The HIITT Scale

With 2018 just around the corner, I've been thinking about what to do to improve my productivity in the new year. Social media is both a blessing and a curse. It connects me to people far and near while stealing chunks of my day.

Twitter is one example. It can be the source of a wealth of information. I use it to keep up with current events. I'm connected with writers and publishers and can learn of their latest releases. Even though I want and enjoy the scoop, Twitter can also waste boatloads of my time. Because Twitter can be such an offender, it would be helpful if everyone would adopt my newly conceived of scale to rate their tweets. I call it the "How Important Is This Tweet Scale" (HIITT).

It's simple to use. Preface your tweet by assigning it a number from 1 to 5, with 5 being most important and 1 being not so important. The purpose of the scaled numbers is to make the Twitter feed quicker to scroll through. The tweets are sorted into categories so that a reader will be able to, at a glance, know which tweets will be time wasters and which will be of urgent interest.

Here's my proposed HIITT Scale for the Twitter feed:

5   Amber alerts; breaking news; humor

4  New book releases; book reviews; movie reviews

3  Recipes; weather; sports; fashion

2  Celebrity news; giveaways; motivational quotes; cute pet videos;

1   How many people followed/unfollowed you this week; tweets with hashtag words being a larger %-age of the tweet than content words; tweets that are mirror images of simultaneous FB and IG posts

If the HIITT Scale catches on, maybe I'll waste less time reading nonsense in 2018. Until then, I'll be over on Twitter to be sure I don't miss anything.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash




I like shiny things. I like sparkles. I even like shiny, sparkly, glittery things -- in moderation. But right now, I've become overwhelmed by glitter.

It seems everything connected with the Christmas season is doused in glitter. When I bought gift bags, I didn't realize they would be leaving a trail of glitter from my car, through the garage, and across the kitchen floor. Weeks later, I'm still finding remnants of that glitter on the floor.

The ribbons and ornaments for the tree are also coated in glitter. At this time of year, anything I touch transfers glitter to my hands, face, furniture, or floor. Glitter is almost impossible to wash off the skin. Trying to sweep it off the floor only transfers it to a new area. I'm losing the glitter battle. It's everywhere, and it's maddening.

I've been thinking about the family coming to visit for the holiday. When the gift bags and the wrapping paper get tossed around, glitter will swirl though the air. Every crack and crevice will be filled with a new layer of the clingy stuff. Just the thought of it makes me break out in a sweat.

Could it be that I've developed sparkalaphobia? I didn't always feel an aversion to glitter, but now I cringe when I'm near the stuff.

If I'm going to get a handle on this phobia before the family gets here, I need to face this thing head-on. I'll fight fire with fire. I'll wear glittery nail polish, then douse myself in sparkly eye shadow and lip gloss. It will be like an antidote for the poison. Even if it rains glitter, it won't matter. I'll already be glittered.

And the best part, there's no need to clean house. It already sparkles.



Just Listen

I'm fascinated by the way humans have progressed through history. It's more than I can comprehend when I think of all the discoveries made from the Stone Age up to the Information Age. I've heard it said that the only thing constant is change, and that scares me a little. With all the changes I've witnessed during the Information Age, it frightens me because I think a new age could be creeping in upon us. I've seen the signs.

I came across evidence of this dawning new age while I was standing in one of those snaked check-out lines this week. It was an overheard conversation that tipped me off. Just so you know, I didn't set out to eavesdrop, but some people have never caught on to the concept of an 'inside voice'. I couldn't help but listen.

It started with friends, a man and a woman, crossing paths while shopping. They appeared to be of the millennial generation, and both seemed delighted to run into an old chum. I listened without too much interest as they exchanged information about significant others and family members, but then things got a little wacky. The male told the female how good she looked. She didn't thank him for the compliment or turn it back toward him. She gave him an explanation.

"It's the coconut oil," she said.
"Coconut oil?" he repeated.
"Yes, coconut oil," she said, getting excited. "I use it on my face, my hair, my hands, well everywhere. I even use it on my feet." She gave him a big smile.
"Oh," he said. His stunned expression told me he'd heard too much.

