Tuesday, March 27, 2012

inch by inch

I am happy to report that my hemoglobin remains stable at 15.  I've had to back off on the new medication a little because it started to cause a few unwelcome side-effects, but overall everything is going well.  I have a noticeable increase in my energy level most days, and I continue to ever-so-slowly shed weight.

Now that I no longer have impending demise hanging over my head, the little day-to-day annoyances are creeping back.  While out with friends, we stepped into an overcrowded, cramped eatery for beverages and I had that gut-wrenching sense of fight-or-flight adrenaline rush.  Rapid exit ensued, and after several calming moments I was able to regain my composure enough to continue wandering through the flea market.

It's not all angst, though.  I made it though two levels of vetting for a potential job - working as a library tech in a correctional institution - and now am waiting to hear if I am the one selected from the three finalists.  Meanwhile, I continue to fill out applications and tutor my remaining students as the need arises. 

I've been struggling with my publisher lately.  It seems some of their timeframes for distribution are not exactly accurate.  Although both Solerna and The Schubark Chronicles: Tales of Wagging Tails, In Their Own Words are available through the publisher's site and barnesandnoble.com, they have yet to post in the iBookstore.  I pushed their listing through on amazon.com myself, so they are at least available for the two most popular e-readers: Kindle and NOOK.  It would be nice to have them available for Apple devices sooner rather than later, but at this point it looks like I'll just have to be patient.

Meanwhile, the paperback version of Solerna is receiving rave reviews - and even has a fanfic following.  I am happy with the reception of my work, but need some new ideas for promotion.

My Relay for Life fundraising seems to have hit a wall as well.  I can completely understand people being unable to donate considering the difficult economy, and am thrilled that I've been able to raise what little I have thus far. 

My website is now live!  tiny.cc/annas will get you there.  It is fairly basic for now, but does have links to most of my current projects.

Speaking of projects, the writing never stops!  I am currently working toward the deadline for The Schubark Friends, my second volume of children's stories told from the point of view of companion animals.  This time, I solicited suggestions for companion animals from friends and relatives, and I've ended up with a nicely diverse list.  In addition to one Chihuahua, I have a rabbit, a rat, a snake, a cat, and five other assorted breed dogs.  It will be interesting to find out what these guys have to say.

I have the sequel to Solerna in the works as well.  It is in the rough outline stage, but I continue to fill in details and story arcs nearly every day.

Another exciting project is the current Call for Papers for Pagan Ethical Dilemmas, a non-fiction essay anthology that I will be editing.  Response has been slower than expected, but the deadline for submissions is over a month away.  I've noticed that locating collegiate Pagan Student Associations is rather difficult, and compiling email addresses for those PSA groups is akin to herding cats - and just about as effective.  I think more emails have bounced than have gone through. 

I am excited to see my gardening efforts begin to unfold.  After a week of watering and countless wheelbarrow loads of thistle remnants carted away, some of the seeds have begun to germinate!  In fact, the only things that have yet to poke above the ground is the lettuce and the spinach.  We have baby radishes, carrots, cucumbers, pumpkins, several types of beans, beats and kohlrabi.  Oh, and sunflowers and cabbages!  And I think the cilantro may have sprouted as well, but the leaves are tiny at this point so it's difficult to tell the plant from any weeds that may have rooted in that pot.  Inch by inch, row by row - goes the gardening song that seems to be my theme song of late - I'm happy to gather those inches and rows, those hours and days, and weave them into my tapestry of life.

Monday, March 19, 2012

kicking buckets

Now that I have a little more breathing time, I thought I'd revisit that bucket list and see what needed updating.  Come to find out, I've completed quite a bit of the list.  The original list can be found here.  Thanks to several very helpful friends and family members, I was able to cross off all except the following items:

1. Throw away/give away/sell/recycle all the stuff I'm not actively using and/or don't love.
2. Grow cotton.
5. Busk as a bard. 
9. Read aloud to a group or an individual:
         - The Schubark Chronicles
10. Grow orchids.
11. Learn to identify 10 constellations. (I already know 5!)
12. Make an amigurumi.
14. Spend 24 hours in silence and without technology.
15. Get certified to teach in Florida (and Missouri?)- halfway there - got my certificate of eligibility for FL!
16. Go to Dragon*Con in 2012.
17. Wear a lolita outfit.  In public.
25. Watch a Cirque du Soleil show.
26. Make a basket.
29. Go on a road trip with no destination and no plan.
30. Build a cabin.

