Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Worth of Poetry

In a middle of a fight, you
asked me, what good are poems?
They brought us no money, no
return on my hours, time you
thought better spent on you.

And now, when what we were is not,
I can tell you: They let me
recall the sunlight on your bare
back, the scent of your neck,
the touch of your fingers on my chest.

But poems cannot undo what we
have done, cannot reverse our fall.
Their worth lies only in the truths
of which they remind us: I loved you
once. You loved me, too. That's all.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

The sky's the limit.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Jungle creatures

When you talk wistfully
of another life, I wonder
if you know the words
I bite back, the sharp
anger I force down.

Do you think anyone gets
to choose that easy?
That all you have to do
is wish and dream
and life obliges?

You're not even grateful
for what you have;
instead you want
the greener grass
dropped on your plate.

You had your idea
of what your ideal
life would be, and
life handed you
something different.

You whine, you mope,
you blame, you weep,
when you could learn to love
what has been given to you
or work for something better.

You think to inspire pity
in those who still listen
to your long list of woes.
Do you know that instead
you just make us tired?

      Hmm, I'm not sure where that came from. Lord knows that I know people with that attitude. And it does make me tired. I'm not talking about the people who are trying to better themselves, who are trying and have setbacks. More power to them. I'm rooting for them. I'm talking about the people who make no effort to change their lives and then complain because suddenly things aren't better. They play the "if only" game.
      I'm tired of so much negativity. I try to not complain about my life. It's not what I wanted or planned, but here I am. You take what is given, and you do your best. You can take pride in that.
      No one's life is what they wish. All of us have disappointments and failures. Death and darkness stalks us all.
      But we remain.
      In the end we remain.
      Flawed, fragile and fearful, we snarl out into the dark, baring our teeth, jungle creatures in our souls.
      But sometimes a ray of sunlight pierces the gloom, and slowly, our eyes shaded with trembling hands, we walk forward, out of what we have known and what we are, forward to what we can be, and we learn anew the beauty and majesty and mercy of this vast universe.
      We are grateful.
      We are awed.
      We remain.

More sunlit clouds.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Friday, October 29, 2004

      The link for the first chapter in my book has been removed. If you missed out, I'm sorry. It would have changed your life for the better, solved all your problems, made you healthy, wealthy and wise! Well, maybe not.
      Speaking of the book, I'm done with the writing! I first put a period on that sentence and then decided that it deserved an exclamation point. This weekend I will spend on error correction and formatting and then printing it on Sunday so that it can go into the mail on Monday. At last.
      I feel relieved. And excited. But mostly relieved. This stretched me and my writing in unexpected ways. I thought several times that I wouldn't be able to finish it, but I did. I'm not foolish enough to think I'm done with it -- I have several chapters that need more work, Chapters 7 and 12 particularly -- but I met my deadline. On my computer sits 92,151 words. That will be about 400 pages when printed. It's a bigger stack than you might think.
      I also feel sad. I know this story. Some details might change, some new subplots added, some old ones removed, but I know this story. This story is told. I know there is more in the future for the characters; I have the outline for a sequel, but for now, their loves, laughter, sorrows and adventures are done. Godspeed my strange and dear creations. You touched my life. Thank you, and I hope to see you again soon. In a book.

A faraway shore.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Thursday, October 28, 2004


      I'm tired. I had the afternoon off so naturally I worked harder than usual. Mostly on the book, but housework and yardwork, too. The day wasn't long enough. I got a lot done. Still have a lot to do. That's how it goes. How is it in your world?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


      Apparently the hit counter site XCounter has died. If you have a counter from them, you need to change it. I chose Amazing Counters as my replacement. Check them out. Email me if you need help.
      I added a new blog to my Blogs of Interest. A Southern Belle's Musings has lots of good writing and links. It's a good looking site and worth the visit.
      I'm coming down to the wire on the book. I'm simply concentrating on fixing the large things and not worrying about the small things. It won't be as good as I'd like it to be come November 1, but it will be finished and in the mail. I'm going to take a week off from it and then come back and polish it to the utmost of my ability. Even if this agent doesn't accept it, I think it's strong enough now to find another one. And if he does, I want to polish it anyway to increase its chances of publication. If all goes as I expect, I will have the final edit done by Christmas. It will be a Christmas present to me. At that time, don't be surprised if a suspiciously large text file shows up in your inbox.
      Thank you to my friend Randall who called me tonight and reminded me of the lunar eclipse. Despite a cloudy sky, I got to see the reddish moon. Absolutely awesome.
      You guys aren't blogging enough. Get to it! Don't make me come over there!
      Thank God the election will soon be over. I'm keeping the TV off just to avoid the glut of ads. What's worse are those recorded political phone messages that some computer calls me with at least twice a day. Listen, guys, I'm just one vote. Go bother someone else. (Of course, it only gets my answering machine, which means one machine is talking to another machine. Soon they will be voting for us, too.)
      It was hard to count points on Weight Watchers today. My stomach kept thinking of that delicious golden chicken of yesterday. It got a Subway salad instead. It's not happy, but it's full.
      Gotta to get back to the book now. Good night and God bless.