That's when I knew I was a witness to changing times. Our beloved Information Age is being replaced by the Too-Much-Information Age. The TMI Age has been born.

If you don't believe me, just go anywhere and listen. The signs are evident in waiting rooms, restaurants, schools, and churches. Don't say I didn't warn you. When you least expect it, you, too, could be the recipient of TMI. 


The Rules of Leggings

This atrocity has rocked on far too long. It's time to draft some rules concerning the wearing of leggings in public. I say it's time because my eyes can't unsee what they have seen. Today the offender was a 60+ year-old woman in printed leggings. I happened to be walking behind her in a grocery store aisle. She was energetic. Her shirt did not cover her backside. My eyes are still burning.

This incident was by no means isolated, but it did spur a call to action. I've made a first draft of legging rules. These may need to be amended and expanded, but I'll start here.

1.  Under no circumstances may leggings be substituted for pants.

2.  Leggings must be worn with a top that is longer than the wearer's rear end.

3.  A person who is aware she is overweight should not choose a printed fabric for leggings. Solid colors only, please.

4.  Women of a grandmotherly age may wear appropriate leggings (see rules 1, 2, and 3), however, they should not attempt to look or act like teenagers.

5.  If you plan to wear leggings in public, do everyone a favor and take a hard look a yourself in a full length mirror before leaving home.

These rules may not cover it all (no pun intended), but I hope they will bring awareness to this growing problem. Help me out if you have suggestions. In the mean time, shield your eyes, if necessary.

If you have a friend or loved one who continues to violate these rules, take measures. Think of it as an act of kindness. It's somewhat like hiding the car keys when a person becomes unable to safely drive. For the good of society, you may have to hide the leggings.




Life would be monotonous and boring if nothing ever changed. Most of the time I embrace change. Looking back over the past twenty, ten, or even five years, much for me has changed. I've even been known to change my hair color on a whim.

The one thing I don't like to change is a clock. Today, because of the end of Daylight Saving Time, I have reset clocks on the microwave, the oven, and the coffeemaker. I've changed the time on the clocks in the bathroom, the bedroom, and the den. I updated the car clock. My computer, phone, and watch all took care of the task for me while I slept. The rest of the clocks in the house are all still an hour ahead. Tomorrow I could remove the remaining clocks from the wall, spin the hands back an hour, then struggle to rehang the clocks. Or, I could avoid all that and wait until spring. Daylight Saving Time will roll back around, and the time displayed will be correct again.

I don't dislike Daylight Savings Time. What I dislike is the resetting of my body along with the clocks twice a year. There must be a better way. If Daylight Saving Time is beneficial to the masses, then why not keep it year round and avoid the change.

I don't mind change, as long as I don't have to change my clocks. Time is valuable. That's my two cents, and you can keep the change.




Put on Your Literacy Apron

I was the recipient of a hand made apron as a door prize at the White County Creative Writers Conference. I've decided to call it my literacy apron. This adorable design is a great gift for a writer, and it would also be a perfect gift for a teacher or a librarian. The big lower pocket has ample room for a note pad, pen, and voice recorder to keep any ideas from slipping away. Or maybe I'll fill mine up with paperbacks so I'll have one handy all the time.

Apron or no apron, writers, teachers, and librarians are all about promoting literacy. In spite of our best intentions, 14% of the U.S. population can't read.

It's no secret that people who read have an advantage. According to DoSomething.org, reading can be a life-changer. The site lists many facts about illiteracy, such as:

1.  2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Over 70% of America's inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level.

2.  Students who don't read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of school.

3.  Nearly 85% of the juveniles who face trial in the court system are functionally illiterate, proving there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime.

4.  More than 60% of all inmates are functionally illiterate.

5. Teenage girls between the ages of 16 to 19 who live in poverty and have below average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than girls their age who read proficiently.

There are holidays in every month of the year to remind us of the importance of literacy. August 9 was National Book Lovers' Day. September 6 was National Read a Book Day. Today is International Literacy Day.

Any day would be a good day to put on your literacy apron and help someone learn to read.


A Writing Conference and New Friends

Yesterday I attended the 2017 White County Creative Writers Conference, and I came away with inspiration, writing tips, and new friends. The group sponsors this annual event in Searcy, Arkansas, but this was the first time I have been able to attend. The speakers were awesome.

