Monday, December 31, 2007

More Vomit

Today I am cleaning up kid puke.
It's Kool-Aid red.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dog Puke


"Eh?" I was startled awake, but just enough to answer, not enough to be alarmed.

"Mommy, Maisie puked on the carpet in my room."

!#&%effing dog.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Oh, yes...Today's Gratitude...

Today's Gratitude:

I am thankful for my giant hairy friend.

Even if she is a whiner. :)

Scared-y Dog

It's been rainy and gray all day and now the wind is starting to pick up. The Hairy Monster hates it when the wind blows.

I took the day off from my grueling work-out schedule because my knee has been hurting (whine) and I'm up for a lower body day that consists of two-bazillion lunges and at least as many squats (whine). Instead, for my day of rest, I took Maisie for a walk (hopefully) long enough to keep her from waking me up in the middle of the night to (whine) tell me the wind is blowing.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Universal Law of Attraction

I love Christmas. I haven't always, but once I took my focus off of what I'm 'supposed' to do (or be or get or give) and put it on being grateful, things just seemed to fall into place.
I AM Grateful.
I AM blessed. :)

I am reading The Secret. I've read other books about the Universal Law of Attraction. To some extent I've practiced it. That's where the gratitude came from - focus on the positive and positive is what you'll attract. It doesn't seem all that far-fetched, really. Think about the office (or workplace or school or wherever) complainer. That person has something new (and all the old stuff, too) to complain about every day.
Every. Day.
No matter what, that person is whining and bitching and moaning. Does it do them any good? Hell, no. Wallowing just adds to their misery (and everyone else's, too).

So, what if you looked at it the other way? Find positive things to focus your energy towards. I CAN do that; it's simple if I just quit bitching long enough to take a look at my many blessings. When I focus on the GOOD, I feel better. It doesn't matter if I get rewarded for that or not (though attracting more of the good would be a great perk), it makes me feel better Right Now (and instant gratification is a good thing, no matter how mature I think I am).

For 2008, I intend to focus on my many blessings.

Today's Gratitude:

I am thankful for my husband and his level-headedness and constant love.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Adventure Race!

I've been doing my end of the year evaluation: Where was I this time last year? Where am I right now? What did I do to get here? Where do I want to go? What is it going to take to get there?

I do take a holistic approach, but my main focus is on fitness.
It is a fact -taking into account my entire life- that my physical fitness level is a direct (and brutally accurate) reflection of my life as a whole. If my body is in good shape, my mind follows. If my mind is in good shape, I'm generally happy and well adjusted and making progress to become a better person physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Start with fitness and everything else follows.

So, for me 2007 has been productive. Perhaps not as productive as I'd like, but definitely an improvement. I'm not arguing with improvement; I'm patting myself on the back.

I'm more physically fit than in 2006 on all three levels: cardio-respiratory, strength, and flexibility. I've lost some weight. Not as much as I need to, but I'm going in the right direction. I am nowhere near where I was in, say, 2003, but I'm headed back to lean and strong. My injuries are less bothersome, my body doesn't hurt and scream in protest when I get out of bed in the morning, and I can run again (yay!). My head is clear, I'm generally grateful and happy, my marriage is good, and I've had a few things published this year. Pretty darn great.

So what about 2008?
In 2008 I intend to be a great mother and a wonderful wife, continue to improve and practice the art of writing, publish more of my work, open a coffee shop, lose the rest of this pesky extra weight, and get back to lean and strong (using my fitness level of 2000-2004 as a benchmark to strive towards).
Because I can use my fitness level as an accurate gauge of everything else, my physical training needed a boost of inspiration.
This organization, Adventure Pursuit, puts on this Adventure Triathlon! I've always wanted to do a triathlon! I've done quite a few running races: 5k, 10k, and even a 1/2 marathon, but I've never done a triathlon and I AM EXCITED!
It's not a traditional triathlon (run, bike, swim) because the swim is replaced with paddling (remember I mentioned wanting a kayak - this is why!), but I'm not a big fan of swimming anyway. When I saw this I knew I wanted to do it - never mind that I've never been in a kayak in my life. I do have some canoe experience, so that may help. I hope.

I have to go. I have bread rising that needs transferred to the oven. We're going to a party tonight and I have stuff to do.
Don't worry - you have not heard the last of this adventure racing stuff yet. Far from it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Flooded Driveway

PC took this picture. That's me on the other side of the bridge. I walked down with Maisie to get a look at the waterfalls (I'll see what I can do for pics of those, too). PC and the kids were on the road side of the bridge in his truck taking a look at the flood. Yep, there's a little wooden bridge under the water. It's been there for at least 40 years, so other than a little erosion around the edges, it's still in good shape now that the water is back down.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holy Crap. (or Power & Rape)

As most of you who read this blog already know, I live in rural West Virginia.

It is a fact that West Virginia has been plundered for our rich natural resources -particularly coal and natural gas- for generations.
It is also a fact that most of the income from these resources are funneled out of our state because, among other reasons, the people who can afford to extract these minerals do not live here and do not care diddly-squat about what happens in (or to) these beautiful mountains once they've made their monetary gains. This was, in large part, true with the hardwood raping clear cutting that decimated our forests around the turn of the 20th century. It has been, and continues to be, true -repeatedly- with coal mining and natural gas exploration.

I will spare you my tirade of sick and disgustingly true facts related to mineral right acquisition, coal camp living conditions, environmental destruction, and political thievery. If I were to go in that direction we could be here all day just to harangue the injustices of the past.

That was not my intent.

My intent is to point out that the rape continues.

Here in Taylor County, a large coal mine is slated to start production as soon as next year. This is an entirely new endeavor and it's huge. The mine entrance will be less than 5 miles away from our home and the underground long-wall mining will come as close as a quarter mile from us. We are lucky. Many, many of our friends and neighbors will be undermined. Historically, coal mines have not been found to be financially liable (or liable at all, for that matter) for property destruction - including homes, businesses, water wells, acid mine drainage and resulting contamination, etc.
This time it's supposed to be different. At least that's what they're (politicians and coal company) saying. And although everyone WANTS to believe the sincerity of this assurance, it's impossible to prove their legitimacy until after the damage has already been done, documented, and compensation requested. Only then will we know for sure if the coal company will (or will be forced to) take responsibility for whatever destruction that has resulted from their activities. There are a whole slew of legal issues that come into account here and, though I drift even further from the intent of this post, I will add that our state representatives have passed laws that make it easy for out-of-state companies to come in, destroy, pay off politicians, take the money and run.

