Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fuel for the Writing Fires

July has been rough. I won't be sad to see it go.

Nothing terribly big has made me feel this way; it's been the little things, one after the other. At times like this, I'm incredibly grateful for Spousal Unit, and to have the ongoing project of my novel to work on. Knowing that at least one part of my day will be the same has been very helpful and reassuring.

On days when I'm upset or discouraged, I've started saying to myself, "Let it be fuel for the fire, but let it be the right fire." I accept whatever I'm feeling and put it to work for me, using that energy toward my plan to become a self-sustaining author. Then I don't waste time endlessly grinding my gears and getting nowhere. (Or I waste less time, anyway.)

Which leads me to the update. I've finished reading the whole thing, beginning to end, and taking notes. I wrote down the facts that I included about each individual character, each city, the storyline as a whole, the timeline, and the most complicated bits of science fiction.

That was a lot of notes.

I read through the notes, starring the things I haven't included and need to, putting a question mark by the few things I have yet to decide. This notebook has been well loved, and will continue to be for several edits yet.

Yesterday, I began actually making the edits I wrote down. The physical copy of the novel is scribbled with things like, "Expand on this," or "Blerg - make this suck less." Now comes the task of going about that by re-engaging my creative brain and reminding it what the words are for, reminding it of the gorgeous flow of careful language. Each word is chosen with love.

I noticed, as I created a new file for this draft, that I began Draft 3 at the same time last year. I had a weird sense of déjà vu, then wondered what had taken me so long (oh, right - I wrote the other half of the book).

I think I'll be through this draft much more quickly than the last.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Solidarity Sing Along: The Arrest of the Peaceful

Sing-alongs have been happening at the Wisconsin capitol building since Governor Walker's disbanding of unions in 2011. For more than 700 consecutive weekdays, their purpose has been to gather in the rotunda, sing peaceful songs of protest, and gather strength from each other.

Walker apparently felt threatened by this and all of the demonstrations in the capitol, as he outlawed gatherings of 20 or more that did not have a permit--then replaced Madison's police chief, who wasn't enforcing the law, with his personal bodyguard.

This week, arrests have begun. This excellent article talks about the author's 80- and 85-year-old parents, who were arrested at the sing-along, where 22 people were in attendance. The next day, instead of the numbers decreasing, they went up - 29 citations were issued, and (as WPR put it) the remaining protesters sang louder.

I understand the point of needing a permit for a public gathering. But the capitol has always been a place for anyone to speak their mind, and the first amendment hasn't gone anywhere. These events have been entirely peaceful. This sing-along was beginning to dwindle, and I imagine it was an annoyance to Walker. So he's trying to stomp it with his iron boot. But he's miscalculated: Madison is pissed at him once again.

I doubt that the true reason for the arrests has anything to do with permits. (Mind you, I'm only basing this on everything I've seen Walker do in the last two years.) Chances are, with the impending gubernatorial election, he's trying to quietly sweep the dregs of former protests out the door, trying to impose a state of forgetfulness on the voting populous so that he can maintain his throne and continue to derail the state.

Governor: we have not and will never forget. You've pissed off the wrong people.

Sources and More Information
Why My Parents Just Got Arrested in Madison - Rebecca Kemble, The Progressive

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Letter from the Governor and a Senator

Remember that letter I wrote to Governor Walker? Well, I actually sent it to him, and I received a reply, too. It was something along the lines of, "Thanks for taking an interest in government. You should keep doing that, even though I really don't care what you think and am never, ever, ever going to actually read what you send me. After all, I'm just here to turn Wisconsin into the northernmost Southern state."

That might be an exaggeration. But it was definitely a form letter that is sent out to anyone and everyone who sends him letters. I realize he can't reply personally to everyone, but he could at least have that form letter tailored to certain issues.

Yesterday, I got a letter from Senator Jon Erpenbach.

Sure, this may also have been a form letter, but it was a form letter tailored to the issue of mandated ultrasounds and the bitch slap Planned Parenthood received.

