Saturday, February 16, 2008

To Shovel or Not to Shovel

I'm trying to keep a positive attitude this winter where the weather is concerned, but it hasn't been easy. We've shoveled more this season than in the two previous winters combined. We live on a corner along the route to the elementary school, so lots of dog walkers and kids go by our house. I'm the kind of person who gets out there to shovel as soon as the snow is done falling. I do have help on occasion--two teenagers--but as Laura Altom will probably attest to, we'd rather have a root canal than ask a teenager for help.

The other day I was googling--I google for fun when I'm stuck in my writing--and I came across a message board here in Chicago where people vented about neighbors who didn’t keep their walks shoveled.

Here's what I learned:

You may want to shovel your walks because in many communities there's a number one can call to report the address of an unshoveled sidewalk. The city then sends out workers to shovel your neighbor's walk and the charge for the service appears on the owners property tax bill.

You may want to shovel because one woman's way of getting back at her neighbor for not shoveling during the winter is to let her dog poop on their front lawn during the summer.

You may want to shovel because one woman says she leaves nasty notes on front doors threatening to sue if she falls on their walks.

One man complained about people using snow blowers and blowing the snow onto their neighbor's already shoveled sidewalk. That same man complained that his neighbor should wait at least until eight in the morning to run the snow blower so as not to wake everyone up with the noise.

We've all heard of road rage…well after reading the long list of gripes and proposed retaliations I'm beginning to believe we all need to be on the lookout for people in our neighborhoods suffering from SNOW RAGE.

Which leads me to ask….are you one to shovel or not to shovel?

Marin Thomas
In a Soldier's Arms *Hearts of Appalachia* Feb 08
A Coal Miner's Wife *Hearts of Appalachia* Aug 08

Friday, February 15, 2008

The call of the cat

Readers of this blog may recall that, in December, our cat died of cancer. A former stray, he’d been patrolling our house and yard for eight years, during which he’d driven off any cats foolish enough to encroach into his territory.

It’s only taken a few months for his scent, and reputation, to fade.

Lately, two cats have taken to prowling across our yard and – in one case -- yowling at night. While some of these felines may have owners, at least one lacks a collar, and the yowler sounds like she’s in heat, which implies either the lack of a human or the presence of a very irresponsible one.

These felines – both black, with different lengths of fur -- seem to like the freshly weeded, currently unplanted soil of my garden and the warmth beneath my husband’s car. Nevertheless, they keep their distance from us, and we keep ours.

During the past dozen years, I’ve adopted two strays, and suffered through their deaths. Now that they’re gone, I find myself reluctant to undertake the duties of ownership. Befriending, trapping and hauling cats to the vet for neutering. Taking care of twice-daily feedings, which involves dragging myself out of bed early on weekend mornings. Arranging for our neighbors to feed them when we go on a trip.

I don’t want another cat. Yet they keep prowling and yowling.

Maybe they just want me to pick them up and pet them a little. I suppose I could do that, as long as I’m wearing something that goes well with black.

But that’s all.

No more cats.

Not this week, anyway.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hmm . . . Another Valentine's Day.

This year, Hubby and I will have been married 20 years. After just finishing four weeks of jury duty on a double murder trial, I'm now up at 4 AM with a sinus infection--a remnant of last week's flu. Hubby's still coughing, too. The second I got back to my day job, 3rd quarter grades were due, and guess who hadn't graded a single paper in four weeks?? ARGH!!! LOL!!

Yesterday, after having been at work since ten Monday night and eight last night, I came home, excited to finally have found time to write, when Son #1 tells me he's been coughing up blood!! (He's had flu, too.) Off to the doctor we went. After getting antibiotic for us both, I was relieved to hear Son#1 has been hitting the nose spray a little too much, which caused his sinuses to bleed. Yuck, but whew. Bet you're in the mood for love now, too, huh??

Okay, so here we are, back at Valentine's Day. Hubby's in bed, snoring. Daughter--just back from a pricey week in Disneyworld with her cheer squad--is furious with me for not letting her skip school yesterday because she was tired, and then deigning to ask her to do dishes!!! The horror!!! All of which got me to thinking about the characters I love to write about, and presumably--if you're hanging out on the Harlequin American blog--you love to read about!! I've often wondered what happens to these magical couples?

