Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sunsets to Travel By

Tonight's our last night in the apartment. I hope. We're leaving tomorrow, but because we lived here for almost three years (four for Spousal Unit), we have way too much stuff to take in one trip, as happens when you're surrounded by really nice people who want to help make you comfortable at home. (Thank you, Really Nice People!)

Anyway, while we're traveling, I likely won't be able to blog. But I wrote a special post for tomorrow at least.

Enjoy your last New Mexico sunsets (at least till we travel this way again).

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Letter to New Mexico

Dear New Mexico,

I'm sorry to tell you like this, but I'm leaving you.

I'd hoped to tell you in person, but all the lines are far too long and it takes forever for them to move forward. You know how it is. Besides, I have a feeling you would have just blown dust in my face if I showed up in person.

Look, don't take it personally. It isn't you; it's Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa, who've all come between us. They've gotten in our way from day one, sabotaging our chance at a healthy relationship. And you, New Mexico, aren't helping lately. Every time I express affection, I get nothing but dry eyes in return. Really, really dry eyes.

I'm just hoping for something more, I guess, which is why I'm leaving you for Wisconsin. It has green hills, trees galore, and small rodents in each of its parks. Don't get me wrong, New Mexico - you have some great landscape. But it takes more than gorgeous eye candy to make a relationship work.

Did you know that when you hold a meeting in Wisconsin, people show up on time? (Or at least within five minutes?) Did you know how wonderful their beer is? How about their cheese? Man have they got cheese!

But I didn't write this letter just to rub it in your face. Wisconsin has its problems, too. Instead of the Internet going down when it's windy, I'll have to worry about squirrels who bite the power lines in half and get fried to a crisp. Instead of a terrible drought for months on end, I'll have to deal with flooded basements and lakes that wash away, making the center of the state a big bowl of cheese soup.

I have to admit, New Mexico, there are some things about our relationship that I'll miss. You provided me with wonderful sunsets. I hope I don't find driving in the Northwoods terribly boring, now that I've driven through gorgeous mountains.

Despite all that, it's time to move on. You'll always have a special place in my heart, New Mexico - I'll be back to visit someday.

But not till we've put some good distance between us. About 1300 miles of distance.

Your former foreign squeeze and blonde babe,

Friday, May 27, 2011

Things I'm Going to Miss: People

Today is my last day of work.

I've had an amazing job at the bookstore. The last two and a half years have been many kinds of excellent (for me personally and for my resume).

I've learned a lot about a different aspect of the book world, and I'm particularly thrilled I had the chance to work with kids - something I never thought I'd like, but I loved it dearly. I made signs and tombstones, using my artistic abilities on the job. I wrote reviews. I got to read advance copies of books (and had to wait that much longer for the second book in the series to come out). The intellectual opportunities were exactly what I needed.

I met wonderful people. I can honestly say I like all of my coworkers right now, something very important when only ten people are working together to run an entire store. Not to say everything was always hunky dory; we butted heads from time to time, but the counterargument was always an intelligent one.

We came out here with no family and no friends. Now, we're leaving behind a plethora of both - so many more than I realized, even up to yesterday. My bosses let us housesit for them multiple times, giving us a chance to escape our little apartment and hang out with furry friends, which we weren't allowed to have. One coworker taught me the finer details of Indian cooking and some of their culture, and is now Auntie to me. Another was there to discuss all the deeper issues in life, including religion and spirituality, and has become another grandmother.

It hasn't just been coworkers I've befriended, either. I discovered yesterday especially that many of the customers are sad to see me go. One, along with her daughter, gave me a beautiful silver box as a going away gift. A kid at Explorer's Club has given me tight hugs the last couple of weeks at each mention of me leaving. That especially gets me.

It wasn't just through work that I found friendship. Spousal Unit's friends in the anthropology program became my friends, too. The first one I met helped us find our apartment and gave us her bed when she moved (we'd been sleeping on a futon at that point). Another let us tear her home up every time we wanted to party (now that's love). Little outreaches from so many different areas have made us feel so loved and accepted in this strange place so far from home.

But the one thing I keep thinking, as I realize how much we're leaving behind here, is that even if we didn't intend to get too attached, life happens wherever you are, whether you make it or not.