Money talks and bullshit walks.

There's a gazillion things wrong with this whole set-up (but don't label me as anti-mine, because I'm not -though that belongs to a different discussion altogether), but -again- I need to steer back towards my point:
Because the mine is so close, the new activity is hard to miss: the logging, the road improvements, the bridge building, survey crews, etc. As a part of the increased activity, I've been seeing dozens of large red trucks. Some are tankers, some are cargo haulers, some are drilling rigs, some are unidentifiable. But the one thing that all these large red trucks have in common is the 'Halliburton' logo (that, and they all drive too fast on these winding one-and-a-half-lane country roads, but that, too, belongs to a different discussion).

Being nosy inquisitive like I am, and having a high-speed internet addiction like I do, I googled it.
Halliburton is a multi-national corporation that specializes in "Oilfield Technologies and Services." So, yeah, that makes sense, but I didn't have the sense to stop at that reassurance.

I kept looking:
"As a public company with more than 45,000 employees and operations in more than 70 countries,our No. 1 priority is to offer competitive, safe and superior quality products and services. And as global corporate citizens we understand that the sustainability of our business also depends on how we interact with our world. As the search for new sources of energy takes us to many different places around the world, every action is guided by our vision:
"To be welcomed as a good corporate neighbor in our communities; to do no harm to the environment; to provide demonstrable social and economic benefits through
sustainable relationships, sustainable technology and sustainable sourcing; and to validate our progress through transparency and reporting."

Oh, good. It's a good company that believes in safety, protection of the environment, and maintaining good relationships through disclosure and, I'm assuming, integrity.

Well, that sounds good, right?

Right. And sometimes I'm a gullible idiot.

This is information taken from the Halliburton Wikipedia entry:
During the 2000 Presidential election, Dick Cheney retired from the company with a severance package worth $34 -get this!- MILLION dollars.
A severance package for retiring? That's only one of many, many things wrong with that statement. And I suppose if you already know that you'll end up as vice president even before the election you can afford to retire. Oh, yeah, with that kind of jack-pot, it wouldn't really matter, would it?
And $34 MILLION? Doesn't that imply some sort of really deep connection? Or maybe it was just a friendly gesture with absolutely no implication of anything -then OR in the future.

It gets worse.
Here's a short list; just a beginning, really:
  • The War Tapes: a documentary of the war in Iraq with film footage shot by US soldiers. Halliburton is notable here because, according to Wikipedia, they are mentioned to be charging the US $28 for each disposable plate that is used to serve meals to our soldiers.
  • There were hearings on Halliburton and clean water supplies for our troops (failure to provide) by the Democratic Policy Committee. Here's the same thing, but another hearing from another date.
  • Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers. A documentary film detailing the screwed-up-ness of private companies profiting from the war effort. Details the notorious security firm Blackwater, but touches also on Halliburton. I'm sure that any relationship between these decisions to privatize many of these services and the contracts that are awarded to companies with ties to some of our most powerful political figures are pure coincidence.
  • Here's a news item from CBS from today, "Halliburton Under Fire Over Rape Charge."
  • And from here's a quote from a Halliburton article over at CorpWatch: "This company truly has a guardian angel: former Halliburton CEO and now Vice President Dick Cheney who looks out for its interests from the White House. The result? $8 billion in contracts “rebuilding” Iraq in 2004." BILLION? Did you say $8 BILLION (I'm yelling louder here than I did for 'Million.' Can you tell?)
  • Halliburton has been so dirty and crooked that they have their very own Watchdog group: Halliburton Watch.

This picture came from the site. I think it speaks for itself.

Now why do you suppose the federal government has been pushing for petroleum and natural gas exploration? The gullible idiot part of me wants to believe in the fairy tale of political and personal altruism, but the rest of me knows better.

West Virginians, beware!
We have rapists in our backyard.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's still raining!

Screech called me from school to ask if I'd pick her up. At first I thought she was sick, but school is being dismissed early because of flooding.
So, sure, no problem. I'll pick them all up because the bus route goes through some tight spots right along Sandy Creek which can get really high pretty fast.
The only problem is our bridge is flooded! I can't get out! I drove down the driveway not really thinking anything about it, but when I rounded the turn it was obvious that I wasn't going anywhere. Unless I wanted to try it, and then I'd be going over the falls. But, nope, not trying it.

Fortunately, PC is making the rounds (3 kids at 3 schools). They'll end up at The 123 because they can't get home.

The bridge should still be there when the water goes down. I'm not sure I want to be the first one to try it out, but it has been there for a while - 40 years? I know it survived the big flood of 1985 because the neighbor was telling me about him and his wife using a rope tied off to a tree to drag him through the water. Yikes! Scary. And cold.

I feel totally ineffective. I can't get anywhere to do anything so I've been on the phone trying to get through to the schools, "Do not put him on the bus!" was essentially the message. What would happen if I wasn't calling? If I didn't know they were coming home early? If the kids got off the bus (assuming the bus driver would let them off with Swamp Run crossing our driveway) what would they do? Surely, with that much water they would know not to try to cross it. Surely. It's a little scary to think about. I think they'd know to go to H's and not try to cross....?

Before all this rain started, I'd decided I wanted a kayak. Hmmm....

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Snow Day II

We did NOT have a repeat of the Treadmill Phenomenon today. I told everyone that it was my workout time and I intended to get in a good workout so, unless someone was bleeding, I didn't want to hear about it. They were kind enough to put in last minute requests before I descended into the basement. (It took me another half an hour to do it all, but it was worth it because I got my hour of quiet. Well, almost quiet; let's classify it as minimal thumping.)
I had to:

  • make peanut butter sandwiches.
  • find two AA batteries for Grunt's camera.
  • fix the printer so Screech could print out some fish pictures to finish off her school project.
  • feed the dog.
  • unzip a winter coat with a broken zipper.
  • give instructions on which household chores needed to be done (haven't I done this about a gazillion times already?).

