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Monday, March 25, 2013

A Shovelful of Spring

For the one out of tenth time, the weathermen were right and snow fell in Kansas. Seems it's unusual to have an accumulating snow at this time of year. I shoveled about two inches off my driveway and six inches off my deck (difference between sheltered from wind and not). While it was an easy snow to shovel - dry and fluffy - I managed to strain my lower back for the second time this season. I'll be stretching gently throughout the day.

Two weeks ago, I planted paper egg cartons with dwarf bush peas, mixed basil and purple, yellow and green beans and put them in my guest room greenhouse. The big seeds sprouted in two days (ignore the package germination times; I've not yet found them to be accurate), and the basil finally pushed up Saturday. The trick now is providing enough light to keep the little buggers healthy until April. I plan to buy a stick-up grow light in the next few days, probably after the snow melts. I have more seeds to plant, but those are cool-weather seeds and they can go outside sooner than yellow squash and zucchini.

The Swamp is taking shape. Thanks to increased moisture this year, I'm moving dirt like a pro.

TT: Odd that I've shoveled lots of dirt for several hours over several days without injury, yet a few shovelfuls of basically whipped cream frosting should cause muscle distress.

Unfortunately, the arborists left more clay than soil in their efforts to destroy my yard, so the dirt I'm relocating is not what I would hope. I've been wracking my brain and my bankbook in my plans to get some real dirt faster than I can make it with no green stuff and no water to put in my compost piles. Then God decided to be kind.

One of my co-workers has three horses, a yard of chickens and a willingness to share poop. Once I get some directions, I'll be shoveling like a ranch hand. Here's hoping The Swamp appreciates my efforts by providing more than 14 peas this year.

Since chicken manure is "hot," (high in nitrogen, I guess), it'll go into the existing compost piles, which are in desperate need of some heat. They pile the horse manure for their own gardens, so it should be able to go straight into the garden without distressing the neighbors. Should this influx of natural fertilizer work, I'll post pics of new grass, thriving peas and a field of basil for the bees and my pesto. Should it not work... Well, God willing, there's always next season.

Happy Monday, dear readers. Enjoy the weather, whatever it is. If you're in Kansas, it'll change in 5 minutes anyway. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New Life

I love Spring. Had I married, I would have done it on the Vernal Equinox.

Just finished a Bible study series using The Life, by Bill and Anabel Gillham. Interesting stuff. My favorite Bible study leader loves the Gillhams, so I've seen samples of their videos previously, but this time we went through all of them.

Here's the nutshell:

The Fall broke the spiritual connection between man and God and plunged man into spiritual death. Christ's sacrifice restored the spiritual connection. When a man accepts Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. Bill's favorite verse is Gal 2:20, and you can read that in the link.

OK. We become new. What does that mean? Why, then, do we continue to do what we do not want to do, like Paul laments in Romans 7?

Dr. Gillham, in his Oklahoma way, says we become "spirit critters" when we accept Christ but we remain in our "flesh suits." Our flesh suits have spent however many years being trained to act dead to Christ, because that's what we were, but our flesh doesn't control us. Christ indwells us through the Holy Spirit and Christ leads our mind and will.

Sin can attack from the outside, but it isn't in me anymore. Christ is in me. Christ leads my mind and will. Sometimes sin wins, because it uses first person singular pronouns when it attacks to make me think it's my idea, but my acceptance by Christ remains secure. I am His; He is mine.

That's just semantics, right? What difference does it make?

It's the difference between "good me" fighting "bad me" vs. sin trying to squeeze back into a space already fully occupied by a risen Christ. The war was won by Christ. The little battles are won by allowing Him to occupy my flesh suit and teach me to be the spirit critter He raised from the dead when I accepted His lordship.

Naturally, the videos go into far more depth, and provide the scriptural teachings and in-depth illustrations that bring the idea to life, but I thought I'd give you a taste since I may be writing more about it as I continue to ponder.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers, and Happy Spring. The old has gone. The new has come.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dream a Little Dream

I awoke from a story dream this morning. One of those dreams that sort of makes sense, that has tension and characters and possibility for a writer. Hasn't happened to me in a looooong time.

Put my schedule off. First, because I didn't want to wake up. I wanted to see how it played out, which isn't easy to do with Focus on the Family interrupting on the alarm clock.