I haven't followed senators or representatives that closely in the past (or at all, actually), but color me impressed by this guy. His letter makes a lot of good points, some of which I was unaware - I encourage you to click to enlarge it and read the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Eastern Sunset

Here's another shot I recently took of the sunset that wasn't pointed at the west. These clouds are in the east, spreading out like they're going to envelop the entire sky in radiance.

Later this week, I should have another update on the novel for you. I'm nearing the end of my read through and getting ready to make the changes - to improve the whole of it yet again.

I really hope someone besides me will enjoy this in the end.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Seven Moon Night

On Saturday night, the moon was nearing full, in clear view, and beautifully bright from our porch. But I noticed something strange as I came back inside and looked out the window at it: There were suddenly seven moons in the sky.

This picture is completely unaltered. This is how the sky looked through the double panes of the window, pulled open to let fresh air in. The moon reflected in the panes somehow; they even changed positions when I did.

Having seven moons might completely destroy the Earth as we know it, but man, it would be beautiful in the meantime.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Is Now Cat Day

Today's a good day for cat pictures, so that's what you're getting. Beware: the first one is a demon cat.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dear This Week, Please Shut Up.

This has been one hell of a week, and it's only Thursday.

On Sunday night, I got very little sleep. Monday morning, I learned that come September, I will be forced to work five extra hours a week for no extra pay, right after we had this extravagant remodeling done, when we were told there would be no pay cuts. (I hate being salaried, I hate sliminess, and I hate, hate, hate technical truths.) Monday afternoon, I either caught a cold or had a sudden onset of allergies that is still around now.

Tuesday was fairly mediocre, but on Wednesday, a coworker backed into my car and left a "dent" the size of both of my hands, spread out. He's covering everything, but this is already an obnoxious headache - plus the car is still new to us, since we've only had it for one year.

All of these things could be worse, of course. There are no layoffs happening, I don't have a flesh-eating virus, and my car wasn't hit hard enough to fall over the embankment and roll into other cars.

But that doesn't mean I don't have a headache from all the crazy.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fuzzballs in Tea Pots (and Cups)

Last night sucked. I woke up at least five times, including at 5:30, when I just drifted in and out of sleep for the rest of my sleepytime. The cats (and by the cats I mean Titania - I always mean Titania) ate the remaining plant we brought from New Mexico down to a nub. Yesterday came with a fair amount of suckage, and today's weather forecast is Sauna of Death.

So today, we all get to look a fuzzy things in teapots.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Happy Music to Combat the Crabby Blues

I recently added more music to my happy music playlist and discovered something amazing: a lot of songs from the '60s and '70s era are really happy.

Okay. Maybe it's not that amazing. But they're songs I hadn't given too much thought before - such as My Girl.

I've been going through a weird kind of slump lately - instead of just feeling depressed, I've been way too crabby for no good reason. This has resulted in the same kind of scenario as depression by itself does: I decide to stay away from people for their own good (though Spousal Unit's been the only one to suffer my ire; thanks for putting up with me, love).

I've been doing my best to combat that by hanging out with people anyway; the feeling fades for a while, but then returns. So I've been making an effort to turn off the news and turn on the happy music more often. It doesn't solve the problem, but it does give me a dose of happy, for however brief a time.

I Feel Good - James Brown

I Can See Clearly Now - Johnny Nash

Downtown - Petula Clark

Under the Boardwalk - The Drifters

Down on the Corner - Credence Clearwater Revival

Dear Prudence - The Beatles

And a few bonuses, from a different era:

Don't Stop Me Now - Queen

Walking on Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves

It's Your Thing - The Isley Brothers

Everybody - Ingrid Michaelson

Visit this earlier post for more happy music and ways to fight the blues.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Operation: Meat-Saucers

About eight months ago, before Spousal Unit and I had moved into the Batcave, my friend Stephanie had me try her vegetarian meatballs. They melted in my mouth and were incredibly meat-like - I was amazed and requested the recipe at once.

