Living with Nature – Snakes.

A  little creature that shares my world.

In most of my books, nature has a strong presence. It’s part of “write what you know,” and I often joke that I was raised by wolves. An exaggeration, but I was lucky enough to be brought up in the outdoors and feel quite comfortable in the woods.

Here’s a picture of my playpen, built by my dad out of sticks at the cabin overlooking Skylight Pond in Vermont.

When I was about 12 (and my brothers were 11 and 8), my parents used to drop us off on the Long Trail in the Green Mountains and pick us up three days later, fifteen miles down the path. We read maps, dealt with unexpected snow, built shelters, shooed porcupines from our food, and cut pine boughs for our beds.

1985 – On a month-long trek in Wyoming. I still have those clothes!

On other occasions, they’d leave us with the old canoe under a bridge (no life jackets back then) and pick us up miles downstream at the end of the weekend. It was a blast. It was normal. And somehow, we survived, even as our adventures increased in daring and duration as we aged.

Fast forward 25 years from those first independent forays into the wilderness: I married my husband, a man from Atlantic City, New Jersey. A city kid willing to brave country living for the sake of love. And, his encounters with wildlife make for endless comedy.

A few examples:

1 – Turtles. I’ve never seen a man run so fast as the first time he came across a big turtle on our hiking path. It was the size of a dinner plate. I pointed it out to him, mostly so he wouldn’t step on it. “Wow, look at that turtle.” He shrieked, hands flew up, and he ran down the trail in the opposite direction.

2 – Bugs. Tornado Boy was over last weekend, and he was expressing a lot of concern about spiders and bees. I called my daughter, “Are you and his dad teaching him to be afraid of bugs?” She denied any role in that behavior. Then I looked out the window and saw Grampy sprinting across the deck, swatting at an imaginary swarm of killer bees. “Never mind,” I told her.

3 – Snakes. We have lots and lots of little garter snakes around here. They’re about two feet long and not much thicker than a pencil (mostly). I try not to leave the doors of the house open because the hummingbirds fly in and can’t find their way out without help, which involves ladders.

A tiny thing that eats slugs, worms and insects.

But yesterday, I was gardening and left the door open for about 15 minutes. My husband came tearing out of the house in a panic because two snakes decided to take up residence. I found the smallest one quickly as it slithered away from me. I picked it up and let it go in the bushes. The second one was hiding.

After a short hunt, I dragged it out from behind the furniture and held it for him to see from where he stood thirty feet away in the front yard in case he needed to run. I let it go and twenty minutes it was back trying to get in the house again. No luck, the door stays closed.

Other Oregon wildlife to be scared of if you’re from the city: Slugs, bats, coyotes, salamanders, and large frogs. But that’s another story.

Sunday Blog Share: Steel Venom

I thought maybe I’d start sharing why I picked a certain piece for the Sunday Blog Share. In this case, Almost Iowa gave me a hysterical reminder of the crazy, dangerous things I did as a kid.  Prepare to laugh (or cringe).

Comments are closed here, so click through and enjoy.

Steel Venom

by Almost Iowa

Every summer my wife tries to get me on an amusement park ride called Steel Venom.

She loves the contraption – about as much as I hate it.

Last summer was no exception and one afternoon we found ourselves bickering in the shadow of a half roller-coaster half catapult.

“You’re chicken,” she taunted.

“Not at all,” I said.

Overhead, the ride flexed and moaned as a trolley corkscrewed its way up a high tower. When it reached the top, it paused for one heart-thumping moment to dangle its riders above a flock of confused birds – then it plunged into a wild spiral that ended only inches from the ground.

The riders flashed by us, howling in terror. A few wore faces whiter than death and I thought for a moment that I recognized an old friend among them.

Without the slightest hesitation or remorse, the trolley fired up a companion tower then repeated the process over and over – until everyone, rider and observer alike, was nauseous.

“Don’t look like much fun to me,” I observed.

“Chicken,” she repeated.

Believe me, Steel Venom did not frighten me. I’ve dodged bullets, survived a car wreck and endured an audit by the IRS and not one of those things even quickened my pulse – because nothing, absolutely nothing will ever come close to the ride I took on a Radio Flyer wagon when I was six years old.

***

At first, I simply put things into my wagon and towed them around the yard. But I soon discovered it was more fun to hop in the wagon and roll down our backyard hill…

(Continue Reading: Steel Venom)

My Chili Attempt

Perhaps some of you remember my Oven Saga where I survived without an oven for 4 months and only one stovetop burner for 6 years. The culinary arts are not my forte, and I blame the ineptitude on my childhood. When I was growing up, we had a garden, but everything else came out of a box or can. I never learned to cook.

But I try.

To fill some of my new free time due to my writing break,  I decided to make chili. How hard can chili be?

You might also remember my post about how I learn by Failure. This approach to life I also attribute to my childhood and my dad’s tendency to jump into projects high on enthusiasm and low on planning. That’s me. So here goes:

First I defrost the lamb burger (acquired from a local farm). Add it to the skillet with some chopped onion and fresh garlic, and since the only pepper I have is an orange bell pepper, in goes the orange bell pepper. Good so far.