Dr. Frank W. Brown spoke on memoir writing. He has compiled the memories of growing up in Searcy into a memoir so his children and grandchildren will someday have a chance to know the things they may not be interested in asking about or listening to while they are young.

Peggy Archer is an author of several children's books. She did an outstanding presentation on "show, don't tell". This is a great reminder for writers of any age group. Peggy did an additional presentation on poetry.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter led a session on how to avoid rejections and red lines from publishers. This is the kind of information all writers are on the edge of their seats to hear. Shannon writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has published numerous books.

In addition to all the knowledge I gained, I also took home an honorable mention for a short story. Dot Hatfield made my day when she called my name.

I went to the conference solo, and I had not met anyone else who was attending. No worries, writers love to get acquainted. I didn't get photos of all the writers I met, but I'm happy to be able to count some of them as new friends. Shirley and Mary Lee, I hope to see you at the next conference.


I'm Immune

Just in case marketers want to know, I've become immune. This list of phrases was taken from some promotional emails I read today. None of them gave me the sense of urgency they were intended to convey. An email that begins with these words does not entice me to buy the product. All I want to do is roll my eyes.

  • Today only
  • Last chance
  • Last day
  • 24 hours only
  • Time's almost up
  • Last call
  • Final hours
  • Ends tonight
  • Jump on it
  • For one day only
  • Flash sale
  • Minutes left
  • Hurry
  • Gone in a flash

One reason my immunity has developed is because so many of the promotions sound the same. Another reason is because none of them are true. The sale that is 'today only' keeps coming back around so often it seems like it must be part of the Groundhog Day movie.

Don't get me wrong. I love a good sale, but I have my doubts about items that are marketed in this way. These promotions would be more effective if buyers weren't inundated with so much hype. I'm reminded of the parent who never follows through with children. The parent yells and threatens, but nothing ever happens.

My advice to marketers is to stop yelling at consumers. Tell me what your terms are. If something special is going on, by all means inform me, but I tend to stop listening when you say the same thing over and over again. But that's just me. 😉


Books and Kids

Books and kids go together like macaroni and cheese or milk and cookies. I've never met a child who had no interest in a good story.

As a classroom teacher, I read aloud every day to my class. It was a time the students looked forward to and didn't want to miss. I enjoyed seeing them captivated by the story. They loved humor. They loved books that evoked emotion. There was always a collective 'awwww' when reading time was over and the chapter ended with a cliffhanger. They wanted more.

I no longer have my own classroom, but sometimes I'm invited to classrooms to read to students. This is a preschool class I'm sharing a book with. These kids aren't readers yet, but they will be soon. Reading aloud to students promotes readiness skills.

If you've never volunteered to read aloud to a classroom, maybe it's something you'd like to try. Or if your schedule makes it impossible, perhaps you could donate a book to a classroom. Any teacher I know would be delighted with either effort.

Today would be a good day to read aloud. Age doesn't matter much. The younger you start reading to a child, the better. If your child is older, find a high interest book, then read aloud a chapter every night at bedtime. Good things will happen. Kids and books are magical.



What's Your State Reading?

For the past 16 years the Arkansas library system has promoted a statewide reading program called "If All Arkansas Read the Same Book". The selections are made each fall and the year-long activities culminate with a book tour by the author.

Cassie Dandridge Selleck's The Pecan Man is the chosen title for 2016-17. This summer has been a busy book tour time for Ms. Selleck. She has visited libraries and book clubs in cities across the state and has often managed to fit more than one stop into her day.

When Ms. Selleck gave a presentation at my hometown library, I was on the front row, literally. She was also gracious enough to allow me to have a photo with her. This one is the latest addition to the author photo collection board in my office. 

I'm always intrigued to hear from and to get to know the person behind a book. I enjoyed The Pecan Man for many reasons, one being the authentic Southern voice of Ora Lee Beckworth, the story's narrator.

Cassie Dandridge Selleck has a second book, What Matters in Mayhew, and it's now in my to-be-read queue. The sequel to The Pecan Man is in progress, and I'm looking forward to it, as well.

