Monday, December 29, 2014

My Plants Are the Addamses

This weekend, we welcomed a new plant to our household, courtesy of my youngest sister. I've been thinking about getting more houseplants for a couple of weeks now, so this new addition was quite timely.

I've decided to name this round of houseplants after characters in the Addams Family, 'cause those are holiday movies, right?

Meet Cousin It. He hangs out in our bathroom and helps us with styling our hair.

Gomez here helps me write action scenes and rakishly good looking male characters. He also helps with choosing just the right cigar and playing with sharp pointies.

Last, but most certainly not least, is Morticia. She's all about being a muse and helping me with the more feminine aspects of life. Y'know, like organizing games of Wake the Dead and helping children choose just the right weapo-...err...TOYS to keep themselves entertained.

Hey, if I can't have a Gothic house with hidden rooms and trap doors, at least I can give the houseplants a little Addams flair, right?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday Fictioneers - The Return

Now that the holidays have passed, maybe I can get better about responding to comments in a timely manner and visiting more blogs. These past two months have wrecked me.

Anyway, today is indeed Friday, which cues Friday Fictioneers, courtesy of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Today's little story kind of makes me want to hop ahead in the series I'm currently working on. I'll have to file the ideas away, for now, since there a few things I need to get done before doing any more writing today.

PHOTO PROMPT – Copyright -Björn Rudberg

Genre: Speculative Fiction/Fantasy(ish?)
Word Count: 99 (Thanks, Rochelle!)

The Return
            How his former home had fallen into ruin.
            His father had built the stone wall with his own hands. Frederich remembered scampering up the stairs as a boy, eager for his mother’s stew.
            Life was simpler back then, before the years’ weight. His talent for the Unseen Arts had taken him far away from home. His training had granted him near immortality.
           Still, some questions held their answers in the beginning. His throat tightened with memory, as he trod upon the stairs. Nature had softened the rock he remembered under his feet.
          Nostalgia did the same to his heart.

(By the way, this epic music always gets me in the writing mood.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Modest Yule Celebrations This Weekend

Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice, fell on this weekend. I didn't attend any big ceremonies or anything, but I did celebrate in my own humble way with the hubby.

So many of the traditions viewed as Christian this time of year were actually taken from the various pagan celebrations. Those long ago conquerors did this as a way to perhaps ease the transition from the usually more naturalistic beliefs into a monotheistic point of view.

Those pagan roots are what I remember when I put my Yule tree up over the solstice, with a big star on top. Evergreen trees, like pines and spruces, represent everlasting life. They stay green throughout the winter, while other trees "die" by losing their leaves. For me, the star represents the return of the sun. (So glad the days will be getting longer again.)

The ornaments I put up were all either gifts, remnants of my childhood or things I made myself, like that white garland. That history adds another layer of personal meaning to the tree.

Yeah, we have a fake tree. Real trees are far too much work for my taste. And of COURSE we have a dragon and TMNT on our tree! Why wouldn't we?
For me, the act of taking the tree down after January 1st symbolizes saving the positives which had entered my life the year prior. Between then and Yule, it's a little reminder to celebrate what this life has to give us.

There was also a bit of cooking involved, since what's a celebration without some sort of feast? Hubby made an outstanding brisket with potatoes and green beans for dinner, and I baked another batch of muffins for breakfast with the last of the pumpkin puree.

Now to find more muffin recipes.

On the occasions I do cook, I do my best to put intentions of joy, good health and nourishment in with the physical ingredients. Naturally, I include gratitude to everyone/thing who sacrificed something to allow us sustenance, be it effort, life, expertise or anything else. Over the course of my ongoing studies, I've found many belief systems do something similar, but I first learned about it in my studies of Wicca and kitchen witchery.

Why shouldn't we add a little magic to our every day lives?

I think this batch is the prettiest to date. The two that came before didn't rise as nicely. I hadn't been filling the cups with enough batter before sticking them in the oven.
Finally, we invited dear old St. Bernie to the celebration.

St. Bernardus Abt 12 is extremely good beer. It's full of balanced flavor, and for something with 10% alcohol by volume, it's surprisingly easy on the belly. We found this bottle at Costco, but if you happen upon the chance to try it, I highly suggest doing so.

Out of curiosity, I did a little research on the St. Bernardus brewery. It's Belgium based, as indicated on the label, and actually originated as two separate Abbeys in France. Due to some political issues, they moved to Belgium, and eventually the brewery came from a union of ideas and recipes.

I did a bit of research into St. Bernard, too. I didn't care for a lot of what I found, namely his role in the Second Crusades, but two positive things stuck out to me. First, he denounced the massacre of Jews in the Rhineland* during that period of time, and when his words didn't do anything to stem the carnage, he personally attended to remedying the problem.

