Thursday, August 31, 2006

No kindergarten this year

This year, because my daughter turns 5 in the Fall, I thought she'd be entering kindergarten. But, alas, that's not to be. Because she won't be five as of 19 minutes from now, as I type this, she has to wait until next year.

Meanwhile, I'm told to enroll her into preschool.

Ouch. I feel like my daughter is being held back a year in school. That's pretty much what it is!

Two preschools were suggested to me. One of them has a program set up for her to attend at $93 a week.

Now here is my question: WHY do they charge to have a child in preschool? It's NOT a private school. It's just, a preschool.

It doesn't make sense.

NONE of this makes sense.

At least there is Head Start. If I can't work something out with this school, looks like she'll be attending Head Start instead.

I'm still NOT happy that the preschool charges for attendance. That just shouldn't happen. I want my child to attend an elementary school, not college. Well, at least they're not asking for the ... "college rate."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Talk and repeat

Often, when I'm talking with my neighbor, he'll ask me to repeat something I've said (unless our conversation is on a sheet of paper). I sometimes ask if there's too much noise either in his house or from traffic outside, but one of the reasons he'll ask me to repeat something is because I don't talk loud enough.

That's actually been a common problem of mine.

I once got into the habit of speaking "loudly," even though I didn't know if my voice was loud enough. And sometimes I'd have to ask people if they heard me or if I said something loud enough. Sometimes I'd repeat something I said because I'd think I didn't say it loud enough the first time, and I'd get a dirty look because people thought I was being moody or pushy. (I'd politely explain that I am deaf and I didn't know if I spoke loud enough the first time.) And then there were the many times when, if someone was with me, they'd discreetly let me know to speak louder and there was that understandfing that if I didn't know if I was speaking loud enough.

My mom once told me that after I lost my hearing, she would constantly encourage me to use my voice as much as possible. She had heard that people who became deaf often stopped speaking since they mostly relied on ASL to communicate, anyway, and their voices sort of "diminished" because they didn't use it often enough. I rarely, if ever, stopped speaking even when I was using ASL. Oh, sure, I would sometimes mutely sign to friends in high school, but mostly if it didn't make sense to talk, anyway (like once when we communicated through the windows of a bus). But I didn't stop speaking even when I signed. After all, I'd lipread interpreters in high school, and it was because of the fact that they spoke as they signed that I learned certain signs for words faster.

Admittedly, though, it can be difficult, lipreading someone AND looking at the signs at the same time. When I'm at church, that's pretty much what I do. My interpreter will speak as she signs to me. All the same, a lot of people who are deaf don't speak while they sign. I mean, if the person they are signing to understands them, they don't really need to speak. However, when a hearing person signs to me, he/she usually speaks as she signs. And I usually rely on the lipreading most of the time (that's pretty much relied on ever since I've lost my hearing -- that and written communication).

Still, I obviously have a hard time speaking loud enough. Just today, while my daughter rode the bigwheel that belongs to my neighbor's daughter, I called out to her, "Did you have fun with Kristi today?" She came up to me and asked, "What did you say?"


Yes, I live on a busy street. But there weren't any cars driving by. And I thought I had called out to her loud enough. Obviously, I hadn't.

Obviously, talking louder is something I still need to work on. Again.

Monday, August 28, 2006

"Dawn needs..."

I saw a bulletin today suggesting you type your name and "needs" into Google and repost the list with the first thing that comes up.

While I tried this with someone I was chatting online with, I brought up a blog post where someone with his name listed a bunch of his results.

Now since I've forgotten what I was going to post on here today, I figured, "What the hell."

Note: I kept out the repeats.

Dawn needs....

Dawn needs a reality check

Dawn needs a tripod

Dawn needs an energetic and fun style to suit her personality

Dawn needs money

Dawn needs better WPWF work

Dawn needs to get over herself

Dawn needs to be as mature as Buffy was once she started slaying

Dawn needs to know where she came from

Dawn needs to firm up her group’s flextime options

Dawn needs to employ technical and marketing support to maximise the website

Dawn needs a process for expenditures; invoices and receipt system

Dawn needs me.

Dawn needs to develop more speed endurance

Dawn needs to learn to deal

Dawn needs some man on man action!

Dawn needs to resign

Dawn needs to be an equal partner in the planning of this event

Dawn needs to improve her vocab

Dawn needs to get out of the house

Dawn needs to adopt a tech ranger

Dawn needs to stop that before it bites her in the a$$.

Dawn needs the participation of every jurisdiction in targeted metropolitan areas and States

Dawn needs to find her inner woman

Dawn needs a GOOD makeup artist

Dawn needs to be the only or youngest child

Dawn needs to clone the dogs

Dawn needs to work an hour a day on modules.

Dawn needs quiet.

Dawn needs a whiskey sour to share with her elder daughter

Dawn needs his help

Somebody else has done this, too, on here:

The difference between my list and hers is that she got "Dawn needs you. She loves you."

I do.....

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Finding a "virtual" home

An article I read in the newspaper once prompted me to write about the whole "buying online" issue. The article was about people using Web sites to buy a new home. They were talking about how they were trying to AVOID using a real estate agent, paying commissions and all that, but when one couple shared how they "bought" a home online then went out to see that it didn't exist, that's what got me writing about the whole "buyer beware while shopping online" thing. I haven't SOLD this article yet (it's not even TYPED; I wrote it in my notebook at the laundromat), but I have been thinking about it a lot lately, because I'm planning to move.

Yes. Again.

This time, however, I'm not looking for a new place to live in Oregon. I have my sights set on the Bay area. I miss California; I am kidding myself if I think I'm not. I'm a California girl! I gotta be back on my home turf! There's actually a plan put together where I can make living out there happen.

My best friend (who I have known for half of my life and I consider his family my "second family") is helping me out. Well, kinda. LOL I only HOPE he'll drive the truck!!

Anyway. He suggested I look at the site Craigslist to find a new place to live. And that's why I'm thinking about that article a lot.

Am I really willing to rely on that kind of method to find a new home? What if I "find" one, get all packed up, get a truck loaded, we drive out there, and there's NOTHING there??

Add to this the fact that I've heard MANY horror stories of false listings on Craigslist. I mentioned this to my friend and he said that you can tell if a listing is bad by a negative posting about it. He also said that, given his work keeps him SO busy, he's had to rely on the site to find an apartment, as well. So the both of us are pretty much using the same thing to find a new home. (The only difference is, HE can go out and look at a place before committing any money to it; I can't.)