I commend the Arkansas library system for their worthwhile reading program, and I hope it is continued. I'd be interested to know how other states promote reading and authors in their libraries. 
What's your state reading?



Those Blooming Azaleas

Like most southerners, I love my azaleas. I have one section of red ones and another of white ones. The red group is in full bloom, but the whites are lagging a bit behind. As I checked on their progress today, I noticed the lacy, snow white blossoms are not alone. Placed strategically here and there in the midst of the white blooms are a few stray pink flowers. Huh?

Is this the equivalent of a person trying a new hair color? I didn't know flowers had the option of changing their minds like this. Has a flowering shrub ever had a mid-life crisis? Whatever the azaleas are up to, I think I'd better keep an eye on them.

Azaleas are a type of shrub classified in a large group that includes blueberry bushes. If my azaleas get any crazy ideas next year, I hope they decide to produce blueberries.



Something Green to Read

Fredrik Backman has become popular with my book club. Over the past few months we have chosen to read A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry. Now for the month of March we are reading Britt-Marie Was Here.

Today I noticed the cover of Britt-Marie Was Here has beautiful shades of green. I'm reading from a green book on this St. Patrick's Day, and I hope you are, too. Green is an important color in the world. Besides this great book, some of my other favorite green things are:

1. Trees
2. Mint
3. Avocados
4. Kiwis
5. Shamrocks
6. Apples
7. Asparagus
8. Emeralds
9. Grapes
10. Money

It's easy to see where my heart lies. Half of my favorites are food. If you don't have a green book to read today, another color will do. Happy St. Patrick's Day.



I'm Over It

The incident happened several years ago, but the memory is so fresh it could have been an hour ago. I was a new employee at a particular workplace. One of the seasoned workers informed me, "You're not like us." Her mouth was smiling, but her words stabbed me through the heart. When she said 'us' she was referring to herself and everyone else working there.

I was stunned, too stunned to ask her for any explanation. I crawled into my shell and swore it didn't matter.

I felt like a child in school, the one not invited to play.

I know I did my job well. No one could question my work ethic. I was treated with respect in the workplace, even so, I heard her words echo through the halls.

Time marched on, and I left that job behind. The words tagged along with me. They troubled me. What made me different?  The woman's face haunted me. Late at night when I couldn't sleep, I ruminated on the words. I thought about them for years without resolution.

Then, one evening during a book club meeting, I heard some similar words. As authors were being discussed, one person chimed in with "writers, in general, are different". I agreed.

My mind went backward in time. I once again heard "You're not like us", but this time with new ears. This time I did not feel excluded. I felt defined. I realized the woman from my old job never meant to criticize. I should have interpreted her comment as a compliment, rather than as an insult.

I don't have to be like everyone else. It's the differences that make the difference. I'm a writer because I'm different. I'm different because I'm a writer.

All that time ago, I don't know what compelled my co-worker to make the statement that troubled me for years, but it doesn't matter.

I'm so over it.



A Homesteading Adventure

I've grown up hearing tales of the many hardships my ancestors faced. My grandparents homesteaded 160 acres of land in Arkansas. I don't know if they had any concept of how difficult it would be to move their family into an uninhabited place, build a house, and clear the land. What I do know is that my grandparents were not afraid of hard work, and they were not quitters. My mother was a child during the homesteading years, so she shared a first hand account of much the family endured during that time period.

Because of the homesteading history in my own family, I was intrigued by Coffee-Drunk or Blind. This book by Elle Knowles is the story of her family's adventure in homesteading. During the late 1950's, the Knowles family set off from Louisiana to Alaska. Vernon and Helen Knowles had four small children when they left Louisiana and added a fifth while living on the homestead. Much of the book is comprised of letters written to and from family back home.

This nonfiction book is rich in history of the time period. I don't know how Helen Knowles managed not only to survive living in the wilderness under primitive conditions, but to make a happy home for her young children. Read the book for yourself and see if you can imagine how your family would react to some of the trials faced by the Knowles family.

My favorite tidbit gleaned from the book -- Helen Knowles imparted a love of reading to her children by reading aloud to them every day.

Find out more about Elle Knowles and her books here.