The other is his reverence for the Virgin Mary. It's thought by many people that Mary is the Christian embodiment of various Goddesses, and embodies the divine feminine within us all.

There's a lot we can learn from history, both from the overall story, as well as fractions of it.

All that from some truly excellent beer.


I hope everyone else who celebrated the Winter Solstice this weekend had a good time. I also hope all the Hanukkah celebrations out there are going swimmingly, and that the future holidays, like Christmas and Kwanzaa, go smoothly.

*I'm pretty sure the Rhineland refers to what's now western Germany, but names changed and boundaries so often redrawn back then that I'm not 100% on that.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Fictioneers - Insect Underground (Aracnaphobes Beware)

First reaction to this week's prompt for Friday Fictioneers? "What is THAT?!" That was followed immediately by the image of a spider with a tiny cowboy hat yelling, "YEEHAW!"

And, yes. All spiders are named Floyd.

Thanks, as always, to Rochell Wisoff-Fields for hosting!

PHOTO PROMPT – Copyright – Douglas M. MacIlroy

Genre: Um...buggy...fiction? (Who knows what they do when we're away)
Word Count: 100

Insect Underground

       The crowd of crickets rubbed their legs together in excitement and flies buzzed their wings at the announcer’s buzzing proclamation of victory. Every summer, when humans leave for their annual trip, insects of the yard gathered around the Web Arena to witness the battle between the generations of Spider and Cockroach. Ants ran contraband to the shady pillbugs, while butterflies circulated with offerings of nectar to more law abiding insects.
       When the humans returned, clunky feet and all, it would be back to business as usual. Bugs need to party, too, right?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays - Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences

So very tired this morning! Yesterday wasn't overly stressful, until just before the
webinar I attended about dyslexia.

Our pet rat, Mothra, has been sick for quite a while. Rats don't live very long, four years at the most, sometimes five, but often they only last two to three years. Our little Mothra was about two years old when she finally passed away in hubby's arms last night.

They're good pets, but I'm allergic to them. When I hold one, nine times out of ten, I break out into hives, and when I change a rat cage, I need to wear a dust mask to prevent an asthma attack. This little girl will hopefully be our last one for a while.

Anyway, on a more cheerful note, today's Tuesday, and we all know what that means! (Thanks go out, as always, to MizB at Should Be Reading for hosting this super fun game!)

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"I don't think of dyslexia as a deficiency. It's like having CAD [computer-aided design] in your brain." - Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences, by Thomas Armstrong, PhD

For those not in the know, one common trait shared by people with dyslexia is the tendency to think in pictures, otherwise known as being visual thinkers, which is why fields like graphic art, architecture, and highly visual forms of science (surgery, engineering, etc) tend to have a higher percentage of dyslexic workers than other fields.

Unfortunately, mainstream schools are geared almost exclusively towards verbal and logical thinkers, which means many dyslexics are left out in the cold from an early age.

Though I was fortunate enough to be identified as dyslexic at a young age, and enrolled in a decent public school, I still experienced a fair amount of that othering personally. If the topic interests you, I write quite a bit about my life as a dyslexic over on Alternative Wiring.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Fictioneers - Unexpected Messages

Fitting prompt, today. For some reason, I've had messages in bottles on the brain, and this pic gives me a good excuse to get a little bit of that out of my system.

Friday Fictioneers couldn't happen without the awesomesauce Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

PHOTO PROMPT - Copyright – Sandra Crook
Genre: Realistic Fiction (Hey, it could happen)
Word Count: 100

Unexpected Messages

            Whenever she needed to heal, she went to the beach. Foaming waves comforted her, and the sand under her feet always cured her blues.
            Janie stared at the rolling water, wishing it could wash her problems away.
            “What’s the point?” She asked the sea and sand. “Why bother with anything when everything turns out wrong?”
            Something glistened in the last wave’s leavings. Curiosity overtaking frustration, she strolled over and picked up the object - a bottle with a screw top protecting a rolled up paper.
            When she removed the paper, Janie stared at its single line.
            “Tomorrow will be better.”

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Will this be a cold? A flu? Neither?

I could get all deep and philosophical about the chaos in the world today, but I'm wiped out today. My throat is sore, my sinuses are irritated, and it feels like my body's fighting something in my chest, too.

So, I'm addressing this problem in a multi-pronged manner.

First and foremost, I call upon the lieutenant of my White Blood Cell Army (WBCA) - LARRY THE LYMPHOCYTE!


