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Tuesday, August 30, 2016


I had a character name issue crop up that was interesting because it was something I've never dealt with before. Those of you familiar with my blog know that I don't pick my characters' names. They come in and tell me what their names are and I have to deal with it. I used to argue with them and I always lost, so I decided to save the energy.

So this character comes in and her name is Claire. This is normal. It's a nice name. It's all good.

Until it wasn't good. The problem was that every time I thought of Claire, I didn't see my heroine. I saw a character from a television show I used to watch as a college student. Honestly, I couldn't get to know this heroine at all because she was eclipsed by this other fictional woman.

Finally, I had to talk to her and convince her she had to pick a different name. After working our way through quite a few lists of names, she decided on Selah. I breathed a sigh of relief.

That lasted until I updated my Word document with her name and noticed how close it was to another heroine in this series idea. Too close. The other heroine had her name first, so it was back to the website to browse names again. This time she picked a new name rapidly and it's close in sound to Claire, which makes it doubly good since that was her first choice.

She even acquired a childhood nickname in the search and she doesn't like it. :-) You know I'm going to have fun with that.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Never Believe a Map

I knew maps were skewed, but I didn't realize it was by this much.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Clutter or Treasure?

To get rid of my old eBook readers or not to get rid of my old eBook readers, that is the question. I have two early Kindles and an early Fire. I still use the Fire from time to time, but I haven't used the regular Kindles in a couple of years. I've reached a point where I prefer to read on my iPad rather than on a dedicated eBook reader.

I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but I've reached a point where it feels more natural for me to read on a back-lit screen. I'm not sure that this is a good thing, but it is what it is.

The hold up in my head is that the trade-in offer for a 2nd generation Kindle is like $5. Is this device worth more to me than that small amount of money? But if I'm not using it and it's just taking up space in my house, it's not really worth hanging on to it and $5 is better than nothing, right?

You can see how I'm going back and forth in my head.

This comes up because I have an email that I must update my Kindles and well, I'm not sure where they're at. I have some ideas, but... But I haven't used them since the last time I had an email saying I had to update my Kindle or it would stop working, so that's probably telling me something.

I'm going to mull this some more.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Small Pleasures

It's kind of ridiculous the things that can make me happy. Case in point: I drive one of those car/SUV crossover vehicles and I have a wide open back area instead of a trunk. When I'd drive with groceries in the back, my milk would fall over and my cantaloupes, jars, and cans would roll. Thunk one direction. Thunk the other direction. Gah!

Eventually, I remembered to order one of those trunk organizers. It worked wonderfully! The only problem? I couldn't fit all my groceries in it. I'd make sure I'd get the melons, fruit, and milk in there, but my cans and jars were still rolling all over the back. Today, I ordered another organizer.

This makes me deliriously happy! See what I mean about small pleasures?

I think my household organizers fall into this category, too. I love the baskets and bins! I even ordered a canister for my onions and admire it when I walk into the kitchen. Isn't it nice, I think, not to have onions on my counter?

Sometimes I think it's kind of sad to be this excited about mundane stuff, but then I think that life is much happier if you can enjoy the small things, so this is a positive, not a negative. :-)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Meeting at the Old Homestead

Working on the family tree made me think about extended family closeness.

My dad was one of eight kids. When I was growing up, we made multiple trips to Chicago every year for family events. We stayed with my Aunt Jo and my great Aunt Vic. They lived in the house where my dad grew up in.

When we arrived, nearly the entire family would come over that evening--aunts, uncles, cousins--and we'd fill the downstairs of the house. Often there was pizza, but there was also a lot of talking, catching up with each other, and much fun. Even when we got older and even after my great aunt died, this was still the drill whenever my family drove down from Minneapolis.

And then my dad's generation began to start dying. His sister who still lived in the family homestead needed to go into a nursing home. The old house was cleaned out, put on the market, and sold.

Things weren't the same after that. My dad had another older sister who let us stay with her, but very few--if anyone--showed up when we visited. For a while, one of two of the cousins tried to have holidays at their house and keep the family gatherings going, but that stopped, too. The only people left now from that generation are my dad and one of his sister-in-laws.

Looking back now, I really appreciate all the family parties. They were big and loud and boisterous and I knew all my cousins. I got to talk to my aunts and uncles and get to know them, too. Well, as much as a kid gets to know any adult.

