Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Plotters vs Pantsers...writing styles

Well, I’m happy to say, Velma’s sojourn at the spa will be over this weekend and she’ll be returning home, all topped up and batteries charged. (Actually, it was a new battery, but you know what I mean.) Velma is my car for any of you who have not read previous posts.

Not having the car, I was basically house bound, except for the one trip to the grocery store with my daughter.

I should have been able to get a lot done, and I did if you count 15,000 words into the new book a lot of ‘done’. The words don’t reflect the amount of time I spent doing online research, (which if you looked at my ‘history’ would look a bit scary), and rewrites.

Normally my writing style would be described as being a ‘plotter’, rather than a ‘pantser’ a fly by the seat of your pants writer. That means that I usually plot my story line from beginning to end and do in depth characterizations, I research for authenticity, things like locations, careers and if it’s a murder story, details of how to conduct a police investigation.

If I were a ‘pantser’, I’d do all of that as I went along.

As you may gather from all this, I tend to be a bit rigid in my set up. (I prefer rigid to anal retentive.)

Last fall, my son and his wife gave me a very interesting phrase, thinking it sounded like a book title. I agreed. “Where the forest meets the corn” was the phrase. It was hunting season, and that’s exactly where they were sitting. As I was knee deep in my NaNoWriMo novel, I let the phrase percolate in the back of my mind.

Once Christmas was over I was ready to write. All I had in preparation was the idea that a murder had occurred…..drum roll please….where the forest meets the corn. I wanted the murder victim to be a young woman; and the body would be found by a man out walking his dog. The season was winter, as I always start a book in the same season I’m experiencing. An odd quirk, I know.

So, I had three chapters written before I even had my main characters named, the name of the town, or any other details.

I began with my victim leaving work one snowy night, finding her tire flat, and accepting a ride home from someone she thinks looks familiar but doesn’t really know. She’s being trusting because she’s mad at being stranded, and the stranger seems to know her, her dad and where she lives. It’s no surprise her faulty judgement will end up getting her killed.

The next chapter was the farmer, looking for his lost dog, and finding a dead body instead.

Of course the farmer calls 911 and the investigation begins.

So now what? Where are my notes, my characters, my locations, my ever loving details? Who writes like this? OK, my friend Carol writes like this, but maybe it’s different if you’re writing fantasy rather than murder.

I’ve been making notes like mad, now that I’ve begun. I figured out who the killer is, an important detail, and why he did what he did. I found my strong male lead, Gage Donovan, named Gage for his mother’s maiden name. He’s the detective on the case.

I have notes on the victim’s family, potential other victims, the killer’s story, and the location. Once I started making notes I had to go back to the beginning because not all of it fit anymore. I had made the victim seem like a nice person, and she wasn’t. So I had to change a few things, make her not quite so likeable.

Part of my routine is to reread what I have written, at least the last chapter, to get back into the story before I start writing. This means I edit as I go along, I just can’t stop myself.

I swear, I’ve written and rewritten those 18,000 words so many times, I don’t want to go over them again. Not until it’s all said and done and I edit for real.

At Christmas, my son and I were driving across the county road, when I suddenly called out. He of course thought something was wrong. But we had just passed a cornfield with a wooded area, and I wanted a photo, for inspiration.

He not only backed up, he turned around so I could take the pictures from the passenger window. What a great kid, eh?

I’m not sure I can handle the whole “pantser’ thing. I need a bit more preparation than that. But I kind of like having the story evolve as the characters become real to me and I get invested in their lives.

Gage is a nice guy, dedicated, but a loner. He needs someone in his life, and I have just the woman for him. It should be interesting.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Redbirds in the garden

I can never see a red bird without thinking of my grandmother. Cardinals were her favourite bird. Her yard was full of feeders and she enjoyed watching their antics from her window, and kept the feeders full to ensure they’d come back again and again.

I don’t know this from experience, as I never saw her place in winter, at least not when she lived in Ohio. Our trips back home, usually once a year, were our summer family vacation. It was never a trip we made in winter, not to my recollection.

I do remember, as an adult, visiting after she moved to Florida, in winter of course. She said then that she missed her redbirds, as they were not as common in Florida, not one of the birds that migrate south for the winter.

I do remember that every Christmas card my grandmother sent had a beautiful winter scene, with a red bird the only dash of colour.

