In the past thirty-some-odd years, I've written a lot of things, from FanFict to Sci-Fi to Historic Romance, but this is the first time I've written anything that I feel might be publishable. Now is when writing gets scary. Now is when I have to learn how to sell myself. It's like a job interview for your dream job, only ten times as important. If you don't do well in a regular job interview, you can somewhat write it off as "you weren't exactly the right candidate for the job". If your manuscript is rejected, it's like being told that your baby is so ugly, they're willing to put it to death for you.

And here I thought I never wanted kids...


Photos to Marvel at

My friends Jack and Gina took a trip earlier this year to the Florida Keys to do some kayaking, and I've been granted permission to post a few to share with you. I think the loggerhead turtle is the coolest one, but I really like the mangrove salt marsh snake quite a bit as well. Please enjoy!


The Desert

Someone on the NaNo forums was asking what it is like to be in the desert, so I posted this reply. I hope it helped him/her to understand how special they are.

My husband and I have spent a lot of time in SW Utah, in Capitol Reef NP, Arches NP and Canyonlands NP, as well as the San Rafael Swell and Cathedral Valley. What has been said before is true - very good advice - but one thing I wish to stress; the desert is a beautiful, amazing, humbling place. It can be so very harsh, with the dryness and winds and extremes in temperature, but when you find a lifeform in the desert after spending a little time there, you realize that if this being has survived so much just to exist there. Not just exist but also thrive enough to spare energy to reproduce and bring more life to such desolation, even if it takes surviving five droughts and seven record-breaking winters to get up the reserves.

One of the most humbling visits for me was when we camped in Bentonite Hills, Cathedral Valley. Because of the almost cement-like characteristics of dried bentonite, there were no plants and no water where we'd set up for the night. It was perfectly still; no insects and no birds of any kind because they had nothing for which to be there. The only light (other than our headlamps) was from the stars and later a crescent moon . Things were so quiet I could hear my own blood running through my ears. I felt like I was on another planet where the vacuum attenuated all sound. I'd never experienced anything so foreign in my life.

The coolest part was, when we returned to "civilization", I felt like I had been reunited with long lost friends. There was a gush of gratitude for the birds chirping in the sky and wind rustling through leaves with commonplace familiarity. I was actually grateful for the buzz of insects. Nothing makes me appreciate my senses like the feeling of having them robbed from me. I came to love the Bentonite Hills because they reminded me of what I have; life.

NaNoWriMo Update

Well...three little days till NaNo, probably the biggest project I've voluntarily tackled alone.

Granted, I've worked on big things before, don't get me wrong, but this is the first time that I've put myself under such pressure to do so much in such a short amount of time. 30 days to write 50,000 words? Am I nuts?

Sure, I am. But everyone knew that already, right?



As I was showering this morning, thinking of NaNo descriptive passages and ways to incorporate some humor into the soon-to-be WIP, I remembered a poem from high school. I had been so taken with it at the time, I had actually taken time to hand copy it from the AP English book, and anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I didn't spend much time with my school books.

The copy was lost long ago, but the Internet is a wonderful place, because there it was!

by William Cullen Bryant

I broke the spell that held me long,
The dear, dear witchery of song.
I said, the poet’s idle lore
Shall waste my prime of years no more,

For Poetry, though heavenly born,
Consorts with poverty and scorn.
I broke the spell- nor deemed its power
Could fetter me another hour.

Ah, thoughtless! how could I forget
Its causes were around me yet?
For wheresoe’er I looked, the while,
Was Nature’s everlasting smile.

Still came and lingered on my sight
Of flowers and streams the bloom and light,
And glory of the stars and sun;
And these and poetry are one.

They, ere the world had held me long,
Recalled me to the love of song.


Oh, Sure! Synopsises Are Easy!

Here is a guide stating rather clearly how easily novel synopsises (synopsi? synopses?) are composed and the best place to find both good and bad examples would be Wikipedia.

It's very convincing. Who wudda thunk?


NaNo '09 Character Sketch Stephen Montclair

I'm trying to get a feel for who my 'people' are. The male hero is a bit of an enigma to me still.

Stephen was a rich boy.

With a small sigh, he reminded himself that it is his parents who are rich, and his school mates at the prep school in which he was enrolled -- St Qualford Preparatory Academy – automatically assigned this affliction on him. Yes, they were all from rich families, and by sending a boy to St. Qual’s, they intended to have him trained to keep it that way. Even the Nuevo Riche parents planned to mold their progeny into the harsh, claw-for-it-all, heartless little bastards they themselves had turned into. That’s how they got rich; the only way they did.

It was around the age of twelve before he realized it was an affliction; death threats against his father, armed vehicles for travel when he arrived home, isolation, secrecy, even straight out hiding, but when he was a young boy, he believed there was no other way to live. His bathtub was marble, his toy boats were radio controlled, his clothes – rarely the same items two weeks in a row – were immaculately tended, and his nanny treated him with a kind of reverence that was never spared on the rest of the staff. His playmates were generally the other rich parents’ children, and they all acted like the money was already theirs. And they behaved as though his parents’ wealth would soon be theirs, as well.

A familiar sight to his left roused him from thought, and with irritation he pressed hard on the brakes, skidding the Ferrari to a halt. Be damned if he didn’t drive right past his parents’ back gate! Glancing in the dark rearview mirror, he shifted into reverse and performed a three-point turn in the deserted street. At the correct driveway, he pulled in and punched his old code on the keypad. He wasn’t terribly surprised when it didn’t unlock the gate. His good ol’ paranoid parents!

“Mummy? Daddy? I’m hooome!” he breathed sardonically in his Upper Class Twit of the Year Award voice, borrowed from a Monty Python sketch. He picked up the handset and dialed the extension for the groundskeeper’s cottage.

“Yes?” came the brusque voice, completely without friendliness.

“Stew? It’s Stephen. I’m home for a visit.”

“STEVIE!” came the response so loud and exuberant that he had to hold the phone away. “Whacha doin’ back here? We thought ya were still in school! You didn’t get kicked out, didya? You old punk! You must have done somethin’ really bad if yer sneakin’ in the back way! What kind of trouble ya in?”

Stephen brought the phone closer, although completely prepared to jerk it away again if volume control were needed.

“Stew, would you open the gate? I’ve had a bit of a drive. I started out this morning in Chicago, and…”

“Sure, sure, Stevie. Hold on while I get my glasses.”

Despite his dour mood, Stephen smiled as the handset slammed on the cradle, and he gently placed his back on the hook. Stew Pavlon had been the groundskeeper for twenty-seven years, long before Stephen was even born, and in all that time had probably never brought his glasses with him to answer the phone, nor had he ever politely hung it up. It was part of his charm. Some predictable things were good.

It took nearly three minutes before the whirr of the gate controller prompted Stephen to put the Ferrari in first gear and roll hurriedly through before Stew intentionally reversed the gate short of being fully opened, all in the spirit of security. He waved towards the groundskeeper’s cottage, even though it wasn’t in view, and continued down the drive towards the mansion.