Dethroned on Twitter

While having coffee this morning, I scrolled through Twitter as part of my wake-up routine. I noted that New York City was being blasted by a snow storm. I wanted to be there, not because of the snow, but to attend the SCBWI winter conference.

I also learned that today is National Pizza Day. I have to get a better calendar so I'll know ahead of time about these great holidays. My family may not understand my lack of planning when I serve fried chicken tonight instead of pizza.

My half-awake eyes almost missed the most startling tweet of all. I scrolled back up to see if I might have misread it as it whizzed past. There it was. "The contest is over" tweeted a blogger I follow. She announced she was now 'Best Mom Ever'. Her six-year-old son had bestowed her with the honor. I was shaken. You see, that was my title.

I was honored as 'Best Mom Ever' by my son the year I made a Minecraft birthday cake for him. I thought the award was permanent. I now realize other moms can do something worthy of winning the title.

I have to relinquish my crown to another mom.

After seeing her tweet, I tweeted back to let her know I am the reigning title holder, but that I would concede the crown. Being a gracious winner, she promised to serve to the best of her ability.

I thought the matter was settled. I wasn't aware my son was monitoring the tweets between the new winner and myself. He tweeted that he could appeal the decision in mom court.

Only the 'Best Son Ever' would offer to do that.



First Impressions

My initial impression of a new place is something I seldom forget. When a place is mentioned, my first impression shows up in my memory. A first impression works like a word association for me. Name a place and my original impression will pop into my head. I can't help it, even if my opinion is different from my first impression. The image is stuck, and I can't forget.

For example, when someone mentions Cincinnati, Ohio, I think of it as a beautiful city, the way I first saw it coming in from the south on highway 75. After getting into the city, the traffic was snarled and slow-going. Some areas didn't look as picturesque as my first view. Nevertheless, when I hear the name Cincinnati, I think of that lovely sloping view the first time my eyes saw the city.

I also have a recurring first impression of Louisville, Kentucky. As a new visitor to the city, I pulled into a parking lot and stepped out of my car. A man got out of a car nearby. He leaned back into his car and shouted, "Get out of the f - ing car!" He was speaking to a small boy, I assumed to be his son. He repeated the crude, shocking request again before the child complied. I know Louisville is famous for the Kentucky Derby. It's the heart of Bluegrass Country. I enjoyed my stay there and did some great shopping. All the same, that man in the parking lot is my lasting impression of Louisville. I shall never forget him.

Of course, places aren't the only ones to leave a lingering impression with people. Writers make a first impression with everyone they encounter. If a writer's work is riddled with typos, it won't be forgotten. If work is submitted in the wrong format, the writer might be remembered as incompetent. In the publishing world, agents, editors, and publishers are too busy to have their time wasted. They all deserve to see our very best. Just like a city, a writer isn't given a second chance to make a good first impression.



Word Collections

Some words have beautiful meanings, others have a intriguing sound when spoken. Still others can cause a person to shed a tear or recoil in anger. I love them all.

Writing makes me happy because words are my tools. They can be mixed and matched or strung together in new ways. Likewise, I love to read because words become a story that draws me into the lives of others. The way the author uses words is an art.

This is a list of some of my favorite words. These are words I like because of the way they sound. Some conjure up pleasant thoughts, others have a more disagreeable meaning, but they all have a beauty when spoken. Read these words aloud and see if you agree.

1. Rejuvenate
2. Maraschino
3. Lavender
4. Nemesis
5. Serenity
6. Cavalier
7. Sashay
8. Lily
9. Despicable
10. Society

I also delight in learning new words. I keep a notebook for unfamiliar words I come across. By recording the word and its meaning I can better remember the word.

I know I can't be the only one with a word collection. What are some of your favorites?



Valued Connections

Like most writers, I've loved to write since I was a child. When I took a creative writing class in high school, I had an outlet for the ideas crammed in my head. Then as an undergrad, a writing instructor asked if I had "considered writing as a career". I had, but only in my dreams.

In reality I became a public school teacher. My career was satisfying and even involved an element of writing. I was assigned the duty of writing the school newsletter in a couple of my workplaces. This was not the kind of writing I had aspired to do.

