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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Of Puppies, Snowflakes and Fallen Angels

Yesterday started out simply enough: I woke up, made coffee and got my early morning grocery shopping out of the way.

The next thing I knew, it became just one of THOSE days

62980094759159055_WjOIPgVa_bI had to wait for a train on the way home and hit every traffic light. There was no one else on the road. Michael woke up late and was rushing around getting ready, while also trying to get the dogs fed and settled– when I walked in the door.

I put the groceries away and turned around to discover Belle had learned a new trick. She had figured out how to jump up on the basement table–and she was eating the cat’s food. She had just had her own breakfast.

Yes, one of those days.

It’s too cold, too early in November with a wind chill of ten below.

Belle and Cash did not want to be outside. Dudley didn’t really seem to care. Whenever I tried to get the bigger two to go out, they’d just stare through me like I wasn’t there. Dudley really has no choice, his little bulldog puppy legs are too short to maneuver the stairs so he gets picked up and carried.

I was trying to bring Christmas decorations in from the garage, beating myself up for not putting them up sooner, while it was warm. This is what I get for trying to be a considerate neighbor by not putting them up too early.

It snowed a really fine snow, off and on, all through day with only a little accumulation. If it wasn’t cold enough already, the fierce wind made it brutal.

I’m decorating the exterior of the house, pretty much the same way I did last year, with a few minor changes here and there. I’d hung the large snowflakes on the porch over the weekend– but I hadn’t secured them and they were rocking and spinning with the wind. I was sure they were going to fly away with the real snowflakes. This prompted me to feel like I had to secure them today, despite the cold.

I rounded the corner of the house to find that not only were my snowflakes trying to take off– my two trumpeting angels had taken nose dives from the front porch, down the stairs. I’d already weighted them down with bricks– but not secured them to the railing. Apparently, the wind was strong enough to not only send the angels crashing to the ground; it also catapulted one of the bricks (as the angels went over) down to the sidewalk. Seeing the angels lying there, made me think of that horrible, current Life Alert commercial with the moaning woman and spilled clothes basket. This almost made me laugh.

Almost.

I put the angels back together, fastened them down, then secured the snowflakes before checking again on the babies.

originalI went in to warm up and see if I could get them to go out… no deal. So I kept working. Every time I’d go in to check, Belle and Cash were either curled up together on the rug, or Cash was by the door (waiting for me) and Belle was asleep on a big pillow in the chair. (Dudley was sleeping soundly in his crate during all this.)

I brought some more decorations in and finally convinced the dogs to go out– that is, I bribed them with treats. They did their business, only lasting a few minutes before they wanted to go back in.

Now, I know I should have taken their lead and just stayed inside myself and snuggled with them– but I really wanted to get some of these things done so I didn’t feel like I was getting behind.

When I finally did decide to stay inside, things didn’t get much better. Belle decided to climb up on the bed, get Cash’s stuffed toy and pull as much stuffing out as possible, spreading all over the top of the stairs. Two of the window snowflakes I hung, didn’t light up after I’d run the cords and had to come down and be replaced. Dudley decided the only way he wanted to play was to chew on me;  chopping down on my hand, making it bleed. And– I was making a big mess of the dining room with the decorations.

It wasn’t completely bad though…

All this time, aside from not wanting to go out– Cash was my buddy. He helps me. He stayed nearby, stayed out of trouble– watching me; content to get an occasional rub or scratch behind the ears. Always listening to me while I worked, responding to my mumbling, by cocking his head and panting.

Altering my plan, I was able to get quite a few of my lights up– Even though Belle was doing her best to distract me with her mischief. Though sometimes a handful, it’s hard to get mad at those cute puppy faces. And Cash, well, he’s my proud old man.

I didn’t even bother to try to start cooking before Michael came home and he graciously offered to do it, while Belle and Dudley wrestled around on the floor. I kept working, we ate, then Michael took the puppies back down to play while Cash and I finished up what we could on the first floor. Translation: I was up and down the ladder and he snored away on the couch.

It was after eight before I finally sat down to finish my blog post… the next thing I knew, it was time for bed.