In the end, I got a great workout.

This afternoon we baked bread as a warm-up prelude to Christmas cookies.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Treadmill Phenomenon

Today is a SNOW DAY. The kids are ecstatic (and ecstatically fighting) and it's still snowing. Hard.

If you're a parent, you are aware of the Telephone Phenomenon. And for those without children: It's when you get on the telephone and everyone in the house all of a sudden needs something.

I had forgotten, until today, that this attention-hoarding behavior also applies to the treadmill.

Today's Treadmill Phenomenon movie: Child#2 (Screech) thumps down the stairs from her room and across the floor above my head. She thumps down the basement stairs and begins to scream, "Mom! Mom!" While she is in the process of telling me her room is flooded, Child#3 (Dozer) thumps across my head in hot pursuit. He doesn't even wait until he's downstairs before he's screaming, "I did not! I did not!"

At about this time, two smaller elfin children clop down the stairs carrying between them what is left of an air rocket launcher. (J--- and L---. These two children are neighbors. They are very small and quiet compared to my screaming heathens. They are welcome here at anytime, mainly because they give me hope of a quieter, calmer, saner universe.) There is a long clear tube with a round accordion type bellows that is supposed to be stepped on in order to push air through the tube and into the rocket launching pad which is a flat plastic platform with a hollow, rigid plastic tube that points straight up into the air. A styrofoam rocket sits on top of this and can be launched into the air about 50 feet if a child jumps onto the accordion. Or at least it would launch if the dog hadn't eaten the rocket last week.

I am just now feeling nice and warm and moving easily. I'm watching the little stick man on the treadmill display run around the imaginary track at an amazing speed (alright, amazing might be stretching the truth a little bit). Over top of two screaming, arguing children I hear an elephant coming down the stairs and the house shakes (I'm not kidding about the house shaking). Child#1 (Grunt) stumble/thump/bang/wallop/whacks his way into the basement in the teenage sprawling way he has of taking over the entire house and comes to stand behind the four younger children. His hands are shoved in his pockets and he looks bored. (How the hell can you look bored when the decibel level is enough to break eardrums and the small people are jumping around like a herd of kangaroos?)

"Mom, can I go over to S---'s house?" Grunt asks. He can't be serious, can he? Dozer now has hold of the rocket launcher by the hose and begins to whip it around. The children scatter and Grunt ducks. Screech moves in closer to shove a wet monkey (evidence) in Grunt's face and he pushes her back. She stumbles and falls against J--- and L--- and tumbles these two small children like bowling pins. More screeching ensues.

I push the red 'Stop' button.

I calmly inform everyone that I am in the middle of my workout and they cannot -must not- interrupt me.

"Go clean it up," I say to the girls.

"Leave that here," I say to the rocket launcher.

"What are you going to do at S---'s?" I ask Grunt who towers above the younger children and parts them like the Red Sea as they scuttle back towards the stairs.

"Sled," is the one word answer. It sounds rather like a 'grunt.'

I push the green button and begin to walk, slowly moving back up to speed.

"Wait until I'm done and we'll talk about it," I answer. He grunts in reply and shuffles away.

*** Okay- here's the reality: 1. I might not have been quite as calm as this account makes me appear to be and 2. the last time Grunt went sledding over at S---'s house (February 2007), he broke his arm.

Really, I was not calm at all. At all. I yelled something like, "Why is it that as soon as I get on the treadmill everyone needs something?" And I yelled the "Go clean it up" line, too. "Leave that here" was somewhat quieter, but they were already scuttling by that time.

"Wait until I'm done..." was spoken in a quiet, calm voice. And he didn't argue (write that on the calendar).

Last year, in February, Grunt asked me to take him over to S---'s to go sledding. He and all his friends are HUGE. Nearly full-grown, but they still play like a rolling, tumbling pack of puppies. In other words: They are Dangerous. So, I agreed to drive him over there, but I requested that he find his wrist protectors to wear underneath his gloves. I believe his response was something like, "That's stupid. Nobody has to wear wrist protection for sledding. That's stupid. What? Do you think I'm gonna break my arm? That's stupid. I'm not gonna break my arm. What? I could slip and fall just walking out the back door. Do you think I should wear them all the time? That's stupid."

Note the abundance of, "That's stupid." The previous winter he'd gone snowboarding in Colorado and broke his arm on his first run. He was not wearing wrist protection.

So, last winter, I agreed to let him go if he had his wrist protection on. Assuring me that it was very stupid, I dropped him off and came back home (it's about two miles over there). Ten minutes (yes, just ten minutes) after I got back, the phone rang. It was Grunt telling me that he hurt his arm and it was bad enough that I should come and get him.

How stupid am I?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving & Gratitude

I am not going to make the 50,000 word count for NaNoWriMo.
More about that later....

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. We are visiting PC's family for the holiday. While I'm glad to visit, every minute that I am here I am thankful that we do not live here any longer. We can all go back home in a couple of days.

Gratitude List:
I am thankful for our house and our breathing room.
I am thankful for our children (even if they are loud and unruly).
I am thankful for my husband.
I am thankful for my dog (yes, I am one of those people).
I am thankful for myself and I am thankful that I am finally able to appreciate my own perseverance (hard-headedness) and strength.
I am thankful for my health and the health of my husband and our children and our extended family.
I am thankful that I have so many things to be thankful for.
I am blessed.

I think I will do the gratitude list more often to remind myself just how blessed I am.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Limited Connectivity, Word Count, and Rambling.

I am at The 123 and the internet air wave is sparse. Maybe this will get posted. And maybe it won't.....

Word Count for the NaNoWriMo is up to 10,515 (that's this morning's count - I've added since then), still far below what it should be for this time of the month.
I have not given up yet.
I can make the word count.
What I mean is: I can write that much each day.
However, what I'm beginning to wonder is if this story even has that much substance to it.

I'm beginning to get the feeling that all the fleshing that I thought was here may not be. In other words, I don't think this story is worth 50,000 words. And I'm scared I'm not just saying that because I'm behind: I think this may actually turn out to be a more effective story in a much shorter version.
I guess that's okay, but I really thought there was more to this than a short story.
I think I was wrong.