A firey plant. This photo does not do justice to the vivid color.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Falling off the wagon

      Perhaps it was stress from the fast approaching book deadline. Perhaps my remaining fat rose up in anger and took control of my body. Who knows? But tonight I fell off the Weight Watchers wagon. I fell gloriously.
      Oh, I know I shouldn't have, but I did. I had a delicious, fat-filled chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy, freshly picked and lightly steamed whole green beans, and a cornbread muffin so sweet that it should have been classified as candy.
      How bad was I? I ate half of a chicken by myself.
      Why did I eat half of a chicken? Because they didn't give me a whole one.
      As I sit here, patting my extended stomach, I know that tomorrow I must get up, dust myself off and count them points. But tonight ... tonight I was naughty. And baby, it was good ...

An interesting sky.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Monday, October 25, 2004

Status report

      The book is my life right now. The work is exciting. It's scary. It's nerve-wracking and incredibly stressful. I'm writing every night until I can't write any more and then editing, editing, editing.
      The writing is done. Now I'm rewriting madly. Fixing plot points, making corrections, removing passive sentences, making sure descriptions are consistent. I'd like to have another couple of months, but ready or not, it will be mailed November 1 to the agent. I made that commitment, and I'm going to keep it.
      That's what I'm doing. What have you been doing?

The sky beyond.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Edit me this

      It's probably all those years I spent working at various newspapers, but I'm a great believer in editing. I can't think of anything that I've written that hasn't needed some editing.
      I thought everyone believed in editing. I was wrong. Recently I talked to a writer who sincerely believes her words are divinely inspired. She says she changes nothing because she writes them just as her "muse" gives them. And she thinks she's unpublished because editors are -- and I quote -- "afraid of true emotion and only publish their friends."
      I smiled and made small nods and got out there as fast as I could. She was scary.
      I think the great writers make it look easy. They write so well that it seems the words must flow perfect from their pens the first time. This fools people who haven't written, who don't realize how much work it takes to be clear, to be concise, to be meaningful. An old sayings goes, "Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration." Substitute 'editing' for 'perspiration,' and I think you've got the beginning of writing wisdom.
      But I tell you what I really want: the ability to edit my life. To smooth over the rough bits, take out the errors. Sometimes late at night, I torment myself for hours over the mistakes I've made, the wisecracks that I shouldn't said, the times I lost my temper and hurt someone I loved. Not to mention all the inane physical comedy I've conducted, such as tripping over lint and breaking my arm or closing the garage door on the roof of my car. I'd use a gallon of white-out on my financial decisions alone. I'd need a vat of the stuff for my relationships.
      One of the cruelest and truest sayings is this: "This life ain't no dress rehearsal." Life continues even when we blunder. The world doesn't stop, and sometimes the worse thing is to realize that we won't really die of embarrassment.
      Still, there is some hope in that. Life will go on. We will survive one way or another. We fall down. We get up. We go on. And maybe if we edited all our mistakes out, our lives would be the poorer for it. But I'd sure would like to try.

More mums on my porch.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Lessons from a three year old

      My roomie's three-year-old grandson stayed with us for the past couple of days. I learned many things from him. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom.
      Old MacDonald not only had a cow, pig, dog and cat on his farm, he also had a football boy, Spiderman, Spongebob Squarepants, a pirate and stickers. I tell you now that you haven't really exercised your creativity until you try to figure out what sound a sticker makes for the chorus.
      If you discover a word that gets a laugh -- "boob" for instance -- you should repeat it often.
      Hiding and hunting plastic Easter eggs is just as fun in October as it is in the spring.
      Every story is improved by the addition of pirates and/or baseball.
      It is possible to play basketball with a football and vice versa.
      Play hard.
      Laugh often
      Nap only when you simply can't stay awake anymore.
      Play-dough is better than cartoons, but only if someone plays with it with you.
      Not only is coloring within the lines optional, but so is coloring within the confines of the paper. The world needs a little color. Don't be afraid to splash it around.
      Baths had better be fun or they shouldn't be taken at all.
      It's great fun to escape from your bath and run down the hall naked. It's even more fun if you can climb up on a bed and jump up and down. I suggest everyone try it. I think the world would be a better place.
      Jackson loves all the little children. You know, "Jackson loves the little children, all the children of the world ..."
      You must have a flashlight to look for monsters. And it's better to look for them in lighted rooms where they're not at.
      Computers are to play games on with other people. Otherwise they're not worth much.
      All activities should include everyone. "Come on, guys" should be the motto of the United Nations.
      Every now and then, turn to the person beside you and hug them and say, "I love you." You'd be surprised how happy they get.