I'm going to miss this place, and all the people in it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Questionable Driving Habits

When it comes to driving music, I have some simple requirements:

1.) I must be able to sing along, or at least hum loudly.
2.) It has to be slightly headbanging so that I have an excuse to bob in place.

A high school friend gave me a CD titled, "Don't Fall Asleep at the Wheel!" and it does a great job of helping me not do that. On the upcoming 19-hour-ish drive, I likely won't have anyone to relieve me, whereas Spousal Unit and I usually switch off.

So I've been devising some playlists that will make other drivers think I'm slightly crazy as I bob along and shout terrible inside jokes into my walkie talkie. (If you've never used one of those on a long drive, you're totally missing out.) Spousal Unit will get the iPod, as it no longer hooks up to my uber-cheap car stereo.

In a similar spirit to the previously mentioned CD, this one is titled, "Wakey Wakey."

One Night in Bangkok - Murray Head
Jungle Boogie - Kool & the Gang
Dog Days are Over - Florence & the Machine
Map of Tasmania - Amanda Palmer
Oh My - Gin Wigmore
Back to Black - Amy Winehouse
Naked Cousin - PJ Harvey
Love the Way You Lie - Eminem & Rihanna
Aenima - Tool
Woke Up This Morning - A3
Flagpole Sitta - Harvey Danger
Talk to Me Dance With Me - Hot Hot Heat
Brand New Day - Neal Patrick Harris
Thoughts of a Dying Atheist - Muse
Narcolepsy - Third Eye Blind
Hysteria - Muse
Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin

Yes, I ended up with Muse on there twice. Usually I shoot for one song per artist on each CD, but Muse is very good at making me be awake. I think this whole CD will do the job pretty well.

The companion CD will be titled, "Eggs and (Humanely Raised and Slaughtered) Bakey." It starts out a bit differently, with "Just Around the Riverbend" from Pocahontas.

The other item I require to stay focused while driving is something to occasionally munch on, to shake off the monotony. Especially once we're out of the mountains, and even more so in places like Iowa. (It's beautiful, but really, variety please!) My munchy of choice is strawberry Twizzlers. But I'll take cherry stuff if I'm desperate.

Usually by the end of a long trip like this, I can't even look at Twizzlers for several months because I get so sick of them. Yes, I love them, but I tend to... kinda go through a bag and a half over the course of the trip. Yes, very bad for me. But it keeps me focused and usually, I have about one small piece of chocolate every other day. So one day of nothing but high fructose corn syrup probably won't give me cancer.

Hopefully. Fingers crossed.

So next week, here's what you can imagine as I'm making the drive to Wisconsin: my car loaded down with all the crap I can't live without, as I (possibly the whitest girl you know) rap along with Eminem, while devouring Twizzlers like an artificial-coloring black hole and yelling Star Wars lines into a walkie talkie.

Bet you all feel so safe on the road now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Books I Want: Long May You Run and The Great Night

Lately I've really been wanting to start running again, in no small part because a friend is training for a half-marathon. It's really made me start itching to take out the shoes and do a few laps on the track.

Except I hate running on a track. Another reason I'm looking forward to being in the Midwest: I can run in the neighborhood again without fearing an excessive number of honks/weird cat-calling.

Anyway. The above book has helped stoke my desire to hit the pavement again. It's got all kinds of great motivational stuff, races to run, and the 25 best cities for runners (Madison is on that list, though what makes a good running city, I'm not so sure). It lists music to run to, the names of the weirdest races, and a page to make your own running alphabet, filling in each letter with something meaningful to you.

It's the kind of thing that, if I was having trouble getting motivated for a run, I could open it up and almost instantly feel inspired. Only problem is, it's $24. Oh, and we're moving, so we don't need any more books right now. (Except I keep getting them anyway...)

This one is a retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Three heartbroken people all wander into Buena Vista Park in San Francisco, home to Titania and Oberon (which actually makes a lot of sense to me). But their marriage has broken up after their adopted son died, and Titania has unleashed something evil.

I've always been a fan of that play, so something exploring that world really appeals to me. But again, this is a hardcover, and fairly expensive and heavy. So it will have to wait.

The Madison Public Library is going to be my new favorite place.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Camera Gone?

Over the weekend, in a night of drunken debauchery (okay, only one of those happened, but I'll let you decide which one), our camera mysteriously disappeared. This is bad in a couple of ways, the more pressing of which is that Spousal Unit needs it to complete data gathering on the skeletons for his thesis. The other way it's bad is that I can't take pictures for the blog if I have no camera.