And I feel really bad for my cousins' children. They've totally missed out on this bonding and camaraderie. We lost something irreplaceable. I don't know if it was losing the central gathering place (AKA the family homestead) or if it was my dad's generation passing away, but either way, it seems like something precious has been lost.

This would be a good note to close on, but I am compelled to make a confession at this point. I'm as guilty as everyone else at letting the togetherness die. Once I sold my first book, I hardly took the time to travel to Chicago. I was using all my vacation time to write or attend conferences. Of course, by the time I sold my first book, things were already fading away. The old home was already sold and get togethers were usually light on people.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Olympic Thoughts

I've been watching a lot of the Olympics and I had a few thoughts about the event so far. First up, the television part of the event.

  • The TV coverage has been frustrating. I've wanted to watch the gymnastics competition, but they only show part of it early and NBC saves the rest of it until 11pm at night. My alarm goes off at 4am, so that means I either go to work on no sleep or don't watch. I've been going to bed.
  • As I was complaining about this to a guy in my van pool, he mentioned that there's an Olympic channel. What? This would be frustration number 2. Comcast didn't really advertise its availability beyond a little box on the last channels screen, and since they've littered that with advertising, I've learned to ignore it.
  • Which leads me to frustration number 3. So now that I know there's an On-Demand channel for the Olympics, I've been trying to watch all the events that I missed because I needed to sleep. I start the replays and they drop out and RESTART FROM THE BEGINNING. I haven't been able to make it through the 37-minute Part One of the individual all-around gymnastics despite trying three times now.
Other thoughts:

  • That cupping thing some of the swimmers are doing, leaving giant hickeys on their body is horrible to look at. I haven't done any reading to see if it really works or if they just think it relieves sore muscles, but looking like you were making out with an enormous octopus is just...Yuck!
  • The gymnasts look like they're twelve. Some of them look younger than that! It was a surprise to see that most of them (at least on the US team) are legal adults. O_O
  • I saw a runner, a refugee from South Sudan, who was competing under the Olympic flag. I thought that was so incredibly awesome that athletes who didn't have a country because of political situations were still eligible. Love this!
  •  I was thinking about how many Americans were at the games and how so many other countries have few people there to cheer for their athletes. It's not just because the games are on our side of the world--the US always has a large number of people there. I think we need to remember how blessed we are compared to a lot of other countries.
My favorite event started on Sunday--synchronized swimming! I love the Olympics. :-)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Up the Family Tree

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I was talking to my dad and I asked him a question about the family. I can't remember what the question was or why I asked it, but I was surprised by his answer. I asked more questions and started to make notes, trying to keep it all straight in my head. My dad pulled out folders from what he calls his memory box and the next thing I know, I'm creating a family tree on one of the online sites.

That Sunday, we stayed up until 2am and on Monday, Independence Day, we spent the entire day inputting data into the tree.

But we weren't using the big family tree site, but some other one and searching for more information became more and more irritating because everything was behind the paywall on the big kahuna. The next day, I did some searching online and discovered they did have some free databases. But as I began to search those, I began to feel like all the "good" stuff was behind the paywall.

And it probably is.

Finally, I gave up and paid. As unhappy as I was about this, I'll admit that there was a lot of good, solid information there and that they make extremely easy to add it to the family tree. With a caveat here. The more recent information--my generation and the one after me--is scarce. I also discovered that the international information is a higher fee. :-(

I'll probably end up paying that, too, since both my mom's parents emigrated and so did my dad's father and his grandparents. And all I can do now is to continue to explore the people who were born or lived in the USA.

This project, while time consuming, is a good thing, though. My dad hasn't been interested in much since my mom died and this had him engaged. He had all kinds of folders full of information out and kept consulting them as I asked for information.

Some of what he knew was sketchy and he wished he'd done this earlier. He's the third youngest of eight and all his brothers and sisters have passed away. If we'd done this before they'd died, they could have helped us because there were things he just didn't know or couldn't remember because he was too young. His father died when he was 9 and his mother when he was 12, so he also wasn't told a lot of things because of his age.

Some of the highlights I've discovered: My dad's father emigrated with his younger brother. I didn't know there was another branch of the family! My dad told me there was a falling out between the families and they didn't talk. But he doesn't know what the issue was because he was too young when it happened. I'm dying of curiosity!

The other piece of information was a maybe confirmation that my great aunt had been married before Uncle John. She was a divorcee. ::gasp:: ::scandalized:: That was a rumor that was unleashed at a family party that we missed, but to find what looks to be her marriage information? Incredible.