As the years passed, my Baba, as we called her, became older and frailer. She moved from the big house in a regular neighbourhood, to a smaller, manufactured home in a gated community, and finally to a retirement home.
I made Cardinals my theme for Christmas gifts. One year I made her a ceramic Christmas tree, complete with lights, and little red birds sitting on the branches.

I gave her a stained glass cardinal for her window and a mug for her morning coffee.

I found a ceramic switch plate with a painted winter scene, and of course, a redbird.
And I think, one year, there was a fleece jacket with redbirds embroidered on the front.

The Christmas cards I sent her had redbirds depicted in some form or another.

These are the gifts that stick out in my mind, there were probably others. I don’t know what happened to most of those gifts, but I do know after she died I brought that switch plate cover home and always had it as a reminder of a very special woman.

In the years since I’ve quit work, I’ve maintained bird feeders outside my window. I’m not a birder, so any birds that visit seem to come by chance. I’ve done a bit of reading, I am a research junkie after all, and even made my own suet mix one year.

The squirrels loved it so much they practically ate the plastic container it was in.

This year, my birding has been a dismal failure. I have my feeder, with a suet cake, hanging outside my window. It’s still full, and has been for a good month.

I blame it 1) on the weather. The ice storm knocked all those branches down right at the base of the hook holding my feeder, and 2) the feeder is in the wrong location.

I finally did some research and found out that cardinals prefer a stationary feeder to a hanging one. And the big mistake I made, I placed the feeder in front of my window, facing the road, where there are no trees, no shrubs even, to give the birds a sense of safety, and a place to fly to should danger present.

And maybe it’s due to the cat that I have never seen, but hear roams the area. I have seen tracks so it must be real.

I can’t get to the feeder right now, two feet of snow and broken branches are a good enough deterrent. Next year I’ll have to plan this out better, see where I can put a feeder that will be more attractive, more welcoming, and still accessible all winter.

I see some research in my future. Sorry Baba, I tried.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Let it Snow, again and again.

“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”,
These are famous words, from a famous song about winter…being a wonderland?

No, that’s the wrong the song. It’s not “Winter Wonderland”, it’s “Let It Snow!, Let It Snow!, Let It Snow!”. Both are old songs with old sentimental lyrics, lots of playing in the snow and sitting around the fire feeling the warmth.

If you look at the words to the Let It Snow song, and pick specific phrases from the lyrics, then it perfectly describes what has gone on in this area, this winter.

For example: Oh, the weather outside is frightful,


                        It doesn’t show signs of stopping,

                        or how about

                        How I’ll hate going out in the storm.

The words take on a different meaning when taken out of context, don’t they?

I once had a house with a fireplace. It was in a rarely used living room, no television, just the bookcases filled with all my books, a comfortable couch and my grandmother’s oriental lamp.

I loved that room. It was my favourite place to curl up with a good book. I never burned real wood, just those 3 hour fake logs, but since I was going for mood more than heat, that was okay. The flames still danced, the warmth and the ambience a solace.

I’m fortunate; I don’t have to brave the cold and snow every morning for work and I don’t have to shovel out the drive over and over again. When I look out my window I can still see the beauty of fresh fallen snow, and appreciate the warmth and comfort of my home.

I was going to offer you a glimpse of one of those Yule Log Fireplaces.

Maybe this fire will inspire you more.
Relaxing Music for Sleeping, Meditation, Studying, Calming New Age Music by LoungeV studio : Relaxing Nature Videos on Youtube

Monday, 17 February 2014

Her Name is car.

I thought, after all the recent trouble; that I needed to be on better terms with my car, and decided to give her a name. I’ve been trying to think of a suitable name and for some reason Velma came to mind, and I couldn’t think of anything else. So Velma it is.

The name may be old fashioned, but it makes me think of someone who is irritable and contrary, and that makes it perfect for my car. She’s been nothing but problematic since December.

I made a trip out of town last week and Velma decided to display another aspect of her contrariness. My son and daughter-in-law were with me, as I’ve become a chicken shit winter driver, and it was snowing.

The weather channel, as I was going out the door, said no snow for 36 hours, but I could see the snow coming down in big fluffy flakes, so, once again, what do they know?

As we drove north we hit more snow, heavier and wetter, and had to turn on the windshield wipers. The wipers worked for a few minutes and quit, stopped dead, no wipe, no clear view of the road. I was so glad I wasn’t driving.

As suddenly as the snow started, it quit and we had clear skies and dry roads the rest of the way. While I was at my appointment my son played with the wipers and had them going one more time, only to have them quit again as we drove south, closer to the lake and more snow.