I was working on this post this morning when everyone got up… Annnnnd……

The day ignited with crashing pet gates, Belle trying to eat everyone’s food and Dudley chewing my toes through my socks….

Suffice it to say, it’s pretty crazy around here every day. If it’s not snowing and angels are falling to earth– then there’s some new unexpected adventure in the works.

It’s just another amazing day.

November Writing Challenge Update #2

I’m speeding right along with the November Writing challenge– staying on track with a blog a day and keeping up with my daily word count for the novel challenge.

I’ve picked up a number of new followers for this blog. (Welcome!) I’m finding it a lot of fun and sometimes pretty challenging to post every day. I hope my content continues to evolve as I explore different topics, getting closer to writing the blog I really want to write.

nano_logo-aef44f162676a9d773edb93f995492f2My current word count for the novel challenge is 32,633 words. I’m over halfway to the 50,000 word goal and still see this story going in so many different directions. I have a feeling I’ll be closer to 100,000 words before I’m done and ready to start editing.

Plot points are developing and the focus changing as I suddenly find secondary characters more interesting to write about. This free form writing has been really liberating and is pretty exciting. Sometimes I’ll go off in a direction and the words seem to pore out. When I’m done writing that day, I think, Wow, where did that come from?

488161_10152066407810207_7327979_nThere are times though, that the further along I get– the further away I feel I am from the end.  Exploration was what this was all about for me, and I’m discovering a lot of things as I go.

The biggest thing is that I’m almost to the point where I feel comfortable saying, I’m a writer.  I’ve loved writing since I was a kid but I’ve always allowed everything else to take priority over it. Stupid mistake.

I know I have a voice and stories to tell.  Maybe I’m finally on to something.

A writer writes. A writer creates. A writer creates worlds where none existed. When a writer completes something. It’s theirs and theirs alone. That is, until it is shared.  When it’s shared, the readers become owners and the ones that give it life. No two people experience the world of a novel the same way. It’s pretty fascinating.

 

Getting It Out of My Head

Thinking_ManFrom the moment I wake up every morning my head is full. A song is playing in my head, a current event, my to do list, a dream, a person, a thought, an idea, a wish…. and they all take their turns circulating through, sometimes going head to head– sometimes waiting for their turn to be the focus, front and center in my brain.

There are a dozen things rushing forward that I want to do, can do or should do… a dozen things I want to write about, each one lighting another thought or idea; that new spark taking me down a different road.

“Sometimes I think my head is so big because it is so full of dreams.”
John Merrick

You can probably tell, I don’t get bored too often. I do sometimes get frustrated trying to balance my thoughts and activities with the time I think I have to do them. Many of my thoughts relate to creativity with the back of my brain being filled with hundreds, if not thousands of partially thought out, half-developed ideas. Ideas that I’m not ready to put down on paper yet. Eventually, though, I do want to get them out of my head.

How much can our three pound brain handle? I looked it up. Various sources claim we each have somewhere between 12,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. If accurate, those are some pretty incredible numbers.

My ideal (and unrealistic) solution would be to hook my brain up to a computer to output all my ideas into different files that I could sort, develop and then publish. I’ve found working on the novel and blog every day this month has helped me to get out of the habit of editing myself so much– as I go. My biggest challenge is getting the ideas out of my head first, fine tuning them later. I think so much faster than I type, so thoughts get lost.

My problem is that I like the details too much. If I can force out the original idea first, I think the important details will be triggered in my brain when I go back to edit and embellish.

I found a supposed, health site where people contribute their own diagnosis’ to people’s questions and there were some pretty interesting responses to this subject. Most suggested that if your head is constantly full of thoughts competing for your focus, you are either ADD or Bipolar. A few suggested it was a positive sign of a high IQ or high-functioning brain capacity. Suggested solutions beyond: seek medical attention, included: smoke pot or drink alcohol; drink caffeine; do yoga or meditate. I had to laugh.

