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Three weeks ago, the power supply unit went out in my HP: desktop. I’m not super geeky, but I searched YouTube, asked my son, and even let my friend’s 30-year old geek look at it. It needs a new power supply unit, and I will have to learn to repair my own in the near future. Meanwhile, I bought a re-furbished HP off of Groupon, and waited for it to be delivered.

Meanwhile, our water heater gave up the ghost. My laundry room is still spread out over the kitchen table because when we lost the water heater, I lost all my storage in the laundry room. I’m waffling between something I found on Houzz and something I found on Wayfair.com.

I fell into a mid-winter funk and have not created anything in a fortnight. My novel is waiting for the final touch-ups.

Oh. My novel. Back-up, back-up, back-up. I had everything saved to an external hard drive when the power supply unit went out. *Everything* Music, novel(s), short stories, and all those precious photos. However, I lost my key to my photo shop program (I use Corel’s PaintShop), so I will have to buy that. I had the old version, anyway, and the 2018 version costs the same. KEEP YOUR PRODUCT KEYS!

Fortunately, I use a free watermark download (Visual Watermark). I think I may have paid for the full version, but I have yet to search emails for that. It’s not that much.

Now, I need a new keyboard (inexp;ensive), because – wouldn’t you know it? – my ancient Gateway keyboard is not comp;atible with the new HP:, and the new keyboard has a faulty p;P:p;P:p;P: key. I am getting tired of backspacing every thing I type “p;”

News on my novel to come – I have 13 days left to meet the NaNoWriMo deadline to have it reviewed for possible submission. Only minor edits left, a new title, and artwork for the cover. It’s hustle time.

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*I decided I needed something to introduce the reader to Ella, when she still doesn’t believe in magic. Here it is.*

Ella Peabody walked home in the twilight, her worn green backpack slung over her shoulders. She walked on the left side of the road, facing traffic, so she noticed when two of the four squad cars of the Fall City PD passed her, apparently headed to a silent alarm. She stopped at the crosswalk in front of Miss Sophy’s home, but not before waving at the figure hidden behind the sheer curtains. Miss Sophy waved back, but didn’t quit spying. No doubt, she was curious about the emergency, too.
Fall City was a remote mountain village, set deep in the Cascades, with a two lane highway in and out, and only seasonal tourist attractions in the form of summer cabins along what was referred to as Fall Lake, but which was little more than a mosquito pond.. There was really no industry of any kind: a little logging, a lot of hunting and fishing in season, some outlying ranches, a dying main street, and one sad little strip mall. The bowling alley still attracted local teams. Cell reception sometimes was lost for days when a good winter storm blew in and the passes were snowed in.
Ella looked both ways and proceeded across the street. She was almost clear of the last lane when a big white van blew past her, going well over the 25 mile-an-hour speed limit and crazily close to the teenager.
“Jerk!” she muttered, too shy to shout it.
Ella wasn’t just shy: she was socially inept, according to her best friend, Billie.
“You spend too much time in the science lab,” Billie would say. “Why don’t you come hang out at the skate park with me and the guys?”
The guys were Dustin (“Dish”) and Gran, Ella and Billie’s childhood friends. Ella had a crush on Dish, but she didn’t dare tell anyone, not even Billie. Billie was a little spitfire, totally out-going, and only a so-so student in school. Billie also already had a date lined up for the Winter Ball, and Ella had – well, nothing. She doubted Dish would ever try to ask her out: she was just ‘one of the guys’.
Fall City had a decent skate park. The city fathers built it to keep teenagers out of trouble, and it worked for some of them. Others hung around at the skate park and smoked cigarettes before leaving to shred sidewalks around abandoned businesses. There was also a dirt BMX bike track that got used by mountain bikers and BMX riders, but it wasn’t sanctioned by the town council and was always in danger of being bulldozed over.
Ella loved Fall City with the sole exception of the widely-held belief that it was a haven for witches and practioners of magic. She once spent an entire summer convincing tourist kids there was no such thing as magic. She did this by setting up a booth at the Farmer’s Market and offering to debunk any magic trick they tried to prove. She’d done quite well, too, much to the amusement of the good citizens of Fall City (most of whom liked their spooky reputation). However, her endeavors had further isolated her from school mates who now looked a little askance when she neared. Ella the Nerd, they called her.
Mr. Gist, who lived four houses down from the Peabody’s, backed out of his driveway so quickly that he nearly hit Ella. She jumped back and was surprised at the angry look on the little man’s face. He was usually such a nice man!
She walked up the long walkway to her home, a late 1800’s Queen Anne, shaking her head. She was still pondering all the odd events when she let herself in and smelled dinner cooking. Lasagna, her favorite. She dropped her back pack and tossed her jacket onto the coat tree near the front door.
“I’m home!”
“Great! Now we can eat!” Her little brother, Aric, pushed himself out of the gaming chair he had been ensconced in. “I’ve had to smell that for, like, an hour. Pure torture.”
Dinner was good, and her parents were in good humor. Ella cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher, before going upstairs to her bedroom to study for her Advanced Science course. She fell asleep in the wee hours of the night.
She dreamed there were distant sirens and someone was walking down the middle of the street, pointing a magic wand at houses and sending them up in flames. Ella wrapped herself in a robe and floated out her bedroom window to the street, and held up her Advanced Science book as if to repel the cloaked stranger.
“Magic does not exist!” she shouted. She shouted and shouted until she woke herself up, mumbling in her sleep and gasping.
“That was weird,” she told her stuffed cat. “Of course magic doesn’t actually exist.”