I'm not going to just throw any kind of deposit towards the first listing that looks good. I'm going to be careful about this. I mean, I have checked out what's on there, but I'm staying in touch with my friend and asking about listings before I move any further ahead with it.

I have had negative experiences of shopping online before, but NEVER have I entertained the idea of using the Internet to find a new place to live. This kind of is a little compromised; I can't drive out to see a place before I sign anything. But at least I know to be extra careful and maybe I can visit with everybody out there while checking out any listings which may seem promising.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I will not freak

The other day, something happened that sort of...freaked me out. I'm not going to give specifics nor will I go into who I told about this and what they said I should do. Let me JUST say it was something completely out of the ordinary and something that had my guard up just a little bit more.

But I DID freak when it happened. This has NEVER happened to me before. And the person I told it to (who I have known, and worked with, for years) freaked, as well. She suggested I call the police. On the other hand, someone else I told thought that maybe there was a good intention behind it.

I mulled over what to do. It kills me that I don't know who did this, but that's okay. Sometimes, we just DON'T get answers to things that happen to us in life. I thought about..."closing up shop." Never, ever doing ANYTHING online for a loooong time. But was that really the kind of reaction I was prepared to follow through with? Was that the way I would react to something like this?


I won't let it faze me. I won't let it scare me, although at first it did! But I refuse to live in fear. And I'm not going to live in fear. I have already convinced myself that, because of what I do, there will be crazy things like this happening. I really don't think it's because of what I do. I have no idea why it happened. But, I'm not going to be afraid.

"I will not freak." This has become my mantra. No matter what happens. I won't "run away and hide." I won't wave a white flag or stop writing the stuff I write.

Everything is going to stay the same. I'll just live like I always have, and not let something like this knock me down.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The little visitor

My daughter usually goes next door to play with my neighbor's kids (there are 3 of them, aged 3, 6 and 7). I've often been over there, too, but mostly when there's just ONE adult over there busy as it is and I didn't want the full burden of ONE MORE child to watch to be on his/her shoulders. I have made it clear that they're always welcome to come over, too, but today was the first day any of them came over just to visit. This happened when my daughter came home with the youngest child, Lilly, in tow. My daughter, Jennifer, previously had set out her dollhouse and a toy vacuum cleaner to play with, so they sat on the ground to play with that. Even though I had a headache, I didn't mind watching them. After all, they've already watched Jennifer on plenty of occasions. It's only expected I return the favor.

The children soon became bored with the toys; they wanted some good clean fun. I smiled as I watched them try to climb BOTH trees in front of my house, remembering how I was ALWAYS climbing trees when I was a kid. (Shoot, what's childhood WITHOUT climbing trees??) But all the same...I started to worry, too. What if Lilly fell and hurt herself? And then her mom came charging at me, screaming bloody murder?


My smile disappeared and I became nervous, watching them with a careful eye as they climbed. I told them not to swing on a branch on one tree, but with the other, they seemed to be okay and KNOW not to do anything reckless to try to get higher.

At least, that's how it looked.

I scanned my memory for any articles I might have read about what to do to make sure kids visiting at your home don't get hurt, and maybe it was my headache, but I couldn't remember anything. (I made a mental note to check the 'Net.) But coming from a family of 7 kids...well, I already KNOW that kids are gonna get hurt no matter WHAT you do to prevent it. I mean, you could turn your house into Fort Knox and they'll STILL find a way to get hurt. (Unfortunately, my daughter is the adventurous sort. The many scrapes and bruises she has attests to the many times she's fallen off of her scooter after trying a stunt or slipped when trying to climb the tree or fallen while running through the house.) You can watch them and watch them, but it seems like no matter WHAT you do, kids still manage to get hurt.

Still, I'd do everything possible to make sure a young visitor can't get hurt. I'd admonish them not to jump on beds, keep scissors and knives put up, and check on them often to make sure they weren't trying to mix a homemade version of dynamite, or something like that. (Ha!) I am still going to look up articles on this type of thing, and maybe talk with some other parents on how to handle this situation. (There are still things about parenthood that I just don't KNOW!) Maybe that will help me to figure out the best ways to ensure visiting children don't get hurt so easily (at least!), and make me rest a little more at ease while I watch them at play.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I can't win!

So for this new "enterprise" thing that's going on with me and someone (someone I KNOW but won't reveal the name), I have to have a picture of myself on the Web site. I tried to fix one my daughter took (using PhotoShop to clear it up a little) but I couldn't clear it up ENOUGH and so another photo was asked for. So when I had a free moment, I grabbed the digi cam and shot another one. Up until then, I debated asking someone next door to take the shot for me, but, eh, didn't want to bother them. So I took it.

And I thought it was a DECENT picture. Really, I did.

This was the feedback I got: "You look p----- off."


Actually, that's a common reaction I get to SOME pictures of myself I have shown online.

But...I TRIED to smile for this one. I really did. I smiled a LITTLE bit. Or so I thought.

Good "smiling" pictures of me were taken by my daughter. Like the one on my dmcwriter site and my default pic on my MySpace. THOSE pictures have me smiling. A little. LOL But I'm trying to get something RECENT. Those pics are from May and my hair has grown a little since then. (FINALLY, it is starting to grow back!)

But so far we have a "strike 2" on the photo for this site. I will try AGAIN but I just MAY seek out someone to take the pic for me. (Oh, Nicoooole.) I COULD ask my daughter to try again, if she can get one that isn't all blurry or whatever. That would make me smile, because I'm smiling for her. Or I for someone I could PRETEND that is there. *chuckle* I don't know. It's not like I'm smiling 24/7. I DO smile sometimes...but not all the time. Hm, maybe I can try remembering that one time my sister scared me so bad one night and her boyfriend fell down the front steps laughing so hard. Hahaha. Or, something like that.

Oh, and he wants me to dress up for this pic, too. Get all professional-like. Yuck.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Facing the beast

So I need to learn Web design. Or, should I say, "relearn" it. I started trying to learn how to design a Web site using HTML a long time ago, then just.... drifted from it. But a new "enterprise" of sorts with someone I know has made me face that monster called Web design, and LEARN it.