I included the above paragraph, more for amusement than anything. I do want to comment though. That sampling of responses show, what I view as a significant problem in today’s society: label and medicate. Forget understanding, taking responsibility or control; don’t even try to change behavior or learn to harness it– make it a disorder and shove pills down its throat. That’s the answer to everything and it’s pathetic. I’m not putting down or trying to embarrass anyone that needs assistance. It’s just that in today’s society, there is no try when you can alter with medication instead.

Why do we have to consider thinking too much as a problem? Thinking sparks ideas, leading to innovations, actions and results. Not thinking leads to… well, what exactly? Not originality. Not creativity. Not solutions.

I’ll writing more on this later— but right now… something else is invading my brain. <wink>

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

Beautiful Christmas – Before You Start Decorating

I took Belle to doggie daycare for half a day yesterday and took advantage of the time to start decorating our house for Christmas. I got five trees up, including the 20 foot foyer tree; not lit or decorated– but they are up– and that’s a start!

IMG_5462I want to share some of my experiences and some tips on how to make the most out of your Christmas decorating in a few posts over the coming weeks. I know it’s not Thanksgiving yet and even if you don’t plan on starting until then; it’s not too early to shop or at least begin thinking about what you want to do this season.

Whether this is your first time decorating or you consider yourself an old pro, I hope you find some ideas that will help you make the most out of your holiday decorating.

Before You Start

Especially if you are new to decorating, or looking to expand your efforts this year, here are some things you really should consider first:

  • Budget. What’s your budget? Are you recycling old decorations or purchasing new for the first time? How can you save money?
  • Storage. Where are you going to store all your decorations after the holidays?
  • Time. How much time do you have to decorate AND take it all down?
  • Size. How can you make the most of what you have? Is there such a thing as too much?
  • Design. Do you have a vision in mind? Don’t know exactly where to start?

So, those are the five big things you should decide before anything else. You should consider these points in that order too. It’s great to have ideas first– but if you don’t ultimately follow these steps, you could find yourself coming up short down the line.

IMG_5434Budget. If you have an unlimited budget then you can skip this step. Most of us are trying to make the most of what we have; and believe me, it’s easy to go way beyond what you intended to spend if you’re not careful. Something that may start out as a simple idea can snowball. Before you know it, you’re either out of money or over extended.

Example 1– Trees need a lot of decorations and lights. The bigger the tree, the more you need. I always find if I think I need 6 strings of lights– I end up needing 8 or else I’m taking them all off and stringing them back on the tree again. At least with the ornaments, you can re-space them if you run out. I’m not saying you can’t have a simple, elegant tree. I’m saying that it’s so easy to start and then find yourself needing much more than you anticipated.

Example 2– Garland and swags. Yes, you can measure the areas you want to hang garland and swags and you can get a pretty good idea of what you need. Don’t be surprised though, if you don’t anticipate the extra you’ll need depending on how you drape it. I reuse whenever possible but garland doesn’t last forever. I’ve also noticed you can’t always find suitable garlands readily available form season to season. Prices have also doubled and even quadrupled in some stores this year.

Three ways to save money are: 1) Start early and watch for sales. 2) Don’t forget to check dollar and discount stores! You’d be surprised at what you can find. 3) Maybe go simpler this year and then make the most of the clearance sales after Christmas for next year.

If you wait too long, most of the good stuff will be gone. Don’t expect to find the shelves are still full after Thanksgiving. Trendy items and single color lights (even red or green) tend to sell out early.

A good rule of thumb is: What ever you expect to spend… double it. What ever you can afford to spend, cut it in half and start there as your budget amount.

IMG_5348Storage. Many people make the mistake of not considering what they are going to do with their decorations when they come down. You may not have room to store a large artificial tree and all the trimmings. You may have to go with a smaller, compact option. Another alternative is to use a live tree but that might not fit in your budget year after year. Know how much space you can afford to dedicate to storing your decorations before you buy– unless you expect to throw out or donate them when they come down.

Storage space isn’t so much an issue for me, the organization of it all has been a huge challenge. This past year, I actually took the time to separate out my decorations in containers and label them with the contents. This helps so much when you start to decorate the following year. Don’t skip the labeling part– You may think you’ll remember what’s in that box on the top closet shelf and a year later– your memory is gone. I label the top and at least one side of each container and make sure I store them with the label side out.