So what do I do - keep plugging away and strive to make the word count? Or push towards carving this story into a finished version regardless of length?

On one hand - pushing for the word count could result in a bunch of useless gobbledly gook that gets thrown in the trash (I've already got plenty of that:)). OR it could result in the hatching of another story that would be better told separately. And then I'd still have to go back and clean everything up to make something stand alone.

On the other hand - finding and defining this story and making it stand up by itself would result in a finished project even though the finish is very different from what I had planned to accomplish.

Now I'm really rambling.
If it sounds bad out here, you should see the inside of my head.

What do you guys think? Not what do you think about the inside of my head, but what do you think about the story options? (Although comments about the goings-on inside my head are fine, too.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The First Cut

Looks as if I made the first cut for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Here's the text from the notifying email:

Congratulations! We are emailing to notify you that your entry is eligible for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Your Registration ID: 3**N*QC*A*

We take the contest review process very seriously, and are working diligently to consider each submission carefully. Submissions are now being reviewed by a team of Amazon editors and Amazon top reviewers. You should expect to be notified no later than January 15, 2008 if your entry will advance to the semi-final round.

Please keep in mind that if it becomes clear in the future that your entry violates our eligibility requirements, we reserve the right to disqualify your submission. For complete and official rules, go to

Best of luck,ABNA Admin Team

However, I don't think it took much to make this first wave of eliminations. From what I was seeing on the forums, some people were worried about margin widths as an eliminating factor. The rules were specific about margins and related things, so I knew I'd be okay with that. Now the real judging begins: My entry will now be judged (and weighed against others) on my writing as opposed to how well I follow directions.

Friday, November 9, 2007


I'm not even going to post a word count for NaNoWriMo.
Let's just say it's not going so well.
I cannot get my head into the story because I am firmly anchored here in reality with a feverish child and my own (very) early case of cabin fever brought on by being homebound this whole week.
On the bright side, the feverish child seems to have recovered (mostly) because he has been teasing the dog into a frenzy.
I'm going outside to play fetch.

Monday, November 5, 2007


After the weekend, my official word count for NaNoWriMo is 4,603.

I'm about 2,000 words behind where I should be if I were to write the same number of words every day for a month and get to 50,000 by the end of 30 days.

I've got a little bit of catching up to do.

If I stop thinking about everything else I should be doing -updating blogs, exercising, loading the dishwasher, laundry, cleaning the floor, repotting the plants that haven't made it inside yet, walking the dog, and checking on my feverish 7 year old who's upstairs sleeping (the list will change later, too, when one comes home on the bus and the other needs picked up at the high school at 6) - I might actually be able to catch up.

Friday, November 2, 2007

NaNoWriMo - November 1

I did well with the first day of the Novel Month.
Thier site must be jammed, though, because I couldn't even get on it yesterday. I did, however, succeed in updating my word count this morning at 4:30. Apparently, no one gets up that early (or stays up that late).

November 1st word count: 3461. Good start.

Here's the link to my profile over at NaNoWriMo (I am user #208280.)
I posted part of what I wrote yesterday over there. After I clean it up a bit, I'll post some over here. But that could be awhile.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Turd in a Snack Bag

As promised, here is a post from the pseudonym blog. While strange, it's funny. I guess I don't know why I can't post funny over here.

This was originally posted on October 8, 2007.

Here it is:

I took my Hairy Monster to the vet this morning; it's annual check-up time.

Because today is Columbus Day, the kids are home from school and that means that we didn't get up as early as usual. And that, in turn, means that no one ate breakfast on the normal schedule. That includes the dog. And eating breakfast late means the morning shit is late, too.

Generally speaking, I don't give a shit when the dog takes a shit, as long as she goes far enough from the house that I don't have to smell it or step in it (luckily, we have enough room to run that I don't have to know about it at all - most of the time). However, a stool sample is required to check for intestinal parasites. So today I had to give a shit when (and where) she gave a shit.

('Tapeworm' just doesn't have the same happy sound as 'intestinal parasite'.)

So I fed her -late- and let her out to do her business. I took a cup of coffee outside with me and I watched.

Scouting for shit.

I waited. And waited. And waited some more.

My coffee was gone and still no shit.

I brought her back in and made her sit with me while I paid bills and straightened my desk and fixed my calendar for the week.

We went back out. Same shit: NO shit.

We came back in.

I should have remembered to ask the vet about the acceptable age of the required stool sample.

Does it have to be fresh?

Can it be from last night or yesterday morning?

What about week old shit? Like when I actually call to make the appointment and I'm thinking about collecting shit and reminding myself that I have to do it: I'm thinking about it right then; can I collect the shit then and save it until I come in?

Should I refrigerate it? Or does that kill the worms? Do they have to be alive to detect them?

It would be much easier to put a turd in a Tupperware container (make that a Gladware container - they're cheaper and I won't mind throwing it out so much) and save it. That way I'm not out waiting for a bowel movement right before I have to leave.

Late for shit. (Try using that as an excuse, kids!)

I'm the only one who actually reheats and eats leftovers around here (I pack them for my lunch every day), so it's not like someone else would come across the lonely little nearly-frozen, potentially worm-y turd in the refrigerator.

I had given up on collecting a fresh sample; it was late and we had to go.

I cut up a piece of bologna and put it in the Gladware container instead. If she couldn't take a shit, at least she would have a reason to act like she has some manners. Then I grabbed her leash and although she'd already been out several times this morning, she got all excited and drool-y.

Like normal.

And then I showed her the bologna and she jumped around and drooled some more.

If going for a walk is a treat, going for a ride is the doggy equivalent of a banana split.

She was so excited she took a shit.

Which is what I wanted, but not when I wanted.

I put her in the car and told her to wait.

Luckily, I had the bologna, so she listened.

I couldn't bear to part with the bologna because then she would act like an asshole without a brain in the veterinarian's office.

And that makes me feel like an asshole. Plus, it makes me mad to feel like an asshole.

So, I opened the trunk to see what else I could find to deposit my warm collection in.