The words of my writing teacher continued to echo in my ears throughout the years. Now I'm at a place in life where I can take his advice. At last, my writing has become more than a dream.

Beginning a career in writing has its discouraging and intimidating moments, but there are exhilarating ones, as well. I've had some important connections to help me get started.

SCBWI is a group dedicated to providing support and information to writers and illustrators. The Arkansas chapter provides conferences that are beneficial to both the new and the seasoned writer. This is a great place to meet other writers. Trainings make these conferences well worth attending, not to mention the added bonus of being able to meet with agents and editors.

Belonging to a group similar to this one is essential for a writer. Numerous associations exist for writers of every genre. Individual connections with other writers are an important part of the profession. I've read, read, and read some more. I've enjoyed attending book signings and meeting other authors whenever possible. I treasure the friendships I have made with writers and editors, and I look forward to adding more. Have we connected yet? Let me know if you have an author website or if you are on Twitter or Facebook.

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Let's connect!


Make Me Invisible

My daughter asked what I intended to wear to an event I was hostessing. It was going to be a large group, and I had many details to attend to concerning food, tables, and decor. She was considering her choice of clothing with care. My answer? I told her I didn't know what I would wear, but it would be something that would blend into the background, something that didn't stand out. I did not want center stage. Perhaps I could find something to make me seem invisible.

Superheroes Spider Man and Super Girl are able to become invisible. Numerous comic book heroes and villains have the trait, too, as do Harry Potter and the Cheshire Cat, two favorite book characters.

Hunters know the value of being invisible. They choose their camo to blend in with the surroundings so the prey will never know they're not part of the foliage.

Hiding in plain sight is also important to soldiers. Their life may depend upon the color of their fatigues to hide them from the enemy.

With invisibility as common as dirt, I think it's not too much to ask that I could be invisible once in a while. Sometimes I don't want to be looked at. I don't want to be inspected. I want to do my job without any fanfare. It's not that I don't like people, but in a crowd I'd rather observe than participate.

When the day of the event came, I chose my clothes with the care a hunter or soldier might use. I didn't wear camo, but I wore a monochromatic outfit with minimal jewelry. I would offer the food and the hospitality while blending into the background. The more invisible I could be, the more I could people watch.

Most guests were dressed in unforgettable clothing. Colors were bright and patterns bold. Statement necklaces attracted attention with an extra pop of color. If my plan worked, no one will have any recollection of what I was wearing. If only I could have avoided those pesky photos, too.

My plan for the next event is to get an invisibility cloak. I'll be the one who's not in any of the photos, and don't expect to see Harry Potter in any of them, either.


5 Things That Make Me Grouchy

I'm sure no one wants to see my grouchy face. I try to ward off the grouchies by keeping a positive attitude, but it doesn't always work.

I know I should keep quiet if I have nothing nice to say. I know I can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Even though I try to adhere to these adages, there are a few things that always seem to make me forget about them.

1. Broken eggs in the carton. I open the carton in the store to inspect the eggs before I buy them. I do not want to buy broken eggs, but some cracks are not apparent on inspection. When I buy eggs, thinking all are intact, then pick up an egg to use it and discover it is smashed on the bottom, it makes me grouchy.

2. Shoes that blister my feet. This is a sneaky one. A pair of shoes can feel fine, but out of the blue a blister forms. This especially makes me grouchy if I have to keep walking in the shoes. The bigger the blister gets, the grouchier I get.

3. Someone who takes undue credit. Sometimes it's job related, but not always. It can be anything that one person grabs all the credit for, leaving the person who did the work with their mouth open in disbelief. It makes me feel grouchy that anyone would have the nerve to pretend they were responsible for something they didn't do. I have only one word for those people -- karma.

4. Unleashed dogs. I like dogs, but I don't want them running loose in my neighborhood. I enjoy walking for exercise, and an unleashed dog can be scary. My city has a leash law, and I feel grouchy that some of my neighbors don't honor it.

5. People who don't clean up after themselves. It doesn't matter if it's a family member or a house guest, I'm not the maid. If you make the mess, the mess belongs to you. Leaving messy surprises behind for me makes me grouchy.