Proper storage does take a little extra time but not as much as you might think. It definitely save you time later on.

WARNING: I know it may seem obvious…. Don’t store items that can freeze or melt in an non-climate controlled area like the attic or an unheated garage. Candles and snow globes might not look the same when you open them the following year.

One more thing– when you take your tree down: It may not seem important at the time to separate out your ornaments (if you use sets of things) but do it. When you open the box the following year, you’ll be glad you did.

IMG_5224Time. Last year was the first year I wasn’t still decorating Christmas Eve. Biting off more than I can chew is an art I have mastered and a bad habit to break. I highly recommend starting early if you plan on a lot of decorating and think you might run into a time crunch. Procrastinating can also create a holiday stress load you don’t need.

Same as with your budgeting: Whatever time you think it will take, double it. Whatever time you have available, cut your time expectations in half. Start there and if you complete everything, you can always add more later.

We used to host the same group for Thanksgiving and Christmas and Michael always preferred that Christmas wasn’t up for both holidays. This created a big time crunch because of the amount of decorating I do every year. Some years I waited and some I started early depending on what the schedule looked like. My preference is to have everything up by Thanksgiving so the time before Christmas is open for holiday fun.

By all means, allow yourself enough time to enjoy decorating! For me, it’s one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.

Don’t forget, you have to take it all down! This is my least favorite part. It takes time. You may want to leave it all up a few extra weeks to enjoy, run out of time– and then find you’re still taking it down before Easter. Yes, that’s happened to me.

Size. This directly relates to the other four considerations. How big do you want to go? How much room do you have for storage? How much can you afford to spend? How much time is it going to take?

I love a fully decorated house, inside and out. But simple and elegant or warm and homey is great too. Know and stick to your limits!

IMG_5242Design. Here’s a chance to show off a little of your personality. Your ideas and creativity here, are your only guide. I highly recommend considering 1) colors and themes and 2) whether your design will vary from room to room or encompass the whole house. Make sure, what ever you decide, compliments the everyday design of your living space. Complimentary or contrasting colors and be very effective. Using one or two primary colors can also give a very elegant and designed feel to your decorating.

I love Christmas decorations so much, I’d be hard pressed to say I’ve seen a really ugly, tree, house or room. Christmas is the one time that I think its perfectly acceptable to be completely gaudy if you want to… It’s really your choice.

Christmas decorations can completely transform a space either good or bad. A tree that’s too big can make a room unlivable and hard to navigate. One that’s too small can look dwarfed. To compensate here, especially if storage is an issue: consider using a tabletop tree as room accent as opposed to a 4 foot tree stuck in a corner or behind the couch.

Colored lights are great — keep in mind you might not want blue or purple lights next year. White is classic, multicolored lights can be more casual and whimsical.

Last year, for the first time in many years, I used the inexpensive glass ball ornaments (that have been around for ever) on several trees. By limiting them to a few colors, (gold and white, silver and white, etc.) and using a couple different sizes; I was surprised at how really beautiful they looked. It’s a very cost effective way to decorate, you can use them in groupings and arrangements as well, and if you have to get rid of them because you can’t store them– they are cheap to replace.

I also love a traditional family ornament tree. Not only is it totally unique to your family but the sentimental value is priceless. That can be included in other decorating elements in your house as well. Saved treasures from your children’s, or your childhood, can be used for a warm, sentimental touch.

IMG_1244Go For It!

I hope this helps some of you in getting the wheels turning! I’d love to hear from you and have you share your own thoughts and ideas. I’ll be posting more though the season. If you’re new to my blog, check out the archives from last November and December for some easy ideas and suggestions.

Happy Decorating!

 

So You Think You Can Drive!?!

Bad_DriverI hate driving.

No, I hate other people driving.

Does anyone take a driving test anymore?

I’m that person that screams when they drive. I swear, I can’t even drive around the block without some idiot pissing me off.

So, I’ve decided I need to pitch my idea for a new TV show to the networks. So You Think You Can Drive is sure to be the next big thing.