Being the good mother that I am, I always have plenty of shit in the trunk. Usually garbage and cast-off snack remnants from various soccer games and football games and miscellaneous activities (if I were a better mother, I'd probably clean out the car, too, but there's a limit).

The best I could do was a snack-sized zipper bag. So the snack-sized zipper bag it was.

Nothing like a warm, mushy turd in a see-through plastic bag.

Being a mother, I've had plenty of experience with gross stuff. Part of the job description is 'Shit Scooper' and 'Vomit Vacuum.' After enough years of being the main household cleaner-upper of various body excrement, the gag reflex becomes much less pronounced.

This morning that was very fortunate.

I think the veterinary technician who took the bag of shit from me must have been a mother, too.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Why is it that the words 'confession' and 'secret' can grab just about anyone's attention?

I hope I have yours.

In response to the Ask Dr. Ding post 'Confession is Good for the Soul' I have decided to reveal a secret of my own.

The other deciding factor was this blog: The Brazen Careerist, particularly Penelope's post 'My name is not really Penelope.'
I'm confused often enough as it is.

I have been keeping another blog.
If you read this one, you probably also read (or check in on occasionally) The Grafton 123 blog, so that's not a surprise.
However, I have another blog that until recently I did not claim as my own. I used a pseudonym and wrote things that didn't have anything to do with The 123 or myself as a writer.
But, the problem I'm finding is that everything about me has to do with writer me, rather it's about writing or not. A look at recent postings about body image and self-esteem is proof that anything that stirs me as a person ends up reflected in what I write.
And to some degree it's the exposure that has kept me from writing some things that are important to me. Not only in this blog, but also for other outlets.
Just as importantly, the fear of exposure has prevented me from marketing myself and my writing with more vigor.
If I intend to write -and hopefully make any kind of living doing it- I am going to have to let go of some of my fears.

So, that's really what this post is about: letting go of my fears.
I am a real person and, like all good writing, my writing should reflect that.

No, I'm not going to give you the link to the other blog (it's coming down soon anyway), but I am going to -slowly- move some of the entries from there over to here.

And no, this doesn't mean that every subject is fair game. I still like my privacy and I'm not sure how I feel about plastering my kids' information all over the place, either.

What I'm saying is: I don't know where the lines of acceptable are. I suppose I will figure that out as I go along. But I do know that it's okay to be a real person and my feelings and thoughts are just as valid as anyone else's. I don't know why I have such trouble with that (okay, I have a few ideas, but I won't get into that right now...).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Media Images vs. Self-Esteem

I won't get all soap-boxy (because if you read this post, I already had a little rant about media images), but one of my readers (Thanks, Courtney:)) sent me this video:

Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty has been working toward drawing attention to the problems that arise from being bombarded with images of beautiful people 24/7.

As the mother of a beautiful 10 year old girl, I am particularly concerned about it.

Here's a quote (from this article):

"Although 75 percent of 8- and 9-year-old girls in the study said they like their looks, only 56 percent of those ages 12 and 13 did. And of the 33 percent of girls ages 14-17 who said they're too fat, two-thirds were dieting. Ninety percent of eating disorders are diagnosed in girls."

Not only is this cause for alarm, but I would be willing to bet that these numbers are not as high as they should be. The problem is far worse than we realize. Eating disorders are a private hell that not everyone is going to share with a poll, anonymous or not.

Dove's website offers resources for Moms and other mentors, as well as straight talk for girls.

"I feel fat" is not a valid statement.

Fat is not a feeling.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Plot Threads & Novel Prep

In preparation for next Thursday (Nov. 1 - NaNoWriMo Month), I've been organizing my thoughts and my office.

Here's a picture of the dry erase board that I hung beside my desk. I'm using it as a visual timeline reference:

(This picture makes it look crooked, doesn't it? I used a level before nailing it on there. I hate extra, unnecessary holes in the wall.)

It's just about empty. I tried to write a rough outline of scenes and current events in chronological order, but I haven't gotten very far. Individual scenes are written on index cards and shuffled according to need. This visual aid is supposed to give me the information at a glance instead of digging through a pile of scribbled-on cards. It might work if I actually write something on it.

The next tool is a new one to me. I thought of it because I do think much better with visual prompting. I think all the reading I have done (and do) has wired my brain to more efficiently use information I can see; I like audio books, but I can't wrap my head around the information nearly as well as if I read it myself. (Or maybe multi-tasking interferes. Or maybe it's the screaming children.)

This picture is the view from the doorway to my office:

See those strings hanging from the light?

Those are plot threads (ha). Each string has a tag on it with the basic conflict that needs to be addressed and solved one way or another. The light from the window is blocking out the tags in this picture, but they are there -written big enough and simple enough that I can see from my seat behind the desk.

I needed a way to keep track of each strand of story. When I write, I have a hard time seeing the forest because I have my nose against a tree - each tree, one tree at a time. I hope that this little ploy will assist me in keeping track of everyone's conflicts - all the big ones, but more importantly, all the small ones that are easy to forget about when I've got my nose smashed into the rough bark of another tree.

Yeah, it's kind of silly, but I'm not above silly to get the job done.

When I start a project, I have a vague idea of what it's about. I start with a question, usually a 'what if?' question.

For Vultures, it went something like this:

What if you shot someone's dog?

What if that person just happened to be a bit, uh, unbalanced (or just a plain garden-variety lunatic)?

What would he do?

So, I knew the 'what if?' - the driving question that starts the book. I dreamed up my setting and the characters lived in my brain, percolating for months before I knew them well enough to start writing. The act of writing gave the characters flesh and personality, but it also did the same thing for the plot: as the characters became more involved in the story, their actions and individual quirks began to mold the plot. Essentially, the plot development is a natural consequence of character.

A threatening lunatic would be dealt with very differently by a Bible-toting Sunday school teacher and, say, a pot-smoking pregnant night shift nurse. Right?

And, of course, the ever-present energetic question, "What if...?"

What I mean is: it takes a special kind of crazy to: 1.) Shoot someone's dog. At their house. And 2.) to write a book in the first place. Doing it is a helluva lot harder than talking about it.

