Tuesday, September 25, 2007

On Weather and Writing

A few weeks ago we had a doozy of a thunder/lightning/rain storm. Before the rain came, the skies rumbled and grumbled and flashed for hours as the storm moved closer and closer. It was hot and muggy, and I was outside much of the time, hanging freshly laundered dog blankets on the clothesline. Naturally, the moment I hung the last blanket on the line, the skies opened up and I got drenched running back to the house. It was fun. I felt energized by all the sweetly fresh air and the abundance of negative ions that a storm always brings. Negative ions are a Good Thing. Here's a link that explains it better than I could: http://tinyurl.com/26ezx6

I find storms invigorating, so much so that I have a "Thundering Rainstorm" CD that I play when I'm writing. Of course, a recorded storm doesn't put negative ions in the air like a real storm, but it does evoke the happiness and energy of a storm. In fact, I listen to it only when I write, and it's become something of a conditioned response now, like Pavlov's dogs. If I am stuck in a writing slump, I put on the storm CD and suddenly I am inspired again. Now I'm looking into an air ionizer to put on my desk so I'll be surrounded with negative ions.

Do you have a favorite CD you listen to that energizes or inspires you when you write? Do you have a ritual that gets you in the mood, such as drinking tea from a special mug or lighting a scented candle or wearing your lucky sweatshirt inside out? Do tell!

Pictures Posted at Flickr

I posted a few more pictures at Flickr. http://tinyurl.com/32fe5f Alien space invasion of hundreds of planets. *g*

Sunday, September 23, 2007

On Things That Go "Plop" in the Night

For those of you as old as I am, do you remember the "You Bet Your Life" game show where Groucho Marx would waggle his cigar and eyebrows, saying, "Say the secret word and win $100"? Then a stuffed bird would drop down from the ceiling holding a sign with the secret word written on it.

Well, last night as I was going to bed I had something drop down from the ceiling directly in front of me, and it wasn't a bird with a sign. It was a honking big spider, and it was descending rapidly, coming to a stop inches from my face. I nearly walked into it. I let out a huge scream, which made the spider jump and begin climbing hastily back up its rope. I dispatched him between the covers of two DVD movies, which was the closest thing at hand. No way was I going to let a monster that size hang around in my bedroom and crawl on me as I slept.

I know people who go out of their way to gently escort spiders back outside, and I say good for them. Really. I mean it. As much as I loathe spiders, I leave them alone when outside--where they belong. In my house, it's a different matter.

Now with colder weather here, and fall just around the corner, I'm suffering through the annual spider migration into the house. I hate it. The most alarming are the huge hairy black ones in the bathroom. They pop out of bathtub drains or hang out on the ceiling, scaring the daylights out of me. My scream reflex gets a workout when they startle me. And I hate, hate, hate going down the hall or through a doorway into another room, and walking into a spider web, usually right across the face.

I wish I knew how they got into the house. Anybody know? And how, for heaven's sake, can they get into the plumbing from outside???

Saturday, September 22, 2007

New Pictures

I just uploaded 6 new pictures at Flickr: Sherrie's Pictures

Of Colder Weather and Sneaky Cats

The weather has changed and fall is definitely here. It's cold and rainy, and I've been hunched up all day. I get cold sitting at the computer, as my desk is in a corner, against 2 outside walls. I keep warm by climbing into one of those funky body wrap "snuggle bags" that look like an oversized sleeping bag. You know the kind--you step into it and zip it up to the waist, and the rest drapes around your shoulders like a shawl. Toasty warm, if a bit awkward to get into and out of. I tried staying in the snuggle bag and hopping around when I needed to get somewhere, but that was too undignified, not to mention exhausting, so now I just unzip and climb out.

I had to go to the kitchen to make lunch a few days ago, so I unzipped the bag partway and climbed out. I left it draped over my chair so that when I returned, all I had to do was step in, sit down, and zip up. That's when the fun began, because I didn't realize that in my absence, one of my cats had crawled into the bag and curled up at the foot. So when I returned, I climbed into the bag, getting irritated that my feet seemed to be tangled up in an excess of material at the bottom, while simultaneously marveling at how much of my body heat was still trapped in the foot of the bag. That's when something attacked my stockinged foot in an excess of kitty playfulness. And that's when I realized there was SOMETHING ALIVE in the bag with me!

What ensued next was worthy of a Mack Sennett Keystone Cops movie. Have you ever tried to claw your way out of an overlarge snuggle bag that contained a suddenly startled cat that is also trying to claw his way out before you? I fell off my chair and somehow ended up clinging by my fingernails to the ceiling. My cat was beside me hanging upside down by his claws. We looked at each other, then down at the demon bag. Then we dropped down from the ceiling, straightened our clothes, and tried to act nonchalant. Since then, my cat won't have anything to do with the Snuggle Bag That Eats Cats. Can't imagine why!

Have you ever had an experience where you were startled/frightened by a varmint, domesticated or not? Ever had an encounter with a wild critter? What happened? Do tell!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Of Cosmetics and Germs

Have been buried with work and this is the first chance I've had to post here! So much for my every-other-day schedule! Out the window when you're swamped!

So instead of something humorous or profound, how about I tell you something interesting I learned the other day? While I cooled my heels in my doctor's waiting room, there was a big screen TV blaring away with some silly women's show. I don't watch that stuff, and in fact, I don't even watch TV, but I became interested in the topic.

