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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Tickle

I woke up this morning with The Tickle.

You know it. That little itch in the back of your throat next to your inside nostril that says, "Hey! Guess what? You're about to get sick! Mwahahahaha!"

I haven't been sick in a long time. I attribute it to my fanatical devotion to Vitamin D (recommended by a homeopathic pharmacist - oxymoron, I know) several years ago. I made it through The Racking Cough and Sore Throat Epidemic of 2010 when everyone in my office except me got sick for about six weeks on average. I did not gloat. I was too busy doing everyone else's job to gloat.

I might have guessed when I fell asleep at 8:30 last night and didn't wake up until after 4 AM. That's unusual, even for me.

I might still get around it. I've got my Airborne. I've got my cold medicine. With critiquing done, I can go to bed early (after feeding the cats, of course) and catch up on my sleep. I have plenty of greens in the freezer, and some bagels to toast for croutons, so Portuguese soup, here I come!

First, I have to make it through the busiest week of the year, which, knock on wood, wasn't too bad yesterday. Three days to go.

Stay well, dear readers. Wash your hands, don't put your fingers in your eyes, and get plenty of sleep.

You might want to give me a wide berth for a few days, just in case.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Easing In

I've been a bit absent the last six weeks. Playing Farmville, yes, but not doing much of anything else except critiquing for a couple of friends and following the normal Christmas season hullabaloo.

TT: It's funny. Since I ranted about how much I hate Christmas, I actually enjoyed this one a bit more. It helped to know I'm not the only one who feels that way.

I put my WIP on hold about mid-November, so that's a project I will resume. We'll see how much I can crank out in the next 35 days or so. I've pretty much forgotten where I was so I'll have to pull out my notes and review.

At work, I'm told this is the busiest time of year for business filings. With two co-workers on vacation, it should be an interesting week. I don't know if I'll be brain-dead when I get home or so stressed out I'll need to write to relax. Guess I'll find out.

My Kindle Touch (ordered in late October) arrived late November, so I've been reading snippets of H.P. Lovecraft, Grace Bridges, and Roland Yeomans electronically.

I can say it. I love the Kindle. I didn't get the fancy one. It doesn't surf the internet, other than Amazon, and I have to go to my coffee shop to use their free wireless, but it's exactly what I wanted. Best birthday present I've ever given myself.

Way better than those leather pants.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bah Hum-Turtle

Wonder why my house is dark and that "Go Away, Santa" sign hangs on my chimney? I told you why December 19, over at

And that catches me up. God willing, normal blogging will resume tomorrow. 
Thank you for your patience.

Readers Don't Care

Wow. Just realized how neglectful I've been of my little blog. I wasn't a complete slacker, though. I wrote this on December 12, over at

Remember Those Thank You's

I'm off to write mine at this moment. Don't know how? Read on, over at

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's the Simple Things in Life You Treasure

I've been torturing myself about making the best decision I can possibly make. Exploring all the options. Laying out the pros and cons. Making my list and checking it twice.

While watching a squirrel jump from tree to tree on my break, I realized the only decision I can make is the one I can live with. Maybe it isn't the right decision. Maybe it isn't the smart decision. Maybe it isn't the best fiscal decision. But it is the only decision that will let me sleep at night, confident in my illusion that one person can make the world a better place for squirrels.

What can I say? I'm an idiot.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


How does the song go? "There never seems to be enough time to do the things that you want to do once you find them."

My writing continues in between editing another writer's mss on deadline, moving and replacing all the plants in my backyard garden to protect them from the giant backhoe required to replace my sewer line (that's a post for another day, I'm sure), listening to friends as the holiday blues color their worlds and, of course, my own addiction to Farmville.

In short, life is getting in the way of my art.

I'll not despair. Even an hour a night is productive, if you know where you're going. According to the counter, I've added 11K words in the past two weeks. That's more than I've added in the past year.

The WIP took an odd turn this weekend, but I'm following cautiously while fighting an occasional bout of giggles. Silly thing might turn out to be 150K after all. Who knew?

If I'm hard to find, now you know why.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Does Satan care about my word count?

I had a whole evening "open" for writing yesterday, and what should happen?

One, I come home from lunch to find a stray dog curled up on my front porch. She was wet, shivering and not happy about either. I had to go in through the back door because I feared she'd bite me. I called animal control, which put me in a black mood for the rest of the afternoon.

I also called my post office. I didn't want my postman walking into a potential startle-and-bite situation. I like my postman. 

Then I rescued a bat I'd seen the day before in the parking garage. It was obviously not OK. My head tells me I should leave such things alone. That the life and death of one little bat have nothing whatsoever to do with me.

I can't agree with that.

In the same way Big Brother believes he is Justice to those criminals who cross his path, I believe I am Mercy to those animals who cross mine. I cannot just leave them alone and get on with my life.

After driving through pouring rain (for the second night in a row), I gave the bat to the county wildlife rescue. I hope he makes it. I only know I won't pass his frozen body in the parking garage stairwell and berate myself for doing nothing. That is all the hope I can take with me.

But my night of writing was shot to the heated netherworld. Perhaps some write better when their heart breaks and their eyes swell and their head stuffs up with mucus. I don't.

I wrote a bit, but it wasn't anything like it could have been.

Tonight is blown in the writing sense for a school function.

November passes and my word count fails to blossom. I'm not giving up, but this has not been the best week, and Wednesday has barely started.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Slight Change of Plans

I'm remembering why November is a dumb month to crank out 50K.

Family obligations.

I sort of remembered this before I decided to do it, but it was the kind of vague impression of a memory, like "I've never done this before, and I'm sure I had a reason but maybe it wasn't a good reason."

Band concerts, plays, Thanksgiving prep and parties, pre-Christmas shopping parties - it all happens in November, even for an aunt.

I know I could work around this if I could just get my body to accept the change from Daylight Savings Time.

I did not gain an hour this Sunday. I lost one. I lost several, actually, because not only am I now waking up at 3 AM on the dot despite my best efforts, I'm not falling asleep until 11 PM or later, even when I go to bed at 9. That's four to five hours of sleep when I like 7 to 8. Not good news for the turtle or the family who will be around her as this snowballs into the inevitable sleep-deprived grumpiness.

Hey, maybe this works for the best. If no one wants to be around me, I won't be distracted from writing.

I guess there's a bright side to everything.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dave Is Wrong

Maybe not "wrong," but this month, he's not right, either.

October was my envelope expenses test month. I took out cash in predetermined amounts and used only those envelopes for those expenses. What did I learn?

Cash is far easier to lose.

I reconciled the "cash account" I created to keep track of my expenditures and found I'm 41.00 off, and not in my favor. I have no idea where the money went. I thought I got receipts for everything and I only used the money in the envelopes for the intended purpose.

It's probably my math skills, but this can't be good. The whole point of the Dave Ramsey envelope method is to help me limit spending. If it doesn't do that, or doesn't do it well enough, why am I going through the hassle of counting out 1's?

Yes, I'm that anal. I put the exact predetermined amounts into their respective envelopes. Which is why I'm a bit floored, disappointed and a teeny bit disgusted with the whole experience.

Maybe it's the I-can't-believe-I-had-to-call-the-plumber-again-for-the-exact-same-problem-and-maybe-pay-overtime-for-it talking. I'm a little miffed over that, too, considering I took vacation time to be here to meet them and they showed up an hour late. It's not like I can take more time off tomorrow and reschedule.

Grrrr. This is why I don't get along with Thursdays.

On a slightly more positive note, it could be argued I did limit my spending to only what was in the envelopes, but I'm not ready to be positive yet.

What will Friday bring? No idea, but today is certainly getting its pound of flesh.


This week has posed ridiculous interruptions to my sleep.

Monday my alarm clock failed to go off because the AM and PM were messed up after my weekend power outage, leading not to more sleep but to more interrupted sleep as hungry cats worked to wake me on their schedule instead of mine.

Tuesday failed to solve the alarm clock problem when I didn't reset it and it went off at midnight. My body knew midnight was too early but it failed to tell my brain, so I lay in bed half-dozing, half-listening to the radio, repeating to myself "I need to get up. I need to get up" all while not getting up.
An hour and thirty-eight minutes later, I figured out it wasn't time to get up, reset the clock for 5 AM and barely got back to sleep before it went off again.

Have I mentioned I have trouble going back to sleep when I wake up?

Tuesday was miserable. My eyes did not want to stay open. Despite this, I came home and wrote for TuNoWriMo and went to bed rather proud of myself.

Sometime Wednesday night, my power cut out briefly again. When that happens, my answering machine comes back on with a loud beep and an electronic "to reset, please press the menu button." Yes, that's enough to wake me up. In the middle of the night. Again.

And last night, for no reason at all, I woke up at 1:38, and as far as I can tell, did not go back to sleep except for about 15 minutes shortly after 4. Just long enough to dream about dead St. Bernard puppies.

What it all means is I will be acting like one dead puppy at work today. It's a Thursday, too.
Thursdays and I have a bad history.