These physical plot threads will be a constant reminder of the loose ends that need tending to as I go along studying the moss that grows up the trunk of each tree. The more complicated the story, the more involved I get with the story, the more threads there will be.

Sometime along about the middle of November I'll take another picture so I can share the thread proliferation. I anticipate that there should be about 12-16 threads that deserve their own string. I'll try to get the string tags in that picture, too. If I remember, I'll tell you about the rejected idea of color coding (I'm not that organized) and the original purpose for which this string was intended....

Friday, October 19, 2007

Parenting Magazines?

I have an article that I'd like to sell to a parenting magazine, but I have obviously not found the right outlet.

Parenting magazines are mainly focused on new parents: diapers, midnight feedings, breast pump consumer advice and comparisons, and other such information related to babies.

I had in mind a magazine for parents of teens and tweens.

Is there any such thing?
Without naming names -there may be too many to matter anyway- I am not interested in publishing in a magazine that boasts a front cover picture of a giant chocolate cake and the headline that says something like, 'Walk it off!'
It doesn't matter if they claim to be a family magazine or not; the conflicting message may sell a lot of magazines, but the hipocrisy adds to the obesity issues in the general population and the confusion of self-image issues in girls and young women.
Unless, that is, they would allow me space in their magazine to point out their duplicity and insincerity and generally make fun of them.

While I'm on the subject of cover art: A few weeks ago, a reader directed me to this: It's an eye-opening look at a real photo vs. the resulting cover photo. The difference between the two is incredible - in a bad way. They took a perfectly fine -read "Real" -picture of a famous 40-ish female country-singer and airbrushed out the wrinkles and the 'realness' of the woman and ended up with a perfect doll-like plastic likeness.
This plastic-likeness was on the cover of Redbook.
I was scandalized.
No wonder our expectation of ourselves as women is so screwed up. We are fed a steady diet of media image and expect ourselves to measure up. We know these images are touched-up, but no matter: we strive for it anyway.
But, really, even if we know these photos are photo-shopped, I don't really think we have any idea to what extreme. If Redbook, a women's mag, is this guilty, where does that put more 'stylish' magazines?
Holy crap.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NaNoWriMo Preparation

I've been doing research in preparation for the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word sprint beginning November 1st.

So far I've researched:

  1. 9-11 timelines with special emphasis on the resulting Afghanistan and Iraq wars, including the gradual rise of the maximum age for military service. This is mainly for current event inclusion during the time the story takes place (except for the military age thing and I'm not sure where that fits yet).
  2. The Sago Mine Disaster timeline, including Randal McCloy's recovery. This was a major event for the entire world, but particularly those of us who have ties to the Appalachian coal country. If it effected me so profoundly, then of course it effected my characters who also live in West Virginia.
  3. Chilton repair guides for a 1984 Ford Ranger. I was surprised to learn that the Chilton Manuals are out of favor and Haynes is the new book to have. However, I also learned that Haynes published all the Chilton Manuals prior to the front cover name change.
  4. Drink recipes from the viewpoint of a bartender.

Now I have to put the timelines in order. Then, using a list of potential scenes (that does not exist yet), I'll figure out where everything fits chronologically. Essentially, I'll create a new timeline that incorporates real and fictional events.

Chronology was a big issue of confusion for me during Vultures and it only covered the span of a couple of weeks. Apparently I hope to avoid that this time around with the technique of excessive -and possibly unnecessary- planning.

I'll write more over the next few days about planning and plotting.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Novel Contest Update

It's not much of an update, but it's all there is. So far:

"MK Stover
"Thank you for your entry. We have received your files and are currently reviewing them to ensure they meet our eligibility requirements. We will notify you no later than November 12, 2007 whether your entry is valid. To keep up to date on the latest and greatest Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award details, visit
"Thank you,
"CreateSpace ABNA Administrator"

It looks like that's it.
Until Noveber 12th or so.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Vultures - Novel Excerpt

Alright, here it is.

