Traveling and other business

It’s been a busy summer to say the least. We kicked off by traveling, of course. We went to a resort in Antalya, Turkey. After all of our adventurous traveling, it was lovely to sit by a pool and read or sit by the beach and watch the waves roll in. Joy, Constance, and Nerdling had a good time. They especially enjoyed riding the “Crazy Shark”. This was a raft pulled behind a speed boat. All five of us fit on. And it did get crazy. We hit a combo of a wake and an incoming wave and the raft bounced a good five feet above the surface of the water. Shockingly, no one fell off the raft.

I also started a new job this summer with more consistent hours than what I’ve been doing since fall. It’s ideal, really. I’ll be doing office management stuff for 30 hours a week. Now that’s not exactly my preferred career path, but it’s work that I can do fairly happily. It also allows me to build up something of a resume and references. I haven’t worked outside of the home (for $) in well over ten years. It’s been a blessing that I’ve been able to be home with the kids, but with some of our future plans, it’s best if I’m working again.

Open War

Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.” -Aragorn, The Two Towers

I’m seeing some things on social media which bother me. Lots of things, actually. But to be specific, it’s about school shootings and what our response should be. There are teachers who are appalled at the idea that they or their colleagues might carry firearms on campus. Now, I would never support forcing anyone to carry. That would be stupid. Not everyone has the skill set or disposition to use one safely and effectively.

Many moons ago, I lived by myself in a cheap apartment near Dallas. I was chilling out, watching TV after a long day of driving. And something made me turn and look out the sliding glass door. In the gathering dark, I could see a man peering in at me. I slid off the couch, grabbed my phone and dialed 9-1-1. The nearest weapon was a fireplace poker. And I’ve got to tell you, if you’ve never had a tense moment like that, time stretches. You can do a lot of thinking in the minutes that follow.

If it came down to a fight, I’m not useless. I could give an attacker quite a lot of trouble. But, even with a couple extra feet of reach that poker would give, I’d have to be awful close to the bad guy. As I stood there, phone in one hand, poker in the other, I realized something. I never want someone with an unknown ill intent to get that close to me.

I didn’t ask for a prowler to lurk outside my apartment. The question that must be answered in such moments is “How will you respond to this threat”. What skills do you have to counter it? If Uvalde has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t count on the police to respond decisively.

So, you’re in your classroom and hear gun shots and they’re close. How do you answer that threat? Are you going to shelter in place waiting for the police to come and help. Uvalde waited an hour. An hour for a shooter to openly roam the halls is an eternity. Literally, for some. It’s a long time to watch as your students bleed out. Are you going to be a sitting duck? Or are you going to do something about it? That’s a decision you have to make NOW. Because if you wait for that moment, it’s too late.

If a teacher decides they can’t carry for some reason, that’s understandable. If that is their choice, then they need to take some first aid courses. And I don’t mean how to treat a second-degree burn or scrapes. How do you deal with a sucking chest wound? How do you properly apply a tourniquet? Those skills are needed, too.

Teachers, war may come to your classroom. You didn’t ask for it anymore than I asked for a peeping Tom. As long as schools are seen as easy pickings, there will be more of this. If you want it to stop, make it known your school is ready to respond.


Agilitis Cave in Greece

We’ve gotten into the habit of touring caves with the family when we travel. Everyone is so different from the others. I especially liked this one in Greece. You don’t usually see a stream running through the cave. Ponds and puddles, I’ve seen plenty of those. And we were the only people on the tour for this particular cave. On a lark, I started singing as we walked. The tour guide looked back and said “Wait”. I looked at him quizzically and we carried on. We came out into a large chamber, “The sound is better here. You sing now.”

“I Wonder as I Wander” has a haunting melody in a minor key. Singing that in a cave with the echoing sound coming back from the side tunnels gave me chills. I wish we’d had good recording equipment for that. Singing in caves: highly recommend.

The Brain and the Magpies

There are lots of little birds in this neighborhood. I’ve been trying to learn about the kinds of birds we have here. There are a LOT of doves. I’d call them ring-necks but, google says they don’t live here. It’s some other variety that looks almost exactly the same. They say ‘Hoo HOO hu’ all the time. I used to think that was an owl I was hearing. After sitting outside several evenings, I know better.