So, Velma’s gone on a little vacation. When we arrived home I instructed my son to take her to Uncle Brad’s for a visit. He’s my regular mechanic and a member of the in-law family. I know she’s in good hands, even if she isn’t a Ford.

Velma has taxed my patience, and threatened our otherwise trusting relationship. Hopefuly this trip to the car spa will renew her energy and road worthiness (without draining my savings).

She needs to get better quick, she needs an emission test and I need to renew her license before March.

Come on Velma, be a pal. I promise to clean the junk out of the back, wash you more often and vacuum out the interior. I’ll even hang some pretty bauble from the rear view mirror. Just get well and come home.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Happy Valentine's Day-A Short Story About Renewed Love



Cassie studied her face in the mirror as she brushed her long hair into a ponytail, twisted, and held it with a clip. The dark, auburn tresses were streaked with grey at the temples, more than last year, she thought. Age was creeping up on her, taking it's toll on her face and body. Oh, to be twenty again, no, thirty was going back far enough.

That was all part of the what-if game she often found herself playing. A game where she got lost in a fantasy, where life was full of possibilities and dreams...and reality disappeared, for a short time, giving her a momentary respite from the day's demands.

Enough daydreaming, she had work to do. Exiting the bathroom, she picked up the laundry basket and made a tour of the bedrooms, picking up all the scattered pieces of dirty clothes. Maybe if she made it a game, a tisket, a tasket, dirty clothes go in the basket, maybe then her family would succeed in putting more clothes in the basket than were strewn all over the floor. There would have to be a prize, she thought, some incentive, for sure they would never do it just to be neat or to make it easy on mom.

She sorted the wash, checking pockets as she loaded the machine. Once she'd missed a red marker that had run the cycle and ruined a full load of clothes. Sometimes she found important things; like her daughter's student card, her son's bike key, and today...what's this?  Cassie pulled the matchbook from her husband's pocket and looked at the logo on the cover...The Wayfarer's Inn.

Suddenly she couldn't breathe, her heart beat wildly in her chest and she threw the matches in the garbage, as if on fire and burning her hand. She wrapped her arms across her chest, pacing about the laundry room, thinking about what this could mean.

It was such a cliché, she thought. The poor wife at home, finding evidence of her husband's affair and she...does what? Does she confront him with what she's found, hide it or...kill him, the rat bastard. She could feel the tears coming and felt as if her whole world was about to collapse around her.

“NO, no, no.” She stuffed the rest of the clothes in the washer, added the detergent, no longer caring what might be in the pockets. She'd welcome a marker that would ruin the clothes, over a matchbook that had the potential to ruin her life.

What was she doing, she thought, and slammed the washer lid closed. This was Rob, the man she'd been married to for almost twenty years; her husband, her best friend, her soul mate. How could she accuse him, if just in her thoughts, and find him guilty based on such pitiful evidence.

Was she so insecure that she could doubt him so quickly, so easily? To have even a moment of doubt hurt incredibly, for this was the man she loved, and the thought of not growing old with him was unthinkable.

Cassie ran up the stairs and along the hall to the master bedroom. Catching sight of herself in the mirrored closet door, she stopped and stared. What did Rob see when he looked at her? Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, her feet bare, she looked more haus frau than trophy wife. If she neglected herself could she blame him, if he neglected her too?

Suddenly she was feeling a little lost, and realized all those nice, what-if fantasies were hiding an unhappiness she hadn't wanted to confront. How could she explain feeling unfulfilled and unhappy when, supposedly, she had everything? She had a great husband, two wonderful kids, a lovely home, and yet, something was missing, and that something, was herself.

All her personal dreams and ambitions had been pushed aside by the needs of the family, only to resurface in day dreams. She'd let it happen, let it continue because she didn't know what would happen if she were to rock the boat, so to speak, of their smooth sailing ship. But if she was unhappy, and she had to admit she was, that ship had already hit rough waters.

The kids, the house and Rob's work had taken all their time and attention and they'd let the couple take second, more like fourth place. Win, place, or show, fourth place was never in contention.

If Rob had been finding some moment of happiness with someone else, if his plan was to leave her, it would break her heart. The challenge was to find herself again, and from that position of strength, she would deal with whatever else happened.