Second, because I had to write it down. I have to write it down. I'll absolutely forget the whole thing before I shower if I don't. Of course, I had to capture the feelings when I wrote it down. Details don't matter much in dreams, although some details make it fun. It's the feelings I'd convey later, should I play around with this subconscious plot attempt.

I started fleshing it out. What would this story look like? Who are these characters and why are they here? Should I stick with the reality of what I saw or go for some symbolism, which, let's face it, is what comprises most dreams? All kinds of choices.

Farmville got in the way (shocking). Kept having freezing issues with the program.

Thinking about this potential story got me thinking about Price of Justice, and Rhami's dilemma, and how easy it would be to solve. Why hadn't I thought of that before? Is that what I want to do, though? Is it good drama or real life? I should write a short story about how Rhami wed Galena. I could publish it in a collection with other backstory shorts set in Ah'rahk. What would I call my publishing company if I ever self-published? What would my publishing logo look like? Why can't I find anything to wear? Don't I know I have a meeting today with strangers? I have to look professional. I've got to get gas, too, maybe at lunch. The weatherman says snow is coming mid-week, and it will be the one-in-ten chance he's right if I don't put gas in the van.

Yep. That's how it goes sometimes, and that's why I'm glad I wrote it down.

Happy Tuesday. Sweet dreams.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Back To Work

If not posting is any indication, the vacation went well. For three days, bright, sunny weather called me out of bed at the crack of dawn and I hit the ground running until the sun ran out and the heat retreated south. Then I stayed in bed with the covers drawn over my head. Eh. I would have done that anyway most Saturdays.

The problem with vacations (and one reason I forget to take them) is the catching up required upon return to the daily grind. I'm curious about how many messages I'll have in my voice mail. My last day off garnered four.

The weather has turned mostly gloomy and cold again, and I'd much rather spend those days in the office anyway. I don't feel like I'm missing anything outside. I do hope the sun makes at least a brief appearance daily. This Turtle feels his absence. 

I did seed a patch of The Swamp, which sounds simple but required moving dirt from here to there with a shovel, hoe and rake while removing the snapped branches and churned up rocks that led to such despair last season. Ah, well. New year, new plan, new strength. God willing, the moisture will continue at a useful pace and I can put my Swamp in order.

Happy Monday, dear readers. Love God and love your neighbors, for all the commandments are summed up in these.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Vacation: Day One

I often forget to take vacation. I never go anywhere (on purpose) and I rarely do anything (on purpose), but I have learned I must get away from my daily job, whatever that is, no matter how much I like it or I become very, very cranky. Everybody needs a break. Even God.

God has provided (if the weatherman is to be believed) three beautiful weather days for my vacation. I intend to make good use of them in The Swamp. You might think March is a bit early for working in the garden, but last year I planted tomatoes in March and harvested in April. Of course, last year was weird.

This year has been more normal weather-wise, so I likely won't be planting, but the compost needs turning and dirt needs moving and dead plants need removing and ground needs preparing - all that sort of thing. Since I also need exercise and plenty of sunlight for mood enhancement, this should work well.

At the moment, I'm waiting for the plumber to replace the main shut off valve in my house. It isn't broken, technically, but it failed to perform to standard during last week's toilet valve replacement. I'd rather deal with it in controlled circumstances than wait for it to blow up on a holiday weekend and cost me time and a half plus the water bill.

I've discovered it's very easy to round up cats when you don't plan to do it. They can't anticipate what you don't know. Everyone but Caleb is in the guest room, and none of them are happy about it. They'll thank me when the scary man invades their basement hideaway and makes loud noises and bad smells. Or they won't. They're cats, after all.

I'll also be dropping off the tax stuff at the accountant's. Let's hope that all goes well, shall we?

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. The plumber arrives.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Random Tuesday

The honeymoon's over. I woke up 20 minutes before my alarm. I got up and broke a nail on my bedroom door frame. Here's hoping that's the worst that happens today and not an omen. My vacation starts tomorrow, so mostly, I just have to live through today.

Last night, I learned the best way to cook raw black beans is in a crock pot. Alas, I learned it too late to save the onion. I also spent two hours concocting a layered, meatless casserole that turned out to be bean dip. It tastes OK, and the black beans add crunch, but I'll need to rethink that idea.