Before he even reached the house, he knew his parents were having one of their famous parties. Looking above the trees down into the valley, the evening mist had a faint glow it got when the house was lit up and that only happened when guests were around. Otherwise, the house was kept dark and discreet, which saved a great deal of money. His parents may have been rich, but his father could pinch a penny until the head side was flush with the tail side. However, parties were always his mother’s idea. When he cleared the woods, he saw Mummy was having quite the soiree. Between the welding arc gleam of every bulb in the house glowing and the mishmash of valet-parked cars, Stephen was certain all of Denver Society was in attendance. He found an open spot by the catering truck by the kitchen and heaved a sigh. Not good timing for this sort of thing.


"Still No Sign of Land" As The Monty Python Skit Goes.

Well...still haven't stuck to my guns about contributing a piece of fiction to the blog on a daily basis in order to keep myself in order, although honestly, I have been working on the NaNo project. I'm taking a new approach to writing, wherein I will prepare an outline and generate index cards and write character sketches. With Destiny of Honor, The Trucker, and other things I've written, it was all very seat-of-the-pants, despite being full novels. I keep feeling like this one has to be more organized and professional. I just hope I don't burn myself out worrying about the details. I've never been very good about following the rules and being disciplined and all that.

Wish me luck. More tomorrow.


Didn't Make It!

Well, I didn't get that second practice session in for NaNo, although it is started...somewhat.

I managed to dedicate time to writing some interesting facts about my female main character (known going forward as the FMC, with the male main character referred to as MMC) and her extensive background in debunking things occult. The MMC is still a bit of a mystery to me (now named Stephen, I think), but I'm getting a better feel for the historic era concerned. Maybe tomorrow I'll have the practice exercise completed.

Hope you have a wonderful evening. Since I was up until 2:30 struggling with all this, I will probably end up turning in early!



NaNoWriMo 2009 Practice

"NaNoWriMo?" you ask. It's short for National Novel Writing Month. It's a writing website in which a participant challenges himself/herself to write 50,000 words of "The Great American Novel" between November 1st and November 30th. That's almost 1700 words a day! My blog entries generally run much less than 400, obviously not daily, so now I'm practicing not so much writing but more discipline to get myself to writing every day, even if it's mindless little character studies like this.

For more about the project, go to www.nanowrimo.org.

BTW, the only things true in this little description are the bit about my dad making me learn to type when I was ten, the love of horses, the ubiquitous dust here in the prairies (although our part is in Colorado) and wondering if having the TV on strictly for background noise is wasteful. I have settled for webstreaming radio from the Colorado Public Radio (KBOD) that plays commercial-free mainstream classical music, not the TV.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy my first exercise with writing discipline. I hope to have a daily contribution to share with you showing my progress.

It was a strange feeling being in the house alone.

She didn’t mind being alone, per se. Despite being extroverted and quite friendly most of the time, Louisa often wished people would leave her alone. They were too much trouble to figure out. Making them comfortable, frankly, was a big pain in the ass, and Louisa sometimes found herself exhausted by the prospect of having to entertain those who made no effort to get along with others. That was a frequent problem when she worked at the outdoor outfitters retail store. She was expected to be “on” all the time; positive and helpful to anyone who approached her, and after working a full time job and driving through rushhour traffic to get to the store across town, answering inane questions like “Does this cost what the price on the tag says?” really made it difficult to appreciate her fellow human being sometimes.

Rousing herself from her memories, she scanned the computer monitor in front of her. A blank page in the word processor reflected back at her. Fill the page, fill the page, don’t think about the empty house. Don’t wonder if the furnace is too loud or if it would be too wasteful to turn the TV on to cover the eerie silence. Even the sound of her fingers pounding on the keyboard would be an improvement over the unaccustomed quiet.

Heaving a sigh, she rested her fingers upon the ergonomic keyboard, feeling lightly for the two guide nubs on the F and J keys. Spot on, found without thought. Second nature and all that. Now…

“The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” she typed quickly. “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” Then she followed that with JJJJ FFFF KKKK DDDD LLLL SSSS :::: AAAA.

She rolled her eyes and sighed again. God, she hadn’t thought about that in years. Her father had been a strange man who died right after her eleventh birthday, and since he had been pretty sick those last couple of months, when exactly had he tried to get her to practice typing? She recalled that he absolutely harangued her to practice the way other parents tried to get their children to practice piano or violin, and Louisa (or “Louie” as her father called her) spent nearly an hour a day with the cheap manual typewriter typing “ JFJF KDKD LSLS :A:A JJFF KKDD LLSS ::AA” for pages and pages, along with other finger exercises on the QWERTY keyboard. She hated it, sitting at the dining table with a cheap, plastic portable Corona, alone and seemingly forgotten. She would have much rather been out playing with her friends in the bright afternoon sun or climbing the maple tree in front of her house. What kind of weirdo mentally chains his youngest daughter to a damned manual typewriter at the age of nine or ten?

Well,…at the time it seemed very cruel, but in retrospect, it seemed somewhat foresighted. In the modern era of home computers and electronic communication, being able to type 60 words a minute accurately was a skill envied by some peers and desired by many employers. And now that Louie was trying to be a professional writer, the skill still wasn’t honed enough to get the ideas from her head into the document as fast as they formed. It sometimes tripped her up having to wait for her fingers to get it black and white onto the page. And the years of training stopped her from letting slight mistakes go until she could go back to correct them.

Maybe that’s why being in the house alone felt so odd. The need to concentrate and tune out distractions wasn’t there. Nobody was rustling paperwork in the next cubicle as when she worked in her previous job as office assistant for a major financial institution in Chicago. Her husband wasn’t yelling at the TV about some call the referee had made during the football game. It was just…quiet.

Previously she’d thought that quiet is what she needed. When she and her husband had moved from the bustling Chicago, Illinois into the semi-rural community of Goddard, Kansas, a fantasy of spending countless hours transforming her dreams into the printed word seemed on the cusp of reality. Her husband’s new job as a long-haul trucker meant he wouldn’t be underfoot, making the normal demands of a spouse being in constant contact with another spouse. Not having a nine-to-five job or a second job to pay for the little extras in life freed her from the reason (or excuse) to not vegetate in front of the television, recovering from a stressful, unfulfilling career. All she’d need to do is get a couple chores done first thing in the morning and spend the rest of the day writing that best-selling novel or award-winning blog.

Except that it didn’t turn out that way. Out on the prairie, dust was a constant combatant and the battleground was on every level surface in the house. The pollution she hated in the city seemed a distant bad dream compared to the light tan film that settled on her kitchen counters every single day. She couldn’t leave the windows open because of it.

And the smell! That awful stench of the pig farm down the valley came wafting towards their housing development as the sun set and the cooler air displaced the warm. The country air isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when livestock is put in the mix.

Strike the thought, she told herself. She loved the country. Even as a little girl who wanted her own horse and no typewriting, she desired to live on a farm and raise chickens. There was nothing wrong with swine; they were ‘earthy’, and being in the country meant being in touch with Mother Earth, right?

Besides, complaining was just another excuse to procrastinate. The blank page of the word processor still glared from the screen, not magically filling with her imaginative prose. When she didn’t have the time to work on it, creative ideas seem to fight one another to be first in line. Now they shirked back like wall flowers at the high school homecoming dance. It just didn’t seem fair.