Back in the kitchen she pulled the newspaper out of the recycling and turned the pages until she found the ad she'd skimmed over before. Art classes offered at the new art supply store downtown. Before she lost her nerve, Cassie called and signed up for the classes starting that week. Painting had always been her creative outlet. When the kids came along it had been hard to find the time and space to indulge what her mother had called her 'little hobby'. Strange, she was remembering now, it had been Rob who, when she put her paints away, had encouraged her to keep painting.

After making some other phone calls, while in a proactive mood, Cassie felt a little better by the end of the day. Whenever she thought about Rob, she had to push back and bury the misery and mad she felt at what might be his betrayal.

She should have known she couldn't hide her change in mood from Rob, and could sense him watching her. That was just fine, for she was watching him too.

The night of her first art class, while holding back a laugh at their surprise, Cassie told her family she was going out. She gave them instructions for dinner, told the kids to clean up after they ate and hurried out the door. Do them good to fend for themselves, she thought. If she felt like a maid at times; it was because she let her family treat her like one.

Over the next few weeks, Cassie was feeling better about things, despite the fact she didn't know anything more about Rob, and any possible indiscretion. She had her weekly art classes and frequently took advantage of the open studio time the shop provided. Her new attitude carried over into other relationships, meeting friends for lunch, or for dinner and a movie.

She had her hair coloured and styled, the easy pony tail gone the way of other areas of self neglect. Her figure, though still trim, was soft and she was out of shape. Taking advantage of the family membership at the Y, she started an exercise class for ladies, held in the afternoon. Deciding her new look deserved some new clothes, she shed the jeans and T's for a more stylish wardrobe.

Cassie tried hard not to feel guilty, like the night her daughter whined about her skinny jeans not being washed and she'd told her to wash them herself. The kids were learning to do for themselves and to accept her busy schedule. It was Rob's behaviour that surprised her, taking up the slack in parenting that her absence from the home created. He never complained, if anything, he supported her.

One night, fresh from the shower, she found herself standing in front of the mirrored closet door, just as she had those weeks before. This time, she was not the matronly looking housewife in shapeless jeans and a scruffy shirt. This time, she was looking svelte and sexy in Victoria's Secret black lingerie. This time, she smiled; liking the changes she was seeing.

“Boy, that's an outfit I haven't seen before,” Rob said from where he stood in the doorway. “Are you sure you have to go out?” He crossed the room and sat on the side of the bed, watching her.

Feeling a little uncomfortable with the sudden intimacy, something she had avoided in the last few weeks, she hurried to dress. “I'm meeting the girls for dinner and we were going to the show after,” she said. “I told you this morning, remember?”

“I remember,” he told her. “You've been so busy of late, I feel like I need to make an appointment to have any time with you.”

Uncomfortable with this conversation, not sure where it might lead, Cassie tried to laugh it off. “That's ridiculous,” she said as she pulled on a black, silky blouse.

“Well, I've wanted to talk to you about something, but it never seemed the right time.”

That stopped her cold; the time had finally come, he was going to tell her about the affair, he didn't love her anymore. If that was what he had to say she didn't want him to say it there, not in the bedroom they'd shared for so many years. That would be just too painful.

“Tell you what, I'll call Linda and tell her I can't make it, and you and I can go out for a bite to eat, and talk.” As she spoke Cassie casually wandered into the bathroom, as if to check her makeup, or brush her hair. She couldn't look at his face, afraid she'd see his relief at finally being able to tell her.

“Are you sure you wouldn't mind?” Rob stood and walked to the door of the bathroom, watching her.

“No, not at all, it'll be fun,” she assured him. “Tell the kids we're going out, and I'll meet you at the car.” After he left the room, she made a quick call to her friend, making up an excuse while trying to hold back the tears. With a shake of her head, she straightened her shoulders, took a deep breath, and

followed her husband down the stairs and out to the car.

The trip to the restaurant was made in near silence, what conversation there was, was stilted and awkward. Within minutes they were seated, facing each other across the table, enclosed in their private space by the high back of the booth. Once the waitress had taken their drink order they looked over the menu, another tactic to avoid conversation.
Their drinks arrived, and with their dinner selections made, the silence was uncomfortable, for both of them. “Well, cheers,” Rob said and tapped his bottle of beer against hers.

“Yeah, cheers,” she replied with a voice that was anything but cheery.

“Did I tell you how much I liked your hair?” he asked.

Cassie shook her head and looked at him, thinking how far they'd fallen to have to search for conversation. She was saved from any response by the arrival of their meal. Neither one of them seemed to have much appetite, and moved more food around the plates than they actually ate.