Next, I'll continue with my homemade soup, and doing a few of the remedies I'd written about here. Though I may also pick up some Bronkaid to see if it'll head off the asthma attacks this thing likes triggering. I'd rather save my albuterol for the nastier attacks.

Lastly, I'm trying to take it relatively easy. This entry has been the most successful writing attempt of the day. The outline I'm putting together for my next hub is a complete mess.

I'm almost afraid to run spell check on it.

By the way, feel free to check out the new BookPal deal in my side-bar. They're offering up to 55% off some of their books.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - Homemade Cleaners Quick-And-Easy, Toxic-Free Recipes

Over the past year or so, I've been transitioning away from commercial cleaners to things like vinegar, baking soda, lemon and essential oils. This is because my body's always been sensitive to chemicals and strong smells. I mean, when I was little, overly processed hot dogs would give me terrible headaches, much to the annoyance of the adults in my life.

As I get older, I make more connections between what I've been using to care for myself and my home with chronic physical symptoms. I've realized that cleaners like bleach and chemical air fresheners trigger asthma attacks which leave me lethargic for days afterwards, and certain, mostly processed, foods mess with health in unsavory ways. So, in addition to cutting as many preservatives out of my diet as I can and trying to exercise regularly (HAH - winter has thrown a wrench in THAT), I've been transitioning away from commercial cleaners. I'm hoping that today's Topic Tuesday book will help me with that ambition.

Thanks go out to MizB at Should Be Reading for hosting this awesome weekly exercise!

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"In the Roman Empire, lead poisoning was a significant problem. Citizens boiled sour wine in lead pans to sweeten it, generating lead acetate, which was referred to as 'sugar of lead.'" (Page 17 of the Kindle e-book.) Homemade Cleaners Quick-And-Easy, Toxic-Free Recipes, by Mandy O'brien and Dionna Ford

Just the informational parts at the beginning of this book has already meshed with what I've studied in the past. I think I'll enjoy this book.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday's Unconscious Mutterings - Running Behind!

This week, I've decided to put myself on a schedule, so I could get all three blogs updated in the mornings, and work on fiction in the afternoon/evening.

Welp, that didn't happen today. It was because one entry took twice as long as I thought it would, but I guess that's just part of the challenge of time management. I've never been very good at estimating how long things will take.

Anyway, today I bring you the usual word association, Unconscious Mutterings hosted by Luna Niña.

  1. Fantasy :: Anime (I've been watching Sword Art Online lately. Not a bad show.)
  2. Square one :: Bingo?
  3. Impostors :: INTERLOPERS! (It sounds funnier in my head.)
  4. Hydrate :: Water, water, water
  5. Card :: playing
  6. Respects :: Last
  7. Big city :: NYC
  8. Alert :: Red
  9. Scrabble :: My nightmare game (dyslexia doesn't go well with spelling games)
  10. Neighborhood :: very interesting
Hope everyone's Mondays are going as well as can be expected!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Fictioneers - Winter Woes

Lil' girl, you have no idea what adulthood has in store for you.

Friday Fictioneers couldn't happen without the wonderful talent and hard work of Rochell Wisoff-Fields.

PHOTO PROMPT – Copyright Janet Webb

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Word Count: 100

Winter Woes
            The dried petals reminded her of butterfly wings under glass. That’s what winter felt like to her – as if the world had died and was pinned in place. The pristine snow masked the springtime life she craved, like the colorful wings hid the insect’s stolen essence.
            She hated winter almost as much as the beautiful displays of death her father covered the walls of their otherwise cozy home with. Just a few more months, and she can play outside instead of being imprisoned in this warm cage, forced to trudge her way through homework.
            Being a kid was so hard.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Reproductive choices? We still have those?

Once I got the furnace working again today (fuse blew, and I didn't realize it until I talked to the hubby about it), I logged onto Facebook and saw the following post from one of my state reps.

I have a hard time trusting members of either big party, but Keith Ellison is one of the few I genuinely like. Sure, he's done a few things I don't agree with, but this sort of thing makes me glad he's still in office.

Anyway, between the family/wedding shenanigans last week, and the way the situation in Ferguson has so thoroughly saturated my news feed, I had no idea anything big regarding women's rights was even going on. So, to Bing I went, and found this article on the pregnancy discrimination claim being heard today.

It turns my stomach that this sort of thing is still going on. So many people are vehemently against birth control that health insurance companies don't need to cover it, and many of those same people are so anti-abortion that buffer zones around clinics which provide the service are now eliminated in Massachusetts.

Yes, because places like Planned Parenthood don't provide health services like pap smears, breast exams or ways to get in touch with low cost medical institutions for those who aren't lucky enough to have a high income. Now, you get to undergo abuse from overzealous strangers before an uncomfortable, but potentially life saving, preventative medical procedure! Huzzah!