So here are some random pictures I found online that are (supposedly) of New Mexico sunsets. The first one is in Santa Fe, the second is in Columbus. They are not my pictures.

Hopefully our prodigal camera will return before we move.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thanks For Coming. Now Leave.

Today, I'm entertaining you by making you go away. Below are a bunch of links to things I like that I think you'll enjoy, too.

My Three Favorite Webcomics
Girls With Slingshots - Snarky, crazy adventures of people without jobs who like drinking. Mostly a girl-centric comic.
xkcd - The tagline says it all: "A webcomic about romance, sarcasm, math, and language." One of the smarter comics out there. It feeds my inner geek.
Questionable Content - Okay, maybe everyone knows about all of these comics already, but they're good. QC is kind of like reading a romance novel by Douglas Adams. Lots of drama, but man is it weird sometimes.

My Three Favorite Blogs
The Bloggess - Lots of snark, this lady is a different kind of crazy. She has a picture of Wil Wheaton collating paper just in case she needs it. There's also lots of swearing, if you're averse to that kind of thing. Today's post involves her being beat up by a koala.
John Scalzi - His posts aren't quite normal lately, as he's on a book tour. But then one would argue his posts are never normal. The Big Idea is one of my favorites, where he has an author tell you why you should read his/her book. Plus other geekery and a peek into a successful writer's life.
Hyperbole and a Half - Random weird stories of the author's childhood/modern life, punctuated with Microsoft Paint images. Awesomely terrible images. Goes a while between updates, but it's usually worth the wait.

My Three Favorite Random Sites
Ravelry - Yes, you need an account to view anything. But when you sign up, you have a plethora of free knitting and crochet patterns at your fingertips (great ideas if nothing else). Plus, there are groups to join, forums to discuss things and ask questions, and a place to document all the great items you make. I'm on as monknit.
Goodreads - Pretty much like Ravelry for readers. Review your favorite/not-so-favorite books, see what friends are reading, and find out what to read next by viewing member-created lists. Most of the site's statistics are a little skewed toward the teenage vampire readers, but if you ignore that this is a great site. Find me by my email address.

Cake Wrecks / Postsecret - Okay, those two pretty much have nothing in common, but I look at both of them about once a week, so they tie. Cake Wrecks features crazy-awful cakes, with crazy-beautiful cakes on Sundays. Postsecret... if you don't know what it is, you need to. Go there.

Bye! Have fun!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The End

Because the world is going to end tomorrow, I don't have to worry about what I'm going to write next week. But because the world still exists today, I'll write about what would happen if the world was actually going to end.

I'm not a prophet. I'm just a humble 20-something with a keyboard. But you're welcome.

I have a feeling "the end of the world as we know it" won't just happen one day. It won't have a specific start and end date. More likely, it will be a gradual decline. The fact that Donald Trump is no longer in the presidential race is a good sign that the world will not end anytime soon.

At this rate, it's most likely this will happen.

Another possibility (one that I like much better) is that Star Trek: First Contact will come to life. Wars and general disrespect will make our planet suck, and we'll develop warp drive to get the hell out. Aliens will happen to pass by at the moment we test it. They'll come down to Earth to welcome us to the menagerie of intelligent life forms in the universe.

And then they'll realize they don't want us anywhere near them because we're way too destructive. So they'll blow us up.


The ship that was testing warp drive will get away, with one man, one woman, a tarantula, and a kiwi bird on board (they're from Australia). They'll head off to Betelgeuse, figuring to put some good distance between themselves, Earth That Sucked at the End, and the aliens responsible for obliterating humanity. And Betelgeuse, they'll discover, is home to another sentient alien species, one who is completely unaware of humanity's penchant for destruction and DOOM.

But these new aliens have an extra sense that humans don't. We can smell particular odors; they can smell death. And they know that these last two humans just came from a place where many voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly burned to a crisp. And the aliens will get suspicious.

These are benevolent aliens, though, willing to hear our travelers' stories. They listen patiently while the weary and heart-sore visitors explain their plight, managing to leave out the bit about why the other aliens destroyed the Earth. And so the last two humans are granted a safe place to stay on Betelgeuse IV (stupid aliens), in exchange for sharing their knowledge of Earth That Sucked at the End.