On the bright side, I did write about 500 words last night, even though most of the evening was spent with mom, at Bible study and realizing my own physical inadequacy to gain access to the part of my basement drain I believe to be clogged, necessitating yet another call to the plumber, another withdrawal from my checking account and another irritating use of my newly earned vacation time.

I guess it is a Thursday.

Oh well. At least the cats can sleep in.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It Starts

Can't you just hear Nathan Lane as Timon? I can.

The turtle November writing challenge - what I'm calling TuNoWriMo - started last night.

I admit, I didn't go all out. I didn't rush home from work, close the door, the blinds and the cats in the basement and write until my eyes bled. Nope. Not me. I piddled around with laundry, Farmville, dinner and dishes before I got started. I even took a phone call, although we kept that brief.

Still, I wrote almost 1200 words in two hours. The key seems to be knowing whose head I'll be in next. Having that pre-planned is making the difference.

For the third morning, I've had alarm clock issues - this one wasn't my fault - so I'm behind. Again.
I'll keep you updated on the progress with my November-only word counter up there in the left corner. If you don't read me here, odds are excellent I'll be writing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wasting Paper

You may find this amusing but I'm worried about wasting my note cards. I only have 200 and access to 1000s more in a few minutes and a few dollars, but I have to worry about these note cards and whether I'm making the best use of them.

TT: Ever wondered why I'm not married? This is one of the 100s of reasons. Why would I put up with a man who would put up with this kind of quirk?

I'm trying to relax and go with this new skill acquisition thing. I may like using note cards to map out a story. Haven't tried it long enough to know. I may be able to recycle or compost those wasted cards. It could happen.

I took the cards with me to work and added some sentences during my breaks. Note cards highlight the one good/bad thing about being the author - the choices. What do I put in? What do I leave out?

In 15 minutes, I literally went from being convinced I didn't have enough material to write to even bother finishing the book to despair over how much story was left and how I could manage to fit it all in. Do I need this kind of stress?

I currently have 5 viewpoint characters. Is that too many? Do they all sound different enough from each other to justify the space?

I start the story with Rhami. I don't know why. I liked the scene, I guess. Jeff the Publisher's rule about continuity would indicate I should end the story with Rhami, too. Can I? Do I want to? I don't know.

As I write things down, I keep coming up with new questions about where the story could go and where I want it to go and why isn't it going that way? Frankly, it's a bit frustrating. This could be why the story isn't progressing rapidly.

Do I dare sigh and repeat Star of Justice wasn't this hard? Nah. I'll take the high road and keep that to myself. 

On the bright side, I've found some good pics about Raven's forest to guide me while writing and some ideas about other things and a bit of excitement about upcoming confrontations. That's good. I need to be excited about this if I'm going to finish. Success breeds success, you know.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Three For One

I'm a stationary nut. Notebooks, pens, legal pads - doesn't matter. If it involves marks on paper, I'm drawn.

TT: Hey! I punned! Sorry. 

Which is why I can't believe I left the dollar store with only a single pack of 3 x 5 cards. I guess Dave Ramsey really is rubbing off. Only took six years.

It probably helped to know anything coming from the dollar store (other than 3 x 5 note cards) will just not be worth that dollar. That, and my single-minded, straight-ahead push to get the cards and get out fast.

With the cards in hand, I sat down to outline my story and discovered I have no idea how to use note cards to outline a story. Do I write a word? A character? A sentence? Am I supposed to put a little essay of what I see happening or is it like bullet points? I'm writing down things I already know. Is that OK?

With purple pen poised, I remembered I couldn't use note cards in school, either. Oh, I used them as doodlepads and bookmarks, but not for outlining. This may be why I didn't have any note cards in the house and had to go buy some. Which makes me extremely happy I bought only the one pack despite all temptations otherwise.

Does make me wonder if this is why I don't outline.

Anyhoo, I have a few days and a couple hundred cards so I'll fumble along and see if I can make anything worthwhile writing-wise out of that dollar investment.

If not, I'm set for bookmarks for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stupid November

While enjoying day three of German Chocolate Cake Week, I read Tim Ward's post over at NAF and nearly put down my fork.

That stupid November NaNuNaNu thing is coming. Again. When writers around the world challenge themselves to write 50K new words.


That's almost 1700 words a day.

I did it easily with Star of Justice. I'm sure I did. By the final word count alone I wrote 1840 words a day, and I know I wrote more than that because I edited.

Elementals - not so much. I don't remember the start and end dates but I wasn't consumed by that tale. It took longer.

We come to Justice for All. Should I try? Am I setting myself up for failure or is this the push I need to get this baby out by the end of this year?

As I lick my fork, I consider buying some 3x5 note cards and trying to outline the rest of the book. At least put down some scene ideas to propel me forward when I stall out. I have a week to prepare. Maybe I can do something.

Of course, the best thing I can do is convince the world to leave me alone while I do it. With my typical writing speed, I'm looking at 4 hours of writing a day. That's an entire evening plus some for me.

Maybe. It might work. Even if I don't hit 50K, whatever I do hit is better than nothing.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Trouble with "Not Earth"

Kat the Hacker Heckenbach brings up an excellent point. Ah'rahk isn't Earth. I can have ferns in my forest if I want to.

True enough, Kat.

However, Ah'rahk and Earth have much in common. In Star Trek vernacular, Ah'rahk is a type-M planet capable of sustaining human life. Yes, magic exists there, but, like the magic of your books, it follows certain reliable rules.

TT: Remind me to tell you sometime of the fun I had coming up with a "magic test" for Dangling Participles. Pacing, hair pulling, eye gouging. Well, not eye-gouging, but there was some definite torment (I'm talking about my process, not what the character had to go through). I brilliantly overcame the obstacle and moved to working on another book.

Some famous author (I thought it was Orson Scott Card in How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy but now I'm not so sure) laid out the four basic reasons to write a fiction book. I can't remember all four, but I remember two.

TT: In any list greater than two, the human brain typically remembers the first and last. That's why test-taking tip books recommend paying more attention to the middle parts of a list. Excuse me. I digress. Again.

One reason is developing character. You start with a protagonist and let the reader get to know him. That's really the whole point of the book. This is how I write, by the way, which is why I remember it.

Another reason is to showcase a setting or world. The main point of the book is to say "hey, look at this really weird/cool/wonderful/awful place." This is not how I write. It is how George MacDonald writes, and Piers Anthony to some extent.

I don't invent stuff. I recycle stuff. This is why I'm not J.K. Rowling or Piers Anthony or even Anne McCaffrey. I don't want to create an entire world from the rock up. I just want to add enough to support my characters as they go through all their little problems and make me feel better about my life.

So, while I could invent new names for all the various shrubberies and ferns and trees and flowers in my fictional forest, I'd rather not. Which leaves me researching Earth-type forest environments for all the little doodads and whatsamahooies that will make fighting in a forest harder or easier.

Before you say it, you're absolutely right. I've painted myself into my corner and I'll just have to sit here until it dries.  Or tear the house down and live in a sleeping bag.

On a brighter note, writing continued last night back in the forest. Now my issue is whose viewpoint shall tell this chapter? I've settled on Merritt. He should get to talk while he can, right?


Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Forest Is Clearing

Writing screeched to a halt when I left the beach and returned to the party members who remained in the forest. Drat. Research could not be postponed any longer.

TT: Those of you following Ranunculus Turtle the Facebook Page might remember a tiny status rant that ended with the plea for death followed by the pronouncement of going to bed. Yes, I was an unhappy turtle. And that was only 5 minutes in.

Not saying the research has gone anywhere. Something in me rebels at searching. I don't care how easy Google makes it. I don't want to do it. I don't even want to look for a picture of a druidy kind of forest. Do you know how many pics of Yellowstone are on the Internet? Neither do I, but a lot. Like 10+ pages.

TT: What the heck is Morning Glory Pool anyway? What is wrong with that water? Is there glass over it? I don't understand!

I tried looking at topographical maps of Russia and Alaska and North America, which would be the closest kinds of terrain to York. I discovered I can't read topographical maps. Sorry, Dr. Iliff.
Really, the whole thing just sucks eggs.

One thing I did learn is ferns grow in Alaskan forests.

TT: Oops. Did a little rhyming there. I sometimes wonder if I have Welsh in my Scottish bloodline. I tend to alliterate like Eliza Doolittle's dad when I'm not paying attention. Odd, since I'm rhythm-deficient in other areas of my life.

Back to the ferns. The problem with having ferns in an Alaskan-type forest is the connotation of ferns with tropical jungles. The problem with the whole thing is the void of common descriptors for "forest" that lend themselves easily to melee-topography.

TT: For the non-English-speaking readers of this blog, i.e., anyone from Kansas, I'm having trouble describing the area where the fighting happens.

Yeah, yeah, this is the burden of being a writer. This is why not everyone does it (or should do it).

On a bright note, the "dense" fog lifted a bit more and I realized the natural place for Raven to live is in a tree. Duh. Druid. Tree.