Then I promptly lost it in the move before I had a chance to make them.

Last week, while doing some cleaning, I finally came across the recipe again. Hurrah! Meatballs! (Yes, I could have asked her for the recipe again, but I kept forgetting about it. Like I do.)

My first batch turned out wonderfully except for two things. First, I skimped a little on the breadcrumbs (either that, or I added the right amount and the problem was that the eggs were the size of Texas - each). I ended up with meat-saucers instead. Tasty meat-saucers.

Which just makes me think of Space Meat.

Second, just before removing these from the oven, I turned on a burner for tea. But after I'd set these on the stove and they'd begun to cool, they started smoking and sizzling again. I was really confused until I realized I'd turned on the wrong burner.

Then I yanked the fresh-from-the-oven pan off of the burner. Without a hot pad. Ouch.

Aside from those tiny mishaps - which did not affect the taste - these were some amazing meatballs. Next time, I might add oregano and try decreasing the cheese, but that's just due to my inherent nature to mess with things.

Vegetarian Meatballs
3//4 c. walnuts
1 c. breadcrumbs
2 c. shredded cheddar (I used sharp cheddar)
1 envelope onion soup mix
4 eggs

Mix walnuts and breadcrumbs in a food processor. In a large bowl, combine mixture with remaining ingredients. Chill for half an hour.

Roll the goop into 1-inch balls and place on a sprayed cookie tray. If the goop seems too goopy, mix in a few more breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Store the meatballs in the fridge or freezer for later, or add them directly to the spaghetti sauce and cook on low for half an hour. Makes about 30-35 meatballs.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Looking Away from the Sunset

Sometimes, we look so studiously toward the sun for bright colors and an astounding display of nature that we forget to look at the clouds all around. They are often the most beautiful parts of the sunset, the clouds at our backs, splayed with lily orange to the East.

Today, look for beauty in strange places. That tree you drive past every day - doesn't it have the most amazing bend in one branch? When was the last time you noticed the flower pots downtown? Keep an eye out for a shade of green that makes you dreamy-eyed, or a parent and child having the most fun of their lives.

Let that be your anchor for today.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Garage Sale Win

On Saturday, I was an excellent shopper - an unusual occurrence. I found the watermelon mint iced tea I've been wanting, despite the fact that it wasn't with the other teas. I found a nice cushion for our wicker patio chairs, which are coming unraveled; the cushion was on clearance because one of the ties was broken. (I'm not planning to use the ties, but if that changes, I can sew, yo.)

After that, I decided on a whim to hunt for a garage sale. Being a Saturday in July, it didn't take me long to find one. The people were incredibly nice, and I immediately found a gorgeous piece that I liked: a white entertainment stand, with double-decker drawers that pull out. The lady commented on how much she liked my outfit (a skirt, tank top, and shawl), which was very sweet of her.

I paid and went home without it, planning to return on Sunday because Spousal Unit was off with the bigger car. Later in the evening as I was going for a walk, a truck randomly pulled up beside me. It was the couple running the garage sale.

"I said we better pull over, because I recognized the pretty lady who came to our sale!" she exclaimed, very bubbly. "I set aside that cabinet for you; see you tomorrow morning!" She waved and off they went.

It was rather strange, but also very nice. It's not every day a stranger calls you pretty without being creepy about it.

The next morning, Spousal Unit and I looked around for a while. I wore shorts and a t-shirt, since I would have to move things around, and had pulled my hair back. (Translation: I looked rough.) The cabinet was set off to the side, just as she mentioned.

"Is it alright if I go over there and show him the cabinet?" I asked the lady, not wanting to intrude on her yard.

"Actually, that's been sold already!" she said.

"Yes, you sold it to me!"

Her mouth fell open. "Oh, gosh, I didn't recognize you! You were so fancy yesterday!"

The truth was, I'd worn my rattiest skirt on Saturday.

"I'm a person of many faces," I said honestly.

We took home the cabinet...