Leaving fifteen of the original 30 items.  Not bad.

I've even made progress on several of the remaining tasks.  I'm slowly working my way through the accumulated treasures in the office, donating and discarding with a severity I've never before attempted.  The results are slow in coming, mainly because of the sheer volume of things I need to go through and the amount of time I'm able to commit to each session of sorting.  I have made some inroads, however, and am quite content with that for now.

The cotton is another story.  I am having a heck of a time finding a source for seed.  I will continue to search.

I'm nearly confident enough in my storytelling abilities to attempt busking, though it would be better if I had a singing voice and/or musical talent on a stringed instrument.  Though with the persona I've developed, it doesn't really make that much difference.

I have had the pleasure of reading several things aloud to various groups and individuals, but am still trying to schedule a children's story-time event with one of the local libraries for a reading of The Schubark Chronicles.  Soon, I hope.

The orchid growing continues to wait for the building of a permanent greenhouse, which is waiting for gainful employment and a steady income... so we'll see.

I'm getting better with the constellations.  I have Orion, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Canis Major, and Taurus so far.

I have a plan for the amigurumi, just need to sit down and do it.

The silent/no tech thing will happen - again, soon.

I applied for and received my certificate of eligibility for teaching in Florida.  The English part went off without a hitch, but apparently I need a course in Mass Communication for the Public Speaking bit.  Or just pass the test.  I'm thinking it's nearly test time.

Dragon*Con hotels are completely sold out and the alternate hotels are nearly gone as well, but I am working on a couple of angles that may still let me go.  I continue to have hope!

The lolita outfit will be finished by this weekend... and I'll be wearing it while I serve at a Red Hat tea party.  I think that counts as "in public."

Cirque du Soleil is still a dream.  Perhaps next year, now that I have a next year.

I very nearly made a basket out of mimosa bark, but I waited too long and now the bark has dried.  I'm going to soak it soft as soon as the chickens get out of my bathtub.

Though the road trip sounds like fun, the only one I'll be taking soon definitely has a destination and plan.  I am honored to be presenting at a Pagan Student Association workshop for the gang at my alma mater, FSU.  That event will be this weekend, and I couldn't be more excited!  The topic is "Kitchen Witchery," and I will be engaging the participants in hands-on cooking activities as we charge and cook an entire menu of deliciousness.

I've begun to design my dream cabin, and intend to construct this diminutive dwelling as soon as finances permit.  Believe me, photos will be taken and shared, because no one would believe I'd done it otherwise.

So, that's the rest of the list.  I think it's a good list, and I'm still happy with it.  I look forward to crossing off the rest of these entries... all the way to 30.  Of course, that won't mean I'm finished - it will just mean it's time to make another list!

Monday, March 12, 2012

support group

There's nothing quite like watching four grown men fling themselves onto the slender aluminum legs of a canopy in an attempt to keep it from going airborne.  This is even more entertaining when potted plants and rusty metal sculptures with very pointy edges are flying through the air and tumbling along the ground.

The Lake City Home and Garden show was an obstacle course of adventure last weekend.  Canopies were lost, plants were unpotted and the indoor booths for once got more attention than those outside.  Of course the wind whipping up clouds of scouring sand and mini-cyclones of razor blades (okay, they were oak leaves, but they left nasty scratches) might have had something to do with driving attendees indoors.

