The Cowboy in the Bedroom

Can you guess who this is?

I have a framed picture in my bedroom on a small table. It was drawn by a local artist, Kerri Boutwell, and I eagerly bought it several years ago.

Lately, on several occasions, I’ve noticed the portrait turned around and facing the wall. I’d turn it back, only to find it flipped around again several days later.

Finally, last week, I mentioned the odd ritual to my husband. “Have you been turning the picture around?”

“Yeah. I don’t like the cowboy staring at me while I’m in bed.”

“The cowboy?” I laughed. “That’s not a cowboy. It’s Mark Twain!”

Well, apparently it’s okay to have Mark Twain staring at him in bed because the drawing hasn’t moved.

Isn’t it a great picture? I never knew Twain was so handsome, even with the god-awful mustache.

In a pinch, your phone can read to you

Back in May, all of a sudden, I was going to be spending about 12 hours on the road every week shuttling between Oregon and Washington to care for my parents.  Add to that, the daily commutes between homes, appointments, and errands.

What better use of the time than to listen to books.

But I didn’t have Audible, didn’t have time to look up books, and didn’t have unlimited funds. AND I had a teetering pile of ebooks that I hadn’t read. Hmm…

Can I have my antique, cracked iPhone read to me?

The answer was YES.

The Pros:

1. I “read” a bunch of books that were languishing in my Kindle file.

2. A book doesn’t need to be an audiobook to listen to it.

3. I accessed the books through the Kindle App on the phone.

4. It’s easy to do (mostly).

5. The reading speed is adjustable.

6. Now I can listen to books while making dinner or weeding the garden or exercising. So, I’m “reading” more.

7. It doesn’t cost anything.

 

The Cons:

1. According to author/blogger Andrew Joyce, he wouldn’t wish the phone’s “robot voice” on his worst enemy.   iPhones don’t read with any inflection. It is, indeed, Siri reading to you in her droning monotone. I’ll admit, the first couple of books were tough, but my brain eventually compensated and started focusing on the story and characters despite robot-voice.

2. Siri messes up some words. “Putting” is pronounced like the golf stroke. “Tasting” rhymes with “lasting.” Forget hyphenated words – Siri doesn’t understand hyphens.

3. Siri doesn’t transition well through chapter or scene changes. She just barrels through them, which can be disorienting.

4. Poetry is impossible. Don’t even try it.

5. The iPhone has a problem activating the speech function, and it can take a lot of tries. It will also occasionally decide that it’s done after one page instead of flipping to the next.  Apparently, these issues have been a problem for years and Apple doesn’t care. I occasionally need to hard-reset or restart my phone, or both, to get it to read.

 

How to set up your iPhone for speech:

(If you don’t have an iPhone, I can’t help you, but the internet might! This is part of the accessibility function for visually impaired phone users, so I think most brands will have something similar.)

Click on the System icon.

Select General.

Select Accessibility.

Turn on Speech.

Open your Kindle app and select your book. Go to the first page you want to “read.”

Swipe down on the phone with two fingers (possibly multiple times, like 30).

If it works right, the phone will start reading to you, including flipping your pages.

If it doesn’t work, do a hard reset of your phone, restart your phone, or both. This is totally annoying but worth it in the end.

And don’t wrestle with any of this while driving. Pull over, please. 🙂

Happy Listening!

The parental saga continues.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back to blogging full-time but I’m looking forward to it.
In the meantime, I’m reading with Siri. ❤

A Blogging Hiatus

Right about now, I should be gearing up to post June’s speculative fiction prompt. I had a challenging image ready to go and couldn’t wait for the barrage of wonderful stories and poems.

But once again, my parents’ health challenges are requiring my undivided time.  Recent complications have meant I’m providing almost 24/7 care.  I’m just plain tuckered out, and though prompts and blogging are a major source of fun in my day, I need to step back until things stabilize. 

I have a few book reviews to share, and I will visit when I can, but I already know I’ll be scarce, at least for June.

On a lighter note, have a happy, peaceful, creative, and healthy month ahead! 

This pixabay image cracked me up. I couldn’t resist.

 

 

Reflecting on Mother’s Day

Four generations of women on Mother's Day, 30 yrs ago

Four generations of women on Mother’s Day, 36 yrs ago

A repost from last year, no less relevant today.

For several years, I had the great privilege of serving families in need. As part of my work, I was invited into homes and lives to guide, teach, nurture, and when I could, to gather baskets of memories brimming with new ways of being and believing in the world. At most, I accompanied mothers and children on their journeys for mere slivers of time, and yet in the collection of hours and days, I was witness to great suffering and love, desperation and hope.

Those who travel the helpers’ path are granted gifts. Not gifts wrapped in paper and laced with ribbon that we set on a windowsill and forget with time, but gifts that reside within us, that alter who we are and how we perceive our world.

We live in a time of divisiveness. Our politics shred our world, and unfiltered rhetoric spews like bile into the air, toxic with deception and blame. It is no wonder that we are losing our ability to listen and behold each other with open minds and compassionate hearts.

Struggling mothers and their children live everywhere: in the mountains of China, on the plains of Africa, in the arid lands of Iran, or simply around the corner. Across the globe, mothers touch small foreheads, peer into innocent eyes, and sing their children to sleep.  What would happen to our world if we became still and quiet and listened to those whispered songs?

The enduring gifts of a mother’s love have sustained children, families and communities through the centuries. They are timeless, borderless reminders of our common humanity and dreams of hope.

To mothers everywhere, I wish us a world of peace.

On the Road – A spec-fiction-prompt break.

