Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Fatherly Advice and Fuzzy Alarm Clocks: An IWSG Post

These past few months have been nothing short of crazy served with a tall, straightjacket flavored cocktail topped with a little broken umbrella. The good news is, I'm getting a lot of stuff done in my personal life, the bad news is, I haven't had much time for writing or blogging and I feel really guilty about that. Plus, I miss you guys! How I wish I could do both. 

Nevertheless, I do have a plan to get back into writing and all things blogging, I just have to wait until September when the kiddos go back to school and I have a 2 hour wait in my car before picking them up after school (long story that I blame the French Ministry of Education for F*cking things up royaly and then making the little people, like me, pay for it.....ugggg, don't get me started*angry face*). 

So anyway, until I can get back to a regular schedule, I'd like to share a piece of fatherly advice my Dad gave to me as we chatted over skype the other day. I'd been complaining how buys things had been over on my side of the world and he said: 

"At some point you just have to quit saying 'you gotta do this or you gotta do that' and just go out there, and do it." 

Well, you're absolutely right. 
I love you, Dad!

I hope you all are doing well and getting things done, if not, then just go out there and do it!

And as a little bonus for you guys, I added a short clip of how I wake up in the mornings, via little, fuzzy, attack kitty-bums. Enjoy! :D 



And now, back to my regularly scheduled crazy life. Oh and did I mention I have 11 people coming over for dinner tonight? *starts hyperventilating*

Friday, 4 July 2014

Happy 4th of July!



Happy Birthday America! 



To everyone celebrating today, have fun, be safe, and save a cold one for me. Oh and whatever you do, don't overcook the steaks! 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

IWSG: A Reminder To Be Grateful

Something happened a couple weeks ago and while I had planned to post funny, profanity-filled pictures for today, I’ve had a change of heart. While I still plan to post my original pics (most likely Sunday so you extra sensitive folks beware), today I want to talk about gratitude. I apologize for the length and understand if you need to skim this, but I need to get this off my chest.

A couple weeks ago, we took a family member into our homes that needed a place to stay. She had no job, no money and was having a hard time figuring out this thing called life. We took her in with open arms, happy to help in anyway we could, and we did. We never asked her for a dime, she had access to our entire house, had her own room, I fed her, etc, etc. Anyway, this person had no particular job skills and told us she didn’t want a desk job because she had trouble sitting for long periods of time. Fine. My husband suggested he pull some strings at work to see if he could get her an entry level assembly job. It wouldn’t be glorious work, but the pay and hours were good, and it could be temporary until she found something more suitable. She agreed.     

After one day at work, she burst through the front door, LITERALLY stomped her feet, said a few choice words about how awful the job was, and slammed the door to her room. My mouth dropped, my kids were there and I struggled to figure out what happened. She sulked in her room all night and I decided to let her cool off  so we could talk about it the next day. Now, a mature adult would have simply said, something along the lines of ‘Thank you, I tried but it didn’t work out, I need to find something else.’ No big deal and at least she tried. Well guess what, the following morning she was gone. Yep, gone. She packed her stuff up during the night, never left a note, or phone call, did nothing to explain what the hell was going on. Frantic, we made a few phone calls and found out she had gone back to her parent’s house. We were floored. I tried to figure out what we did wrong, but you know what? Screw her. She used us for over a month, never once expressed thanks for anything we did for her, and when it came down to actually doing a real job, she bolted. Her actions had some serious consequences. Guess who had to explain why she didn’t show up for work the next day? And guess whose reputation got tarnished after recommending her for this job? Not her reputation that’s for sure. We later found out via her parents that she didn’t want to work there because of the dust particles in the air that irritated her contact lenses and that she didn’t feel well working on the line. Sounds like a spoiled teenager, right? Except she’s not a teenager, she’s an ungrateful 35 years old, who has now secured a spot in my next book and it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Folks, you cannot imagine how upset and disappointed I am over this incident and I truly wish it could have ended differently, because make no mistake, this relationship has ended. Twice she’s come to us for help and twice she’s treated us like fools. There will not be a third time. On the bright side, I’ve had ample material to talk to my kids about gratitude, about working hard for the things we want in life. Nothing in life is owed to you and at some point along the line, you are going to need help. A word of advice: Do not shit in the hands that are trying to help you. In today’s writing world, authors can’t write successful books without the help of others, be it editors, beta readers, writing groups, tech specialists, or even as simple as moral support from friends and family. We all need a little help and there’s nothing wrong with that, so be grateful, be kind, and be willing to pay it forward. So in light of this incident, I want to give thanks to the writing community, to all my writing buddies near and far, the commenters who stumble across this little blog of mine and to IWSG for giving us a platform to express our insecurities and encourage others to keep writing. I want you all to know how grateful I am that our paths have crossed, virtual or not. <3  


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Silent Sunday: Garden Colors and a Handful of Kittens











Bombyliidae (Bee Fly). 
This is the first time I've seen them in my garden--Yeah!
Bee Flies are a large group within the Dipteran order, some being 
important pollinators. Most Bee Flies can be seen on or hovering around flowers. 
Adults mainly feed on nectar and pollen.  Many look like bumblebees with a long humming 
bird like proboscis.