It’s another reality-competition show BUT no gets eliminated each week. Instead, competing drivers will square-off in a difficult, new challenge in each episode and be ranked based on their performance.

The catch is…. they’re really competing for the title of World’s Worst Driver.

eatingwhiledrivingThe challenges will include some pretty daunting tasks. Like– driving the speed limit. Using a turn signal. Driving the right direction on a one-way street. My favorite is, of course, the most difficult… Driving one full mile without texting, talking on the phone, eating, putting on make up or — and this is the most challenging…. reaching down to feel around for that thing that just fell on the floor.

I think it will be an epic hit!

driving-is-not-for-youOf course all the stereotypes will be represented: Old lady that never drives over 10 mph, Drunk guy, Texting teen, Revoked license guy, Girl that’s always late for work, Bus driver on a controlled substance, Clueless singing preppie, Woman with too many kids in the car, I break at every street sign person and I break for wind man.

The show will be interactive, so viewers can tweet live comments on air, most of which will have to be censored; mirroring what they’d be saying if they were following the competitors on the open road.

I think viewers will vote too. The winner will have their car crushed by one of those big compactors, their license revoked by a real (retired) police officer and they’ll get a permanent tattoo on their forehead (preferably with a rusty needle) of World’s Worst Driver.

It will be bigger than Honey Boo Boo….

That is, before the child molester-thing.

 

Here Comes Lord Dudley

IMG_8216

Meet Lord Dudley

A week ago we were blessed with a new addition to our family. Dudley is an AKC English Bulldog, fawn and white, weighing just over 17 pounds. He’s 9 weeks old now and a cuddly teddy bear. So far, he gets along wonderfully with our other furry kids, although Collins (our cat) has pretty much kept his distance.

Lord Dudley loves to explore. He loves to romp through the leaves and crawl under things.

Dudley and Belle. It's hard to get these two to stop playing long enough to get a clear picture.

Dudley and Belle. It’s hard to get these two to stop playing long enough to get a clear picture.

His new sister, Belle, couldn’t be happier to have a new playmate. The two of them are constantly wrestling around— which is especially funny as Belle is growing by leaps and bounds. Belle loves to stand over him like an umbrella.

Cash prefers to sniff and lick Dudley’s ears… a lot.

His name has two Broadway connections, the main one being an obscure reference from the musical Mame. The second is from the musical, Something’s Afoot.

Though I doubt, Dudley will be appearing on stage anytime soon, he is certainly a little show off. In less than a week he’s stolen everyone’s hearts.

Cash watching over his new brother, Dudley.

Cash watching over his new brother, Dudley.

Just a baby.

Just a baby.

Nap time for Dudley.

Nap time for Dudley.

Dudley the explorer taking a break.

Dudley the explorer taking a break.

 

Why I Grocery Shop At 3 AM: A Nightmare

It’s 3:00 AM, no traffic and I pull into the empty parking lot. I park up front in the first spot close to the door. I approach the door that glides open, revealing a clean, quiet shopping metropolis just waiting for me. I nod, or say Good Morning, to the familiar faces of employees, busily stocking shelves and taking inventory as I move quickly through aisle after uncrowded aisle gathering the items on my list. Something in the produce department not on the shelf? No problem. There’s someone there, willing to get it for me from the back. The only other shopper in the store– and I swear, he’s there every time I go at this hour– is an older gentleman using one of those electric mobility scooters. I go to self check out, scan my items as a friendly cashier rushes over to assist and engage in a little small talk as they help bag my items. Then I’m done. This is the only way to shop!

I do most of my shopping at a local super store chain (grocery and department store combined) in the early morning hours and I love it! It’s a quiet, quick and efficient use of my time. I can do a full grocery shop and browser through the other departments (and always the pet aisles) in about an hour.

This particular chain has a great phone app that allows me to clip manufacturer coupons, store coupons and incentives AND form a shopping list for a quick and easy shopping experience. Store coupons (or sales) and manufacturer coupons are stackable for additional savings. If for some reason the coupon or discount doesn’t come up at the register, there’s always someone there to quickly correct it, no questions asked.

My receipt shows me my total combined savings over regular retail prices– and so far this year, I’ve saved over $2,800! I love this place.