Feel free to smack me the next time we meet. You'll know where to hit by the hand-shaped bruise on my forehead.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

You Bet I'm Cranky

All those not interested in whiny-butt posts, turn away and read something else with your coffee. I'm shooting the moon. Whatever that means.

I walk through my house last night. A door knob comes off in my hand. I discover Miss Kitty's persistence has ripped the screen out of the screen door in the guest room, rendering the screen door completely useless (it cost $20. I'm probably better off buying another one than trying to fix it). Two basement steps "feel funny" when I step on them, leading me to believe at some point they will either break in half or pull away from the wall, probably while I'm carrying a 40 lb case of kitty litter. My back deck appears to be separating from itself. All of my window trim has dry rot and I actually have gaps between one window and the siding where storm damage from several years ago ripped a cable loose. I have the caulking and the ladder. I just keep forgetting to apply them when the temp is between 65 and 72 degrees and the relative humidity is below 90%. Not that caulking solves the problem. I need to replace the trim. I need to replace the windows, too, and while I'm wishing, God, can you send me a silver Subaru Outback in my Christmas stocking?

I could go on. I've been making a list of "things to do if I had the time/skill/money/equipment to do them."

I watched my dad not do things around the house most of my life. He didn't do them because he knew it's never as simple as replacing a toilet flap. It always turns into replacing an entire toilet. Watch This Old House. He's right. How many times do couples start here and end up there? Even professionals sit back and scratch their heads sometimes wondering how so many things could go so wrong so quickly.

I don't start many of these projects because I don't have the money to hire the professional to fix it when it turns ugly. I only have one toilet. I literally can't afford to mess with it, even though the back is wobbly and mom says it's too low.

It's the affording, you see. That's the part I didn't figure out about buying a house until several years into it. Thank you, Lord, I had the sense to stick to my guns about the monthly payments.
Maintenance is important, too. Things break and even a power drill doesn't solve everything.

A normal woman would browbeat her husband into either fixing things or paying for someone to fix things. I don't have that option. I'm seriously considering renting a husband for a year, except I don't know of manly, able-to-fix-things men who would eat the kinds of food I prepare.

I'm probably just cranky because Miss Kitty spent the time from 3:49 AM on to rip up as much hall carpet as her little claws could reach under the closed solid door of the guest room. I'd pull out the carpet in the hallway and replace it with tile if I had the money/time/skill. While I'm wishing, I should ask for a wrap-around deck out front and a garage that isn't falling off its foundation.

I may be the crazy lady with 6 cats, but I don't want to be the crazy lady with 6 cats and a crappy house. 

So once again I must examine income vs outflow, needs vs. wants and how to teach my dependents the value of old carpet and door knobs.

Yeah, I'm cranky.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Little Planning May Not Kill Me (But It Might Kill Someone Else)

Put down your coffee. I don't want to cause nasal burns. 

I'm a bit dense on occasion.

Yes, yes, you can stop laughing.

The problem with being dense on occasion is that you can't see how dense you're being. That's why God gives us friends and gives them mouths.

TT: No friends helped me with this particular bout of denseness, possibly because I didn't share it with any of them. Probably because I didn't know I needed to. Maybe the solution was so obvious to them, they didn't think to ask if I'd thought of it. The VCR was not plugged in, folks. It's OK to ask.

That's the other problem with not knowing you're being dense. You don't know to sound a warning siren for help.

So what increased my mass beyond its usual proportions, I'll ask for you?

I've been piddling around with my WIP for about two months, moaning about writer's block, searching for inspiration in writing books or Xanth novels or long weekend meditations in my bedroom with my eyes closed and the curtains drawn (those would be "naps" for anyone who hasn't had their coffee yet).

This week my MCs moved out of the literal woods onto a sandy beach and the floodgates of inspiration opened.


I didn't know the terrain for the forest scenes. I thought I did. I know what a forest looks like. I've watched Willow.

TT: Not a lot of forests in Willow if you think about it. 

I've gone back over the previous writing and see I have no idea what kind of forest my MCs are in. Are we talking pines or oaks? Underbrush or no underbrush? Alpine? Ferns show up at one point. Do ferns belong wherever they are? Where the heck are they? I don't know! 

Now that I'm out on the beach where I and my MCs can see what they're doing, I'm having no trouble writing at all. Lots of things are dying. Lots of people are getting stabbed or shot. It's great!
Apparently, I know what a beach looks like and I have no trouble moving people around on one.
Who knew?

Writing lesson: as much as I hate research, being stuck for two months may be a signal to look at the terrain and do a little decision-making.

Raven's forest is fairly important to her. Time to decide what it looks like.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Title Ideas

In the ongoing quest to find a more obvious title for Elementals, I've thought of these: 


Broken Trust 
Which really sounds more like a financial planning book to me, but with the right cover...

Daughters of Earth and Water from a poem I really like by Percy Bysshe Shelley called "The Cloud." Here's the excerpt: 
I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
Obviously, I changed the noun to plural to account for two sisters. Seems a little long, though. 

Which leads me to the possible Daughters of Earth and Sky, which just might be The One. I'll have to mull it a bit.

Aside from completely turning off any potential for most male readers, it sounds a bit too "lesbian night club." Of course, that might attract some other kinds of male readers... 

Anyway, that's all I have for the moment. Feel free to "yea" or "nay." I have considered Why Did I Write A Book So Hard To Title?, but I may save that for the mandatory book on writing I'll be writing after I get published.  

Those are mandatory, right?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Budget Success?

One, I don't know how people without computer check register programs do anything worthwhile with their fiscal planning. Maybe they don't. Maybe that's the problem.

While struggling with pen and paper to "create a budget" like Dave Ramsey tells me, a brilliant idea hit me. After I picked myself up from the floor (it hit rather hard, ba-dum-bump) I went to the "budget" feature in my program.

I may have cheated here, but it's a start and a start is what I needed.

I created an automated budget using my spending pattern from the last year. That gave me average percentages of spending per category (yes, I've been using categories for a while so that made it much easier). I applied those percentages to my new paycheck and voila! I have a budget!

You might argue that all I have is a record of how I've spent my money in the past. You'd be right. Except... I'm going to try Dave's envelope system. Using my new budget, I will spend only that much per month on those categories. I hope this will do a couple things.

1) It makes my spending deliberate and limited. Since I'm using cash, I can't go over those amounts and if I try, I'll know it immediately.

2) Since I'm accustomed to spending this way and in similar amounts, I think it will bypass my concern that I won't have the right amount in the right envelope at the right time.

I don't quite feel like I've gotten a raise (although I did with the new job) but I do feel a bit more in control of my money and consequently my life.

I can't remember if I've said this already, but I want very much to be responsible with God's blessings on my life. Living in a world just starting to feel the burden of its fiscal irresponsibility, it seems even more important to get my own house in order. I'm hoping this helps set my mind on long-term goals while allowing me a little breathing room in day-to-day living.

On a side note, let me know if you use a budget or envelope system or any type of method to regulate spending. I'm curious how other people do it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thank A Cop

I intended to write more about budgeting but a news story got my blood up.

I just watched a 2 minute segment of tearful women describing how their relative got in "an altercation" with a neighbor (I'm sorry, who knows that word except people familiar with legal defense jargon?), separated and then got shot by police when he answered the door holding a knife.

They're blaming the police.

"They could have done something else," one woman sobbed. "He wasn't the nicest guy but he didn't deserve that."

I don't know about you, but I don't generally answer my front door holding a knife. If I have a fight with my neighbor -something I've never done, by the way- I wouldn't let it reach the point where I might feel I have to answer the front door holding a knife.

Maybe I have better people skills.

I don't know the specifics in this case, other than the eyewitness testimony just recorded by the news that will probably be thrown out of court as "here say." What I do know is cops deal with the bottom-feeding 1% of the population 98% of the time. People the rest of us only hear about in headlines. People the rest of us would fear if stalled in an elevator with them. People who would rather shoot a cop in the face than do what he says.

It is not surprising such people get shot. What is extremely surprising is they don't get shot by cops more often.

Do I sound judgmental? You bet I am. I am sick and tired of the victim mentality just displayed on my television.

"He couldn't help himself." "He was just having an altercation." "Yeah, he had a knife but that's no reason to fear for your life or the lives of others and shoot him."

They're called consequences, people. They happen. Sometimes they kill you.

And before you go all "You're being rather judgmental, aren't you?" - uh, yeah. I totally am and I'm not backing down, either.

I once heard the best way to stay off Cops is to put on a shirt and some shoes. The best way to not get shot by cops is to not be in situations where they're likely to feel the need to shoot you.

Thank the next cop you meet, even if she's writing you a ticket. They put up with a lot of crap so you don't have to. They don't need yours added to the pile.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

No Worries - I'm Poor

Before I got all bent out of shape over the new and improved salary, I should have sat down with my pen, paper, calculator and checking program.

Yeah, I'm definitely poor.

Dave Ramsey says when you make a monthly budget, you feel like you got a raise. I've never experienced that feeling. When I make a monthly budget, I feel utterly miserable at just how little money there seems to be.