I really don't know where to begin. As it stands now, I'm creating a site using a free "site design" host, and this one is just SO different from Tripod, it's like treading new ground.

That's the feeling I'm getting with learning how to design a site.

Someone I know is helping me create an author site. She's doing the bulk of the work (because she knows how!) but I asked her to teach me how to do it, too. You know the saying: "Give someone a fish, you feed them for a day. Teach them how to fish, you feed them for life." It's kinda like that saying. I want to LEARN this stuff, and not have everybody else do it for me. Or rely on the "free site design" sites.

Another person I know encouraged me to check out Front Page. For all this time, it's just been...STARING at me. And making faces. She also sent me a "crash course" of an HTML tutorial. I need to spend more time going over BOTH things, just to become familiar with them.

I don't see Web site designing in my future. But it's a nice thing to learn -- and know.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The "writing while online" blues

Last night I was up laaaate. And since it wasn't my daughter keeping me up (actually, I was alone), I started writing. This happened to come about when I was online, chatting with an editor I know. I started going between Word and (ISP), chatting here, writing there. Then I happened to get too distracted with the writing. By the time I went back to the ISP window, I was dismayed to see I'd been logged off! (I wasn't really angry about it; just worried the editor thought I rudely logged off without saying goodbye. We usually do the "good morning" and "goodnight" thing when we catch each other online.)

Apparently, I'd been logged out due to inactivity. (I'm not going to say which ISP it was because I don't want to be sued for defamation, but you can probably figure out which one it is! As the editor told me the next day, this particular ISP is the ONLY ONE that logs users out after a few minutes of inactivity. Gee, and you wonder why it's so unpopular!)

Well, this ISP I use isn't exactly a writer's friend! There are so many times I'll start writing something while I'm online, but sometimes I'll be going back and forth because I'm using email interviews and Web sites for research. But, I have also been writing while logged on and had my Away message on, warning everybody on my Buddy List that "The muse is upon me!"

For the longest time, I've wanted to get a new ISP. Sooo many people have been hammering it into me. But the truth is, funds are REALLY TIGHT right now. (I MIGHT have this paying gig coming up, and HOPEFULLY I will get it and HOPEFULLY it will bring in enough where I can get better Internet access.) It's definitely on my "to do" list. I haven't been happy with this ISP for a long time.

Today, I started writing while logged in again. And instead of trying to fix the article that was going nowhere, I just closed it and decided to work on it later. When I'm offline. I DID manage to get other writing done today, though. All offline. :P I also drew something, too, and at least the drawing is done offline, anyway, so I don't have to worry about getting knocked off if I happen to get too busy with even THAT.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I want to scream

My ex is letting me drive one of his cars because mine isn't running very well. (He has three.) Plus, I no longer have car insurance on my car because I fell behind on the payments and they cancelled it. (It's going to take me 200-some odd dollars to reinstate it.) So, I've been driving one of his cars.

And, it died tonight. Right as I was parking it!! Thankfully, it was after 1 a.m. so traffic was minimal on this busy street I live on. So I'm sitting in the car, parked crookedly alongside the curb, cursing and grumbling. My repeated attempts to start it again fail. My neighbor's ex-girlfriend comes over to find out what happened. Thankfully, she and some friends had been sitting on the porch, smoking and talking. I explain my situation, stumped over WHAT is wrong with the car. (I am CLUELESS with these things.) She and the friends offer to help push it to where I have it DECENTLY parked along the curb. It blocks my half of the driveway but at least it is parked where it isn't halfway in the street!

Grrr!!! I'm SO FRUSTRATED. Just ONE more thing that I needed!!! And I am supposed to show up for an appointment on Monday to fill out paperwork for getting a job. ARGH!!!


Oh why.

OH WHY??!!!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Second world

I heard there's a site on the 'Net that gives users a "second life." Something a VR thing.

Me, I'd rather have a second world to live in. And, I do, with the writing. But it's also a part of my "virtual world." I.e., the Internet.

I have received SO MUCH criticism for being online so much. My defense is, I have a lot to do. Which is true! I wear...many hats. LOL Sometimes I think TOO many! Ack! But it's been a productive week. We're wrapping up Skyline (finished editing material for it), I fixed up and submitted a short story, I've submitted a few articles, a few queries, submitted an essay to a magazine, and started to work on my next assignment for SIGNews. And, oh, yeah, I've been BLOGGING. LOL There is that....

What the Internet ultimately gives me, though, is an easy way to communicate with others. With the Internet, I don't miss out on things people say. I interact with people sooooo easily (no more of that "what did you say?" or "can you write that down?"). And, as can be seen, it's given me a way to work as a writer. Almost every single method of my communication with editors and publishers is through e-mail. Same goes with other writers and authors I know. I have asked about phoning them a time or two, but the concept of a relay call never went over very well. Heh. I HAVE, however, telephoned some editors, publishers and printers. And I'd always hear some kind of reaction or another over the relay-call experience.

Yup. The relay calls. I don't have to worry about the cost of a long-distance phone call, either, because I use the Internet to make them. The relay calls are a part of my world. The deaf world. And now that deaf world has been integrated into my "virtual world." I still have to explain to others that I can't hear an audio file or can't participate in a teleseminar because I am deaf, but, for the most part, it has worked out really well. And telling an editor I'm deaf doesn't put a dent in my chances of landing a deal with them or working with them. Some editors have actually responded with curiosity.

I know one blind writer who uses the Internet to build her writing career. Yes, she is a writer who is blind. That desire to write transcends ALL limitations. Every one. And we have both talked about how the Internet really does make our "work life" easier. We don't have to worry about missing a call, because we KNOW people will email us instead. We don't have to worry about people feeling uncomfortable around us; they can't see that we are blind or notice that we are deaf. To every one else, we're just another "person" online.

Now, admittedly, ALL of the things I do, combined, take up a lot of time. I'm constantly jumping out of my chair to tend to one thing or another my child needs done. I don't spend all day online; I'm just on and off a lot. But I DO stay connected, because, really, the Internet is also my PHONE! LOL And if I want to make a phone call, I don't want to have to wait for the computer to boot up. Ugh. But, anyway. Yeah. I need to figure out how to space things out so I don't have TOO much online stuff to do every day. I said in the beginning I might be posting on this blog every day but, really, I can't. LOL My brain is ALWAYS coming up with more stuff to write, more stuff to blog. That's where the convenience of pen and paper comes in. (Though, admittedly, being a divorced mom means my free time to write is a little...compromised.) But it won't kill me NOT to post it here. Sometimes I will, sometimes I won't. And I know I promised the mods at the Absolute Write Water Cooler I'd show up every day, but... I don't think I can do THAT, either.