I'm starting to feel like a cemetery auditor. Not sure exactly what that means, except when I get to work, I have a plan for the day, I execute the plan, and normal people react like I know what I'm doing. Doesn't mean I do, just means I'm fooling the masses. Maybe that's how it works in any job. I have learned the answer to nearly every question is "check the statute." Isn't that the answer to nearly every question anyway?

The cats continue to gain familiarity with the catwalks. Miss Kitty is up there 60% of the time, and the rest join her at various times throughout the day. I can't remember the descriptive phraseology, but cats have territories that relate to time. A cat may choose a sunny east window in the morning, move to a southern exposure in the afternoon and camp out on the vent in the evenings and he won't care that another cat has taken one of his spots after he vacates it. That's a good thing. The more spots I provide, the less chance they'll all want the same one at the same time. Except they're cats and that's how they roll. Anyway, Miss Kitty, Skamper and Skuttle have all played tag in 3D, so I'm getting value for my investment.

I will finish my taxes tonight. I don't care anymore if I get back everything I've got coming. I just want it done.

Farmville has added yet another farm - Atlantis. I'm sure Caprice is thrilled but it's officially too much. To keep morning play at the one hour I've allowed myself, I'll have to ignore 3 or 4 farms from now on, and stop harvesting most of my buildings. I may catch up on the weekends. I may not.

Since I've officially stopped paying attention to word count, I'm writing again. That's good.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Keep a nail file handy. You may need it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

That's It; I'm Fat

I love Daylight Savings Time (even if it is an example of government over-reach). This is the first time in two months I've slept in. Yes, I consider 5 AM sleeping in.

I'm hesitant to say the depression is over, but it sure seems over. I'll finish my second bottle of Saint John's Wort and give life a try on my own again. Same with the 5-HTP, although I might continue taking that one for another bottle. The problem with that is it works best on an empty stomach, and my stomach is almost never empty.

Which brings me to my point. I'm fat. Oh, not the "downward side of fame" actor fat, but more the "fourth season of prime time hit" fat, where the steady paycheck is assured and you don't have to look good for it (Have you watched Castle lately? Come on, Nathan, I expect more of you).

Those who know me in person may raise a skeptical eyebrow, but I assure you, a 5'9" frame and loose clothing hide a multitude of sins. I'm not seeing it in my face yet (just the sagging jowls and neck wrinkles of typical aging), but that will come. 

My clothes tell me I'm fat since I don't own a scale. Scales are liars. Don't trust them. Don't associate with them. Don't even let them in your house. A scale can make you think you're fat when you're not. A scale can make you think you're fit when you're not. Best to avoid them.

My problem, of course, is the age-old problem of many fat people: too much of the wrong food and too little exercise. I've managed my weight most of my life by choosing food wisely and limiting indulgences, but I suspect the age has come when that's not going to be enough. Exercise, my old enemy, must be engaged and harnessed if I have any hope to avoid the Marlon Brando trap.

I'm saying "fat," but odds are I'm just "over-weight" at this point. I was within acceptable limits at my physical in January, so my current state is doubtless too much wheat. This always happens when I consistently ignore my blood type diet. I've followed this diet for about 10 years and maintained my weight without difficulty by sticking to the "80/20" guideline, eating more "beneficial" foods than "avoids," and the barest minimum of exercise.

I have a health assessment coming up in early May. I plan to up my exercise quotient and lower my wheat intake over the next two months to see if I can get a better score than I did at the doctor's in January. Nice to have a goal.

If you know your blood type and have trouble with your health, you might just check out that website. It's done me a world of good at very little cost (I got the book used on Amazon). If you don't know your blood type, you can find out by giving blood. That's how I learned. 

Happy Monday, dear readers. Thank God for it. He likes that.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pressure Cooker

P.A. Baines may have been born in South Africa and live in Holland, but I get where he's coming from. This post was cooking before his comment on yesterday's blog.

I don't like pressure. Never did. After my nervous breakdown, I like it even less, and in my utterly control freak way, I do everything in my power to avoid it.

Except getting published.