The first day of a new year and a new plan for getting ahead.

I only have a couple of resolutions this year:

  1. to do three art shows this spring/summer/fall.
  2. to submit my novel to an editor (I’m in the last 20 pages of re-writing).
  3. to go hiking with my husband and my camera (I haven’t been out in the woods with either one for about 3 years).
  4. get my website fully functioning.

There are some plans for the future: family reunion on the maternal side (the Scots side). This year: South Dakota. The family is either in Wisconsin or on the West Coast, so every three years we try to meet somewhere in the middle. I missed the reunion in Colorado three years ago, and the one before that was here in Oregon. This year’s reunion will be a little sadder: both Uncle Bob and Aunt Phyl passed away in 2017.

I have a continuation of last year’s resolutions (and probably the year before): the really de-clutter the house. I started today, by deciding which Christmas decorations stay and which go. We went from 9 boxes of Christmas stuff down to 7 boxes. I also sorted through some of my mother’s sewing stuff, but not much actually got thrown away.

Resolutions need to come with A Plan (how am I going to achieve?), and I do have a plan. Unfortunately, I also get side tracked on occasion: garden catalogs come in the mail; I look at my unfinished art projects and wander off on a tangent; the furnace dies and we have to finance a new one; the refrigerator kicks the bucket; I get depressed and everything falls apart.

  1. My mentor and girlfriend is coming over next Saturday to talk about my plans for my art this summer: this is good. I have an accountability partner.
  2. NaNoWriMo is offering an editor through the month of January for those of us who reached 50,000 words. I have a deadline to redeem something free.
  3. My husband is my incentive. He needs to lose 30 pounds, we made resolutions together, and he promises to have the engine in the 1971 VW van by summer. All I need to do is bring my camera.
  4. I am working on a new gallery on the website (fairy houses and elves). I need to go back through my galleries and update the SEO, ass inventory numbers to items for sale, and mark other items as SOLD. This is boring work: I’d rather be painting new paintings. Therefore, I start new paintings that I just have to finish.

I think I’m going to go look through old encyclopedias for interesting animals to paint. Time to procrastinate some more!

This is a serious question: how do you eat your M&M’s®?

I got to thinking about this question the other day while playing Spider Solitaire. I have this neurotic thing about how everything has to line up at the end of the Spider game (online). It all has to do with which suit gets completed first: Hearts. Then the next suit I have to complete MUST be Spades. Then Hearts, Spades, Hearts, Spades.

If I can’t line them up that way, I want to *at least* create a pattern: Hearts, Spades, Spades, Hearts, Hearts, Spades, Spades, Hearts. Or Spades, Spades, Hearts, Hearts, Hearts, Hearts, Spades, Spades (both ends are Spades). A random line up drives me nuts.

I do the same thing when playing straight Solitaire. If the first Ace is a Club, then the next Ace has to be either a Heart or a Diamond. Red-black-red-black, or black-red-black-red.

What does this have to do with colored chocolate morsels?

When I have a bag of M&M’s®, I pour them all out onto a napkin or little paper plate. Then I separate them by color. Brown is always the first color to get eaten. Then orange, yellow, green, or blue in some order. (Red is always last.) I can’t eat them randomly, or mix the colors. I used to work in an office where they would buy me the candy, just to make fun of the way I arranged them to eat.

Didn’t phase me.

I eat Skittles the same way. Or jelly beans.

So, the question remains: how do you eat your candy?

Better yet, do you make patterns when you play Solitaire?

The balance of life depends on your answers.

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I think you can tell where this game is going…

 

Yes, there is life after NaNoWriMo.