I have a lot of book projects going on. Some of them involve doing research on the 'Net. The 'Net is also how I find magazine guidelines, book publishers and literary agents. It's also mini-educational segments where I can read articles on writing/publishing, as well as picking up on new ideas, news items in general and even a tasty recipe I wouldn't otherwise find. It's how I learn how to FIND someplace out here (usually LOL) and what kinds of schools and businesses there are that I can't find in the phone book. It's also my way of staying in touch with my family in California; sometimes we'll chat through IM or send emails back and forth. There is no way I can receive phone calls here (unfortunately; that is ONE downside about Internet relay) so they email me, instead. Or chat. The Internet is also how I network with others -- and, really, the BEST WAY for me to do it. I can't understand people talking very well in real life!

And, it's where I "work." I got my SGNews job through the 'Net. It's still how I maintain it.

On one hand, I wish people who criticize me, who judge me, would just spend ONE DAY in my shoes. It's hard when you are deaf. REALLY hard. And, I have this HUMONGOUS drive to keep at it and keep at it to stay on top of the writing game. To keep my name OUT there. My fault, I know. Of course I interact with real people from time to time (like with dr. appointments and at church, etc.), but most of them have to write what they say on paper or have someone sign for them. Here online, no such thing is needed. And that's almost like a paradise for me. Almost like STILL communicating with people, without even being deaf at all.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Taking things up a mega-notch

Today while my daughter visited Playland, I sat in a nearby dining area, drinking some Dr. Pepper and reading the September, 2006 issue of Popular Science Magazine. What made me pick it up was their feature story about robots, but as I paged through it, I came across another VERY interesting story, one highlighting how technology is being used to fight terrorism (it's titled "Technology vs. Terrorism"). It pretty much spelled out technological advances in preventing another terrorist attack. While informative, the article made me wonder one thing: Just what exactly are all these extra-special security enhancements REALLY doing, perotecting us or forcing us to live in fear?

Prior to 9/11, security measures were lackadaisical at best, cautious at worst. Despite terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, we never imagined 9/11 could happen. That's why it didn't take as long as it does now to get on a flight. That's why once upon a time we were able to stow a letter opener or bottled water in our carryon case. But no more. Since the attacks, America has gotten radical about playing it safe. The Department of Homeland Security has taken one extreme move after another, and even companies on a local level are making sure nobody gets in carrying something suspicious. (Sadly, profiling has taken a hard hit, but that's for a whole nother blog post.) Some may argue such extreme measures are a little TOO extreme, while others just shrug it off and say the standard "I'd rather be safe than sorry." (You will notice, in fact, A LOT of people are saying it.)

In some cases, these extra security measures are indeed a little extreme. But you have to ask yourself what chances a terrorist has now in bombing another plane. The skeptic will answer, "Oh, they'll find SOME way to do it!" while the optimist will approvingly respond with, "Things are better now."

This is, above all else, the "bigger picture" in a post-9/11 world. It's not about living in fear; it's about living in a more SECURE country. Sure, some people might think the terrorists are having the last laugh. "Look at them, too afraid to just walk through a door without having to have their eyes scanned." But the reality is, this whole revamping of security is a step up in preventing terrorist attacks. What 9/11 did wasn't destroy us; it only made us stronger, smarter and braver. It made us see these guys have a WAY of getting in, and now it's up to us to make sure that doesn't happen again.

There are, of course, downsides to this picture. The other side of the coin is that innocent people get WRONGLY ACCUSED of being a terrorist -- or even a POSSIBLE terrorist. If we do a Google search on any "red flag terms," we get arrested and our computer gets seized. We're interrogated for hours, often mercilessly, and our psyches are forever tarnished with this harrowing experience of nearly being imprisoned for treason. Or worse.

Yes, there is a dark side to this new world we live in. But maybe the bright side is one worth pursuing. Maybe it's actually GOOD better security measures exist. That not just ANYONE can do ANYTHING that could hurt others or even mass-slaughter more innocent lives.

That's the real benefit of tightened security measures. We're not drones having our iris scanned, our inked fingers being identified and our clothes scanned. We're pioneers in a country that's a better fighting force, a better defensive field, and a harder shell to crack in the war against terrorism.

Monday, August 14, 2006

This really happens?

You've seen it in movies and on TV: People getting in to some place or seeing someone because they have an "in." The person they wouldn't NORMALLY get to hang with because of celebrity status or the magazine they have a very slim chance of getting into without knowing someone who works there.

I am beginning to see that in real life. That's happening with me. I'm back to editing with Skyline Literary Magazine, which went under last May. We are, however, making a comeback. I put the word out to a bunch of writers I know to submit, and it seems that if I say "he's a friend" or "she is a writer I know," they have a better chance of getting accepted. And, yes, I mean accepted. As it stands now, I'm not hearing the EIC say anything along the lines of "just because he's your friend doesn't mean he's getting published here."

So I guess there really IS an advantage to having contacts. I guess saying something like "it's ok, they're with me" are magic words.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Sun people

Have you noticed how it's sooo common to see a person tanned? In fact, society is so USED to everybody being tanned, we almost can't believe our eyes if a white person is, well, WHITE! LOL As a preteen, my cousin complained I was "so white." After living in the desert for 14 years, I got a VERY GOOD tan. Problem is, my tan is not an even one. My arms are darker than my stomach, for example, but that's only because I NEVER wore a bikini during the summer. (I'm too modest.)

But it's true, we're really used to seeing people with a tan. And the more I thought about that today, the more I realized something. It also reminded me of the fact that A LOT of people in this world are "sun worshipers." We LOVE being out in the sun.

We are the sun people.

Of course, being a burn survivor, my doctor has ALWAYS cautioned me about being out in the sun. My burn scars are third degree and all that excessive heat and humidity is Not. Good. I had to slather on sunblock that had at least 30 SPF as well as wear a cap if I went out in the sun. I was also told to wear a long-sleeved shirt or light jacket/sweater, but when you're living in the desert where it can get as hot as 121 degrees, there's NO WAY I'd wear any long-sleeved clothing when going out in the heat. One of my nephews used to live in the desert, too, and he'd constantly tell me how'd he'd run when taking out the trash or getting the mail. Haha.