I entered a raffle for a Wolfgang Puck indoor grill and was one of two who remembered to show up at 3pm for the must-be-present-to-win drawing.  The man called out seven ticket numbers, none of them were mine.  None of them were the other lady's either.  Well, that's not true.   He was calling the last four digits.  She was reading the first digits and wondering why the numbers he kept calling were shorter than the number on her ticket.  When she finally figured it out (at the point where he had MY ticket number in his hand to call next) she realized he'd called her number four tickets ago.  She walked off with the grill.  15 seconds longer and I'd have won. 

Oh well, I'd have probably burned down the house with the thing anyway.

Because that's what I do.  Not intentionally, of course.  But some days it's more cost-effective for me to stay curled up in the center of the bed, not touching anything electronic or alive.

"What had happened was..."

I got up at 2 am to fix breakfast for my husband before he left for work at 3:20.  Normally I will pull the blanket over my head and mumble "bye, love you, haveagoodday" and make kissy noises toward him as he leaves, getting up to make my own breakfast a respectable 3 or 4 hours later.  But this day I wanted to be nice and make him a good, hot breakfast.

Well, sort of.

We make big batches of breakfast burritos and freeze them.  That way, 2-3 minutes in the microwave gives us a quick, hot meal when we are running late.  However, if you take a few more minutes and pop the burritos in the toaster oven, you get a delicious, crunchy-shelled breakfast of deliciousness and win.  I opted for the long version.  I even remembered to spray cooking oil on the pan so they wouldn't stick.  Tossed them in the oven, plugged that sucker in and set it for 10 minutes.  Turned.  Walked to the bedroom door (about 8 feet away).  And just as I reached toward the door knob, I heard gosh-awful popping noises from the toaster oven.  I dashed back to the counter as sparks and smoke started issuing from beneath the device, jerked the cord out of the outlet, manually shut off the timer and decided the microwave method might not be so bad after all.

The toaster oven is... well... toast.  The burritos weren't quite as tasty, what with the scent of burnt electrical wiring wafting through the air and all, but they were edible.  And making my husband breakfast in bed completely threw off his groove for the rest of the day.  So instead of a win-win, I ended up with a fail-fail.

But it could have been worse.  If my leg hadn't been numb from sleeping all twisted up in the covers, I'd have walked faster to the bedroom and most likely missed hearing the sparking.  That would have been a disaster of epic proportions.

Of course the toaster oven was our only oven - because of some quirky circumstances the house was only set up to accept a gas oven - which was fine for a while.  I love cooking with gas.  Except our local propane company has some sort of additive in their gas that makes ash build up on the pilot lights, putting them out every other day or so.  "Why do we have headaches all the time?"  "Oh, wait, because we're breathing in gas because the pilot lights are out again."  So we moved the gas stove out to the shed and had the propane company come pick up their tank.  But, when we went to install an electric range, we discovered the lack of wiring.  Lovely.  Now we have to find an electrician to install an outlet for the range.  And to figure out what the breakers marked "range" actually control.

So, breakfast over, I move to my next task -  laundry.  Toss in a load, move a load to the dryer, no worries.  Turn everything on, wait to make sure no sparks fly (see, I can be taught!), and work on the next book while I wait for the buzzers to go off. 

Two hours later, no buzzers.  Hmm.  Curious.  The washer is done, the buzzer had just been turned off.  No worries there.  Open the dryer to pull the clothes out.  They are still wet.  Warm-ish, but wet.  This is not good.

Try another cycle.  45 minutes later, the clothes are still wet.  Lovely.  That's ok, I can deal with this.  I'll just haul the clothes out to the line and hang them up to dry.  Except I can't find the clothespins from the last time I used the line (about 2 years ago, I think).  Necessity becomes the mother of invention.  Plastic hangers - hang the clothes on the hangers, hang the hangers on the line.  Added bonus: don't have to put the clothes on hangers after they're dry, just hang them right up.

But the dryer is not working.  I go online to try to figure out what could be wrong with it.  And it beeps.  Wha?  Beep.  Beep beep. Beeeeeep.  What the heck?  Go, turn off the dryer.  Back to the computer.  Type-type-type. Beep.  Beep beep. Beeeeeep.  Okay, I know I turned it off.  I'll just ignore it until I finish this search.  Beep.  Beep.  Beep.  Beeeeeeeep.  Beepbeep.  This thing is possessed!  It is making noises I've never heard before.  I'll just unplug it for now.