A cassette/CD/record/stereo/MP3 player...

And a fun piece of musical art for $19.

Garage sales are the best.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cloudy With a Chance of Sunset

It's one of those days already. I had yesterday off, have to work today, and am looking forward to the weekend already. I was randomly awake and couldn't sleep for an hour last night. And it doesn't help that last night, Spousal Unit did the thing where he sneakily kept refilling my wine when I wasn't looking, thereby making me drink an entire bottle by myself. 

I usually have only one glass. Per week. Food does not seem like the best thing in the world this morning, nor am I very smiley at that guy.

Needless to say, today is going to feel very long indeed. So here are some fluffy clouds and a sunset for you to enjoy. Have an awesome weekend.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Collage, Craft, Color

Last weekend, I finally didn't have to go anywhere. It was glorious to not sit in the car for hours, waiting to arrive at some distant destination. It meant I got to clean the house a little and have time for fun things like art.

I discovered a pile of old fortunes that I'd kept in my wallet. There were nine that were clearly happy and positive, so I decided to arrange and frame them.

I have an old dictionary for art purposes, so I tore out the page with the definition for fortune and applied a layer of green watercolor paint. After it dried, I used double-sided tape to attach the fortunes, drew on it with marker, and mounted the whole thing on a piece of cardstock. I love how it turned out. (Click to enlarge and read the fortunes!)

Continuing that trend, I painted several more dictionary pages with watercolors and cut them into squares after drying. I folded each to look like this little guy, again using double-sided tape to hold it all together.

After taping the folded squares into a circle, I found some white pipe cleaners (green would have been ideal, but white will work), threaded a cameo button to the middle, folded the pipe cleaner in half, and pushed the pipe cleaner through the center of the blossom. Now I have permanent flowers for my desk at work, which I will put in a clear jar full of colorful rocks. (This isn't the tutorial I used, but I think it's the same general idea.)

Last but not least, I did some coloring with a friend while watching The Neverending Story. All told, it was a pretty awesome weekend. And it was fun to put my art on the fridge.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Why Dirty Food is Good Food

I love salads.

For those of you who may not know, this is a new development. Last year - our first CSA - I was over  the leafy greens by box number 3. Salads were boring and obnoxious to assemble for so little reward - healthy, but not worth it. I'd rather have had a bowl full of lima beans.

(That's totally an exaggeration. I will never want a bowl full of lima beans.)

I think the reason I disliked salads so much last year was the cleaning process. The great thing about fresh veggies all summer long is that they're picked in the field mere hours before arriving at your door, chosen lovingly by a farmer who is battling things like flash flooding and windstorms - and therefore, dirt and sand. But I wasn't used to using more than a dash of water to clean leaves, and I didn't really have the means to do it well.

Don't get me wrong. I love that my food comes to me with a little dirt on it. It speaks to the freshness, to the recent close contact with the earth and each item's careful (or harried) harvest. I recently tried to buy potatoes from the grocery store and I was terrified to find little red tubers without a spot of dirt or single grain of sand. Maybe they've always looked like that in the store and I never noticed, but it's just wrong. Something that grew in the dirt but looks that smooth and clean in the store must have had unspeakable acts of cleanliness performed on it with a dozen bottles of laboratory-wrought solution approved by a  mad scientist.

Clean potatoes are evil potatoes.

By that logic, dirty salad is heavenly salad. So this year, I broke down and spent $25 on one of these.

This tiny salad spinner has been a lifesaver. I use the bowl itself to swish the leaves around in water, and I'm amazed at the sand that collects on the bottom. I spin the leaves (which has yet to get old), and I have a salad ready to eat, thanks to my farmer's wonderfully assembled salad mixes. I also love throwing in sorrel, milkweed pods, some red pepper, and a pinch of cheese (this is Wisconsin, doncha know). I've had salad for lunch every day since starting the CSA, and I don't think I'm going back to yogurt anytime soon.

Thank goodness. I'm so over yogurt.
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