Write what you know, is how the advice runs, and what she knew at the moment was frustration, impatience, loneliness, and…dust. She knew too much peace and too much quiet. She knew the mocking blank screen that needed to be populated, even if it was more JJJJ FFFF KKKK DDDD LLLL SSSS :::: AAAA.

She smiled to herself and highlighted the text. The last bit looked rather like curse words, although they didn’t contain the characters from the top row of the keyboard. She even chuckled as she deleted them, although it meant that the document would be empty again.

Write what you know, she thought again. What did she know? She knew how to move an entire household five hundred miles without hiring a moving company. She knew what muscle pain meant. She knew how to set up a household for the love of her life, only to have him never be home to enjoy it with her because he was earning the money to pay for that house. She knew now to be careful what she wished for because she might get it.

Leaning forward, she once again placed her index fingers at J and F. With flying fingers, she explained to her readers “lonely”.


Top Ten Signs You're Too Old For Trick Or Treating

(Got this from a 'viral' email pass-around a couple of years ago)

Top Ten Signs You Are Too Old to Trick or Treat

10. You get winded from knocking on the door.

9. You have to have another kid chew the candy for you.

8. You ask for high fiber candy only.

7. When someone drops a candy bar in your bag, you lose your balance and fall over.

6. People say, "Great Keith Richards mask!" and you're not wearing a mask.

5. When the door opens you yell, "Trick or..." and can't remember the rest.

4. By the end of the night, you have a bag full of restraining orders.

3. You have to carefully choose a costume that won't dislodge your hairpiece.

2. You're the only Power Ranger in the neighborhood with a walker.

1. You avoid going to houses where your ex-wives live.


Boots the Biscuit Thief

My cat Boots is going on seventeen years old, and for sixteen of those, she’s been a dear pet, a real source of love and a near constant companionship.

Lately though, she’s been a real old lady. If she were human, she’d wear a purple hat and toss curses at policemen. Boots makes Maxine look like Miss Congeniality when something isn’t to her feline liking.

A prime example is cat food. I don’t believe I’ve seen a pickier eater since myself as a snot-nosed kid, putting individual macaroni noodles on the tines of my fork. For years, we were buying the same dry food and all three cats ate it just fine. Then one day I noticed the old cat was losing a little weight, and I realized she’d stopped eating. She's always been a skinny little thing, but I took her to the vet who couldn’t find anything wrong. Upon his suggestion, I changed her food, and she ate like a racehorse.

About a year ago, she developed bad teeth and a delicate digestion so we switched her to canned food exclusively which she seemed to like…unless it was chunks in gravy. The gravy would get licked up enthusiastically while the chunks that were too big for her to chew would be aggressively pushed off the plate onto the floor. Fortunately for me and my wallet, the other cats would eat it after she walked away, but apparently it bothered her that they got to eat it when she couldn’t, so she began carrying these morsels to me, crying.

Well, I’ve never been a mother, but I now completely understand what parents mean when they talk about the “I’m Hungry” cry or the “I’m Tired” cry or the “I’m Hurt” cry. The first time I heard this strange mewing from Boots with food in her mouth, it clearly said to me “I’m Troubled”. At first I wondered if she was in heat but she’s fixed so I knew that wasn’t it. Then I wondered if maybe she was depressed or going senile, but understanding flooded over me when she dropped the large wad of masticated ‘pseudo meat’ at my feet, looking up at me expectantly. She wanted me to cut it into smaller pieces!

Okay, I’ll admit it – I did. For the next three wads of formed “stuff” that she set before me, I broke it up with my fingers. Yes, my denied mothering instincts were resurrected by a little four-pound, pointy-eared, tiger striped cat. With the next mealtime, I learned to cut certain chunks into smaller pieces before putting the plate on the floor, and my little ‘dependent’ stopped coming down the hall, echoing the troubled, pitiable, seeking yowl, pleading for help from “Mom Cat”.

Until…about two months ago.

I’d made dinner for my husband and myself, a simple meal of leftover beef, Brussels’ sprouts and a sleeve of ready-to-bake biscuits. We ate everything but two biscuits which I left on the counter in case my husband wanted to finish them later. As per usual, David sat to watch a little TV, and I went back to our home office to check email and edit my latest work-in-progress.

Then came that sound. That pained yowl of distress, begging Mom Cat's rescue. It was worse than usual, sounding muffled but more urgent than before, and it confused me terribly because I hadn’t heard it for so long. Boots sounded completely overwhelmed with grief and pain. I jumped up from my chair and as I reached the door, I saw the cat coming down the hall towards me. Her face looked totally deformed! Her ears were perked forward and her eyes glowed with hope but the whole bottom of her face below her little pink nose was swollen and doughy and misshapen and…

A biscuit! The damned cat had stolen a biscuit from the counter and was carrying it to me!

“Mom Cat! Help!”

I laughed so hard, I peed my pants! At the same time, I knew I couldn’t let her have the damned thing because she would have continued to thieve food from the counter, so I used my “Mom Cat” voice and shouted “Hey!” in the tone she recognized as reprimand. Suddenly she stopped, and her eyes got big like it had suddenly occurred to her that I wasn’t going to be an accomplice to her crime. Wheeling like a dervish, she trotted quickly back towards the family room while I chased after her, trying to retrieve the biscuit. She slunk under the sofa where my husband was reclining, watching a movie.

“Get the cat!” I cried.

“What’s wrong?”

“She stole a biscuit and brought it to me to help chew it,” I explained. “We need to get it from her before she makes a mess with it.”

My husband stared at me blankly for a moment and then burst out laughing. I dropped to my knees and looked at the cat as she stared back at me from the middle of the sofa’s underside, gnawing furiously like a little kid who’s gotten into the hidden Halloween candy and is making the best of the time she has.

I’m a bad Mom Cat, I know, but I let her finish what she could, and when she came out 30 minutes or so later, I made my husband (who finally stopped laughing) help me move the sofa so I could toss the remainder and vacuum the crumbs.

Since that time, Boots has never once carried anything to me, looking for help. She has even gone back to pushing the food off the plate, as though gladly sharing with her ‘brother-felines’ rather than face the Wrath of Mom Cat.


"Random Acts of Folk Remedies" or "Mother of Invention?"

Okay, this really should be on the website of my friend Mustang Rider, since her blog is all about living green, living simpler, living easier, but it's so small and random, I'll just toss it on here.

On occasion when I cook pasta sauce (large quantities frozen for future use), my house begins to smell quite a bit like Luigi's All Night Spaghetti Factory, and since my sauce usually cooks down over the course of a coupla hours, it rather permeates the house. My quick fix is to turn on the central air blower for a couple minutes and then spray odor-neutralizing into a couple of the intake vents. A few minutes later, the entire house has a vague scent of the fragrance without my having to walk around the house spritzing every corner. (My idea is useless, of course, if you have radiators. Sorry.)