On the other hand, SOME people aren't bothered at all by the heat. I heard of quite a few people in the desert who would run around in sweatshirts or jackets and not even break into a sweat. Tan or no tan they are the sun people, too.

I'm sorry I don't have any cute term for people who DON'T have a tan. Or who, like me, have a mixture of tanned/untanned areas of the body. Hmm... how about moon people for the untanned? Sun and moon people for the tanned/untanned crowd? DayNight people. There we go.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The food wars

Several months ago, I interviewed Paula Spencer for an article I did for . I recently got an email announcement from her about her newest book, MOMFIDENCE. In her announcement, she writes, "Oreos make a fine snack!" I had to sulk in my chair, suddenly reminded of my child's visit with a nutritionist. Teetering on the brink of some kind of meltdown over my daughter's weight being a little bit below normal, she informed me that an Oreo cookie is a TREAT, not a snack. Since her concern was that I had to get my daughter to gain weight, she told me to think of snacks as "mini meals" and have her eat something a little MORE than just a couple of cookies with a glass of milk. (Well, shoot, sometimes that's the same kind of snack I would have!) On top of this, I had her doctor mention that her weight is a little bit below average. I've been asked "has she always been skinny?" (yes) but I've also been told "at least she's not overweight like a lot of other kids her age" (YES!).

The point of the matter is, I'm counting my blessings. I mean, she's HEALTHY! She hardly ever gets sick -- I mean, she only had a flu and a cold when she was a baby, and I only nursed her for a week -- and she's also an energetic, smart child. (Lord Almighty, is she EVER energetic!)

All the same, I've been keeping VERY close tabs on her diet. If I'm not telling her "no more junk food for today" then I'm encouraging her to take three more bites of something she barely even touched. Or even five more bites. I've even tried making a game of it, something along the lines of, "I bet you can take three more bites of your cheeseburger before I finish 7 of my French fries." Or, something like that. I don't try to force her to eat or bribe her, or anything. She usually has no problem taking a few more bites, but other times she'll protest, "But, Mommy, I'm FULL!" It's times like that I want to dial up her pediatrician and ask him what to do NOW.

When I can't get her to eat during a meal, I remember the "mini meals" advice and try to compensate there. I have thought of asking her doctor about giving her a daily vitamin, but I have a hard enough time getting her to chew a Children's Motrin tablet as it is.

It's an ongoing "food war" going on in the home. I know that at least I can be thankful she's healthy, energetic and alert, etc., but sometimes I wonder if a mother's instinct is really what I should trust with this kind of thing.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Is AT&T spying on me?

One hot issue you can read about in the papers is the ongoing controversy surrounding AT&T, one of the big phone companies in the world. The problem started when someone found out that AT&T, in collaboration with Homeland Security, was eavesdropping on phone conversations of clients they felt posed a threat to national security. Phone conversations were being tapped and a lot of people started getting pretty angry over the fact that their privacy had been violated. Apparently, the eavesdropping includes anyone AT&T/Uncle Sam feels is a threat, but how do we know the rest of us are safe from their prying ears?

At first, I didn't really take issue with it. I mean, I HAVE been following the story in the news, and I was outraged a judge refused to have AT&T cease and desist this type of infraction. According to the judge, ordering AT&T to stop eavesdropping on client phone calls they feel are threats to national security would only give terrorists more leeway, AND it would spread the word that AT&T is actually doing this. OK. So if a terrorist in a Kansas school decides to call his buddy up on the phone, he can take comfort in knowing which cell phone service to AVOID because NOW they know which company is not honoring the privacy of their clients. See, it's already in the news. People know about it. The terrorists know about it (now). So they'll just use a DIFFERENT provider. Meanwhile, AT&T still eavesdrops on phone conversations.

Lately, however, I have started to feel a little paranoid about it. AT&T is not my basic phone service provider nor do I use a cell phone. But I DO use an Internet relay service to make almost all of my phone calls with, owned by AT&T: I have always been nervous about giving out sensitive information over a relay call (like my bank account number and my SSN), but now I'm even more paranoid about which chunks of my information is being gathered by AT&T during the course of spying on my phone calls. Or even if they ARE spying on them. I don't think they'd have a reason to. It's not like I'm saying any "red flag words" or something.

All the same, I can't help but wonder. I KNOW a relay operator would very likely report me if I call someone up and say "let's blow up (name of bank)!!" That much I expect. But a TRUSTED phone company spying on its own clients? Never.

The house the creatives lived in

One thing I've noticed since living on my own is this UNDYING, BURNING need to create. It's as if the creative within me has witheld every impulse to create. Every idea, every desire. Lately, though, I've felt an overwhelming need to get images out of my head and onto paper. Lack of artistic skill be damned!

So I have given myself permission to create art, even poorly. I'm creating with words, but also with art. I have NEVER taken a class on how to draw (the only art class I've taken is Ceramics in high school and History of Modern Art in college), and I've been told my work isn't that...great. I've also been told to stick to writing! LOL But I can't deny the images in my mind. Images which I eventually transpose onto paper, using pencils, colored pencils, markers, paints, crayons. Just, anything.

My daughter has always been the artist. Ever since she was little, she has created art, one way or another! I still have pictures she drew as a toddler. They are TOO cute! But, anyway. Yeah. She's always been the one doing the art. Now we both do it. Sometimes we'll camp out on the floor or sit at the table, passing the time with drawing. Sometimes she'll draw a picture specifically for me and I'll do the same for her. And even though I'm not very good at art, she loves what I draw for her, anyway.

This has also happened in reverse. She's always been curious about my writing. She's grown an obvious love of books, as I have. And we even collabed on a children's story. I wrote it, she drew it. Which was also a very cool experience.

It's obvious both of us will have a strong love for arts and literature, which isn't surprising since I come from a family of artists and writers. It's actually pretty cool. The writing parent inspiring the child to write. The artistic child inspiring the parent to draw. Definitely something to take pride in -- and enjoy.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dealing with disappointment

I got into a REALLY bad mood today. We're talking "Incredible Hulk" kind of mood. The reason? I am seriously disappointed in myself. Disappointed with LIFE!

I know, things are gonna be hard at first. It's going to take time before I'm back on my feet again. Still, I can't help but feel I have let myself down.