“Cassie, this is a terrible thing to say,” Rob said, “but I have to ask.” He reached across the table for her hand. “Are you having an affair?”

“What?” Cassie couldn't believe what she was hearing, and jerked her hand out of his grasp. “What do you mean am I having an affair?” she demanded.

“You're out all the time lately, and you seem to be pulling away from us.” Rob looked so sad, thinking she was about to break his heart. Cassie knew just how that felt.

“Rob, I'm not having an affair, I thought you were,” she explained.

“Me? Why would you ever think that?” he asked, shocked at the very idea.

“Weeks ago, I found a matchbook in your jeans pocket, from the Wayfarer's Inn. You never mentioned being there, and I'm afraid I thought the worst, that you were having an affair.”

“I wasn't having an affair,” he said. “I was planning one.”

“What, you were meeting someone, and during the conversation you plan to have an affair? Is that how it works?” she questioned, her mad returning full force.

“No, I was planning a big affair, a fortieth birthday party for my wife. It was going to be a surprise.”

“Oh...Rob, I'm so sorry.” Cassie laughed, realizing how silly they had been.

“Wait, if you weren't having an affair, what brought about all these changes?”

“I don't know how to explain, it all seems so foolish now.”

“Cassie, please tell me what's going on?”

“I was feeling a little lost, and unhappy, without understanding why. When I thought you were having an affair I took a good look at myself, and didn't like what I saw. I'd let everything go to take care of the family. I was beginning to resent you and the kids because I was feeling lonely and unfulfilled. I missed my friends, my painting and most of all I missed you, missed us.”

“So, the changes were...what? To show me what I'd be missing, if I had been having an affair?”

“No, they were to make me stronger, more content. So if you did leave me, I’d forever miss you, but I would survive without you.”
“And now, now that you know I'm not going anywhere, what are you thinking?”

“I'm thinking I was very foolish not to have talked to you about my feelings, and very foolish to have ever thought you would be unfaithful.”  Cassie was unsure of Rob's mood as he got up from the booth and took her hand, pulling her along behind him.  He quickly paid the bill and led her out to the car.

“Rob, is everything OK?” she asked, concerned with his rush to leave the restaurant.

“Did I tell you how happy I am you're painting again?” he asked.


“Did I tell you how happy I am that you've reconnected with your friends?”

“No,” she replied, wondering where this conversation was going.

When they arrived back at the house Rob parked the car, turned the engine off and twisted in the seat to face his wife.

“Did I tell you how extremely happy I am that you're not wearing the sexy underwear for another man?”

“It's Victoria's Secret,” she told him with a smile.

“Ah, well, that says it all.”

“And what is that?” she asked.

“That only the most beautiful, the sexiest women wear Victoria's Secret.” He opened the door and got out, racing around the car to open her door. When she stood, he moved in close, trapping her in the open door, putting his arms around her. He brought his mouth to hers and kissed her with such sensuality, she thought she could feel her toes curl.

“I'm going to take you upstairs, and take a nice, long look at you, in your Victoria's Secret,” he told her as they walked to the front door. “And then, ever so slowly, I'm going to remove it, and prove to you, my beautiful wife, that you are one sexy woman. What do you think of that?”

Laughing, she entered the house and walked to the foot of the stairs, smiling at him over her shoulder.

“I think you'd better hurry,” she said and hurried up the stairs to the bedroom.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