Another "folk remedy" I discovered recently was another use for Swiffer dusters after they're used up; sticker burr removal! Here in eastern Colorado (and particularly on our ~3 acres), we have an annoying abundance of sand burrs, and now that it's fall, their spiney hooks have dried hard, making them very painful to remove by hand. My husband was doing yardwork yesterday and came into the house for help removing the burrs from his back (don't ask; I didn't). As it happened, a very used Swiffer handduster was nearby, so I took a quick swipe. IT WAS MAGIC! I got the seven or so off his back and then removed the two or three dozen from his pantleg (he'd done the other one outside by hand). I've never seen those things come off so quickly and easily.

If you come by sometime this week, you'll probably find me wandering around the property looking for other miracle cures with a Swiffer. Goatheads, here I come!!!


A New Venture?

Last night was another meeting of the writing group I'm trying to start at the local library. Once again, I did not have anyone attend who wished to join my merry little group...BUT... it turns out that there is already a writing group in town, so I'll join that. We all learn from each other. :)

More Graphical Spewings

I had yet another craving to create and opened my 'graphic' file to re-address a piece I started but never looked at again. It contained a rather odd zigzag and a couple of stars that were made using a Photoshop preset tool.

As you can see, the stars have been removed but the mountains remain. That's rather opposite of what the poets and the philosophers tell us, eh?


Colorsmith Graphical Worm

The Colorsmith Graphical Worm is still going strong, but it needs more submissions. If you have an interest in messing around with Photoshop (or graphic software of your choice), please feel free to join in the fun!
Anyone can submit. The only real requirement is to fit your artwork into 600 pixels wide by 450 pixels high by 72ppi. For the sake of aesthetic and flow, try to match the artwork to the previous work in the project, and the way to make certain you 'lock in' your spot is to sign up on the forum.


A Day of Very Mixed Emotions

It's been a rather peculiar day today. I've been very excited that today is not only the birthday of my oldest surviving sister but also my youngest nephew. For some reason the coincidence of their birthdays has always tickled me. I think it's because my sister has frequently complained (in jest, I hope) that she's never had her birthday by herself; my oldest sister's birthday was July 4th (I say 'was' because the sibling is no longer with us). She says it made her feel 'robbed' of the specialness because it was always celebrated with something else. I find it funny that my nephew was born on her birthday, as though fate were rubbing it in. Who says Mother Nature doesn't have a sense of humor?

The other thing that has me in such a weird funk is news of two deaths. My friend in Illinois who is currently battling breast cancer has informed her Facebook friends (myself included) that her sister-in-law lost her battle with stage 4 liver cancer. More bad news: my very best girlfriend, currently on a fishing vacation in northern Minnesota, was informed that her beloved dog Roscoe died too and that she and her SigOther are curtailing their trip.

Now, I know the gravity of these two incidents aren't considered equal by many people, but they share so many things. Whether a pet or a human, life is tremendously valuable to these folks and the loss will be so keenly felt. Both of my friends have been having a very rough time of it lately, and to have things like this occur just seems so unfair. I know the one friend was already struggling with a sense of defeat (although she has nobly fought the disease in a way I doubt I could) and the other wants to save every animal she has ever seen in distress (human species included) so to have lost this pet and not be there...well...I can imagine her extreme pain and woe.

It was very strange, today, to put sympathy cards in the mail - two on one day. It reminds me that despite feeling left out or put upon or useless on occasion, there are people suffering troubles worse than mine or joys greater, and I wish over and over again that, despite the thousand miles that separate us, I wish I could be there sharing their lives, giving a hurrah or a hug as is needed. Words are cold and pass as platitudes. A hug is warm.


WAG #17 Someone I Once Knew

My mother mailed a few pictures to me the other day. It showed a collection of faces as varied as the activities depicted.

The first was a blonde child doing a backflip. It was an intense photo; the face firm with concentration, the grass bright green, the feet were a blur, moving faster than the camera could capture.

Another photo showed a group of young teenagers dressed in theatrical costumes, obviously The Famous Four singing joyously as they “tramped” down the Yellow Brick Road, which consisted of yellow construction paper spray-glued onto muslin.

The last four images were from a graduation; a young woman receiving her diploma; my mom posing proudly as the graduate mugged behind the precious document thrust forward at arm’s length; the last two involved a mortarboard in the air, although the second of that series also involved, nay featured, a tree and a long stick.

With a smile, I flipped through the photos over and over, absorbing the events enjoyed by people I have been out of touch with a long time – well before we moved so far away. I set the small stack on the coffee table as my husband and I were watching TV, and I tried to get back into the program. My thoughts kept returning to the significance of the pictures.

I remembered having that kind of energy, that same drive, enthusiasm and hope. Where had it gone? When had I changed? With a heavy sigh, I sat back, pushing my shoulders into the sofa cushion, seeking comfort from its support.

My husband glanced between me and the table pensively and finally took up the stack of 4x6 prints. He flipped through them with less familiarity than I had.

“Wizard of Oz, huh?” he said with mild surprise. “I didn’t know you played the Cowardly Lion.”

“WAG #17: The One That Got Away” From your own point of view (or the point of view of a stranger you observe) write a short scene about someone from the past who comes into the picture back suddenly. It can be an old boyfriend/girlfriend, a childhood friend, or anyone you imagine! haven’t seen for many years. It can be a sweet reunion, or a total disaster! It’s up to you.


The Worm (an update)

Okay, it's up and at 'em!


My graphic artist friend has made his "worm" official. He's taking contributions. Just check out the rules/guidelines here.

Look for both Sue O'Shields and Sioux O'Shields, as I have two additions to the Colorsmith Graphic Worm.

No Native Americans were involved in the making of that artwork. ;-)


The Worm

If you click on the images, they open into larger individual images. Hit back to return as they do not open in new windows.


Dressed For Success, WAG #13

“WAG #13:Dress for Success” Thanks to Peter Spalton for the topic idea! For this week, find yourself a stranger (Yes, we’re all turning into a bunch of WAG stalkers!) Notice what the person is wearing, and then imagine the process they went through getting dressed. Peter suggests: Add lots of detail so we understand what sort of person they are and where they’re going after they’re ready.

When a guy lives in such a small town, he knows everyone. Everyone knows him. Everybody knows him, his brothers, his mother, father, grandparents on both sides... hell, they even knew who his dad was screwing before Dad married Mom.

They also know Melinda. Sweet, luscious Melinda with the to-die-for figure and the big brown eyes. When they see him walking hand-in-hand down the street with her, they'd know she is his girl.

He glanced around for his alarm clock and growled at the realization it was buried under his dirty tee shirts and four Good Times soda pop cups. Angrily brushing aside black bangs still wet from his shower, he shoved the crap off his nightstand and read the time. With a yelp, he dashed to his chest of drawers where his mom stacked his cleaned laundry. Up there it was less likely to get dirtied by his other 'stuff', she said. A quick rifle through the pile of black tee shirts located the one with missing sleeves which he tossed onto the bed while shoving dirty laundry around the floor with his bare foot to locate his jeans. They were his favorite black denims, with the rhinestones outlining an arrow over the zipper fly and with chrome buckles up the outside leg seams. The pants were starting to look a bit battered from repeated wearings; he was pleased. If he was lucky, Melinda would be wearing her super-tight striped knit top and her satin slacks that showed every curve, and maybe people would notice his arms toned from hours of drumming practice. Yeah, he and Melinda would look good together.