Oh, and recreating the human race.

Except the man, it turns out, is infertile, and the woman doesn't even have ovaries. Because Earth That Sucked at the End had so much radiation that most people had that problem.

And that is how the human race will end.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Making People Happy

Yesterday, I was in charge of a program for a class of 17 students who came to the bookstore.

I've done plenty of storytimes before, but never something on such a large scale, so I was way nervous. (That's where the dream about ballet and puppets and 200 parents came from.) I more or less reused an old storytime idea, but there was still the matter of the tour and a craft.

The class was from the Spanish immersion school, so when I said, "Good morning!" they all responded, "Buenos dias!" When I asked, "How are you all today?" they all responded, "Muy bien, y tu?" Not only was it very sweet, but it helped make me feel better. They were a well-behaved class from the start.

Having a couple of coworkers to help me was wonderful, too (especially since they both knew more Spanish than I). The kids were really excited about several things: they loved having a story read to them, they loved getting to make their own book for a craft, and they just about freaked when I told them they would get a gift card to take something home with them.

It really felt good to know I helped make them so happy during the course of that hour. That's the one thing I've loved most about my job: helping people pick out just the right book and seeing how happy it makes them. Now that it's time for me to get a new job, I don't know what to look for, other than making people happy.

I think I'm ready to try something new. I loved my internship at the press in Chicago, but there are no book presses in Madison. The internet has given me no good ideas. The only thing I've thought of is this: because I love helping people, maybe I should look for a non-profit.

I've tried the big museums in Madison. Nothing. I've only scraped the surface in the job hunt; I know there are plenty more places to try. I'm likely to find a job the way I always have before: walking up and down the streets handing out my resume to everyone I run into. Even the bum on the corner.

It makes me nervous to have to do it that way. I hope I don't have any more dreams about puppets.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm Not Exaggerating, This is Really What I Dreamt

Dear friends, family, and total strangers,

Today, I'm a little crazier than usual, what with the nightmares about ballet, puppet shows, and 200 rabid parents, so here are some alpacas out of nowhere!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Leavetaking by Eve Merriam

Vacation is over;
It's time to depart.
I must leave behind
(Although it breaks my heart)

Tadpoles in the pond,
A can of eels,
A leaky rowboat,
Abandoned car wheels;

For I'm packing only
A month of sunsets
And two apple trees.

I'm packing today. What are you doing?

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Beginning of All Things Geek, or Spousal Unit is Hot When He's Smart

My very first crush defined the rest of my life quite well, in that he was the geekiest kid in class.

I was in second grade and at a new school. I hadn't realized yet that in public school, with 40 kids in my new class and too few teachers to explain the golden rule, you got teased for being different. That hadn't been such a problem in my old school, where the most I got teased for was my new glasses.

But like I said, this was before I realized all that. As far as I was concerned, Mark was the dreamiest kid in class. And he had enormous glasses, just like me.

He was smart, too, especially where math was concerned. I think that was why I developed my little crush on him. I never really understood liking someone for their looks, even from age eight. To me, it was about discovering what was trapped in their devious little brain-cases and analyzing it, to see whether it was appealing or not. I didn't get what other people found attractive in certain looks - still don't in some cases. (Robert Pattinson? Really? Harrison Ford any day, please.)

Maybe it's just a matter of liking scruffy-looking scoundrels. Spousal Unit certainly has that look about him from time to time. But the one certain thing is that my taste hasn't changed that much since second grade: I like the smart ones. Seeing as we first bonded over Invader Zim, you could say neither of us are necessarily wise. But he's definitely smart.

Spousal Unit presented his proposal defense last Thursday. He was totally on his game for everything, and even maintained his composure for what other students told me was a major inquisition from the professors. He dazzled everyone with his wits, and he did it in a kilt. As one of our friends said, he can take major steps in life without an inseam (which sounds like a new "most interesting man in the world" commercial).

I've known since college (even if he didn't) that he would go on for a PhD one day. He's every kind of intelligent: not only can he learn the facts and analyze them, he's smart about social situations, practical matters, and pretty much everything else there is to be smart about.

The next step on the road to his Master's degree is to collect data from each of the skeletons in his set. In the fall, he'll defend his thesis and officially have two degrees.