A Pre Valentine's Day Short Story


“Are you wearing your pajamas?”
Katie looked down and saw a small child with the most angelic face framed by a mop of soft curls. Wouldn’t you know, she thought, a quick trip to the store and she’s caught out by the curiosity of a kid.
“They’re not pajamas, exactly. They’re called sleep pants.”
The child reached out a hand and touched her leg, testing the fabric of her flannel pants. He had that stubborn look on his face, that very stubborn look that toddlers are known for as he declared, “they feel like my jammies”
Katie looked around the store, hoping to be rescued from the critical eye of this mini member of the fashion police.
“My Daddy says I have to get dressed before we go out. Why does your daddy let you wear your jammies?”
Beyond embarrassment now, Katie knelt down to talk to the child face to face.
“I’m all grown up, so, I guess if I want to wear my pajamas out, I can.”
“Daddy won’t let me wear my Spiderman pajamas out of the house. They’re my favourite but I have to leave them under my pillow.”
She smiled at the boy with his bright blue eyes, the smattering of freckles over his nose and found him irresistible. “Well,” she said as she started to rise. “Daddies know best.”
He grabbed on to her pants and pulled until she knelt down again.
“He’s mean,” he said. “Why can’t I wear my Spidey jammies all day?”
“This is my special jammies-all-day day,” she told him. “You can’t do it everyday or it won’t be special anymore.”
Katie could see the boy thinking that over and looking at her skeptically.
“When can I have a jammie day?”
“You’ll have to ask your dad about that. But, just think what you have to look forward to every night. You get to put your jammies on and snuggle into bed wearing them for the whole night.”
“Adam, where are you?” an anxious voice called out.
The little boy leaned in, as if to tell her a secret. “That’s my Daddy,” he whispered.
“Oh, okay.”
“That’s his mad voice.”
“I don’t think he’s mad. He’s probably been worried ‘cause he can’t find you.”
Katie stood and held out her hand. The boy grasped it tightly as they walked from behind the produce display that had hidden the child from his father’s view.
“Does this little guy belong to you?” she asked.
“Adam, what did I tell you?”
“Stay close,” the boy said in a mumbled voice, avoiding eye contact with his father.
“Right.” The father bent down in front of his son. “Look at me,” he said, resting his hand lightly on his son’s shoulder. “Daddy worries when he can’t see you, so stay close, okay?”
As the little boy nodded, the man stood and realized his son was holding on to the woman’s hand. He looked at her with suspicion. “What are you doing with my son?”
“I was just talking to him,” Katie said, suddenly aware her friendliness could be misconstrued now that she was facing his concerned father.
Adam pulled on her hand and she looked down to see what he wanted.
“Tell Daddy about jammie day.”
Katie figured being embarrassed for wearing her ‘jammies’ out of the house was better than being taken for a child molester, so she tried to explain.
“Adam came over and asked if I was wearing my pajamas. I told him it was my jammies-all-day day, it’s something I treat myself to once in awhile, not that I usually leave the house, but I was cooking and found I didn’t have any…carrots.”
She felt a pull on her hand again as Adam glared at her. “Tell him,” he repeated.
“I think Adam would like a jammies-all-day day so he could wear his favourite Spiderman pajamas for the whole day.”
“It’s a special treat, Dad.”
Adam’s father, his immediate fear for his son’s safety gone, finally looked at the woman his son had picked up in the produce department. She was very pretty with intriguing smoky grey eyes.
“Hi,” he said holding out his hand. “I’m Jake Turner, Adam’s father.”
“Katie Tremblay,” she replied, taking his hand.
“So,” Jake said. “You’re having a jammies day, are you?”
She smiled, recognizing where the little boy had gotten his charm and appeal.
“They’re Hello Kitty jammies Dad. I told her Spiderman was my favourite.”
“This sounds like a great idea, Adam. Maybe Miss Tremblay would like to tell us how this jammie thing works.”
He looked at Adam for his approval. “What if we were to take Miss Tremblay out for some hot chocolate, there’s a place just across the road. You’d like that wouldn’t you Adam, if we all went for hot chocolate?”
“Yes, yes, come on,” he said taking Katie by the hand and dragging her toward the door. “Let’s go Dad.”
“Yes,” Jake said. “Shall we go?”
Katie hesitated for a moment then let the little boy lead her out. She’d been feeling a little blue, a little woe-is-me and had planned to stay home all day until she’d found she was out of carrots for her stew.
Who would ever believe that her Hello Kitty sleep pants would be her good luck charm?


Monday, 10 February 2014

Mean Machines

I don’t know why mechanical and technical things hate me, but they do.

I feel like the character Eve Dallas in J.D. Robb’s futuristic police series. In the book Eve has an ongoing problem with computers and an interesting battle with the vending machines that has resulted in a boycott.

My car is one mechanical problem I have, but enough said on that subject. Haven’t found a name for her as yet.

My Kindle went dead, really dead, far past the polite message that warned the battery was running low. I tried to charge the battery using my laptop but with no success. It was very annoying as I have many of my favourites books downloaded, plus a number yet to be read.

Someone told me I couldn’t charge the Kindle from my laptop, but a friend said I could. So, I believed the friend. Her advice was to make sure I was using my laptop at the time, being on was not enough, it had to be active.

So, recharging while the laptop was in use was not going to be a problem, it’s almost always in use. I plugged everything in and waited…and nothing. Curses. I tried one more trick and used a different port, and it worked. Don’t know what made the difference, but now I know what to do and will be able to keep my Kindle charged.

I celebrated and bought myself a new book, had to prove everything worked, right?