On the other hand, what most new authors don't understand is that first book rarely gets noticed. You're mostly writing to family and friends, and accidentally gather a fan or two. No problem. Not with the first book, anyway.

The pressure builds.

First, the expectation to write something else. For you younger, on fire writers, that's no problem. You're raring to go. (I've never written that before. Is that a colloquialism, or do normal people know what I mean?) The clock is ticking from the moment your book goes on sale. When's the next one coming out? What are you writing now? How much have you written? Gaargh!

Second, the expectation the next book will be at least as good as the first book. Should be better, really. I mean, you have all that practice under your belt. You've got it down.

Third, the expectation that you won't screw up the characters other people now love. Don't you dare kill so-and-so. Don't you dare ruin that happy ending I imagined. Don't you dare reveal that secret and spoil the magic.

If you manage to survive all these expectations and actually produce something that, by the grace of God, gets published and doesn't land you in the looney bin, you're expected to do it again. Only now the expectations are higher, because you met the last ones. It's like that Mario Bros. game where the cavern ceiling collapses on you for eternity.

There's no way out of this trap, except death. That's why Robert Jordan died, you know. Too much pressure. Watch out, Brandon Sanderson. You're next.

Happy Wednesday, anyway. The sun is shining, and that is always good.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I Just Felt Like Writing

You know that scene in Forrest Gump when he's been running for a while and a reporter asks him why and he says, "I just felt like running"? No one believes him, of course. Why would any intelligent person go through all that hardship and discomfort just because he felt like it? Only the people who know Forrest (maybe two? at this point) know why he's running.

When I was younger, I drew all the time. I have the sketchbooks to prove it. I was pretty good, if I do say so myself. Why did I stop? Because the feeling went out of my drawings. Somewhere in college, I stopped drawing emotion and started focusing on technique and the result was a taxidermist's dummy compared to a living bird. I can see it happening in the sketchbooks, and I could feel it happening inside me. So I stopped. I rarely pick up a pencil anymore because the result is disappointing.

Is writing the same thing for me? I couldn't stop myself from writing Star of Justice. If you'd tied my hands behind my back, I would have written with a pencil in my mouth. I finished Elementals, and it's as full of life and emotion as anything I drew in my teens, but it was a knock-down, drag-out to finish it.

Now... Now, it all feels dead and lifeless. The technique is OK, but I've lost the emotion. I look through all the story beginnings I wrote years ago and it's like thumbing through my sketchbooks.

Professional writers are all about the discipline, the outlining, the Butt In Chair that gets it done. Stop whining about your muse and study your character if you're stuck. Polish your technique. Focus on excellence. But if the result is a Frankenstein's monster parody of life, why bother?

I've been dragging Price of Justice along by the hair for two years. I'm half done, as far as I can tell, and I don't care whether or not I finish. The story mocks me with it's two-dimensionality; it's caricaturic nature. I just don't feel it.

I'm torn between giving up and pushing on. I don't care about making money or my name on a cover or a bestseller list. I care about a story I love. If I can't write that, I'm wasting my time.

Maybe I just felt like writing.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Angry Morning

Ever wake up angry? My eyes opened at 3:59 AM, and I knew the struggle had begun. The struggle to keep the day from being an angry day.

I hate waking up too early, because I can't go back to sleep. As the Earth tilts toward the sun, I'm waking earlier every day. When Daylight Savings Time starts this Saturday, I won't notice. I might even get an extra minute or two before the alarm goes off.

The sun was out Saturday and I didn't mind that sleep eluded me. I was busy, busy with chores. The sun vanished behind a film of clouds Sunday and I could barely drag myself out of bed. Still couldn't sleep, though. I could lie there with my burning eyes closed and wish I could sleep, but that was it. Today and tomorrow are supposed to be dreary and cold. I'm tired of dreary and cold, especially when I can't sleep through it.

Was it ever possible I slept through a night? It seems impossible.

My mouthpiece is part of it, I'm sure. I have an alignment later this month. Hopefully, that will help.

Everything else I want to write is just angry complaining, and I don't need to spread that around on a Monday. It's all illusion anyway. I have nothing to complain about, really. My life is great. It's just my mood that sucks this morning, and, by the grace of God, that will change for the better.

Happy Monday, dear readers. Enjoy what you can and let the rest go. It's just dragging you down.