His phone rang in his school bag. With another growl of frustration, he whipped his head around the room to find where he'd dropped his books, but the phone stopped ringing before he got to it. The screen said "Mellie", and he looked towards the roof in frustration. Damn, that girl's impatient!

He whipped his hair violently to shake off the extra water before pulling the tee shirt over his head. Two strides brought him to the mirror to make certain all the lettering was still there. Backwards he read "UNITED ROCKERS". The skull was just as dark front or back. Quickly he put on some wool socks and his dad's old Desert Storm Army boots, tying the laces tightly before covering it all with the over-long pant cuffs. Rummaging through the top dresser drawer, he found his three-inch wide leather wrist band, the one earring with a cross and a skull, and a simple silver nose ring. He donned these and checked the mirror one last time. He stared for nearly a minute and suddenly tore the collar of his tee shirt, rending it straight down three inches.



Now to call the Sweet Mellie back. Gaughth was ready to go out.


This was an exercise of the Writing Adventure Group. The criteria for the exercise is listed above. The info about the group and how to participate is below.

Writing Adventure Group

This is an open, online writers’ group. Anyone may participate. It’s helpful if you have a blog, but if you don’t have one, you can always get a free blog from wordpress.com.

Our purpose is to build a community of writers who help and support each other, and to hone our observational and writing skills by interacting with each other and the world around us.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Adventures should take you 5-10 minutes to complete! We’re going for short and easy. This should not be like having a part time job. You may post your results as a few lines, or a few paragraphs. This does not have to be polished, but is an exercise only! See previous WAG posts here.
  2. You will typically have one week to do the assignment and post the results on your blog. Deadline given at the bottom of the instruction post.
  3. After you post your results, email THE LINK TO YOUR POST (not just your blog) to NixyValentine AT gmail DOT com. This way I can link back to you in the next post! Please include the word WAG in your subject heading. Please include the title of the post (if any) and your name as you want it to appear on the listing. If you do not do this, I will use the name as it appears on your email.
  4. To get more people involved, please use Twitter, FB status, myspace, your blog, etc to tell your writer friends about the group and talk about your own writing adventure!


Well, there really aren’t any. This is an experience, not a classroom. There is no wrong way to do this!

To get the most out of this, I would suggest visiting the other participants’ blogs and linking to them from yours to build the writing community.

If you have an idea for an adventure or have questions or comments about the group, write to nixyvalentine AT gmail DOT com.



Happy Memorial Day

Memorial Day... Originally a celebration to bring to mind the veterans of the Civil War as their numbers grew fewer and fewer. It was originally known as Remembrance Day, and people used to sit around with Grandma and Grandpa listening to stories about those hard times, North or South, when men slept 10-12 to a tent, nested like spoons, trying to survive the winter cold and wondering which comrade would not be there for the bread breaking at dinner. At a time when life expectancy was in the low sixties, veterans in their seventies would send each other postcards depicting wreaths of red white and blue or of cherub-cheeked children handing old soldiers bright red poppies of remembrance, wishing each other well and expressing gratitude that they knew one another. They all thought of life and death and how important it was to recognize the power of both.

Now, Memorial Day is a way to make a weekend three days long, to gather with friends to drink beer and grill out in the backyard. Stores have sales commemorating their burgeoning stock of furniture. People rummage around the back of the closet, looking for that dusty flag to replace the cheap "Welcome Spring!" banner currently posted in the flag holder. Come Tuesday, the dusty flag gets tossed back in the corner of a dark closet and a brand new, cheap "Welcome Summer!" banner goes up.

I'd like to 'go retro' this weekend. No, I'm not talking postcards or giving money to some guy on the corner in order to get a cheap fabric poppy. I'd like to remember our Veterans now in their seventies. Since our interval between wars seems shorter nowadays, please remember those in their fifties and sixties as well. Just because the weapons are easier to manage and maybe men weren't forced to sleep a dozen to a tent to keep from freezing to death, it doesn't mean that the personal loss of a loved one or a comrade or even an acquaintance is that much easier to bear. Or the sacrifice of those at home, wondering if that loved one was returning - I want to remember their selflessness too. I feel it's time to once more recognize the awesome power of both life and death, and remember those who had to face the loss of it without choice or regret, simply because they were proud to do their duty.

Thank you, Veterans. Your sacrifices are never trivial, even if our thoughts aren't always noble.

Cave Wedding Photo - Official ;-)

Still haven't found my wedding album, but as I was going through a box, I found a photo album with this photo in it. It's a picture of my husband and me posing in front of our favorite formation in Illinois Caverns, so I feel like this is our 'official' wedding photo, even though it's not exactly where we wanted to have the ceremony.

Hope this is viewable. I hate scanning prints.

Photo by Ralph Earlandson.


Cave Wedding closeup

I kinda messed up the posting of the photo. Here's a closer, cleaner crop of that same photo. Hope it makes things a little clearer.
FYI: my husband and I wore our Sunday Best caving gear, including coveralls, helmets and lights. Normally we'd also have caving packs, kneepads, and gloves, but we broke our own rules regarding safe caving regalia.


Cave Wedding Photo, As Promised!

I still can't find the photo album containing the pictures of our wedding, but while I was looking for the backpacking hammock, I stumbled upon the photo printed in the local newspaper. It was part of an article set right above the photos from the watermelon seed spitting contest (I think a boy scout won).

The cave was Illinois Caverns. The newspaper was the Waterloo Republic-Times. The year was 1990.


For the most part, I love The Onion.

I also respect their humor, although they have begun to 'pick' on Obama. To be expected, of course, because that's their job!

They also post some hilarious spoof newscasts...



I'm So Inspired By HGTV

My husband and I were watching "House Hunters" on HGTV the other night. If you not familiar with the show, it's a reality show that takes you along as one or two house hunters tour possible homes to buy. I'm not entirely certain why David watches (although I suspect it's mostly to humor me), but I like watching it primarily because I like seeing layouts, furnishings and design of homes across the country.

There was one house with some pretty atrocious decor but the bedroom was awful because it had shag carpeting, chrome furniture and fixtures, and worst of all, gold lame fabric as window treatments.

Without thinking, I said to David "Elvis has decorated the building!"

Okay, not hilarious, but I certainly felt inspired to humor by the vision of this room!

Lewis and Clark

I received my daily email from The History Channel with the "This Day In History" information and was delighted to see acknowledgment of the great voyage of The Corps of Discovery.


However, upon reading the text accompanying the video, I was disappointed to realize it was so incomplete and actually misleading. One example: "On May 14, the "Corps of Discovery"--featuring approximately 45 men (although only an approximate 33 men would make the full journey)--left St. Louis for the American interior." They never explain that 33 men made the journey (not 45) because at the Mandan Village in North Dakota, there were men sent back to take one of the big boats (along with some of the found specimens and new maps) back to Saint Louis in order to start the process of populating the newly acquired territory. Also, that beginning leg of the journey was a bit of a 'shakedown' run, intended to test the men to find out who would make the grade. The men sent back to St Louis either didn't want to or couldn't handle the trip. The History.com site could leave you open to assume these guys died. The truth of the matter is that only one of the expedition members died, Sergeant Charles Floyd, and it is suspected that it was from a ruptured appendix, something he would not have survived even if he had been a guest of the home of Dr Benjamin Rush, a leading physician at the time.