Excerpt from


Chapter 2

The firelight danced between our faces. The eastern sky was darkening, but the west still glowed orange above the hill. Sequoia’s hair glowed around her cheeks and the shadows that played on her face hid the lines that had deepened around her mouth and eyes. Jasper and Ash and Benjamin rode sticks, circling the fire, galloping and shooting. Dusty was separating rolling papers, trying to pull them apart without ripping them. The glue had gotten damp and they clung together in a useless lump. James sat on a log with an atlas on his knees, leaning forward and picking the seeds out of a big bud of marijuana, tearing it to shreds. I could almost taste the oil on his fingers.
The dogs started barking, letting us know someone was on the way in. Cobey didn’t get up; she let the other dogs do the moving, but she growled deep in her throat and watched as the headlights cut down the hill, lighting up the big juniper tree that marked the turn at the bottom.
Well, that didn’t take long. Usually it took the Sheriff two days to get out here. Caleb, the old fart, must’ve gone in personally and raised a helluva a stink. But it wasn’t a cop car, or truck, or anything that looked close. If it had been any darker we wouldn’t have been able to see the boxy outline of the Scout. And there’s only one International Scout around here. I looked over at James to make sure he knew that it was Caleb coming to repay this morning’s visit, but he was already moving into the house.
Instead of turning our way down into the wash the Scout pulled forward, illuminating the logs that sat on peeling racks.
We waited.
The headlights went out, and though the dogs continued to bark, they were giving the vehicle a wide berth, staying back a good ten feet instead of approaching the driver’s door with wagging tails as they usually did.
Benjamin came to stand by me, all three boys in a rare moment of stillness. Jasper and Ash sat on either side of Sequoia. Dusty was still breathing on the papers, slowly pulling them apart, his long legs crossed at the ankle, his eyes moving back and forth between the Scout, the kids, and James who had planted himself at this end of the footbridge that crossed the narrow wash between this tiny house and the log home that we hoped to finish and move into before the end of the year.
When the Scout’s door finally opened it creaked, the dry creak of old in a dry country. He didn’t close the door, but walked around the open door and towards the bridge where James stood. His hands hung at his sides, maybe an unexaggerated attempt to show that he carried nothing. James glanced over his shoulder at me, leaned the shotgun against the bridge support post, and strode across.
“Evenin’,” James’s voice made us all jump a bit, commanding attention.
“Evenin’,” Caleb’s voice, raspy, belonged in this arid, dusty land. I hoped he had come, calm and rational, to let us know that he didn’t appreciate his dog being shot. But I knew Caleb wasn’t always so rational; his acid tongue had proved it on several occasions. We didn’t have much to do with any of the neighbors, at least not if we could help it. The few people who lived up this way generally stayed to themselves, so our isolation didn’t seem unusual. However, we’d had a couple of run-ins with Caleb back before the well was drilled. We hauled water up from the stock tank down at the bottom of the mountain; lots of other folks got water there, too, including Caleb, where a windmill pumps up an unceasing flow. It’s BLM land, Bureau of Land Management, so it’s government owned and leased out to ranchers. Still and all, it’s public land and no one, as far as I know, had ever said a thing about taking water from there. When the stock tank was full it ran over onto the ground, so filling up a couple hundred gallons every once in a while didn’t seem like a bad thing. Except if you ran into Caleb. He was doing the same thing, filling up on water, but he seemed to think he was the only one entitled and didn’t hesitate in letting you know that he knew the rancher and he’d gotten permission and what the hell did you think you were doing? And, even apart from his nasty attitude about the water and his occasional assertions that his dog was harmless, I thought the guy was a creep; one of those weird guys who just give you the shivering-willies. I’d made a point to avoid him after the first couple of encounters and as far as I knew James hadn’t run into him anytime lately.
Except for this morning when he’d gone over and shot his dog.
“What can I do for you?” James crossed the bridge and stepped between two log racks. He stood on the driveway amid the litter of the long thin pine bark shavings. He stood within several feet of the man.
“Maybe I shouldn’t be coming over here. Maybe I’m just stirring up trouble,” I could barely hear him from where I sat, but I shifted around, keeping Benjamin behind me, willing the boys to keep still, “but, I couldn’t just sit at home anymore stewing in this mess.”
“Well, Caleb, I’m…,” James started.
“No, you let me finish,” his voice was much easier to hear now, but the tremble of anger in it didn’t sound good. “I’ve had that dog for eight years, and I never had no problems,” I could hear him suck in his breath, “EIGHT YEARS!” I heard the pine bark crunching under his feet. Caleb continued, “It wasn’t until all you folks started moving in here that I’ve had any problems,” his finger pointed at James, stabbing with each syllable.
“Caleb, that dog bit the neigh…” James tried again.
“That dog has been with me for close to ten years and you had the nerve to come shoot MY DOG at MY HOUSE!” The anger had broken through. If he’d come here to have a rational discussion, or just to have his say in a reasonable way, that nice thought had come to an end. “HOW DARE YOU SHOOT MY DOG!” He’d walked up to James and I couldn’t see for sure, but it looked as if he was actually poking James in the chest. I looked at Sequoia. She was already on her feet, hands on her boys. I stood and corralled everyone in the direction of the house.
“I’m sorry you feel…” James tried again. I looked back when I got to the door. James hadn’t backed down any, even if his chest was getting prodded. Dusty was on his feet and moving down and away from the bridge. He would walk through the arroyo and come up the drive behind Caleb. I pulled the door to, leaving Sequoia in the shed with the kids. I went back to the bridge where James had leaned the shotgun against a post. I hoped nothing or nobody else would have to get shot today.
“You know I ain’t got a phone,” Caleb said. He had his voice under control again. I have to say that I think that scared me more than anything: leaping back and forth between ration and rage is never a good sign. I’ve worked with some real wing-nuts and the mood pendulum is generally a sure sign that it’s best to clear out of the way.
Caleb continued, “What? Did you think I was gonna let you get away with it?” His voice quavered again. I’d checked the safety on the 12-gauge and was willing the bridge not to creak as I moved across it.
About the time I hit the dirt on their side of the bridge, Caleb turned abruptly and crunched his way back to the Scout. I caught sight of Dusty sitting on the edge of a log on the other side of the driveway. Either Caleb didn’t see him or he chose not to react. James didn’t move, but at least now he knew I was there. I was sure he saw Dusty, too.
Caleb stopped at the nose of the Scout and turned, “I couldn’t call the law and you know damn well how long it takes them bastards to get out here, even if you’re dying,” Again he turned away, still talking, and moved along the passenger’s side. He squeezed up close to the vehicle to avoid getting caught in the cholla cactus.
“So, intead a calling, I just went right in. Drove all the way into Silver City,” he continued. His voice came from behind the Scout now. The spare tire swung out with a screech, and we could hear the rattling of the latch as he fumbled around, “Right to the courthouse.” The tailgate screamed open. Dusty hopped off the log. I felt James tensing. I swung the barrel of the gun into his hand, he grabbed it, checking the safety, moved forward a couple of steps.
“And ya’ know what?” Caleb continued. I had a sudden crazy urge to answer him, No, what? But I swallowed it and I thought I heard him grunt, “They didn’t give A FUCK!” Now I know I heard grunting, and his breathing, already labored, sounded harsh. He moved back up the driver’s side. I saw Dusty step backwards. In the darkness Caleb’s footsteps sounded heavy. I could see that he was carrying something, but I couldn’t make it out. And then I realized it was the dog. He was hauling that fifty pound pit bull. Our dogs had backed away, but now they perked back up, moving up and around Caleb’s feet. He kicked at Burr, nearly losing his balance. “THEY DIDN’T EVEN WANT TO SEE MY DOG!” His voice warbled around his heavy breath. Though now, when he hollered, it sounded more like he was holding back a sob rather than insanity. But I suppose madness comes in many forms.
“So I thought I’d bring him to you, so you can see what you’ve done,” he said, as he stood in the middle of the driveway. There was no longer doubt that he was crying; he sobbed uncontrollably.
If I wasn’t so scared, I would’ve felt sorry for the guy.
At least until he let go.
The dead dog THUMPED when he hit the ground.
Then the dogs were sniffing and crawling around its body. Caleb kicked at them once, half-heartedly. He turned, shoulders slumped, weeping audibly. He went back to the Scout and slammed the door.
“I hope you rot in hell,” he said. I almost didn’t understand that last bit, it was so quiet. The Scout’s engine turned over and over and over before it caught. The dogs, both alive and dead, emerged stark in the brightness of the headlights. Caleb backed the Scout into the juniper and turned to lumber up the hill.
* * * * * * *
“Holy shit, man,” Dusty said, and walked over to the pile of dogs. He helped James shoo off our four – no, five: Cobey was up and walking.
“NO,” James said. Cobey limped back across the bridge, but the other four walked off a few paces and waited.
“Holy shit, man,” Dusty repeated. The three of us circled the dead dog. Sequoia came and joined the circle. A few minutes later the boys were out and yapping on their stick horses, running and shooting at the dogs.
“I’m not burying the damn thing,” James said.
“Me neither,” I agreed. The ground here is parched and hardened. It takes me all day just to dig a respectable hole big enough to set a small tree. Not that I did much of that anymore. I’d gone through several experimentations of adding various types of soils and fertilizers to these holes, but each time I lost the tree. I tried apples twice and pears a few times before giving up. Sequoia hadn’t given up on the herbs and the grapes, though. It seemed like she could get just about anything to grow out of this rough and rocky land. It’s a good thing; without her green thumb we’d have no wine to drink, or vegetables to eat, and she’d have no medicinal potions to cook up.
“I say we drag it up on the hill so we can watch the vultures have at it,” Dusty suggested.
We’d known that this dog was a problem. It was a problem before it even bit the neighbor. Feeding it to the vultures was exactly what we’d wanted to do ever since it started skulking around. I knew for sure that if it hadn’t been for Cobey putting herself between that pit bull and our children, that something much worse would have happened. However, shooting it when it came over here was one thing. Shooting it on the neighbor’s land – the dog’s home – was something else. But I was more relieved than shocked.
“He wouldn’t move. Just stood right there by that damn troublemaking dog like he didn’t know what I was there for,” James said when he came back from shooting the dog this morning. He said that when he pulled up, Caleb shuffled out to the road with his hands in his pockets. The dog was already home; he followed his owner and sat beside him in the dust.
James continued, “So I took aim and I said, real slow and clear: ‘PLEASE STEP AWAY FROM THE DOG.’” I imagined that the color fell out of Caleb’s face in speechless disbelief. “I said it real clear. Not just once. Twice. And I wasn’t waiting any more for that damn dog to get up and take off. I had a perfect shot and I took it. BOOM!”
I both admired and wondered at James’ idea of justice: immediate and gratifying. It was better to deal with the effects of decisive action than to wait on that dog to attack a child; the dog was a more immediate danger. I agreed with him, but in my mind, things weren’t that simple. I was relieved that the dog was dead, but I was already thinking forward to the consequences; there would be consequences.
“Don’t drag it,” I said, “it’ll make a mess.” I stepped closer to James. I didn’t realize my hands were shaking until after I’d dug through his vest pocket and pulled out a pack of tailor-mades; the flame wobbled as I lit up. I noticed that the bright cherry-tip of Dusty’s cigarette was none too steady, either.
I smoked my cigarette and then, unwilling to leave, I smoked another.
While everyone else was getting ready for bed, I got ready for work.