That I've let my little girl down...

I want to do better in life. It's taking so long to get there and it's such a long, trying road. All of these obstacles in the way.

But, I just have to keep at it. I have to JUST DO IT! Not let the disappointments tear me down, even if, during my bad days, they do.

Monday, August 07, 2006

So long, SAHM

Well, I gave it my best shot. But given that I've got more financial responsibilities heaped on my shoulders since my divorce, it's time I've realized that I just can't be a stay-at-home mom anymore. I am responsible for all of my bills, all of the rent, and everything else involved in providing food and shelter for my child. The child support I receive every month helps, but it doesn't bring my total monthly income to where I can wing it. With that income, it's JUST enough to get by, with no room for error. This month, there is error. I have to renew the registration on my car and pay double my car insurance since I couldn't afford it last month (everything I had went towards moving). I've done my budget for the month and I'm $350 in the hole.

But my decision to go out and find a job isn't so much based on being able to have a little extra money left over for "extra necessities" like gas or DMV stuff or even doctor appointments (and, no, there's NOTHING available for even that!). It's a little more than that. I don't have certain pieces of furniture that I'm used to having -- like a couch and a desk -- and where I'm living needs some fixing up. Like landscaping. I can't meet those needs. I mean, sure, they're not REALLY needs. I could live with being a kitchen table writer and having a yard nearly run over with dead grass. But it makes me ask myself, you know: What kind of home am I providing for my child? And that's the straw that broke the camel's back.

This is why I have decided it is time for me to join the work force. Or should I say....rejoin it. In any event, I have to get a job outside of home. I just can't bring in enough as a writer; believe me, I've TRIED. I can't break into the better-paying markets. I can't get my resume-writing business set up, either. I just can't do it. The fantasy is that I could be soooo determined and keep at it and keep at it until I'm FINALLY awarded with a large book contract or a spot in a big paying magazine. But the reality is, I have a child to support. And when there is a child in the picture, your dreams get thrown out the window. You have to earn a living even if you hate the job you're earning a living at.

I have NOTHING against getting a job. What I am against is being a working mom. I'm not going to judge other working moms. It's just that I STRONGLY believe in being there for your children. That's just me. That's my traditional side. The mother is at home with her children. The father is the breadwinner. That's the way I see it. But now because there's A: No "father in the home" and B: No other younger children requiring extra care, I have to push that traditional side of myself aside and do what needs to be done. I have to be the mother AND the father. Thankfully, my child is older. She's starting kindergarten in the Fall. Plus, she's not a difficult child to take care of. So that makes me feel a LITTLE bit better about the prospect of having to work. I already have a friend who said she'd be happy to babysit my daughter for me; I really should find out if there are 2 others I can ask because my friend starts college soon so she will have a compromised schedule.

I just HOPE I am successful in finding a job. I really NEED one. I heard that people who need a job fast usually go through a temp agency. I also have another friend who knows of a place I can go to that will help me get a job. They'll also help out with daycare (she has 3 kids -- and she said the daycare was $500 a month!! OHMYGOD!!). So, I'm going to look into that, too.

I realize that one other financial burden will come into play because of this: The outrageous cost of gas. I've always been grateful about being a stay-at-home mom and not have to drive around sooo much and pay an arm and a leg to afford the gas for a commute. But getting a job will mean that I'll have to -- UNLESS I can find one close to home I can just walk to. I don't know how the deaf fare on the bus; it's something else to look into.

I think it will be hard for my daughter, though, if I start working. I mean, she IS used to having her mommy around 24/7. And I get SOOO upset if I'm apart from her after so long. :( We're both attached to each other, so I might have some separation anxiety on my hands. But, like I said, she's starting school soon, so that'll hopefully make this change a little less painful. For both of us.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

When laundry day is writing day

Whenever possible, I try to assign either Saturday or Sunday as my "laundry day." I do my laundry at a laundromat, and since taking my little girl with me has me on edge since she runs ALL OVER the place (including in the parking lot, where she could get hit by a car or kidnapped), I do my laundry on a day she's normally with her dad. But when I do have to take her with me, it's only when absolutely necessary.

Today was one of those times I didn't have my daughter in tow. You would think I was doing my laundry kicked back with a book. Well, I HAVE kicked back with a book at the laundromat many times before. But today I did something different: I wrote.

I didn't start writing right away, of course. I wanted to wait for just the "right" moment where I knew I had at least a large chunk of time to focus on my writing and after I had some time to think about what exactly I wanted to write. An essay? Poem? Song?

There are many things I've crammed into my head to write. Since I can't write whenever I want to, I have to keep ideas for things to write in my mind for later. Some of them I have written down, some of them are in the "closet" of my mind. I looked down at a section of the newspaper I had in my notebook, tucked away several days ago after an article in there gave me the idea for an article to write. I thought 'why not write this one now?' and set to work. Of course, my handwriting was terrible. Haha. I don't think ANYONE, not even a skilled pharmacist, could read my handwriting. Except for me! (ONE of these days I hope I can get a laptop to replace my notebook.) But I wrote the article, anyway. I didn't know where I wanted to go with it at first, but the minute I started writing it, the more I decided on how to "shape" the article I was writing.

I've always wondered how others at the laundromat would react to seeing someone slouched in a chair, scribbling away. One older man took a glance at the title of my article as he passed me by, but that was it. Not much else from the rest of the crowd there. The chairs at the laundromat aren't entirely comfortable for a prolonged task such as writing, but I think when you're into writing something as I was, comfort really isn't an issue. ;)

To say the least, I wrote the first draft of this long-planned article, and I'm glad it's finally done. One less thing to keep in the closet of my mind! And I'm also glad I took advantage of some uninterrupted time to write something. When you're a writing parent, you've GOT to grab those free moments. I'm not saying that I slice my wrists if I end up bringing my child along on laundry day. Haha. But I'm saying if I CAN get that chance to do the laundry without worrying about my daughter getting hurt, kidnapped or worse, I'm a happy customer.

Or... should I say, a happy writer.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

People in white coats

For the first time in my life today, I donated plasma. I first heard about donating plasma when chatting with an online friend, who was telling me about his plans to do this. While reading the newspaper last week, I saw an ad for donating plasma. It reminded me of the chat and I suddenly wondered, 'Why not?' So I called them up to talk about going in to donate some plasma. They told me that the day before I come in, drink LOTS of liquids and eat a good meal on the day of my donation. Since the first visit would take several hours since they'd have to also do a physical, I decided to do this on a Saturday, while my daughter is at her dad's for the weekend.