Flowers on my porch.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Friday, October 22, 2004

Thank you quickly

      It's late, and I'm exhausted so this will be short. I promise to be long-winded tomorrow. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who read my first chapter and commented on it. Your encouragement helps. Writing is a lonely business. You helped make it less so. Thank you and good night.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A Five-Year Plan 101

      I've been asked a couple of times about my five year plan, so I thought I would share it. It's pretty simple.
Basically I used this site to calculate how long it would take to pay each of my credit cards loans off. I took the money from the first debt paid off and put it on a second debt. Then when the second is paid off, I take the money from the first and the second to apply to a third. And so on. Eventually I am able to apply quite a bit of money to each debt.
      In eight months, I will have my first debt paid off. The money from that and the money I'm already applying to my second debt will speed up the pay off on the second. That will take place five months after the first one. The third will pay off six months after that. The fourth will pay off three months after that. And so on.
      Also part of the five year plan, I started putting a little money each week into my savings account. I put it in there before I pay my bills or use any spending money. I've made a vow to not touch the account unless an emergency arises. I have a goal, but even if I don't reach it, I will put something in it each week. It's a commitment that I'm making to my future. When enough money is in there, I may place it in a CD since that gives a better rate of return, but right now, just savings is a good thing.
      Of course, I'm aware that an emergency could wipe away the account as well as blow my plan to bits. But as the account grows and the debts lessen, I will be better able to weather what may come.
      I also have a monthly budget that tracks my income and expenses each month. I made a vow to follow my budget. I think the time I've spent in Weight Watchers helped me learn how to deny myself a current minor pleasure for something better in the future. I've always lacked financial self-discipline, allowing my emotions to make financial judgments for me. I've not conquered that completely or even mostly, but I'm getting there.
      I confess that I get discouraged about it. Sometimes it seems five years is a long time, but there are no shortcuts. And if I don't do it now, these problems will continue to hang over me. I'm not going to have that happen. I deserve better. You do, too. Let's find that better life together.

Mikey at the park 2.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

And isn't this
And isn't this how it goes --
you love what doesn't love you
and are loved by what you don't love
you twist on a rope of your making
and dare anyone to cut you free
while your feet dangle aimlessly

Near your tree stands a crowd
familiar faces who repeat the what ifs
and if onlys and nod their wise heads
as they lie in their inactivity
because none can change unless they want
to and you don't and it's your fate

Never admitting they leave you to it
because why shouldn't you be nothing
and your hopes be as meaningless
as a piece of ash in the uncaring wind
why should your life be any different
from the graves they chose an eon ago

What I wouldn't give to see
you raise your head, slip up a hand,
set yourself free, free, free
drop to the ground and walk out
of this dirtwater town, seeking
the better you have always deserved.

(For J.B.)

© 2004. All rights reserved.

Mikey at the park.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Trojan clocks and a little whine

      Night-Rider left a comment that she got a warning about a Trojan when she visited 51313 Harbor Street. (Don't say it, ER! Don't even think it.) The reason she did is that cool clock hovering around your mouse pointer. The code for it actually reads the date and time from your computer, which a firewall can interpret as a Trojan since it is, after all, getting data from your computer.
      If the time and date are wrong on your computer, the clock is going to be wrong, too. It's beyond my skill right now to get the time and date from the atomic clock and then adjust it to your time zone. I'm not going to keep the clock. I think it's too busy for this page, but I wanted to see if I could make it work.
      And now a little whine: I post my first chapter in a link yesterday, and I only get one comment on it? Sigh. Powersleeper is in my will. The rest of you will get nothing! ER did read a few pages at work and sent me a couple of emails about it. So he will get a pittance. And Crystal's being one of my first readers so she stays in the will. Well, I like the rest of you, too, so you're all back in the will, but I'm frowning at you mightily.

Monday, October 18, 2004

"Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars" & other stuff

      I highly recommend Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. This mini-series is exciting, tragic, loving, funny, triumphant. Every time you thought the situation couldn't get more intense, they raised the stakes until the story reached a truly breathtaking conclusion tonight. I'd love to see more of Farscape, but I don't see how they could top this incredible story. It's the best thing I've seen on TV in years. I'll be buying this DVD when it comes out. It's worth seeing many times.
      My job continues to be unsettled. I do a lot of deep breathing. It's not quite panic ... yet. And maybe it won't be. A lot of things will work themselves out if we give them enough time. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.
      I continue to work on my debt reduction plan. If I hold the course, I will have my credit cards and other debts paid off in five years. It seems a long time, but it's not really. I just have to keep my eyes on the goal: Freedom.
      The book is going well. Not as fast as I hoped, but I think I will have something to send to the agent at the end of the month. It's not as polished as I hoped it would be, but I think the story is solid, and I hope it will let the agent see the story's potential.
      Crystal Diggory wrote a good essay on cheesy roadside attractions. There's a certain charm in such things, and they're always fun and good for a photo or two. I'm a fan of them almost as much as she is.
      Major cool that my old college friend "DOC" surfaced as Powersleeper on this blog and even started one of his own. I haven't spoken to him in years and wasn't even sure how to get in touch with him. Score one for the power of cyberspace. He went to the same college at the same time that Crystal, Redneck, Randall and I did. It's like a class reunion. (Randall needs a blog, too.)
      Did I mention Farscape was fantastic? Farscape was fantastic.