We'll probably celebrate by playing an Invader Zim drinking game.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Things I'm Going to Miss: Scenery

I'm going to miss many things about New Mexico. One thing in particular is the weird beauty I didn't expect to find out here. When I first came to visit, I was expecting desolate desert and not much else. I forgot about mountains.

Mordor mountains (Spousal Unit saw these), in Las Cruces

I forgot about the Rio Grande, which is so much more amazing than this picture shows.

Though, this one does pretty good at showing how terrifying it is to look straight down from the bridge. (By the way, this is where Spousal Unit and I got engaged. Romantic, huh?)

I had no idea how beautiful a run-down pueblo could be before I came out here.

Taos Pueblo

I'd never seen a real cactus before, let alone one with fruit growing on it. They have a resilient beauty to them.

Just outside of Carlsbad Caverns

And I had no clue that Los Alamos really was that hard to get to. It's hard to get there even now, with a modern car. I can't imagine getting there with the old-school caravan they had to work with.

I also had no idea Los Alamos was so much more beautiful than just labs and test sites.

I'll definitely come back to this at some point. For now, at least I've got pictures and some wonderful memories.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Letter to Madison

Dear Madison,

Soon I will be in you.

If you recall, when I left Wisconsin to be with then-Boyfriend, now-Spousal Unit, I referred to the trip as The Great New Mexican Trial of Pain and Fury. Madison, I beg you: don't make me give the upcoming trip a dramatic, negative name.

If I give the upcoming journey a dramatic and negative name, I hope it will be entirely due to the low levels of sanity I already have in place, as observed below.

See, I'm even wearing a kerchief in this photo. And I liked it. This is a sign that my already fragile sanity is greatly diminished. This whole "change" thing that's coming up is bad for it, and my sanity is starting to say, "Waaaaait a minute... What are you doing? Where are we going? Why are you putting me in this box? Wait! It's dark in here! Let me out!"

For now, I'm ignoring it as best I can, though the pounding on that box in the hallway is rather distracting.

But seriously, Madison. New Mexico at least had the courtesy to hand me a job not long after I moved out here. Can I be just a little bit picky and ask that my first job back in Wisconsin doesn't involve shoveling poo? That would be much appreciated.

Another thing I would greatly appreciate is a job where I don't wonder if the customer who was just in the bathroom was shooting up or not. Actually, I'd rather not work with people. But I'm willing to do that in exchange for the "no poo" clause.

Hopefully, Madison, said job will only be necessary for about a year, before I start at the School of Writing Stuff and Awesomeness. So... if you could put a good word in for me over there, too, that would be spiffy.

I don't want to ask too much of you - I had a fairly nasty experience that time I asked Cthulhu for an extra favor, involving little things called fire and brimstone, so I know it's probably time for me to shut my mouth and accept my lot.

But I'd also really, really like a kitty.


Your partner in all things cheesy,


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

From the Archives: Variations on "Roses are Red"

As you all probably know, I like to buck the system from time to time. I especially enjoy this when it comes to a certain heart-infested holiday used to force consumers into purchasing as many obnoxiously sweet gifts as their little pocketbooks can afford.

So one year, I cut various organs out of construction paper and wrote these little diddies on them. And they were my Valentine's cards.

Written on kidneys

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I give vital organs
To no one but you!

Roses are red
Violets are not
My heart is beating
My kidney was not.

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Who needs two kidneys?
I'll give one to you!

Roses are red
I like my heart
It's very nice
And my kidney is not.
(The above kidney was drawn to have an eye patch and a knife.)

Roses are red
Violets are stupid
Here is my kidney
Instead of a cupid.

Written on spleens

Roses are red
Grapes can be green

I'm using my heart
So here is my spleen!

Roses are red
You need a joint
I need a heart
But a spleen has no point.

Rosen sind rot ~Roses are red
Veilchen sind nicht ~Violets are not
Ich brauch' ein Herz ~I need a heart
'ne Milz hat kein' Pflicht. ~A spleen has no duty.

Written on a sad heart

Rosen sind rot ~Roses are red
So ist mein Herz ~So is my heart
Ich gab es zu dir ~I gave it to you
Deshalb hab' ich Schmerz. ~And that's why I hurt.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sunset and Burning

This is a normal, beautiful New Mexico sunset.

This is a New Mexico sunset when wildfires are raging nearby.