And this is what makes this family tree thing kind of addictive.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Grease is the Time

A few weeks ago as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw saw a meme and the image was from the final scene in the movie Grease when Olivia Newton-John is dressed in tight clothes. The caption was something about changing who you are for love and it was sarcastic.

I totally see the point the person with the meme was making because it did bother me for a long time that ONJ's character of Sandy had to change from a "good" girl to a bad one to catch Danny. Why should she have to change? She's fine just the way she is and Danny loves her just the way she is, but if he's too big of an idiot to realize it, she's better off without him.

But over time, as I've thought about this, I realized something. Sandy might have changed at the end for Danny, but earlier in the movie, Danny tried to change who he was for Sandy.

Remember when he dressed in a sweater and tried out for sports? He did the exact same thing Sandy did, the only difference was that he tried to change earlier. We always recall the end more vividly than an earlier point in the movie and I think that's why Danny's attempt at change is forgotten. Something tells me that Sandy's change won't last any longer than Danny's did--like a day or two.

The other thing that occurred to me is that high school is over. Being part of the greaser clique or having a label of "good girl" doesn't mean much in the real world. I can see Sandy and Danny getting married, he gets a job, and who they are morphs. No one is the same at say 25 as they were at 18 and the hero and heroine from Grease are no exception.

You're probably thinking why would anyway waste this much time thinking through the plot of a movie and working out all kinds of theories. This is the bane of my existence. I'm always critiquing films--it's one of the reasons why I rarely watch movies anymore.

The plus side, though, is that this overthinking the movie has allowed me to enjoy it again. There was a long stretch when I was too annoyed by Sandy's transformation to watch it.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Evidence That the Future is Now

Some cool things, but I bet there are even cooler things coming in our future. :-)

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Artist In Me

One of my big regrets in life is that I'm not a talented artist. I've always wanted to sit down, pick up a pencil, and draw brilliant sketches. I just haven't wanted it badly enough to put in the hours of practice that it would take to get good at it. :-/

However, I continually try to do things that are at least minimally artistic. They rarely turn out they I envision, but it makes me happy to play around with it anyway.

On Saturday, I had one of those artistic expression days.

I was putting stickers in my planner (which I will not talk about!) and I wanted some to mark family wedding anniversaries. I hopped online and did a little searching, but seriously, the price charged for stickers can get ridiculous, and when you factor in shipping... Well, I balked. I'd already bought a bunch of stickers and I didn't want to buy more.

Then I remembered I have a bunch of blank stickers in my filing cabinet. I'll make my own, I decided!

And it actually turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. I had stickers that were 2 inches by 4, so I set it up for two anniversary stickers on one label. Over the image, I put a shape with some champagne colored fill to match the flutes in the picture and printed them out. Wah-la! Anniversary stickers!

Are they as awesome as the ones people are selling online? No, but the price was right and I had fun designing them. I'm calling it a win-win.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Grand Search

You wouldn't think that finding some plastic place mats would be that difficult. I remember when I was a kid that my parents had a bunch of different sets. I remember seeing them in gift shops when I traveled. It should be simple to find a set now.

It wasn't.

To be honest, I really didn't want to buy any place mats. I'd bought some in Minnesota that were super cute and--theoretically at least--should have been easy to clean. They weren't. They were this woven style, peppered with holes as part of the pattern. Super cute and extremely impractical. I flinched at every drip because getting them clean was a royal PITA. I stopped using place mats all together.

Then my dad came to live with me. He's put newspaper down on my dining room table to act as a placemat. I swear! Every week when the new newspaper arrives, I make him swap it out so at least it's fresh, sort of. I don't understand why he can't eat at a bare table, but he won't and I'm tired of the paper.

Thus began my quest for a plastic place mat that wasn't designed for children. I didn't want anything woven which severely limited me.

I finally did find a few that I liked. At a price of $20 and up for ONE place mat. I was desperate, but I wasn't that desperate. This was at multiple stores, so it wasn't a case of just one store jacking up the price. At another online store, I found some that weren't horrible, but they were all under $22 and I needed $29 for free shipping. I thought about trying to find something else to make up the difference, but then I thought, no, I don't feel like it.

At long last I found some nice plastic place mats at a fair price. Do I love them? No. They're attractive enough, but they're very pastel-y and I'm a bright and bold color gal. But they'll get the newspaper off my dining room table, so I'll live with subtle.