The sky today.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 17, 2004


Farscape is back! Happy happy joy joy. It was a great two hours. I hope tomorrow night is as good. If you're not a Scaper, you're missing out on a exciting, funny adventure with a galaxy-spanning love story. Nuff said.

The gathering storm.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click to expand.)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

If you're wondering

      If you're wondering how the book is going, I cleaned my bathroom and kitchen thoroughly today. I'm talking scrubbing toilets, sinks, tub and floor. Any longtime reader will understand the meaning of that. But I'm not complaining. One way or another, the book will be finished. Maybe it's hard to get my words (a little over 1,000 today and quite a bit of editing of previous pages) but at least it's work I choose. This book will belong to me just like anything we sweat over belongs to us.
      I've been trying to get pictures of the moon for the past couple of days. My digital camera just won't cut it. It can't gather enough light to make a good pic. I've tried a few shots with my 35mm camera. I hope they come out.
      I read a few books over the past week, including Galileo's Daughter by Dave Sobel, Don't Shoot, It's Only Me by Bob Hope with Melville Shavelson and Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. The first two I got for a dollar each at the local Friends of the Library sale. The third came from the Science Fiction Book Club. I recommend all three. Both Galileo's Daughter and Don't Shoot, It's Only Me are excellent history books. Well, Hope's book is more like history through jokes, but both are good reading.
      Terry Pratchett is my favorite author. I have all of his books in hardcover. I buy them new and read them often and hoard them happily. He's a comic fantasy writer, but to say that is to limit him. His writing speaks directly to the best in mankind. To quote from Publishers Weekly and the cover of the book: "Wickedly satirical ... hilarious ... touching ... absurdly delightful ... brillant."
      I can't even begin to tell of you the plot of Going Postal, the latest entry in his ongoing Disc World series. But it starts with our hero getting hanged (!) and then he gets offered a new job by an "angel." The job is that of the Postmaster of Ankh-Morpork. He takes it since there's not going to be a better offer for a man who should be dead and might yet be if he can't figure out how to deliver 40 years of undelivered mail, survive the rituals of the secret society of the postmen, defeat a supernatural assassin, outwit a murderous corporation headed by a twisted criminal, and get Miss Dearheart to take a cigarette out of her mouth long enough for him to kiss her. Oh, let's not forget the golems, werewolves, dwarves, wizards, zombies, vampires, and lawyers and other monsters that help and/or hinder him. If you're not reading Pratchett, you should be. "Trust me."

Leaves against the sky.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Friday, October 15, 2004

The ending we don't know

      This is the story whose ending we don't know, but this is how it begins.
      It's nearly midnight in a suburb of a city. Rows of nearly identical houses line the streets. Streetlights pour out circles of light. Far off a siren sounds.
      The front door of one of those houses opens, and a man with a broken heart walks out. He leaves his door open, his TV showing the late night news. An envelope on the coffee table is addressed to his estranged wife. The note is blank except for his name and a simple "Sorry."
      He walks to the end of his driveway and then pauses. He stands there a long time. A dog barks and finally gets bored with this nocturnal visitor. Mrs. Higgins opens the curtain of her bedroom window from across the street and sees him. She starts to wake her husband, but then recognizes her neighbor and decides he must be going on a walk. She goes to bed.
      The man steps onto the empty street and walks down the middle of it.
      A few times, cars pass him and slow down, but he doesn't seem lost. He doesn't seem confused. His steps are steady. He's walking with some sort of purpose. So the cars continue, but the drivers will remember him later.
      He reaches the woods on the edge of town. He stops briefly. If someone were watching him, they would see the momentary hesitation, the brief flash of something like regret. But he moves forward, leaving regret behind. He doesn't look back even though what he's leaving pulls at him. The farther he walks, the less hold it has.
      He walks through the woods, following a path that his feet seem to know well. He passes by a young couple making love. The boy is startled and actually runs away. When the boy returns, the girl is clothed now and it is so not going to happen. It will be three days before they admit they saw the man.
      He passes through the woods, only leaving a few signs that he was ever there. The wind in the trees sounds like a river.
      He reaches the mountain. He begins to climb. It's not a hard climb, but it makes him breathe hard, makes the sweat glisten on his forehead in the moonlight. Twice he slips, but only falls a couple of feet before he catches himself.
      Finally on a gentle slope, he walks to the top of a cliff. He stops and turns back toward what he left. He sees the town in which he lived and loved and lost. He sees his life. He sees what he loved and what loved him and what remains. He sees what is broken and can't be fixed. He doesn't turn into a pillar of salt. He lets everything go.
      He turns the other direction and takes a few steps. He's at the edge of a cliff. Below there is a river. Beyond the river is a dark wilderness, the beginning of a national park. He removes all of his clothing and leaves it in a pile. He stands there in the rising wind and the uncaring moonlight.
      And then he spreads his arms, runs three steps and leaps into the void.