When I got there today, there were some scary people there. I don't mean "scary" as in how they looked but, I mean, one lady got mad because she was being denied her donation (she finally got it on her third try) and one guy, obviously one of those guys who thought he was "all that," made me wonder if he'd throw a fit if I looked at him or his girl wrong. (I pretty much avoided noticing either of them.) I kept sitting there asking myself, "Why am I here? Why am I here?"

But I soon had my answer. During my physical, which was performed by an EMT, I was told that the plasma I'm donating is going into over 800 medications -- used on burn victims. My face lit up. I knew why I wanted to do this now: I was giving back. I have ALWAYS made it a point to give back in whatever way possible to the medical world, to the Grossman Burn Center, to firefighters, and others who have survived being burned. And this was a new way for me to do that. This was something I could do to "give back" as well. Yes, I'm planning on doing a book for firefighters, but "giving back" is always going to be something important to me.

Unfortunately, my first experience didn't turn out so great. I got sick from dizziness twice. At one point, I even passed out! The EMT (who is ALSO a firefighter and her name is Michelle) was constantly appearing at the station I sat at to help and reassure me. The second time I got sick, she said, "Keep talking. Don't pass out on me again." Problem was, my mouth was all dry. The dizziness was pretty bad and sometimes I slumped in the seat. The strange thing was... when I passed out, I was AWARE that I had passed out. I mean, I heard myself saying "I'm not supposed to be here" before I came to. I had KNOWN I was not conscious.

But everybody there was SO caring and helpful. One guy sitting next to me talked about how HE had it hard on his first time, too (he'd done this 4 times so far) and after that it's not so bad. A staff member told me the first time usually is hard like this. Another guy who worked there held my hand and smiled reassuringly. It's weird but the sensation of him rubbing my hand with his thumb helped me to stay "focused" on being alert. (I think rubbing is one way they keep you conscious; I noticed a nurse rubbing my forehead after I came to.) But by the second time, it was done and I started feeling lots better. Michelle brought me a bag of mini cookies and juice during that episode and that also helped. I finished it off after the donation was over.

Despite that experience, I'm still happy that I made the donation. What I think went wrong was too much time had passed between my eating a large meal and donating the plasma. It was about 5 hours, I think. I'd eaten a small bag of chips before the procedure, but that wasn't enough. Michelle told me next time to bring extra snacks with me to eat and something to drink while waiting to be called in.

And, yeah, I'll be going back. I mean, this is a GOOD THING!! I wanted to grab everyone in there and tell them, "You're helping people like me!" I've seen so many other burn survivors in the times I've been hospitalized. Some children suffered burns far worse than me (like Yulce ). So of course I'm happy to be doing SOMETHING that benefits all of them. Something that is some small way to give back for all that the firefighters out there and the doctors have done for me.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Starving the flames

First off, I'm all for being straight with people. I don't like it when people "beat around the bush" with something they need to talk about and I don't think they'd like it if I was that way with them, either. All the same, I've wanted to tell a certain friend a certain something that has been on my mind lately. A LOT, actually. Thing of it is, though, I KNOW that if I express how I feel about something that's been going down for too long, I KNOW it will make him upset.

It's not like what I got to say is a matter of life or death. It's not like it's time-sensitive, either. It's one of those occasions where you TRY to be nice about something, but you're really NOT happy about this type of thing continuing, or you just... want to "smack some common sense" into somebody. That's the kind of situation it is.

And I can't bring myself to talk about it.

So, instead, I wrote him a letter. A very BLUNT letter, I might add. I knew this wasn't gonna be a letter I would mail/email to him, so I just spoke my mind in it.

And it felt good to just get it ALL OUT of my system.

One thing I was going to do after I wrote it was crumble it up and throw it away. But that paranoid side of me thought, 'Well, what if someone finds it, checks out the site I mention on it, finds this person and tells him ALL about this ANONYMOUS letter addressed to him?' Yikes.

OK so, throwing it in the trash was out. I COULD have burned it (as an online friend suggested) but.... well, that just didn't seem to be the right thing to do! I realized I wanted to keep this letter. JUST IN CASE I decided to send it in the future. (Chances are, this type of thing will continue, so there's a very GOOD chance I'll want to share those thoughts with him all over again.)

So I had it made into a paper airplane. Hah! But WHY a paper airplane? Because I KNOW what's in it. And the act of "throwing" those words into the air are the next best thing to "throwing" them his way.

Yes. It's symbolic. :P

But all the same, I keep thinking, 'WHY can't I just say these things? Is this the kinda friendship I want, where I'm too afraid to speak my mind?' Not...really. No, it's not. But this particular friend and I have just been going back and forth over MANY things in the past. Yeah, we would bicker. Then two days later, all the world was good again. (I used to have a friend like that in real life. One of my sisters thought it was hilarious how we'd be going at each other's throats one day then laughing our heads off over a joke the next.)

So the question becomes: Will I EVER get these thoughts across to my friend? I don't know. Part of me thinks he FEEDS off of this kinda stuff. You know, getting a rise out of people. (There ARE people like that.) And just saying what I need to say will only add to it. I'm not going to keep tossing that airplane through the air as therapy, though. Life is too dang short to carry around this kind of stuff! You know how they say keeping stuff in only sets you up for an "explosion" later on? That scenario could very well happen here, IF I don't say anything about this kind of issue. So the better thing to do would be to rewrite that letter and NICELY get my thoughts across. Just, state my position on the whole thing.

That's what I should do. And I WILL do it, eventually.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Arghs and crafts

Once upon a time, I entertained the notion of taking up paper crafts. You know, making a birdhouse out of cardboard? A mobile out of cut-outs? That sort of thing. But one thing stopped me from doing it: My hand disability. (If I try to explain it here, you'll VERY LIKELY get the wrong visual. Let's just say my left hand isn't exactly...normal.)

Well, I was able to avoid this hobby just fine for a while. Until, that is, my child decided to take an interest in it.


When you have kids, there are just SOME things in life you'll have to face one way or another. (Like using good china for making mud pies.) With me, it's TRYING to do things that challenge my physical abilities.