The fire closest to us is only about 14 acres (at least, as of Sunday - they haven't updated it yet). But I'm sure all that smoke is from some of the dozen other fires blazing throughout the state, the majority in the south. One is over 32,000 acres in size. Another is over 20,000. Another is over 13,000.

Typically, our view to the Northwest looks like this:

Plenty of mountains to be seen, right? Last night, the same area looked like this:

You can barely tell they're there. That's not fog, ladies and gents. It's smoke.

If the state turns to ash, I'll let you know.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Something That Will Ultimately Make Me Crazy. The Real Kind of Crazy. With Voices and All That Jazz.

I have a new fabric arts goal.

(Yes, I suspected setting all that aside wouldn't last long. Or take at all. I just like crafting too much.)

I want to start knitting lace.

So far, the only thing lace-ish that I've knitted were my wedding gauntlets.

This picture belongs to MCM Photography

They turned out very nice. It took me until a couple of days before the wedding to finish them. Eventually I'll add the lace trim I started. But I want to make more things like them. And I found a gorgeous book to work my way up to.

Picture copyright by the people who did this book

This is definitely not a beginning lace book. You can tell from the size of that shawl on the cover. See how it's folded over? That thing is the size of the girl modeling it. It's enormous, and it's knitted on size 4 needles. Size 4, seriously.

Size 4 is about the size of the average twig on the ground. I used size 4 needles to make my niece's blanket several years ago and it drove me batty. Not to mention she didn't get the blanket (which was supposed to be a "Yay! You were born!" gift) until she was six months old. Uff da.

Picture copyright by the people who did this book

Here's another gorgeous project, called Peacock Tail and Leaf Scarf. Uber pretty. This one was done on size 3 needles.

I'm starting off a bit more simply. Yes, "simple lace" is kind of an oxymoron; my gauntlet pattern was 48 lines long. By simple, I mean I'm using size 13 needles, which are more like a good-size stick than a wee twig. I'm also using brown acrylic, so that if I mess up, I don't mourn the loss too badly. (I don't really do brown.)

Another project in the back of my mind involves using Järbo Yarn, which is mostly bamboo and acrylic. (And something else called bomull, which apparently means cotton in Swedish.) Järbo is what I used for my gauntlets, and I plan to use this royal blue stuff for a similar project. But this one will have little clear, iridescent beads. I'm excited to use beads.

Maybe someday I'll be able to actually set the yarn aside and focus full-time on writing. But I think it's more fun to mix it up a little. There are too many forms of fun creativity for me to just set them aside, especially when I like them as much as knitting and crochet.

Not too long now and I'll no longer have a job. This makes me sad. But I'll be using that extra time to my advantage. Half the time will go toward looking for jobs. The other half will go toward my creative writing. But I'll keep going with fabric arts the way I always have. At least until I have a job again.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Baking (and Growing Up) From Scratch

When I was little, I loved baking with my mom.

Mom always let me help add the ingredients and stir it up. I thought it was so cool that together, we could make something so delicious. It was always more sweet for getting to help her make it.

When I was about eight, I didn't understand what it meant to bake something "from scratch." I thought that meant you made up the recipe all by yourself - because to me, "from scratch" meant you started with absolutely nothing, not even a recipe. So one day, I decided to bake a cake "from scratch."

I don't remember if I followed along with another recipe, but I did end up with something that at least looked like a cake. I put in eggs, flour, milk, all that good cake-y stuff. I also added lots of chocolate, because when you're eight, a good cake needs chocolate.

I even made up the recipe for the frosting I put on top. I remember very clearly that the frosting had an entire bar of Hershey's chocolate in it, and once I put it on, it was about half as thick as the cake itself.

Talk about sugar overload.

We took the cake with to Grandma and Grandpa's that Sunday and I proudly dished out that Heart Attack in a Pan to all my relatives (who probably steered clear of my baking for a while after that). I don't remember what the cake actually tasted like - cake or a brick. I do remember eating it and thinking, Ew! There's way too much frosting on here! I think that was when I started to dislike chocolate cake compared to other cakes.

But Grandma thought I'd done a very good job, and Mom was proud of me for trying something new all by myself, and that was all that mattered to me.

That trend has continued throughout my life. Strong women in my family have loved, supported, encouraged, protected, and nourished me and my spirit, making me into another strong woman. I don't think any of the women in my life ever said, "Don't try that. You won't be able to do it." Instead it was, "Good luck! Try hard and you can do anything!"