Yesterday I followed my usual routine. I made a pot of coffee, turned on the laptop and sat down with my morning yogourt to check my E-mails, Blogger Dashboard and Facebook.

The laptop was on, but the screen was black. Nothing I did would change it.

Not a good way to start my day. I could feel the tension building as I faced a day with no internet access. I closed the lid, unplugged it and set it aside.

Last night I tried it again, and it started up just fine, except it denied me access to the internet. What was going on? The WIFI was working, I checked on the Kindle.

I went from thinking the laptop had crashed to having it work, but with no internet. I’m so confused. I looked up the help section and it said to make sure you were allowing internet access. I had one of those moments, you know, where I’m the Dummy they talk about in those Computers for Dummies books.

Why would anyone turn off access to the internet asks the woman who lives alone? Maybe to stop kids from searching the web? Okay, I get it, where the hell is the switch?

I looked at my laptop and saw the light that is usually on in the front was off. Could this be the miracle ON button for my internet access? Yes, yes, yes.

We were live and kicking once again.

Oh, but the mechanical things were not done fooling with me. I had a slice of bread in the toaster oven, making toast to go with my cheese omelette and turned my back, caught up in the Olympics on TV. The timer failed to work, and my toast kept toasting to the burn stage.

I called it quits for the night and read for awhile. My Kindle seems to like me, and so it should, I buy it a presents.



Wednesday, 5 February 2014

10-15 cm, my foot.

It started to snow sometime during the night and I woke to a winter's wonderland...not.

You can still see the branch through my eavestrough from the ice storm.
The sky is a pale gray, the snow falling softly, steady, with no wind to blow it about. You just know that sky is full of snow, and it has not finished whitening our town as yet. I've read some facebook posts that talk of local roads being treacherous, some closed.

Be safe out there. Here's hoping everybody makes it home safe and sound.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Being Friends with my Car

It's the day before another big storm, with 15-20 cm. of snow expected through the night and into tomorrow. I decided if I was going to get out to the store I'd better get going while I still could.

I just had one little problem, was my car going to start. It hasn't been used in a week and is the only car in the parking lot covered in snow, and surrounded with drifts. Poor baby, did you think I didn't love you any more?

Truth is, the car and I have been having some serious relationship issues this winter. It began before Christmas when I was in the neighbouring town, and the battery died leaving me stranded. Okay, It quit in my daughter's driveway, so it wasn't like life or death stranded. Luckily, a friend had CAA and I got a boost and made it home.

I tried to take the car out for some lengthier drives after that, just to let it warm up, but frequent snowfalls and frigid temperatures made it an easy decision to stay home.

Just after New Year's the battery died a second time, and on the day I had to be at a family gathering. My son gave me a boost that day and we had a little tour of the countryside letting the battery charge up again. Now we're at two strikes and three strikes you're out, so where might I be when the third strike hits.

There is a major trust relationship that women, more than men, have with their cars. It comes from women not usually understanding engines and stuff, and a fear of something going wrong when you're alone or away from home.

I had plans one Thursday in January, so in preparation, took the car out on Tuesday. I hoped if the car had a warm up, and a road trip, it would start for me when I needed it. That Tuesday, the car was covered in ice and snow and it took me almost half an hour to get the car cleared off and the windshield wipers free.

I tried a new trick when I arrived home, and left the windshield wipers in the up position, hoping to avoid having them buried in any new snow. The mistake I made was leaving the wipers on, and the heat, and the radio, so when I started the car on Thursday, all those 'ons' drained the battery, again. It was a no go.

So third strike, my faith and trust are gone. For the last couple of weeks, whenever I've gone out, someone else was driving, and I left my car in its parking spot like a naughty child in the corner.

But, I'm big on second chances, so I ventured out today. The sun was shining, the sky a clear blue, and the temperature was only minus 5 degrees Celsius. Compared to minus 20 with a wind chill of minus 26 degrees Celsius, it was downright balmy.

The car started, and I let it warm up while I cleared the two inches of ice and snow. Between the sun and the heaters on full blast inside, the ice slid off in large chunks, making my job easier.

So I ran a couple of errands, holding my breath each time, that the car would not let me down. It did pay me back for my lack of faith though, by giving me a big scare as I drove out of the mall parking lot.

I drive a van, and I hadn't removed the ice and snow on the roof. It loosened with the sun, and as I drove, it slid forward and covered the windshield, momentarily blocking my vision. Lucky for me, it broke off in pieces and what didn't slide off the hood, was low enough I could still drive.