1. I have been editing my story. This entails:

  • deleting things I wrote because I was desperate for words
  • clarifying paragraphs so they make more sense
  • cleaning up dialog
  • searching for bloopers
  • adding details

2. Work – and by “work”, I mean that day time job that takes up most of my time – has picked up, and I’ve been a bit busy at the office.

3. Work – and by “work”, I mean my outside the office job – has been steady. I painted four acrylic mini animal portraits, made $155.00, and completely ignored my art web site (I only have four followers as it is on that site).

4. I have been studying up on how to make the above mentioned website attract more traffic and improve my odds for making more sales of artwork. I did everything bass-ackwards, so I am learning about SEO several years after putting up the site. I foresee a long month of redoing all the SEO tags on my site. January is coming, and I should have lots of time to work on that.

5. I started work on an old novel that has been simmering in the file cabinet for a couple of decades. I get it out and work on it occasionally.

6. I have been beating myself up because I can’t do it all: blog, write, work full time, paint, make fairy houses and elf sculptures, and search venues to sell my art next summer. Also: plan the garden, because the days are now getting longer and the seed catalogs will be arriving.

We won’t talk about taxes. That has to fit in there sometime between January 1st and April 15th.

What about you?

It looked like we had a pillow fight out in the back yard today. Only, there wasn’t a ‘we’, there weren’t any pillows, and the stuff floating around in the air and clinging to everything was the fluffy white stuff that helps milkweed seeds go airborne. Except, they didn’t go airborne: I was attempting to stuff the seeds into gallon plastic bags as I ripped them out of the very dry pods.

Let me try to explain: Monarch butterflies are these regal, orange-and-black butterflies that once roamed from Mexico to Canada, along routes where milkweed grows.Monarch butterflies are in decline, as are honeybees, bumblebees, and who knows what other beneficial insects that rely on natural plantings that use no pesticides/herbicides.

Milkweed in a generic name for Ascelpias L., a genera of nearly 140 species. It used to grow wild throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere, and at least three known insects dine solely on milkweed, the Monarch Butterfly being one of those species. Sometime in the 1960’s, communities began using herbicides to kill the milkweed growing along ditches, or they ran culverts and covered up the ditches. The more the milkweed habitat was destroyed, the more it dribbled down to the species which rely on milkweed for survival. Monarch Butterflies began their decline.

I was 12 when they buried the “ditch” across the street in a culvert and a lawn. I wanted to go lay down in front of the bulldozers and sing protest songs, but my father absolutely forbade me. One thing you did not do: defy my father on one of his ‘absolutes’. For instance, we kids never wore socks to bed after he found out we’d done it just once. (My brother and I do wear socks to bed, but Dad has long since passed, and we only do so in the comfort of our own homes. I don’t know why you can’t wear socks to bed, but I am certain that Wilcoxes do not wear socks to bed!

I felt I let the Monarchs down. I’d raised a dozen of them in jars, allowing them to walk all over my hands as their wings stretched and dried and they finally took off in a gentle flutter of wings. There’s really not a thrill that comes any closer to coaxing a still-wet butterfly out of its crystal cyrsalis and feeling its sticky feet measure the distance on your hands before it takes to flight.

Nearly two decades ago, scientists began urging people to grow milkweed in their garden, and milkweed seeds became available from the big seed companies down to the organic seed companies. The problem with that is this: milkweed doesn’t readily grow from see. It is a biennial, which means it takes two years to mature – if you can get it to even sprout that first year. People started planting the wrong species of milkweed for their area, and even if they could get it to grow, the butterflies didn’t come.

Four to five years ago, I took two seed packets of milkweed: one ‘showy’ and one ‘common’. These are the species native to the Willamette Valley. I put them in the freezer for one to three months before sowing them in the early spring. And nothing happened.

The following spring(a year later), I espied something coming up that I though might actually be milkweed. the litmus test: pinch a leaf off and see if it ‘bleeds’ thick, sticky, milky, sap. YES!!

The plants got about a foot tall and died back. Damn.

The next year, there were more sprouts. I mean a lot more: despite the fact that the plant had not matured and sown seeds, I had double the number of plants as I had the year before. They grew to about three feet in height before dying back. Again, before flowering. Meanwhile, I read about someone up the Valley (that would be south of here as the Willamette flows north) who had Monarchs on her milkweed.

This summer, the milkweed sprouts doubles, and doubled again. I easily had four times the number of plants from the previous year, and they all produced flowers: showy and common. No Monarchs, but the honeybees, bumblebees, wasps, and a couple of other butterflies, and – of course – milkweed beetles – pollinated the flowers. We watched with growing excitement as pods developed.