      This is the ending we don't know. His body hasn't been found. It's been six years.
      Some believe he fell into the river and it carried his lifeless form to the ocean. Some say that he didn't jump at all, but actually met a secret lover (there had been rumors of such) and went off to start a new life. Still others say the wild animals scattered his body as if bears or wolves still stalk their tiny forest. At Crazy Eddie's Comic shop, the boys talk of aliens and strange lights.
      There is a story, though, which some of us choose to quietly believe: That when he jumped, the winds caught him, bore him up and carried him away into the endless starry sky.

(For L.G.)

© 2004. All rights reserved.

A patch of sky.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The sky today.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Creative answers

      A friend recently asked if I wrote on a pen or only with a computer. I get asked that a lot by people. They also want to know what paper I use, what kind of pen do I use, what computer program I use and what my computer is like. I think it's a desire to see if my process would work for them. Here are my answers:
      1. I like to use composition notebooks for jotting down ideas and lines of poetry. I usually do first drafts of poems with pen and paper, then transfer them to the computer for editing. I write everything else on the computer. I usually print out manuscripts and do editing that way.
      2. I use black micro Deluxe Uniball pens. They lay down a nice smooth line of ink.
      3. Microsoft Word works fine for me. I've used Wordperfect, also, and think it's strong, but Word came with this computer. I've gotten used to it.
      4. It's a Dell Pentium 4. It's my favorite computer so far. It's showing its age, but I hope it continues to work for a while longer. I hate buying a new computer.
      I don't know if computers have made me a better writer, but they have made me a more prolific one. And the ability to edit easily has certainly improved my work. So I come down strongly on the side of computers. I think people who cling to pens and typewriters are hampering themselves. But if that's what it takes to feed your creative spirit, bon appétit.

Sunset. © 2004.
All rights reserved. (Click on photo for larger size.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Important bits

      Another longtime blogger closed her blog the other day. Just a short note to say so long. Another mysterious disappearance on the web. Another person who walked away. And the comments from her readers are like the world has ended and on a weekend to boot.
      In this case, I know the blogger, and so I called her on that old-fashioned technology: the phone. She said she was tired of blogging. Wasn't fun any more. Had other things to do. I asked why she didn't explain a bit more since the commenters were assuming death and destruction. She said she meant to and then thought, I don't know any of these people. I don't owe them anything.
      Hmm. True, it's not like she got paid, but they did read her, they did give their time, they paid attention. Surely they deserved some consideration. She didn't think they did, and that was that.
      However you may feel about her attitude, it does point out something that I've noticed about the Net: the lack of depth in the interactions. People move in and out. You chat a bit, exchange a few emails, and then they're gone. It's best to not get too attached because they're just pixels on a screen. Turn off your monitor, and you don't see them anymore.
      In this blog, I'm trying to reach for more than that. I want to know my commenters. I want to be their friend and want them to be mine. If we wind up being too different for that, okay, but I want to try. I know several of my commenters in the real world -- ER, Crystal Diggory, Randall, Susan1 and CJ. I think I know Powersleeper and Gloria, and ER knows Trixie and of course Three&Eight. Why is this important?
      Because if you disappear for whatever reason, you should know someone is going to miss you. Someone wants to know why, wants to know what prayers he should be saying. You may just be pixels, bits on the information stream, but you're important bits.
      You're important: Crystal, ER, Joel, Randall, Susan1, Gloria, CJ, Trixie, Susan2, Frenzied, Powersleeper, Night-Rider, and Three&Eight. That's all I wanted to say.
      That's all. Good night.

Phill 413

      I added another new blog to my Blogs of Interest. Phill 413 doesn't have a lot of entries yet, but I like the ones that are there, particularly the song about his nephew. You know this blogger as Powersleeper who has commented here several times. Check it out.

Monday, October 11, 2004


      Frenzied Feline asked for this recipe in a comment on her blog, but I decided to post it here because I can only tell you that I worked, came home and wrote on the novel so many times ...

Eight Can Soup

      1 pound of extra lean ground beef
      2 cans of Southern Style beans
      2 cans of Veg-All (drained)
      2 cans of Minestrone soup
      1 can of whole kernel corn (drained)
      1 can of diced tomatoes
      1 tablespoon of minced garlic
      1 tablespoon of chives

      Brown the beef in a large pot. Drain off the fat. Add all the canned items and the spices. Simmer on medium heat for at least thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with Mexican cornbread. Serves six to eight well. This is perfect for cold rainy days. If you have leftovers, it's even better the second day after all the flavors are thoroughly mixed. It's what I had for lunch today. Good eatin'!