Only, I can't reach the plug.  Because we have the washer and dryer up on lifts to make them easier to use (they're both front load contraptions) and this has blocked access to the outlet.  And I'm short.  So I can't just reach over the dryer to get to the plug.  Aha.  This is why we have a step-stool.  Well, this, and reaching top cabinets.  So I pull the step-stool over and climb up.  But I still can't quite reach.  So I lean over the dryer.  And my foot slips off the step-stool, slamming my belly into the front edge of the dryer, scooting it back along the lifts and making it absolutely hopeless for me to get to the darned plug.

Alright, fine.  Put the step-stool back, go back to my computer to look for the source of the problem.  Start typing.  Screen goes black.  What?

Not screen-saver black.  Not sleep-mode black.  No, this is "the power just died and you are screwed" black.  Only the power in the house didn't die.  the power to my laptop cord didn't die.  And the laptop battery is fully charged, so that wouldn't have killed it anyway.  Hmm.  Pick up the laptop to see what's going on.  No sparks, but wow, it feels kind of warm.  Odd. 

Turn it back on and it works just fine.  Something is different though.  Can't quite put my finger on it.  Hmm.  Wait - it's being very quiet all of a sudden.  Aha!  The fan isn't coming on.  Well, that's just peachy.

So, instead of the toaster oven, we're now doing all our cooking in the microwave and on a hot plate.  Instead of the dryer, we're hanging out our clothes.  And I still use the laptop, but I save, often.

Which brings us back to the home and garden show.  Where, for some unknown reason, I signed up to do Relay for Life as a survivor.  Which is fine.  But I also said I'd go to the next meeting of their women's cancer support group.  And that's tonight.  So I'll try not to burn down the house while I'm getting ready.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

vehicular pornography

The past few weeks have been a little bit of everything: crazy, fun, tiring, sad, thrilling, scary, joyous and downright weird.  I wouldn't change a thing!

Let's start with vehicles.  Remember the old blue Honda Civic?  Yeah, we'd pretty much forgotten about it, too.  It's still over at my brother's house, waiting for the day when either he is out of the wheelchair and able to work on it or we find a way to tow it over here so we can work on it.  When we parked it, it ran.  Just needed a transmission rebuild.  Then field mice happened.  Now it needs a whole new wiring harness and who knows what else.  It won't even start anymore.  So, we moved on to the station wagon.  Good, dependable car, circa 1988.  The head started leaking oil, so we pulled it to do a gasket change.  And a nut off one of the rocker arms ended up falling into the engine and somehow we can't find the darned thing.  Magnet-on-a-stick is too big to fit in the hole, we've probed every orifice (and even checked in the oil pan just in case it fell all the way through) but no luck finding the nut.  If it weren't so heavy, we'd pick it up, flip it over and shake it until the thing fell out... but it's freaking heavy.  And now the car has one very flat tire and one kind of flat tire and the engine is out and sitting on top of two old tires and we've been without a car for quite a while.

Of course, we have the truck.  And the truck is awesome and good.  But it holds exactly two people.  Unless you're a contortionist or under three, that little bench seat behind the main seats is more like a medieval torture device.  This means that whenever Peter and I and his mother want to go somewhere together one of us has to squeeze into a space the size of a cat carrier - or we take her truck and our truck.  Not very fuel efficient.

Today we added a 2003 Chevy Malibu to the mix.  It runs great, rides great and has a spacious, comfortable back seat.  And the dealership almost couldn't sell it to us because they couldn't find the paperwork from when they bought it.  Hilarity, and an hour or so of waiting, ensued.

What will become of the other two cars?  We're thinking of taking them apart, piece by piece, and hauling them to the scrap yard.  Or, more likely, we'll borrow a car trailer from someone and haul them there mostly intact.  Either that or we'll make some sort of installation art piece from them in the front yard... where it can annoy our fussy neighbor.  I'm thinking of painting them in garish shades of chartreuse and fuschia and positioning them so they appear to be breeding.  Now that's an idea!