The older I get (said the 26-year-old), the more I appreciate that loving push from those strong women. Many children dream of being something huge and amazing when they're little, but as they grow up and become more practical, that dream falls by the wayside in favor of something more attainable. But that hasn't happened to me.

When I was little, I wanted to write. When I was medium, I wanted to write. And now that I'm big, I still want to write. Though I'm more aware of how difficult it is to become a huge name in the writing industry, I still think I can be a well-known, successful author.

All it will take is some hard work and lots of love to support me.

Happy Mother's Day and a great big thank you to all the women who helped me become who I am.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Birds of Mulnar

*This is a myth from my novel, expanded for your enjoyment. Birds in Mulnaran culture are sacred; this myth explains why.*

Long ago, when humans still had their tails and the newly born world spun quickly in her path, the Great Heron looked down on creation with the waters of the earth in his eyes and sorrow in his heart. He was yet a god then, pleased with all he and the other gods had brought to life. But one new form had fallen away from them: mankind.

The Great Ape had given mankind their long arms and legs, to move quickly on land, or in the trees, or in the world's large waters. The Great Fox had given them brilliant minds, to create beautiful things and speak beautiful thoughts. And the Great Heron himself gave them a light in their spirits, for though man may never fly on his own, they would always look to the heavens and dream of being more than they are.

So did the gods bless mankind, and mankind was grateful. But much time passed, and things once passed from parent to child were slowly forgotten; the history of the world fell aside. Mankind recalled the Great Ape, who gave them their limbs and silent strength. Mankind remembered the Great Fox, who blessed them with knowledge and cunning. But their spirits were lost among the years in a rush of tears and darkness.

So did mankind revoke the Great Heron.

This god was benevolent in his understanding. The creatures he had blessed most had forgotten whence their blessings came, but he knew this was not their intent. The past is often forgotten, even now, because we are blessed with a multitude of happenings. And so the Great Heron did not punish mankind, who still remembered a heron was a sign of great blessings to come.

In time, these beings began to do unknowing evil. Being human, they sought nourishment, previously sought only on the earth and in the water, as taught by the Great Heron. But blessed as mankind was to look ever beyond themselves, they sought their food in the birds of the air, which in those days were still few.

These birds, blessed by the Great Heron to attain a different lightness, cried out to their creator. "Oh father of all birds," they begged, "your creation, mankind, takes us down from the sky to fill their bellies. Our numbers dwindle and they will destroy us if nothing is done. Protect your creation!"

Now the Great Heron dwelled over the water, where the whale-road stretched for miles in all directions. He heard the call of the birds from so very far away, and he traveled. From his flight high in the air, he saw a careless hunter down below, who took aim with his bow and shot the Great Heron. He shot the Great Heron, who had given him cause to look up in the beginning, when mankind was still new.

When the hunter realized what he had done, he was overcome with grief and sadness. The Great Heron told this man the history of creation again in the moment before his death, as gods are able to do, and the hunter was saddened at how much had been forgotten.

The Great Heron did not fall to the ground, as other birds had done. He was imprinted in the sky, a symbol in the stars to forever remind the hunter and his kind where they came from, so they would never forget again. And mankind vowed never to hunt the birds of the air again - for wasn't it their beautiful flight mankind sought for themselves?

So now does mankind remember the light in their spirit, and seek to become more than they are.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cat Talk

Have you ever listened to the way someone else talks to your cat?

I don't have a cat, but Sadie the Mistress of the Bookstore is pretty close. Customers are always amazed to see her when they come in, exclaiming, "Wow, look! A cat! There's a cat in here! It's a kitty! She's so pretty! Come here, kitty kitty. Aren't you precious?!"

I kind of want to strangle them.

It's all well and good to talk to a cat, but when people treat Sadie like she's less intelligent than a baby, I think she knows what they think of her. It's something in her eyes and the way she walks away from those people, tail switching self-righteously. She's saying, "I may be small and fuzzy, but even I know you sound like an idiot."

Yesterday there were two cases of this. One: a customer walked in the front door, and before even entering the store I heard him exclaim, "Woooooow! tk tk tk, kitty kitty kitty! Meeeeeooow!" and, hunched over, he ambled out of sight.