TT: I'm not complaining. God has blessed me above and beyond what I deserve. I've never had to choose which bill to pay. I've never paid interest on a credit card. I've never paid a late fee or a bank fee, except for that one time I used an ATM that wasn't from my bank and discovered it came with a service charge. I had no school debt, thanks to my parents and a couple scholarships. I do know how to manage money in little increments and avoid the most common and costly mistakes people make that keep them poor. It's the "wealth-building" I haven't yet mastered. I've got "debt free except for the house."

This miserable feeling may be why I resist the monthly budget so very hard, even when Dave explains how vital it is. I don't like to see on paper how little I can afford without putting aside money every month. It's pretty much a few take-out meals. That's a hard truth to accept, so my sympathies for those who don't want to accept it.

I pulled out Total Money Makeover last night for a little light reading before bed. Sandwiched between the chapters on getting out of debt and investing, I did find the five times he repeated "save your money." They were all in a row and spelled and punctuated differently for emphasis.
I think he's telling me to save money.


I guess since the next chapters are about types of investments, he means I should invest/save money.


Here's the rub, and maybe it's the rub for other "poor" folk like me.

I worry about my money being "liquid" enough.

Since I'm the only income and I have the furballs depending on me for food and such, I worry (yeah, I'm gonna use the word even if it's a sin) that I won't have the resources I need at the moment I need them.

This may be that "security gland" Dave talks about. Mine secretes when I consider I might not be able to take care of my family.

How much liquid is enough? A number seems to be emerging the more I work with Dave's plan, but I can't be sure until I reach it.

What I don't want to be, and what is absolutely not something Dave teaches, is a money-hoarder like Silas Marner. Money is active, so the best places for it in general are places where it can move, hopefully in good ways. To Dave, that means charities (the giving away) and mutual funds (the saving).

Wish me luck on my continuing journey to make wise decisions with the blessings of my new job. I'm praying daily that God will show me how to use His money to glorify Him.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Money Trouble

I'll begin by saying I have no complaints about my life. God has blessed me generously with resources, family, kindness, and patience above and beyond what I would supply were our positions reversed.

TT: Be grateful I'm not God. I would have killed us all before Noah, let me tell you.

With the new job comes a new and slightly improved salary. What's the problem, right?

Well, the problem is the turtle seems to come with a subconscious glass ceiling where money is concerned. Too little and I freak out. Too much and I freak out.

There's nothing wrong with having money. I have no problem with people being rich. I don't think I deserve what they have and I don't want to redistribute anyone's wealth to my bank account (or anyone else's bank account).

In my own life, however, I seem to have this idea that I can't have more than a certain amount in any of my emergency funds or I'm a bad person who's keeping God's money from doing God's work.

Weird, I know.

Again, I don't think God has anything against rich people. Lots of important Biblical figures were rich. Like ridiculously wealthy rich. Like move money to get to the toilet rich. Job. Abraham, et al. Joseph was the second richest guy in Egypt. Solomon the richest in the world. God didn't have anything against those guys.

Dave Ramsey, and his teacher Larry Burkett, equate wealth with an ability to be responsibly generous. Those with money ready can give faster, better and more than those who have no money saved and debt to their eyeballs and beyond.

The connection I can't seem to make is exactly when I cross from being "poor" to being "rich." Please remember the dollar amounts in question are so small as to make the poorest Californian laugh at me for worrying.

"That's my monthly house payment," they might scoff.

Well, if you want to know my feelings about California in general, read my other blog. Plus, Dave would say "broke is normal," so, take that, scoffing Californian!

Where was I? Oh, right. Money.

I'm revamping my budget, rearranging columns in what I hope to be a responsible manner. Having no real experience with wealth building, I'll have to trust Dave and hope to get used to this feeling of not struggling and equate it with "good."

I'm also rereading Thou Shall Prosper. God willing, the good Rabbi Lapin will encourage me yet again.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

I'm trying to decide whether to keep Ranunculus Turtle the Website.

I'm not complaining. I'm evaluating. Since Elder Brother pays for it as a birthday present, it's imperative to evaluate right now.  

I don't go there much. I haven't been able to make Amazon Associates work with it (to sell books, you see, should I ever have books to sell). The last few times I've updated it, I've run into issues with loading and whatnot. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. The fonts tend to change randomly. It's just not as user-friendly as I'd hoped, although I still love the look of it.

It seemed like a great idea three years ago, but I wonder now if the blogs are enough. I don't visit my author friends' webpages. I go to their blogs. Or their FB pages.

I did create a wordpress page (not that I need another blog), because wordpress is considered professional and has some nice features. However, wordpress doesn't seem to have the ability to sell, either. Blogspot (this forum) does. I just need to add it back.

TT: Did you notice I took out the little ads? No one clicked on them and they were getting silly.

I think I can restore Amazon selling without adding the little adspace boxes. Haven't tried yet.
Anyway, it's one of those marketing things I've been kicking around while avoiding writing on JFA. I can find all kinds of motivation for stuff not manuscript related now that I've set writing goals.
At the moment, I'm cleaning house. I hope if I make a big enough mess, it will become a procrastinatable problem and I'll write to avoid dealing with it.

Mostly, I'm just trying to distract myself from jonesing after my lost farm. It isn't working.

Friday, September 30, 2011


Grace may think 500 words a day won't kill you, but I'm not making it. I can write 300-350. That's a page and a half for me. Takes 45 minutes to an hour.

I'm not entirely certain anything I'm writing at the moment will stay in the book. I'm just putting something down to get my brain moving in a forward direction.

I realized last night I've told the non-furry people in my life to leave me alone to write, but I haven't yet communicated the request to the furry people. I'm thinking maybe a walk for the dog and some laser playtime for the cats before I start anything. That might give me an hour of clear-of-obstruction screen time.

Of course, that means I actually have to walk the dog and play with the cats, something out of the normal for me. I might accidentally wear myself out and defeat my own purpose.

But a page and a half is something. I've got to be the turtle with the artichoke.

TT: Actually, it's the turtle with the cherry tomato, but I don't like tomatoes. Artichokes are delicious but hard to eat and occasionally painful and fibrous and annoying. Kind of like writing a novel. Getting to the end is great, but the spiky parts in the middle require careful management.

Mostly, I seem to be out of the serious writing habit. I've let other, easier parts of life sprawl around and take up space, and I need to squish and hack and stomp them out of the way until I have some clear brain-space to exercise my creative muscles and get this novel out of the oven and onto the cooling rack.

I don't think I can mix any more metaphors, so I'll get on with my day and let you get on with yours.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Inspired - Not So Much

Grace Bridges set the goal of 500 words a day. I have no idea what she's writing, but she claims 500 words a day won't kill anyone.

TT: Of course, the last I heard, she was trying to exercise and write at the same time. That doesn't sound terribly safe...

Anyhoo, last month was dismal in the writing department. I'm starting to wonder if books 1 and 2 were flukes. Past Ties went back into the drawer mid-summer with the sinking realization I may have written that book 17 years ago and there's no way to excise the cheese without killing the recipe. I've had Justice For All, sequel to Star of Justice, open on my computer for 2 months. Time to get serious.
So, I'm grabbing at that 500 word a day goal and giving it a shot. I've only made it once, but I've gotten close several times and, hey, at least I'm writing something new.

I may be writing total crap but it's on the page where I have a chance to make some useful compost out of it.

I have absolutely decided my writing progress suffers because of poor time use. I won't go without sleep to write, so something has to go during my awake hours.

One of those things has been Farmville - to a degree. I'm rather upset with Zynga at the moment, but I'm hoping they'll come around. To ease some withdrawal pangs, I've been stopping by my farm once a day to do simple chores and help out neighbors who haven't called it quits yet. Should Zynga continue to act like horses' hinder ends, I expect to renounce Farmville entirely. As I said, I'm upset.

Another thing that's falling by the wayside for a bit is people. I'm sorry, folks who like me for some odd reason, but I can't hang with you and finish a book at the same time. You want the book, you'll have to wait. I've changed my answering machine to reflect this - in a slightly nicer way, mom - but here's a more formal announcement.

I'm writing. Please leave me alone. Unless I call you to gripe about plot complications. Then listen politely for no longer than 10 minutes, tell me to put on my big girl panties and get back to work, and hang up. You may appear briefly in the book as a beheading but I'll probably remove that in the editing process.


Having declared my intentions publicly, I'll no doubt lose any desire to continue with the goal but that's the risk I take in posting to my blog. On the other hand, since I resolved this, I have moved the plot forward, fixed a few glaring errors, made some major plot decisions and resumed thinking constructively about the story at odd times during the day.

In short, I'm writing again.

This is good.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fun Facts About Motion Sickness

I've suffered motion sickness from the tender age of 3 months. It's a constant companion, the violently nauseated elephant in the seat next to me on any ride anywhere of any duration.

My family learned early to give me the front seat in the car. My friends' parents learned late, which is why I had few friends in elementary school.