Some of you might remember my hectic October when my brother and I were responding to our parents’ emergency health challenges. Since then, we’ve been trying to find senior housing near us and a spot finally opened up. Months of waiting flipped overnight into a flurry of urgent activity.

Not a happy cat!

I’ll be flying to Colorado tomorrow to pack their house, make trips to the dump, talk to a realtor, arrange for a UHaul, move my parents (and their cats!), and get them settled into their new apartment a thousand miles from the place they call home. The to-do dragon is a mile long and will surely grow horns and a tail.

Needless to say, this is going to take a few weeks. I’m practicing serenity as well as making time to accomplish my tasks with patience, care, and kindness.

I have posts prescheduled in order to finish sharing March’s Speculative Fiction stories and poems. I’m going to close comments, so please click through to the writers’ sites to comment on the stories.

We’ll wrap up the Ninny Rhino challenge with a blog party (you’re all invited), and I’ve got some lovely blog shares planned as well as a couple reposts. You won’t even notice that I’m gone. Lol.

With all this going on, I’ve decided not to post a prompt for April (sigh). I just wouldn’t be able to give it the proper attention it requires.

But, we’ll resume in May – so get your steampunk hats on!

I’ll be visiting and checking in as I’m able. Happy Writing and have a few wonderful weeks of spring (or autumn). Peace ❤

It’s my birthday and I’ll write if I want to

Turning 60 today. Holy Moley. Yipes.

But I’m 24 on the inside. So there, Father Time!

**

To celebrate, I wrote my first Etheree for Colleen’s #Tanka Tuesday. As part of the challenge, we had to use synonyms of the words begin and fresh.

Journeys

new

babies

toothless smiles

fawn-eyed wonders

how swiftly they spring

from smooth mud-pie fingers

into school girls and lovers

clasped heartbeats of newborn mothers

journeys mapped in our parchment wrinkles

to rock sweet babies in grandmother’s arms

 

My bossy muse returns

The muse’s latest look (all images from pixabay)

My muse and I have a love/hate relationship. She’s a shapeshifter, and she isn’t known for her sweetness or patience, so I’m not sure what to expect when I open my writing room door.

I know she’s there because of the howler monkey roaring at me from the banister of the outside staircase (and I don’t live near a jungle). “Shoo, shoo,” I order, flapping a hand. I slip past and shut the door before the beast tries to bite or groom me.

A glaive

The muse is sitting on my futon, flipping a knife, a pistol-thing in a holster at her hip. Against the wall rests a double-bladed glaive that looks like it could take my head off, maybe twice. My instincts tell me to take my chances with the monkey.

“How’s the book coming?” She arches an eyebrow. Sarcasm leaches from her pores.

I lean on the door, arms crossed. “I had a hectic summer.”

She puts her boots up on my coffee table. The knife spins above her head, and she grabs it out of the air before it stabs her. “I’ll give you a pass… this time. But I want some progress. You’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo this year – 50,000 words by the end of November.”

I wrinkle my nose into my “stinky-smell” face while panic flutters in my chest like a caged sparrow. “You realize that November is tomorrow. I haven’t prepped. I haven’t even signed up. I barely have an outline. And need I remind you, NaNo is a ton of work!”

“So, get over it.” She practically rolls her eyes. “You’re a writer. Writing is a ton of work.”

“I know, but I’m having trouble even envisioning this story. Your suggestion of goblins and shapeshifters isn’t clicking. It’s not my thing.”

“Trust me.” She gives me a sly grin full of evil, musey intent.

“Can I fire you?” I ask, only half-joking.

She ignores me and sheaths her knife. “I want you to add elves to the mix.”

“Elves?” Now she’s struck a nerve. I pretend to gag. “That’s your solution? Ugh. I don’t even like elves. Their too Tolkien, too… elfish. I love Tolkien, but… ugh. I’d feel like I’m writing a spin-off. Ugh, yuck.”

My muse sighs at my immaturity. “You don’t write spin-offs.”

I still can’t get the elf-taste off my tongue, but since that sounded like a compliment of sorts, I cease gagging and plop down beside her. “Thank you, but elves?”

“What do you have against elves?” She tucks a lock of hair behind her pointed ear, and I groan. “It’s not like I’m insisting on dwarves.”

“Dwarves? As in Thorin and Balin, or gnomes with red hats? Even worse! Thank you for not ruining my life. Elves are bad enough. Yeesh.” I’m starting to feel incredibly cranky under all this pressure. “And what’s with the gun thing? I don’t write guns either.”

“It’s a pulser.” She pulls it from her holster and rests it on the table. “I’ll leave it to you to figure out how it works as well as its limitations. I want you to stretch, Peach. Write something different, something challenging.”

I slouch and put on my grumpy face. “Shapeshifters, goblins, and elves, oh my.”

She smirks and gives my shoulder a hearty shake before rising to her feet and grabbing her glaive. “Once you get started, I’ll help. It’s my job.” She opens the door, and the howler jumps into her arms.

While she clomps down the stairs, I stand at the banister outside my door. Through the dense trees, dawn’s thin light is green and liquid. The monkey barks at me from my muse’s arms, and another annoying thought pops into my head. I have to ask. “And I suppose one of the settings is a jungle? You know I’ve never lived in a jungle.”

“That’s called research,” she yells and glances at me over her shoulder, wicked half-smile curling her lips. “Have fun.”

She fades into the forest. I shut the door, open my laptop, and google NaNoWriMo. Ready or not, time to sign up.

***

My blogging time will be a bit sparse this month. But I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve too. Elves? Really? Happy Writing!