It had to do with germs harbored by women's cosmetics. They took random samples from the make-up kits of several women, including professional models with high quality cosmetics, and examined those beauty aids under microscopes. The results were horrifying. Germs! Nasty germs and wiggly things! Those cosmetics were infested with vermin. To prove their point, they showed enlarged photos of the vermin

They advised throwing away old cosmetics and replacing them at regular intervals with new. Now that I work from home I seldom wear make-up, so I did something else. I washed my stuff in antibacterial soap--the mascara wand, the foam eye shadow applicator, and the blusher brush. I sharpened the eyeliner pencil and dragged my lipstick across a paper towel to get rid of the germy outer layer.

Probably not the best solution, but better than doing nothing at all. And guess what? My eyes no longer burn after a couple hours of wearing eye makeup! Go figure. Amazing what a little soap and water can do.

How long do you keep your cosmetics? Were you aware that they can become infested with all sorts of nasty things? I sure wasn't!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Of Cats and Butt Strings

Dilemma: Do I remove the string hanging out of my cat's butt or do I let nature take its course?

My cat, Christopher the Assassin, has an eclectic appetite. He relishes bugs, enjoys the occasional flower, scarfs grated carrots and sauerkraut, and generally eats anything that looks interesting. Like string. Thus his current problem. String and thread are hard for a cat to spit out due to the way their tongues are constructed. Cats have sandpaper tongues because their papillae are backward-facing hooks, and these hooks are partly keratin (think human fingernails). These little hooks help a cat hold onto struggling prey, and they're also a great aid in grooming. But because the papillae are backward-facing, cats end up swallowing hair as they groom themselves. If they happen to sample an interesting bit of string, down it goes. And then out it goes. But sometimes not all the way.

So I finally grabbed a big wad of Kleenex, got Christopher in a headlock, and took care of matters. He was quite blase about the whole thing, and while I disposed of the string and tissue, Christopher stuck his hind leg in the air and cleaned his butt. Then he came over and tried to give me kitty kisses. Eeewww! No thank you!

Does your cat have interesting eating habits? Does he or she eat bugs? How about begging for food? Do you feed your cat special treats? 'Fess up, now!

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Early Bird Catches The . . .

I'm trying to make myself go to bed earlier, because for the past couple of years I've gotten into the habit of going to bed anywhere from 2:00 - 4:00 a.m. It's because I always seem to get my second wind in the evening, and then I'm good for another 8-10 hours.

I'd dearly love to be able to go to bed around 11:00 p.m. so that I can get up around 7:00. I love the quiet solitude and emerging awareness of early morning. Seven o'clock in the morning is pleasantly early. Six o'clock in the morning is more like torture.

I have two cats with different sleep cycles. One of them gets up when I do. The other one is a slugabed--he doesn't get up until an hour or two after I arise. Then, he comes out of his bedroom looking sleepy and rumpled and in bad need of coffee. If I could manage to insert pictures on this blog without it always trashing my posts, I'd add a picture of Christopher the Assasin and Lord Byron in their kitty beds. For now, you'll just have to go to my Flickr page to see them.

What about you? Are you an early-to-bed-early-to-rise person, or are you a nightowl like me? What time do you go to bed and arise? Is that part of your normal rhythm or is it forced because you have a job and must suit your cycle to the demands of work?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Well, Drat!

This is the second day in a row that I've typed a really great post and Blogger ate it before I could post. Sorry, folks, but I'm mad now, and don't have time to try recreating yet another masterpiece. (pout) It won't let me post pictures, either, so I'll just have to try again tomorrow.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Cats - Gotta Love 'em

Most of my writer friends have cats. I think cats are very good for the creative soul. My two cats, Christopher the Assassin and Lord Byron, often keep me company when I write. (That's Lord Byron on the left) Usually, they sprawl on my desk and offer editorial comments and get cat hair in my coffee. They are great company, as is my dog, Nova.

Writing is a solitary profession, and writers tend to be hermits. That's probably why so many writers have cats or dogs--for the companionship as well as for the calming influence. As a reader, I love nothing better than to curl up on the couch with a good book in my hand and a comfortable cat in my lap.

If you're a writer, do you have a cat or dog or some other pet? Do they hang out with you as you write, and do you find their company a help or a hindrance? (All those who have cats that drape themselves over your forearms as you type, raise your hand!)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

On Writing and Compost Piles

Today I was turning my compost pile because it had quit "cooking." It made me think of how a compost pile is much like writing. In the beginning, you have a mish-mash of items such as grass clippings, manure, dirt, straw, potato peels, etc. Each is an interesting item by itself, but how can you throw them all together and end up with nutrient-rich dirt?

Starting a novel is much the same. You have characters, settings, plots, goals, conflicts, etc. You can throw them all into a pile, but unless you do it properly they won't cook, and the result will be less than optimal

Once you've started your compost pile or your novel, you can't ignore them or work only when you feel like it. Turning a big compost pile is hard work. So is writing. And if you blend your ingredients properly, the end result will be just what you wanted.

There is, however, one big difference between compost piles and writing. When you add manure to a compost pile, it just gets better. When you fill your novel with manure, it just gets worse. Sometimes it's hard for a writer to identify literary manure. That's where an editor comes in. Writers often have a difficult time evaluating their own work. They're too close to it. They wrote it and they love each word. An editor can help you identify manure. That is only a very small part of what an editor can do for you, but it's a very important part.

Composting and writing are hard work. It takes perseverance to be a good at both.