You know what I'm talking about, like after the initial rush of love fades and the mortgage is due, the hall bathroom toilet breaks (add that to my anti-romance list), work's long and tiring, and kids who were once cuddly and cute turn into pricey teen spit vipers!!! Do you think Harlequin American couples throw in the proverbial towel, screaming "Enough's enough? Get me off of this ride?" In all honesty, sometimes, they probably do.

But then there are other days, like yesterday, when you're sitting at your desk at work, and the school secretary strolls into your classroom with a huge vase brimming with roses. Not any old roses, but gorgeous, dusty orange ones, because Hubby knows I especially enjoy "wierd-colored" flowers!! My sixth-grade students all went, "Oooooohhhhhhhh, Mrs. Altom's got a boyfriend!!"

Breathing in the scent of my roses, it occurred to me that damned straight! I do have a boyfriend! He's been all mine for the past twenty years, and while at the moment, our lives seem to be mired in a "for worse" phase, once spring rolls around and we're all feeling our usual selves, we'll be back in the land of "for better." (For a glimpse of what this might look like, see the above pic!)

Until then, I'm thinking a Valntine's Day spent at home on the couch, sharing a blanket with Hubby, both smelly dogs and the cat, watching History Channel or Discovery sounds like a perfect night. It may not be especially romantic in the eyes of the rest of the world, but for us, it works. And sometimes love isn't passionate and wild hot, but comfortable and cozy--like trading your work clothes for sweats and slippers. Not glamorous, but just right!!!

My wish for all of you is just that. A love that has it's ups and downs, but in the end, not only on Valentine's Day, but everyday, feels just right!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Another Snow Day

Today's another snow day in St. Louis. This time it's less snow and more ice on the roads that have schools closed. We haven't been hit like those in Washington State or Louisville, KY, this year, and St. Louisans are pretty laid back when it comes to school closings. We like rolling over and going back to sleep and cancelling everything for the day. We're fine with working two extra days past Memorial Day.

As I type this, at 1 PM, I'm finally up, showered and ready to go. Not that I really have any place I must be. I have things to do, like laundry and such, but days like today are not days I catch up on chores. They're the found, lazy days where I sit around and do nothing. Both daughters are playing video games. The cats are doing whatever cats do.

I have my manuscript revisions here--maybe later, as revisons are as exciting as getting teeth pulled. I have books to read--which is much more appealing. I finished a Rachel Gibson novel this morning and will pick up something else this afternoon as I loaf the day away. I'll work out, take my daughter to guitar lessons if I'm able to drive up the road. I do have to try that here in a little bit, I guess.

However, I'm much more interested in relaxing than trying to catch up. That's what the upcoming three-day weekend is for.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Chicken Dressing Catfish

You've probably heard of the highly readable grammar book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. As a writer in love with words and their relationships to one another, I devoured this book and I'm always on the lookout for writing samples that are ambiguous and unintentionally funny.

Alas, I often find them in my own work. I was going over the rough draft of a proposal the other day, and the first sentence of the first chapter read something like this: "Jane Selwyn's knees wobbled as she made her way across the parking lot toward the tallest office building in town wearing an expensive but slightly outdated suit." I had to stop and wonder: How did the building find a suit big enough to fit it? (This sentence is so hideous, not even punctuation could save it.)

Thank God for revision, especially the ever-popular delete button.

Oh, you're probably wondering about the headline. A few days ago I went out to dinner at a neighborhood café with my husband, who is also a writer. We saw "Chicken dressing catfish" on the chalkboard menu, and we both immediately received the same mental picture: a chicken putting a coat and scarf on a catfish. (Turns out a bit of punctuation went missing from that menu.) Neither of us could stop laughing, and we couldn't even explain to the waitress what was so funny. (You had to be there.)

Writers often collect these unintentionally funny phrases. (I have a list of hilarious newspaper headlines that I unearth once a year or so and laugh until I cry.) Do you have any grammatical, spelling or punctuation funnies you'd like to share? (Please withhold authors' names unless it's your own. We don't want to embarrass anyone!)