Le bleuet de France: symbol in France of memory and solidarity
for veterans and victims of war, much like the remembrance poppy





This is a real bumblebee in the genus, Bombus. :)










Galaxy

Comet

Comet and Galaxy (aka: Coon and Stache ;)  ) 


*****
Happy Sunday! 

*****




*All of these are pictures I took with my camera. You are welcome to use any of them, all I ask is you give me credit for the it. That's all. :) 

Friday, 13 June 2014

A Tick On My Hand And The Lowdown On Lyme


The other day I was outside, checking out my aphid infested absinthe wormwood plant (I swear it's strictly ornamental). And while I was cussin' out the aphids and imagining all the diabolic ways to kill them (soapy water did the trick, btw) I spotted a nightmare. A big ass tick-- and it was questing.  

Questing, if you don't know, is a behavioral trait by which ticks find their hosts. They'll position themselves at the tip of a blade of grass, or leaf, and stretch out their front limbs as if doing the 'Y' dance move in YMCA. 

Anyway, it'll just wait there, questing until a poor bastard, host brushes by so it can latch on. 

I wasn't real worried about this tick ever locating a host,
the dummy was questing upside down!  


After spotting the tick, my first instinct was to set my yard on fire. Luckily, I was out of matches so I defaulted to picking it up and taking a closer look. 





 I identified this bloodsucker as a male Rocky Mountain wood tick (Smith and Whitman, NPCA Field Guide to Structural Pests). The Rocky Mountain wood tick is the primary vector of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and can also transmit Colorado tick fever, tularemia, and cause tick paralysis. Fun times! 















For many, tick season is upon us and with tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease on the rise worldwide, it's important have a better understanding of ticks and Lyme. 

Lyme disease has become the most important vector-born disease in the US. 

Back in 1997, there was an estimated 16, 000 reported cases of Lyme disease (M. Service, Medical Entomology, 2000). Today, the CDC estimates the number of people diagnosed each year to be 300,000 in the US alone. 

However, in other countries that also have serious Lyme disease problems (I'm looking at you FRANCE), Lyme disease is poorly understood and chronic Lyme isn't even recognized by public health authorities. Most health professionals don't even know Lyme disease exist and many simply deny its existence. Luckily, organizations such as Lyme sans Frontières work hard to bring about prevention and public awareness about this disease, but it's been an uphill battle for years. 


So anyway, here's the quick and dirty about Lyme and the bloodsuckers to keep in mind:  






  • Rapid removal of ticks reduces the chances of disease transmission. The best removal method is the simplest, use forceps to secure the tick as close to the head as possible and pull the tick off, then treat the bite wound with an antiseptic (M. Service, Medical Entomology, 2000). Of course, go see a doctor if you have any doubts or questions about the bite. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36-48 hours for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease to be transmitted into the host. 



  • When outdoors, avoid areas with tall grass and bushes where ticks can be found questing, and wear light-colored clothing (this makes it easier to spot ticks that may have just hitched a ride on you).



  • Most Lyme disease cases reported to the CDC in the US are concentrated in the Northeast and upper Midwest with 96% occurring in 13 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin.



  • Lyme also occurs in Canada, most of Europe, parts of Russia, China, Japan and possibly in Australia.


__

Ventral side
All in all, I think ticks are misunderstood creatures and deserved to be loved like any other living thing on this planet. Just kidding. Ticks are dicks. I had to pull one off my boob years ago so watch your backs (and your fronts) and check your kids, and your pests--hell check everyone and be safe out there! :D


Oh and for those of you who are wondering what I did with the tick I found, well I did what any normal person would do--I placed in on my deck and smashed it with a rock. "Khuu! Khuu! Khuu!"  ;)

____________

And if you want to see some incredible microscopic images that include the mouth parts of a tick, then check out the photo gallery HERE called Life: Magnified which is currently on display at Washington's Dulles International Airport's Gateway Gallery. Thanks Michael for the info and link! 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

IWSG: Motivating My Troops

Motivation.

That is what's been bothering me lately. And, I'm not talking about my own motivation, though it has waxed and waned these past few months. The motivation I'm referring to is that of my characters.

I'm a blackbelt panster. But for the first time, I outlined a story from start to finish. It's a basic outline using index cards for chapter headings and I managed to plan out the general plot. What would have taken a plotter one afternoon to finish, took me over a week, nevertheless finishing the outline is pretty exciting for me.

Though painful as it was, outlining allowed me to answer the questions one must ask while drafting a story:

The Who (identify and name my main and secondary characters through basic character profiling) 

The What (what each of my characters do and their importance within the story)

The When (the present)

The Where (Earth)

The How (how my characters accomplish the things they need to do)

The only question I haven't been able to completely nail down is The Why. Why are my characters doing all this awesome and scary stuff?