Storm's end.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo for larger size.)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Hearts against the darkness

      When I get too whiney and full of self-pity, I remember Brandon.
      Back in December I ran into him and his parents at Staples. They had adopted Brandon several months before. He's sweet and cute as a button with bright blue eyes and a ready grin. I was playing peek-a-boo with him, and he gurgled with laughter. He was lively as he sat in the stroller. Interested in the world and ready to explore. He also has HIV.
      My friends had searched for a baby for a couple of years after they found out that they couldn't have children of their own. They prayed a lot and by chance discovered a website that talked of AIDS babies. About how these babies are born with HIV passed to them by their mothers. Many times they are also born with drug addictions because their mothers used drugs. The mothers abandon them or have them taken by the legal system. The babies are placed in various orphanages and hospitals, and then people wait for them to die.
      It broke my friends' hearts to hear of the babies, and they decided one of those babies was meant by God for them. It was a hard, long and expensive process, but Brandon arrived at the Okahoma City airport June 2003.
      His mother told me, "As soon as I held him, I knew this was my baby. I loved him. He is mine." She nodded firmly to me. "He is mine."
      Brandon requires a lot of medical care. Fortunately, his new parents have been blessed with financial means. He's getting the best care there is. And he's getting such love that if love can cure, he will live a long and happy life.
      This is a hard world where an innocent can suffer like this. And it is a wonderful world where people like my friends throw their hearts against the darkness. How can I think that I have problems, that my grief is overwhelming, that I am pitiful, when children like Brandon struggle just to live, just to grow up? I would not be worthy of breath if it didn't humble me.
      You will notice a link to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation at the left. Please give. These babies need us. And they need us now.

Gold beyond black.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo for larger size.)

Saturday, October 09, 2004

I should mention ...

      ... how sick I am of my fantasy novel. I cannot wait until it is done and I have mailed it to the agent so that I can not read it for a couple of weeks.
      ... I really wish all my blogging buddies would blog daily so that I have something to read!
      ... I added a new blog "Sweat Sweat" to my Blogs of Interest links. I really like the photo this blogger from Down Under posted on Thursday. Check out her blog and be sure to pin her map.
      ... I saw Twin Falls Idaho the other night. This gentle movie about conjoined twins is thoughtful and moving. Check it out.
      ... I saw Island at the Top of the World tonight. This Walt Disney adventure film stands up well despite being over 35 years old. It also has a cool blimp in it, and I'm a sucker for blimps.
      ... I read The Forgetting Room by Nick Bantock. It's not as good as the Griffin and Sabine series, but it's interesting in its attempt to show how the present and the past are intermingled in surprising ways.
      ... I read The Art and Craft of Poetry by Michael J. Bugeja. This is an excellent reference book with hundreds of examples. Well worth reading if you're interested in writing poetry. Back when Bugeja taught journalism at my alma mater, I was one of his students. Sadly enough, I never knew about his poetry until years later.
      ... I collect boxes. Susan1 asked that in comments a few posts ago. I have over 40 wooden boxes of all types. One of my joys is finding them at antique and knick-knack stores. One of my favorite boxes is a Japanese puzzle box that you have to move hidden wooden panels to open.
      ... I continue on my diet. I hit a plateau over the past two weeks, losing ounces instead of pounds, which has been discouraging, but that's normal. If I stick to it, I will break through and continue to lose.
      ... how much I appreciate Crystal Diggory and my non-blogging friend Eric for agreeing to be first readers for my book. It's a lot of work, and I thank them for it.
      ... I hope y'all are doing well. Later.

A clearing sky.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo for larger size.)

Friday, October 08, 2004

First person problem

      In writing my fantasy novel, I chose to write in first person. All my other books had been written in third person. I thought I would try it out and see how it worked. If it didn't, I could always convert to third. That was 75,000 words ago. And I have to say that while in some ways it has been liberating, in others it's been so confining that it's been a great big pain in the hiney.
      Liberating in that I know Stefean Ka'Nikilos well. His cynical view of the world, his humor, his pain, they flowed freely. For all his self-involvement and emotional blindness, I like him. It's been easy to give him a voice.
      But right now, being so totally into his head is smothering me. It would be easier if I could open the world up, show other people's points of view, and give some insight to the villain. And not to mention that I could get my needed word count much easier.
      But by keeping my reader's focus tightly through Stefean's eyes, I think it makes the fantasy world more believable. He accepts and believes his world without a second thought. I hope he carries my readers along so that they accept his world of circus Folk, mages, mind witches, wild tribes of elves, civilized and savage orcs, and many more weird and wonderful things.
      Whether or not the agent accepts this book, I've enjoyed the experience -- even this grinding part now -- and learned much about writing. In this way if nothing else, it's been a great success.