Monday, March 5, 2012

sometimes there is no bad news

My sister-in-law arrived Saturday for a whirlwind weekend visit.  We had a lovely lunch and walked through a local Home and Garden show made extraordinarily amusing by excessive wind.  It is difficult to shake hands with people when they are busy holding their canopies with death-grips in an attempt to keep them from blowing across the fairgrounds.  Most were successful.  There were a few highlights of the show. 

I very nearly won a Wolfgang Puck indoor grill.  And I would have won, too, if the other lady hadn't figured out she was reading her ticket incorrectly.  Why, yes ma'am, I have been reading the last four digits, not the first four.  She had actually won several tickets prior to her figuring out the process. 

We did get four free dogwood trees from a landscaping company.  They look like sturdy stock.  I hope they do well where we want to plant them.

I popped in at the blood mobile to see how my hemoglobin levels are responding to the new treatment and got a very pleasant shock.  When tested a little over a month ago, my level was at 5.5 - steadily falling from the first of the year.  Saturday, however, after three weeks on the new medicine, that level was up to 15!  15 is out of the danger zone completely.  I still couldn't donate due to the blood transfusions from earlier in the year, but it looks like I've managed to beat the old man with the scythe yet again.  Going from a prognosis of 3-5 months to one of 3-5 years... now that is an event worthy of a kermit flail. 

After this fantastic news we wandered through the last set of displays and happened across one for the Women's Cancer Survivors of Lake City who were talking up Relay for Life.  Well, hey, I'm a survivor.  Granted I'm also currently playing host to those wildly multiplying cells, but so far I'm still breathing and that counts, right?  I was on such a high from finding out my new magic number that I signed up for Relay for Life on the spot.  Oh, I won't do the whole thing.  I think 18 hours of walking would give me a whole new meaning for pain.  But I'll at least do the survivor's lap - and maybe a few more for good measure.  And I'll try to collect some donations.  And I think I'll toodle on over to the group meeting this month as well.  They seemed like nice ladies.  We shall see.

Meanwhile. I have chickens in my bathtub.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Chickens.  In my bathtub.  More specifically, in my guest bathroom bathtub, with a heat lamp hanging from the shower rod.  The chicks, four White Jersey Giants, are in that stage of fuzz-and-feathers where they are almost cute but not really.  I'd forgotten how much chicks poop.  And, incidentally, how much chicks eat.  These little girls (the feed store lady assured us they were sexed pullets - but would make no guarantees) are more fuzz than feather, but they can already fly up to the edge of the tub.  They sneak out when I'm not looking.  I know this to be true because they leave little birdy poops on the floor outside the tub. 

The puppies are very interested in these new additions to the family.  Morgie, in typical fashion, wants to be their surrogate mother.  Okay, she wants in the tub under the heat lamp, and if she has to play mommy to four peeping feather-heads to manage that, she's in.  Stripe wants to sniff them.  Stripe wants to sniff everything, though, so that's nothing spectacular.  Stitch wants them to shut up.  Little Bear wants to make sure they don't steal any of his blankets.  Guinea Pig wants to make sure they don't steal any of her belly rubs.  Anubis wants to know what chicken tastes like.  No, he doesn't seem to want to harm them.  He does want to lick them, however.  A prospect not welcome in the world of chick.  So, for now, I have chickens in my bathtub.  We'll see how long that lasts.

In book news, The Schubark Chronicles is increasing in popularity according to sales, and has even garnered a couple of nice reviews.  Solerna is just now going live, and early signs look positive for its success.  It is so gratifying to know that even if the cancer wins, I have managed something that many people only talk about doing.  I thought it up.  I wrote it.  I edited it.  I sent it out for others to pick apart.  We edited again (and again, and again, you get the idea).  And finally, it was finished.  And in a couple of days, I'll hold a copy in my happy hands.  I think that will deserve another kermit flail.