TT: I grew up in the age of the Chevy station wagon, that marvelous invention where all children can pile into the very back of the vehicle next to the smoking tail pipe with no fresh air and press their noses against the back window and look the wrong way at 35 mph. Oi. My stomach turns just thinking about it.

I stopped riding with non-family by the age of 12. I was tall enough at that point to put my foot down and mean it. I would rather walk home than puke in one more car.

Buses were out. Carnival rides? Don't make me laugh. Do you know how boring Worlds of Fun is when you can't ride anything, including the trolley from the parking lot?

Motion sickness only got worse with age. I hadn't realized how much it affected me until a 20 mile trip put me in bed for 24 hours with light blindness and nausea (the symptoms of motion sickness are much like those of a migraine headache -minus the pain- and can last just as long). That left some time for reflection on how telescoped my life had become. I don't travel much outside a 10 mile radius from my house, and motion sickness may be the reason.

This spring, I took the plunge and got those motion sickness patches everyone raves about. I had a wedding to attend and I didn't want to find a bucket to match my dress.

The patches worked. I was very careful, of course, to ride up front, keep my eyes forward, not bend over, not eat anything that might cause hiccups or a blood sugar spike - in short, I didn't trust the patches. But they seemed to work.

Huzzah! Freedom!

I used another patch on my recent trip to the Kansas State Fair, with fabulous results in the motion sickness department.

However, one side effect not mentioned by the pharmacist who gave me the patches is blindness.
Not permanent blindness, thank God, but when I lost the ability to read fine print on the last day of my trip, I thought 40 had caught up with me in one fell swoop. When my reading ability returned 3 days later, I thought brain tumor.

(It's not a tumor. It's not. Not a tumor)

Turns out scopalamine is a very powerful dilating agent. I suspect my eyes were wide enough to have a cop yelling "Out of the car! Who's your dealer?"

TT: Not that I think cops would actually behave that way. I'm exaggerating for humorous effect here, people.

Anyhoo, it's not a tumor and 40 caught up with me by making my eyes better. So much better, in fact, I now must drop a wad of cash to buy lenses that don't over-correct my improving vision.

The moral of the story? The next time a child tells you she must ride up front with you or bad things will happen to your upholstery - believe her. Some smells just don't come out.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Round Pants?

My most recent jeans-buying excursion this summer (after I can't tell you how many years) led to the exciting realization I fit into size 10s.

TT: Personally, I think clothing manufacturers have fiddled with the sizes. In the last ten years, I've worn things marked "6" that are bigger than things marked "8" from 20 years ago. Yes, the turtle still has clothes from 20 years ago, despite the fact she hasn't fit in them in almost that long.

Anyhoo, happy that the nice pants fit, I bought them and took them home, where I noticed the black pair are round at the top.

TT: The most annoying part is they fit well in the store. I have no explanation for it except magic.

So I have these pants that fit my legs but leave an inch plus gap between waist and fabric. It's a bit like an egg cup. Who's built like that?

Women fall into three general shapes: apple (top-heavy), banana (no waist) and pear (bottom-heavy).
The majority, myself included, are pears. I don't know anyone who's egg-shaped, so why are the pants made like that? Maybe they're supposed to hug my hips, but if that's the case, my rise is too low, cause when I put the waist around my hips, I need silk boxers and a heavy gold chain to complete the look.

Tis a mystery, and one of the reasons I don't shop for pants all that often. Most annoying part of the whole thing is I'm not sure they can be fitted. It would require all these little darts and denim just doesn't dart that well.

So, I'll wear them with baggy tops, pretend I'm a marsupial and stash stuff in the over-indulgent waistband instead of in the useless low-cut pockets, hoping, of course, it doesn't slip out through a leg.

Tailors, FYI, fashion in this decade is stupid. No wonder America is fat. You're making our clothes too big.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Too Much Food?

One of the beauty parts of my new job is all the food.

I'm starting to wonder if one of the down-sides to the new job is all the food.

Typical of life, isn't it? The thing you like the most is the thing that does you in.

After four weeks, I was starting to wonder if a day went by without food in it. People aren't bringing carrot sticks and cucumber slices, either. I'm talking cake, cookies, enormous cinnamon rolls, cupcakes; things absolutely on my list of "rare indulgences." Things that will make me fat if I ran those six flights of stairs eight times a day instead of walking four times a day.

I can't afford to eat like this, in any sense of the verb. Granted, this week (that would be yesterday, if you're paying attention) no one brought anything, so maybe I just joined up at a weird point in the cycle. Doesn't matter. The turtle is pulling back on the office offerings. I've already sworn off vending machines (that way lies obesity and poverty). I can swear off silly snacks every day.

Naturally, I make exceptions for the really good snacks. As that sage Joey Tribianni teaches, "If you're gonna do it wrong, do it right."

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Not quite a week since Mica took The Long Step. I can't stop thinking about her.

I listen for her. Her constant, nagging, bone-shivering wail ended Tuesday, but I wake up in the middle of the night, straining to hear it.

I pull food out of the refrigerator and cry when I don't have to lock her in the bathroom to keep her from eating it before I can dish it onto my own plate.

I come home and wonder why I don't have to clean up the undigested contents of her ailing stomach.
You might think I should be relieved about all this.

I'm not. Not yet.

You see, I seem to live in a fantasy world where I can heal all hurts and solve all the problems plaguing my charges. I seem to think I have the power to extend life beyond its natural bounds simply because I wish it to be so.

I don't have that power, no matter how much or how often I wish I do.

I can't keep a cat alive. I can't stop death from taking my friends one by one, not even if I had all the money or medicine in the world.

I can't stop missing them when they're gone, even if they are annoying, sickly, or troublesome in their old age.

I loved Mica. She wasn't always troublesome or sick or annoying. We had many good times known only to us.

I'm so sorry, my friend. If I had the power, I would give up some of my life to have kept you here.
You know I would.

Please forgive me.

Please let me go.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


"My heart is filled with silence. My friend stopped running today."

2 Samuel 12:23
See you on the other side, my friend. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Stringing Along

This Annie Dillard book I'm reading...

TT: I should be done with it. The thing's like 20 pages long. OK, maybe a 100. I could read it in an hour. But it fits really well in my purse, so it's become my "purse book." You know, that book you carry around for when you have to wait in a doctor's office or the drive-through? The book you never actually have time to read until you don't have it with you? That book. Which means I'm reading it in one or two sentence snatches. Once I buy a Kindle, I won't have this problem.

Back to topic.

This Annie Dillard book I'm reading... She doesn't really have a point I can see. Maybe that's the point. She'll give involved metaphors for the writing journey, then she'll give some straightforward accounts of her writing journey. I like those better. She'll quote some famous authors about their writing journey, then give two conflicting accounts of how writers write.

Like I said, I occasionally wonder what she was ingesting while she wrote it. She claims coffee and cigarettes, but she doesn't specify what kind of cigarettes.

I guess it's a book to show the variety of ways people write.

What I'm taking from it at this point is her idea of stringing sentences together. That's all writing really is. You can never capture the idea in your head with words, any more than you can capture the image in your head with paint or charcoal or ink (one of the reasons I stopped drawing when I hit adulthood). You're not supposed to. The idea starts the process, but in trying to capture it, you end with something completely different, like Monty Python.

This happened with Star of Justice. The original idea was to bring the reader on the journey of translating the Words of the Oread. As the story developed, that goal moved farther back in the minivan until it now rides the bumper. Is that bad? I don't think so. It was hard to let go of that original idea, but I did.

All I can say is Annie Dillard is helping me write sentences. I string them together until something pretty happens (keep stringing) or something awful (cut the string and try again), but the key is setting aside the time to string.

Writing is about the process. If I don't have a process involving writing words, I'm not a writer.
Simple as that.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Things I Love About My New Job

I could follow up with things I hate about my new job, but Elder Brother says I've earned my masters' in complaining and its time to focus on the positive. Here goes: 

-The exercise. I'm enjoying the walk. Maybe that will change when winter arrives, but maybe not. Once I can fly up those stairs without losing my breath, I plan to add hand weights.

-The elevated metabolism. Probably due to the exercise, but I'm finding myself "feeling" warmer overall  than I have in years. This in an environment where I seem to be parked under an air vent. It's a miracle!

-The scenery. I'm enjoying the variety of people and places I encounter on a regular basis. This may change once I'm actively taking phone calls but I'm going to stay positive. People are the spice of life.

-The food. People are people and where they gather, they feed. Good thing I'm getting all that new exercise. We've had Oreos, cupcakes and a chocolate bundt cake in the last 3 weeks.

-The change. This is the most surprising to me, but I'm enjoying all the differences of my new job from the old one. Not better, just different. In a good way. So far.

Sorry, Elder Brother. Couldn't resist the qualifier.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sad Little Turtle in a Sad Little Swamp

Ah, the quandaries of the fiction writer. Read about a couple of mine over at

I finished the short story last night. I'm rather pleased with it, if I do say so myself. 
I'll have to say so myself; no one else has read it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

New Schedule

I'm loving my new job, but the new schedule is wreaking a bit of havoc.