Mimosa pods during the rain.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 07, 2004


      I'm the last one to be preaching about the joys of exercise, but I will tell you this: Moving your body will fight depression.
      With everything that's happened over the past few days, I've been low. I had that dull feeling that hangs over you and makes living hard. So after work today I got out my hand weights and exercised until my body trembled. I felt better afterward.
      If you, too, are fighting the dark days, get out of that chair and move. Sometimes our souls need the cleansing power of sweat.

Once upon a stormy sky.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo for larger size.)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

... It's a rich man's world.

      Been working on my debt reduction plan. I need $5,000. Anyone got any extra thousand dollar bills lying around just gathering dust? Thought not.
      The work situation is sticky and tricky and thoroughly not fun. I still don't know how things are going to play out, but I can tell that it's not going to be good for me. I'm trying to separate my natural dislike for change from the actual situation. I can't see my way clear yet, but I'm trying to gather my forces, make a plan and go from there. There's not really anything else to do.
      Truth is, I'm going to be okay. I'm still richly blessed in my life. Just got to remember that and keep moving on. One foot in front of the other. Eventually we get there.
      I appreciate your prayers and your support more than I can tell, my blogging buddies. May God keep and richly bless you all.

The lid of one of my favorite boxes.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


      My intelligent readers solved all of yesterday's riddles except #7. So there's the answer to it: A river, a stone and grass. I didn't solve it, either, when I first heard it.
      I had something disturbing happen today, and I'm still reeling from it. I need time to process it and try to figure out what it means for my future. Well, I know it means stress and strife, but I'm trying to find some opportunity in it. I don't mean to be mysterious about it, but I'm not allowed to discuss it yet. It does deal with my job, and I am and will continue to be employed so don't worry about that. But my job may become impossibly hard. I don't know if I have it in me to overcome this or if I even want to. Anyway, I'm going to cut this short and do some thinking and some praying for some answers.
      Oh, before I forget and I've been asked a couple of times and I kept intending to tell everyone but I kept forgetting, the agent's assistant has asked to see the whole book. I told her I could have it done by the end of October, she said to send it to her, and so that's where we are. Catch you on the flipside, and I'd appreciate a mention in your prayers over the next few days.

A glimpse of a stone wall in the park.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Riddle me this

      For a period of my life, riddles fascinated me. Don't know why. Maybe because of that scene in The Hobbit where Bilbo plays the riddle game with Gollum. Or maybe I just liked the mystery of them, the word play and the fun of figuring them out. What follows are some old riddles, some of which date back to the 11th century. See if you can figure them out. I'll post the answers tomorrow. (The hardest one is the last one, and it dates back to the 13th century.)

1. Beyond the sea there is an oak,
and in that oak there is a nest,
and in that nest there is an egg,
and in that egg there is a yolk
which calls together Christian folk.

2. A duck before two ducks,
a duck between two ducks,
a duck behind two ducks.

3. Little Nancy Etticoat
in a white petticoat
and a red nose;
the longer she stands,
the shorter she grows.

4. As I was going to Worcester,
I met a man from Gloucester.
I asked him where he was going,
and he told me to Gloucester
to buy something that had neither
top nor bottom, but which would hold
flesh, blood and bone.

5. There was a man made a thing
and he that made it did it bring
but he it was made for did not know
whether it was a thing or no.

6. Black within
red without
four corners

7. One says, "Let's go."
One says, "Let's stand."
One says, "Let's whisper."

And someday we will fly.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The thrill is gone

      A few months back, a friend took me to task for my distaste for coarse language in books, plays, TV shows and movies. He said, "That's how people talk now." His point being that authors were simply being realistic.
      Maybe so. My point was that coarse language bores me. That's right. Not offends as much as simply bores. Even his discussion with me about it made me secretly sigh because I've heard that "It's realistic" ad nauseam.
      I've been involved in journalism and theater most of my life. Both are filled with salty people that never found a swear word that they didn't make their lifelong friend. I can remember being shocked and maybe even impressed by the vulgarity. That was 22 years ago. I've heard it, read it, seen it on stage and on the movie screen.
      Remember Die Hard? Good action movie. Great story, good acting, appropriate language for the people portrayed. It was a big hit. Remember Die Hard 2? Not so good a movie. And much more bad language. The screenwriters knew the writing was weak, the plot plain stupid. They tried to punch it up. What they forgot is that a word can only shock you so many times. I got bored in DH2 and started to count the number of times they used the Fword. I lost track around 50. By that time, the word had lost its meaning. It didn't convey intensity or pain. By overuse, they had diluted its power.
      When I see coarse language used extensively, I just think the writer was lazy. The writer didn't stretch, didn't attempt to find new ways of expressing his/her thoughts. Oh, there are exceptions to that. I've read several short stories, poems and novels and seen a few movies and plays where the dramatic content called for it and it worked. Most of the time it doesn't. (Another tired and over-used character in movies: the foul-mouthed kid. Stopped being funny after the first 100 times we saw it. Give it a rest.)
      I think about coarse language that way I think about fart jokes. At 13 they're funny, but you're supposed to grow out of it.
      I get accused of being old fashioned about this. But really I'm not. I'm just jaded. I look for writing that uses language in new and exciting ways. Where the writer has put out some effort. (I'll give you a good example of this. In his day job, my friend Erudite Redneck writes a column about a subject that is -- to me -- deadly boring. But I enjoy his columns because of the new ways he finds to present this information. His writing makes it interesting. I wish I could quote some examples so you could be impressed, but his need to keep his blog separate from his job doesn't allow.) I find coarse language to be lazy language.
      Playwright and author Jean Kerr said in Penny Candy: "I do not like to hear the most explicit four-letter words spoken from the stage because I number among my acquaintance persons of such candor and quick temper that, for me, the thrill is gone."
      I'm with you, Jean. The thrill is gone.