But of course, if you're pregnant, heaven forbid you try working or ask for doctor recommended accommodations. My husband's knee injury ensured him lifting restrictions during his recovery period, but if I were working a physical job, and we decided to have a baby, would I be afforded similar restrictions? It would be my physical health at risk, as it was in my husband's case, but it would also be the life of my unborn child, too.

So, basically, these stories are telling us that we shouldn't be allowed to decide on when or if to have a baby, while others (perhaps some of those same parties) say we shouldn't be allowed to care for a wanted pregnancy while we work, because it shows some warped version of "workplace favoritism". Of course, NOT working is out of the question, because then we'd be leaches on society.

Ok. Got it.

So, basically, those of us who have uteri are super humans, right? We can will ourselves not to get pregnant without aid of contraceptives ('cause, y'know, if we DON'T have sex whenever our partners want it, we're frigid bitches, and if we get raped, it's our fault), and when we DO decide to let ourselves get pregnant, we have absolutely NO symptoms of said pregnancy until the baby magically appears in our arms. Then, we can return to work right away, because the almighty bottom line is more important than the needs of a newborn. I mean, birth is EASY, right? No chance of complications, either. Nope. None at all.

Yeah, I don't know what world these people are living in, but it's sure not the one I'm in right now.

I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised. I mean, the US is the only developed country that doesn't require paid maternity leave, after all. Even the job guarantee part of the federal law isn't applicable if the company has fewer than 50 workers or the pregnant person hadn't been a full time employee for 12 months before the pregnancy. And those federal breast feeding protections? They're only good for the first year of life (despite WHO recommendations for supplemental breast feeding until the age of 2), "reasonable breaks" don't need to be paid and there's no consequences to breaking the law.

Ugh. This is so frustrating. At least there are people fighting to make this entire situation a little better, even if they do have centuries if ingrained sexism to battle against.

For what it's worth, Peggy Young, I stand with you on this one. Here's hoping the case is resolved well, and some sort of positive change can be made.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Teaser Tuesday - Official Character Book SOULs.

I'm taking a break from putting my house back in order to do my Teaser Tuesday for the week, hosted, as usual by MizB over at Should Be Reading.

This week's book is a bit different than most of them, since this is actually an official character book for the Bleach manga by Tite Kubo. Yeah, I read manga and watch anime, but it takes characters which resonate with me and story lines I enjoy to keep my interest.

There's a lot about Bleach that I don't care much for, but the main characters, sense of humor and overall story hooked me from day one. Plus, it revolves around the junction of death and life, which is a sure hook for me.

Some folks might find it a bit morbid, but I've been fascinated by the topic of what comes after death since seeing a deceased great-grandmother coming down our stairs, and smiling at me when I was a little girl. Of course, I didn't realize it was her until I saw her picture a few years later, but I did know she wasn't exactly like my living family when it was happening. I wasn't scared, because she had such a kind, loving sense about her.

...anyway. I should save my ghost stories for future entries, huh?

In the meantime, here's the teaser, followed by a lovely illustration Kubo included after the full color character spreads.

"The world changes. It turns. Each time it touches the sun and the moon, it takes a new shape. The one thing that does not change is my powerlessness." SOULs. by Tite Kubo

(By the way, I'll respond to comments as soon as I can this week. I was exhausted yesterday, and coughing since Sunday, so if I can pace myself, that would be ideal. Thanks so much for your patience!)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Monday Mutterings - Lazy Day

Today's the first day in almost a week that we haven't had company or social obligations. It was wonderful having family here, but there's no denying the disorder our house has been thrown into, or the drain socialization puts on my energy levels.

Ah, well. It was worth it.

Anyway, today I'd hoped to get everything cleaned up, furniture back in its places and make a dent in the writing I have to get caught up on.

Did that happen? HAH. Nope.

Hubby also had today off, so we curled up together for a few movies, then ran a couple of errands, and now I'm updating this blog, procrastinating on the cleaning I have to do, munching on deviled eggs while eyeing the novel I'm reading.

Does that count as keeping myself busy?

Just so I can say I got SOMETHING I should be doing done, I'll wrap this entry up with this week's installment of Unconscious Mutterings, hosted by Luna Niña.

  1. Smug :: Mug
  2. Swan :: Song
  3. Ginger :: Bread
  4. Doctor :: Who
  5. Handshake :: Headshake
  6. Studies :: Religious
  7. Pond :: Across the
  8. Register :: Cash
  9. Surgery :: Brain
  10. Compass :: North