Paper crafts definitely challenges that ability.

My first response to ANY challenge, though, is to find some way around that challenge. Approach it with any way that I can. Failing this, it's time to call in reinforcements. So we decided to try doing things together: I would hold something with my good hand and she'd finish it with hers. Sometimes she was able to do things herself but other times, she'd need my help to cut something a certain way or tape it together a certain way. Of course, there were times I had to use my bad hand for certain crafty jobs. Even though some parts of my hand hurt after a while, I did it, anyway.

The smile on my child's face after the job was done was worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


It's not that often I awaken from a dream and start to cry. Today, that was different. During one part of my dream, I wondered, 'Is this a story dream?' But after I woke up from it, I realized, 'That's not a story; that's my life.' And the tears came flooding out of me.

It was a dream about my late cousin, Mark Carver.

As much as it hurts, I need to talk about this dream. I need to talk about it. In my dream, Mark was 10 years old and autistic. The first thing makes sense; that's one time in our lives I remember seeing him. (We're the same age.) The second part... being autistic. I don't know why that was in the dream. As far as I know, Mark wasn't autistic.

Anyway. My grandmother used to have a dog named Gigi. In the dream, Gigi was Mark's assistant dog. (She died many years ago.) The dream took place with everyone getting together at this BIG house for a visit. Something like a family reunion, but both my dad's side and my mom's side were there. (My Uncle Jerry was "responsible" for Mark -- I don't know why. I didn't see Mark's dad.) So, anyway. Mark and I were hanging out. In the dream, I was a little younger, too, though I don't have any idea of a specific age. At one point, Mark and I were standing near this HUGE pair of open doors, where a very wide, expansive field stretched out before us. (It wasn't a perfectly green field; it was like a "wheat field." I ... think. Green and brown field with stalks sticking up in certain areas.) There was a cliff at one edge of the field, FAR away from the house. So Mark goes, "Where's Gigi?" Now at this point, there'd been some piano music playing in the background. It was really low. And now it started to escalate as I said, "I'll find her." So I started looking for Gigi. And then I see Mark wandering through a dark hall and out the door. There were butterflies in the field. He looked at one and said, "Empty butterfly." It flew away and he started chasing it.

The music got louder now.

I saw myself again, looking down at Gigi walking to me, wagging her tail. I said, "Wait, here she is." Then I turned to see that Mark wasn't there. I started calling his name and going all over the house, looking for him. I was upstairs and I looked out this window to see Mark running across the field, reaching for a butterfly. "Mark!" I screeched, then ran out the room and down the stairs. "Mark ran out the door!" I cried as I ran through a room containing family members and a bunch of them got up and ran outside with me. My Uncle Jerry, however, lingered behind, sadly looking down at Gigi as she stood by the door.

Well, we were all running out to Mark, trying to stop him. He was headed right for the cliff. I was calling his name. That piano music played really loud now. It was fast piano music. I was calling out to Mark, running to him, calling to him to stop.

Then the dream ended.

And then I remembered: Mark wasn't with us anymore.

Mark died in a car accident almost 3 years ago. He was 29. His death crushed me then and as I cried after I woke up from that dream, it crushed me again. I mean, at one point, I tried to get myself together. I looked down from my bed to see my dog sitting there, patiently waiting to be let outside. I wiped away my tears and numbly got out of bed. I started walking, moving out of my bedroom. But I didn't get very far. I fell to my knees, crying all over again. I curled up on the floor, my heart physically hurting as I cried. (I cry now, typing this.) In my mind, I was screaming, "Oh, my God. Why?! Why?!" I wasn't asking why Mark was dead. I mean, I have asked that question so many times since that day it happened. Since that day I found out he was gone. I was asking God.... why did I have to have that dream?

I continued to cry until I couldn't breathe. Then I could only sit there, sadly staring into nothingness as I sniffled and wiped away tears.

There had to be a reason why I had that dream. My mind searched through it all over again, but all I could hear was me calling Mark's name and that damn piano music playing. The music lingered. I closed my eyes as more tears came, shaking my head. Trying to make sense of it. Why was Mark autistic? Why did he call a butterfly "empty"? What was the whole....significance of him chasing a butterfly through the field?? He seemed happy when he was chasing it. He was, lost in his own happiness. And nobody, not me and not anybody else, could get through to him. To get him to stop. He was happy and that is the feeling he had right before.... what happened next in the dream. He died happy.

Was this the message I was supposed to get? I know, I know. People say that they are just dreams! But it's not like we dream of lost loved ones every day! It's not like this dream was in vain. That's why I need to talk about it.

This dream was not in vain. Mark's life was not in vain. And his happiness.... the fact that he died happy. That shall not be in vain, either.

To read a poem I wrote in Mark's memory, which was read at his funeral, click here: (It's on the top right side.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

From palms to pines

One thing society has going for it is that, despite the novelty of blogs, we've all gotten a little "blog crazy." I'm beginning to think I myself am getting "blog crazy," too. This is my fourth blog.

I have a journal on deviantART, a "blog" on my MySpace profile, another BlogSpot blog, and now this.

Why exactly have I created this blog?

Simple. I assign certain "topics" to my different blogs. The one on DA was getting too personal-focused, and I didn't want that on there anymore. I wanted to create a blog elsewhere that I could just talk about ANYTHING dealing with life in general. The DA journal will be put to other uses, keep it more DA-related.

So that's why I've created this blog.

Now for the name: "Palms to pines" symbolizes my life transition. I used to live in the California desert, where we had palm trees EVERYWHERE. I moved to the Pacific Northwest (Oregon) over a year ago, where we have pine trees EVERYWHERE. In the desert, they had this shopping center called "Palms to Pines." And that has stuck with me since my move, because I have LITERALLY gone "from palms to pines." So long palm trees, hello pine trees.

And what a lot of pine trees!! In some parts of Eugene, you can drive down a street, smelling the pine trees. And there's this HUGE forest of pine trees surrounding the city. I'm talking HUGE! You can see it from certain parts of the city, and it is just breathtaking.

This blog will be a "grab bag" of topics relating to life -- parenting, divorce, society, news items I come across, books I read, etc. -- but nothing about writing. That goes into my other Blogspot blog. But unlike the other blog, I'll be posting here more often. Every day, if I can. I have just too much stuff to blog about, but.... well, not enough blogs to put it all in. :)