My favorite subjects: trees and clouds.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 02, 2004


      A few days back, a friend and I were discussing my writing. He was surprised to find out that I have a personal journal as well as this blog. He was immediately curious about the personal journal. Naturally he will never see it as it contains things that I don't want to reveal to the public. Nothing all that exciting, mind you, just opinions and feelings that I think are better if they're not shared. Some of the entries might hurt someone's feelings or are simply too personal to be revealed.
      My friend was surprised by "these layers." But I think all people are that way. We all have layers, faces, masks that we wear in certain situations. Who hasn't felt that awkwardness when your work friends meet your personal friends or family?
      The necessary thing is that you never lose hold of the truth of who you are. You emphasize aspects of yourself, but not fabricate lies.
      I number on the fingers of one hand the people to whom I'm completely open with. Is this wrong? Is this hiding or simply being wise? When you find true love, is being able to be completely open how you know that it is true love? Frankly, I don't know.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

A good tree.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Flowers at the park.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Brother, can you lend me a Twinkie?

      All I wanted to do is lose some weight. I didn’t mean for people to lose their jobs over it. What? You haven’t heard the dreadful news? On Wednesday, September 29, 2004, Interstate Bakeries Corporation declared bankruptcy. IBC makes Hostess Twinkies, which used to be two of my four major food groups. I knew that I consumed a lot of those fluffy cream-filled delights, but I didn’t know a whole corporation depended on me.
      I should have. After all, the phone company does. No, really, they do depend on me. If I get a few days behind on my bill, they immediately write me a letter. It’s a nice letter, pleasant and not demanding at all. They just want to know when I can send payment. You can tell they’re worried about how they’re going to feed their children and take care of their aged parents. I understand that and try to send them money as soon as I can.
      Now the electric company is different. They have a different tone in their voice when they call me. It’s like they’re demanding payment. “Pay us or we’ll cut off your electricity!” they say. Like I don’t already siphon off my neighbors’ lines for my various projects. Still, I send them a few dollars every now and then. It keeps them happy and also stops them from sending out Guido and Frederick to break my knees. The electric company is one tough crowd. More of their personnel have served time in prison than people in any other utility as shown by national statistics. Actually I just made that up. You’re gullible, aren’t you?
      I pay the water department on time. I’m a great believer in water and think there should be more of it. Particularly in deserts. This will probably surprise you, but deserts don’t have enough water. With water, they wouldn’t be deserts! I know, I know, it’s surprising that no one has figured that out before. I have a mind like a rusted steel trap. So I fully and completely support water. Vote Water 2004! Besides, I’ve yet to be able to tap into a water line undetected. They keep good track of that precious fluid.
      I don’t know what I’m going to do about IBC. I can’t go back to buying Twinkies like I did before. I was mainlining them straight into my gut and then onto my behind. I should have just glued them to my thighs. That’s where they ended up anyway. I could turn a corner, and it would be a good five minutes before the rest of me caught up. Twinkie the Kid, their animated mascot, actually weighs 500 pounds and has to be hoisted to the television studio by crane.
      But who can blame him? Never have preservatives, sugar and other chemicals tasted so good. Most dessert cake scholars believe that Homer (the Greek guy, not the Simpson) was talking about Twinkies when he spoke of ambrosia, the nectar of the gods, in the Iliad and the Odyssey.
      Of course, Homer was making the whole thing up. He lied all the time (he was in politics) but I built a good case once that manna in the Bible was actually Twinkies. Soon after that, I lost my Sunday school class. No, I mean I lost them. I took them on a field trip to the Wilderness Center, and somehow I misplaced them. I hope they come home soon. The church would like the bus and its driver returned.
      Truly you have to wonder what IBC was thinking to base their whole financial structure on me. It sounds like they graduated from the Enron School of Business Executives. They had to know that someday I might give up Twinkies for something less harmful like fried lard.
      So I guess all I can do is apologize to the employees and hope their marketing department finds someone else to carry the burden. Or maybe they could do some research and develop a salad that tastes as good as a Twinkie but still be non-fattening. Now, there’s an idea that would change the world.

© 2004. All rights reserved.