Everything is cooking nicely, so it’s time to add the tomatoes and tomato paste, but I don’t have any. Uh oh. It’s already time to improvise. I rummage around in the cupboard and… aha! I have some canned tomato bisque soup! So in goes the tomato soup. It’s a little thin, but I can doctor that up. Just you watch.

Add the kidney beans. Check.

Now, I sent my husband to the store last week for chili powder, and he brought home two little jars of red stuff. “Chili Powder” the jar says. I scrounge in the cabinet, grab the jar of red stuff, and a jar of coriander seasoning. No cumin, oh well. I add coriander and open the jar of the red stuff, scoop some into the skillet and taste test.

Hmmm. Doesn’t taste very chili-ish. So I add some more. Tastes sort of odd, not bad, just… different. Hmmm.

To counter the lack of chili taste, I add garlic powder and more coriander. Still not right. Add more chili powder. Then I notice the label – Red Curry Powder. He got two jars of red stuff, but only one was chili powder! Now, what to do? The answer is obvious. Dump in a huge helping of chili powder and garlic powder to counteract the red curry powder.

All the powder is starting to thicken up the tomato bisque soup nicely. I told you I could doctor it up!

Add a little garlic bread (made with bagels because I’m out of bread) and the husband said it was good!

ALL TRUE!

Sunday Blog Share: The Evolution of Mom

The Evolution of Mom

By Bridget of The Happy Quitter

Perhaps I shouldn’t be the one posting this since I am not a mother, but then on the other hand maybe that’s precisely the reason why I should post it because I watched all my friends go through all the different stages. I am a witness, this all is true!

The Evolution of Mom

Parenthood changes with each baby. Here, some of the ways having a second and third child differ from having your first:

Your Clothes

1st baby: You begin wearing maternity clothes as soon as your OB/GYN confirms your pregnancy.

2nd baby: You wear your regular clothes for as long as possible.

3rd baby: Your maternity clothes are your regular clothes.

The Baby’s Name

1st baby: You pore over baby-name books and practice pronouncing and writing combinations of all your favorites.

2nd baby: Someone has to name their kid after your great-aunt Mavis, right? It might as well be you.

3rd baby: You open a name book, close your eyes, and see where your finger falls. Bimaldo? Perfect!

Preparing for the Birth…

(Continue Reading: The Evolution of Mom)

Aunt Agnes and the Accidental Invasion

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Aunt Agnes and the Accidental Invasion

By L.T. Garvin

It all started when Ilene Wilson showed up at Dominoes Club saying that her husband, Ralph, had been taken away by an Accidental Invasion.

“I have never heard tell of such!” exclaimed Aunt Agnes, giving me a sharp look over her dominos. Aunt Agnes had been worried about our neighbor, Ilene, ever since she found out she had been taking Nervous Pills, you know, for her nerves and all.

“I think those things have got her,” Aunt Agnes whispered to me as I put a domino on the table.

Ilene and Ralph had been our neighbors now for goin’ on four years. Truthfully, I was pretty sure I had seen Ralph slip out of the building a few times getting on the casino bus going over to Oklahoma to gamble. Ilene would have skinned him alive if she knew he was over there wasting money…

(Continue Reading: Aunt Agnes and the Accidental Invasion)

Teen Angst Poem Challenge

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Ali Isaac and Sarah Brentyn challenged each other (and then everyone else) to post a teenage angst poem. I have a bunch of those!

I was about 17 when I wrote this. It’s the most cringe-worthy I could find. Feel free to groan.

Surrender

Surrender I would
and let the waves of you
wash over me
gaping wounds filled
with pools of serenity
I dream your hands on my face
in tenderness unbearable
despair
I weep for all the lost
and left behind
I have not finished
with the anguish
with you a tormentor for a lover
my struggle is not won
would you be my new battleground
The answer lies through the loneliness
I can not surrender
the suffering

Note: Oh boy, I was a miserable kid. Just goes to show, there’s hope.

If you take up the challenge, tag your poem #teenangstpoem

 

I love THAT

that

For the past few months, I’ve been engaged in the writerly task of editing four books. I do this full-time for about 14 hours a day, divvying the tasks up into four categories: 1) borderline boring, 2) terribly tedious, 3) downright dreary, and 4) mega mind-numbing. That way I can mix them up for a little variety.

One of the editing passes that I undertake is the arduous process of “enlivening my words.” I use the search function on Word to look up dull words and one by one swap them out for more interesting ones. At the tippity-top of the humdrum list is “was.” An exceedingly handy verb but not a writer’s best friend. I allow myself an average of one “wuz” per page. This means looking up about 600 wuzzes and switching 300 of them out. For 4 books, I’ll comb through approximately 2,400 wuzzes.  Ack!

I have 33 wimpy, weak, crutch words that I put through this process, none as dreadful as “was” though “had” ranks right up there in second place. It takes forever.

I’ve completed all my swaps except for the last – Word #33: THAT.

For some reason that I can’t explain, I just love that word. I could write that word in every sentence that I write. And that’s a problem. Plus that’s a word that’s hard to replace without completely changing the way that a sentence is written. I know that other writers can figure that out without that much trouble, but that’s easier said than done. For me, that’s an editing step that takes tons of time that I could use to make other changes that would improve my work.

Good Grief. Ha ha.

Okay, I gotta cut this out so I can cut that out. Wish me luck – only about 3,000 to go.