That is, I love this place at 3:00 AM.

1a11b-shopping-cart-grocery-store-retail-consumerYesterday, I went at 11:30 AM. What was I thinking? The store was crowded with typical shoppers that have no concern or awareness of anyone but themselves. Kids are screaming, wandering shoppers leave their carts blocking aisles; and I have to wait for the two retired gentlemen to wake up from their conversation about how bad the Bears are this year and move out of the way.

Oh yeah, the reason I had to go at this normal hour was two fold: There were two, one day-only coupons I wanted to use; and I needed to have a quick adjustment done on my eye glasses at the little in-house vision center. (If only they were open at 3 AM!)

I got my glasses fixed at the front of the store and headed into the chaos. Swerving, dodging and taking detours, I navigated my way around the myriad of confused shoppers blocking my path.

The special coupons I had were for 40% off a men’s outerwear and an accessory item. I wanted to get Michael a new heavy duty coat for work and for shoveling snow at home. I found a good Dickies brand coat under a sign that said Men’s Outerwear and 20% off. Perfect. The discounts would stack and I would get the $80 coat for about $38. I also picked up a pair of gloves, already 30% off, plus the extra 40% off.

Avoiding the crowded aisles, I headed to the back perimeter aisle to head over to the pet department. As I was passing through, I found some pet toys on final clearance, 90% off. As I was picking out a few, I happened to glance to my right. In the distance, coming towards me down the aisle was my 3 AM friend on his scooter. )Why was he here now?) Seconds after I spotted him, a woman on her cell phone crashed her cart into the side of his scooter. He wasn’t hurt but I’d bet he was a sailor in his youth, if you get my drift.

ab31038.jpgI was nearly done with my shopping and headed to pick up my fridge and freezer items, not yet too annoyed by all the people– I reach the dairy section to find: No whole milk. How does a store that size have no whole milk? They barely had any 2% milk, either but I refuse to buy that anyway. (Sugar is added to 2% milk to replace the fat, actually making it less healthy for you!)

So then, I move through the meat section, which apparently, at noon is a social gathering spot; reach the produce section to find the bagged, chopped salad shelves empty too. This really wasn’t going well.

I headed toward the registers to check out and in the center aisle where they display sale merchandise, I found the large jars of peanut butter on sale for $1.49 if you bought eight. Well, eight is a lot but it has a long shelf life; and we go through a lot of it with the dogs. Sell by date was October 2016, so in the cart it went. Shopping done– just had to pay.

I’m not sure if any of this is annoying or amusing enough for anyone to continue reading–BUT– it took me 45 minutes just to check out!

45 minutes to check out in an empty, self-scan checkout lane!

Why?

Well since you asked….

The peanut butter was really on sale for $4.99 not $1.49. I had to go get the sign to show them their mistake… They gave it to me for the lower price… but it took almost 15 minutes just to change the price in the computer, for me to get it at the posted price. Then the register wouldn’t give me the extra 40% off on the coat because it was work wear not just outerwear that they claim was excluded– but not listed on the app coupon OR the text message, I’d received. This was what got me in the store at that ungodly hour. I made them take it off my tally, I wasn’t paying that much. (The guy that had gotten in line behind me was sighing loudly and cussing under his breath at this point.) Then the gloves? Same thing. Only they couldn’t claim a reason why I wasn’t entitled to the discount, so that took even longer to figure out. The original attendant had just gone on break… and the replacement didn’t know how to do price adjustments. Suddenly, every self checkout was at a stand still because every one needed assistance. I was never more relieved to finally get out of a store in my life!

This is exactly why I try to only shop off hours or online as much as possible.

That would be the end of the story… except– stupid me, I forgot eggs. When I got home and started to make meatloaf, I discovered we were completely out of eggs. You can’t make meatloaf without them.

So— I was forced to drive to the nearby grocery– that I hate with a passion– just to get eggs. (I won’t name any names but the store’s a real gem.) And yes, it took me almost a half hour just to buy a carton of eggs.

The End.

 

P.S. — The meatloaf was delicious! <wink>