Getting to work takes twice as long, so I'm leaving earlier and getting home later. It's still a much shorter commute than most people experience, I'm sure. Hence, less time for blogging and
commenting during the day. My lunch hour is two-thirds travel and one third making sure the dog gets her stretch time and the cats get their lunch. Not enough time to get on the computer anymore.

On the plus side, I've added five 20 minute workouts to my week of walking and stair climbing to get to and from my car. That's great! So great, in fact, I may elect to stay in the upper levels of the parking garage for the health benefits rather than moving down as lower spaces open.

Non-work-related noise is vermoot at work, so I'm cut off from my normal news sources. I'll have to listen to recordings at home or learn what an MP3 player is and then get one so I can listen in the car and on my breaks. This affects not only my current event knowledge but impacts writing and reading time, too.

I'm not too worked up about shake-up. Part of the reason for the job was embracing change. These are changes, and for the most part, they've been good.

Work seems to be going well, too. I'm learning new skills and hopefully making life a bit easier for my coworkers.

Had a silly moment yesterday. Most of the office was in a training meeting, and I tried to help answer phones only to realize I didn't know how to answer the phone. I could hear it ringing, but I couldn't make my phone connect with the line and, of course, the one person who could have told me how was already on the phone helping a customer. I got trained as soon as she got off the phone.

God is easing me into everything, and I'm grateful for that.

I'm hoping to adjust quickly and get back into a regular blogging schedule. They might be short posts, but I need the outlet. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wardrobe Issues

I need different light bulbs. All of mine burn yellow, which does not help when deciding if socks are black or blue. This morning's wardrobe depends on a correct answer to that question.

Shoes remain my stumbling block. I'll need to buy some more for the new job, but I'm waiting until my first paycheck. Between the crown, the one month of self-paid health insurance until the new job insurance kicks in and my car insurance payment (which just happened to fall in this month), I'm a bit squeezed. Thanks to Dave Ramsey, the emergency fund has kicked in, but that's no reason to push it. My feet will have to muddle through.

Besides, I hate shoe shopping. I hate most shopping, but shoes rank right up there with jeans. No matter what time of day I go, the shoes fit in the store and never really fit again. The styles are, naturally, horrible. I don't wear open-toed shoes, so the current sandel/flipflop trend is right out, leaving slim pickings. I don't do 5 inch heels or giant embellishments or tiny straps around the ankle guaranteed to break bones at the first misstep. Now that I'm walking two blocks and six flights of stairs four times a day, I can't afford that nonsense in the physical sense even if I liked it in the emotional sense, which I don't.

If nursing shoes came in brown, black and navy, I'd be set.

Except I wouldn't. I do like to look a little more put together than that. Not much, granted, but my days of sneakers with skirts mostly ended in high school. However, my bad hips and knees mean I need more support than the average shoe today provides and that catapults my shoe foraging into the specialty stores with specialty prices. I'll just have to be very careful.

In the meanwhile, my wardrobe will focus on black and brown, because those are the shoes I have.

Wow, I haven't been this materialistically self-focused in a post in a while. I must be feeling better.

I'd like to take a sentence and complain about those little slipper socks supposedly made to wear with normal shoes instead of hose. Do those actually work for anyone? They stay on my foot for about one hour. Then they ride down my heel and scrunch up under my arch and annoy me the rest of the day. Is it really better than wearing hose? Yes, it is, but not by much. I guess I just need longer trouser socks.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Getting My Dragons in a Row

One of the beauties of a massive life disruption, like a new job, is a massive discharge of personal energy. So many new things happening spurs on other changes. I must make decisions about stuff previously decided, but I have a chance to look with a new eye, if I take advantage of it.

There's no reason not to evaluate my life choices on a regular basis. I just don't do it. Part of my problem of being too comfortable.

Well, I'm taking advantage of all the uproar to get my dragons in a row. Being dragons, they won't stay in a row, but it's a start.

I've never asked so many questions about insurance and investments. I've made phone calls. I've sent emails. I've looked stuff up online. I've sorted piles into files and analyzed data.

In short, I'm feeling quite grown up at the moment.

Through it all, I've asked God for wisdom when making choices about the life He owns, the life I previously considered "mine." It's not my life. I gave it to Him a long time ago. I just forgot.

He expects good stewardship of the resources He's loaned me. I want to do well by Him.

But I'm learning, every day, He's the one ultimately responsible for me. Whatever happens to me, it's His business. I belong to Him.

This isn't an excuse for bad behavior with the the shrugged, "God will take care of me." No, it's the realization that control is illusion. Only God is in control. I will rest in that fact and find peace.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How A New Job Is Like Farmville

A new player is drawn into the game with positive feedback, easily achievable goals and instant rewards. A new employee (if the employer is worth anything) experiences positive feedback (we're so glad you're here), easily achievable goals (you'll be watching a training film today) and instant rewards (why don't you take a break while I finish this?).

Somewhere around level 23, the FV player notices things aren't quite so peachy positive. Rewards are fewer and farther between. Mastery takes longer. Sometimes leveling up gets you nothing except one level closer to your goal of a level where you can plant or buy something you want.

A new employee cycles through "new" to "trained." This doesn't necessarily mean the employee is ready for any challenge. Generally, it means she has a lot of information she can use and a supervisor close by if she gets too befuddled. Depending on the job, it takes a little time to reach this stage, but it generally begins two to four weeks after hire. The glow wears off as "doing your job" replaces "good job." This can be a point of discouragement for a new employee, just like it is for a new player.

However, in FV, the real play begins around level 50. If you can slog through the Dead Zone, you'll rediscover your joy in the game and settle in for the long haul.

For the new employee, this happens, too. A season or four illustrate the general expectations of the work. Some things will change; some remain constant. Competence will increase, although so might a sense of boredom. Mastery of the skill allows for more time between practice sessions. Other positives include a better sense of coworkers and work environment. The pluses and minuses become more obvious. If pluses are greater, the employee continues in the job, satisfied. If minuses are greater, the employee looks for employment elsewhere, just like the disillusioned FV player seeks satisfaction in another game.

This is day two of my new job. Everything is shiny and new, but FV teaches me to expect a Dead Zone ahead. FV also teaches me that Dead Zone is neither endless nor useless. It is the time of tempering, where skills are polished and mettle tested. Without it, I cannot gain the higher levels I wish to reach.

Until I get there, though, I'm going to enjoy the easy stuff. 

New Job, New Shoes, No Worries

Did you know I started a new job? I'll tell you about it over at

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens - a chick flick?

I hoped I would enjoy this movie from the first preview. Daniel Craig? Check. Harrison Ford? Check. Yes, it could be B or worse, but those two stars have a pretty good track record for picking winners.
Aliens attacking a small town in the Old West? Check. Olivia Wilde? Who cares? I stopped watching House when she joined. I assumed she was more window-dressing for the men-folk, as if they would need it with all the explosions and bullets.

Learning Jon Favreau directed edged my expectations up a notch. I tend to like his projects. Sitting in the theater and seeing Clancy Brown listed in the credits was buttercream frosting.

And I loved it. Yes, I could pick it apart for all the plot inconsistencies, doctrinal differences and sappy just-desserts-for-everybody-ness of it, but I won't. 'Cause I liked it. Daniel Craig deserves an Oscar just for his accent.

The funny thing is, I'm getting the impression the women viewers may like it more than the men. Does that make sense? It has the iconic male necessities for a popular movie, but most of the guys I talk put on their grimaces and make noises that sound like corny and cheesy and unrealistic.

Really? Aliens attacking a small town in the Old West is unrealistic? And giant robots with a secret base on the moon is a day in the life?

Since this is my blog, here's my opinion. Take it for what it's worth.

The big box office draws nowadays are men behaving like emotionally stunted 10 year olds. The Hangover I and II ring any bells? Movies whose names didn't register because I couldn't fathom the sheer immaturity involved in just the previews. And it's migrating over the girls, too, as Bridesmaids showed.

Cowboys and Aliens shows men being responsible men. Men risking their lives to save their families. That's why today's men don't like it. Today's men haven't been taught that sense of responsibility because today's women think men are unnecessary except as sperm donors. Since today's women are currently running the world, they may be right.

It's too bad. I learned I prefer my men tough and stubbly and ready to shoot or stab or punch their way out of situations, especially situations involving ruthless, locust-like aliens. Judging by the female audience response, I'm not alone in my preference.

So, let's stop feminizing our men, shall we, ladies? Let them spit and scratch and stab things in the eye. We'll need that when the aliens come back in the sequel.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Crown

Turtles have terrible teeth. Why wouldn't we? We aren't supposed to have teeth.

I've gotten fillings almost as long as I've had teeth. I think all my baby teeth were filled, until they fell out, and most of my adult teeth have had some kind of work.