Can you tell I'm a big fan of Lewis and Clark?


I Love The Library

The local county library system is opening a new facility in the town that's a few miles south of us. Now, I liked the old facility just fine, but it sounded like they were outgrowing things pretty quickly, and like an indulging grandparent with a favorite grandchild, I can't deny pleading demands.

I just received an email from the library telling me that the new 'digs' will be opening on May 30th. Cool beans, in and of itself, but the email went on to say "will include the official ribbon-cutting, square dancing, a Western-style BBQ supper and ice cream social, trick-rope lessons for kids, storytelling, performances and more." The performances include "an acoustic jam session. Musicians from all around are invited to bring their fiddles, guitars and banjos to join in and play for fun."

Now does that sound like a great way to launch a library or what? I may even go and take pictures.


Strange Pearls of Wisdom and Other Observations

You can't have everything. Where would you put it?

It was recently discovered that research causes cancer in rats.

A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.

I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.

Crime wouldn't pay if the government ran it.

Is there life before coffee?

It is as bad as you think and they are out to get you.

Thank God for the IRS. Without them, I'd be stinking RICH!


I Love Bouncing!

No, trampolines are not involved...

While I was looking around the web, trying to confirm my memories of visiting The Golden Spike Historic Site, I came upon an interesting and well-run website that would be of great interest to rail/train buffs. Or 19th century history buffs. Or Old West buffs. Or Utah history buffs. Oh, all sorts of people would like this site!

The Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum has a slew of information about not just the Wedding of the Rails (as the Transcontinental Railroad joining ceremony is often called) but lots of resources about train and US commerce history. I was especially impressed with the links offered to school kids who may be doing reports about the subject. Check it out!


This Day in History-Transcontinental Railroad

Short explanation of the Transcontinental Railroad courtesy of History.com


Been There, Done That, Got The Soot

On this day in history in 1869, the Golden Spike was driven, completing the Transcontinental Railroad.

Okay, so in reality it was four ceremonial spikes and only the last one was gold. Well, really it wasn't pure gold; if you hit a small rod of gold with a sledgehammer, it would become the small pancake of gold in very short order.

How do I know this stuff? Because of my great education in the Chicago Public School system, of course! Didn't everyone get taught this stuff? Why would I need to travel to the middle of a God-forsaken desert in Utah to find out something that my grammar school teachers had already drummed into my head?

Because my teachers hadn't given me the whole story, that's why! Did you know that the president of the Union Pacific Railroad was so reviled, his trip to the ceremony site at Promontory Point was sabotaged by his own employees! And he (along with many of other celebrants) was drunk during the driving of the spike. On top of that, he missed!

David and I really enjoyed our visit to the National Historic Site. Apart from the titillating little scandals that make life interesting, it was simply a wonderfully alive park in the middle of complete desolation, with great displays (including reproduction, live operating steam engines), and very caring and knowledgeable park staff and volunteers. We can't wait to go back!


Okay, I Must Be Insane...

Yes, I'm pretty sure that's what's going on...

I started another blog. It's called "How inTents" and it's an ideas exchange site for tent camping enthusiasts.

Yes, I was insane enough to use a very bad pun for the name, but I couldn't help it! I was certain "Tents R Us" was taken.

So, if you have a minute, go over and check it out. At the moment, it's just starting so you won't find much except for a pretty nice picture of our tent in Canyonlands NP, Utah.


Yep, yep, yep... I'm insane.


Oh boy, I'm going to hell, now!

While in Utah, we stopped for a picnic lunch in the town of Lyman. We pulled into the parking space and made our tortilla/honeymustard/lunchmeat sandwiches on the tailgate of the truck. As we were tossing away our trash, I spotted this sign and remembered that we were in Mormon country. After shooting this photo, we got back into the truck, closed the door, and I promptly spilled a small remnant of my soda on the floor.

Glad the windows were rolled up because I thoughtlessly dropped the "F" bomb...

Well, I'll be dog gone...

I was not aware that you could post photos directly to your articles. This changes everything!


Another Limerick

There once was a woman named Sue
Who wanted to be a size two
Intentions are good
But she did not what she should
And now she is the size OF two.


The Professional

“WAG #10: The Professional” As we go through our days, we’re surrounded by people doing everyday jobs: the guy that reads the gas meter, cashiers, bank tellers, security guards, doctors, circus clowns… This week, your assignment is to observe someone doing a job (their profession should be one you don’t know that much about). Describe him/her and also what they’re doing, why they’re doing it (as best you can tell), and how. Feel free to use your imagination, but don’t forget the concrete observation! Special thanks to Lulu for this week’s topic idea!

The Professional

Another box of mail. It was heavy, of course. Paper is an amazingly dense material, and when concentrated into 18 gallon plastic tubs with torn handles, it gets a bit difficult to heft those tubs into the small delivery truck, but she did it without complaint. After all, the mail must get through!

Gently, she rubbed her hands together to ease the stinging scratches on her palms. Of course, the handles were torn; it was quasi-Government equipment! She’d been around long enough to remember the old canvas bags, to recall how damaged the mail could get when those bags weren’t handled right, and they usually weren't! She was also senior enough to remember having to walk the route pushing that silly cart around. No, she didn’t want the old days back. She preferred things exactly as they had become.

Especially that day! Okay, so the next day was Mother’s Day and maybe her son or her daughters would break away from celebrating the holiday with their own children, but even if they didn’t, she would be perfectly satisfied with herself for being a mom.

With a small shove of the overfilled baskets already there, she made a little extra room for a few empty baskets. Last year, her route had done her proud, and although she’d put their generous contributions in her buckets emptied of their delivered mail, she still had loose boxes and cans in her truck. This year she wanted to be prepared.

A satisfied sigh escaped her as she pulled the cord that lowered her rear door. Carrying mail was a job, and she was still glad she had one. Participating in the National Association of Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger National Food Drive made that job just a little bit more special. Okay, so maybe it took her nearly twice as long to service her route, but she couldn’t think of a better way to spend that afternoon than to help relieve the angst of a mother who had perhaps lost her job and could no longer feed her children. It just made Mother’s Day that much more wonderful.

This Saturday May 9th is the annual food drive sponsored by the US Postal Service, the National Association of Letter Carriers, and Campbell Soup. If you remember, please search your pantry for a few canned items that you can contribute to this very worthy cause.

The Twelfth Rose for Mother

This coming Saturday the United States Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) are hosting their annual food drive. I've always been impressed with how clever and effective this effort has been year after year. As giving and generous as I try to be, my good intentions are often stymied by how convenient (or rather INconvenient) something may be to me. With this food drive, all you need to do is set your item(s) out by your mailbox and the Letter Carriers do the rest.