 


What motivates my characters? What drives their actions? It's the most important question to answer and it must be believable to the reader. The answer to this will be the driving force throughout the entire book and it will dictate how characters respond to, well, everything in the story. 

I've been able to answer The little why, in the immediate sense, their day-to-day motives,  but The BIG Why, which is anchored in backstory, is still unclear at best. Without The Why, then everything else in my story unravels at the seams. If I can't convince the reader what motivates my characters, then what's the point of reading on?  

Gosh Batman, this writing stuff is hard.


****

Many thanks to Alex Cavanaugh our IWSG super-host and his awesome team of co-hosts this month. To find out more about the IWSG monthly bloghop, or the IWSG website, feel free to click the highlited links or the button on my sidebar.



Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Lockmeupology- Condom to the Left, Condom to the Right

Once upon a time, a girl went driving through the beautiful French countryside. She drank in the beauty of the endless fields of lavender and sunflower. She drove down countless old tree-lined roads, squealed over the charming country chateaux, and marveled at the architecture of each fortified town she drove through.



"Oh look, an intersection up ahead with more cute signs! 
I wonder where I should go next."






"Oh well, I guess no matter which road I take, I know I'll be safe!"

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

IWSG: A Month in the Life of a Non-Writing Writer

Last month I decided to take a break from blogging to concentrate on my writing. I missed you all but I have to say, the results of my hiatus are pretty astounding. I got A LOT done--all except for one thing--writing. But you know what? I'm ok with the non-writing thing because I feel great. For a whole month I lived life instead of trying to write about it. And I slept, at least 8 hours each night! I love sleep. I didn't feel the benefits right away, but after 2 weeks of sleeping properly and spending more time outside, I can honestly say I feel great both mind and body.

So, what did this non-writing writer actually do during my hiatus?
Well, here's a quick run down:


First, I took pictures of my dog.



Photography? Ha! -- nailed it.   :P
















Then, I did some gardening. I had seen the following example of vertical planting on the internet and thought it looked great. Naturally, I figured I'd give it a try. 
Can't be that hard, right?
Anyway, this is what I was going for:





















Aaaaannnd.... this is what I got:






Gardening? Ha! -- nailed it.








Okay, so experimental gardening may not be my thing so, I talked to my neighbors to get some pointers. 















Socializing? Ha!-- nailed it.






So, with all this extra time on my hands I decided I should do some shopping. This was an exploit for me because I hate shopping. With a passion. And rightfully so:























Me thinks I need to pay better attention to what kind of t-shirts I buy the kids....

Shopping? Ha! --nailed it.







Okay, so after a few difficult attempts at being normal, Easter rolled around and I was able to distract myself by eating all the chocolate eggs hiding the Easter eggs for the kids.
*insert evil laugh*



















Camouflage tactics? Ha! --nailed it.


And speaking of my kiddos, they're on vacation. That means I've got to keep them occupied. Not a simple task. Luckily for me, I discovered watercolor pencils!















Mikey picture? Cowabunga!--nailed it.



But one of the highlights was when the kids and I got to see one of the most renowned bird shows in the world.  At the end of the show, hundreds of raptors, (over 80 different species including falcons, hawks, eagles, vultures, etc.) flew only a few inches over the spectator’s heads. You would have loved it Golden EagleIt was an amazing show right up until one of the birds dropped their "treats" thrown up to them by the falconers. The treat landed right in front of me and my kids with a thud--a dead chick.

Magic broken? --- Uggg, nailed it.





























But despite it raining dead baby birds, it was still a fantastic show.


Video not suitable for those who suffer from ornithophobia.
Seriously, birds all over the place in this video. :D

April was also exciting because I got to help build a treehouse in the backyard. It's still a work in process but damn, I can't help but think what a fantastic/ideal place this is going to be for my writing when it's done!!!!! And yes, that does warrant 5 exclamation points!



But one of the most therapeutic moments for me was taking long walks to clear my head and fill my lungs with allergenic pollen. It was rejuvenating. 



*aachoo, cough, cough*


And everywhere I went, my camera followed. I took pictures of flowers...






and of my futures...

Future grapes.

Future strawberries.


Future pesto!




 Future housing development for smurfs.

Overall, April was a month of rest and getting back to the simple things that are important to me: family time and the outdoors. And I now realize to what extent I needed this time off. It's difficult and sometimes impossible to juggle writing and life. So, I put my writing aside and for the first time in years, I just took care of myself and my family. And I'm not ashamed to say, it was one of the best decisions I've made in a long time. But the best part is, I feel refreshed and have a mind filled with new and shiny plot ideas itching to come out. Now, I can't wait to get back to writing, and blogging, and that my friend, is a great feeling.

I hope those of you who participated in A-Z had a great time and don't feel too exhausted. I can't wait to catch up with everyone!  

******
Many thanks to Alex Cavanaugh our IWSG super-host and his awesome co-hosts this month. If you'd like to know more about the IWSG monthly bloghop, feel free to click the IWSG button on my side bar.
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