Clearly, Sadie was right there, but considering I couldn't see her, I thought he was "woooooow"-ing at the bulliten board in the foyer at first. Or possibly the dirty floor.

Another customer - for lack of a better name, Crazy Cat Lady - comes in on a regular basis - I swear - just to play with the cat. I've only seen her look at books once, and if she can't find Sadie immediately, she asks, "Where's the little kitty?" If I tell Crazy Cat Lady that she's napping upstairs in the boss's office, she will say, "Well, can't you go wake her up?"

No. No, Crazy Cat Lady, I will not leave the store to disturb Sadie from her nap just so you can play with her. First, how would you feel if someone came poking you in the middle of a nap and said, "Time to get up! A strange lady who smells funny wants to make you do acrobatics for her amusement!"

Eff you. That's how you would feel.

Second, I just can't stand to hear another person spout gibberish in Sadie's general direction.

"Sadie-cat! Hi, Sadie! Sadie-sue! Wook at da kitty! It's a pwetty kitty!"

In college, during my semester in Chicago, I took a class on recording and "found sound" in the city. We were given digital recorders to pick up weird sounds throughout the city. Sometimes you run across really cool sounds. Other times, people just say the most bizarre things and you want to record them just to prove to someone else that yes, people really talk like that.

There's something about the way people shoot their voices into the stratosphere around animals, and the way they mimick animal sounds, that makes me think, really? Do you really think that's more likely to make an animal come toward you? Do you think your horribly unconvincing "meow" will make the cat believe you're also a cat?

"Oh, that tall thing with no fur at all is meowing at me! It must be a very strange form of cat and not at all related to those other tall furless things I see all the time! I will now go be its friend."

This is not how a cat thinks. Cats are far too regal for that.

For all I know, when people meow at cats, they're saying something terribly insulting, like, "Got any crack to spare? I'm fresh out." I'm also guilty of meowing at cats, but I at least try to sound like a real cat instead of a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

I happen to think cats are smarter than babies, at least up to a certain age. They don't require baby talk.

And for the love of God keep your voice in a normal range.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Red Sky at Night, Sailor's Delight

Except these aren't anywhere near water.

Not too long now and my sunsets won't have mountains in them anymore. Enjoy them while you can!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Frigid New Month

Happy May! We've had some lovely weather this weekend.

Yes, that is snow. It snowed yesterday, May 1. But let me back up a bit so you can see the whole picture.

Friday was rather blustery, one of those "blowing cats around corners" days. The cats don't appreciate it, and neither do the people. Dust crawls in through every crack (especially when there's been no precipitation for three months). The internet goes out - I swear, when it's windy here, the internet goes down. No one wants to go anywhere for fear of being blown over. And I am always more grateful for my eyelashes (which I only discovered, when I came out here, serve more of a purpose than making my eyes look bigger).

Saturday was gorgeous. In Las Cruces.

Spousal Unit went down there to receive an award, and it was 90 degrees there. On the trip down, his adviser had to exchange his van for a rental car because the wind was so terrible.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I set up my little table for the craft fair in which I was partaking. In the shade. With a windchill that made it feel like 40 degrees. On April 30, in my sweater with a blanket wrapped around me, I was almost literally frozen. When I finally stood up, my legs were numb from the cold.

Luckily, friends saw me shivering in the corner and helped me move into the sun, then watched my table while I ran inside. I put on knee-high socks, boots, and thick pants under my skirt, plus I got a much thicker blanket. Then I went and sat in the sun for a couple of hours (still cold, but not as bad) until I decided to pack it in.

As I relaxed inside with a beer, I realized my face felt much warmer than it should after only half a beer. I hadn't been drinking it quickly, either. Inspection revealed that I had gotten sunburned, while sitting there wrapped in a blanket and sweater with boots and knee-high socks on. My nose, cheeks, and chin were burned, plus my wrists, hands, and first joints of my fingers (because I was crocheting as I sat there). I burned so badly in the cold that my nose has actually blistered.

That night, it snowed.

Spousal Unit took this picture when he got home at 2 a.m. The blur in the upper left is a single snowflake.

This isn't the first time I've seen it snow so late in the year. But it is the first time I've seen snow on May 1 in New Mexico.

The mountains got much more than we did, of course. It was nice to see their snowy caps once more before we move on out of here.

And we've finally had some precipitation. Maybe now my allergies will let up.

Wait, it's spring. Maybe not.

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