Most of the time, I'm an easy-going person. On those rare days that I meet an unleashed dog when I have a blister on my foot while walking to the store for eggs that turn out to be broken when I get home, then I find my houseguest has spilled coffee on the floor, but she was too busy to clean it up because she was on the phone taking credit for work someone else had done, I might get a bit grouchy.

What makes you grouchy?



Holy Jackhammer

If you've ever been involved in new home construction or home remodeling, you know how nerve-racking either can be. After living in the same house for 24 years, we decided to build a house from the ground up. Not literally, as I never picked up a hammer. The hard work for me was the 50 million decisions about everything from brick to light fixtures. I was relieved when the whole ordeal was over. At last, the house looked perfect, and we moved in.

Now, only two years later, we have decided to remodel. I must have forgotten how hard it was. I don't know what has possessed us, but we have decided to make some changes in the basement. Changes to the tune of adding another bathroom, a laundry room, and a private office for me.

The workers came this week. I've stayed out of their way, with me upstairs, them downstairs. They have their work, I have mine. I was working on a magazine piece this afternoon when the jackhammer started. I hung on to the laptop. Everything in the room vibrated, especially my head. I couldn't finish my writing. To write, I have to be able to hear myself think.

Jackhammers are noisy. I don't like noise. If I had to run a jackhammer for a living, I would starve.

I remember now why remodeling is a bad idea.


If You're a Bibliophile, Admit It

Some people think it's weird. I think it's perfectly normal to be reading more than one book at a time. If it makes sense to have students study seven different subjects during the school day, then it should also make sense that a person can enjoy multiple books.

In proof of my point, I looked around and picked up the four titles I'm reading right now. One was in my car. I've been reading it to pass the time while I wait in the car line after school. A second one was on the sofa in front of the television. Often, I'll switch on the t.v., and finding nothing interesting, turn it off and pick up my book. Another one was in the kitchen. There are times when I can grab a few minutes to read while I wait for something to bake. The last one was in my purse. I hate waiting rooms of any kind, and it's much more entertaining for me to read a book than to scroll through my phone.

My current reads:

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox, my book club selection for the month.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, my car line fantasy.

Code of Silence by Tim Shoemaker, a middle grade thriller recommended by my editor, Pam Halter.

Coffee-Drunk or Blind by Elle Knowles, a nonfiction Alaskan family homesteading adventure.

In addition to my four in-progress reads, I keep a stack of of to-be-read books handy at all times. It gives me the same feeling as having a savings account. Whether it's money in the bank or a stack of extra books, it's a comforting feeling to know there's an emergency back up.

I can't be the only bibliophile with this habit of juggling different reads. Admit it, some of you read multiple books at the same time, too. I'd love to hear what you're reading. I'm always looking for new titles to add to my stack.


A Planner by Another Name

Ever since the beginning of the new year my journal has been staring at me from across the room. I think it has been questioning my loyalty. That's because my eye has been wandering. Yes, I've been looking at other journals.

I'm not tired of my journal. We're comfortable with each other. It was the hype about bullet journals that turned my head. I became intrigued by the color coding, the lists, and the symbols. Is this new thing a journal or a daily art project? I had to know more.

I read multiple how-to's on setting up and using a bullet journal, but I found the definition to be vague. If the bullet journal is as complicated as the instructions, I knew I might never figure it out.

I believe the original premise was to record daily information in a simple way, but the simplicity got lost. The simple looks complicated to me. To use a bullet journal I'll need to devise a list of symbols and a key to help me remember what all those symbols represent. On the up side, I can use pretty colors of ink.

This fancy new kind of journal bears a strong resemblance to my daily planner. It contains a list of appointments, a list of what to do that day, and anything I need to remember. The only thing my ordinary planner is missing is the art element.

Some have noted that a bullet journal saves them time. That's great, but I can't see it working for me. I may be misjudging the bullet journal, but I view it as a modified planner. My journal can't be replaced by a planner, no matter how cutesy the planner might be. My journal serves one distinct purpose and my planner serves another.

I hope my journal will forgive me for even entertaining the crazy idea of replacing it. Others may not agree, but my conclusion of the matter is that bullet journals are planners masquerading by another name.