We have another sort of bird. I haven’t gotten an ID on them, yet. They’re small and round. And they like to sit in one of our shrubs and gab over seeds. They frighten easily, so I’ve not even got a good look at one.

There is also a pair of Magpies in the backyard. They like to tease the Brain when he slips outside. I can tell when the game is afoot from their cackling. They land near him and cackle loudly. They know they’re faster to get in the air than he can turn and snag them. At least, they hope they’re faster. The Brain is getting on in years, but I think he’s a bit sneaky. I can see it in his posture when they’re teasing him. He’s measuring the distance, gauging just how quickly he could snag one of them. He’s hoping that one of these days they will get cocky and he will be waiting. I may hear “cackle,cackle,cackle, SQUAWK”.

I hope he doesn’t catch one. It’s fun to watch them entertain each other.

Deadliest Catch

I still remember sitting in my one bedroom apartment in Grand Prairie watching the first mini-series on crab fishing in the Bering Sea. I think it was three episodes. It was riveting, gritty, and raw. I was awed by the extents these men (and a few women) would go to catch the high-dollar crustaceans.

My fascination with the show carried on for years until kids and overseas living kept me from watching regularly. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure which season I stopped watching. I looked at the column of 18 (18!) seasons and picked the most recent one to start. I’m happy some of the same boats and captains are still there. I will say, I miss one of the early captains who was on in the early seasons. The ship was “Maverick”, I think. The captain’s wife would go out to sea with him and cook for the crew. The crew liked having someone to look after them. It made it a little bit easier to be away from home.

The show still draws me in. I’ve seen any number of times that the newbies, or greenhorns, are warned about watching their feet on deck. It’s not because they might trip over something. Occasionally, a loop of the line can wrap around the ankle of an unwary crewman as the pot weighing hundreds of pounds goes over the side and into the deep. Only a sharp knife and quick-thinking will prevent disaster. I’d never seen it, just the warnings. But this season, it has happened no less than three times and I’m not even done with the season, yet. All three times a fellow deckhand was there to save the day. What’s it like having a job where your coworker could literally save your life?

Musing on Country Music

I’ve been on a country music kick this week. Mostly the stuff that was popular when I was in college (ahem) years ago. It recalls a time when my life, and maybe life in general, was simpler. I’ve often thought of Carolyn Dawn Johnson’s ballad “Simple Life” as the theme song of my life:

“I have traveled this world far and wide, been all the way around to the other side, still there’s nothing like coming home, live the simple life”.

I’ve seen more of this globe than I ever hoped to do. Most American’s hope to make it to Europe once in their life, if that. Or just Hawaii. It’s still America, but different enough to be exotic. I’m grateful for what I’ve seen and done. I’m also ready to settle down somewhere: grow a garden, raise some chickens.

Miranda Lambert is one of my current favorites, though. She’s sassy, cute, and a good musician. I’d really love to see a collaboration with her and Amy Lee. No, wait! Hear me out.

It’s always struck me as odd that a song with the line “You never call me when you’re sober” isn’t a country song. I’d love to hear Miranda’s version of it. It might take a little rearranging because it’s not really structured like a typical country ditty. I think it would be freaking awesome, though.


A few weeks I wrote about my pair of black cats: Pinky and the Brain.

Landry found a litter of kittens three months after I adopted the Brain. They were tiny and crying. He called me and I came to get a look at them. The trio were dehydrated, but not too bad otherwise. Landry was hoping I’d be able to find a place for them to be fostered or a mama cat that was nursing. Well, those options didn’t pan out, so I had three hungry babies to feed for several weeks.

Fortunately, I’d been following the Kitten Lady online for a while, so I knew what to do: keep them warm, keep them fed, and keep their bowels moving. There were two black kittens and one tuxie in the litter. I faithfully tracked their progress as the days passed. I felt fully justified in taking them home when I saw that all three gained 50 grams in the first two days. You want kittens to gain an average of 10 grams a day. So, with that huge initial gain, I knew they’d been separated from mama for a while.

I learned that new kittens can hiss. And hiss they did, because I was a strange creature to them at first. I also learned that neonate kittens make a clicking sound as their purr. The little black girl kitty was the most adventurous, escaping the progressively bigger boxes I used to contain them.