Milkweed pods can be used for any number of home crafting. Not to mention the seeds developing inside of them…

Then the rains came and the pods turned into soggy messes, half-opened. Gotta love where I live.

I cut as many pods as I could from the plants, brought them inside, and dried them in the bathtub. And I ignored them for months (September, October, November, halfway into December). It’s a good thing our shower is separate from the bathtub, know what I’m saying?

Today, I hauled all my containers out into the back yard and began freeing the seeds from the pods. You can imagine the air.

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I’m going to have to figure out how to get rid of the rest of the fluff and save the seeds. These are gallon bags. I lost about another bagful to the light breeze that helped me winnow out the seeds.

They are mixed up: common and showy. Showy has pink flowers; common has white flowers. My husband thinks we should covertly let the seeds go in the city park down the hill (the one with a creek running through it). I think I should ship them to whoever asks for them and let whoever gets them begin their own journey of restoring habitat for the Monarch Butterfly. Recipient gets to deal with the feathery stuff.

Here’s how to grow them from seed: place in freezer for 1-3 months. Sow in early spring, with just a little soil covering them. Wait four years, but make certain to water occasionally. You could try talking to them, too, I hear talking to plants works. By year five, maybe the butterflies will come, but even if they do now, the native bumblebees and wasps will thank you, as will the declining honeybees.

To hell with municipalities that label milkweed with the invasive Russian thistle and other noxious weeds.

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Bonus: you can spray paint the pods and make unique Christmas/Easter/whatever ornaments. You can create little dioramas. Make them into little insect boats to float the River Styx.

Let me know if you want one of my gallon bags and I will send it out to you in early January. No strings attached – well, one: you have to plant them and hope.

My mother died in 1995. She left behind a lot of things, a few of which were projects she was going to do “someday” or that she was in the middle of and would finish “someday”. My father got rid of most of her things and not a few of those were projects she was going to do “someday”. I collected a few and put them into a file for projects that I will do “someday”.

Dad died in 2011. I collected what was left of Mom’s projects and put them in storage in Reno, where they languished until last year.

I set out to finish three of those projects before Christmas: three little animals that I assumed were meant to be puppets (they weren’t). I wanted to include them in a box bound for grandchildren (her great-grandchildren) as a “gift from Nana and Great Grandma-You-Never-Knew”.

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Unfortunately, this meant I had to tackle the Sewing Demon. The bobbins are an example of what the Sewing Demon does to me.

Mom made it look easy. My daughters make it look easy. My cousins sew quilts with great detail and make it look easy.

I can’t even thread a bobbin without it becoming a production. (Yes, by the way, it was human error and I did figure out what I was doing wrong, so – no snickering!) (I can hear you!)

I rarely uncover my sewing machine. I avoid sewing for exactly this reason. I spend more time ripping out seams sewn in backwards than I actually spend sewing. I use iron-on tape to hem things I make. I’ve been known to leave safety pins in the hems of slacks because I don’t want to sew.

When I do sew, I can sew. I’m just not overly thrilled with the hassle I just know I am going to run into.

The bobbin thing didn’t come up until tonight, when I had to change the color of thread in my sewing machine (which I have used exactly once since I purchased it a year ago: I sewed the cover for it). In my defense, I designed the cover, did all the measurements, cut the fabric, and sewed the thing without a hitch. Then I put the sewing machine away and I haven’t approached it again for 12 long months.

And this is how it treats me.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about the three little critters my mother left pinned together and unsewn.

I don’t know who she intended them for: my children? My brother’s children? My sister only had one child under the age of 5 when Mom died, so it seems unlikely that Mom was sewing for her. There were three fully cut out and pinned together, and parts of a fourth. I discarded those.

(click images for a larger view)

The lizards can be flipped over. I didn’t put eyes on them because I like the way they change when you flip them over. Little blind 1970’s lizards. the fish (whale?) was before Finding Nemo.

They’re adorable. I had to buy batting to fill them. Sewing the fish up after it was stuffed was a challenge.

BUT I FINISHED THEM. 23 years after they were started, I finished them. They’ll probably last fifteen minutes in the hands of my youngest grandchildren, the Little Monsters named John and Nolan, but I don’t care. I think Kori will hang on to the fish a little longer, because that’s the kind of child she is. Maybe she is even old enough (6) to understand this is a gift from the dead.

You all should stand up and give me a standing ovation. Yes, yes, I sewed something. And I didn’t throw the sewing machine out the upstairs window.

Thank you. Thank you, very much.