It's not for lack of hygiene, either. I brush. I floss (how many can say that honestly?). I stay away from sugary drinks. Except chocolate almond milk. Love the stuff. I get cleanings twice a year. The current theory is high fever at 3 months rotted my teeth bones. Could also be they were never meant to be used 24/7.

For the record, I've always had good dentists. My blood pressure drops when I go there because that's the one place I know I get a warning before anyone does anything that could be painful. Where else on earth does that hold true?

Anyhoo, I finally got a cavity that needed more than a filling. I wanted to ignore it, but the twinges and the temperature sensitivity got to me. I brought it up at my last check-up and heard that dreaded word: crown

That word isn't as dreaded as the hyphenated root-canal, but it's close. Mostly because I didn't know what it was.

To make a crown, your dentist files down the existing tooth and then glues a fake tooth or crown over it. It takes two visits - a long one to file the tooth down and make an impression and a shorter visit 3 weeks later to put the new crown on.

Lots of people have crowns. Lots of people groan and wince when you tell them you're getting one.
I don't know why.

I just finished my first visit, and it was ridiculously simple. For me, anyway. I just had to lie there and relax.

Half my face is numb, so I won't know how truly painful it was for another couple of hours, but at the moment, I'd say it was among the easier fillings I've had, including the last filling done on that same tooth before we figured out it was time for a crown. That filling involved a numbing shot in my jaw that gave me cold sweats after I figured out exactly how that shot had been administered. Sometimes I wish my brain didn't work so hard to solve certain problems.

Even better, this temporary crown shouldn't interfere with my night guard, which means I'll have a much better 3 weeks than I expected.

The kicker? My tooth coloring is A1.

I'd expect nothing less.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pray for America

Despite a few misgivings on my part, August 6 has arrived before Jesus' return. God willing, thousands of Christians will gather in Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX to fast and pray for our nation today. Thousands more will gather in churches or homes around the country to join them in Spirit if not in body.

We should be praying for our nation daily, but this public reminder and reaffirmation of the God in whom we trust, according to our currency, is miraculous to me.

God is the foundation of America. Not as a theocracy, but as the guiding Light of men and women devoted to Him, doing their best to do His will daily. 

George Washington, in his farewell address to the nation, said our Constitution is designed for a moral and religious people, and is wholly unsuited to govern any other. Without God, we have no basis for moral behavior. Only the Lawgiver, who demonstrates both justice and mercy in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, gives meaning and order to life.

Meaning and order are two things dramatically missing from today's culture.
Lord Jesus, forgive us our sins. Turn our hearts away from idle pursuits and back to You. Convince our hands and feet and checkbooks to follow our renewed hearts. The heat we feel now is nothing compared to the agony of eternity without your love and mercy. Do not forget us in your anger. Be merciful to us, O God of mercy. Delay judgment one more time as we humble ourselves before you and turn from our wicked ways. 
Keep the faith, brothers and sisters. God is faithful.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

God's Covering

Yesterday was ridiculously busy.

My first day of vacation before I leave my old job for good should have been a play day. That's what I expected when I asked for it several weeks ago.

Instead, I got to help plan Grandma Turtle's memorial service (I'll need to pick another Scripture verse. The one I wanted was met with near-boos by those whose experience with Grandma differed from mine). I accepted a feline house guest, which brings the tally to 7 cats, one dog for the next few weeks for those who can count. I filled out paperwork for my new job. I went to a visitation for another dear friend who's taken The Long Step.

That's a lot for a turtle.

Add to it my emotional parting from work the night before (my last official day), my inability to reach Mom in the morning, which led to such confusion when she showed up to drive us to the church that I LEFT MY FRONT DOOR WIDE OPEN for about 3 hours, and the emotional freak out when I got home and discovered the open door.

God must have stationed an angel to guard that opening because every cat was in the house and no one had burglarized me. I have no other explanation. I couldn't have invited disaster more openly if I'd run an ad in the paper.

That's how yesterday went. No matter what obstacle arose, God smoothed it down. What could have been one of the worst days of my life became a day for praise.

Believe me, I praised. I'm praising Him for today's rain, too, and for whatever else He has planned.

I'm sure it will be better than I expect.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Grandma Turtle

My second publication. The shorter version made the paper. This one is listed on the Penwell Gabel website, but I like it better.

Esther Georgia Tolbert, 98, passed away July 26, 2011 at Rolling Hills Retirement Community. Esther was born to John Murrison of Scotland and Alice Kriner Murrison in Chapman, KS on November 1, 1912 as the youngest of eight children.

She married Arthur I. Tolbert on May 21, 1937. They ran a dairy farm until retiring. She never learned to drive a car, but she drove a tractor when Art needed help harvesting. As well as rearing three children and a nephew, she also raised chickens, a crow, a lamb, two coyotes and a litter of skunks. She could outrun any calf born on the farm. And she did it all wearing a dress and with her hair styled.

She loved flowers and displayed the offerings her husband brought her daily from his flower garden. She was known for digging up a plant and plopping it into a pot to keep. They always grew. She kept a sprig of Jacob’s Coat in a vase on her kitchen table.

Esther was a member of Tecumseh United Methodist Church until they moved into town. Then she joined Oakland United Methodist Church, where she attended and served until crippling arthritis made travel impossible. She preferred the King James Bible, and thought other versions “read like stories.”

She was an excellent cook and hostess at family gatherings, where chocolate pie and lime Kool-Aid were staples, even when, in later years, the main meal was catered by KFC.

She loved to read and kept the Topeka Library busy bringing her romances and mysteries to the end. She branched out into one fantasy book, written by a granddaughter. Esther also loved to give and receive greeting cards and took great care in selecting them for special occasions. Although arthritis made it hard to write, she always signed birthday and Christmas cards for her family and friends.

Esther was preceded in death by her husband of 70 years, Art, who died October 11, 2007, her son James I. Tolbert of Topeka, KS, her nephew Carl Sisson, and two grandsons, Cory Tolbert of Topeka, KS and Damon Gjovig of Overland Park, KS. Survivors include her daughter Lois Gjovig and her husband Jon, her son Robert Tolbert and his wife Diane, her daughter-in-law Sammy Tolbert Peck, seven grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren and numerous friends and relatives.

Funeral services will be 10 a.m., Monday, August 8, 2011 at the Oakland United Methodist Church, 801 NE Chester, Topeka, 66616. Interment will follow at Penwell-Gabel Cemetery, Topeka. Mrs. Tolbert will lie in state after 1 p.m., Sunday, August 7, 2011 at the Penwell-Gabel Parker-Price Chapel, 245 NW Independence Ave, Topeka, where the family will receive friends from 4 to5 p.m. Memorial contributions may be made to Oakland United Methodist Church. To leave a special message for the family online, please visit www.PenwellGabelTopeka.com.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Some Stories

Here's a famous one.

Grandma Turtle had a duck pond. Some of her ducklings disappeared. One day, she noticed a duckling with a bite taken out of him. She grabbed her hoe and went poking around the pond. She dragged up a giant snapping turtle and whacked his head off with the hoe. 

TT: Normally, this story should make me sad for the turtle, but I've heard it so many times, it's a legend. And it speaks volumes about my grandma.

When I was about five, mom and dad took a cruise. Grandma came to our house to watch us while they were gone. House of Wax with Vincent Price was on spooky theater at 10 PM and I begged her to let me watch it. I don't know why. I guess I liked Vincent Price. I convinced her that mom would have no trouble with me staying up past my bedtime to watch it (two lies). I didn't get more than 15 minutes in before I got so scared, I hid under the covers. "Well, if you're not going to watch it..."
Grandma turned off the TV.

I still haven't watched the original.

Before they retired, grandma and grandpa lived on a farm. We often went out to visit in the summer. One time, I got an enormous cattail sliver in my palm. I was young, so maybe it wasn't that big. But grandma had to take it out, and she did, bless her, with me screaming at the top of my lungs the whole time. My brothers wisely vacated the area during the procedure.

Last one for today.

The only game of tiddlywinks I ever played was against Grandma Turtle. She won. When I started to whine, she leaned in close and said, "If you're old enough to play, you're old enough to lose."

Words of wisdom from the salt of the earth.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

So Much

Funny how life gives you long stretches of nothing and then everything seems to hit all at once.

I have a new job.

I haven't started yet, but I have given notice and I'm counting down to the end of the old and the start of the new. It seems I'm sorrier to leave them than they are to see me go. It's a good reality check to know I'm not irreplaceable. Hard on the ego, of course.

And Grandma Turtle died this Tuesday. I'll write more about that later, but it's a bit too fresh yet to process. Mostly I just cry and stare at the wall in the troughs and focus on getting ready for my new job at the crest of the sorrow wave.

Sorrow comes in waves, you know. You just have to ride them out and hope you don't throw up.

Grandma would smack me in the head for being silly about crying. I know she's happier with Jesus. But, unless the world ends or I die in a bus accident, it may be a long time before I see her again. That's a hard thought.