The Brain hissed at me for weeks because I smelled like “other” cats. He stopped hissing, but still grumbled and looked at me sideways for a long time yet. I did my best to find them all homes, but Eastern Europe has lots of kittens and not many takers. At last, only one was left. Pinky was lonely down in the basement and so I let him have access to the house. I never meant to keep him, but he became part of the family.

He wasn’t smart; I’ve covered that. But he was sweet and purred a lot when he was feeling snuggly.

And you’ve noticed I’m using an awful lot of past tense here. I let him out on the evening of the 22nd of May and I haven’t seen him since. He’d been staying out late as a habit and I’d been staying up until he returned or gone looking for him. But that night, I was annoyed and decided that the weather was nice enough. I went to bed. And he’s gone.

The strangest part is not getting to say goodbye. Every other animal I’ve had, I had to the end of their natural lifespan. I could see them declining and knew that the end was near. I spoiled them and loved on them and cherished those final interactions.

The kids are still hoping he’ll come back. And I can’t completely rule out that possibility: cats are cats. If he doesn’t, I know I gave him four good years he wouldn’t have had otherwise. That is a small comfort.


The kids painted pumpkins at an event last Halloween. We left them on the porch for a couple of months and then I tossed them. Or so I thought. I just realized one of them is still on top of the china hutch. In May. The end of May.


Yeah, that’s getting tossed.

You’re welcome for the update. It is surprisingly intact, but still going in the garbage.

Culture Shock

If you’ve grown up and lived in one place, I envy you. On the other hand, I also feel sorry for you. One of the things I’ve learned though, is that culture shock can still happen even if you never leave the country.

In the sixth grade, I moved from central Texas (Hill Country) to northern California. It’s a horrible time in a kid’s life to move. Kids that age are vicious. Anyway, I went from a junior high that I really liked to a crappy K-8 school in NorCal. My school in Texas had been a proper junior high with lockers and rotating schedules. I’d loved the independence of memorizing my schedule, going to classes, and picking electives. The school in California was really just a one room school house with a bunch of portables around it. Oh! And an addition for the library. No cafeteria, no gym, it was just pavement and portables. You could hear the wind whistle through the roofs of the portables. Some days I half expected the roof to go flying off.

I still remember the first day. My folks took me into the office and got me registered or whatever. I was wearing a blue winter coat that was my brother’s hand-me-down. The people in the office just handed me a school map, put an X on the correct classroom, and said “go there”. I was a little stunned by that. Every other new student I’d ever seen at school was taken to their new class by an administrator. They were introduced to the class or, at the very least, the teacher. I thought to myself, “But this is middle school and I can follow a map easily enough.” Plucking up my courage, I headed out into the wind and rain.

The classroom was on the end of a row. I struggled against the wind to open the door and had it slam behind me. I looked up and dozens of eyes stared at me. The teacher looked up and said, “Can I help you?” I introduced myself and added that I was her new student.


Yeah, she said that. The office hadn’t even bothered to phone the teacher to let her know I was coming. That basically set the tone for the rest of that school year. And the older I get, the madder I get at that teacher. Like it’s not hard enough moving and starting a new school in the middle of the year. It was a rapidly growing school district and they were having a hard time making room for all the kids. I can see that. But still. And the people in the office didn’t even think of giving her a ‘head’s up’. That’s not cool, either. If they’d done that, the teacher would have had a moment to compose herself, perhaps.

So, that was my first moment of culture shock. How about you?

Working, working

Yep. I’ve been writing. It just hasn’t been here. I’m working on another short story for an anthology. It’s at the point of edits on the rough draft and kicking it out to a couple of beta readers. Landry will give it a look later. Today, hopefully.

It’s kind of scary sending my work to other people. I’m always worried I’ll be told the story doesn’t work at a basic level and needs major rewrites or that my vision is completely unworkable. Mind you, this has never happened. Writers are a nervous bunch.

In other news, it looks like I landed a job with more regular hours and a higher pay rate. Yay me! I thought I did horribly in the interview by not being adequately prepared. Then, one of the interviewers let slip the next day that she thought I did really well. My jaw fell open to hear that.

I’m hoping to blog more regularly after my rewrites are done.