And how poignant this is taking place right before Mother's Day! How painful can it be for a mother to see her child go hungry for want of food? Maybe this year you can give your mom one less rose and spend that saved three dollars on a couple of cans of soup or healthful vegetables. When/if Mom points out that the florist miscounted, you can explained that you gave that twelfth "rose" to a mother whose child needed a nutritious meal. I can guarantee your mom won't hold it against you!

Bless you all!

For more information about the USPS/NALC drive, please see:


Interesting Example of Governmental Idiocracy

I don't know if you've heard of an ancient piece of rock art in Utah called The Harvest Scene in Nine Mile Canyon, but if you have, you've probably heard that there's been some difficulty lately in preserving this panel particularly but the whole area generally. The problem specifically is that the 800 year old artwork is being covered with dust stirred up from the commercial oil/gas trucks driving through the area.

The local county's solution to the concern about the dust? Yes, you guessed. They sent a crew out to wash the panel. With soap and water, you guess? No. Try guessing "a pressure washer".

I wonder if they'd have been allowed to wash The Last Supper with a pressure washer because it was starting to look a little soiled? Heck, it's a newer piece of art by at least 300 years; it can stand it.

New Photo!

No, the title is not a typo. Claret Cup cactus are starting to bloom throughout Utah, and not only do they produce the loveliest flowers but also some of the most ferocious needles! I took a couple of scratches when I set my lens cap next to the plant for personal "scale cues" snapshots. That's the price extracted for the reward, I guess.

There truly is beauty in the beast!

Hello! We're back!

Hello, everyone/anyone! We had a short trip to Utah to get a Rock Art fix, courtesy of the ancient peoples of this continent. I'm certain I shot almost four hundred frames in three days, so I have a bit of sorting to do before I can post to Photo of the Week or put up a link connecting to my photos on Picasa.

Oh, and for those who don't know about me and my photographic habits: four hundred frames will easily get pared down to twenty that I feel are presentable.

Please stay tuned!



To follow is a bipartisan limerick about the US Government. At the bottom of the front page, I've posted a new photo to the site.

There once was a group called The Congress
And the hope was they always would progress
The fools that they are
They hung out in a bar
And now the country’s in a big mess


What a LOVELY group!

I belonged to a humor group which is comprised of some very clever people. I can't repeat the marvelously funny and creative things they have written, but I can share some of the humorous things they've inspired me to write. The last limerick I posted was a direct result of 'hanging out' with them, and from time to time in future, I'll post short excerpts from our "projects". Hope you enjoy them.

Book Titles and Their Authors
"My Misspent Youth" by Sal Adaise
"How To Accurately Poll the Populace" by Maury Surch
"All Time Favorite Pickup Lines" by Jack Asted
"How To Care For Lawn Chairs" by Paddy O'Furniture
"Weaponry and Artillery" by Frank Cannon
"Free Love" by Goddard Havvett
"Think and Grow" by Rhett Trowspect
"The Early Days of Rock N Roll" by Tristan Shout
"Why Everyone Should Have Auto Insurance" by Hugh Jabil
"The Process of Bereavement and Mourning" by Waylon N Kryun
"Lockjaw Diagnosis and Treatment Efficacy" by Rusty Nail


Lousy Limerick Day

Sue wishes she were inspired
But frankly she feels quite tired
Like a bump on a log
She ignores the blog
She thinks a new Muse is required


And Now A Word From Our Sponsors

When I first started this blog, it was kinda cool getting a little bit of money for agonizing over what to write, but at least it got me writing. That first week I made two whole dollars! Blogging is so lucrative, eh?

Well, it would be if I wrote about stuff that Adsense (the grand poobahs who manage the auto select advertising company for Google) could match up ads to my topic. My previous article is a snarky little piece about how wrong AND how right Abraham Lincoln was about people cut their own path in the world. All my ads? They turned into PSAs or Public Service Announcements. I don't make anything on those, no matter how often someone clicks on them (although I do pay attention to what they are).

The article before that mentioned motorcycles, Harley Davidsons and a bunch of motorcycle brand names. My ads? Colorado Motorcycling Tours, Harley-Davidson ads, Motorcycle Wheels for sale... lots and lots of paid-for-clicking ads.

Quite an interesting, accidental discovery.

What does that teach me? It pays to occasionally talk about Swiffers. Aren't they lovely? OF course, I'm sure they're making a zillion bucks for their stock holders. Now if I mention them, I can make a few pennies for a half hour's work slaving over what to write to amuse you folks next.

And if you happen to see me sign off as the long lost cousin of Mr. Clean, you'll know that my ad cycle has gone a little flat. I hope you'll indulge me like that slightly weird (but kindly) aunt in your family that no one talks about. I really am quite harmless.

Just call me...



Towering geniuses and fuzzy butts?

“Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.”

These are the words of Abraham Lincoln. I got these words off the iGoogle page, where I have an app that changes to a new quote by Lincoln every time I refresh the page. It seemed like a good idea at the time, being that I love Lincoln and besides that, I don’t have any clever words of my own to quote.

But what exactly do these words mean? “Towering genius”? Anyone who doesn’t follow the beaten path is a towering genius? Hitler went down a path no one had quite followed before. Reverend Jim of Kool-Aid fame went down a funky path of his own devising too. I’m certain the regions where those two infamous persons traveled are regions that should not be explored further.

And yet what can come of being a sheep and following the fuzzy butt in front of you? Can you see new worlds and invent new mechanisms? No, you see only your familiar field and that field has a single brown track over which your feet will tramp again and again. Not only does your view never change (although you may like that fuzzy butt, I won’t judge you), but the track becomes a trench that soon traps you on the path. The only things that escape this trough are your will, your sense of hope, and your dreams for the future. Despair never seems to try hard enough to get away.

I’m no “towering genius” – ask anybody – but I don’t want to be. It’s an awesome responsibility. One thing I will never be – ask anybody – is a sheep. If I see a fuzzy butt in front of me, I’m more inclined to kick it or shave it than to admire the view.


People Watching, WAG #7

My apologies. This post is part of a larger project and as this was my first participation with this project, I set it up incorrectly. Apparently, I was supposed to include this: WAG #7 Instructions: “Imaginings” This one is people-watching with a twist. Observe a stranger and sketch a brief background for them, including a secret. Then describe why they are in that particular place at that particular time (where you ran into them) and how it will affect their future. Feel free to be creative, but don’t forget to describe the concrete reality that made you pick them in the first place!


“I hate these damned busses,” I said to my husband David as we sat in the pair of seats seven rows behind the driver.

At that exact moment, the wheels on our side hit a massive pothole and we were bounced violently against one another. I groaned with irritation as well as pain.

“The bus is fine,” my husband replied. “It’s this lousy street I object to.”

Actually, he was right. The bus was truly a God-send. Without that free shuttle, we’d have to pay massive parking fees for the convenience of being near the Stephens Convention Center where the annual motorcycle show was held. After having spent five hours walking up and down the aisles, I should have been more grateful to sit and get driven to our truck six blocks away.