So I'm a bit more absent-minded than usual, and I'm not hearing as well as I did a few days ago.
I'd appreciate your prayers. You know I'm praying for all of you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Can't Win for Losing

On the off chance my mid-nightly awakenings were caused by changing my alarm time (and forgive me for wanting an extra half hour), I changed the alarm back to 4:25. It kinda worked.

I woke up at 3:36.

Hey, that's an additional hour and twelve minutes. I won't complain.

The heat is getting to everyone at the Turtle household. Cats and dog not eating like usual. Cats and dog throwing up food for no obvious reason. Everybody melted over furniture or puddled into carpets, as if 82 degrees in the house is unreasonable. It's not unreasonable.

Heck, if it were only 82 degrees outside, I'd have the windows open. How would they like that, I wonder?

I shared a "funny" on FB the other day. One of those church signs: "Satan called - He wants his weather back."

That's no joke.

I hope you are praying for some heat relief. Satan may be lord of the air, but he can't lift a finger without God's permission. It's possible we're only enduring the heat because we haven't asked the One who made the weather to have mercy.

God is merciful. I thank Him for that daily.

Which also reminds me... I hope you're aware of the call to fast and pray for the nation taking place in Austin, TX on August 6. It is about time some non-church leaders stood up and reminded us all that God is in charge. I won't be in Austin, but I will be praying. Please join us. God will hear us, if we ask.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Magic Number

At my house, this week anyway, the magic number seems to be 224. As in 2:24 AM. That's been my wake up time for the last four days.

I don't know why. Part of it could be the A/C kicking on. Two times seemed to be Mica having a very loud freak-out in the basement.

I planned everything to make my sleep as trouble-free as possible last night, and what should happen but Caleb -my perfect cat-dog who never gives me any trouble- woke me up at 2:24 AM.

It's a conspiracy. I'm sure of it. Don't know who's planning it, but I'm sure there's someone.

I wouldn't mind waking up then so much were I able to go back to sleep, which, so far, I really haven't managed.

TT: A friend once told me she loved waking up in the middle of the night because she'd get all excited about how much longer she had to sleep until she needed to get up. Glass half full, I guess. I wouldn't really know anything about that.

Well, I'm not excited about 3 hours of wakefulness in the dark.

My eyes are so red I'm wondering if I've been swallowing jello shots. The heavy glasses prescription doesn't help. My thick lenses magnify everything into "HELLO! MY EYES ARE RED! HOW ARE YOU?"

I think it mostly has to do with the heat. The A/C appears to kick on for the first time around 2:24 AM and then I go through too cold (while it's blowing) to too hot (when it stops and my covers turn into potholders). Not much I can do about that.

In the meanwhile, I pray when I wake up at night, so if you have any pressing issues you'd like me to present to the Big Guy on your behalf, let me know.

Not like it's out of my way.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Made Me Laugh

I totally stole this from an email, but it made me laugh.

It's so hot and dry in Kansas
…the birds have to use potholders to pull the worms out of the ground.
…the trees are whistling for the dogs.
…the best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.
…hot water comes from both taps.
…you can make sun tea instantly.
…you learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron.
…the temperature drops below 95 F (35 C) and you feel a little chilly.
…you discover that in July it only takes two fingers to steer your car.
…you discover that you can get sunburned through your car window.
…you actually burn your hand opening the car door.
…you break into a sweat the instant you step outside at 7:30 A.M.
…your biggest motorcycle wreck fear is, "What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?"
…you realize that asphalt has a liquid stage.
…the potatoes cook underground, so all you have to do is pull one out and add butter.
…the cows are giving evaporated milk.
…farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying boiled eggs.
…the Baptists are starting to baptize by sprinkling,
...the Methodists are using wet-wipes,
...Presbyterians are giving rain checks, and
...the Catholics are praying for the wine to turn back into water!

Friday, July 15, 2011


I'm officially an idiot.

I've been cleaning and cleaning: washing curtains, treating carpet, bleaching the tub in a frantic attempt to find and remove the source of that pervasive, oniony smell in my house.

All the while, I've been putting kitchen scraps into my kitchen compost bin. Only this morning did I remember putting onions in the compost bin earlier this month. Source of the smell? Huh. Maybe.


Anyway, the compost bin got dumped outside and cleaned this morning. Let's hope that solves the problem, shall we?

Normally, I empty it immediately following an onion deposit. Must have gotten distracted.

Which reminds me, if I don't thaw some chicken, I'll be eating chocolate for dinner.

Like that's a problem. Or a novelty.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Facebook Fun

I love these things. I love to talk about myself, and this is a socially acceptable way to do it without being accused of overt arrogance. I tagged a few folks my as-yet-breakfast-deprived brain thought of, but my apologies if I missed you. Feel free to copy and paste to your Notes. Just tag me, OK?

1. What time did you get up this morning?

2. How do you like your steak?
Medium rare but I prefer turkey

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema
That really stupid new vampire movie based on a comic book and sort of old West meets Eastern Catholic? My not remembering the name shows my utter contempt for it.

4. What is your favorite TV show?
Stopped watching TV when NBC cancelled their newest Christian Slater/Madsen Amichek series after two episodes. Rot in the third ring of Hades, NBC execs! You don't own me anymore!

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Kansas, but with a reinforced basement tornado shelter. Gotta get me one of those.

6. What did you have for breakfast?
Haven't decided yet. I went to the store last night and I have SO MANY CHOICES! Maybe a little of everything.

7. What is your favorite cuisine?
Chinese food, with American ingredients but Chinese techniques.

8. What foods do you dislike?
Things that make me bloat.

9. Favorite Restaurant?
Taco Bell

10. Favorite dressing
Raspberry Vinaigrette

11. What kind of vehicle do you drive?
Suzuki Grand Vitara. I pretend it's a Subaru Outback.

12. What are your favorite clothes?
Anything that hangs without pinching. Bras are not on this list.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance? 
Hershey PA before they moved the factory to Mexico. But I'm not going to Mexico just to smell chocolate-scented air.

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?
1/2 empty

15. Where would you want to retire.
Don't plan to retire but Arizona's dry heat sounds better every year as the arthritis encroaches.

16. Favorite time of day?
"any time it's quiet." Hear, hear, Caprice!

17. Where were you born?
Topeka KS

18. What is your favorite sport to watch?
Gymnastics. Those people are crazy.

19. Who do you think will not tag you back?
Rachel. She's too busy being Wendy in Peter Pan. 

20. Person you expect to tag you back first
Good question.

21. who are you most curious about responses?

22. Bird watcher?
More of a listener. I stop for sounds and don't start again until I find the source. Rather annoying, actually.

23. Do you consider yourself attractive?
Absolutely! You're reading this, aren't you? I rest my case.

24. Pets?
So, so many.

25. Any new and exciting news that you'd like to share?
shhhhhh. Not yet.

26. What did you want to be when you were little?
a dog.

27. What is your best childhood memory?
My cat Sugar riding on top of the car because she was so mad at my mom for yelling at me. We stopped the car, Sugar got in and nuzzled my face until I got to school.

28. Are you a cat or dog person?
I'm guessing "cat," although I claim to like both.

29. Are you married?
No. I do wear a wedding ring but it was my grandmother's.

30. Always wear your seat belt?

31. Been in a car accident?
Several. I was driving for only one and my car stalled while turning left. Could have been killed (my car was aluminum) but the other driver had good reflexes and I'm pretty sure an angel stepped between us.

32. Any pet peeves?
So, so many. Oh wait, pet PEEVES?

33. Favorite pizza topping?
Not allowed to eat pizza anymore, but when I did it was hamburger.

34. Favorite Flower?
Buttercups. Duh. Actually, I love smelly flowers: marigolds, roses, peonies, hyacinth.

35. Favorite ice cream?

36. Favorite fast food?
Taco Bell 5 layer beefy burrito. I shouldn't eat them, but, oh, how I love them.

37. How many times did you fail your driver's test?
I don't remember failing, although I remembering thinking "I should have failed. Why didn't I fail? I don't want to drive!"

38. From whom did you get your last email?
Newsmax. chuckle.

39. In which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
Make Dave Ramsey proud. Say "no" to credit.

40. Do anything spontaneous lately?
I hope not.

41. Like your job?
I really do.

42. What was your favorite vacation?
Summers at my relatives' cabin in the Ozarks, before it got all commercial.

43. Last person you went out to eat with?
my brothers and their women. hmm. That could be a book title. 

44. What are you listening to right now?
American Family Radio. Nicole Spawnberg, I think.

45. What is your favorite color?
Cobalt Blue

46. How many tattoos do you have?
none. Scared of needles. And pain. And bloating.

47. Coffee drinker?
I hate coffee, but I've learned to appreciate a white chocolate mocha latte with a shot of cinnamon. It tastes almost nothing like coffee.

48. How many children do you have?
No human children.

49. Pick one super power... what would it be??
Telekinesis, hands-down. HA!

50. Do you return shopping carts at the grocery store?
Every Single Time. Lazy creatures, do you not know GOD is watching?

51. Signature Drink?
Water with lemon.