Night shift does funny things to a person.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Amazon Novel Contest

I mentioned, over at the Grafton 123, that I entered my dusty novel in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and I've had several requests to post an excerpt.

I have to go re-read the fine print of the rules and then I will.

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Be Still

With the weather cooling off for the first time this fall -and seeing as how I am trying to regularly add more content to this blog as well as to my other blog and to my web site- I rememberd this:

This was published last year in the Mountain Statesman, our local Grafton, WV newspaper.

“It’s gonna be a hard winter,” my grandmother would’ve said. A firm nod of her head and a sagacity underlined with wrinkles would have left little room for doubt.
Unfortunately, my grandmother is no longer with us, but her insight and wisdom live on…
Yesterday, while walking the Woodland Trail here at Tygart Lake State Park, I slowed my usual frenzied pace and breathed in the ever-so-slight fall crispness that comes this time of year. The air was still quite warm, but the underlying sweet-tangy aroma of the mountains preparing to burst into color reminded me that winter is not far off. With the thought of cold weather approaching, I found a cold, flat rock to sit on, sunshine dappling my hiking boots. And then, I did what my grandmother told me, a fidgety child, to do: Be Still.
The pleasure of sitting quietly in the woods can only be outdone with the awareness that comes with stillness: the loudness of acorns and hickory nuts falling through the tree canopy and thumping when they hit the forest floor; the softness of two deer feeding, making their way up the hill toward me; the call of a bird I can’t identify. I see a little spotted toad hopping toward a hollow in the base of a massive oak. Miniscule mushrooms and hundreds of early-dropped maple seed ‘helicopters’. There are thousands of hickory nuts and as many acorns, most still with their little hats on.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in the woods this summer, you’ll have noticed the abundance of tree fruit this year. This is the indicator that my grandmother would have used as proof of the hard winter to come. Botanists call this larger-than-normal production ‘mast’. It happens every three to five years, but this year is a particularly heavy year. With all the research and scientific data, still no one is quite sure why this happens. For a year like this, when all fruit production is elevated, the most popular theory is based on the measured rainfall of the few years previous: the precipitation of a couple of ‘wet’ years is able to support the growth of heavy foliage and therefore the extra energy needed for fruit production. Another idea, based on a mast of one or several, but not all, types of fruit, theorizes that the cyclic production of fruit encourages squirrels and other animals to diversify their food sources.
My camera flash startles the deer, now only 50 feet distant. Their tails rise like truce flags as they turn away, down the mountainside. I stand to stretch, watching them disappear. Whatever the reasons, mast ensures a plentiful food supply for over-wintering wildlife and the uneaten –or undigested- excess will guarantee a high germination rate, perpetuating the cycle. No matter how you choose to look at it, plenty of food is essential for a hard winter. As I begin my descent, I realize that Grandma was right about a lot of things; I’ll be interested to see if she’s as right about the hard winter coming as she has proved to be about the importance of stillness.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Writing Update

At, I keep an annotated list of writing projects.

Here there will be more detail.

Today's detail I posted over at The Grafton123.