I looked around at my fellow passengers to see if I was just being whiny about the rough ride. It was a strange mix of people, just as it was every year. Motorcycle shows attract all sorts. There are people like me and my husband who use bikes to commute (an act of bravery in Chicagoland rushhour) but mostly we take long tours so we’re always looking for the newest, spoil-ourselves-rotten touring accessory that we can’t live without. There are those who don’t have a bike and attend the shows to throw a leg over the myriad of models, just to get a feel for the various machines. Lots of people are looking to upgrade to the latest-greatest gotta-have-it machine. And as always, there are the “kids” who were now inspired to save up their fast-food job wages for that gleaming-chrome Harleys or the sleek ‘crotch rockets’ to show off to their friends or to attract the opposite sex.

Then there was the guy in one of the sideways benches on the opposite side of the bus. It was a typically cold January, so the fact that he wore only a light tan wind breaker and a fedora style hat caught my eye. I had seen him board the bus when we did, and by the Yamaha and Honda bags hanging from his hand against his knee, it seemed evident that he had attended the show. It seemed funny to me how light and flimsy they were, as though empty. Like any good trade show, the exhibitors do their best to put every bit of literature and brochure in your hand that they can manage, yet looking more closely, I could see this fellow’s bags were definitely empty.

The bus came to a hard stop as traffic in front of us suddenly ground to a halt, and I braced against the seat in front of me. The strange gentleman with the fedora tilted abruptly to his right and his jacket lifted up his left hip a little as he leaned over involuntarily. A little glint of silver caught my eye, but when I looked more closely, the jacket had moved back to cover whatever it was.

“Damn!” my husband mumbled, putting the side of his head to the glass, trying to peer forward. “Where did all these cars come from?”

“David! David!” I whispered at him urgently. “I think that guy over there has a gun!”

My husband looked at me with alarm and then glanced around, trying to see who I was talking about.

“What? How’ja know?”

“Don’t be obvious,” I hissed. “And I saw it on his hip.”

“Maybe it’s a cop,” he answered, suddenly becoming laissez-faire and ducking his head a little.

“Oh, sure,” I snarked. “Undercover as Elliot Ness.”

“What, the guy in the hat?” he asked, ignoring the sarcasm part of my comment. Typical.

“Yes! I saw it when he leaned over with the bus.”

“Well… so? Mind your own business.”

The bus took off with a jerk, pushing us back into our seats, and I took a chance to look at Elliot Ness again. He was shifting his empty bags from one hand to the other, baring his left leg, where his pants had ridden up. In his tight black sock was stuffed a small rectangular object.

“My God, David,” I hissed again. “He’s got a knife in his sock!”

“Oh, geez, Sue!” David groaned. “Your wild imagination is getting the best of you.” Then he added, “Again.”

“No, seriously!”

“It doesn’t matter,” he countered.

I grunted, imagining the little black cloud floating out the top of my head like in the funny papers. As with an accident, I couldn’t help to turn my eyes back at Mr. Fedora. He was looking back at me. Nervously, I shifted my eyes to floor and then randomly around the bus.

In a sudden right turn, the bus swerved into the driveway of the parking lot and squealed to a halt. With a rush, the man in the hat jumped up to the door, and when it opened, he bolted across the road to the underpass for the highway and was gone.

“Track star, too” David smirked, handing me one of our green Kawasaki bags full of brochures.

“Oh, hush!” I growled.


Happy Easter to those who observe!

There once was a bunny named Truckin’
Who raised all his chickens for pluckin’
In fact you will find
(for your dirty mind)
That the chickens went into Turduckin!


Little Robin

With a little sigh made rough from cigarette smoke and bitter crying, the woman leaned back in the time-wearied upholstered chair. She turned her reddened eyes towards the window.

The glass wasn't clean. Hotels of that kind didn’t spend money on simple things like water and a squeegee. The airplanes took off nearby and the filth from the straining engines coated the pane year after year. The occasional rain wet this greasy grime but did little to wash any of it away.

She stared at the pattern left on the glass. It was interesting to look at although not exactly attractive, and luckily the long crack in the glass didn't disrupt the pattern. Streaks like rivers and spots like craters, curves like ribbons and circles like balloons, lines like highways and dots like towns. Yes, a map. It looked like a map.

A map is truly what she needed, but there wasn’t such a thing printed to show the route she needed to take. The path for her was on no map of man’s devising; such a thing couldn’t be plotted on paper with ink.

Slowly she turned away from the window, shifting her attention to the television making noise before her. It always seemed so easy on TV, she thought to herself. There was the problem, the character was stupid to act the way she did, got what she deserved by getting into that situation, and by the end of the show, she got her way out of it again. Why ever believe it could be hard to get out of the situation at all? Television made no sense.

She had left him, just as she promised herself she would if he ever did that again, even having a packed bag to grab on her way out the door. But where had it left her? What could she do now? Her very life was back at that house, and there was no way to move forward without having first go backward. However, going backward could mean no life at all.

In irritation she threw the TV remote across the room where it bounced off the lavatory sink. The plastic shattered to pieces.

Great, she thought, looking back to the window. Now the only entertainment from that seat was watching the grey sky and the yellow taxis speeding down Lexington Road as they headed for the airport.

Out in the cold, on a bare branch of the tree still deep in winter’s sleep, alighted a robin. The light wind shook the branch, and the little creature was puffed and ruffled against the frosty air as it rode the bobbing twig. The snows had melted from the ground weeks before, and a temporary thaw had fooled the brave bird into coming back.

Yes, little bird, the woman nodded. You’re right. It’s too early to return home.


The Harder Side of Elusive Animals

I set up this blog this morning completely on a whim, hoping it would inspire me to write more. I’m brimming with enthusiasm but have difficulty channeling my energy into something useful.

Granted, my husband would find it useful if I applied this energy to housework, but that’s another blog.

To get things started – rather than the “This Page Intentionally Left Blank” message that you see on the last page of a legal document – I ripped through a quick “Gosh, what a wondrous adventure” piece. Full of enthusiasm and energy, it was a bubbly bit of fluff. I hoped it would imbue the reader with an understanding of the sense of the adventure I feel about every bit of writing I’ve ever done. Even the dark and dismal piece I wrote about a girl who tried to commit suicide but instead met a noble ancestor was energizing and uplifting to me.

But in looking back, I realized that I’m really not a ‘bubbly’ person. I don’t float above my tippy-toes looking for the rainbow. I’m not a Carey-Bear kinda personality. I’m a goof, a sarcasm-generator, a biotch sometimes, and even – dare you believe it? – a pain in the ass.

So in future, if you should tune in here, be aware that if you’re seeing bubbles on this page, it’s probably because I’m drowning in something and you’re witnessing the last air escaping my lungs.

Meh! Consider that possibility as an incentive to come back!



Well, today I embark upon a new enterprise; blogging. There's a thrill in the air, a shimmer on the water, and a storm abrewin' offshore. It was an impulsive decision to begin this journey, but I know the voyage into the unknown will be as exciting as any other trip I've completed, any cave I've visited or any backroad I've ever traveled.

My bags are empty at the moment, but soon they'll be filled with tidbits, trinkets, experiences and knowledge.

I'll be sure to send a postcard!