I drove home and it took me three tries to get over the mess in my parking spot. The snow has piled up behind my car more and more with every storm. The plow edges close but my spot looks like a shovelled driveway after the plow has passed and filled the end in.

Finally, I was home safe and sound, errands complete with the trust in my car renewed.

Maybe I should give my car a name, give us a more personal relationship. That's what guys do, isn't it?  Names are important, I'll have to think on that awhile. There's no rush, with this storm front coming up from Texas I'll have plenty of time to think about it.

I won't be going anywhere.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Happy Groundhog Day

It’s February 2nd, Groundhog Day in North America.

The custom goes, if the groundhog leaves his burrow and sees his shadow, we’re in for six more weeks of winter. Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous groundhog, from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and Wiarton Willie from Wiarton, Ontario, both predicted six more weeks of winter for the U.S. and Canada.

As a predictor of weather, the groundhog is a questionable source. He is no more reliable than the March theory for predicting the end of winter, that in like a lion, out like a lamb thing.

I think people are just having fun with winter, spring will come eventually, at one time or another, depending on where you live. Environment Canada is predicting the frigid temperatures that have affected most of the country for the last two months will most likely persist through February.

I usually prepare myself for the winter, but like it best if it doesn’t show itself until Christmas. I need those weeks leading up to the holiday to be snow free, cold is okay as long as the roads are clear. I need that time to finish up my Christmas shopping, and it makes the winter seem shorter.

This winter the snows came early and have been ongoing throughout January.

I said I prepare myself for winter, but what I really meant is I accept that winter will come, no matter what I do. Unless I move south, a winter that includes cold and freezing temperatures is a given, though some winters are better than others.

We were spoiled for a few years with minimal snow, and isolated bouts of sub zero (Celsius) temperatures. This year it has been snow storms, one after the other with sustained bouts of frigid temperatures and a major ice storm thrown in for some variety.

The piles of snow, pushed to the side of the roads, or the edges of parking lots have reached a height that makes them dangerous. The mounds of gray, gritty looking snow can block the clear view of drivers on the road. The mound pushed in front of my place is four feet high.

The Roads Department have tried to keep the roads clear, but you can feel the roadways getting narrower and narrower with every storm. I was in town the other day, shopping with a friend. She found a parking spot about two stores down from the store we wanted, and we thought ourselves lucky. She got out on the street side, and I got out, or tried to get out, on the passenger side.

I couldn’t open the door fully for the two foot high pile of snow at the curb. I squeezed my way out the door, but was in a tight spot, where the only way out seemed over the pile of snow.

I tried to place my feet where someone else had walked and pushed the snow down. I only made it two steps before I fell flat on my ass and found myself sitting, sort of embedded in the snow bank.

There was only one thing to do…laugh. My friend was sure yukking it up where she stood safe and sound on the sidewalk.

“Quit your laughing and give me a hand out of here,” I managed to say. She reached out and helped me up, but by then the damage was done. My pants were soaked, my fault for wearing my short coat that day.

We finished our business at the store and went out for lunch. I told her I was going to write about this in my blog, and teased that I’d tell everyone she pushed me. But truth be told, she’d had a difficult time getting over the same bank further up the street and was lucky not to have fallen. On the return trip we walked to the corner, where she took the road back to the car, and I waited at the end of the sidewalk for her to pick me up.

All’s well that ends well. It was a bright and sunny day, cold but not the frigid cold we’d recently endured and I got some fresh air and exercise, and a nice meal with a friend.

The next storm is predicted to hit early this week, with 10 to 15 cm. of snow and subzero temperatures, basically same old, same old, as that’s what it’s been for the last month.

I’m ready. As long as I have power for the TV and for my laptop, I’m happy. (And for the light, and the heat of course, and maybe the stove, and the refrigerator, I do want to eat.) The point is, I can keep myself amused if I’m house bound, so long as I can stay in touch with everyone.

My thoughts go to all those workers who don’t have the luxury of staying home and avoiding the weather, like the emergency crews, fire police and ambulance, and those whose jobs are vitally needed, like doctors and nurses.

Life goes on, kids still have to go to school and parents and other adults make the effort and face the challenge of getting to work each day, and everybody gets through it the best they can. Bundle up guys, and stay safe.

Willie and Phil may say six more weeks of winter, but maybe we’ll be lucky and their predictions will be proved wrong. One can only hope.